The Most Overlooked Secret to Winning in College Basketball

t williAnalyst IDecember 23, 2007’s so much emphasis on defense, on offense, on scoring, on who’s going to take the ball, on driving, on avoiding fouls, on taking foul shots, and countless other aspects in the beautifully complex sport of collegiate basketball.

However, one factor needs to be brought to light—one aspect of basketball seems to pass under the radar of most sports analysts and coaching theorists, in game plans and major plays.

As a loyal spectator, and from the general consensus of fans around me, this is what I feel is the simple secret to securing a win on almost any hardwood floor:

Rebounds. It’s just that simple.

Sure, points are what matter in the end, and the score is the determiner of the game, but look closer at the stats of any basketball game, and one team usually dominates the boards. According to my theory, if the two teams are equally matched skill-wise, the  team with more rebounds should be the winner.

Let me explain further. While watching the Arizona Wildcats play basketball last year in Tucson, fans were extremely frustrated at the amount of offensive rebounds the Cats would allow their opponent to easily grab.

Every time sophomore forward Chase Budinger let a shot fly from beyond the arc, most of his teammates would already be running down the court, assuming that Budinger’s three would sink.

And almost 37% of the time, it did.
But what about the times it didn’t? Usually, the missed shot would be gobbled up by the visiting team. Even though the Cats were ready to receive them on the defensive end of the court, Arizona had just given up a second chance at scoring.

Sure, the Wildcats rebound at the defensive end—sophomore forward Jordan Hill has been particularly excellent in this regard. But to many spectators’ chagrin, the Cats gave up too many chances by failing to stick around for offensive rebounds.

In this week’s nailbiter win over UNLV, the 19th-ranked Wildcats were able to apply more pressure on the offensive end, leading to an increase in rebounds. Hill led the team with 19 rebounds, part of his double-double, bringing in a dazzling 16 points.

Arizona is clearly stepping up on the boards, but the Wildcats still need to hang around the basket more—especially with top shooters Budinger, Hill, and standout freshman Jerry Bayless on the prowl.

It's a simple order: hang around a couple seconds longer, preferably around the basket, and try to nab the ball if it rolls off the rim. Worst-case scenarios are

  • -the ball goes in, which would provide sufficient time for the players to quickly reassemble in a defensive position while the opponents inbound the ball.
  • -the ball is off-mark, and is fought over by both teams in hopes to attain possession once again.
  • -the ball goes out of bounds, in which case is it given to the respective team.

I could mention numerous teams who struggle with this concept, but my theory remains the same: Grabbing rebounds (on both sides of the court) gives a team more scoring chances, more possessions, and more opportunity to win the game. Teams just need to focus on getting offensive rebounds more than they have been.

When the job "Rebound Coordinator" opens up at any university, I’ll be first in line, resume in hand. Just wait for it.