Chalktalk: 3-point Defense

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J.R. Reynolds and Sean Singletary can drive and pass out to 3-point shooters.

When N.C. State comes to town this weekend for the first ever ACC game in the John Paul Jones Arena, there will be plenty of focus on the normal storylines. Who will get off to a good start in conference play? How will first-year coach Sidney Lowe’s team fare on the road (the Pack is 5-0 on the year, but every game as been at home)? How will Virginia respond after its first loss of the season? Will J.R. Reynolds bounce back after having his 29-game streak of double-figure scoring broken?

Without a doubt, all of those are interesting questions. But there will be a more subtle battle going on as two teams with mirroring defensive styles face off. Both teams prefer to play man-to-man and pressure the ball and passing lanes. Naturally, that means it is important to keep an eye on whose man-to-man defense is the most disruptive.

But there may be one key theme to watch in terms of man-to-man defense in this match-up. Which team can defend the 3-point shot the best?

The reason for that relates to the pressure perimeter defense employed by Leitao and Lowe. When teams choose to utilize heavy amounts of on-ball pressure, it often forces the offensive player to attack the defender off the dribble in order to relieve the pressure. This creates driving opportunities in the paint. Of course, both of these teams – and most good man-to-man defensive teams – also teach helpside defense, meaning that the players not guarding the ball collapse into the paint to help against dribble penetration. The basic premise being that it is better to give up a jump shot attempt than a lay-up attempt.

That’s why the 3-pointer has so drastically changed the game of basketball. Penetrate-and-pitch chances often create shots that give you an attempt at the maximum amount of points available on an offensive possession. So why do teams want opponents to take that long-range jumper then? Percentages. “Great-shooting” teams will make the 3-pointer in the neighborhood