UCLA Basketball
(Daanish Bhatti/Daily Bruin)

UCLA Basketball capped off 2020 with some bad news. Senior Chris Smith left their game against Utah with a torn ACL and is out for the season. Bruins head coach Mick Cronin had this to say:

After speaking with our team doctors and medical staff, I’m confident that Chris will make a quick and full recovery. Obviously he is very disappointed and his teammates feel for him. Everyone at UCLA will help Chris through this, and I know that he will work relentlessly to be back to 100%.

Mick Cronin, UCLA Basketball Head Coach

Where UCLA Basketball Stands Without Chris Smith

The Bruins are currently 7-2, sitting at the top of the Pac-12 with a 3-0 conference record. Without Smith, they are in a lot of trouble.

Chris Smith ranks second on the Bruins in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game. Through eight games, he was shooting 50% from three-point range. He is also third on the team in blocks per game. The 6’9″ senior was a major foundation of UCLA Basketball this season – probably their best player.

UCLA opened our Vendetta Preseason Top 25 Poll at No. 21. As things stand, they may struggle to get an at-large bid to the 2021 NCAA Tournament if they don’t impress in conference play.

KenPom currently has them at 34th in the country and 11th in Offensive Efficiency. The Bruins can certainly expect their offensive efficiency to decline with Smith out for the season. The NCAA NET Rankings, just released this weekend, has UCLA Basketball at 54th. This is only good for fifth of all Pac-12 teams.

The Pac-12 is relatively weak this year and most Bracketology projections currently expect them to be a four or five-bid conference for the 2021 Tournament. Based on the NET Rankings, UCLA is right on the bubble for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, and they just lost their best player.

Overall, the Pac-12 is not the strongest conference. Within itself, however, conference play will be competitive as most of the top teams are very close in talent. UCLA can’t afford to take any bad losses in their conference schedule. They will already struggle to maintain their quality of play without Smith.

With the loss of Chris Smith, UCLA’s path to the 2021 NCAA Tournament qualification just got much more complicated.

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