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Film Room: Texas A&M v2.0

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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.

After a series of close calls over recent weeks, the Tigers were able to land a knockout blow and notch a big league victory. Their last four league defeats had come by a grand total of 15 points, with three games decided by one possession. Not on Saturday, though. Mizzou posted an impressive 1.23 points per possession on offense en route to their third SEC win. Let’s take a look at how they got there.

For starters, A&M was showing a wide variety of defensive looks. There were zone presses, man presses, pressuring half court man and gap control half court man. We have a wealth of clips on the offensive end where we’ll see some of those defenses and how Mizzou attacked them. But to start, here’s a few instances where we solely focus on the Aggies’ strategy.

The Aggies frequently showed a 34 to full court zone press and then dropped back into a man defense.

Here we see more of the same. Once Kobe crosses mid court, A&M was content to back off into their half court man contain. However, once he picks up the ball, the pressure increases instantaneously. Although the Aggies had switched to man by that point, they immediately pressured the ball and the nearest Mizzou players.

To counter these looks, Mizzou took advantage of pushing off of defensive stops and had several instances of being able to attack the press for chances. Although there were comparatively fewer than in game 1 (after all, the number of game possessions dropped from 72 to 57!) Mizzou was able to find some needed buckets that helped prove decisive.

Here, Kobe was able to secure the long rebound off of the three point attempt and immediately push the ball up the floor. Although he doesn’t connect, the transition opportunity allows Brazile the easy flush.

After an outstanding post defensive effort by Kobe on the post up (before the video starts) Coleman probes in transition. Finding nothing, he hits Kobe as the trailer. He drives in the lane and connects with Davis in the corner for a catch and shoot opportunity. Not a transition bucket, but a great look from early offense.

During the telecast, one of the analysts suggested that if you want to teach a team how to break the press, you should watch this play. So, naturally...we included it! Texas A&M appears to be in a 1-2-2 zone press, which perhaps was an incorrectly performed 1-2-1-1 (diamond & one), which includes a rim protector. No matter, as it wasn’t effective in this instance. First, before Kaleb finds Coleman streaking, I want you to notice Davis flashing to the center of the floor. Why? Well, look what it does to the defense. It draws the far-side wing and opens up space for Coleman to pressure the back two defenders after receiving the pass. That’s exactly what he does. Keita slips to the bucket for a layup.

Next, we’ll dive into some of the half court sets Mizzou ran and how they performed. Spoiler alert: When A&M wasn’t causing turnovers, Mizzou was incredibly efficient in these sets. Matt Harris has pitched in to add his thoughts on a few clips as well.

This is a more “modern” look from Mizzou. This is functionally a five out dribble drive offense, though Kobe could make it a 4 out depending on action. Here, Mizzou simply moves the ball around the perimeter until someone has a dribble drive opportunity, and here it’s DeGray. Notice when he gets into the paint how much A&M is cheating. There isn’t a single man on Coleman’s half of the floor. The pass was a little off, allowing time to recover. No matter, Coleman cans it.

(Matt Harris): What’s noticeable is how MU uses a flex cut by DaJuan Gordon on the weak side to switch Wade Taylor on to Kobe Brown. The Tigers reverse sides, feed Kobe, and let him work. Kobe does a nice job stepping through after help arrives baseline side and finishes with his off hand. This essentially achieves the same goal as Gut, only you’re not allowing the defense to trap the initial side pick-and-roll, and it skips the next step of having him running a ghost screen to the weak side before slipping down.

(MH): MU goes back to a flex action, only this time, the ball swings with Davis as he cuts along the baseline. What I like are the counters. First, Amari backscreens to create the big-little switch of Kobe and Marcus Williams. Notice Aaron Cash in a bind. He’s low man in help, but then Ronnie sprints to a middle ball-screen, pulling Cash out. A&M’s trapping these screens, giving DeGray a clean release. Cash can’t tag, and Taylor doesn’t. Kudos to Amari for being decisive with the pass before the trap gets set.

This is a play that both Matt Harris and I enjoyed. It begins with an entry to Coleman at the elbow. Brazile utilized a delayed UCLA screen on Kaleb’s man and then pops to receive the ball. This was followed by a dribble hand off for Kaleb and Brazile cuts to the block. The ball is reversed to Coleman on the wing, who probes baseline before delivering a perfect pass to a flashing Davis in one of his hot spots. (MH): MU’s hinted at using Gut as an overload, and here’s a prime example. Coleman drives baseline and flattens out help, and Amari fills the void at his favorite spot.

Mizzou starts out in “Horns” with DeGray and Brown at the elbows and Coleman on the ball. DeGray ghosts a ball screen (fake screen) and pops while Kobe dives to the strongside elbow. The ball is reversed to Kaleb with another DeGray ghost/slip screen. DeGray ultimately receives the ball and drives baseline, which freezes the help side defense. A skip pass over the top finds a wide open Coleman for a catch and shoot. You’ll note that Mizzou ghosted/slipped a lot of screening actions. Why? The Aggies are super aggressive at trapping ball screens. This action either, 1) prevents that, and/or 2) allows it to be beaten. Segue alert!

Here’s what I’m referring to with the ball screen traps. Although DeGray doesn’t make clean contact with a screen here, he’s in position long enough for Aggie defenders to swarm the ball. Smartly, he “short rolls,” i.e. turns around to give an outlet for the ball being trapped. Coleman finds him and Mizzou has created a 4 on 3. While I think he could’ve taken one more dribble to really draw the defense in and perhaps find a cutting Kobe for a rim attempt, he opts for the kick out to Davis in one of his high percentage spots. Unfortunately, the shot doesn’t fall.

While this initial action doesn’t generate an opening, I love it. Mizzou lines up in the Horns formation and immediately pitches the ball into elbow. Mizzou then proceeds to run the same Chicago Dribble Hand Off we saw last time out. Kaleb sets a pin down for Coleman, who comes off of DeGray for the hand off. Texas A&M does a great job of defending it. The ball moves to Kaleb and DeGray sets an empty-side ball screen and rolls to the short corner. Though it takes Kaleb a beat or two longer than ideal, he delivers the ball for DeGray to attack a vulnerable defense. DeGray beats his man and skips it to the nearside corner. Coleman, having knocked down a few threes already, commands a hard close out which he successfully attacks baseline. He finds a diving Davis for the paint conversion. Just a really well-conceived action with components of many different “systems” all in one.

Here’s an instance of Mizzou’s “Gut” action that we’ve become very familiar with, but with a change. Kobe sets the down screen for Davis, which A&M switches. Instead of re-screening as is normal and inviting a double team, Kobe veers off, realizing he has a considerable mismatch. Although Texas A&M is able to prevent the post entry, the movement causes A&M to load up. Recognizing this, Kaleb flashes to the nail and Davis hits him with the pass. A quick decision and dump off to DeGray catches A&M out of position. Simple stuff, but a great example of Mizzou using A&M’s overplay on anticipated actions against them.

(MH): Another tweak to Gut had Ronnie flashing middle, and Coleman cutting off him in a potential DHO. It creates a big-little switch, and DeGray attacks with a bully drive before playing off two feet.

(MH): Mizzou’s getting more creative with elbow actions. On this one, Kaleb’s cut and Keita’s drive occupy middle help. On the weak side, Ronnie’s pin down creates a switch putting Andre Gordon on DeGray that will help later. The Aggies deal with the first DHO. But DeGray’s got a size advantage when the second flip action unfolds, giving the combo forward a bully drive from the top of the arc.

Another elbow based action, another variation. Here, Kobe flashes to the elbow and receives the pass. Kobe does two great things here. First, he takes a dribble which draws Brazile’s man to lift to help. Second, he looks off Gordon in the corner which causes the remaining help side defender to scramble to the corner. Instead, Kobe dishes to a wide open Brazile under the rim for a beautiful conversion. We talk often about quarterbacks drawing coverage and opening passing lanes with their eyes. That’s exactly what Kobe does here.

Mizzou does the same thing here. THE EXACT SAME THING GETS THE SAME RESULT. Here, Kobe once again draws the low help side defender, which doubles him. Davis lifts to draw the remaining defender above the free throw line. Brazile cuts baseline and converts the dunk. Noting Davis’ movement here again, he helped open up a great look by nothing more than savvy off-ball movement.

At this point in the game, Mizzou had absorbed several body blows from the Aggies but were keeping it relatively close. Then they went to work. As Kobe not-so-discreetly calls at the beginning of the clip, this is another elbow-based action. Coleman enters the ball and simply runs off Kobe for a DHO. A&M was in a bit of disarray here as their post player was marking Coleman. As such, the play ends with a prime 3 point attempt.

Mizzou had modified their Gut actions so much at this point it’s barely recognizable. Gordon is the focus of what is the normal Gut. Instead of a re-screen on the ball, Kobe sets a back screen for Coleman cutting to the basket. He then vacates to the strongside block. A post entry draws an immediate double. DeGray’s high post flash draws two men initially, which allows Gordon to cut baseline. Kobe’s pass which finds him is nothing short of spectacular. We know this because the officials were obviously in awe since all three of them choked on their whistles.

This set begins with Kobe captaining another Chicago DHO action. A&M defends it well and the initial pinner (Coleman) curls to receive the DHO. That last part is not unimportant because A&M switches the hand off. Kobe posts up and the ball is reversed to the near side wing. Kobe’s man had fought so hard to get topside position that the reversal leads to a great high-side pin. Davis realizes this and finds Kobe for another rim conversion. Every action has a counter. This is a great example of what Mizzou was doing to counter A&M’s switches and aggressive denial defense.

Moving on to a few clips of Mizzou’s defensive efforts.

The Tigers are showing straight up man. Through every action they stick to their man, no switching. Davis does an incredible job of ball denial.

Here’s the clip referenced above before Kobe leads the run out. Kobe helps defend a side ball screen by “catching” the ball, which simply means showing under the screen action and preventing a dribble drive. He then is able to recover and play outstanding defense on the post up.

What would Film Room be without one Brazile block? Note, the roller (shooter) in this clip is actually Brazile’s man initially. He hard hedged the ball screen and Kobe does a great job of picking up the roller. Just enough, in fact, to allow Brazile to recover with the emphatic rejection from the trailer spot.

Thanks again for reading!