Can Maryland Slow Down Houston's Aubrey Coleman?

Not only is Aubrey Coleman great at curbstomping the occasional flopper, he can also put points on the board at an alarming rate. Houston's 6-4 senior guard has hit 30 points nine times this season, has had no single digit nights, and leads the nation in scoring. He could single-handedly keep Houston in the game against Maryland in the NCAAT first round, so you containing him is expected to be a big goal for the Terps.

But just how good is Coleman? Most mock drafts have him as a second round pick, quite an accomplishment considering he's in his second year at a program with almost no national buzz. I'll let DraftExpress do the talking:

From an NBA standpoint, Coleman has average size for the shooting guard position at 6-3 or 6-4, but makes up for that somewhat with an absolute chiseled frame. He's not going to blow anyone away with his pure athleticism, but is a very skilled offensive player who fills up the stat sheet in many different ways.

....

Coleman gets the largest portion of his offense in isolation situations, facing up from the perimeter and taking his man off the dribble. Not a prolific 3-point shooter (only 21% of his field goal attempts come from beyond the arc), he loves to operate in the mid-range area, where he does a terrific job creating separation from his defender and is capable of making some exceptionally difficult shots.

He takes and makes a large number of long, contested 2-pointers pulling up off the dribble with a hand in his face each and every game, showing his virtues as a high-level shot-maker and pick and roll player.

...

An instinctive, aggressive scorer, Coleman is a very confident ball-handler who can create going either direction and shows nice hesitation moves and exceptional strength making his way to the basket.

There's a full write-up over there, so I suggest you check it out.

It's clear that Coleman's biggest strength is his, well, strength, though he's a very well-rounded player. One coach said that, "when he puts it on the deck, you can put your forearm on him, but it's not going to derail him."

Because he's not extraordinarily quick but rather very strong, Sean Mosley will be the most likely defensive matchup. It's doubtful that he's played too many players as strong as Mosley, and his pestering defense should at least make Coleman work for his points.

And that's a good thing. Coleman's not absurdly efficient, mostly because the defense is keyed to him at all times. His shooting percentages declined in conference from OOC play, and he'll miss plenty of shots considering he takes a boatload in the first place. Kelvin Lewis is a solid secondary option, but he's expected - not guaranteed, but expected - to match up with Greivis Vasquez on defense. Vasquez has the ability to be extremely active, and could tire out Lewis.

If Lewis does tire and become less effective offensively, Coleman will be forced to take the lion's share of shots, if he wasn't already. At that point, an alternative defense, like a box and one, might be a possibility. The key will be keeping him out of the lane more than anything else - long step-back twos are daggers, but they're also low percentage shots that won't earn him a trip to the line or get Jordan Williams in foul trouble. If Mosley can stay strong and deny penetration, or if Maryland goes to a zone that keeps him to the outside, he and the rest of the Coogs will be forced to knock down long, difficult shots.

Here's the interesting thing about trying to stop Coleman, though: it might have no effect on the outcome of the game. When Houston wins, Coleman averages 25.8 points per game. When they lose, he averages 25.3. Clearly, the difference is negligible. When he goes off, UH is as liable to win (37 against Marshall) as they are to lose (38 against Tulane). The same goes for when he doesn't score: his lowest point total of the year was in a loss to Texas-San Antonio, 10 points. Second lowest: 13 points in a win against UTEP.

What, then, makes Houston struggle? Well, one thing is #2 option Kelvin Lewis having an off-night - 17.9 points per game in wins, 11.9 points per game in losses. Lewis has had a big impact on close games. If he has a good day, Houston might stay closer than Maryland fans will feel comfortable with.

Generally, when Houston loses, their opponent took advantage of their weaknesses in rebounding and defense. Look at the stats - in losses, they tend to be significantly outrebounded and their opponents shot a high FG% against them. That's not true of every team - Mississippi State is the only counterexample, but they are significantly more talented - but for the most part, do that, and Houston will fold.

Frankly, Maryland doesn't need to match Houston. That's one of the things that irked me a little about Gary Williams' policy of playing Dino Gregory against smaller teams - take advantage of what you have, make the lesser team play to you. Not the other way around. I'm not going to argue with a national championship, but if Maryland doesn't accommodate Coleman, they'll be okay.

So, yes, Coleman may go off for 35 points on national TV, and who knows, maybe launch himself into a nice little NBA career, but this game won't be won there. Jordan Williams cleaning the glass, Eric Hayes matching up with Kelvin Lewis, and Landon Milbourne knocking down jumpers will have the bigger impacts.

Also, should you watch the game and wonder what's on Coleman's neck: he has a keloid, basically an excessive growth of scar tissue. Just so you don't wonder what it is all day long.

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