'Tis The Season (HV Weekly: 9/22/19)

Practice begins Tuesday for Division I programs.

Welcome back to the Hoop Vision Weekly!

Practice begins on Tuesday for Division I programs, meaning — particularly in coaching circles — that things are about to get REAL.

To those who wake up Tuesday ready to roll out the basketballs, collect sweaty practice jerseys for laundry, or shake hands of boosters and administrators — we salute you!

And as this is the last true “offseason” edition of the Hoop Vision Weekly, look for this to go back to its normal schedule of being released on FRIDAY, rather than Sunday night.

Some other big changes and announcements coming soon for Hoop Vision as the season approaches; look out for some news later this week!

Solving Basketball (feat. Luke Yaklich)

Another new episode of Solving Basketball was released earlier this week, with Texas associate head coach Luke Yaklich — previously the defensive coordinator under John Beilein at Michigan — joining for an episode discussing all things defense.

Luke is a guest that many listeners/readers have mentioned or requested in the past, and the conversation certainly delivered, touching on…

  • Guarding the three-point line and the defensive gameplan against Villanova

  • Michigan’s flat hedge and Wisconsin’s drop ball screen coverages last season

  • The similarities and differences between NBA and NCAA schemes

  • Texas Tech’s no-middle philosophy

  • “That which gets measured gets done”

Solving Basketball is available on all podcasting apps; click/tap for the YouTube and Apple podcasts versions.

In this week’s newsletter we will expand on some of the topics discussed in the most recent episode of Solving Basketball:

  • A look back at the Michigan-Villanova post-game thread

  • The top Hoop Vision game threads from the 2018-19 season

  • Statistical differences between the NBA and NCAA — and the X’s and O’s implications

The first game thread

If you followed us over on Twitter last season, then you are likely aware of the Hoop Vision “game threads” which became a mainstay of our coverage.

The first one went out on November 15th after Michigan’s 73-46 blowout win over Villanova.

Villanova scored just 0.72 points per possession that game — the worst of any game in this great five-year run. The thread featured the Michigan defensive gameplan that included giving limited to no help on Villanova drives.

Not only was that defensive gameplan discussed in the most recent Solving Basketball episode with Luke Yaklich, but the original thread included a video of Yaklich jumping out of his seat in frustration when Michigan helped off of a corner shooter.

The thread included a combination of video, stats, and graphs which all were the genesis of helping people “watch smarter.” In the section below, we have our top three threads from the season.

Game Threads: The Greatest Hits

While we ended up doing about one thread per week — and most were well received and fun to put together — three games in particular stood out as we look back on the season. Each one taught us a lot about the best teams in the country and the sport as a whole in 2018-19.

(Note: If you’d like to see the full thread, click/Tap on the embedded tweet; it will open in a separate window in your browser.)

#1 - Gonzaga vs Duke - Nov 21, 2018

The finals of the Maui Invitational was one of the best games of the entire season.

Duke’s Marques Bolden was coming off one of the best games of his career — 11 points, 9 rebounds, 7 blocks vs. Auburn — in the semi-finals of the tournament. While that performance certainly warranted more playing time for Bolden, the thread predicted that Gonzaga’s offensive scheme was going to put Bolden into uncomfortable situations.

Gonzaga was both a high usage and high efficiency ball screen offense led by Josh Perkins. And Bolden had struggled with ball screen defense up to that point.

That’s precisely what happened in the first half of the game. Duke struggled to get stops and Gonzaga led by 11 at the break. Coach K eventually adjusted — opting to leave Bolden on the bench for the final 16:36 of the game — but Gonzaga held on to win by two.

The post-game video “How Gonzaga Upset Duke With Ball Screens” can be found here.

#2 - Texas Tech vs Duke - Dec 20, 2018

We have another Duke game in our top three, but this thread was the first introduction to Texas Tech’s no-middle philosophy.

It featured a 2-minute voice over video explaining the defensive scheme and the built in rotations. Then it also noted that Texas Tech’s willingness to switch out on the perimeter could lead to small guards on RJ Barrett or Zion Williamson.

This was our most popular thread of the season — and we also learned that “a good chunk of people either think forcing middle is insane or that forcing baseline is insane, solely based on who their high school basketball coach was”.

As for the game itself, Duke pulled away for an 11-point win. But the Blue Devils did only score 0.85 points per possession, which was their second lowest of the season (and lowest at full strength). Texas Tech, meanwhile, continued to have one of the best defensive seasons in recent memory by keeping the ball out of the middle.

There was no direct post-game video, but an updated video done months later “Why Texas Tech and Michigan are the Best Defenses in College Basketball” can be found here.

#3 - National Championship - April 8, 2019

The National Championship game featured two teams that both received a lot of Hoop Vision attention during the season. And as a result, the Virginia vs. Texas Tech pre-game thread was our most comprehensive.

It focused on the matchup between Virginia’s offense and Texas Tech’s defense — speculating that Texas Tech’s willingness to switch might lead Virginia away from both the Blocker-Mover and Continuity Ball Screen offenses.

The thread went through Virginia’s three main offensive schemes and weighed the pros and cons of each. Which led to a long enough rant that a screenshot summarizing the main points was necessary.

When the ball was actually tipped, Virginia (of course) won a classic game in overtime. Texas Tech’s defense did cause the Hoos to deviate from their normal offense — culminating in five straight possessions for Ty Jerome spread ball screens with no other movement.

The post-game video “How Virginia Won a National Championship” can be found here.

College basketball versus the NBA

One of the topics in the latest episode of Solving Basketball was the difference between NCAA and NBA defenses. More specifically, we talked about “drop” ball screen coverage - which is very common in the NBA.

Drop coverage is when the defender guarding the ball screener doesn’t go out and hedge, but instead hangs back at least two steps below where the screen is being set.

Yaklich pointed out that Wisconsin is an example of a college team that is using drop coverage — and doing so impressively — and he followed up with a theory on why it’s not as prevalent in the college game overall:

“At the college level you can get away with the soft hedge or hard hedge. There are better shooters at the NBA level that you have to cover on a middle ball screen on the outside thirds of the floor than there are in college.

I think the spacing and the skill level of the shooters at the NBA level are obviously better than at the college level and it doesn’t necessitate that drop coverage.”

We’ve spent a lot of time on similar topics about three-point shooting both in this space and on Twitter.

Last year we had an animated graph showing that three-point volume has always been higher in college, but the NBA is catching up. We have also looked at three-point shooting by position. Bigs have increased their three-point volume in recent years, but it has been a slower growth than you might think — especially at the high major level.

In coaching circles, it’s generally accepted that concepts and schemes trickle down from the NBA. When an NBA team starts doing something innovative, the rest of the basketball world eventually takes notice.

But it is important to at least recognize just how different the NBA environment is to college — and then from there, evaluate whether that particular concept or scheme is applicable to lower levels.

Yesterday on Twitter, we broke down shooting trends for off the bounce threes in both the NCAA and NBA.

Three-point volume in general has increased since 2010, but that’s especially true for three-point shots off the bounce.

In the NBA, not only has volume off the bounce exploded - but efficiency has also increased. In the NCAA, efficiency on threes off the bounce has consistently stayed between 30 and 31%.

This is a bit of a chicken-or-egg scenario, similar to what we talked about in “Ball Screen Essentials.”

On the one hand, low shooting efficiency by ball handlers in the NCAA appears to support the idea of more passive ball screen coverages. On the other hand, that low efficiency might be attributed to the fact that defenses tend to be relatively aggressive guarding ball handlers.

It’s also important to note that these numbers aren’t static.

The final impact of the shooting revolution — and just how good college shooters will eventually become — is still to be determined.

From 2010 to 2016, zero players made 50+ three-pointers off the bounce (halfcourt possessions only) in a single season. Since then, it’s happened six times in three seasons.

  • Antoine Davis (2019 Detroit) - 63

  • Markus Howard (2019 Marquette) - 60

  • Chris Clemons (2017 Campbell) - 59

  • Trae Young (2018 Okahoma) - 59

  • Andrew Rowsey (2018 Marquette) - 51

  • Jonathan Stark (2017 Murray State) - 50

Last season’s Detroit team led by Antoine Davis took an unprecedented amount of off the bounce threes, as 46% of Detroit’s halfcourt three-point attempts were off the bounce. No other team has ever been over 40%.

ICYMI: Three more throwback Twitter threads

  1. Romeo Langford and the challenges of scouting on a small sample

  2. NC State and press defenses

  3. Head coach introductory press conferences (#Culture #PlayFast)

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