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A look at SBU’s 3PT Defense

This is a 3PT line. SBU will show you how not to defend it.

NOTE: This story was written during the Bonnies win over Duquesne. As tempted as I was to scrap it fully based on the team’s improbable win, I do think this article has some logic to it and honestly it took me a few minutes (an hour or so) to post so I’m not trashing it….

I decided I’d write this blog at half time of the Duquesne game. It was at that time that I could no longer resist the urge to mash my fingers into this keyboard blogging about this team’s inability to defend the three point line. Listen, everyone and their dead grandmother knew Duquesne was going to shoot it vs. us but even I didn’t see a 7-10 opening frame coming. Yes, the team came back to win in the most insane fashion imaginable. The Brown Mamba (Posley) bailed us out once again. ‘Batch hit a HUGE three ball in the corner like Matty Ice did in 2012 vs. SJU. Swaggy J knocked down some man free throws…those are FTs that men hit in crunch time when you can feel the pressure down in your plums. It was all great after 45 minutes…no doubt.

BUT, that doesn’t mean our 3PT defense issue is going away.

Let’s look at the shooting numbers at the half….you know the one where the 6-10 Dukes hung a cool 51 on us prior to us returning the favor and winning in front of their dozens of fans and 14 students?

20-33 from the floor- 60%

7-10 from 3PT- 70%.

60% from the floor? 70% from deep? They shot better from 24 feet than inside… Who the hell were we playing? The Duke teams from the late 1990s? The 2004 St. Joe’s team with Nelson and Delonte West? Listen teams on a given night can make shots. Sometimes you lose a game because a team was simply on. But this is now a trend. A really ugly one for the Schmidt Heads.

If you were holding out some form of hope that this team would improve defensively in that area I say this to you: Please give it up. This issue is going nowhere. Our guards simply cannot guard. We are going to watch both good and poor shooting teams knock down open three after open for the rest of 2015. Sometimes it won’t matter and we’ll win. Sometimes we’ll lose. Vs. Duquesne and St. Joe’s we actually managed to survive and win. Vs. better teams….actual good teams (which they are not) we likely won’t be so lucky. Rhode Island may very well put this hypothesis to the test this weekend.

Now, let’s dive into the stats a bit.

SBU entered the game giving up 37% from three OR 6.9 makes per game. That’s 294th worst nationally. From an A10 standpoint, the Bonnies rank 13th out of 14. Only hopeless SLU is worse.

Let’s dive further into the stats over the last eight games.

Duquense- 14-28 (50%)

St. Joe’s- 9-21 (42%)

George Mason- 2-14 (14%)

Richmond- 7-21 (33%)

Dayton- 14-24 (58%)

Umass 4-22 (18%)

Delaware 10-17 (58%)

UMES 7-19 (36%)

Average over the last eight games: 38.6% This is a percent and a half worse than our already poor season average.

Average # of Three Pointers Attempted in that span: 20.75

The UMass/Mason shooting displays skews the data set, as the numbers would be a lot worse without their horrid effort (You think Kellogg went home that night and was saying to himself, “How the F did we go 4-22 against that defense that begged us to make threes?”) I bet he did and then combed his hair in his mirror for like a good forty minutes. It’s amazing to think that in the last two games the Bonnies have given up a total of 23 three pointers and won both contests. Weird stuff. You can’t predict sports as John Sterling would say.

The Bottom line with this data is this: teams are coming into our game knowing they are going to shoot three pointers and are doing just that. It’s not just about the makes but also the attempts. Look at those numbers. 28, 21, 24, 22, 17, 19, freaking St. Joe’s (WHO CAN’T HIT WATER IF THEY FELL OFF A BOAT) jacked up 21 freaking three pointers? Ya think other coaches know where we don’t play defense? I think so. As they say in coaching, “The book is out on how to beat the Bonnies”.

Now, let’s look at the Bonnies ability to defend the 3PT shot under Mark Schmidt since he arrived on campus in 2007. Here are the percentages and the overall national rank. Just for a zoomed out view of things. My brother Shane could probably do wonders with this and more data on an Excel sheet but he’s busy and honestly, asking him to make a spreadsheet on this sick data is just cruel. So, for now, he’s my basic data set.

2008- 36.2% (234th) 8-22

2009- 32.9% (93rd) 15-15

2010- 33.8% (152nd) 15-16

2011- 32.8% (79th) 16-15

2012- 32.6% (87th)- A10 Champs/ 20 wins

2013- 37.0% (305th) 14-15

2014- 35.5% (241st) 18-15

2015- 37.4% (294th) Ongoing

The Bonnies team defense has slipped since the 2012 Title Team left town.

The Bonnies team defense has slipped since the 2012 Title Team left town.

Listen. It’s clear that perimeter defense has never be a staple of Mark Schmidt’s teams. Part of that, may be because they play a “pack-line” defensive style that gives up more outside looks than other schemes. It sees the defenders “pack in” right around the three point line and focuses on keeping shooters in front and not allowing them to penetrate inside. However, it’s only fair to Schmidt to note that the Bonnies do rank 64th in 2PT defense showing that they are doing a better job of denying easier shots on the interior. I’m pretty sure Virginia also plays the pack line defense as their coaches’ father is the creator of the defense (Dick Bennett). Let me go see how they are at defending the three pointer….be right back……….They’re 64th in the nation.

So, it looks like you can defend the three and play such a scheme (also see Schmidt’s 2009/2011/2012 seasons) as evidence. So what does that leave as an excuse or answer to this problem?

Likely the answer is the players.

Those teams did have the luxury of sitting Andrew Nicholson’s goofy and brilliant ass in the paint to help erase any mistakes on the outside or inside. But, one could argue this team has Ndoye whose every bit (or almost every bit) the type of paint presence that Nicholson was in his time. It’s tough to tell only watching games on a computer which guards are good and which are poor defenders at times. No one really jumps out at me, but this is my only logical explanation. We must have a crop of guards and wings who can’t play any semblance of defense. Schmidt used to call this “guarding your yard”. The term would just refer to a player being able to keep their man in front of them, thus not requiring any help defense from the other four guys on the floor. Good defenders could guard their yard, poor ones needed help from their teammates.

One of my all-time favorite Bonnies, Kloof was a great defender.

Kloof, for example was a solid on ball defender. His quickness and length gave plenty of PGs issues during his time. As was Conger, he could guard anyone from a two to a four. Those two were freak athletes we could get up in anyone and give them a hard time. Conger was bigger than guards but just as fast and though smaller than some bigs, he was quicker which gave them issues.  Simmons and Cook provided a ton of toughness inside. Those kids were “brick sh*t-houses” as the term goes. Big strong guys with size to spare. They were men among boys a lot of nights. No, they didn’t score a ton, but they shut down kids inside and often went without the credit they deserved.

This team lacks that, among many things, clearly. We have no Kloofs or Congers. Ndoye is a shot blocker but he’s not Cook who could physically bang and bruise other bigs. Cumberbatch does all he can, and for that I give him credit but he’s more of a scorer than a defender. Posley’s so damn tired from shooting the ball he can hardly play defense (fine w/ me honestly). Jay Adams is a steady hand at the point, no doubt about it. But I would grade him as an average athlete who struggles at times to keep up with the premier guards in the league. Kloof didn’t have that issue even against a Chaz Williams type.

In summation the Bonnies play really poor perimeter defense. They have played this crappy defense on the wings ever since Nicholson/Cook left town.

Is that coincidence? I doubt it.

Interior defense clearly has a lot to do with perimeter defense. Good post defenders provid better help and can rotate faster. They make mistakes go away with positioning. They eliminate kick outs and create turnovers or simply a pass that doesn’t set up a great shot. Three times SBU posted a top 100 perimeter defense under Schmidt was with that crew down low. Conger came back in 2013. So did Kloof and Simmons. Those teams also had Davenport and Gathers who were above average defenders by all accounts. So it wasn’t just about one whole group of guys who left. Good defense is produced by five players. Not one. Not two. Those teams clearly had solid individual defenders who together, made for a solid defensive team.

This team does not appear to have those players. This team needs some toughness, be it inside or outside. It’s not easy to recruit defense, but Mark Schmidt may have to start looking at players that have skill in their bag.

What are your thoughts?

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A member of the class of 2008, Nolan spent four years as a student assistant with the program. He has written professionally for such outlets as espn.com/insider, Athlon Sports Magazines, Cox Sports Online and Blue Ribbon Previews. Ian was named one of the “140 Personalities to Follow in College Basketball” on twitter by The Sporting News.