The beauty of March Madness is the endless supply of personal story lines, clashes between philosophies, and unexpected outcomes. It’s a treasure chest of on-court lessons for players and coaches and a roller coaster ride of emotions for all who partake in the fun. And for those of us looking for parallels to life and faith, it can be difficult to find the best. This year, I’m struck by the phrase we hear repeatedly, “Survive and Advance.” I’ve heard it and used it so many that I fear it may lose its significance, but we have two traditional coaching figures on display this year who truly understand the concept, and another newcomer who provided a real life testimony of what it means to survive and advance. Continue reading
As March Madness begins, I’ll be watching two styles of defenses that get a lot of attention – VCU’s Havoc and Virginia’s Pack-Line. I respect the Havoc because our team’s offense has been fueled by a similar style, but I’m going to study the Pack-Line because it ultimately ended our season. As we prepared to play the nation’s top Division III defense in Wisconsin-Stevens Point, we came up with some concepts of attack, but I didn’t do a good enough job preparing our team to face it – a mistake I don’t want to repeat. One important concept, spreading the defense out, is also a Biblical command. So, let’s take a closer look.
BASKETBALL – Plan to Spread
The strength of any team can often be its undoing. This year, our team was very good at scoring in transition and attacking the basket. It was good enough for us to win our conference championship and to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, but moving forward, is it good enough for us when we face new defenses, like the Pack-Line, in the tournament?
Pack-Line teams may have different wrinkles, but most look to pressure the ball and force offensive players to drive into a pack of defenders. They protect the basket, provide early help, and rebound at the expense of forcing steals and turnovers. They also play physically on all cuts and screens, and often feel that opponents can’t consistently make enough three’s to beat them. And many times, Pack-Line teams will also control the ball on offense and frequently minimize your possessions, so you have to be efficient on offense because you may not get as many chances to score as you’re used to!
After watching a lot of film and doing some research, here’s the basics of a plan of attack we presented to our team and we will use in the coming year (Click here for Attacking Pack-Line Defenses):
1. Push it: Attacking teams like ours have to beat the pack down the floor at every opportunity, on makes as well as misses. We want our wings to sprint to deep corners and to cross under the basket whenever possible.
2. Spread it: We need to be determined to space the floor. That means separating hard out of screens, finishing all basket cuts out to the perimeter, and responding to the pack’s focus on stopping the ball by moving. Spacing requires movement. (For more ideas, check out last year’s article about the San Antonio Spurs use of spacing)
3. Occupy it: Flare screens and staggered screens away from the ball will confuse the help, while replacing screeners and drivers on the ball side will create opportunities to exploit the pack’s desire to stop drives.
4. Read it: Pack-Line teams often have different methods for defending screens, especially ball screens. Ball-handlers must attack with a read mind-set looking for slips, pops, throwbacks, and opportunities to refuse a screen. Isolation ball screens on the wing are a great way to read how the pack will defend.
5. Shoot it: The more shooters you have on the floor, the better. Pack-Line defenses are often willing to give up a few three’s, so be ready to take advantage of open shots when you get them.
These are the basic ideas. In addition, Rob Daust did a wonderful job of analyzing Virginia’s defense for CollegeBasketballTalk.com and has some great video clips to review. And as the tournament progresses, take the opportunity to watch how teams attack Pack-Line teams like Virginia, Arizona, and Xavier, as well as so many other teams that incorporate a variety of pack-line concepts!
LIFE – Speak up and spread the word!
Are we really being tolerant of others when we stand by when people mistreat others or take advantage of situations for personal gain? Think about what we’ve seen in Ferguson, MO or what we see on a nightly basis from videos posted on social media. It seems that most people these days would rather stand by and watch (or record) immoral behavior, rather than step in to stop it. Is that tolerance? That’s why I love this story about three middle school basketball players from my area:
Those boys went against a common trend these days to ignore such opportunities. Far too many of us keep our mouths closed in an attempt to avoid confrontation. Far too many of us are unwilling to stand up. Far too many of us sweep aside morals and values in order to stay politically correct or to appear that we are progressive in our attitudes. Rather than spread out and influence our world. too many of us hunker down in the safety of the pack.
FAITH – Spread It!
The devil is very happy when we choose to pack it in. He wants nothing more than for Christians to close our minds, close our mouths, and hide ourselves away behind the safety of our church life. Like a basketball team that doesn’t maintain spacing when facing a Pack-Line defense, Christians are playing into the devil’s hands when we don’t speak up in a world that needs to hear about Jesus. In fact, God wants to use our lives, our actions, and are our words to spread His love like the sweet smell of victory:
But thanks be to God! For through what Christ has done, he has triumphed over us so that now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Gospel like a sweet perfume. (2 Corinthians 2:14 TLB)
Don’t settle for isolating yourself when times are tough and the world is difficult. Get a plan, stay active, and spread out to share His love. And. enjoy the tournaments!
As we head into Championship Weekend and Selection Sunday in college basketball, not to mention high school state playoffs throughout the country, chances are good that hoops fans will see their share of celebrations. While the tradition of students rushing the floor may be on its last leg, teams cutting down the nets and jumping out of their seats when the brackets are revealed will never grow old. But as we search for wisdom through experiences on the court, the celebrations we’ll witness will pale in significance to the ultimate celebration we will enjoy as God welcomes us into His kingdom.
Since readership on 3 Point Wisdom has doubled in the last year, many of you may not have seen some of the more popular articles at tournament time over the past two years, so as you enjoy the thrills of this weekend and you consider the ultimate celebration God has waiting for us in heaven, take a look back with 3 Point Wisdom:
Selection Sunday: Looking for Innovation from March 18, 2013. When I examine the NCAA brackets, I’m looking for the innovative teams to evaluate their reasons for playing a different style just like I do in my faith life.
The Bubble Watch from February 27, 2013. As March Madness approaches, the basketball world turns it’s eyes to teams on the bubble. When it comes to eternal salvation, there’s no bubble. You’re in or you’re out.
Men of Faith Coaching in the Big Dance from March 19, 2014. 3PW looks at four coaches in the 2014 NCAA Tournament who let the light of their Christian faith shine in their programs.
March Madness: Match-Up Nightmares from March 20. 2013. On Selection Sunday, some teams realize that their match-up may be a nightmare and their opponent will challenge their areas of weakness.
And, finally one last thing I want to encourage you to consider. There will be teams on Sunday who will be anxious to know if they’ll be playing in the Big Dance, but what about the Ultimate Dance? Will you be there? If you’re not sure, open up your Bible and talk with God. He’s got a bid waiting with your name on it!
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:7)