As most of everyone in the country, I watched the epic #1 vs #2, battle of Tennessee game between UT and UM tonight. It really was a tremendous game, throw out the X's and O's and just let the kids play. Great stuff. I'm so happy for Bruce Pearl, ranked #1, couldn't happen to a more deserving guy. I won't break that game down, you can find out everything you want to know in this ESPN clip.

Instead, I'll breakdown one of my favorite teams that I haven't talked about lately, UCLA. They played a talented but inconsistent Oregon team tonight that was scrapping for their lives to hopefully get into the March tourney. The game was back and forth most of the way but it was UCLA's signature defense that would allow them to win this game. This was a key sequence in the first half that go them back in the game after getting down early,

The Bruins would need a similar defensive run in the second half just to win this game. The Bruins dispel the notion that you have to press to create turnovers. You can be a great M2M halfcourt team and still get 15 steals like the Bruins did tonight.

The Deflection, Anticipation:

I wrote earlier about how underrated deflections are. Just because you're in a half-court M2M set, doesn't mean you can't be aggressive going after steals. Here is UCLA anticipating the pass and coming up with the deflection for the easy basket,

Stopping Penetration:

If you can't stop dribble penetration, you won't be a very good defensive team. That's the truth. Here, you see UCLA's Darren Collison guiding his check into help. He's in his defensive slide until they are past hips. Also, notice the help from both the wing and the middle. Great help and recover technique,


If I were to get any compliment from anybody, it would be if someone came up to me and said our team played defense like UCLA. They just do everything the right way. They stop penetration, they're aggressive and get their hands on balls, they block out and board, they double the post, they hedge screens. I can't think of any other team that is as good at everything defensively as UCLA. It's a testament to what Ben Howland has been accomplish there.

A great video that emphasizes many of the same things that Coach Howland does for M2M defense is Geno Auriemma's new DVD on his four cornerstones for half-court offense. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.