The departure this year of Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and potentially LRMM seem to have stirred the emotions of the Bruin faithful. One and done has struck Westwood and we are not quite sure what to make of it. Each year under Ben Howland we have watched at least one undergraduate leave and yet the program continues to return to the final four. The ability of the program to pump players into the NBA early, while continuing to go to the final four, are characteristics of a top 5 program in the nation.
It has been a progression for the program, but it appears all along that Coach Howland gets it from a number of perspectives. He encourages and embraces players testing the NBA waters because it is great for recruiting. The announcement of 4 players declaring for the draft certainly attracted Morgan, but also will be key to attracting Stephenson. The Bruin players that return to the program have received blunt force feedback on their games, which reinforces the teachings of the Bruin coaching staff and the work ethic required to compete at the highest level.
Another key is defense. Howland knows how to teach defense and more particularly how to defend the pick and roll and pick and pop. The NBA talks a lot about offense, but players who have defensive skills buy themselves time to develop offensively and stay in the league.
The last part of the puzzle is to increase the rotation. The intense defensive style the the Bruins play takes quite a bit from the offensive end. This has been exposed the past few years as the rotation of players has gotten even smaller, mostly due to injuries. The level of talent on this year's team will be the deepest since the '95 championship team. Similar to that team, we will have several freshman able to make contributions as the rotation has the potential of reaching 9 deep without a drop off. Combine the defensive intensity with fresh legs on the offensive end and the Bruins will be in the hunt for another national championship.
Because of the foundation Howland has established, I expect the next season to be the best yet for years to come.