Monday, February 2, 2009

The Defense

In this post I took a quick look at the team's slide and saw that while the offense struggled in three of the five games, the defense struggled in all five, and has slipped significantly from last year.

The team's ability to force difficult shots has been a key issue:

Time Period            Opp. eFG%   
Last Year, Pre-BE 41.7%
Last Year, BE 42.9%
This Year, Pre-BE 38.1%
This Year, BE 52.0%

Well, there's a drop-off. Last year, the team all but held the opposing shooting percentage even to the softer pre-season schedule.

This, the opposing shooting percentage has skyrocketed. It's probably not the lack of defensive rebounding -- the 4% decrease we've seen going into Big East play isn't generating more than a couple extra shots a game. That can't account for a 14 point swing.

Where's the drop-off coming from?

Time Period            Opp. 3PT%    Opp. 2PT%   
Last Year 29.9% 40.5%
This Year, Full Year 31.1% 44.0%
Last Five Games 29.0% 56.0%

There's not a strong, consistent trend, game by game, despite the rather obvious conclusion of the table above. Marquette shot well from three and took 38 free throws. Duke also shot well from three. These games are probably what I am remembering when I see slow rotation after slow rotation.

Actually, that's not true. It's been true every game in the streak, but our opponents have only truly taken advantage in the Duke and Marquette games. Jeremy Hazell and Alex Ruoff were cold.

But the strongest theme has been the Hoyas giving up an abundance of two point baskets. There's two things going on here.

One, the Hoyas are giving up 45% shooting on two point jumpers. This isn't overly high, but usually, when these shots are contested well, the opposing shooting percentage is lower.

More importantly, the Hoyas are giving up baskets on 64% of the opponents' Dunk, Tip-in and Layups attempts. They are allowing 19 of those shots a game. The Hoyas simply are not contesting easier shots well.

Adding fuel to this idea is the fact that the Hoyas' foul rate this year has actually gone down on defense. The Hoyas' opponents took free throws totalling 42% of the field goal attempts they allowed last year. This year, that number is only 35%. That likely points to a lack of aggressiveness on defense.

The team's Achilles Heel so far, defensive rebounding, hasn't actually gotten worse during this span. Opponents have grabbed 37% of offensive rebounds compared to 36% in pre-Big East play and 40% in Big East play overall. The rebounding is bad, but aside from the West Virginia game, it hasn't been the reason the defense has declined from earlier play.

Earlier in the season, the Hoyas were making up for this rebounding weakness with forcing turnovers. The Hoyas aren't anymore.

Time Period            Opp. TO%   
Last Year, Pre-BE 17.6%
Last Year, BE 19.3%
This Year, Pre-BE 24.0%
This Year, BE 19.1%
Last Five Games 18.8%

While last year's team stepped up their defense against stronger opponents, this year's team has been unable to force turnovers against better ballhandlers.


What does it all mean? I admit, this analysis isn't overly illuminating in terms of what is actually happening.

The Hoyas are simply not contesting enough shots, especially down low. They've given up 36 fast break points in the last five games, which is a fairly high amount considering that the numbers are always understated. They gave up twenty eight tip-in, layup or dunks attempts to a small Seton Hall club. Opponents are getting their shots at the rim, and there isn't a seven-footer there to alter the shot.

And right now, there's really no one there to alter the shot. Rotations both on the perimeter and in the paint are looking a step slow right now, and it's leading to easy baskets. Is it because the team is looking to keep its big men out of foul trouble? Or is it simply poor defense? Either way, there's too many easy baskets.


  1. Tip ins have a lot to do with our rebounding woes. Just a consideration.

  2. My 2 cents is that we are very consciously trying to our bigs out of foul trouble. Because DaJuan and Greg are so critical to our offense and have each had some foul trouble on the road, they're both challenging fewer shots in the paint than they would otherwise (Greg in particular). Roy had the height to stand straight up and alter or block shots. Greg doesn't. We also didn't depend on Roy quite as much on offense last year as we do on Greg this year.

    It's a tough problem. During the early part of the season, I was actually encouraged to see Greg playing a bit cautious on the defensive end to avoid foul trouble. But lately it's gotten to be a habit even in the second half when he's not in foul trouble. I'd like to see him get a little more assertive on the defensive end when the officiating patterns and foul situation have made it clear that he's unlikely to get into foul trouble, but that's a tough adjustment to make after playing cautiously for 20 minutes.

  3. Anonymous - no doubt that's true versus last year, but our D Rebounding hasn't gotten worse in the last five games yet 2 pt defense has collapsed. Not saying there isn't anything to your comment, but there's more.

    Canissaxa - that's much of what I'm thinking of as well. At some point, don't you just have to roll the dice and hope Greg doesn't foul out or that Julian and Sims can do some work?