The future of UCLA basketball; well, for one season at least.
It's Thursday morning, the day following the commitment that Bruin fans have been waiting for. With Shabazz Muhammad, a long-rumored UCLA lean (with the optimists saying it's because of Howland's ability to make guards NBA-ready defensively, and the cynics saying it's because of Shabazz's prior relationship with Adidas), now formally in the fold, the expectations for Howland remain extremely high. I hate to rain on everyone's Shabazz parade, but let's not forget:
Even if Ben Howland, in his tenth season in charge at UCLA, goes on an undefeated 40-win season and wins a national title, his winning percentage at UCLA will only rise to 71.9%, or 4.1% percentage points short of the Tubby line. And let's be real: there is no way he's winning 40 games, going undefeated, and winning a national title, even with Shabazz in the fold.
76.0% and only one national title wasn't good enough for the fan base in Kentucky.
So, why is 68.1% and zero national titles acceptable in Westwood?
Naturally, this raises the question of whether Howland should be retained if he fails to win a national title after a decade in charge in Westwood. I say should because with Chianti Dan's willingness to stick with Neuheisel, even following our 50-0 drubbing at the hands of Southern Cal, I have no confidence that Guerrero will do what is in the best long-term interests of the university. In any event, let's turn to the bits and pieces of news floating around the UCLA-iverse the morning following the Shabazz announcement:
- Starting, of course, with Shabazz-related news, Ben Bolch at the Los Angeles Times has notes from his Wednesday evening media conference call with Ben Howland already up. Howland, apparently, is very happy that he reeled in the top-ranked prospect in the country, after just finishing a scandal-wracked and disappointing season. Howland's hope is that Shabazz will be the kind of elite national recruit that will convince, just by being a Bruin, to UCLA .
- You're about to see something extremely rare: me agreeing with Bil Plaschke. Following the Shabazz announcement, Plaschke had the flip side of Bolch's piece, noting that landing guys like Shabazz and Anderson were a major get for the Bruins, but one that comes with a potentially high price. As Plaschke notes, in his annoying one sentence paragraph style, is that Howland has basically gone all-in by landing these recruits:
It's the best Bruins recruiting haul since Kevin Love showed up on campus five years ago. It gives UCLA its best chance at a national championship since the Bruins played in the actual game more than six years ago. It's a great day for a coach whose tenure has been marked by recent recruiting mistakes that have led to team turmoil.
But it's not a victory, it's a mandate. And with this future blessing, there is a potential curse.
Ironically, by coaxing enough good players to campus to light up new Pauley Pavilion and go deep into the tournament, Howland has put his job on the line if they don't.
- Turning to football and Coach Jim Mora, as CBS Sports' Sean Ceglinsky reported, apparently Jim Mora, Sr. stopped by UCLA's practice on Tuesday afternoon. It's still unconfirmed whether Mora Sr. went into an incredulous tirade about the Bruins' chances at a bowl game or in a playoff system when asked.
- As for our Coach Mora, the Bellevue Reporter noted that our head coach will be in Washington in late June for his sixth annual fundraising golf tournament to help raises funds for various local children's charities. Sounds like a good cause (and it involves no Nigerian princes!), so stay tuned for more information as we get closer to June.
- While we're talking about football, here's another bit, this time from Fox Sports' Rahshaun Haylock, on the wide-open QB battle taking place at Spaulding. Haylock has a couple of good quotes from Coach Mora, Kevin Prince, Richard Brehaut, and Brett Hundley. Nothing new, but hey, I know that some of you chase UCLA football (and especially UCLA QB) news around like crack.
- In case you missed it, Eric Edholm at Pro Football Weekly has a really good profile of one of my favorite Bruins, Derrick Coleman. Edholm covers, at some depth, the hearing problems that Derrick suffered through and overcame, his draft hopes, and how Coleman has been dealing with the pre-draft process. Hopefully, DC2 makes it on to a NFL roster so that we can keep watching this really great football on the gridiron.
- Finally, former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma, now the president of the National College Players' Association has a really great, thought-provoking article at Business Insider. Huma talks, at depth and in great detail, the current NCAA structure and how it deals with student-athletes. Huma, armed with some eye-opening stats, makes a pretty persuasive case that the NCAA needs to do more to financially provide for its student-athletes, of whom, 85% are living below the federal poverty line. It's a really good and interesting piece, a must-read. Of course, trust a Bruin to put numbers like that together in such a persuasive manner.
Alright folks, those are your Bruin Bites for this Thursday morning. Just two days until the weekend, so fire away with your thoughts, takes, opinions, and analysis.