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Film Room: Iowa State

Missouri v Iowa State Photo by David K Purdy/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

Mizzou traveled to Ames, Iowa on Saturday to renew a Big 8 grudge match. Though the Tigers and Cyclones have played in recent years, it was enjoyable to finally get a Big 12/SEC Challenge matchup against one of our old league foes. Let’s take a look at what went down.

Iowa State entered the game with an impressive top 10 adjusted defensive efficiency ranking per Ken Pomeroy. We’ll start by taking a look at what makes the Cyclones’ defense so effective.

This clip rather effectively shows concepts of the “no-middle” defense. What is that, exactly? Let’s use the film to describe it by way of example. Mizzou is running the oft-discussed “Gut” action on the nearside for Gordon. Notice his defender is in a chase position as he receives the ball, but immediately situates himself on the inside (center of the floor). A hard hedge on the screening action pushes Gordon further to the sideline and blows up the action. The ball is reversed where DeGray sets a side ball screen for Coleman. The ISU defenders switch, and once again, Coleman’s new defender is positioned where the gaps are closed off and he’s forced towards a boundary. The possession then ends with DeGray attempting a dribble drive before being cut off by numerous ISU defenders.

Put simply, the defense is predicated on forcing everything to the sideline/baseline. It’s proven effective at Texas Tech (now Texas as well), Baylor and others. The goal is similar, but the execution different when compared to the “pack line” defense made famous by Dick and Tony Bennett. That defensive philosophy instead focuses on off ball defenders being within 14-16 feet of the rim. It can allow middle penetration, but stops it with the remaining defenders. Both are designed to keep dribble penetration away from the rim. An overly simplified version of both, to be sure, but interesting to see develop in real time.

Here we see those concepts in action again with the added bonus of the on-ball pressure that has become a nightly occurrence for Mizzou. ISU picks up Kaleb beyond mid-court and every subsequent pass results in ISU protecting the middle of the floor. Everything is “pushed” towards the boundaries.

Here’s an example of Mizzou getting a paint touch via the dribble drive. A solid move by Kobe gets him into the lane, only to find three Cyclone defenders when the shot goes up. It’s not surprising to see from the clips that Mizzou was held to one of their lowest volume rim attempt games of the season.

How was Mizzou attacking this defense?

On the first possession of the game, Mizzou runs a back screen for Kobe which forces a guard to switch on to him. A double comes and Kobe intelligently dribbles out of it to see the floor. Gordon cuts to an open spot and Kobe does what he’s come to be very good at, passing out of double teams.

In this clip Mizzou shows to concepts that we’ve seen throughout the year. First, you’ll be able to diagnose the “Gut” action on the nearside. After ISU’s extended no-middle concepts force that to the sideline, Mizzou reverses the ball. Then the run a “zoom” action. Here, Coleman is situated in the far corner. Kobe sets a pin-down which Coleman comes off of into a dribble hand-off (DHO) from Brazile. The staggered screening and no switches allows Coleman to get just enough of a step on his man to turn downhill and convert at the rim.

You’ll notice here there’s a high ball screen between DeGray and Coleman. Coleman is ridden towards the boundary, away from the paint. Kobe’s man helps on the baseline to prevent him from turning the corner. DeGray’s man was playing “catch” on the ball screen (helping 1-2 steps below the screen) and was effective in allowing Coleman’s man to recover. However, he continues to help too low on the court, Coleman diagnoses it, and hits DeGray for a wide open catch and shoot.

This set ended in a turnover, but I liked the concept so much I included it anyway. Mizzou begins in the “Horns” formation. Simply, it’s where two screeners are located in the elbow/slot. Here, Davis dribbles off of Brazile’s screen and Brazile pops for what would’ve been an open catch and shoot. Potentially an error, but pause at 0:03. DeGray had “ducked” to the rim and his man opted to chase the shooter as a help defender. This left DeGray WIDE OPEN. The defender makes a great play on the ball preventing the pass from connecting. Great schemes on both sides.

ISU once again blows up Mizzou’s “Gut” action. However, Mizzou had a great counter. After Davis steps through the defense, Brazile flashes to the high post. Mizzou had a great high low opportunity set up though the pass isn’t made. After Brazile drives the right block, Gordon cuts from the far corner and Brazile hits him with a great pass.

Facing a man-to-man defense on a baseline out of bounds, Mizzou simply enters the ball into Coleman at the block extended. They’ve been doing this recently with positive results. After making the pass, DeGray appears to be drifting to the nearside corner and his man loses him for a split second. However, he curls back to the paint and Coleman finds him for the bucket.

With points difficult to come by in the half court, Mizzou was able to grab a few points in transition.

If there was a textbook definition of defense to offense transition play, this may be it. Kobe corrals the errant shot, immediately outlets to Coleman who turns up court. Brazile SPRINTS down the court where he’s able to convert the highlight reel dunk. Stunning in its simplicity and efficacy.

Davis does a great job of avoiding the screen, reading the pass and jumping the passing lane on defense. While his shot may have been a little premature, he was able to gather the rebound and get the put back bucket before the defense recovered.

I was intrigued by some of the sets Iowa State was running offensive. They ran quite a bit of “elbow series,” or in other lexicon, “chin” actions. These concepts go way back in basketball history but are making comeback. And for good reason. Pay particular attention to what’s going on at the “elbow,” which is where the lane intersects with the free throw line.

Here, ISU’s big man simply lifts from the baseline to set a back screen for the far side slot player. This is a modified “UCLA” cut. The perimeter player cuts towards the basket off the screen and receives an accurate pass and earns a trip to the line due to a late recovering defense.

Exact same play here. The Cyclones convert the bucket this time. I could talk for a long while about these concepts, but they’re fairly unique on Mizzou’s schedule. There’s a lot of different options you can run off of elbow actions; just wanted to point them out.

Finally...what you all came for.

I might’ve included a bit too much film here, so forward to the 0:16 mark. Kobe, with the shot clock winding down, doubles the high ball screen. ISU’s on ball player finds the roller with a nice pass and he looks to have a high quality look on tap. If he didn’t know already, he knows now. If Brazile is lurking weakside, beware.

Thanks for reading!