A new wrinkle in Pitt’s pick and roll defense
We saw earlier this season the struggles Pitt had with the pick and roll defense (see here). I saw them throw in a new wrinkle with their pick and roll defense against Villanova, which seemed to work pretty well. It involves Gary McGhee hedging on the screen, with the help defender rotating to the roll man, instead of forcing McGhee to recover back to the roll man.
Here we see Mouphtaou Yarou setting the screen for Maalik Wayns. McGhee hedges on the screen and this is where the wrinkle comes in to the defense. McGhee has struggled with recovering to the roll man in the past, so Pitt has worked harder to rotate the help man over to the roll man.
With Yarou rolling to the basket, McGhee will not be able to sprint back in time to cover him. Nasir Robinson steps up to bump Yarou as he is cutting to the basket and communicates to McGhee to pick up his man, Antonio Pena. Since McGhee cannot get back to the screener, Pitt’s defense rotates and McGhee is able to pick up a man closer to where he is after the hedge.
Pitt showed great rotation on this play to help McGhee after the hedge. Robinson stepped up to cover Yarou and communicated well to help McGhee pick up Pena. If Robinson would have stuck with Pena as he drifted to the three point line, Yarou would have been wide open on the roll to the basket.
Here is a second example that shows a slightly different rotation. Robinson stays with Yarou only for a second and then allows McGhee to step back to Yarou. Here is McGhee on the hedge. He does a great job of hedging on the screen and cutting off the ballhandler from turning the corner to get to the basket.
Next, we see Robinson step to Yarou as McGhee is recovering from the hedge. Again, Yarou would be wide open if not for the rotation of Robinson.
Instead of switching like they did in the first play, Robinson only rotates for a second on Yarou before recovering on Cheek. Robinson closes out on Cheek as McGhee is recovering to Yarou. This rotation allows Pitt to cover both players and the pick and roll action is stifled.
This final play requires a bit more rotation by the Panthers. Again, the first shot is of McGhee hedging hard on the ball screen.
On this screen, Yarou gets a pretty good piece of Wannamaker, forcing McGhee to stick with Fisher a few extra steps. Pena recognizes that Robinson is going to slide over to Yarou and gets to the open spot on the floor, the opposite elbow.
Fisher finds Pena open and neither Robinson (his original man) nor McGhee is able to rotate to contest a shot. However, Lamar Patterson steps off of his man to rotate to Pena before he can get the shot off. Like a well-oiled machine, Robinson steps off of Yarou to rotate to Patterson’s man (Isaiah Armwood) which now allows McGhee to rotate back to Yarou and the defense comes away with another stop.
Watching this rotation, its easy to see why Pitt is one of the top defenses in the country. They recognize the proper rotations and sprint to the open man to cover for their teammates.
Over the past few games, we saw Pitt get exposed on the pick and roll by several teams. I think this is their one glaring weakness on defense but this new rotation is a step in shoring that part of their team up. They are smart enough to recognize the proper rotations and with McGhee working hard to hedge on the ballhandler and his teammates rotating behind him, Pitt is improving on their pick and roll defense.
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