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UCLA’s sophomore guard Aaron Holiday celebrating during the Bruins’ 87-84 win over Arizona in Pauley Pavilion. Photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com

ANALYSIS, OPINIONS AND THOUGHTS REGARDING THE MESS THAT WAS THE BRUIN BASKETBALL PROGRAM THIS SEASON.

 

UCLA BRUINS BASKETBALL

Record: 15-17 overall, 6-12 and tenth place in the Pac-12 Conference

Highlights (believe or not, there WERE some):

*  Beat then top-ranked and undefeated Kentucky in Pauley Pavilion, 87-77, on December 3rd

Beat a ranked Gonzaga team on the road on December 12th

*  Beat then 7th ranked Arizona on a last second three-point shot in front of former Bruin and current Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook at Pauley on January 7th

Lowlights:

*  Lost last five games, six out of their last seven and seven of their last ten contests

*  Lost to USC three times in the same season for the first time since (get this) 1954 – 62 years! – including a season-ending 95-71 humiliation to the Trojans in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament on March 9th

Team Leaders:

Issac Hamilton (our choice for team MVP), G – 16.8 ppg, 3.3 apg

Bryce Alford, G – 16.1 ppg, 5.2 apg

Tony Parker, F/C – 12.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg

Thomas Welch, C – 11.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg

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Bryce Alford going for a shot at Arizona State in what would be one of just two conference wins on the road for UCLA. Photo courtesy of YouTube.com

 

One day at a custody hearing, a seven-year old boy was asked by the judge who he wanted to live with.

“Do you want to live with your mommy?” the judge asked.

“No.” replied the boy.

“Why not?”

“Because my mommy beats me.”

“OK, do you want to live with your daddy?” the judge then asked.

“No.” the boy answered.

“Why not?”

“Because my daddy beats me.”

“All right,” the judge mused. “You don’t want to live with your mommy or your daddy; who would you like to live with?”

After about a minute, the boy replied, “The UCLA basketball team.”

The amused judge gave a couple of chuckles and then asked, “Why do you want to live with the UCLA basketball team?”

The boy, with conviction, answered…

“Because they haven’t beaten anybody lately.”

 

One of UCLA Basketball’s high points of 2015-16: Highlights of the Bruins’ 87-77 win over (then) top-ranked Kentucky on December 3rd, 2015

 

All right, now that the laughter has died down…

The way that this 97th version of UCLA’s basketball team performed this season, particularly in conference play, those Bruins deserved to be the punchline of that joke.

It would be too easy to lament how bad coach Steve Alford’s program was during the season’s last two months, especially how poorly they played on defense or soft their big men were on that end of the floor.

Even though when you take a look at the final stats, Tony Parker’s and Thomas Welch’s numbers didn’t look that bad.

I personally noticed this softness while watching the end of UCLA’s home game against Oregon on TV, when they had a chance to win at the end only to see those Ducks convert at least two missed shots into offensive rebounds and game-winning dunks in the final minute, completely outmuscling the Bruins.

Which was an illustration and a complete personification of the team that they were, one that essentially quit down the stretch, failing to play hard or show any real desire to do what was needed to earn a bid to the “Big Dance”.

When I think about it, I should have known that 2015-16 might not go well in Westwood on Day One, when they lost at home to mid-major Monmouth in one of those games that for a team that has such an elite tradition and is expected to win the conference and contend for the Final Four every year, is usually a glorified scrimmage.

I actually feel a tiny bit of sympathy for Alford, who has borne the brunt of and the blame for this fiasco as the wrath of Bruin Nation has focused on him in the form of countless callings for his dismissal (particularly online – you should see what fans are saying on sites like Facebook, Bruins Nation and Bruin Report Online), which included a message flown from a rented plane over the UCLA campus recently that said,

“UCLA DESERVES BETTER. FIRE ALFORD.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 03: Prince Ali #5 of the UCLA Bruins dunks over Alex Poythress #22 of the Kentucky Wildcats during an 87-77 UCLA win at Pauley Pavilion on December 3, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 03: Prince Ali #5 of the UCLA Bruins dunks over Alex Poythress #22 of the Kentucky Wildcats during an 87-77 UCLA win at Pauley Pavilion on December 3, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Photo courtesy of Pac-12.com

 

Not that I’m apologizing for the man in any way, don’t get me wrong; I haven’t been a fan of Alford’s for the crappy job he did this season.

At all.

However, to all the Bruin faithful that want Alford’s head on a platter after having him burned at the stake, there’s something that must be said regarding the realistic chances of the third-year coach getting the pink slip now:

As much as no one wants to hear this…

Alford is not going anywhere.

At least not this year, as it’s already been confirmed that he will return for his fourth season.

There are two significant reasons why I knew this would be the case and why, as much as I’m not a fan of his, I stayed out of the Run-Alford-Out-Of-Town mob…

1.  His buyout clause: 10.4 million dollars would go to Alford if he were given his walking papers now, money that no college – save for a relatively tiny number of schools like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, or Kansas – would feel is worth spending.

2.  His recruiting class, which is ranked third in the nation and is led two five-star players that probably would have gotten significant time for the Bruins this season: power forward T.J. Leaf and the Naismith National High School Player of the Year, guard Lonzo Ball, whose Chino Hills High School team (ranked #1 in the country) has been looking like the Harlem Globetrotters with their 80’s Lakers-style “Showtime” play and who could probably beat UCLA, they’re so powerful.

Having said this…

Next season will be a most crucial one not only for Alford, but for the entire UCLA basketball program in general because with the star players coming in, there are absolutely no excuses.

If fortunes are not reversed in a big way in the form of being a serious contender in the Pac-12 (if not actually winning it), a high seed in the NCAA Tournament and – at bare minimum – a run to the Sweet 16 if not further, I will gladly join the “Fire Alford” forces.

Until then, although seemingly most of Bruin Nation doesn’t like it, we will have to see how this team bounces back in 2016-17 with Alford at the helm.

Make no mistake about it, though – if there’s any coach that will be on a hotter seat next year than the former Indiana Hoosiers star and Bob Knight disciple, I would very much like to meet that coach.

 

UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford runs practice at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday, October 14, 2015. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles News Group )

UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford runs practice at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday, October 14, 2015. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles News Group ) The perfect image of a man on the hot seat for next season. Photo courtesy of insidesocal.com

 

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