I watched most of the Notre Dame basketball game against Long Island yesterday. I didn't know coach Mike Brey of ND was a proponent of the packline, but he certainly used it early to stifle the Blackbirds forcing them to shoot just 28% from the field. I've posted in forums before but I really like the packline. You force your opponent to play smart, disciplined basketball. It is a talent equalizer in that it allows a less skilled team keep the score down and stay close. Watch the video and then you can read my thoughts below (Notre Dame is in white, Long Island in black).

I can't show you all the defensive principles and various options of the packline as that would take a book, but I will scheme the first play from the video that demonstrates a few of the fundamentals of the defense.


So the basic formation is a M2M defense. The pack basically resembles a sagging M2M. Each player is responsible for a man with the idea that there is an imaginary line 3-feet inside the 3-point line that parallels it. All players that are not defending the ball must stay inside the 'pack-line'. The on-ball defender is basically chest-to-chest. The off-ball defenders are in a 'ball-you-man' position, which means you see the ball, and you see your man, think the 2 pistols.

The idea here is to prevent dribble penetration, double everything inside and only allow outside shots. On ball reversal, players are taught to rotate if necessary and to closeout the shooter and box out.

Double the post, closeout the kickout:

In this sequence, the ball is entered into the post. The closest defender goes to double the post forcing him to kick it back out.

What happens here is X1 is no longer close enough to close out, so X2 does instead. O1 is able to penetrate but is cut off by X4 coming up to the free-throw line to stop him. O1 forces up a contested mid-range.


The packline is a defense that you can run as a base defense. In the words of Shooter from Hoosiers the movie, "Make 'em chuck it from the cheap seats." Force teams to play team basketball, teams that play 1-on-1 or play out of control will struggle against it. This is a perfect defense to use against a dribble drive motion offense that Memphis or Pepperdine uses. In fact, Memphis struggled bigtime in the first half against Richmond last week who used a similar sagging zone.

It's hard to argue against the results of teams that have used the pack. The inventor of the packline is Dick Bennett, former coach at Wisconsin and Washington State and his teams consistently ranked near the top 25 in opponent field goal percentage. Current WSU head coach Tony Bennett used it last year to become the NCAA Coach of the Year taking a team that was picked to finish last in the PAC-10 to a number 3 seed in the tournament.

If you want to run the packline defense this year, you must get Dick Bennett's DVD on his packline defense. There are some packline stuff posted on the X's and O's Basketball forum so be sure to check them out.