Shabazz Muhammad has been cleared to play immediately by the NCAA, and from the perspective of Arizona Wildcats fans, it might look like a roadblock to success.
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.