November 30, 2009

Panic time for hoops?

Ben Howland's man defense, based on zone principles, is - when played well - among the very most effective weapons in college basketball. Witness three final fours in a row very recently. Anyone who watches can see the Bruins shifting on their men, in effect staying in a zone on the court unless their guy cuts through and across requiring them to follow along.

It's a lot of what a zone gives you with the added bonus of allowing you to stay in the faces of the opponent's best weapons. Trouble is, that requires athletes who are capable - in terms of athleticism, quickness, talent, experience, whatever - of playing defense.

With this year's Bruins, those who have the experience lack the talent on defense and those who have at least some of the natural physical talent lacks experience. The result is a team that plays little if any effective defense at all. The result is a team that gets out-rebounded by smaller but quicker opponents. The result so far is a team that just flat out gets beaten.

You would think that sticking with it would give the younger Bruins a step up toward mastering what they need to know to have a solid chance at doing something late in this season and especially is a step ahead heading into next year when some very necessary reinforcements arrive on campus. On the other hand, you would also become more and more set in the belief that to do so could result in a truly enormous number of losses this year.

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