The Layup Line: Bellarmine

Elsa

After looking good against Carleton's man-to-man defense during their first exhibition game, how will the Bearcats breakdown the Bellarmine Knights and their zone defense? And are you really reading a preview article for another exhibition game?

So the 2013-14 edition of Mick Cronin's basketball squad will apparently feature quite a bit of slashing, cutting, and driving to the hoop - that's if we're to believe what we saw in the Bearcats' first exhibition game. Last year, Cronin's crew averaged 21 three-point attempts a game. This last game against Carleton? 9 three-pointers. I'm not sure Sean Kilpatrick heaved a three-pointer during the first half; it felt like he was driving to the hoop every time he touched the ball.

What does all of that mean, anyway? Well, nothing, really. It was only a scrimmage. But I liked what I saw. I'll be paying close attention to how many three-point attempts the Bearcats put up this Saturday as they take on Division II Bellarmine University and their daunting zone defense. I'm sure it's daunting, right?

Here's the thing - Cronin puts together this exhibition schedule on purpose. Carleton is an experienced squad, and, as mentioned, they play man-to-man on defense. The Bellarmine Knights play a majority of zone on defense - which will give the 'Cats something different to prepare for. That Cronin guy's one smart cookie.

What we know about Bellarmine. They're located in Louisville, KY. That's about it, though.

Kidding, of course. They return 2 of their top 3 leading scorers: Vance Hall, a senior guard who averaged almost 15 a game last year and Keisten Jones, another senior guard who averaged over 11 points a game. Hall and Jones don't turn the ball over much either - Hall averaged just over 2 a game last year while Jones averaged just over 1.

I'm willing to bet they haven't faced a defense like the Bearcats, though.

Hall and Jones both led Bellarmine in three-point shooting attempts last year, and Vance Hall knocked them down at a rate better than 45%. I'm sure Cronin gave the team a tongue-lashing pep talk in regards to their poor three-point defense from last weekend, so I'll be watching to see how many outside shots the 'Cats give up again.

Down low, Bellarmine doesn't return much. The Bearcats should have their way on the glass - although, both Hall and Jones tallied quite a few rebounds last year from the guard positions. Apparently, these two do it all for the Knights.

What the 'Cats have to do to win:

Who cares? Seriously... The freshman are going to log a few minutes and Cronin will mix and match lineups against Bellarmine's zone. It's preseason. And when the game's over, the Bearcats will have more points than the Knights. But since I'm already in mid-season form, I'll give you 3 keys anyway:

  • Knock down some three's. Quickest way to blow up Bellarmine's zone is for Killa to get going from outside. Maybe newcomer Kevin Johnson or junior Jermaine Sanders can knock down a few as well.
  • Get Shaquille Thomas open from mid-range. His size makes it easy to get him open just behind Bellarmine's guards. Look for him to drill a few mid-range jumpers.
  • Force turnovers. Whether it's on the press or in the half-court, if the 'Cats can force turnovers, they'll be able to get out and run - preventing the Knights from setting up their daunting zone defense.
My prediction: So maybe I wasn't right on the money last week, but I was pretty damn close. Only missed the Bearcats total by 1 point. Speaking of close, this game won't be; 'Cats win 75-56. And, for the second week in a row, I'll miss watching it live. Who gets married in November?
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