Saturday, June 18, 2016

How To Fix An NBA Game

Don't listen to the analysts who say fixing an NBA game is so complicated and insanely complex and involves so many people that it never happens.

That's rubbish. Fixes happen in the NBA. Not only that, they aren't all that difficult to execute..

By the way, the players aren't involved. It's just the refs--very few refs. In college, where fixing means point-shaving, gamblers involve players and that gets messy, because you're dealing with amateurs. So it often doesn't work. Limiting it to officials keeps it simple.

In the NBA, for the most part, fixing is shaving points to fix point spreads for gamblers. But at playoff time, it can also entail adjusting the game to help a team win to extend a series. Obviously, for TV networks, a six-or-seven game series is preferable to a four-game sweep or a five-game series. The longer the series, the more money for everybody. The networks downplay that or point out that's not true, but that's crap. The longer the series the more money for everybody. Period.

In the playoffs, in certain critical series, there are covert ways for refs to get orders to quietly do what they can to help underdogs. This doesn't go on in every game, just certain games in certain series..

Over the years a very small percentage of NBA refs have been working with gamblers, who have, here and there, leaked info that the NBA, at times, has also ordered adjustments in certain playoff games. My info comes from two sources that are close to three veteran gamblers.

The NBA isn't stupid. They have a whole network of checks and balances set up to spot fixes. The bad gays, though, are way ahead of the good guys. It's like in sports where there are tests to spot doping. The tests are always several steps behind, so it's tough catching the cheaters.

Here's a key point. Fixing an NBA game isn't always possible. Let's say, if the fix is on in five games, in two of them, it doesn't get done. Sometimes a ref looking to influence a game can't do it because the adjustments would be too obvious.

One way that refs can fix a game is by making the game look like it's sloppily refereed overall. In the context of many bad calls, it's easier to execute a fix. But if a ref is involved in too many badly called games, that hurts his record and may keep him from being assigned to important games. So fixers have to be careful with this tactic.

Game six of this Warriors-Cavaliers series was, from an officiating standpoint, a mess. Some of the calls were atrocious. Cleveland needed that win to tie the series and force a game seven. They got it. Some calls severely damaged the Warriors. Specifically, Steph Curry was in foul trouble the whole game, which effected his play, and eventually got him kicked out.

Some Warrior fans, even Golden Sate coach Steve Kerr, insist some of the calls against Curry were bogus.
Were they just bad calls or part of a fix? It's hard to say. But if it was a fix, it was nicely done.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Why The Cavaliers' Game Three Rout is Meaningless.

Relax, Golden State Warrior fans.

There's nothing wrong with your team. That 120-90 drubbing by the Cleveland Cavaliers is no cause for concern. What it meant is that the Warriors didn't take that game seriously. After crushing the Cavs in Oakland in the first two games of the Finals, they know they're better than Cleveland and can whip the Cavs when it counts. To the Warriors, that third game was a perfect time for a siesta.

The difference was the Warrior defense. In the first quarter you could see the GS defenders weren't sharp. They were a step slow, and often late on their rotations, playing closer to matador defense than lock-down defense. When Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving, a lame defender who tends to disappear in the clutch, scores 16 points in the first quarter, you know the defense is tanking.

Also, and very important, the Cavs were desperate. Losing that game meant slipping to an 0-3 deficit, essentially a death sentence. Desperate teams play all out for 48 minutes and tend to play way over their heads. That was Cleveland on Wednesday.

That day, the Warriors weren't even close to matching the Cavs'  intensity. It's nearly impossible for a team to switch its mental attitude once the game starts. If their heads aren't in the game and they start out in first gear, they are not going to shift into overdrive during the game. It's like the Warriors' loss to the lowly, pathetic Lakers during the season. Playing at their usual high level, the Warriors could destroy the Lakers by 40..But the Warriors, for some reason, were playing at half speed and got pummeled. They had that same I'm-on-vacation attitude on Wednesday.

You know something is wrong when the short-handed Cavs can kill the Warriors. Cleveland was without starting power forward Kevin Love, sidelined by a concussion. OK, so Love may be soft and slow-footed but he's still a decent player. In his place was ancient Richard Jefferson, who racked up 9 points and 8 boards. When Love comes back, he'll be sub par. Jefferson is too old to be effective for the rest of the series. With Love ailing, Jefferson will be forced to play more minutes than usual. Also, that will weaken an already weak bench.

Part of the Warriors' problem is that their big stars, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, have played poorly in the series. Curry, hampered by an injured knee, isn't in top form. But he still is healthy enough to beat the Cavs, who aren't capable of playing great defense--which they did on Wednesday--for long. With that bad bench, the team won't have the energy to keep the Warriors down the rest of the way.. 

To win the Finals, the Cavs have to win one in Oakland, which they simply don't have enough talent to do. The Warriors took a game off and they may do it again--on the road.

When the Warriors have to win games, they will do it. Remember, they beat the Thunder, which is a much better team than Cleveland.

So Warrior fans, you can relax. At the end of Finals, the Cavs will slink back to Cleveland, empty-handed..

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Golden State v Cleveland? Mere Anti-Climax

Golden State Warriors will battle the Cleveland Cavaliers for the NBA title. What's wrong with this announcement?


The NBA championship has already been settled. It happened early in the week. The problem is that it happened in a series with a misleading title. The Golden State Warriors beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in game 7 to win the Western Conference Finals. But Golden State did more than win the West. That was the unofficial NBA title series. They really won the league championship, their second in a row.

Hail the NBA champion Warriors!

Though billed as the NBA championship, this series between Golden State and Cleveland is just an anti-climax. Remember back in the 1980 Olympics, the "Miracle on Ice," when the US hockey team upset Russia, David v Goliath-style, in a semifinal round? Everybody treated that like a Gold Medal win. But it wasn't. The US still had to play Finland, a much lesser opponent, to claim the Gold Medal, which they did.

Golden State is in the same position as that 1980 US hockey team. The Warriors already beat the toughest competitor, Oklahoma City, but they still have to knock off another team, Cleveland, which is not as tough, to officially take the title.

The main question is whether the Warriors can get revved up enough to play the Cavaliers, who aren't as good as the best in the West. Cleveland wouldn't fare well against the other top Western teams. The Thunder would whip the Cavs in a seven-game series. So would the rugged San Antonio Spurs, who have the best defense in the NBA but only finished third in the West.

Cleveland won the East, but so what? In the playoffs, they powered through the powder-puff schedule like a buzz-saw through balsa wood, first shutting out Detroit and Atlanta. They had a little trouble with Toronto, losing two in Canada after blowing out the Raptors twice in Cleveland. What happened is that the Cavs got lazy and over-confident on the road, mailing in two low-intensity performances. But then Cleveland restored order in game five, showing Toronto who was boss with a demoralizing 116-78 victory, followed by a game 6 rout, cinching the Eastern crown.

Now the Cavs finally have to face a top-notch team. Cleveland is well rested, having played fewer games and having faced weak competition. But the Cavs have a huge problem--inferior defense. LeBron James will play at his usual high level, but rest of the Big Three, point guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love, don't have the skills to shut down the Warriors fast-paced offense, which is highlighted by deadly three-point shooting. When Steph Curry and Klay Thompson get in rhythm, they are unstoppable. The Thunder couldn't do it. The Cavs certainly can't.

The Warriors' only problem is energy and maintaining interest. That seven-game series against the Thunder was tense, brutal and draining. It may take a while for the Warriors to recover. They also know Cleveland isn't as formidable as the Thunder so they may be mentally in low gear for a game or two. So don't be surprised if Golden State loses one of the first two in Oakland.  

Bottom line: the Warriors, with Curry and Thompson, are simply much better than Cleveland, with a superior starting five, defense, offense and bench. Cleveland has the best all-around player, James, but that's not nearly enough. It shouldn't take six games, but even if it takes seven, the Warriors will officially win a title they unofficially already own.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Oklahoma City Chokers

There was really no need to play game seven of the NBA's Western Conference Finals. Officially Golden State beat Oklahoma City,96-88, to win the West. But the winner was a forgone conclusion. No way were the Warriors going to lose a game seven at home..

The matter was really settled Saturday, when the Thunder frittered away a lead at home in the final minutes, losing 108-101. The Thunder owned that game, leading nearly all the way, But they couldn't handle the pressure of those last few minutes. Nerves and anxiety gripped the Thunder players near the end. Instead of playing smoothly in those critical last few moments, they got rattled and flustered.

There's no other way to say it. The Thunder players choked--big time..

In those pressurized minutes, they couldn't do anything right. They were throwing wild passes, bricking shots, making horrible decisions, playing sloppy defense. You could see it in their eyes--the fear, the tension.

The Thunder had a 101-99 lead with nearly two minutes to go. But they didn't score again, while the Warriors scored nine points, looking confident in the clutch..

During the season, the Thunder blew many games in the fourth quarter. What would happen is their two stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, would suddenly play selfishly. When the Thunder got the ball on offense, either one would hog the ball, never passing. Either player would drive for a layup or take a heavily-contested jump shot, ignoring their teammates. They would revert to one-on-five, playground basketball.

Both would forget in those moments that the way they built the lead was playing team ball, with lots of passing, with Durant and Westbrook dishing off to teammates who had open shots. That's how they won the opening game of the Western Finals in Oakland, how they crushed the Warriors in Oklahoma City in games three and four, taking what seemed to be an insurmountable 3-1 lead.

But the Thunder played less intensely in game five, losing in Oakland, gearing up to clinch the series in game six in Oklahoma City. Things went according to plan, until those last few minutes, when they had to keep their heads and play with poise. But they couldn't do it. The situation was too overwhelming. They collapsed, while the Warriors played like champs.

Series was really over then..

Both teams still had to play game seven but the outcome was never in doubt, even when the Thunder had a double-digit lead in the first half. The Thunder wasn't going to win. Deep down they knew it. So did the Warriors, who outscored the Thunder 29-12 in the third quarter. That was the game. In the fourth quarter, the Warriors lead all the way, with Stephen Curry leading the way. The Thunder crept close a few times, but could never hit the clutch shots to put them in the lead. Meanwhile, the Warriors hit clutch shot after clutch shot.

According to two sources close to the team, the Thunder players were squabbling and finger-pointing while flaming out late in game six. Apparently the bickering continued up to game seven. That solid, united front the Thunder presented up to game time was just that--a front..

The Thunder second-half collapse in game seven was no surprise. They were doomed--and they knew it. They played tentatively and erratically in crunch time--just what you'd expect from chokers.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Oklahoma Thunder To Beat Warriors In Six Games

All the drama has been drained out of the Western Conference Finals, with the Oklahoma Thunder roaring to a 3-1 lead over the champion Golden State Warriors in the seven-game series.

Yet some do say the Warriors can rally and win three straight. They're dreaming..

Based on what has already happened, this is what's most likely to happen: OKC wins in six. Look for the Thunder to lose Thursday in Oakland. It's similar to their lone loss, 112-91, a beat-down in the second game in Oakland. Then the Thunder shocked the basketball world by winning the series opener on the road, against a team that rarely loses at home. OKC's goal was a split in the first two road games. They got that victory in the first game so they were indifferent to winning the next one. Also, they expended so much energy winning that first one that they needed to recharge. So, with minimal opposition from the Thunder, the Warriors stormed to a victory in that second game..

Golden State fans relaxed and gloated that their team would cruise from then on. They were already mulling over how the Warriors would play against Cleveland in the Championship series.

But wait...

That wasn't the real OKC in that second game. The real OKC showed up and destroyed the Warriors in the the next two in Oklahoma City.

Now what?

Worn out from the last two wins, OKC should take another breather on Thursday. The Warriors, backs against the wall, should come out desperate and play like champs, giving their all to avoid that series-ending fourth loss. Meanwhile, the Thunder will revert to their cruise-control form of the second game and focus on recharging and resting up for Saturday's game in Oklahoma City.

Then OKC will play like they did in those last two home games. It will be a blitzkrieg of passion and fury for a full 48 minutes. The Warriors will play really hard, but won't be able to match the overpowering force of the Thunder, who will give the most supercharged performance in franchise history.

Their motivation? Avoiding a seventh game in Oakland, which they could easily lose..

Don't rule out a Thunder win on Thursday. OKC looks like the better team, particularly with Warrior stars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green in subpar form. But a Thunder win in this game is not likely against a super-motivated Golden State.

If you're betting, smart money is on the Thunder in six.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Why The Thunder Will Whip Warriors in Game 3

The Thunder should topple the Warriors in game three of the Western Conference Finals, currently tied 1-1, on Oklahoma City.

Don't laugh. I'm serious.

Like most fans, you're probably misreading the situation. That means looking at the Warriors' 118-91 rout of the Thunder in Wednesday's game two as an indication that Golden State will roll over OKC in the remainder of the seven-game series.

That's not going to happen. The problem is that everyone is reading too much into that game two win.

That wasn't the real Thunder you saw getting trampled by the Warriors on Wednesday. The Thunder players were in cruise mode. They felt they didn't need that game. They went into Oakland, hoping to win one of the two games there, opening the Finals. Surprise! They won the opener, 108-102, a remarkable feat considering the Warriors are just about unbeatable at home. OKC got their win on the first try. They were content to leave Oakland tied 1-1. So for the time being, they had wrested home-court advantage from the Warriors. Mission accomplished.

Consequently, to the Thunder, that Wednesday game wasn't essential. They certainly played like it wasn't. They already had their win, so they played with no real intensity, no grit, no relentless focus, no sense of urgency. It was far from their best effort, many notches below their performance in the first game. One of their strengths is offensive rebounding. Their burly big men--Steven Adams and Enes Canter--weren't furiously crashing the boards and patrolling the paint like they did in the opener,.

The Warriors owned the Wednesday game before it started. Had they lost they would have been down 0-2 with the series shifting to Oklahoma City. They would have been in a very deep hole, having to win four out of the remaining five games. Also, losing two consecutive home games would have been demoralizing and confidence-shaking. No question, they were in desperation mode. It would have taken a monumental effort by the Thunder would beat the inspired Warriors, in Oakland, in that second game.

In gambling circles, Wednesday's contest was considered a Golden State lock. The Warriors were an 8 1/2 point favorite. Many heavyweight bettors, putting big bucks on GS, cleaned up.

But Sunday's game, in Oklahoma City, will be an entirely different story. You'll see the Thunder you saw in the series' opener--super-intense, focused, ferocious, playing punishing defense, especially on the perimeter. They'll be dedicated to keeping the Golden State sharp-shooters out of their comfort zone. Cut down on the Warriors' three-point production and you can beat them.

The Thunder need this game. Chances of them winning again in Oakland are slim. The Warriors are unlikely to drop two home games in a series where they have home-court advantage. So if the Thunder are going claim the Western championship, they will have to win all their home games.

The Warriors weren't seriously challenged by the Thunder on Wednesday. They will be on Sunday, Fueled by an over-the-top urgency, the Thunder players will give their all for 48 minutes..If they lose this game, they will probably lose the series. That threat will be their driving force.

OKC is the underdog, but by a slim 2 1/2 points. If you're a gambler, put some money on them. When they are at the top of their game, giving maximum effort, they can beat anybody. They are that good. Remember, in this playoff run they have road wins over two teams--the Spurs and the Warriors--that seemed invincible at home.

Look for OKC, in their house, to come away with a victory on Sunday..

Monday, May 2, 2016

Lakers Hire Head Coach Luke Walton--Another Mistake?

Once again the LA Lakers' fans are in la-la land. They're so eager to get rid of the stench of the last few seasons, they're ignoring reality and indulging in their favorite pastime--looking at the NBA through rose-colored glasses.

They are looking at new coach Luke Walton as the team's ticket back to the promise land. This, of course, is because of Walton's success as the No.1 assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors, the reigning NBA champs who are favored to repeat..

What has fans salivating over Walton is that, when Warriors' head coach Steve Kerr missed the first half of this season, Walton took over, piloting the team to a glossy 39-4 record, including a league record 24-0 start. Kerr returned for the second half, leading the Warriors to break the coveted NBA season wins record by one, reaching 73.. For his efforts, Walton tied for 8th in the coach-of-the-year race, which was won by Kerr,.

Naturally Walton has been the hottest coach around, the one fancied by just about every team with a head-coaching vacancy. But he chose the Lakers, where he spent nine years as a backup forward, earning rings in 2009 and 2010.

However, does his success with the Warriors mean he has the skill, smarts and patience to clean up the mess that is the Lakers? The fans enthusiastically say "Yes!." But are they off base?


Walton, 36, is really a wet-behind-the-ears novice. Aside from heading the Warriors for a few months he has no head coaching experience and, with Memphis and Golden State, limited assistant-coaching experience.. Being temporary head coach of the Warriors is something just about any NBA assistant could do. This is the most fundamentally sound team in the league, excelling in offense and defense, always blocking out, sprinting through transitions, rarely flubbing rotations, doing just about everything right. In preseason the players decided to chase the Chicago Bulls' 72-win season record, so they were committed to playing hard for 48 minutes every game. They had no serious injuries or major tensions between players that would derail their effort.

So if Walton didn't have to motivate the players or juggle lineups due to injuries or break up fights, what did he really have to do? Not that much. The Warriors are a well-oiled machine that basically runs itself. All Walton had to do was get out of the way and not do anything to screw things up. That's certainly easy enough. It was like being behind the wheel of a Ferrari set on cruise control...

But does what he did with the Warriors qualify him to rejuvenate the Lakers?. Now he's been handed the keys to a broken-down jalopy and asked to turn it into a sleek sports car. That's something entirely different.

This time Walton is starting from square one. He has a core of talented young players that don't know how to play together. For the last two years coach Byron Scott, who was just fired, put player development on the back-burner, primarily focusing on managing Kobe Bryant's final years. One of Walton's main jobs will be restoring players' faith in point guard D'Angelo Russell who, in a infamous, juvenile internet scandal, threw teammate Nick Young under the bus. That's a major problem that will require skillful handling.

Righting the sinking Lakers' ship is unlike anything Walton has ever done. At 36, he's close to the age of his players and is known as a players' coach. But is that a good thing? Getting the Lakers back on track might require tough, veteran leadership. It was available in stern, defense-minded Tom Thibodeau, who was interested in the Lakers job. But the team never made a move to get him, so he was hired by the Minnesota Timberwolves to lead that promising young  team..

In next few years, here's a likely scenario: the Wolves flourish while the Lakers flounder, with Thibodeau basking in praise while Laker management, once again, is getting blasted for hiring the wrong coach.

If this scenario plays out--and I think it will--disgruntled Laker fans may finally have to ditch those rose-colored glasses.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kobe's 60-point Finale--Totally Bogus

All you Laker fans are in la-la land, Do you really think Kobe Bryant's 60-point outburst in that 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz was for real? It was bogus, carnival-sideshow time.

Utah was in on it. Their players let it happen. They didn't care about the game. It meant nothing to them. They knew when they were playing that their slim hope of squeezing into the playoffs had vanished, that their season was over after that game. So they clearly switched into low gear, playing minimal defense. If Utah had been playing seriously, trying to win, Kobe might have scored 15-20 points, shooting 20-30%--his usual so-so game.

This game was an aberration, even from the Lakers' standpoint. Kobe's teammates were feeding him, letting him take almost every shot. So he took 50, making 22, which, with all the help he was getting, wasn't all that difficult. It was like an exhibition game, on a lower level than even the All-Star game.

What was the point? All it proved is that Kobe could score a lot of points playing against a soft defense in an offense geared to setting him up. He's a broken-down, twenty-year yet. The only way he could score 60 is with a lot of help from both teams.

It was all fake but Bryant acted like it was for real. Many fans, not knowing the Utah players were mentally on vacation, thought it was real too.

Call it a massive exercise in ego-stroking. For Kobe fans it was fun. For the rest of us it was just an irritant, something to avoid.

I, for one, am glad the Bryant circus is finally history. With him and all the nonsense associated with his retirement in the rear view mirror, the Lakers can get back to focusing on winning games.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Fed Up With Kobe Bryant And That Final Tour

Are you as sick to death of Kobe Bryant as I am? Has all this fawning and gushing over the LA Lakers' retiring guard been turning your stomach? Are you as happy as I am that it is finally over?

This "final tour" wasn't at all necessary. What did it accomplish aside from stroking Bryant's insatiable ego? Yes he was a great player but players better than him retired without all the over-the-top fanfare. When Michael Jordan and Kareem and Wilt and Bird and Magic called it a career, nothing remotely like this happened.

This has been the worst season in Lakers' history, with only 16 wins. Of course, the record would be better if the team had been concentrating on winning games rather than showcasing Bryant  The Lakers have a nucleus of good young talent, including D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance and Julius Randle. This season they were supposed to learn to play together. We were supposed to get some idea whether they fit in the Lakers' future. But we found out very little because the focus was on Kobe, not them.

What these young players mainly learned was how to play with a broken-down has-been who keeps demanding the ball even though his shooting skills have woefully diminished. He can sometimes score in the 20s and 30s but it takes him so many shots and totally throws the rest of the team out of positive offensive rhythm. When he's on the floor it's all about feeding him, not playing team basketball. How's that for a learning experience?

When it's time to play defense and Kobe is on the floor, the Lakers have been in real trouble because Bryant can't play defense any more, so it's four Lakers vs five opponents. You can't win many games that way.

So, for the Lakers, this has been a wasted season. The coach, Bryon Scott, is probably a lame duck. He's there now because he knows Kobe and Kobe is more comfortable having an old friend as a coach during this final season. Once again, it's all about Kobe and what makes him happy, not about the team.

As you might expect, the Lakers are circling the drain. They had hoped to attract some free agents for next season. There's plenty of money because they won't have squander any more on overpaying Kobe. But what quality free agent wants to step into the Laker chaos?

While the Kobe circus has been grinding on, there has been an ugly D'Angelo Russell mess playing out. Russell recorded Nick Young making comments that have compromised his romance with rapper Iggy Izalea. That record came out on the Internet. Russell claims he didn't release it but few believe him. The players are furious with Russell and now thoroughly distrust and dislike him..According to sources close to the team, things are so bad the Lakers may have to trade him. The Lakers haven't been able to give this critical issue their full attention.

I'll give you one guess why.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

UCLA In Lose-Lose Bind--Keeps Coach Alford

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero was backed into an ugly situation with head basketball coach Steve Alford this week--fire him or keep him. Actually though, UCLA was screwed either way, a classic lose-lose situation.

Guerrero chose the lesser of two evils or, as some argue, the chicken's way out. He didn't fire him. So Alford lives to screw up another day.

Guerrero was backed into this corner after the Bruins were crushed by USC in the PAC 12 tournament this week and the angry calls for Alford's scalp reached such a deafening roar that the AD couldn't ignore.them.

It was a tough decision for Guerrero. Both choices are riddled with nasty consequences:

Keep Alford and you have positives, like sidestepping the chaotic upheaval caused by an abrupt coaching change and retaining the dazzling top-five recruiting class and avoiding that $10.4 million buyout that Alford would get paid to hit the road. But there's also a huge downside in not firing Alford..

First and foremost, you are guaranteed another season of lousy coaching. At times it's blatantly clear that Alford doesn't know what the hell he's doing. He doesn't make smart adjustments during games, he plays the wrong lineups and concocts ineffective game plans. His players are woefully undisciplined, often seem unprepared and are wildly inconsistent, a sign they are poorly coached. He insists on playing son Bryce at point guard, where he's slow and a major liability on defense. Sources close to two players say the some players quietly resent Bryce, creating a negative tension that has been harmful all season. In that critical USC game, the players looked disinterested and clearly weren't giving their best effort. That's a reflection of coaching. The list of coach Alford's weaknesses goes on and on. Guerrero was under fire because donors were in mutiny mode, threatening to pull support and boycott games if Alford wasn't canned. In addition, the fans base was screaming for Alford's head.

So, fire Alford?

Not so fast. That path is littered with thorns too, just different ones. First of all, you reward this bad coach by paying him $10.4 million to go away. What an incredible waste of money, something that would haunt the program for years and anger donors who foot the bill..Then you have to quickly  find another coach, something Guerrero was not prepared to do, creating a very dangerous situation--hiring in haste. That might lead to a bad choice, maybe even bringing in another Alford. It's possible this new coach might not fit the coveted recruiting class, impeding the development of these young players, which would be reflected in the win column next season.

So Guerrero decided to keep Alford.

Unfortunately it's "lose" again but in a different way. Of course, the coaching won't improve, which will make it difficult for the team to get better. For the hotshot frosh to develop their skills and generate wins, they need quality coaching, which they are unlikely to get from Alford. Also, the negative Bryce factor is still there, undermining the team once again.

Bottom line. The Bruin players laid down in the USC game, against their most bitter rival, and played like crap--embarrassing the school. The bulk of next season's team will be made up of these players who quit on their coach. So the prized freshmen will step into a toxic situation, with dispirited teammates, disconsolate donors and a pissed-off fan base. The weight of the program will be on their young shoulders.

A recipe for disaster? Without question.

There's a very good chance, under all that pressure, coach Alford will flop next season. If he finally gets kicked out, don't be surprised if Guerrero, who helped create this mess, follows him out the door.