Tomorrow is Election Day. Tomorrow is also the first day of the 2018-19 NCAA UCLA men’s basketball season. If there is any justice, it should be the beginning of Steve Alford’s final campaign as UCLA coach. I say this not with malice and not as a sort of negative ad, but, rather, he has had plenty of time to prove himself as a UCLA-level coach. He has failed thus far. This season, he has what should be his last best chance to prove otherwise.
But, for those of you who say he is an awful coach, I reply he isn’t. He is mediocre. He can teach shooting. He gives players some freedom and is rewarded by a high retention rate. That said, defense? Lol. If this were Pepperdine, I might be okay with him as my coach.
I am not considering the Paul Pierre incident of his past. That UCLA hired him with that in his background is almost inconceivable. All the Athletic Department had to do was Google him?!? However, I am only addressing who he is as a basketball coach at UCLA. Please keep it to that in the comments.
But we aren’t Pepperdine. Shoot! Arizona would not take him as coach and Indiana did not consider him when they had a vacancy.
Why this preface to a season prediction? Because I think Alford the mediocre coach will lead a very talented UCLA team to a mediocre season. Remember: this is my prediction post, not a Bruins Nation expectations post or what I think should happen. So here goes a prediction for each game with Sports Illustrated’s preseason ranking in front of ever team.
The Warm Up Games
November 6 vs. #178 Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons
November 9 vs. #234 Long Beach State 49ers
Alford’s teams traditionally win early games against lesser talented teams. UCLA is 2-0.
The Good Teams Without Much Talent
November 16 vs. #196 St. Francis (PA) Red Flash
St. Francis may be underrated at #196. This is an experienced team that plays well. It has improved under Coach Krimmel every year. UCLA should beat them, but this is not a total cupcake. Put it this way, if this was the first game of the year I would be a little more worried. This is the kind of team that can beat much more talented individuals, occasionally, but not this time. UCLA is 3-0.
Slightly Better Than an Exhibition Game
November 19 vs. #304 Presbyterian Blue Hose
A good church league team could beat these guys, probably the easiest game of the season. UCLA is 4-0.
A Real Challenge
November 22 vs. #10 Michigan State Spartans in Las Vegas
From maybe the easiest game of the year to the hardest. I can’t see a way we win this one. Tom Izzo is a great coach and his team will be ready. This will be tough for the freshman after playing teams they can go 1 on 5 and score. They’ll play a disciplined team that plays hard. Be ready for a rude awakening. UCLA is 4-1.
Assuming we play Texas, this is a strange game for UCLA fans. Many wanted Texas Coach Shaka Smart to be UCLA’s coach. On other hand, Smart has arguably underachieved at Texas. However, I think Smart will be better prepared on a short turnaround and UCLA now has a shortened bench as Cody Riley and Alex Olesinski will still be out. Smart will be coaching for something as it seemed he wanted to be offered the UCLA job. 4-2.
Back to the Easy Games at Home
November 28 vs. #225 Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors
December 2 vs. #174 Loyola Marymount Lions
Easy bounceback games, 6-2.
December 8 vs. #34 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Well, this is fun. Credit the scheduling department for starting this series for us to reminiscence. The crowd will be interesting for this one. Will the old-timers be there to yell “Digger is a Wimp?” Unfortunately, both teams are shells of the past. In Notre Dame’s case the recent past, with many key players gone from last year. This will be feel-good win on ESPN. UCLA is 7-2.
The Sneaky Tough Games
December 15 vs. #89 Belmont Bruins
Belmont is a very well-coached team that you can’t sleep on with a great long-term coach. They played UW tough last year and only lost by 4 points. The timing of December 15 is interesting, too. And the last jinx is I will be at this game in person. Yes, I am picking us to be upset in this one. Logic dictates this does not happen, but I think it may.
December 19 at #32 Cincinnati Bearcats
This is the first true road game. UCLA would lose this many years but Cincinnati lost a lot talent from last year. I’m not sure, but I will pick this one as a win so UCLA does not go 0 for Cincinnati this year.
December 22 vs. #51 Ohio State Buckeyes in Chicago
Ohio State snuck up on people last year. They can’t do that this year and they lost talent. They also seem like a better match up for us.
These three games are all ones we should win, but I think we lose one. Belmont seems least likely, but I think their ability to hit threes may make the difference for the upset. UCLA is 9-3.
The No One Will Watch Game
December 29 vs. #187 Liberty Flames
UCLA wins easily in front of an actual crowd of 800 including 20 protesters. The protesters draw more interest than the game. UCLA is 10-3.
January 3 vs. #106 Stanford Cardinal
The first part of what may be the easiest two games ever to open the PAC 12 Season.
January 5 vs. #229 UC Berkeley Golden Bears
Berkeley is a terrible team and we win if we can field five scholarship players.
UCLA is 12-3 and 2-0 in the Pac-12.
Another Lost Oregon Weekend
This isn’t the Walton gang, but the results will be the same.
January 10 at #15 Oregon Ducks
Bol Bol v. Moses Brown. Oregon wins at home.
January 12 at #82 Oregon State Beavers
Oregon State is experienced and Alford struggles on road trips. We win if this is the first game. The second game, not so sure.
UCLA is 12-5 and 2-2 in the Pac-12.
Southern Cal Overpaid
January 19 at #48 Southern Cal Trojans
Alford is not losing to one of the worst game coaches in the Pac-12. UCLA beats Southern Cal’s Andy Enfield despite his payroll of players.
UCLA is 13-5 and 3-2 in the Pac-12.
The Yearly Scheduling Quirk
January 24 vs. #62 Arizona State Sun Devils
January 26 vs. #49 Arizona Wildcats
UCLA only plays #49 Arizona and #62 Arizona State once this year. Alford’s teams have always played Sean Miller’s Arizona teams tough and Arizona is down this year. Arizona State lost a lot.
UCLA 15-5 and 5-2 in the Pac-12.
The Northern Swing
January 30 at #247 Washington State Cougars
The best intramural team at UCLA could beat Washington State. Unless they were coached by Washington State’s Ernie Kent. A truly terrible coach and, if it was not for the presence of UC Berkeley, they might have a shot at going winless in Pac-12 play.
February 2 at #28 Washington Huskies
Washington’s Syracuse zone is too much for UCLA. This game may be for second in the Pac-12.
UCLA is 16-6 and 6-3 in the Pac-12.
February 6 vs. #60 Colorado Buffaloes
February 8 vs. #76 Utah Utes
UCLA beats the mountain schools at home. The SPTR help UCLA in at least one but they make up for it the last game of the season when everyone fouls out at Utah.
UCLA is 18-6 and 8-3 in the Pac-12.
Can Alford Sweep a Road Trip Without Lonzo Ball?
February 13 at UC Berkeley Golden Bears
February 16 at Stanford Cardinal
Steve Alford has never swept a Pac-12 road trip without Lonzo Ball. There is no Lonzo Ball on this squad but UC Berkeley is awful and Stanford is not that good. This is his best chance ever. I said the same thing last year and we failed, I say we lose to Stanford. It is almost impossible to lose to UC Berkeley.
UCLA is 19-7 and 9-4 in the Pac-12.
The Longest Homestand: Altman Owns Alford
February 21 vs. Oregon State Beavers
February 23 vs. Oregon Ducks
February 28 vs. Southern Cal Trojans
Dana Altman is a very good coach, especially if you don’t care about ethics. He beats Alford for the second time this season but we beat Oregon State and USC. The Oregon game may be the biggest of the year in importance. This may be one of the harder games to pick. UCLA might get really up for this one and need to win to have a win over a quality opponent.
UCLA is 21-8 and 11-5 in the Pac-12.
The Final Road Trip
March 7 at Colorado Buffaloes
March 9 at Utah Utes
UCLA has traditionally stunk on the Mountain road trip. They lost both last year on this trip. They have a week to prepare for Colorado. I think that makes a difference for the split. The Utah game, after Michigan State and at Oregon, is the third most likely loss of the season
UCLA is 22-9 and 12-6 in the Pac-12.
UCLA does not have any good wins and is marginal for the NCAA Tournament, but still gets in. Alford talks about how these great bunch guys overcame injuries. Moses Brown is picked the highest in the first round of any UCLA player. What does Dan Guerrero do? I give up. If the fans could vote though, I know what would happen.
What are your predictions for the season? Please keep your comments limited to that.