In The Physics of Baseball, Yale professor Robert Adair describes the difficulty of hitting a baseball hurdling toward the batter at 90 miles per hour. Yet, the greatest hitter of all time, Ted Williams, was able to reduce Adair’s detailed study into a simple law that separates the strong hitter from the mediocre. Just as Einstein was able to reduce his theory of relativity to a single equation, Williams was able to distill the science of hitting in a single sentence: Get a good pitch to hit. I have long wondered if we could do the same for the game of basketball.
“We don’t teach the triple-threat position at Princeton.” I nearly fell to the floor. Here was Joe Scott, former player and disciple of Princeton’s legendary Pete Carril, now the newly named head coach the Tigers, preaching heresy at a coaching clinic.
We’re three months into the 2013-14 season and the more vocal critics of the new hand-check and block/charge rules are beginning to quiet down. (See C.J. Moore and Matt Norlander’s recent columns.) Compared to last year at the same point in time, fouls are up by only four while scoring has increased by six, and most games have been completed in less than two hours.
I happen to think that the rule changes are the best thing to happen to college basketball in a long time. Eventually the players will more fully adapt, learning that defense is played with one’s feet and heart, not with arms, hands, and hips.
In any event, some coaches are turning to various forms of the zone defense in an attempt to cut down on fouls and keep their starters in the game. In early December, using statistics compiled by Synergy Sports Technology, The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Cohen reported that the use of zones was up by a 6% since last year with Top-25 teams facing zones on nearly 24% for their half-court sets.
If that news sparks your interest in the zone defense, here’s an in-depth look at the most comprehensive match-up ever devised.
Click here to read Rediscovering Gene Sullivan’s Matching Zone Defense, Part I
Buried deep in Seth Davis’ Sports Illustrated post last week was this little gem. “I know we are in the Age of the Ball Screen, but I think coaches use this tactic too frequently. I don’t like the way a ball screen brings a second defender to the dribbler. If I’ve got a quick guard, I’d prefer to give him as much space as possible and let him take his man off the dribble.” I couldn’t agree more.
For a long time, I have been fascinated by “little books” – short, pithy pieces that explore a particular topic or phenomenon, uncovering its fundamental principles and operations… better than a layup is my attempt to add to this collection — to write a “little book” on the nature of college basketball, exposing its underlying principles or laws and tracing the game’s historical evolution.