Posted on: October 17, 2008 7:35 pm

UCLA Bruins '08-'09 Preview

UCLA Bruins

Head Coach: Ben Howland
Last Season’s Results: Conf. 19-2 (1st), Overall 35-4. Post Season: NCAA Tournament


Backcourt: UCLA’s backcourt is loaded with three future-NBA bound players in Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday, and Josh Shipp. Shipp and Collison both tested the NBA waters last season before withdrawing from the draft. Jrue Holiday comes in as best point guard, and the second best player overall in the 2008 recruiting class.

They’ll continue to apply the stifling pressure defense that has been a trademark of Ben Howland’s teams forcing teams into bad decisions while producing easy scoring opportunities in transition for the Bruins. These guys are all around solid players and will be tough to match up with across the board.

Frontcourt: Alred Aboya returns as the starting power forward for the Bruins. Aboya is a solid defensive player who goes out and does what you need him to - put a body on guys, contest a few shots, and apply pressure off the ball.

J’Mison Morgan comes in as a highly touted center and looks to fill the shoes of Kevin Love. No small task in the least, but Morgan should be up to it and an immediate threat both offensively and defensively for the Bruins. He’ll need to work on his passing ability for the Bruins to click on all cylinders.

Bench:  UCLA is the deepest team in the PAC-10 with the ability to easily go 12 deep. They return  Michael Roll and James Keefe who will be accompanied by a tremendous recruiting class. Roll is a solid guard who can quietly put up big numbers - especially when he’s forgotten about in the corner as tends to happen with the prolific Bruins’ offense.

Keefe finished the season strong, stepping up in big games for the Bruins. He’ll look to continue his performance again this year.

Key Departures:  In addition to Lorenzo Mata-Real graduating, the Bruins saw Kevin Love, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Russell Westbrook skip off to the NBA Draft this summer. Those losses comprise of 56% of scoring, 60% of rebounding, and 46% of the assists from last season.

Key Recruits:
PG- Jrue Holiday - This kid has NBA written all over him. He’s got great ball handling skills, is an effective passer, and can create his own shot. He’s got a ridiculously quick first step to go along with good floor awareness and good decision making skills. He can use some work on his range.

C- J’Mison Morgan - a wide bodied center that has the strength to abuse opponents. Will have trouble face defending quicker guys who can make solid moves to the hoop instead of just posting up.
Jerime Anderson  - A 4 star recruit with great court vision and the ability to make the accurate and solid pass. Decent range for a big man, and great body control.

PF- Drew Gordon - An athletic power forward with a strong body, great athleticism, and a nice touch around the basket. Has decent shot blocking abilities, but needs to work on his offensive moves. More of a threat to get an offensive rebound than beat you on the blocks for a basket.

PG/SG - Malcolm Lee - a slashing guard with a quick first step, solid ball handling skills, and good range. He can become too aggressive and tends to over penetrate and tries to make the amazing pass instead of the good one.

*All Recruits whose name is linked lead to a highlight video for that player.

Strengths: What don’t the Bruins have? They will attack you with a phenomenal starting five, and keep hitting you with their deep bench. This is the deepest team in the conference, and likely one of the deepest in the nation.

Offensively they can score in bunches and will light teams up with their guard play.
They will be trademarked by Howland’s stifling defense, and make it ridiculously hard for teams to find any sort of offensive flow against them.

Weaknesses: No team is infallible, not even these Bruins. They will be a Title contender, but will have a few hiccups along the way.  While they will defensively hound opponents guards, they will have a disadvantage against the taller small forwards in the conference.

The other major knock on UCLA is their inability to score on the zone. Granted, they showed improvement in that regard last season, but they still struggled with it at times. The zone isn’t going to stop the Bruins this year, but it may slow them down some.

Key Dates:
Dec 4 @ Texas
Jan 11 @ USC
Feb 12 @ ASU
Feb 14 @ UofA

Outlook: Despite the significant off-season departures, UCLA is already being talked about as a Title contender. The Bruins won’t be as good as last year because of the grade curve of experienced leadership, and face it, Morgan is no Kevin Love. UCLA will still control the PAC-10, especially considering that a majority of the PAC-10 is rebuilding or is missing a key element or two from truly competing.

Projected Finish: PAC-10 Champs. Post Season: NCAA Tournament.

Category: NCAAB
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