Cassius Winston & Top-Lock Defense (HV Weekly: 4/10/2020)

Michigan State offensive concepts + March Madness rewind + more NCAAT team breakdowns.

Welcome back to the Hoop Vision Weekly!

Today, we continue to turn our attention towards the Big Ten. Two weeks ago, we broke down Luka Garza and Iowa’s defense. Today, Cassius Winston and Michigan State take center stage.

In today’s edition of the HV Weekly:

  • A brand new March Madness rewind video on the 2005 national championship game — North Carolina vs Illinois

  • Michigan State offensive concepts used against defenses denying/top-locking star point guard Cassius Winston

  • Teams 31-40 in our scouting breakdowns from the HV Tourney Bible

  • More transfer analysis coming soon


March Madness Rewind, Part 2

We released our second March Madness rewind video on Wednesday, this time covering the 2005 national championship game between North Carolina and Illinois. The game featured six eventual first rounds picks in the 2005 NBA Draft — Marvin Williams, Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants, and Luther Head.

As always, the 14-minute voiceover video breaks down the X’s and O’s for both Roy Williams and Bruce Weber — as well as the in-game adjustments made by both teams down the stretch.

Video topics include:
  • The UNC secondary break

  • Similarities between 2005 Illinois and the Golden State Warriors: Transition threes, split cuts, shooter relocations

  • Bruce Weber’s motion-based offense and chin series

  • Sean May’s dominance in the post

  • Illinois cheating the post and fly-switching

  • UNC changing defenses to the point zone and 1-3-1 zone

  • The Illinois offense in the final five minutes


[Film Room] Cassius Winston vs. Top-Locks

In a college basketball world often driven by the one-and-done, Cassius Winston had an outstanding four-year career at Michigan State. The point guard assisted on 43% of Michigan State baskets while on the floor in his career — all while shooting 43% from three, 48% from two, and 85% from the line.

In Tom Izzo’s offense this season, Winston would often give the ball up early in a possession to then use different screening actions. After the initial pass, Michigan State opponents would often try to prevent Winston from ever getting the ball back again by using some form of aggressive off-ball defense: Denying, face-guarding, or top-locking.

The theory behind the aggressive defensive coverage against Winston is simple: Make other players beat you. But with so many opponents choosing to be aggressive, Winston and Izzo were able to develop solutions against the coverages.

Below are three ways Winston and Michigan State took advantage of top-locking defenses.

[1] Screen his own man

It’s difficult for a defender to aggressively deny a pass while also maintaining help responsibilities. Winston would take advantage of that concept by screening his own man instead of fighting the denial to get open.

Animated GIF

Wisconsin’s D'Mitrik Trice is so focused on keeping the ball out of Winston’s hands, he can’t provide help on the eventual ball screen.

Xavier Tillman fits well as a 5-man for situations like this one. He can put the ball on the floor and has good court vision relative to his size.

Bonus Film: Similar action from Marshall, Purdue, Illinois, and New Mexico State.

[2] Twist action

On baseline out of bounds plays, Michigan State would put Winston in the weakside corner for a pin down. In the clip below, Ohio State is top-locking/denying the initial pin down to prevent Winston from catching.

Instead of using the initial screen, Winston rejects it and moves underneath the basket. Then, Winston and Aaron Henry perform what we have called “Twist” action.

The Twist action moves Luther Muhammad out of position just enough to where Winston can now break free off the pin down.

Bonus Film: Similar action from Purdue, BYU, Creighton, and Murray State.

[3] Under the screen

The last Cassius Winston counter is probably the most simple.

The scenario below is nearly identical to the previous clip, with Ohio State defending another corner pin down after a baseline out of bounds inbound pass.

Animated GIF

On this play Luther Muhammad’s denial is so extreme, Winston sets him up and simply cuts under the screen — similar to zipper action.


40 Scouting Breakdowns Now Available at HV+

We have now released 40 individual team breakdowns for Hoop Vision Plus subscribers. The 10 new teams published on HV+ this week were:

  1. Virginia Cavaliers

  2. Saint Mary's Gaels

  3. Auburn Tigers

  4. LSU Tigers

  5. Utah State Aggies

  6. Belmont Bruins

  7. Winthrop Eagles

  8. Bradley Braves

  9. ETSU Buccaneers

  10. Oklahoma Sooners

Subscribe to HV+ ($10/month or $100/year) for instant access to all 40 scouting breakdowns released so far. Plus access to our full archive of HV+ exclusive articles.


Coming soon: More analysis of the transfer market

The HV Weekly audience has grown considerably since last spring. And if you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance you weren’t around for our four part series on the college basketball transfer market last May.

With the transfer market currently heating up, we’ll be using this space to revisit and update some of our analysis soon — particularly in light of recent up-transfers like Carlik Jones to Louisville and Mike Smith to Michigan. Stay tuned!


That’s it for this week!

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