It's got to start with defense


#1

Ed has had many different looking teams so far in his tenure at Penn State, but the one thing they’ve all seemed to have in common, with the exception of last year, is mediocre to awful defense. Even last year we were about 80th in defensive efficiency, which is top 25% but hardly great. Still, the slight improvement being tied in with our best season under Ed is surely no accident.

Watching Wisconsin right now and considering how many games they win despite not having an immense amount of talent - particularly offensively - it’s obvious that if you are not going to get the cream of the crop in recruiting, you have to be willing to commit to defense above all else.

I don’t know if Ed is capable of putting a great defense out on the court no matter who we have on the roster, unfortunately. He’s never seemed like the type to emphasize half-court defense, as he’s always talked about wanting to play faster.

It’s pretty much an accepted fact that we’re going to have to put a few winning seasons together at somet point before we can expect to have a long stretch of winning ball clubs to follow - but is it not also fact that we are far more likely to get there through great defense before we ever could with great offense?

Defense seems a lot easier to recruit than offense, and the offense we’re recruiting doesn’t seem to be doing us all that much good anyways more often than not. So why not focus almost entirely on getting guys who understand defense, are built for playing defense, and who will go out there and defend?


#2

I think your basis of comparison is Wisky, so I’ll put my 2 cents in this way…

  1. Wiscky will take more “ott” types. Bug, burly but maybe a little slower. Provides good interior D. (of course, W gets more skilled and more athletic bigs than most schools)
  2. Wiscky takes more of their O from 1/2 court sets figuring they can “out-execute” the other team.
  3. Wisky’s best teams have usually featured a 2 or 3 who is NBA calibur to provide a defensive stopper, or that one guy who can create something when nothing’s there. (How many times did Battle do that for US last year)

Ed, however, takes a different tact:

  1. Has had trouble recruiting quality bigs. There are a lot more quick guards out there then there are big defenders. Therefore, he loads up on the quality he CAN get, and patches the rest.
  2. Beacuse of how he recruits, he likes it up-tempo. It plays to his recruiting strengths and in turn makes it easier to recurit better guys for his system. I would imagine the same is true for Wisky… If you’re big and with some skills, you know you’ll get to use them in Wisky’s system. If you’re a guard with one-on-one breakdown skills, you’re better off playing for Ed.
  3. What ED hasn’t been able to do is get that one player inside to provide some balance (just like #3 above for Wisky, but in the other “direction”). Last year was the closest thing ED’s had yet to that in Jamelle, despite the fact he was barely big enough to play the ‘4’ spot, and it’s been by far his best team.

I think both styles can be successful… But it’s all about achieveing some level of balance. You have to be strong inside and out, “run and pass” to use a football analogy.

The one thing I get confused over is why we don’t apply more ball pressure. We like to run on “O” but we don’t create that many turnovers. It seems like every time we need a 2nd 1/2 comeback, ED puts on the pressure, to good results. I’d like to see more of it, or at least more agressive on-ball D in the 1/2 court, to try to steal some easy hoops the other way. I guess the reason we don’t is that if you beat the ball pressure, there needs to be a shot-bloocker to prevent the drive after the defender is beaten, and we don’t have that (there’s that balance thing again). Plus, you do it too much and the other team figures it out and it loses it’s effectiveness, so ED saves it for when he needs it. It’s not like our D is that good right now anyway, I think it’s worth pressing more and see what happens.


#3

I agree with what your point is but a few things…

1 - Wisky does more with less. This isn’t true no matter how many times I read it. They always have 3/4* talent

2006
Hughes 4* 13th ranked PG
Bohannon 4* 6th ranked SG
Gavinkski 3* 28th ranked C

2007
Leuer 4* 26th ranked PF
Nankivil 4* 28th ranked PF
Jarmusz 3* 27th ranked SF

2008
Markof 3* 28th ranked C
Wilson 4* 25th ranked SG
Berggren 4* 15th ranked C
Taylor 3* 30th ranked PG

2009
Taylor 3* 42 ranked SG
Bruesewitz 3* not ranked

2 - PSU is a running team.
Also not true. Even last year when we seemed like we really pushed the ball, we were in the bottom half of the conference in tempo.

Sorry to take the thread offtrack. I agree we need that improving our D will help jumpstart our Offense. The hoop doesn’t get so small if your opponent is missing too.


#4

I agree that our defense should be stronger, and with the depth we have, we should be able to play a higher pressure defense. One specific aspect of the defense that has always seemed to be a problem is how we deal with screens. Do we switch? Do we fight through them? Do we hedge? If you watch any of our defensive breakdowns, it almost always goes back to a screen that caused the D to play catchup leading to someone being left wide open. Of course, you have to give credit to the offensive effort, because that’s the whole goal of the screen. But it just seems that PSU has more problems fighting through screens than we create on the offensive end with our own screens. Of course, this is an “eyeball” analysis, and I have no idea what the actual numbers would say. But it seems almost as predictable as the football team running a draw or counter on 2nd and 10 after a 1st down incomplete pass (oops, another pet peeve of mine… /sidetrack).


#5

[quote=“LPcreation, post:3, topic:337”]2 - PSU is a running team.
Also not true. Even last year when we seemed like we really pushed the ball, we were in the bottom half of the conference in tempo.

Sorry to take the thread offtrack. I agree we need that improving our D will help jumpstart our Offense. The hoop doesn’t get so small if your opponent is missing too.[/quote]

I’m glad you posted this. I was thinking about this the other day and I agree completely…even if Ed wants this to be a running team, it’s still not there yet. I know Dick Jerardi threw out the “running team in a walking league” statement and it seems to be thrown around here as if it’s gospel now. But we got run out of the building last year by Purdue in the Big Ten quarters. We got run out of Williams Arena. We were a “plodding” team last year waiting for 'Melle to get down to the blolck, or letting Talor dribble down the shot clock and make his, paraphrasing DJones, Mark Macon move to the basket. Maybe that will change as the season progresses, I hope it does. But it’s hard to dictate the game go up tempo in the Big Ten unless you’re really, really good (Michigan State). Even then, there are some teams that can abuse you (Purdue, Illinois) if you try to do that thinking they’re Midwest plodders.

And, succinctly, I agree that this team has very little success unless they pick up the defense.


#6

A lot of good points in this thread. I really liked the one about how poorly we defend screens.

One other point I’ve noticed - even our “quick” guards seem to get beaten on drives to the basket. And this occurs even with no screen involved. I don’t really understand it.


#7

[quote=“LPcreation, post:3, topic:337”]I agree with what your point is but a few things…

1 - Wisky does more with less. This isn’t true no matter how many times I read it. They always have 3/4* talent

2006
Hughes 4* 13th ranked PG
Bohannon 4* 6th ranked SG
Gavinkski 3* 28th ranked C

2007
Leuer 4* 26th ranked PF
Nankivil 4* 28th ranked PF
Jarmusz 3* 27th ranked SF

2008
Markof 3* 28th ranked C
Wilson 4* 25th ranked SG
Berggren 4* 15th ranked C
Taylor 3* 30th ranked PG

2009
Taylor 3* 42 ranked SG
Bruesewitz 3* not ranked

2 - PSU is a running team.
Also not true. Even last year when we seemed like we really pushed the ball, we were in the bottom half of the conference in tempo.

Sorry to take the thread offtrack. I agree we need that improving our D will help jumpstart our Offense. The hoop doesn’t get so small if your opponent is missing too.[/quote]

Just to clarify - yes, Wiskey has slight better players, but we’re talking about how they compare on the national level to teams who recruit the best of the best. They can play with anybody despite not having the recruiting classes than UNC does. Similarly, we should be able to play with at least the majority of teams year in year out if we played better defense, even if we didn’t have the cream of the crop talent.

And I agree that we are NOT a running team - I was just sort’ve talking about Ed’s plan for the team, which he has always said before he wanted to run. But we’ve never actually seen it happen - before it was the excuse that he didn’t have the guys to do it, but now it just seems like he doesn’t really have a plan for the team, strategy-wise. Another big problem if you ask me - if the head coach doesn’t really know who the team is supposed to be, how the could the players ever really identify it?

You make good points though - i should’ve been more clear in those two things.

Everybody has made good points here - nice discussion guys.


#8

Defense is key, and our guards do get beat off the dribble. I think Frazier is better than Battle. They both like to gamble on the steal, but it results in getting burned. Rebounding is also key. Per game, our shooting fluctuates, but overall, point per game is about double for both PSU and its opponents.

      ppg    rpg

PSU 67.6 35.8
Opp 63.2 32.8

Now, it fluctuates. In the game we scored 80, we had 38 rb’s vs. 31 for RMU, and they had 62 points, exactly double their rb’s. We also shot better. In game vs. Tulane, we killed them on the boards, 40 to 33, but shot terribly. Overall, I bet it works to about 2 points per rebound for the season.

What happened last year, you may ask? Pretty consistent. So, to win rebound more. Before anybody jumps up and down about our rebounding being better this year than last, numbers below include the Big 10.
'08/09 ppg rpg
PSU 67.0 33.9
Opp 62.6 30.9

So, winning is simple. Outrebound opponents by 5-10, and you should win most games, even if you shoot so-so, but not terribly. ;D


#9

Rebounding definitely seems to have a strong correlation with winning games - but I think it’s more a byproduct of other things going right or wrong.

If you are getting a ton of defensive rebounds, it’s probably because the other team isn’t shooting well - which could be due to good defense, or just poor shooting.

Similarly - if you’re getting a ton of offensive rebounds, it’s giving you extra offensive opportunities, meaning you can afford to shoot a lower percentage. It’s nearly the same (or technically could be the same i guess) as creating turnovers on defense, so long as you get real second possessions out of it.

I’ve always found the rebounding stats to be a bit misleading though - I really like kenpom’s version of them, where it’s a percentage of rebounds that are actually available - much more accurate. For the record, last year we ranked 18th in giving up potential offensive rebounds. Pretty darn good, means we pretty much snagged every miss and didn’t allow second chances.


#10

[quote=“Craftsy21, post:9, topic:337”]Rebounding definitely seems to have a strong correlation with winning games - but I think it’s more a byproduct of other things going right or wrong.

If you are getting a ton of defensive rebounds, it’s probably because the other team isn’t shooting well - which could be due to good defense, or just poor shooting.

Similarly - if you’re getting a ton of offensive rebounds, it’s giving you extra offensive opportunities, meaning you can afford to shoot a lower percentage. It’s nearly the same (or technically could be the same i guess) as creating turnovers on defense, so long as you get real second possessions out of it.

I’ve always found the rebounding stats to be a bit misleading though - I really like kenpom’s version of them, where it’s a percentage of rebounds that are actually available - much more accurate. For the record, last year we ranked 18th in giving up potential offensive rebounds. Pretty darn good, means we pretty much snagged every miss and didn’t allow second chances. [/quote]

Percentage of rebounds that actually available? Every rebound made is available. Yes, there can be less when shooting is good, but if you get 5-10 more rebounds than your opponent, or if you wish, 15% more rebounds, you should win, assuming you shoot only slightly worse than your opponent. Then of course, there’s 3’s and FTA’s. Once again, inside play will help with both arc shooting, FTA’s and rebounding. Point is, every rebound is worth 2 points, so get as many as you can, cause it’s really 2 pts. for you, 2 less pts. for your opponent(if they got the rebound). Percentages work. If you have 35 rb’s and your opponent 30 rb’s, you should win by 8-10 points. I wouldn’t split hairs more than that.

Crashing the boards and getting offensive rebounds would also help. Something like that works vs. teams that don’t fast break, like Wisky, NU, maybe others, but not MSU nor UM. Vs. breaking teams, you can get burned easily, which can also excite the crowd, esp a fast break ended with a dunk, so you need to make sure it’s not a breaking team. Ed should try it vs. Wisky.


#11
Rebounding definitely seems to have a strong correlation with winning games - but I think it's more a byproduct of other things going right or wrong.

If you are getting a ton of defensive rebounds, it’s probably because the other team isn’t shooting well - which could be due to good defense, or just poor shooting.

Similarly - if you’re getting a ton of offensive rebounds, it’s giving you extra offensive opportunities, meaning you can afford to shoot a lower percentage. It’s nearly the same (or technically could be the same i guess) as creating turnovers on defense, so long as you get real second possessions out of it.

I’ve always found the rebounding stats to be a bit misleading though - I really like kenpom’s version of them, where it’s a percentage of rebounds that are actually available - much more accurate. For the record, last year we ranked 18th in giving up potential offensive rebounds. Pretty darn good, means we pretty much snagged every miss and didn’t allow second chances.

Percentage of rebounds that actually available? Every rebound made is available. Yes, there can be less when shooting is good, but if you get 5-10 more rebounds than your opponent, or if you wish, 15% more rebounds, you should win, assuming you shoot only slightly worse than your opponent. Then of course, there’s 3’s and FTA’s. Once again, inside play will help with both arc shooting, FTA’s and rebounding. Point is, every rebound is worth 2 points, so get as many as you can, cause it’s really 2 pts. for you, 2 less pts. for your opponent(if they got the rebound). Percentages work. If you have 35 rb’s and your opponent 30 rb’s, you should win by 8-10 points. I wouldn’t split hairs more than that.

Crashing the boards and getting offensive rebounds would also help. Something like that works vs. teams that don’t fast break, like Wisky, NU, maybe others, but not MSU nor UM. Vs. breaking teams, you can get burned easily, which can also excite the crowd, esp a fast break ended with a dunk, so you need to make sure it’s not a breaking team. Ed should try it vs. Wisky.

It’s a much, much better measure of rebounding than just total rebounds. Total rebounds don’t distinguish between offensive and defensive rebounds and they are very different animals.

Take a look at our game against UNC-Wilmington for example. Total rebounds were PSU 36, UNC-Wilmington 34. You look at that and would think that the rebounding was pretty even. Not true. The reality is that Penn State far outrebounded UNC-W.

When a rebound goes up, chances are that the defensive team will come down with it. On average, a team only grabs 1/3 of the rebounds on their misses (the actual number across all of D1 last year was 33.396%). So if you have an offensive rebounding percentage greater than 33%, you are above average. Conversely, to be above average on the defensive boards, you need to have a defensive rebounding percentage of greater than 67%.

So let’s look at PSU’s numbers for the UNC-Wilmington game. Penn State had 17 offensive rebounds while UNC-Wilmington had 29 defensive rebounds. That means we grabbed 37% of our missed shots - that’s better than average. On the defensive end, we had 19 defensive rebounds while UNC-W had only 5 offensive. That means we grabbed almost 80% of their misses - that’s a spectacular number and you’d never know that by just looking at overall rebounds.

The reason that the rebounds totals were close is because we shot so poorly. There were 46 opportunities on our boards. If the averages had held as normal, we would have grabbed 15 and UNC-W would have grabbed 31. On the defensive side, there were only 24 rebound opportunities. If the averages held true, we should have grabbed 16 and UNC-W should have grabbed 8. When you add those two numbers together, the averages say that we should have had 31 boards and UNC-W should have had 39. The fact that we actually grabbed 36 and held UNC to 34 indicates that we had a much stronger rebounding game than first glance, i.e. the normal box score, would indicate.


#12

Wow, all these years of looking at the numbers and you just provide an new perspective for me for looking at the stats and how to most effectively apply them. You are the Billy Beane of this board!korean pine oil
replicas de relogios Mont Blanc


#13

The simplest thing to do is to keep the 2:1 ratio in mind. If you have more than twice as many defensive rebounds as your opponent has offensive, you’ve done good (we had almost 4:1 in the UNC-W game). If you have more than half as many offensive rebounds as your opponent’s defensive rebounds, again you’ve done good.


#14

I think that lost in all this discussion is the simple fact that PSU has to shoot better. PSU’s D as measured by points-per-possession is a pretty respectable 0.99 right now. This won’t be sustained all year since the difficulty of the opposition will go up, but it’s still better than last year’s 1.04, which in turn was PSU’s best showing of at least the last 12 years. And that 0.99 is pulled up quite a bit by the lights-out 1.19 that UNC-Wilmington posted by making 62.5% of their 3’s and 55% of their 2’s.

On the offensive side, PSU’s average is 1.05 over the first 5 games, but has fallen each game: 1.24 - 1.09 - 1.05 - 0.95 - 0.93 (the D is what imo really won the Davidson game for PSU). PSU has shot below .265 from 3-point land for 3 games n a row, though they at least shot 2’s reasonably well (.471) against Davidson.

As far as rebounding goes, PSU’s offensive rebounding percentage so far this season (.337) has so far actually been a bit higher than the average over the past couple of years, though again tougher opposition will bring that number down. And the defensive rebounding number (.728) would be the best in at least the past 12 years.

So I would argue (granted, from a statistical rather than “eyeballs” approach) that PSU’s shooting going cold during the tournament was the biggest factor in their poor showing.


#15

[quote=“BobK, post:14, topic:337”]I think that lost in all this discussion is the simple fact that PSU has to shoot better. PSU’s D as measured by points-per-possession is a pretty respectable 0.99 right now. This won’t be sustained all year since the difficulty of the opposition will go up, but it’s still better than last year’s 1.04, which in turn was PSU’s best showing of at least the last 12 years. And that 0.99 is pulled up quite a bit by the lights-out 1.19 that UNC-Wilmington posted by making 62.5% of their 3’s and 55% of their 2’s.

On the offensive side, PSU’s average is 1.05 over the first 5 games, but has fallen each game: 1.24 - 1.09 - 1.05 - 0.95 - 0.93 (the D is what imo really won the Davidson game for PSU). PSU has shot below .265 from 3-point land for 3 games n a row, though they at least shot 2’s reasonably well (.471) against Davidson.

As far as rebounding goes, PSU’s offensive rebounding percentage so far this season (.337) has so far actually been a bit higher than the average over the past couple of years, though again tougher opposition will bring that number down. And the defensive rebounding number (.728) would be the best in at least the past 12 years.

So I would argue (granted, from a statistical rather than “eyeballs” approach) that PSU’s shooting going cold during the tournament was the biggest factor in their poor showing.[/quote]

we’ve literally played no one, and we’re closing in on last year’s defensive efficiency number already - which as you correctly pointed out, is surely going to go up as competition increases in the big ten.

I would not be too pleased with the defensive numbers so far if I were you.

I agree with the rest of what you’re saying though - we are not making shots. Part of that is poor shooting, but I feel the majority of it is bad game planning and/or execution. We get bad looks many times out, we take far too many outside shots, and we don’t finish inside consistently enough.

Still - I think if we play better defense these things somewhat alleviate themselves - you get more fast break chances with better defense for easy buckets, you have to score less to win games, etc…

Defense is the much easier fix than offense, imo.


#16

[quote=“Craftsy21, post:15, topic:337”]we’ve literally played no one, and we’re closing in on last year’s defensive efficiency number already - which as you correctly pointed out, is surely going to go up as competition increases in the big ten.

I would not be too pleased with the defensive numbers so far if I were you.[/quote]

Good point; I should have checked this before I posted. Last year after 5 games PSU’s defensive PPP was 0.86 (though that was skewed downward a bit by an 0.63 showing against mighty NJIT). On the other hand, last year after 5 games PSU had an offensive PPP of 1.17, which is significantly above the current number.

PSU’s D hasn’t ever been that great in recent memory–last year’s 1.04 PPP in conference play was by far the best of the DeChellis era (and a huge improvement over 2997’s 1.18) but was still good for only 7th in the B10.

Plenty of room for improvement in all facets of the game, but imo the cold shooting was a more glaring weakness in the tournament than the D.


#17
[quote="Craftsy21, post:15, topic:337"]we've literally played no one, and we're closing in on last year's defensive efficiency number already - which as you correctly pointed out, is surely going to go up as competition increases in the big ten.

I would not be too pleased with the defensive numbers so far if I were you.[/quote]

Good point; I should have checked this before I posted. Last year after 5 games PSU’s defensive PPP was 0.86 (though that was skewed downward a bit by an 0.63 showing against mighty NJIT). On the other hand, last year after 5 games PSU had an offensive PPP of 1.17, which is significantly above the current number.

PSU’s D hasn’t ever been that great in recent memory–last year’s 1.04 PPP in conference play was by far the best of the DeChellis era (and a huge improvement over 2997’s 1.18) but was still good for only 7th in the B10.

Plenty of room for improvement in all facets of the game, but imo the cold shooting was a more glaring weakness in the tournament than the D.

Hey, NJIT won last night! They’re hot! ;D


#18

[quote=“BobK, post:14, topic:337”]I think that lost in all this discussion is the simple fact that PSU has to shoot better. PSU’s D as measured by points-per-possession is a pretty respectable 0.99 right now. This won’t be sustained all year since the difficulty of the opposition will go up, but it’s still better than last year’s 1.04, which in turn was PSU’s best showing of at least the last 12 years. And that 0.99 is pulled up quite a bit by the lights-out 1.19 that UNC-Wilmington posted by making 62.5% of their 3’s and 55% of their 2’s.

On the offensive side, PSU’s average is 1.05 over the first 5 games, but has fallen each game: 1.24 - 1.09 - 1.05 - 0.95 - 0.93 (the D is what imo really won the Davidson game for PSU). PSU has shot below .265 from 3-point land for 3 games n a row, though they at least shot 2’s reasonably well (.471) against Davidson.

As far as rebounding goes, PSU’s offensive rebounding percentage so far this season (.337) has so far actually been a bit higher than the average over the past couple of years, though again tougher opposition will bring that number down. And the defensive rebounding number (.728) would be the best in at least the past 12 years.

So I would argue (granted, from a statistical rather than “eyeballs” approach) that PSU’s shooting going cold during the tournament was the biggest factor in their poor showing.[/quote]

Yes, but why are they shooting poorer? I would argue because the ball is not getting passed into the post, so the D isn’t collapsing, so the players at the arc are not getting good arc shots, and we’re not getting inside shots. Where do the stats point that out? That’s the problem with stats. They tell you what the result was, not what caused it. Plus, because we’re not trying to score inside, we’re not in a position to get offensive rebounds. Where do the stats point that out?

So, you may be saying “shoot better”. I’m saying, “if you want to shoot better, work the ball inside.” Need to ask why they shot poorer, other than an off night. I think it’s more than an off night, and as you point out, it was the whole tourney. So, I say it’s structural, not shooting coldness. Stats tell you there’s a problem, but do not provide the solution.

In downloading the 3 games from bigtennetwork.com, Penn, RMU and SRU, the games are saved and can be reviewed without charge, and I was looking at the Penn game last night. It’s almost unreal how poor the offensive post attempts are. In looking to go inside, it doesn’t matter who’s trying it, the post player is just not establishing himself(s) properly to get a pass. As a player with the ball, in most cases, Battle, there is no way to make the pass. The player posting up has just not sealed off his cover and it’s very likely any pass will be stolen, or knocked away. The stats just don’t tell you that. For anybody who streamed those games, check it out. It’s terrible, and I think has led to frustration on Battle’s and Frazier’s parts to either launch 3’s or take desperate drives. What are the alternatives if you can’t get the ball inside safely? IMO, the alternatives are what we’ve seen. My solution? Play Sasa, unless Edwards can do it, or Brooks starts doing it more. None of that is in the stats. Eyeballs win this one.

The two biggest players on Davidson, Cohen and Rossiter are both shooting 56%. Andrew is at 40%(12-30). You think those are post shots Andrew’s taking, or maybe 10 footers? Andrew would have to hit 11 straight to get to 56%. Think he’ll do that shooting 10 footers?


#19

Kid, I know I’ve mentioned it a few times but we are missing a lot wide open treys.


#20

Don’t agree. I think we are missing a lot of rushed, forced and ultra long 3 point shots.