Basketball is full of cliches and you've probably heard this one a million times, "basketball is a game of adjustments", but in the case of Washington State vs Winthrop today, it really was about the adjustments. With the score tied 29-29 at the half, the Cougars went on a 25-1 run to start the second half and of course they never looked back.

It truly was one of the best defensive halves I've seen probably ever. Now, part of it had to do with Winthrop unable to make shots, but a lot of it had to do with the switch to move Derrick Low to cover the Eagles top scorer Chris Gaynor. Overall though, the Cougars probably play as good defense as you'll see in all of college basketball.

Just what makes Washington St. so great on defense is their system. Coach Tony Bennett, son of Dick Bennett, created the pack-line and the Cougs have been running it since the older Bennett installed it back in the day. In the 2 years that Tony Bennett has been the head coach, the Cougs have ranked in the top 20 in points allowed and finished 3rd overall this season with 57 ppga (behind Wisconsin and Stephen F. Austin).

The Packline:

It's not really a major break from your traditional M2M offense. It's still basically all the fundamentals of a M2M defense but what they do is they put pressure on the ball on whomever has possession, and all the other defenders play help-side or in coach-speak we say, "up the line",

The reason why they call it a packline is because all the defenders (except the one defending the ball) must stay inside the imaginary line. When a pass is made, the defender is taught to close-out to the ball with proper footwork and high hands to prevent the shot. The other defenders rotate to provide helpside.

The real advantage in running the packline is that it prevents dribble penetration and forces teams to shoot from the outside. The other big advantage is that the packline makes it easy to double down the post because the it shortens the distances in between,

The Cougs move on to face Notre Dame in the second round. The key to that matchup will be whether or not Notre Dame is able to shoot well from the perimeter. If they are able to, it will force the Cougs to stretch their packline to the 3-point line and beyond. Consequently, that will open up opportunities for Luke Harangody down low.

The definitive guide to the packline defense still is Dick Bennett's DVD on the packline 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.