Virginia 1.145PPP (Season average 1.009PPP)
Oklahoma .927PPP (Season average .914PPP)
First Half/Oklahoma Ball Screen Options
Virginia’s second opponent was Oklahoma. Oklahoma was a pretty physical team with a lot of great athletes. They aren’t a great jump-shooting team and were much better on defense than offense last season. Bennett makes the decision to start Diakite instead of Salt, which is a decision that could affect chemistry. Salt was a senior that was starting all year, and then gets taken out of the starting lineup in the NCAA tournament. A lot of players would have had a bad attitude about this and there’s no way I could actually know what Salt was actually feeling, but clearly, his attitude didn’t prove to yield negative results for the team. He was still very energetic on the bench and played hard when in the game, which is typically the type of character kids Bennett recruits have. I’m sure he was pissed, but he seemed to put the team before himself. In this game, Diakite was also arguably the best player on the court. Early in the game, Kyle Guy is guarding Christian James, who has a big size and strength advantage over Guy, so Oklahoma tries to get him in the post. On their second offensive possession, they run a set to get him in the post with a cross-screen. They set the cross-screen with a non-shooter, so Diakite can help longer.
One option they could have had was to set the screen with a shooter then have him come off of a pindown. If they set the screen with a shooter, and he actually sets a good screen it is a tough decision for whoever is guarding the shooter on how long they should stay and help on the cross-screen.
On this play, Oklahoma helps in a perfect position and will gladly give up a Diakite three. This play shows why shooting is the most important skill in basketball, and how you make your team worse if you can’t shoot because the defense can help more on drives. If Diakite were a better outside shooter this would have been a tough decision for the defense. The game stays pretty even for first 10 minutes with 2 great defenses battling.
At this point, it seems like the design of the play is for Ty Jerome to come off a double screen, but he breaks the play. He sees that Guys man is in a relaxed position so he just whips Guy the ball in the corner, which forces a hard closeout from Oklahoma, which results in an easy layup for Guy. Great players like Jerome also have the guts to break the play and just make basketball reads. A play is a sequence of options, you don’t always have to run the exact design, the point is to score anyway you can. There is a chance I’m completely wrong and this actually was the play, but based on the way Hunter and Diakite look it doesn’t seem likely.
Oklahoma ran a lot of ball screens early in possessions, and I think there are a few other options they could have tried. First off Kihei Clark suffocated every point guard picking up full court with his elite on-ball defense, and wasted time off the shot clock for Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s starting Point Guard Jamal Bieniemy could barely even get to the screen with Clark guarding him, which made it almost impossible for the big to set the screen. I would have liked to see Bieniemy do a better of job of not getting sped up and changing speeds. One thing Oklahoma could have tried is setting a ball screen in the full court to try to get Clark off Bieniemy early, so he doesn’t have him glued to him the whole possession. Another thing they could have tried is setting the ball screen after a few passes and movement, this would have caused Virginia to rotate a little more, and is more unpredictable which makes it harder for the defense to get set in perfect position. One last thing I’d like to see them try is taking advantage of the short roll on Virginia’s hard hedge by slipping screens.
Manek should slip this to the middle of the floor. I’m not sure how he is as a playmaker, but they would have a 4 on 3 advantage, and all the big has to do is make the right decision in the short roll, then the open guy they pass too just has to finish the play. Draymond Green is excellent at this decision making in the short roll and all bigs should work on it. Offense is simple and has 3 steps. Those 3 steps are create an advantage, make the right decision, and finish the play.
Second Half/Virginia Offense
Basketball is a game of inches and Manek could have made a big difference here if he was all the way in the corner. James beats Jerome on the drive, but since Manek is a few feet away from the corner this makes Key able to help earlier with less room to recover to Manek if James kicked out. James tries to split through Key who steals the ball from him, but even if he kicked to Manek it would have been an easy recovery for Key, and the advantage created would be ruined. The more space on the floor the better.
James hits a three in Guys face here because Guy and Virginia made a few mistakes. Guy needs to stay up and force James left here. With this time and score, you can’t let a shooter like James have a clean look from three. Also because Oklahoma drew up the Iso play for James to attack right because that side is more open, Guy has to force left to where all the help is. If he forced left James would have nowhere to go even if he beat him, all the help is there and it is crowded. A lot of teams run Iso plays like this one Oklahoma ran with one guy in the corner, and three on the other side, and all defenses should force to the side with more help because there is no spacing over there, so even if the guy on ball gets beat the help defenders will have easy recoveries. James didn’t beat Guy right, but if he did it would have put Jerome in a tough position on whether or not to help off the corner shooter. A lot of teams will put their best shooter in that corner for that reason.
Virginia decided to run their ball screen continuity in this game. Personally, this is my favorite offense of theirs but all their offenses work pretty well. Virginia had a pretty balanced attack this game and got a lot of easy looks for Diakite rolling to the basket in their continuity. Kyle Guy shot 2-15 from the field and 0-10 from three, but that’s what’s good about having multiple high-level options on offense, the rest of his teammates picked up the slack. I also love how Guy still didn’t hesitate at all after the way he was shooting, it says a lot about his confidence, and the confidence his coaches instill in him. This was a game that was slow-paced with a ton of ball screens in the half-court, and to sum it up Virginia was more talented and executed their ball screens with more flow than Oklahoma and this got them the win. Virginia prefers to play a slow pace so this probably helped them, I’m not sure what type of pace Oklahoma prefers to play with because this was the only game I saw of them from last season.
A-TO Ratio: 10-6
Offensive Rebounds: 8
A-To Ratio: 9-7
Offensive Rebounds: 6