ChalkTalk: Inbounds Plays

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The Virginia men’s basketball team has struggled in ACC play the last two seasons, compiling an 8-23 record entering Saturday’s regular season finale with Maryland. Clearly when a program goes through such a stretch, there are plenty of things to dissect as target areas for improvement. Some are subtle and go unnoticed from the fanbase. Others are easier to spot and draw more attention – a lot more – from the fans.

Enter inbounds plays. Try not to groan Cavalier fans.

Inbounds plays from underneath the basket have become a common complaint the last two seasons at UVa. Certain plays don’t seem to create any sort of realistic option to score or get the ball inbounds, resulting in a long lob pass toward or beyond the halfcourt line. The bailout pass option is typically built into any inbounds play, but the Hoos have to resort to it far too often. The concerns grow when it becomes a weekly pattern. When it becomes so predictable that the other team tries to retreat to intercept the long bailout pass like a defensive back, the criticism gets louder. Throw in a few turnovers, particularly when they lead to scores against in-state rival Virginia Tech, and let the groaning begin.

What causes the issues and can the Cavaliers fix it?

Among the popular theories out there on the message boards and in conversation is the height of the inbounder. UVa uses its point guards to inbound the ball from underneath the basket and some suggest that causes sight-line problems when trying to find the open man. I don’t buy it. Plenty of teams have the point guard, who is theoretically one of the best passers on the team, handle inbounds plays. Yes, it makes execution more challenging but has Virginia forced teams to throw the ball long simply by putting Assane Sene on the ball at times? Not often over the course of this season. Virginia guard Calvin Baker said the point guards’ height doesn’t impact things as much as execution does.

“Not really. I just think we’ve got to execute our plays a little bit better,” Baker said. “We know they scout and they’ll be well prepared and know our plays, but if we run hard and screen, I think we’ll be fine.

“We know teams scout and Coach has a lot of plays and he tries to put them in,” Baker added. “He sees how teams play. Like Wake Forest, they switch everything so we tried to draw up a couple of plays