Final Four Previews: Anthony Davis and defending the pick and roll


Last week, in preparation for Kentucky’s Sweet 16 matchup against Indiana, we took a look at Anthony Davis and how Indiana could go about getting him in foul trouble.

It worked for the Hoosiers, as Cody Zeller drew a foul on Davis in the first 30 seconds of the game while Victor Oladipo was able to draw the second foul on the National Player of the Year just six minutes into the game. Davis was sent to the bench … where his teammates proceeded to score 50 points and take the lead into the break. Even when Davis picked up four fouls against Baylor, it was a bruised knee that had more of an effect keeping him out of the game.

In other words, you can try to force Davis out of the game by getting him in foul trouble, but it’s a fruitless effort. He has fouled out just once this season. The Baylor game was the first time he had picked up four fouls since December 10th. Between Dec. 10th and March 25th — a span of 29 games — Davis had only picked up three fouls four times.

In other words, attacking Davis to try to get him in foul trouble has a) been ineffective, as he’s proven more than capable of avoiding fouls throughout the season, and b) likely been the reason that he is averaging 4.6 bpg. Throw in the fact that Davis will, in all likelihood, be matched up with Gorgui Dieng, who is just as lanky and long as Davis, and Louisville is going to need a different strategy to try and reduce the effect Davis has on the game.

One thing Indiana did was to increase the tempo. Their goal was, in part, to try and run the floor and get into their offense before Davis was able to establish himself in the paint. It worked, as the Hoosiers were able to put up 90 points on Kentucky. The problem? The Wildcats are just as dangerous in the full court. That’s why Indiana still lost by 12 points.

The other answer is to try and draw Davis away from the rim. Since Dieng isn’t exactly a 3-point shooter, the best way to do that is to engage him in the pick-and-roll, which is something that Louisville excels at. We have already gone through what Louisville does on their ball screens here, so let’s take a look at how to use those screens to take Davis out of the paint.

The last two games, what Kentucky has done against a ball-screen — whether it was Davis or Terrence Jones that was defending — is they’ve had the big man hedge and recover. In the first example, as Pierre Jackson comes off of the high-ball screen, Davis will hedge out to keep Jackson from getting a free lane to the rim while Marquis Teague goes over the ball-screen set by Perry Jones III:


As Teague is able to get back to Jackson fairly quickly, Davis is able to match back up with Jones on the roll:


Where is gets interesting, however, is when ball-screens are set at a slightly different angle. In this example, you’ll see Cody Zeller setting a high ball-screen for Victor Oladipo. The difference? Look at Zeller’s shoulders. His are parallel to the baseline, where in the previous example Jones’ shoulders where parallel to the sideline:


This allows Oladipo to rub off Lamb on the screen, and since Davis is not hedging hard and forcing Oladipo to change direction, Indiana ends up with the advantage. Oladipo essentially gets a one-on-one with Davis with a running start 18 feet from the rim:


He ended up getting a layup.

As you’ll see in the first two examples in this post, that is how Louisville runs their ball-screens as well. Davis may be the defensive player of the year, but he is not going to stay in front of Siva on the perimeter. Getting Siva in a situation where he can attack Davis off the bounce would be ideal. He may not score, but look at the last screencap above. Not only is Christian Watford open on the baseline on a backdoor cut, but Will Sheehy is open on the opposite wing for a three.

If the Cardinals want to pull of this upset, it is a situation they are going to have to take advantage of.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.