Saturday, March 22, 2014

Rick Barnes Not Thinking On His Feet

At the under 12 minute TO of the first half, Rick Barnes brought in Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert off the bench. That was one of the big clashes of style in this game - Texas played two big men all game while Michigan went 4-out with 6'6 Glenn Robinson III at the 4. While their starting PF - Jonathan Holmes - was quick enough to defend on the perimeter, neither Lammert nor Ibeh would be comfortable defending a 6'6 small forward at the three-point line.

Barnes had a dilemma. When he went to his bench, Michigan would be able to defend his line-up and he wouldn't be able to defend theirs. Ibeh is a defensive project at the 5 position and Lammert is a face-up 4 who likes to shoot jumpers - neither is comfortable using their size to score over the top of smaller defenders. Even if they could, Texas has a number of non-shooters in their perimeter rotation, so Michigan could sag off them and prevent the post-up.

In making a game-plan, Barnes had two options:

1) Not use the Lammert-Ibeh duo. He could do that and stay with his two big-man line-ups, by staggering the minutes of Holmes and Ridley so one was always on the floor or he could choose to go small at a certain point in the game, playing 4 perimeter players against Michigan.

2) Use the Lammert-Ibeh duo and try to play up their strengths. On offense, that means using your size to attack the offensive glass and slowing the pace of the game down. On defense, that means playing some type of match-up zone, so the big men don't have to play perimeter D.

He went with option 3 - which was go with his usual substitution pattern and make no adjustments in order to match-up with Michigan. Lammert and Ibeh kind of hung around the rim not doing much on offense, than got lost chasing perimeter players around the floor on D.

After a few minutes of that, Barnes brought Holmes to play as a 3 and kept Ibeh and Lammert in. He had three guys who couldn't play perimeter D trying to guard on the perimeter - even better, none of them could take advantage of their size inside, since there wasn't enough shooting on the floor and the guards weren't looking to play inside-out anyway.

The play-by-play shows the grisly aftermath - Michigan went from 16-10 to 27-12 in a few minutes and the game was essentially over. At that point in the game, Barnes began making adjustments - going small and playing 4-out, using a 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone when he had his big men in. When you are the underdog, you have to make those adjustments faster.

It was like Barnes spent the first 10 minutes of the game on auto-pilot. The problem was that John Beilein wasn't and his team had more talent. Beilein plays to his team's strengths and tries hide their weaknesses - he is always making adjustments with his line-ups in order to match-up with an opponents.

Texas was the underdog, but it was a winnable game. They even made it a little interesting in the latter part of the second half - they were just trying to come back from too far down. Games aren't always won or lost in the last few minutes of the second half - Texas lost the game in the stretch from 11:00-7:30 in the first half.

If you want to know about a coach, just watch his substitution patterns. That's where basketball games are won and lost.

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