Last season was filled with surprises. Adding COVID-19 to the craziness of a normal season increased the drama exponentially. Even with one team heading into the title game undefeated, every game was up in the air.
UCLA basketball proved just that. They had a disappointing regular season that barely got them into the NCAA Tournament. Their 13-6 conference record got them fourth in the Pac-12, and they failed to live up to the hype in a lot of ways.
However, things changed in the postseason. UCLA may have barely made the NCAA Tournament pool, but they proved that they deserved the opportunity once they were there. They made it from the First Four to the Final Four, and they were one play away from competing for a national title.
UCLA battled hard in every NCAA Tournament game. Whether they played Abilene Christian or the undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs, they gave it their all and looked like a title contender. Part of the reason was Johnny Juzang. The sophomore guard acted like a veteran in the team’s toughest moments, and he carried the Bruins to the Final Four.
Juzang will be returning, but can he live up to the lofty expectation?
What Juzang Brings to the Table
Johnny Juzang brings plenty to the table in a variety of ways. He was the team’s leading scorer for UCLA last year, and he upped his game in the NCAA Tournament. He scored at least 20 points in four of the Bruins’ six NCAA Tournament games. His perimeter shooting improved, and that should carry into his junior year.
Juzang will also improve with an entire offseason with UCLA. He transferred from Kentucky to his new team, so this will be his first full summer with one team.
Juzang’s minutes skyrocketed with UCLA. He barely made it into the regular rotation with the Wildcats, and he is now the top scorer on a Final Four team. He can consistently get a bucket, and he facilitates the offense well. If he can get regular-season performances that are closer to his NCAA Tournament games, he will easily be one of the best players in the Pac-12.
UCLA’s Floor and Ceiling
The Bruins caught lightning in a bottle last year. They were healthy at the right time, and they made every clutch shot until the Final Four. There’s a reason their run to the Final Four was so unprecedented. It’s not supposed to happen like that.
UCLA could’ve just as easily reached their floor last year. If they lost a few more games in the regular season, they would not have made the NCAA Tournament. While they should be a good team, there is a chance that they are in a similar situation in 2022.
It all boils down to the returning players. If Juzang and his teammates can step it up once again, the Bruins should be in contention to win the Pac-12. If not, they would have an outside shot of being a top seed. College basketball is a hard sport to predict, but if you are a regular basketball bettor, expect big things from Juzang and the Bruins.
What to Expect From Juzang and the Bruins
UCLA has +1100 odds to win a national title, which is a bit high in my eyes. Success in the NCAA Tournament is so volatile that you can’t predict this year’s winners from looking at last year’s top teams. So, can UCLA make it back to the Final Four? Absolutely. However, it is more likely that they lose earlier in the NCAA Tournament.
Still, that doesn’t mean that Johnny Juzang won’t have a great year as he returns. He could have gone to the NBA, but he chose to return to UCLA. That means he has something to prove, and he will do just that.
Don’t be surprised if Juzang is competing for awards this season. He’s a familiar name that got some hype last season. That will put him in the conversation for the top individual awards and for our NCAAB picks, and his play can keep him in the race all year.