Marquette gets burned by not committing to the double team on Zeller
It was evident early on that UNC had a clear advantage in the frontcourt and they were going to try to exploit this advantage early and often against Marquette. Less than a minute into the ballgame, we saw Tyler Zeller get the ball on the left block, with John Henson positioned across the lane. You can see the rest of the UNC players spaced around the three point line.
Marquette is clearly not going to help off the perimeter players, as you can see that the remaining players are closely guarded. I found it odd that they did not dig on Zeller, which would leave Marshall open, but that was clearly Buzz Williams’ game plan. He was going to send help from the opposite big and lock down the shooters.
Marquette sends help across the lane from Henson’s man, Erik Williams. It looks like he is going to double Zeller but Williams does not commit to the double team, which leaves Marquette vulnerable. Williams has two options here: His first option is to double hard initially on Zeller and completely leave Henson. He will have to put pressure on Zeller to make a pass out of the double team difficult and rely on his teammates to rotate down to try to stop Henson from cutting to the rim.
His second option is to not double Zeller but to just be in help position if Zeller turns into the lane. This would allow him to prevent any cuts to the rim by Henson and give him enough time to close out on Henson if Zeller makes the pass over the top to Henson on the baseline.
Instead, Williams is caught in a moment of indecision and UNC takes advantage. Williams starts to show a hard double but does not go all the way and pressure Zeller nor does he put himself in position to close out on Henson. Look at his positioning here: Zeller is not bothered at all as he is trying to make the pass to Henson and Williams is a step too far into the lane to be able to close out to Henson, who is perfectly spaced about 15 feet from the rim on the baseline.
Williams has to choose one of the two options I listed above. Instead, he waffles between doubling and just playing help defense off of Henson. This puts him in no man’s land, allowing Zeller to make a wide open pass to Henson for the open 15 foot baseline jump shot.
Credit UNC for having perfect with Zeller and Henson. If Williams doubles hard, Henson can cut to the rim. If he doesn’t, he can float around 15 feet for the jump shot. The issue with the defense here is that Williams gets stuck in the middle between doubling Zeller and just playing help defense on Henson. He puts no ball pressure on Zeller, allowing him to make the easy pass to Henson, who buries the jump shot before Williams can recover.
Either of these options would be fine in this situation, as long as the entire defense knows what the help defender is going to do so they can react and rotate. However, Williams did not commit to the double team and the defense is left exposed and UNC take advantage.