The opening weekend has come and gone and it was as exciting and unpredictable as everone expected. If you listened to my picks, then your bracket was pretty much useless by the end of the first day and you were just sitting back, relaxing and watching the madness unfold. Like Florida Gulf Coast scoring a major win over Georgetown (I suggested that you take that, just saying) and then advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. Or sweating out Gonzaga and/or Kansas’ first round game and hoping that they didn’t become the first one seed to lose in the opening round, ever…but then watching the Zags get manhandled by a very tough Wichita State team. Yes the Madness was abuzz and it poduced one of the best Sweet 16’s in recent memory. Why? Because you have the big boys like Duke, Kansas, Indiana, Syracuse, Louisville, etc. and you also have Cinderalla left in Wichita, Lasalle, and everyone’s sweetheart Florida Gulf Coast. The second weekend should be fun to watch and I am really looking forward to it. However, as a basketball trainer, I wanted to take some time to give you some of the tips that I picked up on amidst the madness. Tips that will surely help you (if you apply them) with your basketball skill development and athletic development.
Watching these games made me realize just how skilled many of the top basketball palyers in the country are. They have a variety of moves off the dribble, out of the triple threat, and finishing at the rim and not to mention that some of them can really shoot the basketball. With all of this in mind, it is hard not to say that they are multi-skilled players, something that we preach heavily at Elite Basketball Training. Players like Russ Smith (Louisville), Mark Lyons (Arizona), Deshaun Thomas (Ohio St), Seth Curry (Duke), Bernard Thompson and Sherwood Brown (FGCU), and Cleanthony Early (Wichita St); I had to mention him because his name is Cleanthony can score the basketball in a variety of ways. They can catch and shoot, shoot off the dribble, and attack the rim with abandon. It is this versatility that allows them to adjust to the defense that is presented to them. It allows them to create space for themselves in a variety of ways which gives them the daylight to score when they want. There is no spot on the court that makes these players uncomfortable and they can therefore beat their opponent in multiple ways. High school and youth players and coaches should take note of this and train for versatility. Develop multiple skills that will allow they player to be successful on the basketball court in a variety of ways. Do not become one dimensional as it will only create limitations for you as a player and leave you wondering why you are not on the court.
The second key component that I picked up from watching the NCAA tournament is how physically strong, quick, and athletic some of these basketball players are. Did you watch the way Wichita State manhandled Gonzaga? The only player on the court for Gonzaga that looked like he belonged was Kelly Olynik and he is an absolute beast. Have you seen the first step of some of the players I mentioned above? They have the explosiveness and quickness to take their game into an extra gear when they need to go by a defender. That short burst of quickness also allows them to create space for themselves and open up opportunities for themselves or their teamates. I know that many of you might think that this type of athleticism is hereditary and that many of these players are born with the physical attributes that allow them to blow by defenders, but they really are not. College basketball players are in the weightroom constantly, even during the season, building their strength, developing power, increasing their speed, and improving their overall athleticism. Most players and in many cases, coaches as well, do not realize and/or understand the importance of a well designed sports performance program. It is essential to a player’s success as on the court, was very evident in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, and will continue to present itself going forward.
Overall, aside from realizing that I cannot pick a game to save my life there were some valuable lessons that I picked up from watching the abundance of games the NCAA tournament provided in its opening weekend. The players that had outstanding performances are multiple skilled players. There is no spot on the basketball court that makes them uncomfortable and they can create space for themselves and score in a variety of ways. Beyond that, it is clear that these players not only work to develop their basketball skills but also their athleticism through sports performance training. They are physically strong and have the power and quickness that gives them the short burst of speed to get by their defender. The great part about all of this is that both can be developed by any one of you if you work at it. So with the tournament games not starting until later in the day and the weather getting warmer, go outside and develop your game with some of the lessons that you learned from the NCAA tournament.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, sorry Christmas. Yes, March Madness is here and this year’s tournament is one of the most difficult ones in recent memory to pick. But do not fear, I have been engrossed with college basketball now since the Oregon Ducks football season ended and have seen the majority of the teams in the tournament play. That includes that Northwestern States (highest scoring team in the country) and Florida Gulf Coasts (they beat Miami this season) of the world. What does this mean, when it comes to picking brackets? Absolutely nothing. As a matter of fact, you know that the person who has not watched one game all season and is picking by mascot is going to win the cash. But hey, I enjoy writing this post each year and without any further delay, here are my picks that are guaranteed to go wrong.
The First Four:
NC A & T vs Liberty: Liberty wins this game despite having the worst record in the tournament. If they are good enough to be favored in Vegas, then they are good enough for me to pick.
Middle Tennesse St. Vs. St Mary’s: This is a tough one but I’m taking St. Mary’s. Both teams are actually really good but St. Mary’s has Dellavadova and that’s enough for me.
LIU Brooklyn vs. James Madison: Brookly we go hard, we go hard. Take the blackbirds.
Boise St. vs La Salle: Boise St is in the Big East but they’re not in the Big East because there is no Big East. Either way they assert themselves and win the Las Vegas Bowl…I mean opening round game.
The Real Games:
Louisville vs. Liberty: Seriously?! Louisville big.
Colorado St. vs. Missouri: I’ve always like Missouri’s style of play and this time around it wears on the Rams. Mizzou wins.
Oklahoma St. vs. Oregon: Way to screw this one up NCAA. How do you seed the Quack attack at a 12 after winning their conference tournament and being ranked the majority of the season? Unfortunately this BS seed puts them against a very talented and athletic OK State team. Sorry to say but all the ducks will not be in a row for this game. Cowboys advance.
St. Louis vs. New Mexico St. : St. Louis is good, really good. They are athletic, defend and are playing for the memory of the late Rick Majerus. No question that they win this one.
Memphis vs. St. Mary’s: Memphis has the second most wins in the country but that doesn’t mean anything to me. They play in Conference USA. St. Mary’s takes it to them. #Dellavadova
Mich. St. vs. Valpo: I liked Valpo against anyone else, but not the Spartans. Mich St. moves on in a close one.
Creighton vs. Cincinnati: Two words, Doug McDermott. He’s too good and Creighton advances as a result.
Duke vs. Albany: My wife loves Great Danes and had a bunch growing up. I hate Duke. Always have always will. Despite all of this, Duke will win and move on.
Sweet 16: Louisville, St. Louis, Mich St., Duke
Louisville ends St. Louis’s emotional Cinderella-ish streak and unfortunately Mich St. is no match for Duke. From there, Louisville and its maddening style of play proves too much for the unathletic overhyped Blue Devils and the Cardinals make the Final Four yet again.
Gonzaga vs. Southern University: Gonzaga is really really good and they have the best player in the country that you probably have not seen in Kelly Olenik. With that in mind they win this game easily and are going to be hard to beat in this bracket.
Pitt vs. Wichita St.: I like the Shockers, I really do, but I just could not pull the trigger against Pitt. Sorry Wichita the Panthers move on.
Wisconsin vs. Ole Miss: There is only one way to describe the Wisconsin Badgers, ATROCIOUS, and that includes that red headed kid’s hair. However, anyone who has had to play against a team that ugly knows its a pain in the butt. Wisonsin wins in a tight one.
Kansas St. vs. Boise St: This might have been a really good football game this year, but the basketball court is K-State’s turf and its not blue. Kansas St. wins.
Arizona vs. Belmont: Arizona is overrated and Belmont is actually quite good. However, I think that the Wildcats have enough to get through this opening round game. Go with Arizona.
New Mexico vs. Harvard: Harvard is wicked smaaart but that won’t be of any use against one of the best teams in the country. New Mexico easily wins this one.
Notre Dame vs. Iowa St.: Rumor has it that Iowa St. has been sending the Notre Dame players video of their girls team playing and the Notre Dame players have all fallen in love. Unreal, I thought there was no way to get fooled by such a stupid hoax twice. And God help them if they show up in those ridiculously putrid highlighter green uniforms. Just joking (not about the unis though) but seriously St. Patrick’s Day was last weekend and the luck of the Irish has run out. Iowa St. moves on.
Ohio St. vs Iona: Ohio St is offensively challenged. Iona is characteristically good at pulling off big opening round wins. Not this time though. Ohio wins.
Sweet 16: Gonzaga, Wisonsin, New Mexico, Ohio St.
Gonzaga will win the battle of the teams with the two guys who have the best hair in the tournament in Kelly Olenik and that red headed kid while New Mexico will prove that they are the real deal. However, New Mexico just does not have enough to beat Gonzaga who is out to prove they belong.
Kansas vs. Western Kentucky: Western Kentucky is always good but Kansas is just a little better. Kansas wins
UNC vs. Villanova: UNC is as hot as they come right now despite not having their usual fire power. Villanova is okay at best but has some serious wins over big time opponents. As a Heels fan, this game has me a little worried but they should be able to pull this one out and set up a second round match up of the blue bloods against Kansas.
VCU vs. Akron: VCU is one of the toughest teams in the country to prepare for and Akron’s nickname is the Zips. This is a no brainer. What the hell is a Zip? VCU overwhelms Akron.
Michigan vs. South Dakota St.: Michigan has arguably the best player in the country with Trey Burke and two former pros kids in Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glen Robinson III. They can play with anyone in the country when they want to. South Dakota St. should not be much of a threat here. Michigan moves on.
UCLA vs. Minnesota: Still trying to figure out how Minnesota got in the tournament. They have not been playing well of late. UCLA has a guaranteed lottery pick in Shabazz Mohammad. UCLA wins this one.
Florida vs. Northwestern St: Nothwestern St. is fun to watch and can fill it up. Florida has one of the best backcourts in the country and that is a good recipe for tournament success. Florida wins and is primed for a serious run.
Oklahoma vs. San Diego St.: I like the Aztecs and their coach and know very little about Oklahoma baskteball. That being said, Vegas has the odds at 1 in favor of SDSU and that is enough for me to pull the upset trigger here and take the Sooners.
Georgetown vs. Florida Gulf Coast: If you are looking to get crazy and pick a 15-2 upset, then this is the one to take. FGC can ball and proved it when they beat Miami in the beginning of the season. Georgetown other than Porter is okay. Nonetheless, the Hoya paranoia moves on to the second round.
Sweet 16: Kansas, Michigan (tough one as VCU can win that game), Florida, and Georgetown.
This bracket is by far the most unpredictable as I can see Kansas and Michigan losing even earlier than this. Nonetheless, I went with chalk up to this point and I will take Michigan over Kansas. Georgetown is no match for Florida as Porter is their only player. Flip a coin if you want in that Michigan Florida matchup (if it even happens) but I’m going to take Florida. Michigan’s defense just is not good enough.
Indiana vs. Brooklyn: No contest. Indiana may be the best team in the country and has at least two bonafide pros in Zeller and Oladipo. Brooklyn has a cool new arena and a budding downtown area. Great place to party but that means nothing against Indiana. Indiana wins easily.
NC State vs. Temple: NC State is the most underachieving team in college basketball this year. In contrast, Temple may have overachieved for such a young team, but I think a weak schedule may have something to do with that. Take the wolfpack.
Cal vs. UNLV: If you were waiting for your 12-5 upset, here it is. UNLV is okay at best and Cal is pretty underated with that 12 seed. Take Cal
Syracuse vs. Montana: I didn’t even know that there were enough people in Montana to have a basketball team. Syracuse who was top 5 in the country at one point this season will win this one.
Butler vs. Bucknell: Tough one, because I always like routing for Butler and they have some big time wins this year. However, they have fallen off of late and Bucknell seems to be playing well. Bucknell out Butlers Butler and wins this one.
Marquette vs. Davidson: Don’t be surprised if the fast paced Davidson team gives Marquette a run for its money in this one. However, I just cant take them because this may be Marquette’s best team in recent years (and they are good every year) Go with Marquette.
Colorado vs Illinois: Colorado is another underrated Pac 12 team and Illinois plays in the overblown Big Ten. Take the Buffaloes
Miami vs. Pacific: Pacific is the largest ocean on the planet. Miamia has one of the largest dudes in college basketball, oh yeah and a guy by the name of Shane Larkin that is unreal. Miami wins.
Sweet 16: Indiana, Syracuse, Bucknell, Miam
Indiana solves Boeheim’s zone and wins this one going away while Miami breaks Cinderella’s glass slipper and ends Bucknell’s streak. Then, in what could be the game of the tournament, Indiana finds a way to outlast a really good Miami team and advance to the Final Four
Louisville vs Gonzaga: Although I would love to see Gonzaga play for the ship, I think that the fact that they are Gonzaga will hold them back against this very talented and athletic Louisville team. Louisville prevails.
Indiana vs. Florida: Indiana can make its case for the best team in country and that should carry them through this game. Especially since Florida may not even be there in the end.
The Finals: Louisville and Indiana although inconsistent at times this season are the two best teams in college basketball and this should be a fantastic national final game. Louisville’s pace of play and annoyingly maddening full court press will eventually wear Indiana down and the Cardinals will get Pitino the ring this year.
Take these picks for what they are worth but nonetheless, it is fun for me to write about them and just as fun to watch the NCAA Tournament, which is what I will be doing all weekend. Look forward to next week’s post based on what I learned this weekend from the games and how it can help you develop your basketball skills and athleticism and become a better player.
As you know, I have been using and teaching jump shooting at my basketball skill development workouts using the Pro Shot System for about the past year. I learned this system directly from its creator, Paul Hoover, and as a result of implementing it into my basketball training programs, my players have improved their jump shooting tremendously. The Pro Shot System uses biomechanics in order to put the player in the proper position to shoot the basketball and allow it to work smoothly throughout the jump shot. It was developed by Coach Hoover after having watched and studied the best NBA and WNBA jump shooters and there is no better way to develop a quick and accurate jump shot. At least not from my perspective. However, there are countless other professional shooting instructors out there who refer to themselves as “shot doctors” who would suggest otherwise.
I was recently given a handout that came from one of the “shot doctors” entitled Steps for Using Proper Mechanics in Shooting Basketballs. It consists of five steps that players should follow in order to correctly take a jump shot. Although some of it makes sense a large majority of the advice seems antiquated and not suitable for today’s high paced game of basketball. The first point that caught my attention was, “Using a shot-put (push) method to launch the ball…”. This is a stark contrast to anything that taught at any of the Elite Basketball Training skill sessions. In fact, we go so far as to correct and change any player to shot-puts or pushes the basketball. Shot putting the basketball is a slow and un-fluid motion. There is a reason that shot putters throw that way. The shot put weighs anywhere from 8-16 pounds so they have to. The basketball weighs 20 ounces. It is therefore much lighter and there is no need to push it from your hand.
The second aspect of “Proper Mechanics” that seems questionable to me is the suggestion that 90% of your power comes from your legs. Don’t get me wrong, legs do play an important role in your jumper but not in the sense that you think they do. Also, a case can be made that an equal amount of power, if not more comes from your elbow. In regards to the legs, they come into play to create forward momentum into your shot which does provide power to your shot. By forward momentum, I am referring to the step in or hop in to your jumper. This is a preparatory move and puts your body in the position going up and towards the rim. However, other than that, the notion that the legs provide 90% of the power to your jump shot is far fetched. If that were truly the case, players could not reach the rim without jumping and that’s just not true. It is also untrue to think that the deeper you bend your knees the more distance you will be able to shoot from. Watch good NBA jump shooters, they do not bend their knees very deep at all yet they can shoot effortlessly from far away ranges. The reason? Forward momentum and their elbow. Coach Hoover compares the elbow to a slingshot. The further you pull back the band on the sling shot the further the rock will go. The elbow is similar to this in the sense that the further down the elbow is pointed the further the distance you can shoot the ball from. Conversely, the higher up you start your elbow, the less distance you can shoot the basketball from. Range is directly related to power and forward momentum in conjunction with your elbow provide you with the power to shoot from range not the deep knee bends associated with your legs.
The notion of the push shot and the legs providing the majority of the power to your jumper are antiquated in nature. The body is a system that when used properly will become very powerful, efficient, and useful. Pushing the basketball and using your legs to generate the majority of the power in your jumper contrasts how efficient the body can be on your jumper. Gone are the days of the player crouched in a deep knee bend with his elbow tucked ready to push the ball towards the rim. That type of jump shot may have worked when (to paraphrase Bill Self) Dr. Naismith’s teams were losing to Topeka YMCA, but it is too slow to work in today’s high paced game of basketball.
Let me know what you think about the jump shot and how it should be taught to today’s youth by leaving a comment in the section below.