Teams should be well-versed in advance

Originally Published: December 23, 2004
By Fran Fraschilla | Special to ESPN Insider
When I think of great last-second finishes in college basketball, I think of Christian Laettner's turnaround jumper to beat Kentucky in the 1992 East regional finals. Or Keith Smart's baseline jumper with time winding down as Indiana defeated Syracuse in the 1987 title game.

Great finishes are as much a part of the college season as cheerleaders and Dick Vitale. When I saw Brendan Plavich of Charlotte hit his half-court shot to beat Indiana on Wednesday, I knew the elation his coach, Bobby Lutz, was feeling and the agony Indiana coach Mike Davis was experiencing.

Success in the endgame, though, requires constant preparation – and a little luck. Because so many games over the next three months will be decided by five points or less, I want to take you through the process of a coach getting his team ready for "end-of-game" situations.

Like the onside kick in football or the suicide squeeze in baseball, last-second plays in basketball usually must be executed to perfection. When that execution is not perfect, though, sometimes putting your team in a position to get a lucky bounce of the ball is all you need.

As a coach, I wanted to think about our last-second philosophy well in advance of the start of the season and I wanted to begin to prepare for all the last-second situations that might arise. As I have mentioned before, the off-season is the best time for clear, dispassionate thinking about what you want to execute during season. The day before the season begins is no time to start tinkering with last-second plays.

Accordingly, our staff would discuss in the offseason what do when we had the ball with under 10 seconds to go in the following situations: score tied; ahead by 1, 2 or 3; behind by 1, 2 or 3; and behind by four points or more.
Fran Fraschilla is a college basketball analyst for ESPN. He formerly was the head coach at Manhattan, St. John's and New Mexico.