Ben Howland’s UCLA Bruins begin the 2012-13 basketball season tonight. Brand new are Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins’ team, and the outlook of the UCLA faithful.
After a vagabond 2011-1012 year when Pauley was being renovated, the team played “home” games at the Sports Arena, the Honda Ponda Center, and even somewhere in San Bernardino or Ontario or Lubbock. But the all-new Pavilion promises renewed interest, renewed spirit, and renewed success. A mediocre 56-43, and one NCAA tournament appearance and one NCAA tournament win, over the last three seasons, the team comes into this year with a fabulous recruiting class, at least on paper. The hope is they will show it on the court.
Unfortunately tonight’s opener tips off with the team’s prize recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, both injured and unable to participate even without an injury, due to an unresolved NCAA inquiry. Sources have told theHoundDawg that the inquiry would soon be resolved, with Muhammad getting his eligibility restored. Doesn’t help for the opener tonight, or for the next few games, though.
But, the rest of that great freshman class, including Ryan Anderson, Tony Parker, Jordan Adams, plus yet another Gasol brother, Adria, are all ready to go, as is transfer Larry Drew II. With some continued improvement from Joshua Smith, Norman Powell, and Tyler Lamb, who is coming off knew surgery and is not yet ready to play, plus those Wear Brothers, the team should be deep and talented.
UCLA fans will be expecting a lot, and this is THE make or break year for Howland. After the disappointments of the past three years, all the hype of the recruits, and the likelihood in today’s college basketball world that a single year of achievement will lead all of the top guys to the NBA, if Ben does not get deep into the NCAAs this year, like deep meaning winning it, or coming awfully close, he could well be gone.
Indiana State is not Kentucky or Indiana, and a solid victory is an absolute must tonight.