This offseason both Kentucky and UCLA claimed they had signed Shabazz Muhammad. Two days after President Obama was re-elected, ESPN questioned my Value Add projection that had Shabazz and UCLA would be one of the top few players and teams in the country, and until tonight they were right. But now Los Angeles may have another championship contender to go along with the LA Clippers.
|UCLA Freshman at No. 6 AZ
|Shabazz Muhammad, G-F
|Jordan Adams, G
|Kyle Anderson, G
|Freshman trio of guards
The Bruins came into one of the toughest places to play as a 13-point underdog on www.kenpom.com, lost their star center for the game in the opening minutes, and then had three freshmen guards dominate the rest of the game. Teams visiting a team in the top 20 of www.kenpom.com have won only 5 percent of the time, and UCLA’s performance was only the second time in more than 200 attempts that a road team had won by double digits visiting a top 20.
The win is one of the two most impressive wins of the season, with only Kansas 8-point win at Ohio State competing with it. While it was just one game, it was UCLA’s 11th win in 12 games and came against a great Arizona team that had defeated national contender Florida the night after the University of Arizona’s website noted that I had ranked Nick Johnson as the 14th best player in the country.
One reason I wrote that Value Add did not project Kentucky as a top 10 team this year is that UCLA had put together the kind of class that Kentucky usually gets. While ESPN was correct in questioning if my ranking of Shabazz and UCLA at No. 3 was too high, he showed all the tools yesterday – the lightning speed and ability to overpower on the drive while hitting the three-pointer with feather touch.
The scary thing about UCLA is that so far Shabazz has been only the third best freshman from the incredible trio of guards. From left to right in picture, Kyle Anderson ranked 177th best of 4000 players coming into the game, but looked a lot closer to my preseason No. 5 rating with a complete game of 12 rebounds, three assists and four steals. Shabazz is in the middle of the photo and was ranked 606th, while Jordan Adams on the right had already reached was 92nd in the country before scoring 15 points last night.
While my preseason ranking of No. 3 was too high for a team currently unranked, freshman improve much more than other players throughout their first season than other players, by the end of this season, or next year if they stay together, UCLA could compete for the national title. As bad as the Lakers have been, there is a lot of great basketball to be played in Los Angeles, as UCLA is now 6-1 in the Pac 12 just behind 6-0 Oregon.