Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lavin's Strategy Change - Beats Notre Dame

Steve Lavin, coach of St. John's University mens basketball announced in his pre-game radio show that he would change his strategy to overcome Notre Dame's offense strength - perimeter shooting.

Lavin sat Chris Obekpa the 6-9 shot blocking machine and instead started 3 guards yesterday.  This change in starting line up was designed to offset Notre Dame's 3 point shooting strength of 4 players in the ND starting line up.

Notre Dame ranks eleventh in the NCAA with a 41% 3 point shooting percentage.  Two players, Scott Martin, .492 and Eric Atkins, .468 make close to 1 out of 2 from three point range.

The strategy paid off in several ways.

First the smaller St. John's line up was able to play better perimeter defense limiting the Notre Dame shooters.

 Second St. John's benefited by shooting better with higher percentage shooter in the line up.  The new St. John's starting lineup seemed more confident in their shots as the game progressed.

An additional benefit from the SJU defense was the transition offense leading to easier fast break points that put pressure on Notre Dame.

Lavin discussed in detail on his pre-game show how SJU's defense needed to ignite the offense and create offense opportunities.  Lavin was spot on and deserves credit for a winning strategy.

Beating Notre Dame ranked number 20 in the college polls is a major win for SJU.  Notre Dame was coming off a loss and also needed a win.

After St. John's lackluster loss to Georgetown hope is still alive for the Johnnies.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lavin`s Lost Defense - Lets Down St. John`s

St. John's vs Georgetown Big East Basketball at Madison Square Garden in mid January.  Two of the top college basketball programs with two great coaches, Steve Lavin and John Thompson III.

Just the thought of these two teams brings back memories of Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullen and John Thompson Sr. vs Lou Carneseca.

This should be high level basketball fun for basketball enthusiasts and St. John's fans.  

Well the stage was set yesterday at the world greatest arena.  The ushers, food vendors, and ticket staff did their jobs.  The fans showed up with a good turnout.  The announcement of both teams gave fans the anticipation for great expectations.

And then the "Let Down by Lavin".

Coach Thompson III well trained by his dad and Princeton University tore apart the St. John's man-defense.  Yes the defense with "the man", Chris Obekpa, who is on pace to set new NCAA defense records for block shots - got ripped apart.

Thompson ran the Princeton Offense against St. John's man-defense.  Back-Screens, back-cuts and movement without the ball had Georgetown up 15 then 20 points.  The St. John's man-defense could not keep up.

The other significant advantage Georgetown road to the blowout was guard speed.  Markel Starks' quickness was too much for the SJU guards.  He went past his defender at will resulting in kick-offs to teammates or direct scores.

Presented with the situation and the make up of his team Lavin should have adjusted.

One way was to play zone perhaps a match-up zone.  This could have addressed both Georgetown advantages.

First, the Princeton Offense is less effective against a zone.  The same back-screen, back-cuts and player movement is stymied by help defense and players defending a space on the court rather then chasing a player through screens.

A match-up zone would also better utilize "the man" Obekpa and his special talents.  Obekpa would guard the paint with best placed help.

Second the Georgetown quick guards led by Starks would also have to deal with more then one player stopping Georgetown penetration.

Lavin has done great things for St. John's.  His recuritment of players has been superb.  He is also restarting the "Program" in many smart ways.

That said, Lavin let us down yesterday.  Too many lopsided loses will empty MSG for St. John's games and their fans and basketball enthusias will find other basketball to support.