Campus Corner

UCLA: We deserve to be in NCAA Tournament

UCLA coach Steve Alford and his players think they belong in the NCAA Tournament.
UCLA coach Steve Alford and his players think they belong in the NCAA Tournament. The Associated Press

UCLA coach Steve Alford has to make sure he’s not having hearing problems when told UCLA doesn’t belong in the NCAA Tournament field.

The Bruins were among the final at-large teams selected to the field and critics have suggested teams such Colorado State and Temple had better resumes than UCLA.

“It’s been kind of funny to us,” Alford said. “It’s UCLA. The history and tradition of UCLA in this tournament goes way, way back … It’s not like we were the last ones in.

“I think the problem is every saw us play Kentucky, and that was in December, when we scored seven points in a half (first). We’re a much better team now.”

UCLA’s 11 NCAA men’s basketball championships are the most of any school. History isn’t supposed to matter when it comes to tournament selection, just the current season’s resume. The Bruins finished fourth in the Pac-12, stand 20-13 overall, and went 2-8 against the RPI top 50. By contrast, Colorado State went 2-3 and Temple 3-8 in those games.

Bruins freshman forward Kevon Looney said the criticism should motivate 11th-seeded UCLA against sixth-seeded SMU, led by former UCLA coach Larry Brown. Their game tips off around 2:10 p.m. Thursday (truTV).

“It’s a lot of motivation,” Looney said. “Everybody doesn’t think we deserve to be here. We’re going to try and prove them wrong. We feel that we deserve to be here.”

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.

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