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BYU Basketball Film Study: San Diego and Gonzaga

Class is back in session.

BYU v Gonzaga Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

BYU found itself in two blowouts last week, splitting their games with a win at home and a loss on the road. It was a unique challenge to go from playing the worst team in the conference to the best team in the country and in the end the results showed where BYU stands, at the top of the conference but not ready to take down Gonzaga yet. Take a look at some of the things the team did well last week and what the Bulldogs did to pull away from BYU.

Fake Handoff Action

Offensive flexibility is huge as BYU gets deeper and deeper into the season. Teams will start to notice tendencies more and more and it will be important to increase the use of options in the offense we have rarely used until now. Last week one of the big ones we started to use more deliberately was the fake handoff.

This option is perfect for Zac and Dalton who often can end up matched up with slower footed bigs. The attention our guards get makes this possible and even they are getting in on breaking off the expected action to drive to the rim.

In what would normally be a quick dribble handoff to a ballscreen TJ catches his man slouching off the action and gets the bucket.

Offensive Rebounds

Rebounding will always be a fight for this team but against a big athletic team like Gonzaga it becomes an incredible challenge. Gonzaga often sent three to the glass giving us the difficult task of trying to box out someone with a little bit of a head start. Check out this possession where they were able to pull down two offensive rebound and end up with a three to stretch their lead.

TJ does a pretty good job of trying to establish contact on the first one and just has it go over his head but kind of gets overpowered on the second rebound. Our guards are really going to have to fight and start driving people backwards so we can clear the glass more effectively.

Gonzaga continued to put pressure on the glass in the second half with four people in the mix on this attempt

BYU was a little sideways on rotations at the beginning of this clip which leads to some confusion on the glass but the fatal error here is not trying to find someone before securing the ball. Players turn to track the ball but Gonzaga just runs in from the top to tip out the long rebound. One adjustment we may end up seeing is almost a faceguard on the rebound as our guards turn to find a man and get them moving backwards before going for the ball.


BYU does a good job defensively guarding specific actions and plays that teams try to run. Here they do a good job covering all the options of a roll and replace play before eventually creating a turnover on the double.

Connor beats the ballscreen just enough that his man doesn’t feel comfortable throwing the quick flip to the popping man. Zac plays the gap nicely to cover the roll and the pop and eventually successfully executes a hard double on the dribble and forces a turnover. With BYU’s success against some of the ballscreen sets, Gonzaga started putting their offensive players in more one-on-one situations and got a lot of value from them.

Notice how they isolated a side, occupied the weak side with token action, and just let the offensive player get their head down. BYU can guard a lot of the WCC one-on-one and our guards/wings have actually done pretty well in these situations on the whole but the Zags are a different animal.

Zac Seljaas: DPOY

Zac had a great week on the defensive end. His effort and scrappiness has turned him into quite the defender and he also showed great awareness off the ball against San Diego.

I love the rotation he makes in the first clip after noticing Connor jumped the screen and got faded on. In the second clip he does a good job of sitting on the action and getting the steal then shows his versatility to lead the break and find Alex for a three. This capped off a run from being down 19-11 to regaining the lead with TJ, Jake, and Kolby all on the bench and helped turn the tide of that San Diego game.

Zac continued his defense into the weekend and played very well against the big Gonzaga front line. He did a lot of different things to make things difficult on their bigs and wasn’t afraid to risk his life on a Tillie breakaway dunk attempt.

With as well as he and Dalton are playing in their roles BYU isn’t actually at that much of a disadvantage in the front court.

Handling the recovering guard

As an offensive guard handling a ballscreen there are a lot of things you have to worry about. Many of the teams BYU has matched up against recently have opted to have their big meet the guard while dropping while the defensive guard catches up. This can often lead to a switch-type situation if the recovering guard takes too long and the big feels the need to commit more to the offensive ballhandler. Often a well placed pocket pass can beat this coverage but we’ve had a little bit of a hard time completing it past that recovering guard lately.

BYU had a nice adjustment to create more room and make the timing easier for TJ: slipping the big so they can get to their roll faster.

With the offensive big out of the way faster, the read and timing makes the pass much easier for TJ and BYU got an easy bucket at the rim.

“Early-ing Up” the ball

The Cougars aren’t necessarily a fast paced team this year but they can be when they have the opportunity. One of those opportunities the team constantly keeps an eye on is after a made basket. Often you’ll see plays like the following where the team that just scored is frantically transitioning back to defense and the broadcast has to quickly cut to the offensive action.

The most important part of this strategy is having a guard who is always looking up the floor and can advance the ball early with the pass. Here it works like a charm as San Diego isn’t ready, rotates two people to one shooter, and gives up an open three.

Kolby’s Perfect Game

BYU’s game against San Diego started out very strange but soon turned into “The Kolby Lee Game.” Kolby showed almost every element of what this staff expects a big to do in this system and how effective and efficient you can be. Let’s start with the much talked about “quicks.”

Kolby’s “quick” has gotten incredible accurate as the season has gone on and he unleashes it to perfection here. Notice that in two of these clips the defender doesn’t even get a chance to contest and in the third it’s way too late. You can’t get off a “quick” if you’re not correctly positioned for a catch and he he does a great job recognizing when to move and where. Whether he’s relocating to the opposite side of the lane as the drive comes to him, timing up his cut behind a probing guard, or rolling to the rim he makes sure he’s in the right place.

When he couldn’t get off a quick shot, Kolby showed great pace and control to take a dribble and finish.

I really like his subtle head and shoulder fake in the second clip to get his defender in the air so he can finish on the rim. He knows the scout on him is that quick push shot so he uses that to his advantage to score. My favorite of these three makes might be the last though, when secures the catch, then just goes at his own pace to get up a good look. In the summer I was impressed with his patience down low but as the season started he lost some of that. Looks like he’s getting very comfortable again.

Outside of the staples of relocating off of drives and finishing efficiently, Kolby exhibited another trait of what a Pope big needs as he was always crashing the glass trying to make an impact with this tip in after in out of bounds play.

This staff expects the big to always be around on the glass. I’ve pointed out with Dalton and Zac crashing from the top of the key but Kolby also has done a great job of just crashing and seeing what happens.

Finally, just like the guards are expected to shoot when open, the bigs in BYU’s system are expected to be able to handle themselves on post ups. Kolby didn’t show it in the USD game but over the season he’s been getting more comfortable and effective isolated on the block.

Bigs in BYU’s system are expected to do a lot of little things well and Kolby showed last week how much of an impact they can have offensively. His success and progression this year has me excited for what he’ll bring to the team next year as well as what kind of impact our other bigs will make as they get healthy and come off their redshirts.