Bill Walton says Alabama has 'athleticism,' UCLA from 'truckstop world' on College GameDay

Erik Hall
The Tuscaloosa News

Bill Walton, a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer, appeared on ESPN "College GameDay" on Sunday morning ahead of the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 games. 

Walton played college basketball at UCLA from 1971-74, winning NCAA titles in 1972 and 1973. 

He had plenty of thoughts about Sunday's UCLA vs. Alabama men's basketball game

"When I see the underdogs, UCLA and Oregon State, it's the same situation — make the other team play your game," Walton said. "You're not going to be able to match up with Alabama and Houston's remarkable athleticism, where they're running all around and just throwing it up wildly and then being quicker to the ball." 

No. 12 seed Oregon State and No. 2 seed Houston play in the Elite Eight on Monday night.

"That's what UCLA and Oregon State have right now — both teams are very similar," Walton said. "They love their coaches. They came from the depths — the depths of the truckstop world. And now, all of a sudden, they're on the top of the mountain. But they've got to keep going. Just getting here means nothing. Only one team can win. I never met a champion who was happy with finishing second. No, you got to come and get this job done. That comes from the very beginning of the game to come out and make it be yours." 

Walton then praised UCLA for its turnaround since being 8-9 midway through the 2019-20 season. He also referred to ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas as "Jake." 

"One of the remarkable things about UCLA is that in 14 months, this team has gone from nothing to being on the cusp of yet another championship," Walton said. "And never forget, Jake, UCLA has the most championships of all the programs out there — three ahead of Kentucky. And who knows who's behind them." 

Jan 2, 2020; Boulder, Colorado, USA; ESPN broadcaster Bill Walton before the game between the Oregon Ducks against the Colorado Buffaloes at the CU Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA men's basketball has won 11 NCAA men's basketball national titles. The most recent one came in 1995.

"At the championship level, who can create the shot," Walton said. "It's going to have to be (UCLA guard) Tyger Campbell, and it's going to have to be with good ball movement. Because none of these guys — I haven't seen a player in the entire tournament, for any team, who can create their own shot consistently at the championship level." 

Campbell is fourth on UCLA in scoring with 10.1 points per game. He leads the team with 158 assists entering the Sweet 16. 

"This is a team that doesn't have overwhelming size and strength and quickness, but they play with heart and they love their coach and they'll do anything for their coach," Walton said. "And we the alumni of UCLA, we are incredibly proud of the job Mick Cronin has done. This guy has come in and he has got the team in shape, playing hard, playing together as a team, playing to win, and they improve over time. That's the job of a coach. And the Bruins, representative of the Conference of Championships, absolutely fantastic." 

Cronin is in his second season as the UCLA men's basketball head coach.

Walton closed by saying, "We are not here to mess around. We have come to play. We are the Conference of Champions. There are no truckstops here." 

UCLA and Alabama are scheduled to play in the Sweet 16 at 6:15 p.m. CT on Sunday, March 28. 

UCLA Bruins guard Tyger Campbell (10) passes around Abilene Christian Wildcats guard Damien Daniels (4) during the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Monday, March 22, 2021, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.

No. 2 seed Alabama comes into the matchup 26-6 overall. On Monday, Alabama beat Maryland 96-77 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

No. 11-seeded UCLA enters the game 20-9 overall. UCLA beat Abilene Christian 67-47 in the NCAA Tournament second round on Monday.

Here's more Alabama basketball news: 

Entering Sunday, UCLA leads the all-time series 3-2 vs. Alabama. 

Erik Hall is the lead digital producer for sports with the USA Today Network. You can find him on Twitter @HallErik.