September has traditionally been a month dominated by college football, and that will always be the case, especially in the South. But a new NCAA ruling has brought basketball into the September picture, too.
For years, the NCAA allowed fall basketball practice to begin on a weekend on or around Oct. 15. Starting this year, teams can begin to practice 42 days before the start of their first game. Within that 42-day period, they can conduct 30 practices.
Theoretically, this rule could improve the quality of play in early-season games, because coaches will have two additional weeks to install their systems. Teaching can be done at a much more leisurely pace.
One coach who is all for the new rule is Chattanooga’s Will Wade, who begins his first season in earnest on Sept. 27, when the Mocs start practice.
“Obviously I haven’t gone through it yet,” Wade said. “But I like it in theory. I like being able to start early, and it’s good to have a few more days off.
“Our guys will be fresher as we start the season. We don’t feel the need to go every day, all the time, and use all four hours every day as you did when you had a more condensed window of time to practice.”
Wade has already thought ahead to how much the extra time will help him evaluate his team. Unlike most Division I programs, UTC will not play two public exhibition games. Instead, the Mocs will scrimmage two Division I teams. The NCAA mandates that these scrimmages are closed to the public and that no statistics compiled can be released to the media. That sort of secrecy seems absurd, but it gives coaches an opportunity to get a lot accomplished in a single day.
Wade thinks the earlier practice start lends itself to mining every benefit from scrimmages.
“It gives us an opportunity to spread our scrimmages out,” Wade said. “Usually, when you have scrimmages or exhibition games, you do them back to back. Now you can practice two or three weeks and have a scrimmage, then go back and work on things you learned from the scrimmage, then go back out in a week or so and have another scrimmage.
“That’s got to give you a better feel for your team going into your first game. It gives us more time to correct and teach between scrimmages.”
Wade is a proponent of two scrimmages versus two public exhibition games, or even one scrimmage and one exhibition, which the NCAA allows.
“I like the two scrimmages, because the second scrimmage, you can play almost like a game,” he said. “You can stop and correct and add some different things. In an exhibition game, you get only 40 minutes.
“In a scrimmage, you can play 10 minutes of zone, ten minutes of something else, whatever. You can tailor a scrimmage to exactly what you want to work on. In an exhibition game, you take what the opponent gives you.”
UTC fans won’t get a look at their team until the Mocs’ season opener against Covenant on Nov. 8, but by that time, they’ll see a much sharper team than they might have in an exhibition game. That may be the norm in the years to come.
“Once we grow the program to the point where I think we could get a good exhibition crowd, that might be something we’d look at doing,” Wade said. “Now, for the good of the program, I like two scrimmages. And I like the earlier start of practice, too. Especially for a first-year coach, that’s going to give us a better opportunity to get our team ready for the start of the season.”
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.