I was at a local high school basketball tournament today and I was watching these two teams play and it was really just painful to watch. One of the teams was using a full-court M2M press, much like the Duke one that I wrote about. The other team was having all kinds of problems breaking the press and before you know it, the score was 20-0. I kept thinking to myself, why does the press-break team have all their players in the backcourt, that is just helping the other team's press. I often like to say that going with your instincts is the best choice. But sometimes it's the opposite of what seems natural that is the best solution to the problem.

Trouble with this press break:

If a team is pressing you hard M2M full-court, it would seem natural that bringing all your players into the backcourt to help is the best solution. After all, if your point-guard is getting doubled and trapped, you would want to bring help, right?? In my opinion, this just helps the pressing team, here's why,

Against a full-court M2M press, by bringing your forwards into the backcourt, you've just increased the number of defenders in the area to 5. Now, all 5 defenders are fully engaged in creating pressure, getting into passing lanes, and generating turnovers. You've basically given the other team a free pass to press you to death making it tremendously easy for the other team to accomplish their goal, while seriously hampering the ability of your players to get through to the frontcourt. After about 10 minutes, the pressing team had forced about 15 turnovers, 7 or so off of steals from attempted dribbling out of the press, 5 off of stolen passes and 3 or so off of throwing the ball out of bounds. A couple of times the point guard made it through, but was so hurried, missed layups badly.

A Better Way to Press Break:

I think you want to start with 3 defenders at half. Have your sideline players do a v-cut to the basket then cut straight deep. This way, the inbounders have the option of the long baseball pass. Keep the middle man on a delay. If not deep, then pass to the nearest wing. They will double the first pass, so an easy reverse to O3 is in order. Once this happens, O4 in the middle will v-cut to the ball, then break deep. At the same time O3 drives hard down the middle, with X3 hopefully in a speed recovery. So, looks something like,

Once your players have broken deep, either the defense follows (which they should if they are in a M2M press) or they will get burned over the top. I don't care which point guard you have, dribbling through 5 defenders is going to result in a lot of turnovers. By clearing the backcourt, you've created more space and now you have the numbers advantage and not the other way around.

I don't want to seem overly critical, especially if the losing coach goes home flicks on the computer and reads this and is humiliated. But I'd be very interested to see the game replayed with a different press break. Could it have been a closer game? When the pressing team took off the press, both teams played pretty even the rest of the way, final score was around 60-40.

For more great press breakers, check out Bill Self's DVD on the 1-3-1 press-break. Head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics.