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Rick Barnes Should Call Coach K

They could start out by swapping stories about Roy Williams and Dean Smith.

Perhaps they could arrange for Coach Barnes to fly out to Durham to help Coach K prepare for UNC.

Doubtful, since that would be gay.

But in any event, Texas could certainly take a page out of what Duke has done this year with respect to tailoring scheme and style to personnel. After last year, the Dukies had to come to the realization that their classic all out perimeter pressure scheme designed to smother the ball and deny the wings probably wasn't the best situation to put a group of slow, oversized guards and an undersized frontcourt in. The Blue Devil Staff had to consider there was no Bobby Hurley tip of the spear ballhawk on this club. No plastic man-like Grant Hill getting into passing lanes for steals and dunks. No back-line erasers like Antonio Lang or Cherokee Parks to send back dribble penetrators that leaked through.

Instead, the Dukies featured two tall guards with average quickness in Scheyer and Smith, and the closest thing the Devils had to a mammoth post player that controlled the glass was the 6-9 Miles Plumlee. However, knowing that he could flank Plumlee with some pretty large wing players in 6-8 wing Kyle Singler and 6-8 Lance Thomas, Coach K decided to play to his team's strengths.

The Hall of Fame coach decided to ratchet down the ball pressure and wing pressure while incorporating more switching in an effort to maintain his team's defensive "shell". It gave his slower guards a better shot to stay in front of ballhandlers allowing the undersized frontcourt to worry less about helping ball penetration, and more about maintaining block out assignments to control the glass. The results have been a stunning success as Duke is the odds on favorite to win the ACC.

So, how can Texas capitalize on what Duke has done? From a philosophical stand point and even a personnel standpoint Texas can learn a lot from Duke's sea change. First, the biggest problem Texas defense is suffering from is just a total lack of understanding of simple helpside team defense. Evidently the AAU circuit has managed to corrupt some of our young players' ability to execute the simple ball-you-man defensive principles that every player learns at their local YMCA as an 8 year old. But unlike the Dukies, we have two of college basketball's elite on-ball defenders, so ball pressure should remain a focal point of our attack. In fact, it would be a disservice to Bradley, Balbay, and the team to ask this duo to back off ballhandlers or even play zone for significant minutes.

Instead, I propose that we just simplify our off the ball defense by incorporating softer wing pressure and denial while pinching the middle of the floor to give our young guys simple two way goes for help and recovery.

Job 1 is help to penetration.

Job 2 is recover to your man allowing your length and athletic ability to bother the shot.

Hell, you could even vary your wing pressure in spots and surprise the opposition for a few possessions per game by going from no wing pressure to all out wing denial.

As Duke has done, another way to simplify off the ball defense is to incorporate more switching. We already do a lot of guard to guard switching especially in our 3 guard looks but let's take it a step further and include big to big screens as well, which will help keep Jordan Hamilton on the floor. Because of size differences, 3 man to 4 man or and especially 3 man to 5 man switching usually leads to big mismatches.

For that reason, Texas would need a personnel tweak, which ironically, is similar to the lineup Duke plays. In this group, our guards would be Balbay and Bradley with a smattering of Brown. But in the frontcourt we'll go with Hamilton, James, and Johnson.

The scheme simplification will help keep Jordan Hamilton on the floor and still reward Gary Johnson's recent effectiveness. Damion James is the bellcow and a must in the lineup because of his ability to rebound. But since Johnson, James, and Hamilton are about the same size, switching for simplification purposes won't lead to gross mismatches.

As Coach K would say, we don't have positions, we have basketball players and this lineup fits that bill.

Some added benefits are that you get your 3 best rebounders in the game and it gives you flexibility offensively from empty looks, to 4 out 1 in looks, and traditional 3-2 motion offenses to take advantage of quickness. Also, opponents would struggle to zone this group considering you'd have 3 deep shooters and 5 face up players and ballhandlers. And if you wanted to up tempo, find me a better pure pressing group than this one. One through five, this is the quickest most athletic group you can get on the floor.

All that said, Pittman should remain a vital component to this team and we need to continue to aspire to get him touches and production in every game for 20-25 minutes which makes foul trouble less of a worry. But sometimes a simple personnel tweak can make a world of difference for the entire club. It did for Duke who, by the way, only plays 8 players.