In the five years that Steve Alford coached the UCLA basketball team, he was only able to get 3 (out of 20) Pac-12 Conference road sweeps. Can that change under Murry Bartow?
If you want to win your conference, you have to win on the road. In the Pac-12, that becomes even more crucial largely due to the way the conference schedule is set up as teams have to go on two-game road trips. For UCLA basketball, especially under Steve Alford, it has not gone well.
Every season, Pac-12 teams have four two-game road trips, which does not include an away game to their rival/travel partner’s arena. So in five years, Alford had 20 chances to get the elusive road sweep. In that time, he has only managed to claim three, all of which came in the same season.
During the 2016-17 season, the year Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf, and Ike Anigbogu graced us with their presence, UCLA was able to get three road sweeps and one split. That split came against the Oregon schools with the loss coming against the Ducks, the eventual regular season champion.
UCLA Basketball Under Alford: Pac-12 Road Sweep, Split or Swept
It could be argued that if the Bruins won that game, they would have won the conference, which would have been Alford’s only Pac-12 title. Unfortunately, they didn’t and the Bruins ended up in third-place (even though they ended the season with an impressive 31-5 record).
But let me get back to the main point, outside of that season, Alford has not claimed a road split which is part of the reason why he never won a Pac-12 regular season championship. Outside of that season, there was absolutely no hope for a road sweep.
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As you can see from the chart above, Alford underachieved when he went on the road in the Pac-12. Outside of that 2016-17 season, his best outcome was four splits. That was in his first season. In the other three seasons, he has been swept at least twice in conference play. That is not going to get you a Pac-12 Championship.
That is all in the past and things start anew for UCLA with Murry Bartow taking over for the now terminated Alford. With the Bruins starting the Pac-12 season 2-0, they have some momentum on their side as it seems new life has been breathed into their soul.
In their first week of conference play (and without Alford), the Bruins have had a complete change of attitude. Not only have they improved their points, rebounds and field field goal percentage since Bartow has taken over, they have also limited their opponents defensively.
Now if all of this basketball goodness continues, then maybe the Bruins will be in contention for the regualr season title, but they need to get those road wins, especially those elusive road sweeps. That will not be easy, especially with the Bruins hitting the road for the first time in conference play this week against two difficult opponents. On Thursday, UCLA travels to Oregon and then follow that up with a trip to Oregon State on Saturday, According to ESPN, the Bruins are not favored in either.
Still, the Bruins should not worry themselves with the opinions of pundits. Though they must realize how important a road win/sweep is, they need to focus on what has been working and take things one game at a time.
This is not only the perfect opportunity to do that, but it is also a chance for the Bruins to show the conference (and the nation) that things are different in Westwood. Things have changed under Bartow and if they can keep that mojo flowing, then this might be the year the Bruins finally capture another regular season championship. Something Alford was not able to do in five seasons.