There are a lot of tidbits and goings on as the season fast approaches. Forgive the disorder of this post but I want to get as much news out there as I can.
1. First on Shabazz Muhammad, an interesting analysis on the statements of Shabazz's Lawyers:
While Orr continued to insist Muhammad "has done absolutely nothing in violation of any NCAA bylaw," he also appears to question the NCAA's right to scrutinize past events. Said Orr to the Times, "Shabazz didn't even turn 18 until November of 2011 and until he signed with UCLA in April of this year was not under NCAA jurisdiction."
We don't know the exact context of Orr's statement or whether he intends to pursue that argument further with the NCAA, but it certainly doesn't come across as very PR-savvy.
NCAA bylaws are clear that the organization has jurisdiction over a prospective student-athlete as soon as his recruiting process begins. Bylaw 13.01.1 reads: "A student is responsible for his or her involvement in a violation of NCAA regulations during the student's recruitment, and involvement in a major violation may cause the student to become permanently ineligible for intercollegiate athletics competition."
If Orr is prepared to attack the concept of pre-enrollment amateurism and claim the NCAA doesn't have jurisdiction over Muhammad until he begins taking classes at UCLA, he would be resorting to the ultimate "Hail Mary" defense. It's tantamount to acknowledging Muhammad accepted gifts during his recruitment yet arguing he should not be punished for them because the system is flawed.
FWIW, this sounds right. I hope it is just a bad lawyer because it won't work. Right now it looks like the statement is out of context, Shabazz lawyer is not very good or Shabazz will playing this season in Europe. This is scary. It sounds like a kid screwed his college career taking trips to schools he did not even attend.
2. Then there were six, almost. For a brief period it looked like we may be down to 6 scholarship players for the opening game as David Wear was hurt. However
UCLA forward David Wear may return to basketball practice next Monday after X-rays on his sprained right ankle were negative.
A team spokesman said Tuesday that the staff is hopeful Wear will be ready by then.
Wear sprained his ankle during practice last Sunday.
3. Josh Smith rumors. Okay here is the deal he is looking better. Not where he should be but I still hold at optimism for a Ryan Hollins scenario which says by the end of the season it all clicks and Josh becomes dominate.
4. On the conference. The excellent Eamonn Brennan has some interesting takes on UCLA and PAC 12, two graphs below. First the conference will be better but that is not saying a lot:
Last season was not the Pac-12's finest moment. In fact, it was historically bad, basically from top to bottom. The best example? Its regular-season champion, 14-4 Washington, was deemed unworthy of an at-large NCAA tournament bid -- and rightfully so -- thereby becoming the first Big Six team to accomplish that dubious feat. The league appears poised to recover in 2012-13. UCLA will be better, as will Arizona. Cal will be solid. USC won't be anywhere near the horrid depths of last season's 1-17 conference record. Oregon could compete for an NCAA tournament spot, Stanford is coming off an NIT title and is steadily improving under Johnny Dawkins, and Colorado may have the nation's best rebounder in Andre Roberson. Even if UCLA isn't a national title contender, the Pac-12 as a whole should be better than last season. Given how awful the conference was last season, that is not a high bar to clear.
5. This could still be the return to glory of the conference, just ask former Arizona great Miles Simon:
Since 1985, either Arizona or UCLA has won or shared the conference title 20 times. When the Pac-10, now the Pac-12, was at its best, these two programs were usually at the top. Expectations are the highest they've been in the last few years in Tucson and Westwood -- and for good reason.
6. How good is Shabazz? Chad Ford lists the NCAA top PAC 12 potential draft picks and number one is easy:
I spoke with a number of NBA scouts to get a take on five players they'll be scouting closely in the Pac-12 this season. Here's the breakdown:
1. Shabazz Muhammad, G/F, Fr., UCLA
Top 100 Ranking: 3
If ruled eligible by the NCAA, Muhammad has a terrific shot at being the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft. He's blessed with elite athleticism, a motor that runs nonstop and plenty of tools on both ends of the floor -- scouts say he's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with more offensive game.
7. Eammon gives us his I think optimistic take on the Shabazz or Andersonless Bruins. Regardless Howland must deliver a PAC 12 title and a deep tourney run this year.
That is not a particularly appetizing place to be in, but surely all would be forgiven if both players are declared eligible. Losing even one from the talented incoming duo would be a blow; losing both is the difference between UCLA as the Pac-12 favorite and a potential Final Four team and UCLA as a more talented but not particularly exciting version of its thoroughly mediocre 2011-12 self. Needless to say, everyone affiliated with Bruins hoops is hoping for the former. Whether or not they'll get it remains an open question, and easily the most pressing one in the Pac-12.
I tend agree more with Tasser's earlier prediction final four with both, sweet 16 with Anderson, and dumpster fire with none of them. (We will be missing Blake Arnett as a back up point guard.)
8. Speaking of backup point guards, UCLA's most recent just miss on a point guard Dominic Artis is getting some love from ESPN:
RecruitingNation's Joel Francisco has a complete rundown of Pac-12 recruiting and lists Oregon PG Dominic Artis as one of the conference's top incoming freshmen, alongside UCLA's highly touted duo of Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson.
In other words UCLA goes from one brief period looking like it would have the top three incoming freshman in the conference to potential having none of the play for UCLA. We could really use Artis now.
9. If Anderson does not play, among other problems, we do not have a backup point guard. A wildly optimistic article gives you some flavor of our current point guard depth. First the currently injured Tyler Lamb:
If Larry Drew II does not pan out, Tyler Lamb could get more playing time at point guard. He leads returners in assists and led the team with 5.3 assists per game in China. However, Lamb will most likely be sitting out at the beginning of the season due to the arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on October 8th. Lamb should be out 4-6 weeks. However, he showed that he can do a variety of things well during the trip to China. Lamb averaged 10.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.3 steals, and 1 block a game. Despite showing how effective he can be, Lamb will have to work hard when coming back from his injury to earn time among the talented freshmen.
Norman Powell is the most athletic player on the 2012-2013 UCLA basketball team. Like Adams, Powel will see less playing time if Muhammad is eligible. Either way Powell will need to develop into a defensive stopper to see more playing time. In China, Powell showed his potential by averaging 11 points a game and "electrifying" Howland with a dunk during one of the games. With his athleticism Powell should be able to spell Drew on defense, but needs to improve his ball handling to run the point, which may be necessary if Kyle Anderson is found ineligible.
10. I don't want to close to much a downer. So let me just close with a close from a feel good story from Bill Dwyre of the LA Times which focuses in part on the one that can bring a smile to all UCLA fans faces, Coach.
A renovated Pauley Pavilion, given a $136-million face-lift, will draw back the curtains for the Bruins' first home game Nov. 9. That will be against Indiana State, scheduled out of symbolism, not rivalry. Indiana State was Wooden's only other college job, before he came West in the late 1940s to create Bruins basketball legacy.
Before that opening game, UCLA will unveil a bronze statue of Wooden in the North Plaza. That will be Friday and will be directly outside Pauley, the house that Wooden built and opened in 1965.
Howland holds Wooden sacred, as do all who have ever had a connection to UCLA basketball, and says, "Think of the thousands of students who will walk by the statue every day."