Upsets & Insights (HV Weekly: 1/17/2020)

Making sense of a befuddling, chaotic, fun January.

Welcome back to the Hoop Vision Weekly! Glad you’re here.

You likely subscribe to this weekly newsletter because it helps you make sense of college basketball, and our hope is that it helps you to rise above the noise and let you think more clearly about the sport we all love.

This season, though, it’s certainly hard to know what to think. Just a quick look back at this past week to put things into perspective:

  • Baylor beat Kansas by double digits in Lawrence. In basketball, not football.

  • South Carolina beat Kentucky at the buzzer. Also not football.

  • Clemson beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill (for the first time ever) — and then beat Duke.

  • Alabama blew out a previously-undefeated Auburn.

  • Washington State beat an Oregon team ranked in the AP Top 10.

And that’s just a quick, off-hand listing of a few things that made us turn around and look twice.

Last season, the stars kind of aligned in year one of the Hoop Vision Weekly. It all culminated in two teams that we covered in detail nearly all season long playing for a national championship. Not only that, but they were two stylistically extreme teams — Virginia with their notable X’s and O’s adjustment to the Continuity Ball Screen offense, Texas Tech with their notable no-middle defense.

This season, it’s sometimes difficult to even determine which teams we should be covering — let alone to predict the future.

And despite the chaos, we’re back again — as we are every week. Ready to break it all down and help you approach this sport with a clear mind and a discerning view.

Today, we’ve got a relatively comprehensive look at Duke-Louisville, a look back at some Baylor brilliance from last week, and all the other usual fun stuff we do every Friday.

Let’s go!!

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(*Reminder: Team rankings and score projections via
  • 34 games between teams ranked in the KenPom Top 100 (season high)

  • 20 games between teams in Top 68

  • 13 games between Top 48 teams (season high)

  • 8 games between Top 32 (season high)

  • game between Top 16

Just putting those Top 48 and Top 32 games into context: half of the top 32 teams — and more than half of the Top 48 — in the country are facing each other. That’s the highest concentration on a given weekend in the two seasons we’ve been tracking; we’re gonna learn some stuff on Saturday.

Game To Watch

Duke had held onto the top spot in the KenPom rankings since December — until Tuesday’s loss to Clemson. The Blue Devils had been somewhat quietly (for Duke’s standards) dominant in conference play — albeit against the bottom half of the ACC.

Duke’s defensive scheme is the typical pressure-and-deny style that Coach K’s best teams have used over the years. Against Clemson, however, the defense struggled in the half-court for a lot of the game — especially in defending ball screens.

A tricky aspect of the defensive denials is the recognition of when to stop denying if the offensive player is going to set a screen. Against Clemson, Duke’s bigs were often a step or two late at getting into ball screen coverage. On top of that, Clemson’s Aamir Simms has the ideal skill set to play out of these ball screen situations.

Most college bigs simply aren’t as good as Simms in short rolls like the one above. For Louisville, Steven Enoch is very good with his back to the basket and Malik Williams is very good defensively — but neither are especially capable playmakers off the bounce. The two 5-men are also a combined 8-for-37 from three-point range on the season.

Another area of ball screen offense where Clemson hurt Duke was the slip to the basket. Tevin Mack scored two times in the second half — once against Javin DeLaurier and once against Matthew Hurt — off of this slip set.

Chris Mack does have the ball screen slip in his playbook and Louisville had success with ball screens against Duke last season. But this season the Cards have been much more motion focused, relying on off-ball movement and screening.

Duke will almost certainly look to deny and disrupt the Louisville off-ball motion, so it will be interesting to see how Mack chooses to counter.

Film Room: Louisville’s ball screen offense last season against Duke

Kenpom Projection: Duke 72, Louisville 64
(77% Kansas win probability)


Some other fun ones

Highest-ranked matchups…

High-Major: Louisville (#10) at Duke (#2)
”Low-Major” Special:
North Texas (#91) at Louisiana Tech (#64)

Biggest Projected Blowout…

Stephen F. Austin 80, Incarnate Word 58

Projected Highest-Scoring Game(s)…

Sam Houston State 94, Houston Baptist 82

Projected Lowest-Scoring Game…

Georgia Tech 54, Virginia 53



We’ll start this week’s roundup with the Starting Five, our weekly breakdown for HV+ subscribers on five actions, storylines or data-driven curiosities that emerge from the weekend slate.

This week: observations on Michigan, Syracuse, Baylor, San Francisco, and head coach age, with a brief excerpt below on some analysis around the age of head coaches and how that may affect strategy:

#5 [Style of Play Trend] Are younger coaches doing things differently?

San Francisco’s progressive decision to intentionally foul at the end of the first half got me rethinking about an old topic. San Francisco head coach Todd Golden is the fifth youngest coach in DI men’s basketball. Anecdotally, younger coaches seem to be more interested (or “indoctrinated”) in analytics.

We’ve looked at head coach age in the past, but “interest in analytics” is a very subjective thing to even attempt to quantify. Younger coaches, for example, don’t really tend to produce teams that shoot more three-pointers than teams with older coaches.

But one area where we did find a small correlation was ball screen usage.

  • There are 48 head coaches under the age of 40… Their teams use an average of 21.0 ball screens per game

  • There 41 head coaches over the age of 60… Their teams use an average of 17.6 ball screens per game

These ball screen usage splits are consistent with our research from All-Decade week. It appears that a big part of the national trend to more ball screens can be attributed to Princeton and/or motion coaches simply retiring.


One of the five observations in that post was on the aforementioned San Francisco Dons, and it was picked up by NBC’s Rob Dauster (an HV+ subscriber), in which he spoke with the Dons’ head coach Todd Golden and DOBO Jonathan Safir (also HV+ subscribers!), detailing how the San Francisco program is using analytics to get an edge, including their approach to end-of-half possessions.

And before we jump back into Hoop Vision specific content, we move over to the women’s side: for the Her Hoop Stats newsletter, Jenn Hatfield produced an adaptation of our recurring look at how players’ roles have changed from one season to the next. We wanted to give a shout to the article, and encourage those interested in more coverage on the women’s side to check out their newsletter.

Back in the Hoop Vision world, we find ourselves in Waco, Texas — not actually, but certainly on film — where Baylor is using stifling defense to shoot up the national rankings and stake a real claim to being the top team in the country right now.

Against Kansas they showed that defensive acumen, executing switches while taking help responsibilities into account.

But Scott Drew’s team is also making it happen — albeit at a slow tempo — on the offensive end; just take a look at this Davion Mitchell action they’ve been able to pull off against two top defenses.

If you’re not sick of Baylor yet — and you’re looking to relive their dominant showing at Kansas from last weekend — that was the focus of the latest episode of the Big Game Pod (Listen: Apple // Spotify).

Ok, now moving on from Baylor…

Continuity Ball Screen offense is (still) dominating the college hoops landscape this year, and we continue to see more wrinkles and concepts stemming from it. Here’s a look at a collection of dunks/lay-ups this season off the same UCLA action out of Continuity BS:

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

And if you didn’t get a chance to read it on Wednesday, we sent out a free-to-everyone post touching on a question that fixates coaching staffs and fanbases alike: Should offenses play faster?

Check out the full post here, with the opening section excerpted below in case you’re on the fence about reading through:

“Oh yeah, we’re definitely gonna run”

There are two big factors that incentivize coaches to declare their teams will be dedicated to playing fast. First, it’s an attractive talking point for the fanbase. Fans like high-scoring offense. Second, it’s an attractive talking point for recruiting. Recruits also like high-scoring offense.

So a coach emphasizing how his/her team will be flying up and down the court is certainly logical from a “win the presser” standpoint, but what about a basketball standpoint?

In order to answer that question, the first step is to more accurately define how teams play fast. Playing fast is not a binary decision made by a coach simply with the snap of a finger.

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That’s it for this week!

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