Nov 16, 2012, 11:38 PM EDT
I had UCLA ranked 25th in the preseason.
That was well below where everyone else had them.
The pieces didn’t fit for the Bruins. Their point guard play was reliant up a 6-foot-9 freshman, Kyle Anderson, nicknamed ‘slo-mo’ and a guy that flamed out at North Carolina, Larry Drew II, in about as epic a fashion as you’ll see. Their roster makeup included a lot of freshmen, a couple of overweight big men, a lack of perimeter shooting and no where near the kind of defensive ability we’re used to seeing with a Ben Howland team.
But most importantly, Shabazz Muhammad was dealing with eligibility issues. There was no indication, at the time, of when — or if — he’d ever be allowed to play college basketball.
Well, now we know the answer to that: he’ll be in the lineup on Monday against Georgetown.
And that means that UCLA’s potential this season skyrocketed.
The biggest concern I had with Shabazz’s return is that sitting out ten games would mean that his return to the lineup could cause issues with the rotation, with understanding of roles, with minutes that wings play. And his return could still cause those problems, but tendencies that are built up over three games are much easier to break than habits developed over a third of the season.
The bottom line is this: Muhammad is a top five pick. He’s not a pure scorer at this point in his career, but he’s tough, incredibly athletic and as competitive as anyone in the country. They are different players, but imagine the impact that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had on Kentucky last season. That’s how big of a deal Friday’s ruling by the NCAA is.
What this ruling doesn’t change, however, are the other underlying issues: roster makeup, Josh Smith‘s weight problems, perimeter shooting.
But the infusion of talent will make it easier for UCLA to overcome those issues.
So is UCLA still the 25th best team in the country?
I’ll tell you on Wednesday morning, after the Legends Classic.
- College basketball’s seven biggest early entry losers for the 2015-2016 season 0
- College basketball’s six biggest early entry winners for the 2015-2016 season 0
- Austin Hatch’s inspirational basketball career has come to a close 2
- UPDATED: 2015-2016 College Basketball Way-Too-Early Preseason Rankings 0
- 2015 College Basketball Updated Early Entry List 14
- Report: Yogi Ferrell to return to Indiana for senior season 0
- Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor returning for junior season 1
- Duke lands commitment from elite PG Derryck Thornton, who will reclass (18)
- 2015 College Basketball Updated Early Entry List (14)
- UPDATED: 2015-2016 College Basketball Way-Too Early Preseason Top 25 (9)
- Louisville adds key grad transfer Damion Lee (6)
- All-MAC guard Shannon Evans to transfer from Buffalo; is athletics director Danny White at fault? (3)