Lady Vols future brighter, provided they take care of present against Arkansas

Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick watches her team against Tennessee State at Thompson-Boling Arena on Tuesday, December 17, 2013. Tennessee defeated Tennessee State 94-43. 
  
 (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Saul Young, 2013 Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick watches her team against Tennessee State at Thompson-Boling Arena on Tuesday, December 17, 2013. Tennessee defeated Tennessee State 94-43. (SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL)

A sunny afternoon in Texas brightened Tennessee’s future considerably.

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Comments » 13

ModelMaker writes:

The problem with all this analyzing is, Kentucky is Kentucky and Tennessee is Tennessee. I believe a team needs too stick with what they do best and make your opponent beat you that way. If that doesn't seem too be working then and only then do you make a change. I think that if the Lady Vols continue too work on improving their zone defense, stick with the 3 big girls inside, I think they will do well; its when they go to the three guards is when they get into trouble. The strength of the Lady Vols is their inside power. When the big's are doing well 90% of the time you'll find the guards will be hitting their shots from outside. If it's one shot and done you'll find the guards will start missing shot's.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ModelMaker:

The problem with all this analyzing is, Kentucky is Kentucky and Tennessee is Tennessee. I believe a team needs too stick with what they do best and make your opponent beat you that way. If that doesn't seem too be working then and only then do you make a change. I think that if the Lady Vols continue too work on improving their zone defense, stick with the 3 big girls inside, I think they will do well; its when they go to the three guards is when they get into trouble. The strength of the Lady Vols is their inside power. When the big's are doing well 90% of the time you'll find the guards will be hitting their shots from outside. If it's one shot and done you'll find the guards will start missing shot's.

I always like your comments and often agree with them, but you are confusing me somewhat by continually referring to "the three big girls". If you mean Graves, Harrison, and Burdick, the ones who usually start at 5, 4, and 3 positions, respecively, that is normally the most effective LV lineup. If you mean Russell, Graves, and Harrison, I really don't reacall seeing that group on the floor together, nor should they be. No modern college basketball team can function with three true post-type players on the floor at the same time.

underthehill writes:

I think this coaching staff is doing a very good job working to resolve the areas where they are vulnerable and using their strong points to their advantage..I like the way Russell is getting better and making the transition to a faster game and more physical play..I like the way the staff is preparing this team to make adjustments during the game as needed..hope it continues and they hit their peak at tourney time..

RLL59 writes:

in response to underthehill:

I think this coaching staff is doing a very good job working to resolve the areas where they are vulnerable and using their strong points to their advantage..I like the way Russell is getting better and making the transition to a faster game and more physical play..I like the way the staff is preparing this team to make adjustments during the game as needed..hope it continues and they hit their peak at tourney time..

If the strategy changes implemented in the A&M game are present again tonight, I will wholeheartedly agree. Long term, I have my doubts that a zone defense will suffice to win a NC...just too many opportunities for a hot outside shooting team to win a game they shouldn't. But UConn is probably too strong this year anyway, and it's quite late in the season to teach the players an effective man defense.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to RLL59:

If the strategy changes implemented in the A&M game are present again tonight, I will wholeheartedly agree. Long term, I have my doubts that a zone defense will suffice to win a NC...just too many opportunities for a hot outside shooting team to win a game they shouldn't. But UConn is probably too strong this year anyway, and it's quite late in the season to teach the players an effective man defense.

Zones can be every bit as effective at covering outside shooters as a man-to-man can. In theory, the primary defenders can press out on shooters even more aggressively, knowing there is help inside. The secret to an aggressive zone is for all the players to move together in the direction of the ball while maintaining depth behind the primary ball defenders. You cut off the easy, short passing lanes on the ball side, making the opponents have to throw the ball all the way across the court or back out toward the mid-court line. Those passes can either be intercepted, thrown over the player's head out of bounds, or at least have enough arc on them that the backside defenders can recover to any receiver.

ModelMaker writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I always like your comments and often agree with them, but you are confusing me somewhat by continually referring to "the three big girls". If you mean Graves, Harrison, and Burdick, the ones who usually start at 5, 4, and 3 positions, respecively, that is normally the most effective LV lineup. If you mean Russell, Graves, and Harrison, I really don't reacall seeing that group on the floor together, nor should they be. No modern college basketball team can function with three true post-type players on the floor at the same time.

Bashaara Graves is listed as a F/C. Are you saying that Izzy can't play forward? I think she can just like I think Carter can play point. One can't be afraid to experiment around if you want to get the best combination out there. One has too be able too make tough choices if he or she wants to succeed. I still think that Harrison, Graves, and Russell would give us the best chance to win the SEC and get to the final four. I like what Holly has been doing lately, substituting a big with a big and a guard with a guard; its not exactly what I would like but it is close. Two people can look at something and see entirely two different things. This is not referring to you but one will see opportunity and the other one see's it as stupid. If it wasn't for pure fate, we wouldn't have known that Andraya Carter could have had such an impact on the team playing at the point as she did. I am retired now, and consider myself a very successful person. I credit some of that success too doing things that other people at the time thought was stupid.

MaxVolFan writes:

Just win baby! GLV!

RLL59 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Zones can be every bit as effective at covering outside shooters as a man-to-man can. In theory, the primary defenders can press out on shooters even more aggressively, knowing there is help inside. The secret to an aggressive zone is for all the players to move together in the direction of the ball while maintaining depth behind the primary ball defenders. You cut off the easy, short passing lanes on the ball side, making the opponents have to throw the ball all the way across the court or back out toward the mid-court line. Those passes can either be intercepted, thrown over the player's head out of bounds, or at least have enough arc on them that the backside defenders can recover to any receiver.

The Lady Vols didn't go to a zone defense because the coaching staff preferred it. They 'settled' on it because their overguarding man defense didn't work against today's quicker teams. Perhaps you've seen a few teams using a zone defense that, for practical purposes, can eliminate open spots between the defenders. Do you think the Lady Vols will be one of them? Or are you just wanting to be contrary?

Allenfan writes:

I think even in the zone, which they seem to be better at, they still need to identify the best shooters, and hang with them. It seems like every team gets more open looks than we do when we play them. I think our confidence is back, and I am looking forward to what I hope is a big win tonight on Rocky Top.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to RLL59:

The Lady Vols didn't go to a zone defense because the coaching staff preferred it. They 'settled' on it because their overguarding man defense didn't work against today's quicker teams. Perhaps you've seen a few teams using a zone defense that, for practical purposes, can eliminate open spots between the defenders. Do you think the Lady Vols will be one of them? Or are you just wanting to be contrary?

I try not to be contrary at all, but what difference does it make if they "settled" on a base defense or started out the season with it as long as they have found one they can win with. One could argue that they should have figured that out sooner, but better late than never. Playing a zone is no more of a panacea than a man-to-man; either can be appropriate for a given game situation or personnel group.

But if you want to play a good zone, you have to develop a team sense of where each player should be relative to the ball and to one's teammates. The point of a zone is to "eliminate open spots between the defenders", but it's actually up to the players on the second line to cut off the driving lanes. A help-side player should be about two steps behind and directly between two perimeter defenders; if the ball-handler is foolish enough to try to penetrate anyway, the three collapse on her with a good chance of taking the ball away.

If the offensive player is a good outside shooter who is likely to shoot an open 3-pointer, the nearest defender should try to step out on the catch, with all the rest of the zone edging in that direction as well to cut off the pump-fake-and-drive. The LVs have already done some of this out of their zones. If they keep working at it, they will get even better at it.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ModelMaker:

Bashaara Graves is listed as a F/C. Are you saying that Izzy can't play forward? I think she can just like I think Carter can play point. One can't be afraid to experiment around if you want to get the best combination out there. One has too be able too make tough choices if he or she wants to succeed. I still think that Harrison, Graves, and Russell would give us the best chance to win the SEC and get to the final four. I like what Holly has been doing lately, substituting a big with a big and a guard with a guard; its not exactly what I would like but it is close. Two people can look at something and see entirely two different things. This is not referring to you but one will see opportunity and the other one see's it as stupid. If it wasn't for pure fate, we wouldn't have known that Andraya Carter could have had such an impact on the team playing at the point as she did. I am retired now, and consider myself a very successful person. I credit some of that success too doing things that other people at the time thought was stupid.

As fans, we have infinite leisure to imagine what we would do if we were coaching a team. I could go into a long oration about how the modern game has evolved to make "jumbo" lineups unworkable, but this isn't a time to go that deep.

To take a couple of your points, Bashaara is a F/C in one way of designating positions; she is a 4/5 in another such system. One may call a player a "forward", but there are "power fowards[PF]" and "small forwards[SF]". One may think of the 4 player as a high post[PF] and the 5 player a low post[C or LP]. They exchange frequently, high and low, but in general the 4 player is the quicker post player who can hopefully shoot as far out as the foul line. The 5 player is the stronger but possibly slower and less-mobile of the two posts.

Harrison and Graves have shown they can play either post; however, neither of them have shown they can defend, shoot, or take the ball to the basket from the perimeter. That is why for the most part Harrsion, Graves, and Russell rotate through the post positions with Burdick or one of the other perimeter players at the 3 position. There is just no room on the court for three offensive posts to operate in the lane, but none of the three we are discussing here can operate anywhere else at this point in their careers.

RLL59 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I try not to be contrary at all, but what difference does it make if they "settled" on a base defense or started out the season with it as long as they have found one they can win with. One could argue that they should have figured that out sooner, but better late than never. Playing a zone is no more of a panacea than a man-to-man; either can be appropriate for a given game situation or personnel group.

But if you want to play a good zone, you have to develop a team sense of where each player should be relative to the ball and to one's teammates. The point of a zone is to "eliminate open spots between the defenders", but it's actually up to the players on the second line to cut off the driving lanes. A help-side player should be about two steps behind and directly between two perimeter defenders; if the ball-handler is foolish enough to try to penetrate anyway, the three collapse on her with a good chance of taking the ball away.

If the offensive player is a good outside shooter who is likely to shoot an open 3-pointer, the nearest defender should try to step out on the catch, with all the rest of the zone edging in that direction as well to cut off the pump-fake-and-drive. The LVs have already done some of this out of their zones. If they keep working at it, they will get even better at it.

So, after multiple textbook explanations of zone defenses, the answer is 'yes', you think they can win a NC playing zone as their primary defense. That was what I was questioning in my original post, and with which you found fault. I hope you're right and I'm wrong, although Holly already seems dissatisfied with the results.

johnlg00 writes:

Well, yes, I do think they can win a championship playing zone. As you and many others have said, the man-to-man isn't getting it done; there seems to be a noticeable lack of foot speed on the part of many of the players. That is one thing a zone is for; to cut off penetration by players who can't be stopped otherwise. I don't think this team is ever going to be one that just dominates opponents with its defense, but you only have to have one point more than the opponents to win. If a zone can help cover for a lack of speed and help keep the opponents on the outside, then I do believe they can win a championship. Obviously, the offense has to be efficient to make up for some of the shortcomings in the defense.

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