ACC Scouting Report: Maryland

Mustapha Farrakhan and some of his UVa teammates may get open 3-point looks against Maryland.

In these scouting reports there hasn’t been much discussion of the flex offense. Virginia has faced teams that run a flex (N.C. State) and has seen teams that have worked in flex sets (Virginia Tech and Wake Forest) but the Hoos haven’t faced an attack like they will see against the Terrapins. Let’s take a look at that and more in this ACC scouting report.

Maryland Offense

In these scouting reports there hasn’t been much discussion of the flex offense. Virginia has faced teams that run a flex (NC State) and has seen teams that have worked in flex sets (Virginia Tech and Wake Forest) but the Hoos haven’t faced an attack like they will see against the Terrapins.

While many teams use flex sets, very few teams are known for their flex attack. On the current college basketball landscape, Maryland, Gonzaga and Boston College are the most notable teams who attack almost exclusively out of the flex. In the flex offenses run by these teams, all five players on the court serve as interchangeable cutters and screeners. The players run through a continuous flow of patterned cuts that put an emphasis on screening for the screener and keeping a defense honest by providing the threat to attack off of a ball reversal.

While the Cavaliers will see another flex system when they face Boston College, there is a significant difference between Al Skinner’s offense and Gary Williams’ offense. When you watch Boston College play, it is easy to see that the Eagles are running an offense that very few teams do – they throw a number of bounce passes on the perimeter, post up their guards and run their offense with all their players compacted around the lane. Maryland’s flex isn’t nearly as unusual on today’s college basketball landscape, but the Terps will do many things similar to Boston College just with different spacing.

Boston College’s offense is called a tight flex, while Maryland just runs a normal flex. When Maryland has the ball it will run up a screener to set a back screen for a guard who has thrown the first pass to set the offense; many teams use that screen to initiate their flex offense and hit the cutter going to the basket. It is at this point where you will see what makes Maryland’s attack so difficult to defend.

Maryland beats defenses with two main principles – the Terps make you beat screens and they make you stay disciplined on the weak-side of the court. When Maryland sets up, it will have a player who is designated as the initial screener and that player will set a series of two to three initial screens for the guards and then go down and set a post screen to either bring the post player high (and then in turn the screener posts up) or if he’s now on the weak-side the screener will come down and screen across to let the post player flash to the block on the ball-side of the court. This gets more difficult as Maryland will run a similar series of screens on most trips, but they are rarely the same; Gary Williams will also call in certain plays in which the screener will slip his screen and look for the ball or set a screen in a different direction than he had been all game.

Spacing is quite possibly the most difficult part of handling this spread attack. How that spacing works against the Pack-Line is one of the real storylines of this match-up. Normally to stop the kind of action that is presented in the flex, you would overload the ball-side of the court and provide extra help against the roaming screener but this offense takes that strategy into account. The flex rarely sets up stationary in the middle of the court as the offense works better when initiated through the wing; this also gives a ball-side and a two-guard look beyond the 3-point arc. This spacing allows Maryland to skip or reverse the ball to the weak-side more quickly if the defense cheats toward the ball too hard. One of the real keys to stopping this offense is to put a lot of pressure on the two guards who handle the ball the most and force them to set up their offense closer to the half-court line than they would like but the threat of the flex pick coming from behind makes that a gamble that few coaches can take, though Bennett might be able to do it within the Pack-Line because of the help he should have behind his defender.

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