As the postseason arrives, many teams will face an opponent for a third time. What’s the key to winning a matchup when teams know each other so well? Preparation and adjustments.
We see it happen often. A team sweeps its opponent during the regular season, winning both at home and on the road. Then, when meeting in the postseason, whether at a neutral site or not, the team that was swept all of a sudden plays above expectations and lands an upset. Many factors can contribute to this. The favored team often plays less focused due to the fact that it has already beaten it’s opponent twice. But, let us give credit to the underdog here, who comes in prepared from scouting the previous two losses with a solid game plan of how to not make the same mistakes again and exploit weaknesses of the favorite. Making adjustments is a huge part of coaching, and this is a prime situation for coaches to hone their game planning techniques.
I’m going to provide tips on what I personally do as a resourceful assistant in order to give our program the best chance beat a team we have already played twice. Whether experiencing two wins, two losses or a split, the approach ought to be the same: to be better prepared the third time around by correcting previous mistakes, taking away the opponent’s strengths, and executing actions that were successful.
1. Seeing as it is 2018, most teams are using a video program to host and archive game film. I put together labeled clips of positive and negative plays from the first two match ups. This allows for us to look components of the game like press breaks, BLOBs, or zone offense in isolation to be better informed on successes and challenges. If needed, I can visit the FastModel Sports PlayBank for ideas on tweaking our plays that were unsuccessful, or download similar plays to the ones that we scored with.
2. In preparation for a repeat opponent, I tag every offensive and defensive possession, making note of which sets and defenses were most successful vs this team. On offense, I may notice the team was prepared for a set and decided to trap or switch. This is where FastDraw comes in: with the software, I can change a set by putting in a counter action to exploit the defense. Once this set is drawn, I can export the FastDraw image and drop it in our team group text so the team is informed of the adjustment.
3. Game film also helps me in determining how most of our turnovers occurred. Decreasing turnovers is a sure way of improving the outcome when facing a repeat opponent. Often we find that the majority of turnovers are attributed to a particular situation like press break, or a particular player. Whatever we can attribute the bulk of our turnovers to will drive our practice planning. Highlight this in the FastScout report that you distribute to your players so they understand the points of emphasis for this matchup.
4. See the “Time, Score, Situation” within the game. Last year, we lost to a ranked team during the regular season whom we considered to be the only team standing in our way of getting to the state tournament. In preparation for our playoff game vs them, I noticed we were committing unnecessary fouls and put our opponent in the bonus by the 4:00 mark of the first quarter. In team film review, we drove home the importance of not committing reaching fouls outside the three-point line and showed our players the impact it had at the free throw line, with foul trouble, and on our substitution patterns. When we played this opponent again in the playoffs, we never made it to the bonus, allowing us to score an upset – not to mention a big news story across our area.
5. If you’re an assistant coach, let the stats talk for you. I’ve found that head coaches want your opinion on how to prepare for practice and games. Sometimes though, there may be changes the head coach isn’t so open to. Maybe they are the cornerstone of his or her “system,” or schemes he or she truly believes are effective. When I disagree, I don’t communicate this through providing very specific and researched stats that will scream what is effective and ineffective. “Ground statements in evidence” and use “data-based decision making” – your head coach will have a better time buying in to these adjustments.
Good luck in the postseason Coach!
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