In every league, as a team, you will face an opponent that will full-court press. How you break the press, and score off of it, will largely determine how well you do against these teams. Yesterday, I watched the early match between Austin Peay and Louisville before catching some live high school games, and APSU stood toe-to-toe against Louisville for most of the game mainly by executing their press break against Louisville's pressure.

A couple of basic but important concepts are displayed by APSU. They spread the floor, they have a safety, they have a big man in the middle, and their ball-handlers use effective dribble moves to dribble out of traps. Here are a few sequences from the second half,

Spread the Floor:

In your press break, sometimes I see high school games where they'll have all 5 players start out in the frontcourt. Unless it is a M2M press where you'll just baseball pass it every time, against a zone press, you must spread the floor. There should be no more than 3 players in the frontcourt. When you have too many players in your frontcourt against a zone press, it shrinks the area in which the defense has to guard you, making it easier to trap.

Use a Safety:

As a rule I use, I say that the inbounds person must be your safety on a corner baseline trap. If the defense is going to zone press the first pass in the corner, your inbounder must not run down court, but stay back to help reverse the ball,

Big Man in the Middle:

Once you've successfully broken the initial trap, either by a ball reversal to the inbounder, or just through good dribble techniques like the crab dribble, stop and go moves, etc... You must have one of your tallest but also most capable ball handlers (someone you trust with the ball in the open court) in the middle. Once the zone press makes their secondary trap, both ball-handler and middle player must be ready to pass and receive in stride so that you take advantage of forward momentum,

Once the pass is made, you can see that from the middle of the floor, you have plenty of options. The first pass should be made to the wing cutting underneath to the basket. The second option would be to the opposite wing for a 3-pointer. Finally, you can dribble-drive down the middle,


The APSU Governors are a good team, good enough to make the NCAA Tournament in March. They played so well for three-quarters of the game but in my estimation, they made a bad decision to full-court press Louisville when they were only down by single-digits with under 10 minutes to go. The Cardinals are the more athletic team, pressing them only sped up the tempo and increased the number of shots ultimately allowing the Cardinals to increase their lead in the last 5 minutes.

As for the Cards, they play in the loaded Big East which people say 10 teams will make it to the NCAA Tournament. As always, a Rick Pitino coached team will press hard and that will give them the advantage against the weaker teams, but it's what they do against the Pitts or UConns or Georgetowns which will determine how good this team really is. Based on their half-court game, I'm not convinced they are anything more than a 2nd round tournament team.

For some really unique ideas on press break tactics, check outJohn Brady's DVD on Transition Offense and Press Break. Coach Brady is now at Arkansas State but was the coach at LSU when they made their Final Four run in 2006. Be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.