Monday night in Brooklyn marked the beginning of a new period in UCLA basketball. It’s tough to suggest it was the beginning of a new era though when it’s all but certainly going to be a single year. And besides, eras don’t usually begin with 78-70 losses anyway.
Begin the Shabazz-ic Period in UCLA basketball.
This period could mark the end of the species of Howland which can be found in Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, or add another achievement by the accomplished coach worthy of a cave painting in a new underground wing of the renovated Pauley Pavilion.
The NCAA finally cleared Shabazz Muhammad. UCLA AD Dan Guerrero told ESPN’s Andy Katz that UCLA cooperated with the NCAA on their 22 month investigation. But in the end, the NCAA finally decided to listen to the orginial information that started the investigation. It took the NCAA 22 months to make a decision and find no new information. Muhammad is a glaring example of the inconsistency and inefficiency of the NCAA, which has received considerable criticism under the credo of “Free Shabazz.”
Free at last, Muhammad made his first appearance in a UCLA uniform 5 minutes into the game when he checked in at the scorer’s table. He was free. No matter if he is the most talented player in college in the country, Howland made the right move using him off the bench. But free or not, less than 48 hours into his eligibility he couldn’t win the game on his own.
But Shabazz had an efficient night. His first touch of the ball he pulled up on the left wing on a 1 on 2 break, and drained a high arching left-handed jumper over the contesting hand of the Georgetown defender. He shot 50% from the field to earn his 15 points, and more to his credit was active on the defensive end.
But Georgetown’s 2-3 zone gave a young, inconsistent, and unorganized Bruin team fits. If the game was up and down and open the talent of UCLA might have shown through. But Georgetown forced UCLA to be methodical and tactical in their half-court sets, which the impatient freshman cast was incapable of doing. UCLA settled for 19 shots from behind the arc, and only made 5. Freshman scorer Jordan Adams led the team again with 25 points, but he was only 2-10 from 3.
UCLA is not a good team today. But they have no shortage of talented players, and could be very good.
John Calipari has now become an expert at making talented individuals play like a team (on their way to the NBA). But this is a new formula for UCLA, for Ben Howland. Even with NBA rosters stock full of Bruin talent from the last 5 plus seasons, that was not the Bruins’ winning formula. If Howland wants the Shabazz-ic period to be associated with more than his extinction, must have these freshman play together.
UCLA plays again Thursday at 4:30pm at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn against Georgia, who lost a close contest to #1 ranked Indiana Wednesday.