Tuesday, December 4, 2012

End of an Era

In my ongoing series of deceptive post titles I will not be addressing the UW coaching vacancy. I have a much more interesting topic from tonight's basketball game.

The Badgers won their 2nd consecutive blow out tonight after the Virginia debacle. In both those wins they have played much better defense, and pulled away easily in the first half after allowing only 24 to Cal and 13 to Nebraska-Omaha. I'm sure part of this is the ass kicking I'm sure they got in practice after the Virginia loss, and the caliber of their opponents. I would argue a bigger part is the end of the switching era.

As I discussed in my previous post, Bo changed to a defensive strategy of switching on ball screens a couple seasons ago. After the Virginia game switches have been minimal. Bigs are falling off the screens to give help if the dribbler goes to the rim and to guard against the screener rolling. The on ball defender is going over the screens and staying with the dribbler. This is leaving the screener wide open, but so far it has not done any damage. If the badgers play against a big that can shoot from outside then this may need adjustment. It will be interesting to see if Bo stays with this strategy, or if he changes to let his big men hedge on the screens which puts more pressure on the dribbler but can leave the screener open on the roll. In any case I think the end of the switching era is a good move. It fit for UWs past teams, but not this one.

I have always liked the idea of teams that can switch defenses, as a change of pace to throw off other teams. Bo does not believe in this and is strictly a man to man coach. Even more than that, Bo has had his guys play screens one way all the time too. Maybe he will change back and forth from switching to hedging depending on the matchup, but my guess is he will stick with a system that has worked for him for decades, and who can blame him.

It will be interesting to see if the defensive improvement is due to the inferior opponents, the fact teams were unprepared for the change in defense, or if this defense works for them the rest of the season.


  1. Interesting. I did not notice this while watching the game on the internet. I guess in hindsight I do remember a few occasions of watching guards fight to get over screens. But there was no hedging, which is what I remember them doing in the olden days (think Brian Butch). This is a particularly interesting development given that they have been murdered so far by big men who can shoot, particularly that ridiculous 10-10 performance by Murphy of Florida. But maybe that's why Bo is doing it, since they can't seem to defend against big men shooting even with liberal switching.

  2. I agree hedging is a better way to play, as it puts more pressure on a big screener to make a long shot, or to make a catch on the move and do something with it if he rolls. Plus it allows the hedger to challange the shot if the dribbler pulls up.
    Marquette has some bigs that can score, but aren't great shooters. Otule can't shoot outside 5 feet. Gardner can shoot, but his range is limited. Gardner shoots well from the line, but has only 1 three attempt this year. My guess is UM plays a lot of pick and roll over pick and pop. With Blue's size, he can pass over the top so it will be interesting to see how bucky defends.