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Ben Ball's Foundation

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I have seen some whining around the internets (not here) about how UCLA may not deserve to be the number 1 basketball team in the nation. And after our last weekend game against Texas A&M you will hear more of the same coming from Bruin haters around the country, arguing why teams like Ohio State, UNC, Kansas or Florida should take the top spot. While all these aforementioned teams keep choking against lesser opponents often times playing just God awful street ball, Howland's Ben Ball warriors keep doing what they have been doing for more than two years (referring to class starting with AA, JF, Shipp and Mata), which is relying on basics (emphasis ours):

So why are the Bruins 8-0 today and able to embark on their third week as the top-ranked team in the country after a 65-62 victory over a club that was ranked sixth coming into last week?

Scan the box score and you'll see that the Bruins, with 13, committed seven fewer turnovers than did the Aggies.

And you'll also see Howland's team hit four more 3-pointers than did the Big 12 Conference team.

But the biggest reasons (along with having pretty good players on the floor, naturally) that UCLA survived a game it could have easily lost Saturday are the same reasons the program has won 20 of 21 games since Feb. 19 of this year:

They always attempt to play sound team defense and they almost never attempt ill-advised shots.

Those are a couple of the staples of Howland's - and that of pretty much any highly successful major college coach's - foundation for success.


The Bruins aren't going to win every game this season - although we might be well into January before they stumble the first time - but regardless of the caliber, or playing style, of opponent, it's an approach the team isn't going to sway from.

"They're unbelievably well-coached and that's why they played for the (national) title (in April)," Aggies coach Billy Gillispie, another coach who fully buys into those principles, said of the Bruins afterward.
A ferocious commitment to "team-defense" and playing smart offense. Those are the two primary attributes which constitutes what we call around the nation Ben Ball. This is a term Jeremy over at Bruin Hoop Scoop came up with more than a year ago:
Howland simply plays whatever style gives himself the best chance of winning. There are good reasons why he would encourage a high tempo style last season (04-05 - Ed.): we were young and lacked a dominant post player. Half court execution obviously was not our strength, and pushing the ball probably was the best way to get easy looks at the basket. Interestingly, these factors still seem to be in place for the upcoming season (and one could argue that our half-court offense will struggle even more with Dijon Thompson gone). Plus there is one added reason why uptempo will suit us better: we will have a LOT more depth next season. So I predict we will be pushing the ball up the floor even more in 2005-06, which should be good news for us fans. Of course, it won't be all fun and games, as Howland will still demand that the Bruins play physical, hard-nosed defense, which perhaps will lead to the persistence of Howland's reputation as a slow-the-ball-down type of coach. But those who take a closer look will know the truth: the guy just wants to win.
And who here is not fine with that? It took a while for the Bruins to flourish offensively last season when Hollins finally developed into a legitimate post threat. The proverbial light bulb went on for Ryan. Bruins are again going through the same process this year but they are further ahead. It will still take some time for Mata, Aboya, and Wright to make themselves a consistent offensive threat. However, the good news is defensively they are already making more than solid contributions and that's what matters at this point. They are doing their parts to contribute to suffocating Howland's brand of team-defense:


AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

And it's that commitment to team-defense from every member of Howland's program, which has propelled Bruins to Number 1. And we should do nothing else but to enjoy it.

Yeah we know our Bruins are still a work in progress. Yet they are finding ways to win all of their games relying on a ferocious defense and not making mistakes on offense. Sure they are going to lose a few games this year and will probably not be able to hold on to the number 1 ranking when we get into January. But there is really no reason to worry too much. We have a coach who has laid a strong foundation for success grounded on basic tenets of this wonderful game, and will do whatever it takes to keep the Bruins as one of the marquee programs in all college sports.

Let's enjoy Ben Ball.

GO BRUINS.