Matt McCall is a Billy Donovan disciple, which means he will bring his style of play to Chattanooga.
Examining the variety of presses that Billy Donovan used against Georgia will give fans a good idea of what challenge Georgia faces against Donovan’s protege, Matt McCall. Donovan and McCall have had plenty of success against Georgia with their style of play at Florida and now McCall will try to replicate this success at Chattanooga. Chattanooga is a quality opponent and should be the favorites to win the Southern Conference. Chattanooga has quality players and the capability to knock off Georgia on a really good night for them. Chattanooga has been blown out twice in a row against the Dawgs, but Will Wade’s replacement has actual experience beating UGA as a Florida assistant. The downside for McCall is that this is first game as a Head Coach.
The Chattanooga Press as Performed by the 2013-14 Florida Gators
Chattanooga’s press is designed to make ball handlers feel uncomfortable in the backcourt and even in the half court. The defense works at its best when offenses go unnaturally faster, wear down mentally and physically and not communicate properly. When Georgia last visited Florida in 2014, it was a rude awakening for a Georgia team that was not composed nor able to handle the ball. The Dawgs buckled under the pressure and made mistakes on both ends of the floor that resulted in an embarrassing 72-50 blowout loss.
Florida threatens to trap one ball handler near the “Coffin Corner”, but brings everyone back except for one player to put immense pressure on the ball handler up until just before half court line where the press takes on a zone look and then changes to a double team until Georgia is able to get the ball either inside the perimeter or get the ball centered on the floor. The layered approach is what makes this press different, it’s not an orthodox 2-2-1 zone press nor is it the 1-2-1-1 Diamond Press. The layered approach manuevers the players to mimic elements of the previously mentioned presses when the ball handler is at a certain point on the floor. The Gator logo is a great guide to when the trapping action takes place on the floor, the single man press is replaced by a trap at the mouth and the trapping continues until the action is at the perimeter where the defense shifts to Man-to-Man defense. This forced Georgia to not only take a bad shot, but it burned off 12 seconds off the shot clock, which is less time to create a good shot. This same pressing action should be expected from Chattanooga in Athens off a made basket. Of course, if Chattanooga does not score, the press does not happen. If the press does not happen, one should expect a similar result to last season’s Chattanooga and Florida games where Georgia’s sets chewed up and spat out the Mocs and Gators.
In this press look, it is very similar to the last one, but this one looks to be closer to the 2-2-1 zone press. Georgia breaks the press preventing a corner trapping in the half court immediately, nobody really knows whether the layered approach is in place, but it looks like a 2-2-1 zone press. Georgia was sped up by the double teams and the opportunity to pick up an easy basket off the press, which negatively impacted decision making and caused an errant pass resulting in a turnover.
It’s difficult to decipher whether this is the Diamond Press or a 2-2-1, but the result is to force a team that is not accustomed to playing fast to play faster than they typically should. Another concern is that after a while facing the press there is a sense of desperation and the team presses itself to do things that they have not prepared. The Chattanooga Press will test this team’s offensive chemistry and composure.
What does Georgia do wrong in approaching the press here? Having the ball handler try to beat out the pressing defenders by heading down the sideline, which plays the role of a third defender. How many players can beat out a triple team up the floor by themselves? This is exacerbated by the a complete lack of awareness on the part of the ball handler’s teammates on the other side that are not quite sure where they are supposed to be and how to support their teammate. This was a problem that Georgia faced against LSU in Overtime last season. Georgia did not crack the 1-2-1-1 Press here.
Florida’s press look here was not designed to necessarily force a turnover, but they also did not count on Charles Mann to immediately give the ball up to the in-bounds man, Nemi Djurisic, who was centered on the floor and kept his ball handling to the center of the court. Florida was counting on Georgia going faster than they typically would go and Georgia ended up getting the pace and decision making correct. Florida bit on two head fakes and it resulted in a hacking foul in the act of shooting. Florida counted on Djurisic to not handle the ball as well he had in this possession, but that also was likely the intention. If they take the Point Guard out of running the set, Georgia would be forced to improvise and thus would likely commit a turnover.
Chattanooga will be looking to score points to set up these pressing opportunities and challenge Georgia’s ball handlers and decision makers. Teams with good chemistry and ball handling skill can break presses with ease to the point where the press has to be turned off. If a pressing coach turns off the press midway through a game, consider it not only a sign of respect, but the waving of a white flag. Pressing teams thrive on the energy and mistakes made in response to it, there’s a feedback loop. Without this feedback loop, pressing teams are completely lost.