Posts Tagged ‘Louisville’
This series will provide strategies on how defenses can best guard, or attempt to guard, some of the most dangerous offensive players and actions. Today’s post will try to show how collegiate defenses can slow down the offense of Russ Smith of Louisville.
Russ Smith took a major leap forward on the offensive end in his junior season, increasing his points per game from 11.5 to 18.7, while increasing his two point field goal percentage from 38% to 45.8% and his three point field goal percentage slightly from 30% to 32.8%. He was a key member of the Louisville national champion team and will be one of the leaders as they try to defend the title. With the departure of backcourt mate Peyton Siva, it will be interesting to see how Smith’s role changes but the one thing that is certain is that teams are going to struggle to defend him.
These strategies won’t turn Smith into a poor offensive player or stop him from having any effect on the game, however, they can provide a starting point for what defenses should focus on to slow Smith down. This isn’t an exhaustive list for defenses but hopefully it will show some building blocks for how they can make life difficult on the offensive end for Smith.
Run players at him in transition
Smith is one of the quickest players in the country with the ball, which makes him deadly in transition. Transition opportunities were where he derived most of his offense last season as Louisville ranked as the 5th fastest team on offense, according to Kenpom.com. When Smith gets the ball in the open court, he is nearly impossible to keep up with and he is able to blow past defenders on the way to the rim.
To slow down Smith, defenses need to run multiple players at him as quickly as possible once the transition opportunity materializes. Although Smith became a much more controlled player his junior season, he can still be susceptible to turnovers or rushed shots when he gets moving too fast. Flooding him with defenders could leave the defense exposed elsewhere but teams could find some success in getting the ball out of Smith’s hand in transition and forcing his teammates to beat them in this facet.
The following clips from the NCAA tournament begin to show how defenses can execute this strategy. In the first clip, after Smith picks up the loose ball, Trey Burke immediately attempts to cut him off instead of giving him a little bit of space in midcourt before taking a harder approach once Smith gets closer to the three point line. Nik Stauskas then runs toward Smith and helps finish off the turnover.
The Mikan Drill can be found on Twitter @TheMikanDrill
I really like the set Rick Pitino drew up in the locker room at the half and although it was not successful in the end, it showed how a set does not always need to be an intricate set of screens. Often a play can get an open look by simply taking advantage of how the opposition is going to defend a certain set; in this case, the pick and roll.
Starting the half, Terrence Jennings sets the ball screen for Mike Marra. Marquette switches the pick and roll, Chris Otule switches off of Jennings onto the ball, with Erik Williams now defending Jennings. Since Marquette switches, Marra cannot rub off the ball screen and get to the paint and is forced to the top of the key.
Louisville utilized a 2-3 zone defense for much of the game against West Virginia this afternoon. Louisville had major issues reacting to Kevin Jones flashing to the high post and Jones took advantage of this on his way to a career high 25 points.
Look at the space at the high post and the slow closeouts by the Louisville big men. West Virginia did a good job of spacing the floor all day against the zone to leave the high post open for Jones. Jones flashed with the intention of getting the ball and making a play and he did just that several times against the zone.
Louisville looked content to give Jones the foul line jump shot and not allow him to drive to the basket. This seems to be a viable strategy if they wanted to keep their big men out of foul trouble but their defense on the high post was still too soft. They often gave Jones an arm’s length of space after the catch, which is too much against a good offensive player like Jones.
If you saw the Louisville – Syracuse game today, you saw a clinic put on by Louisville on offense for the first 25 minutes or so. I thought Doris Burke did a great job of breaking down why they were having success, including showing the patience by the team and getting the ball to the middle of the zone.
One thing I want to focus on is the movement by the perimeter players. Sometimes I will see an offense space the three guards well around the three point line but they will simply pass the ball around, while at a stand still. This makes them easy to guard and renders the offense less effective as the defense does not have to move far to guard the offense.
Louisville did an excellent job of moving their guards around and it got them plenty of open looks from beyond the arc. I wanted to highlight a few possessions where they did this exceptionally well.
In what was a near improbable comeback win the Cardinals today against Marquette, it was a late layup that gave them the go ahead points. I thought it was a nice play design, helped by a Marquette defensive lapse.
The 2-3 zone is a defense you will see often in college basketball. It can confuse a team in short bursts or show to be effective over the game (see, Syracuse Orange). However, with a few key concepts, a zone is not that difficult to break down. Even without the defensive 3 seconds rule, there are plenty of gaps in the zone that can be exploited.
First, I want to show what a poor offense looks like against the zone. It features lazy passes around the 3 point line, no movement within the zone and no penetration. See the clip:
Sure, Arizona got an open 3 point shot, but it came without even trying to penetrate the zone for a 2 point attempt. Chase Budinger and Nic Wise were content to pass the ball out top and Jordan Hill did not work to get open at the foul line. Stay with me after the break to see a few ways to break the zone.