Digital Chalkboard: Northwestern 3 point set
After coaching at Princeton for nearly 20 years in both an assistant and the head coach, Bill Carmody installed a Princeton offense at Northwestern after taking the job in 2000. This shapes up to be his best year yet at the school, as he attempts to lead the Wildcats to their first NCAA appearance. The offense is humming, averaging over 1.1 points per possession, good for 24th in the nation (prior to the Penn State game). The offense is built around a passing big man at the high post, with cuts off the ball and plenty of three point shots. This set encompasses all three of those aspects of the offense for a successful possession.
After resetting the play, Northwestern enters the ball into Luka Mirkovic at the high post as Dave Sobolewski makes the pass. After making the entry pass to the high post, the passer usually cuts through the lane toward the opposite block before clearing out to the weak side corner. Sobolewski feigns this cut, which causes his defender to sag off him to take away a pass from Mirkovic.
However, instead of finishing his cut, Sobolewski suspends his cut and sets a screen for Drew Crawford, who will use this screen to curl to the top of the key.
Crawford’s defender, Matt Glover, is playing in his chest as he believes that Crawford is going to replace Sobolewski after the cut and Glover is attempting to prevent Crawford from getting a look at a three point shot. Meanwhile, Tim Frazier, Sobolewski’s defender, has sagged off him to take away any potential pass on the cut.
This means that Glover runs right into the screen, as Crawford comes right off the shoulder of Sobolewski and Frazier cannot switch out to Crawford, as he was already several steps below Sobolewski, defending what he thought was going to be a cut through the paint. The result is a wide open Crawford, as neither defender can recover.
The Princeton offense can get repetitive and this is a perfect example of how the offense can play the defense against itself. The two Penn State defenders on this play thought they knew what was coming after the high post entry. Northwestern ran a slight variation of the normal action, as the passer set a screen for the wing player, instead of them both just making cuts to get open.
The defense was not ready for this action and both defenders were caught assuming what their man was going to do, freeing Drew Crawford for a wide open three.