Monday, November 28, 2011

The Dry Erase Board: Bo Ryan's Swing Offense

For the second installment of The Dry Erase Board series we will be heading back to Big Ten country and taking a look at Bo Ryan's Swing Offense. Much like our first subject John Belein, Bo Ryan has coached his way up the collegiate ranks from Division 3 to high major Division 1 and kept it more real than any coach ever has by staying in Wisconsin the whole time. That alone deserves its own blog series. Maybe we'll call it "Real G's: Coaches That Keep it Real" or something of that nature. Anyway, I digress. Without further ado I give you Bo Ryan's Swing Offense.

The General Concept The Swing is a continuity motion that is a direct off-shoot of the Flex Offense. Anyone who has ever played organized basketball beyond the 6th grade has run the Flex and to be honest it is by far my least favorite offense ever. The Flex is boring and predictable and designed for teams that have no idea how to play basketball. Every now and then you can score against a really bad defensive team but in general it is not particularly potent. With that being said, I love the Swing. Bo Ryan has used good parts of the Flex, replaced the bad ones and created a continuity motion that can be run at all levels. Teams that run the Swing typically use it to compliment a disciplined man-t0-man defense, control tempo, limit turnovers and physically punish an opposing team's defense through a series of never-ending screens.

The Action
The Swing operates from the same 4-out, 1-in base spacing as the Flex. The 5-man runs to the ball side of the rim, the 2 and 3 run wide to the wings and the 1 and 4 fill the alleys. The Swing can be initiated in many different ways and coaches have the freedom to develop quick-hitter sets as they see fit but for the purpose of this blog we will walk through the base movement. Like the Flex, the Swing is initiated by a ball reversal and a baseline back-screen between the 5 and 2. However, instead of reversing the ball to a stagnant 4-man who may struggle to make the next play and risking a "pick-6 turnover" (one that leads directly to a break away lay-up) the Swing calls for the trailing 4-man to screen away for the 3-man on the wing so he can come open for a jumper/curl or simply catch the reverse pass and continue the motion. Much of the action in the Swing calls for big-to-small screens so switching is not a good idea. Once the 3-man catches the reverse pass from the 1, he looks for the 2-man coming off the back-screen from the 5 either for a lay up or a post catch (depending on the player's skill set). This is where the Swing breaks off from the Flex completely. Instead of reversing the ball again after the weak side screens for one another (1 to 5) and then starting the baseline back-screen motion all over, the 3-man passes to the ball-side corner (4) and then receives an up-screen (set at the elbow) from the 2-man who just flashed into the post. The 2-man then shapes up for the jumper after he sets the screen and the 4 looks to the hard cutting 3 for a lay up/post up. If not there, the ball gets reversed around again and the motion resets. The actual motion is great but the really deadly part of the Swing is getting to where the players know when to counter the action and catch defenders cheating.

The Players
Unlike the 2-Guard, I believe many different types of players can be fit into the Swing. Perimeter shooting isn't nearly as vital and players hoops IQs don't need to be quite as high. Players with non-traditional skills sets for their position (guards that post, bigs that shoot) can find a home with Bo Ryan. There is one thing that is 100% necessary and that is physicality. Players 1-5 have to want to screen defenders and enjoy "head hunting". One poor screener or soft player can ruin the entire possession. Hitting the weight room is just as important, if not more important, than anything that is done on the court. I believe the Swing allows coaches to have a few one-dimensional guys out there and not be completely exposed. Bo Ryan has a direct line to hay-bailing, strong-jawed Mid-Westerners to fill his roster so all his assistants need to do is find one stud players with NBA talent. One player that can make a tough shot and make a play in the last 15 seconds of the shot clock because you will find your self there quite often.

The Strengths
Like many basketball "systems" the Swing does a great job hiding weaknesses and minimizing talent differences. The Swing does this by slowing the pace of the game, minimizing turnovers and forcing opponents to absorb 25-35 seconds of pounding on the defensive end. Everything is clean and within the rules but the defense knows that every time the ball moves you are going to get hit and hit hard. The defense gets lazy and tired and they may start racking up fouls or giving up lay ups. A ten point lead in a game that is paced by the Swing might as well be a 20 point lead and the frustration sets in. If your opponent goes to down and takes a quick shot (even if it's a good one) they know they will be back in the meat grinder seconds later and now their tempo is effected as well. Plus, you can expose post-up mismatches regardless of the position with any intentional designing. That is by far my most favorite element of the Swing.

The Weaknesses As evident by many of Wisconsin's performances the Swing can create a very low scoring affair. I'm talking peach basket scores. Teams that run the Swing can get bogged down in the motion and forget to look at the basket. It is certainly not a crowd pleasing or pretty style of play and I am sure many potential recruits are turned off by the pace of lack of freedom. As a coach who used it for a season I did find that the structure of the motion sometimes disabled the players instincts and accidentally turned them into screening robots.

The Swing, like many other "systems" has its fair share of strengths and weaknesses but at the end of the day it does what it is supposed to do; give the program an identity and a chance to win. Bo Ryan has won every where he has gone and does not apologize for the way he does it. Like many niche systems, I don't think the Swing is an appropriate style of play if a team is loaded with elite talent but with one or two elite players and a bunch of tough guys it will win you games. If you don't like the Swing or Bo Ryan's teams then keep it to yourself. If not, you will be viciously back-screened someday while walking to your car.

Next on The Dry Erase Board...University of Arkansas-Mike Anderson's 40 Minutes of Hell 2.0


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