Villanova coach Jay Wright acknowledges that the college basketball season is getting longer and the sport itself is going year-round, but that doesn’t mean that the quality of play or games is suffering.
College basketball season opens Friday with dozens of games featuring high-profile teams and memorable venues. Michigan State and Connecticut will tip off at a military base in Germany. Three games will take place on aircraft carriers. And defending national champion Kentucky will open its season against Maryland at the brand-new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Some of these games could get lost in the shuffle, though. With college football, the NBA and the NFL all in high gear, casual sports fans might glance over the start of college hoops season — and tune back in around February. But if they do that, they might miss some of the best games.
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Villanova coach Jay Wright said he believes that a new NCAA rule that allowed coaches to work with their players for limited amounts of time during the summer will lead to higher caliber play during the non-conference season.
“Games earlier in the season are going to be a lot better,” Wright said. “A lot of us feel that way. That (rule) for coaches was monumental.”
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Still, college basketball has a long season, made even longer by an earlier start date the past two seasons. Add in overseas trips every couple of years, the extra time with players in the summer, and, well, coaches and players essentially work year-round.
That brings its own sets of challenges, like avoiding injury and fatigue.
“You have to do a good job of keeping guys mentally fresh,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “There are some little things to help them in terms of a physical standpoint — tapering your practice as you go on. As you go from the first month to the second month to the third month, you should be tapering a little bit to where you’re doing less physical activity and more of a mental approach. More film. More walkthroughs vs. actual live action. You just do a good job of taking it down. Then, helping those guys take care of their bodies with diet, nutrition, sleep. Socially, making good decisions.”
Painter points out, though, that the college basketball season may actually feel short for many players coming out of the competitive high school/AAU circuit.
“They’re used to playing year-round, they’re used to traveling,” Painter said. “(Purdue freshman center) A.J. Hammons went with his prep school team to China. A.J. Hammons played 44 games last season. … They play AAU in the spring. They play AAU in the summer. They play with their high school teams.”
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