FINAL FOUR – Wisconsin Badgers

By Randy Sherman

Things must feel very familiar for Wisconsin Badger basketball fans.

Bo Ryan’s club qualified for their second consecutive Final Four by narrowly defeating Arizona in the West Region final, just like in 2014. The Badgers knocked off Oregon in the Round of 32, just like in 2014. And just like in 2014 the Badgers will face Kentucky in the national semifinal.

Another thing that will be very familiar to basketball fans and coaches is watching the Badgers operate within the framework of the Swing Offense. While the Badgers are relying on the basic Swing less and less, its tenets are evident in everything they do.

Principles such as four-out spacing, inverting the offense, weakside exchanges and flex cuts are clear on nearly every possession. The Swing is truly a “team-offense” that places a premium on good passing, screening and cutting.

The patient execution and turnover-free play of the Badgers has produced the most efficient offense in college basketball. The Badgers adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 127.5 is far and away the highest of any team since KenPom started tracking such data in 2002.

Let’s take a look at the basics of the Swing by following the ball around the perimeter and view some highlights of the Badgers executing the basics of the offense at various points in the 2015 season.

The offense starts with a 4-out/1-in alignment and always features a ballside triangle. Ryan recruits versatile players that can play inside and outside, therefore the low block is not always reserved for the post player.


Getting the ball inside to All-American Frank Kaminsky is the first priority. The high and wide alignment and the ballside triangle give Kaminsky room to operate in the post one-on-one.


In the Swing, passes trigger actions. For example, one of the rules is when the pass goes from the high elbow to the wing it triggers the weakside exchange.


If the wing (3) cannot enter to the post (5), the post leaves the block and sets an “up screen” for the UCLA cut from 1. This is an example of Wisconsin inverting their offense and allowing the versatile Kaminsky to play on the perimeter after he set the up screen. The cutter reads his defender as to which side of the screen to go off of.


The ball movement signals the next action. When the pass is made from the wing to the high elbow it elicits a flare screen from the weakside players. This is another rule of the offense.


As the ball moves around the perimeter more rules apply, each triggered by a pass. When the pass is made from one high elbow to another, it triggers a flex cut. Ryan also teaches players to look for the ball after setting the flex screen.


The Badgers often isolate Sam Dekker in the post using the flex action from the baseline screen.

The Swing is a continuity offense, therefore when the ball is fully reversed, the same rules apply. In the diagram below, the pass is made from the high elbow to the wing and the weakside exchange is triggered.


Below are some videos of the Badgers executing the Swing at various point throughout the season. Here Dekker scores when the Northwestern defense gets caught ball-watching during a weakside exchange. You can clearly see the described actions executed when the ball is passed.

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In the clips below, Wisconsin demonstrates various elements of the basic Swing such as flex action and weakside exchanges.

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The Badgers often use special entries into the Swing such as a “Horns” set:

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Ryan also exploits the shooting range of Kaminsky by using roll-and-replace and pick-and-pop entries into the Swing. Here, the Badgers pull Duke’s Jahlil Okafor away from the basket using these entries:

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In the 2014 national semifinal Kentucky needed a late Aaron Harrison three to seal a victory that nearly went the Badgers’ way. This year Kentucky is looking to make history and cap an undefeated season. A rematch with the Badgers stands in the way.

The Badgers will lean heavily on the patient and precise Swing offense and their various entries and variations in hopes of derailing the Wildcats quest for perfection.

For more on the Swing Offense and to add it to your FastDraw Library click here.

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Randy Sherman is the owner and founder of Radius Athletics - a basketball coaching consulting firm - where he consults with basketball coaches at all levels on coaching philosophy, practice planning, Xs & Os and teaching a conceptual style of basketball. While a head basketball coach at the the interscholastic level, Sherman's teams won 197 games in nine seasons.

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