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Could the Safety Valve Have Changed the Final Four?

Last night, the streets of Indianapolis were quiet, essentially vacant when you consider what they were like after Saturday night’s Final Four games. Butler’s Cinderella run fell 3 points short from being the perfect story. Regardless of the loss in the finals, I can’t look at Butler’s season as anything but successful. You almost couldn’t ask for a closer game. Only the scoreboard can separate the difference between these two teams; one shot, one pair of Free Throws, one turnover early in the game, one made or missed put-back, one call by the officials.

Coach Brad Stevens has a great future ahead of him.

And congratulations to the Duke team and Coach Mike Krzyzewski! What a fun team to watch all season long. When I consider Duke’s team, the word balance comes to my mind. Which is stronger: their defense or their offense? Everyone on their team rebounds on both ends of the floor. Their offense has a nice mix of dribble penetration, passing, post play, and screens. You can’t concentrate on stopping just one aspect of their offense or stopping one particular player.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski continues to build his legacy as a legend in this game.

But these are not the things I want to draw your attention to. I want you to forget the rest of the tournament and only consider the last three games – the Final Four and the Final.

If you recorded the games, then go back and count the number of times that the following happened:

  • The Set Play doesn’t work.
  • The ball handler decides to go 1 on 1.
  • The move is made and help defense makes the stop.
  • The ball handler pivots away from pressure and looks for a teammate.
  • But no one’s there. There’s no safety valve!
  • A turnover occurs or at best, someone heaves a desperate attempt to beat the shot clock.

I’m simply amazed at the number of times that this occurred. The ball handler goes 1 on 1 and all of his teammates stand and watch!

By the way, I’m going to watch the women’s finals tonight and look for the same action. (Or, lack of action I should say!)

Let me describe this action in more detail:

  1. The ball handler makes his move.
  2. The defense helps, just like they’ve been trained to do, and the move is stopped. For a moment, there are two defenders guarding the ball, which leaves one offensive player open – somewhere.
  3. While the ball handler pivots around and desperately searches for a relief pass, the second defender has time to rotate back to his player, making it tough to find anyone open.

If these teams had the Read & React Offense as their base of offensive operations, a teammate would already be directly behind the ball handler at the moment of stoppage: the Safety Valve from our Circle Movement Layer.

The other 3 offensive players would be spaced in such a way that the defense is stretched to cover them all. In other words, two defensive players could not cover the three offensive players. Additionally, the ball handler would know where these teammates would be in every situation. Most of the time, at this level, the Safety Valve behind the penetrator would be open.

These teams could still run their quick-hitters. They could still initiate offensive action any way they want. Duke could still use their 3out 2in screening actions. Butler could still begin action with their East-West weaving hand-offs. But when the ball decides to attack or drive, the Read & React would rotate everyone in the opposite direction of defensive rotation and place them in the best passing windows – along with a safety valve option!

I’m not even considering the remaining 16 Layers of actions that would be tied together. I’m not considering how Perimeter Passing and Post Feeds and Pin & Skips would allow these teams an unbroken stream of 5-player-continuity. I only want you to consider one Layer from the Read & React and what it would have meant.

Do you think that the Safety Valve option from the Circle Movement Layer would have accounted for at least one more basket?

Would it have cut turnovers down by one or two?

What difference would just this one Layer have made in this tournament?

Two points to tie. Three points to win.

These aren’t my teams. I have no dog in the hunt. But it still makes me a little sick to my stomach.


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about rick torbett

Rick Torbett has taught thousands of coaches to win more games through his innovative approach to the game. He has created powerful training for coaches at any level so they can coach their best and win more games.

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Read & React 5-Player Coordination Drills

Enter your email address to get an inside look at teaching the Read & React Offense with the drills in this free video.