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UCLA back to playing man-to-man defense

10/20/2010

When UCLA coach Ben Howland had his team playing some zone defense last season, I mentioned that the dramatic change in philosophy could be a signal that the end times are upon us.

That Howland, long an acolyte of man-to-man defense, was using zone was a sign that the Bruins last season simply didn't have the athleticism to consistently play man-to-man. Making the concession did help the team win some games, but UCLA finished 14-18.

So it's a good sign that this season, Howland is going back to man-to-man because that means he has the personnel to do so.

"We want to limit our time (in zone) and get back to playing man-to-man," Howland told me last week. "That's where our program needs to be to move forward. We're a man-to-man program.

"Kids want to play at the next level. You don't get ready by playing zone."

Already Howland has raved about his defensive-minded newcomers.

Junior college transfer Lazeric Jones was brought in to compete for the starting point guard job with Jerime Anderson and bring the type of on-ball defense that hasn't been seen since Darren Collison went to the NBA.

Tyler Lamb is a freshman wing who should get early playing time for his defense, and McDonald's All-American Joshua Smith is one immovable object at 305 pounds on the block.

Are the Bruins back? We'll see once games start, but at least the way they play should be that much more recognizable.