Kentucky and the Dribble Drive

I’m sure a lot of you guys around the world are following the NCAA tournament. If not may I just remind you that all the games are available right here:

March Madness On Demand

With my interest in the Dribble Drive I’ve been following coach Calipari’s teams for years, but mostly in the post season, as very few NCAA games are shown in Europe during the regular season.

One thing which surprised me watching this season’s Kentucky matches is that they have pretty much gone away from the Dribble Drive as an offense, and I think they look stagnant because of it. There is a lot of pass, stand around. Pass, stand around waiting for a pick-n-roll. Pick-n-roll, hesitate.

I’ve gone back to have a look at the old Memphis games, and the Kentucky games of a few years ago, and what strikes me the most is how few close-outs Kentucky are generating now compared to back then.

Right now the only close-out situations Kentucky are generating are in pick-n-roll situations. I can’t help but think that the more dynamic style of the old Memphis teams would help Kentucky now.

As for the reasons Calipari is going with this; I think with being at Kentucky Calipari has the ability to recruit quality big men, and he does go to Harrellson a lot. In fact the big fella is involved in most plays, and for a good reason, as he’s playing really well. In my oppinion going to the big man and running a lot of pick-n-rolls doesn’t mean you can’t run the Dribble Drive. There are plenty of pick-n-rollopportunities in the Dribble Drive, in the normal flow of the offense.

Secondly Calipari may think he doesn’t have the guards to run the Dribble Drive, but here I tend to disagree. Definitely having a guard like D. Rose or J. Wall is a huge advantage, but even without them on the floor the teams of the past looked very good running the Dribble Drive. I think the explanation may be a different one. Maybe it has to do with how smart he thinks his team is – as you have to be pretty smart as a team to run the offense. That may come down to recruitment too.

I think this one may be a big one, the Dribble Drive is an offense that’s easily learned, but mastering it takes time. Calipari changes players a lot, as he recruits so well that he constantly loses his players to the NBA. It’s easier to teach the five new stud freshmen who come in every year some sets than to teach them the reads of a motion-type offense.

I may be wrong about all this, I just think running your plays then defaulting into the Dribble Drive would really help Kentucky at the moment. But of course you can’t argue with the results so far, even if it hasn’t been pretty!

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5 Responses to Kentucky and the Dribble Drive

  1. Jeppe Lundsgaard says:

    I think it has more to do with him only having 6 players who can really produce for him so he has to keep the games as slow as possible.

    • coach_o says:

      Good point! But it’s hard to believe there are less good players at Kentucky than at Memphis. I know Kentucky plays a very short rotation, but is that really due to lack of talent? It might very well be, with them losing so many underclassmen.

      • Coach Hart says:


        I think it has to do with how he gets the recruits he plays these guys lots of minutes and that is how he gets them to Kentucky he recruits them as one and done’s and he needs to give them minutes.

  2. Artur says:

    I’ve notice the same thing. There has been a move away from the Dribble Drive during the season. I watched Kentucky play in November and it was all the beauty with the traditional DDM. Now there seems to be only set plays. But again, if that’s what it takes to make it to Final Four then go for it!

  3. Coach Eason - Asst Varsity Coach St. Benedict's Prep, Newark, NJ says:

    I see Calipari’s DDM Offense in a different light. I feel that he has focused on the rack zone exclusively, and as a result, has created a system of plays that end in a double or triple gap, for the player with the ball to get into the rack zone. It also would appear that, if you can’t rack it, on your pass, you open up a gap, and then they use a ball screen. On the All-Access video, I know he talks about getting a big away from the basket, and with a Josh Harrelson, who’s not a great back to the basket scorer, or an explosive clean-up player, it would be smart to put him in pick and rolls, to get the opponents post defender out of the paint. On the same token, it also allows your Patrick Patterson or Terence Jones the opportunity to get into the post, where they can are better players. Thirdly, I believe he has recruited great players, and I think that he wants to get the ball to them, especially in their areas of strength. Brandin Knight Doron Lamb are a better shooters, than drivers, and they were the PGs, so they went against the offense. Jones, is a more of a face-up 4, than a driver, and Patterson was clearly and inside player. In closing, I believe that Calipari, now coaching at Kentucky, and legendary program, is not going to run the offense, nor recruit for it. I think he sees the value in some of its concepts (Opening up gaps, and allowing freedom of players), but the days of him running the pure offense, those days are long gone. It wouldn’t surprise me if the only reason he still talks about it is to convince players that they are going to be in the high powered offense, only to end up in a system of 50 sets, and no real movement, but like you said, who can argue with results?

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