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):
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.
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.