This year’s March Madness was full of exciting games and upsets for both the men’s and women’s tournaments. The Virginia Cavaliers men’s team took home their first ever National Championship, while the Baylor Bears women’s team claimed their third title in just 14 years. Both of these showdowns came with a number of takeaways that basketball coaches today can implement into their coaching strategies going forward, the following being just a few of many.
Defense Wins Championships
Virginia faced off against the Texas Tech Red Raiders this past title game, both teams having top-5 defensive efficiency ratings out of the nearly 350 Division 1 basketball programs in the country, proving, yet again, that a strong defense is just as, if not more important than a strong offense.
Texas Tech holds the #1 defensive ranking in the country, allowing their opponents to score just 84.1 points per every 100 possessions. Virginia is ranked #5 overall, allowing an average offensive rate of 89.2 points per 100 possessions. There’s a reason both of these teams reached the championship game and dominated their opponents along the way; a strong, formidable defense.
In the 2018 March Madness Tournament, Virginia, who was still seeded as a #1 team, lost in the very first round to the UMBC Retrievers. They were the first 1-seed to lose to a 16-seed in NCAA tournament history, making it that much more painful. The very next year, they were national champions.
Such a devastating blow can be taken in a variety of ways. Many teams have a hard time coming back from that and fall into a slump. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, used this adversity to their advantage and motivated themselves to work even harder for the next year. It’s important to remember that losing is a normal part of sports and life. Don’t allow this to do damage your psyche or prevent you from persevering. Dust yourself off, learn from these experiences, and try again.
Stay Composed When Down
Virginia faced an eerily similar situation in their first game of the tournament. Going up against the 16-seed Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs, the Cavaliers found themselves down by 14 points in the first half. Rather than letting the fear of losing to a 16-seed team two years in a row overcome them, Virginia remained cool under pressure and closed that gap to within 6 points by halftime, and would go on to win by 15.
The moral of this is to keep playing your hardest until the final buzzer. Being down by any number of points is never an excuse to give up.