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Surprising 2014 NCAA Tournament Teams Look to Sustain Success

New Coaches Celebrating New Success

Surprising 2014 NCAA Tournament Teams Look to Sustain Success

 

In head coach Steve Alford’s first season with the UCLA Bruins, he has led the team further in the NCAA Tournament than the team has been since a Final Four appearance in 2008. In the world of UCLA basketball, that constitutes an unacceptable stretch of failure. This season UCLA won their conference tournament and was handed two cupcake match-ups in Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin in their first two games.

 

While a victory over #1 overall seeded Florida may end up being too much to ask for a relatively untested UCLA team, Bruins fans are already excited for the future. Alford has answered the critics who said his teams choked in the Tournament with these two victories. Also, he has shown an ability to adjust to his players’ strengths, using a surprising amount of zone defense this season rather than the man-to-man that he favored at New Mexico. With twin towers in Kevon Looney and Jonah Bolden coming in, Alford has UCLA fans looking forward to a big future.

 

Kevin Ollie is another coach early in his tenure, proving skeptical fans wrong. Ollie is in his second season at the University of Connecticut, replacing 26-year head coach Jim Calhoun in his second season as a head coach at any level. Ollie’s first season with the team was a difficult one, after Calhoun had left abruptly in September of 2012. The Huskies were ineligible for postseason play in that first year, and he had the ups and downs that could be expected from a first-time coach.

 

This season, Ollie’s Huskies finished the season with a #21 ranking in the top 25 and went to the championship game of the American Athletic Conference Tournament. The Huskies were only given s 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament, yet they started out their run with victories over St. Joseph’s and Villanova. The Huskies head into their Sweet 16 match against the Iowa State Cyclones with a full head of steam, with a precocious coach that looks to be building his own legacy at the school.

 

The Tennessee Volunteers are one of the least likely teams to have made it as far as the Sweet 16. Head coach Cuonzo Martin was hired from Missouri State after Bruce Pearl’s disastrous departure from the school in 2011. In his first two years at the helm, the team was relegated for back-to-back NIT appearances. Coming into the season the Volunteers were unranked and didn’t come on until late in the season.

 

That stretch to end their regular season featured four dominating wins over conference opponents, followed by a quarterfinal victory in the SEC Tournament before eventually falling to the #1 ranked Florida Gators in the semifinals. The tournament selection committee then scheduled the team for one of the “First Four” games, pitting them against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Volunteers have gone deeper in the tournament than any of those First Four teams, having already overcome the odds to come this far. With a strong four-man recruiting class coming in, the Volunteers are another team looking to push their tournament success forward to next season.