Muhammad, Bruins open new Pauley Nov. 9

After missing the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three years, the spotlight has returned to UCLA basketball – thanks to UCLA head coach Ben Howland luring in the top recruiting class in the country in Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, Shabazz Muhammad, and Tony Parker, who may miss the Bruins’ trip to China later this month due to a strained hamstring. 

Not only are the Bruins expected to return to the NCAA Tournament in 2012-13 but also have some staying power, reminiscent of the three consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006-2008.

Muhammad and company will make their debut Nov. 9 against Indiana State in the opening of the new Pauley Pavilion. 

“We are elated to be returning home to Pauley Pavilion and are very excited about the re-opening of our legendary facility,” said Howland in a statement. “I think this is going to be a very fun and successful season.”

The $136-million renovation project is scheduled to be complete with a statue of legendary head coach John Wooden crafted on the northeast side of the building. There will also be brand new seats, restrooms, concessions and scoreboards.   

The Bruins will host the Los Angeles regional of the Legends Classic with the semifinals and finals to be held at the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, November 19-20.  They’ll also return to a more conventional Wooden Classic at Honda Center against San Diego State on December 1. Last season, a Pac-12 contest against Arizona served as the Wooden Classic in one of the Bruins’ four home games in Anaheim. 

The following Saturday, they’ll travel to Texas to take on the Longhorns in a game played at Reliant Stadium. 

UCLA will also host non-conference games against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal State Northridge, Prairie View A&M, Long Beach State, Fresno State, and Missouri before opening conference play January 3, 2013.

“With a total of six non-conference teams on this year’s schedule that made the NCAA Tournament a year ago, I believe this is one of the most competitive schedules we have had in my tenure,” Howland said.

The incoming freshmen will join a UCLA team that returns three starters from a squad that finished 19-14 and fifth place in the Pac-12 last season.