Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cody Zeller's Post Defense Is Good Enough...For Now

Cody Zeller leads Indiana, one of the most dangerous teams in the nation, in both scoring and rebounding. He was also named a midseason finalist for the Wooden Award and he's a top NBA Draft prospect because of his polished offensive post play. However, if there's one thing that the Hoosier star struggles with, it's defending the post.

Opposing Zeller down low, Derrick Nix, Michigan State's bruising 6-foot-9, 270 pound senior forward seemed poised to do some damage down low.  Enter SnapCall.

SnapCall Question
To the casual fan, the correct response to this SnapCall might have come as a surprise. But any true Spartan fan would have responded correctly because most wouldn't peg Nix as a pure scorer. After all, the Michigan State forward averages just 9.5 points per game and managed just 8 points the entire night and his first shot fell with just 1:49 remaining in the first half.

Even so, Nix significantly impacts the game in other ways. For example, those watching during the 5-possession stretch of our SnapCall question saw Nix set two on-ball screens at the high-post, both of which lead directly to Michigan State layups. He also got Zeller in the air with a pump fake, providing teammate Adreian Payne with an open cutting lane toward the rim. Nix then found Payne for an easy assist.

Also, Derrick Nix's aggressiveness on the offensive end is difficult to assess from the box score alone. Indeed, Cody Zeller was caught off-balance multiple times during those five possessions, allowing the Spartans some easy looks.

If those easy buckets made one thing clear, it's that Indiana's coaching staff needs to think about how to use Zeller's height on the defensive end in ways that will not leave him susceptible to abuse from stronger opponents. And while head coach Tom Crean eventually switched Christian Watford to Nix in order to get a more appropriate matchup in terms of strength, the Hoosiers' initial game plan was clearly lacking.

In the end, the Hoosiers were able to pull off an impressive road win in East Lansing. But they need to be careful with their defensive strategy moving forward. One win is nice, but 6 straight wins are required to become NCAA Champions.

To compete against your friends and the entire viewing audience during big games, download SnapCall Sports (free) from the App Store.

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