The Space Race (HV Weekly: 6/5/2020)
5-out offenses are here... will they stay?
|Jordan Sperber||Jun 5|| 3||1|
Welcome back to the Hoop Vision Weekly!
In today’s edition:
New voiceover video on Bill Self’s favorite play
The 5-out/NBA spacing (slowly) influencing the college game
Where the college game is headed next
What’s coming up for HV+ subscribers
Support HV+ through the offseason and gain access to all upcoming HV+ Members-Only tutorials, along with our back catalog of X’s and O’s breakdowns, statistical features, and more.
Bill Self’s Favorite Play
This week, Kansas became the latest program to receive the YouTube breakdown treatment. The seven-minute voiceover video below covers one of Bill Self’s most prominent set plays from the past decade.
Self has added more ball screen sets to his playbook in recent seasons, but this video focuses on one his classic post pin sets. A play that Udoka Azubuike — as well as KU bigs before him like Cole Aldrich, Thomas Robinson, and Joel Embiid — took advantage of for many dunks in their respective college careers.
And yes, for the Hoop Vision loyalists: this is the Kansas post pin action which made our list of Top 10 Actions of the Decade published back in December.
Video topics include:
Kansas’s normal “4-game” pattern and lob counter
How opponents (like Baylor last season) guard the Kansas post pins
The overload post pin play and why it works
Clips from Self Perspective Episode Two of Bill Self explaining the play
Different ways Kansas opponents have covered the specific set play
For more on Kansas’s offense — plus Kentucky, Duke, and UNC — the hour-long Watch BLUE BLOODS Smarter video is available for purchase at the Hoop Vision Store.
The Space Race
From a journalistic perspective, the reasons for the coverage was simple.
Not only is the offense widely used throughout the entire college basketball landscape, but one of the most stylistically unique teams in the country adopted the offense en route to a national championship.
In all of that coverage, the focus has largely been on ball screens. The offense, after all, is a continuous pattern of those ball screens. But I would argue that the action itself is not what makes Continuity Ball Screen unique or popular in today’s game.
Consider Virginia’s two main offenses: Blocker-Mover and Continuity Ball Screen.
Conceptually, they are very similar offenses. Both assign permanent screener roles to two players. Both use a repeated pattern to generate shots. Yes, Blocker-Mover uses off-ball screens instead of ball screens — but they operate with the same overall functions.
The big difference between the two offenses is spacing.
Continuity Ball Screen is a 5-out offense. The three guards only go inside the three-point arc to cut to the other side of the court. The two bigs roll to the basket, but move right back up to the slot (outside the three-point line) afterwards.
The table below contains the four factor rankings for the top Continuity Ball Screen offenses in 2019-20.
All three offenses excelled at shot efficiency. Dayton was number one in the country in two-point percentage, by a lot. BYU was number one in the country three-point percentage, also by a lot.
Obviously the players had the most to do with those shooting numbers. BYU could have run any offensive scheme in the country; TJ Haws, Jake Toolson, and company still would have shot the ball well from three.
But 5-out spacing tends to pull an offense in a specific statistical direction — great shooting, but poor rebounding and foul drawing.
We have seen this trend take over the NBA. The Knicks were tops in the NBA in offensive rebound percentage before the season was paused — rebounding 25.8% of their missed shots. The NCAA average was 28.4% this season. The Knicks would have ranked 256th out of the 353 DI college teams.
"Now you look at a stat sheet after a game and the first thing you look at is the 3s. If you made 3s and the other team didn't, you win. You don't even look at the rebounds or the turnovers or how much transition D was involved. You don't even care."
Besides Continuity Ball Screen, the other 5-out offensive scheme taking over the sport is the Delay Series — where the 5-man initiates offense at the top of the key.
The 5-out Delay, already popular in the NBA, is increasing in usage at the college level. Teams use it both as a secondary break in early offense and as a halfcourt set.
The Delay concept is a particularly good fit for a Princeton-style team like Richmond. Pete Carril (the creator of the Princeton offense) was ahead of his time in many ways, but particularly in regards to the 5-man’s presence in perimeter spacing.
The 5-man has always been used as an elbow creator in the Princeton point series. So Richmond moving Grant Golden back a couple steps to the top of the key is a natural adjustment.
Still, there are plenty of college programs keeping things more traditional. Gonzaga, Iowa, Duke, and Kansas were all top 10 efficiency offenses this season relying heavily on back-to-the-basket post play.
And then you have West Virginia.
The screenshots above are examples of West Virginia’s Triangle Hi-Lo — with spacing that sharply contrasts the Delay/NBA-style.
At times, you would think West Virginia is playing an entirely different sport than the NBA-style. It is still basketball, but with different stylistic objectives.
Despite finishing 308th in the country in effective field goal percentage, WVU finished 67th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 10th in efficiency margin.
So where is the college game headed?
As alluded to by Popovich in his quote from earlier, the NBA has seemingly picked its spacing-obsessed path. But the college game is still in flux.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will attempt to cover where the college game is headed — or where it should head.
Should the West Virginia types be worried about spacing?
Should the Richmond types be worried about the other four factors?
Is there room for both styles in modern college basketball?
Next week for HV+ subscribers
Off the positive feedback from the Defensive Accounting Tutorial, I’ll be doing a similar style of video next week for HV+ subscribers.
Like last time, the video will be a combination of: team-specific film breakdown, coaching-specific analytics, and video workflow explanation. I’ll be using BYU’s offense to explain, chart, and measure their sets and actions.
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