Busting Brackets

Coach’s Clipboard: The Big 12 And The Horns Set


Coach’s Clipboard, Vol. 3: We take a look at the most popular offensive alignment in the Big 12 and college basketball – the “Horns” set. What is a Horns set and how and why do Big 12 teams use it?

There are no secrets in college basketball. In the day and age of video technology, advanced metrics and information sharing, playbooks are all out there for the world to see. Often, those playbooks look very similar.

Further, college basketball (and sports in general) is a copycat league. When a team has success with something, other teams attempt to emulate that strategy. Big 12 basketball is no different.

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One of the most popular offensive alignments in all of basketball is the “Horns” set. The NBA uses it and it trickles down to all levels of the game. This set is sweeping through the Big 12 and college basketball as a whole.

What is a “Horns” set? Let’s take a look at the basics and how teams across the Big 12 (and beyond) are using it.

Horns is not an offense, it is an alignment. Compare it to a formation in football such as the shotgun or I-formation. Teams begin their offensive possession in this set, but what they do from there varies.

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Below we see Oklahoma State in the prototypical Horns alignment. The green horn-shaped arc that runs through four players is what gives this alignment its name.

Typically, coaches position their guards deep in the corners and their posts (circled in red) just off the corners of the lane or a bit higher. The point guard initiates the offense at the top of the formation. The initial set up is easy to recognize.

That is where the commonality ends. From there, teams run an endless variety of actions.

The Horns set creates good spacing as it lifts big defenders away from the basket. The point guard can either use a ball screen from one of the high posts or pass to them.

Here are some videos of Big 12 using Horns sets in various ways.

Texas Tech, coached by former Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith, uses the ball screen action from a Horns set:

Texas perhaps uses Horns sets more than any team in the Big 12. Rick Barnes uses Horns to play through his talented stable of big men such as Myles Turner.

Texas uses entries into the high post then they surround the ball with screening action. They also use the ball screen.

Here are Oklahoma State and West Virginia using ball screens and high post entries into their offense using the Horns alignment:

Big 12 teams are not the only ones using Horns. Temple produced one of the most eye-popping upsets of the season when they brutalized Kansas 77-52 in December. The Owls used Horns sets that flowed into staggered screens to help with the upset.

It is difficult to watch a college basketball game and not see a Horns set. Some teams use them more often than others, but Horns is a major part of the Big 12 and the college basketball playbook this season.

Next: Duke Blue Devils: Life After Rasheed Sulaimon