LOOK FOR: The two front men play off the baseline, conceding the first pass inbounds if it's in front of them.
WHO USES IT: Louisville, better and more often than anyone, primarily to turn up the tempo. Coach Denny Crum apprenticed at UCLA under 2-2-1 guru John Wooden and has attracted to the 'Ville such big and agile defenders as Rodney McCray and Lancaster Gordon. "When you have guys as big as theirs cutting down passing lanes, that court starts to look awfully small." says Ohio State coach Gary Williams.
GOALS: To encourage lazy lob or bounce passes that are more easily intercepted. To force the dribbler into a trap. To wear down a less-well-conditioned team.
FORERUNNERS: UCLA's 1964 national champs. With no starter taller than 6'5" and no bench to speak of, the Bruins went 30-0 using this press, which Wooden installed after the same group lost nine games in 1963. When he speaks at clinics, Wooden is still asked most often about the 2-2-1. A high school coach who once inquired: Tom Davis, now at Iowa.
SHOWN HERE: Louisville's trapping application of the 2-2-1. La Bradford Smith invites the in bounds pass and then forces 2 up the sideline to just across the midcourt line. Herbert Crook retreats to join Smith at what the Cardinals coaching staff calls the "hot spot," where the sideline and time line serve as extra defenders. Tony Kimbro, Keith Williams and Pervis Ellison all angle into the passing lanes, looking to intercept 2's pass out of the trap.
Wooden didn't trap much out of the 2-2-1. "When you reach, you foul," he says. "Worse, you leave open passing lanes." But the 2-2-1 lends itself to aggressive man-to-man principles. When Louisville beat Kentucky in the 1983 Mideast Regional final, coming from 11 points down, the Cards used their 2-D (for denial) press, a turn-the-screws version of the 2-2-1 that doesn't wait for the ball to be advanced into the forecourt. Kentucky went two minutes in OT unable to bring the ball past the time line.