The uncertainty surrounding the eligibility of prized freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson is the top storyline for UCLA this season, and rightfully so.
The pair of top-five recruits is still awaiting word from the NCAA on amateurism certification, and until the verdict comes down from Indianapolis, it's hard not to hyper-focus on this issue. As two-thirds of UCLA's new Big Three, Muhammad and Anderson represent both the present and future hope of Bruin basketball.
Well, maybe that's overstating it a bit.
The Bruins still have two elite freshmen coming from their No. 1 class in sharpshooting Jordan Adams and space-eating center Tony Parker. Adams is a 6'5", 220-pound scoring machine. His perimeter stroke and shot-creating ability could really spark a UCLA offense that has lacked a lights-out shooter for years.
Parker also figures to have an impact immediately, providing quality depth in the frontcourt and bringing an offensive repertoire that has scouts salivating. The 6'9", 270-pound McDonald's All-American should be a significant upgrade over the offensively challenged Anthony Stover, who was dismissed from the team in August after failing to meet academic eligibility requirements.
And if Parker can be even a fraction of the shot-blocker that Stover was (1.4 BPG in just 8.4 minutes), he will be a fan favorite in Westwood right away.
So even if Muhammad and Anderson are both held out by the NCAA, UCLA is guaranteed an infusion of young talent. Couple that with a solid, experienced group of returners, and you have to think the Bruins will be improved. But just how much of a turnaround they can make in 2012 will ultimately rest on the rulings of NCAA investigators.
A recent report from NBC Sports claims that Anderson is likely to be cleared by the NCAA after nearly a month of investigation, but mum's the word on Muhammad. The lengthy investigation into the top-ranked small forward has dragged on for well over a month and has really hindered the Bruins' master plans.
Muhammad missed the team's exhibition trip to China last month, but that might be just the beginning. If the NCAA doesn't pick up the pace, the ultra-talented freshman could be forced out of preseason practices, which begin on Oct. 12.
At this point, it's difficult to predict UCLA's lineup for the unveiling of Pauley Pavilion on Nov. 9 against Indiana State. And while I doubt the Bruins will have much trouble dispatching the Sycamores, it would be a whole lot more fun if Shabazz and Kyle were at the party.