10/15/2012 9:30 AM (edited)
Hats off to Carl for winning 3 games in a row vs. 30+ win teams.  Very impressive.  I have to admit, I studied his team quite a bit yesterday and grew increasingly skeptical (worried?) that I could pull it off. 

I thought I would share my thoughts.  Any comments are welcome, as I really enjoyed game planning this one against such a good coach. 

I suspected it would be a very close game. First task to overcome:  his defense held teams like Johnson and Wales, Hardin-Simmons to 37% FG and 43% FG (respectively).  I felt my team wasn't as good offensively as either of those teams.  My strategy was to attempt very few 3 point shots since no one seemed to have any success against him in that area.  I also noticed that for almost every game he went +2, 2-3 zone.  I increased the distro slightly to my guards, hoping they could find creases in the zone inside the 3 point arch.  No player was set to more than -1 on the 3 point shooting.  I hoped this would allow them to take advantage of obviously good 3 point shooting looks, but not go crazy since many teams were shooting below 30% against his defense from 3 point land.  To some extent this did work - except J Clark was 1/5 from 3 land.  I still haven't read all the play by play to see if his shots were good decisions.

Second task to overcome.  I noticed that is seemed some teams were getting into foul trouble against him, especially press teams.  A few games this season my guards fouled out....  So I put 3 players (2 guards and a forward) settings to "less aggressive" on foul trouble.  Unfortunately this didn't help my star PG, Valera who fouled out the last minute of the game.  Nonetheless, the damage was done - he was limited to 18 minutes, when he is fully capable of going mid-20s.... and my back up guards leave a lot to be desired on willingness to play defense.

Secondly, I decided for the first time this year to go slow-down.  I did this for 2 reasons:  I wanted to limit possessions to protect my players from foul trouble, and I wanted my best 5 players in the game as much as possible.  I wasn't sure if his bench was better or not than mine (both are young in certain positions) but I though my starting 5 was pretty dang good and my best chance to win.  Giving them a few extra minutes due to less fatigue seemed like a good idea.  The problem was I didn't know what my team would do exactly (I never ran slow down ALL season - note to self - don't do that again).  But after looking at several other press/motion teams this season (like Rivier, J&W) I found a few examples of them running slow down... and it seemed to work okay.  I also routinely run slow down with my D2 squad and it seems helpful.  My biggest concern was shot selection:  does running slow down make you team take a bad shot, since time is short?  I still don't know the answer to that question.

Another side effect of running slow down would be less possessions for Defiance.  Normally, this isn't desired with a pressing team - my goal is to create easy baskets by steals, etc.  However, I could not find any times that he turned the ball over.... this really had me flummoxed.  I mean, if the press doesn't work - what's the point?  Also, my defense had never put the lock down on teams quite like his team had.... Since he didn't seem to turn the ball over much - even against bionic like defenses such as J&W - I figured limiting his possessions would be more in my benefit than his. 

Lastly, I put in my best rebounders at SF, PF and C.  This is Defiance's biggest weakness that I could find.  I hoped to gain a few extra possessions.  I did win the rebound battle by 5.  I also felt his interior defense was very good so I wanted to avoid my forwards shooting that much.  They are acceptable, but not great LP players.  Unfortunately, this did not pan out like I hoped.  I really wanted my guards to drive and shoot.  I'll have to check the play by play, but it looks like my forwards (SF, PF, C) shot too much.  They were 7/23 for 30.4%..... while the starting guards were 8/17 (47%).  My back-up guards weren't any help though - 4/13 (30.7%).  However, one of my back-up guards was playing at the SF position - I have no idea if that hurt him.  The other guard, Clark, just jacked up 3s, and of course was 1/5.

Another challenge was determining who he would start and where he would put Bowman.  I guessed PF was most likely, but not a given.  I guessed right on that one, and despite the fact press is different than M2M, I still try to put my best defensive players against the best opponents offensive dude (assuming I don't want to exploit a weakness of the other teams weak link, if there is one). 

A few final thoughts:  ironically, Millsaps used to be zone team.  Usually zone seems to give up big time from 3 point land.  Carl has solved that puzzle somehow, making for an extremely formidable team.  Also, I have started to think that a good way to attack the press is to go inside.  He has such good LP players, that was  concern.  He certainly won that battle though.

In the end, I thought it would be a vitural coin flip if my strategies worked.... I figured it was like 45% chance for Millsaps to win.  Alas, it was not my night in the end.
But after losing four really solid seniors last season, I didn't expect this team to do nearly this well.  My only regret is Carl gets a lot more cash from WIS to feed his hobby, and I end up with a mere 2 free seasons.... ;]
 
10/15/2012 12:34 PM
Great analysis Brian. I did the same in my game vs. Defiance. I figured with my superior rebounding, 90+ per shooters that I had a 60-40 chance of winning this game. If he packed the lane, I had the 3, if he didn't, then I had better rebounding and my AA PF down in the post. Much different for HS than past seasons where I had no low post presence. You had good reasons not to go uptempo, and I never run up tempo but considered it. I thought my bench could take advance of his bench, but in the end I chose not to, mainly because my team stamina wasn't so great, especially since I run press.

Congratz to Defiance on the NT, especially with that young bench. I hope to duplicate your success next season.
10/15/2012 12:55 PM
Really interesting to read, Brian.  I don't have my planning notes with me but can put what I remember here.

First, I thought the game was going to boil down to Bowman and Valera.  I know they weren't matched up against each other, but each was clearly the best player on his team, so I thought whichever one of them had the better game was going to take his team to the title.

I thought about doubling Valera, but he is a good passer and good from the line so I thought that would be a losing tactic.  In the end I decided to write off the rebounds and keep the defense extended (+2 is what I usually use anyway) to hope to hold him down.  I also changed back to normal tempo instead of the slowdown from my two previous games thinking that this would lower his minutes.  While some of your other guards are good, no one else is at his level.  In fact, I am not sure anyone else in D3 is, he was the best individual player we faced this year.  So I even thought about going uptempo to wear him out.  But I didn't want to go uptempo because my fourth guard is much weaker than my top three and I didn't want him playing heavy minutes against your press.

Besides Bowman, I thought my best offense options were Cooper, Fields, and Mitchell.  Cooper and Fields did not do much but Mitchell had a huge game with 11 points in only 13 minutes when Bowman needed a rest.  Third options were Baccus and Wood but neither did anything.

I purposefully gave Lundstrom almost no share of the distro because I didn't want him wasting energy shooting.  I needed his 96 BH and A+ IQ to deal with the press.  That paid off as he only had two turnovers in 23 minutes playing PG.  Tran, Dennis, and White also had negligible shares, while Coleman (fourth guard) was set to zero.  Funny to me that Tran hit the big foul shots at the end because he only scored 4 ppg for me this season and is only average from the line.

I agree with you on attacking the press.  Go inside.  Get them in foul trouble.  I have found that my guards usually struggle on threes against press, even when the pressing teams play -2 positioning, so the solution is to attack in the paint.  Luckily I had two good threats there in Bowman and Mitchell.  I also think the press has diminishing returns.  Great for beating the crap out of weaker teams but if the turnovers don't happen (which they sometimes don't against good guards) then you can be in trouble running it.  Plus the fact that you can't doubleteam while playing press takes away an option for dealing with someone like Bowman.  I gave him a huge share of distribution in part because I knew that doubling him would be impossible, and that he would get a lot of easy shots because the press will sometimes have two guys guarding the player who passed him the ball.  I hope that our season will get more coaches to experiment with zone defenses, I think there are many good reasons to play it.  Although I still haven't found a way to make the 3-2 work yet.

I also want to acknowledge how lucky a team has to be to win it all.  We were a stronger team last year with Elliot Paul and John Harrington still here then we are now, but we got knocked out early.  This year we could have lost most of the games we played in the tournament with just changing the results of a couple of possessions.  Skill is great but luck is always a factor in a title and for whatever reason we caught all of the breaks this time around.
10/15/2012 2:10 PM
The only success I ever had utilizing a 3-2 came when I had two absolute tanks that I could park on the blocks (high reb, high def, I'd also pay attention to shot blocking if I were going to repeat the experiment), and even then I gave up some pretty insane 2-pt shooting percentages to teams I thought were clearly inferior...and I'm not even sure that counts since I ran it as a press/zone.
10/15/2012 2:41 PM
Interesting to see you considered doubling Valera.... I looked at several of your game plans to see if you ever doubled players.  I didn't notice it, but considered it may be a strategy in play.  In the end, I gave Valera about as much distro as usual.  Despite fairly consistent disto settings, he had some vastly different scoring nights, I think based on who else started....  if I did it one thing over again, I'd probably make a more extreme distro pattern towards my best scorers.  I guess the long term solution is to have at least 3-4 very solid scoring options....

Valera is easily the best player I have ever landed so far in D3.
10/15/2012 2:47 PM
One final thought - I wonder if motion offense is an unfavorable match-up versus zone defense.... I just envision guys trying to set screens and picks, while the Defiance players just kind of chuckle while they stand in their zone.  Perhaps a triangle offense is a better foil to the zone?  If I recall, HS and J&W also run motion..... hmmmm?

I imagine motion works best against M2M.. 



10/17/2012 2:34 PM
Posted by brianxavier on 10/15/2012 2:47:00 PM (view original):
One final thought - I wonder if motion offense is an unfavorable match-up versus zone defense.... I just envision guys trying to set screens and picks, while the Defiance players just kind of chuckle while they stand in their zone.  Perhaps a triangle offense is a better foil to the zone?  If I recall, HS and J&W also run motion..... hmmmm?

I imagine motion works best against M2M.. 



I wonder if it's that sophisticated.  J Dub runs Flex, though.
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