A look at VCU and its “HAVOC” defense

  • 03/16/2012 4:50 pm in

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.

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