Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Guest post: Havoc, Shmavoc -- a VCU preview

By Endrit Demi

Look, I get it. On paper and in practice, VCU’s suffocating “Havoc” press has been intimidating and incredibly effective. But my feelings on this vaunted defensive tactic resemble those of McKayla Maroney during the last summer Olympics.  I’m not trying to insult VCU, but rather their opponents, who have failed time and time again to adequately prepare for what they know is coming.

I’ve always advocated that all teams find ways to incorporate at least a few minutes of Havoc-style press during games, and not at the end.  Generally, when teams go to the press, it normally comes due to desperation and is too little, too late.  If you press early, and successfully, you can help pad a lead rather than try to climb back in the waning minutes of the game.  The only teams that I really give a pass to for passing up on this tactic are those without deep benches.  That is truly VCU’s biggest advantage, game-in, and game-out.  Not only are they incredibly well coached, but they have a battalion of guys ready to cycle in and out, almost as fast as Coach Lonergan’s substitutions, to tire you out.

GW is unfortunately not as deep as VCU, and in my opinion this is really their only Achilles heel, exacerbated by the recent spate of injuries.  However, I also believe that those injuries have been a blessing in disguise in that they have gotten valuable playing time for our limited bench, beefing up their on-court resumes and exposing them to pressure situations. This experience will be crucial in facing the Havoc on the road and without Kethan Savage this Wednesday at 7pm.  The injury situation has also exposed Coach Lonergan’s true genius: to get the best out of his players, no matter who they are and no matter what the circumstances. 

Back to my earlier argument: why I don’t find the Havoc, or any other press, that intimidating.  My primary rationale is that simply put, full-court presses leave huge gaps in defenses that well-prepared teams should easily be able to exploit.  Case and point, the first gif in this article (below).  Writer Luke Winn is using it as an example of how good VCU’s defense can be. But where Winn sees a good defense, I see a poorly-prepared offense. 

Without even looking at any VCU tape, every opponent has to know that the Havoc is their main asset.  And yet where is Kevin Dillard’s help on that play? Jogging away from the trap at the moment of impact.  You can’t do that against VCU.  Every play, you have to know that it’s coming, and you have to be prepared to respond.  Well-positioned players and fundamentally sound passing can and should beat the press every time.  GW proved that when they hosted VCU at the Smith Center in January, and exploited it to get easy points in the paint, over and over.  This is aided by fresh legs, which Coach Lonergan has been able to provide consistently due to his unique roster management, despite the relatively thin bench.  While GW did commit 21 turnovers that day, it beat the Havoc more often than not, and rattled VCU on the way to a 10 point victory.

I give all credit to VCU for building up the roster and stamina to execute the Havoc well and for extended periods of time.  But I think that this GW team has the ability to break this press the way that any press should be easily broken.  They have a young, but experienced team of fundamentally sound players, who play well together and have already seen and beaten the Havoc.  This team also continues to step up big in the face of great adversity – as is evident in the lack of a losing streak greater than 1.  And I haven’t even gotten to the fact that GW is shooting nearly 48% from the floor, compared to VCU’s 41%.  While I do think this will be the hardest of the remaining games on the Colonials’ schedule, barring any extreme deviations from both teams on the above stat, I see GW taking this one 78-70.

Editor's note: I wish I shared Endrit's optimism


Anonymous said...

How did Havoc, Shmavoc work out for GW last night?

Anonymous said...

How did Havoc, Shmavoc work out for you last night?

Anonymous said...

GW carelessness and VCU shooting well above average from beyond the arc won the game - can't credit all of that to the havoc. Still sticking to my analysis, havoc is more dangerous in reputation than in execution. At least I make my opinions publicly without hiding behind the internet ;)

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