March Madness: Opposing coaches scout the Final Four teams
Nobody knows the Final Four teams better than the coaches who schemed to beat them over the last four months. Well, besides the four men who coach the teams that are still playing, obviously.But good luck getting Roy Williams, Jay Wright, Lon Kruger or Jim Boeheim to reveal any concrete game plan strategy prior to tipoff on Saturday evening.
So, we called a dozen or so coaches and asked for their scouting reports. Here's what they had to say:
"They put so much pressure on you with four 3-point shooters out there. You have to take away the driving lines and have good closeouts. They really spread you out. Guys have to be really disciplined because they’re the best shot-faking team in the country. They shot-fake you to death, drive to paint and pivot to keep defenders off balanced."
"They have four shooters, all pass the ball very well. You have to be very good with defensive rotations. Because they’re such good passers, they do a good job of moving the ball from the strong side of the floor to the weak side and right back to the strong side. If you’re late on that initial rotation, they can shoot it right away."
"Ochefu has really improved. He gives them a different dimension. I’d rather him try or get 25 or 30 then have those other guys get going."
"Their equalizer is the 3/4 court press, they run the clock down enough that they’re never really getting tested at the rim. Their size doesn’t get tested because they’re such a good scoring team, win the loose balls, they’re tough and play hard. The press allows them to burn the clock to 19 seconds on the shot clock so you don’t have the time to pound the ball in."
"There’s a different intensity level to their press. There are times when they’re trying to speed you up and others when they want to slow you down. Bridges is long and athletic, he can make rotating the ball from one side of the court to the other very difficult."
Keys to beating Villanova: Taking care of the ball, putting the big guys in middle ball screens. Making plays in the paint after beating the defender 1-on-1. Forcing them to settle for 2-point jump shots.
"Those four guys have a lot of experience, they know how to play together and feed off each other. They’re vulnerable inside both offensively and defensively, They’re much better offensive team than defensive, if you make a concerted effort to get the ball into the paint you can have an advantage there."
"But you better guard the 3-point line and follow Buddy Hield and the other guys get it going."
"(Against us) Hield hit a couple when he wasn’t even looking. If you can force him to go right it plays to your advantage numbers-wise but everybody has tried that all year and he still puts up 25 a night."
"(Hield) He’s always a threat to catch and score, he’s a really good mover without the ball. They love to get an offensive rebound, whip the ball to him and he fires it from 25 feet. He’s a volcano waiting to erupt."
"The other guys are good players too. You can’t shadow Hield with two guys because the other guys are too good. Cousins is as good in the mid range as there is in college basketball."
"They are really good in transition -- sprint to the 3-point line on the break. Spangler will break open late to the rim for a layup. Have to take good shots and have good court balance"
Lattin is really a key for them defensively because he affects a lot of shots at the rim. They do a really good job of keeping your offense on one side of the court. Tough to reverse it, when you penetrate they have five guys on the strong side of the floor. Spangler is a dirty work guy.
Keys to beating Oklahoma: Scoring inside, getting Spangler and Lattin in foul trouble. Turning turnovers into points. Holding Hield under 40.
"We tried to play inside-out the best we can, getting the ball into the high post or the paint. Not forgetting your interior game is important. Their length is so good, that’s what makes the zone hard. You have to try to beat it down the floor a few times if you can, get a few easy ones in transition. Have to make some shots against them. Sometimes you can move the zone and get the same shot late in the possession, have to be careful not to get down to the end of the shot clock."
"Their guards are very active. Gbinjie and Cooney get steals. If you’re careless, they’ll get steals for points, they’ll jump passing lanes. They do a good job making adjustments within the zone, so you have to come in with multiple ways to attack."
"If they get behind they’re going to press. Either fullcourt and trap you or attack you out of their 2-3, trap the ball, trap a pass. If you have a lead you have to know that’s coming and you have to handle their tremendous size."
"Their offense is very simple. They run baseline screening for Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson. They’re going to ball screen and try and create off of that. It’s not complicated what they do, they just have very good spacing, they have very good players and they make tough shots. They play with a free mind because they’re not running a million different things. Richardson makes 1-on-1 plays. Because sometimes they take tough shots they can go through stretches where they struggle. Roberson is phenomenal along the baseline. He’s a monster rebounder. Cooney hasn’t shot it well, but demands attention. Lydon is the X factor. When he is out there, they have four guys who can make 3s, more space to go 1-on-1 and drive to the basket."
Keys to beating Syracuse: Not settling for perimeter shots against the Syracuse zone. Pounding the offensive rebounds for second chance opportunities. Drawing fouls to force the Orange into its thin bench.
"Most well-rounded offensive team we’ve played. Really good guards, good wing player and bigs. Brice Johnson is playing as well as any big in the country. Good versatility. You have to do a good job on them inside and outside. They can beat you shooting 3s, driving to the basket, scoring in the post and on the offensive glass."
"They overwhelm you at the rim. There’s no team in college basketball that can send those bodies to the backboard. Forget about Brice; As good as he is, their second, third and fourth big guys are better than almost anyone else’s. Where their offense may not be super creative, it’s so systematic they know where the shots are coming from and the big bodies are going to be and they just go hammer the rim. They have huge dudes flying at the offensive glass. Now that they’re shooting so well, it’s a pick your poison situation."
"You have to put those big guys in middle pick and roll, they’re not great at pick and roll coverage. You can get the ball going downhill. But then you have to make the right decisions. Can you stop and pass out of there and finish at the rim some?"
"You can’t run with them."
"They haven’t had a guy like (Joel) Berry in a while. He’s really improved. He can play outside the system, go get a basket, he heats the ball and makes shot. He allows (Marcus) Paige to go off the ball, Paige becomes a much bigger problem when it’s not in his hands the whole time."
"They rebound the ball so well, getting clean rebounds which allows their guards to get a head start down the floor, because of their trust. Kennedy Meeks is a phenomenal outlet passer."
Keys to beating North Carolina: Solid transition defense, rebounding out of the zone, making someone other than Brice Johnson beat them. Continuing to play free offensively, but milking the clock. Hitting 3-pointers while being careful not to take wild shots. Avoiding foul trouble, because of lack of depth.