The NCAA Tournament isn’t just crunch time for the players

first_imgST. LOUIS — It was loud and crowded in the Syracuse locker room as noon approached at the Scottrade Center on Thursday.All seven players in the Orange’s rotation spoke with a small crowd of reporters. A group of players and team personnel hunched around an iPad to watch the start of Duke-UNC Wilmington. Walk-on Adrian Autry yelled over the noise to offer his side of an age-old debate: “There’s no difference between shoes and sneakers. There really isn’t.”But SU assistant coach Mike Hopkins holed up in the back-right corner of the room with a laptop resting on his lap. In between shaking hands and fielding questions here and there, Hopkins worked on his “personnel report” for Michigan State. If 10th-seeded Syracuse (19-13, 9-9 Atlantic Coast) beats seventh-seeded Dayton (25-7, 14-4 Atlantic 10) on Friday, Hopkins is expected to have a full-on scouting report on the second-seeded Spartans by Saturday morning. Adrian Autry, another SU assistant, is doing the same preparation for Middle Tennessee State in case the Orange wins and the Blue Raiders pull off a colossal upset over MSU.Gerry McNamara, Jim Boeheim’s third and final assistant coach, has been working on the Dayton scouting report all week. But Hopkins and Autry have also been helping out with that, and Syracuse will do its Dayton walkthrough at a local St. Louis high school Thursday afternoon. Once SU was included in the NCAA Tournament bracket Sunday, the whole coaching staff looked at the Midwest region and split up the scouting work between the three former SU guards.Now that plan’s in full swing — and while the players prepare to face the Flyers, the assistant coaches are doing that while staying one step ahead.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textOr two steps. Or even three.“Last few days I’ve tried to prepare by really staying up and doing work, not sleeping too much at all. I just go, you’re used to it, you know?” Hopkins said. “… I woke up in the morning at 6 a.m. today and you have your computer propped up and I have all the games and I’ll start watching them.”After hours of combing through game tape and statistics, this is what Boeheim expects his assistants to provide for a given team: a typed scouting report, personnel notes on all the rotational players, and a seven-minute video with 45 to 50 possession that highlight offensive and defensive tendencies.Boeheim will start by watching the “extended” tape on an upcoming opponent, Hopkins said, and the assistants are responsible for cutting 25 minutes down to 15, then 15 minutes down to around seven.“It’s like being a director of a movie at the end,” Hopkins said. “What makes the cut? What makes the final cut? You have to put together the best stuff so Coach has all he needs for the collective video session we do.”Pulling this off — the planning, the time management, the lack of sleep — has grown easier with experience.When Hopkins first started as an assistant in the mid-90’s, he didn’t travel for recruiting and did all of the opponent scouting reports. Two days before the Orange lost to Kentucky in the 1996 national championship game, Hopkins quickly ate dinner with his brother John before the two pulled an all-nighter watching Wildcats tape. Two days before SU beat Kansas in the 2003 national championship game, Hopkins remembers staying up until 5 a.m. watching film while a writer from Sports Illustrated hung out in the room.For the staff as a whole, a Final Four run in 2013 and wins at the Maui Invitational (2013–14 season) and Battle 4 Atlantis (this season) have made these quick turnarounds feel like second nature.“I mean they just know everything, and it no longer surprises me at all,” SU guard Trevor Cooney said. “They’re always working, always watching teams play regardless of who our upcoming opponents are. It’s like clockwork all the time.”On Thursday morning, as excitment bounced off the locker room walls, Hopkins dragged Colby Wollenman’s headshot into a template on his computer screen. Wallenman, an off-the-bench big man for Michigan State, is averaging 1.2 points in 6 minutes per game this season. But Hopkins has to be ready for anything, so he started to type Wollenman’s measurables into his personnel report.Forward. 230 pounds. 6 feet 7 inches.Then his focus snapped and he smiled. The rest, “the good stuff,” will go onto the page when there aren’t as many people around.“It’s going to be an all-nighter,” said Hopkins, and there was a hint of excitement in his voice. “If we are fortunate to win on Friday against Dayton and move on, there won’t be any sleep Friday night.” Comments Published on March 17, 2016 at 4:23 pm Contact Jesse: | @dougherty_jesse Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more