Welcome back to The Eye Test, a statistics-free look at all things Nova basketball. For those of you new to the series, this is a place where we trust what we see on the court more than what shows up on the stat sheet. Be sure to check out my take of the Senior, Junior, Sophomore, and Freshman classes.
Today we're taking a look at the 1-2-2 press. It's become a staple for Jay's teams, right up there with fancy suits and four guard lineups. The goal of the press is to limit the other team's ability to advance the ball and establish their offensive sets. While turnovers can often times be the result, the primary goal is simply to slow things down. This becomes more important than ever as the NCAA changed the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds.
The NCAA will claim they made this change to improve pace of play and scoring numbers. I will claim they did it because they want to improve TV ratings in the regular season. That and because they hate Virginia. But these changes will actually be advantageous for Villanova and their 1-2-2 press. With less time on the clock, an effective press can force rushed shots and keep teams from running their offensive sets. Now I'd love to think that I'm the only person to come to this realization, but I'm pretty sure the many coaches who follow me on Twitter now realize that they too should implement this flawless defensive scheme.
The good thing about running a press for years is that you also become more efficient at breaking them. Throw in multiple ball handlers and the Wildcats will be better equipped than most to handle the pressure. Again, advantage 'Nova.
With Villanova stepping up it's 1-2-2 use, let's take a look at who will be running it.
Like Neo, You're the One
Last year Darrun Hilliard was an ideal "tip of the spear" for the 1-2-2. The combination of length and speed can be very disruptive as they close in on a ball handler for the double team. If the press does produce a turnover, the point man is more than likely the reason why. The leading candidate on this year's team to take on this role will be Josh Hart, possibly the most athletic player on the roster. When he's not on the floor, expect to see the veteran styling of Ryan Arcidiacono, the rookie exuberance of Donte DiVincenzo, or the exceptional length of Mikal Bridges. Seriously, his wingspan is enormous!
The Terrible Twos
The second layer of the trap is what makes or breaks it. The player on the ball needs to effectively trap the ball handler with the point without fouling or allowing the ball to get by them. The player off the ball needs to get into the passing lanes without giving the offense an easy pass to break the press in the center of the court. This pairing will most likely be a rotation between Arcidiacono, Jalen Brunson, and Phil Booth.
The Twin Towers
The two in back have two responsibilities. The first is to assist in defending the center of the court to make it more difficult to break the press. Their other job is to prevent teams from passing over the press or "cherry picking". While you do see as much of this in the NCAA, it's a staple play of many "old man" leagues across the country. This is where you slot in your bigs and your "big boned" guards. Daniel Ochefu, Kris Jenkins, Darryl Reynolds, and Tim Delaney will be your anchors in the press.
Now let's hear from you! Is the 1-2-2 better than the man press? Who is this year's ideal 1-2-2 lineup? What topic would you like The Eye Test to cover next? Be sure to leave your comments below, and thanks for reading!