It has been an exciting couple of days for the few people who aren't so beaten down by Howland's record of failure to care about the fate of Coach's program with the commitment of the country's top prospect: Shabazz Muhammad. It inspires in many of us hope that perhaps the road back to respectability isn't as steep or as long as it seemed just a couple days ago. We don't know what next season will hold, and there are still many questions surrounding next season specifically that we will dive into in due time, but for now we need to address the nonsensical meme floating around the airhead MSM that Muhammad's commitment signals that the Bruins are "back" and our fanbase can now dream of Steve-16s.
BN has laid out its expectations for Howland following the trainwreck he has brought upon Coach's program over the past three years. As a reminder:
- Bring the glory back to Pauley Pavilion by dominating what looks to be a pathetic Pac-12 next season, grabbing the conference title;
- Bring UCLA back into the national discussion by finishing ranked in the top 10 nationally; and
- Make a serious run in the NCAA tournament, making it to at least the Final Four so that UCLA, one of college basketball's elite blue-blooded programs is truly part of the March Madness again.
So who will Howland have at his disposal to make sure this part of the expectations are fulfilled?
The depth chart for the 2012-13 season as it currently stands:
|Kyle Anderson (Fr)||Norman Powell (So)||Shabazz Muhammad (Fr)||Travis Wear (RS Jr)||Joshua Smith (Jr)|
|Larry Drew II (RS Sr)||Tyler Lamb (Jr)||David Wear (RS Jr)||Anthony Stover (Jr)|
|Jordan Adams (Fr)|
Regardless of what we think about the likelihood of Howland adjusting his game plan and philosophy to fit this roster, I see no reason from a talent standpoint that would stop an elite coach from fulfilling the objectives listed above. This isn't going to be a great defensive team, but assuming an in shape Josh Smith, it should be a dominant offensive lineup. Enough to mop up the dregs of the Pac-12, secure a high seed, and ride the Staples Center regional to a Final Four.
BN's expectations have yet another wrinkle thrown in. We're not about short term gain. Coach's program deserves more than that. One great year followed by more of what we've just seen is simply unacceptable. That's why the second part of our expectations include the following:
Howland needs to recruit another good class for 2013-14. That class must include a top-tier point guard. The importance of landing a top-tier point guard cannot be overstated. The last two seasons where UCLA has failed to play in the post-season, the Bruins had the same problem: a flawed starting PG. When that same player was a backup, the end result was UCLA going to the NCAA tournament. Even worse, was that in 2010-11, a losing season, Howland only had one PG on the roster. As of now, at best, by the time the 2013-14 season rolls around, Howland will only have Kyle Anderson as a PG/F, and at worse he will have no point guards on the roster. Howland must recruit an elite PG and another PG or combo. PG/SG with potential to develop for 2013.
Let's take a look at a potential 2013-14 lineup and figure out why:
|Kyle Anderson? (So)||Tyler Lamb (Sr)||Norman Powell? (Jr)||Travis Wear (RS Sr)||Joshua Smith? (Sr)|
|Jordan Adams (So)||David Wear (RS Sr)||Anthony Stover (Sr)|
Anyone worried yet? I would be, and I am. Shabazz is not coming back no matter what happens next season. If Howland has a great season, which he had better, we may also lose Anderson, and it's not out of the realm of possibility to think that the at-times frustrated Norman Powell may decide enough is enough after a deep tournament run as many of Howland's former players have. Same goes for an in shape Smith. But assuming the best case scenario above, we still see the need for an elite recruiting class next year. Out of the 8 roster spots, five are seniors. We will need to restock the front court for sure, and the lack of depth behind Anderson and Powell is glaring, hence the need for a PG and a combo guard.
Again, we take the long term view. That is what Coach's program deserves. Howland's mismanagement of this program has us in a tough spot no matter how great the headlines may look from clueless MSM writers prematurely declaring that we're somehow "back". A cursory analysis of our depth chart shows that the road back to respectability is still full of potholes, and one great season followed by four more years of Toilet ball is not my definition of "back", nor should it be for anyone else who has any sense of pride in Coach's program or UCLA Basketball.