Sunday, February 9, 2014

Diamond Cup Breakdowns: Baylor-UT

With the large amount of gamefilm that came from Diamond Cup thanks to Alex Wilson, Drew Wasikowski and Peter Lee, I'm starting a new series where I'll try to break down three major things I noticed from each game.

Baylor 150*-UT 40

Fear the Zone
As some of you might know, I am a huge fan of Duke basketball. Last Saturday night, Duke took on Syracuse in THE most exciting college basketball game of the season. Trailing by three with less than five seconds left, Duke's Rasheed Sulaimon nailed a three pointer from behind the arc to send the game to overtime. Syracuse ended up winning in overtime and claimed the number one spot in this week's AP rankings, but round two of the new rivalry between Duke and Syracuse is only a few weeks away. I know my Blue Devils can beat Syracuse, but boy am I scared of their famed 2-3 zone defense. For the entire game, Syracuse's guards danced around the key intimidatingly, forcing Duke to play primarily around the perimeter. If Duke hadn't made 41% of an absurd 36 three-point attempts, the game wouldn't have been close.

There is no three point line in quidditch though, and even if there was, Baylor's signature hoop defense blocks every long shot. Baylor's beaters (and point defender) do the exact same job as Syracuse's guards. Wielding a bludger, Baylor's front beaters use sharp motions and fakes to put immense pressure on the ball carrier and generally make them feel uncomfortable. To the ball carrier, it seems as if there's nowhere to go. To quote the signature line of Philadelphia 76ers play-by-play announcer Mark Zumoff, Baylor's beaters "lock all windows and doors."

The performances of beaters David Gilbert and Tim Brestowski were especially impressive, and I wrote about them in this week's Weekend that Was on the IQA website.

UT's younger, inexperienced players panicked because any mistake in their passing game was immeadietly taken advantage of by Baylor. Often, a missed catch or overthrown pass by UT would translate into ten points by Baylor. When a UT chaser would be beat and the Longhorns would try to reset, the absence of that extra offensive player would essentially doom Texas. Without that extra outlet, Baylor's beaters would amp up the pressure, and anyone except Augie Monroe, even experienced players like Aryan Ghoddossy and Ryan Davis, looked helpless. 

Messy Texas
The UT team that took the field against Baylor performed unlike any UT team I've seen before. Whether it was the high-pressure Baylor defense or some unrelated inside issue, there was a noticeable lack of whatever-made-UT-so-great-last-year. Baylor caught the Longhorns off guard badly at the beginning of the game, jumping out to a huge lead--on the scoreboard and emotionally. Maybe fatigue from a grueling schedule finally caught up to the reigning world champions, but UT never bounced back. The defense seemed lackadaisical at times, with some failed tackles and too much standing around. Baylor's beaters completely outclassed UT's beaters, a discouraging performance for a group that seemed to be making progress. Newer players who came in later in the game like mid-drift chaser Paden Pace showed aggression and motivation, but sloppiness translated to illegal contact and cards.

When I analyze UT's games against the Lost Boys and LSU, I'll list plenty of positives for this Longhorn team. The wins over the Lost Boys and LSU should not be forgotten. UT's impressive performance in pool play made their sound defeat at the hands of Baylor that much more shocking. I was 100% on the UT bandwagon going into Diamond Cup, convinced that their newer player had the characteristics--including physicality, aggression, motivation and guidance from the Longhorn veterans--to win. Knowing how UT's captains can use defeats as added motivation, I'm certainly not ready to count UT out of title-contention for World Cup VII and even the Southwest Regional Championship.

Get Lucky
Did anyone else notice how many long and mid-range shots Baylor drained? Baylor is obviously one of the better shooting teams in the country, but each shot they made seemed more miraculous than the last. The shots were ricocheting off the sides of the hoops, flying in from weird angles, threading through traffic and going inches above the outstretched hands of UT's keepers. As the game wore on, I kept wondering whether Baylor's luck would run out. 

This raises a greater question. Does the 150*-40 final score in this Baylor-UT game truly reflect the performances of both teams? While I'm not going to discount Baylor's goals because they looked lucky, repeating that shooting performance would be very difficult. 

This raises yet another greater question. Is Baylor's offense too dependant on long to mid-range shots? Long shots are huge momentum boosters (the crowd absolutely loves it--remember Dan Daugherty at WCVI?!), but if Baylor's shooters go cold, will their offensive production and scoring tank? When they run a two-male beater/two-female chaser set, it looks like they are extra dependant on unleashing long shots. Ironically, a simple "Baylor" hoop defense would challenge Baylor's offense by taking away the threat of shots from distance.

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