Basketball Offense 5 Strategies Against Switching Man to Man Defense

This article was written by Coach Randy Brown.

He has passion for the game of basketball and works as a basketball consultant and mentor for coaches. C

A speaker and writer, he has authored 75 articles on coaching and is nationally published.

His 18 years in college basketball highlights a successful 23-year career. Mentored by Basketball Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson at Arizona.

Randy’s coaching resume includes positions at Arizona, Iowa State, Marquette, Drake, and Miami of Ohio, 5 Conference Championships and 5 NCAA appearances. His efforts have helped develop 12 NBA players including Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott, and Jaamal Tinsley. To contact Randy, email him at

In my current role as a mentor to coaches, I receive a lot of questions about practice and game strategies and ideas. Recently I was asked how to beat a team that switches screens in their man to man defense. There are five ideas that I’d like to share with you.

1. On ball screens–One of the most difficult defensive tasks is guard on ball screens. One way to attack a switching defense is to set on ball screens that will create mismatches. The Big/Little and Little/Big on ball screens will create constant matchup problems for the defense. It will be up to them how they choose to handle this situation.

2. Pass and Cut strategy–Instead of screening, pass and cut on every pass, not giving the defense a chance to switch. This will open the floor and allow your post players to gain good position in the block areas.

3. Run set plays. I think that sets are more difficult to switch than straight motion. Sets are designed to include many mismatch-type screens mentioned in #1. Motion screens are mainly between like sized players, making it easier for the defense to switch.

4. Back cutting–If you are down screening on the wing, the defense will anticipate a switch coming. Just before the point of the screen, the cutter can back cut hard to the basket. The question now is, who has the cutter? Does the original defender keep him, which goes against their switching policy, or does the screener’s man have him even though the cutter has not yet come into the defenders area.

5. Screen your own man–I know this sounds crazy, but think about this tactic. Suppose you made a pass to the left wing and down screen for a teammate on the right wing. As the cutter is about to use your screen, you screen YOUR OWN MAN. Why? Because he’s getting ready to switch onto the cutter, but he CAN’T because you are screening him. This will really confuse the defense as you are getting open easily on every screen. I have seen this work against very good man to man college teams so I know it is technically sound and a good strategy to go to against switching.

What makes the game great is all of the wrinkles and strategies that a coach can use. I hope this has given you some insight on how to attack and beat switching defenses.

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