Insider’s Practice Report: Kansas State

Posted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage from the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

Known for his fiery demeanor and sideline tirades, a subdued Frank Martin seemed fairly relaxed just a day before his team’s quarterfinal matchup with Baylor. “We’re playing as well as we have all year,” Martin said at practice. “They’ve been sharp, they’ve been enthusiastic. Now, you’ve gotta go play.” Martin, who called the Bears a potential Final Four team despite a few hiccups during the Big 12 season, used his 40-minute practice window to shore up a few areas from a technical standpoint. For about five minutes, his assistants worked on defending a play that burned his team on the first possession of the game in Waco on February 18. They warned the players to “watch Quincy Miller!” after he sets the screen that allows for a wide-open layup for Pierre Jackson. Apparently, Miller is the key  to this entire play. To get a better idea of what they were working on in practice, take a look at the play in question:

First, Jackson has the ball out top with Miller in the post.

Now, notice Miller, who’s about to set a screen near the free throw line. This is the what Martin and his assistants stressed to their team today– make sure you fight through him. Here, Miller’s making his move to set the screen and free up Jackson to drive to the rim.

Finally, once Miller makes it there out, Will Spradling has nowhere to go and can’t help on the drive. Look below: It’s a double screen, and Jackson is possibly the fastest point guard in the Big 12. Free him up like that and there’s no chance any defender can stay with Jackson. Easy layup, and out of the gate it was 2-0 Baylor.

Kansas State won that game by a point, of course, but the point remains: As long as Martin’s players were listening to him and his staff, this probably won’t happen on the first possession in Thursday’s game.

After working through this on the defensive end, the Wildcats then ran some inbounds plays on the other end of the floor. Playing against that 2-3 zone look, Martin ran something called “stack” several times. This is a set associate head coach Brad Underwood said led to a three-pointer for Rodney McGruder in the last game in Waco. Underwood and Martin both told their team to attack Baylor’s zone out of “stack” by first looking for some high-low action in the post. First, one big immediately flashes toward the top of the key and looks for another big man in the low post. If this isn’t open, Underwood and Martin said to look on the wing for a three — that’s where McGruder got his shot in Waco. Martin also ran through “flood,” which also frees up McGruder for a three.

Even in a light-hearted setting, Martin had his team on edge. It’s obvious this is a man that cares dearly about attention to detail and getting everything right, no matter how minor. A few outbursts aside in practice, Martin said he’s happy with the way this team has progressed. “As young as our kids are, we’re actually starting to play pretty consistently,” Martin said. Against the Bears on Thusrday, he’ll need that consistency to advance to the semi-finals for a presumable showdown with Kansas. 

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