Steve Alford made the biggest bet this summer, he bet on himself. After going 15-17 in the offseason and finishing 10th in the Pac 12, worst in school history, in an unprecedented move he forgave and forfeit the extension given to him after year one of his deal. Well, the Bruins are 22-3 this season with another big win against number 5 Oregon kicking off rivalry week with one of the most exciting comebacks of the year. Revenging their tough loss in Eugine earlier in the year. They now have two top 5 AP wins under their belt with the first one coming against then 1st ranked Kentucky. Do they have what it takes to become a top 1-2 seed in the tournament come March? I think the answer is yes.
Will they struggle in the tournament? I think yes with the one thing that Alford is keen on and that is DEFENSE. Before last night’s game, they ranked 117 out of 351 Division 1 NCAAB teams in adjusted defensive efficiency. They also rank 280th in points allowed at 76.6. The worst Final Four team in the last decade to have almost as bad defensive efficiency was VCU in 2011, who ranked 88th.
But then again they have arguably the best offense in the country. They are number one in scoring at 92.5 PPG and number one in FG % at a crazy 53.4%. They are led by two freshmen TJ Leaf and Lonzo Ball both which will be picked in the first round and Lonzo possibly going first overall. They also have Bryce Alford the coaches son who is the senior leader on the team.
Will the offense carry this team far in the tournament? We will see but after Thursday nights game at Oregon when we saw the Bruins down 19 and outscoring Oregon 28-12 in the final 12:00 min, you have to be left with some faith. If that offense shows up for a full game they are the best offense in the country, but their defense is what UCLA needs to improve on to make any run in March Madness.
Steve Alford continues to recruit well at UCLA with Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands the 13th and 26th best recruits according to ESPN recruiting. I think he made a great decision to revoke his extension that he signed and assure the UCLA fans that he is willing to prove it on the court. We will see this exciting team in the tournament and I am excited to see how the defense of the Bruins improve come march.