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Basketball Offense - CMU Wheel Offense

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook

Our "CMU Wheel" continuity offense was introduced to us by former coach Dick Swenor, a former Central Michigan University player in the 1980's. Back then, colleges had freshmen teams and freshmen did not play varsity until their sophomore year. Dick says the CMU freshmen team ran this offense and upset both Michigan State's and University of Michigan's freshmen teams that year, in spite of a marked difference in player athleticism, size and skill. Dick went on to coach high school boys varsity at a Hall of Fame level in St. Ignace, MI and the Saints were Michigan Class D State Runner-Ups in 1983.

The CMU Wheel offense is a patterned man offense, with continuity, that often leads to inside shots and lay-ups. This offense bears some similarities to the flex offense. There is constant movement and cutting and this offense is a good way to get your players moving. There are good offensive counters for defensive denial and disruption of the pattern.

To teach this offense, you must first build and drill the 4-man pattern until it becomes automatic without players having to think. After that, we add the high-post player.

4-Man Pattern

See the diagrams below. Diagram 1 shows the setup: point guard O1 on top, two wings O2 and O3, and O4 starting on the opposite low block. You can run it to either side, but here we start with the pass to the right wing O2. As this pass is made, O3 cuts under (or over) O4's screen (similar to a flex screen) to the ballside block looking for the pass from O2. Sometimes this pass is open for the lay-up, but more often it becomes available after a couple ball reversals.

Meanwhile, O1 cuts inside toward O4 (on the inside) as O4 cuts up. O1 and O4 brush shoulders and O1 then makes a quick back-step V-cut (without turning his back to the hoop) to the left wing as O4 cuts to the point.

CMU Wheel offense - 4 man pattern CMU Wheel offense - 4 man pattern, ball reversal

Diagram 2 shows ball-reversal with the pass from the wing O2 back to the top O4. After passing, O2 walks down to get into position for the "flex" cut.

O4 passes to the left wing O1 (diagram 3) and O2 uses O3's inside screen and cuts to the ballside block, again looking for the pass and lay-up. O4 and O3 make their brush cuts with O4 making the back-step V-cut to the right wing, and O3 cuts to the top.

Diagram 4 shows ball reversal back to the top with O1 passing to O3. O1 moves inside for the next inside cut.

CMU Wheel offense - 4 man pattern going left CMU Wheel offense - 4 man pattern, ball reversal

Diagrams 5 and 6 show the pattern continuing back to the right wing, demonstrating the continuity of the offense. This pattern can be run indefinitely until a good shot develops. Keep the ball moving quickly - if the pass to the inside cutter is not there, immediately pass back to the top and reverse the ball to the opposite site.

CMU Wheel offense - 4 man pattern continuity CMU Wheel offense - 4 man pattern continuity

Counters for Defensive Denial

To disrupt the pattern, the defense may deny the pass to either the top, or to the wing, or both.

Point Pass Denial

Diagram 7 shows the wing to point pass being denied. Here, O2 back-cuts inside (and could get a pass from the wing) and then cuts to the opposite wing, as the opposite wing player O3 cuts to the top for the pass from O4 (diagram 8). From there, we run the pattern (diagram 9).

CMU Wheel offense - point denial CMU Wheel offense - point denial CMU Wheel offense - point denial continuity

Wing Pass Denial

We counter wing pass denial with a dribble entry. Diagram 10 shows the wing pass being denied. Here, O2 back-cuts inside and could get the pass from O1 and a lay-up. O1 dribbles to the wing (diagram 11). O2 screens inside for the inside cutter O4, and then moves to the opposite wing as O3 fills the top. O1 might now have the pass inside to O4. Diagram 12 simply shows that we are now back in our familiar setup.

CMU Wheel offense - wing denial CMU Wheel offense - wing denial CMU Wheel offense - wing denial continuity

In summary, the CMU continuity wheel offense gets your players moving and causes problems for the defense. Patience is key - often the open shot occurs after two or three ball-reversals. It's hard for defenses to play that long without making a mistake and leaving a cutter open. To get good at this offense, you must spend some time every practice ingraining and perfecting the 4-man pattern, and then the counters and options.

See the complete article in the members section.

The complete article also includes:
  • "Fist" Option
  • "Change" Option
  • More Counters to Defensive Denial
  • High-Post Step Out
  • Dribble to Top Counter
  • Counters for Defensive Switching - Attacking "1-Man Zones"