UCLA went from a negative record (15-17) to a top team in Division I. The injection of talent, with Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf joining the team during summer turned the team into the best offense in the nation and the most entertaining to watch. The December win on the road at Kentucky (97-92) gave the Bruins a seat under the spotlight, and they stayed there throughout the season. Losses against Oregon and Arizona might have lowered the hype, but revenge came later in the season against both of them. It also gave Ball the chance to show what he can do in clutch situation, with his huge basket against the Ducks, and to showcase the team’s versatility in employing a 3-2 zone on the road against the Wildcats. Arizona had the last laugh in the Pac 12 semifinal, but the potential to reach the Final Four is there.
Lonzo Ball (14.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.6 assists) has been one of the best shows of the season and most fans and experts are curious to see what his impact will be in the tournament. His court vision and feel for the game are off the charts and he has been able to make his teammates better with his playmaking. He is the one player to keep an eye on, of course, but since he is making his teammates better, there’s more. T.J. Leaf is leading the team in points (16.8) and rebounds (8.7) and his intensity and athleticism are crucial. Bryce Alford (16.1 points per game) is a killer from beyond the arc: 45.4% with over 7 attempts per game.
The Bruins are an extremely dangerous team that will have to overcome a few defensive limitations to reach the Final Four, but anything short of the Elite Eight would be shocking.