A look at VCU and its “HAVOC” defense

The New Mexico State Aggies rebounded and got to the line. Indiana negated those strengths and cruised to a 13-point victory Thursday night.

The VCU Rams present the Hoosiers with a different challenge Saturday; their “HAVOC” defense — one featuring a full-court press — is turning opponents over on 27.1% of their possessions, which is No. 1 in the nation.

First, here’s a look at the full-court press in action leading to a steal and score from the CAA Championship, a game VCU topped Drexel, 59-56:

“That’s going to be all game, that will not stop,” Dan Dakich said of VCU’s full-court defense early in the broadcast. “In fact, as the game goes on, one of the fun things about VCU is they get playing harder, they get stronger as the game goes on. They played 10 guys in a 22-0 run the other night.”

“VCU is going to make a run and you have to shorten those runs,” added Dakich on the broadcast. “The most important thing against VCU is to hang onto the ball for a 2-count and pass fake your way out of situations.”

Dakich also described it as a system where Smart wants his defenders between their man and the basket.

“It’s rule No. 1 of Shaka Smart’s defense,” said Dakich.

I reached out to ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan for his take on “HAVOC” and how the Hoosiers may look to combat it:

Shaka Smart calls his defense “HAVOC,” which seems like it should be an acronym for something, but is really just capitalized for emphasis. Strategically, the style is the one you saw VCU use to great effect in the tournament last season. The Rams press, but it’s not a soft press or a trapping zone. It’s about aggressively pressuring ballhandlers and making them as uncomfortable as possible. It applies in the half court, too, where VCU slaps and digs and claws at everything. That’s why they force a higher rate of turnovers than any team in the country this season. It’s the main focus of their defense. They want everything to be hurried and haggard, to force quick decisions, to get teams like Wichita State — which comes from the speed-averse, half-court-derived Missouri Valley — to rush. And the Shockers did exactly that.

How does IU avoid the same fate? To be honest, I’m not sure. Jordan Hulls is going to have to be really solid, and Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey and the rest of the guards are going to have to be on their toes. IU should get after the offensive boards, and Cody Zeller is a matchup disaster for VCU. But so was Garrett Stutz, and the Rams hassled him into his worst game of the season. Zeller has to avoid foul trouble on the defensive end — which means the Hoosiers have to keep Darius Theus and the rest of the Rams in front of them at all times, so Zeller doesn’t constantly have to challenge layups at the rim — and work quickly on offense. See Doug McDermott. Catch, survey, finish, or dish. If you wait too long, the Rams converge, and they’re so good at ripping big guys below the waist and either generating steals or making them uncomfortable.

I don’t think it’s nearly as bad a matchup for IU as it was for Wichita State. But if VCU gets Indiana out of its game, and it well very could, things are going to be really tricky for the Hoosiers Saturday. Should be interesting.

Beyond its nation-leading opponent turnover percentage, VCU’s defense boasts other impressive numbers. Not surprisingly, it’s also first in the nation in steal percentage (16.1). Its adjusted defensive efficiency (91.5 points per 100 possessions) ranks 21st. The Rams have done a good job defending the 3-ball, limiting opponents to just 31.8% shooting from beyond the arc (56th in the nation). This has helped keep their opponents’ eFG% relatively low (46.9%, 82nd in the nation).

Offensively, the Rams are far more pedestrian. Their eFG% of 47.5 is just 229th in the nation. But they’re solid in other areas. They hang onto the ball (17.5 TO%, 28th in nation) and their adjusted offensive efficiency (106.0 points per 100 possessions) puts them a respectable 89th in the country.

But VCU and Smart are defined by “HAVOC.” How the Hoosiers combat such a defense may go a long way in determining the outcome of Saturday night’s round of 32 matchup inside the Rose Garden.

  • calbert40

    I’m not as concerned about the man to man full-court pressure as I am the pressure in the half-court.  I think Jordy will be fine with it, but we really need VO and Will to take care of the ball better than they have in some games this season.  This could be the game where we miss VJ3. 

    Still, I think if we limit our TOs, and take our time in our offense, they will have trouble accounting for all of our weapons on the offensive end.

    Go Hoosiers!

  • Redandyz

    Would not be surprised to see more Remy Abell in this one – he’s quick and may be a good one w/Jordy to help break the HAVOC press.  Vic was really shaky w/the ball vs Mew Mexico St – he was a mess early on.   I would be all for Remy in there at 2 to limit the Ooopsy-dipos.

  • 11th and Done (Dunn)

    Time for Remy to shine.

  • SCHoosier

    Another unconquerable foe??!!  Seems to me that when the Shockers made their second half run..VCU did go out of the press and went man to man for a long period of time?? Can’t have Jordy in foul trouble tomorrow..and can’t have VO dribbling the damn ball until its over the half court line.

  • jermhoosierfan

    They have to be smart with the ball. Beating a press is about being disciplined which they have to be.

  • HoosierPat

    Jordy is going to have to be really good. He has struggled with pressure in the past but looks to have made improvements. The key to beating a press like this is just like facing pressure in the half court- patience, patience, patience. Don’t get into a rush trying to break the press. Also, Hulls. Any just try to take it up alone, there needs to be plenty of cuts and screens. If we can break the press effectively, I think this is a win.

  • Scottishot69

    We need roth to play..and score!!!

  • Southport65

    This last game was one of Jordy’s best games. He went to the hole more than I have seen him go since High School. He was fast and pushed the pace and drilled his 3’s! The so called experts said NMST guards would kill us but in fact our guards killed them! VO has to move with the ball sometimes he out runs it and turns it over. He must be under control in this game and we will beat them like a drum. The same way we will beat this coach if he goes to Illinois! IU wins by 12-15 points

  • Aubreyhouse

    AMEN!

    It’s a one game season. Our guys will have to bring their best. We can beat these guys.

    Go Hoosiers!

  • marionhoosier

    Check out their forum….Most are alot like the NMST players…they think we have no chance against them.  They even say we have no depth and outside of Zeller no impressive players.  Cant help but chuckle, is their team and opinion though.

    http://www.vcuramnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=8845

  • Drewp1

    Run it at them all night. There’s a reason they’re a 12 seed. They are not the same team as last year, not even close.

  • Will The Thrill

    Well they don’t shoot as well as last year, but their defense is actually better.  Seeds don’t mean crud, just ask Duke and Mizzu.

  • Briscoe rules

    This is a good excuse for the Hoosiers to play 3 or 4 guards at a time, which is where our depth is. Our guys will be running the layup line again if we break that press consistently.

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    they are going to press us so lets run and gun alll night. GO HOOSIERS!!

  • John

     Crean should steal something from Knight;s IU past, and do as was done when they played UNLV in the ’87 Final 4:  push the ball upcourt before VCU can set up their D.  And that’s how IU likes to play, anyway.  Zeller and Watford are the key:  get them upcourt quickly and make VCU keep with them; or, if the inbounds goes slowly, bring them into the backcourt and let them either take it up themselves or pass over VCU.  VCU’s bigs aren’t about to guard out bigs full court.  
    The real question is, can we beat them to the ball off the boards and protect the ball in the halfcourt?  Also have to keep Jordy & Cody out of foul trouble and make sure we’re moving the ball.  The more we dribble against those guys, the more chance for turnovers.  

  • IUeconAlum

    IU is going to educate this team. Make it Atlanta Hoosiers!

  • Hoosier in Bama

    I’m not so concerned about their pressure.  I think we will try to score off of it.  They will create some turnovers in the half court game but the key is not to get flustered.  If we don’t let it speed us up mentally, we can stay calm and handle it.  Even three TO’s in a row will not be a big deal if we can stay composed.  I can see a lot of layups and dunks in this one.

  • jayrig5

    The thing about a team that relies so heavily on creating turnovers is that if you can neutralize that, they have nothing.  If IU protects and values the basketball, they’ll have a really good chance.  If they throw it all over the place, then they won’t.  It will certainly be interesting, and I really wish IU had more than one day to prepare for the game, but then Wichita State had a week and it didn’t help them very much.

  • Kelin Blab

    How IU beats HAVOC…..

    + Make shots off the press. Teams will eventually stop pressing if you keep making shots
    + Pass Pass Pass, not dribble dribble dribble
    + Attack the press, if VCU wants to press and give up easy baskets, then take the easy basket
    + Ball Fake
    + Attack the middle

    A press isn’t something new to any of these guys and IU has been pressed before. I would be stunned if VCU presses IU the entire game. My prediction after a few open 3’s that press will go away.

  • Kelin Blab

    How IU beats HAVOC…..

    + Make shots off the press. Teams will eventually stop pressing if you keep making shots
    + Pass Pass Pass, not dribble dribble dribble
    + Attack the press, if VCU wants to press and give up easy baskets, then take the easy basket
    + Ball Fake
    + Attack the middle

    A press isn’t something new to any of these guys and IU has been pressed before. I would be stunned if VCU presses IU the entire game. My prediction after a few open 3’s that press will go away.

  • Tom

    I couldn’t agree more. There is a very good reason that big name teams don’t regularly press: the press doesn’t win basketball games. It’s a good gimmick and it can throw even solid teams off of what they want to do, but a patient and well coached team will systematically dissect a press and expose it as an inferior strategy. If IU keeps their heads and listens to coach they should coast to an easy victory.  

  • Geoff_85

    Their press plays right into IU’s hands. If they can beat the press, it will be a high-pace transition ball game and Indiana has been very effective with that, especially with Oladipo and Zeller on the floor. Victor Oladipo could have a huge game in this one. I think the two main keys are: 1. Take care of the ball 2. REBOUND. Watford may have a quiet game because we know he isn’t exactly the fastest guy on the floor, but if he can rebound like he has been lately, he may indeed have a big game. Oladipo and Hulls are really going to have to work together to beat the press and take care of the ball. The idea of Oladipo bringing the ball up the floor scares me tremendously. However, if he is the guy Jordy passes out to out of the trap, he may have the opportunity to drive quite a bit in this one, and we all know what he can do in the middle. This game just may be decided in the paint. It will either be really fun to watch (lots of dunks and open 3’s on kickouts for IU) or excruciating (lots of TO’s and VCU getting easy buckets) to watch. Hopefully the Hoosiers run these guys out if the gym! Go Hoosiers!

  • close shave barbasol

     Right. Converting on shot attempts by beating that press is key. We go on a quick 8-0 run, which we’re capable of, well see how quick they put an end to that press.

  • barbason

     I actually think Depo is better at bringing the ball up the floor. The last game he was just in too big of a hurry trying to beat people off the dribble and needed to settle.

  • Oldguyy

    As opposed to what Dakich was quoted as saying, VCU did not maintain their defensive energy all game against Wichita State.  They will get steals against IU.  We’ve improved to average in ball-handling, but in my view not enough to handle the pressure well.  So the keys may be to not get rattled by the turnovers and to exploit the fact that our offense is far superior to theirs.  

  • MisterSlippery

    My big concern is that Vic dribbles with the ball way out in front of his body, which is great when drives, but turnover prone against pressing D.

    Jordy has gotten much better this year about keeping his dribble and I think he’ll be fine.

    Roth doesn’t turn the ball over. If it becomes an issue, I say put him out there.

  • MisterSlippery

    My big concern is that Vic dribbles with the ball way out in front of his body, which is great when drives, but turnover prone against pressing D.

    Jordy has gotten much better this year about keeping his dribble and I think he’ll be fine.

    Roth doesn’t turn the ball over. If it becomes an issue, I say put him out there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Fischer/691470077 Steve Fischer

    I’ve been gone a few days but my last two posts were disparaging my fellow Hoosier Fans for their doom and gloom over the prospects of losing to NMSU. McHines is no Drummand and I predicted a 15 point victory right? Y’know with all these upsets, if we can just get by Kentucy we might become the favorite!

    Its time to  stop repeating how far we’ve gone and focus on how far we can go. Our team now plays with confidence so should our fans.

  • And_One

    I know VCU is the sexy pick to upset IU, and yesterday’s games only encourage the whole bracket-buster-giant-killer-glass-slipper thing, but–to use another fairy-tale metaphor–this emperor is naked. I had them over Wichita State based solely on the mystique, but I think the Hoosiers see through it, and what they see is a worthy opponent, yes, but a 12th-seeded worthy opponent. VCU plays hard, maybe 38 minutes out of 40, and their admittedly dogged defense can really unnerve an opponent. IU keeps its cool tonight, though, and wins by 10.

  • Jmfriedman

    If we hit a decent percentage from 3, we will handle this game well.  We will get the opportunities against this team, just gotta hit em.  I don’t think this team can hang with IU from a scoring perspective at all.  Roth should get some solid minutes for cherry picking duties.

    Side note- there was a Garrett Green sighting yesterday…. brief sighting. I had forgotten about him and his “decision”.  If I recall, he chose SDSU to have a chance to play in the dance.  I guess he got his chance……

  • Jmfriedman

    If we hit a decent percentage from 3, we will handle this game well.  We will get the opportunities against this team, just gotta hit em.  I don’t think this team can hang with IU from a scoring perspective at all.  Roth should get some solid minutes for cherry picking duties.

    Side note- there was a Garrett Green sighting yesterday…. brief sighting. I had forgotten about him and his “decision”.  If I recall, he chose SDSU to have a chance to play in the dance.  I guess he got his chance……

  • Kelin Blab

    Any team that does not shoot it well and scores alot off turnovers will struggle against IU, as long as they don’t turn it over. If you can’t score the ball with IU and pick your poison it will be a long night.

  • HoosierNshaker2

    “HAVOC” defense looks more like a middle school full court press…after watching the VCU v Witchita St. game (which was a fine example of streetball) this is a good matchup for the Hoosiers.  If we continue to share the rock and run the court like we did against New Mexico St. we’ll be dancing in the Sweet 16!

  • Drewp1

    Yeah, true, but last years tourney they shot the lights out. Ha, Duke!

  • Geoff_85

    VCU will pressure the hell out of whomever brings the ball up the floor and that is going to get the ball carrier in a hurry. Vic scares me in that kind of situation. Jordy did a great job of beating the pressure that NMSU put on him in the first game, so I’d like to see him bring it up. And again, that may give Vic the opportunity for easy drives to the basket.

  • 40 minutes of heaven

    “There is a very good reason that big name teams don’t regularly press: the press doesn’t win basketball games”

    Exactly — it has some novelty to it, and at its best it can be quite challenging, but if it were that good everyone would do it. I can’t get over the fact that essentially every national commentator ignores the fact that Indiana was the best offensive team in the Big 10, and among the best nationally. We shoot well, and we are especially good in transition. Do these “experts” think VCU is actually better than Ohio State or Michigan State? We may or may not win, but SHEESH……

  • inadvertentelbows_stillhurt

    I think the best pressure ball handler on the team is D.Moore ..Hulls and V.O. have proven to be turnover machines under traps and full court pressure and I’m not sold on the freshman getting it done(Remy) like many on this site are. Moore can break the press and get Cody and wings good looks….

  • Hoosier in Bama

    You make some great points but I’d like to add one I think people are missing, including myself when I posted last night.  An additional way to beat a pressing team is to harass them when you are on defense.  Most teams that pressure don’t like to be pressured.  They need to get a lot of deflections like they have done much of the year and make it hard for them to score.  It is very hard to organize a full court press off a missed shot.  If they simply pressure the ball and don’t have an organized full court press, I think we will blitz them.  Keep them from scoring, especially with any consistency and we’ll be fine if we do everything else you stated. 

  • NK

    I think we will have a lot of trouble if we try to dribble our way out of VCU’s full court pressure.  I would like to see quick outlets to CZ at around half court who then hits a  streaking V Dip or Remy.  CZ runs good enough that he can then fill the lane.  Zeller’s best aspect as a big man is his abiltiy to run the court and passing, almost to the point of making him too soft for a big man, but I think he will be key to breaking VCU.

  • NK

    I think we will have a lot of trouble if we try to dribble our way out of VCU’s full court pressure.  I would like to see quick outlets to CZ at around half court who then hits a  streaking V Dip or Remy.  CZ runs good enough that he can then fill the lane.  Zeller’s best aspect as a big man is his abiltiy to run the court and passing, almost to the point of making him too soft for a big man, but I think he will be key to breaking VCU.

  • barbason

     pffft. Moore hasnt played in weeks. Not gonna happen.

  • http://twitter.com/FazzerSports Fazzer Sports

    Solid pressur D does VCU play.

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