VIDEO: Alford on Wednesday

Head coach Steve Alford talks about the final preparations before the Tulsa game and the health of Wanaah Bail...

Steve Alford:

On whether this UCLA team has a high level of anxiety:
No, it's not at all. We play Friday. So we have got a bonus since we are on Friday. Obviously, when you travel, I think you have time to come back here and you are more adjusted. We gave our guys Sunday and Monday off. We had two good workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday, and now we will have a light workout tomorrow in anticipation of the weekend. I think that everybody is fired up, but I haven't seen any kind of anxiousness or anything like that with our team. The team seems very calm. They know that they are still a ways a way from playing. But, I really have liked their energy the last two days.

On UCLA's student-athletes completing their final exams this week:
Yes, that's why we really haven't had practice until Wednesday, really talking about the NCAA Tournament because they have been finishing. We still have a number of guys that still have to do some things, whether that's a paper or whatever. But, it's very difficult. Most of their finals were completed on Monday or Tuesday, so we wanted them to get those out of the way.

On how gratifying it's been to secure a No. 4 seed in his first season at UCLA:
What has been really pleasing and what's been a lot of fun is the young men I've had a chance to coach. I've said it from day one, almost a year now, almost 12 months, but we only had six scholarship players. Those six scholarship players could have opted out and they could have done something different. You look at guys like the Wears, I'm their third collegiate coach. You know, that's not easy. It's not easy when there is change. So much is made, when there is change, of the guy you are replacing and then the new guy. Most of the tension is there, and sometimes you forget about the players. I think that having been a player has helped me along those lines. I know how difficult that would have been on me had I only had Coach [Bob] Knight two years or three years and then you get somebody new. So, that stability, that consistency, and yet these guys have really welcomed us as a new staff but they have trusted us. I think that trust was built early in the process. It has been building and gotten much better. As I was doing some radio stuff this morning, this team has been very consistent. We haven't played great all the time, but 26-8 and no losing streaks of such, they have been a fun team to coach because of how hard they work and how unselfish they are.

On the tradition carrying into the postseason:
They see that every day. Coaches see it every day. I've said it before, I walk by Coach Wooden's statue every day. I don't walk by it as a burden. I walk by it as a humbling experience for me. It reminds me of the blessing that I have to have the opportunity to coach here. I want the guys here to feel the same way. [After our staff arrive] We hung new banners down our hallway, 11 of them. So I hope that people know that I'm trying to sell that more. I'm not trying to run from that. And I don't want our team running from it. I don't want the banners to just hang from the rafters where you have to look up to see them. I want our guys every time they walk in and out of our locker room and they walk down that hall, they see 11-time national champs. So, they see that. They feel that. I think that is part of the reason why, from a coaching standpoint or from a player's standpoint, you like being at a place like this. Champions are made here. That's kind of the motto, athletically, around here. And all of these young men want to be champions.

On UCLA's players developing a little swagger after last weekend's wins:
Last week helped. It definitely helped. They had a little more swag to them this week than they did when we got back from Washington state, that's for sure.

On observations of Tulsa's team:
Well, very athletic. It's a very athletic team. It's a very hungry team. They are a very young team. I think that's where Coach Manning has done a really good job with them. They are a very young team, mostly sophomores and a couple of seniors. They are really loaded with sophomores that are very athletic and hungry. They have won 11 straight. So anytime that you do that with the parity that's in men's basketball, you are a very good basketball team. We know that and we are going to get a very good test. The good thing is that Caoch Manning has got to stay on the sidelines. He doesn't get to suit up, so that's a positive.

On Tulsa looking for a fast-paced game:
Obviously, I don't know Tulsa like Coach Manning does. We are not going to worry about what style they want. We have got to be who we are. Who we are is up-tempo. We want to play fast. We want as many possessions in the game as possible. We had more late shot-clock situations, both offensively and defensively, than we have had in months, so much so, that this week we worked on late shot-clock situations because we have not had many. We want the want the ball shot quicker, we want the ball moving quick. The quicker the pace for us, the better. That doesn't mean it's going to be advantageous for us, but that is the style that we want to play.

On Tulsa's defensive tendencies:
Well, they are very aggressive. They'll pressure you and they'll get into you. They've got two lefty guards, and I've probably made too much attention of this, but I just remember this as a player – it's different. You play against righties most of the time. We haven't played against a lot of lefties, and here we are playing against two lefties in the starting lineup. They knock things loose. They are a lot like us, where they average a lot of steals without pressing a lot. They don't do a lot of pressing, but their athleticism and their speed knocks away a lot of balls and they get a lot of steals that way.

On former Bruins saying that they have really gotten behind this team:
All the alumni have been great. That's some of the things we tried to get going with last summer. We had a couple of functions for our lettermen. We established kind of a tailgating area for them at home games. It took us a while to get it organized and get it going, but by the time league play rolled around, we had a special area for them to meet and greet. We wanted to get them polos, or t-shirts, and I want those lettermen to know that they're not just the ones who started it but they really formed it and have kept it going. We want them to be, one, very involved, but two, to be very appreciated. Because we know how in just one year, as a coach, and our players know how difficult it is, their accomplishments – I don't want them to ever go unnoticed. I want them to know how much we appreciate them. We have had so many during the course of the year stop in and watch practices, come to games, and then with phone calls and emails, they have been tremendous.

On Tulsa's James Woodward (leading scorer and leading rebounder, 15.7 ppg and 5.8 rpg):
He's very quick, a lot like [Chasson] Randle from Stanford. He can score in a lot of different ways. He can drive it, he can shoot it, and he can create for others. He is really good in transition. The scouting report probably starts with him.

On Wanaah Bail undergoing left knee surgery on Tuesday:
It's just really unfortunate. Obviously, Wanaah wasn't playing a lot. But, he was making such great strides. In practices, he was getting better. He was getting healthy again. I just feel for Wanaah. That is a big setback for him. We don't think that it'll be something that keeps him out a long time. The doctors even said that if we were fortunate to advance, that there is potential of getting him back. I don't think it's a long thing for him. But it's just another nagging deal that he has to go through again. It's unfortunate. We saw him really doing a lot of good things in practice as his health got better.

On UCLA having defeated a one-seed (Arizona) last Saturday in Las Vegas:
We have been talking about that. We talked about that before we played Arizona. We had played Duke and Arizona. We had played through a really demanding schedule. We had been talking to our guys about that all year long. A lot of it has to do with the concentrated ability on the defensive end. We saw that. We were much better defensively at the Pac-12 Tournament than we had been in months. If we can figure that out and get consistent with that, there is a lot of parity in men's basketball right now. Obviously, Florida has won 26 games in a row, and they should be thought of and you've got Wichita State who has not lost – those are probably the two teams in this tournament that people look at and say they're the odds on favorite. But, you get below that, there are a lot of teams, maybe a dozen teams that are pretty similar that have a chance to do something in this tournament. If you get fortunate enough to pair up with one of those teams, you just never know. It's one game.

On foul trouble concerns with an injured Wanaah Bail (freshman, 6-9, forward):
We have really played most of the year that way, with an eight-man rotation. Wanaah has not been in that rotation. But he was that insurance policy that we had if we got in foul trouble. We do have Noah [Allen] and Noah has played very well. He is very versatile. He has played kind of the 3 or 4 spot, he's a little undersized but he's done that all year long. If we have to go nine men deep into our rotation, we will. I will say that Tony [Parker] and the Wears have done a tremendous job over the last month of doing a lot of good things. Tony had one game in the tournament where he got in foul trouble, but there have not been many of those games. He has gotten much better defensively.

On the team's mood heading to San Diego:
They're having fun. They are enjoying it and they are having fun. That's kind of been the theme. We want them having fun and enjoying this. The NCAA Tournament is kind of two-fold. It's a reward because there are only 68 that get in this and there are 350 teams which start the season trying to get in it. And then the other fold of this, is you are trying to advance and you are trying to win it. There is a 1 in 68 chance of winning this thing. So, it's a balance of that. But I think that so much time, there is so much heat and pressure and intensity put on that you forget about the reward part – about how fun it is. We did that going into the Pac-12 Tournament. We wanted to make sure that these guys went into this having fun and we played at a higher level, so it's the same kind of process as we go into this tournament.

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