Ah the NCAA's are here again and plenty of upsets are all around. Gonzaga was shown the door by Wichita State 76-70, Ole Miss took out Wisconsin and those of you who picked New Mexico to make it into the final four got the usual Steve Alford choke job when Harvard showed them the door which really riled certain New Mexico folks and sportswriters, to the point that one of them said he had enough and quit his job of following the Lobos for 33 years. This comes after New Mexico gave the high and mighty Alford a 10 year contract. And then he leaves to take the UCLA job on Saturday 3/30/13.
New Mexico had a very tough schedule rated number 2 in the nation. They did beat some quality teams and won their division and tournament, they were a very tough and defense minded team. Problem is you might win 29 games in a regular season, but you play one bad game in the NCAA's and you're done, simple as that. Iowa Hawkeye fans always never accepted Alford as their own, especially after the mess Bob Bowlsby did after getting rid of Tom Davis after Davis final season got the Hawks to the sweet 16 and making the former Indiana Hoosier superstar a Hawkeye coach. What turned me off on Alford was him taking the player's names off the Iowa Jerseys and making them a faceless team of sorts, even when they won 26 games one year, the Alford magic stuck again and the Hawkeyes were one and done in the last NCAA appearance and the next season Alford couldn't get out of Iowa City fast enough when Albuquerque came calling. Since then, he's had regular season success down in Lobos Land but continues to fail in the playoffs.
I didn't think New Mexico was a final four or even Sweet 16 but would have picked them over Harvard as well. But they didn't bring their A game and Harvard outplayed them. And Lobo Nation is pissed off. New Mexico has all of their starters coming back next season and maybe they'll be pissed off too about the big let down that they will avenge and go deep into the NCAA's but Alford's method of operation has been lacking in the post season and if they fail to get past the first round again, all hell will break loose and Alford may have to leave town in a hurry 10 year contract or a buy out. It's like the Hawkeyes, you have to finish the game and not take the other team lightly.
Look at it this way New Mexico fans, at least you made it to the NCAAs. The Hawkeyes are still stuck in NIT land trying to turn their fortunes around after three dismal years of Todd Lickliter and Fran McCaffery trying to clean up the mess that both Lickliter and Alford left behind. And for their effort have made their first trip ever to the Big Apple NIT final 4 next week. It may be the NIT but the Hawkeyes have gotten farther this year then the mighty Lobos did before Harvard took them out.
But the big heyhoo was Saturday's announcement that Steve Alford has now accepted the UCLA job replacing Ben Howland who got beat by Minnesota and when the Gophers lost, Tubby Smith got canned. Even after a 10 year extension did ya really think that Alford was going to hang around Albuquerque that long? The pretty boy wants exposure and no better place to get it is UCLA and why not? The Lobos team had 5 of them So Cal players on that squad and was ready to tear up the MWC once again before Alford took the money and run. But usually that's been the MO that Alford has shown most of his career, hang at a school for five or so seasons and move on elsewhere. Make no mistake he is a good coach, he just can't get the job done in the NCAAs or NIT's, one and done which means his two straight Iowa titles in the B1G tournaments the first two seasons he was at Iowa was a fluke. Your typical springtime basketball coach which means when spring rolls around, his teams pack it in no matter how good they are.
So now, it looks familiar all over again but this time New Mexico fans are up in arms while Hawkeyes fans just shake their heads and say we know how that went. Unlike the Iowa fiasco, New Mexico still has their team in tact and with a good coach they should be all right although nobody knows about the season after that. Alford will strip the names off the UCLA's players jersey's try to teach team morals and sportsmanship and try to get the Bruins back to the storied NCAAs final four but one thing needs to change, and that's Alford's one and done mentality that has sunk the Lobos this season and the Hawkeyes' 26 win season of long ago but even that team the fans never did embrace the former Hoosier Hot Shot or Bob Bowlsby's folly which began the Iowa Basketball downfall, I blame Bowlsby more than I do Alford but at least Fran McCaffery's team made a final four of sorts this year.
As for Alford, he has his work cut out for him. John Wooden's ghost is all over Bruinland and although fans will enjoy winning 25 games or more in a season, they will not tolerate one and done in the NCAAs and Alford will have his biggest challage in not failing on game 1. And this time if he fails, he may not be moving to a new job in five seasons, he might be out the door.
As for myself, UCLA can have Alford. http://www.latimes.com/sports/college/basketball/la-sp-0403-simers-ucla-alford-20130403,0,4790759,full.column