Joaq and I sent a few emails back and forth about the Oregon-Tufts semifinal from the Stanford Invite while talking about Easterns coming up. We haven’t been about to write on Inside Breaks all that much this year and thought this would be a fun medium to use for sharing video analysis. If we turn this kind of thing into a series, perhaps we’ll call it Give and Go.
Neither teams had an ideal day on Saturday of Easterns: Tufts finished third in Pool B and lost to Colorado, 15-11, in pre-quarters while Oregon finished second in Pool A; they beat Stanford, 15-13, in their pre-quarter and have Central Florida in the morning. I suspect both will be at Nationals.
I went through and watched the Tufts-Ego game just for narrative, no charting of possessions or conversion rates (thanks Lou!), just going through once and checking out what I saw. A few things jumped into my mind on the first viewing (some of them likely because they were pointed out by the handsome and knowledgeable Ryan Thompson):
This was a very clean game with few turnovers given we’re only mid way through the college season. I think it’s a product of both teams having a clear idea of what they want to do offensively through the entire possession. Both teams run smooth pull plays as well as well spaced endzone offense. It helps that Tufts’s endzone O is no different than their vert.
Oregon adjusts well to the way Tufts runs their dumps through the front of the stack and forces lots of hard rest throws. This leads to a few point blocks as well as a few overthrows. Shout out to #15 on Oregon, Mario Bundy, a sophomore who plays some great dump D for them.
Oregon mixes their pull play looks without actually mixing their O sets while Tufts runs a couple of points of horizontal without really changing the structure of their O (big cuts still come down the side lanes, the disc still swings laterally often). I like that both teams have a primary structure that they operate within regardless of where their players are starting. I think many college (and some club) teams suffer from trying to learn to many offenses and not being able to run any of them exceptionally well when defensive pressure ramps up late in the season.
Both teams mix their D looks in the second half with moderate success. Regardless of success rate of mixing defenses, it’s important to do so late in early season tournaments so you continue to grow all of your D looks in game situations and pressure situations.
Look at how frequently Ego catches the disc in the middle of the field. It’s crazy. It’s not just that they’re consistently getting separation from their guy, it’s that they’re heads enough up to know how to apply it on the field. I wish I were better at teaching field awareness and timing; it can kill teams. Related to that, Ego rarely has guys rushing to get in dump position or running strong cut patterns on the dump. It’s all kind of haphazard.
For starters, I’m not sure that I agree with you or Ryan/Jeremy that this is a clean game. It’s certainly all relative (as in there’s a spectrum from league to Club finals), but the Oregon hammers and hasty hucks coupled with the drops from both sides down the stretch leave me thinking that this is neither team’s best offering.
You mentioned pull plays and Ego varying them up. Did you see them huck off of the 2nd or 3rd throw once? I didn’t. I’d front the hell out of them– more than most people are comfortable with– until they did that. They’re a hucking team, but they don’t look that comfortable doing it right off the bat. Make teams do what they don’t practice…
Speaking of which, did you see a “tell” from either team in your first look? That is to say, did you see a thing or two that they always do and that you’d want to try taking away to force a 2nd or 3rd option. Tufts running the dump off the front comes to mind.
I made a short little list of key plays that illustrate concepts that I think of often and use for coaching or playing. So far I’ve got 13:46, which illustrates that you don’t need all 7 guys to run an endzone O and that forcing them all to get into the stack can actually clog up your lanes; 48:18 for a good team D switch in the lane from Camden; 49:20 for a good sideline trap/an opportunity to think about how to beat it; the final point to illustrate that when endzone handlers move quickly, marks flash and easy throws open up (Dylan starts giving and going and it makes things easy); and 22:55 for an illustration of how holding the disc when there’s nothing going on upfield is just silly. There’s lots to go back and watch, but I’m curious if you noticed anything specific like that. We can revisit this and turn it into a list tonight or tomorrow AM.
Ian Campbell is quickly becoming a favorite player of mine. 1. He’s Ricky Rubio. 2. He’s got the smoothness. 3. His handblock at 21:08 made me go “OH!”
Oregon flows as well as any team in the country. Probably better. Whatever they do to teach their cutters how to read the field, I’d like to know. How often do you see guys cutting each other off or within 15 yards of each other outside of the stack? Not often…
The announcers correctly point out that Tufts’ zone makes Ego go East-West and limits Northern options. What are you seeing that makes this so?
After re-watching and charting the game I have to agree with you that this wasn’t the cleanest game (I also have to agree that Ian Campbell is clearly moonlighting as a spanish dribbling and passing wizard). The first half was very smooth for March college ultimate, but the second half was filled with hasty and tiered decisions. I think part of the contrast in style of play between the two halves is due to the grueling nature of 2 day ultimate tournaments, while another part is a product of defensive adjustments made by the two squads.
After Tufts’s first two O points Oregon adjusts their defensive focus to force the Emen’s O into multiple hard resets per point. This leads to multiple reset turns by Tufts in the first half (one on a nice pointblock from Rubio) and, I think, leads to the Tufts O line taking more deep shots in the second half. Due to Oregon’s depth of athleticism shooting deep on O isn’t the best option, but Oregon forces Tuft’s hand and with a high success rate.
Your comment about Oregon’s dump sets got me thinking about resets in general, and prompted me to chart the resets per point thrown by both teams (not counting throws that are system based, i.e. swings and up-lines after dumps to the open side from Tufts, and any throw in Oregon’s endzone O). I noticed Oregon throws far fewer resets per possession and per throw than Tufts. Additionally, when they do throw resets, they get more up-line looks based on their system. I did notice that Oregon does not seem to consistently look break or open when reseting in the ho-stack, so that seems haphazard. Still, they don’t dance and do hit the open man, which is the key to reseting the disc.
I really like Tufts use of zone late in the game. Their zone doesn’t overtly pressure the thrower, and it doesn’t cut off throws between handlers, but it is tailor made to disrupt the flow of an offense that utilizes the middle of the field. I think Tufts goes to the zone hoping to slow the Oregon attack and potentially get a cheap turnover on an execution error or miscommunication Oregon sticks to their montra of “throw to the open guy” but, because the zone doesn’t seem to apply direct pressure, the Oregon handlers don’t work hard to get open. Instead, the open man is out on the opposite wing, a comfortable throw to make in calm conditions, but one Tufts is willing to give up. The Tufts zone seems vulnerable to handler motion and crashing, but Oregon doesn’t seem interested in this strategy. Because Oregon is willing to play a stagnent offensive set against Tufts zone, I like Tufts decision to stick with the zone D for a few points. While Tufts doesn’t generate any turns with the zone, the sense of complacency that set into the Oregon offense comes back to haunt them when Tufts goes back to man D and ramps up the pressure on the throwers.
I think Tuft’s desire to move the disc laterally and hit beg gainers under is their tell while Oregon prefers to work the middle of the field. Did you see specific tells?
Regarding Oregon, I’m tiring of the narrative of the Oregon-ness of Oregon. If they’ve indeed changed things, I think it’s more interesting to focus on what they’re trying to do then the story of their transition. They’re throwing more on balance throws between stalls 3 and 5 and far fewer throws at stall 0. They’ve also cut down on hard IO breaks, they’re throwing more soft breaks and leading their throwers to the break side instead of throwing into tight windows.
Just working backward, I love your point about the Tufts zone not getting a turn itself but likely having something to do with Oregon’s offense looking out of whack when they went back to man late in the game. That’s an undervalued aspect of zone for sure.
Can you explain the difference between resets per possession and resets per point as well as what you mean by swings for Tufts and endzone O throws for Ego being “system based” and therefore not a part of the calculation? I’m not a stats guy and I’m confused and curious.
I like to group games into segments. From the middle of the first half, on, I’ve got:
- Middle of the first half: Tufts then goes up 7-5 when Ego throws a few questionable hammers (they do this a lot this game; what is it going to take to get rid of this element of their game? They’ve got the big playmakers for it but the margin of error is small enough to make it unsustainable.)
- Late first half: Ego breaks back to 7-7, which is a very long point. Ego finally calls a timeout and Ego scores (Camden scores while wearing Topher’s hat. What??).
- Beginning of the second half: both teams hold, Ego breaks to go up 10-8 and 11-8. The two breaks right here are when the energy really swung to Ego, and Tufts just couldn’t get it back until quite late.
- Stagnation of the second half: 11-9, 12-9, 12-10, 13-10, 13-11, 14-11.
- Tufts makes it interesting: hold to 14-12, break to 14-13. Ego then scores to win, 15-13.
One thing [Oregon captains] Topher and Dylan both told me is that they’ve shifted from having specialized practices (ie: handlers practice dump cuts, cutters do deep drills) to making it clear that the whole team is expected to have certain skills. I think it shows: their big man on O, Fruchter, looks comfy with the disc and guys like he and Camden do a good job of hanging back when they need to.
One place Tufts saw a lot of success was with swings. If I’m playing them, I work pretty hard to stop them as a handler unit, and downfield I position myself in anticipation of them coming. Once they look off of the force side, they don’t really look back.
Finally, this game confirms where I’m heading in my philosophy on defense: teams don’t work hard enough to stop the under. Even if everyone fronted their guy by 10 yards, offenses would have to make throws that they don’t practice making and their percentages would be lower than what they are now. Now couple that with actually-trying fronting D that knows how to employ deep help and has a mark that’s coordinated with the downfielders, and I think it’s just the way to go in building a defense.
Feature photo by Scott Roeder – UltiPhotos.com