Film Session: Burned by the back cut

  • 02/22/2011 10:47 am in

Bill Carmody’s offense thrives on its never-ending motion, trust, sound passing and back-door cuts.

Before taking the Northwestern job in 2000, it’s a style he mastered during his 18-year tenure at Princeton — hence its Princeton offense moniker  — as both an assistant under Pete Carril (1982-1996) and head coach (1996-2000).

A look at three of Northwestern’s sharply-executed back cuts in the latest edition of Film Session.


Before the Big Ten Network broadcast cuts to the traditional side-court view, Juice Thompson brings the ball up the court and hands it off to Drew Crawford on the left wing:

Crawford passes the ball up top to Shurna:

Who dumps it into Davide Curletti on the left elbow:

Here’s where the back-door action starts to take place. Shurna fakes a pick on Matt Roth for Alex Marcotullio to come to the top of the key:

Roth does a good job of sticking with Marcotullio — who flashes to the basket. But a subsequent head fake from Shurna on Christian Watford gives him the separation needed on a back-door cut:

Curletti hits Shura in stride with a pass. And it’s two points for the Wildcats:

Strong set from Northwestern after an Indiana turnover led to a timeout.



Thompson brings the ball up the court, passes to Mike Cappoci on the right wing and begins to cut through to the weakside:

Cappoci enters the ball into Luka Mirkovic:

Cappoci cuts to the basket, but Will Sheehey denies the pass:

Mirkovic kicks it up top to Marcotullio:

Marcotullio dribbles over closer to Thompson, who has hit back-to-back threes on Northwestern’s last two possessions. As such, Daniel Moore plays him tight on the perimeter. Thompson senses this and darts towards the hole:

Moore fouls Thompson before he gets to the cup. But with the foul-heavy Hoosiers having already put Northwestern in the bonus, Thompson sinks two free throws. Two points are two points.

Heady play for the crafty, experienced senior who holds Northwestern’s record for most career starts.



Out of another timeout like play No. 1, Thompson passes the ball into Mirkovic:

Who hands it back off to Thompson:

Thompson passes it to Capocci as Mirkovic sets up on the high post:

Capocci gives it back to Thompson as Mirkovic now has clear position on Tom Pritchard. Verdell Jones sinks into the lane:

Mirkovic ends up getting the ball closer to the rim near the low block as Verdell comes to double:

Now double-teamed, Mirkovic appears to go into a shooting motion. Elston slides down to cover Marcotullio on the weak side:

Mirkovic actually ends up passing the ball out of that motion to Marcotullio under the basket, which fools Elston:

And it’s a reverse lay-up to put Northwestern up 10 as halftime nears:

Indiana’s man-to-man defense often cheats a player into the lane like we saw on this Northwestern possession. Here, out of another timeout, Carmody exploited this with a completely different back-door cut that achieved similar results.



Indiana lost both conference games against the Wildcats this season. In the first matchup in Evanston, Northwestern hung 93 points on the Hoosiers, the most they’ve allowed all season. In their second matchup against Carmody’s club on Saturday, they allowed far less points (70). But Northwestern’s sound execution of its unique-to-the-Big-Ten offense by veteran personnel — one that ranks fifth in the conference (1.07 points per possession) — against Indiana’s work-in-progress defense (second worst in conference at 1.11 points per possession) befuddled the Hoosiers this season.

Maybe next year?

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  • CutterInChicago

    Enjoy these film sessions. Wish we would have had these during the Mike Davis era so we could “enjoy” the vaunted “Orlando One” offensive set…

  • MillaRed

    I suppose it was a head fake by Shurna. But still terrible anticipation by Watford.

    Why we were doubling that goober in the first place is beyond me. Elston needed to stay closer to the basket.

    How many points did they get out of a set play after a timeout? How many did we get? Still struggling in this area.

  • Diesel

    How about we counter with this unique defense: man, basket, ball.

    Why this is so difficult for these guys is beyond me. Watch every one of the videos and you’ll see the breakdown each time. The other thing I noticed is there is no ball pressure. Why the hell are we denying the passing lanes? Pressure the damn ball. It is much harder to make those passes if there is ball pressure. Again, watch the videos, no ball pressure. If I’m defending, I want my man to get the ball one so I don’t get back cut on and secondly to D the crap out of him.

    Milla, Elston should have been in the lane when the double team left, he was already out of position (man, basket, ball – hard concept, I know) then he tried to float down and couldn’t find “man”. I know you know this, just pointing it out for all.

  • JerryCT

    Again with the stupid unnecessary double team.

    “Elston” fooled ? It is more like “Jones” fooled. Elston then was faced with either an open Crawford or Marcotulio, and ends up unable to defend either due to Jones.

    Tonight Diesel is correct. The only way to defend JJ will be to deny the pass to the wing from where the low post will come from. This will mean “off ball” pressure unless the wing gets the ball then pressure like crazy so the pass is difficult or JJ comes out to get it.

    My biggest disappointment this year has been the change to switching , gambling double teams as defensive strategies instead of progress on strict man defense and help & recover when defending screens

  • Anonymous

    Ever since you mentioned many many weeks ago about the double teams from across the court, it is impossible not to notice it in just about every single game. They get burned on it just about every time too. And it usually doesn’t even matter who it is they are doubling – usually the player isn’t even of the caliber worth doubling – they just do it to double and an open player gets a wide open shot. ?????

  • JerryCT

    Exactly. The doubled Cole at Iowa etc. The last player I worry about on D is Pritchard.