#1-UCLA Bruins: Coach-Ben Howland (6th year)
PG-Darren Collison (Sr.)- For the past two seasons Collison has been one of the best point guards in the nation and this year I expect that he’ll pick up just where he left off. Collison has a young and talented group of players to pass the ball to, and also can take the ball to the basket himself. Sometimes people overlook Collison’s ability to shoot the ball, but last year he shot 52% from behind the arc on 101 attempts. If Collison can shoot the three like that this season, UCLA should compete for a national championship.
SG-Jrue Holiday (Fr.)- The most complete freshman in the nation makes his way over to Los Angeles to become part of a Bruins team that is looking to make yet another consecutive Final Four. Holiday has great fundamentals, plays superb defense, knows how to score, shoots a consistent three ball, and is very athletic. He may be UCLA’s leading scorer this season, and will easily be one of the top players not only in the Pac-10 but in all of college basketball.
G/F-Josh Shipp (Sr.)- While a lot of people think that freshman Drew Gordon could be starting at this spot by season’s end, Howland will most likely give the nod to Shipp who was a major part of their Final Four run last season. He is a great shooter and a strong defender, hurting the opposition inside and out. Plus, who can forget his performance at Cal last season. Shipp is a vital part of this team and he could be a major factor if this team wants to win a national championship.
PF-Drew Gordon (Fr.)- Like I said, some people may think that Gordon will be better suited at SF instead of PF, but if you have a guy like Shipp already on your team you have to move Gordon to a different position. Gordon will fight for rebounds, and he definitely has the ability to post up and score. He’s the wild card of the Bruins starting lineup; he could become a great player immediately, or he could fold under the pressure and UCLA fans will see more Alfred Aboya.
C-J’Mison Morgan (Fr.)- Morgan would be the best center in this year’s class if not for B.J. Mullens. Morgan is a force on the inside that can compete at the high-major level, matching up well with every other center in the Pac-10 right away. Morgan is also a tremendous rebounder and blocks shots like its nobody’s business. If he can continue these trends in college, Morgan’s play will vault UCLA from a very good team to an elite team.
Bench: Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson are two stellar recruits that will be great bench players for UCLA. Anderson will be the back-up point guard. Alfred Aboya and Michael Roll round off the 9-man rotation that will be on the court for the Bruins this season. The bench provides talent, experience, and athleticism that will take UCLA a long way come March.
Bottom Line: This team reminds me of a worse version of last year’s Memphis. They are quick, athletic, and like to get into the fastbreak. They also are young but have experience where it counts. This team has the ability to get back to the Final Four, but most of the production depends on three freshman who I just don’t see getting the job done in March. UCLA is a stellar team this year and will win the Pac-10, but I see them falling in the Elite 8.
Projected Post-Season Tourney: NCAA (Elite Eight)
Key Non-Conference Games: 2K Sports Classic (11/20-11/21), at Texas (12/4), Notre Dame (2/7)
Key Conference Games: at USC (1/11), Arizona State (1/17), USC (2/4), at Arizona State (2/12)