Today we bring you the second of a three-part series reviewing the "pack-line" defense that Archie Miller has used at Dayton and will bring with him to his new position at Indiana.
This was actually written in 2009 by Brian Snow of Scout.com when Archie's older brother Sean Miller left Xavier to take the Arizona job. Snow covered Xavier during the Sean Miller era. Because the points made and principles haven't changed, we bring it to you today. Remember that Archie Miller was a staff member at Arizona during Sean's first couple years at the Pac-12 program.
Here is the final part of Brian's series:
Pack-line Defense: Defending The Post
There have been a lot of questions recently on the board about the defense and how it is supposed to look versus how it is looking and if the current team is running Miller’s pack-line defense correctly.
The first thing is I don’t want people thinking the pack-line is like re-inventing the wheel. It is a defense run by A LOT of schools all across the country. Of course each coach has a slight tweak here or there, but for the most part it is virtually the same. Xavier, Arizona, Butler, Virginia, etc. they all basically run the same defense. While it is complex in some ways, it isn't the most unbelievable system to grasp, like any defensive system, it just takes reps.
Here are things to pay attention to as general rules of what to look for during games. In this part I will breakdown how Arizona is supposed to defend the post.
WARNING this will get technical. If some of it doesn’t make sense let me know and I will do a better job of trying to explain it.
The first thing to realize when it comes to defending the post is that it isn't just on the big guys. Arizona has been criticized for post defense some this season, but it isn't just a problem with the interior players. Playing post defense is a 50/50 split between the guards and the big guys.
Starting with the big guys when it comes to defending the post, the first thing is the catch is not supposed to be easy. Never is a big guy taught to simply play behind his defender before the catch is made. Instead he should be denying with a high 3/4 positioning where he makes the pass difficult to receive, and takes the offensive post guy out of his comfort spot on the box.
Once the catch is made, since it is completely impossible to expect them never to be able to get the ball to the post, a big guy has to body up on the offensive player and play with his hands straight up and down.
The guy guarding the post player is taught to not try and block the shot by swinging his arm and jumping, but simply by “walling up”. This means putting the arms up, being strong with the body, and in essence walking into the defender when he is shooting. Don’t confuse that with undercutting the guy who is shooting, but taking away all space and being strong.
While the big guys clearly have a lot of responsibility, the guards are just as important, and possibly even more important when it comes to having a competent and effective post defense.
Singularly the most effective thing a defense can do to limit scoring down low is to have good ball pressure on the passer. It doesn’t matter if Derrick Williams or Bill Russell is guarding the post player, if the guard does not put ball pressure on the passer he will be able to make a great pass and put the big guy in a bad position.
Because of that the Arizona guards are taught to apply heavy ball pressure on the passer with the hope of him not being able to get the pass into the post. While all the other defenders are off their man in “help” position, the guy guarding the ball has to apply significant pressure on the passer making it difficult to give a good post entry.
The second thing the guard is responsible for doing is crowding the post after a catch on the block is made by a post player. Crowding is not to be confused with doubling the post. Never in the system should a guard come down from the perimeter and double the guy with the ball.
Instead what should happen is the guard has to be two places at once. He has to be helping down on the post while still being on his guy. A guard does this by taking a swipe at the ball (from a distance where he can’t pick up a foul), faking like he is going to double and only going halfway, stuff like that.
If you give a good post player time and space on the block to make a move it will be a basket every time, by crowding the post, you take away that time and space, yet you don’t leave shooters open on the perimeter.
There are definitely rare occasions where based on a scouting report, Arizona will post trap a big guy using in essence a big-to-big double team, but that isn’t often. Only they will do that in certain situations against a dominant post player who doesn’t have a great feel. When that happens a lot of the rules are thrown off, but as I stated that isn't normal.
Overall post defense isn't simply on the big guy. It is on the entire team to help contain the post player, and it starts long before the ball ever touches the hands of a guy on the block.