Winning in the tournament
Tournaments are a craps shoot and a terrible way to evaluate a team’s performance. But for those that insist upon Alford’s tournament record as a reason he should keep his job (‘You’d fire a guy for getting to three Sweet 16s in five years? For making the tournament four out of five years? Maybe better coaches don’t want to work under that kind of standard.’), here are some interesting NCAA Tournament statistics.
Alford has said that it’s hard to make the NCAA Tournament and that doing so is a very good accomplishment. Is it though?
- Roughly 20% of Division I teams make the tournament in a given year.
- Roughly 45% of Power Conference teams make the tournament in a given year.
- Roughly 40% of the Pac-12 makes the conference each year.
- UCLA Basketball has made the NCAA Tournament roughly 80% of the time.
- If you consider the play-in game part of the tournament, then Alford has performed in line with UCLA’s historical success rate by making the tournament four out of five years. If, however, you consider the play-in game a way for bubble teams to play themselves into the tournament, then Alford’s success rate drops to 60%.
Within the tournament, Alford’s average seeding of 7.25 is the worst average seed line of any UCLA Basketball coach all time (controlling for changes in the size of the field). Alford is the only UCLA coach since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to coach at least five seasons and not once make the Elite Eight in those first five years.
Lastly, Alford’s tournament win rate of .600 is the lowest of any UCLA coach since the tournament expanded in 1985, with the exception of Walt Hazzard, who went 1-1 in 1987.
By any statistical measure, Steve Alford is the worst or second worst coach in post-John Wooden UCLA Basketball history.
After the 2016 campaign ended amid calls for Alford’s job, he took the radical step of returning his contract extension and writing a letter of apology to UCLA Basketball fans. Known by now for his team’s defensive ineptitude, Alford acknowledged, ‘This year we ranked outside the top 100 [of defensive efficiency]. This can never happen again. We must return to basics and instill defensive fundamentals in our young men from day one of permissible workouts.’
That year, the Bruins had ranked 118th in defensive efficiency, allowing 101.9 points per 100 possessions, adjusted for opponent. The following year, the team did improve, allowing 100.4 points per 100 possessions, for a ranking of 85th. That team was upset in the Sweet Sixteen largely due to their inability to stop De’Aaron Fox. This year, as mentioned above, the team is again outside the top 100 best defensive teams, ranking 101st, giving up 101.6 points per 100 possessions.
Alford said it couldn’t happen again. It did. Now what?