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2014-15 Season Preview: UCLA

Steve Alford will have a much harder job in year two at UCLA without Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams

Norman Powell is the only returning starter from last year's team.
Norman Powell is the only returning starter from last year's team.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Last Season: In Steve Alford's first year at UCLA, he put together one of the best offenses in the nation, led the Bruins to a Pac-12 Tournament championship with a win over Arizona and made it to the Sweet Sixteen. But to be fair, it helps when you have first-round draft picks Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine. UCLA scored 117 points per 100 possessions and was an offensive juggernaut, but their season ended with a loss to an experienced and talented Florida team.

Key Losses: Adams and Anderson were All-Pac-12 First Team members and simply can't be replaced. Anderson was the key for the Bruins' offense and averaged 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.47 assists per game while Adams led the team with 17.4 points per game. They weren't all just offense, however, as Adams had the 7th best steal rate in the country and Anderson had the third most steals per game in the conference.

LaVine, the highest drafted out of the trio, earned a spot on the All-Pac-12 Freshman Team and although he came off the bench, will still be a missed contributor. The freshman was the most athletic on the team and averaged 9.4 points per game. Twins David and Travis Wear also depart from the Bruins. The brothers were incredibly reliable for Steve Alford combining for over 13 points and 7 rebounds per game.

Notable Returning Players: Norman Powell is the only returning starter for the Bruins and their best defensive player. Powell averaged 11.4 points per game last year and over 56 percent of his shots came at the rim. And he made 67.7 percent of those shots, which was the second best percentage on the team. Powell is one of two returning seniors and the only one who logged meaningful minutes last season.

Bryce Alford and Tony Parker are back as well. The coach's son was impressive as a freshman and shot 38.5 percent from three and had a respectable offensive rating of 109.7. He showed he's more than capable of running the point in the Pac-12 and had the second best assist rate on the team. Parker continues to be the most frustrating player on the Bruins. He had the best offensive rebounding percentage and block rate on the team, but the downside was that he couldn't stay on the floor and committed 6.8 fouls per 40 minutes last season.

Noah Allen and Wannah Bail will see more action this season after Jonah Bolden and Jonathan Octeus were removed from the roster. Allen is the only wing off of the bench for the Bruins and Bail should provide some size, but they both aren't experienced as they averaged 3.5 and 4.6 minutes per game respectively.

Key Newcomers: Steve Alford brought in one of the best recruiting classes in the country featuring All-Americans Kevon Looney and Thomas Welsh. Hungarian U18 star Gyorgy Goloman rounds out the class and Isaac Hamilton, an All-American from the 2013 class, should play this year after sitting out last season.

Looney and Hamilton likely will start and contribute immediately. Looney is a 6-foot-9 forward that can rebound, shoot, and handle the ball which will allow Steve Alford to play him in multiple lineups. Hamilton can play both guard positions for UCLA. And he's another versatile player that can score in a variety of ways and will bring a more explosive game to the point-guard position than Bryce Alford.

Welsh is a lanky, seven-footer that should be the first big off of the bench due to the lack of depth on the Bruins' roster. And Goloman, who wasn't going to see much playing time originally, will now have to step up and give UCLA valuable minutes.

Notable Non-Conference Games: With four departed starters, the Bruins aren't doing themselves any favors early on. UCLA will play in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the second week of the season and face off against Oklahoma and then either Butler or North Carolina. The third game will either be against Wisconsin, Florida, Georgetown or UAB. Two weeks later, they'll host Gonzaga and then play in the CBS Sports Classic at the United Center against Kentucky. Steve Alford's team ends conference play with a trip to Alabama to take on one of the SEC's better teams, so they should be ready for conference play after one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country.

Conference Stretch to Look at: UCLA starts Pac-12 play with four of the toughest teams in the conference. They'll travel to Utah and Colorado and then host Stanford and Cal. Two wins would be a good start and anything more than that would give hope to the Bruins in conference play despite the lack of depth and experience on the roster.

Best-Case: UCLA manages its way through non-conference play and beats Oklahoma and Alabama. Despite losing some games early, the Bruins are prepared for the gauntlet of Pac-12 play. Norman Powell anchors the team defensively, Tony Parker finally lives up to the potential and Steve Alford gets to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.

Worst-Case: The losses of Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are too much to handle. Kevon Looney and Isaac Hamilton are too focused on their draft stock and are inconsistent throughout the season. Despite a strong senior year from Norman Powell, the Bruins fail to put it all together and finish in the bottom half of the conference.

Projected Finish: 5th