12-6 and second place in the Pac-12 Conference
* PAC-12 TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONS
* NCAA SOUTH REGIONAL SEMIFINALISTS
Jordan Adams – 17.4 points per game
Kyle Anderson – 14.6 points per game, 8.8 rebounds per game
Norman Powell – 11.4 points per game
The best description that can be made for this 95th season of the UCLA basketball program can be summed up in two words:
In my preview of Steve Alford‘s team back in November, I predicted that these Bruins would win between 20 and 25 games.
They won 28.
I predicted that they had an outside shot at making the Sweet 16 if everything went right.
They made the Sweet 16 in convincing fashion.
Of course they lost to a team that made the Final Four; Florida, who many are picking to win the national championship. But that’s besides the point.
What I didn’t predict was that UCLA would win the Pac-12 Tournament, which is indisputably the high point of the season as they played their best basketball during those three days in Las Vegas, as well as during the first weekend of the Big Dance.
If there’s anyone who doesn’t think that Alford’s first year as the Bruins’ head coach wasn’t a good one, I’d very much like to meet him or her as he took a squad that was burnt out by the micromanaging and negative vibes that Ben Howland put out, turned them loose and just let them play.
In short, he made basketball fun again for those guys, and they responded.
An average of 81.2 points per game, which was second in the conference and among the upper echelon in the nation, is evidence of that.
As was Adams and Anderson having outstanding seasons and – with the exception of those suspensions for the February 27 Oregon game – providing that crucial factor that every successful team must have: Leadership.
Speaking of that Oregon game in Pauley Pavilion, that was the point where I knew UCLA would end up doing good things as even though though the Bruins lost without their two best players, they pushed the Ducks to double overtime and showed much guts and heart in the process.
One player that really showed me something during the last couple of weeks of the season was Powell as the junior guard was the glue of the team, making play after play after play.
Not to mention providing Jordan-like dunks from time to time; I’m looking forward to him having a big year in 2014-15, both on the court and as a team leader.
As for who’s gone, the Wear twins, Travis and David, although they weren’t superstars by any stretch, will be missed as they did very well in their roles and contributed heavily to the Bruins since they transferred from North Carolina.
I join the rest of Bruin Nation in thanking those senior forwards and wishing them well.
There are two non-senior players who have already announced that they are gone and are entering the NBA draft, one (Anderson) which everyone expected and one – freshman guard Zach LaVine - who many expected but who were hoping he wouldn’t, for this simple reason:
Yes he’s projected to go in the first round of the draft, but the way LaVine played during the tournament, particularly against Florida as all he did build a big brick house with all the threes he missed, he looked like he was playing for the name in the back of his jersey rather then the four letters in the front.
Plus there’s this to consider:
How can he expect to make any contributions in the NBA when he didn’t even start in college?
To put it another way, don’t be surprised if LaVine finds himself playing in Europe or the D-League at this time next season, or at best sitting at the end of an NBA bench and hardly ever playing as he showed that he – like pretty much all one-and-dones – wasn’t really interested in a college education.
All right, enough about him! Let’s talk about more pleasant things…
Even if the Bruins went 9-28 instead of 28-9, I would have given Alford a pass because I and the rest of Bruin Nation needs to see how he recruits and if they pan out.
His first recruiting class is ranked in the nation’s top ten, and includes the strong inside presence that UCLA needs as 7’0″ center Thomas Welsh and 6’8″ five-star power forward Kevon Looney become Bruins along with 6’5″ guard Issac Hamilton, who redshirted this year after transferring from UTEP.
These young players are the type than can hit the ground running, which the Bruins will need if they are to continue the progress that they made this year.
After all, to paraphrase Anderson it’s not about Sweet 16s as UCLA only puts up national championship banners.
Next season it will be 20 years since the Bruins raised their 11th banner in the Pauley rafters.
Whether or not they raise number 12 at this time in 2015 remains to be seen of course, but personally speaking…
I think they have as good a shot as anyone.