It’s no secret that UCLA hasn’t lived up to expectations this season.
Twenty-six games into the season, the Bruins are miles away from their No. 13 preseason ranking and well separated from the budding hype that this team might adorn the new Pauley Pavilion with a championship banner.
While UCLA fell short of expectations six games into the season by losing the first game in New Pauley to Cal Poly, there have been bright spots on the team.
The Bruins may have collectively fallen short of expectations to this point, but some of them have lived up to, or even exceeded, their individual expectations.
Here’s a look at which Bruins have met or fallen short of the expectations that were set for them at the beginning of the season.
With the emergence of three starting freshmen, sophomore guard Norman Powell has adjusted well to his role on the team.
Powell, who was lined up to be a starter this year after a freshman season in which he displayed loads of potential, has become an excellent role player for UCLA coming off the bench.
The 6’4” guard is not only one of the team’s top defenders, but also brings much-need intensity to the game with his tremendous energy and effort.
Powell has often fired up his teammates in key situations with an emphatic block or an explosive dunk, which makes his influence more inflated than the 6.5 points per game he contributes.
Bruins fans would have liked to see Powell develop more as a shooter in his sophomore season, but on a team with prolific shooters like Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad, he has played a pivotal role on this team.
David Wear nearly receives a passing grade for his effort this season, but unfortunately his performance is what matters and it doesn’t quite cut it.
The 6’10” forward has dealt well with being omitted from the starting lineup in his junior season, but he hasn’t developed at the rate that UCLA was expecting this season.
As the Bruins’ bench is extremely limited this season after the transfers of forward Josh Smith and guard Tyler Lamb, Wear’s performance is vital to the team’s success.
Both his offensive (6.9 PPG 4.8 RPG 22 MPG) and defensive performance hasn’t been on par with what UCLA had expected or needs.
While he has improved his jump-shot this season, he still lacks the confidence to make easy tip-in shots. More importantly, his defense needs improvement and is detrimental to the Bruins’ overall success.
It’s apparent that he wants to perform, but the result leaves something to be desired.
The expectations that freshman center Tony Parker would come to Westwood and have an immediate, important impact on UCLA have been decimated into a fine powder.
Perhaps the expectations were too high to begin with, but the 6’9”, 275-pound freshman out of Georgia hasn’t had much of an impact at all this season (2.4 PPG 1.1 RPG 6.6 MPG).
In his first season as a Bruin, Parker has displayed some impressive talent for the future, exhibited by powerful blocks and get-out-my-way dunks, but he has generally been a liability for the team more than anything this season.
While he continues to improve, Parker often picks up foolish fouls due to his lack of effective body control and positioning on defense.
Although he’d like more minutes, he has proved to coach Ben Howland that he’s not quite ready to play significant minutes at the college level.
The future holds bright things for Tony Parker, but he’ll have to refine his play before his potential becomes realized.
Redshirt senior point guard Larry Drew II’s performance in his first season at UCLA hasn’t exactly been what was expected, but it has met expectations.
Considering his knack for scoring in his sophomore season at North Carolina, the Bruins were expecting a guard who could both facilitate and score at will.
However, the influx of hot-handed freshmen Adams and Muhammad has caused Drew to become more of a facilitator, a role at which he has thrived this season.
To compliment his seven points per game, the 6'2” guard from Encino, Calif. averages an impressive 7.7 assists per game.
Not only does he find good looks for his teammates, but he also rarely turns the ball over (2.0 per game), and possesses the best assist-turnover ratio in the nation (3.90) over Michigan’s stellar point guard Trey Burke.
While he initially struggled to get shots to fall and mainly resorted to dishing to teammates, Drew has recently emerged as a confident shooter and has averaged 11 points per game on 15-of-27 (55.6 %) from the field and 7-of-10 (70%) from three-point range in the last four games.
Looking at freshman guard Kyle Anderson’s offensive stat line (9.6 PPG 8.8 RPG 3.7 APG), you might come to the conclusion that he’s had a substantial impact on this team.
Yet, he hasn’t.
The expectations for the 6’9” guard as one of the nation’s Top Five recruits were high and he simply hasn’t lived up to those lofty expectations.
Although Anderson has exhibited some crafty moves and nifty passes, his general influence on the team isn’t exactly what was anticipated from him.
For every exciting pass or shake-and-bake drive he commits, Anderson seems to follow it up with an imprudent turnover or overly ambitious shot.
He is also a liability on defense, as he is too slow-footed to play effective defense against a guard and too frail to guard a strong power forward.
As he continues to develop physically and build his quick-twitch muscles, Anderson will be a great all-around player, but his overall contribution to UCLA this season hasn’t been what was expected.
Meeting expectations this season was not an overwhelming task for Travis Wear. After his uninspiring first season with the Bruins, the expectations for him were low.
With a few games remaining in UCLA’s regular-season Pac-12 schedule, Wear is actually averaging similar statistics to last season, and in fewer minutes played (2011-12: 11.5 PPG 5.9 RPG 26.2 MPG; 2012-13: 11.6 PPG 29.9 MPG).
So, how has he met—and exceeded—expectations this season?
Not only has Wear considerably improved his jump-shot, but he has also been a more confident and clutch player, which was missing from his game last season.
On a team with two principal scorers in Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad, Wear has been an excellent complement to UCLA’s offense with his mid-range jumper.
Although his defense still needs some refinement, it has been notably sharpened this season, especially in the high post.
There’s still room for Wear to grow in his senior season, but he is on the right track and has exceeded all expectations for him in his second season as a Bruin.
The lowest-rated of UCLA’s stellar freshman class, Jordan Adams has performed leaps and bounds beyond expectations.
His pure talent may have been overshadowed by Top 5 recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, but Adams made it clear that he was not only the best freshman but also the best all-around player on the team from his first game in a Bruins uniform.
Adams began his collegiate career with four 20-plus-point performances in which he didn’t miss one of his 33 free-throw attempts.
It took the 6’5”, 200-pound guard a little while to find his shot in conference play, but he has still managed to be UCLA’s most prominent outside shooter and has recently found a groove with three consecutive 14-plus-point performances in which he shot 58 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.
More importantly, Adams’ contributions to the team expand beyond his offensive performance. He is not only a top-notch defender, but also possesses a priceless never-say-die attitude that bolsters the team.
Based on the loftiest expectations set for the nation’s No. 1 recruit that suggested he would instantly lead UCLA to victory and eventually a national championship, Muhammad would fail.
However, let’s cut the star player some slack and recognize that the more extreme expectations set for him were excessive. He’s been incredible.
The star guard/forward freshman has been a tremendous offensive force for the Bruins this season, averaging 18.5 points per game with double-figure scoring performances in 22 of the 23 games he’s played.
Muhammad needed some time in his first stretch of games to acclimate to the college level, but has been unstoppable on the offensive end since doing so.
As he reiterated in UCLA’s recent game against Stanford with a late-game four-point play, Muhammad is a clutch player who can take over a game at will.
Amid all his impressive offensive feats, Muhammad is a very average defender and rarely passes the ball to his teammates; however his influence on offense is overwhelmingly positive.
He may not lead the Bruins to their first NCAA title since in 18 years, but he certainly has been a tremendous offensive player this season.