Posted on: February 23, 2011 8:51 am

"Playing to win", and not "playing not to lose"

And so we're in the last couple of weeks of conference basketball play and this is when winning teams will separate themselves from the pretenders. Some of those pretenders have all the talent and ability to win, except for "heart."  That "heart" sometime manifests itself as a killer instinct.  


We will recognize those teams as being able to win game they should win - they don't let them get close - and are not ashamed to win by a big margin.

  • a couple of examples of this we can count on:  Duke will play a team they should beat and will unapologetically win big. On the other hand UCLA (my team) will play a close game against a less talented team and let it slip away because it got too close.  

So what fundamentally separates these teams?  

  • Both (winners and pretenders) have talent.  

  • Both have great coaching and amazing athletes.  

The difference is that the winning team:
  • has no problem doing what it takes to win.  
  • Will always bring a consistent approach to winning and minimises distractions.   
  • and, they don't look ahead to the next game.
Said another way:  they are not afraid to win.  And they never play with the fear of losing (translated another way - they don't play with such caution as trying to avoid a loss (playing not to lose).
So here's the question that always come to mind for me when watching these winning teams:
  • how do they manage to always play to win?  what is the formula (if you will)?  What principles to they play by?  Or is it a mindset?
Could it possibly not be just wanting or wishing or a mindset but rather something like this?:
  • Play each possession like a must-score situation
  • Expect to get every rebound and play like each one is a must
  • Shoot to score, not to get fouled
  • Play defense to stop opponents' progress, prevent passes, to create a turnover, and not to draw fouls
  • Minimise own turnovers and fouls
These sound too simple and basic.  And perhaps the answer is in the basics and does not need to be a killer instinct.  Was it Jim Boeheim that said a couple of days ago something like " we will need to score more than our opponent"?  
Maybe the answer could lie in the simple approach - the fundamentals.
  • shoot to score
  • take the easy shot instead of a more difficult one
  • minimise mistakes 
  • Score more than the opponent.
Yeah - Play to win.

Game on.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 14, 2009 7:16 pm

Minimise turnovers or injuries - bigger impact?

I'm not the statistician, nor can I recite recent experiences of teams with fewer turnovers, but I think we all can understand how minimising turnovers in basketball or football can have a big impact on the chance for winning.  I recall hearing from several NFL and college football coaches how a focus on minimising turnovers can have a great impact on winning.

I'll bet if we looked at the numbers (some grad school-type stats project that I'm not about to undertake) we could find a correlation of greater winning percentage when there are less turnovers (interceptions and lost fumbles in football, lost balls in basketball).

But having said that, I have to wonder whether injuries also have a significant impact on team winning percentages.  In fact, I'd consider stating a hypothesis that injuries have the greatest impact in winning or losing (as compared to turnovers).  And we could probably develop a scale and scoring system of types of injuries and impact on starters or certain position players.  All together, we could nearly calculate, or at least estimate the impact of an injury - equally the value and impact on winning by preventing injuries.

What are your thoughts?   Any examples come to mind?  And do you know of or have you observed any teams that focus on injury prevention as a strategy for improving performance and results/ winning.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or