UCLA Bruins vs. St. Francis (PA) Red Flash Pick & Prediction NOVEMBER 6th 2023

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UCLA will open its final season before joining the Big Ten Conference when the Bruins welcome non-conference opponent St. Francis (Pa.) to Los Angeles on Monday night.

The Bruins posted a 31-6 record overall and an 18-2 mark in the Pac-12 Conference a season ago and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. They underwent more offseason roster changes than any previous campaign in head coach Mick Cronin’s tenure, however.

UCLA replaces All-American Jaime Jaquez Jr. and fellow guard Tyger Campbell, both fixtures of the program since Cronin’s debut in 2019.

“Trying to get these guys to understand what we’re all about here at UCLA, which is play defense,” Cronin said following the Bruins’ 97-56 exhibition-game rout of Cal State Dominguez Hills on Tuesday. “You’re trying to break bad habits and build good habits at the same time.”

While the departure of Jaylen Clark leaves a void for this year’s Bruins to fill, the return of center Adem Bona gives the 2023-24 squad a defensive pillar.

Bona ranked No. 19 in blocked-shot percentage, averaging a swat on 9.2 percent of all opponent possessions, per KenPom.com.

The 6-foot-10 Bona is part of a lengthy lineup for UCLA, which adds 6-7 wings in freshman Brandon Williams and Utah transfer Lazar Stefanovic, and 6-6 freshmen Jan Vide and Ilane Fibleuil.

Monday’s opener also will serve as the introduction for a host of new faces for St. Francis. The Red Flash replaced their five top scorers of a season ago, when they finished 13-18 overall and 9-7 in the Northeast Conference.

Wisler Sanon II, who averaged 3.2 points per game coming off the bench last season, figures to move into a starting role alongside top returning scorer Cam Gregory.

“Our eyes lit up,” Sanon said of Saint Francis opening the season at UCLA, via the Altoona Mirror. “We love big competition. We love games like that. In practice, we prepare for things like that.”

–Field Level Media

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