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Does the New Basketball Practice System Include More Basketball?

Matt Norlander of CBS Sports has comments from a number of coaches aboason contest. Everyone agrees that this means a longer season, but there seems to be some disagreement over whether it will include a similar amount of basketball, that is time on the court.

Some of that will come down to individual approaches to the longer season. Both Shaka Smart of VCU and Rick Ray of Mississippi State talked about not using all their days or not running players into the ground six days a week. If that approach is widespread, the move to the longer preseason practice period will have paid off as well as the multi-tiered preseason ramp-up would have done when it was proposed as part a basketball academic enhancement package a few years ago.

But what if a coach is committed to maxing out his practice time under the new rule? In that case, the new start date allows for a lot more on-court time. In college basketball, practice is not counted in days or sessions but in hours. And what the new schedule did was to replace lighter offseason weeks with more strenuous in-season weeks.

Full-team basketball practice truly starts on September 15 when coaches can conduct two hours per week of skill instruction (sometimes indistinguishable from a practice) with the entire team. Prior to September 15 skill instruction is limited to four players at a time, and varies from school to school based on the start of the fall term. Because it is not affected by the new rule, I’m leaving it out of the calculation.

Under the previous start date, coaches had five weeks of skill instruction with the full team. Preseason practice then started either three or four weeks before the first permissible date to play a regular season game. Coaches could cram in two four-hour days the first week, followed by either two or three 20-hour weeks. The week of the first game could include up to 17 hours of practice, because you must reserve three hours for the actual contest. In total that meant a maximum of 75 to 95 hours on the court were possible.

Under the new rule, teams now have either two or three weeks of skill instruction with the full-team before the start of preseason practice. Coaches can again squeeze in 8 hours of practice the first Friday and Saturday. Even with the additional day off each week, teams can still practice the full 20 hours per week by going four hours per day for five days. That is followed by a 17-hour week before the first game. This means the new rule allows between 129 and 131 hours of on-court practice before the first game.

But that big discrepancy (over 50 hours in a year like 2013 when the old preseason practice period would have been only three weeks) assumes that coaches use all the time they can toward on-court activities. If we look at total time athletes spend in all countable athletically related activities including weight training and conditioning, the difference is not as stark. We have to add in six hours to each offseason week, of which there were more under the old rule.

The previous system allowed between 105 and 125 hours of required activity between September 15 and the start of the regular season. The new system allows for 141 to 149. Still a significant jump, but not the 75% increase seen when limiting the discussion to basketball-specific activities.

Many other factors will dictate whether an individual athlete actually spends more time on basketball than before. Under the old rule with the longer offseason, athletes may have spent more time on voluntary (or “volandatory”) activities like pick-up games, solo shooting, and extra conditioning. Teams who do not play on the first day of the regular season will lose some practice time as well. But basketball coaches have always asked for more time on the court with their players. If they want it, the new start date allows for much more access in the run up to the season.


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