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MSU Men’s Basketball Defensive Game Plan: How to Guard Marcus Carr

Breaking down the defensive coverages and principles needed to stop the Minnesota guard

NCAA Basketball: Loyola Marymount at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

This is the start of a series detailing how to guard the best player on the team of certain Michigan State opponents through film and statistical breakdown. This series will begin with Marcus Carr from the University of Minnesota leading up to the matchup on Dec. 28. Carr is coming off an impressive performance in a win against Iowa. He added 30 points to the box score to go along with eight assists. He dominated from behind the three-point line, pouring in six threes in the seven-point win. His offensive rating encompases the value he added during the heavyweight bout, as possessions that ended with Marcus Carr against Iowa resulted in 147.3 points per 100 possessions. He is averaging 24.6 points with a 60.9 true shooting percentage. The lead guard transferred to Minnesota after spending the 2017-18 season at Pittsburgh.

Marcus Carr is a three-level scorer. Through nine games, he is shooting 39.3 percent from three on just over six attempts per game. When looking at his shooting splits from inside the arch, it is easy to see that Carr can get to his spots with ease. He has shot 64.7 percent at the rim and 45.5 percent on other two-point attempts. The Minnesota offense is based around him creating his own shots, as only 13.6 percent of his rim attempts have been assisted.

Defending Carr is all about making him take tough shots. He is an absolute bucket-getter both off the catch and off the dribble. He is the primary creator for the Golden Gophers and shows that with his 29.0 percent usage rate.

Disrupt the Pick and Roll

Marcus Carr does a great job of attacking the pick and roll with his handle. He uses his side to side movement, pace, and agility to get downhill and create shots for himself as well as his teammates.

Carr takes an immediate downhill angle while using his off-hand to put his defender in jail. Kansas City was attempting to ice the ball screen, so once Carr got moving, the paint was wide open.

In this clip, Carr gets the switch off the pick and roll and goes to work with his crossover to get downhill.

Against Loyola Marymount, he faced a drop coverage. The big is an instant liability in this action as Carr makes obvious by hitting the pull-up jumper with ease. He is a three-level scorer and drop coverage does not work against someone who shoots 45.5 percent from mid-range.

Hedging the Minnesota pick and roll forces Carr to basically reset and begin a new action. Having a big who moves well laterally like Marcus Bingham Jr. or Julius Marble II is extremely vital to running this coverage correctly. In the example below, Filip Rebraca does a great job of hedging hard and forcing Carr to the logo. Tyree Ihenacho then blows the point of attack coverage, but that is beside the point. North Dakota effectively nullified the pick and roll action.

Hedging can be risky with Carr as shown below. North Dakota does not properly hedge and allows Carr to split the trap. He makes the simple drive and kick read to the corner for the open three. Allowing numbers mismatches for Carr is quite possibly the worst outcome when he has his momentum is going to the rim.

In the horns set below, Carr goes off the left and then uses the rescreen to create space for the mid range shot. This is a win for Boston College as the Eagles crowd his space and throw bodies at him. Even though this is technically a switching coverage, they do show initially as a hedge and continually stay with Carr. A fadeaway jumper from two-point range with the shot clock winding down is a win.

Applying constant pressure after the screening action is also extremely important as shown by this clip. Loyola Marymount has two help defenders ready to step up once Carr splits the pick and roll. This forces the live-ball turnover and the transition opportunity. Also shout-out to the help defenders of doing an amazing job of communicating the backside switch while also being involved in the action.

Illinois ran a drop coverage against Minnesota, while also icing the screens at times, like in the clip below. The constant ball pressure does not allow Carr to get in a rhythm and forces the dead ball pickup.

No Straight Line Drives

Marcus Carr is a force when he gets in the lane. He breaks down defenses and picks them apart at their weaknesses when he gets down low. Regardless of whether it is off a pick and roll, isolation, or catch and drive, Carr is best at getting into the lane with his straight line drives and snake dribbles.

When Carr sees an open lane, he is going straight for the rim. Even though Makai Ashton-Langford does a good job of stepping up in the lane and forcing Carr to take the awkward finish, it is just too late. It is a dead possession for the defense if Carr gets that far into the lane.

Defending Carr in driving situations is all about forcing him to take awkward angles and pushing him off his spot. After the pick and roll action stalls out, Carr resets for a point of attack drive. Even though he does take a straight line before going up for the floater, Ashton-Langford forces him to take a tough angle.

Once again Ashton-Langford makes the play here. He stays in front of Carr during the whole drive and specifically forces Carr to bring the ball over the top and take the runner while floating to his left. Carr wants to get into the middle of the lane and will use whatever move in his arsenal to get there.

In this clip, Carr uses his crossover to draw his defender off balance and attack his hip, but his man recovers and takes away the driving angle. That forces the kickout, neutralizing Carr.

Apply Pressure from Behind the Three-Point Line

Marcus Carr is an elite three-point shooter both off the dribble and off the catch. That is evident by the fact that only 54.5 percent of his threes are assisted. He is a threat to shoot the second the ball touches his hands.

This is just unfair. Taking and making contested threes from six-feet behind the line should not be a part of your game. Carr makes this look easy. Not only does he provide shooting, he provides shooting gravity. That is evident by the fact that the help defender leaves his man wide open in the hopes of containing a drive by the primary creator.

Trent Frazier is great at applying pressure to primary creators. On this possession, he forces Carr to drive off the dribble hand-off action. He remains physical on the baseline and Carr resorts to posting up to avoid the contact. He then takes a fadeaway post hook, and that is just a bad shot to take. Illinois provided the case study for defending Carr at every level. Against the Fighting Illini, Carr made three shots from the field on double digit attempts.

Wall Off in Transition

Against Loyola Marymount, Carr does a great job of attacking the rim in transition. He relentlessly attacks the paint for finishes and kick outs for corner threes. In this clip, he gets to his spot and finishes the old fashioned and-one.

The key to stopping Carr from getting downhill is to wall him off above the three point line. Ayo Dosunmu communicates with his teammate in transition while picking up Carr twenty feet out from the basket. Picking Carr up before he can get to the rim is the key to stopping those transition baskets.

In short, you cannot fully take Carr out of the action without playing a gimmicky defense like a box and one. What you can do though, is apply physicality on the ball, use strong defensive transition principles, and force tough pull-up jumpers from 15 feet. The Spartans, namely Aaron Henry and Rocket Watts, will have their hands full when Carr takes the floor.

All statistics can be found on Basketball Reference and Barttorvik.