Michigan’s offense struggled from the field for the majority of its win over Northwestern and any easy basket was especially important. It was the Wolverines’ production off second chances (13) and turnovers (18) that seemed to make a difference in the Michigan win but Michigan also found some timely production was off of out-of-bounds sets. The Wolverines have run some less than inspiring out-of-bounds sets at times but these three plays, all variations of the same set, show just how effective a successful out-of-bounds look can be. Michigan scored eight critical points off of these three plays and Northwestern didn’t have an answer.
Variation One: One Cutter
All three of these plays start in an almost identical set. The four and five men act as screeners at the elbow while Stu Douglass and Tim Hardaway Jr. utilize the double screen in a number of different ways. Trey Burke is inbounding the ball on all three sets and picks up three of his seven assists on the night by making the right pass.
In this first sequence, Hardaway is the primary option and Douglass is a decoy. Hardaway is going to use both screens while Douglass drifts to the far perimeter.
Hardaway’s defender, Drew Crawford, calls for a switch with Alex Marcotulio who attempts to deny the ball from Hardaway but plays him to the outside. This takes away any three point shooting opportunities but gives Hardaway a better option.
Hardaway realizes how he’s defended and keeps cutting all the way to the basket with Marcotulio on his back hip.
The result is an easy layup for Hardaway. You can also see the second option in this variation, Morgan with a delayed roll to the basket.
Variation Two: Two Cutters, Three Point Option
The second set is just a couple of possessions later in the game and Michigan lines up in the same positions. This time both Douglass and Hardaway are going to get involved with the double screen, Douglass as the first cutter and Hardaway as the second.
You can see that Douglass is actually going to dip between the two screens, cutting to the basket, while Hardaway uses both and curls to the three point line.
Northwestern is trying to switch every screen and, while that works for defending Douglass, no one is near Hardaway on the perimeter when he catches the ball. Reggie Hearn is the closest defender but he is still fighting through the first screen from Smotrycz. Marcotulio, still worried about the easy layup he gave up on a similar play, is chasing Douglass toward the basket.
The end result is an easy, confidence building three point shot for Hardaway and he knocks it down over the late arriving defender.
Variation Three: Two Cutters First Option
Michigan goes back to this look yet again in overtime and has one more wrinkle up its sleeve. Douglass and Hardaway are both involved again but this time Michigan goes to Douglass cutting toward the basket.
Rather than slice between the two screens, as Douglass did in the second play, both cutters use both screens. This isn’t a major change but it does just enough to throw Northwestern’s defense off balance.
The Wildcats try to fight through all of Michigan’s screens on this play without switching which means that Douglass has Crawford chasing him on his back hip. He recognizes that fact and cuts all the way to the basket in a similar fashion to Hardaway in the first clip.
Luke Mirkovic watches him run by rather than playing any help defense, perhaps worried about Smtorycz rolling to the basket (as Morgan did in the first clip) or stepping out for a three, and Douglass uses the rim to protect his layup perfectly.
The beauty of these sets is that there are so many variations and reads that Michigan can utilize from the same look. Northwestern adjusted its defense but Michigan made its own adjustments on the fly and still found ways to get easy baskets. These were all in important situations as well, Hardaway’s buckets were early in the game when Michigan had fallen behind big and Douglass’s layup was in overtime when every basket is critical.