Feb. 21, 2006
Hello Tiger Fans,
I received an email from a fan that is concerned about our defense. He specifically mentioned the easy baskets that we have been giving up and wanted to know if we are scared to foul to prevent giving up the easy baskets.
Before I answer the question, let me say that there are different kinds of easy baskets. The two most common easy hoops come from either being out of position or not being aggressive after the ball, or in other words not having high energy and hustling on the defensive end.
There is no excuse for being out of position. That is a practice issue, or a player is not making the adjustments -- that the coaches instructed us before the game -- to how we are playing an individual or team. If that happens, then the player has to come out. If it continues to happen, then he doesn't play as many minutes that game as he did in the previous game.
Most easy baskets that we've been giving up have come at the beginning of the games. There are several things that can be attributed to that. One is that a lot of the teams we have been playing recently have not played a team ranked as high as we are ever, or if they have, it has been around 20 years since they have done so. That right there tells you the other team's energy is going to be through the roof. In order to prevent those easy baskets, we have to match that team's energy, and when you play a school that does not have the history of a Kentucky or North Carolina, it can be difficult to have really high energy to start the game.
Another is aggressiveness and officiating (the two of these are actually related). Officials do not decide before the game how they are going to call the game. The officials do have certain things that they might be looking for, or points of interest that they have for the game. For example, if a team presses, they need to be in position for the press, and one of the focuses this year is the carrying the ball so they will look for that as well. The first three minutes of every game is going to determine how it will be called the rest of the night. The team that controls the game early from a tempo and aggressiveness standpoint is going to influence the officials to call the game a certain way. If our guys come out of the box slow and decide to use their hands on defense instead of moving their feet, then we are going to be in for a long night. We will not be able to play physical and a lot of touch fouls are going to be called. It is difficult to match a team's intensity when they are on Cloud 9. The key to not giving up those easy baskets is to be aggressive and have high intensity from the start and everything will take care of itself.
Our guys are definitely not scared of fouling. This team is as deep, if not deeper, than any team in the nation. Every player wants to get a feel for the game and get into a rhythm. If a player picks up a couple of fouls early, then with the depth that we have, the chances of them playing again before the second half is not very good. If that happens, it takes the player until part way through the second half to get into a rhythm, and by that time, usually we are in a dog fight until the end.
Every team that presses is going to give up a couple of easy baskets. The key is to limit those to one or two a game, but no more than that. The other part to that is to only give those up in the press, not in the half-court. If we come out with high intensity and energy from the start and take control of the tempo right away, we will be able to play the up-tempo, physical style of game that we like to play. If we don't, then we will probably struggle that night.
Check back at the end of the week to get some insight from the last few games we have played and to hear about our trip to New Orleans.
Go Tigers Go!!