HV Weekly: Defensive Juggernauts (2/7/2020)

Comparing Baylor 2020 and Texas Tech 2019 + much more

Welcome back to the Hoop Vision Weekly.

The NFL season has come and gone — not that we were paying too much attention anyways — so we’re fully back in the throngs of hoops season, and the countdown begins:

We are 37 days away from Selection Sunday.


Yes, only 37 until the 68. And yet, the amount that can change — not only with the bubble and seed lines, but also with coaching decisions and late-season tactics — is still immense. We’re here to break it all down, bring sense to chaos, and give you a look inside the mayhem.

Let’s go!

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(*Reminder: Team rankings and score projections via kenpom.com)
  • 34 games between teams ranked in the kenpom Top 100

  • 18 games between teams in Top 68

  • 11 games between Top 48 teams

  • games between Top 32

…and some of the fun ones:

Highest-ranked matchups…

High-Major: Maryland (#11) at Illinois (#24)
“Low-Major” Special: 
Harvard (#113) at Yale (#46)

Biggest Projected Blowout…

Bryant 82, Central Connecticut State 62

Projected Highest-Scoring Game(s)…

Northwestern State 90, Houston Baptist 87

Projected Lowest-Scoring Game…

Louisville 59, Virginia 49


By Jordan Sperber

Texas Tech’s style of forcing the ball to the baseline isn’t exactly a new idea to the basketball world. The no-middle concept has been used for decades at different levels of basketball.

It’s Texas Tech’s commitment to the no-middle — even with high-level talent — that has been so unique. Other teams and schemes might say they force the ball to the baseline, but Texas Tech has made it a non-negotiable.

As a result, other coaches and programs copying the Texas Tech style is a somewhat risky proposition. In October’s Hoop Vision Plus article Should more defenses force baseline?our answer was:

If you do it, you’ve better be committed to it.

**The 2019-20 Baylor Bears have entered the chat**

The influence of Texas Tech on Scott Drew’s team — which has traditionally been known for their 1-1-3 tandem zone defense — is easy to spot. Not only does Baylor keep the ball out of the middle with extreme foot angles, but they also switch screens 1 thru 5.

Yesterday, we broke down the Baylor defensive scheme in a brand new 15-minute voiceover video over on YouTube.

Video topics include:
  • Baylor forcing the ball baseline similar to Texas Tech

  • Zoning up on the weakside to intercept the skip pass

  • Baylor scrambles and “multiple effort” plays

  • Aggressive switches creating chaos for both the defense and offense

  • The defensive skill sets of Davion Mitchell, Mark Vital, and Freddie Gillespie

  • Why that trio allows Baylor to not help as much as Texas Tech on baseline drives

While there are plenty of similarities between Baylor and Texas Tech, the one major difference is in how the two defenses handle help responsibilities.

On baseline drives in the Texas Tech scheme…

The help defender’s job is to meet the ball early (outside the paint) no matter what. The details of the drive — like who is the driver or who are the defenders — are largely irrelevant. The commitment to helping early is why the Texas Tech defenders are so good at taking charges.

On baseline drives in the Baylor scheme…

The help defender’s job is much more situationally flexible. The different players involved in the drive — both who is driving and who is defending — are relevant to the amount of help given. It’s almost like a hybrid between Texas Tech and the Michigan “help only when necessary” style.

Baylor’s personnel is what makes the more flexible help responsibilities such a good fit. Davion Mitchell is one of the best perimeter defenders in the entire country. Mark Vital has the versatility to guard all five positions. Freddie Gillespie is one of the best rim protectors in the country — and also has mobility out on the perimeter.

A defense where Mitchell is guarding the ball and Gillespie is roaming the paint simply doesn’t need to automatically give early help. In fact, it probably shouldn’t give early help — risking the possibility of a skip pass three-point attempt.

There’s one particular shot type that illustrates the results of the Baylor-style of help defense: The runner. By helping late, the Baylor defense forces opponents to take contested runners/floaters over their length.

The graph below shows that Baylor allows more runners than any of the other defenses in the top 25 in kenpom AdjD.

Not only does Baylor allow the most runners of the selected teams, but their opponents are shooting an average of just 28% when taking them.

A team’s defensive scheme does have a fairly strong effect on determining the type of shots an offense will generate. Instead of looking at runners, the graph below focuses on the two most efficient shot types: Shots at the basket and three-pointers. Again, the top kenpom defenses are featured.

On the left side of the graph, we have the teams that are best at preventing their opponent from getting to the basket. Unsurprisingly, nearly all of the elite pack line defenses are in this area.

The pack line — run in different forms by teams like Virginia, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Louisville — prevents dribble penetration from ever happening in the first place.

On the right side of the graph, we have teams that are successful despite their opponents getting to the basket frequently. Also unsurprisingly, the elite pressure-and-deny defenses are in this area.

Duke, Florida State, and West Virginia all play aggressive styles of defense. The primary goal isn’t to prevent dribble penetration, it’s to make the offense uncomfortable. As a result, these defenses are still highly successful in spite of giving shots up at the rim. (Note: It’s still somewhat of a mystery — at least to me — how Duke takes away three-point attempts at such an extreme level year after year.)

For even more on the Baylor defensive changes — with quotes from Freddie Gillespie — check out the Our Daily Bears’ article by (Hoop Vision supporter!) Kendall Kaut.



This is the first edition of the HV Weekly in the month of February, so you know what that means: a quick look back at the month which was.

First off: the monthly Hoop Vision What Have You Done For Me Lately rankings:

And for a breakdown of the standout wins of the month, click/tap here for our monthly look at the best wins of January — by day of the month.

This week’s Starting Five column on Hoop Vision Plus included a quick look back at the month of January, along with four schematic bites from the weekend.

Sent every Monday to HV+ subscribers, The Starting Five takes a look at five actions, tactics, curiosities or statistical anomalies from the weekend slate. This week’s topics:

1) Chalky January
2) Louisville Ball Screen Offense (excerpted below)
3) Baylor Post Defense
4) Villanova’s Uncharacteristic Spacing — or lack thereof
5) Purdue’s Late-Game Execution

#2 [Louisville] Ball screen offense

Chris Mack and Louisville entered the season with a fairly clear change in offensive philosophy from the 2018-19 season.

Last year’s offense was primarily functioned around ball screens, especially for grad transfer Christen Cunningham. This year’s offense started the season primarily functioned around off-ball screens, with players moving and cutting away from the ball.

With the emergence of freshman David Johnson — who had a breakout game against Duke — the overall offensive identity, even now in February, is still somewhat to be determined.

Play type data indicates that Louisville’s ball screen usage is increasing with Johnson. Senior point guard Fresh Kimble has used one ball screen every 4.0 minutes while on the court this season. Johnson, on the other hand, has used one ball screen every 2.4 minutes.

It’s strange that a 10-1 ACC team is still determining their offensive identity this late in the season, but that seems to be the case with Louisville. Considering the amount of talent on the roster and that Louisville is fourth in the country in 3P% (39.7%), I think the ceiling is still quite high for Chris Mack’s offense.


And in a little call-back from last week — where we featured Murray State’s Exit Series; this week, another look at the Racers’ offense, this time with a focus on their Continuity Ball Screen Series:

Some more X’s and O’s and tactical nuggets from the week:

There are hundreds of DI coaches and staffers included within the loyal readership of the Hoop Vision Weekly, but this week we learned not to expect Mark Few to join that list anytime soon.

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That’s it for this week!

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