Luke Winn: At The Dance
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  • 08:12 AM ET  04.03
A.J. Price
A.J. Price will be the best scoring guard on the floor in the Michigan State vs. UConn game Saturday
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SI.com asked assistant coaches from former opponents of each of the Final Four teams to diagram bread-and-butter sets used to free up star players -- as well as pass along actual scouting-report data on each player's strengths and tendencies. Here's what our anonymous coaches told us about ... 

A.J. Price, PG, UConn (14.7 points, 4.8 assists)


Why He Matters: He's the best all-around guard on the floor in Saturday's first game.
Likely To Be Guarded By: Michigan State's Travis Walton

Bread-and-Butter Play: "They call this one 'Single' -- what they do is, have Price with the ball coming from left to right, and set a double-high, staggered ball screen for him with Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien. The first screener -- usually Thabeet -- will roll hard to the baseline if the screen works; if Thabeet's man hedges hard [as is shown in the second image], Thabeet will just slip to the rim. Price has a few options when he comes off the screen -- he can pull up, hit Thabeet on a lob, hit Adrien for a foul-line jumper, or hit Stanley Robinson, who's in the right-hand corner, for a three or a backdoor cut."

UConn Play


Scouting Points on Price:

• "The biggest thing with Price is how efficient he is coming off ball-screens. He's a complete guard, in that he can shoot the three, pull-up mid-range, drive it all the way to the rim, or make the right pass for an assist. I think he actually has an NBA future because of how good he is coming off screens. He takes whatever you give him."

• "One reason why he's so good at this screen stuff: His head is always up when he's coming around the pick. Plenty of guards, you'll see them with their heads buried, but his eyes are up, looking to make the right decision. And he does it right about nine times out of 10."

• "Price is a strong ball-handler; he pounds the ball hard, and he can change directions quickly with his crossover, which is deadly in both directions."

Goran Suton, PF/C, Michigan State (10.1 points, 8.1 rebounds)


Why He Matters: His shooting ability can pull Hasheem Thabeet away from the basket.
Likely To Be Guarded By: UConn's Hasheem Thabeet or Stanley Robinson

Bread-and-Butter Play: "They'll use physical signs; this one was a downward thumb from Kalin Lucas. Lucas passes Travis Walton on the left wing, and then they have Suton set a back-screen for Lucas, who runs off of that and loops off a double-screen on the right block. At the same time, Suton moves out from the elbow to run a side pick-and-roll with Walton. They love to use these pick-and-rolls late in the shot clock; between this one and one they call by touching the forehead -- a simple one with Lucas and Suton at the top of the key -- they were successful something like 42 percent of the time with the clock winding down."

Michigan State Play


Scouting Points on Suton:

• "Suton is a face-up 4-5 man who presents a very difficult matchup for a lot of big guys, because they're not used to defending pick-and-pop stuff out to the three-point line. Michigan State uses Suton more like a three-man than they do a five, given how many screening actions involve him on the outside."

• "Suton isn't all that physical in the post; he's just smart. He'll pull the chair out from under you when he's guarding you, and try to get around and go for the steal on the post-entry pass. And he never leaves his feet, either, because he knows he's not a shot-blocker. He just forces you to catch the ball farther out than you're used to, and does things to get you off-balance."

• "He almost reminds me of a Bill Laimbeer, in that he's not the greatest athlete, or the best jumper, but just has a really high basketball IQ. He knows you're not comfortable guarding him outside, and he knows that he's more likely to stop you by pushing you out of the paint than letting you catch it in deep."

• "I wouldn't be surprised if UConn makes adjustments and puts Stanley Robinson on Suton instead of Thabeet, just to keep Suton from scoring on threes."

Tyler Hansbrough, PF, North Carolina (20.9 points, 8.1 rebounds)


Why He Matters: Villanova has no direct counter for Psycho T in the paint.
Likely To Be Guarded By: Villanova's Dante Cunningham

Bread-and-Butter Play: "This one is a 'Post Iso' that's part of Carolina's secondary break, which it's been running for years. Hansbrough is usually in the trail position, and here he'll get some indication from Ty Lawson to cut down to the right block, at the same time Danny Green is coming up from the right corner to receive the ball near the key. Both he and Wayne Ellington do this play; once Green receives the ball, he'll dribble right, and look to feed Hansbrough, who's trying to seal off his man in the post. What you'll also see is Deon Thompson lifting up for an open shot if his man stays in the post to help on Hansbrough; and if that's not there, Lawson and Thompson will set staggered screens for Ellington coming out of the left corner."

North Carolina Play


Scouting Points on Hansbrough:

• "We told our guys, the first thing you have to do is get Hansbrough off the block. If you let him post you deep, he'll score. You have to fight him and move your feet. If he catches the ball, stay down and don't go for his shot fake. Then you put your chest into him and go up with two hands, straight up. If you put your hands straight out they'll call a foul, so you have to keep them up and move him with your chest."

• "He's so hard to ref, because he's creating contact on almost every play when he has the ball. That's just the nature of his game, and you're going to get pulled into it. When he's on defense, though, he's really not that physical at all. He doesn't want to get into foul trouble, so he's not overly aggressive."

• "He's always working to get position, unlike some big guys that will just stand around. Carolina is so good in its motion, when it's just playing without any sets, after the break. If you picture Lawson being on one wing with the ball, and Hansbrough on the other side -- what happens a lot of times is, the guy guarding Hansbrough will stare the ball, and Hansbrough will just cut right across his guy's face to the ball, and post up quick."

Scottie Reynolds, PG, Villanova (15.2 ppg, 3.3 apg)


Why He Matters: North Carolina's defense has been vulnerable against combo guards who can create off the dribble.
Likely To Be Guarded By: Carolina's Ty Lawson

Bread-and-Butter Play: "They have a set called 'Spread,' where Reynolds has the ball, and he's one of four guys on the perimeter, with two on each side of the floor. [Dante] Cunningham is the lone man in the post. Reynolds will make a pass [top left], stay on the side away from the ball, and then after three passes, it gets back to him. This is when Cunningham runs out of the post and sets a 'sprint' ballscreen for Reynolds [as seen at bottom left], with the option to either pop or roll [bottom right]. These ballscreens for Reynolds are a huge component of what they do."

Villanova Play


Scouting Points on Reynolds:

• "He's really heavily right-handed. When he's trying to score, he's much more effective when he's going to his right hand off the dribble. When you push him left, his percentages go way down."

• "They'd prefer to have Reynolds operating from the left wing -- especially in that spread set. From there, he can drive to the middle with his right hand."

• "He likes to shoot behind ball screens, and he's also very good at creating contact and getting you to foul him. A lot of this is through his shot-fake, which he'll use on threes and even at the end of drives in the lane. Ideally you'd like to use a bigger guard on him who can challenge his shots -- and handle his shot-fake -- without leaving his feet."

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