UCLA Basketball Preview: #29
Overall Rank: #29
Conference Rank: #3 Pacific 10 Conference
2008-09: 26-9, 13-5
2008-09 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Ben Howland (152-54 at UCLA, 320-153 overall)
Compared to UCLA’s three consecutive Final Four appearances, the second round loss to Villanova in the 2009 NCAA Tournament was disappointing. That disappointment has quelled expectations heading into the 2009-2010 campaign. And the loss of four starters certainly does not help. However, Coach Ben Howland has a talented, albeit young, team that should be strong enough to keep the Bruins in the hunt for a Pac-10 title.
Key Losses: C Alfred Aboya, G Darren Collison, G Jrue Holiday, F Josh Shipp
Coach Howland addressed his needs in the frontcourt with this talented recruiting class. All five newcomers are at least 6-8. The early departure of Jrue Holiday means the group on the perimeter could use some depth too. That may put some extra pressure on Mike Moser and Tyler Honeycutt who, despite their size, can play on the wing. Honeycutt has been shooting up most recruiting rankings over the summer and could be the player from this class that has the biggest impact as a freshman. Brendan Lane, Reeves Nelson and Anthony Stover will add some depth up front.
The problem is that this team needs depth in the backcourt. Without Holiday and Josh Shipp on the wings, the Bruins will have to rely heavily on Malcolm Lee and Michael Roll. Lee was rarely given the opportunity to play as a freshman, but he is a great scorer who can knock down the outside shot and finish around the basket. Michael Roll is one of the few experienced players on the roster, but he only started two games as a junior. Roll hit an incredible 51.5 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and if he can keep that up, the Bruins will not have much trouble scoring. However, Roll is pretty much just a shooter and without Darren Collison creating shots for him, Roll might not get as many open looks.
Yet again, UCLA’s power will shift to the frontcourt. Nikola Dragovic came on strong at the end of the year and ended the season averaging 9.4 pionts and 4.3 rebounds. Dragovic’s best asset is his outside shooting and he actually led the team in three-point shots made. Drew Gordon had a decent freshman campaign, but only averaged 10.9 minutes per game. Gordon is the most athletic of the forwards and his ability to hit the glass will be very valuable while Dragovic hangs around on the perimeter. With James Keefe, who started 14 games last year, and J’mison Morgan ready to battle it out with the newcomers for minutes off the bench, the Bruins will certainly not lack depth under the basket.
Who to Watch:
The master plan was that after Collison left Holiday would take over the point guard duties. Unfortunately, that little plan went away after Holiday opted to go to the NBA after his freshman campaign. That leaves sophomore Jerime Anderson as the starting point guard. He averaged under nine minutes per game as a freshman, but Anderson has the skills to run this team. He will not have to score too much, but Anderson needs to turn into a leader and keep the turnovers to a minimum.
The success or failure of UCLA will likely depend on how well Anderson can run the show. But even if he does a decent job, the Bruins have to turn Lee and Roll into consistent scorers. If the Bruins cannot get points out of their perimeter players, the offense will have bouts of mediocrity. But Anderson, Lee and Roll are too talented to let this team slip too far and Coach Howland will turn this very young group into a good team by March.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jerime Anderson, Sophomore, Guard, 2.3 points per game
Malcolm Lee, Sophomore, Guard, 3.2 points per game
Michael Roll, Senior, Guard, 6.7 points per game
Drew Gordon, Sophomore, Forward, 3.6 points per game
Nikola Dragovic, Senior, Forward, 9.4 points per game
Next Top 144 Teams