UCLA did what it needed to do to (barely) keep its tournament hopes alive by beating the Oregon schools. Now, it closes out with three games on the road against Utah, Colorado and Southern Cal. The scenarios go like this:
- 3-0: In the NCAA tournament and no sweating.
- 2-1: Likely in the NCAA tournament, but some sweating, especially if a number of upsets happen in the conference tournaments. That said, still likely in.
- 1-2: Likely out of NCAA tournament barring winning Pac-12 tournament, but still a shot. They will need help (e.g. no or few conference tournament upsets and failures by some other bubble teams) and likely a good showing in the conference tournament. It also would be best if this win was over Southern Cal. A win over Colorado (BPI 145) is definitely not going to be enough.
- 0-3: Forget about it. Only chance is winning the Pac-12 Tournament.
Now, I am somewhat pessimistic. In part, that’s because I have picked every game right since mid-season and I picked us to lose the last three. Look, I hope I am wrong. I will readily admit Southern Cal is horribly coached and we could definitely win there. Southern Cal lost Benny Boatwright for the season as well. Southern Cal’s coach Andy Enfield is the kind of coach that would read Dimitri’s fan boy posts on GG and decide to box and one GG to stop UCLA. Okay, maybe not that bad, but Southern Cal has some of the best talent money can buy, but are poorly coached and that game is hard to predict.
However, I am very worried about this week’s games. Part of that is Steve Alford’s history.
Discounting the Southern Cal road game as it is not a paired game, Alford is 10-9 (7-8 non-Lonzo years) on the road in first game pairs and 6-13 (2-13 non-Lonzo) in the second game. If you break it down a bit more, Alford could easily have some more wins in the first game and some of the wins in the second game have come against the very worst Pac-12 teams. Is it because he does not rest players enough in the first game or he has a better game plan for the first? Unlike, say Lavin, it is relatively predictable what is going to happen with Alford.
Here’s a year-by-year look at Steve Alford’s record for two-game Pac-12 road trips.
- First Game 4-0
- Second Game 0-4
- First Game 1-3
- Second game 0-4
- First Game 1-3 (One of the losses in double OT at UW)
- Second Game 1-3 (Beat an awful ASU team that finished with a losing record for the season)
- First Game 3-1 (Lost on a buzzer shot at Oregon)
- Second Game 4-0
2017-18 (so far)
- First Game 1-2 (One loss in double OT at Stanford)
- Second Game 1-2 (Beat an awful UC Berkeley,8-18 record, for the one win)
I wish UCLA was playing Colorado first. Colorado is definitely a team I would feel good about UCLA beating in the first of a pair. However, UCLA is playing them in the second of a pair. UCLA is playing a Utah team that is playing well in the first game. Utah has won its last four, including a win over a good UW team. They have also won their last four at home since opening the season losing twice to the Arizona schools at home. You also have altitude issues and UCLA will have less time to adjust to this one. It will be very tough for Aaron Holiday to play 40 minutes at altitude. I am really pessimistic about this game.
Utah is ranked 51 in RPI and 71 in BPI. A loss at Utah is not bad or season-ending, but I do think it is likely. And, yes, I realize UCLA beat Utah by 21 earlier this year, but that was at Pauley in a game where UCLA shot 52% from three. I doubt that happens on the road.
Then, it comes down to Colorado. Colorado is a team in some trouble. Like I said, if this was a Thursday game, I would feel good. Colorado got blown out by UW and lost to a terrible Washington State team. But, in non-Lonzo years, Alford is 2-13 in the second game and both wins have come over teams with losing records. Colorado will have a winning record when we play them. Colorado is also 6-1 at home in the Pac-12 with a home win over Arizona. Colorado’s only road Pac-12 win is against UCLA in what amounts to our worst home loss this season.
The one break is we get an extra day’s rest. This game will be on Sunday, not Saturday. The extra day at altitude and Holiday getting another night’s sleep could really help. An optimistic take is not unreasonable. UCLA could easily be 2-1 this season on Thursday games and could come out like it did against Arizona and beat Utah. Colorado may be on its way to a losing record if Southern Cal beats them Thursday and may be coming apart. We could definitely win.
And, I hope we do. I really do. But I am scared that we are going to go 0-2 on the Mountain trip. Utah is a tough game, Colorado should not be tough but Alford’s history is not good. If UCLA loses both to Colorado and Utah, for the second time this year a coach for a UCLA revenue sport could be coaching for his job in the Southern Cal game. I have to believe Alford won’t be back if UCLA misses the tournament for the second time in three years. Alford needs road wins.