Look, I don't want to lawyer the guy to death after a disappointing loss, but there were a some Barnes' post game comments that stood out to me, considering our monumental collapse on offense down the stretch in the ballgame Saturday.
I apologize for doing "conceptual" X's and O's instead of animated dots. ChrisApplewhite refuses to lend me that apparatus after I used Joe Biden's middle name in one of our political debates. Plus, I'm not sure I'm smart enough to handle animated dots anyway.
"The way they were guarding AJ, we should have had shots at the rim if our post guys would have slipped."
First of all coach, our post guys were slipping, we just refuse to pass them the basketball. Or our perimeter guys don't have the confidence to pass the basketball. This quote struck me as odd, because we dove to the bucket a bunch. MSU, as most good defenses do, had good position on the cutter. It's not like we're Princeton afterall. The dive or slip to the goal by a post doesn't always bear fruit with a back door rim rocker. But it will create advantageous post position that we could exploit if our perimeter guys would wait a count and then enter the basketball. But I'll get to more of that in a minute. Next quote, but more specific with respect to diving to the goal.
"People gameplan for Abrams. We tried to use him as a decoy but we didn't hit the slip guy. When we did, we didn't get anything out of it. It was there. Connor Atchley's first two shots were as wide open as you could be. When Connor hit those two threes, it was because of AJ. He opens up shots, even when he's not scoring. So he's responsible for a lot of our points, even when he doesn't shoot it."
Coach Barnes is talking specifically about the staggered screen sets we run AJ off of from the wing to the point. This one set in particular had two "counters" to punish over helping to AJ. The first counter was a float and pop by Connor. Connor was the second staggered screen and he hit back-to-back 3's off this look until State got wise. The dive or slip to the rim came in the form of the first screener who screens and dives to the strongside block. If Connor's 3 look is contested initially, he's to hit the dive or slip man who should be the beneficiary of an out of position post defender.
As usual, the problem was our entry passer (Connor) wasn't patient enough to enter the basketball. Instead, Atchley did the post defender's job for him, and killed the set by reversing the basketball. Now we're 20 seconds into the shot clock and we need to manufacture points with a dribble drive shot, dish, or kick. Guess what? We don't have a player that can do that consistently against an MSU caliber defense. Which means we get a bad shot.
Connor needs to be patient and do his level best to enter the basketball because it's our best option when it comes to collapsing a defense. Let's say it's entered to Johnson, and he's collapsed upon. That opens up options including a kickout to Connor for the three, a kickout and ball reversal to James for a 3 or drive to the goal, or a kickout to Connor and a skip to AJ for 3. At the very least the defense is moving, having to help and recover to high caliber athletes that can shoot it, or instead blow by any defenders that recover out of control. It beats the hell out of everyone standing around waiting for AJ to get free.
But I'd like to get back to our personnel in this set. Instead of Connor, I'd like to see him replaced by James in this set. James adds the element of slashing to the goal. Our low post guy should be Johnson or Pittman, and they need to be quicker making decisions when they do catch the ball. Make a move or kick it back out and repost if help comes. I like the set, we just need the right people in the right positions understanding the design of the set to make it work. We also need to be patient.
"...they were backing off the passer at the top. They weren't guarding Mason or Dogus, so it's hard to make some of the passes we wanted to make."
First off, this is why Dogus can't be on the floor without Connor, Abrams, and James. The lane is much too congested when opponents can focus on chasing AJ off of perimeter jumpers, and help everywhere else. Secondly, that's why the entry passer has to be a threat to shoot the basketball. Another strategy would be quick reversal to a shooter as the entry option and a cross screen or exchange on the low block to the other side of the floor if the on ball defender is playing soft as Barnes states. Defenses can't overplay AJ, play soft on Mason, and overplay the opposite wing all at the same time. Barnes needs to start flipping the floor and make a concerted effort to get our posts involved. It's harry high school bullshit to chalk up failings in the post area to teams playing soft on the first and only entry guy in an offensive possession. Last quote...
"Gary is a threat. He can shoot the ball. He can put pressure on people."
Yep, he and James are your most dynamic offensive players. It's time we take the training wheels off Gary and feature him in the offense the way we feature AJ. GJ can take forwards off the dribble or drill 15 footers on them all day long. Put a wing on him and he can body blow teams on the low block drawing fouls and getting point blank looks. He needs to be operating out of the high post with Dex down low. If teams want to overplay AJ, the high post is an easy area to enter an attack.
Pounding the ball into the deck at the top of the key "hoping" AJ comes open is not a strategy. Hope is not a strategy.