BYU basketball wrapped up the non conference play with back to back wins over Weber State and Oral Roberts. Focus and adjustments on defense paved the way for a big blowout over the Wildcats and then for a gritty win over a tough Golden Eagles squad.
Better Transition Defense
BYU’s transition defense has been a focus for the staff and it’s been a work in progress. The team has at times struggled to pick up the ball in transition but against Weber State they did a good job of loading up to the ball and creating a wall at the three point line to discourage drives.
It’s important that the bigs get down the floor first so they can show early. Yoeli and Dalton both are in position early here and shut down any driving lanes for Weber. Transition defense is one of the more inconsistent pieces of what has been good defense so far but the team continues to improve.
Trust the roll
Yoeli at times can float on the roll which leads to some awkward timing on passes from the guards. Coach Pope has talked about how he’s been trying to get the bigs to just roll hard every time because when they do it works wonders. Look at the difference between these two plays.
The soft roll in the first clip results in a turnover because the timing of the lob gets messed up. In the second clip, though, Yoeli’s hard roll makes the lob easier to place and he finishes a nice alley-oop. This offense thrives on decisive actions, both with the ball and without.
Our guards and wings did a good job over the last two games of being disruptive and doing their job in different actions. A lot of teams will run similar handoff action to what we run offensively, and the whole roster has done a good job of blowing up the handoff to either prevent a catch or just disrupt things.
Here Connor does a good job of staying alert on the weakside so he can be attached to his man and eventually pressure the handoff to create a turnover.
The perimeter defenders have also been doing a good job of handling their business in ballscreens. Alex gets knocked off a little bit here but his defense on the screen it otherwise pretty sound.
The goal for our guards is to beat the defender to the point of the screen if possible. Alex does that well here by sucking up space to get on top of the screen. As a result, if he kept his balance, the offensive guard wouldn’t have an advantage at all from the screen. This effort on the guard line will be huge as BYU enters conference play.
Load up on bigs
A lot of the teams we’ve faced so far have had dynamic guards that we’ve loaded up to, often ignoring the bigs to get a foot in the paint. Oral Roberts presented a challenge we hadn’t seen since the Kansas game with two strong bigs that they wanted to get touches. We did a pretty good job of loading up to the bigs to be ready to pressure them and make things difficult. Look how far over Jake comes at the beginning of this clip.
Also notice the different strategies in play here. We were doubling the five man all game but letting Dalton try to handle the four man on his own. I also like how each guard is checking in on the bigs throughout this entire possession, making sure to be ready for any rotations that need to be made.
Keeping offensive flow
A few teams have already done it but as we get deeper in the season teams will start to sit on our actions and try to bog down the offense. Just like we have been trying to disrupt handoffs, I’m sure we’ll start to see more teams dedicated to making sure we can’t keep the pace and flow we want on offense. To counter that the staff has started adding some wrinkles to our actions. Check out how Dalton doesn’t wait for the handoff and instead reverses it here.
Weber St switched the initial action for TJ and had Dalton gone for the handoff, the defender was there ready. By skipping it and getting to the reversal early, TJ simply has to keep running and he gets enough space for a layup.
In the Oral Roberts game we went to the same action again, this time getting a wide open three.
Keep an eye out for wrinkles like these to keep things moving on offense.
As our bigs roll decisively, charges can become an issue if the defense rotates enough. We’ve seen a few this season already but I’ve been really impressed with Yoeli’s ability to get a catch vertically.
This is a subtle but tough skill to have that Yoeli is able to do by essentially catching on a hop. If he were to catch in stride it would be much harder for him to slow down his momentum but by consistently catching on a jump stop, he’s able to be in control on the catch and avoid any extra fouls.
Recover to the action
Dalton Nixon is a very important piece of this team for a variety of reasons. On display in this clip is his defensive intelligence.
He and Yoeli do a great job of handling this first set from Weber State to start the second half. The thing that impressed me the most was the fact that he recovered to his show responsibility and not his man. Often when recovering from the show, a big may run straight back to his man. Instead Dalton recovers to the action and neutralizes the play the Wildcats were trying to run.
Handling the bigs
Post defense is hard. Being a little undersized this year, BYU has been trying to find ways to make things work in the post defensively. Against Oral Roberts we tried out a double team but lost some of our aggressiveness and engagement later in the game.
Like a guard on a ballscreen, as the primary post defender you can’t relax just because you know a double team is coming. Yoeli’s job is to take away baseline here but he lets up just enough to get beat with a quick spin. This engagement is also very important in the half court. If you don’t get early contact on the offensive big and let them get comfortable, you’ve already lost a lot of the battle.
The post up here is way too easy and even though the guard crashes down to help from the top, the advantage has already been given up. Yoeli’s been great on the perimeter and in ballscreens but still has some work to do in this department.
After getting a few post buckets later in the game BYU decided to go to a full front and switch Yoeli out to the four man to help with off ball rebounding. Zac and Dalton both got the assignment to guard the five and did well establishing early contact. Zac especially did his job well, preventing a post entry and throwing a wrench into what Oral Roberts was trying to do.
His energy and effort here is outstanding and he was recognized for it after the game by the coaching staff. As we keep up this effort and mix up the looks we give to teams dedicated to getting post touches I believe we’ll be able to manage post threats without drastically changing the defense.
This offense has propelled itself to one of the best in the country on the strength of creating and knocking down open three pointers. A lot of this hinges on our ability to reverse the ball and make the simple read. One big way we’ve been achieving this is by giving TJ an empty side to work with. With all the space to go baseline his read becomes easy, if the weakside guard is late to their rotation and doesn’t shut down the baseline it’s a skip to the corner.
When the guard does get to their rotation simply get it straight to the wing.
This is slightly harder pass than it looks since TJ is basically dealing with a double team and is under the basket but he does a good job of pulling the defender down with his eyes and hitting Jake on the wing. Simply put, if you let TJ go baseline in this configuration we will more than likely get a wide open three. It will be interesting to see how teams react to this look, they may start just staying home on shooters and let TJ’s defender challenge any layup that may result. If that happens TJ may just keep his dribble alive, warp the defense, and hit some other cutter. The options created because of a simple configuration, spacing, and TJ’s abilities keep this offense unpredictable and efficient.