Franalysis: Two Games, Two Different Defensive Strategies, Two Wins (barely)

By houksyndrome on February 12, 2019 at 2:45 pm
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks everyone for your great responses to my first post!  I continued my defensive and offensive possession tracking through the Indiana and Northwestern games and again noticed some interesting patterns that you may already be aware of.  A detailed explanation of my methodology can be found here.  

Iowa Defensive Possession Types at Indiana
  Possessions Pts PPP
First Half Overall 35 36 1.03
First Half Man 8 11 1.38
First Half Zone 21 15 0.71
First Half Transition 6 10 1.67
First Half Press 2 3 1.50
First Half No Press 33 33 1.00
Second Half Overall 29 36 1.24
Second Half Man 0 0 NA
Second Half Zone 28 34 1.21
Second Half Transition 1 2 2
Second Half Press 0 0 NA
Second Half No Press 29 36 1.24

Let’s begin with the Indiana game (Table 1).  Iowa actually started the game in man to man defense and got thoroughly abused (11 points on eight possessions against our set man to man defense as well as 4 points on two transition possessions).  After 10 possessions of this, Fran had seen enough.  He went to his bench subbing out Bohannon, Moss and Garza and switching to a 2/3 Zone.

That zone was the story of the game for us defensively.  By my count, we ran it in 49 of the game’s 64 tracked possessions and gave up exactly 49 points in those possessions, which is pretty solid.  The zone was far more effective in the first half than the second (0.71 PPP vs. 1.24 PPP).  At one point in the first half, I counted eight consecutive defensive stops for us.  That 1.24 PPP in the second half is due largely to the blood bath which occurred in the last few minutes.  Indiana scored on five straight possessions toward the end of the game and changed what had been a tolerable 1.08 PPP (2nd half) into a hard to overcome 1.24 PPP.  It’s a good thing Bohannon burned the building down or we might not have got out of there with a win.  Perhaps another defensive adjustment was in order although it’s hard to justify the idea of switching back into a man to man defense that had been so thoroughly dismantled earlier in the game.  Maybe our press could have been effective?

Overall, our defensive problems came in transition (12 points on seven possessions) and the aforementioned eight possessions in which we ran man to man defense (11 points allowed).  Our press did not factor into this game as we only ran it on three possessions (allowing three points).

Iowa Defensive Possession Types vs. Northwestern
  Possessions Pts PPP
First Half Overall 33 41 1.24
First Half Man 23 26 1.13
First Half Zone 4 9 2.25
First Half Transition 6 6 1
First Half Press 3 4 1.33
First Half No Press 30 37 1.23
Second Half Overall 38 37 0.97
Second Half Man 19 23 1.21
Second Half Zone 3 0 0
Second Half Transition 16 14 0.88
Second Half Press 22 13 0.59
Second Half No Press 16 24 1.5

The Northwestern game was another story entirely.  In that game, we started off in man-to-man defense and stayed with it throughout the game.  We ran four spectacularly ineffective possessions of zone in the first half in which we allowed nine points (2.25 PPP).  Our man to man defense in the first half (1.13 PPP) was better than the zone but still not good.  In total, we allowed 41 points on 33 first half possessions.

Then came the second half and Fran decided to break out the press and, boy, was it effective.  We pressed on 22 second half possessions and allowed a mere 14 points on those possessions.  Why didn’t we press more?  Simple, you generally need to make a basket (or have a dead ball turnover) in order to set up a press and those were hard to come by for a while there.  I’m pretty sure that we pressed on every second half possession where we had the opportunity to do so.  It’s a good thing, too, as our defense on possessions in which we weren’t able to press (i.e., when we missed a shot or committed a live ball turnover) was dreadful, allowing 24 points on 16 possessions.

When Northwestern managed to break our press, we fell back into man to man defense, and it was relatively effective in this context (8 points on 9 possessions).  In Table 2, you will note that we allowed 14 points on 16 transition possessions in the second half.  That's pretty good defense but it becomes even more striking if you only look at transition possessions that occurred when we pressed.  This was the main area where we punished Northwestern, allowing a mere five points on 11 possessions, due to the fact that our press created several turnovers.  So, I guess what I’m trying to say is:  if Johannes Gutenberg was alive today, he’d have really appreciated our defense in the second half of the Northwestern game.

That’s two more games where Fran was able to find a defensive strategy that worked well enough to give our outstanding offense a chance to win the game.  Hopefully it can continue!

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