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.