If you are a fan of NCAA basketball, then you know that this season has a ton of talented teams. From Gonzaga to Villanova to Kansas to Oregon, there is tremendous talent across the country. But there is one team that helped solidify themselves as a legitimate number two seed on Saturday night. That would be the UCLA Bruins, who went on the road and took down number four Arizona.
There are three big name teams in the Pac 12 Conference this season. Between Oregon, Arizona and UCLA, it has been the Bruins that have gotten the least love this year. Yes, star freshman Lonzo Ball has gotten plenty of attention, but as a team, the third place team in the conference has gotten the least buzz.
But do not sleep on these Bruins. This is a team that will score points with ease, drain threes with their eyes closed and knocked down free throws like it’s their job. They are led by a solid head coach in Steve Alford, who is one of the most underrated coaches in the entire country. And they have about six different guys who they can trust with the ball come the end of a game.
Let’s start with the guy who everyone knows, Lonzo Ball. Ball is leading the team in minutes, averaging 35 per game. In those 35 minutes, he is putting the ball in the hoop at a 55 percent rate inside the arc and 42.1 percent outside of it. This guy can pull up from just about anywhere and drop the ball in the net like it is a layup. Bottomline, he makes it look easy.
Then we have TJ Leaf, the team’s freshman forward. Leaf leads the club in points per game, scoring 17 a game. He also brings down an impressive 8.8 rebounds a game, in addition to a block per game. He has a 67.1 field goal percentage and can also hit it from three point land when needed.
While the team’s two stars are freshman, they also have a senior leader who delivers when called upon. His name is Bryce Alford, and yes he is the son of head coach Steve Alford. The guard is on the court for 33 minutes a night and actually averages more points per game than Ball. He is one of the clubs best free throw shooters, knocking down an impressive 83.2 percent from the line.
Beyond these three, the club also has Isaac Hamilton, Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh. Hamilton and Holiday also shoot their free throws at a rate over 80 percent and do a little bit of everything. Welsh is tied wit Leaf as the team’s leading rebounder, while hitting an extremely impressive 93.8 percent from the charity stripe.
In total, the club has four guys who are on the court for over 30 minutes a game. All six of the guys mentioned above average double digits points per game and the team as a whole shoots the ball at a 53.2 percent rate. But their collective three-point shooting (41.7) and free throw shooting percentages (74.4) are just as impressive.
They showed earlier this season that they are a team that is willing to fight when they stormed back to take down Oregon. Oregon had them dead to rights in that game, but UCLA came storming back to win by a final score of 82-79. Then in their game against Arizona on Saturday, the Bruins controlled most of the game and eventually won by a final score of 77-72.
So while they are not exactly a defensive minded team, there is no denying they will be a scary opponent for anyone that falls in their path come the NCAA Tournament. With the way they are playing right now, they certainly look like a two seed. In such a scenario they will not have to worry about a one-seed (most likely Gonzaga if they rank ahead of Arizona) until the Elite Eight.
This team is dangerous. And they are way more than the Lonzo Ball show. So do not sleep on this Bruins club, as they will enter the Tournament with arguably the most prolific offense in the game. This is certainly a team I would not want in my region.
What do you think about UCLA this season? Will they make a deep run in the Big Dance? Tell us what you think in the comments!