The Big West is one of those conferences that gets little attention. It's a small conference and though many teams exist in talent-rich southern California, most of the top recruits either go PAC-10 or abroad. But they still get 1 automatic bid in the NCAA tournament in March and with the parity that exists in college basketball today, you just never know if Cinderella will be from the Big West.

One of the teams that probably has the best shot at winning the end of season Big West Conference Tournament is Cal State Northridge. I actually have a personal connection as one of the players on the team that transferred there recently from Pepperdine played his high school ball in my area and I had many opportunities to watch him play.

Anyways, the Matadors were hosting UC Irvine at the Matadome tonight and they extended their conference unbeaten record to 7-0 with the win. I watched the first half of the game and the Matadors are primarily an early offense team. They look to score within the first 15 seconds and use both an inside and outside attack. Here is what it looked like live,

Much like UNC, the forwards of the Matadors are the ones that lead the break. This is a vitally important concept. Roy Williams likes to emphasize key to key for his forwards, can't say it any better than that. So here are just a couple of early offense plays from the clip.

Early Offense Post-up:

The early offense post-up should be the primary look. It's effectiveness primarily comes with the fact that the ball is entered into the middle of the lane when help is not ready to come due to the transition still from offense to defense by the defending team.

Notice how they form a diamond. UNC does this as well. Both wing players run wide and the post-player runs the middle. This spreads the floor and gives the point-guard 3 legitimate options. O5 gets right into the middle of the lane, posts up. O1 enters the ball early with a perfect bounce pass. Pivot and score from there.

Early Offense 3-pointer:

As a shooter, probably the most open you will be for a perimeter 3-point shot is off transition. I like the way this play develops. It's smart in it's design and requires the defense to adjust how they will get back to defend you.

Same setup as before, except, your shooter on the wing gets an extra step ahead. O5 will set a down screen instead of posting up. O2 who is trailing the play comes to set the second pick for O3.

O1 dribbles to the vacated wing. O3 should be coming off shoulder to shoulder at this point. X3 is caught behind the screens. O3 catches and shoots and nails the 3-pointer.


As some places transition from a 30 second shot clock (or some places with no shot clock) to a 24 second shot clock, the concept of early offense will just become offense. If you take away the time it takes to bring the ball across half, you will probably have 10-15 seconds to get a shot off without getting counted down. There are quick hitters from a motion or continuity, but most require patient ball and player movement. If your area is moving to the 24 second shot clock, you should start thinking about early offense, or you could get left behind.

There is no better video at explaining the concepts of fast-breaking and early offense than Roy Williams' DVD on UNC's Numbered Secondary Break. Talk early offense at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.

The number one team in the NBA in 3-point shooing percentage is the Toronto Raptors. Surprise? You shouldn't be, considering how many European players they have on their roster. I made a post earlier about the differences between European and American basketball, and while Terry Stotts makes his arguments for more passing and such, I think the primary difference lies in the European players' ability to shoot the ball. I haven't done the math, but I would venture to guess that the Raptors have the most foreign, and specifically European, players on their roster. Hence, their ability to shoot the 3.

Take a look at this highlight package of the Raptors rout over the Wizards tonight, in which the Raptors shot a sizzling 72% going 13-for-18 from beyond the arc,

Getting your Feet Set:

The key to being a good perimeter shooting player, and indeed a good perimeter shooting team is in how you set your feet. It's all about the feet, here are some screencaps from the video showing both the feet position and hand position of a good shooter.

I've highlighted the feet with a black line. Notice how Kapono, Parker, Bargnani and Calderon all have their feet set pointing to the basket, in position behind the arc, with hands out in front ready to catch and shoot. You want to reduce any extra unnecessary movements that allow the defense to recover.


The Raptors are so good at shooting the 3, that at 41.6%, they are a full 2 percentage points higher than second place Portland. Carlos Delfino is probably their most prolific 3-point shooter averaging 40.8% on 4 attempts per game. Anthony Parker, Jason Kapono, Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon are all above close to or about 40%.

I ofter hear coaches say, "why can't my team shoot?" or "why can't we make shots?". My question back to them would be, how much time do your players spend practicing shooting? Shooting is probably the most under-developed skill I see. Most coaches don't see the value of spending hours everyday practicing shooting, but that is precisely what it takes to become a good shooter. Shooters aren't born with the ability to shoot, they practice constantly. Pete Maravich used to practice shooting until he missed 3 in a row (which would take hours). By developing shooters, especially at a young age, you won't need to rely so much on athleticism. It truly is the great talent equalizer.

A newer shooting video you might want to consider is Steve Smith's DVD on team shooting. Coach Smith is the head coach of Oak Hill Academy, the prep school powerhouse featuring famous alum such as Jerry Stackhouse and Carmelo Anthony. 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.

Following on my theme of tough physical basketball, I caught the second half of the Texas A&M game against Texas at College Station. I watched a lot of A&M on national TV last year while Billy Gillespie had them flying high, but admittedly only caught one Aggies game this season since Mark Turgeon took over. If there's one thing that you know the Aggies would be going into this season, it would be tough, physical basketball. That's the way Wichita St. played under Turgeon, and that's how he reportedly played while at Kansas.

One of those kind of physical plays is setting open court picks. Just after midway through the second half, Aggies' forward Bryan Davis set this devastating pick on Longhorns forward DJ Augustine,

Against teams that like to use token M2M pressure on the primary dribbler, there's nothing better than a open-court screen to blow the defender up. The football equivalent would be a bone-crunching crack back block by a receiver on a linebacker.

Setting the Open-Court Pick:

Just to show how it develops, there are a couple of things to keep in mind,

First off, the dribbler, O1, has to setup his defender. He does this by dribbling one way, the using a quick cross-over dribble to change directions such that the defender does not have time to see the screen coming, instead focusing on the defensive recover slide.

O4 should signal to O1 that a screen is coming by pointing his thumb in the direction of where to come off the screen. Bryan Davis uses great form in setting the screen by firmly planting his feet and hands crossed over the crotch. He absorbs the contact from DJ Augustine while Augustine collapses.


I'm admittedly a big proponent of physical play. I don't condone flagrant fouls or outright violence, I like full-contact basketball, there is a difference. I think by playing physical, bodying up your opponent, you set the tone of the way the game will be played. In the chessmatch that is coaching, I like challenging the opponent to see if they can match our physicality. If not, we will dictate the terms and will take advantage accordingly.

For a truly unique video, check out Seth Greenberg's new DVD on the Defensive Stance. Greenberg does not believe in 'step and slide' and prefers short quick choppy steps resulting in the offense going through you, interesting stuff. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

The simplest and most effective end of game plays usually involve some sort of 2-man isolation game with the ball in your best player's hands. I analyzed Pittsburgh's end of game play last month. We all know how execution is key especially late in games when so much is on the line.

In this UPS whiteboard segment from ESPN, Jay Bilas breaks down Wisconsin's end of game play executed against Texas (which they won) and against Purdue (which they lost). Watch the video and read my thoughts below,

The play is a simple one. It's just a high ball-screen and depending on how the defense chooses to defend it, Flowers and Butch will read and react. It is in fact, almost the same end of game play that Pittsburgh uses.

Texas decided to hedge and recover, unfortunately, they didn't recover in time. Purdue decided to switch and Flowers was able to get the favorable matchup against a slower defender, but he just couldn't make the layup.

My personal opinion is that you should switch all picks when defending end of game situations. I don't like the hedge because the hedge is a difficult technique to execute properly. If the man hedging doesn't do it properly, you'll end up with an open shot or layup. At least with the switch, you'll have a contested shot even though it maybe a mismatch between a quick guard and a slower defender.

For a new video on late clock strategies and end of game situations, take a look at Tom Crean's DVD on Winning Late Clock Plays and Strategies. As always, head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk with other coaches about your favorite basketball topics.

One of the reasons why the Pistons have been one of the elite teams in the NBA has been their defense. When Ben Wallace left, we all thought the Pistons would suffer defensively, but since then, the Pistons have been able to negate Big Ben's impact through the combined defensive efforts of Antonio McDyess and Jason Maxiell.

Tonight, the Pistons were playing the Pacers and there was one defensive play that typifies what tough physical Detroit basketball is all about. Antonio McDyess demonstrates the 'bump the cutter' technique when defending the off-ball screen. Here is what it looked like (you're watching at 0:05, McDyess gives Dunleavy a rub),

This is what the play looked like when diagrammed,

The bump the cutter technique is effective against teams that run motion and a lot of flex screens. It works for a couple of reasons,

1. It delays the offense. Instead of crisp ball movement, it prevents the offense from moving the ball in rhythm. Instead, because of the extra movements, it forces the offense to delay allowing the defense to recover to the motion. Eventually, Dunleavy gets the ball but he is about 2 steps further out than he would normally want to be and he's well defended.

2. It discourages cutting. Eventually, teams won't want to run cutters, or they won't cut as hard as they normally do. Because they know that contact is coming, tentative players will seek to avoid the contact rather than seek it.


Back when I grew up playing basketball (and it wasn't that long ago), we played hard-nosed beat you down basketball. Refs didn't call ticky-tack fouls, and as a player you had to love contact or you'd get run off the court literally. I think that physical play is even more important in today's game because so many players I see these days are afraid of contact, they wait for the ref to bail them out. If football players come out to tryouts, I always like to keep a few just because of the physicalness they bring. You can really dictate the style of play by having some physical defenders on your team that can bother the tentative players on opposing teams. The Detroit Pistons are that kind of physical team, they bump cutters, they crash the boards, the body you up down low. That's my style of basketball.

A brand new video that has just come out for 2008 is Bob Huggin's DVD on Drills for Great Man-to-Man Defense. Huggins teams have always been known for tough hard-nosed M2M defense, especially in his Bearcat days in Cincinatti. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

It's been a while since I posted on the topic of press breaks. Tonight, I watched Tennessee squeak by Alabama on the road and one of the keys to sealing the win was breaking the full court pressure of the Crimson Tide late in the game. Alabama was face-guarding Tennessee guard Chris Lofton as they knew he was their best ball-handler and best free-throw shooter, but the Vols still found a way to get him the ball late in the game to seal the win with free-throws. There were actually a couple of nice press breaks used by the Vols late in the game, but I'm just showing the one here,

I posted earlier with Robert Morris' press break using the give and go. The idea here is similar.

Middle Handoff Press Break:

This is a really smart press break. The handoff is a really safe pass to make especially when the defense is overplaying. And the action is in the middle where you can really attack the press.

The Crimson Tide are basically in a very aggressive face-guarding M2M press. What Tennessee does is have 1 player, O3, v-cut to the ball, then fly down the sideline. This takes X3 and X5 with him. O5 cuts to the middle of the floor, around the 3-point line. O1 is Chris Lofton and is being pinched in front and behind. O2 inbounds to O5 in the middle.

After the pass is made, the pressure defense is caught on it's heels a bit overplaying Lofton. This allows him to come to meet the ball and O5 who executes a simple handoff, like you would in football. O1 dribbles down the middle of the floor and is automatically fouled. Lofton would hit both free-throws.


Using the pressure to your advantage is one of ways to break it. The idea is, if the defense is overplaying everything, you beat it by going over the top. It's the whole action/reaction theory. My preference is to use ball reversals and get the ball over half-court. Regardless of how you break the press, playing against pressure is key. You will never be a good team unless your players understand how to play with the lead and play under control against aggressive pressure.

For more great press breakers, check out Bill Self's DVD on the 1-3-1 press-break. Head over to the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss this and many more of your favorite basketball topics.

I posted earlier in the year about having and knowing what your main move is. In that case it was Sam Cassell with his patented baseline fadeaway jumper. When his career is all said and done, Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavs will probably be best known for dominating the high-post elbow. In my opinion, Dirk is unstoppable 1v1 from the elbow. He can pop the jumper or dribble drive even when well defended. Tonight, the Mavs man-handled the Grizzlies and I took a clip of this sequence of Dirk dominating from the elbow,

The High-Post Elbow:

Dirk is a nightmare matchup when it's an isolation set (which the Mavs run a lot of) with him at the elbow. Once he gets the ball there, you might as well count the points. He can shoot over just about anybody and with just 1 dribble can overpower smaller defenders and dunk it from there.

If I had a really dominant athletic forward, I would probably have an isolation set in my playbook where that player could get the ball at the high-post or elbow and just beat the defense 1v1 from there.


When watching the 2007 NBA Playoffs, one of the main reasons why Dirk and the Mavs struggled so much against the Warriors was because the Warriors forced Dirk out of the elbows out beyond the 3-point line. By forcing Dirk out of his comfort zone to the 3-point line where he cannot beat his defender off the dribble effectively, simply reduced Dirk to a jump shooter.

For a great new video on individual skill development, both forwards and guards, take a look at Tom Crean's Dynamic Skill Development DVD. 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.

It may seem a little odd, but I've watched at least 3 San Diego (USD) games this year. I say them lose to Stephen F. Austin, then beat Kentucky and tonight they beat conference opponent and top 25 ranked St. Mary's. Their motion offense under first year coach Bill Grier is still baffling to me which may explain their inconsistency this year. It seems to me that it is a combination of a lot of different offenses. It's mostly a 4-out 1-in, but with some blocker-mover, swing and flex principles. Here is what it looked like in a couple of sequences tonight,

Still confused?? So am I. I'll try breaking down a few things, but as I'm trying to figure it out myself, please excuse me if I'm butchering it.

4-out 1-in Blocker-Mover Motion:

For simplicity sake, I'm calling it a 4-out 1-in blocker-mover motion offense. The offense is designed to get the ball into the post as it's primary option.

There really is not starting set the Torreros use. But one thing is constant, and that is their center on the right block. The primary option is to get the ball to their center, Gyno Pomare. If not, they reverse the ball.

I say it's a blocker mover offense because it appears to me that they have 2 blockers, O3 and O4 and 2 movers, O1 and O2 in this offense. They reverse the ball, and like the swing, they use a cut/replace on the weak side. O2 shuffles to the corner. O4 and O1 do a dribble handoff.

O1 drives, gets stopped, then O2 comes around the flex down screen for the handoff. Nothing is there so they reset the motion.


The offense appears to be complex to implement. Like the Bo Ryan Swing Offense, they try to get the ball into the post. Like Bobby Knight's Blocker-Mover Offense, they use a series of multiple screen the screener. Like the Flex, they use down screens and baseline screens. Give Bill Grier time, I think he's building something special there at USD, with the right mix of players, the Torreros could be really good. As far as I know, Grier is an excellent recruiter so that should mean good things to come.

For a new video on a 4-out 1-in motion offense, take a look at Jamie Dixon's Spread 4-out 1-in Offense. Dixon also teaches strong post play, screening action, and spacing in his video. 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.

I watched most of the Warriors game against the Knicks tonight. I thought the Warriors played well and terrible, sometimes both at the same time. The Knicks I thought for the most part played well, even defensively, but obviously not enough for the win. One area that any team has to be aware of when playing the Warriors is transition defense. In my opinion, depending on situation and type of team you are facing, you have to adjust the number of players you send to the offensive glass.

Against a team like the Warriors, in my opinion you should not send any players to the boards and send all 5 back to defend. The positives of having all 5 on defense far outweigh the negative of not getting extra possessions. The Warriors have great early offense, but when forced to use the shot clock will most likely shoot 3-pointers. And as we saw tonight with the Warriors, 3-point shooting can come and go. In a couple of sequences that I caught in the first quarter, the Knicks get caught with 2 or 3 players going to the offensive boards and as expected, the results aren't good for them,

By no means am I singling out the Knicks as having terrible transition defense. In fact, after a bad first quarter, the Knicks would hunker down and get back on defense. I just happen to catch these clips for demonstration purposes.

Transition Defense is Important:

I posted earlier last year about this topic but I think it's worth re-emphasizing how much difference it makes having just 1 more defender makes when defending against a fast-break.

As you can see, with just 2 defenders against the fastbreak, you will have problems defending against 3 or even 2 players, especially when you take into account the 3-pointer.

By just adding 1 more defender, you've multiplied the options for defending the break. You can probably even defend against 5 players by forming the triangle with the wings shifting to cover the strong-side wing 3-pointer.


Against a good fastbreak team like the Warriors having all your players back won't completely stop all transition baskets. But I think by just adding 1 more player in transition defense, you can probably increase the probability of a defensive stop by at least 50%.

Now, the flip side to the argument for not sending any players to the offensive glass is due to the fact that the Warriors are a poor rebounding team (though Biedrins did happen to pick up a Warriors record 26 tonight). So, conventional thinking would be that you want to take advantage of this weakness of the Warriors and attack the boards to get extra chances. I just think that in the end, the +/- of getting back vs getting offensive rebounds will favor getting back overwhelmingly. I would be very interested to see a scientific analysis proving or disproving my hypothesis. Any takers??

Anyways, getting a little long-winded, over at Power Box Basketball, coach Sfera has a good post on transition defense complete with a drill you can use.

For video information, it's worth taking a look at Kelvin Sampson's DVD on defensive transition drills. Coach Sampson is the coach at Indiana and I think he is a great tactician having followed him since he was at Oklahoma and Washington St. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

I watched almost the whole game between Memphis and Gonzaga this morning. In fact, I've watched around 5 complete Memphis games this season and to be honest, I haven't really seen very much of the dribble drive in action all year. Most teams have either zoned up, played a packline, or used a combination of both (USC's triangle and 2). In fact, Gonzaga pretty much tried all of the above today and it almost worked.

Memphis managed to squeak by Gonzaga mostly because of their pressure defense that wore down the Bulldogs down the stretch. I would be concerned about whether Memphis can go deep this year, primarily because every team they will face going forward will use any defense possible to force the Tigers from running the dribble drive motion.

In any case, ESPN color commentator Jimmy Dykes did a pretty good in-game breakdown of why Memphis has been successful this year with the personnel they have, here it is,

Much like how Allen Iverson is perfect for the dribble drive in Denver, Derrick Rose is the perfect fit for the dribble drive for John Calipari in Memphis. In my opinion, for the dribble drive to be successful, you need to have at least 1 or 2 players that can break down their defender with the dribble any time the want to. And the last 5 words are key, 'any time they want to'. When you have a great 1v1 player that can 'attack the elbows' as Dykes describes above, the options for the backdoor and drag become available. If you're guards' penetration can be stopped 1v1, you'll end up with a lot of dead ball situations and contested perimeter shots.

If I did not have a great 1v1 player like a Rose or a Gordon, I would not run the dribble drive motion. In addition, you need to have good overall 3-point shooting. If not, teams will pack it on you and force you to take outside shots. In my opinion, that is why Memphis may have a problem winning it all this year, 1 bad shooting night against a top team like Kansas or UNC or UCLA could end their season.

The Better 1 on 1 DVD from Better Basketball is certainly worth looking at for individual skill development. For even more perimeter development, you should also check out Jason Shay's DVD on 33 Perimeter drills. Coach Shay's is an assistant with the University of Tennessee men's team. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

There was a great game today that probably didn't get much publicity because neither team is a top 25 team and the ACC only has 2 teams that have a real following this year. The game was between Boston College and Virginia Tech. I like both teams because I like both coaches and the way their teams play. Al Skinner and Seth Greenberg are great because they're old school. Their teams value each possession and favor quality over quantity.

I've watched a couple of Boston College games so far this season and though they are young this year, I think they are running Al Skinner's flex motion offense pretty good overall. I took clips of their offense today after watching most of the first half. Here are a couple of sequences,

There are a lot of teams that run flex or are flex-based, but Boston College probably runs their flex more than anyone else in the country. They really keep their players tight together and cycle through using the whole shot clock.

High Post to Baseline Flex Motion:

I'm only going to diagram the first sequence. For a more complete look at the full motion, take a look at my post on the Boston College flex motion earlier last Oct.

They usually start either in a box or 1-4 medium set. One of the forwards from the low block will come up to the high post above the FT line to receive the first pass. O3 then cuts across the lane, O5 waits for O3 to clear then comes up to the high-post forming a double high-post.

After the pass O1 clears to the opposite wing. O4 does a bounce pass to O5 from elbow to elbow. O3 after clearing out sets a flex screen for O2 who comes underneath. O5 finds O2 for the easy lay in underneath.


Both teams played great in the first half I thought, very well executed offense. I didn't watch the second half but the game went to OT and the Hokies managed to gut out the win on the road. BC's flex is really tight in that you'll see the players very close together. You would think that would be a bad thing with all the congestion but what they do is from that congestion is they explode to the wings, to the high-post, then they collapse back down and cut to the basket. So it's a constant bunch, then explode, then collapse. It takes a few iterations but it does result in great open shots underneath the basket when run properly.

There are some great flex videos out there but probably the best out there is Gary Williams' DVD on the flex offense. Coach Williams is the highly regarded coach at another ACC school, Maryland. Got a coaching question, head over to the X's and O's Basketball Forum and find some great advice from a great community of coaches.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the Washington Wizards and how they've been able to not only cope with but actually flourish without injured guard Gilbert Arenas who had averaged close to 30 ppg the last couple of years but was lost just 8 games into this season. In fact, I was watching ESPN the other night and they were talking about how the Wizards Princeton offense worked so much better without Gilbert Arenas.

I didn't even know the Wizards ran a Princeton offense. I assumed like many non-Wizards fans that they probably just ran iso sets for their 3 star players, Arenas, Butler and Jamison. So, I was on a mission tonight to watch the Wizards and see their much hailed Princeton offense without their top scorer Arenas, here are just a few clips from the second half against Memphis,

The offense is really a series of dribble weave handoffs combined with basket cuts and proper spacing. They get a lot of open looks with all the motion and counter motion.

Dribble Handoff to Give and Go:

The Wizards almost always start every single half-court set with a dribble handoff. I really like the dribble handoff for a number of reasons. Firstly it's safe and rarely results in a turnover, as opposed to the normal wing entry to a standing player which can be easily picked off. Secondly, most teams defend the dribble handoff by going underneath. If you are a good 3-point shooting team, this is an easy way to get quick uncontested 3-pointers (which the Wizards do a lot of).

They start in a 4-out 1-in look, this gives the Wizards great spacing for backdoor looks, dribble penetration and 3-point shooting, spacing is key here. They execute the dribble handoff from top to wing. O5 comes up to the high post elbow.

Once the handoff occurs, O2 passes it back to O1 on the wing. O5 comes and sets the UCLA upscreen for O2 who cuts hard to the basket, O1 finds O2 for the easy lay in.


The Wizards don't really run a traditional Princeton offense. The only part of it that is Princeton-based really is the basket cuts and give and gos. The Wizards are getting contributions from guys like DeShawn Stevenson and rookie Nick Young and they easily go 8 or 9 deep each and every night. That depth was on full display in the recent back-to-back wins over the Celtics a couple of weeks ago.

If you are looking for video info on a Princeton-based offense similar to this one that Navy uses, check out Joe Scott's DVD on the Fundamental building Blocks of the Princeton Offense. Coach Scott is the current head coach at Denver and used to be the head coach at Air Force and Princeton, both 5-out teams. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to discuss your favorite coaching topics.

Yesterday, we looked at Chris Paul clutching up in the 4th quarter to preserve the lead at home against a tough Blazers team. Tonight, we look at a different situation, getting big stops to come from behind on the road to steal a win against a desperate Heat team.

I've probably written more posts about Bruce Bowen than any other singular player on this blog. And I never get tired writing about Bowen because to me, he typifies the kind of player that I value most, a lockdown defender. Tonight, the Spurs knew they were in tough, and ended up playing from behind for 46 of the 48 minutes of the game. They had just flown in on the red eye after beating the Lakers last night and the Heat were rested and highly motivated to end a 14-game losing streak, probably the toughest situation for a Spurs team to go into.

When the game came down to the final 2 minutes, the Spurs were still behind and though they were getting good scoring chances and making them, they needed stops. Now, they knew the Heat would go to their clutch player Dwayne Wade, so the game rested on Bruce Bowen to come up with the big stops, and that is exactly what he did. Watch the last few sequences of the game,

The final 4 sequences went like so:

1. 1:02, 88-89 (for MIA), Bowen plays Wade tough, forces Wade to shoot a long jumper which misses
2. 0:43, 88-89 (for MIA), Manu Ginobili drives and scores the game winning layup
3. 0:30, 90-89, Bowen fights through 3 screens, then stays tough and forces Wade to a contested layup which he misses. Heat retain the rebound.
4. 0:12, 90-89, Bowen (with help) collapses on Wade driving to the basket and force the turnover

Final score, 90-89

If you are behind in a game, you must get stops. It's that simple. Having a lockdown defender like Bruce Bowen on your team is invaluable for that specific reason. Our varsity team last year was one of the top teams in our area. We lost our own tournament in the final game, when the other team made a switch and put a tough physical player to defend our team's top guard. The other team originally behind by 5 would go on a 20-5 run to close out the game and win the tournament. Our top guard did not score a single point in those last 10 minutes. My point here is, don't underrate your top 1v1 defenders, they will win you ball games if you use them correctly.

Brand new for 2008 is Hubie Brown's DVD on his Defensive Playbook for success. Coach Brown is just a basketball genius and his ability to teach the game is unmatched. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

Unfortunately I don't get a chance to watch that many Euroleague games mostly due to the time difference, but whenever I do, I enjoy watching the execution both offensively and defensively. One thing I have noticed, is that when teams have good big men, they use them a lot. As the NBA has started shifting to more of a guard's league, in Europe they still value their big men very highly.

I caught the first half of the Fenerbahce and Panthiakos game and recorded this half-court offensive set. It is just a regular block-to-block play, but it's well executed and it gets the big man the ball in a great position to score. As a coach, that's about all you can ask for, a pass to a big man right underneath the basket. Here's what it looked like live,

Curl to Flex Backscreen:

Couple of things that really make this play work well. First is the curl action and pop out to receive the wing pass.

O2 and O3 go in different directions, O2 first goes out, then cuts back in to set the flex backscreen. O3 pops out to receive the wing pass. This counter action of 2 players going in opposite directions from a bunch formation allows you to get the wing pass off cleanly.

O2 goes to set the flex backscreen. The key to the whole play is how O5 sets up his defender. With a quick weight shift (very v-cut like), O5 is able to duck underneath. Now, Panthiakos defends the play quite well as X2 switches automatically, but O3 is able to get a nice semi-lob into O5 who catches and finishes underneath.

One of the reasons why Euroleague execute so well is partially due to the amount of practice time they get. Unlike the 82 game NBA schedule, Euroleague teams usually play 1 game a week for like a 20-week season, then playoffs. The coaches can actually spend time in practice breaking things down and working on the little things.

For a great pro-style look at the game, take a look at Avery Johnson's DVD on Attacking M2M offense. Most people recognize Coach Johnson as "the little general" of the Mavs and I've always enjoyed watching the Mavs play. 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.

I've already written about Chris Paul and why I like him so much. He may not score 30-plus a game but he has that uncanny ability to win games. When the game gets close, you want your best players to step up and make plays. That's what Chris Paul does, he makes plays, his ability to flat out win games is invaluable. Tonight, as the Blazers were making a run late in the 4th quarter, it was Chris Paul who made the plays that sealed the deal. Here was a critical game-winning sequence of 4 plays with less than 3 minutes left and the score 81-74 for the Hornets,

The critical 4 sequences went like so:

1. 3:16, 81-74, Chris Paul with the steal, Pargo with the finish
2. 2:38, 83-74, Chris Paul 1v1 against Blake, scores the layup
3. 1:55, 85-74, Chris Paul 1v1 stop and pop mid-range jumper
4. 1:20, 87-76, Chris Paul penetrates and finds an open Peja Stojakovic

Final score, 96-81

At times, I think we as coaches over-think and over-coach situations. When the game is close, I always like to keep plays simple. Design your offense around putting the ball in your best player's hands in a position to make a play. On defense, switch everything, closeout shooters, and last but not least rebound the basketball. In the clutch, it is your players that will win the game, not any special game winning play or defense.

For more great info on developing a winning team concept, check out Hubie Brown's DVD on his Secrets to Winning Basketball. Hubie Brown is one of the most brilliant minds in basketball in my opinion. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

I watched the Kansas game against Iowa St today, my second Kansas game of the season. I think Kansas is probably the most complete team in college basketball right now. The way they play half-court defense, it's completely impenetrable. While watching the game, this play came up and I thought it was a good opportunity to show how you can use what the defense gives you to your advantage.

As you scout opposing teams, if you see that on occasion the defense will face-guarding you on an under the basket inbounds, you should audible for the pass back to the inbounder. This is precisely one of the reasons why I don't like to face-guard the BLOB, and prefer to guard the inbounder the traditional way. Take a look how Kansas took advantage,

Screen the Screener BLOB:

The inbounds play really isn't very complicated, it's just a screen the screener inbounds. It's what happens right after the inbound that makes this work,

O2 sets the pick for O4, if O4 is open, O3 can hit him for the layup underneath. O5 then sets the pick for O2 to curl around to the corner to receive the inbounds from O3. Note, X3 is face-guarding and has his back to the inbounder, X2 and X3 both go to check O2.

O3 is now completely wide open because of the face-guard and slips right underneath the basket. O2 finds him for the easy lay in.


Always be prepared to change up what you are doing to match the other team. Basketball is all about adjustments and taking advantage of opportunities. For every defense, there is a way to take advantage. That is part of what I like about being a tactitian, finding the holes in the defense and taking advantage.

If you like Kansas and the way Bill Self runs his teams, take a look at Bill Self's Guide on Running Better Practices. Be sure to drop by the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss your favorite baseline and sideline plays.

From zone defense to zone offense. I took clips of this game I recorded earlier in the afternoon between Big Ten opponents Wisconsin and Michigan. Though Michigan is near the bottom of the league in terms of their record, they're keep close in a lot of games primarily with the odd defense that they run. For Bo Ryan and Wisconsin, they came into the game with a plan of attack and for the most part, I thought they executed their zone offense very well against Michigan's 1-3-1. Here are a couple of sequences from the first half of the game,

I've used a double high-post formation in the past to beat the 1-3-1 zone. But one of the coaches from the X's and O's forum posted a 'Y' formation that I think works even better. I watched Auburn use the same 'Y' against a 1-3-1 and it worked really well there too.

The 'Y' to Beat the 1-3-1:

So, basic zone principles apply here. You use the pass and pass fakes to move the zone sideline to sideline. O3, O4 and O5 move and interchange between the bottom 2 and high post spots. So it looks like a 'Y' with an extra player running the baseline down low.

The skip passes have to crisp and quick. Your players must be patient and not turnover the ball.

As the zone shifts one way, your players shift the other way to find the gaps. You won't find the gaps on 1 ball reversal, you may need 2 or 3 or 4 ball reversals until the zone breaks down.

Finally, the zone has broken down and one of the baseline players is wide open underneath. The pass has to be crisp again leading to an easy finish.


One thing that I hear commonly is that coaches never seem to think they do well against the zone. The score is 48-40 and they wonder how come they didn't score more. That is precisely what zones do, they slow the pace of the game, they force you to be patient and execute. Teams that run a lot of zone will typically score less as well. It's just the way it is. Ugly or not, a win is a win.

If you're interested in a new video on zone offense, take a look at Jamie Dixon's DVD on the 3-out 2-in zone offense. Coach Dixon has just released a bunch of new DVDs that are all worth checking out. Join the many coaches already talking about their favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

I watched the half-time show here with Seth Davis and he thinks that the Mountain West will likely only get the 1 automatic bid (conference tournament winner) to the NCAA tournament in March. That is truly unfortunate, because there is some great basketball teams in the Mountain West. SDSU has the athletes and is the favorite, but I also like BYU, Utah and Air Force. Tonight's game between Air Force and Colorado St. was a great game for tacticians like me. Both teams played zone and junk defenses exclusively and zone offense was a big factor as well in the ultimate result. I really liked the matchup zone that Air Force used, it really confused the heck out of Colorado St. for most of the first half. Here is what it looked like when they ran it during the first half,

The matchup zone that Air Force uses uses switches extensively. I'm not exactly sure of the terminology so I'll just go with bump and switch. Communication is key, so with cutters, you must follow your defender until he moves to your teammates area, then bump your teammate down to cover your check. You then switch to cover both an area and your new check.

I think what makes the defense so effective is in the confusion it creates. Is is a M2M defense, or a zone. It kind of looks like a pack-line with a lot of switching. But you break it like you would any zone defense, like Duke did earlier in the year against Air Force.

As the game progressed, Colorado St. was able to make some outside shots and so Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds switched to a Box and 1 to take away the Rams best player. It worked for the most part. When the Rams finally made yet another adjustment, Reynolds went with full-court pressure. Constantly changing the defense, keeping the opponent from executing what they want and forcing them to adjust. That's the kind of basketball a tactician can really appreciate.

If you like the idea of changing zone defenses, you'll probably want to take a look at Wayne Morgan's DVD on the 2-3 zone and changing defenses. Plenty of zone discussions going on at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Mike Deane Straps In for the Season

Some of you probably saw this a couple of days ago on ESPN. But in case you didn't I just thought this would be a funny feature to share with all you coaches out there. With the new rules by the NCAA cracking down on sideline infractions resulting in technical FTs, Wagner's coach, Mike Deane had a custom chair made with a seatbelt that keeps him buckled down.

"Knowing my habits of the previous 21 years, I thought it would be prudent to keep myself out of harm's way. I didn't want to do anything to hurt what I thought was a pretty good basketball team."

I just like Coach Deane's attitude about not hurting his team. He knew that the NCAA would crack down on sideline infractions (Bruce Pearl famously got T'd up a couple of weeks ago), and Wagner doesn't need to give any more freebies to their opponents. The Wagner Seahawks are 12-5 and off to one of their best starts in school history.

First off, I want to say a Happy Martin Luther King Day to all of you (even though most of you will read this on Tuesday).

The Houston Rockets have been looking much better as of the New Year. Granted, their recent 7 wins in 10 games were against mostly sub-par opponents, but the win over San Antonio the other night and tonight against Seattle show that perhaps Houston has turned the corner and is ready to make a second half run.

One of the reasons for the recent resurgence naturally is the return of Tracy McGrady from injury. Another reason is the increased efficiency in their offense. When Rick Adelman took the job, it was promised that the Rockets would be much better offensively and maybe it's starting to show. I still see a lot of PNR and isolation sets, but the high-post backdoor seems to be occurring more and more. I saw the Rockets run this flex backdoor play a couple of times among a few others,

One of the more underrated things about Yao Ming is his ability to pass the ball. Much like how the Spurs use Tim Duncan to find people from the high-post pop-out, I think the Rockets can use Yao at that same spot to find cutters underneath.

Hi-lo Flex Baseline:

The key to this play is having a great passing big man. Because a guy like Yao or Duncan are so tall, they can receive the pass, pivot, and fire the ball down low even with heavy ball pressure simply because of their height.

The formation is a 1-2-2 or you can even go 1-4 high. The PG, O1 passes to Yao, O5 who pops out to receive the pass. O1 then goes to set a back pick for O3 near the baseline low block.

O3 comes off the flex screen and Yao fires a hot pass to O3 for the quick score. The Sonics defend it pretty good by switching, as X1 comes over top to try to deny the pass.


The Rockets are amazingly one of the lower shooting percentage teams in the league (though it is improving recently). I say amazing because they have Yao Ming who is above 50% in FG. One of the reasons why they shoot a low percentage is because they don't average a high number of assists, and they don't get out in transition and run. Though I don't think they will every be a running team with their current personnel, more passing and backdoor cuts will certainly mean higher percentage shots and an increased shooting percentage overall.

For something a little different, take a look at Steve Fisher's new DVD on his favorite plays and drills. Coach Fisher is the current coach at SDSU and has coached at Michigan previously. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

The Phoenix Suns got going early on and never let up in their win over the New Jersey Nets tonight. With the right kind of players, the spread PNR offense is truly unguardable. The Suns are the number one team in the league in FG% at 49% and considering that they attempt almost 28 3-pointers or approxiamately one-third of their shots, their 49% shooting is even more impressive.

The real key to the spread PNR is the spacing. As one of the regular posters on the X's and O's forum writes, it's impossible to help and recover in time. Now, the players still have to penetrate, make good passes, and hit shots, but if you have the right combination of offensive talent like the Suns have, the spread PNR is bsaically unguardable. Here is just one sequence that demonstrates why the spacing is so key,

I actually believe the Nets attempt to defend the play was about as good as you can get. They help and rotate well, but because the Suns are spread so well, Jason Kidd just can't get there in time.

Spacing is Key:

This is a classic spread PNR play. It's a high screen and roll between Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire. Nash is so good at penetrating the paint to collapse the defense then find the open man.

Stoudamire comes to set the pick for Nash and both go hard to the basket. The Nets choose to switch and go underneath. X5 goes to stop Nash, X3 rotates to cover Stoudamire, which leaves Kidd to stay help-side after the switch.

Because the Suns have Nash who has such great court vision, Nash makes a pass back to Shawn Marion who has come up slightly dragging the 3-point line. Jason Kidd does a good job rotating to close out, but Marion only needs a fraction of a second to get his 3-point shot off.


Help and recover does have it's faults, I'll admit. You will give up some open shots. As a result, if you have great shooters with a great point guard and a couple of athletic forwards, the spread PNR will work very well. Spreading the floor and hitting 3-pointers is key here though, as it stretches the defense and forces the defense to respect your shooters, thus allowing your lead guard to penetrate easier.

The best video out there that teaches this offense is Billy Donovan's DVD on the Spread Offense. Coach Donovan used it to win back-to-back national championships at Florida. As always, please check out the X's and O's Basketball forum to talk hoops and exchange notes and ideas.

I watched the a great game yesterday between Syracuse and Villanova on ESPN. It was really a battle of great guard play and Villanova was able to knock down some big 3-pointers to beat Syracuse's 2-3 zone defense. Though, early on, when Villanova was not hitting their shots, the 2-3 zone was giving them all kinds of problems. Here is what some of that 2-3 zone by Syracuse looked like in the first half,

I wrote about Syracuse's 2-3 zone earlier, and what you'll notice about their zone is that really do a good job of stopping penetration and trapping in the corners. They get a lot of turnovers this way.

Stopping Penetration and Trapping:

When you are in the 2-3 zone, it actually should come naturally to stop penetration, because your players should already be in position for the most part. The key though is making sure you don't get caught underneath. As you double down on the gaps, the other defenders must rotate to take away the easy pass, and only allow the skip.

The key here is having a dynamic X5 that has long arms, is athletic and can really move well. Your X5 has to step up and plug the gap, then recover well.

On the skip, your players now must rotate as the ball is in the air. When the offense penetrates again, Syracuse forces baseline and traps the short corner with X4 and X2. Everyone rotates to take away the first pass, again only allowing the skip.

In hindsight, Syracuse probably should've switched out of the 2-3 zone at the start of the second half when Villanova was getting hot from the outside. A trapping 2-3 zone like Syracuse runs is vulnerable to outside shots.

If you like Syracuse's 2-3 zone, take a look at Jim Boeheim's DVD on the 2-3 matchup zone. Plenty of zone discussions going on at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

As a coach, one of the more important aspects tactically is to analyze and to determine the why and not just the what. Why do we shoot the ball poorly. Why do we allow transition baskets. Tonight, the Timberwolves are wondering why they lost the game tonight when they outplayed the Nuggets for the majority of the game.

For one, Allen Iverson got hot at the right moment, scoring the final 9 points for the Nuggets in the last 2 minutes of the game. But for the Timberwolves, clearly they are still struggling to understand what it takes to win ball games. I broke down the last few key possessions in the final minute and a half which saw the T-Wolves go from a 4-point lead to a 3-point deficit with the eventual victory going to the Nuggets.

I'll just briefly go over the points that I chose in the video:

1. Double and Rotate. In order to get stops defensively, you must play tough defense on the opposing team's best players, Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson in this case. Melo gets the post-entry iso, the Wolves are undecided on how they want to defend him, the ball is kicked out to Iverson who nails a big 3-pointer. If you're going to double, trap hard, and rotate your other players. What the T-Wolves did was worse than just playing straight M2M, they got caught in no man's land.

2. Turning over the ball. Seems to be an obvious one. Don't be lazy on those wing passes, you must explode and meet the ball. The passer has to deliver a clean crisp pass.

3. Missing free-throws. Free-throws win ball games, plain and simple. Antoine Walker missed 2 free-throws that would've forced the Nuggets to shoot a 3-pointer to tie. I'll go even further by saying that you want to make sure you're best free-throw shooters are on the floor, Walker is just over 50% on FTs for the season, he was not a player you wanted on the floor at that crucial time.

4. Don't allow penetration. You must switch all picks and stop any penetration even if you have to bring help side defense. Force the offense to make the extra pass to kick it out, and you must rotate on defense to closeout.

5. Poor execution. Give the Nuggets some credit on this one as they played pretty good M2M there with the lead and 29 seconds left. Still, you want to be sure that you take a good shot, not a runner with time running down.

It's always tough to lose close games like the one the Timberwolves did tonight. I read a lot of the post-game comments and there was a lot of blaming of the refs. When your record is 5-34, it's easy to defer blame but that won't help them win ball games anytime soon. The refs didn't miss those free-throws. The refs didn't play poor defense. The refs didn't turn the ball over.

For a great video on building winning teams and players, take a look at Coach Morgan Wooten's DVD on coaching to win. Coach Wooten is probably the most successful high school basketball coach ever at DeMatha Catholic before retiring. Head over to the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss all of your hoops.

One of the ways you can tell if your offense is efficient is by looking at how many combined assists your team accumulates. It's no coincedence that the 2 top FG% teams in the NBA are also the 2 top teams in assists. When you get a lot of assists it means that the ball is moving and players are cutting to the basket or moving to open space. I watched the Utah Jazz today play the Los Angeles Clippers and in just 1 quarter of play, the Jazz had almost as many assists as the Clippers would get the entire game. Here are just a few clips of some great plays of the Jazz in the first quarter,

Most people think that assists has to do mostly with passing, and that would be only partially correct. The most important part of being a good passing team, is moving without the ball and getting open. That is most easily accomplished by cutting to the basket. The Utah Jazz are very "Princeton" like in that they use a lot of backdoor, give and go, and basket cuts, probably more than any other NBA team that I've seen.

Backdoor SLOB Inbounds:

No real secret to this play. They start out in a stack with Ronnie Brewer coming out to what looks like to receive the entry pass.

Ronnie Brewer fakes like he will receive the easy safe pass from Andrei Kirilenko. Deron Williams is the safety and pops out to the top of the key in case the backdoor is defended.

Brewer does a v-cut, but it's more just a quick change of direction. He looks like he's going toward the ball slowly, then cuts hard to the hoop. The defender is late and Kirilenko throws a perfect pass to Brewer for the score.


There are alot of coaches that I talk to that say they want their teams to "play the right way". Meaning cuts to the basket, give and go's, backdoor, screen the screener, they claim to want to play "good offense". But I hardly see them practice the right way. Good fundamental basketball like give and go's, backdoor and basket cuts is less about X's and O's, running set plays, and more about teaching the basic concepts of cutting and practicing that over and over.

For more great interesting SLOB and special situation information, take a look at Hubie Brown's DVD on special situations. Coach Brown is just a brilliant basketball mind and guaranteed you will learn something from his wisdom. 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.

I like watching women's basketball because as a coach, you really can see how an offensive scheme works. In men's basketball, it's usually athleticism first, scheme second. I watched the first half of the Marshall game against Tulsa. I really liked the offensive execution of Marshall. They are very structured and you can tell they prepare for games very well. This is just one of their set plays that they ran from a box formation. They also like to use a double-stack and 1-4 high sets. Watch the video and read my thoughts below,

So, the first sequence results with Bosh getting blocked, and the second is a turnover. But with a little work, the motion should give players more opportunities to score.

Box Hi-Low Play:

I think anything hi-low works really well for women's basketball. Unlike men's basketball, you don't really have players who can make moves like a baby hook, or drop step dunk. The hi-lo allows you to get the ball into the post from the top of the key so that your posts can turn and make a move either way and shoot it. The box is also good for women's basketball in that it allows you to get the ball into the post on the move.

The low player from the box pops out to receive the pass. O5 drops down, O4 sets a pick on O3's defender so that O3 can get to the top of the key to receive the pass from O2. O1 fades to the weak-side.

O5 moves from the weak-side block to the strong side block. Duck in and post up the defender. O4 moves to the opposite block, the weak-side.

O3 makes a middle post-entry into O5 who turns, and banks it off the glass for an and1 opportunity.

If you like box offenses, take a look at Kelvin Sampson's Multiple Option Box Offense. Coach Sampson has some really great insights into motion principles. 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.