The holiday parties are over, the ball dropped on Times Square and we realize that there are two months left before the Madness begins. 67 days to be exact.
Before anybody starts cutting down nets, they have to get there first. And the fastest way to get to March is win your conference.
So what are the keys to winning in conference play? We surveyed coaches, utilized some of our own experiences and put together these four keys to winning in conference play.
1. Be efficient.
Fundamentals. Fundamentals. Fundamentals. Sounds like a broken record, right? But the best teams are the ones that get the most out of each and every possession. Don’t turn the ball over, win the rebounding battle, convert easy opportunities and make free throws.
How your team is doing on this point will be evident in advanced statistics such as Offensive Efficiency. For example, a big reason why UCLA is off to a hot start this season is due to the fact that they score more points per possession than anyone else in the country.
Statistics sourced from Just Play Sports Solutions’ Stat Factory
2. Weather adversity.
Conference play is usually full of short-term highs and lows. Having a short memory and staying in the moment mentally is vital to success. It could be the 8-point run by your opponent that you need to stop, or executing with an 8-point lead with three minutes to go. Stay in the moment, every second matters.
3. Prepare smarter, not harder.
Most coaches advise shorter, harder and more intense practices as the season wears on. This will help keep players focused and healthy during the most important stretch of your season. Utilize technology to facilitate preparation outside of practice, and make sure your players remember that sleep is a good thing.
4. Execute, especially on the road.
Winning comes down to executing your game plan. Momentum shifts will occur, and the intensity of games will keep rising, but continuing to control the tempo and making adjustments based on your opponent will be what separates the good teams from the great.
This is especially true when you take your team on the road. Executing your offense or locking down on defense is never more challenging than when everyone in the building is against you. Road wins in conference play are all about trusting your preparation and executing your game plan. “Both when I played and now as a coach, winning on the road is, and has been critical to our success at Kansas in conference play.” Jeremy Case, Video Coordinator at the University of Kansas, who has won the last twelve Big 12 Championships.
So what is the key? Have your team focused and prepared when you walk into an opponent’s building so you can relax, and Just Play.