Alabama is preparing for UCLA in a non-conference basketball game beginning at 5:30 p.m. CST Sunday in Coleman Coliseum. But what the Crimson Tide is preparing for is this year’s Bruins team, not the ghost of UCLAs past.
This year’s UCLA team probably comes into Tuscaloosa known throughout the college basketball world as the team that trailed Kentucky 41-7 at halftime en route to an 83-44 loss to the Wildcats in the Bruins last outing. That is part of the reason Coach Steve Alford’s squad is 8-4 coming into the Alabama game.
Though not playing near the punishing schedule that UCLA has played, the Crimson Tide of Coach Anthony Grant has an 8-3 worksheet with losses against the only teams of note – Iowa State, Xavier, and Wichita State.
Sunday’s game will be televised by ESPNU.
UCLA has a 3-1 advantage in games played, including scoring the final eight points of the game last year in Los Angeles to win 75-67. While those legends of Bruins basketball won’t be back, Tide players who were in last year’s game will remember Tony Parker, who came off the bench to score 16 points against Bama.
Parker is a starter this year, one of five Bruins averaging in double figures, including the only returning starter from last year, Norman Powell. Powell had 13 points in the game against Alabama last season and is averaging 16.1 ppg this year. Top scorer is son of the coach, Bryce Alford, who iks averaging 17.6 ppg.
Steve Alford is in his 24th year as a head coach and will be going for career victory 500 against Alabama.
Grant said, “It’s about our team playing tomorrow, not playing tradition. We’re preparing for that team we’re playing tomorrow.”
Senior guard Levi Randolph, who would have no reason to know many of those former UCLA greats, said, “We’re trying to take it as another game. You play the game of basketball at this level.”
Someone at Alabama believes that. A line in the game notes: UCLA (1,793 wins) and Alabama (1.589 wins) have combined for 3,382 victories between the two storied programs.
Of course, a number of those UCLA victories came in winning 11 national championships and playing in seven other Final Fours.
Last year’s game at Pauley Pavilion was typical of many Tide games in 2013-14 – Trevor Releford and a supporting cast. Last year Releford (who didn’t start the game) scored a career high 34 points against the Bruins, but next best was Randolph with only 12 on 5-14 field goal shooting.
“Both teams are different,” Grant said.