Notwithstanding his last year at UCLA, where his up-tempo offense led the PAC-12 in scoring, Ben Howland has a reputation for fielding tough, defense-first basketball teams. His last two teams in Pittsburgh led the Big East in scoring defense and defensive rebounding efficiency (the percentage of potential defensive rebounds a team gets), and was in the top three in field goal percentage defense. Then in his decade at UCLA, the Bruins led the PAC-12 in scoring defense in multiple years and were also in the top three in other defensive categories, such as defensive rebounding and opponents' assist-to-turnover ratio, a number of times.
So one thing I was hoping to see in Howland's first season at State was improvement on the defensive end. Because Rick Ray's defenses were horrible—his teams' defensive efficiency rankings never rose above 112th nationally.
Well, that's hasn't happened. Right now, State's dead last in the SEC in field goal percentage defense and defensive rebounding efficiency. And get this—in our first four SEC games, we've given up 44 three-pointers. Repeat: 44. Yeah, that's not good.
Coach Howland knows this is unacceptable. And he's not going down like that. That zone defense he's felt forced to play for much of the season? See ya:
Howland hits the topic early and often. During our non-conference struggles, Howland thought the zone would help. And maybe it did here and there. But as of Saturday evening, he strongly believes it was a mistake, one for which he's taking full responsibility. It's just not working.
Now, I thought the zone helped out at times in non-conference play and that our man defense seemed weak in a number of games early on. But it's hard to argue with what's been happening the few weeks. We're not rebounding it well and we're giving up way, way too many open shots. And the constant barrage of three-pointers we're facing is a killer when the team is still trying to find its groove offensively.
If going back to man will fix those problems, even if only in part, I'm all for it.
What say you, denizens of the interwebs?