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What’s Wrong with the Defense?

Last night after the game on Twitter, a follower asked: “Law of averages says SBU has to get better in defending the three right, these shot won’t fall all year?”

I replied: Does it? Some team has to be ranked 322nd and we’re almost halfway through the season. This is no small sample size.

As of this morning, Mark Schmidt’s Bonaventure club sports the 322nd ranked three point shooting defense in America. This of course coming off a night where a short handed Dayton team, who was just a fair shooting club, made 14 three pointers on the home floor.

In case you were not sure, there are 351 teams ranked in said category. Just one season ago, with largely the same club plus Dion Wright and Marcus Posley, the Brown and White ranked 44th nationally in three point defense. This issue has become, without a question, the Bonnies biggest weakness and has already lead to a number of losses on this season (Dayton, Canisius, UNCW, Florida).

In those four games the Bonnies allowed their foes to shoot a hard-to-comprehend 50-107 from deep, .467%. 

It should be noted that SBU has struggled in defending the three point shot before. See the chart below for some recent data. 

When a team is allowing their opponents to connect on 40% of deep shots, struggles to rebound the ball on the defense end (290th in keeping teams off our glass) and relies so heavily on two guards to knock down those same three pointers, success will be hard to come by against decent teams.

We’ve tweeted a ton this season about how, or why the Bonnies half court defense has taken such a hit since last year. We knew that losing Dion Wright would be a big blow defensively; Mark Schmidt told us this much in August. Wright could guard four positions on the floor, played good help defense, and erased some mistakes made in front of him. Further, he and Posley were THE leaders on that team. 

Right now, the Bonnies seem to be lacking both leadership, and defensive intensity. So we figured we would chat with a college coach who has a good understanding of the Bonnies, having watched them quite a bit this season. Our short Q and A with him is posted below. 

From our standpoint, it really all starts with the guards on this team “guarding their yard” and not allowing dribble penetration. Go re-watch any game tape from this season and you are bound to see our guards getting beat time and time again. When that happens, players rotate to help, the other team moves the ball a few times, and 2-3 passes later, a wide open three pointer. We’ve seen them get beat out in front, and on the baseline. We’ve seen guys fail to properly front in the post and easy buckets come that way. We’ve seen SBU fail to get back quick enough on hedges and fail to properly switch screens. The list goes on and on.

For as great a scoring back court as Adams and Mobley are, they are not playing adequate defense right now. Idris Taqqee gives the team almost nothing offensively in terms of scoring, but plays sound defense and as such, Schmidt has played him despite the urging of fans to sit the junior.  

If you disagree I’d urge you to go re-watch last night’s game, or the Army or Canisius game and look at the penetration by their guards, specifically on Jay. 

Are they (Jay/Matt) too tired? Personally, I’m not buying that excuse…at least not yet. I am sure that they could be more fresh, no doubt about it. But, I think their defensive effort right now just isn’t good enough and were seeing teams take advantage.

I have called for Schmidt to give Nelson Kaputo some time to see if he could slow up opposing foes but, that appears to be a lost cause. Could more LaDarien Griffin help? Possibly. Tareq Coburn? Who knows. It appears SBU will sink or swim with their trio of guards come hell or high water.

But before you read the Q and A, I’d highly encourage you to spend seven minutes and watch this video below on the basics of the pack line defense. Watching this video will help you more fully understand where SBU is going wrong on the defensive end, and where they need to improve. This is a great use of your time…specifically anyone claiming to understand the system without really ever knowing it. 

Finally, I should add that Virginia is the model for how to play the pack line defense and have been for years. Their program’s identity and life blood is the pack line. And if you look below, despite “allowing” or permitting long jumpers to be taken, Tony Bennett’s teams have a history of playing fantastic defense, including defending the three point line. Again, see below for evidence (checking out Adj. D ranks and 3PT% ranks).

Q: For those who aren’t aware, can you explain the pack line defense to them in basic terms in a few sentences?

Pack line is a defense that is installed for teams in order to control dribble penetration. A pack line team often tracks and charts paint touches. The goal is to keep all the action in front of you and force longer, contested jump shots.

Q: So the pack line defense is designed to have players sit inside a bit, encourage longer shots and prevent penetration. When you see the film, are teams just hitting deep shoots or is the poor defense more a result of break downs, slow rotations, etc?

The problem that I see is many of the players are not up the line or bluffing/stunting at the ball. The pack line is designed so you need to guard 3 feet to your left and 3 feet to your right. The players don’t seem to have each other’s back. This causes for deep penetration which the defense has to collapse in on and then need to recover out long for a late non contested jumper. BANG 3!

Q: When I watch games Jay Adams’ defense stands out as really poor. What do you see from him defensively?

Jay has shown signs in previous seasons of playing defense. Sometimes he looks disengaged which hurts him. He is a bit of a gambler which can be good and bad. Partially he knows how important he is to the team defensively so he is not very aggressive on defense. I would like to see him play better defense in the team setting however.

Q: Do you buy the notion that Adams and Mobley are playing poor defense because they are gassed from playing extended minutes?

1. Ogo played defense playing tons of minutes
2. Kloof locked up playing extended minutes
3. Conger played extended minutes playing great defense on guards
Playing great defense is a mindset. If these two start to buy into getting stops the whole team will buy in. Good defense is contagious. Defense and rebounding is something they need to hang their hat on every night.

Q: What do you see from the younger big men down low defensively? How would you grade Ayeni/Ikpeze and even Griffin?

I really like how active the younger bigs are. They are obviously a work in progress but have a bright future. Coach Moore is the best big man coach in the country. These guys will be just fine. They all have motors and that is hard to teach.

Q:If you’re Mark Schmidt what do you now do to fix this issue? SBU ranks 322nd nationally in 3PT defense. More of the same or try new defenses, new line-up combinations?

People get so caught up on team’s lighting it up from behind the arc. This all happens due to penetration and kick outs. Very rarely do you see a team against Bonaventure just swing the ball around the perimeter and stick a shot. Ball screen defense could be improved in order to stop penetration kick outs. If a team really starts shooting it with confidence I would like to see an extended zone press to chew up some clock and just get the team get out of rhythm, then immediately go back to man the next defensive possession.

Q: Why was this team so much better on this of the ball a year ago? We know Dion could guard multiple spots but is that really all this is? There’s got to me more at play right?

Leadership. Need the team’s best players to buy in on the defensive end.

Q: Compare Nelson Kaputo’s defense vs. Adams? Is there a case to be made for a lineup with NK and Adams to improve the team defense?

Nelson is a great defender. I feel it is something that he takes pride in. From what I have seen he has struggled with turning it over and that is a coaches nightmare. PG’s can’t turn the rock over. Would like to see more of Kaputo.

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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.