If you know anything about the history of college basketball, you know that the UCLA Bruins know how to win.
UCLA Men’s Basketball program holds a record 11 Division I NCAA Championships since 1920—10 of those obtained in 12 seasons under legendary coach John Wooden.
Despite the multitude of historical accomplishments and achievements, the 2015-2016 season fell quite short from hanging a 12th banner in Pauley Pavilion and extending the program’s indisputable success.
There were a number of factors that contributed to UCLA’s defeats this season, but a few were the most apparent: lack of experience without a true floor general, absence of defensive toughness and a rim presence, and that guy.
Beginning with the team’s lack of experience, Head Coach Steve Alford’s Bruins usually started freshman point-guard Aaron Holiday, sophomore center Thomas Welch, two junior guards with Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton, and one senior forward Tony Parker. First off the bench usually consisted of freshmen Prince Ali and Alex Olesinski and sophomores Jonah Bolden and Gyorgy Goloman. The Bruins three guards, on average, turned the ball over 7.3 times a game, partly due to the three guards having an attack first, aggressive mentality. While junior Bryce Alford led the Bruins with 5.2 assists per game, his superior shooting ability is compromised without a true point guard and floor general. Although Bryce Alford is capable of running the point, he often has to bring the ball up against pressure for a majority of the game, while still expected to be the team’s first or second option on offense. Bryce Alford can be the team’s point-guard, but if the Bruins want to return to one of the premiere college basketball teams in the country, they are going to have to wait until incoming freshman Naismith Player of the Year point-guard Lonzo Ball arrives next year.
Bryce Alford (20), Thomas Welch (40), Aaron Holiday (3), Gyorgy Golomon (14)
The Bruins struggled to find that inside defensive presence all year; although big men Thomas Welsh and Tony Parker put up 11.2 and 12.6 points a game respectively, they combined for 2 of the 3 blocked shots the Bruins had a game. With a balanced offensive attack putting up nearly 78 points per game, the prevalent void in the team’s success was their defensive toughness. Take the game against Kansas for example; the Jayhawks shot 32 of 59 (54.2 percent) from the field and 10 of 23 (43.5 percent) on 3s. While UCLA had a few notable wins against top-ranked Kentucky, Gonzaga, and Oregon, allowing a tremendously high opposing field goal percentage will not result in the season UCLA fans are accustomed to.
While UCLA brings in a significant offensive threat with five-star T.J. Leaf, the length of the #1 ESPN PG in the nation Lonzo Ball at 6’5” should disrupt passing lanes and provide UCLA with a point guard that was similar in height to Kyle Anderson (2012-2014), but much more athletic. The addition of 6’9’’ Ike Anigbogu will provide the Bruins with more front court depth and versatility for coach Steve Alford. The Bruins length allows them to sit back in a semi-extended 3-2 zone with length all over the floor. If the Bruins can turn the ball over less, shift into a defense-first minded team, and utilize all of their offensive fire power in the 2016-2017 season, the core of young, athletic guards will lead the team to a significantly more successful season that Bruin fans around the world are used to.