Inside the Offense: Wide Pin Down


John Beilein was voted best offensive coach in the country by his peers in an anonymous poll by CBS Sports. In honor of Beilein’s offense, we enlisted the help of Gibson Pyper of HalfCourtHoops (@HalfCourtHoops) to break down some of Beilein’s most effective sets. Today we look at Michigan’s wide pin down action. 

Previously: Early Dribble Hand Off

Here are Pyper’s thoughts on the pin down set which helps isolates Michigan’s wing guards in space:

What makes the wide pin down set so effective?

This set is extremely effective in large part because John Beilein has recruited great shooters to Michigan, allowing space for them to come off of the down screen. Flowing directly from early offense or from any entry, this action can be run directly out of their half court motion, and has multiple options. Because it is so simple, it is not difficult to teach and allows players to read the defense and make a play. Starting off with a pass to the wing the point guard clears to ballside corner, the opposite guard fakes a cut and moves to the ball. After the 2 guard catches the ball, the big man turns and finds the guard in the corner’s man and sets a pin down screen. This is considered a “wide” pin down because of the angle and spacing of the screen.

What is the most common defensive counter and how does Michigan stop that action?

Guards who are using the screen have options they can use when trying to get open to create space to score. The most common action to stop this action is the defender playing on the high side, forcing the guard to “reject” the pin down screen and cut toward the rim. To counter this action, Michigan has a couple of options.

First, they can rescreen for the guard in which the guard would fake a cut to the basket and then come off another screen from the big looking for a shot.

Second, John Beilein can call counters out of timeouts or special situations that work well against teams that deny often. This is especially effective against a man to man pressure defense like Michigan State, as they like to “slip” or have the big leak out of the screen to the rim for a layup.

Third, if the pin down is successful but the guard does not have a shot this flows into a reversal of the ball followed by a flare screen/rescreen action to get the same guard open again.

Lastly, they flow into their “Hook” ballscreen series that has multiple options off it as well. The guard rejects the screen and the big man opens up to set a ballscreen on the wing for the guard with the ball. Off of this, Michigan has options for a ballscreen, hand off at the elbow and an isolation set for a scoring big (often ran for Mitch McGary).

What needs to happen to run an effective pin down set?

This is a patterned motion, so obviously drilling in practice of this specific motion is necessary. The guard coming off of the pin down screen must be able to read the defense and react accordingly, since Beilein recruits and teaches the game of basketball at the highest level this is typical of a Michigan guard. Big men must be able to read how the guard is being played and be able to screen or re-screen accordingly, as well as open up and play the 2-Man game with the guard in the “Hook” series. The reads off of the pin down screen for the guard are:

  • Straight: The guard can cut straight off of the screen after setting his man up for a catch and shot.
  • Curl: If the guard’s defender is trailing him he can curl into the lane to get a better shooting angle.
  • Fade: Guard’s man overplays into the middle of the ball and screen he can fade or cut to the corner, leaving his man on the high side.
  • Reject: The guard can reject the screen, this is the most common action when his defender is playing over the top forcing him baseline off of the screen.

Who is best suited on Michigan’s roster to execute out of wide pin down sets?

This set is designed to have multiple options that include every player on the floor, although this is designed for specific players. More often than not Zak Irvin will be the player looking to score off of the pin down screen, although it can be run for any guard. Caris LeVert and Derick Walton will likely be the passers, allowing them to be the pick and roll ballhandler if the set goes into the “Hook” series.

What makes Beilein’s pin down action unique to the college game?

The biggest advantage John Beilein has is the ability to have 4 shooters and scorers on the floor at any given time, allowing spacing to be key. The biggest difference between the NBA and NCAA style of play is typically spacing, with the best NCAA offenses always having great space. Almost every single college team you see play will run pin downs and down screens to open up space for shooters, but none will do it with spacing that Michigan has. On each pin down screen, the entire floor is open on that side, allowing the guard to work with a lot of space and for players like Nik Stauskas or Zak Irvin, this allows freedom to score easier.

  • Naptown12

    Do you think Michigan’s big men are being properly taught how to screen? To me this video is more evidence that they don’t seem to know how to really hinder a defender with a screen. In particular, the examples from last year seem like the bigs are just passively standing where ever, rather than actually setting the screen in a spot where the defender has to go around them.

    • Setting and using screens falls on both players (the cutter and the screener). I don’t think people would say that Michigan was a great screening team last year, but many freshmen aren’t great screeners. I don’t think it was a huge surprise that senior Jordan Morgan was a better screener than freshman Ricky Doyle, for example.

      Ideally there will be some chemistry and experience built up that could really help in that regard this season.

      • Naptown12

        That makes a lot of sense. I am a Butler alum, and through my dual fandom I’ve seen some stark contrasts between how screens are treated by the two programs. Then again, Butler’s philosphy leaves them open to fouling more, which ultimately decided the end of their season last year. It just a little surprising the way Michigan’s screens rarely spring their players totally free and how on D the players seem to get “caught” on screens way more frequently than other teams. It makes me wonder whether they need to put a bigger emphasis on screen in both phases of the game.

      • Chazer

        Nice response Dylan, it also helps to be in great shape if you’re screening setting solid picks and hedging on D. The Bigs were gassed most games, I suspect that’s why Max was playing more than expected.

        • Yep, conditioning was a huge issue for Ricky last year. Luckily that’s an issue that can be fixed.

  • Barth Applefeld

    This is definitely a great series. Thank you! I personally found the first in the series easier to see in the video, perhaps because there were fewer options to show. I would not say that the big men were passive (don’t the rules require you to take the position and then be passive?), but that they seemed to be a step slow or a step out of place for where the guard eventually moved.

  • Wayman Britt

    Nice article and great video. Nice to see Stu and Zack again hit a few off the low screen. I agree with some of the other observations, seems last year’s bigs did not show urgency or solid screen, just going through the motion. Sometimes motioning to the wing to come through the screen even before setting it and tipping everybody off in the building.

  • bobohle

    Great write again. Last years poor plays simply put: INEXPERIENCE and POOR CONDITIONING at the 5 spot. I am confident Coaches Bacari and Sanderson are helping out with those areas.

  • sane1

    Nicely done. Thanks.

  • Dyenimator

    One of the options missing is the ability for the screener to pop. Michigan would run this with Smotz and WV more often with Pittsnogle. When the 5’s man would help more off the 3, he has the opportunity for an open jump shot.

  • X-7

    Smoothing soothing me from a climate called u tah . . . man, silly ill-equipped man am i . . .
    stretching me with these visuals, these tracks, esp t-1; nice.
    Physical art on the court; physical art on the tracks. received; and all just a flash, that friday named night blink of eternity, some percent of a percent in some unknown dimension, like an ant crawling on locomotive.
    unsure of my loco motive, heart-beats on

  • bobohle

    I hear Cassius Winston is making a change in visit plans. Has anyone heard if this effects U of M positively or negatively or neither?