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Diagramming the Sampson Airball and How it May Have Been Different With Al Nolen

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(that is the longest title I have ever written)

End of game situations have been killer for the Gophers. With 32 seconds remaining against Penn State the Gophers had the ball down 2 points. They used a timeout to draw something up with their limited options and below is basically what transpired.

The call was for a pick-n-roll with Trevor Mbakwe and Blake Hoffarber in a little two man game. This was (not surprisingly) easy to guard for the Nittany Lions because Hoffarber isn't a threat to penetrate and we do not have any other shooters on the floor to the lane can be clogged for Mbakwe. We all know that Hoffarber reversed the ball to Sampson at the top of the key. Ralph took that shot but the rest of the play above is what should have happened. He should have made another pass to Rodney on the opposite wing. Since there was 20+ seconds remaining on the shot clock he could have had a two-man game with Mbakwe posting up on that block or Rodney would have tried to drive for the tie. Ralph was wide open though so he took the shot and missed the hoop by a foot.

This wasn't a terrible call by Tubby and with the right personnel it could have worked beautifully. The problem is we just don't have the guys to adequately put the defense in a position to be out of position. Adding just one guy, Al Nolen really does make all of the difference in the world.

This play now has three legit options and all are more difficult to defend. Mbakwe coming off the screen is technically the first read though he probably isn't the preferred option. Nolen is completely capable of using the space created to get all the way to the rim and Hoffarber is very dangerous at the three-point line if left open. So assuming Mbakwe gets a piece of Nolen's man then the guy guarding Hoffarber (X) has to make a decision. Is he going to help out to stop Nolen's penetration, giving up an open three to Hoffarber. Or is he going to stick to Blake allowing Nolen to get to the rim and either score or get free throws.

If all of this fails you still have the reversal to Sampson, pass to Rodney and two-man game with Mbakwe again. But this time Hoffarber's man still has to defend the shooter and the lane is a bit more open for an Mbakwe post-up.

All of this to say that not having just one guy really does make a difference. Tubby could have run a different play but once again your options are limited when your roster has The fan behind me who was yelling at Tubby because he clearly thought Tubby designed a play for Ralph to shoot a three in that situation clearly was not paying attention.