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Yes Virginia, Kevin Keatts Does Run an Offense

It has been said by some that Kevin Keatts doesn't run an offense. Well, as it turns out, he does. College basketball offenses are very diverse, but they exist for one main purpose, and that is to create space. Consequently, it allows teams to get good shots, and to utilize their strengths. Style of play, pace of play, and certainly personnel are all factors in the offensive scheme, which, to a degree is dictated by the opposing teams defense. NC State will undoubtedly face mostly man to man defense as the season ramps up. You can't run the same offense against a zone as you do against the man to man. Set plays are also part of the overall scheme, which meshes with the flow of the offense. You see a lot of these on inbounds plays, and there are many different ways teams approach this, such as the stack where everyone lines up in a line and then break in different directions. State runs a box type set for inbounds throws from the baseline.


There are, naturally, different offensive schemes. Most offenses harken back to the philosophy of the head coach. There have been many coaches who came up with innovative offensive sets and ideas and they continue to evolve. I'm going to date myself here, but here goes nothing. There was a guy named Dean Smith who came up with the idea for something called the four corners. I won't mention the team because I am trying to keep things in a positive light. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, it was designed to run out the clock when they were ahead. It consisted of guys in the four corners of the frontcourt and one player in the middle. Trust me when I say it was the most maddening thing you could imagine. Of course that couldn't happen today with the shot clock, which has changed how coaches approach offenses out of necessity.


Offenses are not robotic and rigid, although some are more structured than others. Ideally you will get an open shot during the flow of the offense, but its not just black and white. It's basically a system to facilitate scoring. Kevin Keatts gives his guys a lot of freedom to drive to the basket and he gives his players the Green light to shot, although we don't really want to see DJ Burns shooting 3's, which has happened this year already. I think some fans are always watching the ball, but there is a boatload of stuff happening away from the ball. If you look at the bigger picture, you start to notice things that you might not have thought about before.


Kevin Keatts likes to play fast. They push the tempo most of the time, sometimes as a result of a steal or deflection. They also push the tempo after rebounds by running the secondary break. After a rebound, an outlet pass is thrown to a certain area of the court, where it's quickly advanced into the frontcourt. This doesn't necessarily create a numbers mismatch, but State likes to kick the ball out for open 3s in transition. It's not an accident that the outlet man is where he is supposed to be, and neither is the spot up for an open 3. I mention the secondary break because it is a big part of the offense. State gets a lot of points in transition, whether it be from steals or from the secondary break. In the clip below, Mo Diarra clears the board and gets the ball to his outlet, Michael O'Connell who quickly gets it to DJ Horne for an open 3 before the defense gets set up. It's a good demonstration of the secondary break.

When the wolfpack does set up on offense, a big part of the equation is the use of high ball screens. It's usually DJ Burns or the guy playing the 4 position who comes out to set a screen for the ball handler. This is effective because it either allows for dribble penetration, or it creates a mismatch. If the ball defender goes over the top of the screen, he has no chance of keeping the ball handler from going downhill towards the basket. If he goes under the screen, it could possibly create enough space for the ball handler to take an open shot. If the two defenders switch, it can create mismatches that can be exploited. In the first two games, the 4 and 5 guys have been setting double high ball screens, and then both drop down to set down screens. They have also been setting double screens under the basket to free up a player breaking across and rubbing his man off the double screen. There are a lot of variations that can be utilized from the screens. For example, DJ Burns can roll off the pick, and Mohamed Diarra can pop out off the screen to shot a three. It's not going to look the same every time NC State runs the half court offense. A big part of the offensive strategy is getting the ball to DJ Burns down on the block and rightfully so. He is just really good at finding a way to put the ball in the basket. Also, guards are going to drive to the basket whenever the opportunity arises, because that creates a lot of scoring in different ways. They can simply finish at the rim, or pass to an open man if they draw the defense to stop the drive. Those strategies are all very much part of the Wolfpack offense, and it's understandable with the likes of Markell Johnson, Dereon Seabron, and Terquavion Smith, who were all unstoppable when they were going downhill.

In the above example, Mo Diarra and DJ Burns set high screens for a crossing Jaydon Taylor. His man goes over the top of the screen which allows him to drive to the basket.

In the clip above, they hadn't gotten into the offense yet. DJ Burns was posting up on the block, but Mo Diarra's man backs off of him, leaving him wide open for a 3. I just wanted to illustrate how an open shot presented itself before we got into the halfcourt set, and he took it and made it.

In the above highlight, the offense starts much lower with Mo Diarra down screening with Casey Morsell to get a crossing Taylor open at the top of the circle which creates several options for scoring.


There are a lot of factors that influence the offensive flow and philosophy, and it can change from game to game to some degree, but it's not just a free for all. There is a method to the madness, and running the offense is an important part of the game. Kevin Keatts does run an offense, and in the three games so far, I really like what I see. Their are a lot of guys on the floor that can score, and the offense seems to be a little bit ahead of the defense at this point in the season. Watch the action off the ball, and you will see that NC State is running an offense, and it's pretty effective.



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