FanPost

Offense vs. the Lopez brothers

Every preview I've read of Stanford's defense indicates that they like to funnel the offensive attack inside to the Lopez brothers who help the team average a healthy number of blocks/game (equal to that of Texas incidentally). Now, I haven't read that much, but it would seem that they have a San Antonio Spur-type defensive strategy to run players off the 3 point line and let them attempt contested field goals against the twins.
Now, what I want to consider is how effective Texas' offense will be in scoring against this strategy which hasn't really been implemented like this by any other Texas opponent this season that I can remember (correct me if I'm wrong). Kansas pressures the ball and protects the rim well but does so with long athletes and not shotblocking centers. Also, Kansas doesn't really grind out the game in the half-court like Stanford does because Kansas is far more capable of running the fast break.

With this strategy of Stanfords' I would expect to see good defensive numbers in regards to 3  point shooting percentage by their opponents. Their Pomeroy adjusted defensive efficiency rank is 9th in the country (obviously very good) while their defense against the 3 point shot is at 33% (73rd in the country). Assuming a team is shooting 50% or worse from the floor inside the perimeter that makes the 3 point shot an enticing strategy for teams facing stanford as that results in 1 point per 3 point attempt and 1 point per possesion, even in a slowed down game such as Stanford prefers, is a good mark.
I don't really know if Stanford has faced a team with 3 point shooting nearly as effective as Texas can bring. The games Stanford has lost this season don't share a common theme of high 3pt. shooting percentage by the opponent (the most common theme in Stanford losses is the other team being UCLA). I don't know how effective they'll be at pressuring Abrams off the line and into his mid-range game which is less effective. Ditto for Augustin, although his mid-range game is often a devastating part of his game (ask poor Aggy).
I do very much suspect that Stanford will have trouble defending the 3 point line in general against Texas for the following reasons (not in order of emphasis):

1). The fast break: If Texas can force turnovers (Stanford has not been especially prone to coughing up the ball this season) or generate a fast break from defensive rebounds (grab those rebounds DJ and AJ!) I have trouble envisioning the Lopez twins reaching the other end of the court in time to contest 3 point jumpers by Abrams and co.

2). All of Texas' starters can shoot the 3. Mason is last in percentage at 34% which is a respectable enough percentage and he has been hot of late. Abrams and Augustin come in at 38% each. Atchley shoots 42% and James shoots 45%. Simple Mathematics leads me to conclude that the Lopez twins will each have to defend a player who is proficient at shooting 3s. Logic suggests that those players will be James and Atchley rather than assigning the twins to Mason, Abrams or Augustin. In Conclusion, Stanford's big men will likely be required to run around the perimeter, fighting through screens or their own slow-footedness to contest open 3s by James and Atchley. Or...Stanford can play zone. And I hope to God they would because if Texas keeps up it's 3 point shooting they will torch it with impunity.

3). I don't believe (someone correct me if I'm wrong) that Stanford has faced guards like Abrams and Augustin who can shoot 3's and even if they attempt to pressure them I'm not sure they will effectively prevent them from getting open looks from screens.

4). If James and Athley can hit 3 pointers/long jumpers, particularly for Athley in the 2 man pick and pop with Augustin and coming off screens for James they can spread the Stanford defense out and prevent the Lopez brothers from being able to wait under the basket to swat away efforts by our undersized guards. Thus, even if Stanfords' guards could generate effective perimeter pressure on Abrams and Augustin (which again I think is less than given) Texas may be able to spread the defense out with shooting that would allow dribble penetration resulting in precision passes such as Augustin AND Mason and Abrams have demonstrated an ability to execute as well layups for anyone on the floor.

In Conclusion, I'm not afraid of Texas' offense ability to execute in a low possession, half-court game against Stanford. I don't believe their defensive style of protecting the rim with 2 7-foot white guys is necessarily the matchup Texas should dread (moreso Texas should fear teams with large athletic guards and forwards like Kansas employs). So, as long as Texas continues to hit 3 pointers with anywhere near the efficiency they have shot with thus far in the tournament (perfectly reasonable, everyone but Mason is a proven shooter) and so long as Atchley and James can avoid foul trouble (enter the strategy of playing zone defense) I believe Texas will score too much for Stanford to keep up.

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