Michigan attempts more threes than any other Big Ten team but an unheralded strength of the Wolverine offense this season has been its ability to convert around the basket. Despite trotting out a lineup that ranks 247th in effective height, without a true low post scorer and with a handful of players that are known for their perimeter shooting more than anything else, Michigan is the 6th best two point shooting team in the Division I. The pick-and-roll’s growth in Beilein’s offense has been discussed Ad nauseam but that doesn’t mean traditional elements of John Beilein’s offense have been forgotten.
In this edition of Inside the Play we look at how Michigan used the backdoor screen against Indiana led to three different easy opportunities around the rim for three different Michigan players.
1. Stu Douglass uses Morgan’s backscreen
This set starts with Burke passing the ball to Douglass and cutting through the paint. Douglass will move the ball to Hardaway on the wing and begin his action as well.
Morgan sets a strong screen and Douglass comes off of it cleanly, shoulder to shoulder. This is the most important element of the play and what allows Douglass to roam free all the way to the hoop.
There’s no Indiana help from the wings as Oladipo and Watford are both spread to the corners due to the shooting threat of Burke and Novak. Hardaway is letting his pass go as Douglass hits the elbow and it’s one of the easiest backdoor passes he’s thrown in his career.
Douglass catches the ball cleanly and finishes with the easy alley-oop lay-in.
2. Tim Hardaway Jr. uses Smotrycz’s screen for a monster dunk
This is almost identical action but Hardaway, rather than Douglass, serves as the significantly more athletic cutter. The Wolverines are spread on the court in similar fashion and Hardaway begins the set with a basic pass to the wing. This time Smotrycz is going to bring the screen to him.
Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller fall victim to Smotrycz’s screen but the principles remain the same. As Smotrycz sets the screen, Hardaway will run right through it without even setting it up with a v-cut or anything similar. Oladipo runs right into the screen and Cody Zeller doesn’t seem to call out the pick or help on Hardaway.
You can see Zeller step up to the ball side against Smotrycz which means Hardaway has him beat. One quick hand in the air and the rest is history.
Michigan’s spread offense leaves the middle of the paint completely open and Hardaway throws down the uncontested alley-oop.
Michigan ran almost this exact same play last year in the second half against Michigan State at home with the only exception being that Darius Morris was the passer rather than Trey Burke.
3. Novak gets fouled on backdoor attempt
This action is similar but Novak helps utilize his shooting ability to set up the screen.
Michigan loves to run a set where Novak starts to cut to the basket but pops out to the three point line and ends up with an open look. That’s a constant threat that opposing defenses must honor but, in this case, Smotrycz is actually poised to set a screen for Novak to cut to the basket.
Novak has Sheehey beat by a wide margin and Tom Pritchard, who should have called out the screen to Sheehey, doesn’t provide any help, spending most of his time watching the ball.
All three of these plays might be better examples of bad defense than great offense but they also emphasize the ways in which Michigan has been able to find easy baskets within its base offense. While the plays look simple, they still require the passer, cutter and screener to all be on the same page and be comfortable in their roles.
The ball screen has emerged as a major portion of Michigan’s offense and has certainly been effective but these simple sets from the base offense still play a critical role. The Wolverines’ best offensive performances come when both elements of the attack are working effectively. The sheer wealth of different looks that Michigan’s opponents have to prepare for also make it difficult for any opponent to game plan.