UCLA – Preseason Preview/Update

The 14th ranked UCLA Bruins have opened up the season 7-1, losing to top 20 Memphis while beating the Delaware States of the world (okay, they did beat #22 Nevada last Saturday). Tomorrow's noon matchup at Crisler Arena will tell both the Wolverine and Bruin programs a lot about their teams.

UCLA Bruins
Pacific 10
2004-05: 18-11, 11-7, 3rd
2004-05 postseason: NCAA

UCLA is once again a dangerous team. After years of mediocrity, Coach Ben Howland has brought life back to Westwood. With four starters returning and a solid group of newcomers the future and the present is looking very good.

Who's Out: Dijon Thompson led the squad with 18.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals. His absence leaves a gap in the frontcourt that will be difficult to replace. Brian Morrison was often the first guard off the bench averaging 7.4 points per game. Forward Matt McKinney has left the team and requested a medical retirement after battling with injuries much of his career. Josiah Johnson only saw limited minutes in nine contests. The status of Janou Rubin is still unknown. The senior requested a sixth year of eligibility after missing all but five games last year with a left knee injury.

Who's In: The newcomers are talented enough to help out immediately. There is no doubt about it in the case of Cedric Bozeman. The 6-6 senior spent last year on the bench with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The three year starting point guard probably lost his starting job, but will be a great, experienced addition of the bench. The point guard of the future is Darren Collison. The 6-0 Rancho Cucamonga, California native is extremely quick and possesses great court vision. It will be interesting to see how much time the freshman will see this year with Farmar and Bozeman in the mix. Wings Michael Roll and Luc Richard Mbaha Moute will battle for minutes off the bench. Roll is a hard worker and a solid shooter. Mbaha Moute is very versatile at 6-7. He has guard skills and a massive wing span and is full of potential. Joey Ellis and DeAndre Robinson, both of whom redshirted last year, will add more depth to the guard spots. The frontcourt could use some depth and they get two players who will be ready to contribute right away. Ryan Wright, a 6-8, 230 pound power forward, has a strong body and quick feet. He should compete for the starting job at the four or at least provide competition at the spot all year long. Alfred Aboya is a little raw, yet has great potential to be a huge player for the Bruins. The 6-8 Cameroon native is a physical player who just needs a little time to develop his overall game. When that happens, he will be extremely dangerous. A left knee injury will slow his development, but he isn't expected to miss much of the season.

Who to Watch: The sophomore backcourt was a thrill to watch last year and will be even better this season. Jordan Farmar led the way with 13.2 points and 5.3 assists per contest. Arron Afflalo added 10.8 points and Josh Shipp tacked on 9.3 points and 5.2 rebounds. All three can hit the long ball, although a little more consistency in that department would be helpful. Already the group comprises one of the best backcourts in the nation and, if they stick around, will be the best in a year or two. Shipp had surgery on his right hip during the offseason and could miss up to half of the year, but the bench is deep enough for UCLA not to miss the sophomore too much.

Projected Conference Rank: The weakness is the frontcourt, but there is a nice mix of experienced and young talent. Michael Fey and Ryan Hollins are seniors and have starting experience, but the youth movement of Lorenzo Mata, Alfred Aboya and Ryan Wright will all get the chance to earn starting roles and quality playing time. A 2nd place finish in the PAC 10 will be the start of many years of success for the Bruins.

Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Arron Afflalo, 6-5 Soph Guard, 18.1 ppg so far this season
Jordan Farmar, 6-2 Soph Guard, 16.0 ppg so far this season
Cedric Bozeman, 6-6 Senior Forward/Guard, 11.6 ppg
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 6-7 Frosh, Forward, 8.4 ppg (8.9 rpg)
Ryan Hollins, 7-0 Senior Center, 4.3 ppg (3.3 rpg)

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