The NCAA Tournament Championship will consist of two of the best defenses in the country. While it may not be the viewers’ preferable matchup, those coaches who plaster “Defense Wins Championships” all over locker rooms are basking in all its glory. According to KenPom Texas Tech leads the country in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (AdjD.), while the University of Virginia is ranked fifth in the nation.

What is interesting between these two teams are the polar styles of play. The Cavaliers of Virginia well known for their Packline defense popularized by Tony Bennett’s father, Dick Bennett while at Washington State and Green Bay. As for Texas Tech’s Chris Beard he incorporates a more disruptive approach with an aggressively switching sideline-baseline defense. Where they both find success is in the active connectivity on the floor amongst teammates and discipline in assignments. See the amount pointing to direct traffic and head swivels staying alert of positioning relative to ball and matchup.

Here are a few clips from the Final Four this past Saturday showing some of the key differences between the two:

Texas Tech

First Possession – Shot Clock Violation

One thing that catches your attention right away is the immediate ball pressure to extend the offense from the rim. With a switching man-to-man defense, personnel has to be on high alert and actively communicating. See the early pindown (down-screen on the weakside) where there is an initial mix-up on the switch. Yet, with an observant helpside defender he stays in midline to protect any possible slip to the rim until his teammate recovers. Even after the recovery, there is a clear focus on eating space between post and perimeter players by digging or backside help. With limited room to operate the ball is forced back to the perimeter where it stagnates to an eventual shot clock violation.

Multiple Effort Contest & Block Out

This was one of my favorite possessions because of the connectivity of switches and the multiple efforts despite a breakdown freeing up a shooter. Effort mitigates mistakes and this is an example of doing the job, even when it is not considered your responsibility. Following the switch on the ballscreen a perimeter defender in Mooney gets the tall order of fronting Michigan State’s Ward in the post. Michigan State recognizes the immediate mismatch, however has limited angles to make a post-entry because as soon as the switch occurs the entire helpside defense shifts to protect a lob over the top. With ball pressure creating discomfort the ball has to be reversed. The possession progresses with a Texas Tech getting lost from his matchup, a shooter running corner possibly to protect Ward coming back ballside. A penetrate and kick leads to a closeout to a contest from the same defender on a high percentage shooter in McQuade. This is multiple effort defense completed by a low-man wins box out by Texas Tech.

Virginia

First Possession Shot Clock Violation

Not to be outdone, UVA starts out with a shot clock violation of their own. Packline Defense is predicated on ‘building a wall.’ This first possession shows conceptually their intention to prevent getting beat baseline to limiting scramble situations. Simultaneously, packline defense is at their best when positioning off the ball is consistent enough to keep ball-handlers out of the paint. This clip shows on-ball defenders leveling drives forcing Auburn to retreat, and off-ball defenders staying in their gaps to keep from being driven under to the rim.

Protecting the Rim

Initially the possession remains around the horn from solid ballscreen defense with a hard hedge and tag on the weakside. This is another example of trusting teammates to have their backs despite a possible breakdown. Virginia’s Kyle Guy getting caught slighty ball watching and over-extending himself outside the wall allows for a cutting Auburn guard to get a head of steam toward the rim. Help-the-helper is best served with a rejection at the rim.

 

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