This preview and more on UCLA and the Pac-12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 23 UCLA Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-10 (13-5 Pac-12)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Steve Alford (First season at UCLA)
Pac-12 projection: Second
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 32
The Steve Alford Era at UCLA got off to a rather inauspicious start, as the former All-American at Indiana arrived in Westwood with little fanfare and amid questions about his coaching past. The school’s boosters — many of whom pined for Brad Stevens, Billy Donovan or Rick Pitino — weren’t impressed with the résumé of their new coach: Five NCAA Tournament wins in 18 seasons at Southwest Missouri State, Iowa and New Mexico.
How can Alford resuscitate his image and satiate the masses? Simple. Win.
Howland did plenty of that his first five years — 126 times, in fact. That number fell to 107 in his last five seasons at the helm, and despite a Pac-12 regular season crown and 25 wins in 2013, Howland wore out his welcome.
Alford, though, barely got one. And with a thin roster and a meager recruiting class, winning games, much less hearts and minds, won’t be an easy task.
After transfers and NBA defections, the Bruins are left with just 10 scholarship players, four of whom have not played a college game and another who averaged just over six minutes last season.
Alford will turn to three players from Howland’s highly regarded 2012 recruiting class to lead the way, starting with do-everything point forward Kyle Anderson and feisty scorer Jordan Adams. The key, though, might be the other remaining member of the class, Tony Parker. A 6-9 center who fell out of favor with Howland, Parker could thrive in the size-deficient Pac-12.
Related: Q&A with UCLA's Kyle Anderson
The loss of Shabazz Muhammad after one year to the NBA Draft leaves the Bruins without some firepower, but a veteran group in the post should ease some of the pain. Travis and David Wear return for their senior years and will provide leadership and production, though both need to get better around the rim.
Parker toyed with the idea of transferring but stayed in Westwood hoping to improve drastically on his meager 6.3 minutes per game last year as a freshman. Reports about Parker over the summer were positive — if he has dropped some weight and added some mobility, the Bruins may have their big man.
UCLA also picked up a key transfer in former Texas Tech forward Wanaah Bail, a lengthy big man who could be a defensive force in the Pac-12 when he was declared eligible this month.
Anderson is a 6-9 Swiss Army Knife who can play almost any spot on the floor. The former 5-star recruit earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season, when he averaged 9.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Anderson will handle the point more frequently as a sophomore
with Larry Drew II lost to graduation. Expect his production — and his impact on the game — to increase significantly.
Adams will once again be one of the Bruins’ primary options on offense. He averaged 15.3 points (eighth in the Pac-12) and had a team-high 46 3-pointers as a freshman. Adams burst onto the scene with four straight 20-point games to start his career and added three more by the end of December. He had only four more the rest of the way, however, and UCLA will rely on him to play at a high level on a more consistent basis as a sophomore.
Defensive stopper Norman Powell, who averaged 22.1 minutes last season primarily coming of the bench, is the only other backcourt contributor returning. Two freshman, Bryce Alford (the coach’s son) and Zach LaVine, will play immediately. Alford, who broke the New Mexico high school single-season scoring record last year, is a capable outside shooter. LaVine can play both backcourt positions and oozes potential.
UCLA's 2013 class does not have the star power of the previous haul, but multiple players could be thrust into major roles early. Freshman Zach LaVine should see time as the backup point guard. Wanaah Bail, who originally signed with Texas Tech, will be a key part of the frontcourt. Bryce Alford, Steve’s son, can bring some outside shooting off the bench. Noah Allen will find time as a reserve small forward.
Factoid: 1-3. Steve Alford is 1–3 as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The losses have come to two No. 14 seeds and a No. 11 seed.
Ultimately, the biggest thing Alford has going for him is that he’s not Ben Howland. Howland’s gruff exterior was tolerable, if not commendable, during UCLA’s three-year Final Four run in the mid-2000s. While no banners were hung, the Bruins hadn’t enjoyed that kind of success in decades. Things turned sour for Howland, however, and the school opted to pull the plug in March.
Alford steps into one of the elite coaching jobs in the nation. There is pressure to win every year at UCLA. And while the 2013-14 roster lacks depth, there is enough talent in the short term to contend for the Pac-12 title. Long term, Alford will need to prove that he can build a program that can compete for a national title on a consistent basis. UCLA fans will accept nothing less.
2013-14 Preseason Top 25