Film Study: How San Diego State stopped Kansas in the post

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Kansas put together one of their worst offensive performances in recent memory on Sunday evening in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

They shot a whopping 29.8% from the floor, hitting just 4-of-16 from beyond the arc while needing a late flurry just to make it look that respectable.

In recent games, Kansas has become a team that is more and more focused on running their offense through their talented front court duo of Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid. When you have two players capable of scoring the way that those two can score with their back-to-the-basket — and when your team has talented-but-enigmatic perimeter players that have been, to date, unable to dominate — you give those big fellas the ball.

According to Synergy’s logs, 13.8% of Jayhawk possessions are post-ups, which ranks 20th nationally and fifth — behind only LSU, North Carolina, Marquette and Stanford — among power conference teams. As a team, they’re scoring 0.993 points-per-possession (PPP) on post-ups, which is top 40 nationally even after dropping as a result of their struggles against the Aztecs.

I went through and charted every Kansas post touch in their 61-57 loss, and here’s what I found:

  • All told, the Jayhawks got 28 post touches: Embiid had 16 and Ellis had seven while Tarik Black (2), Jamari Traylor (2) and Andrew Wiggins (1) combined for the other five. Post touches aren’t the same as post possessions-used, as a number of times an SDSU double-team forced Kansas to simply throw the ball back out to the perimeter and run a different set, or the ball got knocked out of bounds forcing an out-of-bounds play, etc.
  • Those post touches led directly — meaning either through a basket, a foul shot, an assist or a “hockey” assist — to just 16 points. Their bigs only drew three fouls on SDSU big men in post-up situations while committing four turnovers.
  • There were only three field goals that were scored by Kansas bigs in post-up situations. Two came after Embiid passed out of a double-team to create a driving lane, with one layup coming off of an assist from Naadir Tharpe and the other coming off of an offensive rebound. The third came when Embiid found Ellis under the basket for a layup after dribbling out of a double-team. In other words, neither Embiid nor Ellis scored a basket on a post move.

So what did SDSU do to slow down the Jayhawk big men?

It was a simple big-to-big post-double. As soon as a Jayhawk big man caught a ball in a post-up situation, SDSU ran their second big man at them to double-team.

Here’s an example: As Wayne Selden is making his post-entry to Embiid, you can see where San Diego State’s J.J. O’Brien (circled in red) and Josh Davis (circled in green) are positioned:


As you can see, even before Embiid controls the ball on the block, O’Brien has left his man to double Embiid while Davis has left his man to guard against a pass from Embiid to Ellis:


This limits Embiid’s options. The help is coming from the middle, so he can try to spin baseline, where helpside defense is waiting if he’s able to beat his man. Or he can dribble out of the double-team and look to pass to one of the guys left open around the perimeter. He chooses the latter in this case (click on the image to see the GIF):


There are ways to beat this defense. It requires quick ball movement and weak-side cutters, allowing the offense to attack close-outs on the opposite side of the floor. For example, on this possession, you’ll see Andrew Wiggins and Ellis cut hard to the ball side, drawing in SDSU’s defense and leaving Tharpe wide-open on the other side of the floor (click on the image to see the GIF):


That creates a driving lane, and Embiid ends up finishing at the rim off of a nice assist from Tharpe.

The problem was that Kansas got far too little movement like on the offensive end until SDSU had already built their lead, and by then it was too late.

(all images and GIFs courtesy of CBS Sports broadcast)

CBT Podcast: Recapping the first weekend of the 2018 NCAA Tournament

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Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic joined Rob Dauster for an epic, two-hour podcast on the first weekend of the tournament. It was so good that we had to split the podcast into two parts. On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the South and West Regions, from Sister Jean to UMBC to Nevada’s comebacks to Kentucky’s chances at a Final Four.

On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the East and Midwest Regions, from Villanova and Duke steamrolling to Michigan State collapsing to Syracuse and Clemson and Texas Tech and Purdue. It’s all in there.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Eight viral heroes from first weekend of March Madness

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One of my favorite parts of the NCAA tournament is seeing who comes out of nowhere to turn into a viral celebrity during this month of madness.

By my estimation, we had eight true candidates for the award of March Madness Viral Celebrity of the Year. Here they are:


He was more fired up for Houston’s success in the tournament than any Houston fan in the history of basketball in the city of Houston.


Jordan Poole is spelled a lot like Jordan Peele, which inevitably led to people tweeting at Peele instead of Poole. Peele’s thank you tweet was a highlight of the first weekend.


Having to answer questions from a bunch of reporters after suffering the most humiliating moment of your life is not an easy thing to do. Having to answer ridiculous and stupid questions could be intolerable, which is why I loved Ty Jerome’s response to a stupid question he was asked:


I loved seeing Robert Williams’ teammate do a panotmine windmill in the background while Williams was throwing down a windmill in real time on Providence:


Nevada head coach Eric Musselman has led his team to the Sweet 16, cussed on live television and gone shirtless to celebrate with his team, but the star of the Musselman family is his daughter Mariah:


He really does have great hair:

2. @UMBCAthletics

This dude lived the dream of every twitter user out there. When your shot is there, you have to take it.


Mic drop:

VIDEO: Eric Musselman celebrates Nevada win without a shirt

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Nevada head coach Eric Musselman went shirtless to celebrate his team’s come-from-behind win over No. 2 seed Cincinnati on Sunday.

I guess this is better than dropping F-bombs live on national TV. Maybe that’s why they had Steve Lappas talking over him …

Penny Hardaway to be named next Memphis head coach

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The worst-kept secret in college basketball no longer appears to be a secret: Penny Hardaway is going to be the next coaching at the University of Memphis.

ESPN is reporting that a deal has been agreed upon. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal is reporting that Penny was waiting for his season to end with East High School before he made anything official. NBC Sports can confirm that an announcement is expected to be made early this week, likely as soon as Tuesday, to introduce the former Memphis and NBA star as Tubby Smith’s replacement.

The truth, however, is that we all knew this was what would be happening the second that Memphis formally fired Tubby Smith. Hell, we knew it a month before that decision was made final. This was always how it was going to play out.

What’s interesting to me is now the discussion of whether or not Penny will be able to handle being a Division I head coach, because it’s been hit or miss with basketball programs hiring legends of their past. Chris Mullin and St. John’s hasn’t exactly gone to plan but Fred Hoiberg was quite successful at Iowa State. Kevin Ollie won a title with UConn then fell off a cliff. Patrick Ewing’s start wasn’t great, but he was better than expected.

Where does Penny fall on this scale?

Well, let me just drop this section of a column from Geoff Calkins in here:

Hardaway isn’t a guy who woke up one morning and decided he’d like to be a Division I head coach. He’s not a former player who got bored with retirement and decided he’d like to do something other than play golf.

Hardaway started coaching at middle school. Middle school! Because an old friend needed some help.

Then he built one of the best AAU programs in the country. Then he spent years coaching a high school team.

Does that sound like someone who doesn’t want to roll up his sleeves and do the work? Does that sound like someone who is just in it for the glory and the glitz?

The truth is, if it weren’t for Hardaway’s iconic stature, he might be characterized as a grinder, as a guy who worked his way up from the lowest levels of basketball on the strength of his relationship with the kids.

I think that this is going to work out for both Penny and Memphis, especially if Penny hires a staff that can help him with the intricacies of running a college basketball program.

2018 NCAA Tournament: All-First Weekend Team

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PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND: Jevon Carter, West Virginia

So Carter’s numbers themselves were ridiculous this weekend. He had 21 points, eight assists, six steals and five boards in a first round win over Murray State. He followed that up with 28 points, five assists, five steals and four boards in a win over in-state rival Marshall to advance to the Sweet 16. For the weekend, he shot 54 percent from the floor and 63 percent from three.

But perhaps the more telling state in regards to what Carter did this weekend are the numbers that the Murray State and Marshall stars put up this weekend. Jon Elmore — whose averages of 23 points, seven assists and six boards matched what Markelle Fultz averaged a season ago — was 4-for-12 from the floor with eight turnovers in Marshall’s second round loss. Jonathan Stark, who entered the tournament averaging 22 points, had nine points on 1-for-12 shooting in Murray State’s first round loss.

On Friday night, we get Jalen Brunson squaring off with Carter.

Buckle up.


  • ROB GRAY, Houston: Gray is the only guy on this list that didn’t reach the Sweet 16 — blame Jordan Poole for that — but he did put together one of the most memorable and impressive first round NCAA tournament performances I can ever remember when he dropped 39 points and a game-winner on San Diego State.
  • KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: Evans averaged 22.5 points in this weekend’s two games, but what got him on this list was that he averaged 16.5 points in the second half of those two games, closing out a come-from-behind win against Stephen F. Austin with drive after drive and hitting the go-ahead three in the win over Florida.
  • ZACH NORVELL, Gonzaga: Not only did the Zags freshman averaged 21.5 points in two games — including a career-high 28 points, a career-high 12 boards, a career-high six threes and his first career double-double against Ohio State — but he hit the dagger in both of those games; a game-winner in the final minutes against UNCG and a three to put the Zags up six in the final two minutes against Ohio State.
  • SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER, Kentucky: We spent the entire season talking about how Kentucky didn’t have a star this year. That may not be true anymore. SGA averaged 23 points, 7.0 boards, 6.5 assists and 3.5 steals as the Wildcats reached the Sweet 16 as the highest remaining seed in the South Region.
  • THE MARTIN TWINS, Nevada: Caleb was the hero in the come-from-behind win over Texas, doing bonkers in overtime, while Cody had 25 points, seven assists and six boards in the come-from-behind win over Cincinnati. But mostly they were both awesome all weekend.