Conference play started for many college teams today and one of the early games I caught on ESPN was between Notre Dame and West Virginia. I thought the reasons why Notre Dame won were twofold. First, they play a combination of solid M2M defense with some pack-line, and they execute extremely well in transition.

Contrary to traditional thinking, you don't necessarily need a ton of speed to be a good transition basketball team. Well executed early offense can be just as effective if not more than a break-neck transition that is prone to turnovers. Notre Dame isn't your typical run and gun team per-se, but they like to score early in the possession using a combination of their forwards and 3-point shooting guards. You don't necessarily need to be a Phoenix Suns run and gun team to have a good transition game. Here's what one of their early offense plays looked like in a key point early in the game that swung the momentum to the Irish (NOTE, unlike most of my clips, this one actually has sound),

One of the things that works really well in early offense concepts is the quick ball reversal for the 3-pointer. By overloading one side temporarily, then reversing the ball, often times the defense does not have a chance to react because they are still getting set. You can use that momentary lapse in position to your team's advantage.

Reversal 3-pointer Early Offense:

In case some of you are still new, early offense is defined as quick hitters off of made baskets. The idea being to look for a quick hitter, and when not there, settle into your half court offense.

It's a very simple concept here, O1 dribbles the ball on one side of the court. You can't see O2 in the video, but he starts out at the ball-side corner. O5 sets the first screen, then O3 goes down to set the second screen.

O1 passes the ball to O4 who pops out to receive the ball. Then quickly reverses it to O2 for the open 3-pointer. O4 does a great job of really sticking the pick. I like physical basketball and so I'm a guy that likes my players to set tough picks and always bump cutters (must be my football coaching background).


Hopefully, this has some of you coaches thinking of a few new wrinkles as school gets back into session with respect to your early offense. As I mentioned, you don't necessarily need great speed (though speed is always better), to be a good transition team, execution is far more important. The prerequisite for sure is that all of your players hustle down the court. Get there when the defense is still backpedaling, then execute your play.

I showed the 3-pointer here, but the Irish probably had about 4 or 5 early offense plays that went straight to a forward who had established early position. This also helped setup the 3-pointers like this play here. As for the Irish chances this year in the Big East, I think Mike Brey has done an outstanding job with this group. They were a 20-plus win team last year and should be very competitive all year, I've watched them a few times this year and have been impressed with their execution, a sign of a very well coached team.

Anyone interested in more transition offense ideas should take a look at Roy Williams DVD, secrets of the UNC secondary break. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to discuss this and any of your favorite basketball topics.