UCLA Men’s Basketball / March Madness Update

Hey everyone! If you’ve been following my blogs, I’m sure you’re now aware of my disappointment over UCLA’s March Madness efforts. It was much less March Madness for the Bruins than it was March badness after an 83-63 defeat to underdog Minnesota.

Terrible puns aside, this was another good year for UCLA basketball overall. In the context of the Bruins’ remarkable historical success however, many fans can’t help but feel disappointed – especially after such high expectations for the first (and what could be the last) season for 20-year-old shooting guard/small forward phenom Shabazz Muhammad and 19-year-old star guard Kyle Anderson.

This is turning out to be a season fraught with upsets for everyone! As I hinted at last month in my March Madness blog, upsets are just part of the madness, and 2013 is turning out to be another year of upsets.

In the South, Number 2 ranked Georgetown fell in the second round to 15th seeded Florida Gulf Coast, who then went on to upset 7th ranked San Diego State to cruise into the sweet 16. In the Midwest,12th seeded Oregon also beat the odds against 5th Oklahoma State and 4th St. Louis for an elite 8 matchup with first seeded Louisville.

Third seeded New Mexico and fifth seeded Wisconsin also fell to Harvard and Mississippi respectively in the West. In the East order was restored to the universe with fairly predictable results, aside from UNLV’s demise to Berkeley.

As of today, April 1st, the only upset team left is the 9th seeded Wichita State Shockers. The final four is slated for next Monday – who do you think will win?

With the Bruins out this year, I’ll definitely be rooting for these underdogs to upset this year’s high ranking survivors. But what exactly went wrong for the Bruins?

Blame seems to have been placed on 10th year now-former Bruin head coach Ben Howland for this year’s tournament shortcomings, but over his 10 years Howland led the team to a 69% winning percentage and four Pac-12 titles. Some cite poor recruiting as a reason for the change, but that seems like a poor reason after the additions of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker, and Jordan Adams this year. But it seems like there are just unrealistic expectations considering John Wooden’s borderline superhuman successes.

The talk of the town in Westwood this week has been Howland’s replacement candidates. From what I’ve been heard, a lot of people had their eyes on Virginia Commonwealth’s Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens of Butler who both have high career winning percentages and great track records in recent years. On Saturday, UCLA named its successor to Howland, Steve Alford. Alford seems like a potentially worthy candidate, but it will be tough to live up to expectations following Howland. Only time will tell, but how likely is it for a newly-hired coach to make it far in the tournament in their first year?

I’m sure some stat heads at ESPN have a number for that, but I’m not an analyst by any means. My hunch is that the chances are slim and we won’t be seeing UCLA in the final four next year even if Phil Jackson himself had assumed head coaching duties.