The pressure on Steve Alford is mounting after his UCLA Bruins lost to the Belmont Bruins at home on Saturday.
UCLA was up by 12 early in the second half and held a lead for most of the game until Belmont made a 3-pointer to take a 67-66 lead with under three minutes to go. Belmont did not relinquish the lead after that in a 74-72 victory.
UCLA’s shooting — especially at the free throw line — was just embarrassing. Alford’s crew went 12/28 (42.9 percent) from the free throw line. They were similarly bad from long range, going 8/28 (28.6 percent) on threes.
UCLA is now 7-3 on the season. They also suffered consecutive blowout losses to Michigan State and North Carolina in November.
This is the sort of embarrassing home loss a program like UCLA should not suffer. Alford is in his sixth season as head coach of UCLA and has never made it past the sweet sixteen. He has a losing season, a first four elimination, and now a home loss to Belmont on his record.
UCLA is trying to give back to first responders by offering free tickets for upcoming sports events.
The Bruins announced in their release about Saturday’s football game against Stanford that first responders who present ID at the Rose Bowl box office will receive four tickets to the game against the Cardinal.
“In appreciation of their selfless service and efforts to keep our community safe, UCLA Athletics is proud to offer four complimentary tickets to Saturday’s game to all first responders. This offer can be redeemed at the Rose Bowl Stadium Box Office on Saturday by showing any valid first responder identification,” the release says.
LA Times UCLA reporter Ben Bolch says the Bruins are also offering the same deal for the Bruins’ men’s basketball game against Hawaii on Nov. 28.
First responders have helped to protect the communities around Los Angeles in recent weeks dealing with a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks and deadly fires throughout Southern California.
Cody Riley may off to the pros without ever playing in an actual college game.
The LA Times’ Ben Bolch reported on Tuesday that Riley, the UCLA freshman who was involved in the notorious shoplifting scandal in China last year, has declared for the NBA draft. Riley’s name is on a list of 236 players who filed as early entry candidates, which was released by the NBA earlier in the day.
The 20-year-old Riley, a 6-foot-10 forward, appeared in just one exhibition game for the Bruins last season before he was involved in the overseas incident along with fellow freshmen LiAngelo Ball and Jalen Hill. Riley and Hill were ultimately suspended by the school for the remainder of the season as a result. Meanwhile, Ball, who instead chose to withdraw from UCLA, is now playing professionally in Lithuania and is also listed as an early entry candidate for the draft. Hill’s status for the future remains unclear.
Bolch also adds that Riley is not believed to have hired an agent, meaning that he could still potentially return to school if he withdraws his name from draft consideration by May 30. However, Riley would probably be stuck on the depth chart behind this incoming star forward should he return to UCLA.
David Grace is out at UCLA after five seasons as a top assistant on Steve Alford’s staff, and it is safe to say he was pretty blindsided by the news.
Grace, who had served as Alford’s lead recruiter and helped the Bruins field multiple top freshman classes during his tenure, was reported on Saturday to have been let go. After word leaked out, Grace told Ben Bolch of the LA Times that he was “very shocked” by his dismissal, which he was notified of at the end of March. He also hinted at some displeasure over the way Alford handled the situation and pointed to his recruiting successes to justify his surprise.
Grace arrived at UCLA in 2013, the same time Alford was hired as head coach. Among the recruits he successfully lured to Westwood were Zach LaVine, Kevon Looney, Lonzo Ball, Aaron Holiday, Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes, and most recently, Shareef O’Neal. Should the Bruins be unable to compensate for Grace’s recruiting talents, Alford may just end up losing even more support.
Rooting for a team on the NCAA Tournament bubble is a unique experience. Unlike any other sport, teams on the fringes of success pray for a chance to keep playing, with only so much control over the situation. Sure, they could win their conference tournaments, but many face long roads and brutal opponents between themselves and a conference tourney title.
Unlike the first college football team left out of the playoff, most of these teams are supremely flawed. They didn’t win their conference and weren’t ranked near the top of the polls all year. These are teams that just want a chance to prove they aren’t mediocre and make some noise in March. With conference tournaments very much underway, here’s our look at 11 bubble teams hanging on by a thread. Some have a chance to earn their way, but others are already at home, watching and hoping.
1. Notre Dame
The Irish are one of the most interesting bubble teams in years. Notre Dame is only 20-14 on the season, but lost nine of those games without star forward Bonzie Colson. The Irish were also without the services of point guard Matt Farrell in four of the games they lost without Colson. The selection committee has long claimed to take injuries into consideration. Notre Dame will put that theory to the test. Colson and Farrell are both back in the lineup, leading to a win over Virginia Tech early in the conference tournament. The Irish then lost to Duke Thursday, which would have been the kind of win to earn them a bid. Now, like the other teams listed here, they wait.
Consistent defense continues to be an issue for UCLA, and Bruins head coach Steve Alford knows it.
UCLA lost at Utah 84-78 on Thursday night. The Bruins allowed the Utes to shoot 52.7 percent from the field for the game. There was a period in the final six minutes of the first half where Utah made five straight threes to build a lead (they went into halftime up 47-40).
After the game, Alford pointed to the defensive lapses by the Bruins and said that was preventing the team from taking the next step.
UCLA and Utah both now have 10-6 conference records in what’s been a down season for the Pac-12. Arizona is the only ranked team from the conference. The Bruins visit Colorado on Sunday, while Utah gets USC on Saturday.
The pair of UCLA basketball players accused of shoplifting in China who remain on the team will sit out the remainder of the season.
In a statement released Friday, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley, both accused of shoplifting, will be suspended indefinitely for the remainder of the 2017-18 basketball season.
The third player involved in the legal issues, LiAngelo Ball, is no longer with the program. Perhaps father LaVar had an inkling that something like this was coming. LiAngelo would have almost certainly been subjected to the same punishment had he not been pulled out of school. Instead, he and his younger brother will be playing overseas in the new year.
UCLA’s athletic department is trying to show some appreciation for the firefighters who have been working so hard to battle all the fires in the state.
The UCLA Athletics Twitter account announced on Wednesday that the school is offering two free tickets to all California firefighters who want to attend one of the Bruins’ last four men’s basketball games in December.
Firefighters who want to take advantage of the offer would have their choice of attending UCLA’s games against Cincinnati, South Dakota, Washington State or Washington. The games against Cincinnati and Washington are probably most appealing of the four.
Going back to last week, fires have broken out throughout Southern California. Many of the ones in the Los Angeles area, including one nearby UCLA, are nearly contained, but one in Ventura County has been spreading up towards Santa Barbara and causing damage. New fires have also broken out in San Diego. On top of the Southern California fires, there were awful fires in Northern California in October that caused 44 deaths and billions of dollars in destruction.
UCLA held a press conference on Wednesday to address the shoplifting incident that resulted in three players being arrested in China last week, and head coach Steve Alford revealed that the freshmen have been suspended indefinitely from the program.
Alford said the amount of games LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill will miss has not been determined.
Alford and UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero noted that the three players seemed genuinely remorseful, and it sounds as though they will be back with the team at some point. All three apologized for their actions and thanked U.S. president Donald Trump for his assistance in resolving the matter.
Guerrero confirmed that the players stole from three stores and said the charges against against them were dropped.
Shoplifting is a serious offense in China and can result in up to 10 years in prison, so the players were fortunate to have gotten off with a slap on the wrist. LaVar Ball may have tried to downplay his son’s arrest initially, but it would appear UCLA is taking it seriously.
The Three UCLA basketball players who were arrested for shoplifting in China last week received some assistance from Donald Trump in resolving their case, and the U.S. president would like it if the young men showed their appreciation.
UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were finally allowed to leave China on Tuesday after they were basically under house arrest for a week at their hotel. Trump spoke directly with Chinese president Xi Jinping to help settle the issue, and all the charges have reportedly been dropped. Trump says the three players were facing as much as 10 years in jail, and he wants some credit for helping out.
You didn’t think Mr. President would pass up an opportunity to toot his own horn, did you?
Shoplifting is a serious offense in China, and surveillance footage reportedly proved that the three UCLA players stole from three high-end stores at a shopping center. Other than being ripped on national television by a UCLA legend, they really haven’t faced any consequences. Like it or not, all indications are that Trump had a lot to do with that.