No. 1 recruit Shabazz Muhammad was cleared to play immediately by the NCAA and the Arizona Wildcats can actually take advantage of that. Solomon Hill particularly has an opportunity to help his NBA draft stock.
That's far from the case. At a time when the Pac-12 needs every ounce of legitimacy, Muhammad's availability will reap benefits to Sean Miller's team, even if it ends up in a loss or two more. The UCLA Bruins immediately get better, and they were already looking good to begin with. But Muhammad's eligibility helps in the following ways:
- Solomon Hill's draft stock. The senior small forward has the versatility to do many things, and he's on deck for a stellar year. However, playing against Muhammad at least a few times should be a good opportunity to help his stock as an elite wing defender. Muhammad is already the best scorer in the game, and Hill has seen little competition from NBA-level wings. If he plays well against Muhammad, that might open scouts' eyes. If not, it's not like many other players will be shutting down Muhammad, either.
- Strength of the Pac-12. Marketing-wise, Muhammad will draw eyes, not just from fans but from scouts and the NCAA tournament selection committee as well. The Wildcats doing well in a Pac-12 that has at least one other legitimate team will help their seeding come tourney time assuming they don't flop like last season. Muhammad simply makes the league much, much better.
- Experience against elite opposition. Call UCLA what you want, but the Bruins were pretty good before signing Muhammad. And with him, Arizona will gain experience against a team that on paper has some of the best talent in the nation. Gaining confidence against that is vital should the young Wildcats develop a toughness about them. If they want to go deep in the tournament, learning how to scrap against that type of squad during the regular season is invaluable.