5 Bold Predictions For UCLA In 2014

1. UCLA will finish 2nd in the Pac-12

UCLA is now 2-1 in Pac-12 play after an interesting win over Arizona State. For parts of that game, the Bruins looked amazing, but at other times they looked like a team in disarray. The Bruins can play with anyone in the country, as they proved against #1 Arizona. Their biggest issue is they haven't been putting together a consistent 40 minutes of basketball.

UCLA is currently in 5th in the Pac-12, but is only following Arizona and California in the loss column. Two big games on the road at Colorado and Utah this weekend could prove crucial for the Bruins. Colorado may have lost their best player - Spencer Dinwiddie - to a knee injury, and Utah is coming off back-to-back losses to the Washington schools.

The Pac-12 is going to be a tougher conference than most people think. From top to bottom, this conference is as good as any in the country. Oregon was undefeated prior to conference play, but has now lost three straight games to Pac-12 opponents. Don't count on this being easy for the Bruins, but they’ll be ready for the challenge and will head into tournament season on a high.

2. UCLA will play on the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament

The Bruins have the type of talent to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Tony Parker is showing major signs of improvement, and could make the Bruins even more dangerous as he continues to develop. The lack of an inside presence has hurt UCLA in their losses - any production UCLA can get on either side of the ball from the Wear twins or Parker would be a huge bonus.

UCLA is eighth in the country in scoring and second in field goal percentage, but it’s the Bruins’ defense that’ll get them deep into the tourney. They’ll be able to create turnovers and get the offense moving in the right direction.

3. The Bruins will get one more surprise recruit

UCLA is somewhere to play basketball again. In addition to the resurgence of the basketball program, the emergence of the football program boosts UCLA’s profile even more. It also doesn’t hurt that Steve Alford is giving his players more freedom than former coach Ben Howland ever did.

All these factors are helping build a strong future for UCLA basketball. A commitment this week from 2016 guard Lonzo Ball was huge. Another big commitment from 2014 recruit JaQuan Lyle or star 2015 PF Ivan Rabb could push more elite recruits to sign with UCLA.

4. Zach LaVine, Kyle Anderson, and Jordan Adams will all return next season

It may be more realistic for all three of these guys to jump to the NBA. Anderson's father said before the season that his son would be leaving Westwood after this year, and considering how he’s played so far, that wouldn't be surprising. LaVine has been getting the most NBA buzz, but that will die off a little before the end of the season. Adams’ future is still unclear, but he can flat-out score on any level.

Assuming that UCLA doesn't have to deal with any injuries and does make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, it wouldn't be a stretch to see all those guys return next season to try and win a title. Losing just the Wear twins and bringing in four solid big men next year (including Kevon Looney, the #3 PF in the class of 2014), UCLA could be a title contender next season.

5. UCLA starts the 2014-15 season ranked #1

With LaVine, Anderson and Adams returning and Kevon Looney joining the starting frontcourt with Tony Parker, UCLA will be stacked with talent. The bench also gets better (and bigger) with other forwards joining Looney in the recruiting class. Getting a year older and a year wiser makes UCLA a top team.

The Bruins will be challenged at the top by regulars Duke, Kentucky and Arizona. The difference will be UCLA’s upperclassmen - Duke and Kentucky will have lots of freshman talent, and Arizona is going to lose more top players than they’re bringing back. A run to the Final Four and a 12th National Championship could be forthcoming. Go Bruins!

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