As the UCLA Bruins Men’s basketball team approaches the Pac-12 portion of their schedule, the question of whether they would win the Pac-12 today arises.
Bruins head coach Ben Howland has come under fire of late because of losses and uncomfortably close wins to inferior talent. The 1-point victory over UC Irvine, followed by losses to Georgetown and Cal Poly in the following 2 weeks had many UCLA fans calling for Howland’s job early on. Following their 3rd loss of the season to San Diego State, UCLA pulled out a win in Houston against an also under-achieving Texas Longhorns squad. The Bruins’ depth and rotation took two huge blows when last season’s leading scorer, junior guard Tyler Lamb decided to transfer, and junior center Joshua Smith left the team.
However, Howland seems to have found a rotation he’s much more comfortable with, helping the Bruins to easy victories over Prairie View and Long Beach State. Top recruit Shabazz Muhammad seems to have found his rhythm offensively, and fellow highly touted freshman Kyle Anderson has been more aggressive and efficient scoring and dishing out assists. Jordan Adams’ scoring has remained consistent, as the team chemistry continues to improve, which is very timely, considering the challenges upcoming in their schedule. Another test for this young team will come next Friday, the 28th, Missouri, who is currently ranked 12th in the nation.
The Pac-12 is a very shallow conference, once again, with Arizona the only team in the top 25. The Wildcats, led by upperclassmen Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons, have a lot of veteran leadership and depth, and are sitting atop the conference as the best team. Oregon and Colorado have upset UNLV and Baylor, respectively, but they aren’t threats to the Pac-12 crown this season. As of now Arizona is the team to beat, but the youth of this UCLA team has potential to do some damage in the coming months.