After three consecutive appearances in the Sweet 16, the UCLA Bruins have struggled this season. It’s not for lack of talent as the Bruins had three NBA draft prospects this season. But with a record of 6-9, Aday Mara, Adem Bona And Berke Buyuktuncel might all have to return to college next season instead of declaring for the 2024 draft.
ESPN NBA Draft insiders Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo examine the issues at Westwood as well as the latest injuries to two top-five prospects in Nikola Topic and Alex Sarr and the Colorado prospect gaining momentum in the notebook for this week.
UCLA had three prospects in the first round, so what exactly went wrong?
While increased scrutiny has been given to 8-7 USC’s struggles due to the presence of the former projected No. 1 pick Isaiah Necklace And Bronny James, crosstown rivals UCLA appear to be in a much worse situation. The Bruins are 6-9, losing four straight home games for the first time in two decades. With zero wins against top 150 opponents, they’ll need a miraculous turnaround to even reach the NIT at this point.
That’s shocking considering the school is coming off three straight Sweet 16 appearances, including a trip to the NCAA Final Four in 2022. Bruins coach Mick Cronin was fortunate to inherit the program’s pillars . Jaime Jáquez Jr.. and Tyger Campbell – the backbone of these teams with the transfer from Kentucky Johnny Juzang — thanks to the work of former head coach Steve Alford. Cronin hasn’t been able to create an environment attractive enough for his own high-profile prospects, despite being in the middle of one of the most fertile recruiting bases in Southern California.
Digging into the films and numbers, it’s not difficult to understand what’s ailing the Bruins.