Archive for the ‘Team Breakdowns’ Category
Georgia State is one of the early surprises so far this season, as Ron Hunter is leading a team that has reeled off 11 straight wins, including three in the Colonial Athletic Association after dropping the first three games of the season. They are doing it with defense, as they have a 87.1 overall defensive efficiency, 11th in the country, and a 67.6 efficiency in the country, putting them at the top of the conference.
They play mainly zone defense and they show several different looks, including a 1-2-2 zone defense and a 2-3 zone, among other variations. One of the main reasons their defense has been so strong and a key to their current winning streak is their three point defense, as opponents are shooting only 30.9% against them. In their three opening losses, all three teams shot the ball above their current average from beyond the arc. In the 11 games since then, only three teams have shot better than their average from behind the three point line.
While some teams put their guards at the foul line and sit back in their zone defense, Georgia State extends the zone and forces the offense to initiate their sets from several feet beyond the three point line. With the guards pressuring the ball at the top of the key, the rest of the defenders often match up out of the zone and pack the paint.
Look at the guards pressuring the ball out past the three point line. This makes it difficult for the offense to get the ball to the weak spots in the zone, such as the high post or short corner and forces the wing players to move higher up the floor to create passing lanes for the ball handler.
The Murray State Racers are here to stay and will continue to be in the national spotlight as long as they stay undefeated. While their overall strength of schedule is not very strong, they do have a good win over Memphis to accompany some solid victories over Southern Mississippi and Dayton, proving that they are for real. Their offense is the bread and butter to their success, as they have an adjusted efficiency of 109.8, 39th in the nation. They have had only one game below one point per possession, their win against UAB where they only managed 0.95 PPP.
The offense is dominated by guard penetration, led by Isaiah Canaan, who has an offensive rating of 125.5. Murray State runs few sets but relies on pick and rolls and dribble penetration to open up the floor. They space the floor with shooters who shoot 43.5% from beyond the arc (6th in the country). This allows their guards to find lanes for their dribble drives, which helps them shoot 51% on two point shots.
Here is a shot from a drive by Zay Jackson (the second clip in the video below). You can see one of the defenders scrambling out to Canaan, a dangerous three point shooter. With no help, Jackson is able to slice through the lane to the rim. Murray State also keeps a forward on the block, who opens up to the middle of the floor when his teammate drives to be available for the dump off pass.
Over the past few seasons, Michigan State’s Draymond Green has earned endless praise for his basketball IQ, which is well deserved. However, one player with a significant amount of basketball IQ who does not get as much credit for it is Pitt’s Nasir Robinson. Nothing he does is flashy, but his moves on the court are calculated and intelligent. This fast break shows that, as Nasir Robinson recognizes the opening and exploits the defense for a layup.
After the missed shot by Notre Dame, Pitt pushes the ball down the floor and leaves three Notre Dame defenders behind the ball. The key here is that Pitt moves the ball by the way of the pass, instead of the dribble (illustrated in blue). This moves the ball quickly down the court and allows Pitt to play three on two in the frontcourt.
They have flown under the radar so far, but I have been impressed with the start by Loyola (MD), as they currently sit at 8-1, with their only loss coming in their opening game to Wake Forest. While they don’t have a signature win, they have 2-0 in MAAC conference play so far and look ready to challenge Iona and Fairfield for conference supremacy. While those two teams are still the favorite, the Greyhounds should be able to give them a run for their money.
Their adjusted offensive efficiency for all games is 102.0 (123rd in the country), while their efficiency through two conference games is 106.0, 4th in the conference. They rely on two aspects for their offense: scoring from Dylon Cormier and offensive rebounds.
Dylon Cormier dribble drives
Loyola (MD) has a near perfect allocation of possessions, as their most efficient player (who plays at least 60% of minutes), Cormier, uses the most possessions. Cormier takes 25.7% of shots and has the highest offensive rating on the team at 118.5, which is first in the conference for players using at least 24% of possessions.
Cormier averages 17.9 points per game, while posting a 57.7% effective field goal percentage, sixth in the conference. He gets a majority of his points by penetrating to the rim and finishing in traffic. The defense is surrounding him in the following frames as Cormier drives to the rim, yet he is able to finish the close range shot with several opponents surrounding him.
Against Boston University, Villanova was frustrated into an offensive efficiency of around 0.9 points per possession, well below their average of 110.6 coming into the game. Much of this was due to the zone defense of Boston, as Villanova struggled to dribble penetrate against the zone and settled for a large number of three point shots. While the offense of Boston was not enough to keep them in the game, they showed that a zone defense could cause Villanova to struggle on offense.
While some credit has to go to Boston for taking away dribble penetration, the inability of the Villanova guards to penetrate into the penetrate to open up space for the offense is a bit troubling. The defense did do a great job of not allowing penetration, as you can see from the following frame. Look at the defense shaded toward the ball, to take away the driving lanes.
This breakdown by the Kansas State defense late in the game against North Florida gave North Florida an easy layup for the lead, which nearly cost them the game. Kansas State was able to come back to the tie the game in regulation and win the game in overtime but their defensive execution on this set was horrendous. This is the second poor defensive play highlighted here from Kansas State in the last week, which is somewhat odd for a team that was giving up only 0.9 points per possession before this game. They have made some crucial mistakes on defense this week, giving their opponents easy layups at the rim and this one nearly cost them the game.
On the initial ball screen, the help defender hedged very high on the screen to take away penetration to the middle of the floor. When Jimmy Williams, the ballhandler, paused to take stock of the situation, the hedger, Thomas Gipson, stayed in place. While Gipson took away the penetration to the middle of the floor, the fact that he hedged so high and was flat footed when Williams paused took him out of the play once Williams changed direction.
Watching film later this week, Frank Martin is not going to be happy with Will Spradling in this play. Kansas State was set up in their transition defense to slow down West Virginia but a poor read by Spradling gave Kevin Jones a free pass to the rim for a dunk.
With Kansas State on offense, Spradling takes the three point attempt and the Wildcats send two players back on defense with three players crashing the glass. Although West Virginia comes away with the rebound, Kansas State should be able to prevent any easy transition baskets as they have defensive floor balance.
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 is built to attack the rim and create off the dribble to get easy shots at the rim and draw fouls. While they rely heavily on isolations, they also have certain rules ingrained into their offense to create space for the guards. Let’s look at a couple of them and how they open the floor.
Without a strong back to the basket post player, Memphis often goes five around zero to open up the middle of the floor. This puts gaps in the defense that the guards can attack. In the following frame, look how spread out the defense is as Memphis puts all five guys around the perimeter. This gives Chris Crawford space to slice through the lane for the floater.
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.