The pundits are starting their pontifications and pronouncements on UCLA's prospects for this season. Along with some good points there is some general cluelessness as well. Here is a quick sample with a brief thought on what is right and wrong.
11. UCLA Bruins Judging by the mood of UCLA fans, you'd think Steve Alford has something other than a preseason top-15 team and top-five recruiting class set to sign in November. Yes, last season was bad. But the immediate and longterm future both seem bright in Westwood.
Right: The high potential .
Wrong: Uhm, Alford's team was awful last year and if he was at Kentucky or Kansas, etc. he would have been fired. The fans have every right to be on Steve Alford.
Which brings us the next post on UCLA Basketball: Does Steve Alford Have What it Takes ?
The Bruins' illustrious history and raucous fan base deserve to return to a national powerhouse, but the team has failed to live up to heightened expectations (especially last year) under Steve Alford.
UCLA is coming off one of their worst seasons in recent history, which included its first losing year since 2009-2010. The team went 15-17 and an even worse 6-12 in Pac-12 Conference play.
Despite the attractive numbers Alford and Hamilton posted, this needs to be Ball's offense. We're talking about a guy that averaged a triple-double in high school. That's impressive regardless of the level of basketball being played.
Should UCLA allow Ball to play freely, it will create opportunities for the other Bruins. We could be looking at a substantial turnaround from last year, but it's up to Steve Alford to make it happen.
This guy gets it. Nothing really wrong in the above. He is talking like a UCLA fan.
Which it brings us to Arizona homer and UCLA-hater Jeff Goodman in Which are college basketball's most overrated teams?
[I.] UCLA Bruins. Freshman point guard Lonzo Ball is fun to watch, but will coach Steve Alford will put the ball in his hands and let him go? That's the key. Ball just flat-out makes people around him better with his tremendous court vision and passing ability. However, I'm not sold that Ball will ultimately be the primary ballhandler with Bryce Alford and Aaron Holiday on the roster. When you look at the talent on this roster, it's impressive: Ball, Alford, Holiday, Isaac Hamilton, Thomas Welsh and skilled freshman forward T.J. Leaf. But this is also a group that went 15-17 overall and finished ahead of only Arizona State and Washington State in the Pac-12 a year ago. I'm just not sold the Bruins are worthy of top-25 inclusion.
Right: Goodman speaks the Alford hate case well. Steve Alford has talent but he has underachieved in the past. (Please don't argue that last year's team was tenth place in the PAC 12 in talent.) Bryce has been the primary ball handler for a long time now, is Ball really going to get a chance?
Wrong: In Australia Bryce played zero-zip-nada at point guard. The Aaron Holiday point is relevant though. That said I don't think Steve Alford is a complete moron, it will be Ball with the rock on offense. However, Goodman's biggest mistake was he left out the top reason UCLA may again underachieve.
It all depends on defense.
The Bruins limped to a 15-17 record last season and gave up 80 or more points in 14 separate games. UCLA also surrendered an average of 78.3 points in 19 total conference games and lost three meetings against crosstown rival USC by an average of 17.7 points.
The one common theme with the games of Ball, Alford, Hamilton, and Holiday?
They're all guys who need the ball in their hands to be successful and no one in that quartet resembles a true catch-and-shoot type wing.
Right: Unlike Goodman, Rothstein understands the number one problem with a bullet is defense. If this team can play defense, it will go far.
Wrong: Bryce Alford is the definition of a catch and shoot wing. He is ideally a three point specialist. One of the problems of the last three seasons is Steve Alford (depending on how you looked at) needed or forced Bryce into being a point guard. Australia was a very good sign in that Bryce was not a point in the three game exhibition tour.
When will the pundits know if this is working? Maybe in the twenty-third best non-conference game of the season:
23. UCLA at Kentucky, Dec. 3: Over/under first-round NBA picks on the floor in this game is set at 4.5. Lonzo Ball with UCLA ... what I want to know is how Steve Alford is going to run the offense with him and with his son, Bryce. UCLA was just bad last season, but expect a big turnaround. There's a lot of talent there, and it's the most exciting Bruins roster, in my view, in more than seven years.
Right: "There's a lot of talent there."
Wrong: It is really nice to see the national pundits talk about Bryce and express concerns about his dad possibly favoring him over Ball as a point. I guess it is not just UCLA fans who have some concerns about #daddyball . However, all the talk on Bryce is on these articles does not mention his biggest problem, defense. Bryce is a horrid defender and he does not put out the effort. Now Bryce is a senior leader. The talent is there, will the effort on defense be there?
UCLA fans are quite reasonable to expect an elite season this year with all the talent, especially after the debacle of last season. Of all the pundits, Brian Rosen may have it the most correct: "Does Steve Alford have what it takes?"