I just wanted to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. Thanks to all my sponsors Better Basketball and Yardbarker. Thanks to all you readers. And may all your basketball wishes come true in the new year. Take care, celebrate safely, and make sure y'all come back for more on the X's and O's of Basketball in 2009.

The other week I was watching ESPN and Jay Bilas said something that irked me a little bit (which is unusual because I usually love watching and listening to all the College ESPN staff). He said that Tennessee was not good enough this year because they can't force enough turnovers, only 15 a game. He said they needed to be over 20 to be effective. Stats are great. I like to think that I'm one of the coaches that probably incorporates stats analysis more than most. But to assess a team's play solely on stats is presumptuous in my opinion.

And so I watched a few Tennessee games this season. The Vols still run pressure defense, they just don't gamble and trap as much anymore. The run a safer M2M version of pressure defense, designed to wait for the offense to make a mistake rather than inducing a turnover like the traditional Bruce Pearl 1-2-1-1 press. What the Vols really do well is matchup M2M full-court up-the-line/on-the-line on all inbounds. They put their most athletic forward on the inbounder and force you to make a dangerous pass to the corner or bait you to go over the top. In the game against Louisiana-Lafayette last night, they forced nearly 10 turnovers simply by pressuring the inbounds. Take a look,

Athletic Forward Defending Inbounder:

Put your tallest but also most athletic forward to defend the inbounder. The key to really creating inbounding havoc is to make it hard for the offense to both see and make a good direct inbounds pass. Here, 6-foot-9 Wayne Chism creates all kinds of problems on the spot inbounds,

Face Guard Denial:

Each defender in the backcourt should be face guarding their check with both arms up in full denial. This is how you get 5 second calls. And once the offense gets 1 or 2 called, that is when they start panicking at 4 seconds and throw the ball away in an attempt to avoid the 5 second call,

On the inbounds after a made basket. I think it's worth the risk to face guard all four potential receivers even the last offensive player in the frontcourt. It's extremely difficult to make an accurate baseball pass, and even harder to do with a guy like Chism guarding the inbounder.


I like Jay Bilas, but as mentioned, sometimes there is a lot more behind the numbers than simply the numbers. The Vols are not as good as they were last year simply because they have less scoring talent. They were blessed to have the clutch shooting of Chris Lofton and the finishing of JaJuan Smith the past couple of years, the Vols are missing the presence that Lofton brought. As shown, the Vols can still run pressure defense, but Pearl doesn't run his famed 1-2-1-1 full-court press much anymore because it has become somewhat predictable and also because he doesn't have the athletes to run it against the top tier competition.

If you're a Tennessee or Bruce Pearl fan like me, then you'll want to check out the Bruce Pearl's DVD on Pressure Defense. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

In case you all didn't catch it, MSNBC recently aired a great hour long interview with Steve Nash. He talked about a lot of different topics including his biography of being a 6-foot-2 Canadian non-dunker to 2-time NBA MVP.

My favorite part was Nash talking about his philanthropy. It is well documented that a lot of professional athletes just do it for the tax breaks and PR. He doesn't talk about it much but Nash did a great thing 8 years ago. A grassroots league funded by the former NBA franchise in Vancouver, named the Junior Grizzlies looked like it was all but finished when the Grizzlies skipped town to Memphis. When Nash heard about it, he immediately stepped in to fill in the funding gap to keep the league going. 8 years later, the league lives on strong and is now named after him, the Steve Nash Youth Basketball League. Because of Nash, hundreds if not thousands of young basketball players continue to learn and participate in this great game, and for us coaches, that means a continuous flow of players.

Back to the game though, Nash also talked about the finer points of being a point guard. Specifically how the PG is an extension of the coach and at times, the PG needs to be a mother and/or a psychologist. The clip is here,

Credit tip: Truehoop and Huffington Post

Took some more clips from one of those college games that most people probably didn't pay attention to over the weekend, this one between Cal and Dartmouth in the Cal tournament. As predicted, Cal went on to win big mostly through their superior athleticism but I thought Dartmouth played hard and I liked the way they moved on offense.

Part of why I liked the Big Green's 4-out 1-in motion offense is just because they showed the flexibility of the set. In a 4-out set, you have a lot of things you can run, a little dribble drive, post-play, flare and shuffle action. Here are a few clips from the first half,

4-out 1-in Motion Offense:

Don't want to take up too much space, but just want to show the many options that are available out of the 4-out set. It's no wonder so many offenses are run out of the 4-out now. The dribble drive is primarily out of 4-out, Bo Ryan's Swing offense is out of the 4-out, the Buna offense is out of the 4-out. The primary reason why the 4-out set works so well is because of the great spacing. Because it opens up the paint area so that at maximum you should only have 2 defenders against a M2M defense that is up the line,


As a base offense, the 4-out is great. Now, as for the Big Green, as is the case usually with these Ivy League teams, recruiting talent is always the biggest issue, they just don't have the athletes to compete at the highest level. Harvard appears to be the best of the Ivy League this year while Dartmouth is a middle to bottom team. Cal looked great, but of course they had better athletes and scored more easily off the break. When they start in the always tough PAC-10 conference play, we'll find out how good they really are.

For a new video on the 4-out 1-in motion offense, check out Matt Painters' DVD on his 4-out 1-in Motion Offense. Coach Painter is the head coach of Purdue University. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

Brandon Roy is still a young guy by most NBA standards but he's already become one of the most dominant scorers in the NBA during his short tenure. I, like many of you, watched him in that incredible game against Phoenix where he scored 50+. It really is incredible how good a scorer B Roy has become. Like all great scorers, B Roy has developed an unstoppable goto move, a dribble pull-up jumper, something he can rely on to create his own shot against anyone.

In last night's game, the Blazers came from behind in the second half to beat the Raptors, largely due to B Roy and his goto move in the fourth quarter. I caught a few sequences that show B Roy in action,

The Mid-Range Dribble Pullup:

Every great scorer must have a goto move. Tim Duncan has his turnaround bank shot. Dirk Nowitzki has his elbow drive or shot. Kobe has the up and under reverse jam. What makes B Roy special is that he neither possesses the size or athleticism, speed or pure shooting of the greats. But he has created a great goto move nonetheless that he can rely on time and time again to score.

What's great about B Roy's mid-range dribble pullup is the unpredictability factor. He starts out with the dribble and at any point he can stop on a dime and pull-up and shoot. As a defender, it's incredibly difficult to guard. If you give him any space, he'll just pop it. If you crowd him, he'll put it on the floor and blow by you, or draw the defense in and find the open man. Add in ball-screens, and it's nearly unstoppable.

In each case here, B Roy has a deceptively fast quick draw off the dribble. That's his secret, it isn't that his stroke is anything special, nor is he an exceptionally dribble drive guy, it's just that he can stop and get into his shot very quickly. So much that most defenders don't have time to react,


For all you young players out there. Develop your goto move. Whatever it is, find something that you are comfortable with, that fits your skillset, and go about perfecting it. All great scorers have a goto move that they rely on to get those hard to earn baskets, against even the best of defenders.

For a great 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.

From before Christmas as well, went through recordings and took some more clips from the West Virginia win over Radford. I really like the open post motion offense. Lots of options, the spacing is great, and with all the motion, you really make the defense work every single possession.

I wrote up about West Virginia's open post offense under Bob Huggins during last year's March Madness run. But that was just 2 sequences. I want to include those basic options and 2 more as well, the screen and slip and the backpick option. Take a look at several great sequences from the first half,

Curl and Pop Options:

These are the most common motion reads out of the open post motion offense. After reversing the ball, O2 comes to set an area screen for O5. If X5 trails, then O3 finds O5 on the curl to the basket for the dunk or layin,

On the pop, it's the exact same play. Except the motion read this time is if X5 goes under the screen. In which case, O5 pops out to receive the pass for a 3-pointer (which WVU hit a ton of on this night),

Screen and Slip:

Another great motion read is the screen and slip. After the ball reversal, O4 goes to set a soft area screen (almost like a cut and replace with O3). Most times, due to multiple iterations and motion from side to side, the defense simply gets complacent, and O4 can pull a slip here and get an easy basket,

Backscreen for Backdoor Cut:

Everyone loves a backdoor cut. This can even be run as a continuation from the last screen and slip option. O4 is now on the low block after basket cutting. The ball is reversed to O2 on the other side. O4 comes up to set a backpick and O1 goes underneath and backdoor and receives the pass from O2 for the layin,


We all know how tough the Big East is this season. The Mountaineers aren't even ranked and they'll likely be fighting for that last spot in March along with Cincinnati. Combine that with the three freshmen that Coach Bob Huggins is trying to indoctrinate, and it looks like 08-09 will be more rebuilding than Championship contender. Still, I like the open post motion offense (if you couldn't tell) and I think it's just a matter of time before WVU is back to the sweet sixteen and possibly better.

If you like Bob Huggins and West Virgina (I love Morgantown by the way, great college town), definitely check out Bob Huggins' DVD on the Open Post Offense. I was able to get some great clips on Bob Huggins' Dive and Fill zone offense so watch out for that in a future post. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

I watched a couple of Texas Tech games last year both before and after Coach Bobby Knight retired. His son and current head coach Pat Knight through in the odd press and zone but for the most part kept things relatively the same after his father retired last season. While the Red Raiders still run their motion offense, this season, I've noticed some significant changes, namely on the defensive end.

Under Bobby Knight, the Red Raiders and in fact all of Bobby's teams have been mostly M2M and they rarely trapped. Under Pat Knight, I've seen more half-court trapping and switching between M2M and zone in 1 game then I saw under Bobby Knight in 1 season. Against Centenary the other night, it worked to great effect limiting their opponent to just 14 first half points. Here are 2 sequences of perimeter trapping out of both zone and M2M,

Trap Out of Zone:

The Red Raiders start in your typical 2-3 zone formation. They trap on the sideline as the pass is made from top to wing. They trap while the ball is in the air which would leave them vulnerable to ball fakes. In some ways it is easier to trap out of a zone, because the other 3 players are already zoned up. Instead of rotating to the next man, you simply zone up say in a triangle and play the ball,

Trap out of M2M:

This your garden variety trap on the ball at the top of the key. Very similar to what I've seen Syracuse do in the past out of their 2-3 zone. In M2M though, you have to rotate as the pass is made out of the trap, which means that all 3 defenders must rotate to the next man. If just 1 player doesn't rotate, you'll be exposed,


I'm not sure if this one game is representative of their season so far as I haven't watched many Tech games other than this one front to back. But if so, it's good to see Pat Knight break out of his father's shadow a little, develop his own coaching style. I think that's important, while we all want to imitate our mentors, ultimately, everyone has to develop their own coaching methodology and style.

For more info on blending zone and M2M concepts, check out Dan Monson's DVD on Complimenting Zone Defense with Man-to-Man Techniques. Coach Monson is the head coach at Long Beach State . Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

I've followed the Orlando Magic off and on this season watching about 3 or 4 of their games so far. Most of the early pub has been on Boston, Cleveland and the Lakers, but I think the Magic are as good if not better. The Magic have what those other 2 teams in the East don't have, an absolute beast at the center position.

In several games, I was actually surprised at how infrequent Dwight Howard received the ball in the post. But that's a topic for another day. What I wanted to do was just to show how post position is the most important factor to post play. And when we're talking positioning, it's literally a matter of a few feet.

Some pictures to illustrate the point from their win over the Lakers a few nights ago. In these two sequences, Howard is able to establish position on the low block. In the second case, his pivot foot is inside the paint. That is ideally where you want your post player to start because from there, it is only 1 drop step away, or 1 jump stop away from a layin or jump hook,

In these two sequences, Howard receives the ball about two feet away from the low block. This forces him to reverse pivot, face up, then make a move to the basket. In the first sequence Howard passed back out. In the second sequence, Howard was able to draw a foul going baseline. Now, for a guy like Howard who has a face-up game, this may still be OK. But for many young posts I see who don't have that much of a face-up game, that just won't work.


Make sure you spend individual time with your forwards and centers so that they are practicing their footwork and getting proper position. The center position is probably where as a coach you'll need to spend the most time with esoteric instruction, because of the uniqueness of the skills. It's probably also the most underdeveloped because most kids start out as guards and by the time they get to Varsity and they're 6-foot-8 they're thrust into the role of a center and they lack the post fundamentals. It's always a fine line between teaching the complete game and when to specialize.

As for the Magic, they're biggest issue from what I've seen so far has been defensive consistency. At times, they are great 1v1 defenders, but then at times their effort falters and bail out with the foul.

For more post development video info, you can check out the post development drill package that goes with the Pitt 4-out 1-in motion offense, Jamie Dixon's DVD on Post Development Drills. Be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

From the late game yesterday in college basketball action. With a couple of Canadians on the Gonzaga squad, naturally I was rooting for them against UConn. Their loss yesterday was one of those games where a team that has a lead made the only combination of decisions that could have led to the loss.

Now, I know that Pargo, Gonzaga's PG was playing hurt but I'm still not really sure what informed their thinking here at the end of regulation. There certainly were a number of interesting decisions. By themselves, they probably didn't make the difference, but in their totality, they each had their part in the downfall. Here is the last critical sequences of regulation,

I deconstructed the last couple of minutes and came up with the following takeaways in no particular order:

- In your press break, make sure you have a safety. Make sure in your timeouts, you communicate to your players exactly how you will break their press.
- Man defense is always preferred over zone defense on final possessions, especially when defending a 3-point lead.
- Leave at least 1 timeout for the final possession, and make sure you use it in case the other team ties the game.
- Make sure your players are prepared to foul at the end of games to protect a 3-point lead.

Use a Safety in Your Press Break:

I think that no matter what press break formation you use, a fundamental rule I like to use is to always have a safety. Usually it is the inbounder. It would be great to go over the top, but when you're protecting a lead, safer is better. Remember, as the team with the lead, the clock is your friend. Use as much as possible. In 2 cases in the last 2 minutes, the Zags have no safety on the press break. The second instance was even out of a timeout, so their lack of a safety was deliberate,

Why Zones are Bad for End of Games:

I realize that Gonzaga's 2-3 zone defense worked well against UConn earlier in the game. But I strongly believe that a M2M defense with weak defenders will still be superior to a zone defense with strong defenders. In M2M, you will at least be assured that every shot will be contested, and that each defender has a box-out responsibility. In any zone defense, you can guarantee neither. In Gonzaga's 2-3 zone, Price fakes like he's penetrating the gap, draws 2 defenders, then passes to Dyson for the open shot,

Because Dyson is open, it causes 2 defenders to closeout on him. No wonder UConn got the rebound, it was 2 against 1 down low.

It's Why You Have Timeouts:

After the offensive rebound, I would've called my players to foul UConn's AJ Price with the score still 74-71 and 10 seconds left. AJ Price just missed one free throw a minute ago and is less than 50% on the season. But the bigger mistake was not calling a timeout with the score 74-74 after Price's 3-pointer to tie. As far as I could tell, Gonzaga still had a timeout (and if they didn't they should've kept one or not wasted it after one of their botched press breaks) with 5.5 seconds left after Pargo brought the ball to the frontcourt,

Again, why not make the safe play. Call the timeout, talk it over, calm the nerves. Especially when your opponent just shocked you with the game-tying basket. It helps to sit on the bench, get it out of your mind, and focus on your own chance to hit the game-winning shot. Notice, this applied to UConn as well. After the offensive rebound, there was still 10 seconds left, UConn could also call timeout and draw up a new play.


I think we tend to think of coaches as geniuses when they win games like this, Greg Anthony of ESPN hailed Jim Calhoun as such. Though I don't disagree that Coach Calhoun is a great coach, oftentimes in situations like this, it is more about the mistakes that are made on the other side. When you think of last season's NCAA Championship final, as good as Bill Self is, it was more the Memphis Tigers who lost the game as it was the Kansas Jayhawks who won it.

Coaching a basketball team in many ways is like politics. You want to speak boldly but govern cautiously. Motivate your players to overacheive, but make the safe choice during games. Don't go for 2 point converts when the 1 point convert is automatic and will suffice. Don't go for 4th and 1 when you can kick the FG and tie. Don't hit driver when 3-wood will do.

For more winning secrets from the smartest basketball mind alive, look no further than Hubie Brown's 2-pack DVD that has Volumes I and II from his Secrets of Winning Basketball series, definitely worth checking out for any Hubie Brown fan. Discuss your favorite offenses at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.

What a great college basketball day. Watched a bunch of games starting with Duke against Xavier. Good if you are a Duke fan, bad if you are a Xavier fan. I've watched a couple of Duke games now and they've ported over the same offensive and defensive principles as last year. Their up the line, on the line M2M defense was stifling, caused all kinds of problems for Xavier all day.

It's a great defense, though it does take more patience to install because it's all about positioning and footwork. But once you get it down, you can easily adjust the level of pressure without changing your fundamental base. So, instead of having a couple of zone presses, a halfcourt trap, a halfcourt zone, and your M2M, you just have your up the line, on the M2M defense and adjust how much up the line you want your players to play. Here are a couple of sequences from the first half of the game,

I get this question a lot so I guess it bears more explanation. What does up the line, on the line (UTL/OTL) mean? First off, UTL/OTL is only applied for M2M defenses.

In your M2M defense, you have to determine how you will play the passing lanes between the ball and the other offensive players. We say UTL if you want your defense to be positioned in the passing lane so as to deny 1 pass away. We say 3 feet UTL if you want your defense to be positioned 3 feet from the passing lane. You can adjust based on the speed and quickness of your players. A fast defense against a slow offense can be say 6 feet UTL and still deny passes.

We say OTL if we want a part of their body (hands, head, body) in the passing lane, usually we refer to hands. Next aspect of OTL is your stance. Open stance meaning ball-you-man, in other words, you can see both the ball and your man. Mostly though, if you are want to be in a denial defense, you will be in a closed stance, in other words, both feet pointed towards your check, head pointed where you can see both the ball and your check, with outside hand in the passing lane (a slightly awkward and unnatural position when compared to open stance, ball-you-man).

Duke's Denial Defense:

OK, so now that we have that out of the way, Duke is definitely an UTL/OTL closed stance M2M defense. It is designed to put a lot of pressure on the ball and to deny the passing lanes, especially one pass away. Essentially, Duke is in the same position as the diagram above,

Watch here as each defender is chest to chest with their check. This kind of defense obviously requires that you have great athletes that can defensive slide and recover with the best of them,


Xavier had problems with Duke's pressure from the get go. Now, it looks like the defense is infallible except against teams that go backdoor. Because of the closed stance UTL/OTL position, it is very difficult for a defender to be in full denial and also defend against a straight basket cut at the same time (actually, it's almost impossible, you'll have to give up one or the other). Hence, Duke struggled against a backdoor team like Michigan and in last season's tournament, had problems in the first round with Belmont.

As for Xavier, obviously, they have problems with turnovers. They'll need to shore that up as they'll see constant pressure throughout the NCAA tournament come March.

If you are a big Duke fan like me, definitely check out Mike Krzyzewski's DVD on Agility & Conditioning Drills for the Christmas season. Discuss this and the rest of your favorite basketball topics at the X's and O's Basketball Forum.

I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's latest book "Outliers" and I thought it was very relevant for basketball since it deals with success and why successful people are so successful. There are some gross over-generalizations made by Gladwell which make the book not so great overall, but I'll spare you those details and reveal the gist of the book which comes down to the 10,000 Hour Rule created by Dr. K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University.

What Is the 10,000 Hour Rule?

The 10,000 Hour Rule is what it is. It is the idea that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master any skill.

For instance, it would take 10 years of practicing 3 hours a day to become a master in whatever subject area. Or, it would take approximately 5 years of full-time employment to become proficient in your field. You simply formulate how many hours you have already achieved and calculate how far you still need to go. At the end, you need to aim for at least 10,000 hours as a minimum.

There are plenty of real world examples of the 10,000 Hour Rule like Tiger Woods, Warren Buffett, Winston Churchill, etc... Some skeptics argue that all it takes is innate talent. But talent alone won't ensure success. What all of the most successful people in the world share, is a tremendous work ethic. Bill Gates? Practiced with computers since grade school. Bobby Fischer, the 16-year-old chess grandmaster? Nine years of intensive study every day. For basketball, you would point to what appears to be the God-given abilities of Michael Jordan. But if Jordan was so innately gifted, why was he cut from the Varsity team in high school? MJ's success then, has as much to do with busting his hump as it did his physical abilities. In other words, if it wasn't for MJ's work ethic, he probably would not have played in college let alone the NBA.

Now all of this may sound common sense, ie. duh, of course practice makes perfect. But what the 10,000 hour rule does is that it puts a number to success. It quantifies your goal so that there is something tangible to achieve. So in basketball practices, there should always be a quantifiable goal to achieve.

And it's not just simply practice, but practicing the right way. For example, there are loads of people who hit buckets of balls at the driving range every day, but the difference between those hacks and the pros is correct instruction. The same for basketball, learn the fundamentals, then go practice for hours on end. That is the secret to success.

I've watched a few Memphis Tigers games so far this season and I've noticed that Coach John Calipari has made some subtle changes to their dribble drive motion offense. They still run the ddm, but they made some modifications to it so that they are not as predictable and therefore more difficult to guard and scout for.

In this game against Arkansas-Little Rock, as you'll see, they still run the dribble drive motion offense, but they often start in a different set, and sometimes end a little different as well. Take a look,

Won't take up too much space, but just highlight a couple of important changes.

Box Set:

Instead of the standard 4-out 1-in, the Tigers often start out in a box or double-stack set. They usually run a couple of downscreens and baseline screens out of it,

They look for a quick hitter inside, and when nothing develops, they are into the familiar 4-out 1-in set,

Ball Screens:

Orthodox dribble drive motion does not rely on ball screens. However, the Tigers do use the ball-screen to spring their guards. Here, at the end of the shot clock, they run a high ball-screen,


The significance of all these small changes to me as a coach signals Coach Calipari's willingness to constantly improve and find new and better ways. As a coach, you can't always rely on the same scheme, same method, over and over. Don't be afraid to experiment, innovate, blaze a new path.

For another unique twist on the dribble drive motion offense, take a look at Keno Davis' DVD on his Spread Dribble Drive. 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.

Via ESPN, a great interview with UNC head coach Roy Williams interviewed by Rick Reilly. I've included it below in case you didn't get to watch it. Coach talks about a lot of different topics, all great stuff. From the importance of family, to humble beginnings, greatest disappointments (97 Kansas), winning one for Tyler Hansbrough, and more.

What I enjoyed most was Coach Williams talking about the need to appreciate the support system (6:30). Don't forget to thank the ball boys, the announcers, the scorekeepers, the floor sweeper, the janitors. It takes a great deal to setup and organize this great game that we love to play and participate in, and we as coaches shouldn't take that for granted. The other part that I really enjoyed listening to was Coach Williams talking about his High School football coaching experience (10:45). I don't want to spoil it for you, so you'll have to watch it yourself.

If you are a big Roy Williams fan like I am, then check out Roy Williams' DVD on Tar Heel Offense and Transition Drills. Talk early offense at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other great coaches from around the world.

Went through some more recorded NBA games. There are some awful teams in the western conference this year. Of that bunch of 6 teams at the bottom, the Memphis Grizzlies show the most promise. They strung together 4 wins the past week before losing a close one to the Hornets. I took a look at their win over the Miami Heat and took some clips.

Their offense is quite basic but it does compliment the players they have. They have a lot of young athletic guys so they run a spread offense and either go 1v1 dribble drive, run cutters through the lane, or pick and roll. Take a look,

In many ways, it's similar to the spread offense Duke runs and what the Phoenix Suns used to run. I was watching a JV high school tournament over the weekend, and they basically ran this same offense. They went 4-out 1-in, and either went 1v1 on the perimeter, ran random cutters, and end of shot clock ball-screen. It worked pretty good too.

Spread 1v1:

If you've got superior athletes who can create their own shot, the spread is great. The key of course is spacing. You must be spread as far as possible. In the first sequence, once Rudy Gay (O3) gets the ball, the corner relocates along the baseline to maximize the driving lane. Notice in the video though, that X2 still stays for help defense, but Gay still gets the floater over the top,

Spread Basket Cuts:

When I teach 5-out offense to middle school kids, I teach a basic pass, cut, fill. That's basically what this is, except in a 4-out 1-in look. Marc Gasol (O4) receives the pass in the post, the corner relocates, a player from the top of the key does a basket cut,

Another basket cut, everyone shuffles up on the weakside,

Finally, Darko Milicic (O5) does a basket cut from the weak side elbow and Gasol finds him for the nice easy layup,

Spread Wing PNR:

In the Billy Donovan Spread PNR, they initiate from the top and hence they use a flat screen. Here, it is similar but from the wing. First, there are a couple of basket cuts but none are open so they run the PNR at the end of the shot clock. O5 basically screens the area.

O1 comes off the screen, splits the hedge, and finds O5 rolling to the basket before help comes,


The Grizzlies are from what I've read, one of the youngest teams in the league. But they have a lot of talent. Their offense is a work in progress, but I think they have potential to be a good team. Their defense is also patchwork, but again, once they learn to work together instead of doing it all 1v5, they will flourish. I didn't include any OJ Mayo sequences, but he is a terrific talent. He really exploits the gaps in the spread offense very well.

For another kind of a spread offense based out of a 4-out 1-in set, take a look at Jamie Dixon's Spread 4-out 1-in Offense. Coach Dixon is the head coach of University of Pittsburgh, currently ranked third overall in the nation. 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 some college games last night including a little bit of Syracuse and Cleveland St. but I missed the miracle hail mary 3-pointer at the end, that's why we love sports. But I also watched the first half of the Cincinnati game against Charleston Southern. It was a real physical match, the kind of basketball I grew up playing, smash mouth stuff.

I watch part of the Cincinnati game against Xavier and the Musketeers really got out on the break to nullify the Bearcats solid M2M defense and thus came away with the relative easy win. Last night though, the Bearcats were playing their game, and their half-court M2M defense was solid throughout. It's tough, and they play as a team. Here are some sequences I highlighted,

1-on-1 on the Perimeter Defense:

I listened to a Bobby Knight talk once and he said that they spend at least half of practice time doing just 1v1 defense. I'm of the same belief that if your players are not good 1v1 defenders, you're gonna have problems. Yes, you can have great help and team defense, you can even zone up, but eventually those will catchup up with you. Nothing can substitute for solid 1v1 defense. That is why the Bearcats switch most screens. Because they feel that every one of their players can defend anybody. Here, it's just like your basic 1v1 defensive slide and recover drill except in the game and it results in an offensive pushoff,

Help Defense:

I wanted to show this sequence because it just shows presence of mind in stopping penetration. No matter what, in my books, you have to stop the ball first and foremost. You see your teammate get caught on a screen and roll or a dribble handoff like here, the defender trails his man, stops in the lane and comes back to take the charge,

Post Denial:

Lots of different ways to defend it, but the Bearcats do a nice job here of post denial. The defender comes with an over the top three-quarter post denial, chest to chest because the ball is near or above the free throw line. If the pass was coming from much further below the free-throw line the defender would switch and deny from the low-side or even full front.

Also notice how the help side drops low to defend the lob or the low side entry pass.


The Big East is full of good teams this year and Cincinnati is one of those teams that will be at the bubble come tournament time. If they get in though, they could upset some teams, especially with their tough defense. If they can clean up their half-court offense and/or generate some more transition offense, they could be really dangerous in March. I've followed head coach Mick Cronin for a few years and it looks like he's doing a solid job rebuilding the Bearcats, maybe this year is a breakout year.

To kick up your practices a notch, take a look at Bob Huggins' DVD on Intense Practice Drills. Coach Huggins is the head coach at West Virginia and was a former head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.

Watched some recorded stuff and this one caught my eye. It was the game between the Phoenix Suns and the Orlando Magic the other night. Game was back and forth most of the way, both teams playing through injuries (Suns without Shaq, Magic without Howard).

The game came down to the last few sequences with both teams trading baskets. Hedo Turkoglu hit a big shot, and then the Suns had the ball with 9 seconds left down by 1 point. They ran this nifty backscreen that caught the Magic on the switch and resulted in an open layup, and the game winner,

Sideline Inbounds Backpick:

Nothing too wild, but a nice play nonetheless. They run a stack on the ball side elbow for the SLOB. O5 (Stoudamire) pops out to receive the pass, and O1 (Nash) clears out to receive the inbounds as well. The pass is intended to go to O5, because he's tall and you want to inbounds the ball safely without it getting stolen so that's where O3 (Hill) goes first,

Then O1 goes to set a backpick for O3. O3 rubs off the screen and cuts to the basket. O5 finds him for the easy layup. X4 tries to help but is late,

The reason why this play works is because X1 (Nelson) and X3 (Turkoglu) get mixed up defensively. Nelson thinks Turkoglu is going to fight thru the screen, while Turkoglus assumes Nelson will switch. My guess is that Coach Stan Van Gundy wanted the switch so Nelson got mixed up. Also, it could just be that Nelson got caught watching the ball instead of focusing on his defensive responsibilities,


When you are in those timeouts at end of games. Make sure you know your defensive assignments. Anticipate what the other team will do, and make sure your players know what they're suppose to do. I think this play worked more because of the defensive breakdown more than anything special the Suns did. It was a smart play, but it was just not well defended.

All of the talk in the East is about the Celtics and Cavs. The Magic are a good team, and with Howard they are dominant. I wouldn't count the Magic out come June. As for the Suns, I think they are improving defensively. I watched a lot of good help defense and rotations, forcing penetration to help, etc... I think they still need to improve 1v1 on the perimeter though. I've read a lot about how poor their offense has been so far, but I disagree, I think they're still very offensively efficient. Jason Richardson will give them more chances on the fast break because of his athleticism, so I like that move. I think the Suns still make the playoffs, and if they're defense holds up, they could still be dangerous in the playoffs.

For a brand new video from a great coach, check out Bob McKillop's new DVD on Winning Special Situations including BLOB and SLOB. Coach McKillop is the head coach of Davidson College. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

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

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

Spread the Floor:

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

Use a Safety:

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

Big Man in the Middle:

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

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


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

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

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

From yesterday's Pardon the Interruption on ESPN, a 5 minute interview with Phil Jackson. He talked amongst alot of different topics including this season, the Lakers fast start, other good teams, etc... From a coaching aspect, I really liked the topic of the "Orchestrating Feud?" (3 minute mark) I don't care where you coach, there are always distractions every coach has to deal with. Whether they are from parents, that star player which is getting all the pub that comes with being a D1 prospect, cliques within the team, as a coach, it is your job to make sure that when it comes to basketball, they are focused on the task, on the ultimate goal. Coaching is as much about conflict resolution and communication so that your players understand what you want out of them. For Coach Jackson, think of all the distractions his teams have had to deal with, Rodman, MJ un-retiring, Kobe-Shaq, Kobe trial, etc... Through it all, he's been able to win 9 NBA championships as a coach, not bad for all he has had to put up with.

For more info on the Lakers' famed triangle offense take a look at Tex Winter's DVD on the Encyclopedia of the Triangle Offense. Coach Winters is of course the longtime assistant to Phil Jackson. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.

Skipped a couple of weeks but I'm back answering questions by readers out there for Storming The Floor about college basketball season. 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, stormingthefloor@gmail.com.

For this week, I answered questions on:
- Transition defense tactics against UNC's prolific fast break
- Davidson's defense last year in the NCAA Tournament
- Strategies against the packline defense like that of Wazzu
- Should there be a circle delineation for charge calls in college basketball

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been the talk of the NBA the past week or so. Not just because of the ongoing Lebron vs Barkley war of words, but the Cavs are really playing some phenomenal basketball lately. I am most impressed by their team defense, Ben Wallace is starting to look like the guy that won all those defensive player of the year awards.

But the purpose of this post is to look at the Cavs offense. I wrote about this concept of screening an area with Hubie Brown earlier in the summer. What the Cavs run a lot of is they run an off-ball screen for Lebron, who depending on what the defense does, chooses the best option. Take a look (switched back to Youtube this time as Veoh was down),

So, people have been talking about the Cavs diverse offense, and this play is exactly the kind of offense that takes the pressure off of Lebron to handle the ball. Instead he can focus on what he does best, score.

Off-Ball Screen for Lebron:

The setup is simple, they start out in the 1-2-2 set. O1 (Delonte West) either dribbles to the wing or passes to O4 (Ben Wallace) who pops out to receive the pass. O1 relocates to the far corner, and O2 comes up the wing. At the same time, O5 (Ilgauskus) screens the wing to post area. O3 (Lebron), cuts towards O5 to use the screen and rub his defender off of O5,

At this point, Lebron pops out to receive the pass either from O4 or O1.

So there are 3 options Lebron can go, depending on what the defense does. If X3 decides to go over the top, Lebron will have enough time to pop the 3-pointer or drive baseline. If X3 goes underneath, Lebron can drive middle.

In this first sequence, X3 goes over the top. Notice how O5 uses a butt screen to make X3 go even further around. Lebron then attacks the rim by going 1v1 and muscling up X5 (Dalembert) and scores the layup,

Same scenario, X3 goes over the top, O5 butt screens him, Lebron however, decides to pop the 3-pointer,

In this final scenario, X3 decides to go underneath. Lebron makes the right decision and attacks the middle. The defense collapses and he finds O1 in the corner. X1 helps on Lebron so X2 rotates to close out on O1. O1 then makes the extra pass to the top to O2 for the wide open 3-pointer, which he nails,

The naming in the last one doesn't exactly correspond with the video, but I didn't want to make another diagram just to switch O1 and O2, but you get the point, drive middle, 2 passes, 3-pointer.


I think you can even hear the ESPN commentator (I think it's Mike Tirico), say that the Cavs are running the same play over again. If you have plays that are simple, and let your best players make the decisions, you add some of the unpredictability of a motion offense, with some control of a set offense. If you look at it again and again, there really is no way to completely defend it. Maybe you choose to sag and prevent the Lebron drive, but he'll either make 3-pointers or find guys open in the perimeter. Maybe you choose to trap him or hard switch, but he'll just take advantage of a slower defender. In other words, you have to choose your poison when you play the Cavs.

Thinking of the perfect gift for that hard to buy for coach you know? Look no further than Hubie Brown's 2-pack DVD that has Volumes I and II from his Secrets of Winning Basketball series, definitely worth checking out for any Hubie Brown fan. Discuss your favorite offenses at the X's and O's Basketball Forum with other coaches from around the world.

From last night's great game between ranked teams at the Jimmy V Classic, the Texas Longhorns against the Villanova Wildcats. It was back and forth most of the night but I thought Texas did a great job breaking the soft Villanova press and took advantage of open shots as a result.

Another thing I noticed was how Texas was aggressively defending the baseline inbounds play. From the first half, in two separate instances, the Longhorns forced the Wildcats to turn the ball over by aggressively denying on defense and putting a dynamic forward to defend the inbounds. In many ways, it's like how the Tennessee Vols defend the inbounds as well. Take a look,

Aggressive Inbounds Defense:

First off, they put a tall, long, athletic forward to defend the pass in Dexter Pittman. A 6-foot-10 forward/center, with long arms who can really bother the passer,

The rest of the defenders are in full deny 1 pass away. The only player they leave open is at the top of the key. #5, Damion James splits the 2 players up top. If they try (and that was the intent of the pass) to go over the top, it will have to be a long lob, which means James will have plenty of time and space to closeout, so the Longhorns are unafraid of leaving that player open. Meanwhile, they make it incredibly difficult to pass it short,


The first sequence is a little misleading because Pittman actually steps on the baseline and so therefore the ball should've gone back to Villanova. But the point is, that being aggressive on baseline defense is a great way to force turnovers. And especially late in games, it comes in handy as all of a sudden, you put an incredible amount of pressure on the offense to inbound the ball safely. It is the little things, like these, that help your team go from a good team to a great team, attention to the details.

For some more great info on special teams and special situations, take a look at Tom Crean's DVD on Winning Late Game Strategies. Coach Crean of course is the new head coach for Indiana University. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.