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.