Busting Brackets

Coach’s Cilpboard: Sweet Sixteen Michigan State Versus Oklahoma


Coach’s Clipboard 2015 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen Edition: In the wide open East Region the #7 seed Michigan State Spartans face off with the #3 seed Oklahoma Sooners. Both teams feature up-tempo transition attack. How do they compare?

The East Region fell victim to March Madness when #1 seed Villanova and #2 seed Virginia fell in the Round of 32. Four teams tip-off in Syracuse tonight for the right to go to the Final Four and it is anybody’s guess as to who will make it to Indianapolis.

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The winner of the Regional Semifinal between Michigan State (25-11) and Oklahoma (24-10) may be the favorite to advance. These teams feature quick-striking transition attacks. Michigan State, long-known for its defense and rebounding, is speeding things up this year compared to years past by giving guards Travis Trice and lightning-quick Lourawls Nairn heavy minutes together. The Spartans are pushing the ball like never before.

Oklahoma has the highest adjusted tempo (possessions per 40 minutes) of any team remaining in the tournament. The Sooners play fast and shoot it early, often from behind the three-point line. Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield (17.3 ppg) is one of the best transition guards in the country and guard Isaiah Cousins has been on a shooting streak (45.3% 3P% on the year).

Let’s take a closer look at each team’s transition offense and contrast their styles.

Michigan State

Tom Izzo is all about toughness and points in the paint. Playing at a faster pace has not changed that. The Spartans transition offense looks to first get the ball in the paint to a big man running the center lane as evidenced by this Matt Costello bucket vs. Maryland.

Costello benefits from the quick advancement of the ball and he earns the basket by posting early. The Spartans go from rebound to post entry to basket in seven seconds.

Below we see the Spartans make and even quicker attack through Trice by bypassing the advancing pass to the wing and hitting the sprinting post man Javon Bess directly. From in-bounds to the front of the rim in four seconds.

It is not always this easy as teams know that transition defense is a must versus Michigan State. If the Spartans do not have a numbers or a position advantage inside, they still want to generate points in the paint quickly. They do so by setting early screening action for the weakside guard.

Watch as the trailing forward downscreens for the corner guard below. The screen yields Izzo’s preferred points in the paint each time and from the very first action of the offense. Trice and Denzel Valentine are both able to get into the paint and create easy baskets using this downscreen.

The same early action yields Valentine and the Spartans a quick bucket below versus Maryland.

The Spartans’ transition offense is not about launching quick threes. While the Spartans are playing faster and looking for earlier shots, those shots still come in the paint in true Izzo power basketball style.

Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners’ transition offense is much more perimeter oriented. It also heavily features one of Oklahoma’s signature strategies – the dribble handoff.

Lon Kruger’s club wants to reverse the ball in transition and they do so by using the trailing post (often Ryan Spangler) and handoffs to Hield. These handoffs are much like ball screens in other offenses. Kruger also wants Hield to receive as many screens away from the ball as possible.

This transition attack can get Hield attacking from the handoffs or the baseline double screens. In the clip below Hield receives the Spangler handoff and sets up a Cousins drive.

Below are diagrams of the options the Sooners will use to attack the Spartans in transition.

This time Hield clears on the baseline double screen and Jordan Woodard receives the handoff. The Sooners play pick-and-roll basketball on the opposite side.

The Sooners’ early offensive attack is a bit more complex than Michigan State’s, but like the Spartans, Oklahoma is not content to walk the ball up the floor and grind it out.

Tonight’s Sweet Sixteen game promises to be an up-and-down affair. Look for the early post-ups and downscreens of Michigan State and the dribble handoff action of the Sooners to tell the tale. The winner will have the inside track to the Final Four.

Next: NCAA Tournament East Region: 4 Key Players For Sweet 16