Movie Theater: Alabama v2.0 – Rock M Nation
Welcome to the movie theater
In this series, we’re going to cut a recent game movie to take a look at what the Tigers did, and sometimes, didn’t do. Cinematic study is an important aspect of basketball. It’s not just about watching the movie and seeing what sets produced baskets (or saves on defense), but rather what the offense produced in terms of quality of opportunity and what the defense produced. stop. While most commentary will focus on the attacking side, the defensive side is equally important and will also command attention.
Initially, I see film and statistical analysis as a four-step process. First, you want to watch what actions/plays a team performs. Styles and systems vary wildly in the college game. How do teams try to generate looks? Who are the generated looks intended for? Second, you want to look at the effectiveness of those actions/plays being performed, determining how many points per possession are gained (or prevented). Third, you look at whether the pattern, or game plan, optimizes the most effective actions/plays in a match. Does the offense create looks for the right guys, firing the right shots in the right amount? Finally, it is a question of execution. Getting the hits you want on offense still requires those gazes to be converted. Nothing can mask a bad attack better than sniper fire, after all.
This series will focus primarily on the first and third points. What games does Mizzou play? What does the opponent on the defensive side do to counter these actions? And when Mizzou is in defense? I would suggest that while watching offensive sets, watch what the defense does, regardless of who has the ball. Are defenders forced to make decisions leaving shooters open? Cuts, screens, etc. keep defenders out of position? Are the ball screens effectively covered? These are generally the characteristics of an effective attack.
Sit down and let’s get started
We’ve entered the part of the season where Mizzou faces teams for the second time. This comes with adjustments, both effective and ineffective. In Game 1 against the Tide, the Tigers were relentless at scoring inside the arc, scoring 16 buckets from the rim and adding 21 points from the line. Game 2? 13 shots taken at the rim but only 5 free throw attempts. Twitter was abuzz with the conversation about why the latter number was so low. Some things are beyond the purview of this series, and that includes refereeing. So let’s see what Alabama was doing defensively.
At first, Alabama wasn’t super aggressive in pressuring the ball handler (Here: Coleman) on the midcourt pass. However, they were trapping ball screens like here when Mizzou attempted a side ball screen out of Mizzou’s “Gut” action which led to a turnover.
Notice, compared to the first clip, how Alabama started to apply more pressure on the ball in midfield. When Kobe tries to get the ball back, Alabama expands the pressure to deny in midfield. After receiving the ball, a pick and roll takes it down. Pause at the 0:12 mark. 5 Alabama defenders helping on the drive. Brazile completes an impressive comeback on the disputed layup attempt.
On that possession, Alabama plays a less aggressive male defense up front. They switch a series of screens before Pickett drives the lane. Pause at the 0:17 mark. Pickett is on the logo with five defenders nearby. He makes the right pass to Kobe for an open catch and shoot. It was a common theme. Alabama had switched to a rim protection defense (either strategically or just out of effort) and allowed Mizzou to open outside shots. The Tigers responded with their best performance of the season from behind the arc, which was almost enough to cause an upset.
Alabama pressures the ball well beyond midfield, changes the size of the ball screen, and doubles Kobe on the block. Kaleb makes a nice feed to Pickett on the post. Pickett’s quick movement to clear his defender and drive the baseline beats the defense on the assist side.
Here, Alabama fell back to a less aggressive defense. Notice at 0:20 when Davis walks towards the logo, he finds 5 Alabama defenders around him. It’s on purpose and something Mizzou has seen on some nights. He finds Gordon with the correct read and manages to corral the loose ball and convert a last second opportunity.
Alabama returned to the very aggressive man-on-the-ball defense. Coleman struggles to get the offense through because of the cover and ends up committing a charge. Overall ball pressure hasn’t been incredibly effective at creating turnovers (only 11 in total; 16.9% TO rate which is perfectly acceptable). But what he managed to do was make Mizzou chew up precious seconds before stepping into their half courts. How could they be aggressive with little or no consequences? It depends who you ask…
Here’s Alabama in a more compact men’s defense. Notice at the 0:07 mark that Kobe is effectively triple teamed. Despite committing 4 man help, the cover goes down and Kobe converts a nice post-up attempt.
The defense of the aggressive man in the middle of the field starts this possession. Notice at the 0:10 mark how aggressive Alabama’s assist fullbacks are toward the ball. All five are in the lane or closer to a ballhandler on the wing.
So here is. There was a mix of things going on. First, Oats didn’t start the game in the zone. Second, intermittent bullet pressure to break the flow. Third, better focus on setting secondary defenders’ feet in the paint to deter Mizzou’s strategy from scoring on the edge.
What did Mizzou do to counter this?
Mizzou runs a simple ball screen with Kobe and Coleman. Kobe jumps up and immediately drives on the spin. Once he’s drawn in the defense, he kicks a wide-open Pickett for a great opportunity to catch and shoot.
Here’s the patented “Gut” action where Keita screens down for Gordon who catches, and Keita re-screens the ball. A patient two-man game between the two results in an easy post-up bucket for the rookie with the lag on the defensive switch.
Keita and Coleman team up for some ball screen action. The screen gives Coleman just enough room to turn the corner and he hits the nice pull-up from the rebound.
Another fun game out of “Gut”. Pickett drops screens for Davis and re-screens for side ball screen action. Davis hits Pickett on the roll for a high percentage look.
This set starts with a high pick and roll with Davis and Kobe. Pay special attention to this. The Alabama defense goes on screen, moving their point guard on Kobe. Recognizing this, Mizzou knocks the ball down and finds Kobe on the block who is able to exploit the lag.
This set starts with a simple high ball screen between DeGray and Coleman. Alabama’s renewed emphasis on protecting the paint has all five men drawn to the ball. DeGray simply “goes” off the screen and Coleman pushes him back for a wide open three-point attempt.
Alabama changes the high ball screen. Coleman is able to beat his man in the paint. The defensive recovery forces a decision and Coleman cleverly finds Gordon drifting to the corner for an opportunity to catch and shoot.
A very simple out of bounds baseline to attack the man defense. Coleman enters on the block towards Kobe. Coleman’s man leaves to overtake Kobe. Coleman passes to the opposite wing. Feeling the pressure, Kobe comes out and makes a nice pass for an undisputed jumper.
Mizzou wasn’t getting enough defensive saves for transition play to be an important component of the offensive attack, but there were several instances.
Brazile was able to drop the hammer on this transition opportunity. He also provided another impressive block.
Hiding in a weak side assist position, he’s going to be a factor.
Finally, what turned out to be the grueling possession:
The man’s defense in this clip was pretty good, actually. But you just need to complete the possession. Three shots contested by Alabama, three forced misses. A fourth was too much. There were a lot of things leading up to this point, but this was the final blow.
Thanks for reading!