Burn Cut Actions From #FastModelMadness22

By Tony Miller

Burn Cut Action blog FastModel Sports

Last year it was ghost screens. This year, “burn cut action” was the trendy offensive look from March Madness 2022. Here are the top sets as noted by Coach Tony Miller.

Old timers, like myself, would tell you, “You don’t need a play call to back door somebody. When your defender turns his head or over plays the passing lane, back cut.” Even in today’s game, that’s a read every player should be taught to make.

However, with many teams today moving away from denial, in-the-passing-lane defensive systems and to gap systems, it can be harder to get “back door” opportunities in the natural flow of your offense… which is why you’re seeing teams use set plays to create burn cuts (i.e., “back doors”). Here are my favorite ways teams ran burn cuts in the 2022 NCAA Tournaments. I’m sure you have room to add a couple to your playbook for next season.

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Top Burn Cut Actions from #FastModelMadness22

[Click on a diagram to download it to your FastDraw library.]

Villanova Wildcats – Lift Burn

Most set-ups for a burn cut are going to involve at least one of two actions, both designed for the same purpose. The first is simply to pull every defender away from the paint right before the burn cut. A perfect example is this fake pinch post action from Villanova.

So many defenses like to face guard Collin Gillespie when he doesn’t have the ball in the half court. Villanova uses that to their advantage to back cut that overaggressive defender. With the 5 moving out towards the 3-point line, the 4 moves up the lane line toward the pinch post. On the catch by 5, the 2 moves towards the ball for a dribble handoff from 5. When x2 jumps the line to take away the DHO, 2 back cuts for a look at the rim with no help defenders.


Creighton Bluejays – Stagger Burn

The second strategy is to involve help defenders opposite of where you want the burn cut to happen. So while it looks like the offense is about to run a shooter off a pin down screen or a stagger screen, it’s really just a decoy to occupy the help defenders and set up the burn cut.

Creighton starts in a Horns alignment. After entering the ball to the side they want the burn cut, the 1 and the 5 move to set a stagger screen for their shooter. On the catch, the 3 moves up the line towards the ball, then burn cuts.


Ohio State Buckeyes – Elbow Burn

Buckeyes move the help defender/low defender out of the corner with the loop action. Then 5 sprints to the elbow before back cutting his defender for a high-low look. Great set as a quick hitter to get your center a touch and your team some positive momentum.


Utah Jazz – Fake Burn

Just like with any action, once you’ve hurt the defense with it a few times, it’s time to use it to set up something else when the defense adjusts. Jazz head coach Quin Snyder utilizes a “fake” burn cut in this look. As Rudy Gobert (5) reverses the ball, Donovan Mitchell (2) makes the burn cut, but stops shot in order to set a back screen for Gobert to slip to the rim and dunk it home after the pass from 3. A brilliant set to utilize both sides of the court and shift the defense.

The best thing about burn cuts is that you can ultimately get to it from just about any prior action. Numerous alignments can be used to disguise setting up the burn cut. It can be run as an immediate quick hitter, a read at any point in the flow of half court offense or as the final action of a set play.

Looking for some more ways to incorporate back door actions into your offense? Check out the FastModel playbank for HC sets, BLOBs and SLOBs involving burn cuts.

Share Your Favorite Burn Cut Actions

To reiterate, these are just a few of the hundreds of ways to get into burn cut action. Have a good one you want to share with the coaching community? Send us the diagram on Twitter and we’ll spread the word.

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Tony Miller

Men's Assistant Basketball Coach at Bob Jones University Bruins
Dr. Tony Miller is the men's assistant basketball coach at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. In addition, he serves as the director of BJU's sport management degree program.

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