A little late, but I thought I would just talk a little bit about the game over last weekend's Elite Eight game between Duke and Baylor. The big talk was about how Duke was going to able to beat Baylor's 1-1-3/2-3 matchup zone. Especially when you compare how Kentucky fared against West Virginia's 1-3-1. In the end, Duke just hit some big shots, especially down the stretch to take over while Kentucky couldn't buy a 3-pointer if their life depended on it.

A couple of articles, this one from ESPN, this one from CBS Sports, have described Baylor's zone as a version of UNLV's Amoeba Zone used by Jerry Tarkanian back in the day. I posted a long while back on the Amoeba Zone. It certainly looked similar especially when they would trap the post on the catch from the pass from the corner.

But for the most part, I thought they played it more like a normal 1-1-3 zone, but with alot of matchup up at the top of the key to ensure they got good ball pressure. I also posted on the 1-1-3 matchup zone earlier last year. The keys to the 1-1-3 matchup zone that I posted were:

1. Apply tremendous ball pressure at all times.
2. Sprint to coverage areas with strong closeouts and hands held high.
3. Push the ball to the sideline alleys and corners.
4. The closest player to the ball takes the ball handler.
5. There always must be a player in the low post and high post.
6. All five players are required to rebound.
7. Once the ball is forced to the sideline, stay on the player’s “high hip” in order to keep the offensive players from reversing positions and dribbling to the other side of the court.
8. The defender stays on the ball until called off by a teammate.
9. All players must communicate verbally for this defense to work.

I thought Baylor played their zone defense well, but in the end, I thought Duke was able to rebound, and shoot the ball when it counted. It wasn't pretty, but zone offense doesn't usually end up looking pretty anyways.

Ironically, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins also has a 1-1-3 zone in his back pocket, and he's used Jim Beilein's 1-3-1, as recent as last game. But WVU is good enough M2M to matchup with Duke, which is what I expect them to play most of the game in the Final Four.

A couple of big games tonight including that 1 vs 4 matchup with Duke against Purdue, and Northern Iowa against Michigan St. I must have missed this article the first time round, but thanks to Chris Brown at Smart Football, here is a unique, scientific look at the importance of shot arc to shooting percentage from the New York Times.

A few very interesting quotes to consider.

Height of where the ball leaves your hand matters:

In a classic study in the 1980s, Peter Brancazio, then a physics professor at Brooklyn College, determined that adding two feet to the height at which a shot leaves the player's fingers increases the success rate by a whopping 17 percent. No wonder you see so many jump shots.
So what exactly is the optimal launch angle with the least amount of force:
Brancazio explains that you need 45 degrees plus half the angle formed by a straight line between the position of the ball at launch and the basket. Depending on your height and where you are on the court, that typically ranges from 7 to 14 degrees. Thus, for a shot leaving your hands at eight feet above the floor from 18 feet out, you'll want to launch the ball at a bit more than 48 degrees. For most players at a distance of 10 to 25 feet, the least-effort angle ranges between 47 and 52 degrees.
Finally, the perfect shot angle for free-throws is:
Using that system, you can calculate the ideal free-throw angle. It's 13.75 feet from the free-throw line to the center of the basket, and a 6-foot player launches the ball from about seven feet above the hardwood. That works out to a shooting angle of 51 degrees.
Last but not least, backspin matters:
Free-throw success is also improved by adding a little backspin, which pushes the ball downward if it hits the back of the rim. The North Carolina State engineers calculated the ideal rate of free-throw backspin at three cycles per second. That is, a shot that takes one second to reach the basket will make three full revolutions counterclockwise as seen from the stands on the player's right side.

Have fun watching the games tonight...

What a crazy weekend of first and second round action. From today though, it's that burning question that all coaches have to ponder as a back and forth game inches closer to its finale. From today's thriller between 2 great teams in Michigan State and Maryland. MSU is up 1, but Maryland comes back and hits a potential game winner with 6 seconds left on the clock. MSU inbounds and brings it down the floor,

As I read The Dagger later today, clearly from the video, you can see Tom Izzo thinking about calling a timeout but he decides not to at the last second, just before MSU hits the 3-pointer with no time left on the clock,

As a coach, I think it all just comes down to the maturity of your players. With a veteran team, it's probably better not to call a timeout, because the timeout will only benefit the defense who has a chance to rest, re-collect themselves, and prepare to defend against the most probably 2 players who will take the last shot.

However, with a young, still maturing team, as a coach, I would take that timeout. It is unlikely that a young immature team would know what they should do in that situation, who should take the shot, and how they should be setup. A timeout, would at least assure that the players were in the right position.

Its hard to say whether Izzo made the right or wrong decision. From just going on the limited information I have, MSU is a team that has the experience and maturity to come down the floor with 6 seconds left and make the right play. It seems obvious now, but I think even if MSU misses that shot, based on what I know of MSU, I would still say it was the right call, to not call a timeout, but it's always a tough call, and even for Izzo, you can see he was going back and forth in his head, to call or not to call a timeout.

If you are a big Tom Izzo fan like me, then you'll probably like Coach Izzo's DVD on 'Basketball Smorgasbord' of Drills and Basketball Wisdom. Coach Izzo is the longtime coach of Michigan State.

Not X's and O's related, but always an important reminder to always be smart with your money. ESPN's Outside The Lines talks with Antoine Walker who is now playing in the Puerto Rican Basketball League. It's so sad to see how someone who was once so high, who has fallen so low, but a good lesson to all of us.

What a weekend of college basketball. The number one seeds are set and everyone is starting to get at their brackets, its a great time to be a basketball fan. Like most of you I watched the Big East final yesterday between West Virginia and Georgetown on ESPN. What a great game, and a great finish. I had a chance today to look at that final inbounds play and it was interesting how Georgetown defended it. They made a critical switch which allowed Da’Sean Butler to catch it clean, beat a slower defender and get a decent shot off inside the lane.

Here is a little breakdown of it. First, off, WVU starts off with 3 players around the lane, almost in a FT lineup, with the 4th player at the weak-side corner. That 4th player, comes across the lane along the baseline scraping off of Butler at the bottom of the lane,

To me, what's interesting is how Georgetown's inbounds defender decides to play. He appears to be in a help position without pressuring the inbounds. This proves to be a crucial error in my opinion.

What happens next is Butler comes up to the top of the key getting a half-screen from the top post. Butler's defender tries to go around instead of chasing, and bumps the defender off thus switching Monroe on to Butler,

Again, notice where the inbounds defender is, supposed to be help-side defense I suppose but in my opinion, not really doing anything because he's not denying Butler the ball.

The ball gets inbounded cleanly into Butler, Monroe of Georgetown tries to closeout and Butler takes advantage of the slower defender to get by Monroe and get right into the lane for a little floater which goes in,

For Georgetown, I think what went wrong was the inbounds defender. Had they put the inbounder right up on the sideline, the pass to Butler would've had to been a lob or further away from the basket, allowing Monroe more time to close out. Secondly, I don't think they should've switched in the first place. If the original defender had chased, he would've had enough time to close out and keep Butler in front of him. I know that usually you tell your team to switch at the end of games, but when you know who the other team's go to player is, and you know who you want defending them, then I think you want to be M2M or at least a Box and 1, denying Butler the ball.

Anyways, we can deconstruct a play to death, but overall I though West Virginia did a great job in exploiting what the defense presented and was able to make the shot. If you are a big fan of West Virginia basketball, and Coach Bob Huggins, then take a look at Bob Huggins's DVD on his Cut and Fill Motion Offense.

This is a little old (from last week on ESPN's Inspirational Coaches) but I love anything that Roy Williams has to say about motivation and leadership. For sure, it has been a transitional year for the Tar Heels and Coach Williams talks about setting short term goals, and adjusting them year to year,

Coach Williams believes in using quotes as motivation for his team and here are some great ones he talks about in the video,

"Everyone has the will to win, Champions have the will to prepare"

"Persistence prevails when all else fails"

"Be led by your dreams not by your problems"

If you want to learn more from Coach Williams, check out his great DVD on the Secrets of the UNC secondary Break.

I just read these today after going through the links of the day. They are from Zak Boisvert, who is a Student Manager for the men's basketball team at Fordham University. He's setup a twitter account where he posts daily chalkboard breakdowns. The one he posted on Friday was great. He broke down one of the main plays the New York Knicks like to run out of their SSOL offense (Seven Seconds or Less). It's very similar to european ball-screen concepts that I've seen. Without further ado, here they are, I'll add my own comments at the end.

“drive-thru handoff” ball screen concept

While not technically a ball screen, the Knicks use it much like a ball screen and their usage of the concept (along with another ball screen concept I will highlight next Friday) has increased greatly in the 7 games since acquiring Tracy McGrady as a way to get T-Mac and David Lee in a 2-man game situation.

The action occurs, much like nearly everything else D’Antoni runs, in a spread alignment with 4 perimeter players surrounding 1 post. 2 (McGrady) has the ball on the right wing and 5 (Lee) flashes to the midpoint of the free throw line for a catch. 2 hits 5 and immediately follows his pass. The opportunities from this point are limitless.

The majority of the time, McGrady (2) will be able to free himself from his man enough to receive the handoff and drive the lane either for a score or a drive-and-kick opportunity for the player situated in the left corner.

As the game progresses and the defense begins to jump out and hedge the handoff (treating it like a ball screen), there are opportunities for Lee to fake the handoff and instead drive the ball hard to his right as his defender (x5) anticipates the handoff.

An option that the Knicks have been running in the second half of games that I really like is done with the 1 in the strong side corner as 2 hits to 5 on his post flash. With the defense seeing the “drive-thru” action a couple of times, x2 adjusts accordingly and doesn’t allow 2 to come off clean for a handoff while x5 is in correct hedge position if 2 is able to receive handoff while being ready to guard 5’s drive. 2 cuts off 5 (not receiving the handoff) and goes through as 1 lifts to the right wing spot 2 just vacated. 5 hits 1 and sprints into a ball screen for 1 (setting it on the butt of x1 to offer the best possible driving angle for 1).

My comments:

I think a lot is predicated on O5 being able to make the right decisions. A big man who is a good passer, able to put it on the floor, and is quick enough to chase the ball into ball screens. A lot of teams don't have a versatile O5 like that which would make it difficult to run.

As for defending it, I would hedge out on O2, but also I would trap O5 on the catch once in a while. If the offense has a versatile dominant O5, then I would allow O2 to catch the handoff, and bring help from the weak side (X3 or X4) and leave one of those free (assuming neither O3 or O4 are good shooters).

For more video info on ball-screening offenses, take a look at Todd Kowalczyk's DVD on the Attacking Ball Screen. Coach Kowalczyk is the head coach of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Ever heard of starting six players and taking the intentional technical foul? I'm a big fan of legendary coach and former head coach of UNLV Jerry Tarkanian's blog, and in his latest post he talked about doing just that: starting the six seniors on Senior Day. Sometimes the right thing to do is just the right thing to do. I've never really thought about it too much myself now that I am a coach and somewhat far removed from my playing days. But I remember how I felt when I was a senior in high school, and having been mostly a bench player most of my career, being given the opportunity to start my final game, it was something special.