UCLA Women’s Basketball: Can The Bruins Go Farther Than the Sweet Sixteen?

The UCLA Women’s Basketball team could be good enough to move past the Sweet Sixteen in 2017 and hopefully capture a Pac-12 Championship in the process.

Since we last left the UCLA Women’s Basketball team, the Bruins ended their season with a loss to #2 Texas in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins had control for most of the game but the rugged Longhorns pulled off a monster comeback in the fourth quarter to get the 72-64 win.

But do not worry about the Bruins, especially since that was their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since the 1998-99 season. They will be just fine. Besides, Texas got smashed by #1 Connecticut 86-65 in the Elite Eight.

The Bruins made a statement last season. Led by super sophomore Jordin Canada and senior Nirra Fields (who was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury in the 2016 WNBA Draft), the Bruins went from missing the NCAA Tournament in 2013-14 to WNIT Champions to NCAA contenders last season. From 13 to 19 to 26 wins is impressive and they should continue that success into the new season.

Mar 26, 2016; Bridgeport, CT, USA; UCLA Bruins forward Monique Billings (25) shoots against Texas Longhorns forward Sara Hattis (33) during the first half in the semifinals of the Bridgeport regional of the women

Mar 26, 2016; Bridgeport, CT, USA; UCLA Bruins forward Monique Billings (25) shoots against Texas Longhorns forward Sara Hattis (33) during the first half in the semifinals of the Bridgeport regional of the women

The biggest loss will be Fields who was second in scoring (15.3 ppg) and third on the team in rebounds (5.4 rpg). Her and Canada made up a tough back court for the Bruins, which will truly be missed, but there will not be a drop off in talent for the Bruins this season.

In fact, Head Coach Cori Close has done a fine job of recruiting and developing her players that 2016-17 season will be one of the deepest and most talented squads she will have coached at UCLA.

Aside from the spitfire Canada, who should make several preseason All-American and All-Conferece lists, the Bruins have some veteran talent helping out.

Senior guard Kari Korver should continue to be an outside shooting threat while forward Monique Billings has developed into a fine low-post weapon (she led the team in rebounds per game with 8.1 last season).

Additionally, with the help of the up-and-coming talents of Lajahna Drummer, Kelli Hayes, Paulina Hersler and Chrissy Baird, the Bruins should not only be one of the top teams in the Pac-12, but in the nation.

UCLA finished last season ranked 10th and if that is any indication of the forthcoming season, then it is not a stretch to say that the women will not only have success in the Pac-12, but could go farther than the Sweet Sixteen. Go Bruins!

UCLA’s season starts with an exhibition game against Westmont on Thursday, November 3, with the regular season starting Friday, November 11 against Pacific.