The UCLA Bruins had a rough season in 2011-2012, but many are projecting the program to make a return to greatness starting next fall. With numerous starters returning and a top-five recruiting class on its way to Westwood, there is plenty to like about UCLA hoops next year. It will take a ton of work from Ben Howland and the coaching staff to get everything to gel, but the potential is certainly there.
The guys at Yahoo! Sports released a list of teams that didn't reach the 2012 NCAA Tournament but could make a serious run next March. You'll never guess which team was included on the list!
Why it will be in the NCAA tourney next season: The Bruins have signed two of the nation's top three prep players, F Shabazz Muhammad and G Kyle Anderson, and those two are expected to provide a massive infusion of talent to a team sorely in need of just that. That duo should be the focal point of a team that returns four of its top five scorers. There's a nice mix of size and athleticism, and if C Josh Smith, who will be a junior, gets serious about conditioning, this team could do some big-time damage in the NCAA tourney.
In my opinion, this team will go as far as Josh Smith improves. Should the talented big man finally get himself in shape, this becomes a preseason top-10 team without any doubt. It will be an interesting storyline to watch for this summer.
For more on the Bruins and their hoops program, check out Bruins Nation.