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After Georgetown wins a national championship in 1984 with pressure defense, UNLV (in '90) and Arkansas (in '94, with its 40 Minutes of Hell) follow. What's an offense to do? Fight pressure with pressure. On its way to the '91 title, Duke solves UNLV's half-court D by having Christian Laettner set high ball-screens to spring Bobby Hurley free in the half-court.
When he was an assistant to Rollie Massimino at Villanova during the 1980s, Jay Wright remembers his boss calling a play early in each possession when the Wildcats played Georgetown. "If the play didn't work, we'd line up in a 1--4 and have the guard drive to the basket," says Wright. "If they called fouls, we won. If they didn't, we lost.
"Pressure could take you out of your offense if all you did was pass and cut and screen. Coaches realized the only thing that really worked was to drive the ball on a straight line to the basket."
The Trey Is Born
Providence offered a foretaste of the power of the three, riding the 19'9" chippie to the 1987 Final Four. In fact, coach Rick Pitino's choice to cast his team's lot with the trey was born of desperation. The Friars had spent seven seasons near the bottom of the conference, and "I was looking for gimmicks," Pitino says. "We weren't going to win without pressure defense and the three-pointer. We ran the pick-and-roll every time down the floor, usually for Billy Donovan, and spotted up Delray Brooks and Pop Lewis in the corners. Our fast break wasn't for layups, but threes."
As the arc moved out, defenses had to stray farther from the lane, which made the close-to-the-basket movement of the flex and motion seem more and more pointless. Guards' eyes lit up at the space in the middle, and coaches began to put the pieces together, devising ways to pair the three with dribble penetration.
Indiana Red to Duke Blue
For most of his first decade at Duke, Mike Krzyzewski ran the motion offense that his mentor, Bob Knight, perfected in 29 seasons at Indiana. Then Coach K landed prodigious point guard Bobby Hurley (right). "Hurley made better decisions with the ball than five guys could make collectively," Krzyzewski says. "Hurley and [Christian] Laettner really started our ball-screen stuff."