Compressing the Defense – Giving your team room to “Play Basketball”

Last night I watched Creighton defeat Mississippi 86-77 in a very good pre-season college basketball game. Not only was it extremely entertaining but Creighton’s offense was also a reminder of a simple concept that many of us forget from time to time-how compressing the defense in any form is really the key to creating good shots.

In Creighton’s five games this season so far, the Blue Jays are averaging 93.8 ppg, which includes 103 and 112 points against Washington St. and North Carolina St. respectively. As one watches them, it becomes very apparent that there is not a lot of complex action being run, which isn’t to say that there’s not a lot of coaching going on.

Rather, the coaching is in the simplicity. Coach Greg McDermott has his team attacking the basket off the break and off the bounce in the half-court isolations. Mixing in post-ups, cuts and flashes, the Blue Jays are threatening the rim on most possessions, thereby compressing the defense to protect the rim. Consequently, as a by-product, they are getting great looks on the perimeter.

Of course, this isn’t happening without good personnel but the main takeaway after watching them play is how many possessions include a strong thrust into the heart of the defense enabling the offense to play “off of” the thrust.

To explain further, many coaches have used the phrase “play basketball” after a play or set gets the offense an edge. In a perfect world, the play will get the offense a basket, or at the very least, a good look. But, it most cases, the play will only get the offense a “half-step” or maybe “a step” advantage and the players will need to play “off of” that half step or step.

The more that players understand this premise, the better they’ll be able to “play basketball”. This season’s edition of the Creighton Blue Jays effectively demonstrates compressing the defense with thrusts and playing basketball. There are infinite ways to obtain the same effect and as coaches, it’s up to us to find those means for our teams.

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