UCLA head coach Steve Alford has experienced March Madness in just about every way possible. He was a starter on the Hoosiers' '87 title team and he's brought small, medium, and large schools to the big dance. In his first year in Westwood, Alford led his Bruins to a 26-8 record, a second place regular season finish in the Pac-12, and a conference tourney title earned with a win over #4 Arizona. Friday, UCLA takes on Tulsa in San Diego for the Round of 64. It will be Alford's eighth appearance as a head coach in the national tournament and he's ready to go.
We asked Alford what he's learned over the years and how that has informed his strategies for this Bruins team. He gave us his six rules for surviving March Madness.
Every Year Is Different
Seeding, a roster's experience level, expectations – which can be very different when you're at Iowa or UCLA – and hype all affect players preparing for the tournament. What that means for coaches, even the ones who don't move from program to program, is that no two years are ever the same.
ALFORD: "Each team is different, and you go into it a little different in different places you've been. My first in Division III at Manchester University was different than my Missouri State days. They hadn't been in a while and you had a different mindset going in when you're a 12-seed than you do as you go in as a better seed. You may have an older team, or one not quite ready.
Our team last year at New Mexico, they were probably a year away because they were all sophomores and juniors. We thought this would be the year, and they've had a great season [Ed. note: New Mexico went 27-6, and is a 7-seed in the South Region]. Each year it kind of depends on whether you have a team like Florida with a lot of seniors and juniors that have built towards this, or a different mix."
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