The Mighty UCLA basketball program, winners of 11 National Championships, the untouchable men’s college basketball record 81-game winning streak, and house that the Legendary Wizard of Westwood, John Wooden, built. It’s hard to argue the storied success of this program.
However, those times are in the past and the Bruins were forced to undergo a much-needed facelift in the form of first year coach Steve Alford. Alford, an alum of Indiana University, promised to bring excitement and offense back to the program and in his first year it is apparent that he did just that.
UCLA started out the season hot, winning their first 8 games in convincing fashion. The style of play, an attacking style, gave the fans a glimpse of great things to come with this new partnership. But a few bumps in the middle of the season ruffled the feathers some alumni, boosters, and fans alike. Was Alford really the guy to right the ship and restore the pride and prestige into Bruin basketball? Is this how they’re going to pack the beautiful new arena Pauley Pavilion?
Patience, and I’ll say it again; patience. It’s year one of a hopefully long and prosperous relationship. These Bruins are but a solid step in the right direction to getting back to where they belong.
I will take a wide scope look at the whole season and give a grade to each aspect- let’s take a look at what we have here.
The talent was there, but the process of changing the mentality and play style takes work, a system needs time to be implemented and flashes were definitely seen this year. The building blocks and foundation have been laid, solid recruits coming in next year, Alford seems to have the players buying in.
Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, Norman Powell, Zach Lavine, and Bryce Alford really had phenomenal years. Anderson being one of the very best players in the nation, Adams the always reliable performer, Powell the X-factor, Lavine & Alford, the shot of Nitrous injected off the bench. This was really the major strength of the team.
Tony Parker, Travis & David Wear, and Wanaah Bail didn’t quite get it done this year and were spotty in their respective performances. Parker had his moments this year where he seemed to light up the floor with his aggressive, attack-the-rim style down low, but disappeared at times. The Wear brothers were consistent, but never great, and provided a matador style defense where other team’s big men thrived. Bail never got into the flow of the game this season; in limited action the highly touted freshman looked lost entirely. He sustained an injury which forced him out out for the remainder of the season. He is expected to bounce back next year.
In all, this UCLA team, while having a couple head scratching blips on the radar, had a very positive and productive season. Losing Anderson and Lavine to the draft will be a tough fill but expect Powell to have a huge year next year as he came on strong and expect Jordan Adams to continue to be Jordan Adams, Mr. Consistency.
Bryce Alford will be running the point guard position, and I’m perfectly fine with that. The Bruins made a great trip to the Sweet 16 this season and looked very strong on their way there. They ran up against a buzz saw of a grinding defensive machine known as the Florida Gators, the number one team in the nation, certainly a hard fought game and coming up short is nothing to scoff at.
The Bruins will look to build on the strong campaign and bounce back next year and the years after with a real chance to hang another banner. Strap your seat belts on and take a seat on the train guided by Steve Alford to the top, GO BRUINS!