A closer look at why KU's inbounds plays worked against Ohio State


Because it's hard to realize all that goes on during a basketball play while it's happening, I wanted to do a quick breakdown of what allowed Kansas' Ben McLemore to get five easy points (a three-point play and a dunk) against Ohio State on one particular sideline out-of-bounds play.

Here's the video of McLemore's layup/foul if you want to follow along.

We see that KU starts by putting its four players on the four corners of the lane. McLemore comes from the weak side and starts the play by setting a diagonal screen for Kevin Young, who is closest to the inbounder, Elijah Johnson.

Original positioning.

Original positioning. by Jesse Newell

Notice that McLemore does a good job of being physical against his defender, OSU's Shannon Scott. The sophomore guard tries to keep McLemore from crossing the lane by bodying him up, but McLemore is able to extend his arms through the contact (without drawing an offensive foul) to make it over to Young.

McLemore push.

McLemore push. by Jesse Newell

From here, Young cuts to the rim to clear out of the way (light blue arrow).

McLemore screen.

McLemore screen. by Jesse Newell

KU then "screens the screener," as McLemore — the original screener — backs up to receive a screen from teammate Perry Ellis.

McLemore, who has wowed with a lot of his talents so far, also shows great footwork here, quickly tapping his feet in a backpedal to accept the screen before turning it back up to full speed to attack the rim.

Ellis' screen isn't perfect — it's almost more like a post-up — but it's good enough to clear space for McLemore.

Ben footwork/loop.

Ben footwork/loop. by Jesse Newell

Another aspect that shouldn't be overlooked is Young selling the play on the baseline (blue bubble below). His defender, OSU's Deshaun Thomas, appears to be in a position to help guard the rim, but Young raises his hand as if he's about to receive the ball.

Young calls for ball.

Young calls for ball. by Jesse Newell

Thomas buys the fake, quickly recovering to defend Young while leaving his back towards the basket.

Young's deke, along with Ellis' screen, leaves a wide-open lane for McLemore to receive the lob from Johnson.

Open lane.

Open lane. by Jesse Newell

KU pulls off the same inbounds play 7 1/2 minutes later.

Even though Jeff Withey is in the game as the 5 with Kevin Young at the 4 (as opposed to Young being at the 5 and Ellis at the 4 in the first play), the movements and screens for each player are the exact same.

All arrows.

All arrows. by Jesse Newell

Young once again plays a significant role, as he sets a solid screen on McLemore's defender, Lenzelle Smith Jr., to completely open up the lane.

Young screen.

Young screen. by Jesse Newell

OSU doesn't communicate well on the screen, and Thomas, who was guarding Young on the play, chases the forward to the outside instead of staying inside to protect the rim (yellow arrow above).

Johnson throws the lob, and it doesn't hurt to have a guy like McLemore catching it, as his head is nearly even with the rim at the top of his leap.

McLemore alley-oop.

McLemore alley-oop. by Jesse Newell

McLemore jump.

McLemore jump. by Jesse Newell

During the game, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted, "Bill Self's inbounds play baskets vs. a well-coached OSU team one of many reasons he is worth salary. Has multitude of coaching strengths."

On the screen-the-screener play above, Self took advantage of McLemore's athleticism and Young's execution to get his team five easy points — a significant boost considering the Jayhawks beat the Buckeyes by eight.


DCJayhawk0208 5 years, 3 months ago

Using IP tracing, can you figure out how many of the Big XII coaches are currently reading this post? Hehe.

kufaninmo 5 years, 3 months ago

I was thinking the same thing! Well first I thought that Bill will have to come up with a brand new inbounds play (which I'm sure he could do in like 5 minutes) but then I thought, even if they knew what KU was gonna do, I'm not sure many teams could stop it anyway.

Jack Wilson 5 years, 3 months ago

There are literally hundreds of options off a box set like this. The minute you defend one or two options, that creates more. Many options Self runs happen after the ball is inbounded. Multiple passes. I'm sure he's planning to use BMac as a decoy. He probably has a handful ready to go.

This stuff is no secret. Both are pretty basic. Replace the lob with a bounce pass on the first one and you still have a bucket. It's why youth coaches, and many high school coaches, just defend an inbounds play with a packed in 2-1-2 zone.

I dare coaches to stop him.

Sam Constance 5 years, 3 months ago

Great point. I was going to say something similar about the first play. Kevin showing for the ball as McLemore curled around Ellis' screen wasn't just a deke. If Thomas had recognized that McLemore was coming down the undefended lane and rotated over, the inbounds just goes to Young instead for a layup.

KJD 5 years, 3 months ago

It the same situation when KU is defending, I've noticed several times that KU likes to have a defender tightly face the inbounds passer, feet set diagonally to seal the basket, with active hands working against any ball movement. When I imagine it I keep seeing Releford being the guy pressuring the ball and I can't remember any games when the opponent was able to attack the lane directly or the rim as directly as KU did against Ohio State.

Also, on the second set where Young is playing the four, he does such a good job driving his man down the lane towards the baseline then quickly and strongly screens McLemore's man.

With McLemores leaping abilities it does seem awfully hard to stop. Ohio State tries ball pressure on the inbounds play the first time (though the feet are parallel to passer) and the second time no pressure with the extra guy turing his back to the inbounds passer (looks like they are trying to use him to clog any bounce pass attempt near the rim while having this guy ready to react to any slash to the rim).

Great stuff Jesse.

Ben Berglund 5 years, 3 months ago

Great analysis and photos, thanks Jesse!

John Randall 5 years, 3 months ago

@DCJayhawk: Oh, I hope not – they'll all find out the ONLY inbounds play our seniors have ever learned!

Boouk 5 years, 3 months ago

I could do without Anrio Adams' Cam Newton TD celebration that the cameras caught.

jayhawkinnc 5 years, 3 months ago

On an unrelated note, today is Bill Self's birthday. Happy Birthday Coach!! The big 5-0

741hawk 5 years, 3 months ago

We are most fortunate to have Newell on BBall and Tait on FBall.

yovoy 5 years, 3 months ago

741hawk said the truth. Both Newell and Tait bring so much knowledge to the readership that it's nice to see. I don't know what other boards have, but I doubt they have an answer for these 2.

Like HEM said, there are many, many options out of this box set. BITD, I used to set them up in stack (everyone sees the box), then run box set quick-hits out of the stack. If the 'D' takes away the first option (weak-side layup w/ the 2nd guy in the stack), the first guy (nearest the ball) has gone up the lane and is coming back down to get a screen from the 3rd guy (who releases out to the top) in the stack: usually an and-1. Once they start cheating that there are other options, and they all end in layup/dunks and/or and-1. We'd score on teams in a tight 2-1-2, and we never changed a thing. I don't remember a recent time when we looked to score directly from underneath as often as we do this year. We haven't had McElmore though.

He's gifted, but do you think he'd be the player he is if he didn't love what he's doing?

dylans 5 years, 3 months ago

The announcers didn't do their homework. During those plays they both seemed surprised that the Jayhawks scored. If you've watched Bill coach you should know that KU scores on a relatively high percentage of under the basket inbounds passes. Bill can draw up a scoring inbounds play in a moments notice, but most of what you see has been well rehearsed. Some teams have a hard time just getting the ball in, but watch Bill's teams score time after time.

Brad Avery 5 years, 3 months ago

There's really nothing special about the play. It's just a pick for the picker off a four corner set. It worked because Ohio State didn't defend it very well and McLemore was the one catching the ball at the end. The easiest way to defend it is to go zone on the in-bounds play and guard the lane. Regardless of the defense, you as a defender do not leave the lane to go chase Kevin Young.

Michael Luby 5 years, 3 months ago

Jesse, (or someone else) If you wouldnt mind, would you give a short description of the different screens that were used in these two in bounds plays by KU?

Michael Luby 5 years, 3 months ago

I was just thinking. Does everyone remember this?

I wonder if this is the same in bounds play. If so, it tells me its pretty much unstoppable if you dont over use it.

Adam Collins 5 years, 3 months ago

Doesn't look like it was the same play, but enjoyable, nonetheless.

KGphoto 5 years, 3 months ago

Not exactly the same. Similar. However Villanova's #1 does a better job of defending the lane and earns a nice Darrell Arthur tea bag. lol.

DDDHawk 5 years, 3 months ago

Jesse- Thanks for another of your wonderful descriptions of great plays! It really makes a person appreciate the hard work that goes into those great Jayhawk plays!

Bradley Vogel 5 years, 3 months ago

Agreed--noticed while watching the game how quickly the "projected" Defensive Player of the Year backpedaled out of the way . . .

justinryman 5 years, 3 months ago

Was thinking the exact same thing.

He gets away with reaches out at mid court, and bodying up a guy on the elbow, but he can't defend much past that. He is usually doing what he id in the video or he is asking for help and he gets the ole "blow by"

jaybate 5 years, 3 months ago

The most interesting thing about this play is that it relies much less on the screen than on the reverse of direction. He runs a loop away from the basket and back to the basket around a screener that does not have to sustain the screen.

This is just one example of what I have been talking about recently with the change in the way KU is screening. There is less picking and the picks used are designed not to be sustained. Self and staff are using the skinny KU players' horizontal mobilities to catch the ball during the cuts rather than at spots.

Spots are so last year.

Catching on the cuts is so this year.

Another thing the inbounds play demonstrates is this year's offense relying on pitching forwards; i.e., to passing to players as they are moving toward the iron, rather than moving to spots on the floor.

There ought to be a sign taped up in the KU locker room.

All cuts are to iron.

All passes are pitches forward.

jaybate 5 years, 3 months ago

P. S.: Another point. Notice how they are running in directions that stretch the defense rather than force it to pack.

The back side wing stays out at three. Withey stays outside the lane. Naadir releases for defensive safety before the man is barely looped the screen and started back to iron.

Look at how beautifully spaced out the four defenders are at the moment the KU offender is ready to attack the rim!

Almost all the offense this season is built around keeping the defenses from packing, about using all players' motions, rather than just trey shooters standing at the trey stripe to keep the defense stretched.

Again, this gets KU players out of needing to set picks they are too slight to sustain, and out of staying on spots they are to slight to stay on.

And it opens the floor up for our guys to make plays on the move, rather than from spots.

A moving player is harder to muscle than a stationary one.

It could be the offense of the future.

jaybate 5 years, 3 months ago

P.P.S.: Strategically and tactically speaking, I cannot believe I did not see this coming. One analogy would be back in the Cold War when missiles were being put in underground silos and guidance systems on both sides became so accurate, and the throw weight of the bombs became so big, that the solution was to MIRV the war heads (make each missile capable of more points of attack) while putting the missles on trains and submarines to keep them mobile so they could attack just as suddenly but from more vastly more points on the map. In short, in XTReme Muscle, what you do is apply the thuggery at known points of attack; spots where the ball is supposed to be passed to (e.g., the blocks). But if the players are instead to receive the passes on the move, then it is much harder for the the XTReme Baller to know where and when to apply the muscle.

Great stuff.

jaybate 5 years, 3 months ago

P.P.P.S.: And the really beautiful thing is that this does not rely on timing, as say in the motion offense, or in the Princeton offense. The solution to those offenses is to bump the cutters so much and deny the spots so much that they break down because no one shows up for shots at the right time.

This play, and the whole offense is more about keeping the ball moving and keeping the players moving and the man with the ball is simply looking to see if there is a pitch forward opportunity. If the opportunity doesn't arise, the offense does not bog down from players needing to stay in timed movements. Players just keep moving and looking for the next pitch forward opp, or the next open lane to drive to iron, or the next open look.

It all looks like Tex Winter's old triple post aka Triangle offense being run out of the hi-lo set with a de-emphasis of sustaining picks and receiving the ball at designated spots.

4jhawks4ku 5 years, 3 months ago

Great article Jesse. You have redeemed yourself for denying the jayhawks three times before the Ohio State Game on KC radio.

mikehawk 5 years, 3 months ago

Lost in this is the patience for the person throwing the ball in to use their eyes hide the play and to allow the play to develop which takes you close the 5 sec allowable.

mikehawk 5 years, 3 months ago

Also, I would love to see the first inbound allowing Travis to score. On our broadcast it got missed while they were showing something else and we never saw a replay. Whatever happened on that one fooled somebody as he was essentially wide open under the basket. Their coaching staff has to be embarrassed. If it happens once, well OK, but three times and twice by the identical play. Sorry Thad, if that happened to us even our beloved Bill would be in for some serious blog dis.

4jhawks4ku 5 years, 3 months ago

Craft must have attended the Tyler Hansborough school of Flopping skills clinic.

Sam Constance 5 years, 3 months ago

Aka, the Hansborough School for Kids Who Don't Athlete Good.

Michael Bennett 5 years, 3 months ago

and who want to learn to do other stuff good, too...

KJD 5 years, 3 months ago

KU Defends Under Basket Inbound Play

KU Defends Under Basket Inbound Play by KJD

Above I was trying to describe how I was seeing how KU defends in this situation. KU had to defend this 5 times in the Ohio State game.

McLemore was set up just like this in 4 of the 5 plays and Johnson was on the inbounds passer just like this the other time.

Jeff Withey creates this defensive shape 4 of the 5 plays. The 5th time he is on the bench with :31 seconds to go with Traylor subbing in for him as KU emphasizing defense against the three point shot.

On the offensive side this reminds of the numerous times that Bill Self has talked about getting easy baskets around the rim by creating good angles for shots. On the defensive side the relationship of angles to the basket and defending the paint are just as important. I did screen captures of all 5 in bound plays and you can see in several situations that KU defenders will slightly cheat up and in (just like Johnson is in this photo) so that if a player tries to cut the defensive leverage pushes the cutter down and away from the basket or the cutter has to go over the KU player to try to get to the middle.

Great topic to focus on Jesse. I also looked at the 6 times that KU was on offense and each time KU got a high percentage shot at the rim. Traylor should have been credited for a score on the first play because he didn't have possession when he was called for traveling. Ohio State defended this play once using the same shape that KU normally ran, however KU inbounded to Traylor on the side who then passed the ball back to Johnson for a lay up. KU scored 9 points on these plays and easily could have had 13 points. The other miss was by Withey after 4 total passes got him clear for an uncontested bunny at the 4:04 mark in the second.

Jesse Newell 5 years, 3 months ago

Cool stuff, and nice graphic above. Very interesting to see the other side of this inbounds play.

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