Scouting Louisville: How to stop frenetic Cards? Score, rebound

by | College Basketball Insider

Rick Pitino wants Chane Behanan and Co. to crash the offensive boards and get easy buckets. (Getty Images)  
Rick Pitino wants Chane Behanan and Co. to crash the offensive boards and get easy buckets. (Getty Images)  

Scouting: Kentucky | Kansas | Ohio State

How should you attack Kansas?

What's the secret to stopping Kentucky?

Where's Ohio State's most obvious weakness?

What's the biggest concern when facing Louisville?

These are questions various sportswriters have spent months answering, but the truth is that sportswriters are just sportswriters. They get paid to have opinions and type them into a computer. But they never have to, you know, actually figure anything out. Coaches do, though. That's what they get paid to do. So with that in mind, college basketball writers Gary Parrish, Jeff Goodman and Jeff Borzello spent the past few days talking to men who have coached against either Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State or Louisville this season.

Parrish, Goodman and Borzello spoke to at least three men who have coached against each team and asked them for what amounts to a scouting report. The coaches were promised anonymity to ensure complete honesty. Here is what they said:

Scouting Louisville: Style of play

"They try to score off turnovers and also run a ton of ball screens. They run a lot of different action off ball screens."

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"Frenetic. Fast-paced. You always have to be on-guard at all times."

"What they've done, especially over the past month, is put those two mosquitos -- [Peyton] Siva and Chris Smith -- at the top and let them wreak so much havoc at the top of the press. The guards can take chances because they have a human eraser at the back in Gorgui Dieng. [Rick] Pitino's never had a great shot-blocker like him before. He's never had a true five-man and he's enjoying the luxury. They are so sound in the matchup zone. On offense, they've never been a great half-court offensive team under Pitino. Siva coming off pick and rolls has a second gear. He's always been a blur, but now his decision-making and ability to read defenses has improved. They aren't a great 3-point shooting team, but no one takes more corner 3s in the country. Their best offense is their defense."

Offensive strength

"Penetrate and pitch. Siva pitches it to [Kyle] Kuric and that's their strength on the offensive end. They also hit the offensive glass with Dieng and [Chane] Behanan."

"Siva is tremendous off ball screens -- and Dieng and Behanan can really offensive rebound. Behanan is a weapon -- he's limited, but he knows his role and embraces it. ... They also are a threat to make 3's with the Smiths [Russ and Chris] and Kuric. At any time, Kuric can make a bunch of 3's. He's capable."

"Offensive rebounding. With Behanan and Dieng, those guys are going to go get shots. They run the baseline, create space and come out. It's a huge weapon for them. Plus, they're so unselfish. A lot of teams don't buy into it."

Key player

"I think it's Chris Smith because he does everything. He can score in transition and in the half court and can defend. He's the X-factor for them."

"Siva. He generates most of their offense. Almost everything they get is because of him. You can't throw it down low to Dieng or Behanan. Kuric can't do it on his own. Chris Smith can create a little bit and Russ Smith can shoot you in or out of the game. But everything is reliant on Siva."

"I thought it would be Kuric, but in the last month it's clearly been Siva. Take him out of the equation and they are in trouble. They were fortunate in the last couple minutes against Florida to win without him on the floor."

Primary weakness

"Half-court offense. They go through long scoring droughts and it's usually because the other team is scoring. You have to starve them in their press. Make them take the ball out of bounds and anyone can beat them. Half-court offense is their weakness."

"I don't think they can play you man-to-man. If they have to come out of the zone, they're in trouble. Depth is also a problem, especially on the frontline. [Jared] Swopshire can steal a few minutes, but they don't have a backup for either frontline guy -- or for Siva."

"Free-throw shooting. For the last few years, they haven't been a great team at the line. That could come back to bite them at some point."

How to stop them

"Take care of the ball and starve them in the press and transition and you'll beat them. Turn the ball over and take quick, impulsive shots and they'll win. Stay in front of ball screens. They have a package of 12 different plays. Of all the teams left, I bet they have the shortest package of plays. The bottom line is defending the ball screen in the half court."

"You've got to keep Siva out of the lane. Their offense depends on him getting into the lane, scoring, dropping it off or getting shots up and guys like Dieng and Behanan going after it. You've got to help on Siva and that frees those guys up to go get the ball off the rim. He creates offensive rebounds because you have to help on him. Whatever you do, whether it's zone or man, you have to contain Siva."

"You have to get them into a half-court game and keep them out of transition. They want you to quick-shoot. You have to use clock on the offensive end, slow it down and make it a half-court game. Having said that, I'm not sure Kentucky wants to make it a half-court game. [The Cardinals] really only have one or two guys in Siva and Russ Smith who can break you down."

Best way to score on them

"One thing you can do with their big guys is score in transition. They don't get back all that well -- and they get back in the zone. If you get the ball in the middle of that zone, you can cause them problems."

"Isolate Behanan. He can't guard anyone on the perimeter. Create situations where he's one-on-one on the perimeter. You can also get to the offensive glass against them. They can do it to you, but they aren't a great blockout team."

"Attack Dieng early. He's so good at challenging shots. If you start jacking up 3's and miss, it just gives them more confidence. You have to go inside and shot-fake. You have to attack inside first."

Ultimate concern

"You can't let them go on scoring runs. They have the ability to go on eight- or 10-point runs -- usually off their defense. You can't let that happen."

"At the end of the season, Pitino just decided to press and come after you. You can't turn it over against them, because they're going to convert them into baskets."

"Turning the ball over. They do a great job with deflections and are so active. You can't turn the ball over or it's going to be a long night. They feed off that. You have to limit your turnovers and take care of the ball."

Something extra

"Swopshire was nonexistent in the regular season, but he's stepped it up in the Big East and NCAA tournament. He can shoot it, makes plays behind the line and can rebound -- and has length. He's risen as they have risen and given them some good minutes off the bench. No one talks about him, but he's been huge for them."

"You have to be mentally tough against them, because they mentally fatigue you. Whether it's a matchup zone or man, you can't over think. They get you thinking -- and you can't do that or you're in trouble. You've just got to play on the offensive end and you can't worry about whether they're in man or zone."

"Pitino's pressing a lot more than he has in the past. They trap you more than they have because they have athletic, quick guards. He's really changed their style of play. He's also one of the best in terms of in-game adjustments. You saw it against Florida. He hadn't played man-to-man defense all year -- and came out of the zone and went man in the second half. ... He's also as good as anyone at maximizing talent."


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