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Chalk Talk: Breaking Down Brad Underwood's Motion Offense

Chalk Talk isn't just for football...

New Oklahoma State head coach Brad Underwood brings with him an offense that should immediately impact the Cowboys' offensive efficiency for the better. Underwood used his offense at Kansas State, at South Carolina and most recently at Stephen F Austin. This offense helped the Lumberjacks make it to the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament and finish with a record of 28-6. It can only be assumed that the Cowboys will utilize the same offensive scheme that Underwood has used throughout his career. Underwood uses a couple of motion sets and a handful of set plays, but today we will focus on his most basic motion set.

Underwood's scheme of choice is a spread motion offense with one big and four interchangeable guards. The standard motion offense is cyclically designed so that it's constantly moving; each motion set is like a play that never stops.

The set has one forward in the center and four guards spread out around the arc. The offense starts with the ball being swung to either corner. This is either G1 or G3 in the diagram below.

Underwood Spread Set

Underwood's spread set includes a number of built-in or optional cuts toward the basket. Built-in cuts are cutting actions that are embedded in the motion of the set, while optional cuts are set in place if the defense is playing too tightly on the guards. Once the ball is in the corner, the guards begin their action.

Underwood Cut 1

The first action has the opposite top guard (G4) cut toward the basket. Sometimes he comes off a screen from the big and sometimes he cuts on his own. If he gets open, the guard with the ball throws it to him for an easy basket. If the defense covers the action, the guard continues his path to the sideline and fills out the corner. This is known in basketball terminology as a UCLA cut.


Once the guard fills out the corner, the opposite corner guard cuts toward the basket.

Underwood Cut 2

His cut is slightly different than the one of the guard before him. He tries to cut toward the basket while simultaneously sealing his man on his back hip. By doing so, he enables the ball handler to either lob him the ball leading toward the basket or feed him in the low post.

cut 2

If the guard does not get open on his cut to the block, the action continues with the ball being passed to the big, who is now on the weak side elbow. The cutting guard fills out the corner just like the guard before him. If the defense is expecting the cut and the G3 defender jumps to cover the paint, G3 can simply fade to the arc for an open shot.

Sometimes the defense protects the paint and plays soft. This allows the forward to be open to receive the pass for an uncontested jump shot. If the forward's defender jumps on the cutter action of the guard (G3), that guard has the option to set a brush screen on the forward's defender. After receiving the pass, the forward can either take a shot or continue the offense.

Brush on F

The ball is now with the forward in what as known as the pinch post. If the defense covers the motion to this point, the offense then goes into a simple two-man game between G2 and the forward with a simple pinch post action. A two-man game is any offensive action between two players, most commonly a big and a guard. This usually results in either a dribble handoff or a ball screen.

Pinch Post

The action begins with a read by the guard; whichever action he chooses gives the forward an indication of what to do. If the guard dribbles toward the forward, the forward goes into a ball screen action. This can lead to a pick and roll (big rolls toward the basket), a pick and pop (big stays and looks for an open jump shot) or a pick and post action (big sets a ball screen and cuts toward the block for a post-up).

pick n roll

If the guard passes to the forward, it initiates a dribble handoff action. Within this action, the forward can either pitch it to the cutting guard and set a ball screen, pass to the guard on his cut toward the basket or hold the ball and post-up his man on the elbow.

pinch post

The guards on the weak side are free to set off-ball screens on one another if the defense sags. This makes no difference in the chain of the actions because the guards are interchangeable within the motion offense.

Guard Screen

If the defense covers the pinch post or ball screen action, the guard flashes (or if he has the ball, dribbles) toward the corner. That guard then receives the ball if he doesn't have it already and passes toward the nearest guard, who can now initiate a ball swing to the opposite corner. This starts the motion offense all over again.


Each time through the full motion is called a "turn" and it is not uncommon for one possession to include three to four turns. Remember that each turn may not result in the same action.

This spread motion is ingenious for a number of reasons. First of all, because of its spacing, it enables any ball handler to attack the defense at any time. This allows the dribble-drive philosophy to be embedded within the spread without any extra teaching. Additionally, because the offense is cyclical, it can go on for an entirety of a possession and the offense can stay in constant motion in pursuit of the absolute best shot available. We will explore more of Underwood's motion offense, as this is only the first motion set, and we will eventually get to set plays. Coach Underwood gives us at CRFF a unique opportunity to provide our readers with in-depth analysis of his offensive schemes and philosophies. Stay tuned for more Chalk Talk articles to come.

That was our first Chalk Talk series for the offense of new head coach Brad Underwood! Be sure to voice your opinions in the comments below.