Basketball fans grow to love the sport for a variety of reasons.
A lot of us grew up playing hoops, and our personal experiences with team basketball drove us to become fans of players and teams who have succeeded far past us regular hoopers.
Intramural sports provide an outlet for us basketball has-beens to relive our glory days one last time. It’s an entirely different experience than going to the gym to shoot around; you wear jerseys, there are refs, people come to cheer you on - it’s almost real.
I graduated college less than a month ago, but I already miss the days of intramural basketball. And while I can never get my intramural days back, I wanted to build a quick guide for those looking to play intramural hoops in the future. It’s a different game than traditional basketball, and thus requires a different type of gameplan.
Here are five keys to building an unstoppable intramural basketball team.
Tip #1: Research your opponent
Winning games starts well before tip-off.
If you go to a smaller college like I did, it’s relatively easy to know who is playing in your league. When you receive the schedule, look over the teams you will be facing.
If Team A has a star player that should be playing D1 right now, but he’s surrounded by no-names, you know where to focus your team’s attention.
This point of research is incredibly simple, but it's a way for your team to get ahead before the clock even starts.
Tip #2: Play through your best player
Let’s face it: intramural teams usually have one or two players that stand head and shoulders above the rest. As badly as everyone on the team wants to get their shots up, the reality is that your best chance of winning lies in giving your stars the ball and letting them run the machine.
If you want to win, it’s probably not a great idea to let that one guy on your team test out his brand new hook shot for three straight possessions. Get your best player the ball; his shots will almost always be the best percentage looks on the floor.
Also, the defense will notice what your team is doing, and they will send extra help toward the star, opening up shots for the other players. Everyone wins.
Tip #3. Don’t run a zone (if you don’t know how to)
When man-to-man defense just isn’t working, it’s only a matter of time before someone on your team mutters those fateful five words:
“Hey, let’s try a zone!”
Zones can be extremely effective, but they also require practice to perfect. Basketball IQ is a real thing, and never is it more apparent than when a team of players that have never played organized basketball attempt to run a zone. If you are not 100% confident that all five players on the floor know what they are doing, you will get punished.
Sticking to man-to-man is simple, effective, and adaptable across the game as mismatches get uncovered. If you’re down 30 because the other team is smarter, more skilled, and more athletic than you, “Trying a zone” for the first time in a game is not going to work.
Tip #4: RUN!
In intramurals, running a half-court offense is hard. It’s difficult to execute pick-and-rolls, run plays, and avoid turnovers when you don’t have a team full of experienced or seasoned players.
Transition offense can be a great source of scoring when buckets are hard to come by. Many times, defenders simply won’t even try on defense when the offense pushes the ball in transition; more often, players will get fouled at the rim or give up an open layup. It’s rare for intramural players to be in great shape, so playing fast can create an advantage for your team against a less-conditioned squad.
So to find success, tell your guys to RUN after a defensive rebound. If you have a good ball-handler, make him in charge of getting the ball, pushing down the court, and looking for good opportunities. I wanna see those Lonzo-esque full-court push passes.
WARNING: it’s also extremely easy to turn the ball over in transition. You may need to slow your team down at times, but the more you can create opportunities in transition, the better.
Tip #5: Look for a great shot, not a good shot
Sometimes, players have to take a “bad” shot in basketball. The shot clock puts a constraint on teams’ abilities to create good looks, and when the ticker is approaching zero, it’s better to jack up a contested shot than to not shoot at all.
But in intramurals, there is really no excuse to take a bad shot. Why? Because there’s no shot clock.
Now, I’m not saying to play four corners and run out the clock. No one wants to see that. But, you truly have no reason to play half-court offense with a high sense of urgency.
In the intramural world, you have the flexibility to wait for looks. Playing this way gives your team the best chance of making a high percentage of its shots. Plus, high amounts of cutting and movement can tire out defenders who are probably still hungover from the night before.
These tips will elevate your intramural team from high-school wash-ups to slightly better high-school wash-ups. I hope you hoop fans out there put them to use and develop your teams into dynasties.
Now, I wanna hear from you guys. Did you play intramurals in college? What worked for your team? What was your all time greatest performance? Let us know in the comments below!
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