Kansas beat North Carolina on Sunday to earn a spot in the Final Four, playing a triangle-and-two defense for much of the second half. It was surprising to hear that Carolina coach Roy Williams said he thought Kansas was in the defense "for 1 or 2 possessions" when in fact Kansas confirmed they were in it for the last 9 minutes of the game.
Recognizing the defense is the first step. While it's hard to believe that the Carolina bench couldn't really figure it out, it is often a defense that takes some time to recognize. I've watched many games where I've noticed a junk defense and had 2 thoughts - 1) How long have they been playing that? 2) When are the announcers going to recognize that they are in a junk defense?
I've thought a lot about how to attack a junk defense, but I'm not sure I've come up with a great answer. We've always been very balanced at RIC with a lot of good players, so we've never been a team that would encounter much junk. So what are the best ways to attack them? I'd love to know your thoughts. Here are a few I've seen or thought about:
Do Nothing At All: Just play. Don't even address it. Go with the theory that your opponent cannot have practiced this very much and therefore can't be very good at it. If you run a motion, a dribble-drive or some type of a read, freedom offense, just trust your kids know how to play. The defenders who are denying your players have one clear objective and know what to do, but the other 3-4 defenders who are playing zone can't be that comfortable knowing their slides and rotations.
Play 3-3 or 4-4: Another option is to take the players they are denying out of the equation. It may seem like you are giving them exactly what they want, but think about it. If you take their 1 or 2 best defenders out of the equation and play 3-3 against a team that doesn't really know how to play a 3-man zone, can you beat them? Often you see offensive teams fighting to force the ball to their best players and they end up making tough, one on one plays. So don't fight it. Attack the guys who are playing a defense they aren't comfortable with.
Run Them Into The Ground: Similar to playing 3-3 or 4-4 against them, but have the players denied constantly swing through under the basket to the opposite wing. Once they get to the wing, have them swing through to the opposite wing. Wear their defenders down. While this is happening, have your other guys play. If your best offensive players continue to make hard cuts from the wing to the basket, sooner or later they will see an opening. And when an opening occurs, they should be in position to score. Back doors, post-ups and hard cuts to the wing should end up showing themselves if they continue to make these cuts, instead of chasing down the ball or taking their man out away from the hoop.
Run A Baseline Offense: If you run any flex action or some kind of baseline runner against a zone, go to it against a junk defense. Think about the action - when you have 3 guys along the baseline, it's hard to match-up with a 1-2 or 2-2 zone. So when your best offensive players are running the baseline and are denied, they can probably match up. But when they flash high out of the offense, somebody along the baseline should be open. It's very hard to match up against.
Have Them Screen: One of the best approaches I saw against a triangle and two defense was run by Syracuse at West Virginia a few years ago. Syracuse stuck with their motion but had the players being denied - I believe one of them was Preston Shumpert - set a lot of screens. The concept is great. The guys denying Shumpert and his teammate were in "no-help," so when they set screens it created gaps for their teammates. The defense started to get confused, and the deny defenders started to help a little bit, allowing room for Shumpert to work. It wasn't a structured offense, but probably the best approach against junk defenses that I have seen. If the offensive players being denied are willing to set a lot of screens, opportunities for everyone will open up.
Very interested to know what other ideas there are out there about attacking junk defenses. They are meant to get you off balance and make you uncomfortable, and they usually will if you are not prepared for them. North Carolina shot 22% in the second half on Sunday, and they are going home instead of New Orleans.