Led by sterling freshman Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA boasts an exciting offense, but the Bruins' defense will ultimately doom them in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
UCLA, the No. 6 seed in the South Region, is ranked 28th in the nation in points per game this season. On the other hand, the Bruins are ranked 229th in points allowed per contest (68.9), via TeamRankings.com.
In the Pac-12 championship game on Saturday, UCLA lost to Oregon, 78-69. The Bruins allowed the Ducks to shoot 48 percent from the floor, including 7-of-14 from downtown. In fact, the Bruins have also had trouble defending the three-ball this season (ranked 77th in the nation in opponents' three-point percentage).
Saturday's loss to Oregon wasn't a minor speed bump, mind you. UCLA allowed Washington State to shoot 49 percent in the Bruins' 73-61 loss on March 6. This, despite the fact that the Cougars are averaging 64.4 points this season (251st in the country) and have shot 42.7 percent from the floor (208th).
Despite being ranked No. 21 in the nation, UCLA doesn't have the key ingredient to making a deep run in the NCAA tournament: defense. It is something that has plagued the Bruins all season long, and it has limited their potential.
A lot was made about UCLA's 2012 recruiting class that included Muhammad, Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker. But, the reality is, it doesn't matter how many points you can put up on the board if you can't defend.
UCLA is a young team with room for growth. The sooner the Bruins realize they need to step it up on the defensive side of the ball, the better for them. But a strong defense is not something that is built overnight. It will take an early exit in the 2013 NCAA tournament before it hits home.