It's officially March so what I like to do is watch teams and see if they've improved since the start of the season. As a coach, it's always how you end the season, not how you start it, and the hope is that your players are better (much better) now than they were in November.

Watching the Florida Gators play Tennessee tonight, I could tell the Gators were exactly that, a much improved team. Not that the Gators were a bad team at the beginning of the year, but defensively, the Gators didn't look to be a great team. Coach Billy Donovan mostly played zone to mask their deficiencies, but watching them tonight, wow, they've made some major strides defensively. Here are a few M2M defensive sequences from a very exciting game in which the Vols managed to squeak out in the end,

The Gators do all the things that good M2M teams do. They stop penetration, they rebound, and the close-out well. In addition, they really put pressure on the ball and deny those passes. It was great to watch 2 great M2M defensive teams just go at it tonight.

Pressure M2M defense:

If you want to play tough pressure M2M defense, your guards and forwards must work hard to deny the first pass. It's all about the stance, foot work in your defensive slides, and seeing the ball and your man,

Your forwards especially must work extremely hard to deny the post entry and battle for position with the body. And most importantly, they must work hard for the entire shot clock,

When you play pressure M2M, teams will run their shooters off of stagger screens. Your guards must hustle to beat the screens, slip the screens, and close out on the shooters. Also notice how the help defenders are in their flat triangle positions, in a ball-you-man position,

Finally, once the shot goes up, fundamentally, your forwards MUST block out and get the rebound. We tell our players "find-hit-get". Find your man, make contact or hit him, then get the ball,


The Gators unfortunately blew a 16-point lead. But you can't blame the Gators defense, the Vols were simply hitting some amazing shots, mostly from Lofton. The Gators will most likely have to beat Kentucky this weekend to get into the NCAAs. But if they do, watch out, they could be a darkhorse team.

If you're looking for some good shell drill stuff, take a look at Jamie Dixon's new DVD on his 10-point shell drill for better M2M defense. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.