Spacing, Spacing, Spacing.
This 4-out approach seems to have become the main half court offensive set for the Pokes, and compared to what they were doing in the Stanford game, it is an improvement. It gives Page more opportunities for catch and shoots coming off screens (where he is deadly)*, it gets Nash the ball on the block with space to operate, and it gives the slashers (JPO, Brown, Williams, Dowell) room to slash.
Towards the end of the 1st half, the Cowboys went away from the 4-out approach because they had 2 low post players in the game in Cobbins and Nash, and as a result the area inside the 3 point line was constantly clogged. In the 2nd half Cobbins and Nash were in together a lot and instead of each sitting on opposing low post spots, they gave each other space to work by clearing for the other when the situation called for it.
With all the slashers and athletes on this team, the entire key to the halfcourt offense working is there being plenty of space for them to operate. Athleticism doesn't matter if you are playing in a space the size of a closet. That is why I love the 4-out set as it provides plenty of room for everyone, and when 2 low-post players are in at the same time they can still apply those principles of spacing even though 2 guys will be inside the arc most of the time.
*I wish I had access to super advanced play metrics as I would guess that Page shoots about 40% better when he does not dribble before the shot. I would bet he shoots like 70% on catch and shoots, and 25% off the dribble. In addition, he is a great passer when he draws the defense with the dribble. The 2-man game with Page and Nash/Cobbins/Jurick has become one of the brighter spots of the offense. What I am saying is, Page should almost never shoot once he has put the ball on the floor unless he can get all the way to the rim.
As nobody anywhere predicted, we have a defensive basketball team
Press, no press, whatever... the Cowboys have decided to live or die with a man-to-man defense (not switching to a zone when MSU was 6 for 22 from three says to me that we will never go back to the zone). As a fanbase that are unapologetic Iba and Sutton supporters, we should have no problem with this, and it helps that it is working well. I do have 2 notes about it though.
1. Quit going under all the high screens
Too often, whomever was guarding Weems and the other Gulley were happy to go under the screens and it was leaving them with 5 feet of cushion to either catch and shoot or get that first step in without anyone contesting it.
2. Keep the defensive intensity up all game
The man defense was working best when everyone was meeting their man at the halfcourt line and not giving them a free inch for most of the possession. The tough part with this is that it burns a ton of energy, but with the deep bench and that we have started slowing it down on the offensive end, there should be enough gas in the tank for this team to do this all game.
We need 2 low post players to show up every game
Last night it was Cobbins and Nash. Early in the game Mo State was collapsing 3 guys on Nash when he received entry passes down low. A few Cobbins screen and rolls and nice putbacks later they realized that they cannot leave him to help on Nash. This opened up things for Nash who has an impressive array of post moves. I am hoping that Nash can begin to develop an ability to pass out of those double and triple teams as he develops, but right now he just tries to power it up no matter who is on him. An unrelated note on Nash, it would also be nice to see him help teammates up off the floor, get excited when a teammate does something great, and quit looking like such a sullen a-hole. I'm not saying he is a bad teammate and a sullen a-hole, just that his behavior and body language suggests that he is.