NCAA X's & O's Teams To Watch
My complete list and thoughts on college basketball coaches and teams I will be studying this season.
College Basketball is back! Well, that is the hope and the plan for this year. In 2020 nothing is given, but what we do know is that games are scheduled for this season and that means film to break down.
This is my complete list of teams that I will be studying and more information on why and what I will be watching for. Some notes for this list:
1) These are my personal teams to study, either because of the interest in their playbooks or adding to my own personal coaching philosophy.
2) Right now I have around 100+ of the current NCAA Coaches playbooks on TheBasketballPlaybook.com - my membership site, so I have watched a lot of these teams’ and coaches’ playbooks. If you are looking for more in-depth looks at their playbooks they are located on the membership page.
3) This doesn’t mean I like or dislike any of these teams. I grew up and I still am a fan of Ohio State, but try to remain as unbiased as possible in my breakdowns.
4) I can’t watch every team, if there is a team suggestion for this list please let me know!
5) Playbook size does not always dictate my interest. For instance, Davidson & Villanova have smaller playbooks than BYU & Louisville - but they all are on this list.
6) My primary focus of this is to study their offenses. Defense by nature has way more overlap in the film, and in philosophy so I tend to focus on the offensive side of the ball.
Let’s get on to the list!
Auburn Tigers - Bruce Pearl
Bruce Pearl at Auburn has been one of the best at blending older sets like flex and using more modern offense and spacing. Out of the normal alignment they flow into “Chicago” action or a pindown into a dribble hand off.
Bethel Royals - Doug Novak
Doug Novak has been on the radar of coaches in the know for a long time, and this offseason I was able to dive into his full playbook. Using 5-Out Concepts, combined with Davidson's “Butt” action and Chin action - spacing and great offense is the result.
Belmont Bruins - Casey Alexander
Belmont’s tradition of awesome backdoor sets and great motion offense continues with Casey Alexander, a tremendous 4-Out offense with screening, cutting, and post seals.
Boston Terriers - Joe Jones
Perhaps the biggest enjoyment of my offseason NCAA “Tournament” Playbook was discovering Boston’s offense. Incredible sets combined with a great motion offense that swings the ball from side to side and involves backdoor cut with spread ballscreen action.
BYU Cougars - Mark Pope
After learning that Mark Pope was behind BYU’s dribble handoff motion back in 2015, I immediately added him to my watch list. Last year with BYU he ended up having one of the most enjoyable offenses to watch, with his “Thru” series into ballscreen motion causing teams problems.
Creighton BlueJays - Doug McDermott
Creighton does a great job with their 5-Out motion offense - a breakdown that will release tomorrow here. Another thing they do well is to fake the ballscreen into a pindown, sometimes called “Veer” or “Back” action in NBA terminology.
Davidson Wildcats - Bob McKillop
One of the breakdowns that I have studied for this season already, Davidson’s motion offense is one of the best 5-Out offenses you can study. Off-ball screens, post-ups, and ball screens are involved in every possession and their patient probing of the defense there is something that a coach can learn from on every possession.
Gonzaga Bulldogs - Mark Few
Combining concepts of the Ballscreen Motion offense with playing 2 bigs at the same time, Gonzaga’s side ballscreen motion with Duck Ins was one of the most effective last season. Whatever personnel Mark Few has, he maximizes it.
Illinois Fighting Illini - Brad Underwood
One of the first offenses I studied and implemented for my high school team was Brad Underwood’s Spread Offense system. Since moving to Illinois he has pivoted to more ballscreen actions and sets as well a great Weave series.
Kansas Jayhawks - Bill Self
Whether it is his adjustment to the 4-Game offense or his ability to use the post up in 2020, Bill Self has one of the best playbooks around.
Liberty Flames - Ritchie McKay
Louisville Cardinals - Chris Mack
I have been obsessed with Chris Mack’s playbook for the last 5 years before he made the move to Louisville (probably helps my wife is a huge Xavier fan & graduate). My favorite actions from him is out of their “Buckeye” series - the name taken from when I first saw it from Thad Matta at Ohio State.
Memphis Tigers - Penny Hardaway
Memphis is on my list year thanks to my good friend Cody Toppert. This offseason we talked a lot about NBA concepts and I am excited to see what the former NBA coach implements in year 2 at Memphis.
Michigan State Spartans - Tom Izzo
An X’s & O’s list would not be complete without Tom Izzo on it. One of my favorite areas to watch from Izzo is his primary break and how they consistently run on makes and misses.
NC Central Eagles - LeVelle Moton
Having played against his teams in high school, I understand first hand how hard it is to play against a LeVelle Moton coached team. His X’s & O’s are outstanding and the way he disguises sets is one thing I love to watch.
Ohio State Buckeyes - Chris Holtmann
I mentioned before that I am an Ohio State fan, but also really love what Chris Holtmann has done from his time at Butler and now with the Buckeyes. My favorite set is this deep pindown in the lane to allow a seal in the lane for a deep post up.
Purdue Boilermakers - Matt Painter
One of the biggest playbooks from the influence of Greg Gary, Purdue’s counter playbook has a profound influence on my thought process when coming up with sets. Weave, Chicago, Iverson, and Horns setup with 10 counter out of each always keeps the defense guessing.
Saint Mary’s Gaels - Randy Bennett
If you are looking for ballscreen sets, Randy Bennett and Saint Mary’s have some of the best around. My favorite actions are how they set up ball screens with decoy action at first to disguise it.
Utah State Aggies - Craig Smith
Another find in my offseason film study, Utah State’s motion and ballscreen motion are a joy to watch. I really like how they use “Ghost” screens to create advantages for them on offense.
Villanova Wildcats - Jay Wright
Villanova has been my top team to watch since I started coaching and running my own offense. Jump Stops, Pivots and the fundamentals are at the core of what Villanova does on offense and the combination of the basics and blending 4 and 5-Out offensive spacing.
If there are any teams you want to see added to this list - let me know! I look forward to enjoying another college basketball season.