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Maryland basketball used smart pick-and-roll play to beat Connecticut

A film review on Maryland's win on Tuesday.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In this edition of our film review series, I wanted to do something a little different. Rather than break down all the reasons Maryland won on Tuesday night (and they were plenty), I'm going to use some tape from the Connecticut game to more generally explain some coaching jargon and strategy. It's a little "inside baseball," but let's peel back that curtain for the casual fan. Use these terms at your next watch party, and everyone will think you're an expert.

Pocket Pass

Maryland runs tons of pick-and-rolls every game, handing the keys to star Melo Trimble. A lot of PnRs will result in Trimble driving to the basket to score or dishing to an open teammate. No fancy terms for the slash-and-kick. However, if the ball-handler sends a bounce pass to the roll man between the defending guard and the big sagging off, we call this a "pocket pass." I'm sure many of you have heard this term before, but here is a textbook example from Tuesday.


Defensively, there are several options to handle an opponent's pick-and-roll. Maryland predominantly uses a high hedge, where the defending big steps out beyond the arc to force the ball-handler away from the basket. Another tactic is to force the ball-handler away from the screen entirely. This requires the guard to turn his body and overplay in the direction of the screener. Usually, the defending big will yell "Ice" to communicate that he has help defense behind, rather than the normal hedge.

Maryland prepared for Connecticut's side PnRs with a few instances of "Ice," including this play early on. You can tell Trimble knew the scouting report well as he is positioning for "Ice" well ahead of the screener arriving.

In the above clip, the Terps opted to blitz the ball-handler with the second defender, turning "Ice" into a trap along the sideline. The core purpose of "Ice" is to deny the middle of the court, either by trapping at the sideline or just forcing the drive towards the baseline. The latter option is shown here, where again Trimble turns his defensive stance in an exaggerated manner to bait Connecticut into attacking baseline. Diamond Stone is not quite in the right spot for help defense, so Jared Nickens rotates into the lane.

Floppy Sets

Also known as a "single-double," a floppy set is a series of offensive plays run at many levels of basketball. The play begins with a simple option. A guard stationed by the basket can cut towards either wing, choosing between a single screen or a double screen (hence the "single-double" name). Here, Trimble has the option to cut to the far wing past Jake Layman and Michal Cekovsky, or near side with a Stone screen. There are countless variations that can be run after that opening, but the typical floppy set begins like the following clip.

An important part of floppy sets is that the cuts are often "read-options," where the players have the flexibility to change their routes depending on the defensive reactions. In floppy sets, one of the screeners will then turn into a cutter, as Layman heads to the opposite wing from Trimble.

Here's another variation of the floppy set that Maryland ran as the very first possession of the night. This features Rasheed Sulaimon in the off-guard role with the "single-double" choice. Layman takes the backscreen from Robert Carter into a low post touch instead of cutting to the near wing as he did the clip above.