Surprisingly, despite the Hawks ranking in the sixth-percentile defensively per Synergy Sports, this is not the worst defense Tennessee will play this year. (That comes in two days!) That said, the results have been pretty gross. St. Joseph’s has surrendered at least 81 points to all four opponents, along with no defensive effort better than a 1.087 PPP allowed to Drexel. (149th-in-KenPom Drexel, who lost 58-48 to La Salle at home.) It’s…just not good, man.
Part of this lies within the Hawks’ defensive strategy, as nearly 43% of opponent shots have come at the rim. Shot Quality actually rates out the St. Joe’s defense as being fairly solid in terms of forcing bad shots, but I couldn’t really see it watching the games. Along with this, they’ve done an atrocious job of guarding threes, which helps make their 37.2% 3PT% allowed make more sense. Synergy rates them out with a 37/63 Guarded/Unguarded split, pretty easily the worst of Tennessee’s five opponents thus far.
Also, they can’t rebound and foul a lot
About 80% of Hawk shots surrendered come at the rim or from three. Now, if they didn’t foul, did a proper job of rebounding, and forced turnovers, the levels of shots surrendered wouldn’t matter quite as much. If St. Joseph’s took care of the actual shot volume, they could get away with allowing this quality of shots. As you can imagine by my tone of writing here, they do not take care of the actual shot volume.
The Hawks didn’t do well at defensive rebounding last year (224th nationally), but they’ve been awful at it so far this season, ranking 314th. Every opponent they’ve played has rebounded at least 31% of their misses, and considering how dominant Tennessee’s looked on the boards at times, this could be a field day even if they don’t hit open shots.
St. Joseph’s has also had serious foul issues in three out of four games and currently ranks 297th in opponent Free Throw Rate, another non-optimal sign against a Tennessee team that loves taking shots in the paint:
A press with low success
Lastly, in an attempt to force more turnovers and offset all of their other defensive concerns, Lange has began to run a press defensively. It’s a fairly loose full-court press that mostly pressures the inbound pass. It hasn’t helped a ton, but for what it’s worth, the Hawks’ turnover rate is up a tad from last season. The press looks like this and appears fairly easy to break:
Other than that, this really should be a game where points come early and often for Tennessee. The only question is if they keep the pace low enough to hold the Hawks below 60.
NEXT PAGE: Surely they can’t set more records for a third-straight game. Surely