After several years of middling success, the time appears ripe for UCLA basketball to assert itself back into the mix of elite teams.
A batch of highly-rated recruits joins a group of talented returning starters on Ben Howland's team.
Despite an injury to guard Tyler Lamb (as reported by Peter Yoon of ESPN Los Angeles) that will leave the Bruins without much experience in the backcourt to begin the season, this is the most talent UCLA has had on its sidelines in awhile.
Questions surround the eligibility of highly-rated recruits Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammed (as reported by Jenny Cohen). But Anderson may be cleared to play within a week, according to Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog, and if the talented duo ends up on the court, UCLA will likely be a contender to win it all.
But with their statuses up in the air at the moment, UCLA will rely heavily on returning forwards Travis and David Wear, who both shoot the ball extremely well. C Josh Smith also returns to a frontcourt that will welcome in freshman Tony Parker, another high school standout.
UCLA has the best collection of big men in the conference, and it's a group that should only get stronger as the young talent develops. If UNC transfer Larry Drew II can hold things down in the backcourt until Lamb gets back, the Bruins will be in great position as they hit the meat of their schedule.
While it's hard to call any game a must-win at this point, here are 10 games that will go a long way in determining just how special this Bruins team can be.