I still think the question should be “When does Steve Alford get fired?” after again failing miserably on the road, but the headlines and news roundup are all about UCLA’s prospects for the NCAA tournament. Ben Bolch lays out the situation to start:
Now it’s getting dire.
UCLA, needing a road win to bolster its sagging NCAA tournament chances, completed one large comeback but not a second during an 80-76 loss to Colorado on Sunday afternoon at the Coors Events Center.
He pivots to how UCLA can still make the tournament and he brings up a good point for the naysayers like me and the never give up guys like Matt Garrido:
Then again, improbable history could repeat itself. UCLA’s resume is fairly similar to the one that got the Bruins into the NCAA tournament during the 2014-15 season when some didn’t even consider them on the bubble. That team got in with a 20-13 record after going 11-7 in the Pac-12 and advancing to the semifinals of the conference tournament.
These Bruins share a more unsettling similarity: Their defensive efficiency entering the game Sunday was No. 118 nationally, according to analytics guru Ken Pomeroy, the same ranking UCLA held when it last missed the NCAA tournament in 2015-16.
For what it is worth, I don’t think that 2014-15 is the right model as the Pac-12 is down this year. Also, the one team playing well right now is Southern Cal, who we play at the Galen Center for the last game.
2015-16 is a good model because it reminds us of Alford’s dismal failures on defense. I mean come on, we are trading Bryce Alford for Jaylen Hands and Isaac Hamilton for Kris Wilkes. That is a major upgrade in athletic talent and defensive potential. Yet, the defense is the same.
I guess I should say a little on the game itself. Teams are learning to key on Aaron Holiday and dare someone else to beat them. From the CU Independent:
Heading into the game, it seemed poised to be UCLA guard Aaron Holiday’s day to shine, as NBA scouts from across the league came to watch him play. Holiday got off to a good start, but a technical foul in the first half turned everything upside down, as after that he didn’t play his best basketball.
Despite finishing with 21 points, Holiday shot just 6-for-19 from the field.
The last time around Holiday was the focus of the Buffs’ defense, and the Buffaloes held him in check. He scored just 10 points in that game, and Colorado similarly kept an eye on him Sunday despite leading the Bruins in points.
Obviously shutting down Holiday or making him into Kobe on a bad night was key to Colorado’s sweep of UCLA for the first time in their history.
But, really, the game was about UCLA’s bad defense that may have killed UCLA’s NCAA Tournament chances. As the Daily Bruin said:
UCLA’s game against Colorado was a microcosm of the Bruins’ NCAA tournament hopes.
Even though the Bruins (19-10, 10-7 Pac-12) tried prolonging the game by fouling the Buffaloes (16-13, 8-9) and forcing them to make free throws, the end result was never really in doubt.
Colorado hit 10 3-pointers and scored 1.324 points per possession in the first half as the Bruins’ defense wilted in a 80-76 loss to the Buffaloes on Sunday afternoon.
And that’s just it. UCLA can’t play defense for anything close to 40 minutes. The talent is there, but where is the coaching?