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Myth Busting: The Princeton offense is designed to be a slow down offense

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One of the biggest misconceptions about basketball offenses in general is that the Princeton offense is designed to be a slow down offense and you cannot be uptempo and run the Princeton offense. I am here today to disprove that thought and hopefully put this offense in a new light for you.

I already discussed the intricacies of a Princeton style offense (read here) so I will only touch on the basics of the offense while showing that it is able to be uptempo while running this style of offense.

My team that I evaluated from last year was Colorado. Like I said in the earlier post, Colorado averaged 69.2 possessions last season, good for 82nd in the country. While this is not a Seven Seconds or Less style offense, it is not an offense that is running at a snails pace. Take a look at how a team can run an offense full of Princeton style concepts while still being a quick offensive team.

As shown in the primer post, the Princeton offense is just like any other offense, with some set movements to get players moving and looking for openings. These concepts can be ran through once and if they do not work, the players can create after that.

Watch in this first clip as Colorado runs a backscreen off the center at the elbow and when that does not work, the ball is swung around the 3 point line. Due to the prior cuts and the proper spacing by the offense, Colorado has a man open for a jumper, after using about half the shot clock.

Here is another example of where the concepts are ran, then the guards have the ability to drive and create on their own. Once a backcut is tried, it will often open up lanes for penetration by guards who can take advantage of the spacing. Colorado had these tyeps of players last season and were able to run the Princeton offense while altering it slightly to play more up tempo. Notice how this play only took 16 seconds off the shot clock and ended in a bucket.

The offense can be modified to fit a style of play as the coach sees fit based on the players he has to work with. It can be about playing basketball using the Princeton offense cuts and screens as parameters.

Here, we see the eventual shooter start with a backcut because he is being overplayed. The rest of the Colorado players run through some of the other movements to keep the defense moving. All this action off the ball gets the defense tired and leaves the offense with openings, as we see in the following clip.

Finally, you can run the break in the Princeton offense. With the right athletes, a team can use the concepts of the Princeton offense in their game plan but still be uptempo and get out and run.

Then, when the team gets in a halfcourt set, they can call a designed action based on Princeton offense concepts that they can run to try to get an open look at the basket.

The Princeton offense was originally created as a slow down offense where the concepts would be ran through time and again to find an opening, as the Princeton players were not as athletic as their opponents and needed to rely on the principles of the offense to find creases in the defenses.

However, the offense can be used by an athletic team. The backcuts and backscreens can be run and if the defense is caught, the offense is there to take advantage of the miscues. All the movement off the ball opens up lanes for the dribble drive or spacing for 3 point shots.

The Princeton Offense is a set of concepts and movements that can be played at any pace, not just a slow down pace. Colorado showed this last year by playing at a slightly above average pace while being effective by running the Princeton offense. This shows that the thought that any team that plays a Princeton offense is a slow offense is a myth.

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Written by Joshua Riddell

October 6, 2010 at 3:18 pm

One Response

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  1. […] Robinson’s new Princeton Offense is almost a hybrid between a transition offense and the more traditional motion. When the Beavers have the opportunity to run, they run. But if they are forced into a half-court offense, they revert back to their traditional Princeton roots. It’s similar to what has happened, to a lesser extent, at some other power conference schools. […]


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