No team in the last 10 years has made the Final Four with an adjusted defensive efficiency ranking worse than 88th, per kenpom.com. UCLA ranks 117th.
The UCLA basketball team’s offense, which will probably be the most efficient in the country wire-to-wire this season, was roundly celebrated for the first 20 games of the season. The narrative shifted a month ago when two losses sparked widespread criticism
of a defense that history strongly suggests isn’t good enough to make the Final Four, let alone win a national championship.
The next question in the cycle: Is UCLA’s offense so historically good, it can overcome deficiencies on defense this significant?
With just four games left in the regular season, beginning with tonight’s contest at Arizona State, the No. 5 Bruins have sustained some offensive numbers that require a deep dive into the archives for comparison.
READ: No. 5 UCLA to test defensive progress against Arizona State’s firepower
UCLA’s nation-leading field goal percentage (53.3%) is a mark that hasn’t been achieved since Duke’s 1992 national championship team shot 53.6 percent for the season. That was a Grant Hill-Christian Laettner-Bobby Hurley team making its third straight appearance in the national championship game. Pretty good company.
UCLA’s nation-leading 21.7 assists per game is the highest number in college basketball since 1991, when UNLV set the Division-I record with 24.7 on its way to the Final Four. That was Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebels squad featuring Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon, all of whom went in the top 12 picks of the NBA draft later that year.
In relation to the field it will face in this season’s NCAA tournament, UCLA remains No. 1 in the country in scoring offense (92.3) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.8) and No. 2 in 3-point field goal percentage (42.1%).
Those offensive numbers, however, seemingly need to be historically special considering what UCLA must overcome. Continue reading