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JD over at Bruin Hoop Scoop mentioned yesterday how the meme about Pac-10 being the best conference in the nation has gone national. Here is an excerpt from a New York paper JD linked yesterday:

The weekend's results underscored something West Coasters have quickly come to realize: With apologies to the ACC, Big East, and other conferences, the Pac-10 is the nation's toughest this season.

A look at the numbers drives that point home. Jerry Palm's Web site,, tracks RPI for all Division I teams and conferences. According to the site, the Rating Percentage Index "is a measure of strength of schedule and how a team does against that schedule. ... It is used by the NCAA as one of their factors in deciding which teams to invite to the NCAA tournament and where to seed them." The Pac-10 ranks no. 1 overall in RPI.
USA today picked up on the meme today and printed their article on Pac-10 theorizing why it is probably the best hoops conference in nation. Here is one of those theories that got my attention:
Defense: "The Pac-10 has always had a reputation nationally as kind of a finesse league: They don't play tough defense," Gottlieb says. "Arizona and Oregon and Washington are still a little bit that way. But UCLA has commanded national respect with its defense since Howland got there. Washington State does, too, to a lesser extent. It changes the dynamic of how you have to win in the league."

Howland's Bruins held their opponents to 58.7 points a game last season, the lowest at UCLA since 1950.

Bennett says other schools in the league also have ratcheted up their defense, including Southern California. The Trojans have held opponents below 40% from the field in 23 of the 47 games Tim Floyd has coached there; they held opponents below 40% in eight of the 57 games in the two seasons before he arrived.

"More and more, coaches are playing halfcourt, physical games," Bennett says. "The league used to be more loosey-goosey, but it's mostly not that way anymore."
Hmm.  Could it be it's Coach Howland's style of basketball, not Lute Olson and Arizonas' (a team assclowns like Floyd like hold out as the standard in Pac-10) glorified jungle ball, that all other Pac-10 coaches are trying to emulate?

In other words could it be it's Coach Howland who has started a new trend in the Pac-10, which the second tier Pac-10 teams are trying to emulate (and having some reasonable success in doing so)?

Going back to Oregon game. Lot of folks are talking about Oregon's explosive offense spearheaded by Arron Brooks. But what is also worth mentioning is the exception defense Kent's guys played against UCLA last Saturday. If they keep that up throughout the season they will be formidable. And if rest of the Pac-10 keep playing defense, the league will be formidable during March madness.

Howland won this conference last year despite not having the typical 5 star talent on an elite programs roster. He rebuilt the program from scratch with a set of recruits, who were not exactly on the radar of top-5 teams. He won the conference by having his team buying into the concept of team-defense, and the concept of out-working the other team. Now this season our players have a little more notoriety. So it may seem like Howland always had elite players to work with. But the reality is this team still needs to win games based on tenet of playing fundamental intense team-defense and with a mindset of outworking its opponent. In the coming years when this roster will get fully loaded with elite recruits, perhaps UCLA will be able to afford making mental/game adjustments in second  halves of their conference games.

It's a matter of taking the intensity of Ben Ball defense whole another notch. Teams are coming out gunning for UCLA often playing Ben Ball brand of defense. Now it's our turn to take our intensity to whole another level, and make sure no other team outwork and out-hustles us.

As mentioned in the article above Trojans have very good defense and they are going to pose a challenge to our half court offense. What our guys need to do is kick up the intensity in our defense, pull all out pressure on their turnover prone squad, and finish on transition offense. Gotta convert on those opportunities off our attacking defense. We didn't last weekend. If we do that this weekend and through rest of the season, we should come out on top of the best basketball conference in America. I am sure Coach Howland is making those points to his team as they are practicing this week.