Anyone who watched Kansas’ NCAA tournament win Sunday night against Purdue saw two teams continually switch defensive schemes in an effort to derail each other’s star players. Coaches often use different looks during games, but most don’t stray too far from what’s been working for them.
Jayhawks-Boilermakers wasn’t like that.
To start, match-up issues created unusual defensive assignments. When Robbie Hummel started hitting everything, it became clear Kansas’ Thomas Robinson couldn’t stick with him on the perimeter. That meant guarding the quicker Terone Johnson, a guy who doesn’t like to shoot from outside.
Then there’s was Purdue’s defense. As C.J. Moore breaks down in his excellent Need I Say Moore blog, the Boilermakers held Robinson to one of his worst offensive performances of the season by doing a couple of things:
Matt Painter had come up with a brilliant plan for how to stop Robinson and Taylor. He bracketed Robinson with multiple defenders at all time, almost playing a zone with three of his players in the paint. That made it hard for Robinson to get scoring angles and for Taylor to find space to penetrate.
Whereas Painter was begging the Jayhawks to shoot outside, Self knew he couldn’t win if Hummel, D.J. Byrd and Ryne Smith kept getting up clean looks. So Self went to a triangle-and-two at the end of the first half and much of the second half, and he used Johnson, Travis Releford and Conner Teahan to face-guard Hummel.
“There was more going on, at least in our mind, maybe my mind, than what there is most games,” Self said, “because it felt like every possession there was a chance you were going to have to try to change something.”
Self wasn’t over-thinking because the move worked — Hummel only got up three 3-pointers in the second half and missed them all.
I doubt N.C. State will use the same bracketing techniques against Robinson. The Wolfpack has players who can match Robinson’s size.
But a few double-teams on the big guy throughout the game could produce some interesting results. Or maybe even another coaching chess match.
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