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View Full Version : Was last year's defense just an anomaly



Murphy outgo lifer
12-17-2017, 01:09 AM
I am starting to think that the progress we made last year in terms of defense, 3pt defense, and game planning for and effectively taking away the other teamís best option was an anomaly. We have returned to average overall defense, terrible 3pt defense, and we are back to giving up career nights to the other teamís best player. In fact, not only the other teamís best player but often times their second best player as well.

Texas Southern: Demontrae Jefferson 20 Points
Utah State: Sam Merrill 19 Points (second highest scoring night)
Florida: Hudson 35 Points (Career High), Chiozza 26 Points (Career High), Allen 23 Points
Texas: Jones 18 Points (Tied for Career high), Coleman 19 Points (Career High)
Creighton: Foster 21 Points, Thomas 18 Points
Villanova: Bridges: 28 Points (Career High), Booth 20 Points (Tied for Career High)
North Dakota: Crandall 28 Points (4th highest), Seales 23 Points (second highest scoring night)

I know an often used strategy is to focus on shutting down teams 2nd and 3rd options and force one player to beat a team, however, we have allowed career performances by not only teams first option but consistently its second as well. This reminds me of some of our past teams that have been unable to game-plan effectively and shut-down a teamís hot player and as a result have had early exits from the big dance: Curry against Western Kentucky, Fredette against BYU, Baker and VanVleet against Wichita State immediately come to mind but others like Wesley Johnsonís 31 Points against 2010 Syracuse Lawson 19 Points and Hansbrough 24 Points against North Carolina, Craft and Sullinger against Ohio State were also times where we were unable to limit the other teamís best options.

Those compared to last year where we consistently shut-down the opposing teamís best options and made them play our game; we controlled Adrian and Carter against WVU, we completely shut down Bluiett against Xavier and Thornwell from South Carolina.

So far this year we look more like the previous yearís teams where when we run into a good team we allow them to execute their game plan and fail to take away their strengths. Unfortunately, as we have seen in the past that is not a recipe for success in the tournament as every team has one, two, or three stars. That combined with our terrible 3-point defense makes me wonder how far we really can go in the tournament (and if we wonít drop 2 or 3 games, if not more, in conference).

Utah State: Made 11 3ís and shot 40.7%
Florida: Made 17 3ís and shot 47.2%
Texas: Made 8 3ís and shot 36.4%
Incarnate Word: Made 9 3ís and shot 50%
Creighton: Made 12 3ís and shot 48%
Villanova: Made 10 3ís and shot 47.6%
Washington: Made 10 3ís and shot 36.8%
North Dakota: Made 9 3ís and shot 39.1%

To say we have been awful in our 3 point defense is an amazing understatement. We rank 320 in 3-Point FG% at 39.3%. To be honest I was excited earlier in the season because we have so much talent and a lot of room to grow but I am really starting to wonder if last year was just an anomaly and now we are reverting back to the mean on 3-point defense and executing a game-plan for the other teamís best players.

With all that being said this team has been battle tested so far in non-conference and they are not afraid to play in the championship minutes of a game. Their potential this year is limited only by their defense and if they can make that a consistent presence they have the offense to challenge anyone. It will be the defense, however, that allows them to make it deep into the tournament and I hope they can get it figured out.

I have to think that last years defense had a lot to do with NWG and his preparation and ability to execute the coaches game plan. Is that what is lacking this year? We also had Matthews who really bought in to being a hawk on defense and up to that point in his career he had been nothing to write home about on defense. Do our new guys lack the ability and knowledge to be a great defenders or do they just need to have a fire lit under their butts? If it is the former can they learn by the time the tournament comes? We are definitely missing the size and defensive ability on the inside this year compared to last. Larsen has shown some good size and ability to be a shot changer on the inside and all three of Rui, Tillie, and JW3 are extremely athletic and can block shots. Does this unit of bigs have what it takes to allow us to have an elite defense again this year?

I am curious to hear other peopleís thoughts on these questions and where they think our defense can be by the end of the year and what needs to happen to accomplish that.

FuManShoes
12-17-2017, 04:32 AM
...I am really starting to wonder if last year was just an anomaly and now we are reverting back to the mean on 3-point defense and executing a game-plan for the other teamís best players.

... It will be the defense, however, that allows them to make it deep into the tournament and I hope they can get it figured out.

... Do our new guys lack the ability and knowledge to be a great defenders or do they just need to have a fire lit under their butts? If it is the former can they learn by the time the tournament comes? We are definitely missing the size and defensive ability on the inside this year compared to last.

Great post. I've been thinking much the same and don't know the answer. Maybe the defense would be better with Larsen logging more minutes at center to take away the rim so JW3 or Tillie could provide help side D and guards could stay at home on the perimeter. But our offense is usually best when we're out and running. I think some of what's missing is communication. NWG was an amazing and very vocal court general. I don't that with these guys which is leading to or allowing far too many mistakes.

Zagger
12-17-2017, 04:36 AM
I kinda liken this bunch of Zags to a group of wild animals with no two of the same species. Few's the animal tamer and has his hands pretty full yet very active. I feel the team, and each player, is very willing to try new things and they're showing that experimentation. This combines for us not seeing them very comfy on the floor for appreciable amounts of time. I feel last year's team found their identity sooner and were able to hone it into a considerable force to recon with. This year's team is still a work in progress. I feel both O and D will improve and become more consistent once this bunch finds their groove. Last season's mix got groovy early on. I'm excited to see how the season pans out as I think it will be a rewarding one.

Bogozags
12-17-2017, 04:37 AM
Yes, you could say that...GU has not missed a “Dance” since ‘98 and we have only been to one FF and that happened to be the best defencive team we have ever had! Therefore, great defence relates to FF appearances...imo

bartruff1
12-17-2017, 05:01 AM
Freshman

GrizZAG
12-17-2017, 05:03 AM
Your post is important and valid IMO Murphy. I certainly am no expert but not a blind armchair observer either. What I have noticed over several years is how we defend the perimeter compared to the elite teams like Duke, UNC, Syracuse and so on. We tend to defend with our player back further with one arm out held high while the elite teams play hands lower, out to the side and smothering close relying on quickness laterally without fouling. It has effectively shut us down much of the time. Is it possible our coaching staff lack in seeing this nor have the knowledge of how to teach that method of very effective perimeter defense? It has looked that way to me for many years. Nigel came closest to naturally knowing how to do this or he learned it somewhere else maybe. Good and valid post. Kudos.
The observation regarding career best performances is spot on.

Outraged
12-17-2017, 05:13 AM
I am most amazed at the coatch's lack of awareness of it. To the point of bragging about not allowing 50 percent nights etc. I think the defensive coaching talent has left and that void has not yet been filled.

CdAZagFan
12-17-2017, 06:47 AM
Last year was an anomaly in the fact that we had two stud 7 footers guarding the lane and a ton of talent on the perimeter to get after people on the outside. This year they have a ton of talent, but I believe without that great interior play, it is going to be tougher on the defense...

Zagricultural
12-17-2017, 06:59 AM
People forget how good Jordan, Nigel, karno, and Collins were on D.

I also think our mantra of"tough twos" needs adjusting. Today's players shoot the three better than ever

FuManShoes
12-17-2017, 07:01 AM
PS - our defensive efficiency is as bad as it's been since 2011, per Kenpom. We really miss having a rim protector and elite shot blocker, but that's no excuse for the piss-poir three point defense. With the length the Zags have they should still be able to put up a top 10-20 defense. And maybe they need to expand the rotation and throw out that 3/4 court trap more often. Why not bring some havoc?

Murphy outgo lifer
12-17-2017, 07:12 AM
Great post. I've been thinking much the same and don't know the answer. Maybe the defense would be better with Larsen logging more minutes at center to take away the rim so JW3 or Tillie could provide help side D and guards could stay at home on the perimeter. But our offense is usually best when we're out and running. I think some of what's missing is communication. NWG was an amazing and very vocal court general. I don't that with these guys which is leading to or allowing far too many mistakes.

Having Larsen develop into a consistent presence down low was, in my mind, one of the ways this team could become better defensively in that it would provide more rim protection so the guards could stretch out to the perimeter more. Larsen needs work on the offensive end but he has shown solid defensive instincts and abilities including solid hedging, verticality discipline, and good timing. However, despite some pretty solid fundamentals and impressive games against talented competition (including against Villanova where he looked like he was the only person for the Zags that looked like he belonged) and statements from Few that he has earned more playing time he still doesn't have a consistent presence in the rotation for most games. Only 8 minutes last night against North Dakota and 7 minutes against Washington (albeit due to foul trouble but still Few had nothing to lose by him fouling out and he still didn't play him). All this leads me to believe that the answer will have to come from somewhere else.

Murphy outgo lifer
12-17-2017, 07:25 AM
Your post is important and valid IMO Murphy. I certainly am no expert but not a blind armchair observer either. What I have noticed over several years is how we defend the perimeter compared to the elite teams like Duke, UNC, Syracuse and so on. We tend to defend with our player back further with one arm out held high while the elite teams play hands lower, out to the side and smothering close relying on quickness laterally without fouling. It has effectively shut us down much of the time. Is it possible our coaching staff lack in seeing this nor have the knowledge of how to teach that method of very effective perimeter defense? It has looked that way to me for many years. Nigel came closest to naturally knowing how to do this or he learned it somewhere else maybe. Good and valid post. Kudos.
The observation regarding career best performances is spot on.

I think the staff deliberately teaches the hands up, further back approach due to mostly having less athletic players with less lateral quickness. This approach allows our players to be able to stay in front of their man better by being further away while still having a hand up to help prevent 3's due to the probable more attempts from giving more space. This last year we had better athletes with NWG - as evidenced by his fastest lane agility time at the draft combine- and Jordan Matthews playing the up close smothering type of defense despite his lack of natural athleticism which he was probably able to do because we had great rim protectors down low.

We also had Meech and Gary Bell play this type of hawking, up-close defensive style for years which is why they were considered our best defenders. I guess my question is if we could get Jordan Matthews, despite his limited athleticism, to play that type of defense, why can't we get guys like Perkins, Norvell, Kispert, and Rui to play that type of defense. Why is it also that with JW3's strength, athleticism, quickness, vertical, and timing that he can't provide a similar presence down low to discourage drives. Same with Tillie, even though he lacks size, he still has great timing, length, and a great vertical.

Murphy outgo lifer
12-17-2017, 07:46 AM
I am most amazed at the coatch's lack of awareness of it. To the point of bragging about not allowing 50 percent nights etc. I think the defensive coaching talent has left and that void has not yet been filled.

I know when we had Ken Bone on the sidelines last season that he brought a lot of knowledge on defense and helped make that a priority. I cannot seem to find where he is coaching now or if he is still with the Zags. If he is not still there I hope the emphasis on D did not leave with him.

peg645
12-17-2017, 07:48 AM
It would help if someone were within ten feet of a guy ready to shoot a 3.

Murphy outgo lifer
12-17-2017, 07:58 AM
Freshman

I have no doubt in my mind that this a huge contributor to our lackluster defense at times this year. You can see clearly that Norvell and Rui are screwing up rotations and it leads to wide open 3's. Also Kispert and Norvell (possibly Rui too but not sure) are having a hard time keeping players in front of them.

So my question is how long does it take to improve the defensive abilities of freshman? Rui and Norvell have been here for a year so they should be a little bit above the curve. I am wondering if they can make huge improvement by March or is it a minor improvement this year and hopefully bigger improvement over the summer.

cjm720
12-17-2017, 08:11 AM
Karnowski and NWG are tough replacements.

MontanaCoyote
12-17-2017, 08:13 AM
A clogged middle makes all the difference as some posters have noted. How many of those drives inside by Seales and Crandell last night would have even been attempted knowing a Karno or a Collins was waiting for them? Plus having to get around a Nigel or Matthews.

Some of the 3's are just going to be made, even with a Zag all over his man. It's the open one's and the running, leaping, arms and hands up, getting back to your man too late one's that get me. Why/how this happens I don't know. But someone does and should do something about it.

GrizZAG
12-17-2017, 11:18 AM
While ND showed us a couple of amazing shooters that probably would have given any team fits it still doesn't negate the OP point of a known pattern for us. Those guys were lights out even when contested yesterday. It is still a head scratcher that we beat Creighton by 17 and they beat UND by 47 then we nearly got beat by that same team. Go figure.

willandi
12-17-2017, 12:26 PM
Another factor to consider, about last years defense, was that the Zags only had 3 freshmen in the playing rotation, Collins, Tillie and Rui.

Collins was good at the rim Tillie and Rui not so much, especially on the perimeter.

It takes time for the perimeter defense to develop.

Skimhvn
12-17-2017, 12:45 PM
Rui was not in the rotation lol.

JPtheBeasta
12-17-2017, 12:59 PM
It would help if someone were within ten feet of a guy ready to shoot a 3.

That’s my sentiment, as well. We have bigs running out from under the basket to contest at times. Somebody is missing their assignment way to often, it seems.

This current team could be much better than they are, and it seems to be a weakest link in the chain situation. Unfortunately, Kispert, Rui, and Norvell are all in the same boat, and you have to go to the 4th guy in Jones for a solid team defense.

That said, North Dakota not only hit tough, contested shots but also hit several circus shots.

willandi
12-17-2017, 01:13 PM
Rui was not in the rotation lol.

You are right, he wasn't in the rotation, but he did get playing time, as did Jeremy Jones...but he was a sophomore (redshirt).

TexasZagFan
12-17-2017, 01:53 PM
Dare I say it? Last year was an anomaly, a big effing anomaly. Unfair to compare the two squads.

Our starters were two seniors, two juniors, and a sophomore. J3 was able to play his natural position, power forward. This team was historic in terms of talent and hoops IQ, but we were moaning about turnovers at this time last year.

I'm "enjoying" the evolution of this year's team. Who knows what to expect game in, game out? I do know this team is incredibly athletic, hustles for 40+ minutes, and the starting guards are 7-2 in the NCAA tournament. This team will never quit, and won't be intimidated. We have two freshmen who are unafraid to take their shots in any situation.

Last night was another learning experience for the team, they can't take anything/anyone for granted. Coaching staff will drill that lesson home.

Me? I didn't enjoy the game at all. I was forced into service, constructing a Hershey's chocolate cookie train set. The instructions sucked, it took me 20 minutes to find a YouTube video that met my needs, it was a freaking disaster. Just like the game, all's well that ends well.

bballbeachbum
12-17-2017, 08:26 PM
good post Texas although I enjoyed the game! great game for this team to have to go through to win seems to me

don't think it takes a basketball scientist to see the difference in this year's defense. it all starts in the paint, just recall the numerous varied defensive game plans last year designed often around running shooters off the 3 point line with minimal perimeter help to force the dribbler into rim protectors with no outlets so they had to shoot. need the right players to execute that as effectivley as the Zags did last year around the rim

In a nutshell, they don't have those paint players this year to back up the defensive evolution that went down while Karno was here, my opinion.

So for example, when someone gets beat off the bounce after forcing the dribble with no rim protection inside and gets burned, maybe next time he backs off just a little so that doesn't happen again, and then boom, the 3 is open.

but so what. these Zags have other things, it will have to be different, and we knew that. yes, the Zags are long and athletic which bodes well defensively, just look at the press last nigth with Rui and JJ doing work at the head, but it's not like last year.

ehk 21
12-17-2017, 11:20 PM
Of course it was an anomaly. Everything from last season was an anomaly. For almost every Division I school on the planet an appearance in the Championship Game is, almost by definition, an anomaly and should not be considered an expectation.

TheGonzagaFactor
12-18-2017, 06:43 AM
I think the staff deliberately teaches the hands up, further back approach due to mostly having less athletic players with less lateral quickness. This approach allows our players to be able to stay in front of their man better by being further away while still having a hand up to help prevent 3's due to the probable more attempts from giving more space. This last year we had better athletes with NWG - as evidenced by his fastest lane agility time at the draft combine- and Jordan Matthews playing the up close smothering type of defense despite his lack of natural athleticism which he was probably able to do because we had great rim protectors down low.

We also had Meech and Gary Bell play this type of hawking, up-close defensive style for years which is why they were considered our best defenders. I guess my question is if we could get Jordan Matthews, despite his limited athleticism, to play that type of defense, why can't we get guys like Perkins, Norvell, Kispert, and Rui to play that type of defense. Why is it also that with JW3's strength, athleticism, quickness, vertical, and timing that he can't provide a similar presence down low to discourage drives. Same with Tillie, even though he lacks size, he still has great timing, length, and a great vertical.

This team looks worse than it is defensively because of how amazing last year's defense was.

We had the huge presence down low in Karno, the versatile, quick defender in Williams, then you had Tillie and Collins off the bench. It was ridiculous interior defense, we could switch everything, and no one ever dealt with fatigue due to the deep rotation. This meant guards NEVER had to help down low AT ALL. Never. If a guard got burned on a drive, they could simply go find an open opponent on the perimeter just to take away the second chance (or start the break in the likely case that Collins or Tillie swatted the guard driving to the rim).

I don't think the defense was an anomaly, the personnel was. The capabilities of a 4 man rotation of Karno, Williams, Collins, Tillie are almost endless. That might be the best 4 player big man tandem in NCAA history. Might have had two lottery picks, known for their length/athleticism, coming off the bench. We are lucky we ever got to see that. Not to mention we had our best defensive guard ever in NWG.

Coming into this season I was terrified at the youth this team has in the rotation. We have several young players that I am excited about, but I was scared of what it'd look like with so many first year guys playing significant roles. The defense, which is hopelessly bad at times, is the manifestation of all the inexperience. I think we have the individual pieces but we will see how they develop together. I think we'll see a pretty good defensive team by March. We can't expect a top 10 defense every year (or ever again for that matter) but I do think these guys end up being pretty solid on that end.

TexasZagFan
12-18-2017, 08:28 AM
Nice post GF. If Larsen can continue his development, I could envision Jacob, J3, and Tillie on the court at the same time. That would leave Josh and a pairing of Silas, Zach, or Corey in the backcourt. IMO the rotation is still a work in progress, probably until February. Last year was another anomaly, the rotation was set in mid-December.

WallaWallaZag
12-18-2017, 08:54 AM
Nice post GF. If Larsen can continue his development, I could envision Jacob, J3, and Tillie on the court at the same time. That would leave Josh and a pairing of Silas, Zach, or Corey in the backcourt. IMO the rotation is still a work in progress, probably until February. Last year was another anomaly, the rotation was set in mid-December.

i can't see tillie at the 3 unless the other team also has a big wing...tillie would foul out in 5 minutes if he has to defend a smaller quicker guard...north dakota took advantage of him on every switch to go 1-4 iso

willandi
12-18-2017, 08:59 AM
Nice post GF. If Larsen can continue his development, I could envision Jacob, J3, and Tillie on the court at the same time. That would leave Josh and a pairing of Silas, Zach, or Corey in the backcourt. IMO the rotation is still a work in progress, probably until February. Last year was another anomaly, the rotation was set in mid-December.


i can't see tillie at the 3 unless the other team also has a big wing...tillie would foul out in 5 minutes if he has to defend a smaller quicker guard...north dakota took advantage of him on every switch to go 1-4 iso

I could see a front court rotation of J3, Tillie, Larsen and Rui, much like the 4 man the Zags had last year.

zag67
12-18-2017, 12:44 PM
For my 2 cents.

I also agree that the 4 bigs we had last year plus NWG, Mathews, Melson and Perkins put on a lot of pressure all over the court. At times they played like they knew the moves of the rest of our defense before it even happened.

This year we have JW3 and Tillie in the middle right now, but as the season goes on I think that Larsen is going to be the key to our defense. With him in the middle, then our guards can play closer to the off guard and therefore not let them get their open shots with no pressure early. When a shooter gets one or two open shots, then they believe that they can make anything. Our young guards are also learning how far they can be off and still be in position to harass the outside shooter. They will learn more as the year goes on, they might not be great but will end up being solid.

Next year with the freshmen (Foster and Petrusev) coming in plus adding redshirts Clarke and Ayayi, we have a solid set of new defensive players. Clarke and Ayayi will have had a year practicing with it and understanding when and how to switch will make them ready at the beginning of the season. Then we have Larsen, Perkins, Wade, Norvell, Jones, and Rui (I am assuming that Tillie goes pro) who will have a year's experience. This will give us lots of speed, length, and athletic players who can attack all over the court.

I am looking forward to watching a super year of GU basketball and then into next year. Go ZAGS.