Chart? Chart! Wisconsin Defending Ball Screens (Pt 2)

Chart? Chart! Wisconsin Defending Ball Screens (Pt 2) Comment Count

Alex Cook January 30th, 2019 at 12:15 PM

In Part 1, I covered some of how Wisconsin guarded Michigan’s staple ball screen action in the Wolverines’ loss to the Badgers a little over a week ago. Against the pick and roll, one of the most common plays in all of basketball, and against other ball screen looks, Wisconsin ran their customary coverage: the on-ball defender went over the screen while the big executed a “drop” — sinking into space, containing the ball-handler, cutting off passing lanes for a dish to the roller, and allowing the on-ball defender to recover to the ball. This coverage was often complemented by a “tag” from a defender who wasn’t directly involved in the play; Wisconsin often left (and usually recovered to) a shooter to impede the roller’s path to the basket.

Part 1 goes into more detail regarding how Michigan was able to attack that drop coverage in the pick and roll game (and it also includes a link to a detailed description of that defense). Essentially, there are a few reads the ball-handler has to make: whether to shoot, drive, dish or kick, depending on what kind of opportunities are there.

Pick and Roll

  • 36 ball-screens
  • 9-17 on twos
  • 1-5 on threes
  • 2-4 on free throws
  • 4 turnovers
  • 23 points on 28 possessions

Michigan can slice up plenty of teams with its pick and roll game (their hot start against Indiana was fueled by looks from that action), but Wisconsin’s top tier defense was excellent in this game, holding Michigan to a season-low 0.82 points per possession. 42% of Wolverine possessions in this game ended with a pick and roll — at 0.82 PPP. Michigan has three players consistently operating the ball screen: Zavier Simpson, Charles Matthews, and Jordan Poole. They make for an interesting mix of strengths and weaknesses, and between the three of them, Michigan has one of the best ball screen offenses in college basketball.

Wisconsin defended the pick and roll well for a couple of reasons: they executed the drop coverage well on most screens regardless of personnel, and Nate Reuvers was solid as the key piece of their defensive scheme.

On this play, Reuvers drops on a Simpson - Teske pick and roll — maybe Michigan’s best ball screen look — and Wisconsin clogs the paint. Brevin Pritzl tags off Ignas Brazdeikis, and Iggy attacks the closeout (something he does really well), but commits a charge (it was that kind of day for him). The Badgers wanted to take away Simpson and Teske, though, and Simpson has to make a difficult pass to kick it successfully to a shooter. Khalil Iverson goes over the screen and recovers; Reuvers contains both Simpson and Teske by dropping into the paint; Pritzl tags well to prevent a pass to Teske and has to make a tough close out. Wisconsin got a stop. This was a fairly standard outcome.

The Badgers were really sound (they ran the drop coverage on 73% of Michigan’s ball screens, and switched appropriately against more unusual Michigan ball screens) and might have the best pick and roll defense that Michigan will see all season. They’re in the top ten in adjusted defensive efficiency according to Kenpom / Torvik. Because of the Wolverines’ outstanding defense, the game was close late, but the Badgers shut down their pick and roll game — and Michigan shot 5-18 on threes. Sometimes the Wisconsin defense dictated a good look from three, and Michigan shot 28% on threes. And thus, Michigan suffered its only loss of the season.

But even though Wisconsin held Michigan’s pick and roll in check, the Wolverines had a different look too: the pick and pop.

Pick and Pop

  • 16 ball screens
  • 1-2 on twos
  • 4-9 on threes
  • 1 turnover
  • 14 points on 12 possessions

During most Michigan games, the broadcast team references John Beilein imploring Jon Teske to shoot the three whenever he lets one fly. The Big Sleep was 3-15 from behind the arc over 13 games before Big Ten play resumed, and he’s shot 9-20. Teske was comfortable as a shooting threat in practice, but only attempted one all of last season as Moe Wagner’s backup. Beilein has run a five-out system for many years — Pittsnogle! — and having a center who can shoot unlocks a lot of possibilities for the Michigan offense.

Teske is renowned for his defense, and he’s emerged as a valuable offensive player. 77% of his made shots this season have been assisted, but he can create good shots with his ability to read the defense and find space to operate. Last season, Teske would sometimes settle into the mid-range for a catch-and-shoot jumper after setting a screen. He’s expanded his range this winter and can stress the defense even more.

This was a big three by Teske. Simpson and Teske get into a side ball screen with that side of the floor cleared out, and Reuvers sinks to contain the baseline Simpson drive. Brad Davison is too far away to rotate over to Teske, and Reuvers is too far to recover and contest the three. Instead of rolling to the rim or trying to find space in the elbow area, Teske is comfortable enough to stay where he is, spot up, and knock down the open shot. On the next possession, Michigan ran another pick and pop for a Teske three to tie; Reuvers reacted quickly enough to get in a good contest to help force a miss.

[More on the pick and pop after the JUMP]


Chart? Chart! Wisconsin Defending Ball Screens (Pt 1)

Chart? Chart! Wisconsin Defending Ball Screens (Pt 1) Comment Count

Alex Cook January 27th, 2019 at 11:20 AM

Over the last several years, offenses have moved towards the spread ball screen — usually a pick and roll — as the base action, either with plays designed to generate those types of looks or in late clock situations. With Darius Morris running the show, John Beilein’s motion offense morphed into more of a pick and roll attack. Trey Burke, a bonafide superstar, took that offense to the next level. Michigan’s had several excellent ball screen guards, and Moritz Wagner added a new dimension with his versatility and ability to read the play as the screener. Spacing has never been a huge issue, as Beilein’s always prioritized three-point shooting.

Michigan’s still reliant on the ball screen game, and opponents must be able to slow down those actions in order to have a chance of upsetting the Wolverines. Only one team has been able to beat Michigan thus far: Wisconsin held them to just 0.82 points per possession, and plays that I charted as ball screens generated 0.92 points per possession (far below Michigan’s typical ball screen output). I charted 40 possessions in which ball screens were the terminal action — plays that ended in a shot attempt, turnover, or a foul — which accounted for 61% of Michigan’s total possessions.

I tried not to include dribble-handoffs, but may have inadvertently included a few. Michigan didn’t run much of that action in this game, and it could be a good option in the rematch. There isn’t much functional difference between a ball screen and a dribble-handoff, but the defense could have to cover it a little differently.

Anyways, here’s how Michigan did on ball screens:


  • 53 ball screens
  • 10-19 on twos
  • 5-14 on threes
  • 2-4 on free throws
  • 5 turnovers
  • 37 points on 40 possessions

Here’s the chart:



Table3.pngTable4.png[Analysis, clips, etc after the JUMP]


Chart? Chart! Defending Morgan and Langford

Chart? Chart! Defending Morgan and Langford Comment Count

Alex Cook January 11th, 2019 at 6:30 PM

A couple of weeks ago, the MGoBraintrust assembled at a secret location somewhere in Ann Arbor to discuss Official Business. During that meeting of the minds, Brian suggested that I chart a basketball game. “Just chart one thing,” he said. “Don’t do it like a UFR,” he said.

So I didn’t. A basketball UFR — like this one — would be a herculean endeavor for me, and my grading would be tenuous and subjective (and likely ill-informed) at best. Instead, I watched film to focus on a small but essential facet of the game. Defense is harder for most laypeople to judge compared to offense, especially during a live game. It’s obvious Michigan is good, but how? And why? A lofty defensive efficiency ranking, strong four factor metrics, and counting blocks and steals for individual players only tells you so much. We notice a lot during games, but miss a lot too.

I rewatched the game, took notes, and feel like I learned a lot. Indiana’s top two players — senior big Juwan Morgan and freshman swingman Romeo Langford — are All-Big Ten level talents, and they’re pretty much the only two offensive options for Indiana, especially without their starting point guard, Rob Phinisee.

I charted all of their touches:

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Click on images to enlarge

[Clips, breakdowns, and analysis after the JUMP]