In watching highlights tonight, I found this clip from the season opening win by Indiana over Chattanooga and it highlighted a good point for transition defense. In order to properly defend against most good fast-breaks, you must have at least 3 players back. With just 2 players forming the 'I', it's simply too much ground to cover. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below (Indiana in white, Chattanooga in black).

So Chattanooga runs the break pretty good here. The forward is way out in front and gets position underneath the basket. The point guard does a good job beating the defender that attempts to jam him, that leads to the numbers advantage, 4-on-2 with the trailing defender coming but essentially not in on the play.


This appears to be a fast-break coming off a made basket by Indiana. A forward passes to the guard and he's off. Indiana is late in transition and the result is a 4-on-2. The Chattanooga wings do a great job of getting out wide to the 3-point line.

So, the 2 Indiana defenders, we'll call them X1 and X3 actually do a good job of trying to defend the break. They form an 'I' with X1 covering the top guy while X3 is down low protecting the basket.

The problem is that with 4 offensive players, there is simply too much ground for the 2 defenders to cover. Once the ball is passed to the wing, he has a wide open 3-pointer. You'll also notice that O4 is wide open when X3 closes out on the shot.


In my opinion, you must bring at least 3 players back at all times to defend against a 4 or 5 man break. With 3 players, you can at least rotate to defend the ball-side or strong-side, leaving only the skip pass as unchallenged.

The 3 defenders form a triangle. Whichever side the post-man goes to, the wing defender on that side must front to protect the middle entry. O1 brings the ball and passes to O2 as was in the video. This time, X3 can rotate from a closer position to close out on O2, X4 shifts over to deny the middle pass, and X1 shifts to defend mostly O1 but also in case the ball is skipped to O3 on the weak-side.

I believe in this way, with 3 defenders you can properly defend a 4 or 5 fast-break. Will it stop all transition baskets?? No, but I think the jump from 2 to 3 is probably at least 50% more effective.

Ironically, I'm going to recommend Kelvin Sampson's DVD on defensive transition drills. Coach Sampson is the coach at Indiana and I think he is a great tactician having followed him since he was at Oklahoma. There are a ton of notes including transition defense at the X's and O's Basketball forum so be sure to check it out.