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In 1996, UCLA, who was the defending national champion, was a heavy favorite in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against an upstart Princeton team that ran an offense incorporating many difficult-to-defend offensive principles.  What followed was a shocker as Princeton defeated UCLA with an offense for which UCLA had no answers.

In the aftermath of that game, coaches all across the United States wanted to know more about the system that had defeated a seemingly top-notch team.  Because of the spread of the Princeton Offense and its success at many different levels of basketball, many coaches are looking for ways to defend this offense.

This article will cover how to defend the Princeton Offense using man-to-man defense.  Most teams will play man-to-man defense against the Princeton Offense because that is the base defense and it allows for better coverage of backdoors and the three-point shot.  This article will not cover how to defend the Princeton Offense using a zone defense.

Adjustments to Man-to-Man Defensive Principles

Most teams like to play overplay denial one pass away while other teams like to play on-the-line/up-the-line.  However, both of these approaches can lead to the defense being beaten on backdoors.  To remedy this, the first adjustment to make is to have the defensive players one pass away play between their man and the basket (Diagram 1).  Defense more than one pass away does not change.

Diagram 1

The second adjustment we want to make is how we play the post.  There are times when the Princeton Offense plays with a high post.  In Diagram 2, the defense is shown when the offense is in a 2-3 high alignment.  What we want is for the center's defender to play this one from behind when the ball is above the top of the three point line extended.  This will force the center to catch outside of the lane.

Diagram 2

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