Last week, we expected to see Round 3 of Connor Fields vs. Tim Muller. Instead, the Whipsnakes switched up the matchup by sticking Matt Dunn on Fields. Fields will see another new matchup this week: Matt Landis.
Landis has missed both matchups against the Chaos so far this season. He and Garrett Epple – the frontrunner for the Dave Pietramala Defensive Player of the Year Award – have been used interchangeably as lockdown cover defenders. Epple has earned the accolades this season, but Landis might still be the best cover man in the league.
“If you took a poll of attackmen to see who they don’t want to go up against, it’s probably Landis,” said Eddy Glazener.
The Whipsnakes’ built the blueprint to beat Connor Fields: Don’t slide. They dared Fields to beat Muller or Dunn as a scorer. Fields has 11 assists in seven wins, but only two assists in the Chaos’s four losses. When you slide to Fields, you open the door for Miles Thompson (40.7% shooting) on the inside and for Josh Byrne (44.7%) and Deemer Class (38.4%) on the lefty win.
Holding slides is against the Redwoods’ DNA, though. They help early, and they help aggressively. Fields has burned them for that before. He changes directions more than any dodging player in the league. John Sexton thinks he needs to slide here; his hesitation causes Pat Harbeson to hesitate on the fill. Indecisiveness opens up cutting lanes, and Fields almost always finds open shooters.
Those goals can be demoralizing. Late in the shot clock goals count for more on the emotional scoreboard. You can play solid defense on Fields for 48 seconds – but if you slide in the final four, he’ll make you pay.
That lefty island is where Fields loves to work. Landis’ right-handedness gives him an edge over Epple there. He doesn’t have to overextend for the V-hold. Landis can sit down, denying the inside roll with his body, while he keeps his stick upfield. In his postgame interview, Dunn mentioned discipline as a key to the matchup. Resist the urge to match sticks as Fields rolls and re-rolls, and you’ll avoid falling victim to Fields’ next viral video.
Like all matchups, Landis’ success against Fields depends on other factors. The Redwoods like to switch most picks even if it leaves a short-stick on the ball. Harbeson, Brent Adams, Jack Near and Sergio Perkovic need to be ready. Harbeson has dominated in these situations. Perkovic has looked comfortable since moving into a defensive role. There’s low time on the shot clock after this switch, but Perkovic’s ability to stay in front of Fields is impressive.
The Redwoods’ strict adherence to a plan – and Glazener constantly barking that plan out at full volume – prevents in-game miscommunication. Most pick-and-roll goals don’t happen because a short-stick was switched onto an elite attackmen. They happen in that grey area after the pick. “Are we switching? Staying? Uh oh, I think I can get back on my matchup – let me try.”
Landis mentally moves from “on-ball” to “off-ball” better than anyone. Most cover guys are out for blood. They want to get back on-ball as soon as possible anytime they’re switched off. Landis will keep his head on a swivel, put a foot in the paint, and become a two-slide.
Fields is up for the Jim Brown Most Valuable Player Award. Landis has been piling up accolades – most notably two Schmeisser Awards – since his days at Notre Dame. This is a heavyweight, pay-per-view matchup. The bell sounds at 5:00PM ET on Saturday in New York.