Building a Better Basketball Offense, Part 1: Transition

Some final words

I kept thinking back to something Coach Williams told me when I was writing this piece: “to compete for championships, you have to be able to play at two tempos.” It seems so obvious, yet it’s a very apt and correct statement. Even if you play at a snail’s pace, like Virginia, you at least need to know how to score in transition when needed. Even their transition offense, which got less usage than all but one other basketball team across all levels of college basketball, still ranked in the 84th-percentile in terms of efficiency among all Division 1 transition offenses. Considering their clear discomfort at pushing the pace, that’s pretty solid.

Obviously, playing quality half-court basketball is the meat of the game; that will be explored over the next several installments. However, I’ve felt it’s clear for a while now that to succeed in 2019, your offense must be diverse. You don’t necessarily need to swing all the way to one side of the Paul Westhead (Loyola Marymount) or Tony Bennett equation; living life in the middle has worked well for plenty of teams. Succeeding long-term requires you to be excellent at both tempos, though. Of the last five Division 1 champions, only 2016-17 North Carolina had either their transition or half-court offenses rank lower than the 80th-percentile across all college basketball teams. (Reminder that UNC got more than enough offensive rebounds to make up for this.)

As I mentioned early on, you can’t build the perfect basketball offense. It’s hard enough to build a good one; ask any coach across America. But taking ideas from these three teams, all of whom have been wildly successful at their respective levels, seems like a good way to make your offense better. Considering that, like this year’s Virginia team, it took just a couple offensive tweaks to turn them into national champions, that might be all you need.

Thanks for reading the first installment of Building a Better Basketball Offense. At the end of each post, there will be a link to extra notes or statistics I didn’t use, plus links to all GIFs and game videos used in the making of the post. Also, there’s transcripts of the interviews I did with each coach, with full audio files available upon request. Here’s this post’s edition.

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