The last time a team went undefeated over the course of the entire season, including winning the National Championship, was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. With all the parity and madness that surrounds college basketball nowadays, that ‘76 Hoosier team may very well be the last team to accomplish an undefeated campaign. That is perfectly fine with me.
In the 2nd edition of Hot Take City, I am here to explain why I think one of the remaining undefeated squads will finish out their regular season unscathed. Villanova, UCLA, Baylor, Gonzaga, Creighton, and USC are all the teams that currently have a 0 in the loss column. Out of these six teams, I could see only Villanova and UCLA finishing the regular season unbeaten. However, I think Villanova has too little depth or size in their frontcourt and could see a team with solid bigs giving them trouble. That being said, I will eliminate Nova. So that leaves UCLA. I truly believe UCLA won’t lose once this regular season.
Up to this point, UCLA has the look of a legitimate National Title contender. We were able to see all their weapons on display in that impressive road win in Lexington. Everybody knew how good Lonzo Ball was coming into this season, but the real surprise has been TJ Leaf. Averaging 17.8 ppg and 9.3 rpg, Leaf has easily been one of the most impressive bigs in college basketball. Heck, he’s even drawing comparisons to a young Kevin Love — that’s quite the praise. With the incredible playmaking ability of Lonzo Ball, sharpshooting ability of Bryce Alford, and versatility of TJ Leaf, UCLA has an extremely talented trio that has the potential to take UCLA back to the Final Four for the first time since 2008. Don’t forget about Isaac Hamilton, Thomas Welsh, Aaron Holiday, and Ike Anigbogu either. Each of these four guys can make a major impact on any given night.
One of the areas where UCLA lacks a little bit is their defense. That is really the only knock, and maybe depth, on the Bruins. But here is the reason why I don’t think the defense matters that much, at least for the regular season. It’s simple, UCLA just has a better offense than any other squad in the nation. As a team, they are shooting an astounding 44% from beyond the arc. They are also averaging 97 ppg. Both rank 2nd nationally in Division I. Also, per KenPom.com, UCLA is the most efficient offensive team in the nation. With just average defense, UCLA can beat any given team, on any given night.
Now, you may think I’m crazy for saying UCLA won’t slip up at some point, not even once. They have to have at least one game where their shots just don’t seem to drop, right? What people must realize is that the PAC-12 is a really weak conference, and UCLA doesn’t have to bring their best every night. They aren’t playing in a loaded ACC. Outside of Oregon, Arizona, and maybe USC, the PAC-12 is a fairly weak conference, in my opinion.
Looking ahead at UCLA’s schedule, I really see only two games that may cause them some trouble; their next game @ Oregon on 12/28 and @Arizona on 2/25. I just feel as if UCLA is on a whole other level, a tier of their own, in the PAC-12.
Their mix of young studs and upperclassmen will carry UCLA to the outright PAC-12 title, while achieving an undefeated regular season. Look out for the Bruins come March. I know I wouldn’t want my Hoosiers to get matched up against them.