The UCLA basketball team was picked to finish second in the 2018-19 Pac-12 media poll. Would they have been picked first if not for a string of injuries?
Basketball season is almost upon us and the Pac-12 has made their choice to win the conference just before Media Day. The UCLA basketball team, which might have a legitimate shot at their first regular-season championship under Steve Alford, was chosen to finish second in the preseason media poll.
The Bruins will be one of the youngest teams in the conference, but also one of the most talented, despite the losses to injury before the season.
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Despite having only two upperclassmen (redshirt juniors Prince Ali and Alex Olesinski), the Bruins have reloaded with talent as they bring in a top 5 recruiting class.
Unfortunately, the Bruins will be without two of those for the season. Two weeks ago it was announced that PF Shareef O’Neal will miss the season due to a heart condition. This week, it was revealed that PG Tyger Campbell will miss 2018-19 due to a tear in his ACL which occurred in practice over the weekend.
Though the Bruins still have a lot of talent among the four other freshmen (SG David Singleton, SG Jules Bernard, C Kenny Nwuba and C Moses Brown), losing O’Neal affects the frontcourt depth.
The loss of Campbell might be a bigger blow as he was set to back up returning sophomore Jaylen Hands. Alford stated that either Singleton or sophomore wingman Chris Smith will help out with floor general duties. UCLA will also have to start the season without Olesinski who will miss a few months due to a foot injury.
Though UCLA still has stability with their roster and rotation after the injuries, one cannot help but think that the Bruins might have been the top choice in the preseason poll if they were at full strength.
Instead, Oregon has been favored to win the Pac-12. They collected a total of 16 first-place votes. UCLA was only able to collect six while Washington had two and Arizona with one.
UCLA is set to take on the New York Institute of Technology in an exhibition game on Saturday, October 267. They officially begin the season against Purdue Fort Wayne a few weeks later on Tuesday, November 6.