Ben Howland came to UCLA with a reputation for being a defensive minded coach. UCLA's defense has been excellent, ranking in the top five nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency on kenpom.com each of the last three years. UCLA's offensive output is limited by its methodical tempo. In four of the last five years, UCLA's tempo has been 250th in the country or below. UCLA's last two Final Four teams have been good offensively, ranking in the top 25 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, but this year's team is excellent offensively, with an offensive efficiency (adjusted for schedule by kenpom.com) of 120 points per 100 possessions that ranks 4th in the country.
The most typical strength of offensively efficient teams is good shooting, but UCLA does not have a great effective field goal percentage. Its biggest strength on offense is rebounding. In fact, in three of the four factors that contribute to offensive efficiency, UCLA looks very similar to Stanford. UCLA is just good enough of a shooting team to be an elite offensive team as its two percentage point advantage in effective field goal percentage results in a sizable efficiency difference over Stanford:
|UCLA||National Rank||Stanford||National Rank|
|Adjusted Offensive Efficiency||120||4th||114||35th|
|Effective Field Goal Percentage||52.9||59th||50.6||150th|
|Offensive Rebound Percentage||40.7||7th||40.8||6th|
|Free Throw Rate (FTM/FGA)||29.1||49th||28.8||54th|
UCLA's other offensive strengths have not been able to make up for poor shooting nights. In thirteen conference games, the Bruins offensive efficiency has been above 100 and its lowest effective field goal percentage in those games was 47.5%. In the other three games including its two conference losses, UCLA's effective field goal percentage was below 40%. Therefore, effective field goal percentage defense is still the key against UCLA.
Shot chart data has pointed to a general defensive strategy of forcing offenses into shooting two-point jumpers as opposed to the high percentage layups and dunks and higher value three pointers. Shot chart data is available on sportsline.com for all UCLA conference games because the Bruins have been ranked all season. The data in the shot charts do not exactly match total statistics, revealing some shot charting errors, but the overall trends should be unbiased. The general defensive strategy of forcing two-point jumpers appears solid based on the overall statistics. However, with the Bruins, it very much depends on the individual player. The following table shows the team shot chart statistics as well as the shot chart statistics for individual players. Percentages are effective field goal percentages that weigh made three pointers by an extra 50%:
|Layups and Dunks||2 Pt Jumpers||3 Pointers|
|Mbah a Moute||25-41||61%||12-45||27%||1-7||22%|
Kevin Love continues to be one of the most efficient offensive players in the country with his strong shooting percentages. The defense certainly would rather him shoot jumpers rather than layups, but his two-point jumper percentage is excellent. The defense needs to find a way to limit his shots altogether.
Darren Collison has a mediocre finishing percentage near the rim. The defense cannot be fooled by his awkward looking shot and really need to concentrate on preventing him from shooting the three pointer. It is better off letting Collison penetrate as long as the defense does not bail him out with fouls as he leads the conference in free throw percentage at 92%.
The opposite is true of Russell Westbrook. His shot effectiveness increases the closer he gets to the basket. Josh Shipp is an excellent finisher when he gets to the basket, but his main weapon is the three pointer. He is most clearly the player the defense wants to put it on the floor, as long as the defense can force him to pull up with a two point jumper. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's numbers reflect his limited offensive repertoire.
The shot chart data also show where on the floor the Bruins are most proficient shooting jumpers. UCLA has a pretty good effective field goal percentage shooting jumpers within the key, mostly due to Love's 71% clip but Collison and Westbrook are near 50% in this area, too. This is where Stanford's defense is holding conference opponents to 29% so UCLA may find it hard to match their usual efficiency on those shots.
|UCLA Jumpers||FGM||FGA||Effective FG%|
|Baseline 2 Ptr Outside Key||11||44||25%|
|Wing/Semicircle 2 Ptr||44||125||35%|
|Corner 3 Ptr||8||26||46%|
|Wing 3 Ptr||61||171||54%|
|Top of the Key 3 Ptr||10||26||58%|
UCLA's weak spot is on two-point jumpers on the baseline outside the key. The Bruins do not take many shots from this area and appear uncomfortable with shooting from this angle. Love is 1 for 7, Collison is 0 for 3, Shipp is 2 for 8, and Mbah a Moute is 1 for 10. Only Westbrook at 6 for 10 has shown any success in this area. The defense will want to force the Bruins to the baseline.
Stanford's strong defense is built around forcing teams to shoot tough two-point jumpers. Executing that strength against UCLA will be based on following individual scouting reports and forcing the Bruins to specific areas of the floor. Stanford's success in this aspect of the game will be crucial to pulling off the upset at Pauley Pavilion.
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