Arizona is among teams known for playing tough 'D'
Nov. 04, 2014
Everyone knows defense wins championships.
Connecticut's surprise run to the national title was fueled by it, with the Huskies holding Michigan State, Florida and Kentucky under 55 points on their way to the NCAA title.
Here's a look at some of the teams that pride themselves on excelling at the grunt work on the defensive end:
ARIZONA: The second-ranked Wildcats are picked to repeat as Pac-12 champions, and it's not because they light up the scoreboard. They ranked in the top 10 in field-goal defense (38 percent) and scoring defense (58.6 ppg). They return their starting point guard in fifth-year senior T.J. McConnell (1.7 steals a game) and inside-outside defender Brandon Ashley, who missed the second half of last season with a broken foot. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson came off the bench to lead the team in blocks as a freshman, and 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski is formidable in the middle.
LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals enter the Atlantic Coast Conference this season as the only team in the nation to win 30 games three straight years. A big reason is their tradition of playing tough defense. The Cardinals allowed 60 or fewer points in 16 games last season and held opponents to 39.6-percent shooting. They've been among the top 40 teams in field-goal defense 11 of the last 13 years. Their 10 steals a game ranked second nationally, and Chris Jones led the American Athletic Conference with 2.2 a game. Mangok Mathiang and preseason All-American Montrezl Harrell are proven shot-blockers.
FLORIDA: Defense has always been a hallmark of Billy Donovan's programs, and last season was no exception as opponents averaged just 57.8 points and shot 40.2 percent. Even though the Gators lost four starters, Donovan will demand excellence on the defensive end. Dorian Finney-Smith was SEC Sixth Man of the Year and is an athlete who can cause problems on the perimeter. Chris Walker has lots of potential as a post defender.
VIRGINIA: The Cavaliers are 36-2 when holding foes under 50 points under sixth-year coach Tony Bennett. They did it 11 times last season, the most by an ACC team in the shot-clock era. They bring back three starters, including 7-foot shot-blocker Mike Tobey, from the team that ranked in the top 10 in seven defensive categories. The biggest point of pride: allowing a nation-low 55.7 points a game.
OHIO STATE: National defensive player of the year Aaron Craft is gone, but the Buckeyes still should have one of the best defenses around. Amir Williams blocked 1.8 shots a game last season and Shannon Scott was on the Big Ten all-defensive team after making at least two steals in 22 games, and in 14 of the last 20.
SAN DIEGO STATE: The Aztecs thrive on winning ugly for 16th-year coach Steve Fisher. Mountain West defensive player of the year Skylar Spencer blocked four or more shots 11 times last season, and Dwayne Polee II had 23 steals in the last 16 games. The Aztecs were in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense, field-goal defense and 3-point defense and in the top 35 in blocks and steals. Nine opponents scored fewer than 50 points.