LOOK FOR: A long-limbed thyroid case harassing the inbounder after a basket. Two good-shooting teammates are aligned behind him like splitbacks in a backfield. A guard and the center are in an I formation behind them.
WHO USES IT: Most notably, Iowa, Ohio State and Cleveland State. The coaches at the latter two schools, Gary Williams and Kevin Mackey, both assisted Iowa's Tom Davis when he coached Boston College. Providence used the 1-2-1-1 in their surge to the Final Four last season.
GOALS: To force tempo by contesting every pass while the five- and ten-second rules apply. To demoralize an opponent with scoring spurts, achieved by applying pressure after your own field goal or free throw.
FORERUNNERS: Davis has become a sort of Johnny Trapleseed of the 1-2-1-1, although he credits both John Wooden and Jack Ramsay, who used a 3-1-1 trap at St. Joseph's, with exposing him to the principles. This is the defense in which athletic ability is least essential. " Tom Davis has used pressure successfully at every level," says Penn's Tom Schneider. "He did it at Lafayette, BC, Stanford and Iowa." With all respect to last season's Friars, George Blaney's 1977 caped Crusaders of Holy Cross were perhaps the most overachieving 1-2-1-1 team of all time, using it in a near upset in the NCAAs of then No. 1 Michigan.
SHOWN HERE: In Iowa's 94-Foot Denial, Jeff Moe, Roy Marble and B.J. Armstrong overplay their men, 2, 3 and 4, respectively, while Al Lorenzen harasses the inbounder 1. Lorenzen joins Moe in a trap of 2 after he receives the inbound pass. Marble and Armstrong cut off the passing lanes to 3 and 4, while Ed Horton monitors 5 and protects against offensive players releasing long. If 2 and 4 scissor off to get open for the inbounds pass, Moe and Armstrong simply switch assignments.
The power forward on the baseline is the 1-2-1-1's bellwether. "You want a guy who goes crazy up there," says Williams, "and the bigger the better." More than a few seemingly ordinary collegians have blossomed into big-time baseliners in a pressure system. "Take Marty Conlan and David Kipfer," says Providence coach Gordon Chiesa, referring to the Friars' two 1-2-1-1 point men last season. "We timed their wind sprints with a calendar. But playing pressure defense, slow guys get quick."