The UCLA Bruins’ basketball pedigree is unmatched, but the recent tenure of Ben Howland was a disappointment. New head coach Steve Alford wants to change the image that Howland tarnished in his later years; granted he did bring in pros like Russel Westbrook, Kevin Love and Darren Collison.
Alford is UCLA’s saving grace in terms of rebuilding a historic program. USC’s head coach Andy Enfield and creator of “Dunk City” at Florida Gulf Coast University said this in a recent interview: “We play up-tempo basketball here… If you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” Alford is shutting his critics up with his team’s performance against the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies. The Bruins have three players with 18 points tonight in sophomore forward/center Tony Parker (no, not the spur), junior guard Norman Powell and sophomore guard Jordan Adams.
The PAC-12 Conference is wide-open to win and UCLA’s chances are high. If the Bruins can compete at a high-tempo pace like Enfield, it will be tough goings for teams like the Arizona Wildcats, Oregon Ducks and Arizona State Sun Devils.
Parker’s double-double performance of 21 points and 12 rebounds is just a stepping stone to what UCLA can do offensively. If they get an efficient Powell (7-10 from the field, 4-4 from the line) to play above the asking of Alford, UCLA can run faster than expected.
Alford’s style at New Mexico was a run-and-gun, point-guard-oriented system that involved a lot of catch and shoot opportunities for wings like Tony Snell. However, Alford’s success in the regular season is trumped by his abysmal performances in the NCAA Tournament; he has yet to get out of the third round at UNM.
Oakland is not the best team in the country, but UCLA put up 91 points and had a rebounding margin of +21 both impressive for a “slow” basketball team. UCLA’s team is built for speed and tempo, something its fans have not seen in quite awhile. If Alford keeps this pace up, he can be a threat to win in the tournament, something he has never done successfully.