If Dan Guerrero cared about UCLA and actually worked for a living, he would be in Chicago ready to fire Alford if the UCLA Bruins suffer their fifth ugly loss of the year this Saturday against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
To be clear, this is not a case of every loss necessarily being ugly, but that UCLA has lost ugly in all of its games. Michigan State and Cincinnati completely manhandled UCLA, despite the Bruins having more talent. UCLA had a good half against North Carolina, but was completely destroyed in the second half. And Belmont? Please! UCLA could not defend a backdoor play and lost at home to a team that had one advantage over UCLA: a better coach.
That is really the point right now. Steve Alford has lost the team and almost the season. I say “almost the season” because, as ridiculous as this must sound, UCLA can still rebound. According to Joe Lunardi’s bracketology, UCLA is among Lunardi’s “Next Four Out.” A win against Ohio State and UCLA is back in the tournament.
A loss, which seems likely, may virtually knock UCLA out of the NCAA Tournament. Although this sounds outlandish to say in December, the Pac-12 is terrible this year. UCLA will have zero quality wins going into Pac-12 play. The only path to the NCAA Tournament is winning the Pac-12 Tournament or, the longest shot, dominating in the Pac-12 regular season with a great record, say 16-2. The last time the Pac-12 was this bad was 2011-12 when the Washington Huskies won the regular season title but did NOT make the NCAA Tournament despite going 14-4.
I really don’t think I am going out on a limb saying that most observers and fans have no question that UCLA will lose to the Buckeyes. Instead, it’s just a question of how bad the loss will be.
There is good reason to believe that. From the Ohio State official preview:
No Ohio State opponent has made more than 23 field goals this season in a game vs. the Buckeyes. Opponents are shooting 37.1 percent from the field against the Ohio State defense (231-622). Foes are connecting on just 29.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc (71-239).
Briefly on the Ohio State starters:
Kyle Young is a 6’8” sophomore who is shooting 70% from the field, while not scoring much, shoots inside.
Kaleb Wesson is a 6’9” sophomore who is coming off a 31-point game against Youngstown State and is another high percentage shooter, hitting 55% this year and 56% last year. While he does shoot threes some, he is not effective so far from there.
Andre Wesson is a 6’6” junior who starts next to his brother and is also not great from three, but plays more outside. However, Andre is not the scoring threat of his brother. Kris Wilkes should have an easier time on defense.
Luther Muhammad is a 6’1” freshman who is the Buckeyes’ shooting guard and is hitting 39% of his threes but is only shooting a little over two per game.
Chris Jackson is 6’ senior who is Ohio State’s point guard. He is the three-point threat, taking almost 5 a game and hitting 39%.
The moral of the story is that UCLA will once again have a talent advantage and a coaching disadvantage.