No Middle Defense Basketball
Tempo di lettura 4 min
Scritto da: Chris Hungerford
Tempo di lettura 4 min
Scott Drew has turned Baylor Bears into a constant winner since taking the job before the 2004 season. They've been to four sweet six-teens including two elite 8 appearances, but the typical Scott Drew Baylor team has excelled on the offensive side of the floor.
Baylor's defense was known for its unconventional zone defense they were around a 50/50 split between zone and man defense in the last several years. In the 2020 season not only has Drew gotten away from the zone defense but their man-to-man looked a lot like another Big 12 team known for their no middle defense. Baylor's defense prioritizes the type of defense called "no middle defense". The main point is to keep the ball out of the middle in a similar way to Texas Tech's defense.
You'll see Baylor Bears on ball defenders with their feet pointing towards the sideline to make the ball handler drive in that direction. The defense has been highly successful, they were allowing just 0.88 points per possession in the Big 12. That was the number-one defensive efficiency team in the conference, in a league that has several great defenses. That is just one example of no middle defense.
In this article, we'll break down the Baylor no middle defense. First starting with Texas Tech to show the similarities to Baylor but then looking at what makes Baylor's defensive scheme unique. The Texas Tech style of forcing the ball to the baseline puts more control into the defense's hands while playing no middle defense. The basics of the system are fairly straightforward, send the ball handler to the sideline and then give early help, because they're forcing it one way it's easier for the Texas Tech help to be early because they know where the ball is going to be dribbled. That allows their defenders to meet the ball outside of the paint and take charges.
As a member of the Big 12, Scott Drew has coached against Chris Beard’s no-middle defense twice a year since he joined the league and you can see the influence it had on the 20/20 version of his team.
On baseline drives, you can find examples of Baylor helping outside the paint and zoning up away from the ball with the weak side defenders acting almost like free safeties to take away skip passes. The Baylor defense is especially good at recovering in scramble situations. Coaches like to talk to their players about the need for giving multiple efforts within a single possession on the defensive end and that's a theme for Baylor's defense.
Here we can see how Davion Mitchell goes from being the potential first help on the drive to immediately rotating to the weak side to somehow block this shot out of a scramble situation.
It's a combination of scheme effort and athleticism that makes plays like these possible refusing to give up on a play and continuing to scramble the defense increases the probability of forcing a turnover or the ball just eventually winding up in non-shooters hands.
The trade-off of the early help outside the page is giving up skip past threes no matter how good a defense is as zoning up and scrambling, rotations will sometimes lead to open threes.
Against Texas Tech we've seen that the teams that have optimal spacing on the weak side make the scrambles more difficult to execute while Baylor isn't immune to these same 3 pointers, their scheme does minimize them more than Texas Techs'.
Let's look at how Baylor Bears guards screen. Against screen, Baylor Bears will ice the ball handler by not letting him use the ball screen. It's a very natural thing for them to do because the defender is already forcing the ball away from the ball screen just in their regular base defense.
If the player setting the ball screen is a shooter, Baylor can even ice to a full rotation. Ball screens where the screener comes from a player already on the perimeter are more difficult to ice.
So the other common coverage for Baylor is to simply switch. Yet another thing Baylor's defense has in common with Texas Tech's defense, Baylor will switch to take away the opponent's intended action and then immediately deny it to further disrupt the offensive flow. Ultimately it doesn't leave offenses with many options besides baseline drives or late-clock isolation. And that’s a perfect example of no middle defense.
In the past, switching has been viewed by coaches as the easy way out or something that should only be used as a last resort. Not out of convenience but many of the best modern-day defenses like Baylor defense now use a switch as a weapon. Another thing, Baylor opponents will often try to do against the switches is to post up their smaller players and mismatches but again Baylor's defense stays aggressive in these situations. So given their overall personnel, Baylor is pretty clearly elite at guarding the ball and playing no middle defense. They have players capable of sending the ball baseline and playing no middle defense while still staying in front to prevent easy baskets and as a result, this is where their scheme differentiates the most from Texas Tech's defense.
The Texas Tech help defenders come to meet you outside the paint no matter what, but Baylor's defense will often play it more straight up relying on the on-ball defender to guard one-on-one. The obvious benefit here to not having to help so much is to not give up those kick-out threes instead Baylor's defense makes the driver have to create his own shot. Baylor's defense has gone from the 75th-ranked defense in that season to not only a top defense but a final-four contender.
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