UCLA will depend on freshmen

If his full recruiting class is cleared to play, Ben Howland's Bruins could make a March run. Ric Tapia/Icon SMI

Leading up to Midnight Madness in October, ESPN Insider's "Countdown to Madness" series is previewing the top five seeds in each of the four regions in Joe Lunardi's preseason 2013 NCAA bracket. To read about the key stats and freshman impact for each team as the previews are published, plus get expert predictions from Jay Bilas, Fran Fraschilla and Lunardi, click here. This is the entry for the UCLA Bruins, No. 1 in the West (Los Angeles).

The key: Incoming talent

Stat to know: 453

UCLA has a deeper, more talented squad that's sure to be more up-tempo than the one that missed the NCAA tournament last season. An injection of star power and athleticism has people thinking big in Westwood.

Much of that hope depends on the impending eligibility of heralded freshmen Shabazz Muhammad (No. 2 in the ESPN 100) and Kyle Anderson (No. 5 in the ESPN 100). Getting clearance on both would supply the Bruins with the talent to get back to the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in Ben Howland's 10 seasons at UCLA. If eligibility is not granted to Muhammad or Anderson, or both, making the tournament will clearly be much more difficult.