Chalk talk: A breakdown of every Big Ten team's favorite offensive set
College basketball is back, and that means it is time to start studying the best minds in the game and their playbooks.
The Big Ten has Tom Izzo, Juwan Howard, Fred Hoiberg and Chris Holtmann among others who are my favorite coaches to study and learn from.
We will look at their favorite set play that each team either ran this year or last year and why I like that play in particular.
Now, to help get you ready for the B1G/ACC Challenge, here’s a look at each B1G team’s favorite set:
Penn State: Horns Twist Replace
With Pat Chambers’ untimely exit, Penn State’s playbook will likely be similar since changing coaches so late means that implementing any new schemes or concepts will be much more difficult.
Penn State ran a lot of Horns actions last year, and this season they implemented a Horns set that involves roll-and-replace action. After an initial ball screen out of Horns with both players at the elbows, the other player follows into another ball screen for the point guard. Once that ball screen rolls to the rim, the initial ball screener replaces to the 3-point line, creating a tough situation for the defense to guard.
Illinois: Miami Exchange Replace
Brad Underwood’s evolution from the Spread Offense previously into a ball screen heavy offense was a much-needed change that has really impressed me. This set has a ton of action starting with dummy action that eventually flows into a hand-off into a ball screen. I call this action “Miami,” so having the guard and the initial ball screener both involved in off-ball movement does not allow the defense to communicate about their defensive coverage and leads to breakdowns.
Michigan: Ram Replace
Coming from the NBA, Juwan Howard has brought the same concepts used at the highest level at Michigan. This set involves a down screen for the big man setting the ball screen designed to create a late hedge or make it tougher on the defense to execute their ball screen coverage. After the down screen, that guard will then hang low and then wait for the ball screen to occur and read where he should replace based on how the defense guards the ball screen and fill on the opposite of where the ball screen takes place.
Maryland: Spread 45 Backdoor
This is part of a series that Mark Turgeon runs out of what I call their “45” series, which is designed to punish how teams typically defend pick-and-pop ball screens. Normally teams will “Stunt” at the pick-and-pop that teams will punish by sending that player on the wing backdoor — also called “45” action. Maryland then flows this action into a backdoor cut for the corner as well, taking advantage of teams that overplay cutters.
Wisconsin: Spread Pop Backdoor
Similar action to Maryland’s backdoor look, Wisconsin runs the same pick-and-pop action but with that side of the floor with one player in the corner. Emptying the slot area for a pick-and-pop leaves the corner defender to stunt at the pick-and-pop or stay on the player in the corner leaving the open 3. Wisconsin punishes this by sending the cornerman backdoor for easy layups.
Minnesota: Weak Delay Chicago
I wanted to look at Minnesota’s sets from this year since I was not overly impressed with last year’s X’s & O’s. This season’s best set is sending the point guard through opposite — commonly referred to as “Weak” action — to the opposite wing. After the ball gets reversed, the big man flashes into the middle of the floor and triggers “Delay” or “5-Out” action. Then this flows into a pindown into a dribble handoff, which I call “Chicago” action and allows for guards to get downhill and essentially turning into ball screen reads — but harder to guard out of the handoff.
Nebraska: 5-Out Ghost
Fred Hoiberg is one of my favorite coaches to study for the past few years, and this season his “5-Out” offense has intrigued me. One of the concepts they have used out of “5-Ou”t is their “Ghost” action or slipping the ball screen to the perimeter and creating downhill drives or easier 3 point opportunities.
Purdue: Chicago Triple
Purdue’s playbook is DEEP, in fact, it is one of the deepest playbooks I have studied and is one of the best counter playbooks you will find in college basketball. One of my favorite sets is out of their “Chicago” series, a pindown into a dribble handoff, triggering multiple options. Their most lethal option has been to go to their triple screen out of it, with so many options and actions these are some of the hardest sets to guard.
Northwestern: Chin Strong
I really like this set from Northwestern, with so many options and out of the “Chin” set – this is actually a set I am going to steal as a plan for the high school team I coach. After the initial ball reversal, the first option is to look for the stagger screen and then it flows into the screen the screener action. Even if you defend the first few options well, Northwestern can punish you with the actions off the rest of the possession.
Ohio State: Double Gap
A great set to get a driver downhill, Ohio State reverses the ball to the guard on the wing and then sends the slots through to the ball side and clear out a driving lane. This can be designed to the strong hand or drive downhill for an easier attack — the key here being the big sealing low to prevent any help.
Iowa: Elbow Duck
Iowa runs a lot of its offense through Luka Garza and rightfully so, but I wanted to highlight a set for other wings to take advantage of the size advantage they might have. Starting in a box set, the ball gets entered into the elbow, and the opposite block ducks into the lane and seals inside looking for an easy score. If that first option is not there, then it will flow into screen the screener action.
Indiana: Elbow Pistol
Indiana runs this great 2-man action that is similar to the main option for teams like the Denver Nuggets in the NBA. The initial pass goes to the elbow area — sometimes the catch can be higher — and then goes into a dribble handoff or keep and pick-and-pop game to allow the players to read the game.
Rutgers: Horns Flash ISO
Rutgers uses some dummy action, or false actions, to get the defense moving before flashing their 2 bigs to the elbows for a couple of different options. The first is to flash to the elbow and then dive back down allowing the point guard to drive downhill. The next is the same flash action, but then hitting the elbow and allowing that player to isolate 1-on-1 downhill.
Michigan State: Horns Pop Pin
Michigan State has several options out of its “Horns” sets, but one of the options is to look for a quick ball screen and have that player pick-and-pop. After the pop, the opposite elbow will set an opposite pindown for the guard in the corner. It’s one of the best options for a quick action out of Horns.
I hope this allows you to see some of the sets that the Big Ten coaches run, I expect all of these to be incorporated in games this season and moving forward looking to studying the wrinkles and counters the rest of the season.