As part of its preview of the 2014 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. For more teams, click here.
Record: 26-8, 12-6 in Pac-12
Adjusted offense / Adjusted defense: 116.6 (14th) / 97.7 (50th)
Impact player: Kyle Anderson, sophomore PG. 14.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.8 spg
The Case For:
With all due respect to Jordan Adams, let’s start with the guy referenced above. “Slo-Mo” is a 6-foot-9 point guard whose skills present all the matchup problems that combination would suggest. His breakout this season has been key to the success of UCLA’s uptempo attack, and that combination of size and versatility with the speed at which Anderson operates could make him a nightmare for opponents. In Adams, Anderson has a 6-5 sidekick with a knack for scoring (17.2 ppg on 47.7% shooting and 36.1% from three), an ability to rebound (5.3 per game) and one of the country’s best penchants for thievery (his 5.2% steal rate is seventh nationally). Athletic wing Zach Levine and coach’s son Bryce Alford (40.0% and 39.5%, respectively, from three) round out a fleet of shooters that, along with a strong aversion to turnovers and accuracy from the charity stripe, give the Bruins a dangerous and efficient offense that can put just about anyone on their heels.
The Case Against:
While UCLA passes both the eye and metric tests, it came up short in its two biggest on-court tests of the regular season -- against Duke at Madison Square Garden in December and at home against Arizona in January -- which suggest that the Bruins may only go as far as their seed. And while they mostly took care of business and even ended up defeating Arizona in the Pac-12 title game, being on the wrong side of an 18-point rout at Pac-12 afterthought Washington State on March 8 was a discouraging conclusion to the regular season.
The Bruins are prone to getting lit up from outside, where opponents shoot 34.6 percent and get a whopping 34.8 percent of their points, the sixth highest share in the nation. Teams often live or die by the trey in March, and a team that can knock them down could have a field day against UCLA. And an alarming trend to make note of: The Bruins dropped the second game of all four of their two-game conference road trips this season, including the loss at Washington State and another at Oregon State. If you can’t put together consecutive quality performances away from home, you won’t be dancing for long.
SI Prediction: Beat Tulsa in second round, beat Stephen F. Austin in third round, lose in Sweet 16 to Florida View complete bracket predictions from SI.com’s panel of experts