Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Steve Alford Defends UCLA’s NCAA Selection, Says Kentucky Has ‘Embarrassed a Lot of Teams’
From the moment UCLA was named to the 68-team field of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, talking heads have been ripping their selection.
But confronted by the media in Louisville on Wednesday, Bruins coach Steve Alford defended the Bruins’ selection while also making some choice comments on overall No. 1 seed Kentucky.
“It’s been kind of funny to us,” Alford said. “It’s UCLA. The history and tradition of UCLA in this tournament goes way, way back. But there’s other teams. When you look at resumes and RPIs that were behind us, it’s not like we were the last one in. We didn’t get an 8 or 7-seed either. We got an 11-seed, but we weren’t the last team in either. I think our guys have done enough.”
“We were in a very good league. We finished fourth in that league. I think the problem is everybody saw us play Kentucky, and that was in December, where we scored seven points in the half. We’re much better team now than we were in December….Kentucky’s embarrassed a lot of teams this year. We just happened to be one of them.”
“We were the only team in the country that lost four guys to the NBA and the other team in the country that lost three guys to hardship, and yet here we are in the NCAA Tournament, winners of 20 games, a top-25 schedule strength. We scheduled this way not knowing we were going to have three guys lost to hardship. It was almost an unfair schedule to a team as young as we are, and that’s why I give this team a lot of credit.”
Alford, who captained Indiana’s 1987 national-championship team, isn’t at all surprised that Kentucky is still on track for an undefeated season.
“I’m surprised anybody got within 30 of them,” Alford said. “No, they’re extremely talented. They have guys that ended up coming back. You thought they were going to end up losing two or three of those guys, and they all came back.”
On Thursday, UCLA will face SMU and head coach Larry Brown, who led the Bruins to the 1980 NCAA championship game against Louisville.
“Excited about the matchup,” Alford said. “Have an awful lot of respect for Coach Brown and his program and his team and what Coach Brown has constantly meant to the game of basketball. Just looking forward to the matchup. We’re pretty healthy. See what happens tomorrow.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.