UCLA was picked to finish second in the Pac-12 Media Poll, it was announced at Pac-12 Media Day on Thursday.
Despite being picked to finish second, the Bruins received 16 first place votes --the most in the conference-- which is one more than Arizona, who was picked to finish first.
The Bruins finished fifth in the conference last season with an 11-7 record in Pac-12 play.
This comes on the heels of the announcement freshman guard Kyle Anderson has been cleared to play by the NCAA, making him eligible for the Bruins season opener at the new Pauley Pavilion a week from Friday.
Howland continued to express the school is cooperating with the NCAA and remains "very optimistic" freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad's situation will be resolved as well. There is still no timetable for the NCAA to rule on Muhammad.
The announcement gives some relief for Howland in knowing Anderson will be in the lineup. The 6'8" freshman from New Jersey has been heralded for his court vision and playmaking ability. He'll play small forward as North Carolina transfer Larry Drew II handles the point guard duties.
Anderson has shown his versatility playing three different positions ---point guard, small forward, and power forwardduring practice and on the team's trip to China during the summer.
Howland says Anderson has a great "feel for the game" and believes having him on the floor at the same time as Drew II will be a benefit to the Bruins.
Anderson won't be able to guard opposing point guards but Howland considers him to be a true point guard on the offensive side of the floor, which makes him excited.
"I've always loved having two point guards on the floor," Howland said.
Playing two point guards at the same time is something he's done throughout his coaching career. In the past, he's played Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook on the floor at the same time. He played Collison and Jrue Holliday together, and even last year he played Jerime Anderson and Zeek Jones.
Anderson and Drew II shared the floor during the team's trip to China and Howland expects the two to be able to coexist.
In many ways, Howland's excitement over Anderson and Drew II as facilitators is a microcosm of the UCLA team and its blend of freshman and returners which Howland is also fond of. Drew II may be a newcomer but he's a veteran who spent all of last season practicing with the team, unable to compete in games because of NCAA transfer rules.
Any deficiencies Anderson or Drew II have in guarding point guards, Howland says sophomore Norman Powell will be able to pick up the slack. Powell was able to learn a lot from Tyler Lamb, who's still recovering from knee surgery but is certain to be a solid contributor on both ends of the floor.
Freshman Tony Parker adds size up front to returners Josh Smith and the Wear Twins. Jordan Adams adds shooting on the perimeter.
Muhammad adds scoring punch, however, he still can't be included in this blend.
Not yet, anyway.