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Film Room: Alabama v2.0

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It didn’t all go to plan, but a lot more went to plan than we’re used to seeing.

Missouri v Alabama Photo by Michael Chang/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

We’ve entered the portion of the season where Mizzou is facing teams for the second time around. With that come adjustments, both effective and ineffective. In Game 1 against the Tide, the Tigers were relentless at scoring inside the arc, scoring 16 buckets at the rim and adding 21 points from the line. Game 2? 13 shots made at the rim but only 5 free throw attempts. Twitter was abuzz in the conversation of why that latter number was so low. Some things aren’t the province of this series, and that includes officiating. So let’s take a look at what Alabama was doing defensively.

Early on, Alabama wasn’t super-aggressive in pressuring the ballhandler (Here: Coleman) when crossing mid-court. However, they were jump-trapping ball screens as the did here when Mizzou attempted a side ball screen out of Mizzou’s “Gut” action which led to a turnover.

Notice, when compared to the first clip, how much more pressure Alabama has begun to apply to the ball at midcourt. When Kobe attempts to get the ball, Alabama extends the pressure out to deny at midcourt. After receiving the ball, a pick and roll gets him down hill. Pause at the 0:12 mark. 5 Alabama defenders helping out on the drive. Brazile finishes an impressive put back on the contested layup attempt.

On this possession Alabama plays a less aggressive man defense out front. They switch a series of screens prior to Pickett driving the lane. Pause at the 0:17 mark. Pickett is on the logo with five defenders in near proximity. He makes the right pass to Kobe for an open catch and shoot. This was a common theme. Alabama had shifted to more of a rim protection defense (either strategically or simply as a matter of effort) and allowed Mizzou open outside shots. The Tigers responded by turning in their season-best performance behind the arc, which was nearly enough to spring the upset.

Alabama pressures the ball well beyond midcourt, switches the size ball screen and doubles Kobe on the block. Kaleb makes a nice feed to Pickett on the post. Pickett’s quick move to discard his defender and drive baseline beats the help side defense.

Here, Alabama has fallen back into a less aggressive defense. Notice at the 0:20 mark when Davis drive to the logo, he finds 5 Alabama defenders around him. This is by design and something Mizzou has seen on certain nights. He finds Gordon with the right read and manages to corral the loose ball and convert a last second opportunity.

Alabama has gone back to the very aggressive man defense on the ball. Coleman struggles to get the offense into flow because of the coverage and ultimately commits a charge. The ball pressure in sum wasn’t incredibly effective in creating turnovers (only 11 total; 16.9% TO rate which is perfectly acceptable). But what it was effective in doing was making Mizzou chew up precious seconds before getting into their half court sets. How were they able to be aggressive with little to no consequence? Depends on who you ask...

Here is Alabama in a more compacted man defense. Notice at the 0:07 mark Kobe is effectively triple-teamed. Despite committing help of 4 men, the coverage breaks down and Kobe converts a nice post up attempt.

Aggressive man defense at the midcourt starts this possession. Notice at the 0:10 mark how aggressive the Alabama help side defenders are rotated to the ball. All five are within the lane or closer to a ballhandler on the wing.

So, there you have it. There was a mix of things happening. First, Oats didn’t start the game out in zone. Second, intermittent ball pressure to break the flow. Third, a better focus on getting secondary defenders’ feet in the paint to dissuade Mizzou’s strategy of scoring at the rim.

What did Mizzou do to counter this?

Mizzou executes a simply ball screen with Kobe and Coleman. Kobe pops and immediately drives on the rotation. Once he draws the defense, he kicks to a wide open Pickett for a great catch and shoot opportunity.

Here’s the patented “Gut” action where Keita sets a down screen for Gordon who catches, and Keita rescreens on the ball. A patient two man game between the two result in an easy post up bucket for the freshman with the mismatch on the defensive switch.

Keita and Coleman pair up for a ball screen action. The screen gives Coleman just enough room to turn the corner and he hits the nice pullup jumper off the bounce.

Another fun set out of the “Gut.” Pickett down screens for Davis and rescreens for a side ball screen action. Davis hits Pickett on the roll for a high percentage look.

This set begins with a high pick and roll with Davis and Kobe. Pay special attention to that. Alabama’s defense switches on the screen, moving their point guard onto Kobe. Recognizing this, Mizzou reverses the ball and finds Kobe on the block who is able to exploit the mismatch.

This set begins with a simple high ball screen between DeGray and Coleman. Alabama’s renewed focus on protecting the paint results in all five men being drawn to the ball. DeGray simply “pops” out of the screen and Coleman kicks it back for a wide open three point attempt.

Alabama switches the high ball screen. Coleman is able to beat his man into the paint. The defensive recovery forces a decision and Coleman smartly finds Gordon drifting to the corner for a catch and shoot opportunity.

A very simple baseline out of bounds set to attack the man defense. Coleman inbounds on the block to Kobe. Coleman’s man leaves to double Kobe. Coleman fades to the opposite wing. Feeling the pressure, Kobe steps out and makes a nice pass for an uncontested spot up jumper.

Mizzou wasn’t getting enough stops defensively for the transition game to be a big component of the offensive attack, but there were several instances.

Brazile was able to drop the hammer on this transition opportunity. He also provided yet another impressive block.

Hiding in a weak side help position, he’s going to be a factor.

Finally, what proved to be the backbreaking possession:

The man defense in this clip was quite good, in fact. But you simply have to finish the possession. Three contested shots by Alabama, three forced misses. A fourth was too many. There were many things that led to this point, but that was the knockout.

Thanks for reading!