New practice rules change the fall feel

October, 12, 2012
NEW YORK -- Midnight Madness has become anticlimactic.

But if that's the casualty of coaches getting more access to players, then no one will complain.

By the time practice officially begins for Division I men's teams Friday night, the majority already will be well ahead of schedule. If they took a foreign trip in the summer, then the progression is even further.

Because of a new NCAA rule, coaches could be with their teams during the summer if they were enrolled in classes. Team workouts for two hours a week could occur beginning Sept. 15.

"We already have a pretty good feel of what we need to do,'' Texas coach Rick Barnes said Wednesday afternoon, prior to the V Foundation dinner. "It doesn't dawn on me that Friday is the start of practice because I feel like we've been practicing. The rule changes have changed all of that.''

They've also changed the anxiety levels of many coaches.

"We could play a game in three days if we had to,'' Barnes said. "How good we'd be, I don't know. But there's no question that we got more in and more of a base in.''

NC State coach Mark Gottfried agreed. The Wolfpack went to Spain in August, so NC State is comfortably moving forward with the season. Getting the eligibility of freshman Rodney Purvis settled prior to the start of practice is also a relief.

"If we had to play a game pretty soon, we could and we'd be OK,'' said Gottfried. "I still think you learn a lot about your team when the lights come on and it's a game atmosphere. We still have a long way to go and learn about how our team plays in games and the rotation. You don't know how your team will handle when the lights go on.''

Still, Barnes said he learned this summer that the freshmen were more advanced and that changed recruiting in the fall.

"We actually changed what we were looking for,'' Barnes said. "We only have 11 recruited athletes, so we were never going to be able to simulate a whole game and we won't until we have our two scrimmages [of which one is the now-annual scrimmage against Gonzaga in Colorado]. But I think we have an idea.

"There's no question that you know your team so much better. You can start to think about what-ifs and now start on situational play. I think we all have a pretty good idea at the start of practice about where we're at with our teams.''

The practice time has been invaluable for Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie, who took over for this season from retiring Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun.

"I feel like I'm ahead,'' Ollie said. "It's an hour and an hour goes quick, so there is only so much you can put in. But you can put in your philosophy and defensive principles. I do feel like we're ahead of the game. I imagine every team in America feels the same way. Now we get to practice and we'll see how the players handle the longer grind, how they hold up and how they recover.''

This is the first year that coaches have had summer and fall access. Whether there is a burnout factor in February is to be determined. But what's not up for dispute is how ready teams are to play in mid-October -- less than a month before the regular season tips off on Nov. 9.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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