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.... ;]