The Minister of Ball-Line Defense: Watch for Tubbie's Ball Line Defense and See If You Can Figure How It Differs from Self Defense

  • Up front, I cannot say to what extent Tubby’s Ball Line defense differs in effect of movement from Self Defense, but I am going to be studying it closely tomorrow to see if I can diagnose the distinctions. KU is, after all, the virtual setting of the jaybate 1.0 Institute for Advanced Basketball Research. 🙂

    Ball Line defense is a simple strategy to articulate—it requires all defenders to stay between, or at least hedge toward, the line of the ball and the baseline. Like most basket ball strategies it also has a set of deceptively simple rules.

    1. Apply constant ball pressure.

    2. Contest every shot.

    3. Retreat quickly to the ball line.

    4. Do not allow penetrating passes or dribble penetration.

    5. Allow non-penetrating passes, ones that do not move the ball closer to the basket.

    6. Always see the ball and your man.

    7. Attempt to intercept all lobs and bounce passes.

    8. Jump to the ball on every pass.

    9. Communicate (talk – use verbals)

    10. Make all players DOC (dead on the catch).

    Don’t ask me what dead on the catch means. It sounds like you’re up in their jock from the moment they get the ball.

    In any case, like most basketball strategies, it gets complicated diagramming the spatial movements and implications of it. Here is an excellent resource for basketball schemes generally and for the ball-line in particular.

    To quote Coach Preheim, Tubby’s Ball Line “…is ideal for teams who want to plug up driving lanes, while also being in great position to rebound."

    The following link is a PDF link from Preheim’s site that presents an extensive set of diagrams about how to play Ball Line Defense under various scenarios of offensive action.

    Now, don’t be disturbed if you have trouble making sense of the diagrams. I found them hard to follow myself in terms of gleaning from them the principles that distinguish this sort of defense from conventional, Dick Harp descended, pressure M2M. This is not unusual when looking at diagrams the first time. The key is to glance at them and then WATCH the game to see what Tubby has TTech doing on defense. Compare and contrast what KU does.

    Until then, let’s do a little history of Tubby in relation to his Ball-Line Defense.

    Tubby played for J.D. Barnett at High Point University and learned a conception of pressure and help defense called ball-line defense from Barnett, who seems to have elaborated Ball-line defense into a system.

    So far, to yours truly, the pre-Barnett origins of Ball-LIne Defense are unclear, but there is apparently no connection to Walter “Doc” Meanwell’s 1911 to 1929 “line defense”—a precursor to zone defense—used to win 8 championships at UW-Madison. Meanwell’s line defense was essentially like today’s 3-2 zone and was created to stop the early fast breaking offenses of the day by the defense hustling back and setting up two lines of defense–3 forwards out front, 2 guards in back. The picket line of three forwards harassed but let the fast breaking guards pass, yet channeled them to the defensive guards, who then picked them up m2m, while the front picket line then picked up the secondary, or trailing breakers m2m. But I digress. Back to the Tubbster.

    Tubby got his first assistant job in college with his college coach, J.D. Barnett, who by then was at Virginia Common Wealth. They presumably developed the Ball-Line defense further.

    Tubby took the ball line defense to George Felton’s staff at the South Carolina Gamecocks.

    But it was as Rick Pitino’s assistant at the great UK rebuild under probation–post Eddie Sutton that Tubbie’s Ball Line defense rules got fused with Pitino’s full court pressure defense (to some degree anyway) and helped produce Pitino’s turn around of UK with only 8 scholarship players, none taller than 6-7, and despite a horrendous pasting by KU, made it to .500 the first season, then 22-6 the next season, again while still on probation.

    Tubby parlayed his Ball Line Defense into his first head coaching job at Tulsa, replacing, drum roll please, the apparent father of the Ball-Line, J.D. Barnett.

    Upsetting several majors while at Tulsa got Tubby the UK job, when Pitino moved to the pros. The Ball Line was good for a ring and then a decade run of .76, which was not good enough for UK.

    Now a Tubby tangent: Tubby’s Ball Line and recruiting and lack of fast breaking and 10 loss seasons lead to the nickname of Ten Loss Tubby. Some thought Tubby was unloved at UK because of pigmentation. But that is a given obstacle facing any African American coach anywhere it seems. So: since pigmentation did not prevent his hiring by UK, and given prejudice is always a card in the deck, down, or up, it really seems it was probably Tubby’s failure to return to the Final Four, Tubby’s average recruiting, and Tubby’s love of defense and half court offense at the citadel of the fast break that may have undone Tubby at UK, as much, or more than issues of pigmentation. Note that a similar combination of factors underlain the undoing of Eddie Sutton and Billy Gillispie at UK, also. Tubby fought pigmentation. Eddie fought the bottle. Billy fought anger and lack of diplomacy. Each man had his own cross to bear, but it was the triad of moderate recruiting/love of defense/lack of running that probably actually undid them all at UK. Put another way, each man had some quality that made UK fans not love each of them, each man labored under his own triadic cross of defense, no running and moderate recruiting, and each man had a triggering event that made their careers no longer tenable. Of the three, Tubby’s situation was the most egregiously unfair and stupid, because pigmentation has been found at the jaybate 1.0 Institute for Advanced Basketball Thinking not to have much correlation with anything but prejudice and hops, and the Institute’s respected fellow, Dr. X. Y. Dragonslayr, has shown that most of basketball occurs on the X-Axis from between 0 and 76 inches on the Y-axis has pretty much made a convincing case that prejudice aka eye testing, has no place in the greatest game ever invented. But I digress.

    So: at the end of all this, let’s get ready for a defensive rumble in Lubbock.

    Self Defense seeing what it can do against the Red Raiders.

    Tubby Ball Line Defense seeing what it can do against Bill’s emerging combination of trey balling and mobile big man attack platforms.

    Why this could be such an interesting challenge for KU, regardless of the asymmetries in talent—KU having 3 OAD/TADs and Tubby having none as far as I can recall—is that Tubby’s Ball Line Defense is specifically geared to take away the driving lanes the Self’s MBMAPs exploited so much against Baylor’s match-up zone.

    The question becomes then: will Self and KU resort to passing 45 degrees away from the basket, with the Ball Line is predicated on not challenging, for the open look trey, if the passing and driving lanes are deliberately clogged effectively by the Ball Line?

    In other words, will Self simply take what Tubby gives him—the trey, or will Self look at TTech’s low standing height and simply move his MBMAPs down on the low blocks and force it inside against a defense specifically designed to stop that action?

    Self likes take what they give us; that will be the trey.

    But this may also be one of the few chances where KU’s bigs can play some B2B with a prayer of shooting a high percentage in the short trey game.

    Going to be a very interesting head game between two coaches that measure the length of their manhoods in terms of defense.

    Rock Chalk.

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