One bad stretch and your season is over.
Over the course of a long season you are going to have bad possessions, bad stretches and bad games. It's never a welcome sight for a coach, but it's a reality of the game.
Ultimately you have an opportunity to bounce back the following day. But in March there is only today, tomorrow doesn't exist.
It goes without say that the margin of error is paper-thin. The cliché of "one possession at a time" is never more evident. One minute you can seemingly have everything going your way, but in the blink of an eye you can be back on your heels.
And it doesn't have to be poor execution that has you leaning backwards.
A few years ago I remember watching fellow Big Ten member Michigan State in the NCAA tournament. In the opening round they faced a very good Nevada team. For most of the game, the Spartans were in control. Nevada was having a difficult time containing MSU’s All-American Paul Davis and it appeared that the Spartans was en route to victory, with less than seven minutes remaining.
Then Davis picked up his fourth foul and everything changed. Nevada went on a 17-1 run and the Spartans were unable to recover. It was just one bad stretch.
There is a reason that all sixty-five teams made it this far. Every team in the NCAA tournament earned their way in so the idea of being able to overcome a tough stretch is wishful thinking.
In 2007, in our opening round game, we had a poor stretch that lasted for nearly and entire half. We did not play particularly well through the first twenty minutes against Texas A&M Corpus Christi. The Islanders should get a lot of credit for playing well so we were fortunate that we were able to overcome that and win the game.
However when we had tough stretches against UNLV in round two we were unable to overcome it.
As a coach you have to understand that stretches like this are inevitable. In baseball ground balls will be booted. In football passes will be dropped. On the basketball court offense will disappear at times.
What you want to try and do is convey those facts to your players. Most players understand that it’s the reality of the game, but it’s important to reinforce those points. Don’t get caught up in the fact that you haven’t scored in a few minutes or that the opponent is building a sizeable lead. You can’t erase that in one possession. It’s all about staying focused. And just because you are struggling in one aspect of the game doesn’t mean you cannot compensate in another area.
It’s an old expression -- Defense doesn’t go into a slump. Bad stretches in games are often a result of mental breakdowns on the defensive end. The inability to score on offense becomes a distraction on the defensive end and it shouldn’t. Quite often it’s an effort on defense that leads to an easy basket and ends the bad stretch.
Ultimately it all comes down to forty-minutes. The team that plays better and makes fewer mistakes is going to playing another day. For the other team, tomorrow does not exist.