Inside the play: Bradley Braves
I began predicting NCAA tournament brackets religiously my senior year of high school. I had been doing this for a few years before but since this was the beginning of the household internet period, I did not have the information available at my fingertips to feel as though I could fill it out strongly (although my ability to do that now is questionable).
One of my top two upset picks came in the 2006 NCAA tournament, when I correctly predicted Bradley to win two games, against Kansas and Pittsburgh. (My other top one was Davidson to the Elite 8 2 years later. I had to go back and take a look at Bradley in the NCAA Vault and came across this great play they ran to get an open 3 point look. There is a lot going on so let’s break it down.
Let’s take a look at the play starting with the ball on the wing. There looks like there may be some action before that but its main goal is to get the ball to the wing player to start the play. After the wing player receives the ball, he passes it back to the point guard to start the action.
He runs off a screen from Patrick O’Bradley on the near side, toward his two other teammates on the far side. The player on the block puts his hand in the air to signal a screen for the player coming across the lane. All signs point to the player running off of a staggered screen (or double screen based on the inital movement of the elbow player) to the opposite wing to receive the ball from the point guard.
However, Bradley throws a wrinkle into the play that surprised me in a great way. It looked like the defense was set up to defend the screen action and render the play unsuccessful. However, the player at the block who appeared to set the screen for the player coming across the key, instead sets a fade screen for the player who was set up at the elbow. This confuses the Memphis defense and they were not expecting this. The defenders get caught up in the screen and the shooter is open in the corner for a 3.
Bradley did a good job of selling that the play was going to the player coming from the right side but going the other way at the last minute. It starts with the inital player, who is running hard as if he is looking for the ball. The screener on the block does a good job of positioning as if he was going to set a screen for him before changing at the last moment. The player on the elbow does a good job of appearing as though he is going to set a screen before he uses the screen.
Finally, the point guard sells the play by hesitating once the first player is coming around the screens as if he is going to pick up his dribble and make the pass to him. He then takes one more dribble past his man into an opening where he can make the pass to the corner.