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Film Room: Arkansas

Things uh... went a certain way.

Missouri v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Welcome to The Film Room.

In this series we’re going to cut up recent game film to take a look at what the Tigers were doing, and at times, what they weren’t. Film study is in important aspect of basketball. It’s not a matter of simply looking at film and seeing what sets produced baskets (or stops on defense), but rather, what the offense produced in terms of quality of opportunity and what the defense prevented. While most of the commentary will focus on the offensive end, the defensive end is just as important and will get some attention as well.

At the outset, I see film and statistical analysis as effectively a four step process. First, you want to look at what actions/plays a team runs. Styles and systems vary wildly in the college game. How are teams trying to generate looks? Who are the looks generated for? Second, you want to look at the efficiency of those actions/plays that are run, determining how many points per possession are gained (or prevented.) Third, you look at whether the scheme, or game plan, is optimizing the actions/plays that are most efficient in a matchup. Is the offense creating looks for the right guys, shooting the right shots in the right quantity? Finally, it’s a matter of execution. Getting the shots you want on offense still requires those looks to be converted. Nothing can paper over bad offense better than elite shot-making, after all.

This series will primarily look at the first and third points. What plays are Mizzou running? What is the opponent doing on the defensive end to counter those actions? What about when Mizzou is on defense? I would suggest that while viewing offensive sets, look at what the defense is doing, no matter who has the ball. Are the defenders being forced to make decisions in leaving shooters open? Are cuts, screens, etc. causing defenders to be out of position? Are ball screens covered effectively? Those are generally hallmarks of effective offense.

Pull up a seat and let’s get started.

The story of this game, at least on Mizzou’s scoring end of the floor, was a matter of what Arkansas was doing and what Mizzou was unable to do to counter it. If you’ve been following along in this series, you know that Kentucky was determined to clog the paint. It worked. Alabama didn’t believe that was necessary, they were wrong. And we return to Point A. Arkansas not only adopted Kentucky’s philosophy, they doubled down on it. Let’s look at some clips showing exactly what they were doing.

In this first sequence, you’ll see Mizzou running a base offense set that was wildly productive on Saturday. A “gut” action begins with a down screen by DeGray for Amari, who catches and receives a rescreen. Notice after DeGray rolls, where the defense is. Arkansas switches the ball screen coverage. Kaleb’s man is helping off to the “SEC” logo, jamming up the action until DeGray’s man recovers. A reversal flows into a side ball screen with Kobe and Kaleb. Kobe slips the screen, much in the same way he did Saturday. When he rolls, BOTH defenders help while containing the dribble penetration. After the defense recovers, Kaleb gets Kobe the ball on the block. As soon as that happen, he’s doubled from the top side. Kobe properly kicks it out to Kaleb for an open spot up jumper. He turns it down jabs the defense and swings it for the same. Tigers come up empty.

This clip got some attention on twitter. One reply quipping, it’s a “box on one,” defense. It’s funny because it’s true. It’s hard to read a whole lot into a still frame, but it perfectly encapsulated the defense on this trip, and during much of the night. A baseline out of bounds triggers a Kobe post up. After the in-bounder clears, Arkansas has five men below the free throw line and in the paint. Doing what teams should do, in theory, Mizzou spaces 4 players on the perimeter. Anyone who has watched this team for any length of time knows that Mizzou doesn’t often make you pay in those situations. True to form, once Kobe picks up his dribble, the defense loosens to chase shooters/cutters. Amari receives the kick out and is fouled. That was a mistake by Arkansas as the remainder of their defense was in position to help on the penetration.

This set begins with a force by Kobe in transition. As you can see from the score, it’s understandable he’s trying to make something happen. After securing the loose ball, Mizzou gets the action to Pickett on the block. It’s not just Kobe who Arkansas was intent on keeping out of the paint. Once he hits the lane, four defenders are there to greet him. He forces a pass to DeGray on the block which leads to another near turnover.

Here you’ll see Kobe start the set with the ball on the left wing. Arkansas has all five defenders on that side of the floor. Mizzou eventually gets a post up of Coleman on the block, again with four defenders in the paint. An inaccurate pass causes a potential spot up opportunity to be lost. In a short clock, Pickett attempts an Iso against what would on this night, be a rare occasion with only two paint defenders. Arkansas stuck to the ball well and forced the errant attempt.

This clip begins with an oft-repeated mistake. Mizzou picking up their dribble on the logo. For all of Arkansas’s intent on clogging the paint, they also applied ball pressure out top. After hitting the safety valve, Mizzou attempts a ball screen which Arkansas switches. Pickett attempts a baseline drive, once again meeting four Arkansas defenders. He makes a good pass, followed by a quick reversal which nets an open spot up. Davis was unable to connect. And then we heard Jon Sundvold make the case for analytics when he wasn’t making the case for analytics. Amari is a better mid range shooter. The numbers support a step-in dribble for that shot! Especially if he makes the recovering defender miss.

Although Arkansas didn’t cover Kobe hard in this ball screen action initially, in the recovery they did. Kobe’s dribble drive off the pick and pop nets him a bracket of 5 Arkansas defenders.

In our final clip, Kobe sets up for a post up and the elbow. He makes a quick move, likely gets away with a hook, and finds a help-side defender 20 feet from his man assignment waiting at the rim.

It was the same story all night long. Arkansas wasn’t getting beaten at the rim. Arkansas wasn’t getting beaten by Kobe. Arkansas was going to pressure the ball 34 court. That’s it. They were willing to live with the consequences.

As for what Mizzou was doing to counter. It wasn’t nothing. Mizzou was getting some good looks, even for their desired shot profile(s). The problem was, that even if they hit the shots that fit those profiles, it wasn’t going to be enough without knocking down some open jumpers and a much better defensive effort.

Here, a series of hand off actions at the elbow extended gets Coleman heading downhill. When he’s cut off at the logo, Pickett makes a nifty back cut. Those are the buckets you have to convert if you have any designs of competing on the road in league play.

Here, Coleman sets what amounts to a flex screen for Gordon in the corner. Gordon properly rejects the screen with the impending overplay and cuts directly to the rim. A ball fake gets you at worst, two free throws.

In this set, Coleman takes advantage of the overly aggressive defense on Kobe. A down screen action by Kobe causes the defender to be a step late on Coleman coming off the curl. He’s able to capitalize with an effective dribble drive to the bucket.

This set ultimately leads to a post up of Gordon on the block. Arkansas erred towards overhelping on Kobe vs. protecting the paint. Mizzou countered by the guard post up. Notice where the defenders are when Gordon picks up his dribble at the 0:15 mark. A strong move through single coverage nets the Tigers two points.

Lastly, a hidden gem if you’ve made it this far.

As the video starts, Coleman is making a pass to Brazile at the top of the key. Brazile doesn’t meet the pass quickly enough allowing the defender to step in for a breakaway. What Brazile taketh away, he giveth back momentarily with what is yet another in an growing line of highlight reel blocks.

Thanks again for reading along.