Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/30/2008 10:38:00 AM
Xs and Os: UCLA's Hedging On Ball-Screens
(Editor's note: In the interest of giving you a coach's angle on the NCAA tournament, we've enlisted Bruno Chu of the blog The X's and O's of Basketball to provide a series of guest posts during the dance. Today's topic is a tactic that's been a key part of Ben Howland's defense at UCLA. Bruno takes it over from here.)
One of UCLA's best defensive traits is its ability to defend ball screens. The Bruins have been using the hedge almost exclusively all season, and on Sunday, it bothered Xavier by making guard Drew Lavender unable to turn the corner off of ball-screens and create plays. Here are a few sequences from the first half that show Kevin Love hedging the Musketeers' ball-screens:
The Hedge: There are a few ways coaches and commentators refer to this: Some say a player is "showing hard" on the screen, and others call it a "hard hedge," but it all means the same thing. Basically what happens is, the screener's defender comes out to impede the ballhandler's progress, forcing him to take a few retreat steps. This allows the original defender to recover from the screen, and then lets the screener's defender recover back to his original man. In UCLA's case, Love does a great job each time on the hedge. On a couple of occasions, he even slightly bumped Lavender, further slowing him down:
The other important key about the hedge is for the help-side defenders to rotate and gap the other players, specifically to protect the basket. In the image below, Love tells Lorenzo Mata-Real to cover the rolling man until Love is able to get back into position:
The hedge maneuver is not the easiest defensive concept to master. It requires plenty of practice to be good at it and not give up easy baskets to the screener, which would be counter-productive. Howland's team is a prime example of one that uses it well -- enough so that the Bruins are headed to the Final Four.