I went through some video from this past college season and one of the things that came up more than a few times was the flex offense that Tennessee used especially late in games like in the win over then number one Memphis and that thrilling win over Butler to get to the sweet sixteen. I remember Chris Lofton getting a lot of 3-pointers and Tyler Smith getting some great low post position. I also went through some notes and came across a detailed breakdown of what Assistant Coach Jason Shay was calling their "Modified Version of the Flex Offense". Here is an edited version of the notes:

The University of Tennessee's fast break wants to put 3 players on the baseline as fast as we can so that we can put maximum pressure on the opponents transition defense after a made or missed shot. As we get set into our 4-out 1-in modified flex offense, and player movement. The result of this offense should lead to penetrating passes to cutters and screener step-ins for scores. The key is to occupy help defenders through ball movement and keep them busy chasing their man, eventually losing sight of the ball.

Early Offense:

To get into the offense, 3 players in this case 2, 3, and 5 sprint to the baseline as fast as they can with a post rim run to the ball side block. The 1 can push the ball up either side of the floor. 5 fills the ball-side block. Passing will help teams advance the ball up the floor quicker than dribbling it. The trail post will fill opposite the point guard. The first option is to advance pass the ball to the 5 if he can beat the other team down the floor,

With the 2 wings out wide and below the free throw line, the 1 can advance pass to 3 or skip pass to 2 for a shot, a post entry or a drive,

Ball Reversal:

This offense is predicated on the ball changing sides of the floor. The ball must be swung from side-to-side. If he cannot advance the ball up the floor, 1 drives the ball into scoring range and quickly reverses it to 4 or skips it to 2,

Another way to reverse the ball is for 4 to set a transitional ball screen or v-cut into the key area. When the ball changes from one side of the floor to the other, there is a baseline flex screen in which the 5 will set a backscreen for 3. When he catches the ball, the 4 will look for the cutter (3) or screener (5). The screener has the option to step-in and seal, or step-out. If he doesn't receive the ball, 5 must step-out to keep the floor balanced and stay within the framework of the offense.

After making the pass, the 1 will step out behind the ball for an outlet and a quick ball reversal. By stepping 1 out immediately, 4 has four available receivers. In theory, 1 and 4 should pass back and forth up front while 2, 3 and 5 could set the baseline screens,

Down Screen:

1 also can down screen like true flex. If the screener is your best shooter or playmaker and a post is up top, he can downscreen for the guard to come up and look to attack,

On a forward to guard pass, 4 to 2, there is a backside exchange, occupying the help-side defenders. The 4 steps out towards the sideline for the outlet and a quick ball reversal. 3 has a primary post isolation opportunity with no weak-side help,


I'm a big fan of the flex offense as a base offense to use for any team as it both reinforces the basic offensive fundamentals and because it is as true of an equal opportunity offense as it gets. Now obviously, at the higher levels you want to adjust it to your team's offensive strengths, whether that is in the post or on the perimeter.

As for Tennessee, with the loss of Chris Lofton I think Coach Bruce Pearl will continue to use the Flex offense and probably even more now that Lofton is gone. Their biggest weakness will be their backcourt, so the flex will allow them to get into their offense quickly without depending on a playmaking guard to initiate.

If you're a Tennessee or Bruce Pearl fan like me, then you'll want to check out the Tennessee 2-pack DVD on Player Development. Assistant Coach Jason Shay goes through a lot of their skill development drills that they use in Tennessee. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.