"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Brilliant coaching by Tom Crean carries the day

Marquette's overtime road victory at Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon was a testament to smart coaching and terrific execution by the players on the floor.

Coming into the game conventional wisdom was that Aaron Gray would create the toughest matchup for Marquette -- far tougher than any matchup that MU would throw at the Panthers.

That's where the conventional wisdom failed. With five full days to prepare for the game, Tom Crean's game plan made sure of that -- and the preparation put his players in a position to steal a road win.

Despite scoring eight of the Panthers' first ten points, Gray's effectiveness dwindled with each passing minute. Throughout the afternoon, the Golden Eagles dictated the flow of the game and ultimately forced Panthers' coach Jamie Dixon to bench the pre-season player of the year late in the second half in favor of a smaller, quicker lineup.

As effective as Gray was early on the offensive end, he was exposed as a gigantic defensive liability for most of the game. Taking advantage of Ousmane Barro's footspeed, Marquette ran a high screen at the top of the key during most offensive sets. Pitt rarely defended it well. With MU's guards and big men holding a decided quickness advantage, Pitt was unable to smother the ball and control tempo -- opening up higher percentage shots for the Golden Eagles.

Marquette's offensive game plan paid off. The Golden Eagles shot 44% from the field today and 40% from 3-point range. The Panthers had been holding opponents to just 40% shooting from the field and 31% from deep.

As I said in the headline -- brilliant coaching by Tom Crean. Rather than running his offense away from the hulking Gray, the Golden Eagles took it to the Panthers' best player and Gray was not up to the challenge. Then Jamie Dixon blinked.

Marquette imposed its will on the Panthers today in many respects. From the opening tip the Golden Eagles' quickness, acceleration and hustle forced Pitt out of its rhythm. The normally sure-handed Panthers turned the ball over 17 times against 17 assists -- a far cry from their NCAA leading A/TO ratio of 1.66. Pitt was averaging only 11 turnovers per game prior to today's loss.

Meanwhile, Marquette's defense held Pitt to just 42% shooting from the floor and an abominable 28% from deep. The Panthers came into the game averaging nearly 50% from the floor for the season and 40% from 3-point territory.

This is not the first time that Marquette's speed and quickness has turned an opponents' height advantage into a disadvantage. In the Golden Eagles' inaugural Big East opener last season, Steve Novak turned in the greatest individual performance in conference history with 41 points and 17 rebounds. That night, quickness and effective ball movement on offense negated the substantial height advantage from UConn (read: Boone, Adrien, Armstrong and Gay) as the Golden Eagles ran away with the victory.


Anonymous said...

"The normally sure-handed Panthers, who lead the nation in A/TO ratio, turned the ball over 17 times against MU's pressure and only mustered 17 assists. Pitt was averaging only 11 turnovers per game prior to today's loss."

Only mustered 17 assist?? Notching 17 assists in any college basketball game is a pretty good stat, and 17 assist on 23 made field goals is excellent.

I agree that MU's holding Pitt to a 1.0:1.0 A/TO ratio is exceptional and a big factor in the victory, but let's not slight Pitt's offensive efficiency by criticizing the fact that they only recorded 17 assists.

TB said...

fair enough. I should have said 'only mustered an A/TO ratio of 1:1, far below their NCAA leading average of yada yada yada'

TB said...

ok - - I broke down and just edited the piece. thanks for the feedback

Gene Frenkle said...

Your posting on Crean and his coaching VERSUS Pitt going away from Gray speaks volumes of how pathetic and lazy of a broadcaster Billy Packer is. As my previous comments suggested, I despise Packer. He is the anti-Christ of basketball announcers.

Throughout the game, he never gave MU credit for it's D or the fact that Gray couldn't stop the high screen. They (the CBS team) basically relied on Sports Illustrated Big East preview for their knowledge.

I could go on and on about that game. Heaven help me get my stereo hooked up through my speakers so I can listen to Homer broadcast games w/the mute button on Packer and company.

God I miss Al doing games for CBS.

Anonymous said...

NY Warrior...

I love the blog and read it daily. Outside of the 17 assists thing, I love all the content and how quickly you're able to update your game information.

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I agree TC outcoached Dixon, except for the last 5 minutes of regulation time. That is about the time MU went to the prevent offense. MU suddenly lost the groove they were in and as a result lost the lead. Hopefully, TC learns a lesson from that.

TB said...

Maybe I am in the minority here, but I think some of the blame goes to DJ here -- and credit to Pitt's defense too.

When Gray was out of the game late, the Panthers played their best defense of the afternoon. MU's high picks were much less effective, so our guards could not create the openings they did earlier in the game. Yet there were at least two (three?) occassions late where DJ had a mismatch on the perimeter (remember that awful three when he shot it over Vanilla Ice?) that he failed to recognize -- and settled for a 'J' over a drive. MU still had good matchups late but Pitt's look was different -- perhaps the guys on the floor were slow to recognize it.