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How to Compete With the Best Basketball Teams in Your State

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A question that many coaches might ponder as the start of their season approaches is "How is my team going to be able to compete and BEAT the tougher teams on our schedule?" If you have not previously given this question much thought, now is a great time to start as many colleges, high schools, middle schools and elementary schools will start basketball practice in a relatively few short weeks. It's never too early to think big!

Beating a top notch team can impact your program in several different ways:

  • Can become a springboard and/or turning point for your entire season
  • Gives your athletes confidence in themselves and their coach
  • Players will compete at a higher intensity in practice knowing that their practice does pay off
  • Parents and boosters will complain less
  • Signature or Highlight win of your athletes' season
  • Can put your program on the map in terms of local, regional, and state recognition

What coach wouldn't want all of these things to happen to their program!? And to think that all of this can be done with just big ONE win! 

So now the question you must answer for yourself is "What can my team do to have the greatest possible chance of beating these teams?" Of all the possible answers to this question, two seem to make the most sense: 

#1 - Shorten the game 

#2 - Play a unique style of defense that will limit and frustrate your opponents scoring abilities. 

Shortening the game 

The first tactic that you might want to consider is shortening the game. The idea here is to keep the game low scoring and as close as long as possible and then pull out the win in the last few minutes. This is usually accomplished by being very deliberate on offense, reducing turnovers by taking extremely good care of the ball, playing outstanding defense, and limiting your opponents to only one shot each possession. 

Although this is a tried and true big game strategy coaches should fully realize that this can and does back-fire for many teams. Once this back-fires there is usually very little chance that your players will be able to turn things back around and win the game. 

The primary reason that this does back fire is because teams do not stay committed to the game plan. At the first sign of adversity everybody panics, speeds the tempo up, and the game quickly gets out of hand. Either that or as soon as they build even the smallest of leads they start playing too slow and become dangerously hesitant. This hesitancy then destroys momentum and takes the team out of the rhythm that allowed them to build a lead in the first place. 

Play a UNIQUE Defense 

Another tactic you can use to beat the best team on your schedule is to play a unique style of defense. In fact, many coaches who realize their team is going to struggle all season, will base their entire defensive philosophy on running something unique in hopes of frustrating the opposing team's offense. Running a different defense than from what most teams usually face will also force the opposing coach to actually coach! If making game time adjustments is a weakness of the opposing coach, his hesitancy may be enough to counteract his own team's talent. 

Here are some great ideas that you can try when running a unique defense: 

Box & One: This is a great defense if the opposing team has one superior basketball player who possesses the ability to destroy defenses single handedly. 

Double Teaming the Post: While a Box & One is a great tool in order to more effectively defend perimeter players, sending multiple defenders to harass the post can lead to turnovers and extra possessions for your team. (If interested, click here to see our extremely detailed EBook on doubling the post.) 

Half Court Trap: The previous two strategies focus on stopping one specific player, but attacking half court traps will assault the whole team. This is an excellent option if your team is long and lengthy! 

Sagging Zone: The use of this option is determined by two major factors. Can the other team sink shots from the perimeter? Is the gym conducive to good outside shooting? Size, lighting, temperature and depth perception are all things to consider. A similar option would be to play a switching, sagging man to man defense. 

Run & Jump Press: Most teams on your schedule will be familiar with the basic man to man pressure defenses. However, can your team run a pressure defensive system that the offense hasn't seen before? An effective Run & Jump is a press that many coaches and players are not familiar competing against and can be a definite game changer. (If interested,click here to see our extremely detailed EBook on the Run & Jump.) 

Of course, these are not all of the unique defenses available to your team. Defenses such as the Triangle and 2, the Freak, and the Yo-Yo are not quite as popular as the ones mentioned above but can still be extremely effective when used correctly or against the right teams. 

As a coach you are obligated to give your team the very best possible chance of winning regardless of who you are playing. Obviously this is sometimes easier said than done but shortening the game and/or playing a unique style of defense may be exactly what you need to get that season changing big win!

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