The UCLA Bruins are on the short list of possible teams to have a big come back in 2016-17. They absolutely should be. The 2015-16 Bruins went 15-17 in a PAC-12 that under performed in the tournament. For that reason, many analysts are writing them off. However, this season will be completely different. From top to bottom of the situation the Bruins will improve in the 2016-17 season.
To begin, the Bruins are led by a coach who has established a culture of winning at each landing spot. He may be on the hot seat this year after a poor performance last season, but there is little to worry about in terms of him turning things around. This was Steve Alford’s first losing season since 1999-00, his first year with Iowa. The following year his team went 23-12 and won the Big 10 tournament. He is in a better situation now than he was then considering the current roster.
|UCLA Under Steve Alford|
UCLA went 22-14 in 2014-15 and returned majority of their roster for the following year. They did lose Kevon Looney and Norman Powell, each now in the NBA. However they returned starters from both the front court and the back court. UCLA should have been a lot better than 15-17 considering they added two four-star recruits.
This year the only notable losses are big man Tony Parker to graduation and Jonah Bolden. Bolden made the decision to play basketball professionally in Australia. Despite these losses, UCLA still has remaining parts from a 2014-15 winning campaign and the talent on this roster is worth noting.
Leading scorer Isaac Hamilton showed increases in every major statistical category. He averaged 16.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. Right behind him was Bryce Alford, Steve Alford’s son. Bryce’s totals remained much the same in the Bruins first losing season since 2009-10. Thomas Welsh’s contributions skyrocketed from those of 2014-15. He doubled his rebounding totals from 3.8 per game to 8.5 and tripled his scoring average from 3.8 points per game to 11.2.
In addition to the pieces left over from the previous winning season, the 2015 recruiting class progressed immensely. Aaron Holiday played significant minutes as a freshman and was a main contributor on the offensive end. The freshman led the team in steals as well showing his versatility. Prince Ali also saw more than 10 minutes of floor time each contest with decent returns. Each of these four star recruits is primed to be a contributor in what will be a large turnaround in win totals this season.
There is even more to be excited about in the outlook for UCLA. They add the top rated point guard in the class, Lonzo Ball, as well as 5-star TJ Leaf and 4-star Ike Anigbogu. Ball’s court vision and passing ability should greatly assist in opening up the court for his teammates. So despite the Bruins’ losing two players, this top 10 recruiting class is power-packed with talent and play makers to fill the void.
There is a lot to like about this team. They have a coach that wins. They have remaining pieces and leaders that know how to win. Their young talent showed progression last year. Finally, they add some exciting new pieces. Despite the juggernaut that is Oregon, this is a team that will have a huge turnaround. This is a 25-win team. They should not settle for anything less than that.