The BYU basketball team just keeps winning, a habit that has landed it number 23 in the AP poll. After a tight first half against LMU, the Cougars blew the doors off in the second half en route to a school record eighteen three pointers, then pulled out a victory by the skin of their teeth in San Diego. Let’s check out some of the things that are keeping the Cougars rolling.
It’s easier to make 18 threes when most of your shots are wide open. BYU has been moving the ball well all season and continued to do so against LMU.
LMU was trying to keep the ball forced to one side to make help easier but a few pinpoint passes completely broke down the defense. After Jake recognized the defense he hits the easy release to Dalton who makes the right pass leading to a hockey assist. The simplicity of this play really stood out to me since there aren’t any complex actions or anything, just people making the right play.
Later in the game we used a wide pin down set that led to free throws.
Again, the simplicity of space and a single screen is great to watch. More importantly, each player is making the easy play leading to some very aesthetically pleasing plays.
As mentioned above, LMU at times went to a ball screen coverage that is used to try and keep the ball on one side of the floor, forcing the guard to refuse the screen straight into the help. This coverage is often called a “down” or “ice” look and can be quite effective. Unfortunately for the Lions, they weren’t able to execute it well enough, giving Jake too much space to operate.
Jake uses an excellent change of pace to refuse the screen before the coverage is in place and gets enough room to bury a three. When he saw the same coverage in the second half, he used the aggressiveness of the defense against itself by dribbling into the coverage to get Zac an open three.
Also notice how hard BYU’s personnel makes it to guard this action. Alex’s gravity as a 50% three point shooter makes it hard to leave him on the perimeter.
Off ball feel
It’s been fun to watch this team grow and get more comfortable in their offensive principles and freedom. That was on full display on this three point attempt after breaking an LMU press.
There are a couple of things I really like about this play. The first is the awareness Yoeli has of where his hot-handed teammate is and how he can get him a shot. The second is the fact that Yoeli helps direct TJ to where the open man will be. BYU has become dangerous by being a team that’s looking out for each other and has a feel for what the right play is in unstructured situations.
Back to the topic of ball screen coverage, San Diego used a hedging defense to try and slow down BYU’s guards coming off of ball screens and it was fairly effective. The team was able to exploit the coverage a few times with slips and refusals but one thing I think could be more utilized is the throw ahead. The basic idea is to quickly hit the roll by going through the guard and beating the recovering big with a pass. In practice it looks something like this but faster:
Notice how far Yoeli’s man is behind on the roll. Jake could try to wrap a pass with his left hand to Yoeli but what’s easier is to just pass ahead to TJ to hit Yoeli. If the passes are snappier we most likely get a dunk on the run rather than a contested jump hook.
Jake was a little faster on the pass later in the game which caught the tag man (Zac’s guy in this clip) deep in the paint.
With as much as we love to hit the roll, it will be interesting if we start seeing these passes get snappier to take advantage of the rolling big. I can see a situation where Jake gets rid of the ball even faster, Zac takes a hard dribble to suck his man up and we have a lob for Gavin
The ability to change direction quickly and unexpectedly is a big part of being an effective offensive player and few people do it better than TJ. He misses this shot here but check out how well timed this move is.
TJ is very good at using his whole body to sell a misdirection and it’s helped him make big time plays this year. Here he creates a beautiful setup for refusing a screen before exploding past his man to get a crucial bucket late against USD.
His dunk to tie the game against Saint Mary’s happened on the same play as this one and it’s a great example of how a simple change of speed and direction can catch an entire defense flat footed.
Ball screen defense
BYU’s ball screen defense against San Diego created a lot of issues for the Cougars as they kept giving up easy looks to the roll man or the guard. The defense wasn’t bad all game, at times it was quite good like in this possession that led to a turnover.
Yoeli does a good job of slightly throwing off the guard’s rhythm and Zac pushes all the way over to tag the roll, relying on the good show of Yoeli to force the guard into a pass that he can recover on. Unfortunately BYU struggled to consistently replicate possessions like this and broke down in different areas of the coverage.
One piece of ball screen coverage is having your guards be solid in their responsibility. In this show coverage it’s important that the guard beat the screen, get their hips above it, and beat the offensive player off of it. When done right it goes a long way in containing the action.
Alex does a great job at beating both screens he’s involved in here which makes the rest of the defense’s job much easier. Gavin can get back to the roll faster and Zac doesn’t have to account for two people as long. It seemed that every other possession the guards were getting caught too long on the screens which resulted in breakdowns.
This play was especially impactful because it put Yoeli on the bench with four fouls.
The other pieces of this coverage that BYU failed to do consistently were sit on the roll and actually bother the guard with the show. The show isn’t terrible in this play at the end of the first half but I also don’t feel like it affected what the guard was trying to do all that much.
USD was very good and just riding the show to string out the play and make the roll harder to guard. The offensive guard here isn’t really looking to penetrate but to draw the coverage so far over as to make it harder to recover and they get exactly what they want with an easy look at the rim. Compare the show that Yoeli gave in that clip to what he did late in the game.
This more aggressive show completely disrupts the offensive player’s flow and neutralizes the screen and drag out action the Toreros ran a lot. This kind of show also gives the defensive guard a lot more time to recover which in turn gives the show man a split second more to recover as the offensive guard sizes up things. Dalton is very good at this kind of show and disrupting the ballhandler and his skills in this particular coverage were sorely missed. The rest of the bigs have shown they are capable though and I’m optimistic the next time we see this coverage the show will be more disruptive.
After playing only three minutes in his first game back, Gavin averaged 11 minutes in last week’s games. You can definitely tell he’s still coming up to speed and has a ways to go but there were a few things he did well in the games against LMU and USD. Offensively he probably has more work to do but I did notice that he already has the right mindset of keeping the ball moving and kicking it to the opposite side.
Instead of looking to get up a shot in this clip his first thought is to kick the ball to the opposite side. It’s encouraging that he already has jumped on board with the system and what the offense is looking to do.
Defensively his physical skill set is allowing him to be more impactful quicker than on the offensive side of the ball. I like his timing to hang back in this play at the end of junk time.
And I was impressed at his ability to guard one on one in the post against the more massive USD bigs.
I’m excited to see what kind of impact he’ll have this week as he continues to get his sea legs under him, especially with Gonzaga’s huge front line coming into the Marriott Center.