#20 UCLA Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

UCLA Bruins
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #20
Conference Rank: #3 Pac-12
The 2015-16 season for UCLA was a major disappointment as fans in Westwood won’t tolerate 15-17 seasons no matter what the circumstances may have been for Coach Steve Alford and his Bruins. With plenty of experience returning to go along with a highly regarded incoming recruiting class, it is going to be expected that Alford, at minimum, gets UCLA back to at least the Sweet 16. Now, if he doesn’t and the team underachieves again, then all bets are off as far as Alford’s job security is concerned.
2015-16 Record: 15-17, 6-12
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Steve Alford
Coach Record: 64-37 at UCLA, 527-272 overall
Who’s Out:
Tony Parker is the most significant loss for UCLA from last season’s roster. Parker averaged 12.6 points per game to go along with 8.2 rebounds, including 3.3 offensive rebounds per game which led the Pac-12 Conference. In addition, Parker will go down as only one of 16 players in program history to score 1,000 points and collect 670 rebounds within a playing career for the Bruins. Forward Jonah Bolden averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 rebounds last season.
Who’s In:
When UCLA has truly been at its best in recent years it has had a difference maker at point guard that could run the offense at a high level. Incoming freshman Lonzo Ball is already on the Cousy Award watch list as one of the top 20 point guards in the country. Ball did it all last year as a high school senior, averaging a triple-double. He was regarded by most all of the recruiting services as one of the top ten players in the class of 2016. Ike Anigbogu is a 6-10, 250 pound forward/center that should fit into the role that Parker played last season very nicely. Anigbogu shot 61 percent from the floor in his high school senior season. T.J. Leaf should also make an immediate impact at both ends of the court at forward. He averaged 28.4 points and 12.4 rebounds per game last year enroute to McDonalds All-American honors.
Who to Watch:
The experience in the backcourt with Issac Hamilton and Bryce Alford will go along in way in dictating the overall success of the Bruins this season. Hamilton averaged 16.8 points per game last season and should very quickly surpass the 1,000 point total for his career as he comes into the season with 919 points. Alford averaged 16.1 points per game and, like his dad, is not afraid to shoot the basketball from anywhere on the court. For Alford and the Bruins to get back into the NCAA Tournament he will have to improve upon his subpar field goal percentage of 38.5 percent and get that closer to 45 percent. Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will look to continue to provide a steady hand offensively as they both combined to score 21.5 points per contest last season.
Final Projection:
A fast start should be in the cards for the Bruins as the first few games at home are all very winnable if they come out with the proper focus and gel quickly. On December 3rd a return trip to Rupp Arena to play Kentucky will show right away how far UCLA has come and how far they have to go to get back to the elite of college basketball. Michigan will visit Pauley Pavilion on December 10th in another key intersectional matchup that will be important to win for NCAA Tournament resume purposes along with the neutral site battle at T-Mobile Arena on December 17th against Ohio State. The quest for the Pac-12 title will hinge upon its performance against Oregon and Arizona. They have home and home matchups with both. If they can go 3-1 against the Ducks and Wildcats, then they will be in prime position to contend for the conference championship. Look for UCLA, if they stay healthy and the freshmen produce at a high level, to get back to the NCAA Tournament with a shot to get to the second weekend if they get the right draw.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Issac Hamilton, Senior, Guard, 16.8 points per game
Bryce Alford, Senior, Guard, 16.2 points per game
Aaron Holiday, Sophomore, Guard, 10.3 points per game
T.J. Leaf, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Thomas Welsh, Junior, Center, 11.2 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 77.5 (67th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 76.7 (282, 10)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.4 (100, 7)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.0 (141, 8)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.3 (249, 10)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.3 (100, 6)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.1 (201, 7)
Rebound Margin: 2.5 (97, 6)
Assists Per Game: 15.7 (40, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.3 (130, 6)
Madness 2017 NBA Draft Rankings:
#8 Lonzo Ball
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#3 Lonzo Ball
#17 T.J. Leaf
#56 Ike Anigbogu
#143 Kobe Paras