UCLA's Great Recruiting Class
Ben Howland came to UCLA nine years ago to bring the Bruins back to prominence. It took him just two seasons to get the team back to the NCAA Tournament. In his third year, Howland started a streak of three consecutive Final Four appearances: quite a remarkable feat for the coach of any school not named UCLA. Since then, results have been a little spottier, either making the tournament but not advancing very far, or missing postseason play entirely. Because of the expectations that go along with coaching at this university, Howland seems to be getting a bad rap, one of disappointment and underachieving simply because he hasn’t nabbed that national championship trophy. Recruiting has also been shaky in recent years, with the highest caliber players being stolen from other colleges rather than from high schools. That is, until 2012.
This season, Howland has recruited one of the best classes in the country, rivaling even that of the class in Lexington, Kentucky. Expectations at UCLA are high, old-school, John Wooden high. The only thing that stands in the way of Howland and a return trip to the Final Four may be how legal that recruitment class came to be. The NCAA is currently investigating the amateurism of Howland’s top two freshmen, Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. Muhammad and Anderson are two of the top half dozen freshmen in the nation; let’s just say their ineligibility would be a factor.
Without the two, UCLA still has a few other top recruits, as well as half of a transferred Carolina Tar Heel roster to play with. Their ceiling would plummet though. Final Four hopes would turn into hopes of a conference title and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen, which isn’t terrible, but isn’t quite what Ben Howland or UCLA fans had in mind.