Hoops 101

Fran Fraschilla

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Tuesday, January 21
Breaking down the 'Kansas Break'

By Fran Fraschilla
Special to ESPN.com

Basketball, at its core, is not a complicated game. The object is to make more shots than your opponent. That is best accomplished by getting more, not to mention, easier shots. If we can stop an opponent on the defensive end of the court, it gives us the opportunity to transition to the offensive end of the court as quickly as possible to try to get a great shot, which hopefully leads to easier scoring opportunities.

Transition basketball requires a great deal of precision because the pace of the offense is quicker. So, it is crucial that teams practice at that same pace so that players are prepared to catch, dribble and shoot effectively while on the move.

Interested in the X's and O's of college basketball, but don't understand the terminology? Read ESPN's Fran Fraschilla's introduction to Hoops 101 on ESPN.com for a crash course in the basics of basketball.

Many a coach has turned prematurely gray because of the turnovers that naturally come with playing quick. Playing a running game means giving up control, but it's a calculated risk that's worth the reward of scoring before a team has set up its half-court defense.

A faster tempo often can negate a size advantage one team may have over another team. In fact, rebounding missed shots that come off the transition offense is often easier for the smaller, quicker team because it is difficult for the defense to box out a moving target.

Conditioning becomes a key component of a team that is committed to playing faster. Which team fatigues in this type of game often times is a result of mental toughness and physical fitness. This style also allows a coach to play more players, which creates great enthusiasm and certainly can help team chemistry.

Other factors that come into play when a team plays a faster pace are recruiting and fan support. High school players, generally, like to play in an up-tempo offense because they believe it gives them increased opportunities to show off their skills. College basketball fans want their teams to win, but want to be entertained as well. Believe me, coaches take these things into account when deciding if the risk if worth the reward of running a up-tempo style of offense.

The Fast Break
The first part of transition offense is the "fast break", where a team tries to create a "numbers" advantage, whether it takes the form of a 2-on-1 situation or 3-on-2 break. This advantage, more often than not, leads to a good shot, preferably a layup, off one or two passes. However, since the advent of the 3-point shot in the mid-1980's, many teams will look for the open 3-pointer off the fast break.

In a 2-on-1 situation, we want the defense to commit to the man with the ball (in this case, our point guard). When that happens, we make the easy pass for a layup. If the defense doesn't commit, the point guard simply keeps the ball himself for the layup. A smart point guard knows when to pass the ball, and to whom. He recognizes that when a big man is running the fast break with him, he shouldn't receive the ball until he's near the basketball.

During a 3-on-2 situation, our point guard tries to get the top defender to occupy him, so that on his pass to either wing, we have a short shot or the break develops into a 2-on-1 situation against the back defender, resulting in a layup.

Now, while it may sound odd, any time a team has a 3-on-1 situation, it wants to turn it into a 2-on-1 situation. Why? If the ball remains in the middle of the floor in a 3-on-1 situation, the lone defender can stay back and guard all three players by forcing a jump shot. So, to avoid this, the point or player with the ball must pass ahead to create a 2-on-1 -- leaving the defender to eventually commit to one side of the floor or the other.

The Secondary Break
No team is more associated with a secondary break than those coached by Roy Williams at Kansas. While there are a variety of secondary break offenses, ask any high school or college coaches what the "Kansas Break" is, and they'll break it down as a blueprint for the secondary fast break.

A secondary break can best be described as a half-court offense run from the full-court. This is that period of time after the fast break when the defense has four or five players back, but rather than pull up and set up the offense, a team will "flow" from the fast break into a half-court offense.

Watch the Jayhawks this week against Colorado (Wednesday), Arizona (Saturday) and Texas (Monday) to see how they run the "Kansas Break". The Jayhawks get the ball to whoever makes himself available at the point (1) -- most likely Aaron Miles. Kirk Hinrich (2), who also handles some point duties and Keith Langford (3) fill their fast break lanes. Kansas has no problem with Hinrich or Langford shooting wide-open 3s if available. Also, keep in mind that this is an excellent rebounding opportunity for the offense, because very few players box out in transition defense.

If there isn't an open shot right away for Langford or Hinrich, watch Nick Collison run to the floor opposite of where Miles takes the ball. Collison will head for the basket to post up as Jeff Graves fills the area at the top of the key. Now remember, Collison and Graves are interchangeable, depending on who gets up the court first. But the top of the key is a good place to get an open shot, especially for a big man with a good outside shot like Collison.

When the ball is reversed to the other side of the court, Kansas will continue to look inside and backscreen for either Collison or Graves at the top of the key, looking for the lob down low to the post, or pop-out jumper by the screener (Hinrich).

The "Kansas Break" ends when the post men "loop" inside to create confusion. If the defenders switch on Collison and Graves, all it does is create excellent offensive rebounding position inside for either Collison or Graves on a Langford, Miles or Hinrich jump shot.

Terms of the Week
Backscreen Lob: A screen set from behind the vision of the screened defender. In this case, the screener must give the defender a normal step to move. In the secondary break, it is a way to set up the lob pass to the rim.

Loop Screen: In the "Kansas Break" or secondary break, the "loop screen" by the two post men is an effective way to get them open near the basket if there is defensive confusion. The player who came off the backscreen continues across the lane and screens for the other post. As we mentioned in explaining the "Kansas Break", this gives each great offensive rebounding position.

Q & A with Fran Fraschilla

Send in your Hoops 101 questions. Fran Fraschilla will answer a few each week as the season continues.

"I enjoyed your breakdown of Coach Boeheim's 2-3 zone. I can see why it is usually effective, but I think Boeheim overuses it. He uses the same zone against every opponent, in every game situation, at any score, no matter what personnel he has on his team. I have seen Syracuse get killed by teams that can shoot from the outside, and teams that can get on the offensive glass. What do you think?"
Paul Amin,
Fair Lawn, N.J.

You are right when you mention that Syracuse uses the zone almost all the time. It would seem logical that an excellent shooting team could possible hurt the zone defense. However, teams that consistently shoot a high percentage of perimeter shots are, sadly, difficult to find at the college level. In addition, the Orangemen generally do a good job of contesting outside shots because of their athleticism on the perimeter.

Your point about offensive rebounding versus the zone is an excellent one. Because the defenders do not have a specific man to block out each time a shot is taken in the zone, the responsibilities become murky. It is crucial that defenders find a man in their area of of the zone to block out when that shot goes up.

Finally, I thought Pitt did a very good job of attacking the middle of the Syracuse zone as well as along the baseline last Saturday. That compresses the zone and makes open jump shots easier to find.

"I was just wanting to know how Coach Tarkanian ran the 'amoeba defense'."
James C. Bridges,
Chouteau, Okla.

The "amoeba defense"' is not used very much at the college level, but let me give you a little history about it and why it is effective.

Fran Webster, a small college coach in western Pennsylvania at Westminster College and, later, an assistant at the University of Pittsburgh, is credited with devising the "Amoeba" and teaching it to Tim Grgurich, who then joined Tark at UNLV and helped implement it there. The "Amoeba" starts in a 1-1-3 zone alignment, with the top defender picking up the other team's point guard and applying intense defensive pressure. Each pass in the zone offense is met with great pressure on the ball. So, while it is a zone defense, it contained many of UNLV's pressure man-to-man concepts and fit in perfectly with Tark's attacking style.

It is a defense that is not used much because, I believe, the slides of the "Amoeba" are more complicated than traditional zone slides and take more teaching time. One team that is using it this year is Oregon because their assistant coach, Fred Litzenberger, a true "defensive guru" is very familiar with the defense.

"What kind of offense is Billy Donovan running at Florida? The Gators don't play a traditional center or low post. Everything seems to start from the outside, especially long-range gunning.

In contrast I watch Gary Williams' Maryland Terrapins and they run a traditional offense with a center, power forward, wing forward and guards. I understand this offense, but when they played Florida and lost by 10 points, I couldn't tell what Florida's strategy was?

How's about a Hoops 101 with X's and O's on Billy Ball?"
Ken Garst,
Silver Spring, Md.

Thanks for the question on Billy Donovan and the Gators. They are playing as well as anyone in the SEC right now.

Coach Donovan has done as good a job of recruiting skilled offensive players as anyone this side of Duke in the last five years. The strength of their offense lies in the fact that they shoot the ball very well from four spots on the floor. Because of this, they utilize "dribble penetration" to draw defenders to the paint and "kick it out" for the open 3-point shot. And, the Gators do an excellent job of creating mismatches for the defense by utilizing the 6-foot-9' Matt Bonner, a terrific offensive player in the "screen and roll". When his man helps on the penetration set up by Anthony Roberson and Brett Nelson, he is free to knock down the 3-point shot. Having a big man shoot that well is a luxury most teams don't possess.

Because of the amount of offensive skill development involved in their program, Florida's players play with a confidence that is infectious. Recruits want to play, often times, in a system they think will utilize their "games".

Dear Coach Franschilla, I love your instructive 101 series, and appreciate your sharing your knowledge of the game. My question is related to the term that you have used and I have also heard our Saluki coach, Bruce Weber use in his radio program. The term is "Old School Basketball". What exactly is "old School Basketball"?

The national coaches that have most influenced my own philosophy of how to teach fundamentals are Jerry Krause from Gonzaga and Don Meyer formally of Libscomb and now Northern State University in South Dakota. Of course, my hero on all mental aspects and overall philosophy of what an ideal coach is Coach Wooden, whom both coach Krause and coache Meyer idolized.

Are these wonderful men's teachings the "Old School"?
Michael Burke,
Murphysboro, Ill.

I'm not sure I'm the authority on "old school" basketball, but I will give it a try. Here are some things that are "old school" to me:

1. Coaches that practice at 5:.30 in the morning
2. Hook shots
3. Kansas' shorts
4. Jason Gardner and Luke Walton
5. Kelvin Sampson's Rebounding Drills
6. Gene Keady's scowl
7. Kyle Korver's Jump Shot
8. Guys like Chris Duhon, who still put the team first
9. Eddie Sutton's coaching
10. Ivy League road trips
11. An "old fashioned" three-point play
12. Princeton's "back door" cuts
13. Parents who don't call coaches when their kid has a bad game
14. Butler University's Hinkle Fieldhouse -- the home of "Hoosiers"
15. Brandon Knight's toughness and leadership

Fran Fraschilla spent 23 years on the sidelines as a college basketball coach before joining ESPN this season as an broadcast analyst. He guided both Manhattan (1993, 1995) and St. John's (1998) to the NCAA Tournament in his nine seasons as a Division I head coach, leaving New Mexico following the end of the 2001-02 season.

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