Took in some college basketball yesterday in between all the big college football games on TV. I like watching Butler mostly because I admire Brad Stevens. To become the head coach of a Div1 team at his age is really remarkable. They were playing Evansville yesterday and for the first half it was pretty close all the way through.

I caught a few offensive sets Butler ran that I thought were quite unique and interesting. As far as I know, they don't run motion, just straight offensive sets, but they executed them very well. Here were two sets they ran on multiple occasions,

Double Stack Set:

This is really a very ingenious play. Because it takes advantage of a M2M defense that is playing good man principles. On defense, one of the common tactics is to force the dribbler baseline into help defense. Out of a double stack set, O2 pops out to receive the pass. O1 then goes to set a downscreen for O3, then cuts to the opposite wing. O3 curls around the pass looking for a pass from O2. O4 does a cross cut up to the opposite elbow, bringing his help defender with him,

With O4 out of the lane and X4 trailing, that leaves a wide open lane right to the basket. X2 doesn't see it and assumes that he can force the dribbler baseline and help defense will be there,

The play worked a couple of times, but Evansville finally caught on and switched on defense so that help defense would stay there.

Single Stack Flex:

As far as I could count, Butler ran this set probably close to 50% of the time. It's a high man with a stack on the right. O4 goes to set a downscreen for O3 to pop to the wing, O2 pops to the other wing,

O5 goes to set a cross screen for O4. O5 then pops out to the high post. O4 goes underneath looking for the post-entry pass from O2. O2 can look for either O4 or O5,

In this case, O5 gets it at the high post. His defender is a little late and tries to close out fast, O5 then beats him off the dribble and kisses it off the glass,

Other options include high-low, or O2-O4 give and go. If all options are exhausted, O3 or O1 can go PNR with O5 up top.


The Horizon League looks as competitive as last year but I think it will come down to Butler and Cleveland St. again. Butler is well coached, they play disciplined on both ends of the floor.

Hope y'all had a great Thanksgiving weekend and safe travels to all who are on their way back. Good luck for the season ahead for many of you high school coaches who are starting their seasons this coming week.

For more great offensive sets, check out Jay Wright's new DVD on Innovative Offensive Sets. The video was filmed at the Las Vegas clinic held just this past year. Be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

I took in the Raptors and Hawks game last night on the NBA schedule. I think a lot of people are surprised at the Hawks who have continued to play well beyond taking the Celtics to 7 games last season. The Raptors won the game (a home game), but I liked the way the Hawks played. I think they could be a dangerous team in the playoffs this year, especially with the Pistons appearing to be weaker.

What is most remarkable about the Hawks is their early offense and fast break. Not only do they run a great primary break, but they have some nice secondary break as well. One of the very simple, but effective plays they run involve a baseline runner, then a quick reverse. Here are a couple of sequences from the first half of the game,

2 very simple secondary breaks. One going right, one going left. One with the point guard, one with the shooting guard.

Baseline Going Right:

Bibby passes off to the wing, cuts to the ball-side corner. Then he cuts to the far-side corner. Calderon follows Bibby to the corner, but then he stays on the ball side, presumably to help on dribble penetration,

O4 and O5 move towards the ball as O2 passes to O3 up top, who touch passes it to Bibby in the corner. In the clip, X4 (Bosh) tries to rotate and closeout but is late and Bibby knocks down the 3-pointer,

Baseline Going Left:

This time, O3 is the shooter and is already in the ball-side corner as O2 dribbles to the wing. O3 runs the baseline to the opposite corner. O5 dives to the opposite low block, O4 goes to the opposite elbow. X3 follows O3 but stays in the lane to protect the basket,

O4 comes to the high post, O2 passes to O4 who then touch passes to the opposite corner. X3 (Parker) tries to closeout but is way late,


This secondary break takes advantage of a sagging or help defense that looks to protect the ball, and/or switches screens. Now, if the defense trails, O4 and O5 should set a stagger screen for the baseline runner to create space and disrupt the trailer. I think as coaches, we should spend more time thinking of secondary break plays. You can run your secondary break, and if the shot isn't there, fall into motion. Other great secondary breaks can be like an early post up, or just hitting the trailing forward running straight towards the basket. The best shot opportunities do often come as the defense is in their backpedal.

For more secondary break and fast break ideas, check out Stu Vetter's DVD on Fast Break and Secondary Break Offense. Coach Vetter is the head coach of Montrose Christian, the alma mater of Kevin Durant. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Why is it important to play good fundamental M2M defense? Because it makes you competitive every single year. I've watched the Kansas Jayhawks a few times this season now, against Washington and recently in their OT loss to Syracuse this past Tuesday. Despite losing their entire starting lineup and more after last year's remarkable run to the National Championship, the Jayhawks could be back to the Final Four, because of the way they play defense.

Like a UCLA or a UConn, there's nothing tricky here. They just play great 1v1 and help defense. They have active hands, and they really get into those passing lanes. If you look at the Jayhawks last year, they were one of the top teams in the league in steals, and they hardly ever pressed full court. Though they would ultimately lose this game due to some great clutch shooting by Syracuse, here a few sequences at the end of the game and in OT showing how they get into those passing lanes,

Help Defense:

Stopping your man 1v1 is great. But we all know that anyone can get beat. On the dribble drive by Devendorf, watch how the Kansas post defender pops out to force Devendorf to leave his feet and ultimately turn the ball over,

Active Hands:

This is a carryover from last year. The Jayhawks are so good in their half-court defense because all their guys have active hands. They're always getting into passing lanes and deflecting the ball. This is something obviously drilled and conditioned into the players,


It's no real secret, if you play hard M2M half-court defense year in and year out, you will be competitive year in and year out. But that kind of tough defense requires a lot of teamwork and practice. You can tell that Kansas spends a lot of time working on defense in a Bill Self practice. Spend the time and effort to teach good M2M fundamentals, the payoff will be in your team's perpetual competitiveness.

If you want your teams to practice like Kansas, take a look at Bill Self's DVD on Better Practices. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

There was a thread going on a coaching forum about zone defenses. It was interesting, one coach made the point that playing zone defenses early in the season was a way to catch teams off guard. I'm usually not a huge fan of zone defenses, but after watching some early college games so far, I think that argument has some merit.

These are some clips from Georgetown's narrow win over Wichita State earlier in the day. I don't think Georgetown did anything schematically or positionally that was problematic. It was just a lot of poor execution, the ball not moving with much purpose, making sloppy plays, and settling for 3-pointers by Georgetown. But I also like the idea of extending out the zone from a soft press by Wichita State. Take a look,

Extended 2-3 Zone:

You could run it as a matchup, but WSU uses it more like a true 2-3 zone but extended out all the way full court. I watched Florida do this a lot last year and I saw them do a little of it this year against Washington. It's soft pressure, so you're not trapping, but definitely pressuring the ball with the 2 front defenders,

After the defense crosses half-court, the top 2 defenders drop back to their zone positions. The back 3 also drop back to form the backline of the zone,


The zone was definitely a factor in both the low final score, 58-50 and the 17 total turnovers by Georgetown in the game. It really disrupted their rhythm and had to rely on a 27 free throw attempts to gain the advantage to win the game. Credit to WSU though, they stayed within 8 points of a top 25 team despite shooting an abysmal 27% from the field.

For an interesting perspective on zone defenses from a M2M defensive-minded coach, take a look at Tubby Smith's DVD on Utilizing Zones. Coach Smith is currently the head coach at Minnesota. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

First off, want to wish all the American readers out there a very happy Thanksgiving. We all have so much to thank for and so it's good to have a day to just say thanks for everything.

There have been some fantastic college games the past couple of days with the wrap up of a couple of major pre-season tournaments. There was a great game that wasn't on most people's radar, VCU against East Carolina. Game went to overtime and it was a fantastic finish with East Carolina winning at the end.

I've never run this kind of pressure defense before but it's a very intriguing concept, the idea of the run and jump. You fake like it's just regular M2M pressure, but then one of the off-ball defenders leaves his check to hard double the ball-handler. More than anything it hurries the offense into making bad decisions. Check out a few sequences from the first half,

Trap Sideline:

On the inbounds, you'll even notice that they'll face guard and double the primary ball handler. Anything to make it more difficult to get the ball in. Once the ball is inbounded, X1 plays M2M. The ideal is to force baseline, then X2 pretends to run down along with O2, but v-cuts hard and doubles O1,

If the ball-handler is able to dribble out (shouldn't if it's a good trap), continue to double-team and force a turnover. That's what VCU does, both X1 and X2 trail and force the re-trap after crossing half,

Middle Trap:

Well, it's kind of a half-trap because without the sideline, you can't true trap and box in. Nonetheless, if the ball handler goes middle, X2 can still v-cut back. Also, notice how the other 3 defenders zone up to cover the backside,


I've never run the run and jump myself, but I think it can really be disruptive because you never really know when or where the trap is coming. It's usually out of a M2M defense, so there isn't a predictable formation like a 2-2-1 or a 1-3-1 that you can particularly scheme for.

I think East Carolina struggled a bit with it in the first half, but did a better job in the second half. I think you want to keep at least 1 player behind the ball-handler to reverse to, thereby keeping the defense honest. The Pirates were kind of making it worse by having all four offensive players in the backcourt waiting. Bring 1 player back so that the ball can be reversed easily.

George Mason plays a similar kind of defense except they call it scramble. For a closer look, check out Jim Larranaga's DVD on his 3-2 Camouflage Defense in the half court. George Mason used it to get to the final four a few years ago. Be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

Most of y'all probably already seen this on your local sports broadcast, but I just think it's such a great story. Ken Mink is the 73-year old guard for Roane State Community College who returned to college and made the team. With tonight being the eve of Thanksgiving, just reminds us all of how much we should be thankful for and to take nothing for granted, and be fearless in the pursuit of your dreams. Here is the 5-minute interview on ESPN with Ken Mink,

Most of y'all coaches are probably deep into practices right about now especially with football season almost done if not done already. I know most of y'all lose sleep over breaking the press so I decided to look for it today to at least give y'all some more ideas. Courtesy of Coach Duane Silver and his terrific newsletter, his notes say this can be used as a press break against any zone or man press, and that this is a fast break and press break rolled into one.

This press break is from Wisconsin using what they call the domino formation (2-1-2). I like press breaks that are easy, since players have to remember all that other stuff like offensive plays or motion, so this one certainly qualifies in that area. Anyways, hope y'all enjoy it...

Domino Fast Break:

As mentioned, they call it the domino formation because they are in a 2-1-2. O4 is always your inbounder, O5 should be around the foul line, O1 should be the first option to inbound to, O2 and O3 should run their lanes (left and right),

Once the ball is inbounded, if O1 is unable to pass to O5 in the middle or O2 up the sideline, pass back to O4, notice that they are still in the 2-1-2 Domino alignment,

Press Break on Made Basket:

This is how the fast break turns into a press break. Once the basket is made, O4 rips the ball out of the net and looks to inbound. O5 screens for O1 to get open. O2 and O3 run their lanes as per usual. If O1 cannot get open, O4 should find O5 at the free-throw line,

O1 tries to push the ball up the sideline and off and running trying to score on the break, hopefully with numbers,


I like press breaks that are simple, because philosophically, I believe that you beat pressure with good fundamentals. If your players are confident with the ball, they won't need any fancy press break, they should be able to use simple common sense principles like reversing the ball.

I wish Coach Bo Ryan of Wisconsin made a video on press breaks, but that's OK, there are plenty others. For instance, take a look at Bruce Weber's DVD on Press Break Drills. Coach Weber is the head coach of Illinois. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Sometimes you watch a game and you think, that's bad defense. I watched the early game between the Raptors and the Celtics on CBC, national TV here in Canada and I'd have to say, it was one of the worst displays of team and individual defense I've ever seen in my life.

If there just one thing the Raptors could wish for this Christmas, it's learning how to stop the ball. It was a major problem from last season, the one major factor that separated them from the elite teams in the east. And unfortunately, it is still the main factor. The Raptors are actually allowing a higher opponent ppg at 100 than last season at 97, so you could say they've digressed. The Celtics ran the same play over and over, a 1-2-2 high ball screen and the Raptors were powerless to stop it. Here are some of the low lights from the third quarter where they watched Rajon Rondo light them up, again, and again, and again...

Protect the Basket, Give him space:

Now, when you are defending someone on the perimeter, as a coach, the standard is 1-arms length away on ball. To prevent the player from popping a 3-pointer. However, the priority is always to protect the basket, always. Now, if you read a scouting report and the player you are defending is not a 3-point shooter, you can probably give him more space.

Rajon Rondo of the Celtics is one such player, he is quick and can penetrate but what he cannot do consistently is shoot the 3-pointer. So give him space. I don't know why Jose Calderon is playing 1-arms length on Rondo here at halfcourt,

In this sequence below, I don't understand why Chris Bosh is playing so tight on Garnett on the perimeter. Why not back up, let him receive the pass on the perimeter, then close him out. That way, you are protecting the basket first, then closing out second. Instead, Garnett reads the overplay and just cuts backdoor for the alley-oop,

How Not to Defend Ball Screens:

In this age of the PNR in the NBA, you must know how you will defend the PNR. Now, teams will use any number of tactics given the context of who they are playing. Against the Celtics, you know Rondo will either drive to score or dish. Therefore, the best way to defend is to either hedge or trap the ball screen, forcing the ball out of his hands; or go underneath and sag completely in order to protect the basket first, close out second. The Raptors don't seem to have a clear idea what they want to do. In this sequence, it looks like Bargnani is on a straight switch, except watch Calderon, he's in a trail position. This allows Perkins to slip the screen, roll to the basket and get the easy dish and lay in from Rondo,


You must be able to stop the ball. If you cannot stop penetration either through 1v1 defense or help defense, you will allow a lot of points, there's no way around that fact. The Raptors have not addresses this fundamental flaw in their team and will therefore never be a great team until they do so.

Now, the absence of Jermaine O'Neal who left in the 2nd quarter is a factor, as he adds help-side shot blocking. But in my opinion, that comes at the expense of allowing open shots. In the NBA, I don't think it is good enough to be able to just stop the ball, you have to be able to close out shooters as well.

If your team is struggling defensively like the Raptors, time to get back to basics and look at defensive stance. Check out Seth Greenberg's new DVD on the Defensive Stance. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Went through some recorded games from yesterday's busy schedule of college basketball games and I saw this interesting baseline out of bounds play by Boston College at the end of their game against St. Louis. The game was already out of reach for BC, but I like this BLOB play because I think you can get a decent look underneath the basket against any form of M2M defense. Take a look,

It's a real simple play. BC uses a 3-1 set. The middle and high player come and set a stagger screen that closes in the middle allowing only the wing player to come over the top and in between. The defense is in a M2M full switch because it is at the end of the game. The wing defender decides to switch, but due to a communication breakdown, his man is allowed to go through the screens and the far side defender is still trailing his defender. The middle defender decides to switch on the cutting wing but is late on the play,


I once read an article that said the sign of a well coached team is one that scores on inbounds plays. I don't think I'd put all my stock into whether a team is well-coached entirely on BLOB or SLOB execution, but I do think they are an important "special teams" x-factor to the game, especially at the lower levels where the defense is sometimes suspect, to pick up some easy points.

For some great special teams info from a great charismatic coach, take a look at Bruce Pearl's DVD on OB nuggets. Tennessee puts so much importance on special teams that it is famous for defending BLOBs and forcing 5 second violations. Be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

I caught the TNT game earlier in the week between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. It was a good game, but the Suns have a ways to go defensively. The Lakers on the other hand look like that Bulls team in 1996 that won 72 games, with a 10-1 start, which means we'll soon be hearing all those comparisons in the weeks and months to come.

But what I wanted to talk about here is two-time MVP Steve Nash, and specifically his free-throw shooting technique. I think it's slightly overlooked by coaches considering how important free-throw shooting is. You win games because of your ability to shoot free-throws as a team. I think the Memphis Tigers from last season is a rather bleak reminder when this problem goes unaddressed. Take a close look at Steve's free-throw shooting routine and technique,

Develop Your Routine:

I liken free-throw shooting to putting in Golf. It's important that each of your players develops a pre-shot routine. As in golf the pre-shot routine is a tool to help players eliminate doubt, focus on execution, and trust their shooting stroke. They not only need a physical routine, but a the mental routine which they do to visualize the ball going into the basket.

For Steve Nash, he has a really simple routine. First is his setup. He takes a step back, then uses his right foot (because he is right-handed) and places it just before the free-throw line splitting the lane in half, his left foot is slightly behind the free-throw line creating a staggered look,

He makes two practice free-throw gestures to reinforce his form technique, then he licks his fingers for better grip on the ball. He receives the ball from the referee, takes three dribbles, gets into his shot pocket and shoots the ball, all in succession, all in one motion.

Now, your players may have a different routine, some may spin the ball into their hands, others wipe their brow, etc... I think whatever the routine is, the important thing is that they do the same thing every single time.


If you watched the video clip above, you'll also enjoy the short blurb in between between Marv Albert and Reggie Miller of TNT talking about Steve Nash and his "non-recruiting" process coming out of Victoria here in Canada, and his illustrious career at Santa Clara before coming into the NBA. Anyways, hope that will get you all coaches thinking a little bit more about free-throw shooting.

For more great info on shooting technique, take a look at Ed Palubinskas's DVD on Becoming a Great Shooter. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

Every week, I answer some questions by readers out there for Storming The Floor. I don't presume to know everything, but just some thoughts about college basketball, what I see, what I hear, what my opinions are. If you want to read this week's Q&A, go ahead and take a look. If you want a question answered, go ahead and email them to,

For this week, I answered questions on:
- The Buna offense that Northwestern State and UT-Arlington are apparently running
- Michigan's offense under Coach John Beilein
- UNC's rebounding prowess
- Memphis win over UMass, both dribble drive motion teams
- Defending the Georgetown backcut

Some really great college basketball games yesterday. I decided to watch the New Mexico game because I wanted to see more of Coach Steve Alford's 2-out 3-in motion offense. I watched some games last year but many teams played zone defense so the Lobos used a zone offense. Tonight, against Grambling State, the Lobos used their 2-out 3-in motion offense and through some hot shooting and great passing, they trounced GSU. I managed to catch several sequences, so enjoy...

Download the video here.

Just a short disclaimer, I'm still trying to get the jist of the 2-out 3-in, so if I'm butchering it, feel free to let me know, as I'm sure a lot of coaches want to know more about it.

2-out 3-in Motion:

From watching the video, the goal is to get the ball inside, when you establish the post-game, it will open up 3-point shots. It isn't really a driving offense, but there are some drive and kick opportunities.

The setup is 2 players up high, 2 players in the low blocks, and 1 player in the corner/wing. So, you basically have a 2 man game up top, and a 3 man game down low. You also have a 3 man game in the corner like a triangle offense, and the 2 man game on the weak side,

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Like every motion offense, the ball must be reversed. It starts out by the one pass to the other player up top. Then there is a stagger screen set by the low post players,
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After the stagger, the two players split off and from the video sequence, you acually see that this is where the best opportunities come from as the motion can confuse some defenses and players open up to the basket for open shots,
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Once the ball is fully reversed, you'll have the same setup on the other side of the floor and repeat until you score or miss,
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The 2-out 3-in motion offense that New Mexico uses by Steve Alford looks a very flexible offense. I think it's kind of a combo of the Bo Ryan Swing, with elements of the triangle offense. Like all motion offenses, it assumes that all of your players are versatile enough to post-up, shoot the outside shot, handle the ball on the perimeter, and make good passes. The Lobos looked great on this night, we'll see if they can maintain their consistent shooting. The Mountain West will probably only send 1 maybe 2 to the NCAA Tournament so we'll see if they can be that team.

To learn more about the 2-out 3-in motion that New Mexico runs, take a look at Steve Alford's DVD on the 2-out 3-in Motion Offense. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Watched the first half of the battle between Indiana teams, Indiana and IUPUI. My first game of the year watching Indiana so I originally wanted to see some box sets now that Coach Tom Crean is the head coach. Unfortunately, IUPUI played zone defense so Indiana ran zone offense the whole first half. Instead, I was watching IUPUI's 5-out offense and thought I would take a closer look.

I think most people who think 5-out, automatically think Princeton. But I think you can run a lot of stuff out of a 5-out set. Because there are no players posting up, most people believe it will be hard to get open shots, but I think the 5-out can create a ton of opportunities simply because of the spacing, just like Duke's spread offense they switched to last year and is still running this year. Here are a few sequences from the first half, the PNR, the drive and kick, and the straight drive,

Basic 5-out Set:

They sometimes start out in a 1-4 high look but really their base is basically a 5-out high, with the forwards, O5+O4 at the top of the key. It actually resembles a 1-2-2 look with the corners moved up high to the wings,

Basic PNR:

Nothing revolutionary here. Very much like a spread PNR like Duke plays or Florida or the Suns under D'Antoni. The key is that since everyone is spread, the spacing allows more room for the pick and roll to jumper,

Drive to the Rim:

With the spacing, it's almost elementary for the drive. Much like the dribble drive offense, you play to your strengths. If you have players that can play face up and drive, then you shouldn't force them to play back to the basket,

Drive and Kick:

Duke runs alot of the drive and kick. Here, the IUPUI guard is not quick enough to get all the way to the cup but drawing in the defense and kicking it out to the guard who has shuffled to the corner to hit the 3-pointer,


I think if you have quick guards that can shoot 3-pointers, you could really go either way with the spread offense or the dribble drive motion. I think with the spread, you don't technically really need any true back to the basket forwards. The dribble drive uses the drop off more and so you do need that forward in that low post spot for both the drop but also the offensive rebounds. I didn't watch the whole game, but IUPUI was close throughout and lost by 3 to Indiana.

As for Indiana, I think they'll be OK. They were hit hard with players leaving and sanctions for scholarships, but Coach Crean runs a tight ship so they'll rebuild the right way.

For a similar styled spread offense, take a look at Keno Davis' DVD on his Spread Dribble Drive. It's based on a 4-out 1-in but the principles are very similar. Coach Davis was the 2008 AP coach of the year and head coach of Providence. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Well, college basketball is finally upon us, in full swing today. Most of y'all probably watched that great win by the consensus number one team UNC over Kentucky. I didn't watch the game live, but from the highlights and the boxscore, it looks like the Wildcats are still struggling to get into their 4-out 1-in motion offense in the half court.

Maybe Allen Iverson doesn't think much of it, but practice is THE key to success. It's a cliche, but coach Williams is right, "perfect practice makes perfect." I've said this a few times before, but if you want to know why the great teams are good year in and year out, you just have to observe one of their practices and you'll know why. On ESPN, this is an all-access with UNC head coach Roy Williams talking about the intensity of UNC practices and why practices are so important to their success.

Here are some notes that I went through recently from a coaches clinic on leadership with Roy Williams. Specifically, he talks about work ethic, why its important, why your hard work will rub off on your players:

Regardless of how hard you work, I will be working harder. It all starts at the top. Coach Williams talked about how his passion, commitment, and work ethic must set the tone for everyone in the program. He has to continually demonstrate in his actions the standard necessary to achieve success. The players see how much he invests in them and the program and are naturally inspired to give a high level of commitment back to him.

For more Roy Williams on video, check out Roy Williams' DVD on the Tar Heel Offense and Transition Drills. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

A great game with a great finish last night between the San Antonio Spurs and the Sacramento Kings. The Spurs have been hammered by injuries with 2 of the big 3 (Parker + Ginobili) out. But they still play hard defense and they still have Duncan. I really thought the Kings should have won the game, but their late game execution was a little puzzling.

The Kings started out doubling Duncan hard, on the first dribble after the catch. But in the last 2 possessions, they don't (well, they do double but its way too late). I don't understand why you wouldn't double hard after you just doubled Duncan hard and forced the ball out of Duncan's hands and the turnover. Watch,

Double on Bounce:

There were 2 big defensive stops the Kings got under 4 minutes. This one was one of them. They allow Duncan to receive the ball, then double him as soon as he takes the first dribble,

The Kings forced 2 big turnovers late in the game and got a 2 point lead.

Don't Double Duncan:

If something works, I think you keep doing it. I'm not sure why coach Reggie Theus decided not to continue the double on the bounce. Or maybe his players just didn't listen to him. Either way, they let Duncan make his move. Watch this first play, Duncan is already making his move and the defense doesn't move to double (well tries to but is way late, then doesn't want to foul him), also note that the shot clock is at 5, so if you double Duncan hard and he passes out, probably they won't get the shot off in time,

On the game winning play, for some reason, the Kings decide to double the ball-screen. That is usually fine, but first, this is Duncan you're allowing to roll to the basket, and second, you'd better have help-side already in the lane. The help is late, the recover is late, Duncan with the easy layup,

The play design was good by coach Gregg Popovich. Look at all that open space where Duncan rolls. I still don't know why the Kings chose to trap the ball-screen. Nobody asked coach Theus in the post-game remarks so I guess we'll never know...


Basketball is game of choices. To double or not to double, when to double, double before the catch, on the bounce, etc... The nuance is what makes the game so interesting in my opinion. To find out what worked, what didn't, what to do next time.

The Kings seem to be going sideways, not much better than last season, not much worse. It's a tough conference, and they've made some iffy moves, we'll see if coach Theus can turn things around. As for the Spurs, I think Popovich will take .500 until Parker and Ginobili get back (sometime in Dec/Jan I believe).

If you're looking for more info on doubling down, I recommend Kermit Davis' DVD on Defending the Pick and Roll, Ball-screens, and Trapping. Coach Davis is currently the head coach at Middle Tennessee State University. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

From Friday night, I caught the college basketball game between the Texas and Stetson. With Stetson being the smaller, less athletic team, I expected them to come out playing zone and they did. I thought Coach Rick Barnes did a good job tactically and the players executed their zone offense perfectly. They really looked prepared and ready to go, a sign of a well coached team.

The zone defense that Stetson used was a 3-2 zone. Texas countered with a 1-3-1 zone offense exploiting the middle of the floor to get open shots. As a result, the Longhorns got plenty of open shots and all of their players were making shots on this night. Take a look at a couple of sequences from the first half,

Against the 3-2, Use the Ball Screen:

Against the 3-2 zone, you can really use ball screens to free up open perimeter shots. Because the defense is in a zone, when you screen the defender on the ball, there is no switch so you basically will end up with an open shot every single time,

Also notice how the defender goes underneath which allows for the wide open jumper.

Against the 3-2, Use the High Post:

The general weakness of the 3-2 on the floor is the open space in the middle. Both posts are on the low block which means the high-post is open. The Longhorns move the ball from side to side a few times, go into the high post, then out. Finally, they get it into the high post area. X4 comes up to defend but is late on the closeout,

The other option is the high-low action. Once the ball goes into the high post, you can lob it into the low post player to go 1v1.


Simplicity works the best. Position your players in the gaps, find open shots and take them. You have to take what the defense gives you, the zone prevents the offense from driving into the lane, or post-up isolation. You will need to make outside shots, but that's why your team does all that shooting during practice, right? Making sure your team is versatile is key against any team you will face this season.

Rick Barnes doesn't make instructional videos but for more great zone offense principles from another great Big 12 head coach, take a look at Bill Self's DVD on 3-out 2-in Zone Offense. Coach Self is the head coach of the national championship Kansas Jayhawks. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Ben Howland Defensive Tips

I was watching UCLA the other night and I am always impressed that no matter what players he gets year after year in the revolving door, he is able to get his players to play his style of defense. Very aggressive half-court M2M, in your face type of defense. I went through some old notes I had and found these great tips from a Ben Howland Clinic. Enjoy...

1. You have to be a great defense team to win championships
2. Do not allow transition baskets. Get the ball to the sideline, get it out of the middle of the floor.
3. No penetration off the dribble.
4. Knowing personnel and tendencies. He likes 2 days of preparation.
5. Always trail a shooter.
6. Big on big to double the post only against good post players. Get good at what you are doing, keep working on it, and keep improving.
7. Contest every single shot. Even, if they are late. Contest the shot to the level of the ball.
8. Blockout and all 5 rebound - PG led the team in defensive rebounding.
9. Take the charge. Cover up and take the hit.

Coach Howland doesn't do instructional videos. But if you're also impressed by UCLA's defense, take a look at one from his one time assistant and current head coach of Pittsburgh, check out Jamie Dixon's DVD on his 10 Point Shell Drill. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches. I have the UCLA game recorded so I'll probably break down some of their man defense from it.

I'm watching the back to back ESPN NBA games tonight after a couple of college games and it's so interesting to see the contrast in how the Nuggets incorporated Billups into their team and are having success, and how the Pistons have adapted to Iverson and now starting to have success. Billups is trying to blend into what the Nuggets are doing, while the Pistons are altering what their used to doing to Iverson. And so far, they're both working.

I caught just a couple of highlights from last nights exciting 2nd half between the Pistons and the Warriors. It was quite the game, came down to a critical stretch in the 4th quarter where the Warriors turned the ball over on a rookie OB inbounds step-on-the-line play, and a couple of Rasheed Wallace 3-pointers. What I want to show here mostly though, is how the Pistons are basically a dribble drive team with everything going thru Iverson,

When you get a franchise player like Iverson, I think you do basically have to mold your team around that player. I don't think Joe Dumars made the move with the intention of having Iverson become the 5th starter, he made the move because he thinks Iverson is the guy that will carry the team to a Championship.

So, gone are the Billups 1v1 post isos, also reduced are the rip hamilton stagger screens, or the Rasheed Wallace isos. The Pistons basically go spread PNR,

Or a dribble drive with Iverson and the dump off or kick out,

It is a drastic shift from the Pistons under Flip Saunders. Under Saunders, the Pistons ran some ball-screens, but mostly ran stagger screens for a catch and shoot for Rip, Billups postups, and Rasheed postups.


Time will tell ultimately (by April) whether or not Joe Dumars' gamble pays off. One thing you can't fault him and Michael Curry for though, is trying to make it work with Iverson in the mix.

I was an assistant coach one year at a school where we happened to get a star transfer (shooting guard) from out of state (eventually went to a DivII). We were a decent team, but this star player was by far better than anyone else on the team. We didn't know this player was coming in September so we'd plan to run what we always ran, a 3-out 2-in hi-lo offense. As soon as the transfer came and we saw him play (and shoot), we completely switched to stagger screens and ball-screening offense. We ended up going to the final four of our state tournament with that player (first final four for that school in 10 years). I guess the lesson is, with a star player, build your offense around that player's strengths, but know that there are still limitations, winning a championship is tough...

For more great dribble drive video info from the originator himself, take a look at Vance Walberg's 2-DVD Set on the Dribble Drive Motion Offense. Coach Walberg is an assistant at UMass. To discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics, head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk with other coaches from around the world.

From last night, I watched most of the Michigan game against a feisty Northeastern team at the Coaches for Cancer pre-season tournament. With a lot of pundits saying the Big10 will be in a slump this year, Michigan is poised to be one of the teams that could break through and get to the NCAA tournament.

In Coach John Beilein's second full season with the Wolverines, I think a lot of people have higher expectations. We know they run the 1-3-1 zone defense, and I profiled it last season when they played UCLA tough. What I noticed in this game against Northeastern wasn't necessarily how well it worked (and it did) but how Northeastern was playing right into the traps, by dribbling into the problem areas. The ESPN announcer (not sure who) kept saying Northeastern needs to penetrate the gap, the only problem is, that only works if you have a penetrating guard. Take a look,

Penetrating the Gap:

Penetrating the gaps in a zone is one way to beat it. But as you can see, Northeastern's guards do not have the foot speed to be able to do that effectively. Michigan can close up and trap the penetrating guard easily to force the turnover,

Gapping the zone:

In my opinion, if you can't penetrate the gaps in the zone, then you need to position players in the gaps. Against the 1-3-1, I think the best way to do that is with a double high post like the 1-4 high. When the ball goes into one of the high posts, the other post can dive and you can either shoot, drive or go hi-lo, the other option is the 3-pointer in the corners,

Or you can go with an overload. Say you setup in a 1-3-1 roughly with your shooter in the middle. Your 2 posts setup a stack screen down on the low block. O3 cuts around the stack to the corner. O1 takes 1 or 2 dribbles to draw the defenders in then passes to the corner for the open 3-pointer,

X4 will probably chase O3. Regardless if O3 is open or not, O5 and O4 split. O5 heads to high post, O4 cuts to the basket. One of them should be open. The pass can come from O1 or O3 if that first pass is made,

Finally, when the ball goes to the high post, O5 can shoot, drive, or pass to O4 on the high low, O2 who has shuffled to the opposite corner, O3 still in the corner, or back out to O1 and reset,


Remember, there are always more than one way to skin a cat. Penetrating the gaps is a good zone offense principle, but your guards have to be faster then the defense can close in. If not, you'll need to use another strategy. The good thing about gapping, is that it will work regardless of your personnel.

Northeastern actually did OK, keeping the first half score within 10. One thing to keep in mind against zone teams like Michigan who play zone mostly only after dead ball is, if you play good defense and get stops, that means you'll play Michigan M2M (Beilein feels it is difficult to transition into their 1-3-1 on live ball). Michigan's M2M defense is not nearly as good as their zone, that is usually the case for zone teams in general. That is how Northeastern kept the game close, by getting stops on defense, and scoring on Michigan's M2M.

For more specifics to counteract the 1-3-1 zone defense, check out Darrin Horn's DVD on Zone Offense Quick Hitters. Coach Horn is the new head coach at South Carolina and formerly of Western Kentucky. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.

I wrote earlier last week about how I didn't think the Knicks should be running the D'Antoni 7 seconds or less offense, because I didn't think they had the cerebral players that could make could quick decisions (at least the right ones). I still think that today. I watched Mike D'Antoni on the Charlie Rose show yesterday and he readily acknowledged that the player personnel right now isn't right and won't be for quite some time, patience is required. But at the same time he realizes that it's a fishbowl in NYC, and there will be pressure to win right away. He talks about his 4-year contract as 1-year as head coach, 3 years on vacation. Anyways, I thought I would share it with y'all in case you missed it,

One major advantage from being in NYC is the advantage of the city itself. If all the talk is true of Lebron wanting to leave Ohio for the Big Apple, he could be the perfect fit for D'Antoni's 7 seconds or less offense. We'll have to see...

I also enjoyed listening to D'Antoni talk about leadership and Coach K at the Olympics. Because, that's what coaches basically are, they're leaders - they guide, shape, mold a bunch of disparate players into a singular unit with the ultimate goal of winning.

I watched a little bit of the exciting Raptors and Celtics game but mostly watched the Trailblazers big win on the road over the Magic. It was a great game and I think the Blazers are on the right track and when Greg Oden gets back they'll be even better.

In this 4th quarter stretch where the Blazers got some big defensive stops and some big 3-point shots. It was a 10-point swing and the Blazers broke the tie to take the lead for good here. I just like how simple basketball can be, "Reverse the ball." How many times do we as coaches say that, yet how few times do our players actually do that. Watch these 2 key offensive sequences where the Blazers are able to move the ball around and get that open shot,

It's such a simple concept, yet it never gets old. Reverse the ball. Each time you do it, the better shot opportunity you'll get. It's like what Gene Hackman says in the classic movie Hoosiers, "4 passes before you shoot." Why? Because it works.

Ball Reversal for a Better Shot:

There's really nothing to this play except simple fundamentals. They start out in a 4-out 1-in look. The ball gets passes to Outlaw (O3) on the wing. O1 goes down to the low block. O2 goes for a v-cut, O4 pops out for the reversal,

True, Outlaw could've shot it here, but the smart play is to reverse the ball. O4 reverses it to O2 and starts setting up the stagger screen,

Outlaw sets up his cut to the ball by pretending to be cutting to the basket and coming through to the opposite low block. Instead he cuts over top and O4 sets the last screen for Outlaw for the open shot. X3 gets fooled and tries to go underneath, around and back up top, which by that time is of course too late,


Pass and screen away or pass and cut. Every time the ball is reversed, the defense has to work to adjust to not only movement of the ball but movement of players. This is especially the case in a motion offense. You must go through 1 or 2 iterations before the best shot becomes available. That's why it requires patience and teamwork. Once 1 player decides to get score-happy and wants to go 1v5, your offense bogs down. Get the ball moving, get your players moving, and the court will open up.

A great video that builds on these concepts is Paul Hewitt's DVD on Transition Offense into 4-out 1-in Motion where he emphasizes three passes before every shot. Coach Hewitt is the head coach at Georgia Tech. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.