2008-2009 Season

Breaking Down the Clemson Full Court Press

It looks like the key to this game is going to be the turnover battle. Michigan has done a great job of holding onto the ball but Clemson is one of the best teams in the nation at forcing turnovers. Clemson lives and dies off of its full court press and Michigan really hasn’t seen a team that presses all the time.

To delve a little deeper into the ins and outs of Clemson’s defense I dug up an ESPN.com video explaining Clemson’s press and I also asked Bruno from the X’s and O’s of Coaching Basketball a little bit about what exactly Oliver Purnell does and how you beat it. We’ll start with the video:

Now here is what Bruno had to say, make sure to check out the X’s and O’s of Coaching Basketball because it is definitely worth your time if you’re a basketball fan. I may or may not add graphics later, I don’t have them yet and I’m headed to Kansas City this afternoon (I’ll be twittering on the way there).

Under Coach Oliver Purnell, the Clemson Tigers have been characterized as a pressure defense team. They like to press full-court the whole game and score a large part of their points off their press. There are two kinds of presses they use:

1. Diamond Press. The diamond press or the 1-2-1-1 is a very aggressive press that is designed to put incredible amount of pressure on the first pass. In other words, they generally allow the ball to be inbounded but then trap the first pass in the backcourt corners. They take away the center of the court and attempt to force the ball on the sideline where they can setup a secondary trap once the ball is passed out of the first trap.

The weaknesses of the diamond press include the soft spot in the middle, between the center-court defender and the inbounds (roughly the free-throw line in the backcourt). Once the ball is passed into the soft spot, a tall, capable passer can pass over top of the zone to fast breaking players running their lanes. Once the ball is advanced past halfcourt, the offense generally has a temporary numbers advantage. A key game in which their diamond press was exposed was against Seth Greenberg’s Virginia Tech Hokies. While still turning over the ball, they still managed to score many points in transition and more importantly they beat the Tigers.

2. Full Court Man Press. I’ve seen the Tigers run more M2M full court press in the last few weeks than earlier in the season. The M2M full court press is really just their same halfcourt M2M defense but extended full court. The are no trapping areas like in the zone press, but the individual defense by each player puts pressure not only on the ball but in denying the passing lanes. Generally, a M2M full court press will not generate as many turnovers as a zone press will, but the advantage being that it is easier to transition from full-court M2M to half-court M2M than zone press to half-court M2M.

The weakness of most M2M full court presses is their overly aggressive nature. Since most full court M2M defenses will play on the line/up the line (ie. shoot the gaps and anticipate passes) they are very susceptible to backdoor cuts and over the top passes.

Also make sure to check out the X’s and O’s explanation of Michgan’s 1-3-1 zone.

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