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UCLA Basketball Rankings Decline Under Alford and the Rise of Bolden

Is Jonah Bolden the key to UCLA out performing the rankings?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

In Alford three seasons at UCLA

2013-14 started ranked 22 finished ranked 20
2014-15 started unranked (29 in votes) and finished with no votes
2015-16 started unranked (47 if you count the two votes).

Now those are all AP rankings.  UCLA is "ranked" 30 in the Coaches' poll.  A pessimist might point out we are getting worse every year.  And optimist might point out who cares about preseason rankings, it is where we finish that count.  Both sides have points.

One thing that can't be argued is UCLA plays a very tough nonconference schedule as the Daily Bruin points out:

Headlining the Bruins' nonconference schedule are showdowns with both No. 1 North Carolina in Brooklyn, New York, and No. 2 Kentucky in Pauley Pavilion.

A week before facing UNC, the team will make the trip north to No. 9 Gonzaga, which beat UCLA twice last year. The Bulldogs cruised to a 87-74 victory in December before knocking the Bruins out of the Sweet Sixteen in late March.

To round out the brutal nonconference slate, UCLA will participate in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, which will include No. 4 Kansas, No. 15 Indiana and No. 18 Vanderbilt as possible opponents.

Pac-12 play will bring a "breather" in the form of rivals No. 12 Arizona, No. 14 California and No. 16 Utah.

The key for UCLA achieving success may be Jonah Bolden.  Bolden made CBS's 20 under-the-radar freshmen for 2015-16:

After failing to qualify academically a year ago, Bolden figures to have a major role in the Bruins' front court. The 6-9 forward has guard like skills and can play multiple positions. He'll be a major factor in Westwood moving forward.

I am not going to belabor this again.  But I wish Bolden would focus on one position, four, and not worry about guard or other positions.  All seem to agree the kid has potential but I don't care who you are it is hard to be out of competitive basketball for over a year and step right in and play everywhere.

Cal State LA coach Dieter Horton had some interesting comments about UCLA worth a read and again it  comes down to Bolden:

In the Pac-12, my experience was that teams that didn't have stretch fours were easy to guard. When you put Tony or Thomas in a ball screen, they're somewhat limited in what they can do and it allows the defense to really focus on Bryce. But Jonah can can pick and pop and be a threat from the 3-point line — so it really does make it difficult on the defense."

Horton's point is made more interesting when you consider Kevon Looney last year.  Last year's power forward Looney was our top three point shooter with at least one three point attempt a game.  Kevon was also shooting the three much better later in the year than early when UCLA was playing better.

Not sure I buy the theory but it is certainly interesting.  If true it means Bolden is a key to our offense, defense and rebounding.  It is true that UCLA's last starting four not to play in the NBA last year (at least briefly) or be named all first team PAC 12 was Nikola Dragovic.  That season did not end well for UCLA.

Go Bruins!