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March Madness Preview: North Texas on Defense

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The Mean Green are going to have a tough time dealing with Purdue in the post.

Indiana v Purdue Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

When the brackets were revealed and Purdue ended up with North Texas in the first round, Coach Painter and I had a similar problem ... we both hadn’t seen North Texas play. Coach has some of the brightest basketball minds in the nation pouring over hours of game film, and I’m stuck with my dim basketball mind pouring over whatever film is available online. I prefer watching full games, as opposed to highlights, and that left me with North Texas vs UAB from March 6th of this year.

North Texas actually loses this game at home 65-61. It was their last loss of the season before going on a 4 game run through the Conference USA Tournament, knocking off #1 seed Western Kentucky in overtime to take home the trophy, tournament bid, and a date with Purdue.

I’m focusing on the North Texas defense first, because that’s where Purdue has a decisive advantage. North Texas is a good defensive team, but I noticed something early on that Purdue should be able to exploit.

Ball Reversal, Post Seal

I had to cut this clip in half to get under the size limitation on this platform, so hand with me, because I’m giving you two clips from the same possession.

Keep you eye on #55 in green (which is confusing because North Texas is “The Mean Green: but in this game they’re wearing white) Trey Jemison. He’s a transfer from Clemson, and is a big body post guy without much finesse to his game. He’s also not the most explosive athlete on the floor, but he works hard and usually scores most of his buckets within 2 feet of the rim.

In this set, he posts hard on the strong side after the wing entry pass to initiate the offense. North Texas isn’t looking to get it to him in the post on the strong side, because they are using this initial post up to seal the post defender as they reverse the basketball to the weak side of the court.

North Texas plays straight up man to man on this possession, with their star center, Zachary Simmons, guarding Jemison.

UAB reversing the basketball to the top of the key after starting the ball on the wing puts the weak side defender in a bind. The UAB post player uses his initial post up on the strong side to seal the North Texas defender on the high side. The weak side wing has to pinch into the lane to protect against the easy lob over the top, but that opens up the weak side wing.

Once UAB moves the ball to the corner after the threat of a dribble drive, it’s all over for North Texas. Their weak side defenders are held on the weak side by shooters (blue circles), allowing the UAB wing in the corner let a corner 3 fly or feed the post for the easy 2. The baseline is wide open, and the UAB post player still has his man sealed on the high side (I think there is a good case to be made for a 3 second violation on UAB, but it goes unnoticed).

(cutting basketball plays is hard b/c of the file size limit, so hang with me).

The UAB wing decides to feed the post instead of firing away from 3. The backside guard attempts to dig down late, but it’s too late and the UAB center puts in an easy 2 points.

What This Means for Purdue

From the film I’ve watched, North Texas prefers to play straight up man to man, much like Purdue. In fact, the Mean Green look a little like a scaled down version of the Boilermakers on defense. If they attempt to guard Tre, and especially Zach, like this, things could get ugly in a hurry. They’re going to have to sell out to stop the ball getting into the post and hope Purdue misses from the outside. If they can’t handle the UAB post game, Purdue’s post offense, with a shooter like Sasha in the corner, is going to be a huge issue the entire game.

To make matters worse for North Texas, their center, Zachary Simmons, is one of their best offensive players. You’ve got to think Painter is going to pound it into the post and often and try to put the talented Mr. Simmons on bench with foul trouble early in the first half.

The more I watch North Texas, the more confident I become that Purdue wins this game going away. They run a conventional offense and defense for the most part, and aren’t one of those funky lower seeds that can throw something totally new at you for one game. They’re a nice team, and have a couple guys that can make shots, but I see no solution for Purdue’s unique inside out game.

To be fair, not many teams have a solution for Purdue’s inside out game.