2024-25 Big Ten offseason at a glance: UCLA Bruins

  • 06/10/2024 7:34 am in

Welcome to “Big Ten offseason at a glance,” a team-by-team look at the conference at the start of the summer. We’ll examine roster movement for each Big Ten roster and give an early outlook for each Big Ten program for the 2024-25 season.

Previously: Penn State, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Oregon, Washington, Maryland, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Rutgers, Northwestern, Michigan, USC, Michigan State

Today: UCLA (15-18 overall in 2023-24, 8-12 in Pac-12 play)

UCLA’s final year in the Pac-12 was a train wreck. The Bruins finished 98th in the final KenPom ratings and missed the postseason after three straight NCAA tournament appearances. Mick Cronin enters his sixth season at the helm in Westwood.

UCLA roster movement

Players returning with eligibility remaining: Dylan Andrews, Sebastian Mack, Lazar Stefanovic, Brandon Williams, Aday Mara, Devin Williams

Players departing due to exhausted eligibility: Kenneth Nwuba, Ilane Fibleuil (left to play professionally overseas)

Players who left early for the NBA draft: Adem Bona

Players who departed via the transfer portal: Jan Vide (to Loyola Marymount), Will McClendon (to San Jose State), Berke Buyuktuncel

Players arriving via the transfer portal: Eric Dailey Jr. (from Oklahoma State), William Kyle III (from South Dakota State), Kobe Johnson (from USC), Tyler Bilodeau (from Oregon State), Skyy Clark (from Louisville), Dominick Harris (from Loyola Marymount)

Players arriving via high school: Trent Perry (247Composite top 30), Eric Freeny

The Bruins have a potent mixture of returnees and transfers that should propel them near the top of the Big Ten standings next season. Cronin brought in six transfers and a top 30 high school recruit in Perry, a former USC signee.

What to like about UCLA

Andrews, UCLA’s leading scorer last season, is back as the program’s starting point guard. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-2 guard averaged 12.9 points and 3.7 assists per game.

Stefanovic, another double-digit scorer from last season’s roster, is also back. However, the transfer additions have potentially raised UCLA’s ceiling significantly for next winter. The Bruins brought in several potential starters in Johnson, Dailey Jr., Bilodeau, Harris, and Kyle III. All five won’t start, but each should play a significant role. With all these additions, UCLA should be able to go two deep at every position and improve upon last season’s porous offensive performance (152nd offense, per KenPom).

What to question with UCLA

The Bruins have a large number of new faces on the roster and how all of the pieces come together remains to be seen.

Trying to integrate eight new scholarship pieces is a significant challenge for any coach, and after last season, there’s pressure on Cronin to get things right in year one of the Big Ten.

Have the Bruins addressed their most significant issues from last season? The two biggest problems were defending without fouling (262nd in opponent free throw rate) and poor 2-point shooting (341st nationally).

UCLA’s outlook for the 2024-25 season

Here is UCLA’s Big Ten schedule for next season:

Home: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin
Away: Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers
Home/Away: Oregon, USC, Washington

Given that Cronin went to a Final Four and then back-to-back Sweet Sixteens in the three seasons before last, he deserves the benefit of the doubt after a down year in 2023-24.

And his work in the transfer portal was among the best, not just in the Big Ten but in the country. Bart Torvik has UCLA at No. 12 nationally in his early projections and Joe Lunardi has UCLA as a No. 5 seed. The Bruins should be solidly back in the NCAA tournament and could also be a threat for the Big Ten regular season title.

(Photo credit: UCLA Athletics)

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