The Return of "Solving Basketball"

A deep dive on the Cinderella Oral Roberts Golden Eagles.

Welcome back to Hoop Vision!

The Solving Basketball podcast returns just in time for the 2021-22 preseason, as college programs get ready to begin official practice and non-conference schedules get finalized.

In today’s edition, we recap the episode — featuring Oral Roberts head coach Paul Mills — and then dive deeper on the Golden Eagles’ system and tactics that helped them put together one of the more memorable Cinderella runs in recent history.


Solving Basketball… presented by Hudl!

Last week, the Solving Basketball podcast finally returned with an episode featuring Oral Roberts head coach Paul Mills.

This time, Solving Basketball is back for good — in large part thanks to our friends at Hudl.

With Hudl as the presenting sponsor of the podcast, new episodes will be airing every other week.

Hudl is just about the perfect partner for Hoop Vision, because much of the inspiration for what is now Hoop Vision came after Hudl’s Elite User Conference back in 2018.

During that conference, I gave a presentation about my analytics and scouting workflow from my time as video coordinator at New Mexico State. That 35-minute presentation is below.

That presentation — in front of other video coordinators and people within the industry — was so well received, it gave me the confidence that I had some knowledge and information worth sharing on the internet as a full-time creator.

Episode #38 — Paul Mills, Oral Roberts

Back in March, we covered Oral Roberts’ historic run to the Sweet 16 with a YouTube video breaking down the wins over Ohio State and Florida.

In the latest episode of Solving Basketball, head coach Paul Mills came on to discuss that Sweet 16 run. The conversation also included:

  • The details of ORU’s spread pick and roll offense

  • The process of grading post-game film

  • The intentional foul strategy used by ORU in the 2nd round win over Florida

  • Why I’ve jokingly referred to Paul as a “Hoop Vision super fan”

As they sometimes do, this episode got into the nitty gritty of X’s and O’s. So in the sections below, we further explained some of the concepts and stories discussed on the podcast with some video breakdowns; the breakdowns include:

  • Nebraska Omaha’s unusual ball screen coverage vs the ORU pick and pop

  • ORU’s off-ball movement during spread ball screens

Omaha’s rotations vs the pick and pop

Oral Roberts had arguably the best pick and pop duo in the country last season in Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor.

Abmas shot 43% from three while showcasing deep range. Obanor shot 45% from three while showcasing his pick and pop abilities.

During the podcast, I asked Paul Mills if there was a team that guarded that pick and pop is an especially unusual way. He answered with their first conference series against Nebraska Omaha.

In game number one of the back-to-back series, Obanor went for 39 points against Omaha. The Mavericks were defending ball screens by putting two players on Abmas — leaving Obanor open.

The very next day, Omaha head coach Derrin Hansen switched up his defensive gameplan. The Mavericks continued to put two players on Abmas, but in game number two they fully rotated onto Obanor — in an attempt to take away the pop.

Here’s an example of the coverage from the opening minute of the game.

Omaha’s big man — #40 Matt Pile — hedges out on Abmas and then has to sprint all the way to the opposite corner to complete the full rotation. In the example above, the pick and pop stalled out.

Here’s another example about five minutes later where the coverage wasn’t as successful.

Unlike the first example, Obanor popped towards the side with just one player on it — an adjustment Mills mentioned during the podcast.

Overall, Omaha didn’t get beat too badly on the full rotations during the game, but Abmas took over anyways. The nation’s leading scorer scored 37 points and Oral Roberts won by 11.

Cut the corner, slide the 45

Later in the podcast, Mills talked about how he models his offense after systems seen in European basketball.

The NBA (according to Mills) plays 2-man pick and roll — with the other three players mostly stationary. European basketball, on the other hand, plays 5-man pick and roll.

We discussed a specific example of 5-man pick and roll where Oral Roberts “cuts the corner and slides the 45” — similar to what I’ve called “circle” movement in the past.

In fact, Mills referenced the above Virginia tweet when discussing Oral Roberts’ off-ball movement.

Below is an example of that movement. While the ball screen occurs, the player in the slot (#22 Francis Lacis) slides down to the corner and the player in the corner (#11 Carlos Jurgens) cuts across the baseline.

In the play above, South Dakota State’s two defenders guarding the off-ball movement get completely lost.

But Mills explained that the movement is particularly effective against “heavy nail teams” that use a third defender to guard the ball screen.

Here’s an example of Oklahoma over-helping at the nail.

With #3 Trey Phipps stunting at the ball, the slide to the corner is wide open.

The off-ball movement prevents pack line style defenses from loading up on the ball and getting in the gaps.

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