Basketball

Comparing Beard To Belichick Isn’t As Crazy As It Seems

On Saturday, Fran Frascilla compared Beard’s game plan to one of the best coaches this century. And when you really think about it, it’s not as wild as it seems.

On Saturday, we were witnessing a masterpiece. Everything seemed to be going right for the Red Raiders. The defense was suffocating, the offensive was finding (and making) open shots, and everyone was hustling from the tip-off to the final buzzer.

This caused ESPN color commentator Fran Fraschilla to call Beard’s game plan and approach to the game “Belichickian”. As a Patriots fan with a few Zigenbocks in me, I was giddy when he made that proclamation. But comparing a head coach who’s been in a major conference for less than three years to a guy with eight super bowl rings seems ridiculous.

In the hours after the game and the following Sunday morning, I started to think about it and realized that it might not be as crazy as it seems. You could point to several things that both coaches and teams do that are very similar, despite them playing different sports at different levels.

Get Players To Fill Your Voids

A lot of NFL teams will just spend over 20 million dollars just because a quarterback is serviceable, or consistently trade up to get first round talent, or empty the bank for a high priced free agent. Belichick does things differently. He finds roles on his teams he needs to fill and typically pays below average to fill that one job. Why pay Malcolm Butler $12 million when you can pay JC Jackson $500,00?

In college, we’ve seen coaches in different programs just offer the top recruits around the country or just guys within the area and state. Although having talent on your team is important, if your just collecting talent with no set plan for how you’re going to use them, it’s not going to do you much use.

Beard doesn’t go after the top recruits just to go after them. He goes after a select group of top recruits who will fit plan on what he wants to do. There’s a reason why he offered Jahmius Ramsey. Sure, part of it was the fact that he was from Texas, but also he defensive tenacity and his explosiveness.

Now if you have guys who fit what you want to do close by, as was the case with Jarrett Culver and DeShawn Corprew, then you go after them. But Beard has traveled from South Dakota to New York to Italy to Russia to find guys who fit what he wants to do.

And unlike some coaches, he’s willing to add a guy to his team that is only going to play with the program a year. Beard didn’t have an explosive defensive post presence on the roster, so he recruited Tariq Owens. Beard was losing a lot of key scorers and ball handlers, so he picked up an experienced one in Matt Mooney. It’s not about just getting talent, it’s about getting the talent that fits what you want to do.

Improving As The Season Progresses

At the beginning of the season, Belichick’s teams always look a little rusty. They typically start out around .500 and everyone freaks out. But by the time December comes around, they are rolling. The team and the individuals themselves improve their game throughout the season and peak around the playoffs.

Beard’s teams are the same way. Yes, I know his teams start off hot in non-conference play and typically don’t lose their first game until late December, but if you count the Big 12 schedule as the start of the season, they string together a few loses in the first half of the schedule.

Usually the key game is the Big 12-SEC Challenge. As I mentioned in a post about the Arkansas game, this usually acts as a bye week for the Red Raiders. You don’t have the pressure of a Big 12 game that can really wear a player down. Since then, the Red Raiders are 6-1 with an average margin of victory of 24 points. If you just count the month of February, when Chris Beard says the season really starts, they are 5-1 with a 25 point margin of victory.

A similar thing happened last year. After the South Carolina game, Tech started getting on a roll and defeating some Big 12 teams pretty badly. Most of their loses only came because of the injury to Keenan Evans. They came into March hot and were rolling until they faced one of the best teams we’ve seen this decade in Villanova.

The team isn’t the only thing improving. The player’s individual games have also evolved and improved throughout the season. Last year, Tommy Hamilton IV and Zhaire Smith weren’t huge three point shooters. However, by the NCAA tournament, they were reliable from downtown. In fact, Hamilton’s ability to spread the floor pushed Purdue’s great big men out of the paint and allowed easier buckets for Texas Tech.

You’re seeing Tariq Owens start to expand his shooting range throughout this season.  I’m sure we’ve all been frustrated with Owens taking and missing three point shots earlier this season, but in game is the best time to practice. Over the past 10 games, he’s shooting 36% from downtown and is starting to hit more long range field goals. You never know when you’re going to need them.

Seeing The Future Of The Sport

Most of the high scoring offenses in the NFL have a spread like formation with speedster, a dynamic back, and a gun slinger. The Patriots had one of the highest scoring offenses in the NFL with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, so of course…they go big and run the football? Other team’s defenses are built to stop explosive offenses, so Belichick went the opposite way.

Beard is doing something very similar at Texas Tech. A lot of the best teams in NBA are stating show a certain look. Dynamic point guard, lots of athletic wings that can switch, and a big man that can protect the rim and stretch the floor.

It’s causing problems on both ends of the floor, especially the defensive end. Texas Tech is able to cause deflections and switch on defense, which is troublesome for the opposing offense and limits the amount of energy used by the defense.

On offense, they can spread the floor with their ability to make long range shots, but also have lengthy players like Culver who can attack the basket and create problems. They can even go big with Odiase and attack the post if necessary. It’s a perfect nightmare that will give any team fits.

And going to see additions of dynamic lengthy players like Jahmius Ramsey, Kevin McCullar, Andrei Savrasov and Khalid Thomas, along with a big man in Russel Tchewa, not to mention there’s still a spot or two left for another explosive wing.

Adapting To The Perfect Gameplan

During the postseason, Belichick installed some game plans that worked to perfection. During the Chiefs game, he installed a run heavy plan to take advantage of opponents weak run defense and keep the ball out of Texas Tech great Patrick Mahomes’ hands. During the Rams game, he installed a defense that wasn’t yet seen on film, and found a play that worked on offense that he used four times in a row to result in a touchdown.

You see Beard do the same thing against conference opponents and big time opponents. Against Kansas and Duke, Beard realized he was facing freshman, so he got his players in position for more charges since freshmen get a little too excited when driving to the basket. Oklahoma rebounds the ball well, so he got his players to attack the boards after shots.

For Oklahoma State, he took advantage of their horrific perimeter defense and installed a plan that required a lot of kick out threes. And for West Virginia he took advantage of the Mountaineer turnovers, which converted to some easier buckets.

And thanks to his recruiting of versatile players, he’s able to play all those different ways. There isn’t really an offense out there that Texas Tech isn’t able to handle. Beard also is good at situational basketball, pressing in certain situations and holding the ball more to drain the shot clock when he has a bigger lead.

All those traits makes Chris Beard one of the truly great coaches in college basketball. The game plan against Kansas was to perfection, which caused a lot of turnovers and got the Red Raiders a lot of open shots from three point land. This was a truly Belichickian performance.

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