Basketball Film Room: The Offense. What's Working & What Isn't

USA TODAY Sports

If you've watched any USF Basketball this year, you'll recognize this play:

USF vs. Georgetown - Play 1 (via voodoo5blog)

Anthony Collins dribbles around and milks the shot clock down like a Pete Carril Princeton team at their apex. He runs through a seemingly promising but ultimately futile high ball screen, then makes a pass to a wing player (in this case Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, who is our de facto center this year defensively through no fault of his own) that fires up some sub-mediocre shot fakes. Eventually Collins takes the ball back as the clock is near expiration, and finds a way to make a play either by shooting a floater/runner, or finding someone on the perimeter via drive and kick.

In the above Collins gets fouled and goes to the line, but the result matters less than the overarching theme, which is USF is woefully limited in their options in half-court offense. You can't run a pick-and-roll if you don't have anyone that can roll to the rim effectively. You can pick-and-pop, but our perimeter shooters aren't exactly known for their quick triggers, so the defense usually gets there in plenty of time to contest. And we really don't have anyone (besides Collins) that can put the ball on the deck and get into the teeth of the defense. If Vic Rudd could get to the rim consistently he'd be an NBA player, but as presently constituted, we don't have a wing player that can get it done off the bounce.

And when your center is by natural position a 6'8 small forward, a post up game isn't really an option either. So what is Coach Heath to do?

Just like last year, the Bulls look to limit possessions for both teams. It's even more important this year since with a very shallow bench it allows the Bulls to conserve their energy for the defensive end of the floor. The above often isn't pretty to watch, and it relies abnormally heavily on Collins' ability to make magic happen while dribbling like a member of the Lollipop Guild in the paint. If he goes down, the level of screwed the Bulls become is almost incomprehensible.

If you're looking for the Bulls to run an offense in the more conventional sense, check out what often happens:

USF vs. Georgetown - Play 3 (via voodoo5blog)

Ignore that this is a end of game "slob" (side line out of bounds), and realize it's something you can do even when not in a clock situation. But sending Jawanza Poland off a double screen doesn't totally play to his strength, as you can see in the shot that's missed well short. He's a much better catch-shooter with his feet set.

But the other issue is the Bulls don't really have anyone that can create their own shot either. Here's a "three man weave" series of dribble handoffs vs. Notre Dame.

USF-Notre Dame 2 (via voodoo5blog)

Vic Rudd throws up a prayer at the rim when backing it out or finding Fitzpatrick is for sure the right decision with 22 seconds left to shoot. Vic is a valuable player, but he hasn't shown the ability to create his own shot consistently either from the perimeter or off penetration. And we haven't seen too many passes from him once he puts his head down and decides he's driving.

The other thing you notice in this clip is Notre Dame goes under all three dribble handoffs, and doesn't even worry about a Bull pulling up and knocking down a jumper. It makes defense a helluva lot easier to play when the jump shot isn't a worry. After the miss, the Bulls still have 3 players looking for an offensive rebound, but they end up getting beat in transition, bungle their fast break defense badly, and give up a wide open kickout three-pointer off a miss they should have corralled.

It's not all terrible however, and here's a couple highlights. I really liked this set when I saw it, and I'd like to see USF find ways to do more things like this.

USF vs. Georgetown 4 (via voodoo5blog)

Collins runs off a stagger on the right side, and Rudd does a real nice job with his second screen to free Fitzpatrick flashing to the corner. What really makes the play though is AC's ball fake to Fitzpatrick, which holds the defense for just enough of a split second that they can't recover to the now open Rudd. If Rudd is ready for the NBA player, he dunks this over the helper, but it's still a real nice action showing that some of these more conventional sets are possible.

And here's what USF has gotten real good at this year:

USF vs. Seton Hall 6 (via voodoo5blog)

Get a bunch of defenders to stare at your always-capable-and-really-tough-to-contain point guard, and have a wing player catch his defender napping. It's been a rough season, but watching Rudd, Poland, and now Javonte Hawkins catch these alleyoops has been a highlight. This team is really athletic at the wing spots, and having some post players that would need to be guarded out to the elbow could theoretically open up acres of space for these guys running the short corner. Alas, maybe next year.

The problems have also been many on the defensive end, and we'll get to that later this week.

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