Saturday night. Big East Tournament. Madison Square Garden. The game had all the ingredients for an instant classic. Instead the Marquette Golden Eagles raced out to an early lead and never looked back. How did Coach Shaka Smart attack the Xavier defense so effectively? The same way he has all season: the Pick n Roll. Let's take a closer look at Marquette's favorite play and how it was used to win a Big East Tournament Championship.
Second play of the game and we get a good look at how Coach Smart wants to attack the Xavier defense. Xavier has given their best defender, Colby Jones (#3), the assignment of guarding Tyler Kolek for the game. Marquette runs a quick screen at the beginning of the play to force Xavier to switch Jones off of Kolek. Then comes the ballscreen from Oso Ighodaro for Kolek. Jones is in the gap to stop the drive, allowing Kolek to kick the ball to Mitchell for an open shot. This shot doesn't fall but it's a good window into how Coach Smart gameplanned for Xavier.
One minute later now and this is a simple high ballscreen from Oso Ighodaro for Tyler Kolek. Xavier is playing drop-coverage with Jack Nunge (#24) and Tyler Kolek attacks the drop. Nunge does not step out enough and Kolek is able to hit a floater over the big man.
Another minute later and here is a variation on the Pick n Roll. Marquette sets a double screen (or "staggered screen") and has Joplin (#23) pop for a potentially open 3-point shot. Xavier's defense plays this pretty well, Joplin is covered on the pop and Nunge steps up to contest Kolek's floater. That Tyler Kolek is able to make this shot is a testament to his ability to make tough shots around the rim.
Two minutes later and Marquette is really rolling. Again this is a simple Pick n Roll between Kolek and Ighodaro. Similar to the first clip, Colby Jones helps off his man to stop the drive, allowing Kolek to kick the ball to Joplin for a good look. This time Marquette nails it.
Moving to the middle of the First Half and Marquette's lead has ballooned. This time Coach Smart calls for a Pick n Roll for Kam Jones. Not only does Marquette have the best Pick n Roll operator in the country, their other starting guard is also a competent ballhandler. Kam Jones pulls the help and hits the open man. Too easy.
End of the First Half now and Xavier has gained some momentum. Marquette dials up another double screen with Ighodaro and Joplin (same as the 3rd clip). Kolek attempts to hit the rolling Ighodaro but Xavier's #4 does a great job breaking up the pass. Colby Jones and Kolek both go for the loose ball, Kolek secures the ball and reverses it to Joplin for the open 3.
The game never got down to single-digits in the Second Half and Marquette coasted to an easy victory on the back of their First Half offensive explosion. It shouldn't have come as a surprise, Marquette has been ranked in the Top 10 offenses in the country throughout the season. And the foundation of that offense? Just one simple action: Tyler Kolek and Oso Ighodaro in the Pick n Roll.