With conference play on the horizon, Head Coach Steve Alford met with the media as they were boarding the bus to Oregon. The Ducks have won nine in a row at this point in the season, and have a 33-game winning streak going at Matthew Knight Arena. He talked about a “culture of winning” at Oregon and even though the Ducks were picked to win the conference this preseason, UCLA is on a winning streak of it’s own and Wednesday night is anyone’s game.
On a positive note, Thomas Welsh has practiced the last three days and will play against Oregon.
On the subject of polls and such, Alford said that this team really doesn’t care much about rankings and polls. It’s just about playing the game and getting better every week (I think we can all agree the distraction of polls is totally unnecessary and ignoring them is healthy!). They are taking it one game at a time and working to make each game better than the last.
When questioned about the obvious difference Lonzo Ball is making this year, Alford was quick to note that their success is not just about the addition of freshman talent, but also the veterans that went through a tough season last year that were extremely committed in the off season. This blend of new and old is what is making this team succeed week after week. The conference is very heavy on freshman talent, which UCLA is definitely no stranger to.
The new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) in the NBA came up, which did not include any changes to the “one and done” rule. According to nba.com, the situation is as follows:
The current “one and done” rule allowing college players to declare for the NBA Draft once they’ve completed a year of college or have been out of high school for a year, will remain in place. The league has sought to increase the age limit to 20; the union has resisted that and would prefer no limit or a rule similar to that of Major League Baseball. MLB allows high school players to declare for its draft but prohibits players who opt to attend college from declaring until after their junior year in college. The union sought a so-called “zero and two” compromise that would allow high schoolers in the NBA Draft but keep college players from declaring until after their sophomore season in college.
There are more pieces to the agreement which you can read about here, but with regards to the effects changes to the “one and done” rule would have on college basketball, Alford stated that it would better for college basketball if players stayed longer. He would like to see it changed not only for the athletes to grow within their game, but socially as well. He also stated that the other parts of the CBA benefited players and created jobs, so I’d definitely say that Alford supported it overall even though he’d like to see changes that would force college athletes to stay longer.
The road trip to Oregon will have its obvious benefits if they can come home with a win, according to Alford. The momentum that a road win can have is “almost double” that of a home win, however, you can also have road wins that result in home losses. He was referring to last year when Bruins won on the road but then suffered a loss at home (2/14 win at ASU, followed by home loss to Utah) and literally never recovered. I’m pretty sure that won’t be the case this year.
Speaking of wins and losses, guess who hasn’t lost since his junior year of high school? Yup, Lonzo Ball. He is so competitive that, according to Alford, they have had to design more competitive drills to keep the competition going within the team and the drive to win alive.
Keys to the game are still transition play and rebounding. They need to be able to handle runs that Oregon may create, but also go on runs of their own and minimize the damage Oregon can do. Rebounding will be key as well as making baskets in transition.
Here is the full video of Alford, courtesy of UCLA Athletics:
And here is Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton, courtesy of UCLA Athletics:
Here’s to coming home with two wins in Oregon! Go Bruins!