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Film Room: Texas A&M

Hard. Video. Evidence.

Alabama v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/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 through 25-30 minutes for Mizzou’s offense was their ability to score points in transition. More than any other game against D-I opponents this season, Mizzou was pushing the ball on nearly every opportunity. The first set of clips shows them doing just that.

Kobe secures the ball on the defensive end and makes a simple and accurate outlet pass to Pickett running the wing. Pickett simply beats the defense down the floor.

Mizzou secures the defensive rebound, and once again pushes the ball up the wing. This highlights the difference between the defense being “back” and it being “set.” Texas A&M had gotten back, but their assignments hadn’t been identified and a skip pass exposes that.

This may seem like a force at the outset. Kobe secures the ball and drives the length of the court, finishing amidst three Aggie defenders. However, there’s two rules that apply to transition opportunities: 1) Transition opportunities have proven more efficient than half court opportunities because of not going against a set defense. 2) You go until they stop you. Kobe understood both and got a reasonably high percentage look...and converted it.

After made baskets or dead balls in the first half, Texas A&M was going with a three quarter court zone press, dropping back into a man to man defense. Here, DeBray and Coleman both diagnose it early and DeGray and Gordon beat it the way you beat any zone press. Get the ball to the middle of the floor. The defense is late to recover and a quick high-low pass to Keita results in an easy bucket.

Repeating the point above, a defense that is back, is not necessarily set. Coleman pushes until stopped, feeds Gordon in the corner who then finds DeGray cutting to the rim when the defense is badly out of position.

A defense that is neither back, nor set, is not going to prevent many baskets. Here, Mizzou is pushing off of a Texas A&M make. The Aggies are getting ready to set up their zone press. Pickett runs the wing and Coleman finds him with an accurate pass. Unfortunately, the points are converted.

Mizzou is pushing pace after a turnover. After Pickett is turned away on the initial break opportunity, he finds Coleman in the corner who again attacks the defense before their assignments are set. A nifty dump off pass in the paint results in another easy bucket.

Mizzou secures the loose ball on defense, Davis hits an accurate outlet pass to Pickett who is running “first middle.” The first man down the floor running to the rim. Pickett beats the defense back for an easy look.

Unlike the other examples where Mizzou was securing the ball in the defensive end of the court and pushing tempo, here, Davis makes a great read on A&M’s outlet pass for the steal. A perfect feed results in an emphatic finish.

There were more examples of Mizzou being effective in transition, but suffice it to say, they were routinely getting good looks through the first two thirds of the game. And that was buoying their offense. There were also several examples of Mizzou pushing the ball later in the game with little success. A&M had adjusted their defense (discussed below) and wasn’t allowing for easy looks. This forced Mizzou into costly turnovers.

Mizzou also received some quality looks with their special teams.

In a play we’ve seen before in this feature, the baseline out of bounds play is set with DeGray and Kobe showing a wall screen designed for Pickett to curl off of to receive the pass. Instead, a quick jab step to set up the cut allows Pickett to shed his man and cut directly to the basket for an easy two points.

Texas A&M’s man defense on this baseline out of bounds play falters. Pickett once again is running the primary action. A curl off a Brazile screen to a baseline cut. Notice how he clears THROUGH the lane, which then allows for Kobe to discard his defender for a cut to the bucket. He finishes with the hoop and a foul.

We’re 11 clips in and no half court sets? There’s a reason for that. Mizzou’s focus on pushing tempo and scoring buckets on special teams (out of bounds actions) was for good reason. Texas A&M’s half court man defense is quality, and disruptive. A&M shifted back into that system later in the game. It happened to coincide with converting more on their offensive end, which allowed for fewer natural up-tempo opportunities for Mizzou. What were they doing?

In an early game example, Texas A&M starts in a compacted man defense. When the ball screen action comes, they jump trap it. Gordon is able to get rid of the ball. The possession ends with a made three pointer. However, that is something that defenses appear willing to allow Mizzou to center their offense on.

Here the defense starts a ball screen coverage with a hedge and recover. It then switches the down screen of Kobe for Gordon. After the ball rotates to the corner, they show a double team of Kobe on the block. Coleman receives the ball back and pilots a ball screen action where Texas A&M jump traps. The Aggies were showing multiple looks on defending screens, while still giving the needed attention to Kobe.

After not showing it much subsequent to their issues earlier in the game, Texas A&M throws a hard half court trap causing a turnover.

This is a good example of Texas A&M’s zone press defense dropping back into a man to man defense. They show the zone initially (or maybe it was a matter of defensive confusion) before sloughing back into straight up man. You’ll notice they’ve burned 10 seconds off the shot clock before Mizzou is even setting up their offense. A “gut” action for Pickett results in a bracket by three Aggie defenders. With nothing developing, a Pickett runner results in a needed stop for the defense.

In what proved to be a big possession in the game, A&M starts three quarter court zone and again drops into man. They’re more aggressive in their zone but Mizzou handles it. Yet again, Mizzou is looking at a 20 second shot clock after handling the pressure. They switch the Kobe/Coleman ball screen. Despite another switch, Kobe still has a mismatch. Davis recognizes it and gets Kobe the ball on the block, who is immediately doubled. Kobe makes the appropriate skip pass. A reversal gets Gordon into a good driving position. Pickett is open for the dump off but the pass was errant.

The big takeaway from Saturday is that when Mizzou is getting defensive stops, that HELPS their offense. Getting into an up-tempo game may help the offense. We saw that Saturday. But you have to get the stops where rebounds, loose balls and turnovers give you high percentage looks on the other end. Pushing the tempo in those situations is great. It becomes much harder when you’re having to pull the ball out of the net. Mizzou found that out later in the game Saturday, which caused in a reduction in transition buckets and a higher number of turnovers in those same situations.