We're not here to dwell on the worst loss that Missouri has endured in 17 years. We're here to talk about the improvement, or in this case, regression of the Tigers. Missouri had been making improvement in recent weeks in showing signs of a much higher efficiency on offense. Obviously when they played Kentucky, things were pretty brutal at times. As we explored in our last Xs & Os piece, Missouri IS getting better and much of that is due to the improved spacing. It's not perfect, and it's not going to be for much of the rest of this season, but improvement is important.
There are still possessions when Missouri looks downright bad. They have an idea of what they're supposed to do, but they don't get where they need to be. The more in touch with the teachings, the better it will look, and you'll see less of what I'm about to talk about below. You all remember Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst (apparently they made a movie out of it starring Steve Carrell -- is nothing from my childhood sacred?!)? Well this is Mizzou's version. So, first...
The Ugly, No Good, Very Bad Spacing
Spacing is important, and Mizzou had more bad moments than good against Kentucky. It looks like a fairly new play, I recognize it as something that is a part of the Self High-Low, but Missouri hasn't implemented this much so far this year. It's a solid play when it's properly spaced, in this case it was poorly spaced and horribly timed. Needless to say, it didn't work.
The play is basically a triple stagger screen, followed by a double stagger screen. Here's the setup...
You see Wes Clark on the ball side block, Tramaine Isabell on the ball side wing, Ryan Rosburg and D'Angelo Allen on the lane line and Keith Shamburger who has shaded to the left of the top of the key. The action is for Clark, Allen and Rosburg to set a stagger screen for Isabell, then Allen and Rosburg set a double stagger for Clark.
Shamburger takes the ball to the right side as Isabell is running through the screens, and Clark follows Isabell way too early.
The problem with Clark leaving that early is that it just creates traffic around the basket all the way out to the wing.
Now Isabell and Clark can practically give each other a five, and Rosburg and Allen can basically hold hands. This makes them way too easy to guard, as the guards cannot penetrate, and neither post player is able to establish position on the lane. This is how the play ends up...
No way to get a shot off, Isabell passes back to Shamburger who chucks up a desperation 3 that barely draws iron. :/ Not a good possession by any stretch.
Here's a look at how the play should have gone...
What you see on the top graphic is what happened. The bottom graphic is what should have happened. If you see the difference in the spacing plus the difference with where the screens are set, that version creates much better space, and I'm about 99% certain this is how it's drawn up. Players have to be drilled to space correctly, it's their natural tendency to get closer to the ball, and this drives coaches crazy. Yes even at the college level.
Another big difference is where the point guard, in this case it's Shamburger, attacks the elbow putting penetration towards the rim as another thing the defense needs to guard against. By simply reversing the floor as he does in the game, Shamburger doesn't put any pressure on the defense, he's no threat to score. Next year, if you have Clark or Isabell running this point position, they are both a much more dangerous threat to drive and pull up.
During the actual play, Isabell has to dribble up the floor because Clark runs right up his backside instead of staying flat. The longer route also gives the defense more time to recover. If you flatten the Clark cut (#3) and put the screens along the baseline you'll create more space and it becomes difficult for one player to guard two guys. That also puts each screeners (both post players) in position to seal their defenders and be ready for any high-low action once the ball hits the corner, or the 5 can seal his defender after setting the screen to be ready for a low post entry. If the corner isn't open, you can still get a high post flash, low post entry or the 2-guard can bring the ball out to the point to reset.
In this particular case, with the shot-clock winding down, a shot needed to get off. Grouping so many players together like what happened, and you end up taking a guarded 28 footer.
To watch the full play, click this, it's a long gif so I'll just link to it here.
The Kinda Good Though
This was better, but the Ha-Ha Funny part is that even though this was good spacing, Johnathan Williams III was having such an off night that he missed the shot. Fortunately for him Jakeenan Gant was there to clean up the mess.
After the ball had been moving around for a bit, we get some pretty basic down screen action on the wings. Kentucky had their smaller lineup in, Missouri had their bigger lineup in (and they still had a heighth advantage -- thanks to Wiilie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson, two 7-footers -- luxuries). Shamburger and Clark are on the blocks and they sprint out to the wings created a giant hole in the middle of the floor for which JW3 to attack.
In this particular play, JW3 being a left helps him as he's able to attack the side that Johnson occupies, giving Johnson less time to react to the drive. Also, it's helps that Andrew Harrison starts the play by NOT seeing the ball one iota. He turns a bit late, doesn't fully commit to help instead kind of standing there.
The downscreen action has moved the guys defending the posts enough to give a really big hole to drive into.
You see Harrison turn his back to Gant, WCS is even with JW3 who has the advantage to attack the rim. The gray V illustrates the amount of space that a driver has to work with in order to attack.
Driving the ball comes down to two things, attacking the rim and attacking defenders. In this case, JW3 was attacking the rim and in doing so forced Johnson and Harrison to react. They didn't react fast enough, JW3 gets the layup, misses and then good fun things happen.
In gif form, I can watch this all day. I like the chin-up that Gant does.
This is what makes Gant such an exciting player. The ability to hit jump shots out to about 18 feet (and getting better at 3s), and this level of bounce in his step. I don't think this is the last putback dunk we're going to see from this guy.
Wrap it up, the people are bored
As long as the season keeps progressing, you hope to see improvements right? Kentucky felt like a step back because Missouri just got UCLA'd by Kentucky. Just waylaid. One the plus side though, almost everything went wrong, and I'm fairly certain that UK can beat half of the SEC by 50 points when they play like they did against Missouri. The Tigers need to put the feeling of the curb-stomping behind them and realize that they can get back to .500 in conference with a win at home against Tennessee, a very winnable game.
Last thing is this... Wes Clark toying with Devin Booker before getting blocked by Karl Anthony Towns. Why am I showing this? Because Wes Clark is fast, has no trouble making Booker look silly in the open court, and makes the mistake of not going into the body of Towns to attempt to draw contact. Wes is probably going to get away with this move against 90% of the SEC big guys, Towns isn't one of them.
It's still fun to watch Booker twist and turn in the open court for a minute though.