Adem Bona, UCLA Bruins, Pac-12 basketball

The UCLA Bruins head into the season with just one player from last year’s roster who played 20+ minutes per game.

 

As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.

The UCLA Bruins offseason was all about retooling after losing their five highest scorers, the five players with the most playing time. The Bruins added seven incoming freshmen as well as one transfer.

Three of UCLA’s top players from last year –  Jaime Jaquez, Jaylen Clark, and Amari Bailey – are on NBA rosters as they look to fight for playing time. UCLA’s new additions will do the same.

The Bruins will have to learn how to play together heading into the season however having two seasoned vets will help a lot. 

Head coach: Mick Cronin (21st season, 5th at UCLA)

2022-23 record: 31-6 (18-2)

2023 postseason finish: Lost to Gonzaga, 79-76, in Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament

Notable departures: Jaime Jaquez (NBA), Tyger Campbell (Graduated), Jaylen Clark (NBA), Amari Bailey, (NBA), David Singleton (Graduated)

Notable nonconference games: vs. Marquette (Nov. 20), Maui Invitational (Nov. 21-22), at Villanova (Dec. 9), vs. Ohio State (Dec. 16), vs. Maryland (Dec. 22)

Projected Rotation

PG: Dylan Andrews  (6-2, 180, So.)

2022-23 stats: 3.3 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 0.9 APG, 10.8 MPG

SG: Sebastian Mack (6-3, 200, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 55 rated recruit

SF: Lazar Stefanovic (6-7, 190, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 10.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 35.9 3P%, 36.9 FG% (Utah)

PF: Adem Bona (6-10, 245, So.)

2022-23 stats: 7.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.7 BPG, 67.5 FG%

C: Aday Mara (7-3, 240, Fr.)

247Sports No. 15 rated recruit

6: Berke Buyuktuncel (6-9, 245, Fr.)

247Sports No. 36 rated recruit

7: Ilane Fibleuil (6-6, 200, Fr.)

247Sports No. 43 rated recruit

8: Will McLendon  (6-3, 205, Rs.-So.)

2022-23 stats: 1.0 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 0.8 APG, 9.3 MPG

9: Jan Vide (6-6, 200, Fr.)

247Sports No. 68 rated recruit

10: Devin Williams (6-10, 200, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 74 rated recruit

11: Brand0n Williams (6-7, 220, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 87  rated recruit

UCLA Bruins MVP: Adem Bona

A more obvious pick may not exist as it is hard to select a player over the lone returning player who averaged over 20 minutes per game, with the next highest being 10.8. 

Bona is a player who’s a dominant force in the paint and will bully defenders using his size to force his way to the basket on offense. Defensively, he will box out for rebounds. Bona would draw numerous fouls in the paint and he and Aday Mara will pair excellently with one another inside.

UCLA Bruins make-or-break player:  Lazar Stefanovic 

The only upperclassmen starter in my projections, UCLA looks to be a very young and new team and Stefanovic looks to be a leader on and off the court for the Bruins.

On offense he will need to be a consistent shooter more than he was at Utah and on defense he will have to be able to defend 1-4, especially on the perimeter. He is going to have to take the next step in order for UCLA to compete for the Pac-12 title.

Key analytic: 3P%

Last season UCLA was 343th out of 363 teams and replaced most of their production with new players. If the total revamped team can shoot better and rely less on athletic play and booming in the paint, then they’ll be more likely to have a deep run in March. The seven freshmen will need to shoot at a high level right away for the Bruins in order for them to compete night in and out. 

Although Stefanovic’s overall efficiency was an issue, he was deadly from three, hitting about 36% from deep last season. Adding him alone will help the case for the Bruins.

UCLA Bruins 2023-24 Projections

Projected conference finish: 4th in the Pac-12

Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Elite 8 Exit

One thought on “CBB Rank 2023: No. 35 UCLA Bruins”
  1. By far, UCLA is one of the most mysterious teams in the country. My initial inclination is to think that they would probably take a seismic dip in relevance and the standings this season after losing a group as talented as Campbell, Jaquez, Clark, Bailey, and Singleton and returning only one starter. But it is UCLA and it is Mick Cronin, who I believe is one the very best coaches in the country. Bona is undeniably a great defensive talent and a future pro, but he has a long way to go on the offensive end and he’s the linchpin of this team. Andrews certainly has the makings of a very good Pac 12 PG. Beyond that? Almost a complete mystery. Lazar Stefanovic was a solid player at Utah. Can he take his game to the next level if he’s the focal point on offense? The rest of the team? Little used and often injured guard Will McLendon and a recruiting class of seven guys ranked in the Top 100 from #15 to #87 of which 4 are foreign born and not a ton of information or indication of what kind of impact they could possibly have as freshmen is known. Aday Mara is being discussed as a possible lottery pick? For UCLA to stay in the Top 3-4 of a sneaky strong final iteration of the Pac 12 they’re going to need, at minimum, 3-4 of these guys to be absolute homeruns. The most likely to be in my mind would be Mara, Sebastian Mack, Berke Buyuktuncel, and Vide and/or one of the Williams boys. It’s just too much to ask but they’ll be back.

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