Return to Normalcy (HV Weekly: 11/8/2019)

Cheers to the freaking (opening) weekend.

Lots to get to in today’s Weekly, so we’ll spare you the usual intro section puns this week.

The past few days, we had big games in New York, a statement win in South Dakota, and a Thursday slate which left a lot to be desired.

As we move into the opening weekend of game action, we get neutral-court games everywhere from Maryland to China, several ties between Top 100-ranked teams, and a few saucy high-major true road games.

If this is your first time getting the HV Weekly, welcome aboard! If you’re one of the OGs who has been with us for a year or more, welcome back!

New reader or old, hot hand or cold, italic or bold, we appreciate the continued support of Hoop Vision and we’re SO excited we have live game action to discuss in this space for the next 5 months.

Let’s go!


Below is the first-ever installment of “The Starting Five” — a new in-season feature that will be delivered to Hoop Vision PLUS subscribers on Mondays.

Simply put, this includes five stories, actions or thoughts from the weekend slate. We’re launching it here in the Weekly because of the heavy mid-week slate, and to give readers a better taste of what HV+ is all about.

(P.S — Time to let you in on a little secret: with the college season back in full swing, there’s never been a better time to join HV+ and get access to deep dives on the teams, trends and curiosities driving the college basketball landscape:)

#1 [VIRGINIA] Mamadi Diakite’s defensive responsibilities

The defending champs took care of business on the road against Syracuse. Thanks to Syracuse’s zone, we didn’t get to really see what Virginia’s offense might look like this season in a post-Kyle Guy/Ty Jerome/D’Andre Hunter world.

But the defense was (to say the least) impressive, allowing just 0.58 points per possession. Mamadi Diakite picked up right where he left off last season on that side of the floor.

Diakite has the reputation of a rim protector, but he is given much more responsibility than that within Tony Bennett’s pack-line. The scheme tends to put a lot of burden on big men — trapping the post, hedging on ball screens, showing on off-ball screens.

Watch Diakite’s defensive activity in this clip.

He goes from hedging a ball screen, to showing on an off-ball screen, to showing on another off-ball screen, to closing out on his man — all within a 10-second span.

Virginia is able to give Diakite that responsibility for a variety of reasons. First, he’s long and mobile. He can cover ground quickly thanks to those physical gifts. Second, he has great defensive awareness. Even with all the helping he has to do, he still manages to protect the rim when necessary. Diakite’s (seemingly innate) ability to “sniff out” the most important part of the offense in front of him is a topic we may investigate later in the season.

#2: [CURIOSITIES] New season, same score

Ohio State started their 2019-20 season the same exact way they started their 2018-19 season: With a 64-56 win over Cincinnati.

In true stat geek form, we went back through the KenPom era to find any instances of a non-conference matchup ending in the same exact score in back-to-back seasons.

The last example? December 30, 2016. NJIT defeated St. Francis PA by a score of 77-65. That was the same score as when the teams played each other the year before. However, we found no other examples of a team who specifically opened the season the exact same way (against the same opponent) — like Ohio State.

If you are wondering (and why wouldn’t you be?!) how often a conference matchup ends with the same score twice in the same season — well it happened three times last season.

  • Lehigh 75, Army 70

  • Cal St. Fullerton 78, Cal St. Northridge 71

  • Oklahoma State 85, West Virginia 77

#3: [SAINT MARY’S] Jordan Ford’s ball screen rejects

One of our games of the week in last week’s Weekly was Saint Mary’s versus Wisconsin. The Gaels and Badgers did not disappoint, the game was an overtime thriller.

Jordan Ford is one of the most fun players to watch in the country and he had two very skillful baskets that we took note of.

On their secondary break, Saint Mary’s likes to clear out the ball-side corner to put Ford in an empty side ball screen. Naturally, Ford likes to reject that ball screen to instead drive baseline towards that empty corner.

In both cases, Ford rejected the ball screens with some flare — a spin move.

The play is particularly hard to defend in transition, because defenses are more worried about getting matched up than about being in help position. It’s part of the reason why the “low” man (see the annotation) was late to give any help in the first clip.

You could even hear the Wisconsin bench yelling “NO BASELINE!” as the ball screen was occurring, but the crafty dribbling allowed Ford to reject the screen successfully.

#4: [KANSAS] Jayhawks’ horns clear

There’s a whole genre of ball screen play design that involves not using the ball screen in the first place. We saw that with Jordan Ford rejecting the screen and here we see it from Kansas in a slightly different way.

Kansas starts in a horns formation (two players on the elbows, two players in the corners) and appears to look to initiate a ball screen for the point guard.

This one isn’t a new play from Self — they had success with it last season. And it fits Devon Dotson’s skill set particularly well. He’s best when bursting to the basket off straight line drives.

#5: [TRENDS] NCAA vs NBA offenses

Seth Partnow tweeted something yesterday that caught my eye:

So here’s the thing about stylistic diversity in the NBA. If you’re measuring it via raw shot locations, you’re doing it wrong. Shot location is an *outcome.* How teams try to get to good shots still varies WILDLY across the 30 teams for reasons of both scheme and talent.

I completely agree with his first three sentences. Shot location is not a particularly compelling measure of style or scheme.

The last sentence is where I really differ — particularly with the use of the all capital letters “WILDLY”.

The graph above has the same axes as we used in our summer HV Weekly article titled Visualizing Offensive Scheme.

Besides from one red dot, NBA offenses — at least by these two variables — tend to be fairly homogeneous. That outlier red dot is of course the Golden State Warriors. The green dot right above it? The Virginia Cavaliers.

Granted, there are 353 Division 1 college teams and just 30 NBA teams. But that’s sort of the point. And this is going to be my default graph going forward for the “why do you prefer college over the NBA?” question. Diverse styles of play. (PS - the NBA is cool too though.)


(*Reminder: Team rankings and score projections via

This weekend (Fri/Sat/Sun)…

  • 11 games between teams ranked in the KenPom Top 100

  • 7 games between teams in Top 68

  • 4 games between Top 48 teams

  • 2 games between Top 32

The fun ones

Highest-ranked matchups…

HM vs. HM: Florida State (#16) at Florida (#13)

HM vs. MM: Auburn (#28) vs. Davidson (#60) — in Annapolis, Md.

MM/LM vs. MM/LM: San Diego State (#87) at BYU (#70)

High-Major TRUE road games (excl. in-conference games):
  • North Carolina at UNC-Wilmington — Fri 7pm ET

  • Illinois at Grand Canyon — Fri 9pm ET

  • Kansas State at UNLV — Sat 4pm ET

  • Iowa State at Oregon State — Sat 4:30pm ET

  • Texas at Purdue — Sat 7pm ET

  • Boston College at South Florida — Sun 12pm ET

  • Florida State at Florida — Sun 1pm ET

  • Illinois at Arizona — Sun 9pm ET

Quick notes: Illinois with a rare double helping of true road games on the opening weekend…Roy Williams continues the annual tradition of visiting another in-state program early in the year (usually part of his UNC coaching tree)…one of the high-majors with season opener true road games — Utah [@ Nevada]— came out victorious.

Biggest Projected Blowout…

Michigan State 88, Binghamton 53

Projected Highest-Scoring Game…

Oral Roberts 86, Houston Baptist 77

Projected Lowest-Scoring Game…

Virginia 75, James Madison 51



Last week in this space, we announced the launch of the Big Game Pod, a new podcast co-hosted by Jordan Sperber (Hoop Vision) and Gibson Pyper (

For the Champions Classic, we rolled out two episodes; while the preview episode is less pressing now, the recap goes in-depth on the X’s and O’s behind the two massive season-opening games, along with the potential implications of how what we saw on Tuesday night will affect what we see on the floor from these teams the rest of the way.

Listen to Big Game Pod - Champions Classic Recap: Apple // Spotify


Outside of the podcast universe, an early look at freshman phenom James Wiseman, along with — more importantly — Memphis’ shockingly blue home floor:

On another creatively-designed (but slightly less jarring) court, our first Continuity Ball Screen video of the season, thanks to Washington State — we’ll be seeing a lot more of this specific slot attack this season, particularly from Virginia:

And if you still haven’t had enough of the Champions Classic, a few more video nuggets from Tuesday night:


We’re in Year 1 of Hoop Vision PLUS; not to mention Week 1 of the new season, so we’re excited for you to see more and more of the new concepts and content experiments we roll out as the season continues.

For those who haven’t yet signed onto our premium newsletter+video+audio product, or to those subscribers who lost track of this week’s content in their inbox, here’s your weekly HV+ rewind:

Thursday: Should Teams Be Playing Smaller?

Stoked by Kansas’ offensive struggles on Tuesday with their two-big lineup, we took a historical look at “big” lineups…

…it’s difficult to isolate the fact that a team is tall from other factors. Yes, Kansas and Kentucky are better than USC Upstate and North Alabama — but it would be disingenuous to simply attribute that to height.

For a fairer comparison, we can again look at those same KenPom stats — but this time only for high-majors.

Here the table tells a much different story. The number of bigs in a team’s top five has little to no effect on any of the stats. Even three-point volume and offensive rebounding percentage hold steady.

These results were so unsatisfying, that it made me reconsider the original definition of a big. 

Tuesday: Champions Classic Preview

No excerpt here, as each team got a short preview; the meat of Tuesday’s preview was an 8-minute voiceover video scouting report. A shorter, consolidated version was put out on Twitter as a teaser of the longer version:

Want more deep insight on college basketball delivered directly to your inbox? Subscribe to Hoop Vision Plus for exclusive writing, video, and audio on the game within the game:

That’s it for this week!

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