December 28, 2011

Playing Opposite of History

Filed under: Basketball,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 12:38 pm

There has been a prevailing media myth about Pitt basketball the last few years. It has been repeated ad nauseum about how Pitt is a great defensive team, but is offensively challenged. In truth, Pitt has been anywhere from a good to mediocre defensive team with a highly efficient offense.

What has been true about the defense, regardless of the media storyline, has been that Pitt players have taken pride in playing defense. That a strong defensive series tends to energize them and has often fueled their offense. That has not at all been the case this season.

Forget, if you can for the moment, the poor defensive performances this season. What we haven’t seen on the defensive side is enthusiasm to play defense, unless the offense is flowng. When the offense is going, the team’s energy is higher. While there hasn’t been great showings this season, we at least knew the effort on defense was there.

Now, compare that effort over the last couple of games — specifically the second half.

In the first half of Wagner and ND, Pitt shot sub-35% against teams with very different defenses — with one noticeable similarity. Wagner brought pressure. Trying and succeeding in forcing a ton of turnovers. ND stayed in a regular defense, occasionally showing a 2-3 look.

The one thing both did, gave very little space on the perimeter for the guards to operate — especially on Ashton Gibbs. An uncontested jumper was a rare sight. Gibbs was never given room to take a shot, and it has gotten into his head. Where he used to fire up with such a quick release, Gibbs is now hesitating. We saw early in the season that Pitt was much more of a jump-shooting team. Working the perimeter and finding shots.

Teams have made an adjustment. Taking away the perimeter and fighting through Pitt’s attempts to set screens. Willing to take chances on leaving the paint open for the frontcourt because they don’t fear them doing much more than lay-ups and putbacks.

Rather than keep the effort going on the defensive end and trust that they could find the shots in the second half, Pitt got impatient on the offense. And worse, stopped putting effort into the defense. It wasn’t as obvious against a smaller, weaker team like Wagner, but Notre Dame absolutely shredded Pitt.

Notre Dame shot 32.1% in the first half (9-28) and then went for 72% (18-25) in the second half. There’s no way to attribute that to simply the shooters getting hot. Especially when you see that Pitt held a +9 rebounding advantage in the first half and ended the game with the same +9 advantage. Despite ND only missing 7 shots — the Irish still grabbed 4 offensive rebounds. How does Pitt let that happen? Jack Cooley averaged 7.667 RPG coming into the game and pulled down 14.

The ND loss was a team effort. There isn’t one player on the Pitt team who played that can get a pass —  maybe Woodall simply because it was his first game back from the injury. Name a player and the performance was subpar at a minimum. I wish it was just a couple players. Then the fix would be more obvious. Or it could be attributed to an off night.

Right now this team is behaving like a much younger team. They are letting frustrations at the  offensive end impact their effort at the other.

I missed the Mac All-American game when Taylor won the skills competition.

But it showed he can run the court, and shoot.
His better games have been when Pitt played uptempo.

After watching some of his HS youtubes, he seems to excel in them because he’s a lot bigger than most if not all the other team’s players.

So instead of wasting him, for another season and a half, playing Center, where he is playing guys his own size or bigger. Put him out at SF, where clearly he would be bigger than his defender. And as in his HS youtubes, he has some space to create. Playing center there is no space and he doesn’t have a decided edge in size.

It’s at least worth a try. Zanna or Gilbert at Center or both. Nas at PF and Taylor at SF with Patterson/Moore as backup there as well as at 2G.
And then the other guards.

Since they can’t play defense in the half court, push the ball on offense and try to outscore the opposition. This team can score in transition, they have a real tough time in the half court.
Woodall is excellent in a transition type offense.

Comment by Emel 12.29.11 @ 8:23 pm

This stuff of just because he’s 6’9″ he has to play Center is ridiculous. Magic Johnson was 6’8″ and played Point Guard. If he had come Pitt to play under Coach Dixon, he would have had him playing Center.

Taylor playing SF could create lots of matchup problems for opposing teams and that’s what basketball is about, exploiting matchups.

We don’t have many or any(usually) to exploit, this could be one. Opposing teams would have to use help defense to help cover Taylor at SF, and that opens up the floor for other players to be open.

Let’s get a little creative here. And if they’re going to lose, I’d rather see them lose in a transition type uptempo game, than this 20 turnover laden halfcourt, none of the players fit to offense, we’re running.

Coach, you’ve let these guys run on occasion, let’s do it full-time and stick with it.
That will also lead to us getting better recruits who want to play uptempo(don’t all of them) Lot of fun to watch.

And I got news for you, that’s the style in the ACC, ever watch a UNC or Duke game. We need to get prepared for that….. now!

Comment by Emel 12.29.11 @ 11:51 pm

EmelI agree with you. We know unfortunely Birch is gone so lets work Taylor at SF since we all anticipate Adams as the strating center next year.
Start Zanna at center and kept giving Gilbert more time because if Taylor becomes an offensive threat at SF (not many teams have that commodity so defensively any problems he has might be minimized).

For the last two years Pitt won without any offense at center. Have Taylor start practicinf full-time at SF and relieving NAZ. As if we hope because of his size he can and match up problems he can perhaps be the SF that at the end of the year can help us this year scoring and rebounding.

If so next year with Adams, Taylor might make us all forget about his first three years. It maybe that because of what Dixon viewed as necessity that Taylor is playing a position no matter how hard he works he does not have the strength or power moves developed by less skilled postional players have worked on since H.S. (Aron Gray, McGhee).

Also agree with Emel if Taylor worked out at SF we should do better off the defensive boards which is what you need to run and based on the physical nature of this team Moore, Zanna, Taylor, the guards this not a physical team.

I often time suspect Dixon has a bit to much Graham -esq stubborness

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[…] mentioned before that this year’s team is one that lets offensive frustration give way to defensive lapses. Or in this game, surrender on all fronts. The breakaways in the first half leading to comically […]

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