2005-06: 32-7, 14-4, 1st
2005-06 postseason: NCAA
Darren Collison, Sophomore, Guard, 12.8 points, 6 assists per game
Arron Afflalo, Junior, Guard, 15.9 points per game
Josh Shipp, Sophomore, Forward, 14.6 points per game
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Sophomore, Forward, 10.3, 7.9 rebounds per game
Lorenzo Mata, Junior, Center, 6.7 points, 6.8 rebounds points per game
Despite the absence of three starters from last year’s second best team in the nation, UCLA returns plenty of experienced players. That is due to the fact that 13 players started at least one game last year. And this year’s depth is even better.
Who’s Out: Jordan Farmar, and his 13.5 points and 5.1 assists per game, is the big name that is lost, but the absence of Cedric Bozeman and Ryan Hollins will hurt just as much. Bozeman was the senior leader of the team and Hollins came on strong at the end of the year and gave the Bruins a true post threat. Janou Rubin and Michael Fey were down a ways on the depth chart and walk-ons Kelvin Kim and Nican Robinson were at the bottom.
Who’s In: Incoming freshmen Russell Westbrook, Nikola Dragovic and James Keefe will battle for minutes. Westbrook could see some minutes running the point this year if the Bruins run into problems replacing Farmar. Dragovic is a quality scoring wing from Serbia and Montenegro and is expected to immediately contribute. Keefe, a 6-8 power forward, might be most talented of the bunch and will be in the mix to help replace the departing Hollins. Mustafa Abdul-Hamid will bide his time and provide some emergency depth on the perimeter.
Who to Watch: Arron Afflalo is the odds on favorite for Pac-10 Player of the Year after leading the Bruins with 15.8 points per game last year. The 6-5 junior is a solid shooter from anywhere on the court and will be looked upon as the team leader. He’ll have some competition from the rest of his backcourt mates though when it comes to the team’s Player of the Year award. Josh Shipp started 23 games as a freshman and had high expectations going into last year before succumbing to a hip injury and seeing action in just four games. Now back in full force, the 6-5 wing is ready to put his name back on the marquee. Darren Collison may prove to be the most important player on the team. Collison has the fun job of replacing Farmar at the point. Collison has gained strength and has enough talent to take over the job. If things go bad, Afflalo and Westbrook can handle the point guard duties. Michael Roll started five games in the backcourt last year, but never really got the opportunity to show his stuff. Unfortunately, with all the talent ahead of him, Roll isn’t expected to make much more of an impact this year.
Final Projection: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will be the leader up front. The 6-7 power forward put together a great season as a freshman, averaging 9.1 points and 8.2 rebounds and fans now remember his game more than his name. Lorenzo Mata, Alfred Aboya and Ryan Wright are all decent post players who will replace Hollins. Mata is a great shot blocker, but can be a liability on the defensive end. Off-season surgery on his right knee may keep Mata on the sidelines early in the season. Aboya and Wright, both sophomores, are less experience than Mata, but each have the potential to impress and earn more playing time. Washington and Arizona won’t make it easy, but the Bruins are the class of the Pac-10. The depth will keep the stars well rested down the stretch and that means another big run in March is in store for Coach Ben Howland and all of Westwood.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA