The UCLA Basketball team is going to have a good offense, but will have a big question mark with their defense. Is their bench the answer?
Here you have a great distributor/shooter, a great shooter, a slasher that can score points at will, a tough inside scorer and an improving 7’0″ offensive presence. With Ball at the helm, UCLA will improve tremendously.
Except on defense. There is a big question mark there. To quote my Go Joe Bruin counterpart, Michael Hanna, this lineup is a “defensive apocalypse”. He could not be more correct.
Last season, the Bruins were 10th in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (76.7 points allowed per game), 8th in field goal percentage defense (.430), 7th in 3-point FG defense (.354), 10th in rebounding defense (37.1 rebounds given up per game), 9th in blocked shots (3.4) and 7th in steals (5.5). As for Ball and Leaf, they are more offensive minded players, so yeah, the defense needs work.
UCLA has the ability, as a team, to play very good defense. Against #1 Kentucky last season, the Bruins held the Wildcats to 37.9% shooting.
Here is the thing… UCLA has the ability, as a team, to play very good defense. Against #1 Kentucky last season, the Bruins held the Wildcats to 37.9% shooting. Two games later the Bruins were sloppy but effective on defense as they allowed Gonzaga to shoot only 41% from the field.
UCLA can defend, their problem is they do not do it consistently. Sometimes it seems like they do not want to do it at all.
Alford is going to have a task on his hands making these kids attempt defense, but he could have a lot of help from the bench.
This season, the Bruins are DEEP! They are so deep that by the end of the 2015-16 season, they had one more scholarship player than scholarships available. This was all squared away when Noah Allen decided to transfer to Hawai’i. The Bruins are now at the limit of 13, the most UCLA has had in the Alford-era. That also means they will have a deep bench that will allow UCLA to potentially have 10 players in their rotation.
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Aside from the starters, the three most important players will be coming off the bench, and it is due to their defensive prowess. Aaron Holiday, Jonah Bolden and Ike Anigbogu could be the saviors of UCLA next season, you heard it here first.
Though Coach Alford needs to figure out how to make the entire team play defense, right now he has three Bruins that have the ability to limit the production of their opponents, if used properly.
Holiday is a good point guard, but is also quick and aggressive on the defensive end. He led the team in steals last season with a total of 45 (1.4 steals per game), 12 more than the next Bruin, Isaac Hamilton.
Bolden proved to be a valuable asset when he was inserted into the starting lineup last season at the 4 spot. The brilliant part was when Alford put him at the top of the key in the 3-2 defense. His length and athleticism allowed him to cut off passing lanes and get in the face of his opponent.
Anigbogu is going to be an interesting player to watch. He is big, powerful and quite athletic. On top of that, he is known for swatting balls into the stands. Anigbogu could quite possibly be the best rim protector Alford has had in his time in Westwood.
Now these three players alone will not turn this Alford team into a Ben Howland team. The only way to do that is to get everyone on the same page about defense and work at it everyday (which is a topic for another article). Alford is going to have to set a precedent with the implementation of his defense.
The Bruins may once again solely rely on their offense to get wins, but that could fall to pieces in the latter part of the season, similar to last year. If Alford is serious about improving the overall status of UCLA Basketball, he needs to develop and utilize a more effective defensive strategy that utilizes all the talent at his disposal. If that happens, there is no telling how far this team can go.