There will be plenty of defense in tonight's national championship between No. 3 seed Texas Tech and No. 1 seed Virginia (9:20 pm ET, CBS), as both teams rank among the country's very best on that end of the floor.
Why it matters: While the internet is littered with sportswriters calling this "generationally unsexy" matchup a bad thing, I'm here to convince you of the opposite.
- First of all, we associate low-scoring games with "sloppy" and "bad" basketball, but if tonight's contest is low scoring, it will be because both teams executed their game plans. Big difference.
- Second of all, this isn't a case of two teams sitting back in their lazy zone defenses like your high school JV team that had no athletes on it. This is complex scheme versus complex scheme — and the ways in which they differ are fascinating.
Texas Tech's scheme: Whereas most teams focus on defending the 3-point arc or the basket, Texas Tech's primary goal is to defend the middle of the floor and force the ball to specific areas.
- "Instead of standing between their man and the basket, Tech's defenders stand between their assignment and the middle of the court, with their feet essentially parallel to the sideline," writes The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman.
- "This might look like it makes it easy for opponents to drive toward the baseline … and it does. That's fine. Because that's precisely what Texas Tech wants."
- Once an opposing player heads that direction, a wall of Red Raiders comes crashing down upon him and, as we saw against Michigan State, they're remarkably good at ripping the ball away once they have you surrounded.
- Watch: Video breakdown
Virginia's scheme: Head coach Tony Bennett's "Pack Line Defense" was invented by his father, Dick, and gets its name from an imaginary line a few feet inside the 3-point arc.
- Unless your man has the ball — in which case you're applying intense pressure — all Pack Line defenders must be within that imaginary line to discourage dribble penetration. If the ball does get into the paint, they're so "packed in" that they can quickly collapse and close any gaps.
- Instead of forcing opponents to the baseline like Texas Tech does, Virginia's defense is designed to force them toward the middle where help is always on the way — or, if communication is on point, already there.
- Watch: Video breakdown
The bottom line: Texas Tech sets up a trap and forces you to walk into it (common result: turnover), while Virginia packs it in so tight that there is seemingly nowhere to go (common result: settle for contested 3).
Go deeper: Neither team needed flashy recruits to get to the title game