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All About The Defense

Dohn posted some hoop stats courtesy of UCLA on his blog this weekend:

UCLA's 75.5 scoring average is the highest in Ben Howland's six seasons and the highest since 2000-01 (79.5). It is also 50th nationally entering the Sweet 16.

UCLA's 49.0 field goal percentage is the highest of the Ben Howland Era and the highest since 1997-98 (also 49.0). It is also third nationally entering the Sweet 16.

UCLA's 39.9 three-point field goal percentage is the highest in Howland's six seasons and the highest since 1991-92 (also 39.9). It is also 12th nationally entering the Sweet 16.

UCLA is ranked 13th nationally in scoring margin (11.5) and 27th nationally in assist/turnover ratio (+1.23) entering the Sweet 16.

Opponents' 64.0 scoring average is the highest since 2004-05 (71.7), Howland's second season.

Opponents' 44.5 field goal percentage is also the highest since 2004-05 (44.6).

Opponents' 36.1 three-point field goal percentage is the highest since 2002-03 (36.7), prior to Howland's arrival.

You can rest of the stats (focusing on invidual accomplishments) from this past season here.

Going back to the stats excerpted above, they pretty much confirm what we have been discussing all season. Time and time again we pointed to our defensive issues as the main problem (along with the problems in our rebounding numbers) with our team this season. While some of the casual fans (read drive by trolls who would drop by in our post game threads following tough losses) would point to our offense as the problem this season, it really came down to our defense. The numbers above show pretty clearly how our D wasn't as effective as it had been in our previous three championship/Final-4 seasons.

While many point to lack of offense during certain stretches v. ASU and WSU at Pauley as the reason we didn't win our fourth straight conference championship, if one goes back and look at the game tapes, he or she will find how it was our defense that was letting us down in one possession after another.

I am hoping that as the freshmen from this season become sophomores they will embrace the defensive philosophy of Coach Howland just like AA and JF did in their second seasons in Westwood and also inspire their incoming freshmen team-mates to do the same. I am also hoping that next season if Coach Howland decides to give his returning upperclassmen the first shot at starting opportunities, he doesn't hesitate to go with athleticism from his frosh and sophomore early, if their defensive switches go on early in the season.

Heading into next season, right now I am not all that worried about our offense. My main concern again is whether we will be able to go back to the basics - relentless defensive and rebounding - that formed the foundation of our three straight Final-4 runs next season. I am not expecting a conference championship next season. Neither am I expecting a 25 win season, particularly without JH (who I expect to leave us this off-season). However, if we can get back to playing defense, I think it will set us up for a really good year in 2010-11 season. And over here on BN, it would bode well for everyone if they take that kind of long term view of our program.