The Byrd Cage

Inside the Emails: Breaking Down the ‘Cats

In Game Posts on March 20, 2013 at 10:39 am


What better way to break down the Bruin’s first (second) round matchup than some emails. The Broadhead brothers opened up their inboxes and this is what we found.

From Jono: March 18, 2013 8:51 p.m.

Alright Nick,

Let’s break this game down. And please, don’t ask me which game I’m talking about. It’s not baseball season, the fighting Dirk’s are done, and the Broncos haven’t played a safety behind the deepest receiver in almost 2 months. Belmont basketball is the only thing you have going for you right now and that makes this the best/worst week of the year. I’ve already got even money that you won’t be showing up to Sportsman’s on Thursday out of sheer nerves and terrification(?). You’ll be huddled in a corner by yourself somewhere hanging on every dribble. Which ultimately makes me wonder how you feel about this matchup with the Arizona Wildcats. Whenever I think Pac-12 teams, I think of tall, rangy, athletic dudes who can’t shoot. That probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve hardly ever watched Pac-12 basketball. In fact, as you pointed out to me earlier this week, we’ve probably seen 10 minutes of Arizona basketball all year. But never fear, ESPN the Tres is here. They’ve got a couple of Arizona games still sitting in the archives so I took a gander at a couple of halves of basketball to see what all the hype was about. Turns out I was right; they are long, tall, and rangy. We don’t need to rehash heights. These guys can bring size at every position. Bottom line, the Mont have struggled against teams like this (see VCU, Kansas, Central Florida and Tennessee State and Murray in conference). I always wonder how we’re going to score against these types of teams. What do you expect to see from the Zona defense when the Bruins are in possession?

From Nick: March 18, 2013 11:17 p.m

I am going to ignore the cheap shots lobbed my way and simply demand a small cut of the new Flacco contract. And you might be right, while every Belmont fan should go to Sportsman’s on Thursday, I will be huddled in some dark cave nervously talking about nothing to nobody while firing as many texts to Dad as I can. Anyway, let’s get down to business here and talk about what we might see from the ‘Cats defense. The Wildcats will come at you with a pressure half court man to man defense. In the half court, college games come down to how teams will defend the pick and roll. Whether it be the primary option (like the 2012-2013 Bruins) or the secondary option when the shot clock is running down, coaches pound this to death. If you can effectively defend the pick and roll, you will win. Defending the pick and roll requires great focus and athletic ability. Arizona certainly possesses the athletic ability and length that will make passing lanes tight. I feel like Kerron will be able to handle this team’s pick and roll coverage, he has seen it all this year. (It’s too bad the most athletic guy Kerron saw in a hedge situation, Ed Daniel, was also the laziest). The main concern, however is how effectively Arizona can close out on the three point shooters. While the ‘Cats allow a high percentage from outside (36%), this should not get Belmont fans overly excited. About 40% of Belmont’s field goal attempts come from behind the arc. Arizona only allows opponents to take threes about 30% percent of the time. Everyone in the country knows that Belmont can light it up from deep. I expect quick, hard closeouts forcing the Bruins off the three point line and into the trees. One place Belmont can look to take advantage is in situations where the Wildcats are forced to rotate (cue Kerron in the pick and roll). From the limited film I have watched, the Wildcats have a tendency to get lost when they get broken down off the dribble. Will this be enough for Ian to shake who we’re presuming will be sophomore Nick Johnson and find some daylight? Does Rick have anything up his sleeve? Jono, you spent the majority of your winter on the OVC Digital Network, does this sound like a defense we can handle?

From Jono: March 19, 2013 6:12 a.m

At this point in the season, given the schedule that the Bruins played, especially out of conference, I would think they’d be ready for just about anything. But to your point, I couldn’t agree with you more about defending the pick and roll and yes, I do believe that Rick will have a few things up his sleeves. If there is anything Rick does well, its to turn a team’s strength into its weakness. Remember the Duke game from tournaments past? How did we baffle the Blue Devils? We took their pressure defense and back cut the daylights out of them. You referred to Arizona’s trees and how they like to funnel everything towards the paint and if I’m a betting man, the first thing Rick is going to do, is pull those trees away from the basket to defend that pick and roll. I saw it on a couple of occasions in both the UCLA and Washington games. Their big guys tend to be slow getting back to their man once he rolls to the basket after a ball screen. Now, in the case of UCLA and Washington, those turned into alley-oops, which I don’t necessarily expect from us, but what I do expect to see are quick passes from Kerron to the wing off a ball screen and a quick entry pass to the cutting screener. Its something the Bruins did with great effectiveness towards the end of the year and I can’t count how many times the Hay Bailer or the Bakery ended up with wide open layups after they lost their man off a ball screen. The other thing the Bruins can do well, if they want to, is pass away from a rotating defense. One thing good pressure defenses do is anticipate your next pass and rotate quickly to the next open man. When the Bruins offense is really clicking, the thing they do better than anybody is throw the skip pass away from the rotating defense. That will certainly be more difficult against a team with longer arms who can intercept the long cross court passes, but sometimes you can’t get your hands in the passing lanes of passes you aren’t ready for. Also, ball fakes, especially from Ian and JJ. Usually when teams are closing out hard to 3 point shooters, they will leave their feet on shot fakes. If the Bruins can get guys in the air, they’ve essentially created a 5 on 4 situation where open shots abound. I’d also like to point out that the ability to hit mid range jump shots could be huge in this game. Their big men like to wait for you to get into the lane, so maybe just don’t go in there? If the Bruins are knocking down 15 footers on a consistent basis, it could be a game changer. But enough about that, how do we expect to defend these guys? That 1.13 points per possession number is nothing to scoff at.

From Nick: March 19, 2013 4:34 p.m

It’s never easy to defend a team that is longer and more athletic than you. Especially when you are facing Oladipo 2.0. But we’ll get to that nonsense in a bit. This team, like most, runs through the sporadic play of their senior point guard, Mark Lyons. And let’s be honest, the last four games have not been the best of Mark’s career. His shooting numbers are down (42% 2P and 25% 3P) and his assist to turnover ratio over the last four games is 8 assists to 12 turnovers (0.66). Now this may not have any predictive value but when he is using 26% of the ‘Cats possessions, those numbers would make me a touch nervous as a fan. This is where Kerron comes in. Towards the latter half of the season, he has picked up his defensive intensity. I would point to the game against Ohio when one of the better point guards in the country (DJ Cooper) came to town. Kerron, according to Rick, took it as a personal challenge to be the best guard on the floor. Consequently, DJ managed only 6 points and a measely 3 assists. Kerron will need to bring the same mentality if we are take that 1.13 points per possession down a few notches. The other worry in stopping this team (other than Oladipo 2.0) is keeping them off the offensive glass. I feel like a broken record when mentioning rebounding and Bruins in the same sentence. Arizona is a great offensive rebounding team grabbing about 35% of the available boards. We on the other hand, are the not the best defensive rebounding team ever. We need a healthy Blake Jenkins to prevent extended Wildcat possessions. But we all now know (after being so wondrously informed by our buddy at the ‘Zona blog) is that real key is hoping to contain Oladipo 2.0. Or you can call him “Bunnies” because he hops.. or has hops. Fortunately, we have just the guy in DPOY in the OVC, Ian Clark. Ian will be chasing Nick Johnson all over the floor and making his life miserable. Keeping Oladipo 2.0 away from the rim and forcing his game to perimeter will be key. I feel like we hashed out a lot of info here, how did you process all that?  What is going to make the difference on Thursday?

From Jono: March 19, 2013 8:12 p.m

I’m actually glad you asked. And I’m going to further wear out the WWJD reference by asking, “What Would Rick Do?” Any sensible Bruin fan would know that every Belmont team since the first Bush presidency (rough guess) has grossly overachieved (maybe a slight overstatement) thanks to one man, Rick Byrd. He does things as a coach for this team that take it beyond its collective skill and turn it into a basketball machine. With that said, Rick said something on two occasions this season that made me wince. Once was after the Bruins escaped at home versus the Fighting DiNunnos and the other was after the loss to Murray State. In those instances, Coach Byrd was very forthright in saying that he felt like he did nothing during the course of the game to help the team win. In the case of the Murray game, we were just outmatched physically and there was probably little Rick could’ve done anyway. But, needless to say, Rick takes his responsibilities as a coach seriously. If his team isn’t fully prepared for what the other team will bring, ready to go on game day, and able to make adjustments on the fly, he takes it upon himself. I fully expect that the Bruins will be ready to go come tip off and I’ll expect Coach Byrd to make all the right calls during the game. If he does, our chances of winning will increase exponentially. How about your final thoughts? I’m starting to get nervous.

From Nick: March 19, 10:11 p.m

I love your faith in Rick and really hope that nervousness is not contributing to your hair loss. Is now a bad time to mention that the last time Rick faced a Sean Miller coached team, we sat in the Cintas Center and watched the Xavier Musketeers humiliate the Bruins by 41 points? Your point is well taken though, playing a team that is physically superior requires an airtight game plan. We have seen more of those in recent years than I can remember. But as for my final thoughts, there are too many things at play for me to focus on one particular thing. While we have been the upset pick for the last couple years, I have become numb to that talk. Its always the same. Did Georgetown suddenly become terrified once some blabbering media types picked Belmont? No. They were the better team that afternoon. This year is no different. The game will come down to reading the pick and roll, controlling the defensive glass, and shooting effectively. It has nothing to do with past records or talking heads flipping coins. Belmont has the experience. They have the talent. They have the coach. They have what it takes to #winthedamngame.

*Please keep in mind..

  1. i’m kicking myself for leaving ian’s defense out of my article yesterday:

    great musings my friends… however, they feel a bit damning especially nick’s remarks about coach being helpless when we are overmatched… i’m really banking on experience/poise and out hustling to prevail… this aint our first rodeo and we’ve got the talent and drive, we just need to keep it to one possession at a time…

  2. @adult steve ..helpless when we are overmatched.. ?

  3. I hate to be that guy here – but let’s not sugar coat it: the thing that sticks out in my mind about Belmont in the tournament is us missing threes. Our. bread. and. Butter.

    Tomorrow, when Belmont has the ball, this game is going to – as in all our tournament appearances – come down to us launching (and going against history – making) an in-ordinate amount (even for us) threes.

    2012 vs Georgetown – The Mont went: 10-27 (37%) from behind the arc
    2011 vs Wisconsin – The Mont went: 6-22 (27.3%) from behind the arc
    2008 vs Duke – The Mont went: 8-23 (34%) from behind the arc
    2007 vs Georgetown – The Mont went: 6-26 (23%) from behind the arc
    2006 vs UCLA – The Mont went: 4-19 (21%) from behind the arc

    2012 and 2008 numbers aren’t horrendous but they’re still atypical and are what sticks out in my mind. Hopefully it all clicks tomorrow night.

    • we were actually quite average with the 3 in the tournament, last year and 2008, if you consider these per game averages for 3-point shooting:

      2013: 8-21 (38.6%)
      2012: 8-23 (37.8%)
      2011: 9-24 (37.8%)
      2008: 10-28 (36.5%)
      2007: 8-24 (35.5%)
      2006: 8-22 (37.7%)

  4. Nick: you said, ‘In those instances, Coach Byrd was very forthright in saying that he felt like he did nothing during the course of the game to help the team win. In the case of the Murray game, we were just outmatched physically and there was probably little Rick could’ve done anyway.’

  5. Ohhh. In JONO’s email. Yeah. That could be problematic.

  6. @Steve – I guess my point is ‘about average’ is’nt going to cut it when you are playing the underdog to a bigger, faster, stronger team.

  7. I am with Kyle. Gotta hit dem threes.

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