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Steve Alford

Top 25 Countdown: No. 24 UCLA Bruins

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2014-2015 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day. We continue our Top 25 countdown with the No. 24 UCLA Bruins.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | NBCSports Preseason Top 25 | Preview Schedule

source: Getty Images
Steve Alford, Getty Images

Last Season: 28-9, 12-6 Pac-12 (t-2nd), lost in the Sweet 16

Head Coach: Steve Alford

Key Losses: Kyle Anderson (14.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 6.5 apg), Jordan Adams (17.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.3 apg), Zach LaVine (9.4 ppg)

Newcomers: Isaac Hamilton, Kevon Looney, Thomas Welsh, Gyorgy Goloman

Projected Lineup

G: Bryce Alford, So.
G: Norman Powell, Sr.
G: Isaac Hamilton, So.
– F: Kevon Looney, Fr.
– C: Tony Parker, Jr.
– Bench: Wanaah Bail, So.; Thomas Welsh, Fr.; Noah Allen, So.; Gyorgy Goloman, Fr.

They’ll be good because …: There certainly isn’t a shortage of talent on UCLA’s roster. It starts with senior guard Norman Powell, one of just two upperclassmen in Steve Alford’s rotation this season. Powell has spent the past two seasons stuck behind NBA wings on the UCLA depth chart: Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams, Zach LaVine, even Kyle Anderson. This will be his season to lead, and while he may not be as good as some of those guys that played in front of him, he doesn’t necessarily need to be.

Isaac Hamilton, a wing, was a top 15 recruit in the Class of 2013 before being forced to sit out last season after UTEP refused to release him from his letter of intent. Kevon Looney is a five-star recruit in the Class of 2014 and should join junior Tony Parker in anchoring UCLA’s big, deep front line. They’ll be joined up front by four-star big man Thomas Welsh as well as sophomore Wanaah Bail, who should finally be healthy this season, although their front line’s versatility took a hit when Jonah Bolden was ruled a partial qualifier that will have to sit out this season.

UCLA lost three first round draft picks with a combined seven seasons of eligibility remaining, yet they may end up having just as much talent on their roster this season. That’s how it should be in Westwood.

source: Getty Images
Norman Powell, Getty Images

But they might disappoint because …: While the Bruins have quite a bit of talent on their roster, there is an awful lot of youth and inexperience on there as well. Powell and Parker, a junior, are the only two upperclassmen that will see significant minutes. Four sophomores will likely end up in the rotation as well, but just one of them — point guard Bryce Alford, Steve’s son — played major minutes a season ago. Hamilton sat out, Bail was injured and wing Noah Allen played in just 11 games. Alford, the coach, is going to have his work cut out for him this season.

The other question mark is Alford, the point guard. He had a promising freshman campaign, averaging 8.0 points and 2.8 assists, but he was more of a sparkplug off the bench than he was a guy counted on to run a team and facilitate an offense full time. He was supposed to battle Colorado State transfer Jon Octeus for the starting role, but Octeus was denied admission into UCLA, meaning that Alford will be sharing ball-handling duties with … off-guard Hamilton? How the sophomore handles the role will be a major determinant in how good the Bruins end up being.

Outlook: Arizona is the favorite to win the Pac-12 this season. There really isn’t even much of an argument to be had there, but what will be interesting to see is how the rest of the conference plays out as there are four or five teams that can lay claim to the title “second best in the Pac-12”. UCLA is one of those teams.

If everything breaks right — Powell becomes an all-league player, Looney and Hamilton live up to their five-star rankings, Alford makes a seamless transition to full-time point guard — than the Bruins are probably closer to being a top 15 team than they are the No. 24 team in the country. But there are a lot of things that can go wrong during the year, which is why I wouldn’t be totally shocked if the Bruins ended up being an NIT team this season.

Like I said earlier, Steve Alford is going to have a lot of work to do this season.

Report: NCAA rules UCLA freshman power forward ineligible for 2014-15 season

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With Isaac Hamilton eligible after having to sit out all of last season and three talented freshman big men joining the ranks, UCLA is expected to be one of the teams looking to make life difficult for prohibitive favorite Arizona in the Pac-12 this season. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they’ll be without one of those freshman big men due to the fact that the NCAA has declared him to be a partial qualifier.

According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com the NCAA has declared 6-foot-9 freshman power forward Jonah Bolden ineligible for the upcoming season. Bolden, a four-star prospect who was ranked 32nd in the Class of 2014 by Rivals.com, was expected to be an immediate impact player because of his ability to play both inside and step out onto the perimeter as a face-up power forward.

Sources told ESPN the issue stems from Bolden leaving Australia after his senior campaign had already begun to attend Findlay Prep in Las Vegas. Bolden left Findlay in December and finished at Brewster Academy.

According to Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register, Bolden has yet to be cleared to practice with the team.

Without Bolden the Bruins will still have options in the front court, most notably fellow freshmen Kevon Looney and Thomas Welsh and junior Tony Parker. UCLA also adds freshman Gyorgy Goloman, who at 6-foot-10 is the team’s second-tallest player behind the 7-footer Welsh. Parker’s development was already going to be important for UCLA, despite the arrival of the talented freshman big men. Without Bolden the need for the junior to take a step forward becomes greater.

Parker averaged 6.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season, and in each of his first two seasons at UCLA consistency has been an issue for the former McDonald’s All-American. However he played well at last month’s adidas Nations camp, and if Parker can build on that performance it would bode well for UCLA moving forward.

adidas Nations college counselor Superlatives

Norman Powell, Getty Images
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source: Getty Images
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LONG BEACH, California — The 2014 version of adidas Nations is behind us now, but with CBT‘s Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips both in attendance, they decided to break down some of the college counselors by going over a list of superlatives for the week. Be sure to look out for high school superlatives as well as brief recaps of every college counselor in attendance later this week on College Basketball Talk.

Click here for CBT’s coverage from adidas Nations


  • Norman Powell (UCLA): Of the college players at the camp Arizona’s Stanley Johnson would likely be the highest draft pick if there were a draft today, and that will likely be the case in June as well. But the honor of best performer at adidas Nations goes to Powell, who was consistent on both ends of the floor throughout the weekend. The rising senior was aggressive offensively without being reckless, and if he can carry over that level of play into the season that bodes well for Steve Alford’s Bruins. (RJ)
  • Terran Petteway (Nebraska): Since Louisville guard Terry Rozier had some inconsistent performances down the stretch, I’ll go with Petteway, who had an impressive week at adidas Nations by knocking in perimeter jumpers, attacking the basket and defending hard at the other end. He’s one of the college counselors who stared NBA veteran Arron Afflalo in the eye and didn’t flinch. After a big year in the Big Ten last season, Petteway looks like he’ll once again be one of the league’s best players this coming season. (SP)
AP Photo


  • Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin): Kaminsky is considered by many to be the top face-up big man in college basketball, and based upon the way he played as a junior that’s a fair label to give him. But the perimeter shots weren’t falling in Long Beach, and what was even more concerning was the lack of consistency on the boards. He’ll play better during the season, but it would have been nice to see him do more in front of the NBA scouts in attendance. (RJ)
  • Zak Irvin (Michigan): Since Raphielle picked Kaminsky and Louisiana Lafayette’s Shawn Long only played two days of the camp, I’ll go with Michigan sophomore wing Zak Irvin, who didn’t appear to be much better than when I last saw him in Indianapolis during the Sweet 16/Elite Eight weekend. Irvin can still perform as a catch-and-shoot player, but after losing Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary, Irvin needs to step up this season and do more off-the-bounce. That didn’t happen at adidas Nations. Irvin struggled with two-dribble pull-ups and was stripped multiple times while trying to drive to the basket. Still plenty of time before November, but Irvin doesn’t look much better than last season. (SP)


  • Tony Parker (UCLA): In all honesty I didn’t expect much from Parker, based largely upon his inconsistent play during his first two seasons at UCLA. However Parker held his own, working hard on the glass and converting many of the opportunities he was able to find around the basket. The question for Parker: can he provide UCLA with consistent minutes throughout the season? Even with the talented trio joining the UCLA front court (Jonah Bolden, Kevon Looney and Thomas Welsh), the Bruins are going to need something from Parker this season. (RJ)
  • BeeJay Anya (N.C. State): There were stories of Anya’s weight loss since the end of last season, but he clearly looks like a player who has redefined his game heading into his sophomore season. Since Anya has lost so much weight, he’s getting up and down the floor much better, getting better lift off of the ground and also making hustle plays that he would never try to make before. The improved lift and mobility means Anya was more confident as a low-post scorer and his tremendous wingspan also makes him a difference as a weakside shot blocker. I like this version of BeeJay Anya much better and I’m sure N.C. State fans will agree with me. (SP)


  • Stanley Johnson (Arizona): Simply put, the incoming freshman is a grown man. He was aggressive in driving to the basket, finishing above the rim on multiple occasions, and he knocked down his perimeter shots at a solid clip as well. And Johnson held his own against Arron Afflalo on Saturday night when the Denver Nuggets guard joined the scrimmages. (RJ)
  • Stanley Johnson (Arizona): Not to piggyback off the same player as my colleague, but Johnson was really good this week and has improved his body even more since entering college this summer. Kelly Oubre and Terry Rozier are both good NBA Draft prospects as well at this current juncture, but with Johnson’s size, athleticism, skill and tenacious work ethic, he’s the frontrunner of the group that played at adidas Nations this week. There’s a reason Tracy McGrady and Afflalo went at Johnson the most and it’s because they respected his ability to give them a fair fight as an incoming college freshman. (SP)