Playing good offense
requires strategic decisions. One style of offense is to use set
patterns to get uncontested shots. The most important technique of a so-called
slow-down offense is setting screens. This occurs when offensive players
position themselves in a way that impedes the defenders' movement. The
screen is often accompanied by the give-and-go, in which one player
passes to a teammate and then moves across the court, usually toward the
basket in a position to receive a return pass immediately. In comparison
to the slow-down offense, a fast-break offense involves quick shots as
the ball is either dribbled or passed up the court rapidly.
BDefense Defense is just as important to winning basketball games as
offense. The goal of defense is simple: to stop the opposition from
scoring. The more times a team stops an opponent from scoring, the more
likely it is that a victory will be secured. The basic defensive
technique involves guarding the opponent while keeping both feet at
least shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other
and the knees bent. When defending, a player's weight should be placed
on the balls of the feet to ensure quick movement in any direction.
General defensive positioning involves skilled movement. A defensive
player should take short, quick shuffle steps when moving side-to-side.
Crossing one foot over another is improper defensive technique.
Defenders want to force opponents away from the basket and limit the
ability to dribble the ball toward the basket. Good defenders use
quickness to steal or intercept the ball and are cautious not to foul.
One part of playing strong defense is blocking the opposition's
attempted shot, because good shot-blocking teams make opponents hesitate
about shooting. When defending an opponent who doesn't have the ball,
the general rule is to stay between that player and the basket being
defended. Good defenders also play team defense, working together and
verbally communicating among themselves to ensure that the offense
doesn't obtain an easy shot.
There are two types of basic defensive team play, man-to-man defense and
zone defense. In man-to-man defense, each player guards a specific
opponent, usually one that plays the same position, so that a guard
defends a guard, a forward defends a forward, and so on. In a zone
defense, each player guards a specific area of the court. The most
widely used zone defense is called a 2-1-2 zone, which is a system
employing the two guards at the forefront on the defense, the center
covering the middle portion of the court, and the two forwards defending
the area nearest the basket. A good 2-1-2 zone defense makes it
difficult to pass the ball from near the basket back outside, hampers
teams from initiating a smooth offense, and is effective in slowing down
a fast-break style offense. Zone defenses are illegal in the National
Basketball Association (NBA), the major professional league in the
United States and Canada, because they do tend to slow the pace of the
game, which can make some spectators lose interest.
VAMATEUR COMPETITION While basketball gains much of its popularity
through spectators watching professional competition, the sport
flourishes worldwide at amateur levels for both men and women. Most
organized amateur play takes place at the high school and college level,
where the season runs from November through March.
AOrganization of High School and College Play High school basketball's
governing body, the National Federation of State High Schools (NFSHS),
is located in Kansas City, Missouri. The NFSHS does not crown a national
champion. Instead, high school teams compete to win their state
championship, with each state having its own guidelines for determining
titles. Most states have several state champions, each in a category
determined by school size.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), located in Overland
Park, Kansas, is the most important organization governing major college
competition. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA),
located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, oversees competition for smaller four-year
schools. The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA),
located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, governs play for two-year and
community colleges throughout the country. Under the jurisdiction of
these national governing bodies are individual conferences and leagues.
Well-known NCAA conferences include the Big East conference, on the East
Coast; the Big Ten conference, in the Midwest; and the Pacific-10
conference, on the West Coast.
BCollegiate National Championship The NCAA, the NAIA, and the NJCAA all
sponsor postseason national championship tournaments. The men's and
women's NCAA national championship basketball tournaments are the most
important of these tournaments. They are also two of the premier
sporting events in the United States. Both tournaments are held in March
and early April, using the same format to determine a national champion.
Each tournament involves 64 teams in a single-elimination competition,
meaning that one loss disqualifies a team from further play.
The selection process for deciding which teams will participate in the
tournament is complex. Teams are invited to the tournament either as
automatic qualifiers or as at-large teams. Automatic qualifiers gain
admission by winning their NCAA conference's tournament at the end of
the season, or if the conference does not hold a tournament, by
finishing the season with the best conference record. Selection rules
require that no more than 30 teams be invited as automatic qualifiers,
so a special committee fills out the 64-team field by choosing at-large
teams, using a number of factors. These factors include a team's final
standing for that season, its performance in past championship
tournaments, its estimated attendance at games during that season, and
the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), which uses statistics to analyze the
team's strengths compared to other teams.
The 64 teams are placed into four regional tournaments: East, West,
South, and Midwest. The 16 teams assigned to each regional draw are a
mix of colleges and universities from across the country. In each region
they are seeded, or ranked, from 1 to 16 according to their strength and
season schedule (with the 1 seed the strongest team). A seeded team
assigned to a specific region should be on par with its corresponding
seed in the other three regional draws. For example, a team ranked as
the 10 seed in the Midwest regional draw should be of equal strength to
the 10 seed in the East regional draw.
In each region, the higher ranked teams play the lower ranked teams: the
1 seed plays the 16 seed, the 2 seed plays the 15 seed, and so on.
Winning teams advance and continue to play until only one unbeaten team
remains. This team then advances to the Final Four, the national
semifinals. There is no seeding in the Final Four. Instead, it is
predetermined which two regional winners will meet in each semifinal
game. The championship game pits the victors of these two games against
each other. The team that triumphs in the Final Four is crowned the
Fan support is intense throughout the tournament, and visiting fans
provide an economic windfall for the various cities hosting tournament
games. Cities therefore bid for the right to host games, and the sites
are chosen several years in advance to allow the cities time to prepare
for the tournament. The tournament has produced a unique vocabulary over
the years. The excitement generated is referred to as March Madness,
while the entire event is often called the Road to the Final Four or the
In the men's tournament, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
has won the championship 11 times, with John Wooden coaching UCLA to 10
of those victories. The University of Kentucky has 7 championships, and
Indiana University has 5. Other teams that have had a significant impact
during the tournament's history include the University of North
Carolina, the University of Louisville, and Duke University. The
University of Tennessee has dominated the women's NCAA tournaments.
Coached by Pat Summitt, Tennessee has won six titles since the women's
tournament began in 1982. Several other schools-the University of
Southern California (USC), Stanford University, and Louisiana Tech
University-have won two titles each.
Although the NCAA tournament is the most widely recognized of collegiate
postseason tournaments, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) is the
oldest and was originally the most prestigious. The NIT was first held
in 1938, with Temple University winning. At first, college teams could
compete in both the NIT and the NCAA tournament. Beginning in the 1950s,
however, teams began participating in either the NIT or NCAA tournament,
based on their seasonal record, with the better teams generally
accepting invitations to the NCAA tournament. This tendency became
stronger over time, and now the NCAA tournament winner is regarded as
the national collegiate basketball champion. The NIT, however, remains
an important postseason activity for universities and players. The City
College of New York (CCNY) is the only school to win both the NIT and
the NCAA tournament in the same season, accomplishing this feat in 1950.
VIPROFESSIONAL COMPETITION The highest level of professional play takes
place in the United States and Canada, and players from all over the
world strive to play in North America. But professional basketball is
also played in more than 20 other countries. Brazil, Japan, Germany,
France, and Spain are among the nations that support leagues that
develop the skills of international players. Some players from the
United States and Canada play professional basketball in other countries
if they fail to make teams in their own countries.
ANational Basketball Association The National Basketball Association (NBA),
with teams from the United States and Canada, is the major professional
basketball league in the world. The 29 NBA teams are divided into two
conferences, the Eastern and Western, each of which has two divisions.
Each NBA team conducts a training camp in October to determine its 12-player
roster. Training camp allows each team to evaluate players, especially
rookies (first-year players), to assess the team's strengths and
weaknesses, and to prepare players for the upcoming season through a
series of on-court drills and practice of offensive and defensive
strategy. After a series of exhibition games, the NBA begins its 82-game
regular season in the first week of November.
In February the NBA interrupts its season to celebrate the annual NBA
All-Star Game, featuring the game's best players as selected by the
general balloting of fans throughout the United States and Canada. After
the NBA season concludes in April, a total of 16 teams qualify for the
playoffs (8 teams from each conference). In each conference the two
division winners are guaranteed a playoff spot. The remaining playoff
spots in each conference are awarded on the basis of win-loss records to
the six next-best teams, regardless of division. The playoffs start with
the teams with better records playing the teams with worse records in a
best-of-five series, in which the winner is the first team to win three
games. In subsequent rounds best-of-seven series are played, with the
first team to earn four victories winning the round. The playoffs
continue in this elimination scheme until a conference champion is
crowned. The champions from the Eastern and Western conferences then
meet in a best-of-seven series to determine the NBA champion.
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