Breaking Down Florida’s Baseline Out Of Bounds Plays

If there is one thing Mike White has been known for in his time at Florida it’s his baseline out of bounds (or BLOB) plays.

Though the Gators went through some rocky years from an offensive standpoint even his most stagnant scoring of rosters was able to execute an exquisitely drawn up BLOB play leading to an open jumper or thunderous alley-oop. Their BLOB excellence got them out of more than a couple of dry offensive spells where their halfcourt sets weren’t doing the trick and White gained notoriety around the country for his skill in this element of coaching. Florida fans also christened him with the nickname “BLOB god,” something you’ll still see tweeted out by droves of fans every time the Gators convert on one of the plays.

However, in the 2019-20 season it seemed like there were far less of those conversions than in the years prior. Florida didn’t seem as aggressive in BLOB scenarios and they didn’t appear to have as many easy buckets off the plays, a total change from the seasons before when it often seemed like BLOBs were the Gators’ best chance at a bucket.

Why was that the case? This team was actually significantly better offensively than the previous two seasons, something you think would contribute to them keeping up the production on BLOB plays, if not get even better.

To find out why Florida didn’t go as hard with BLOB plays I looked at every BLOB in the 2019-20 season to find out what was up.

Much of the talk regarding Florida not being as dynamic on BLOB plays has been anecdotal, but the numbers back it up. The Gators shot only 40% on BLOBs last year, good for 134th in the country. It does need to be noted that this number is a bit misleading, or, perhaps more accurately, just not an accurate way of evaluating BLOB efficiency. That number, pulled from Synergy Sports, encompasses all plays that follow a BLOB play.

When we talk BLOB plays we are often talking about a quick shot off the first pass from the inbounder, or one that comes rather quickly off the initial pass. However, Synergy is tracking any play that starts on an endline inbounds pass and that means if a team simply wants to get the ball in safely by throwing it to half court that play is still logged as a BLOB. Therefore, it’s not entirely accurate to use Synergy’s BLOB numbers, because if Florida threw the ball back towards midcourt to then initiate their normal half court offense it feels a bit unfair to count that as a BLOB.

Let’s refer to BLOB plays where the Gators looked for a shot off the initial inbounds pass or off one extra pass as a quick hitter. Quick hitters are often what we think of when talking about BLOB plays, so it’s good to make that distinction.

The Gators attempted quick hitters on 53% of their BLOBs, a departure from last season where 66% of their BLOBS were quick hitters. That’s a rather large change in BLOB philosophy, so let’s see if the numbers back up that decision.

On quick hitting plays the Gators were at 1.03 points per possession, a really solid number and one that any coach in the country would be happy to get. Their favorite quick hitter was this play, an extremely simple one to generate a quick post up.

As you can see the Gators had success with this play in a number of ways. First, they might get a switch that one of their big men could exploit. Or, the player they inbounded the ball to in the high post could attack and the big man posting up could seal the help and allow the driver to get right to the hoop.

In prior seasons we saw the Gators run a lot of complex actions for shooters off BLOBS that looked great and often had good results, but this simple high-low post action saw even more production and was easy to run and tough for opponents to scout despite the simplicity of the play.

So, the Gators had 1.03 points per possession on quick hitters, but what was their total points per possession on BLOB plays?

0.87 PPP.

A major drop off.

So, what happened on the plays they didn’t look for a quick hitter?

A play they ran a lot was a simple play where the inbounder throws in the ball, gets a dribble hand-off, and then gets a quick ball screen. The dribble hand-off into a ball screen is very prevalent in the modern game and is often referred to as “zoom” action. Florida ran this play on the 24% of their BLOB plays, a rather significant amount, so clearly they loved it. However… there weren’t actually great results from this set. Oftentimes the play led to, well, nothing. Watch it here.

I mean, it’s a fine set, nothing wrong with it, but quite often they didn’t get any advantage off the play and it stagnated their offense. One of my gripes with this play is that zoom action is all about getting a ball handler going downhill and attacking the basket with pace. However, when you run it like Florida did for an inbounder you have him running the opposite direction of the hoop, almost backwards if you will, to get the ball and then have to make a big turn to get going towards the paint.

On these zoom plays, Florida shot 28% from the field and were at 0.66 points per possession. Those are poor numbers, especially considering the fact they continued to run the set so often. This could suggest the staff isn’t tracking efficiency on each of the inbound sets they run, as it seems they weren’t maximizing their BLOB opportunities by going back to the zoom over and over again.

One reason they could have gone back to the zoom over and over again is that it is a safe play where the Gators never turned the ball over. It’s an easy inbounds pass into an easy read for a ball handler so the risk of turning the ball over was low, something that wasn’t the case with their more difficult lob plays or quick post ups.

That was a benefit of the zoom play, but they still ran it an awful lot for a set that didn’t actually yield them many points.

Another set that didn’t yield them many points was a variety of post isolation plays they ran for Kerry Blackshear Jr. off of BLOBs. In all fairness to the coaching staff, they ran these plays for Blackshear more in the first weeks of the season where they were still searching for ways to get him involved but they largely went away from it later in the year, something that shows they were adapting to results a little bit. Here is how they entered the ball to Blackshear for an isolation.

They ran this play on 10% of BLOBS, and on those sets they shot 22% and 0.49 points per possession.

Full credit to the staff for largely retiring this set late in the year, but it still was a play call that resulted in a lot of empty possessions.

I’ve thrown out a lot of numbers here, but are you ready for the most bizarre stat of the day?

It’s regarding Noah Locke, a player who is one of the best shooters in the country. That’s, if you have somehow forgotten, the player who is a career 40% three points shooter.

For whatever reason, Locke is terrible at catch and shoot attempts off BLOB plays. Despite being an elite catch and shoot player for the last two seasons he is a career 8-37 (22%, 0.59 PPP) on BLOBs. So, considering the fact he’s such a great shooter the Gators’ staff is trying to get him open looks but unfortunately he has shown time and time again that he isn’t converting these plays.

This is a bit of a tough one to navigate, because Locke is such a great shooter overall, but at some point you’ve got to look at his career numbers on BLOBs and maybe consider stopping running plays for him so often.

Overall the Gators had a more simplified playbook when it came to BLOBs this year but they still showed off some of the fancier sets from time to time and generated the lobs that everyone loved to see.

So, as an overarching look at Florida’s BLOB plays last year, this is what we learned.

The Gators definitely seemed better off going for quick hitters than some of the actions they’d flow into like the zoom plays or the Blackshear isolations. Considering their efficiency was so low on those plays (0.66 PPP on zoom, 0.49 on post isolations) they’d be better off throwing the ball into their own back court and just running their regular half court offense (0.92 PPP). Their insistence on going back to plays that didn’t work was a bit frustrating, especially for a coaching staff that has shown in the past they can draw up incredible quick hitting BLOBs.

Moving forward into the 2020-21 season there are a few things to consider regarding Florida’s BLOB plays.

First, they no longer have Andrew Nembhard inbounding the ball. He was the trigger man on most BLOBs, and as we know was one of the best passers in the country. Additionally, at 6’5” he had great height to create angles around the player guarding the inbounds pass. When Florida was at their best on BLOBs it was often Nembhard’s excellence at passing and without him they’ll have to see who can play that role.

Without Blackshear it will be interesting to see if they continue to run so many quick hitting post up plays. They were tremendously successful throughout the year so it would make sense to continue to use them, but they won’t have the big body of Blackshear carving out space and making the high-low pass an easy one.

Two seasons ago it was Jalen Hudson and KeVaughn Allen who got a lot of the catch and shoot plays ran for them with good success, and the Gators didn’t have a shooter to carry on that tradition. If Locke continues to be ineffective on these plays the Gators will have a player in Tyree Appleby who could thrive with them as well as incoming recruit Samson Ruzhentsev who by all accounts has been shooting the ball with ease. Another option would be Tre Mann who many are expecting to have a breakout year shooting the ball.

For the Gators to be at their best offensively they’ll need to be fruitful with their BLOB plays. When the 2020-21 season tips off watching to see if the Gators are conservative or ambitious with the plays will be a major storyline to watch. With the talent the Gators have, the smart money could be on the BLOB god Mike White coming out again.

Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.