The passes were there, the shooting was there, now UCLA men’s basketball is focusing on what went wrong for them it year – defense.
The Bruins gave up an average of 76.7 points a game last season behind an inconsistent defense that switched back and forth from man-to-man to zone.
“We’re going to be a good team regardless, but to be a great team we’ve got to work on the defensive end,” said senior guard Bryce Alford. “Guys like (senior guard Isaac Hamilton) and I, we’re asked a lot of on the offensive end and we’re going to have to score the ball a lot. But I think you’re going to be able to see us really dig deep defensively.”
The team was hampered last year because of its lack of depth, with only three to four big men available.
Now coach Steve Alford can turn to players like freshman forward TJ Leaf and junior forward GG Golomon to fill the lane.
Alford will also rely on Ike Anigbogu to play at center, but the freshman is still out with a meniscus tear for at least two weeks.
“We messed around with doing too many things last year, and obviously personnel can dictate some of that,” Alford said. “And we ended up having a bad year, so now what do you do moving forward?”
Moving forward for the Bruins is all about playing to the strengths of Leaf and fellow freshman guard Lonzo Ball.
Ball led UCLA in assists in its exhibition game against Master’s University and his passing will be key in facilitating the Bruins’ scorers in transition according to Alford.
The fourth-year coach said that the up-tempo offense, which he’ll play with four guards, would maximize points in transition and highlight the team’s shooting.
Nearly all of UCLA’s starters were named to preseason watch lists, including Ball who is nominated for the Bob Cousy Award for the best point guard in the country.
“Guys make the game more complex when they start over thinking and at the end of the day, it’s basketball, it’s easy for (Ball),” Hamilton said. “And I think that’s what’s going to help him is making it simple. Keep it simple.”