Inside VCU's Game-Winning Play
This guest post is from The Mikan Drill, a blog devoted to screengrab breakdowns of college basketball plays and schemes. Mikan Drill's Saturday topic: Examining how VCU's game-winning play developed against Florida State in the Sweet 16.
I've examined last-second inbounds plays several times over the course of the season, and found that they often could have been foiled if the defender responsible for the inbounder was positioned in a slightly different manner. That was an issue again in this case, and it cost Florida State a trip to the Elite Eight. Let's take a look at that final VCU set:
VCU comes out of the timeout aligned in a box set. In this situation, you have to be aware of a screen-the-screener situation, with the second screener looking for the slip to the rim -- and that's exactly what VCU is trying to do. Focus on the positioning of Deividas Dulkys, who is guarding the inbounder, throughout the play. I'm of the mindset that in this situation, unless you have a player with the wingspan of North Carolina's John Henson, no ball pressure is fine as long as you position the defender correctly. Instead, have Dulkys right about where he is but with his back to the ball, defending cutters and protecting the rim. In that initial position, he is putting no pressure on the ball and cannot see cutters behind him.
VCU's Jamie Skeen starts on the left block and turns to set a screen for Bradford Burgess, who will use it to flash to the corner. Joey Rodriguez (the inbounder) looks at him initially, but I don't think Rodriguez had any intention of passing him the ball, as he's waiting for the rest of the play to develop. Skeen sets the screen and immediately receives the screen from Brandon Rozell (the screen is shown in red). Skeen's path is to the right side of the rim but that is blown up by the help of FSU's Chris Singleton. More often than not, the initial screener, Skeen, will not be actually be open, but the second screener will get free on the slip to the rim.
The play looks like it was set up to achieve just that purpose. However, FSU's Bernard James takes Rozell out of the play by running him over and not allowing him to slip the screen. With Singleton standing up Skeen and not letting him get to the rim, both Skeen and Rozell have been taken out of the play. However, with the chaos created by James running over Rozell, a path to the rim has opened up through the paint. Burgess sees that opening and goes right to the rim. Kitchen isn't ready for the cut and Burgess is able to beat him easily.
I don't think this is quite how Shaka Smart drew it up in the huddle. He was looking for a slip but he was no doubt looking for Rozell to slip the screen -- and that option was taken away. FSU defended it well all the way up to the end, where a simple shift in defensive position could have changed the outcome of the play and the game. Look at where Dulkys is positioned below, as Rodriguez is making the pass. He is not pressuring the pass at all, nor is he taking away the cut of Burgess. He is not contributing anything to the defensive effort of his teammates.
Dulkys may have been able to bother the pass if he was putting strong pressure on the ball, but I'd rather he turn and face the play and take away cutters. If he's facing the play, he sees Burgess make the cut and he takes the cut away. Rodriguez would have had to make the outlet pass to the safety at halfcourt and VCU would have had to try to get a basket from there with seven seconds left.
The one thing to be aware of if you choose to position your defender that way is the inbounder passing the ball off the back of the defender for a layup. This is mitigated by taking two steps up the court and two steps toward the basket. This puts the defender far enough away to not encourage the inbounder to try that move, but close enough to still take away cutters. In this case, Dulkys didn't pressure the ball or take away cutters, and amid the chaos, Burgess was able to take advantage of an opening and cut to the rim, showing great recognition of broken-play situation.