In between some great college football games, I went through some recorded stuff including the big win by UNC over Michigan St. earlier in the week. We all know that UNC is great on the fast break, but you only get that fast break if you force turnovers on defense. The Tar Heels are tough defensively and against a solid Spartans team, they still managed to force 21 turnovers.

Traditional thinking is that in order to force turnovers, you have play some kind of full court press or at a minimum a hard M2M pressure defense. I'm not saying that they don't do those things, the Heels do play great M2M pressure, ball denial, and they pressed on occasion, but what generated all those turnovers was just tough interior defense. They pick their spots and seize on opportunities. Here were a few great sequences I caught from the first half,

Ball in the Paint, 5 in the Paint:

As the ball is entered into the paint, the all 5 Heels collapse on the ball. Now, they took advantage of 2 things, a mediocre-shooting MSU squad and quickness on defense. The Heels can do this because on the kick out, they have the speed to close out and get a hand up on shooters. Your team may not have that quickness, but at the lower levels, its rare to meet an opposing team that is automatic from 3-point land. I'd much rather take my chances giving up some perimeter shots if I can stop the ball in the paint everytime,

Bad Shots Lead to Fast Breaks:

I think it's mostly common knowledge among coaches that bad shots do lead to easy fast breaks. But I just want to emphasize that the problem is exacerbated if your players vacate the top of the key to rebound. We all want offensive rebounding, but not against a team that runs the break as well as UNC, and not when your responsibility is to be the safety,


Obviously all coaches would like their games to turn into layup drills on offense. What makes UNC so good is that they pick their spots and they don't take any big gambles. They wait for the opposing team to make a mistake, then they finish the play. You know your defense is really good when your team can force turnovers against bad teams and good teams alike.

Learn to master the Carolina M2M defense by checking out Roy Williams' DVD on The Carolina Defensive Numbering System & Drills. Be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.