West Coast Version of Bruce Pearl's 1-2-1-1 Full Court Defense

February 23rd, 2007
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You see it in the team's eyes. Full-court press in the first half?! Oh no. Big men can't hide from handling the ball because the offense will need every man available to move the ball up the court. This pressure style defense requires a high degree of stamina, discipline, and court sense. Plus, you need to be able to score as well. With the right personnel, it can bring your team to the top. In 1994, Nolan Richardson's '40 Minutes of Hell' brought him and the Arkansas Razorbacks a championship. This philosophy also appears to belong to a few coach's, notably in the present of Bruce Pearl, coach of the Tennessee Volunteers. But there is a coach in the WCC making 'waves' (pun intended) with his high pressure, up-tempo game as well: Vance Wahlberg, coach at Pepperdine.
Wahlberg brought this philosophy to his previous position at Moorpark in the California Central Valley. The Raiders were tops in their league and relied on the heavy pressure defense. Now, in Wahlberg's first year with the Pepperdine Waves, his team is leading the West Coast Conference in forcing turnovers per game (20). One would be led to believe that this would translate to a similar rate of success but you would be surprised to find the Pepperdine Waves at the very bottom of the WCC standings. How is this so?

1) Turning the ball over themselves: Though they are forcing a league high rate of turnovers, it is difficult to score when they turn it over almost as much (15.6)

2) Lack of any presence by big men: When you are dead last in rebounding margin in Division I (-12.2), you are not going to have many wins.

3) Not just turnovers for defense but points: Possessions by the opponent must
be cashing in when they aren't turning it over because the Waves are allowing a ton of points (Scoring Defense: rank 321 of 325 with 82.3ppg by opponent)

4) If that wasn't enough for you: the Waves are fouling too much (20.3 per game) and allowing the opponents to get high percentage shots (49% FG by opponent)

Wahlbeg is only in his first year so he is not using his recruits. Building a team for this high pressure play will take some time. However, the Waves are losing two important players next year, Chase Griffin and Marvin Lea. It may just be more of the same for the Waves next year but Wahlberg should put them on track within a few years.