5. UCLA Bruins (9-6, 2-0 Pac-12) LW: 10
A roller-coaster season is an all-too-common analogy in sports. The perpetual notion of up-and-down movement portrays highs and lows of success and failure.
For UCLA, it has in fact been a roller coaster season, to say the least.
It was only two months ago that the Bruins started the season 4-0 and were ranked among one of the top teams in the nation (No. 17).
What followed can be described as the low part of the ride, as the team lost six of their next nine games, including its final four to close out non-conference play.
The losing streak, capped off by final non-conference 73-58 loss against Liberty, led to the firing of coach Steve Alford just days before the start of Pac-12 play.
Now, for the high part of the journey. Under the direction of interim head coach Murray Bartow the team has had a sort of resurrection, as UCLA has jumped out to an early 2-0 start in conference play.
Bartow has his team playing at an entirely new pace.
Behind a get-out-and-run from the tip approach and aggressive defense, the Bruins have thrived. In last week’s conference-opening victories over Stanford and Cal, the team totaled 43 fast break points and 45 points off turnovers.
While it may look like time to pronounce UCLA is back, it is hard to truly tell how good the Bruins can be due to the rollercoaster type of season up to this point.
Bartow himself has head coaching experience, including most recently at the University of South Florida a season ago, where he was also named the interim head coach. Despite his previous coaching experience, Bartow was only able to guide the team to a 1-16 record to end the season.
Will the team continue to progress and thrive under Bartow or will they fall back to an earlier state? This week’s matchups against the Oregon schools will prove telling on what side the Bruins will lean toward.