UCLA Basketball: Three ways to improve the defense

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 13: Jaylen Hands
DAYTON, OH - MARCH 13: Jaylen Hands /

UCLA Basketball has struggled on defense the past few years. Here are three ways the team can improve next season and have more success.

By most metrics, UCLA Basketball has been bad at defense recently. According to Kenpom, the Bruins have an average adjusted defensive efficiency of 101.2 over the past three seasons.

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This means that for every 100 possessions, UCLA gave up more than 100 points. Last season, UCLA sported a 103.9 defensive rating or 213rd out of 351 schools.

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But that’s not why we are here. The reason you are reading this is because you want to find out how the defense can improve. So let’s get to that. UCLA Basketball can get better on defense by:

Improving defensive communication

I went back and watched highlights (lowlights really) from the St. Bonaventure game and one thing that stood out for me was just how many defensive breakdowns UCLA Basketball had. The Bonnies, who did not have a great game by the way, got  some easy looks at the rim because of missed defensive rotations.

Usually, defensive breakdowns come from a lack of communication. This was one example. The sequence begins with Prince Ali turning the ball over on offense. Aaron Holiday and Alex Olesinski hustle back on defense to stop the break and this forces the pass to the wing. At this point, UCLA actually has three defenders back but they don’t communicate and nobody picks the ball up. As a result, the St. Bonaventure player got a dunk.

Improving pick and roll defense

UCLA Basketball under Steve Alford has struggled to defend the pick and roll. The most famous example of this was De’Aaron Fox abusing UCLA in the NCAA tournament.

Thomas Welsh and Goloman were decent defenders in the post. However, they weren’t fleet of foot and couldn’t switch or be aggressive on screen coverages. Most of the time, UCLA Basketball resorted to sagging in the key to protect them. Moving forward, the Bruins need to put a better plan in place.

Improve ball pressure from the guards

It has been a while since UCLA Basketball consistently applied ball pressure. It feels as though it hasn’t happened since Jordan Farmar and Darren Collison.

Either way, I am of the belief that teams play worse when they are pressured. I am not necessarily talking about a full or half court press. UCLA under Ben Howland didn’t really press but had strong ball pressure.

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I am hopeful that with the recruiting class UCLA has coming in, they can return to that style of defense.