VU Insider: How Big Is the Playbook?

After Vanderbilt's second round victory over West Virginia, Head Coach Melanie Balcomb mentioned "throwing the playbook" at them. Before the team left for Spokane for the Regional Semi-Final, Whitney D asked the coach and several players, "How big is the playbook?" Here are their answers.

Melanie Balcomb is well-known in the women's basketball world for her X's and O's, especially on the offensive side of the ball. In a radio interview on Wednesday morning, she mentioned that they decided to "throw the playbook" at West Virginia. For fans who are wondering just how big that playbook is, Merideth Marsh, Tina Wirth, Jessica Mooney, and Coach Balcomb answered the question.

VM: Merideth, this morning on the radio, Coach Balcomb mentioned that the team has a big playbook. How big is the playbook? About how many plays would you say Vandy has?

Merideth Marsh: Oh gosh! (Laughs) There are plays, but then there are options off of those plays. 80 plus? It's almost like a football team. We have a lot of quick hitters, and we have stuff off our motion . . . it's probably somewhere around 80 or 100. It's not the easiest offense, but once you get it, it just kind of clicks.

We have probably four or five plays out of one specific set so that when we all set up, they look the same at the beginning. So it's kind of funny when you're running that play and towards the end of the season, the other team will have scouted you, so they're calling out what this play is, but it's actually not, so it just kind of makes me laugh. So definitely give credit to Coach for her offense.

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VM: Jessica, how big is the playbook?

Jessica Mooney: I don't know. You'd have to ask Jen and Tina. I think they counted them one year. It's huge, but I don't know exactly how many.

VM: Closer to 20 or 50?

JM: 50.

VM: Closer to 50 or 80?

Jessica: I'm not sure, somewhere in that range.

VM: Coming in as a freshman, is that overwhelming?

Jessica: It is overwhelming because our first day of practice last year, the starters ran through the play once, and then Coach said, "Run the play", and we were like, "Yeah...." (Laughs.) So it was a little intimidating at first. But you get used to it, just learning the plays, and she switches up the plays before the game, so you just have to be ready to think.

VM: Is that a challenge, having all that in your head?

Jessica: I think she does a good job of letting us go over it in practice a lot in gamelike situations, so you'll feel comfortable with it. She does a good job of that. You do have to use your head, though.

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VM: Tina, on the radio this morning, Coach Balcomb mentioned having a big playbook, and Jessica said that you and Jen had counted them one year. How many plays were there?

Tina Wirth: I can't remember exactly, but we counted everything, like sidelines out of bounds, out of bounds under, press breaks, offenses, quick hitters, everything. It was probably like 50 to 60, so there were quite a few of them. And each play has an "again", like "Vandy again", but those are separate plays, and so it's confusing. But there are a lot of variations on all the plays, so if you count options, it'd be over a hundred.

A lot of times in games before the tournament, Coach said, "We don't really want to show that right now." But when you get to the NCAA tournament, what are you holding back? It's time to use them, so in the last game against West Virginia, she said, "Let's throw our playbook at them. "

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VM: Coach, this morning on the radio you mentioned "throwing the playbook" at them. How big is your playbook?

Coach Balcomb: The book's small, because I don't write anything up, but we're just constantly adding and changing. I think we're very hard to guard, Because we run so much stuff, you have to have a while to prepare for us to know what you want to do to stop us defensively.

VM: Merideth said that you have a number of plays that start off looking the same but end up being something different, which works out well for you when teams scout you.

Coach Balcomb: Yeah, we have different versions of certain sets, and they're hard to guard. We also have quick hitters, we also have motion plays. We have a counter to everything. If our quick hitters don't work, or we can't handle the pressure, we'll run sets. If we need to spread the floor, we'll do that. If we need to go high-low, we'll do that.

We have such a variety that if one thing isn't working, or if two things aren't working, we can always go to something else, as well as, our motion offenses, which are reads. If you take this away in an offense, then we have a counter to it.

So it's exciting, and that's why I try to explain that, early on, defense is effort and desire and, as the season goes on, your offense gets better. I thought this could be a great team because we were so good defensively to start with, and now our offense is starting to catch up to our defense.

VM: It must help when you've got kids who have been in the program for a while.

Coach Balcomb: Absolutely. The longer Tina and Jen are in it – and they've got a whole other year -- the more they're going to understand. Liz has a great understanding because of the year she got to redshirt.

What's nice is that we had two freshmen come in, Hannah and Jence, and now they're making a big difference because they're starting to not just run to spots but actually to read the defense and see the other team, not just our team. Top Stories