Key Losses: G Brian Morrison (7.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg), F Dijon Thompson (18.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg)
Postseason: NCAA: Lost to Texas Tech 78-66 in the first round
Yaounde, Cameroon/Tilton (NH) Prep Academy
Los Angeles, CA/Medical Redshirt 2004-05
Rancho Cucamonga, CA/Etiwanda
Hidden Hills, CA/Redshirt 2004-05
Lake Forest, CA/El Toro
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Bafia, Cameroon/Montverde (FL) Academy
Riverside, CA/Redshirt 2004-05
Oakland, CA/Oakland Tech
Aliso Viejo, CA/Aliso Niguel
Mississauga, ON/Loyola Catholic
Mbah a Moute is being viewed as a potential immediate-impact player in the Bruins' injury-depleted lineup. Aboya could also see action in the frontcourt, and the raw-but-talented Wright may make a contribution defensively. Wright's offensive game needs polish, but he can rebound and defend. Roll does the little things, like get to loose balls and make shots, but the speed of the game could be a problem. Collison should provide minutes as a reserve point guard.
To order your 2005 Athlon Sports annual and receive $1 off plus free shipping courtesy of SI.com, click here.
The UCLA basketball program was revitalized by last year's trip to the NCAA tournament. And big things are expected this season as a stellar freshman class becomes seasoned sophomores. However, don't make your reservations to the Final Four in Indianapolis just yet -- the 2005-06 Bruins will have as many as nine freshmen and sophomores in the mix.
"We're still going to be very young," says third-year coach Ben Howland.
The Bruins lost to Texas Tech in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but that was progress since they finished under .500 the previous two seasons.
There is already a buzz in Westwood about a return to the Sweet 16, spearheaded by reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Jordan Farmar. The key will be finding someone to replace leading scorer Dijon Thompson, who averaged 18.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Can 7-footer Michael Fey play with ferocity and rebound? The answer will determine whether the Bruins have a great season, or struggle to make the NCAA tournament.
Fey averaged 8.6 points and 4.8 rebounds last season but too often didn't demand the ball inside and became lost in the offense. He shot 54.6 percent from the field but also went through stretches when he took only two or three shots per game. He's dealing with a nagging groin injury that had him on the sidelines as the Bruins opened practice.
Fellow 7-footer Ryan Hollins struggled all season with a knee injury but is healthy and had his most productive offseason since Howland arrived. Hollins is athletic and is the only Bruin with shot-blocking ability, but his slight build (225 pounds) makes it easy for opponents to push him around.
"I think Fey and Hollins are going to have good senior years," Howland says. "They're working hard. They're going to be better than they were."
The Bruins could receive immediate contributions from three freshmen as well. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alfred Aboya, both from Cameroon, and Canadian Ryan Wright are both athletic but need to refine their offensive games.
The strength of the Bruins is certainly on the perimeter, led by Farmar, Arron Afflalo and Josh Shipp. As freshmen, each played pivotal roles in returning UCLA to the postseason.
Now, with Thompson gone, the scoring responsibility will shift to this trio. Farmar grew up in a hurry last season, and though his assist-to-turnover ratio wasn't stellar (1.35-to-1), that should be markedly improved this season. Afflalo turned into UCLA's best on-ball defender, and he's improved the arc on his shot as he looks to increase his accuracy (38.6 percent last year) from the 3-point arc.
Shipp's savvy was on display and helped him crack the starting lineup in December, but the coaches want him to shoot more. He'll be out of the lineup for nearly all of the non-conference season, however, after having hip surgery.
The wild card in the backcourt is the return of Cedric Bozeman. A former prep All-American, Bozeman missed the 2004-05 season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, but he should be at full health for the start of practice. He will add depth behind Farmar, Shipp and Afflalo -- especially while Shipp is injured.
The Bruins must make up for the loss of Thompson's points and rebounds, but on good teams that usually has a way of working itself out. Howland needs one of his big guys to take some of the scoring pressure off the perimeter players.
At first glance, UCLA's schedule looks like a cakewalk with the likes of Wagner, Albany, Sacramento State and New Mexico State, but a second-round Preseason NIT match with Temple looms, as does a potential game with Duke deep in that tournament. Those games could be difficult if the Bruins are still ailing.
UCLA was one of the last teams to get into the NCAA tournament field last March, receiving a No. 11 seed after finishing tied for third in the Pac-10. It shouldn't have to sweat out Selection Sunday this time around.