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Managing March

March 1, 2004 Columns No Comments

Managing March

by Jim Woods

If you are still logging onto Hoopville to check out my columns, obviously you fall into one of these categories: 1) Parent, 2) Close Friend, 3) Wife or 4) Die Hard Basketball Fan. So to you all I say thank you. For the past two weeks you have had to endure my opinions and views on basketball ethics and what is good and bad about the game. Now it is time to get back to the ins and outs and the X’s and O’s of college basketball, and more specifically coaching. Let’s look this week at what teams and coaches are doing to prepare themselves for the final stretch run.

Every coach and program has their own philosophy regarding practice. Many people may not realize that every Division I program is limited to only twenty hours a week where they can engage in team activities, and are required to take one full day off every week. This includes practice, games, strength and conditioning sessions, film work, and even situations where your whole team went to an event to perform community service (presentation to middle school kids). Games automatically count for three-hour blocks, therefore you need to accurately manage the rest of your time. Now I’m sure many of you are probably saying, “Teams must break this all the time and get away with this.” Yeah, you’re right if you have a lax compliance director. But most people in that compliance position are a cross between Elliot Spitzer and Eliot Ness. So good luck if you go over twenty hours.

In February, this time limit does not become much of an issue. You are managing fatigue and injuries, and have really begun to cut back on your time on the court. Many programs will add an extra film session or knock a half-hour off the normal length of their practice. Some will maybe just lift, shoot and watch film of their next opponent the day after a game. Another issue that has to be factored into this, is how long do you think your team is going to be playing into the postseason. I was intrigued the other day listening to Phil Martelli talk about managing his team during this time of the year. In a nutshell, he spoke about cutting back on hard practice time more than ever before because he has to get his team ready to play into late March. In the past, St. Joe’s realistically never expected their season to extend this long.

There are other ways to cut back within practice. By this point in the season you have to expect your players to understand your system and know how to run plays inside and out. If they don’t, you probably can go all out every day for two and a half-hours and not worry about it because you are not playing beyond your conference tournament. You may just cut back on how long you spend on certain segments during practice and not play as much five-on-five live action. One area that I feel you want to spend a lot of time on is “end of game” and special situations. Get your team ready for any scenario they may face down the line. Mini-games (2 minutes with a tie score, etc) are a great way to get in scrimmage work and teach decision-making processes. Games in March traditionally come right down to the final buzzer so you need to be prepared to execute.

One critical aspect to all of this is having a good feel for the personality of your team and staying consistent. I am of the belief that if you are not a big “film team”, do not start showing them a lot of film in February because maybe you think it is the right thing to do and rests their legs. Some players are just not disciplined enough to sit in a dark room and study themselves or an opponent. You may better off walking through a lot of an opponent’s tendencies on the court. Do not go from two days a week to four days a week with your strength and conditioning. The last thing you want to do is tweak your players’ routines too much.

Finally, as much as people think that this factor is never considered, you have to really stay on top of your team’s academic situation during this time. You are going to travel and miss large chunks of class time over the course of these next few weeks so you want to keep everybody on the proper track. The worst thing to have happen is a player to be ineligible for the first semester next season because they got behind on their studies during March Madness. Contrary to popular opinion, most players and coaches really do care about academic performance.

My Field of Sixty Five

If Jacquese on the Real World can declare that he has a degree in “Bootyology” than I can’t help but bestow upon myself a degree in “Bracketology.” If ESPN wants to sue me for using their term for tournament prognostication, go ahead! I couldn’t come up with anything better and it was the best way to get my man Ja into this column. I am grouping all of the one-bid conferences together because I will not even begin to take a stab at what will happen in those crazy tourneys. Here is my projected field of 65.

Strictly Automatic

America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy MAAC, Mid-Continent, MEAC, NEC, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southern Conference, Southland, SWAC, Sun Belt, WCC, MAC, Missouri Valley, and the WAC.


Out of these above conferences you have the potential for upsets and a second team to go. This applies to the WCC, MVC, and MAC. Gonzaga (WCC), Southern Illinois (MVC) and Western Michigan (MAC) are going to get in regardless of winning their league tournament. For the purposes of this article I am assuming these three schools will garner the conference’s automatic bid.

That accounts for 22 Automatic Bids

Here is what remains. Each of the below conferences I believe will get multiple teams into the tournament. Again, for the purposes of this article, one of the teams listed I am assuming to win the conference tournament and the automatic bid.

Atlantic Ten: St. Joe’s and Dayton.

ACC: Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Florida State

Big 12: Oklahoma St., Kansas, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado

Big East: Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Providence, Syracuse, Boston College, Seton Hall

Big Ten: Michigan St., Illinois, Wisconsin, Purdue

Conference USA: Memphis, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Louisville, DePaul, UAB

Mountain West: Air Force, Utah, BYU

Pac 10: Stanford, Arizona

Southeastern Conference: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Florida, Alabama, Georgia

*** Before many of you flip out and say all I care about are the power conferences, remember some of these teams will come out if the favorite gets knocked off in the MAC, WCC, or MVC or another school not listed above wins one of these nine multiple bid leagues. I will also be updating this again next week and a lot can change based on the next seven days.

If you don’t see your team and want to make your case, let me know. I’ll certainly listen.

Notes from “The Sideline”

• Don’t accuse this guy of East Coast bias in the media and say I don’t write anything about schools west of the Mississippi. I’m starting with a Big Sky note this week. While picking my field of 65 I noticed a statistical anomaly (I think that’s the right word) in the Big Sky. As of today (Feb. 26), Eastern Washington leads the league at 11-2. The next six teams are all 6-7 and the final team is 5-8. Maybe I’m the only one who finds six teams in the last week of the season having the exact same conference record interesting, but it is my job to report these things to you. And I took home a “D” in my sophomore year Stats course in college so don’t ask me to figure out the chances of this, but any FGA’s (Future Geeks of America) can clue me in.

• The Hunterdon County Correctional Facility prisoner league draft is being pushed back until May 15th to allow Jayson Williams to be selected. Bam-Bam from cell-block three drew the lucky ping pong ball last week to earn the number one pick. The only question left to decide is length of contract.

• I mentioned last week that Myles Brand spoke on ESPN radio about the NCAA not being a business. Then this morning I heard it made public on the same radio show that he earns a salary of over $700,000 a year. I don’t mind him making any amount of money, in fact all the power to him, but just don’t be so hypocritical to say it is not a business. Get off your high horse for five minutes and tell everybody the truth. That’s enough I promised no rant.

• Florida State has not won a game away from home since December 30th. Remember this if 1) they do not get in the tournament, or 2) when you are picking their first round game.

• Unless they win their next three games, Rutgers will potentially have the highest RPI of any team that does not make the NCAA tourney. If they do win three or even four in a row, look out, the Big East could get seven teams in.

• Did anybody else wonder last week how Lawrence Frank managed to keep a thirteen game win streak going and still star in Fox’s “Littlest Groom” reality show? The more appropriate question is did anybody else watch “Littlest Groom?” I was not surprised that he picked the other little person, but his view at eye level while parting with Zoe was tough to say no to.

• I know it is a special rivalry in football and one of the greatest games to view each year, and I am 100% American and support my military, but I have to draw the line at tuning into the Army/Navy clash this Saturday on CBS. Who draws the short straw in the broadcaster pool? This could be potentially the worst nationally televised match-up in college basketball history. A 4-22 Navy team against an Army team that has combined for 73 points in their last two games. The over/under on this game could be below 100 and I would consider the under.

• Amy Woods’ look-a-like of the week: St. John’s Head Coach Kevin Clark and Jay-Z.

• Congratulations to my cousin Allison Cosgrove on scoring her 1,000 point this past week at Ridgewood (NJ) High School. That’s officially 600 more than her brother and I combined for in our careers.

Second Guessers

In response to suggestions for college football trip next fall:

Ryan G., from New York writes, “I have been known to be biased, but there is one game played in central Ohio in late November of even years that I think all sports fans should attend (voted on ESPN as “the best rivalry in all of sports”). So many positives about this game (both on and off the field), I
don’t even know where to start. But, there are two negatives: 1) the co-eds you are asking about, while many good looking ones, typically have 7 layers of clothing on during The Game in late November and 2) I am a very bad host (except for the obvious like places to stay, etc.). There are way too many distractions to keep track of a bunch of east coast basketball fans.

I considered doing a Jayson Blair and fabricating some reader feedback, but I can’t do that. That’s the only suggestion I received this week, but I need more than that from you people out there. If I suck at writing just tell me and I’ll stop. If you like me, then talk to me, argue with me, make suggestions, tell me stories ask questions.

See you next week.


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