Watching College Basketball - 10 Keys to Expert Viewing

By: Randy Brown

College basketball's popularity is at an all time high. The game offers many strategy and plots undetected by the average fan. Through the eyes of a successful college coach, learn how to intelligently watch college basketball this season.

1. Do Your Homework- Print a page of information from ESPN's web site on each team and review it. Study each team's record from last season, current record, schedule, leading scorer, rebounder, and play maker. Note the respective coaching backgrounds and records. Extensive information is available in many magazines prior to the season.

2. Study the Coaches- Personalities come out in coaches and their players during games. How long have they been head coaches? How successful have they been? Check for clothing styles. Do they wear traditional suits or do they dress down with a sweater or turtleneck. Do they sit or stand during the game? Are they calm or crazy on the sidelines? Do the players emulate the personality of their coach on the floor? Notice how they deal with officials, especially early in the game. Coaches will fight for turf early and throughout the game. What are the contract terms of the coaches? Notice the difference between a new, energetic coach and an established coach. How does a coach in the last year of his contract react under the bright lights? If the Athletic Director is sitting directly behind the bench, it's usually not a good sign for the coach!

3. Watch the Players- Players wear emotion on their sleeves during games. Watch for facial expressions, frustration, exhilaration, body language, and determination. Notice the length of their shorts, headbands, and hair styles. This will tell you a lot about who they are. Tattoos are commonplace these days and the variety is incredible. Determine who is the captain and shows leadership on the floor. Who are the freshman and which players are experienced? How do they come in and out of the game? Players covet playing time. Do they show emotion as they hit the bench or during time outs?

4. Don't Watch the Ball- This skill separates the novice fan from the knowledgeable fan. If you've never done this, try it. You will find that it is much more difficult than you think. Most of the real action occurs away from the ball. Train yourself to not watch the ball, but focus on the other eight players. Where is the ball going next? A knowledgeable fan can anticipate the next move on the floor by watching away from the ball. Who are they setting picks for? What play are they running and why? Do they want to get the ball inside to the big men and are they successful?

5. Be the Coach- Being a student of the game will make you the coach. You can coach from your Lazy Boy chair! Make strategy part of your viewing enjoyment. Know the time and score at all times. Decide when you would call timeout, what you would scream at the officials, when you would substitute players, and how you would utilize your coaching staff and bench. Is your best player getting enough shots? Why or why not? If the opponent's best player is killing you, what adjustments will you make to slow him down or stop him? Will you play man to man defense or a zone? How about a box and one junk defense? At the end of the half or the game, what play will you run to get a sure basket. At the end of the game, choose your best defense or best offensive strategy to win the game. Good luck, you'll need it! CHALLENGE-Pretend for one night that you are the head coach. Take ownership of the game and the outcome. Become the coach before, during and after the game. Imagine the emotions and excitement that are a real part of coaching. Experience the pregame nervousness and anxiety, the game time sweat and roller coaster of emotions, and the post game highs or lows. Remember, you will take credit for the loss and give your players the credit for the win. In losing, you must answer to the media, your administration, alumni, fans, and your wife. A daunting task, don't you think? Give it a try and you will have a tremendous appreciation for all coaches and players who play competitive athletics at this level.

6. Analyze Timeouts and the Bench- These are emotionally charged situations. During timeouts notice the player's attentiveness or lack of interest. Is the head coach or an assistant coach doing the talking? Is he coaching or venting frustration? When players come out of the game, does the head or assistant coach assist them, or do the coaches even acknowledge them? Do they sit by the coaches or down the bench? Are they content with returning to the bench? Notice how teammates react to them.

7. Feel the Passion- Put yourself on the floor, on the bench, and in the locker room at halftime. There is a lifetime of emotion poured out in one single game. Television can never do justice to what actually goes on during a game. Feel the passion!

8. Be a Free Throw Coach- Analyze the various styles of free throws. Which styles are most efficient? Most players have a routine before shooting. For fun, go run a few miles at a fast pace, then try to shoot a free throw in front of a hostile arena filled with 15,000 fans screaming for you to miss. It's not as easy as you thought, huh?

9. Style of Play- There are a hundred ways to play the game of basketball. Each coach is comfortable with a specific style. These could be conservative, run and gun, or any combination. Playing styles often times reflect the coach's personality and background. Defensively, some coaches drop players back to protect their goal, while others send five players to the offensive boards. Some employ zones while a majority of coaches play man to man. Some coaches press full or half court and some don't press at all. Some play only 7 players, while other coaches use all 12. Some shoot the ball quickly in the shot clock (35 seconds), while others milk the clock for a good shot. As you watch games, determine which style leads to consistent success. What are the common threads among teams who consistently come out on top? You may be surprised!

10. Most Importantly, Don't Forget the Treats!- Remember, you don't own the outcome of the game. Putting food on the table and keeping your retirement home will not be determined by whether your team wins or loses. Watch games for their high entertainment value and soak in the enthusiasm the games create. Enjoy and come back tomorrow night for more action.

Article Summary- Millions of people are attracted to college basketball on television. A small percentage of people truly know how to watch the game with all of its passion, drama, and strategy. This article will give you the opportunity to become a knowledgeable fan and office expert. These guidelines will help you add enjoyment and expertise to the art of watching your next game.

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