NCAA tournament team previews: UCLA Bruins
As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 20-13 (11-7 Pac-12)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 110.2 (45th)/97.4 (76th)
Seed: South No. 11
Impact player: Kevon Looney, freshman, forward, 11.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 113.5 offensive rating
The Case For: The Bruins were a controversial entry into the field, but they are not without their merits. They have steadied themselves after some midseason woes and count Utah and Oregon among their wins in the past six weeks. Some of UCLA’s strengths may not be especially sexy (it fouled opponents at the Pac-12’s lowest rate and was the league’s second-best at block avoidance), but those little things can add up. Looney is a potential NBA Lottery pick who also shoots 45.8% on his occasional three-pointers, while guard Norman Powell is an all-conference first-teamer who averaged 16.4 points per game.
Powell’s backcourt mate, Bryce Alford, is more than merely the coach’s son, averaging 15.4 points, including 22 at Pac-12 champion Arizona on Feb. 21. Don’t forget about freshman guard Isaac Hamilton, whose up-and-down season includes 36 points against USC in the Pac-12 tournament. And at 6’9” and 260 pounds, forward Tony Parker is a bruiser on the boards who can give plenty of teams a handful.
The Case Against: The reason UCLA may not last long in the field is the same reason so many questioned whether it belonged there in the first place: the Bruins do not have any quality wins away from Pauley Pavilion. Their best such wins are Stanford on the road and UAB in the Bahamas. UCLA does have a home win against Utah, but the rest of its biggest tests this season have resulted in failure: a 10-point neutral-site loss to Oklahoma, a 13-point loss to Gonzaga at home, a 39-point drubbing by Kentucky in Chicago, and a 10-point loss at Arizona.
And for all the Bruins’ talent, they don’t truly excel at anything in particular while showing vulnerabilities at the free throw line (67.6%) and in three-point defense (opponents shoot 35.5%). As its scattershot résumé would attest, this team has yet to sort itself out. Don’t bet on it happening in the tournament.
SI prediction: Lose to SMU in the Round of 64