There are going to be people that think that I have UCLA too high. That is understandable. I mean, where would they be if they had not made that 14-point comeback against Michigan State in the First Four? That would have been their fifth straight loss to end the season. So I get it if some of you think that the Bruins are ranked too high to start this season. But they did make a run to the Final Four last year. Mick Cronin brings back every player from that run. He also brings in a top 15 recruit and a transfer that was one of the best defensive players in the Big Ten last season.
You can read about the previous team in my rankings, the revamped #3 Texas Longhorns, right here.
The UCLA Bruins
UCLA had an up-and-down year last year and barely made the NCAA Tournament. But that doesn’t mean they lacked talent. And they get all of those guys that made that Final Four run back. Johnny Juzang shined in that tournament run. Highly ranked coming out of high school, Juzang originally went to Kentucky but played very little as a freshman before transferring to UCLA. He was very good during the season and was one of the best performers in the tournament. He entered his name into the NBA Draft but withdrew it before the deadline. Juzang and fellow junior Jaime Jaquez Jr. will form one of the nation’s best one-two offensive duos in the PAC-12 and maybe even one of the best in the nation.
Tyger Campbell is a classic Mick Cronin point guard. Confident, strong, and he does not turn the ball over. Campbell was tied for second in the PAC-12 in assists per game and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio. He also, for what it’s worth, has great hair. Jules Bernard came into his own last season after becoming a regular starter for the first time in college. The rising senior is a long guard who can shoot and rebound. Cody Riley dominated in the post in March during the team’s Final Four run. He notched two double-doubles during the run. He has more help this year too.
Peyton Watson is the 11th ranked recruit in the Class Of 2021 according to 247 Sports. He is a potential lottery pick next summer. The Long Beach native continued trending upwards throughout his time in high school. He is really versatile and can do it all for you and your team. If he continues that improvement he can win PAC-12 Freshman Of The Year and be a guaranteed lottery pick in next summer’s NBA Draft. Will McClendon is an incoming four-star SG ranked in the top 60 who has been overshadowed by Watson.
The big transfer that Mick Cronin is bringing in is Rutgers graduate transfer Myles Johnson. Johnson was one of the best defensive players in a loaded Big Ten and could be the best one in the PAC-12. He averaged over eight rebounds and two blocks per game last season for the Scarlett Knights. While he only averaged 8 PPG, this Bruins squad does not need him to score a lot so that is just fine. Either he or Riley could start, and to me, I think it is a toss-up.
C – #15 Myles Johnson (8.0 PPG/ 8.5 RPG/ 1.1 SPG/ 2.4 BPG at Rutgers)
G/F – #24 Jaime Jaquez Jr. (12.3 PPG/ 6.1 RPG/ 1.7 APG/ 1.2 SPG)
G/F – #23 Peyton Watson (#11 overall recruit on 247 Sports)
SG – #3 Johnny Juzang (16.0 PPG/ 4.1 RPG/ 1.6 APG)
PG – #10 Tyger Campbell (10.4 PPG/ 2.1 RPG/ 5.4 APG/1.1 SPG)
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