"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

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Defense Issue: a guest column

We're pleased to welcome another guest post from Dr. Blackheart. You may recall that Dr. Blackheart contributed two guest posts in September and one in December. His first post looked at offensive efficiency and turnovers. The second one predicted low three percent percentages and guessed at the starting lineup. The December post looked at the early season trends for Marquette hoops.

Today the Good Doctor opines on Marquette's defense. Now, realize that while MU's defense raises questions the offense remains sublime. Consider the latest from John Gasayway of Basketball Prospectus. John notes that Marquette runs the most efficient offense in the Big East play (1.24 ppp) despite playing a brutal early stretch in conference action. As we've said all along, MU's offensive prowess is remarkable and it appears to be sustainable in the nation's best league.

Let's look further into Gasaway's analysis -- yup, MU also deploys the one of the least efficient defenses in the Big East (1.13ppp). But again, considering the early competition and MU's recent effort against Notre Dame, it appears the Warriors might be in position to improve its offense-to-defense efficiency margin as it moves through conference play. This would be a good thing. And the best way to do that of course is by improving the defense since MU already has a top 10 offense, nationally.

With that I'll turn things over to Dr. Blackheart for a look at Marquette's defense. MUScoop enthusiasts will recognize today's guest column -- it was originally posted on the Scoop earlier this week.


I will chime in here on my interpretation of what Buzz likes to do on D. I think of it this way: He is like the Lovie Smith of Hoops--a Tampa Two analogy. Zone the receivers in boxes/areas, play for turnovers, pressure the passer, constrict the running game, double team the ball once received looking for a turnover. Defense is an efficiency play to feed the offense with turnovers. It is not a stop defense, in my opinion.

First and foremost, Buzz pressures the point guard from three-quarter court. He wants to use up 10 seconds of the shot clock getting the ball up to delay opponents' offensive flow, and he wants the ball out of the playmaker's hands as soon as the PG passes mid-court.

Second, Buzz wants shooters to receive the ball on the wing as they typically cannot create for themselves and are trappable. When MU traps that leaves the cross-court wing open as the help-side defender slides toward the middle to stop a drive if the wing reverses it back to the PG. Where MU gets burned is with a quick ball reversal to the open wing for an open look, but hopefully rushed. MU has been slow to rotate in these instances.

Third, we typically back the post but the help-side defender stays closer to the post to try to deny or double in the paint. MU's bigs are space eaters as their goal is simply to protect the paint. In the Revealed video, you saw Buzz reaming Junior Cadougan on being slow to the rotation down low to set blocking positioning just out of the paint to constrict a wing driver. In the Vandy game, the Commodores flashed the post at the end and the guards and Jae went to double the ball, leaving Otule to defend two players in the paint on what became the decisive basket. MU is still not good at any of this as a team--it seems like it is a communication thing which will come. I thought they were very good against Notre Dame, however.

Switches: MU will fight over a pick but will not generally switch. When you see Otule out on the perimeter with the picker, his goal is to stop the penetration of the dribbler and retreat. MU gets beat often on switches on backpicks--aka how the Princeton offense is so successful with their back door cuts (dribbler drives to the pick, defense doubles and picker slides to the hoop unguarded).

The reason Buzz wants switchables, which Texas A&M had during his time there, is they are athletic and strong with disruptive wingspans (hard to throw over). Buzz needs good footspeed (recovery on rotations) as well in our wing defenders. While Buzz has has wingspan today on the roster, the talent to come -- Wilson and Anderson -- are more prototypical in this regard.

Buzz's defense seems to me a bit scattered at times in terms of what he wants to scheme--perimeter, interior, in-bounding, match-up, slow rotations. And then he throws in a 3-2 zone to limit the perimeter, but we get burned inside.

The ND game I thought was a great scheme--they knew that to stop ND, you stopped their only playmaker, Ben Hansbrough. Buzz wanted to make the frosh Atkins beat him on the road, and with Carleton Scott out, MU could control/limit the paint.

But Buzz makes the big money and I am a keyboard PG, so what do I know. The team is really starting to come together but we do have a long ways to go on Team D.

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