Breaking Down the Clemson Full Court Press

Dylan Burkhardt

It looks like the key to this game is going to be the turnover battle. Michigan has done a great job of holding onto the ball but Clemson is one of the best teams in the nation at forcing turnovers. Clemson lives and dies off of its full court press and Michigan really hasn’t seen a team that presses all the time.

To delve a little deeper into the ins and outs of Clemson’s defense I dug up an video explaining Clemson’s press and I also asked Bruno from the X’s and O’s of Coaching Basketball a little bit about what exactly Oliver Purnell does and how you beat it. We’ll start with the video:

Now here is what Bruno had to say, make sure to check out the X’s and O’s of Coaching Basketball because it is definitely worth your time if you’re a basketball fan. I may or may not add graphics later, I don’t have them yet and I’m headed to Kansas City this afternoon (I’ll be twittering on the way there).

Under Coach Oliver Purnell, the Clemson Tigers have been characterized as a pressure defense team. They like to press full-court the whole game and score a large part of their points off their press. There are two kinds of presses they use:

1. Diamond Press. The diamond press or the 1-2-1-1 is a very aggressive press that is designed to put incredible amount of pressure on the first pass. In other words, they generally allow the ball to be inbounded but then trap the first pass in the backcourt corners. They take away the center of the court and attempt to force the ball on the sideline where they can setup a secondary trap once the ball is passed out of the first trap.

The weaknesses of the diamond press include the soft spot in the middle, between the center-court defender and the inbounds (roughly the free-throw line in the backcourt). Once the ball is passed into the soft spot, a tall, capable passer can pass over top of the zone to fast breaking players running their lanes. Once the ball is advanced past halfcourt, the offense generally has a temporary numbers advantage. A key game in which their diamond press was exposed was against Seth Greenberg’s Virginia Tech Hokies. While still turning over the ball, they still managed to score many points in transition and more importantly they beat the Tigers.

2. Full Court Man Press. I’ve seen the Tigers run more M2M full court press in the last few weeks than earlier in the season. The M2M full court press is really just their same halfcourt M2M defense but extended full court. The are no trapping areas like in the zone press, but the individual defense by each player puts pressure not only on the ball but in denying the passing lanes. Generally, a M2M full court press will not generate as many turnovers as a zone press will, but the advantage being that it is easier to transition from full-court M2M to half-court M2M than zone press to half-court M2M.

The weakness of most M2M full court presses is their overly aggressive nature. Since most full court M2M defenses will play on the line/up the line (ie. shoot the gaps and anticipate passes) they are very susceptible to backdoor cuts and over the top passes.

Also make sure to check out the X’s and O’s explanation of Michgan’s 1-3-1 zone.

  • JRose5

    Great work Dylan! I have to think that Grady could really help in breaking the press. Having 4 guards on the floor, as we usually do, should also help with the ball handling. I just hope that a few turnovers doesn’t rattle us and lead to a Clemson spurt. I am sure Coach B will address the mental side of playing in the Tourney, so that should be taken care of. I also think that Simms should be able to get Booker in foul trouble, therefore opening up the paint. If Manny can get to the line and we can just hit open shots, we should be in good shape. I just love that we are all talking UM basketball in March, the excitement is awesome!
    Go Blue!!

  • Dave

    im not exactly sure but i dont know if anybody on clemson will be able to shut down manny………im not familiar with there players but does anybody know who will be guarding manny… thinking manny is going to have a big game

  • Tweeter

    I think Grady will get some minutes here and there just to help with some of the pressure, but I really worry about his defense in this game. There is not a good matchup out there for him. Their pg Stitt is good off the dribble and he is a good four/five inches taller than Grady. Oglesby is too good a shooter to have Grady guard; we saw what happenned in the past when Grady had to guard shooters. Rivers is just flat out to good and big for Grady. I supppose we can play a lot zone when he is in, but I think we will have to mix and match our D to keep them from getting comfortable in finding spot-ups against the zone.

  • JimC

    Yeah I wonder about Grady’s minutes…we could use him on offense a lot, but never on defense.

    So CJ and Merritt need to have good games handling the ball.

  • Tom Too

    I hope Manny takes it to the hole and doesn’t try to draw fouls and end up getting neither a scored lay-up nor a drawn foul. It sounds like they are going to get a ton of 2 on 1’s after breaking the press.

  • Ken in Vegas

    Yeah, I keep hearing that a full-court press will lead to a lot of 2-1, 3-2 fast breaks. Then I have flashbacks of 629 fast breaks that we botched this year. Hope we’ve been working on that in practice.

  • Tom Too

    Obama is picking Clemson in his bracket on ESPN…

    We just have to make sure Grady doesn’t break out the behind-the-back pass…save it for the summer.

  • gooter9

    This site rules. Thanks Dylan.

  • Redwings8831

    This isn’t really the best place to post this, but I didn’t know where else to.

  • AG2

    I can see this game going 3 different ways:

    1. The Penn State Home Game: Clemson’s big man Trevor Booker gets his points, but Oglesby goes cold from long range. Michigan scores enough points at the other end to win the game.

    2. The Penn State Road Game: Clemson shoots lights out from 3 point range, eventually opening up Trevor Booker down low for easy, morale boosting points.

    3. The Ohio State Road Game: Clemson’s tendency to play full court press leads to every different type of turnover imaginable, 5 second calls, 10 second calls, traveling, steals, etc. These turnovers lead to fast break points and feats of athleticism that make Michigan feel like the game is getting away from them. The final nail in the coffin is a 20/10 type performance by Trevor Booker, in which he shoots over 75% from the field.

  • AG2

    I mention the feats of athleticism because that seems to be the way more talented teams try to convince their opponents that they don’t belong on the same floor with them. Things like fast breaks and dunks come to mind. I’m reminded of the 2005 NCAA Tournament when UNC did it to Oakland University, or basically any Conference USA game featuring Memphis.

    That being said, there is one major way most teams like this struggle: freethrows. If Trevor Booker gets free down low, by all means, get Jevohn Shepard and Zack Gibson to use their fouls.

  • Paul

    Last time I vote for Obama. Presser will be on the Big Ten Network Wednesday at 9:00 p.m..

  • AG2

    One more thing, I’m not saying that Michigan vs. Clemson is like Oakland University vs. UNC, just that the “we have more talent/athleticism so you don’t deserve to be on the same court with us” attitude tends to be typical of ACC teams playing Big Ten teams.

  • jgunnip

    I can’t find coverage maps up yet, but the CBS Detroit website has the games hey are showing up

    Purdue-Northern Iowa
    Illinois-Western Kentucky

    Marquette-Utah State
    West Virginia-Dayton
    Boston College-USC
    Michigan State-Robert Morris

  • ToBlav

    I agree with Ken in Vegas, that failure to finish fastbreaks is scary. If they are pressing against us with our wide spacing I think LLP may be a factor, giving us a second slasher to compement Manny. If Clemson starts helping to stop the drives Zach and Stu are waiting in the wings. That finishing thing is where I see us having trouble turning it over, not so much in the open floor.
    Thanks Dylan for all you do.

  • Nick

    Does anyone know how I can watch the game live? I live out in Oregon, and since Gonzaga plays at the same time as Umich, I am certain that they will be our regional game on cbs. There has gotta be a way to watch it live online right?

  • Tom Too

    I think you can watch almost any game online at CBS Sportsline. Might want to check that out…

  • Avery Queen

    (1) From what I read CBS broadcasts every game online. Not sure if that’s true for every ISP but I know it is for Comcast.

    And I also agree with Ken that our fast break is generally terrible, although we did get one of our first successful alley oops I can remember in either the last Minnesota or Iowa game.

    Because of this I really have two minds about the press break. (1) The best part about going against a press is the easy baskets and you want to exploit those whenever you can to make up for the extra turnovers you probably will have. (2) Seeing as we aren’t great on the fast break we should just try and break the press and then set up our half court offense slowing the game down.

    I guess a combination of the two is ideal but requires smart decisions and discipline.

    Based on the press breakdowns Dylan has provided, I think Grady would be of use during man presses as I don’t think any one defender is going to stop him from dribbling his way out. But for the diamond press, passing is the answer. Here I don’t think Grady is that helpful, especially considering his size. So if I’m Coach Purnell I’d go diamond if Beilein tries to play KG.

  • JimC

    Some guy told me today he picked Purdue to win it all! Ha hahahahaha.

    Could that happen?

  • Avery Queen

    purdue uconn could be pretty interesting.

  • The power of the internet. All these fools on here talking about Gradys defense when in fact he is as good or better defensively as Merritt. Perhaps Lee is a little better defensively, I dont know. Lee has been eaten alive defensively repeatedly down the stretch but the perception is that he is a great defender, when in fact he is not athletic enough to be great. Anyway, UM will not win against Clemson and the press without Grady, thats illustrated by the end of the NW game when Lee and Merritt both crumbled under the pressure and Beilein was so desperate he inserted Grady after he sat the whole game. Have we forgotten so soon? Even if the walk ons were an upgrade defensively, the offense is so much more dynamic with Grady playing some minutes it would still be worth it. The fact remains that Grady should be playing Merritts minutes in the absolute least, Merritt brings NOTHING.

  • ZRL

    Did anyone go to the practice today? How was it?

  • Mason
  • Dylan

    Some one want to recap the presser here?

  • Sheryl
  • ZRL

    Yeah sure I’ll recap the presser after I watch it. Also, there is a practice recap video report on the front page of

  • ZRL

    Nothing really interesting at the presser. Mostly the general fluff saying we’re excited to get in, but now that we’re in we want to make some noise. Beilein feels like they are prepared and the team will not be shooting around tommorow morning because they would have had to wake up very early to do so. They are taking the players out to a restaurant and to the hall of fame to relax.

  • Josh

    I agree with a lot of you guys that if Grady got some minutes it wouldnt be too surprising… My thought is that Clemson won’t trap to turn us over, but rather to slow us down. If they throw that M2M press at us and don’t bother to trap, it could take Lee or Merritt 12 seconds to get us into our offense (happened against Minn on a number of possessions) and for that I’m worried we won’t be able to get quality offensive possessions. The faster we can get into our offense, the better off we will be.

  • Kevin

    Haha, got a good laugh out of the Craigslist post.

    I’m pumped for the game tomorrow. It all comes down to simply playing our game and I trust Beilein to have the boys ready. Go Blue!!!

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  • David

    Thanks Dylan! This is pretty interesting. Feels like they are so prepared :D

  • David

    Thanks Dylan! This is pretty interesting. Feels like they are so prepared :D

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