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Key Plays From KU’s Win Over Michigan State

NCAA Basketball: Champions Classic-Kansas at Michigan State Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas held off Michigan State in a relatively routine win in the Champions Classic, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some kinks to iron out. Let’s take a look at some key plays from the win over the Spartans:

This first play comes early in the game, as Michigan State gets a wide open three off a simple pick and role action up top:

It’s always tough to know to whom to assign fault in these situations without knowing what coverages Kansas is running on pick and roll stuff, but this is likely Dedric Lawson’s fault. Usually Kansas uses their big men to run a hard hedge up top, which doesn’t allow an easy pass for a wide open three. Although Quentin Grimes gave up the wide open three, he made the correct decision to allow Kenny Goins, a career 30 percent shooter (on barely 20 attempts) to take it rather than Cassius Winston, who shot over 50 percent last year.

I am not sure if Kansas is dropping their big man on pick and roll coverage more this year (you’re starting to see this in the NBA now, with more teams trying to bait teams into mid range jumpers), but I think they would prefer to stick with the hard hedge, as seen here:

Here, Mitch Lightfoot does a great job to get out and bother Winston, and with Dotson trailing behind, Winston doesn’t have any place to go, which leads to a steal for Dotson (also look at the good rotations by Lawson and Grimes , as well as a good job by Lightfoot to get back to his man).

I think this strategy is more effective in college for a pair of reasons. First, refs let college defenders get away with a lot more contact on the perimeter, especially late in the season (they certainly didn’t on Tuesday though), secondly college point guards simply aren’t NBA guards in terms of either experience or athleticism, so it’s tougher for them to take advantage of getting blitzed and trapped up top by a hard hedge.

Next we will take a look at a pick and roll possession with Dedric Lawson and Udoka Azubuike:

This play was over as soon as Azubuike set the screen. I am sure teams will adjust to this and sink back and try to tempt Lawson into taking the mid range jumper, but if they sink too far he might just drive the basket anyway. And if any help comes, Lawson is such a good passer that he will find the open man for an open shot.

None of those are earth shattering plays by any means, but it’s worth watching as the season progresses what Kansas does with its pick and roll (and off ball) defensive coverage, and how Bill Self is able to take advantage of maybe the most unique and versatile offensive player he’s had at Kansas.