A year ago, the UCLA basketball team was sitting at home. They didn’t make the NCAA Tournament and Bruin fans were upset. If there was one thing UCLA hoops fans could depend on, were the Bruins making the tournament. They didn’t. Mutiny was in the air.
Just a short 12 months ago, some Bruin fans were clamoring for Steve Alford to be dismissed as UCLA’s basketball coach. There were planes flying over Westwood with signs for all to see, displaying a “Fire Alford” banner.
UCLA (29-4) is back where they belong, in the tournament. Alford’s coaching stock is on an uptick. There are already rumors circulating that Indiana, who fired their coach Tom Crean, is interested in Alford, which would make sense, the Bruins coach won a national championship while playing for Hoosiers and is an Indiana legend.
There is always noise, when playing in March Madness. Now, the Bruins will have added noise, to go with all the other stuff, that goes with playing in the tournament.
What a difference a year makes.
UCLA will open tournament ranked No. 6 [USA Today Coaches Poll] and No. 8 [AP Poll]. The Bruins are coming off their worst shooting performance of the season, in the semi-final game of the Pac 12 Conference Tourney, losing to eventual champ, Arizona.
The Bruins shot 40 percent from the field and a dismal 16 percent from beyond the arc. It is worth reminding that Bryce Alford was 1-10 from the three-point line, Lonzo Ball 1-6, Aaron Holiday 1-5 and Isaac Hamilton 1-4. It will be difficult for the Bruins to win games when the team goes cold from beyond the arc. In total, the UCLA was 4-25 from the arc.
The loss to Arizona, was UCLA’s first in over a month. No time like the present to get back on track and play the kind of basketball that the Bruins did in March when they beat everyone on their schedule including three teams that made the NCAA Tournament [Arizona, Oregon and USC].
UCLA will play in their 48th tournament and enters the competition as the college basketball’s leading scoring team averaging 90.4 pig, assists per game [21.5], total assists  and turnover-to-assist ratio [1.86].
play against Kent State (22-13) and
Like the Bruins, heir opponent in the first round, Kent State (22-13) finished the regular season strong going 9-1 after shaking off a slow start. The Golden Flashes started league play 1-4.
Kent State was 5-7 in league play and didn’t look like they were going anywhere let alone make the tourney. Then the Golden Flashes really took off and earned a tournament bid for the sixth time in the program’s history. The last time Kent State made the competition was in 2008 and they reached the Elite 8 in 2002.
The Golden Flashes had a non conference season that included a win at Texas, but losses to Oregon State and Wright State.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00PM PST and will be televised on truTV with Spero Dedes, Steve Smith, and Len Elmore behind the mics, with Ros Gold-Onwude covering court side.
If you are out and about you can hear the broadcast in the Los Angeles area on UCLA’s flagship station AM 570 or its backup AM1150 with Josh Lewin (play-by-play) and Bruin great Tracy Murray (analyst) in their usual roles.
Sirius/XM Radio Channels 145/206 and Sirius App, Channel 964 will also air the contest.