I was reading this the other day. It’s an article about the most efficient shots in (professional) basketball. Basically, you should maximize your free throws, 3-pointers, and shots that are “close to the rim”. Mid-range jumpers will get you nowhere fast.
Bo Ryan’s “Swing Offense” viewed in this light is extremely efficient. The swing offense frequently has options for every player (including guards) to post up and get easy shots near the basket, or to take 3-pointers (including big men). The mid-range jumper is rarely used (with one notable exception that we will get to in a moment).
It’s actually pretty obvious that these shots are efficient. It is easier to make shots if you are closer to the rim, and the extra point gained from a three pointer outweighs the added risk of taking the shot. This alone is not what makes the system go.
What does make the system go is utilizing certain positions in unusual ways. Take Trevon Hughes. In his senior season he’s developed a complete game, but I think his primary offensive skill is in the post. He’s frequently able to score over guards down low, and failing that, often finds a wide open big man cutting for a layup.
Posting up isn’t easy, but unlike some other basketball skills (athleticism, vision, speed), it can be learned. Moreover, most post moves are designed for somewhat unathletic big men. Even if a guard isn’t as explosive as the John Walls of the world, he will probably be athletic enough to quickly pickup a post move or two.
Post-up guards are an undervalued resource in college basketball, and Wisconsin capitalizes on this seemingly every year. Wisconsin fans don’t really think about Alando Tucker (generously listed at 6-6 by the NBA) as a guard because of his post-up game and because he played like a power forward. But while most recruiters probably saw a “too-slow-for-guard, too-short-for-forward player” Bo saw what he always sees; a guard who will be a monster in the post. Marcus Landry (a more accurate 6-6 who is listed at 6-7 by ESPN) was a similar player.
Big-time colleges tend to focus on great athletes who probably wouldn’t be happy playing the post-up game. These are the players who get on Sportscenter and make Dick Vitale go nuts. Wisconsin’s offense is perfectly suited to capitalize on this inefficiency.
The second part of the equation is good outside shooting, especially from big men. Keaton Nankivil currently excels in this role, as does Jon Leuer when he’s healthy. Brian Butch was a better inside presence but still shot over 30% from outside the arc, and certainly wasn’t averse to taking the shot. Mike Wilkinson was also a huge threat from inside and outside.
Big men with an outside game are certainly not as rare as post-up guards, (especially in the post-Nowitzki NBA), but they are still frequently more available than “true centers” or the “bruiser” type of power forward. The result of this is that any given Wisconsin player is generally capable of scoring from the two most efficient spots on the floor at any given time.
The one notable exception to this in recent Wisconsin history was Joe Krabbenhoft, who never saw a mid-range two he didn’t like. To be fair, Joe was pretty prolific at the shot, however much of the predicted Wisconsin downturn this year was predicated on not being able to replace Joe. Since he excelled at a shot where it’s difficult to be efficient, I wonder if it was easier to replace him than people thought. And, you could make a similar case for Marcus Landry, who played in the post but who would also step out for a long two.
If you’re looking for a “Moneyball” style college basketball team, you could do worse than Wisconsin.
7 hours ago