In Maryland's final marquee non-conference matchup, the Terps square off with the Connecticut Huskies. Kevin Ollie's squad enters Tuesday's tilt unranked in the latest polls, though the Huskies were as high as #18 before two losses in the Bahamas to Syracuse and Gonzaga. I watched a replay of UConn's matchup with Gonzaga to get a sense of what Maryland fans can expect.
Junior center Amida Brimah anchors the Huskies' defense, having led the nation in total blocked shots as a sophomore. While a matchup with Diamond Stone could be compelling, I'm more concerned with Brimah's effect on Melo Trimble. Maryland's leading scorer has the craftiness to avoid outright blocks, but Brimah alters shots beyond the simple block statistic. In this clip, a Gonzaga guard misses a difficult floater in part due to the respect given to the shot blocker's length.
That's not a "block," but it might as well count as one. UConn also showed a quick trigger on doubling down on Gonzaga's post players. If the Huskies use a similar tactic against Maryland, the Terps should be well prepared on how to handle a double.
Several opponents, usually those with smaller frontcourts, have relied heavily on double teams so far this season. The key will be for Maryland's bigs to keep their composure and avoid rushing. Robert Carter gives a textbook example of accepting the double in the clip below.
Carter does not panic or pick up his dribble when initially blitzed. He backs off, and then patiently lines up his drive to attack the second defender. Carter's first move backwards deters the double team by creating more space to cover, and then he seeks out the double team to free up Stone when the passing lane is more accessible.
Now compare that to this play where both Stone and Damonte Dodd successfully complete skip passes out of double teams, but without the same composure as Carter.
Not nearly as smooth and calm as Carter, though Layman knocked down a contested 3-pointer anyway. Carter has commanded double teams because he will hurt opponents otherwise. The doubles on Maryland's other bigs might be aimed more at creating turnovers, a must for UConn who thrives in transition.
Offensively, UConn makes heavy use of the pick-and-roll, though I did notice the Huskies often ran the PnR in a distinctly different way than Maryland. Instead of starting at the top of the arc, the Huskies attacked from either wing. The clip below is the basic offensive set that appears to be Ollie's preferred halfcourt action. This appears to be a simplified version of "Motion Weak," a favorite play of the San Antonio Spurs.
The idea here is to overload the weak side in order to isolate the PnR action from the help defenders. The above play is a best-case scenario for UConn as the Gonzaga defender gets caught flat-footed, leaving a wide open baseline drive.
Other times, the side pick-and-roll was easily bottled up. When played properly on defense, the baseline drives afforded much less space than a typical high screen might yield. Here UConn runs the same action on both sides of the court without any positive results.
One thing I'd watch for is how this affects Maryland's defensive approach. The high hedge, the Terps' preferred tactic, makes sense if the ball-handler is moving towards the center of the court. Ideally though, Maryland would like to keep UConn away from the middle of the court. The Terps could try to "ice" the screen, where the guard overplays to force the ball-handler away from the screener. This would require Maryland to abandon its usual hedge as the big must hang back to corral the baseline drive towards the boundary.
For good measure, here and here are two more examples of UConn setting up the side PnR. For extra reading on the full version of "Motion Weak," Mike Prada had a fantastic breakdown two years ago here on SB Nation.