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)
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