What makes Craft such a great defender

March, 28, 2012
3/28/12
12:28
PM ET
Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft is not the Buckeyes’ leading scorer or even their best player, but you better believe Kansas is going to know where he is at all times on Saturday.

Craft is the most important player on his team because he plays the most important position in college basketball and he is an elite defender. In fact, he is the best defender I have seen this season.

[+] EnlargeThad Matta
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireThad Matta will make his second trip to the Final Four, largely because of Aaron Craft's play.
He was a fantastic defender in high school and he has taken his defensive play to the next level in college.

His football background in high school helps him be aggressive on and off the ball and he plays with great energy and urgency. Craft sets the defensive tone by pressuring the ball with his active, strong hands and great lateral speed. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of all the players on the scouting report and is quick to expose a shaky ballhandler.

He is adept at defending the play, no matter what the offense is trying to accomplish.

Craft knows the higher the offensive player holds the ball, the closer he can get to him and the lower the ball is, the more ground he has to give to defend a drive. Once he starts to defend a drive, Craft does a great job of sliding to get ahead of the ballhandler and not stay even with him, putting him in good position to contest a shot or take a charge.

When defending an on-ball screen, he works to get ahead of the ballhandler even when he gets hit by the screen and he never gives up on a play. He is a master at trailing shooters off screens and denying plays when beating bad screens by closing out with high hands and active feet.

Off the ball, Craft is always alert and knows where he is in relation to the ball and the person he’s guarding. He is terrific in help situations, as well as bluffing and retreating back to his man. He is great at anticipating passing lanes, coming away with steals from the low post and tracking down players who seem to have uncontested baskets.

Overall, Craft's defense is a scouting report nightmare. Coach Bill Self will spend a great deal of time attempting to find a way to execute the Jayhawks’ offense with Craft being as far away from the scoring action as possible.

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