FanPost

Maryland’s Lineups vs. Virginia: Big vs. Small

Maryland has played the vast majority of the season with lineups consisting of combinations of two post players (Len, Padgett, Cleare, and Mitchell) and three perimeter players (Wells, Faust, Allen, Howard, Layman, and Aronhalt). One of the big questions heading into Sunday's game was how Maryland would match up against Virginia, who was forced by injuries to play the entire game with a lineup of one post player and four perimeter players.

Virginia entered Sunday's game with a depleted frontcourt. Darion Atkins (6-8, 222) was suffering from shin splints and limited to seven minutes, significantly less than his season average of 20 minutes per game. Meanwhile, Mike Tobey (6-11, 227) -who averages 14 minutes per game -was unavailable due to the ravages of mononucleosis. As a result, undersized options Justin Anderson (6-6, 226) and Evan Nolte (6-8, 207) were Virginia's best options to play alongside Akil Mitchell (6-8,234) in the frontcourt. Both Anderson and Nolte are perimeter-oriented players on offense. Anderson is a small forward who does typical small forward things, while Nolte spaces the floor and shoots 3-pointers (exactly 2/3 of Nolte's shot attempts have come from 3-point land). So if Maryland continued to use three post players and two perimeter players against Virginia, one of Maryland's post players was going to have to leave the post and guard a player on the perimeter.

When a bigger post player is matched up against a smaller perimeter player, both players and teams are expected to take advantage of the mismatch on offense. The post player is expected to take advantage of the matchup by scoring over the smaller defender in the low post (or finding open shooters if double-teamed) and winning the battle on the offensive glass. Meanwhile, the perimeter player is expected to take advantage of the matchup by beating the post player off the dribble (or shooting the open shot if the post player backs off) and spacing the floor, keeping a large defender away from the rim. If one of the players/teams is considerably more effective at taking advantage of the matchup, the team on the losing end is usually forced to counter by substituting a player who's a more appropriate defensive matchup for the "winning" player.

Maryland started the game against Virginia in their usual lineup with two post players. This was a reasonable decision; if Maryland was able to win the mismatch Virginia would not be able to counter by replacing a perimeter player with a post player, and therefore Maryland could exploit the situation for the entire game. The only way Maryland could determine who would win the mismatch was to play two post players and see what happened.

Unfortunately, what happened was not good for Maryland. So with 11:11 left in the first half and Maryland losing 11-17, Mark Turgeon deviated from Maryland's typical personnel grouping and played Alex Len alongside four perimeter players. Over the course of the game, Maryland fluctuated between this type of "small" lineup (one post player and four perimeter players) and their typical "big" lineup (two post players and three perimeter players). The table below shows when Maryland switched between the "big" and "small" lineups and the point differential during each of those periods.

Lineup type

Time

Score

Point Differential

Begin

End

Begin

End


Big

20:00

11:11

0-0

11-17

-6

Small

11:11

0:00

11-17

29-35

No change

Small

20:00

17:29

29-35

32-40

-2

Big

17:29

14:51

32-40

34-47

-5

Small

14:51

4:34

34-47

55-68

No change

Big

4:34

4:07

55-68

57-68

+2

Small

4:07

0:00

57-68

80-69

No change

Totals

Lineup Type

Time

Point Differential

Big

13:54

-9

Small

26:06

-2

When you look at the total point differential, the obvious conclusion is that the "small" lineups were much more effective than the "big" lineups. During the (approximately) two-thirds of the game that Maryland played the "small" lineups, the game was very even and the teams were separated by a single basket. But Maryland was decisively outscored when the "big" lineups were on the court.

Did using the "big" lineups cost Maryland the game? Asking that question is overly simplistic. While the negative impact of the "big" lineups is roughly equivalent to the difference in the score, there are many other facets of a moderately close game like this where you can play the "what if?" game and wonder how just a couple changes could alter the outcome. Nevertheless, there's no question that Maryland's use of the "big" lineups hurt the team's chances of winning.

So why were Maryland's "big" lineups less effective? The obvious reason is that Maryland wasn't able to benefit from their size advantage on offense. First, Maryland lost the rebounding battle to Virginia when the "big" lineups were on the floor. Maryland's "big" lineups were only able to snag three of the team's twelve missed shots for an offensive rebounding percentage of 25%. That's considerably worse than Maryland's cumulative offensive rebounding percentage during the ACC schedule of 35.6%. Meanwhile, Maryland's "big" lineups allowed Virginia to rebound three of their eight missed shots for an offensive rebounding percentage of 37.5%, which is considerable higher than the 29.5% Maryland has cumulatively allowed in the ACC. Virginia converted these offensive rebounds into three second chance points, more than the two that Maryland was able to muster from their offensive rebounds. Hence, Maryland wasn't able to use their size advantage to affect the score through rebounding

Maryland also wasn't able to use their size advantage to generate offense by attacking Virginia in the post. Over the entire 13:54 "big" lineup period, Maryland's post players produced a grand total of 5 points, 0 assists, and 5 turnovers. Two of those points were from a James Padgett put-back, which means that only three of the five points were generated in the half-court offense. The reason why the post players were so unproductive was simple: Virginia was able to completely disrupt Maryland's low post offense through double teams.

Maryland's low post offense has been extremely vulnerable to double teams all year, and the problems against Virginia followed the same general narrative. Maryland‘s post players had trouble establishing position and rarely got help from their teammates in establishing position. Therefore, when the post players received the ball, they weren't close enough to the hoop to take a quick shot and Virginia had enough time to double team. The post players did a poor job anticipating and reacting to the double teams and allowed themselves to get tied up by the help defender. This caused frequent turnovers and prevented the big men from hitting open perimeter players with passes good enough to beat Virginia's defensive rotation and create open shots.

The difference in Maryland's offensive efficiency against Virginia (measured in points scored/100 possessions) between the "big" and "small" lineups is quite dramatic and shown in the table below.

Offensive Efficiency


Maryland

Virginia

Big

71.4

120

Small

112.5

116.7

An offensive efficiency of 71.5 is absolutely terrible. There is only one team in Division 1 with an offensive efficiency below 80 for the entire season, and only two teams had an offensive efficiency below 90 in the past 5 ACC seasons. Conversely, an efficiency of 112.5 is very good. Only two teams have averaged a higher offensive efficiency on the last 5 ACC seasons, and 112.5 is considerably higher than 89.3, which is the offensive efficiency that Virginia's ACC opponents have accumulated this season. So while the "small" lineup's offense was great, the "big" lineup's offense was grotesque.

Why was Maryland's offensive efficiency higher in "small" lineups than "big" lineups? First (as already discussed) the post players weren't able to produce at all in the "big" lineups despite having a matchup advantage and hurt the offense with frequent turnovers. Meanwhile, the "small" lineups make Maryland's perimeter players much more dangerous because of better floor spacing. The "small" lineup gives Maryland four competent three-point shooters on the floor at all times (in contrast with three in the "big" lineup), and this makes a big difference. When Maryland plays in their "big" lineups, there are two players on the floor who have zero catch-and-shoot ability and can only score within a few feet of the rim. So when an offensive player on the perimeter beats his man and drives (or cuts) to the rim, the two post defenders guarding the non-shooters are usually near the rim and can easily rotate to stop the penetration. If one of the post defenders rotates to stop the ball and the other rotates to block the passing lane to the area directly under the rim, then the offense has nowhere to go. In this situation the defense can essentially guard three offensive players with two defenders -the defender blocking the passing lane to the area directly under the rim is guarding the two post players who can only score at the rim.

But the scenario changes dramatically when there is only one non-shooter on the floor. If the post defender rotates to stop the penetration, then a defender has to rotate from the three point line to guard the area under the rim. And that defender is leaving a competent (at minimum) shooter wide open for a three-pointer. If the offense can get the ball to that shooter, the defense will have to continue rotating and eventually may not rotate in time and leave a player open. Therefore, dribble penetration from the perimeter by a "small" lineup has a much higher chance of generating a good shot than dribble penetration from a "big" lineup.

Maryland's half-court offense is designed to work around the limitations of having two non-shooters on the floor at the same time. But Maryland has had trouble executing the half-court offense all season and didn't have an epiphany against Virginia, as the half-court offense frequently became ineffective and stagnant. Consequently, the offense was extremely reliant on dribble penetration from ball screens and 1-on-1 situations, and thus significantly more efficient with "small" lineups than "big" lineups.

The superiority of Maryland's "small" lineups against Virginia raises an interesting question. Would Maryland be more effective and have a greater chance of winning in the future if the team decided to "go small" and use primarily "small" lineups? I will discuss and attempt to answer that question in an ensuing post.

Anything deemed inappropriate will be deleted by an admin or moderator with the power to do so. The views of the above FanPost do not represent the beliefs of Testudo Times or Testudo Times' authors, nor are they the work of them.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Testudo Times

You must be a member of Testudo Times to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Testudo Times. You should read them.

Join Testudo Times

You must be a member of Testudo Times to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Testudo Times. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker