Wednesday, February 20, 2013
The nation's most enigmatic team?
By Luke Lapinski
March is just over a week away, yet one of the most talked about teams entering the 2012-13 campaign continues to confound most onlookers. UCLA began the year at No. 13 in the AP Top 25, and the Bruins were getting considerable buzz as a potential Final Four team. But they've gone just 4-4 in their last eight and find themselves looking up at Oregon -- and surrounded by three other teams -- in the Pac-12 race.
"They could be out in the first round -- and out badly -- or they could make the Sweet 16," ESPN's Dana O'Neil said, when asked to describe UCLA's chances going forward. "Wildly unpredictable, which really shouldn't be the case anymore."
That pretty much sums it up. After a slow start in which he first wasn't allowed to play, then seemed a little off his game, Shabazz Muhammad has developed into one of the top freshmen in the country. Jordan Adams received much less hype than his counterparts in the Bruins' top-ranked 2012 recruiting class, yet has emerged as a solid contributor as well. But Tony Parker has been largely ineffective inside, other guys have simply been inconsistent and the team as a whole finds ways to play below its potential sometimes.
So yes, heading towards the postseason, they're a dangerous club with wins over Arizona, Colorado and Missouri that is capable of beating anyone on any given night if Muhammad goes off and gets the necessary support from his teammates. But they're also the same group who has lost to Cal Poly and USC and just seems to disappear at times.