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UCLA Bruins 2014-15 Season Grades


The UCLA Bruins were hoping to sustain the level of success they achieved last season and almost got there with a few bumps on the road and some luck.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Regularly, we hear this exasperated phrase during a basketball game when a player hits a miraculous shot while the defense is draped all over him. Sure it went in, but sometimes the stars align, the moon is full, and the air conditioning in the arena is blowing just right for the ball to somehow find the bottom of the hoop.

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This is accurately indicative of the UCLA Bruins 2014-15 season. After losing Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, the Wear Brothers, and Zach Lavine to the NBA Draft, UCLA was going to have some drop off in talent.

They did their best on the recruiting trail, securing five-star prospect Kevon Looney, and four-star recruits Thomas Welsh and Jonah Bolden. Even when the NCAA ruled Bolden ineligible, UCLA still had pieces in place to at least compete for an NCAA Tournament spot.

What occurred was a season where the UCLA Bruins seemingly fell up, losing early in the season, only to take advantage of a weak Pac-12 Conference and receiving one of the most fortunate NCAA Tournament routes in recent memory.

Mar 19, 2015; Louisville, KY, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs guard Ryan Manuel (1) lies on the court as the UCLA Bruins celebrate their 60-59 win in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at KFC Yum! Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The Season

I will at least give credit where credit is due – UCLA had one hell of a nonconference schedule. Not that it really mattered with them getting blown out and all.

The UCLA Bruins faced six future NCAA Tournament teams at the beginning of the season. Four of those teams (North Carolina, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Gonzaga) would be in the ranked in the top 15 of the AP Poll at some point during the year. UCLA would lose all four of those games by double digits.

While that certainly did not help their cause (especially that Kentucky game where they only scored seven points in the first half), they were able to recover slightly during conference play. After only winning three of their first seven conference games, UCLA won eight of their last eleven games to close the season, putting them on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament.

After losing to Arizona in their second game of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, it seemed that UCLA was destined to be an NIT participant. However, the Bruins were blessed with the NCAA Selection Committee’s incompetence when they were not only extended a NCAA Tournament invitation, but given an opening round bye into the round of 64 even after finishing the year with an 22-14 record while playing in one of the weakest conferences out of the Power Five.

In their first game against Southern Methodist, the Bruins were assisted by a controversial goaltending call that gave them the win. And then they faced a 14th seeded UAB team (whom UCLA beat earlier in the year) who was coming off a huge upset win over Iowa State and couldn’t sustain their momentum.

They would fall to Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen, the same round they met their demise last season. So, despite the losses and lack of deep talent that they had last year, the UCLA Bruins still ended up with the same results. You can’t really blame them for taking advantage of their opportunity.

Grade: B

Feb 21, 2015; Tucson, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins forward Kevon Looney (5), guard Isaac Hamilton (10), center Thomas Welsh (40), guard Bryce Alford (20), and guard Norman Powell (4) huddle during the second half against the Arizona Wildcats at McKale Center. The Wildcats won 57-47. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Players

You want to talk about a shallow team? No one on the UCLA Bruins benched averaged more than 3.8 points per game. The UCLA starters accounted for 91.1 percent of the team’s total point output per game, creating one of the biggest disparities between starter and bench production in the conference.

Bryce Alford showed he can play averaging 15.4 points and 4.9 assists per game from the point guard position, while Kevon Looney excelled as a freshman, averaging 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds. Senior Norman Powell did his best to make his last season memorable; leading the Bruins with 16.4 points and 1.8 steals.

Though the starters did their part for UCLA, the 8.5 points contributed by the rest of the eight players on the roster per game are too much to overlook.

Grade: C+

Mar 27, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Steve Alford during the second half in the semifinals of the south regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament against the Gonzaga Bulldogs at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Coach

UCLA head coach Steve Alford has received his due amount of guff since taking over the reigns in 2014. He inherited an insane amount of talent that year and was only able to take them to the Sweet Sixteen. So why is he still getting ragged on even though he took them to the same round this year despite having less talent? Easy – he was damned lucky.

UCLA Bruins
UCLA Bruins /

UCLA Bruins

The team never should have been in the NCAA Tournament in the first place, but because UCLA received preferential treatment and fell into a generous route to the regional semifinal round, the season can be looked at as a success. However, it was not any X’s and O’s magic that Alford performed.

I’ll give him credit for getting his players to play hard enough to lead the Pac-12 in offensive rebounds, giving them extra possessions, but a majority of the offense was generated by Bryce Alford driving and kicking or Tony Parker demanding a double team and then finding open shooters on the outside.

Surprisingly, UCLA played decent defense ranking fourth in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage allowed at 42.6 percent and points allowed per game at 65.8; a shock coming from a team that wants to rack up possessions as much as any team in the nation.

Even with those numbers, it will be interesting to see what Alford can do with a team that is solely comprised of the players he brought in. I guess we won’t have to wait too long so see that.

Grade: B-

Mar 27, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Bryce Alford (20) reacts during the second half in the semifinals of the south regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament against the Gonzaga Bulldogs at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Final Grade: B-

This is right in line with the result when you’re in school and you’re taking a class where you already have prior knowledge on the subject. You float for the first couple weeks, and when you realize you’re struggling with the advanced material, you kick it into high gear and cram as much as you can at the end of the year to recover your grade.

The UCLA Bruins may have gotten back to the NCAA Tournament where they were in the previous year, but it took a miracle for them to even get there. Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good.

Next: USC Trojans 2014-15 Season Grades

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