Pack Line vs No Middle — NCAA Championship Game

Jack Fleming
Apr 7, 2019 · 5 min read
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The story of two complete opposite sides of the spectrum down the defensive end, what an exciting battle it will be.

Chris Beard’s Texas Tech super aggressive “no middle” stance on the ball, help early and build a wall has caused havoc for his opposition. Tony Bennett’s sits on the other side of the fence, his pack line defence has a “square” stance on the ball but they do not allow penetration to the outside or baseline. Here we will have a look at the two styles that are diametrically opposed.

Pack Line Pillars

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  1. Cannot get stretched — only the ball defender can go outside the pack line. All other defenders must have at least one foot inside the pack line.
  2. Ball Pressure — as much as possible without getting beat.
  3. Build a Wall — Creates a crowded floor, ball handler cannot see gaps or holes.
  4. Your Position is Your Help — constant repositioning and fight for your vision and gap help. Eliminated two movements eg. help and recover
  5. Aggressive Closeouts — must guard your yard, 3 feet to your left and to your right.
  6. No post feeds from the top.

Jim Boone, Head Coach of Delta State University and pack line promoter talks about “Know Your No’s” — there must be things you do not accept in your defence.

  1. No Paint
  2. No Baseline
  3. No Straight Line Drives
  4. No Rhythm 3's
  5. No Fast Break’s
  6. No 2nd Shots

Why No Baseline?

  1. Keeps us out of rotation.
  2. Prevents mismatches on box outs because we can stay matched up.
  3. Kids we way better ball handlers than 20 years ago, we are positioned to guard dribble penetration.

Here is some video footage of Virginia’s defence from a few years ago and my notes from a previous article on Virginia from time spent there in 2017.

Chris Beard’s No Middle Defence

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No Middle Pillars

  1. Stance on the Ball — toes to sideline, extreme ball pressure.
  2. Positioning off the Ball — ready to rotate hard, early on baseline penetration and keep the ball outside the paint.
  3. Rotate with Aggression — pull across down, attack the ball. Have high hands and get deflections on skip passes and kick out’s.

Why No Middle?

  1. Use the sideline/baseline as another defender, there is less space in that area of the floor. Forces lower % shots along the baseline.
  2. Prevents doubt in our defence, we know we are rotating and allows all 5 guys to stay connected.
  3. Offence likes to play pick and roll, or best players like to penetrate through middle of the floor where there is more space. We take away that space.

Here is a detailed breakdown of Texas Tech’s defence if you are interested by Jordan Sperber from Hoop Vision.

What you specifically teach is what your players will do best. — Dick Bennett

Consistency of Methodology

Wherever you direct the ball when guarding it, must tie into your positioning off the ball, how you guard the post and how you guard pick and roll.

Virginia — Post Defence & Pick and Roll

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  1. Virginia do not allow the ball to be driven baseline.
  2. Virginia plays in a more ‘open’ stance in their gap position, therefore when they close out their angle is perfect to be square in the ball.
  3. Virginia play the post 3/4 on the high side, therefore is driven middle and it gets through the ‘gap’ they are already in position to help.
  4. Virginia traps the post, big to big from the middle of the floor. Therefore it fits into their philosophy of not allow penetration to the baseline — even in the post.
  5. Virginia hedges ball screens, therefore a square stance on the ball allows for minimal adjustments to get over the top of ball screens.

Texas Tech — Post Defence & Pick and Roll

  1. Texas Tech do not allow the ball to be driven middle.
  2. Texas Tech plays in a more ‘closed’ stance off the ball, therefore when they close out their angle is perfect to push the ball to the baseline.
  3. Texas Tech front the post, therefore when the ball is driven baseline they are in perfect position to rotate early and aggressively.
  4. Texas Tech will Ice ball screens, which ties directly into their philosophy of keeping the ball out of the middle. Therefore barely any adjustments needs to be made to go from how they guard the ball to being in Ice.
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The Methods May Be Different, But The Principles Are The Same

  1. It all starts with fundamentals — being able to guard the ball, jump in the direction of the pass, take away lay ups and 3pt shots. They all stand for the same foundations.
  2. They have an identity — everyone team knows what they stand for, and the believe in it to the fullest. Both coaches demand it, every single day at practice.
  3. There are elements of passive, and there are elements of aggressive. Allows you to adjust to what the game needs. Virginia finds their aggressive in the way they hedge pick and roll, and trap the post. Texas Tech finds theirs in the way they rotate and direct the ball baseline.
  4. Rebounding — both teams are committed to it. If you don’t do it you can’t win.

Harrington Emerson

May the best team win, I hope this article has helped clarify and question your defensive philosophy. Remember these teams are on extreme ends of the spectrum, however they have clarity and an identity that we can all strive for.

Want to Know More?

If you would like to continue the basketball conversation, provide your thoughts or ideas please message me on Twitter @jackfleming1 or e-mail me at Please check out my other 50+basketball resource articles on

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