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How to choose the correct basketball defense for a particular opponent

Selecting the basic defense for your own team is a complex problem that only you can decide. The talent at hand, your own philosophy, and coaching ability determines your choice; however, choosing a defensive style to use against a particular opponent is much easier. I will briefly generalize how a coach can alter defenses for a specific opponent or change the tempo of a game.

First of all, for a coach to make the necessary defensive adjustments against a specific opponent, it is vital to have a good scouting report. Scouting reports are less important to the coach who never changes defense.

A good scouting report details the opponents pattern of play, their inside and outside game, and strengths and weaknesses of individual players. I would hope that any coach would start the game, but adjust to the opponent's strength and weaknesses; however, in the course of some games you are going to find that your basic defense doesn't work.

If previous experience with an opponent has taught you that the opponent can overpower your normal defense, then use a change-up defense on them. Use your strength when possible.

I don't want to leave the impression that you should abandon your basic defense and get carried away with the idea of defensive changes. A good basketball coach will make adjustments within the basic defense before abandoning the basic defense for another. A team can change defenses too often as well as not often enough. The coach must develop the knack to feel when adjustments cannot turn the tide and that a total change of defense is necessary.

Getting a feel for the momentum of a game

A most important step for a basketball coach during a course of the game is to get the feel of the momentum of that game. When everything is going your way, there is little need to change defenses. If the situation is in the reverse, a basketball coach should seriously consider the possibility of a defensive adjustment.

I have found that a "Points per Possession Chart" gives the coach an idea of how effective the defense. As a rule of thumb, should the opponent score at the rate of one point per possession of the ball, they are doing quite well. Unless his team is doing considerably better, an adjustment in defense is in order.

My old college coach and hall of fame member, Arad McCutchan, used such a chart that helped him win five National Division II championships. As his student assistant, I sat beside Coach McCutchan, during a game and kept such a chart. I soon realized this chart was most helpful in keeping a coach aware of both the offensive and defensive momentum. Thus, allowing quick adjustments during the course of a game.

To give you an example, at the beginning of a game, Southern Illinois University was doing well against our shifting man-to-man defense. They had scored 19 points in the first 16 possessions. We had scored only 14 points. Coach McCutchan changed to a help and recover man-to-man defense, with about 10 minutes left in the half and took a 37 to 34 half-time lead.

Ball Possession Chart

Date __ ___ ____ Opponent: _______________

LEDGEND: RB = Rebounds, JB = Jump Ball, ST = Steal, DD = Double Dribble, TR = Travel,

NUMBER CIRCLED = Basket Made, NUMBER NOT CIRCLED = Missed Shot, FG = Field Goal, FT = Free Throw

Line
Number
How was Ball ObtainedFGA -FGFTA - FTHow Ball was Lost Type of Offensive MoveFast BreakComments: Defensive Changes, Score, Timeout, Half Time
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44

 A sample of Coach McCutchan's "Points per-possession chart"

Sample Points-per-possession chart

Suggestions of adjustments with defenses

With experience as a basketball coach, you will develop the ability to take advantage of the opponent's weaknesses and your own team's strengths. The more defensive choices you have, the more adjustments you can make in a game. Have confidence and sell your players on the idea that no matter when the going gets tough, they will be able to make defensive adjustments to meet their threat

Any team who takes pride in their multiple defensive tools are mighty hard to beat. Here are a few suggestions of adjustments and changes in defense you might make to meet such threat:

  1. Against a team with a strong inside game, use a sagging man-to-man or 2-3 Zone. You could even use a combination defense, with the two guards zoning.
  2. Avoid pressing defenses against a team with good penetrating guards. Instead, use a strong side combination defense. Overplay heavily on the inside, or a layback man-to-man.
  3. Press full-court against a team with good outside shooters to rush them or influence someone other than the best shooters to take the shots if the best shooters play on the perimeter. You might use a tight man-to-man, a 1-3-1 flexing zone, trapping in the corners, or a help and recover man-to-man. If you use any type of zone, instruct you players to close-out fast on the good shooters.
  4. Use a full court man-to-man against a running team. Do not try to trap or steal, but contain their offense by slowing it down.
  5. Change defenses often against inexperienced teams. You can change up after a score, or keying by the position the defensive captain takes. For example, if he picks the ball in the back court it's a man to man, or picks the ball up in the fore court, the defense is a zone.
  6. If you get into foul trouble, go to a zone and hope you don't foul.
  7. Use full-court presses against teams who run strict patterned offenses, or a half-court help and recover man-to-man defense.
  8. Use a 1-3-1 flexing zone, matching up repeatedly against a team who has little movement in their zone offense.
  9. When opponent's defense stymies your offense, begin pressing to get your offense started again.
  10. When a team is scoring well against you, adjust by moving your initial point of pressure a bit farther out on the floor, box and one or diamond and one to shut down a hot shooter. If the hot shooter is a perimeter player, use a box and one. If he is a post player, use the diamond and one.
  11. In last minute situations, change defenses when the opponent takes a timeout. You might make this change for only the first possession of the ball, too.
 
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  9. How to Coach the 1-3-1 Basketball Zone Pressure Defenses

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