EDIT NUSS: Promoted to the front page because it's a thoughtful piece with equally thoughtful discussion in the comments. If you're interested in a technical look at why our defense has been misfiring, this is a must read. Enjoy.
Fanshot Link to Harmeling's thoughts
I wanted to highlight some of the insight Harmeling gave on the defense. It was an eye opener as to why the "pack hybrid" isn't working. Below are his thoughts specifically on the d:
On the new system:
it's very similar- but now they extended their pressure more...which can be good and bad. By definition, the Bennett "pack" defense mandates that players not guarding the ball be in a 16 foot radius of the rim, which ensures they are in position to help on any penetration. The current system doesn't demand the players be in the "pack" which to me seems a bit counter productive...
On the pack hybrid:
let me clarify- in my opinion, either you play the pack- or step out, pressure the ball heavily, deny passing lanes, and push to the baseline (like UW). Because they are trying to deny passes as well as be in the pack, it puts the players in a tough position: do I deny the pass or be in the gap to help penetration? It is very hard, if not impossible, to do both. So this type of pack "hybrid" contradicts the very rules and concepts that make the pack so successful. Hard to be consistent this way.
On whether you can play uptempo in the Bennett system:
I've been pondering that question for the past 5 years. I believe you can. However, Bennett "type" of players generally aren't great in the open court, so I believe the lack of uptempo play in that system was at least in part due to personnel. Although I must say- a team that plays somewhat uptemp and holds true to the pack D would have to be a VERY well conditioned team
The pack in itself is designed to pack the lanes, take away easy shots, and force teams to shoot over it. What we've seen in the past from Tony's teams is if an opponent can consistently knock down a 3, we were screwed. In order to solve this, Bone has extended the defense and is trying to get the team to jump passing lanes more often. So, he's trying to pack the lanes, but at the same time extend and ball deny, which in itself leaves the lane open. When we see confusion or a man wide open in the lane after a high screen, this is part of the reason why. The pack specifically keeps all 5 within a close radius of the hoop with everyone helping clog the middle.
Harmeling also answers why it's very tough to play a pack in an uptempo. In the pack, you're working you butt off on D, always getting back, and constantly moving on that end of the floor. The pack requires all 5 to get back on D as quickly as possible and assume their positions within a close radius of the hoop. This is why you didn't see us crashing the offensive glass with more than 1 guy. Add trying to run the floor and an uptempo offense and you may well have to carry guys off the floor. It's just not plausible to do both, thus the switch to this hybrid.
So, why are we trying to run this defense right now? We can't really run an uptempo offense and a pack defense and the pack-hybrid negates most of the positives of the pack. If we tried to do both, our guards may survive, but our bigs like Casto wouldn't be able to play any serious minutes. Not to mention the breakdown that would occur as the season wears on.
The question I pose is what do you want to see? Should we use the athletes and scorers we have in Bone's offensive scheme and scrap the pack, moving more towards an aggressive on-ball defense? Should we revert to the old system of a slow-down and pack defense? Is it plausible to do both? In my opinion, the pack hybrid needs to fall by the wayside and we should step up the on-ball pressure, our ball denies, and force the ball to the baseline as he says. I can't see using the pack hybrid he's developing working because you're sacrificing the major principles of both the pack, and the Bone defense he installed at the other schools he's been at.