Next season looks to be a promising one for the UCLA men's basketball team, but what will the feeling be at this time next year?
Let's say Joshua Smith has the monster sophomore season many expect him to have and immediately bolts for the NBA. And let's make a similar projection with fellow big Reeves Nelson.
Barring injuries, point guards Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson will graduate after next season. The same goes for Malcolm Lee -- assuming he returns for his senior year, of course. We also know North Carolina transfer Larry Drew II will be in Westwood, but who will join him when the Bruins open the new Pauley Pavilion for the 2012-13 season?
Well, here's an early look at UCLA's potential starting five, assuming Smith and Nelson post attractive numbers and do what Tyler Honeycutt did last month:
G - Drew, Sr.
G - Tyler Lamb, Jr.
G - Norman Powell, So.
F - David Wear, Jr.
F - Travis Wear, Jr.
Or maybe coach Ben Howland goes for size, using Lamb off the bench to give Anthony Stover -- who will be a junior -- the nod at center? Keep in mind that the lineup doesn't factor in any freshmen (so far, Howland does not have any commitments for the 2012 class).
UCLA has a realistic chance to claim the inaugural Pac-12 crown. But can the Bruins contend the following season if Smith and Nelson leave early? Will they again be in "rebuilding" mode?
Ponder this: Would you trade another thrilling Final Four run next season if it meant losing Smith and Nelson to the NBA draft?
Feel free to leave a comment giving us your opinion.