What are the problems with our defense?

I got asked this question in a discussion thread you can find here, and instead of pumping all of my thoughts into that thread, I thought I’d post it here.  These are just my thoughts, and I’d welcome further discussion of this either in these comments or over at Garnet & Black Attack.

Generally speaking, I think our defensive failings are nearly total, with a few bright spots.  More specifically:

1) We aren’t able to create turnovers. As noted in the link above – and this is common sense, but I think bears repeating so you are sure to think of it this way conceptually – every possession that ends in a turnover ends with the offensive team scoring 0.00 points on average that possession. No matter what else you do, practically speaking, you’ll never have a better defensive possession than one that ends in a turnover.

Right now, we’re forcing turnovers on about 20% of opponents’ possessions, but if you look at the strength of our opposition, it really can and should be better than that. Interestingly, the turnovers we do get aren’t off steals (only 6.9% of our opponents’ possessions end in steals, which rates 329th in the nation), which made me wonder how much of that we can attribute to our own efforts as opposed to unforced errors of our opponents, which we can’t expect to be able to replicate night in and night out.

I went back and compared the following two statistics – the national ranking of steal percentage and the national ranking of turnover percentage for each of Coach Martin’s K-State teams, as well as our team this year.  Here’s that data:

Year Steal Rank TO Rank
2008 136 91
2009 150 18
2010 115 24
2011 222 60
2012 221 27
2013 329 185

It seems evident from that data that Coach Martin’s teams play a defensive style where turnovers come from things other than steals (e.g., drawing charges).  So that’s worth keeping in mind, though it’s also obvious from the data above and common sense that the more steals you can force without compromising other areas of your defense, the more turnovers you’ll force.

One additional point here – Bruce is pretty decent at forcing steals (he was 1.9% in 2011 and 1.5% last season; 2.5% thus far in limited minutes), so his added minutes may change this analysis a bit.

2) We can’t stop the 2PA to save our life.  Teams shoot over 49% from two against us, and that’s the area where your defense matters most when it comes to shooting defense (see point 3 below).

A lot of people have attributed this to our lack of an inside presence, and I think that makes some sense, though it’s not as clear-cut as folks make it out to be.  We’re actually blocking over 10 percent of opponents’ 2PAs (Lakeem’s block rate of 2.9% and Mindaugus’ 3.8% are both in the top 500 in the nation, and those guys play major minutes for us).

Other people have said we give up too many baskets on the defensive end because of our offensive turnovers.  That’s wrong.


3)  That said, our interior guys all have major foul problems that are likely indicative of their inability to play good defense in the post (though Martin teams have never been shy about fouling).  Here’s a list of our post players, and how many fouls they commit per 40 minutes played:

Carrera – 7.4

Chatkevicius – 6.0

Kacinas – 4.1

Slawson – 8.6

Jackson – 3.1

Would it surprise you to learn that most people think Lakeem is by far our best interior defender?  He can’t stand in against a guy like Chubb, but post players that are under 6’8″ are in his range.

By fouling so much, we’re giving teams a ton of opportunities to beat us at the line, while also limiting our own depth and rotation (you can’t play guys who are disqualified).  Right now, we’re committing 30 fouls per 100 opponents’ possessions, and teams are shooting  30% of their shots in a game from the free throw line, undefended.  Now, those shots of course are only worth one point, but fouls are killing us.

This is something we signed up for with Martin – his teams are unapologetic about fouling so much, and averaged allowing the opposition to shoot 30.7% of their shots from the line during his K-State tenure.  But at K-State, there were a few key differences:

– they played a top 100 SOS every season, whereas ours is rated somewhere in the 300s no matter what metric you use, so their unadjusted defensive numbers should be worse;

– they absolutely did not allow teams to score from 2PA the way we’re doing this year.

4) One thing we do well is prevent opponents from taking 3PAs.  We’ve repeated this time and time again here, but once more for those of you that are new – you can control with your defense how many 3PAs the other team attempts, but you can’t really control how many they make (ditto, free throws).

5) We don’t rebound defensively well enough to really alter anything above.  We grab 68.3% of our opponents’ misses, which is perfectly average, but once again, given the teams we’ve played this year, we should be doing far better in these metrics if we expect to be able to claim to have a good defense (and if there’s one thing we should not claim at this point, it’s that we have a good defense).

6)  So where are we going, here?  Well – and we shouldn’t ignore the importance of forcing turnovers – we simply can’t stop teams from making two-point shots, and that’s such a critical aspect of defense.

The question then moves to why that is, and I can’t point to one specific thing, though I come back to post play, as most seem to do here.  I will say it doesn’t seem to be because of assisted buckets from opposing guards getting past our guys, leading to easy shots – 52% of our opponents’ field goals are assisted, which is 130th in the NCAA, nothing unusual.

But if we look at our four games against major opposition, I think it shows that it’s not just a problem with our interior players, but really our whole team.  Here’s a breakdown of made and attempted 2PAs by players over 6’6″ (tall) and those 6’6″ and under (other):

Tall Other
Team 2PA 2PA% 2PA 2PA%
St. Johns 8-16 50% 18-28 64%
Clemson 5-8 63% 9-20 45%
Miss. St. 7-13 54% 12-26 46%
Auburn 5-6 83% 11-17 65%

I went into this exercise anticipating the data to say our post play was the issue, but it seems to indicate that this is a failing of every member of our team.  And I think that’s the case.  The guards aren’t so good as to prevent dribble penetration, and the interior isn’t good enough to protect those guards from getting beat by defending the rim in a way that requires kickouts or missed 2PAs when opposing guards get inside.

It’s a frustrating and incomplete answer, but that’s where we are.  I’d be curious to hear the thoughts of others on these issues, and I would like to tell Gamecock Man that I hate him for (probably unintentionally) baiting me into a 1200 word post on the subject.  I’ll get him back somehow.

About marvinnedick

Blogging from the mid-Atlantic on Gamecock sports, as well as general musings on sports theory otherwise.
This entry was posted in 2012-13 Basketball, Miscellany and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What are the problems with our defense?

  1. Pingback: Better Know An Opponent: LSU |

  2. Pingback: Gamecocks remember how to win, do so, 82-73 OT over LSU |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s