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FSU basketball opponent preview: Boston College & their denial defense

In depth film preview of Boston College’s denial defense and its similarities to Florida State’s

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Boston College Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State is really good defensively and in no small part because of their scheme. Their aggressive denial defense that switches 1-4 and can often switch 1-5 is pretty unique in college basketball. This begs the question of why more teams don’t run a similar defense.

You don’t have to look any further than Florida State’s upcoming opponent, Boston College, to find the answer.


The nuts and bolts of Boston College’s defense should look very familiar to FSU fans. Despite the recent resurgence in conservative gap style defenses due to the success of pack line teams like Virginia, Boston College and Florida State are stalwarts for old school denial defense.

The main difference between the two styles comes in how a defender positions himself when he is one pass away from the ball. For gap style defenses you will see off-ball defenders hang out near the paint to deter any drives and make help responsibilities easier:

In denial defenses, the defender gets between his man and the ball. One easy way to tell the difference is to look at the feet. If the defender is facing his man he’s most likely playing denial:

The advantages of a denial defense are that it makes the normal flow of an offense more difficult and it can lead to steals; however, there are drawbacks. The most obvious of which being vulnerability to backdoor cuts:

When you get beat in a denial system you can either let them have an easy layup or fly to take away easy baskets in the paint. Since players are often tight on their men on the perimeter they aren’t put in a good position to help.

You will often see FSU collapse hard anyways which means they are out of place when they have to recover to their man. This is one of the main reasons you will so often see players wide open on the three-point line against Florida State:

Back to Boston College. The main reason their system hasn’t been as effective as ours comes down to personnel. This style of defense is hoping to put the offensive ball handler on an island. For a team like FSU, that’s a good thing because they have players that can defend any position on the court.

This cannot be said for Boston College. In the clip below you can see a BC guard get switched on a big and lose that mismatch for an easy two points:

At the end of the day this defense isn’t well suited for teams that are trying to make up for lesser athletes. While teams like Duke and FSU can thrive BC just doesn’t have the athletes to cover the mistakes you are bound to make when you’re being so aggressive.

While their defense is interesting to look at in contrast to Florida State’s, if they want to win they’re going to need to do it on the offensive side of the ball.


Normally when a team of Boston College’s caliber plays against a team like Florida State on the road there is little to note from the game. Realistically this game should be a cakewalk for the Noles but there is one thing about BC that could potentially cause problems for FSU: their guards.

Teams that are successful against FSUs defense have one of two things going for them. They are either heavy three point shooting teams that get hot or they have small quick guards that can take advantage of our switching. Boston College has the latter.

Teams with quick guards like to draw out FSU’s big men in switches then drive past them for easy buckets or kick-out opportunities. This is what Virginia did with Kihei Clark and it’s what Boston College should do with Derryck Thornton and Jay Heath:

Another thing they will probably sprinkle in from time to time are split screens. These off ball screens were originally an action in the Princeton offense that have been borrowed all over basketball and have even been a featured part of the Warriors offense.

Basically they’re pin down screens where both players involved in the screen have options. In the clip below the guy that sets the screen immediately cuts backdoor and catches Duke sleeping in their denial defense:

This is an interesting match-up but ultimately FSU is the better team. While they often play down to their opponents it feels like this game will be different. The Noles will come out with energy and its hard to imagine that Trent Forrest would walk out of the Tucker center for the last time with anything short of a victory.