Here is a breakdown of the roster and some reasons why UCLA needs to be given more respect and to be ranked in the top 25 of these national college basketball preseason rankings.
The Bruins will be led by junior Lazar Stefanovic and sophomore Adem Bona but the freshmen will be the story this season. They will be led Aday Mara who is rated the No. 15 incoming recruit in the country by 247 Sports. He is over 7 feet tall and is slated to be the starting center for the Bruins this season.
Sophomore point guard Dylan Andrews will have the first opportunity to run the offense this season, he is a former four-star rated recruit who had some experience last season as a backup point guard. He will be asked to run the offense and lead a group of primarily new players this season. True freshman Jan Vide could eventually contend for the starting role as he is a four-star recruit according to 247 Sports. The other guard position is a little bit up in the air but will have depth.
Redshirt sophomore Will McClendon will have the first chance to start at the shooting guard position as he technically has the most experience in that position. He like Andrews is a former four-star recruit who will have an opportunity to earn the starting spot this season and possibly be a significant producer for Cronin’s offense this season. True freshman Ilane Fibleuil could end up being the starter as he is rated the No. 3 shooting guard by 247 Sports. Fibleuil is talented and could end up being named the starter by conference play or sooner. Also, Sebastian Mack a four-star recruit who is also a true freshman will be pushing for minutes this season and could also end up playing significant minutes.
Stefanovic is a transfer from Utah with experience as a part-time starter for the Utes for the past two seasons. He will more than likely start at the small forward position He is known as a versatile player who doesn’t necessarily have one defining strength to his game but doesn’t have any glaring flaws either. One thing to note for UCLA’s summer trip to Spain is that he played a ton of minutes and Cronin seems to trust him fully on the court. Highly rated Berke Buyuktuncel who could play at the power forward position, looks to maybe back up Stefanovic to give him a breather during games. Buyukuncel could even end up being the starter at the power forward position by February, is a true freshman who is the No. 7 rated power forward by 247 Sports.
UCLA may not have a ton of experience at the power forward position but they will have plenty of depth. Bona when fully healthy will start at power forward for the Bruins. He was Pac-12 Freshman of the Year last season and he was a former five-star recruit out of high school. He is an integral part of how well UCLA does this season. Besides the above-mentioned Buyukuncel, two other highly rated true freshmen will be playing the power forward position for UCLA this season in Brandon Williams and Devin Williams. This position will more than likely have the most depth and talent out of any of the positions on the court this season.
The Bruins at center will more than likely start the 7-3 five-star rated true freshman Mara. He is a potential NBA Draft lottery pick in 2024 due to his versatility for a player as tall as him. He is only 18-year-old so he may need a little time to adjust to the completion at the division one level. However, with his talent and he teaming up with Bona to have a very formidable front line, by the time of the NCAA tournament, this UCLA team could make a deep run to the Elite Eight. UCLA also has redshirt senior Kenneth Nwuba to provide depth and experience as well at the center position.
UCLA has too much depth and talent to not be ranked in the top 25 preseason polls. Cronin as head coach has proven that he will have this team ready for the NCAA tournament and the true freshman on this team should more than likely be ready to help UCLA make a good run in the 2024 NCAA tournament.