UK Basketball: Time For A Change?

By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer

The Golden State Warriors have done it. So have the Villanova Wildcats. The Kentucky Wildcats would like to do it also but lately haven’t been able to. Do what, you ask? Win a championship? Yes, but no. It runs deeper than that. Not just win a championship but become the dominant program in their neighborhood. That neighborhood for UK just happens to be NCAA Men’s College Basketball. Here’s how they might.

In looking at the teams mentioned previously that have done it recently one thing stands out – skilled offensive play from their four perimeter players. Both teams – Golden State and Villanova – run a version of a “four out – one in” motion offense. It is made up of four players setting up at the three-point line while one post player plays in the “paint” area.  It requires players to follow basic patterns through movement rules but – like a quarterback in football running the read option – each player on the floor has to read what the defense is doing – or not doing – and make the appropriate offensive play. It may be a back door cut if the defender turns his head or it might be a “pick and pop” if the defender plays the screen incorrectly. The point is this offense requires all players to participate at all times. No loafing, no standing and definitely no watching. Every player has a role in the “motion” of the offense.

If one takes the time to watch video of all three offenses – I did – one will note that in the Kentucky offense generally two players play together through a “high screen and roll” isolation play while the other three offensive players stand and watch. That allows three defenders to also either stand and watch or help off on the “pick and roll” participants. It’s not so effective when only 40% of your players are involved in the offensive activity.

In the “four out one in” motion offense every player is moving, screening, cutting and if nothing else making the defense guard each player during the offensive sequence. Not so with the UK offense. With a two-man game occurring on most sequences it allows the defense plenty of time to rest and allows the defense the opportunity to avoid having mistakes turned into baskets.

If talented perimeter players are given the opportunity to do more during the game to help themselves score by working together it should follow that the overall team will benefit from the additional movement, screens and offensive cuts. So far it is working well for Golden State and Villanova.

In looking at UK’s potential roster in 2018 it appears to be particularly guard-heavy. Even if Gabriel, Washington and Vanderbilt all return for next season – which doesn’t appear likely based on the current rumor mill – only one of those players – Washington – is a true low-post type player. Gabriel is best suited on the perimeter facing the basket and Vanderbilt appears to have more of a “Willie Cauley-Stein” type of offensive game – offensive put backs  with an occasional jump hook. EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards would also qualify as players that could play in the “paint”. Conversely a potential guard lineup of Quade Green, Jamrl Baker, Tyler Herro, Kelvin Johnson and Immanuel Quickley – with a possible Ashton Hagans if he reclassifies to 2018 – would be the perfect fit for a “four out – one in” offensive set that uses motion, cutting and screening to create either open three-point shots or clean drives to the basket. 
Walt Frazier, Naismith Hall-of-Famer and New York Knicks great, said,”Winning squads emphasize fundamentals-pick and rolls,teamwork,and defense. They play with passion and they play hard. They move the ball, and when their players don’t have it, they move well without the ball.”  It just makes sense that if all players in an offense are moving – even if theyvdon’t have the ball – then all players are a threat to score. 
Walt Frazier said it, Golden State and Villanova are proving it and maybe it’s time for UK to consider it. After all, two teams that can win two out of three championships in the respective leagues – the NBA and the NCAA – must be doing something right. 

3 comments

  1. You are so right! I have gotten so frustrated watching so many of our players stand around watching the game and then not ready if the ball comes to them. I cannot believe Cal lets that happen! It is definitely time for a change and i love your analysis.

    We will see if Cal has this in mind. He is definitely recruiting that way. My only disappointment in Cal is his stubbornness to change from his system. I think he has finally seen the light. This move could bring # 9 & # 10 in the next few years.

    1. Cal is sometimes his own worst enemy. He doesn’t play enough zone when its clearly in the team’s best interest to do so and he uses the youth excuse to often to justify an offense that is focused solely on pick and roll schemes with just 2 players. He needs to demand more from himself first and then demand more of his team. Cal talks about how the kids have to change yet he resists change more than anyone. Focus on winning a national title first and the NBA stuff will take care of itself.

      1. Amen to your last sentence Bluebleeder 12. Couldn’t agree more.

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