|Tuesday, January 7
Updated: March 12, 9:01 PM ET
Understanding what you're watching
By Fran Fraschilla
Special to ESPN.com
There's an old coaching adage that says, "It doesn't matter how much the coach knows, it matters how much his players know." With that in mind, welcome to ESPN.com's Hoops 101.
Call me ESPN.com's "coach" here at Bristol University. And, as the season winds its way to March Madness, I'll try to cover as many different aspects of the games you'll be watching each week. We'll go inside basketball's strategy and tactics to help you better understand what led up to those wins and losses. From the Kansas fast break to Syracuse's stifling 2-3 zone, we'll take you inside the huddle and onto the practice floor to show you what it takes to reach the dance.
Here is a look at the class syllabus. Consider the final exam a take home test the day after the Final Four:
Exactly what are the X's and O's? Believe it or not, every season during our first basketball meeting with the team, my coaching staff answers the same question -- whether players ask or not -- by going up to the blackboard to teach our newcomers the "language of basketball". Or, the "X's and O's". You'd be surprised how often a player with the skills to play this game hadn't been exposed to this basic aspect of coaching.
So, we'll started from the basics. The language will help you follow along with each weekly topic, as well as what the play-by-play, or analyst is talking about during the broadcasts throughout the year.
Let's get started!
Offense and Defense
Movement of the Players and the Ball
A dribble is designated by a "squiggly line" and a pass is a "dotted line". (Diagram 3)
Areas Of The Court
Down screens free up players usually moving away from the basket to help them get in position for a jump shot. (Diagram 6).
Flare screens most often occur randomly in "motion offense" as a player moves from the inside of the court off the screen to the outside of the court. Rick Majerus' Utah Utes are as good as anyone at executing the flare screen. (Diagram 7)
Staggered double screens are an excellent way to free up an outside shooter with two consecutive screens usually set by a team's two big men. (Diagram 8)
Screen the screen plays are tricky to defend because the man guarding the first screen must protect the basket against a lay up and then get back out to defend his man, who comes off the second screen for a jump shot. (Diagram 9)
The UCLA cut is something we'll cover in more detail later in the course. This takes place when a guard rubs off the screen from his teammate at the elbow and cuts to the low post for a lay-up or a post-up. (Diagram 10)
America's Play (Diagram 11) is named as such because it seems like everyone in the country runs this play. It is in a "box set" and starts with a cross screen in the post and then ends with a staggered double screen.
A sound play for a good jump shooter gives him two routes. (Diagram 12) This is what we call a "single-double", which allows 2 to have the option of coming off the single screen or the double screen.
Here is an example of two zipper cuts. (Diagram 13) As 1 dribbles to the left wing, 5 screens down for 2. This play allows 1 to either pass to 5 posting up or pass to 2. As 2 catches the pass, 4 screens down for 3, who comes off looking for the jump shot. The "straight down" action of the screen are why we call this a "zipper cut".
Anyone who is familiar with "old school" basketball is familiar with the screen and roll play. (Diagram 14) We usually use a big man to screen on the basketball. Does the big defender switch onto the smaller, quicker guard? We want the 1 to try to get into the lane and set up 4 "rolling" into the lane. Or, in the case of a great shooting big man like Matt Bonner of Florida, popping out to the three point line for the jumper before the defender can recover.
We use the roll and replace in the screen and roll at the top of the key as a way to get one big man rolling to the basket and replacing him with the other big man who usually a good shooter. In this diagram, 4's man stays in the lane to protect the basket as 5 "rolls" which usually means that 4 will be open coming to the top. (Diagram 15)
While we will cover offenses that get the ball frequently into the low post later in the year, we want to cover the post split now. A lot offenses you'll see during the season will feed the post man and split off of him in an "X cut" designed to cause confusion on the part of the defenders. And, keeping them occupied makes it less likely that they can help on the post man. (Diagram 16)
That's all for our first class in Hoops 101. There may be a weekly "pop quiz," so start studying.
Send in your Hoops 101 questions. Fran Fraschilla will answer a few of them next week.
Fran Fraschilla spent 23 years on the sidelines as a college basketball coach before joining ESPN this season as an broadcast analyst. He guided both Manhattan (1993, 1995) and St. John's (1998) to the NCAA Tournament in his nine seasons as a Division I head coach, leaving New Mexico following the end of the 2001-02 season.