10. UCLA Bruins (7-6) LW: 5
Within UCLA and Pauley Pavilion lies a preordained state of excellence. The building’s rafters only hoist championships – the national kind – and the athletes and coaches involved are expected to uphold that merit.
Thus, after a 15-point loss to Liberty – the Bruins’ fourth straight and their sixth of the season – it was time to move on from coach Steve Alford and his disappointments.
In six seasons, Alford finished with a record of 124-63 (.663), reaching three Sweet 16’s and winning one Pac-12 Tournament Title. But like his last four games, he failed in meeting the program’s standards.
The Bruins suffered a large average margin of defeat (15) in those four contests on 65 points per game and 29 percent shooting from 3-point range. Entering Pac-12 play, UCLA will be guided by interim coach Murry Bartow, who is tasked with repairing the disengagement from the last three weeks.
Luckily, the talent exists to salvage a fresh start.
Sophomore wing Kris Wilkes has reached double figures in each game this season, and 7-foot-2 freshman center Moses Brown is a nightly double-double threat. Former touted recruits Jaylen Hands and Prince Ali have also shown flashes of stardom.
Picked to finish second in the league by conference media, the Bruins can still accomplish the mark. But even without Alford, a tournament title may be the only hope to swing frustrations this season.
UCLA’s conference schedule opens tomorrow at home against Stanford. There, we’ll see if Alford’s absence alters their commitment.