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5 Things You Can Learn Watching Hoops


Save for a couple months in the summer, it’s never a challenge to fill an evening with a basketball game on television. While it’s easy to become caught up in the score or merely watch the guy with the ball, there are scores of plays and non-plays, all within camera shot, which aren’t commentated on but affect the outcome and can be applied to your own game. Fran Fraschilla, ESPN college basketball analyst, tells you what to focus on.

1. When the guy is defending the ball.

Watch how a defender is standing. The key is forcing play away from the middle and to the sideline or baseline, so if the defender is standing up straight and close, he’s going to be burned. You want to play nose to shoulder in order to direct him the opposite way—schnozz into the left shoulder moves him right—and stay low so you're able to move quickly.

2. When the ball’s on the opposite side.

Watch the spacing. A defender shouldn’t be tight on his man. It leaves the middle of the floor open if his teammate is beaten off the ball. Any time you’re on the weak side, you want to move to the middle of the court down low enough to see both the ball and your man—think of forming a triangle—and be able to move either way depending on the need.

3. When the shot goes up.

Watch the guys without the ball. They should be moving away. “Seventy percent of shots end up rebounding to the other side,” Fraschilla says. It’s fine to be willing to work the glass, but jumping from out of position is wasted motion. Since not everyone is a marksman from downtown in your league, take note when the ball is launched.

4. When the team has the ball.

Watch for ball movement, or a lack thereof. The game is about rhythm and keeping the defense off balance with good ball movement. It’s not achieved with what Fraschilla calls “the ball stopper,” who receives a pass and holds onto it interminably, allowing the defense to re-establish itself. Before the ball ever comes to you, you’ve already prepped for three things. “Think of how you’re going to pass it, shoot it or drive with it,” Fraschilla says.

5. When the tourney is on.

Watch the refs. More for watching than playing, pay attention to the officiating. Referees aren’t familiar with all the teams, and since the NCAA wants its rules enforced, play can’t be as physical as during the season. “Eighty percent of the foul calls are away from the ball,” Fraschilla says. Cutting and screens will be more scrutinized and how a team helps itself in getting open and responds to what’s being allowed will help determine who’s moving on.

Steve Calechman has written for Men’s Health magazine, Natural Health, Philadelphia, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, The Robb Report, and Women’s Health magazine. Learn more at SteveCalechman.com.

Tags: Leisure Time, Basketball