Giant Killers: Why UCLA is vulnerable

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

If you had told Steve Alford before the season that his team would reach early February sporting a record of 21-3 with a win at Rupp Arena to its credit, I believe he would have taken that gladly. Any coach would.

So why does it feel like the Bruins are getting so little, to use a preferred term of grievance in college basketball, respect? Not a day goes by that we don't hear UCLA's ranking for adjusted defensive efficiency at KenPom fairly flung up in the team's face. It is said over and over that any team with a unit that ranks in the 100s is at risk, if not flat-out doomed, come the postseason.

Well, the Giant Killers model agrees. Of the 16 teams currently projected by Joe Lunardi for seeds on the top four lines of the bracket, UCLA carries the lowest Giant Rating in the group. Our model gives the Bruins just a 77 percent chance of winning a hypothetical matchup with a would-be "Killer" seeded at least five lines lower than Alford's team.

Is porous defense the reason? Yes and no. The good news for UCLA fans is that this defense might not be so very hopeless after all. The bad news is that the Giant Killer model actually has concerns about the Bruins on both sides of the ball.