Let’s get something straight.
It’s time to put this “UCLA fans have unreasonable expections” narrative to bed for good.
UCLA Bruins fans do not expect to make the Final Four every year, like some in the media like to portray.
Why not? Because thanks to the Worst AD in America, UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero, our expectations have been managed.
But, let’s make something abundantly clear.
Last night, and this season, may have met the expectations of Steve Alford because “making the NCAA Tournament is hard.” However, it did not meet the expectations of UCLA fans.
How exactly did it and, indeed, Steve Alford’s entire tenure in Westwood fall short in the minds of Bruin fans?
Well, for starters, Bruin fans expect UCLA basketball to play with consistency. The Alford Years, with the possible exception of last season (and it could be argued that last season could be included), have been marked by horrifically inconsistent play. UCLA could beat the #1 team in the country one day and then lose to the worst team in the Pac-12 just as easily.
This may actually be the most hand-wringing characteristic of the Alford era.
Bruin fans expect a team to play better on the road than they have under Alford. Under Steve Alford, UCLA is 12-24 on the road in the Pac-12 in years without Lonzo Ball. For argument’s sake, I’m going to leave last year out of this discussion because the natural talents of Ball and TJ Leaf were able to overcome and hide Alford’s shortcomings as a coach.
But, let’s look at UCLA’s road play a little bit deeper.
Not only is Alford’s Pac-12 road record awful, it gets worse when you look at the second game of a road trip. When I say that I’m talking about the road trip pairs that the Pac-12 schedules.
So, when UCLA goes on the road for a weekend pair of games, they play the two schools in a particular area. As an example, when UCLA plays the Washington schools on the road, they will play one school first and then travel, usually two days later to the other school. So, maybe they play Washington State on a Thursday and then the University of Washington on a Saturday.
In road trips pairs, Steve Alford is a downright terrible 2-14 in the second game of a Pac-12 road trip pair in years without Lonzo Ball.
This, possibly more than anything else, reflect Alford’s coaching. UCLA is 7-9 in the first game of Pac-12 road trip pairs without Lonzo, but just 2-14 in the second game of the trip.
Sure, 7-9 isn’t the best, but it’s close enough to a 50/50 split that it’s passable. But, a 2-14 record in the second game just doesn’t cut it and it goes a long way to proving that Alford’s coaching is bad. In fact, that record is so bad that it makes one wonder what Alford is doing to actually prepare his team for the second game of a road trip.
Then, there’s the team’s defensive play, or, more accurately, the lack of defensive play.
Alford’s team’s have consistently played horrible defense. Sure, there were some times this season where the defense was passable and the Bruins usually won those games where it was, but the moment the team stopped playing good defense, things have usually started to fall apart. It isn’t just one year. It’s been five years of terrible defense.
Say what you will about Steve Alford, the defense has been consistent...consistently bad, lazy and unfocused.
Bruin fans expect the basketball team to be able to play consistently good defense.
Really, what it all boils down to is that Alford’s teams have been inconsistent and that is what has been maddening about UCLA basketball under him. You never know which UCLA team will show up for any given game. Will it be the team that beat Kentucky in Lexington last season? Or, will it be the team that was embarassed by the Wildcats in the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago in 2014? Yeah, you remember that game, don’t you? That’s the one where the Bruins were held to just 7 first half points.
Notice that, up until now, I’ve made no mention of championships. I’ve haven’t used the phrase “Final Four.” And, I most definitely have not made a single reference to the legendary John Wooden.
That’s because, contrary to the myths perpetrated by the mainstream media, UCLA fans are not unrealistic. We do not expect the second coming of John Wooden to coach the basketball team. We do not expect to make the Final Four every year. And, we most definitely do not expect to win championship every year.
We do, however, expect a team to consistently play with sound fundamentals because we understand that the combination of sound fundamentals plus talent leads to those things which I’m not discussing today.
UCLA fans deserve a coach who can combine consistent play with sound fundamentals and good recruiting.
Oh, and before I forget, I have one thing to say to everyone out there who seems to think that Steve Alford should be kept around because of “next year’s recruits.” SHUT UP!
If Steve Alford couldn’t get a team with Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf on it past the Sweet 16, what exactly makes you think he will be able to do that with next year’s recruits?
Last season in the Sweet 16 game against Kentucky, the same problems with a lack of consistent play and sound fundamentals showed up.
Five years is a pattern and it’s time for Alford and his lack of consistency to go away.
Fire Steve Alford. Now.