This guest post is from The Mikan Drill, a blog devoted to screengrab breakdowns of college basketball plays and schemes. Mikan Drill's Friday topic: Examining how San Diego State and UConn ran different options out of the same set.
If you were watching closely last night, you undoubtedly noticed that both San Diego State and UConn start many of their offensive sets with a dish to the high post, where they run various actions off of this initial pass. I wanted to point out two different actions out of this set, one by each team. Both of these sets highlight options for each team's respective top offensive player, Kawhi Leonard and Kemba Walker.
San Diego State
The initial pass goes to Leonard in the high post, and the passer, DJ Gay, clears out to the wing. In the meantime, Malcolm Thomas dives from the right high post to the left block. As Leonard turns and faces the basket, the right side of the court is cleared out for him to create. Leonard has a few options to survey here, but it's clear from the start he is trying to get to the rim.
The goal of Thomas' dive is for him to get open in the post but it is also to create space for Leonard. You can see that once Leonard turns and faces the rim, he immediately puts his head down, with the intention of driving to the right side of the basket, thanks to the space created by Thomas.
The other key is the spacing of Chase Tapley in the right corner. UConn's Walker has to shade toward Tapley, a 39.6 percent three-point shooter on the season. By putting one of the best shooters in the corner on the same side Leonard is penetrating toward, it discourages Walker from helping on the drive. If Walker commits too soon, Leonard has the outlet to Tapley, but if he waits too long, his help will not slow Leonard down enough to stop him. This keeps the space open that was vacated by Thomas, as Walker chooses to stick close to Tapley.
In the end, this play comes down to Leonard beating his defender off the dribble. Leonard has outlets if the help defenders commit to him: If either Walker or Alex Oriakhi slides up to cut off Leonard before he gets to the basket, Leonard can make the simple pass to the open teammate for an open corner three or a dunk. The help from both Walker and Oriakhi comes too late and Leonard uses his strength to beat his defender and get to the rim. While it was a great individual effort by Leonard, it was due to the movement and spacing of the rest of the Aztecs.
This set is designed to get an open jump shot for Kemba Walker, using a similar set to the one San Diego State used above. With Walker starting the play on the right block, we see Oriakhi receiving the initial pass in the high post, with the passer, Donnell Beverly, clearing out to the left wing. Oriakhi quickly dribbles across the foul line, while Roscoe Smith turns to set the screen for Walker. Walker will come off the screen of Smith and receive the handoff from Oriakhi near the right elbow.
Walker rubs off the screen of Smith and gets the dribble handoff from Oriakhi. When Walker gets the handoff, Oriakhi sets a natural screen on Walker's defender -- the second pick in a staggered screen for Walker. You can see in the frame below how SDSU's Thomas (4) is leaning toward the lane, as he is working to get in front of Oriakhi to stop him from getting the whole way to the basket. This means that Thomas cannot hedge on the screen, as his momentum is going toward the basket and he cannot change his position in time to jump out on Walker. This happens because Walker is coming hard off the screens, getting the handoff before the defense can react.
Thomas has to try to stay between Oriakhi and the basket, so Oriakhi does not have a free lane to drive to the basket. Thomas' momentum is going toward the baseline and when Walker comes off the staggered screen, there is nobody to hedge on the screen, leaving the foul line wide open. Walker does a great job of using the screens and coming hard to the ball before Tapley can catch up to him or Thomas can recover and hedge on the screen. This allows him to use the space created at the foul line to get the jump shot off after one dribble to collect himself. Great use of the screen by Walker.
These two very different actions out of a similar set show how versatile a pass to the high post can be for an offense. This was a staple of San Diego State's offense, as the Aztecs ran a handful of different options out of this set, but Connecticut also showcased a couple different varieties. Look for this in the Huskies' next game against Arizona and what other options they run out of this set. The Mikan Drill can be found on Twitter @TheMikanDrill.