Archive for the ‘Defensive Strategies’ Category
Vanderbilt relied on a part of their game that has struggled so far in the early part of their season, their defense. They held Marquette to 0.83 points per possession, their second best defensive efficiency of the season (behind December 21st’s 0.82 PPP by Lafayette) and Marquette’s worst offensive output by far. Much of this can be attributed to the presence of Festus Ezeli guarding the rim but the performance against Marquette was a total team effort.
The defense of Vanderbilt was designed to give up three point shots to the Golden Eagles while taking away dribble penetration. They showed some pack line defense principles throughout the game as they sagged off the three point line while closing any lanes to the rim. This caused Marquette to settle for many three point shots, as they were not aggressive in trying to create lanes for penetration.
Tony Bennett’s teams have been very strong defensively, despite a lack of athletic wings and dominant shotblockers in the majority of the past 5+ years. Bennett relies on the packline defense to compensate for his teams weaknesses, which is a man to man defense with a few specific principles. The defense will put heavy pressure on the ball when it is beyond the three point line but the help defense will sag below the three point line, taking away dribble penetration.
Since the gap in athleticism of the guards makes it difficult for the primary defenders to stay in front of the ball, the help defense has to work extra hard to discourage penetration. The primary defender will put heavy pressure on the ball to make it difficult on the ball handler, with the knowledge that their teammates are available to help if they get beat off the dribble. This forces the defense t0 leave the three point line open, allowing teams to shoot well from beyond the arc against Bennett coached teams historically (range of 33.1% to 36.3% in the 5 years prior to 2011-12).
You can see in the following frames how Virginia packs their defense below the three point line. This clogs the space below the arc and helps defend against dribble penetration.
Memphis loves to get the ball to the rim for easy buckets and was using this gameplan to hang with Michigan for most of the first half of their opening round game of the Maui Invitational. Memphis’ explosiveness of the dribble was trouble for the Michigan guards, so John Beilein went to a zone for the last few minutes of the first half and the majority of the second half. Their zone was effective in slowing the tempo of Memphis and limiting their ability to drive.
Michigan played a 1-3-1 zone for most of the time and their positioning in the zone took away the driving lanes that were there early in the first half. They trapped the ball on the perimeter when it was passed below the foul line extended. Their main goal was not to force turnovers but to slow down the offense of the Tigers and force them to keep passing the ball around the arc.
Disregarding their awful opening game against Purdue, where Iona allowed 1.13 points per possessions, they have been a fairly strong defensive team so far this season, allowing .95 and .87 points per possessions in their two other games, against Western Michigan and Maryland, respectively. Iona usually plays a 2-1-2 press before dropping back into a 3-2 matchup zone. Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses of this defense.
Here are two clips showing the matchup defense of Iona. In the first, you can see Iona lined up in their 2-1-2 press before dropping back into the zone. In the Maryland game, Iona matched up with Sean Mosley and Terrell Stoglin and chased these players, the best Maryland offensive players, around the court. The goal is to not let these players find the holes in the zone, so when they cut through the zone, a defensive player will shadow them until they can pass them off to a teammate.
Through three games, opponents are shooting 28.3% (17/60) from beyond the arc, a big reason why their worst defensive game was against Kansas, where they posted a strong defensive efficiency of 87.5. Their ability to defend the three point shot and challenge many of these shots allows them to take away other aspects of the opponent’s offensive arsenal.
The athleticism of the Wildcat players and their closing speed gives them the ability to take away the pick and roll. The screener’s man can hedge on the ball screen and take away any penetration if the guard tries to turn into the lane. If the screener pops to the three point line after the screen, the help defender has the ability to close on the shooter and challenge the shot.
Kyle Wiltjer demonstrates this in the first play highlighted below. Watch as he hedges on the ball screen to not allow Tim Frazier to get open off the screen before recovering to challenge the outside shot by his man.
After opening the season with 24 points against Oregon, Jenkins was stifled in a loss to Cleveland State as he was frustrated into 17 points on 5-14 shooting (2-8 from long distance). This defense on Jenkins was a main reason Cleveland State was able to walk away with a win. Let’s see how they managed to slow down Jenkins.
The first key aspect of the defense of the Vikings lack of help on Jenkins when a Vandy player penetrated. They did not want to let Jenkins get open looks and chose to have his defender stay glued to him instead of helping on penetration. The defender in the following frame (boxed in red) would normally help on Jeffrey Taylor, the driving player. Cleveland State was content to let everyone but Jenkins shoot, so they instructed the defense not to help off Jenkins.
Both of the following plays result in two free throws for Vanderbilt, a positive result for the offense. However, the defense of Cleveland State is not upset with this outcome because they did not allow Jenkins to get an open look at a three point shot, which could put him in a rhythm.
In the second half of their game against Duke, Belmont began to put extended pressure on Duke, which helped keep them in the game, as the pressure helped force turnovers and bad shots by Duke. This is only one game, so we can’t no for certain whether Belmont will continue to use this pressure but the fact that it worked well against Duke made me think they will show it in spurts the whole season.
When Belmont brings the extended pressure after a made basket or a dead ball situation, they like to double team the ball handler and force him to do one of two things. The first one is obvious. By putting two defenders on the ball, they hope to force a turnover to lead to an easy basket. They don’t put both defenders right in the ball handler’s face as they want to keep the offensive player in front when a guard has the ball.
Although they did not get a turnover on this play, it is a good illustration of how Belmont likes to pressure a guard. By having two defenders on the ball, they can force the offensive player (Tyler Thornton in this play) to cross over multiple times in the backcourt. Each time they force him to cross over, there is a teammate there to continue applying pressure.
VCU will have some trouble replacing their lost pieces, mainly Joey Rodriguez and Jamie Skeen. This showed in their opening game struggle, a narrow 63-57 win over St. Francis (PA). After the Red Flash hit a 3 point shot to pull within 3, they elected to play defense with under a minute left on the game clock. VCU ran the shot clock down and a poor defensive rotation gave them an open three point shot to seal the game.
With the shot clock down to 6, VCU ran a pick and roll with the remaining three players on the baseline. The ideal situation for St. Francis was a turnover, so they doubled the ball handler off the ball screen. However, none of the help defenders rotated over to the screener, which ultimately killed their chances of a win.
Coming off the ball screen, Darius Theus finds himself doubled and nearly turns the ball. He manages to scrape a pass to Bradford Burgess, who is left open. One of the help defenders should have been rotating toward Burgess when he saw the trap on Theus. My pick would be for the corner defender to start rotating toward the middle. This will help the team better defend the play if Burgess receives the pass.
Wake Forest had a historically bad defense last season, posting a 106.9 adjusted defensive efficiency which was ranked 256th in the nation and is by far the worst single season ACC defense posted in Ken Pomeroy’s database, which dates back to 2003. Many things went wrong on defense for Wake last season and we are going to look at two of the major ones today.
Not cutting off penetration
One of the biggest mistakes made by the Wake Forest defense last season was not moving their feet to cut of penetration and settling for a half hearted reach in as the offensive player drives to the rim.
In the first clip of the sequence below, Travis McKie nonchalantly reaches in on Jontel Evans while Evans is driving to the rim. Instead of moving his feet to get in front of Evans and cut him off, he is more concerned with preventing a three point shot from Sammy Zeglinski, a 39% 3 point shooter. McKie does little to slow down Evans, who can easily get to the rim for a layup.
In the last post, we saw how Ohio State uses Jared Sullinger in their offense and a few ways he works to get open in the post. I argued that Sullinger’s post moves were not very advanced but I still think teams should focus on keeping him out of the post. This post will focus on strategies to keep Sullinger, or any big man, from getting good position in the post.
Bump him before the block
The first step in keeping Sullinger off the block is to meet him while he is moving toward the block and bump him. This will hopefully throw off his timing and the timing of the play. Look at this first play against Illinois. OSU tries to run a variation of a play we saw in the first post, with Sullinger setting a ball screen before rubbing off Dallas Lauderdale to flash to the opposite block.
However, in this play, Sullinger’s defender gets in his path right after he sets the second screen. This little bump slows down Sullinger enough that he cannot rub his defender off Lauderdale. His defender stays close to him the whole time, giving him no room to get to the block.
This allows the defender to stay in front of Sullinger as he flashes to the left block and he is able to take away any entry pass. It wasn’t too much contact to draw the attention of the referees, but it was just enough to throw off the timing of the play and allow the defender to stay in front of Sullinger.