Johns Hopkins returned to the NCAA tournament after falling short of the postseason in 2013 for the first time in 42 years. But if the Blue Jays intend to make a deep run in the tournament, they have a couple of areas to address.
One is the offense’s woes in Saturday’s 13-10 loss to Loyola Maryland. The unit was mired in scoring droughts of 16 minutes, 22 seconds spanning the first and second quarters and 17:31 stretching over the third and fourth periods as the Greyhounds mixed a zone defense with their traditional man-to-man schemes.
While that could be characterized as an anomaly, Johns Hopkins (10-4) will face eighth-seeded Virginia (10-5) in a NCAA tournament first-round game Sunday at 1 p.m., and the Cavaliers are renowned for using a zone defense.
But coach Dave Pietramala said he is not worried about the offense’s ability to decipher zone defenses.
“I haven’t been concerned about it all year,” he said Wednesday morning. “I think we’ve got a good zone offense. Our schemes are good. I think for the most part, we’ve had some success against the zone. The question is, will we shoot the ball well? Will we attack it aggressively? It’s hard to do that [for an opposing defense] when you have a lead. It’s a little more challenging for a team to play a zone and sit back in a zone if you have a lead. Obviously, that will dictate some of what goes on this weekend. But nonetheless, we’re not uncomfortable versus the zone. We don’t look at it and go, ‘Oh my gosh, here’s the zone. Uh-oh.’ We feel comfortable with what we’re doing and the things that we’ll put in. The bottom line is, you still have to go out and execute those things. So your schemes may be very good, but nonetheless, you still have to go out and handle the ball well and move it quickly against a zone and attack it assertively and then finish your opportunities. Those are all very important things that we do.”
In Saturday's loss, the Blue Jays also struggled on faceoffs. They won just 34.6 percent (9-of-26) of those draws, and junior Drew Kennedy – who had entered the game having won 61.8 percent (160-of-259) – succeeded on just 38.9 percent (7-of-18) of his faceoffs.
Pietramala seemed to hint that Kennedy is dealing with an unspecified injury, but said the entire unit – which also includes sophomore Craig Madarasz, who won just 33.3 percent (2-of-6) against Loyola, and the wing players – must improve.
“I don’t discuss injuries, but the fact that Drew Kennedy is still playing shows a tremendous amount of dedication, toughness and passion for this team,” Pietramala said. “But like a lot of other guys at this time of year, you’ve got to give them their time off. They come out on Monday and don’t practice on Mondays. Johns Hopkins is not the only one that has that. I’m sure the team we’re playing has that as well, and no one is crying for us. It is what we all deal with in athletics, and the key is, we’ve got to manage him well. We’ve got to bring Craig along a little bit better. Craig has had his moments where he’s done a really good job, and for us to move forward in this tournament, that is going to be an area that we’ll need to be better in, especially against a team like Virginia. They’re averaging 12.93 goals per game. So with the amount of possessions that they have, it’s critical.”