The anchor of our basketball success has always been good defense. And while our overall system has included full-court pressure and some match-up zone, the most important phase of our defensive philosophy has been our man to man defense. It is the fundamentals of the man to man defense that makes our full court pressure and even our match-up zone successful.
Our philosophy in terms of our man to man defense is very simple: pressure the basketball. In addition to good ball pressure, we also want to make it difficult for our opponent to complete penetrating passes while we also provide good helpside to help defend cuts and drives to the basket. No good defensive system is complete without a means of securing the basketball at the end of the possession – defensive rebounding.
And while our overall defensive philosophy is simple, our means can vary. Often times pressure on the basketball means picking it up at half court and trying to turn the ball handler a couple of times before steering the ball to the side. However, sometimes the best pressure is no pressure. Some players and offensive teams like pressure because it allows them to spread the floor and create driving opportunities.
It is important in our defensive thinking to do a good job of scouting our opponent and deciding what their primary strengths are and then designing a game plan to take them away. Of course it is important to find a weakness in your opponent especially if it is something that you can exploit. But the critical part of scouting is to find what they are best at and work at taking that away.
To do this, you must have flexibility within your system of play. At LSU this goes beyond having a zone and a man to man defense to mix up. Within each of our defenses we have a lot of freedom to adjust depending upon what we want to accomplish on game night. The one common denominator is fundamentals. Regardless of whether we are tightly defending the ball or backing off and giving a player a couple of steps, we must still teach stance and footwork. We still expect the defender to jump to the ball on the pass. The primary base of our defense is still intact.
Having said that, you should know that we place a premium on teaching. We work defensively everyday in practice in both part-method and whole-method form. Even when in the middle of the Southeastern Conference season we will find time to break down our defense in practice. We must constantly teach and hone our fundamental principles before we even think about defending an opponent.
At LSU, this is a special process.
First, there is the constant teaching of fundamentals. As we have mentioned, we will work daily on various parts of our defense in a part-method form. These drills can be specific to an opponent but still fundamental in nature. For instance, if we are playing someone that relies heavily on ball screens in their offense, we might do a 2/2 or 3/3 ball screen drill. We are breaking down that part of our defense, but still giving some specific attention to our next game.
We also provide written scouting reports for each member of our team that is accompanied by a scouting video. We expect each player to read and view their opponent. We will also watch the video as a team to make sure they are seeing the specific areas we need them to see. At LSU, we have a male-scrimmage team that will come to practice and run the opponent’s offense. This has been extremely helpful for us in terms of preparation. On game day we have a “Walk Through” in which we come in five hours before a game and walk through what our opponent will do and what we will counter with defensively.
As you can see, there is a long process for us to prepare defensively. This is important because of the various looks we can give an opponent. It has been successful for us.