#17 UCLA Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

UCLA Bruins

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #17
Conference Rank: #2 Pac-12

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UCLA had to sweat it out on Selection Sunday last year. But their 20-13 record at the time was good enough to sneak into the NCAA Tournament as an 11 seed. And the Bruins took advantage of the opportunity, knocking off SMU and UAB en route to the Sweet Sixteen. Coach Steve Alford has this program heading in the right direction and much of that is due to his son Bryce Alford’s play on the court. The younger Alford averaged 15.4 points and 4.9 assists per game last year and connected on 39.1 percent of his 238 attempts from beyond the arc. Alford will have to be the team’s go-to-scorer this year.

2014-15 Record: 22-14, 11-7
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Steve Alford
Coach Record: 50-23 at UCLA, 513-258 overall

Who’s Out:
And that is because UCLA lost guard Norman Powell and his 16.4 points per game. Powell was a decent shooter, but he did most of his damage attacking the basket. His versatility, willingness to hit the glass and tough defense will certainly be missed. Leading rebounder Kevon Looney will be missed too. He left after his freshman campaign in which he averaged 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds. It would have been interesting to see what Looney could have done if he came back for another year, but he is off to the professional ranks. Wanaah Bail, David Brown and Kory Alford barely played last season and are the only other departures.

Who’s In:
The Bruins only lost two players from the regular rotation, but they add at least five players who could crack the regular rotation and that is not counting incoming freshmen Gabriel Bell-Williams, Justis Bell-Williams or Wonder Smith. The backcourt adds Aaron Holiday and Prince Ali. Holiday is a point guard who can attack the basket with ease. If he is ready to step into a starting role, it would allow Alford to worry about shooting instead of taking care of the ball. Ali is more in the mold of Powell, a tough shooting guard who can get to the basket. The frontcourt needs options to help Looney and they should have them in Alex Olesinski, Jonah Bolden and Ikenna Okwarabizie. Bolden was ineligible last season, but was a top recruit in the 2014 class. He is a big 6-10 Australian who can play like a guard. If he can stay healthy, Bolden will likely step right into a starting spot. Okwarabizie is a junior college transfer who spent one season at Tyler Junior College in Texas. He will add some depth in the post and should at least be a capable rebounder.

Who to Watch:
Tony Parker boosted his production to 11.5 points and 6.7 rebounds during his junior season. The expectations were high for the 6-9, 260 pound forward and he is finally starting to show why. Staying out of foul trouble is a big concern and that did limit him to 24.6 minutes per game last year. This year Coach Alford hopes he can keep his star big man on the floor closer to 30 minutes per game. Without Looney, UCLA needs Parker on the floor as much as possible. Thomas Welsh, a 7-0 sophomore, showed promise during his freshman campaign. He figures to join Okwarabizie as Parker’s backup. Welsh is not going to be a major scoring threat like Parker, but he is a fine rebounder and the team’s most productive shot blocker. Gyorgy Goloman was in the regular rotation as a freshman last year, but he will be pushed by the newcomers.

Final Projection:
The options in the frontcourt should be good enough. The key for this group could be replacing Powell’s scoring. Alford is certainly capable and so is returning starter Isaac Hamilton. Hamilton averaged 10.6 points and 3.2 assists as a freshman and is another dynamic scoring threat who can knock down jump shots or attack the basket. With more shots to go around, expect Hamilton to boost his scoring output in 2015-2016. Noah Allen will battle it out with the newcomers for minutes, but he is a relatively experienced junior who can add some size to the perimeter. Last year’s Sweet Sixteen run was a bit of a surprise considering UCLA’s inconsistent play during the regular season, but this group should be able to make it three Sweet Sixteen appearances in a row without having to pull off a big upset to do it.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Aaron Holiday, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Bryce Alford, Junior, Guard, 15.4 points per game
Isaac Hamilton, Junior, Guard, 10.6 points per game
Jonah Bolden, Sophomore, Forward, DNP last season
Tony Parker, Senior, Forward, 11.5 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.9 (60th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 68.1 (218, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.3 (114, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.6 (108, 4)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.2 (197, 7)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.8 (73, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 67.6 (233, 9)
Rebound Margin: 3.7 (67, 6)
Assists Per Game: 13.8 (85, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.9 (115, 9)

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#38 Prince Ali
#53 Aaron Holiday


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