Why is UCLA so good?

The primary reason for the recent success of the UCLA Bruins has been the aggressive defense and emphasis on rebounding by coach Ben Howland in his time at UCLA. They don't do anything gimmicky, no zone press, no half-court trap, no junk defense. They are a vanilla M2M half-court defense using ball pressure and they deny everything. They double the post, rotate, and most importantly they always box out and rebound. You hear it all the time, basketball is about defense and rebounding. But ask yourself, how many teams actually do it?? This clip is from last week's win by UCLA over Chico St. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below.

Some quick thoughts from watching the video,

- Everytime someone touches the ball, it's chest to chest. Don't give your defender any space on the dead ball. Off-ball defenders are always denying.

- The video doesn't show it but on backdoor cuts, the help side bumps the cutter to impede progress.

- Don't allow penetration. Easier said then done, but obviously all of Howland's players are accomplished at stopping the dribble penetration. You must cut off the defender and force him to stop and go back.

- Double the post. I don't think UCLA thinks Chico St. has a good inside game, but regardless of who they play, they will double the post. Once the ball is entered into the post, the offense has it's greatest advantage so you must take that away. One pass away denies, and 2 passes away is in help.

- Everyone boxes out and rebounds. This cannot be understated. One of the main drawbacks of playing a zone is that you give up way too many offensive rebounds. In M2M, everyone has box out responsibility and you as a coach can hold players accountable for this critical part of the game.

- I realize this game, UCLA was playing a DivII opponent, but it doesn't matter, you must play defense and rebound against everyone or you'll get beat. MSU, Kentucky, Ohio St., and now add USC to the list of teams that got beat allowing 60 or more points.

I posted earlier about a Euroleague team that showed great M2M defense. One thing I always tell my players is that good defense requires hard work. It's the reality in M2M defense that there are no shortcuts, even for good players. You must constantly out-hustle, beat your man to the spot, fight through screens, and always be quick to react. Unfortunately, because M2M defense requires your players to work so hard all the time, it is sometimes difficult to run it all the time, especially if you don't have the talent.

If you plan on being a M2M defense exclusive team this year, the new Geno Auriemma DVD on his four cornerstones for half-court offense is brilliant and a must see. This is a short synopsis,

These four areas of emphasis are defending the baseline drive, guarding and trapping the post, closing out on the shooter and defending the pick and roll. Ball pressure on the point guard and wing denial are two keys in the half court.

Sound familiar?

As usual check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to browse through the library of notes I have on defense and to discuss your favorite basketball topics.