2 comments

  1. I’ve watched most UCLA games since Alford got here. This year they lost Anderson, LaVine and Adams to the draft and the Wear twins to graduation. I’ve hated the fact that Steve Alford seems to be pushing his kid (Bryce) so much, it so seemed like Knight in his later years, and the BruinsNation continue to be all over him for that (#daddyball, #heroball etc.) and for several other things from even before he came.

    But after their last game (at the Buffs where they lost their fourth in a row) I think Steve’s aim is once again (and already) set exclusively on the Pac-12 tourney. Watch them today against #10 Utah. His kid (Bryce) had his worst game ever Friday (2-16 from the field, 0-9 behind the arc) but also had a couple of passes that showed flashes of genius. Unfortunately they bounced off the chests of Hamilton and Parker who were surprised by the speed but, truly, for the first time I saw him as a potential difference maker, and this was in a game where he scored 8 points (he averages 17 points and 6 assists per game).

    Alford’s problem right now is chemistry and Bryce is a big part of it. If the kid can become a leader by March (he’s halfway there) his team can beat anyone. So I’m betting on the Bruins again to win the Pac-12 tourney. It would be Steve’s second win at UCLA. He has two more B1G tournament wins since he was at Iowa (2001, 2006) and two more in Mountain West (2012, 2013) when he coached the Lobos.

    The game today is at 1pm PST on the P12N and it would be interesting to see how Bryce and the Bruins bounce back (if they do). Utah is 11-2 with losses at San Diego St. and Kansas but no signature wins. For UCLA the next seven games are in LA (home vs. Stanford, Berkeley, at USC, then at home vs. Beavers, Ducks, Utes and Buffs again) so a win today and they could be 7-1 overall in conference come February 1st. (They don’t play Arizona and Washington until the end of February). But I maintain Alford has his sight set on the tourney and every game he plays he is preparing his team for those three-four games in March.

    By comparison I see Tom Crean in a really amazing place with his team. For the first time ever his players (though plenty immature in their off-season drunk driving, faking ids to get into bars, failing drug tests and getting involved in life threating car crashes) finally seem to keep close and listen. For some reason I think this team of players does understand Tom Crean well, unlike others in the past, and there seems to be a lot of respect from players to their coach (at least so far, at least since the season started). I think this is the best we’ll ever see Tom Crean at coaching and I expect this season to be a breakout season.

    I compiled a list of Tom Crean results in the B1G tourney over the last few years:

    2008-2009. Lost to Penn State in first round. 0-1.
    2009-2010. Lost to Northwestern in first round. 0-2.
    2009-2010. Lost to Penn State in first round. 0-3.
    2010-2011. Beat Penn State, lost to Wisconsin. 1-4.
    2011-2012. Lost to Illinois in the first round. 1-5.
    2012-2013. Lost to Illinois in the first round. 1-6.

    So I think Tom Crean is due for a deep B1G tourney run.

    For me the key to this season is how Crean’s players face adversity. Monday in East Lansing, then at home vs. OSU and Penn State, at Illinois, home vs. Maryland, then at OSU and Purdue — this is a tough stretch. I say Indiana loses at most twice so after playing Rutgers on Jan 31 I see Crean’s team at 8-2. That’s my guess. (Wiscy in Madison is our first game in February, and I am hoping on Crean’s first win there.) If not, we’ll at least see how the team handles adversity.

    Personally I’d like both Crean and Alford to succeed in their respective positions.

  2. Sorry, I got some of the years wrong:

    2008-2009. Lost to Penn State in first round. 0-1.
    2009-2010. Lost to Northwestern in first round. 0-2.
    2010-2011. Lost to Penn State in first round. 0-3.
    2011-2012. Beat Penn State, lost to Wisconsin. 1-4.
    2012-2013. Lost to Illinois in the first round. 1-5.
    2013-2014. Lost to Illinois in the first round. 1-6.

    So we’re 1-2 vs.Penn State, 0-1 vs Wiscy and Northwestern and 0-2 vs. Illinois.

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