Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Explaining the System

Not everyone who stumbles across this blog will have an understanding of what the System is all about.  But even those of you who are familiar with it might find the following shorthand description of it valuable.

In the past two months we've had quite a few recruits visit campus, and with each one we've taken the time to explain what the System is, so they'll know what they can expect if they select NCC as the place to continue their playing career.  We've been using one simple concept and five key words to quickly give them the big picture.  Here they are!

The concept is simple:  Get more shots!
Most players and coaches would say that "shot selection" is one of the most important ways to measure the success of a basketball team.  For example, let's say your team takes 60 shots, and my team takes 60 shots, but your team shoots 50% and my team shoots 40%.  All other things being equal, your team will win.  Since Coach Knight popularized the concept back in the 1970s (and won three NCAA titles in the process), this core idea has become the Gospel According to Bobby.  It's so completely accepted that anyone who questions it is considered a nut, or a bad coach, or both.

But consider this:  If your team shoots 60 shots and my team shoots 90 shots... it doesn't really matter how well you shoot!  That's what the System is all about.  It is a style of play, THE style of play, for maximizing what we call "Shot Differential."  So, get more shots.

How is this accomplished?  Five ways, which we describe using the phrase:

RUN means we will fast break on every possession:  After a steal (of course), after a rebound (sure!), but also after a score (get it in ASAP and go!).  And even on a dead ball, we are trying to use quick-hitters to generate a shot within 10-12 seconds of gaining possession.  The faster the pace, the more we can maximize our Shot Differential!

SHOOT means, first of all, that we'll be taking half our shots from behind the arc.  Crazy?  Not balanced?  Well, isn't 50:50 balanced?  Actually, this "outside-in" approach to offense forces the defense to defend the arc aggressively, resulting in plenty of drive opportunities, which equals layups, and/or free throws, and/or drive-and-kickout threes as defenders are forced to help on the driver.  Second, "Shoot" means that our first option every time we touch the ball is to (you guessed it) shoot.(More about who gets this "green light" later.)  Our second option is to drive.  Our third option is to pass.  Sounds selfish, doesn't it?  But it works, and it results in lots of assists.  Also, with "shoot" and "drive" being our first two options, our first thought--every time we receive a pass--is SCORE!  Which makes players very aggressive.  And being aggressive maximizes tempo and shot differential.

REBOUND means we want to get 40% of our missed shots back as offensive rebounds. Taking as many threes as we do, we lead the nation in 3FGAs every year... and we also lead the nation in missed shots!  So get on the boards and get us some second shots, so we can, once again, maxmize that shot differential!

TRAP has to do with our defense.  We do not run a zone.  We don't run a man to man either.  We figure if one player can't stop the opponent's star, fine. Maybe two defenders can! Whatever.  So, we trap all the time, everywhere.  We trap after made shots, missed shots, and even after the ball crosses half-court.  Why?  To force you to play our tempo, and prevent you from holding the ball.  To force you to make mistakes, so we can run.  And to give ourselves more shots in the process.  Is it dangerous?  Can be.  But you'd be amazed how effective it can be at disrupting the opponent's offense.  In fact, nobody runs their regular offense against a System defense.  Can't do it!  Yes, you give up some good shots, but think of it this way:  When you force a turnover, your opponent just shot 0% on that possession.  Last year, we forced 36 turnovers a game.  Lots of extra shots there!

SUB means we are going to play as hard as we can, but we'll substitute five players at a time in order to keep everyone fresh.  How long before we have to sub to keep players fresh, given that they are running and pressing 100% of the time?  We tell recruits "one minute."  We are lying.  One minute is really too long.  Try it.  Go out and run a 60 second quarter-mile (one lap) around the track.  Go as hard as you can.  Want to do it again?  We sub about every 40-50 seconds now, because the longer the "shift" the more players will have to pace themselves to avoid running out of gas. 

Common criticism:  "Can't get in the flow doing that!"  Really?  How much flow do you need if you are averaging 103 ppg?  Forget "flow."  We get into flow all the time, we just don't think you have to be on the court for 8 minutes at a stretch to make it happen!  Fresh players equals faster tempo, equals more defensive turnovers and more ORBs, equals MORE EXTRA SHOTS (and more flow!)

So, there it is in a nutshell, for all you nuts:  Get more shots.  How?  Run, shoot, rebound, trap, sub. 
That's the System.

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