NCAA countdown: No. 28 UCLA
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
The first word: Steve Alford is well aware of the weight-of-the-world expectations he faces as the new coach of the winningest college basketball program.
The UCLA coach remedies the massive pressure with a reassuring thought: It’s just basketball.
It might be the same game Alford played as a star for Bobby Knight’s dominant Indiana teams in the 1980s, and the same game he coached for eight seasons at Iowa and six at New Mexico — all but two of them ending with postseason trips. But make no mistake, basketball is a whole lot bigger now.
The Bruins have remarkably high standards, evidenced by the firing of former coach Ben Howland, who struggled to advance talented UCLA squads in recent NCAA tournaments but had three consecutive Final Four appearances (2006-08) during his 10-year tenure.
While it’s clear success must come quickly, the good news is Alford inherits a team with enough talent to contend for a Pac-12 title. Shabazz Muhammad left for the NBA, but the returning cast of Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and the 6-10 Wear twins provides ample talent and experience to lead the charge in 2013-14.
2012-13 in review: 25-10 overall (13-5 Pac-12), lost in second round of NCAA tournament.
Tournament projection: At-large bid, No. 7 seed.
Coach’s corner: “I’m humbled and blessed by this opportunity, but I’m not going to change the system of how I do things because of the tremendous expectations. We’re working to get better and trying to set these kids up in life after basketball. None of that changes just because there’s an address change. I can’t take a job and reinvent who I am. That being said, championships are what you come to UCLA for when you’re a player. That’s why I’m here as a coach.” — Alford, whose contract has an unusually big buyout clause under which each side is obligated to pay $10.4 million for backing out of the deal in the first three years.
Star watch: UCLA returns three of five starters from last season and six of the team’s eight primary contributors. Adams (15.3 ppg) and Anderson (9.7 … [For more on College basketball countdown: No. 28 UCLA, click here.]