If you believe KenPom, UConn's defensive unit is the 4th best in the country. The Huskies are allowing just 58.2 points per game on 37.7% shooting through their first ten games. Let's take a closer look at two of the defensive schemes that Coach Danny Hurley is employing to take his defense to the next level.
Terminology: This article will focus on UConn's Pick n Roll defense and will feature two important terms: hard-hedge and drop-coverage. A hard-hedge refers to the defending big-man stepping up to the ballhandler; drop-coverage refers to the defending big-man stepping back towards the basket. There are other names for these defenses, but we will stick with these two terms
Now let's take a look at UConn vs Florida
In the first couple minutes Florida goes straight into the Pick n Roll Action. Sanogo defends with a hard-hedge, stepping out to block #2 before recovering to his assignment (#12). Jackson cheats towards #12 to prevent a pass before Sanogo is able to recover. Huskies prevent an open shot, forcing Florida #24 to force a drive and commit the charge.
A couple minutes later Florida is again running a Pick n Roll action. This time Sanogo blocks the passing lane to the rolling Castleton, creating the turnover. The hard-hedge defense requires highly mobile big-men who can cover ground quickly.
In this last hard-hedge clip Sanogo again is able to disrupt the ballhandler and create a turnover. Sanogo is an elite defender because of his ability to pressure on the hard-hedge and recover quickly. This level of mobility from a center is rare.
Here is our second defensive scheme, drop-coverage. Because 7'2 Freshman Donovan Clingan is less mobile than Sanogo, Hurley has elected to change his defense when Clingan enters the game. In this clip Clingan stays in front of the ballhandler and ends up in excellent help position on the drive.
Couple minutes later and Florida tests Clingan again. Florida #11 attempts to drive to the paint but Clingan drops to wall him off. The Florida guard then settles with a tough shot over the arms of Clingan.
Again Clingan steps backward into the paint as the screen is set. Florida #11 tries to drive past him, but Clingan's enormous length is too much. This is way too easy for Clingan.
UConn's defense is special this year, in part, because they line up two elite defenders at the center position. Coach Hurley has put Sanogo and Clingan in defensive schemes that highlight their strengths, allowing both big-men to thrive.
During a pre-season interview Hurley said "We have always been a blitz ballscreen defense...I have to change some things up." So far its paid dividends for the Huskies.