In case you're living in the proverbial college basketball cave this season, the best freshman in the nation and perhaps best player in country is playing in Manhattan, Kansas. Okay, that's strange in and of itself, but that's not the point. The point is the number 7 ranked Texas Longhorns travel to Manhattan to face freshman phenom Michael Beasley on Big Monday. Beasley has gone for 43 and 41 in his last two games, and has generally bent over every single defense that's been thrown at him this season. Think Kevin Durant last season.
Well, it's our job to figure out how to slow down this player Chris Applewhite would deem a dreamy stud muffin. And, if we can slow him down it almost assuredly means Texas picks up a big road W which will go a long way to ensuring a top seed. If we (me) some how fuck it up, it doesn't matter because we're on the interwebs. If Rick fucks it up we can bitch about it. See how fun this is? So, here's how I would defend Beasley and his Wildcats with Texas' personnel...
Keep 'em guessing.
Since KSU is a young team without particulary strong backcourt play, you can confuse them by using different defensive looks to sap shot clocks and keep them out of dictating a bunch of help and rotation. Aside from our staple man-to-man, I would run some token full court pressure and drop into a zone. I would change defenses in the middle of possessions when KSU is forced to reset. Man up out of a zone or fall back into a zone out of man. I would even run some junk defenses for a few possessions. A diamond and 1 or box and 1 with Mason following Beasley wherever he goes. KSU isn't the biggest team we've faced so we should be able to rebound the zone effectively. Whatever you can do to keep this young team guessing, however, should pay dividends. We're winning battles when it takes them 10-15 seconds to decide how to attack our defense by getting into the correct offense.
Keep them out of their offense.
It comes as no surprise that KSU runs most of its offense through Beasley. He's not a point forward per se, meaning he isn't Magic Johnson, but the Wildcats do like to get Michael the ball early in the possession to see where help is coming from so they can attack it. Now I'm not talking about a secondary break when he's looking for early offense. Our bigs run well enough and there shouldn't be an excuse to lose him on the break. I'm assuming we'll keep that tight. I'm talking about bonafide halfcourt possessions.
Texas must do a good job of keeping Beasley from catching the ball early in the shot clock forcing us to help and recover right off the bat. Allowing a quick catch in a place Beasley can do damage will force the Horns to help and rotate more, allowing more shot clock for KSU to find a good look for Walker, a perimeter shooter, or even Beasley. So what do you do? You dissuade KSU from getting it to him early with good ball pressure, wing denial, and full or 3/4 front denial on MB. If he wants to drift to the perimeter, you allow it. But we'll get to that later. The point is, if you allow him to catch it on the block or high post forcing a quick double team with 25 seconds on the shot clock, you're probably going to give up a good look in that possession.
Pick your poison wisely.
The 3 starting guards, Pullen, Young, and Stewart shoot 3's in the low 30's. If they're settling for jump shots early in the shot-clock, that's fine. They'd essentially be doing the job of slowing down Michael Beasley for us. If they knock a couple down then get out on 'em. But before they hit a couple, it's unforgivable to over contest on these guys and allow them to penetrate into the paint where a pass or even missed shot means a bucket for Beasley. As for Walker, he's a much more accomplished scorer, so you need to contest a little more aggressively and make him put it on the floor. We win a battle every time Walker takes a midrange jumper or a guard shoots an early three.
Defending Strengths not Weaknesses.
This axiom holds true for every player you defend but we're talking about Michael Beasley. Michael Beasley's strengths are the following, great touch from everywhere on the floor including the low block, midrange, beyond the arc. Can put the ball on the deck to get his midrange jumper or get to the rim. Great finisher. Bull on the offensive boards.
Weaknesses: Only a catch shoot player from the beyond the arc. Struggles at times with passing out of double teams. (averages 3 turnovers a game)
Getting him out of his comfort zone will be difficult but we have to try to entice him into doing things he's not comfortable with. When he's on the perimeter, we have to chase him off of catch and shoot 3's and force him out of rhythm. If he catches on the low block, he's to be doubled aggressively and immediately. Active hands from the trappers and aggressive denial one pass away could lead to some turnovers. If he catches in the high post, helping guards should look for steals on the dribble. Everytime he passes out of a double team or puts it on the deck we've won a small battle.
If you watched Baylor/KSU game, you noticed the Bears had a ton of success running Beasley off high screens. Since the high screen roll is a staple of the Texas offense, I'd try to pick up some cheap fouls if Beasley hedges too aggressively or if he outright switches like he's apt to do. Making Beasley defend the high screen roll specifically and forcing him to defend our perimeter oriented bigs in general can help wear him down and hopefully get him in foul trouble. Either result takes away from him offensively.
It's not over until you rebound.
Since Michael Beasley is so quick and powerful, he'll often times follow his own miss at point blank range to get an easy put back. Our bigs have to be aware that if they know they can't contest a shot, the next best thing is to put a body on MB and keep him off the glass. Don't jump for the sake of jumping, if you can't get to the original shot, turn and block out and if he makes it he makes it. Getting in the popcorn machine with MB is a losing battle.
And, since we've decided to double, our offside help, probably a Mason or a guard unless we're going big, must get to the weakside backboard and block out Bill Walker when Beasley takes a shot. Walker gets 3-4 buckets a night rebounding MB misses.
So, if we can do all of this successfully we should be able to hold Beasley down below his season average. And with our offense, that translates into a W unless someone else for KSU goes berserk.