UCLA has drawn attention as potentially the nation’s best team heading into the 2021-22 season. And 23% of the more than 100 coaches interviewed for the CBS Sports’ Candid Coaches series picked the Bruins as college basketball’s elite team.
That ranked second, just behind Gonzaga at 28%. And it also was 10% ahead of the team to get the third-most votes, Texas at 13%.
“Experience and they know who they are,” one coach said. “Might have caught lightning in a bottle toward the end of the season, but year three with coach Cronin really establishes who they are and what he expects. I think expectations being high are a good thing for them and something that they will embrace and not shy away from. Depth might be an issue but they have really developed players the last two years.”
UCLA returns all five starters and 92.9% of the team’s minutes from last year’s Final Four squad. Only one of college basketball’s major conference teams returns a higher percentage of minutes: Butler at 96.8%.
“Because of what they’ve done and why Mick (Cronin) is successful: I think he has a football team on the hardwood,” another coach said. “They’re tough, play hard, defend, he’s brought a Midwest attitude to the West Coast. The last guy who did that there was (Ben) Howland, and he went to three Final Fours in a row.”
And UCLA didn’t just stand pat. The Bruins struggled to protect the rim a year ago and brought in Myles Johnson from Rutgers. And they filled out an already stellar wing group with five-star freshman Peyton Watson.
“It’ll be UCLA or Texas, but I’ll go UCLA because of less moving parts,” a third coach said. “Texas has, what, seven new bodies? I think that would be my only concern with them. UCLA just has no turnover. They might return the highest percentage of every [roster] stat in the country. Return all those guys and bring in a McDonald’s All-American.”
Another coach kept his answer a bit more brief.
“UCLA is the team to beat,” the coach said. “Experience, toughness and have one of the most underrated coaches in the entire country.”
“He can have a big year offensively,” Cronin said of Jaquez on the College Hoops Today Podcast with CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein. “Jaime made his bones here with his life, energy, and competitive spirit, but he’s a weapon because we can play four guards and he would be our biggest guard. He creates mismatches on offense and he can guard bigger guys defensively. We made an adjustment going into the NCAA Tournament so that he could be a bigger part of our offense and it helped us.”
Read More: Anonymous coaches break down Bruins 2021-10-12 22:42:14