Day 1 of the Maui Invitational went almost as planned according to Vegas. UNC, Wisconsin and Oklahoma State all won as favorites, Bill Walton was high as a kite talking about how he loves his bike and Rick Barnes. The one upset obviously being Georgetown completely outplaying Oregon – a team many had pegged as one of the five best in the country heading into the season.
While I was watching that Oregon game, Georgetown was giving them fits defensively so I started looking at the multi-game shot chart for Oregon on the year. That’s going to be the premise of this blog. So, I apologize if you’re not into analytical stats, but we will also break down a key play for the three winning teams and Oregon (sorry Georgetown) in the tournament.
The biggest problem for Oregon right now is on the offensive side of the ball. Part of that is not having a healthy Dillon Brooks for an entire game, but it’s absolutely concerning. Here’s the multi-game shot chart that I mentioned. The first one is their shot chart and efficiency against zone while the second is against man. So far this season they’ve run 66 possessions against a zone and 108 against man.
Notice that? That’s the look of an Oregon team that can’t figure out a zone – as we saw most recently against Baylor. They struggle against a simple 2-3 zone, settling for shots. Look at how many shot attempts come from outside the 3-point lane and even the paint. That says they aren’t getting the ball into the middle of the zone and kicking it to the open shooter. They are trying to pass around the perimeter too much. Against man, they are utilizing their options and are extremely efficient in spot up situations when running offense against man defense.
Take a look at the motion Oregon has here against Valpo’s man. While the possession gets a little sloppy at the end, this is the movement you don’t see against a zone. Oregon typically is standing against a zone, opposed to here where you have multiple high screens and using Boucher as a shooter. More importantly the lane is open to drive and kick.
Oregon plays a Tennessee team today that will run a lot of zone. They need to work on getting Boucher the ball in the high post and letting him either shoot over a smaller defender or putting a better passer like Dorsey in the middle of the zone, who still has some height. From there he can create for his teammates and look to either finish at the rim or kick.
For Oklahoma State the offense begins and ends with one specific play. The high ball screen for Jawun Evans. It’s the most efficient play they run as he’s in the 98th percentile in the country with 1.435 points per possession running that. The reason is simple. He’s improved his outside shooting so far this year and his ability to get into the lane is unreal. Last night they compared him to Chris Paul in the sense of how he uses the screen and it’s not that far off. He reads the hedge and based on that decides where the play is going. Against UNC today they will try to bring Kennedy Meeks into as many high ball screens as possible. I mean look at this efficiency:
Unfortunately Synergy doesn’t have the play up from last night yet. But, the one that stood out the most was a pin down screen in semi-transition for Evans. He let his big man get in front of him, who simply stood just inside the 3-point line, letting Evans decide if he wanted to pull up or try to attack the rim. Evans saw the defender stay low on the screen and had a wide open look. But, here are two plays that show his ability in the pick-and-roll and more importantly his patience.
The first is him hitting a 3, on what’s a really nice design play. The double ball screen confuses the defense just for a second, while Oklahoma State has a guy rolling to the rim and a guy popping. The confusion leads to a switch and while the defender takes a step toward his man, Evans has a wide open three. The second play shows the patience and his ability to get to the rim. He’ll have to deal with more shot blocking tonight against UNC, but the Cowboys can find themselves in some luck with bringing Meeks up in this screen tonight.
For UNC, they have had the luck of only seeing 12 possessions against the zone, so everything here will be man. Unlike Oklahoma State, who wants to bring its bigs up from the post, UNC wants to post up and that’s where the majority of the offense is coming from. Whether you look at Synergy or KenPom, right now Kennedy Meek and Isaiah Hicks are the main players for the Heels, as they’ve posted up on 56 of the 250ish possessions. What I like most about what these two are doing in the post, is not letting the ball get back outside. The shot chart for their 48 possessions in true post up offense looks like this:
I want to focus on Hicks here more than Meeks though. This play that they ran against Hawaii is one that I’ll have to give Roy credit for. It’s a great design and there’s a lot going on. First off, Hicks does a great job of diving to the post and immediately fighting for a spot. Once the ball gets reversed (notice the trailing Meeks, staying high in the paint/top of the key), Hicks then spins and dives to the other side of the lane. What I like the most though is what’s happening away from the ball, especially the back screen by Britt to try and get Meeks the lob. That allows Hicks to continue to work 1-on-1 in the post. Once he gets the ball, he has three options. The first is making a move to the basket (which he obviously does). The second is a kick to Britt, coming off the down screen by Jackson and the third is the cross-court pass to Berry. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle the trapping defense by Oklahoma State tonight, but look for UNC to continue to play inside-out, letting Hicks and Meeks make the pass to Berry and Britt on the wing.
Let’s make no mistake about it. This isn’t Nigel Hayes’s team. This is Bronson Koenig’s team. After that I think Ethan Happ is the second most important person to this team on the offensive side of the ball. Watching the game yesterday was a little frustrating to see how Hayes was used offensively. Wisconsin got up big in the first half (and somehow didn’t cover for the game) by playing through Happ in the post. He showed off his ability to finish around the rim, usually going reverse to use the rim as protection from the defender. However, looking at the multi-game shot chart for the first three games, Wisconsin has a lot of the same problems as Oregon. They aren’t efficient against a zone. Wisconsin wants to slow the game down and play in the half court. Personally, I think they should speed it up a little bit and let Bronson do his thing as he’s better when playing a little fast. However, here’s the shot chart against zone defense this year. There are two glaring observations. The first being the lack of efficiency at the rim. The second being the lack of corner shooting. Wisconsin needs Nigel Hayes to stop being graded as ‘below average’ here on Synergy.
What I want to show play wise though is getting Koenig into pick and roll plays. Through the first three games Koenig had 11 possessions in true pick-and-roll and has 14 points off of those plays. He grades as excellent and more importantly has a 0% turnover rate in those 11 possessions. He does a good job of setting his guy up for the screen and then staying tight to the pick so he can get to the rim. Here against Creighton he uses it perfectly and ends up with an easy layup. Georgetown wants to gamble defensively and if they go man, you should see more screens for Koenig. This Wisconsin team is a little turnover-prone right now, so putting the ball in your best players hands to let him play a play is the way to go.
Lines aren’t out yet, but I think you see UNC and Wisconsin both advance in fairly close games. I think the Georgetown pressure can give Wisconsin some trouble, especially if they are as careless with the ball as they were yesterday. UNC, I think the athleticism and size for someone like Hicks can disrupt Oklahoma State.