Film Study: Xavier’s 1-4 BLOBs (Pt. 1)

If you know some of the coaches whom I have deep respect for in the world of college basketball, then you’d know that Chris Mack ranks toward the top of that list. His Xavier offense was always one of the most well-oiled machines, which enabled the Musketeers to have all-time program success during Mack’s tenure.

When it comes to baseline out-of-bounds plays, it is commonplace in college hoops to see actions look super vanilla and frankly boring when it comes to baseline inbound actions. Often times, the goal is to just get the ball in and go from that point. Yet, based on film of Mack’s Xavier teams, his approach his to try and score off of such opportunities.

In part 1, of this film breakdown I will take you through the first three of six sets that I particularly enjoy that Mack ran during his time at Xavier and surely will continue to do so now at Louisville. What is important to note is that each of these sets begins in a 1-4 base look (i.e. this means there are four players in a straight line 10-15 feet apart along the floor in addition to the man passing the ball in play).

Without further a do, let’s get started.

(Video Courtesy: Pick&


In this first action, you can see how the base set looks for all these actions. Two players are spaced out to the corners, two on the blocks plus the in-bounder with the ball. Kaiser Gates (#22) makes a move out toward the weak-side corner (away from the ball) and acts like he will go off a pin-down from Tyrique Jones (#0). But, this is where the misdirection and brilliance kicks-in. As Gates (#22) crosses over top of J.P. Macura (#55), he changes direction and cuts toward the rim. This allows Macura (#55) to respond off the screen from Jones (#0) and get the space he needs to attack the closeout and finish at the rim.

This set works well because of how sudden Gates’ (#22) cut to the basket is. His ability to sell like he is going to come off the screen from Jones (#0) is what enables Macura (#55) the necessary space to catch, assess and attack his defender off of the sloppy closeout.

The second example of this highlights the initial setup even better and again shows how Gates (#22) does an excellent job of diving to the rim, after running by Trevon Bluiett (#5) to give him the separation from his defender that he needs.

(Video Courtesy: Pick&

“RIP Screen-the-Screener (STS)”:

Action #2 involves two key parts: the RIP screen and the screen-the-screener action that follows it. Again, the setup remains the same in a 1-4 look. Pause and look at how much space there is for each player to operate. From the very beginning, the defenders are forced to take just an extra step or two away that unlocks the freedom of movement Xavier wants. Anyhow, Bluiett (#5) screens in for Jones (#0). This first look on any of these actions where a player is screened in toward the rim is an easy layup. If Jones (#0) is unable to get open, then the the second form of misdirection ensues. As Jones (#0) passes to Bluiett (#5), who sets the initial screen to get his big-man open, Gates (#22) crashes down from the strong-side corner and sets a screen for Bluiett (#5) for an open jump-shot. This is where the terminology “Screen-the-Screener” or “STS” comes from in this play. Just that little separation, from Gates’ (#22) blind-side screen, allows Bluiett (#5) to hit a tough shot fading to the corner.

There are multiple pieces to this action that allows the whole play to work. Without the hard cut on the initial screen by Bluiett (#5), his immediate response off of it and the Gates (#22) screen this play is not as successful as it could be. The little details matter.

(Video Courtesy: Pick&

“Flex Flare”:

This is my favorite action of the three in this compilation. The ball is entered to Bluiett (#5) on the strong-side block, meaning he is on ball-side. Once Bluiett (#5) catches he reverses the ball to the man on the opposite block who has responded out to the free throw line area. Next, the in-bounder proceeds to set a flex screen for the big, now in the weak-side corner (opposite of the ball). Again, this is to look for an easy basket right at the rim if the defense is late on a switch, or has a communication mishap. Once the flex is set and Karem Kanter (#11) posts up on the ball-side block, Paul Scruggs (#1) sets a flare screen for Bluiett (#5), who was on the opposite free throw line area and gets him open for a wide-open three pointer.

“Flare” screens are one of my favorite screen types because there is a suddenness to it that makes it so potent. It is hard enough to guard a flex action and then Mack adds a “Flare” screen on the backside, which completely catches the defender, #2, off guard with no safety valve for him to recover.


These are just half of the actions I will be delving into over the next couple days. Look our for part 2 coming very soon.


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