UCLA careers of Jaime Jaquez, Tyger Campbell end; Bruins must turn the page

·3 min read

Let’s be very clear about one thing before we say anything more: UCLA basketball is in very good shape under Mick Cronin, who has been a fantastic coach for the Bruins. Cronin has answered the doubts and questions about his coaching acumen. He got a lot out of his 2023 UCLA team. Despite a bunch of injuries, UCLA looked like a serious national championship contender and was headed for a win over Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 until a shocking cold spell derailed the Bruins’ plans.

Cronin was excellent on the UCLA bench this season. The Bruins will be the Big Ten’s best program when they change conferences in two years. UCLA is in a good place, and USC fans would love to have the season the Bruins just authored: conference champion, No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Sweet 16 team.

Yet, with all of that having been said, UCLA did miss its big chance to win a national title and at least make the Final Four this year. Top-seeded Kansas was eliminated from the West Region when the Bruins arrived in Las Vegas for the West Regional. This is a wide-open NCAA Tournament without any blue-bloods left in the field. UCLA had a legitimate shot, much as it did a year ago when it lost to North Carolina in the Sweet 16.

The loss by UCLA to Gonzaga on Thursday night marks the end of the line for the collegiate careers of Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell. Two very important, very special Bruins won’t be around next season for Cronin, which will create a new dynamic on his roster. Cronin was able to lean on the veteran experience of two core players. His 2023-2024 team will be talented, but it won’t have the same old-man wisdom of the past few seasons.

In the long run, UCLA hoops should be just fine, but next season, USC really does have a chance to be better than UCLA. That’s not wild hyperbole. It’s a possibility — not necessarily a likelihood, but certainly a realistic scenario.

If Isaiah Collier is the real deal at point guard — if he is as good as the recruiting rankings and overall hype suggest — USC will have a better point guard than UCLA. Joshua Morgan is officially returning for one more season in the low post. Vince Iwuchukwu is almost certain to return. With a full offseason of workouts and the removal of the medically-required minutes restriction he endured this past season, Iwuchukwu’s five-star talent could fully blossom. Kobe Johnson and Tre White, two very good players this past season, should be back. Arrinten Page and Silas Demary are two other promising freshmen prospects.

If Andy Enfield can go into the transfer portal and get a high-end shooter or scorer on the wing, USC will have a fully loaded team heading into next season.

USC’s last basketball season in the Pac-12 has a chance to be really special. We aren’t talking about likelihoods, but the possibilities are legitimately exciting.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire