Basketball Offense/Plays - Michigan State Sets - Plays

By Dr. James Gels, From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
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Tom Izzo has already compiled an illustrious career as Head Coach at Michigan State University, and will certainly enter the Hall of Fame one day. His teams are noted for toughness, competitiveness and great rebounding. Coach Izzo's 2000 MSU team were NCAA Champions, and the 2009 team was runner-up, losing in the final game to North Carolina. Coach Izzo is a 3-time National "Coach of the Year".

Coach Tom Izzo
MSU Coach Tom Izzo

The complete article (in the premium members section, the CD and downloads) presents twenty-seven half-court sets and plays, including man-to-man and zone plays, and baseline and sideline out-of-bounds plays. This article shows several of those plays.

*Green print = denotes plays in the Premium Members area, CD and downloads.

1-4 High Set Plays

Coach Izzo has several plays that use the 1-4 high set.

Pick and Roll/ Post Iso

Start in the 1-4 high set as seen in diagram A below. O3 curls around O5 and will receive the pass from O1. After passing to O3, O1 cuts through to the opposite corner. In diagram B, O5 ball-screens for O3 and the pick and roll play is on, with a possible pass to O5 rolling off the screen. If nothing develops off the pick and roll, O4 pops out on top to the arc and gets the pass from O3. O5 posts-up strong in the lane for the pass from O4 and the post-move and shot.

MSU 1-4 Set - pick and roll iso MSU 1-4 Set - pick and roll iso MSU 1-4 Set - pick and roll iso

More 1-4 High Set Plays:
Dribble Hand-Off/Double-Screens

Box Set Plays

Double Down-screen

Start in the box set as seen in diagram N. O5 pops out to the arc and receives the pass from O1. O1 cuts over O4's screen at the top. O5 passes to O4, and O4 passes to O1 (diagram O). O3 back-screens for O5, who cuts to the ball-side block and posts up. O5 could get the pass from O1 for the inside post-move and shot (diagram P). Meanwhile, O3 and O4 down-screen for O2. O2 cuts hard over the double down-screen and could get the pass from O1 for the open 3-point shot.

MSU Box Set - Double Down-screen MSU Box Set - Double Down-screen MSU Box Set - Double Down-screen

More Box-Set Plays:
Screen the Screener

ISO Plays

Here are several plays that isolate ("ISO") certain players 1-on-1 with the defender.

ISO-4 (High-Post ISO)

This play will isolate O4 1-on-1 with his/her defender. Start with the double-low stack as seen in diagram R. O1 dribbles toward the left, as O2 cuts to the left corner and O3 cuts to the left wing. O3 receives the pass from O1, as O4 cuts up to the opposite high-post area. O3 passes to O4, who now has an "iso" situation and could shoot or dribble-drive to the hoop (diagram S). If O4 is well-defended, O5 cuts into the paint for the quick hi-lo pass from O4.

MSU Iso Set - iso-4 MSU Iso Set - iso-4

ISO-3 (High-Post ISO - "Chest" - see video below)

Start with the set as seen in diagram T. If we are getting a lot of pressure from the defense, we may start with a stack in the paint, with O3 lowest, and O4 and O5 above. O4 and O5 would sprint out to the wings as seen in diagram T, and O3 flashes to the high post and receives the pass from O1. O1 and O2 X-cut around O3 in the paint (diagram U) and then, using the down-screens from O4 and O5, cut back out to the wings. O3 could pass to either cutter, but in the confusion, has a 1-on-1 iso situation with the X3 defender and O3 could either shoot or dribble-drive to the hoop (diagram V).

MSU Iso Set MSU Iso Set

After down-screening for O1, O4 immediately posts up for a possible hi-lo pass from O3 (diagram V). If O3 passes to either wing (here O1), the opposite post flashes to the ballside elbow. O1 could shoot, or pass to either post. If the pass goes to the elbow (O5), O5 looks to pass inside to O4 sealing down low (diagram V2).

MSU Iso Set MSU Iso Set

Tom Izzo: "Chest" play - from Tom Izzo: Man-to-Man Offense and Counters

More ISO Plays:
ISO-5 (Low-Post ISO)

Ball-Screen Plays

Here are several plays that use the ball-screen.

Back-screen, Pick and Roll

In diagram AD, O5 back-screens for O4. O4 cuts through and could get the pass from O1. Next, O5 ball-screens for O1 (diagram AE) and runs the pick and roll. O1 dribbles hard around the screen for the lay-up, the pass to O5 rolling inside, or the pass to O2 in the corner. O4 slides up to the elbow for spacing, and another pass option.

MSU ball-screen play - Back-screen, Pick and Roll MSU ball-screen play - Back-screen, Pick and Roll


This plays uses a double ball-screen for O2, with one screener an excellent outside shooter. O2 starts on top and runs a dribble hand-off to O1 (diagram 1). O1 passes back to O2, now on the wing. O1 and O3 space out to the left (diagram 2). O4 is a good outside shooter. O4 and O5 sprint up and set a double ball-screen for O2. O2 could go either way. Regardless of which way O2 goes, we always roll the "non-shooter" (O5) to the hoop (diagram 3), while our shooter O4 always pops out to the arc. Usually O4 will be wide open for a pass back from O2 and an open 3-point shot.

Other options include (1) O2 attacking and scoring off the dribble, (2) an inside pass to O5 rolling to the hoop, (3) or a kick-out pass from O2 to either O3 or O1 for 3-point shots.

MSU Detroit play - dribble handoff MSU Detroit play - double ball-screen MSU Detroit play - shot for O4

Tom Izzo: "Detroit":

More Ball-Screen Plays:
Ball-screen with Down-Screen for O2
Two Ball-Screens
Double Ball-Screen

Zone Plays

Here are several plays for attacking the 2-3 zone defense.


This play takes advantage of the 2-3 zone shifting, and then the back-side of the zone is screened. We start in a 1-3-1 set as seen in diagram Z1. O1 passes to O2, and O4 dives to the ball-side block. The ball is reversed back to O1 and then to O3 (diagram Z2), as O4 cuts around O5's screen. O5 screens the low outside zone defender. This frees up O4 for the pass from O3 and the open shot. If the outside low defender fights around the screen, O3 could pass directly to O5 inside.

MSU zone play - special MSU zone play - special MSU zone play - special


Again the defense is in a 2-3 zone and we use the 1-3-1 set. This is similar to "Special", but here we are trying to get O1 a shot. In diagram Z4, O1 passes to O2 and cuts through, around O5's screen (on the outside low defender). O1 could go to either the short-corner, or the corner (3-point shot). O4 steps-out and gets the reverse pass from O2 (diagram Z5), and skip-passes directly to O1 in the corner (diagram Z6), or passes to O3. O3 then passes to O1. O1 takes the shot, or passes inside to O5 (if the outside low defender runs out).

MSU zone play - Special-2 MSU zone play - Special-2 MSU zone play - Special-2

More Zone Plays:

Baseline Out-of-Bounds Plays

Three of Michigan State's baseline out-of-bounds plays are presented. Call them whatever you want.

Screen the Inbounder

We have had some success with this play, against both man-to-man and zone defenses. See diagram BOB1. Your best low post scorer is the inbounder. Start in the stack, or line, formation as seen. O4 cuts to the weakside block and tries to seal for inside position and a pass there. O3 cuts to the ball-side corner and gets the inbounds pass. O1 moves out on top and gets the next pass from O3. O2 screens for the inbounder O5, and O5 cuts around that screen for the pass from O1 and the inside shot (diagram BOB2).

MSU baseline out-of-bounds play - Screen the Inbounder MSU baseline out-of-bounds play - Screen the Inbounder MSU baseline out-of-bounds play - Screen the Inbounder

Next, O3 down-screens for O2, who cuts hard out to the corner for the pass from O1, and the 3-point shot (diagram BOB3). Either O5 or O2 will be open for a shot. Against the 2-3 zone, O2 screens the middle low defender, as the outside low defender will usually go out with O3. On the down-screen, O3 screens the outside low defender, so that O2 is open in the corner.

More Baseline Out-of-Bounds Plays:
Double-Screen the Screener
Two Double-Screens

Sideline Out-of-Bounds Plays

Four of Michigan State's sideline out-of-bounds plays are presented. You can call them whatever you want.


This is good for an open 3-point shot (also see the video clip below). O1, O4 and O5 line-up as seen in diagram SOB1. O3 starts at the ball-side block and cuts up a little to receive the inbounds pass from O2. Meanwhile O1 cuts around O4 and O5 to the weak-side wing area. After passing, O2 makes a hard basket-cut for the possible give-and-go play with O3. If the give-and-go is not there, O2 continues to the opposite corner. O1 fakes the basket-cut, reverses direction and comes over the O4-O5 double-screen (diagram SOB2). O1 is often open for the 3-point shot here. O5 can slip the screen for the pass from O3. O4 might also be open for the 3-point shot (diagram SOB2B).

MSU sideline out-of-bounds play - Line-1 MSU sideline out-of-bounds play - Line-1 MSU sideline out-of-bounds play - Line-1

From Tom Izzo: Winning Dead Ball Situations - (see "Line-1" above):

More Sideline Out-of-Bounds Plays:

See the complete article in the members section.

The complete article also includes:
  • 1-4 High Set Plays - Dribble Hand-Off/Double-Screens, Hawk, Triple-Screen
  • Box Set Play - Screen the Screener
  • ISO Plays - ISO-5, ISO-2
  • Ball-Screen Plays - Ball-screen with Down-Screen for O2, Two Ball-Screens, Slip-Reverse, Double Ball-Screen
  • Zone Plays - Fist, Double, 33
  • Baseline Out-of Bounds Plays - Double-Screen the Screener, Two Double-Screens
  • Sideline Out-of Bounds Plays - Line-2, X-ISO, and Double-Slip
  • An animation