College basketball’s most exciting time of the year will take place in just a few short weeks. Conference tournaments will begin soon and the road to March Madness will become quite busy.
This week I want to talk about what goes on behind the scenes when a team begins to prepare for their upcoming conference tournament. As a fan, it is exciting to see where your team is seeded, potential matchups and rematches, and every team’s record is once again even.
A coaching staff has a short amount of time to find a way to win a conference tournament game on consecutive days. Typically teams are not aware of who they are playing going into conference tournament play until the last regular season game comes to an end. However, the preparation does not begin when the final pairings are distributed.
In order to put the team in the best position for a quick turnaround while finishing the regular season and heading into conference tournament, multiple scouting reports, video edits and game plans are already being devised. It is a unique and extremely hectic time for a college coach.
Often the staff wants to keep their players from looking too far ahead. We’ve all heard the coaching cliché, “We must take one game at a time.” This is true for the team but the coaches are not sticking to their own cliché’s advice because they simply can’t.
Since most tournaments happen on consecutive days, the coaching staff must implement a game plan of their upcoming opponent while also preparing a game plan for any potential opponents. It is a difficult balancing act. It takes a lot of time and focus for a coach to prepare for multiple teams within a short time frame.
Preparations are made in order to quickly shift gears after their team wins and the actions of a team must turn from joy to a mental focus for the next day’s opponent. The intense mental and physical focus it takes for a team and its staff to find a way to win a tournament is quite remarkable.
Coaching staffs all around the country are asking themselves questions like, “What can we do to simplify our game plan and still be prepared? What can we implement into our game plan in a short amount of time? How much film, practice, walk-through and rest are we going to give our team leading into our upcoming games?”
These questions seem simple but they are actually quite difficult. There is a balance needed to win games on three or four consecutive days. Choices must be made. Any fat must be cut. Coaches are having to decide how much or how little information they want to give their team after just completing a game.
Often as a team walks off the court winning a tournament game they will come into their locker room with their next opponent’s scouting report already on their locker room chair. A team will go back to the hotel, eat, head right down to the ballroom that has a lane and a three-point line taped to the floor.
The team will immediately begin preparation for a game that is less than 24 hours away by walking through the new game plan.
Along with a hotel ballroom being turned into a makeshift basketball court, you’ll also see coaching offices and video editing stations set up.
Finding ways to survive in advance is in every coach’s mind during tournament play. The mental focus is something that should be respected as much if not more than the physical requirements it takes to win a conference, from both the coaches and the teams participating.
Brian Barone played basketball at Texas A&M University and Marquette University and holds a master’s degree in communications. He now coaches men’s basketball at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.