When it came out earlier this season that Villanova only had three inbound plays against a press defense, I felt bad for head coach Jay Wright. Here he is coming off the biggest win of the season, and now people are criticizing him for one small aspect of the game. He’s a busy man who’s rebuilding toward another Championship run, and sometimes he doesn’t have room on his plate for things like a 4th or 5th inbound play.
But you know who does? Me. Well me and my good friend who I yanked out of retirement, NovaRaptor. Together, we’ve hit the rule books, the play books, the mystery novels, the young adult fiction, and even a few choose your own adventures in search of the perfect inbound plays for Villanova to use the rest of the season. Ok, we threw back some Mike’s Hard Lemonades and got lost in a YouTube spiral before coming up with these at the last second. But trust me, they’ll all work.
Before we begin though, I’d like to stress that we are not basketball coaches, experts, or gurus of any kind. If you’d like to learn how to do a classic inbound play, I’d suggest asking this guy. He’s a one of the top coaches in the profession, so I’m sure he can give you a really good answer. But if you want some out of the box thinking, here are our 100% guaranteed, cannot miss, inbound plays.
1) The Hail Mary
Not only will this work, it already has. For Villanova. On multiple occasions. We have yet to see it in the 2020 season, but I can’t imagine why not when we have multiple players who could run it. It’s exactly what it sounds like, but here’s Mikal Bridges and Kris Jenkins to demonstrate.
Seriously, why can’t this team do this? Put Robinson-Earl, Bey, or Samuels in the Bridges role. On the other end, put Gillespie, Bey, or Swider in the Jenkins role. Bang! Break the press, get a dunk, and pump up the crowd. It looks so simple, and that was the Final Four! Imagine how much easier it’ll be against UConn.
2) The LSU Slant Route
We all just watched one of the best offenses in college football history win a championship by running the crap out of the slant route all season. It’s clearly the best play to run in college sports, even basketball. So just like in football, Villanova should line up all the players on the baseline, have them run routes, and then hit the open man for a first down. Instead of hearing “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!?” from the fans, the team will be hearing “GEAUX NOVA!”
Ok, full disclosure I may have initially thought this one was kind of a joke. Then I found out it’s 100% legal. Then I found out that Baylor does this already! In fact, they did it LAST WEEK! Seriously, how is Nova not running this play every time they get pressed after a basket. Not only does it seem to be effective, but it looks cool too!
3) Hold the ball
Let’s start really thinking outside the box, shall we? Instead of running a play that could result in a turnover with half the team on the other side of the court, how about playing to the Nova’s strengths? This team has gotten much better on defense, so instead of inbounding the ball just wait out the five seconds and force a dead ball turnover.
That’s right, I’m suggesting they just turn the ball over. But this time it’s on Villanova’s own terms, not over in the coffin corner (because in college basketball that seems to be the only place people want to go with the ball). Now they can set up their defense, force a turnover or a bad shot by the opponent, and voila, the press is broken with the ball in bounds! I’ve included a play diagram below if needed.
4) The Hidden Ball Trick
Ok, so you don’t want to just auto-turn the ball over. That’s fair, so how about we try a little trickeration instead. The key to any good trick play is deception, and this one will require a lot of it. But thanks to the new setup in the Finn, Villanova will have all the help they need.
First, pretend that the inbounder has chucked the ball down the court and the other players are fighting for a loose ball on the opposite end of the floor. Good news is now your fans are all court-side, and you have students on each baseline. Just signal to them that it’s about to go down, and have them react as if it’s already happening. Then with the other team distracted, inbound at your leisure.
If you’re thinking to yourself this could never work, may I refer you to a piece of classic cinema for exhibit A.
Now this may take some doing, given a basketball is roughly 10 times larger than a baseball, there’s no glove to conceal it in, and the ball is bright orange. That’s why they’ll probably want to practice this one once or twice before using it in a game setting.
5) The Rugby Inbound
The inspiration for this gem comes from my junior year roommate, who recently asked me what’s been taking so long for him to get a shout-out in one of my articles. Congratulations buddy, your dreams have come true! You see he was a rugby player, and that sport has one of the most unguardable inbound plays you’ve ever seen.
Now, technically speaking, lifting a guy up by his shorts over your head as he catches a pass is “illegal” in D1 college basketball. That’s probably why you’ve never seen anyone do it. But I bet the refs haven’t seen anyone do it either, and there’s a chance that even they don’t know you can’t do that. If nothing else is working this is at least worth a try. I put the over/under for how many times Nova can get away with it at 2.5 before they start blowing the whistle.
6) Are you sure you want to stand there?
Chances are if the other team is pressing, they’re going to have someone guarding the inbounder. If not, they’ll definitely have someone denying the primary ball handler. And so, this play becomes very simple.
Have the primary ball handler stand approximately three feet away from the inbounder, allowing just enough space for a defender (or two if they’re feeling extra frisky) to stand in between them. Then, in an effort to get the ball to the primary ball handler, have the inbounder rocket the ball into the face of the defender.
March comes at you fast pic.twitter.com/UW7HfKTcHj— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 16, 2017
Two key aspects to this play. First, the inbounder needs to make it clear they’re trying to get the ball to their teammate, otherwise they could be in for a technical foul. Also, they need to make sure they hit the defender so that the ball goes careening back out of bounds. This should take a few seconds off the clock. Repeat this process until the defender has had enough and gets out of the way, or until the clock expires and Villanova wins the game!
Thanks to a night of research that may or may not have been inspired by a blown ten point lead in the final three minutes against DePaul, Jay Wright now has at least nine inbound plays to try the next time the other team starts pressing. If he goes through all nine, then the opposing players have probably been whacked in the head with a ball enough that they already forgot what Villanova ran the first time around. See, the problem solves itself! Be sure to look for these plays in the next big Villanova victory, and GEAUX CATS!