INDIANAPOLIS -- In a subdued UCLA locker room after the Bruins' 59-45 thrashing of LSU on Saturday, there was a lot of talk about UCLA's style of play. The team isn't pretty to watch, to be sure, but given the transformation coach Ben Howland has engineered in just three years, the Bruins aren't about to apologize for it.
"Being a Southern California kid, I grew up hearing about the great defensive teams coached by John Wooden," said forward Cedric Bozeman. "It took us a little while, but we've embraced Coach Howland's defensive philosophies. It may not be pretty, but a win is a win. Our attitude is, if a team can't score, they can't win."
This isn't your father's UCLA team. But the Bruins know what it takes to win games and aren't interested in style points. Howland's troops may not have the swagger or the offensive prowess of the old Bruins teams, but they're fundamentally sound and can frustrate opponents by making them play their style. After all, they haven't won 12 consecutive games by mistake. Here, then, are five reasons why they'll defeat Florida tonight for the school's 12th basketball national championship.
1. They can flat out play defense Shutting opponents down has been UCLA's staple. In the Pac-10 tournament, UCLA became the first school in tournament history to hold three opponents to fewer than 60 points. And in the NCAA tournament it has held three of its five opponents to 45 or fewer.
Long and athletic, the Bruins force teams into taking bad shots and close out quickly on outside shooters. They've limited their tournament opponents to 17.5 percent shooting from three-point range.
2. Coaching Say what you want about the ugliness of Howland's style of basketball. The fact is, his approach works. His teams at Northern Arizona and Pitt were defensively sound and physical too, but Howland doesn't get enough credit for his offense. His teams use a ton of sets and like to run the shot clock down to try to break down opponents. The Bruins are well prepared, patient and won't be surprised by anything the Gators throw at them.