UCLA Basketball: Come this winter, it will be youth over experience

TUCSON, AZ - FEBRUARY 8: Dylan Smith
TUCSON, AZ - FEBRUARY 8: Dylan Smith /

Now that we know what the UCLA basketball roster will look like next season, one thing is for sure, a lot of young guys will be expected to step up as this is not a veteran-laden team.

If the 1991-92 Michigan Wolverines (aka “The Fab Five”) can do it, so can the 2018-19 UCLA basketball team. Well, not exactly. Especially since the rest of the college basketball world has been reloading since the one-and-done rule was implemented.

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Though the UCLA basketball team has an impressive six-man recruiting class coming in, they will not make as much of an impact as the Fab Five. But make no mistake, the Bruin youth will be expected to do as much, if not more.

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In an interesting turn of events, the Bruins return only two upperclassmen (Prince Ali and Alex Olesinski) and will have 11 freshmen and sophomores on their roster for the 2018-19 season.

When something like this happens, it is usually due to a mass exodus. That did not exactly happen to the Bruins as only three significant contributors have left the program (Aaron Holiday – NBA, Thomas Welsh – NBA and Gyorgy Goloman – graduation).

The interesting tidbit in all of this is that the Bruins will have seven freshmen (eight if PF Shareef O’Neal qualifies to play) in uniform next season with several likely to play heavy minutes.

Luckily, there is some consistency as PG Jaylen Hands and SF Kris Wilkes have returned after testing the waters of the NBA Draft. These two alone might have saved the Bruins season, one that could require head coach Steve Alford to make a deep tournament run or it could be his job.

If that is the case, Alford needs to get this team up to speed quickly. There are several players that will be offensive threats and will help this team continue their uptempo style of play, but defense has been the big issue. A few players have raw defensive talents, but will it be enough to limit their opponents next season?

Odds are, it might not, especially with a lot of youth, but that is the way the game is going. Alford is going to have to figure out how to put these players in the best position to succeed, especially if he wants to keep his job.

It will be hard, but things could bounce UCLA’s way as the Pac-12 is not as strong as it was last season (and even then it was not impressive).

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Still, the youth will be fun to watch and if they can come together by the time conference play rolls around, we could hopefully see some hardware in Westwood. Finally.