Loser: UCLA Bruins
UCLA is not ranked among the AP Top 25, and that's a little odd. While the Bruins lost a lot of talent last season, Mick Cronin was on fire during his recruiting campaign and has brought in a ton of talented players for the 2023-24 season.
And yet, UCLA is on the outside looking in. The Bruins are sure to be led by Lazar Stefanovic this season and the team also has potential first-round draft picks in Berke Buyuktencel and Aday Mara. So the talent is there.
UCLA is also sure to hound you on defense. The Bruins return one of the top defenders in the Pac-12 in center Adem Bona. With Bona and the aforementioned Mara, the Bruins have one of the most impressive frontcourts in the country.
The questions come when you talk about spacing and roster fit. It'll be coach Cronin's job to meld all these young, talented players into a cohesive unit. It's rare, especially in today's day and age of college basketball with sixth-year seniors on the court, where a freshman-laden team like UCLA finds the ultimate success.
John Calipari did it at Kentucky and Coach K did it at Duke. Will Mick Cronin be able to pull a rabbit out of his hat at UCLA? Time will tell, but for now, the Bruins aren't even ranked in the AP Top 25.