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Coach’s Clipboard: Villanova Wildcats Epitomize Spacing


Coach’s Clipboard, Vol. 8: In a season marred by the lowest scoring output since 1952, the Villanova Wildcats have excelled on the offensive end due in large part to their impeccable spacing. In this edition of Coach’s Clipboard we use Jay Wright’s offense to demonstrate the concept. 

Thus far, the 2014-2015 college basketball season has been the lowest scoring season since 1952. There are various reason for the decline in scoring and a myriad of opinions on how to restore some offensive beauty to the game.

Some believe the shot clock should be lowered and the NIT will experiment with that concept in their upcoming tournament. Will a 30-second shot clock fix the problem? Or will we just see more possessions of bad offense?

One of my favorite coaching axioms is this:

"“You are what you emphasize.”"

If you emphasize toughness and rebounding above all else, you lead the nation in rebounding year after year like Michigan State. If you emphasize full court pressure, like VCU, turnover margin and steal statistics go through the roof.

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One thing that has been lost in the college game is offensive flow, and much of that begins with spacing. This is the era of dribble penetration and one-on-one attacks. An emphasis on team offense has been replaced by something else and something much uglier. As coaches emphasize other things, teams are losing the ability to stay out of their own way.

There are a few outlying offensive bright spots and Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats (28-2, 15-2 Big East) are one of them. Nova is the fourth-ranked team in the country and a projected No. 1 seed. They are fourth in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency. If you are what you emphasize, it becomes clear rather quickly that Wright emphasizes spacing.

The Wildcats run a four-out/one-in motion offense and spacing is its backbone. Let’s take a look at the spacing in Villanova’s offense.

Above you see the basic Villanova alignment: four perimeter players surrounding one post player. Every player is 15-18 feet apart and the floor is balanced. The Wildcats’ spacing has stretched the Xavier defense horizontally and vertically.

Of course, the players on top of the Villanova offense are well outside their shooting range, but as the possession lengthens, they will work their way in a bit, but never lose spacing, balance and the horizontal and vertical stretch.

This opens driving lanes, extends the defense and (above all) gives the post room to operate one-on-one in the paint.

Wright uses basket cuts, ball screens and motion offense fundamentals to generate offense, but it all begins with the basic concept of creating the horizontal and vertical stretch of the defense.

In the event the ball goes inside and help on the post comes, a properly spaced team makes it difficult for the defense to recover in time to contest shooters.

In the possession below you can see how the four-out spacing helps the pick-and-roll action. When the screener rolls to the basket the post player replaces a perimeter spot and the Wildcats rebuild the four-around-one alignment.

Ultimately, the Wildcats get a one-on-one post up for JayVaughn Pinkston, but note how Villanova screens and moves while maintaining proper spacing.

Emphasizing playing higher and wider will help college basketball more than lowering the shot clock, reducing time outs, widening the lane or reforming officiating. Rules and officials are not to blame for the NCAA scoring woes – coaches are. As an offense, you get what you tolerate. Tolerate poor spacing and that’s what you will get.

Villanova follows the “higher and wider” mantra. And what does such spacing do for a team? It allows a team like Villanova, with zero projected draft picks, to rise to the top of the polls and claim a Big East Championship.

Next: 2015 NCAA Tournament Resumes For SEC Teams

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