West Virginia’s loss of two post players for the 2020-21 season has forced a change in the way the Mountaineer men’s basketball team will run offense, and some of those changes have been seen in recent games. While a move to a more open court offense is underway, there are many different manners in which the coaching staff can implement possessions that take better advantage of its remaining personnel.
Following are a pair of videos that show different aspects of two different schemes that West Virginia might incorporate for the remainder of the season. It’s important to note that none of this is “one size fits all,” however. As WVU works to figure out the best ways to get more operating room for Derek Culver in the lane while also creating better spacing and open shots for its perimeter players, it will pick and choose different actions and initial sets from several different options.
The “four out/one in” description has been tossed around a good bit to describe WVU’s modified approach, and at its base that’s correct. The “one,” of course, is Culver, who is the Mountaineers’ bedrock inside. The following video is a bit lengthy, but for those looking to have a good understanding of how some of the base concepts in the offense work, it’s well worth the time to watch.
Also note the mention of WVU head coach Bob Huggins just before the one-minute mark.
Many of these concepts will keep the big man on the blocks or at the elbows of the lane, and while that’s optimal for Culver, it’s not the only way that he can be utilized. WVU can also start its offense with a five-out look, with Culver away from the basket. That doesn’t mean he’s going to stay on the perimeter for the entire possession, though. Starting him outside, letting him set an initial screen or make an early pass, then allowing him to duck inside for a post up is a good counter to defenses that identify him early inside and set up double teams. If West Virginia can execute this tweak with good timing, Culver can find a spot, receive the ball and make a move before the defense can rotate against the action and run a second defender at him.
Another challenge for the Mountaineers is the way in which it can best utilize Gabe Osabuohien offensively. Teams are dropping off him, with his defender playing something of a one-man zone, even when he’s at the high post around the free throw line. That also contributes to some of the double teams Culver has gotten, when both are in the game at the same time.
If Osabuohien is spelling Culver, he could play in the low post and force defenses to cover him. From there, WVU could run its offense inside out, and take advantage of Osabuohien’s excellent passing ability. There’s also no reason that Osabuohien can’t score when he gets the ball against single coverage, so long as he does not rush or jump before he has a space for a shot. That’s not the primary option for him, but if he can at least occupy a defender — and get in position to rebound — there should be ways in which he can be effective in this offense.
The second video is another overview, this time of the move to more and more five-out sets. It starts with a review of how it began in the NBA, but then morphs into its trickle down into college.
West Virginia is mentioned here, but as the antithesis to the five-out ‘revolution’. This viedo was before the loss of Isaiah Cottrell to injury and Oscar Tshiebwe’s abdication, though, which puts this in a different perspective.
If Culver is on the court, WVU isn’t going to be running these sorts of actions with any frequency. However, what if he and Osabuohien aren’t in the game? The Mountaineers could clearly use some of these principles if it is playing a smaller lineup. Even if there is a big on the court, it can mesh some of these perimeter screens with the aforementioned duck-ins discussed above.
One other way in which better spacing could help WVU is in drives to the basket. Can the four-out and five-out help Deuce McBride, Taz Sherman and, specifially Emmitt Matthews, Jr., be more productive off the bounce? The open space could allow them more opportunities to drive, and take advantage of the driving ability which each has shown at times this season. That weapon has to become a more consistent part of West Virgiia’s offensive game.
Executing all of this isn’t as simple as flipping a switch, though. Much of the action in these offenses is of the read and react variety — of seeing how opponents defend screens, then attacking whatever the resulting weakness is. That takes practice to run successfully on the fly, and it’s a process of improvement that won’t be achieved overnight.
And, of course, there’s the almighty key — one that head coach Bob Huggins reiterates time and again. No matter the offensive system, teams have to make open shots to win. Setting those chances up, and putting players in position to get shots that best suit their games, is the first step, but the final determinant of success is getting those shots to go down.