It is obvious Ben Howland enters this season on the hot seat, his teams over the last few years simply have not lived up to UCLA’s standards and quite frankly, they’ve been embarrassing to watch.
UCLA must make a respectable run in the NCAA tournament for Ben Howland to save his job, with or without Shabazz Muhammad. There is way too much talent on this team to get bounced any earlier than the sweet 16, and if in fact Shabazz is eligible to play we should expect nothing less than a run at the National Championship.
First, UCLA must either win the PAC-12 outright or win the conference tournament, anything less would be a disappointment because in reality there is only one team in the conference who will really contend with UCLA and that is Arizona. The conference as a whole will be better, and UCLA in particular has all the pieces to make dramatic improvements from last year.
There will be no other team in the conference who can match UCLA’s depth and overall talent, and yes this season’s success will have a lot to do with Shabazz Muhammad but Ben Howland must prepare for worst case scenario.
UCLA does play the toughest non-conference schedule in the country which should help them greatly by the time they get to conference play and the NCAA tournament.
If UCLA can position themselves as a #1 or #2 seed in the West regional there will be absolutely no excuse but to make it to the regional final. UCLA would not leave the state of California until after the elite 8 and the regional final will be played at Staples Center, giving UCLA a huge home court advantage.
Being the head coach at UCLA comes with high expectations every year, but with the class brought into Westwood and the players returning there hasn’t been this much hype surrounding the team since Kevin Love arrived.
Bruin fans are not saying it’s championship or bust for Ben Howland, but we simply want to be respectable once again. I do strongly believe UCLA must win the conference or Ben Howland just might be coaching his last year at UCLA.