Monday, December 10, 2007

Does BC finally have a defense?

Under Al BC has had two trademarks:

1. One of the most effective offenses in college basketball
2. One of the most porous defenses in college basketball

The foundation for the offense was clear. Al brought in smart, overachieving players and gave them a tested system in which to thrive. We have (and had) a clear identity. Conversely, those same attributes hurt us when trying to shut down the other team. Our players were often athletically inferior to their opponents. And our amalgamation of defensive schemes (amoeba, 2-3, man) left us without an identity. We were often content to let the other team have an off night and outrebound them. Sometimes it worked. Other times it didn't.

This team looks like it will still struggle with rotating and with guarding big men, but a combination of a few things might make this the best defense Al has put on the court. Here are the factors that have helped early in the season:

1. Shot blocking. As Sean Williams showed, blocking shots masks a lot of problems. Establishing a shot blocker like Blair not only alters the shots he does touch, but it also changes how a team attacks us. As long as Blair is out there, you'll see few drives and more midrange shots.
2. Not fouling. This might not seem like an obvious one, but so far this team is not committing a lot of fouls. Some might say we are not physical enough. Who knows? Physicality is hard to measure. In tangible impact, what avoiding fouls means is that the other team is not getting to the line. That will keep scoring down.
3. Steals. We didn't pick many against Maryland, but having Paris, Rice and Sanders on the the ballhandlers will increase our turnover rate.
4. Better perimeter defense. Al's teams have often been content to let the other guys chuck 3s. Aside from last night's breakdown in the closing minutes, we are doing a much better job guarding the 3.

How it could all fall apart -- defensive rebounding. Our big men don't rebound well, making for plenty of easy baskets for the other team. Spears has picked up his pace, but he cannot do it alone. Look for Raji and Sanders to grab some boards. If no one works on improving this, I think you'll see the D get exposed as the season wears on.


BC fan in Mizzou said...

Al coaches offense better than defense, and it's easier to take place off on defense than offense.

The 2004 team, when Dudley was a frosh, played tough D. They were holding opponents to under 60 points and barely shot 3s.

My major qualm with Al is that he let Rice and Dudley play bad D, and this sets a precedent for the whole team.

The most important element is the ability to stop dribble penetration. Watson could do this. Sidney was surprisingly good because he was so wide.

It would be nice if the younger players could create a "culture" of defense that the 2001 and 04 teams had.

BC fan in Mizzou said...

sorry "plays" and the scoring was at the end of the year in the BE and NCAAs.

Matthew said...

"My major qualm with Al is that he let Rice and Dudley play bad D"

care to expand on that comment?

bceagle08 said...

Although Blair clearly isn't as talented I really think he may be a more valuable player at this level than Sean Williams was.

Sean Williams literally tried to block every single shot and as a result got himself out of position for rebounds and secound chance points. Even though he had some crazy blocks there was no significant difference between our opponents FG% when he was in the game.

I haven't seen the same stats on blair but I would imagine our opponents shoot much better when he is on the bench. So far, we are also holding opponents to a lower FG% (both 2pt. and 3pt.)and are allowing fewer offensive rebounds/possesion (I love

Dont get me wrong, Sean Williams is clearly a more talented player but I think Blair is extremely underrated and in some ways more valuable.

BC fan in Mizzou said...


BC plays heavy help D. But Dudley and Rice played and still play some bad fundamental man D. It's impossible to play serious D the whole 40 minutes so I'm not criticizing them. But did you watch the team play D last year. The T-Tech game in the tourney? Against Duke? It was layup after layup.

I love Rice and Dudley, but they don't play consistently good D.

Matthew said...

Mizzou -

thanks -- I do happen to agree with you.

I can't count the number of times that I have watched other college basketball teams and been jealous of their intensity and passion on the defensive end. I love BC's style and I love Al Skinner, but his teams simply do not play smothering D.

This is why I got excited when Al had Rice, Paris and Raji showing some full court pressure in the beginning of the year. There was so much energy from Raji, it was great. But there hasn't been much full court pressure recently.

Matthew said...

On a side note, our win against URI is looking better and better everyday...

They are now 10-1, coming off of wins v. Providence and AT Syracuse (although that win isn't what it used to be, even though some people think it still is)

Leather D said...

So far this year, BC is 47th in adjusted defensive efficiency (points per possession adjusted for offenses faced).

In 2006-2007, BC finished 93rd.

In 2005-2006, BC finished 84th.

In 2004-2005, BC finished 52nd.

In 2003-2004, BC finished 24th.

[All stats from]

The data suggests it is fair to say our defense is much improved over the last couple of years, but not that Al doesn't coach defense well or that our defense is noticably better than it has historically been under Al.