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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: Even the National Media is Coming Around to #FireAlford

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UCLA’s loss to Ohio State yesterday makes qualifying for an NCAA Tournament appearance difficult this year.

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Media Day
Steve Alford’s excuses are running out. His Bruins have talent but are poorly coached.
D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Usually, the national press is defensive of coaches and calling UCLA Bruins fans unreasonable. Now, they are agreeing with what passionate fans have been saying for years, emphasis added to this CBS story by Kyle Boone:

Trying times are ahead for UCLA as things aren’t likely to get easier in L.A. The loss drops them to 7-5 on the season, with a still-challenging contest against Liberty on tap before Pac-12 play begins on Jan. 3. Win or lose, it’s hard to imagine unease surrounding Steve Alford’s job security will go away soon barring a big-time turnaround in conference play. Strictly from a talent perspective, UCLA should have had the upper hand on Saturday — and yet the Buckeyes were never truly in real danger of dropping this one.

Before the game, David Woods of Bruin Report Online broke that down in more detail in a story not behind a firewall.

This year, UCLA has three former five-stars and five former four-stars in the available lineup, and is getting blown out by any good team it faces and is being taken to the wire by average teams. While it’s a subjective assessment, it looks very much like the team is or has been tuning out Alford, with Alford even blaming the players after the game against Cincinnati, implying that they need to come into the gym during their mandatory off time if they want to improve.

You can’t have the talent UCLA has had under Alford and underperform the way he has. You can’t coach at UCLA for six years and perform the way he has performed.

This is not a case of not having balance in talent or some such. This team has it all potentially, except a coach. Look: many were worried about Jaylen Hands‘ ability to play the point before the season. Hands is ranked number 6 in country in assists. His line for the loss yesterday was 13 points on 5 of 10 shooting, 2 of 4 from three, five rebounds, nine assists, and five steals with an EFF of 22.

Hands’ effort was wasted for two reasons. One reason is the rest of the offense, as again described by CBS:

The Bruins lacked ball movement and its unimaginative, no-motion offense sunk into sand in the second half as the Buckeyes exploded for 47 points in the final frame while grinding the Bruins to the ground.

It’s hard to win with a “no-motion” offense. The second reason was that UCLA’s transition defense remains awful and/or non-existent as the Daily Bruin’s Hanson Wang noted:

Ohio State guard C.J. Jackson dropped 20 of his 22 points in the second period. Guard Keyshawn Woods racked up 10 assists, including two near half-court lobs when the UCLA defense fell asleep and left a Buckeye player unguarded underneath the hoop.

In his post game press conference, Alford gave his usual spiel about being young and a learning experience, but then he made what I can consider a surreal analogy. He brought up the worst loss as voted by Bruins Nation fans and, according to Ben Bolch at the LA Times, found solace.

Steve Alford contemplated UCLA’s struggles and found solace in an unlikely place: an even rougher patch.

Four years ago, UCLA was in the midst of a five-game losing streak in late December. The Bruins had finished seventh in an eight-team tournament, lost by 39 points to Kentucky and were only a few games above .500 heading into Pac-12 Conference play.

They ended up not only getting into the NCAA Tournament but advancing to a regional semifinal.

“It’s not like it can’t be done,” the Bruins coach said Saturday.

Even ESPN which defended Lavin to the end and was very critical over the Howland firing seems to be coming around and calling BS to Alford’s nonchalance over the ugly losses. Myron Metcalf writes in a story entitled “Steve Alford ‘not happy’ with UCLA losses but not sweating future.”

”There’s no issue with that with me,” Alford said following his team’s 80-66 loss to No. 15 Ohio State on Saturday at the United Center. “I just do my job as well as I possibly can, and that’s what I do every day. I’m a man of God, so I’ve got an audience of one. ... And at the end of the day, if I know that I’ve prepared and worked hard, then that’s what matters to me.”

The wider audience attached to the UCLA program might disagree with Alford’s characterization. UCLA, picked to finish second in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, will enter its holiday break with losses to Michigan State, North Carolina, Belmont, Cincinnati and Ohio State by 81 points (16.2 per game) combined.

And the key fact:

The Bruins have signed some of the nation’s top recruiting classes under Alford and reached the Sweet 16 three times. However, they’ve never won the Pac-12.

After the loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes, UCLA may have to win the Pac-12 to make the tournament. That’s not going to happen unless there is a new coach. Despite what Alford thinks, the biggest question is not if Alford gets fired, but when.