Pac-12 Summer Roundup: Fresh talent could upgrade West Coast
All systems are "Go!" for a more rewarding "Selection Sunday".
UCLA and Arizona (which, collectively, signed five of the 24 members of the 2012 McDonald's All-American team) landed two of the three or four best classes of freshmen, nationally. The Ben Howland-led Bruins pulled in top recruits Tony Parker, Shabazz Muhammad, Zach LaVine, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, while Arizona scored Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, Kaleb Tarczewski and Gabe York. This injection of talent into its ranks, could very likely make a downtrodden Pac-12 a contender on the national stage.
Stanford also had a quite strong (albeit underrated by a lot of national recruiting pundits) freshmen haul, as did Colorado. And Utah and USC -- 11th and 12th, respectively, in the conference standings last March -- will rely heavily on strong groups of transfers and players who missed all or most of last season due to injury.
The most significant newcomer among the bunch, though, may be Phoenix-native Jahii Carson, who was academically ineligible to play as a freshman last season. Carson is immediately both the quickest and most dynamic point guard in the conference and will give the Arizona State Sun Devils' offense a much-needed playmaker.
The biggest off-season storyline is one that may bleed into the regular season, depending upon how quickly the NCAA makes its decision. UCLA decided to keep Shabazz Muhammad -- the 2012 unanimous National Player of the Year out of Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas -- home while Ben Howland's crew left for its trip to China. The NCAA is investigating possible "extra benefits" he may have received while a prep (possibly in the way of "unofficial" visits he took to various colleges during the recruiting process).
The consensus of opinion in the coaching community is that Muhammad is going to be docked games by the NCAA. The only difference in opinion is in how many? If that proves the case, then how long will he be sitting on the bench wearing street clothes in the "new Pauley Pavilion"? Inquiring minds -- mostly Muhammad's, Howland's and the other 11 conference head coaches' -- anxiously anticipate the ruling.