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Film Room: Auburn

Mizzou almost brought down #1 with a game plan to grind them into dust.

Auburn v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/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

Despite a close defeat, there were a host of things to break down in Tuesday night’s tilt with Auburn. Included, we’ll take a look at what defensive strategies utilized, how Mizzou countered offensively and finally a look at how Mizzou frustrated Auburn’s high-powered attack on offense.

In this first clip we’ll notice three things. First, Auburn picked up cues from Alabama and extended on-ball pressure out to the logo. Mizzou’s offense wasn’t triggered until under 20 seconds remained on the shot clock. Second, Mizzou is running their “Gut” action, a Brazile down screen for Gordon followed by a Brazile ball screen for Gordon. To stymie that action, Gordon’s man “ices” the screen, which simply entails steering the ballhandler to the sideline to negate the screen. Finally, Kobe’s man “tags” the roller off of his assignment which allows a clean look for him. The closeout wasn’t aggressive in order to keep Kobe out of the lane.

Despite starting out the possession in a very aggressive stance, playing up on each Mizzou option, notice how the help defense develops on Pickett’s drive. While Mizzou’s spacing wasn’t ideal on this set, both DeGray’s man and Davis’s man are in strong position to help, creating a triple team on Pickett’s trip to the logo.

Here, we’re once again seeing an aggressive ball pressure defense. After Mizzou runs a side dribble hand off, the Auburn defenders switch assignments. Mizzou goes into a dribble weave set. A hard switch on the hand off to Davis allows for just a sliver of daylight for a rim attack. Auburn’s help defense had overrated anticipating Davis not to counter the switch. An impressive finish is still required to beat the rim protection that Kessler offers.

Once again, steady on-ball pressure begins the defensive possession. Mizzou runs the “Gut” Action. Kessler hard hedges the ball screen to prevent Gordon from turning the corner. Kobe’s man tags Brazile when he roles. A reversal to Kobe occurs and both Brazile and Kobe’s men recover to their original assignments. Kobe flows into a side ball screen for Coleman which Auburn switches. Mizzou has an advantageous matchup with Kobe on the block. However, Kobe’s new man does a good job fronting to deny a quick entry to exploit the mismatch.

As for how Mizzou was attacking the Auburn defense in half court sets.

This set begins rather simply. Coleman finds Kobe on the wing who then executes a quick entry into DeGray to exploit a potential matchup advantage. Auburn quickly brings a double team to avoid the mismatch. Pickett, seeing that his man is part of the double smartly cuts towards the ball which then attracts the defender now responsible for Davis. Davis fades to one of his favorite spots and DeGray finds him with a great pass for the high quality catch and shoot opportunity. This is a great example of Mizzou getting a high quality opportunity by using Auburn’s pressure against it.

Here, Mizzou uses a very high ball screen to loosen the defensive on-ball pressure. The screen was so effective that Coleman forces a switch with Kessler guarding him with momentum towards the rim. Coleman probes but Kessler does a good job of protecting the rim. Coleman kicks out to Brazile and smartly lifts which forces Kessler to follow. Recognizing this, Brazile makes a nice move and attacks baseline to the space Kessler has vacated. The action results in a high quality look.

This a set that I love. Mizzou begins by aligning three offensive players in the nearside corner. Then, they run what is referred to as an “inverted” ball screen. Put simply, its the same as any other ball screen, but the men running it switch assignments. Here Coleman is setting the screen for Kobe. They run this so Coleman is “rolling” into the empty side of the court (no offensive or defensive players). Johnson attempts to blow up the screen by attacking Kobe on a switch. A nifty move discards Johnson and Kobe attacks Jabari Smith on the dribble drive. He gets to a spot where he has a high efficiency margin and finishes with a sweet runner over both Smith and Kessler.

Mizzou goes back to a standard high pick and roll with Kobe setting the screen for Coleman. A brief moment of ball screen coverage confusion allows Coleman to turn the corner and attack the rim. Another nice finish over Kessler’s help side defense nets Mizzou two big points.

This is a very simple out of bounds play that Mizzou ran against Auburn’s under out-of-bounds man defense. Kaleb clears initially receiving a wall screen from DeGray and Brazile. He’s a decoy. He continues his cut towards the basket to keep his defender honest. Gordon then comes off the same screening action on a circle cut. His man had been cheating towards Kaleb’s initial cut. The defensive attention give to Kaleb allows for a prime catch and shoot opportunity which Gordon converts.

Here, Mizzou’s early offense doesn’t yield any opportunities. Kobe eventually finds Kaleb on a post up on the far side block. One dribble holds Kessler in his help side position in the restricted arc. Meanwhile, DeGray (Kessler’s man) fades to the corner. After freezing Kessler, Kaleb finds DeGray on a nice look for the catch and shoot.

A major component of Mizzou’s attack Tuesday was predicated on their defense. We’ll take a look at specific defensive possessions later. The next few clips will show Mizzou converting off of defensive stops in transition.

A great individual effort by Kobe to deny the entry, secure the ball, get up court and find Davis for a high percentage look.

Superlative defensive efforts by Pickett and Kobe lead to a run out bucket.

“Go until they stop the ball.” Auburn never did.

Auburn did a poor job of getting back in defensive transition in this clip. Mizzou smartly pushed the ball and converted a 3 on 1.

We may normally not give enough attention to Mizzou defensive possessions. Part of that is intentional, much of it is not. Offense is more enjoyable to analyze in some ways. But Mizzou’s effort against Auburn could not be ignored.

Mizzou plays this possession mostly straight up. The only switch is a hand off between Brazile and Coleman’s men. Mizzou sits well in the driving gaps throughout the possession. When Brazile’s man penetrates, DeGray is in perfect help position to force an errant shot.

Auburn begins this clip by running a modern flex cut (baseline screen for weakside corner). DeGray and Pickett jam this action up by switching cleanly. On Auburn’s dribble drive, Keita slides over into help side position to draw the charge.

Auburn starts this possession with a down screen for Johnson with Gordon assigned. Gordon is able to fight over the screen and prevent Johnson from curling into the paint. Kessler attempts a rescreen action but an ill-advised pass prevents the play from proceeding as planned. Gordon fights over the interference no matter. A ball screen is set and Brazile hedges out to prevent Auburn from getting downhill. Auburn attempts to hit the roller but this was prevented by an outstanding read by Pickett who was lurking watching the roll unfold. He steps in and intercepts the pass. If you watch football, this was the case of a safety bating the pass and making a perfect read to intercept it. Just a truly outstanding defensive possession on all accounts.

Brazile seamlessly transitions from tough on-ball defense marking a future lottery pick to protecting the rim after Mizzou couldn’t secure the defensive rebound. Multiple efforts!

Thanks again for reading.