"It's kind of like the Big East tournament, when it's more about concepts and things we need to work on ourselves," said assistant coach Matt Brown, who had the responsibility for preparing the scouting report on Northwestern State. "We concentrate a lot on ourselves at this point, whether it's our defense or our halfcourt offense or whatever it might be."
Part of the reason for that approach is that there simply isn't enough time to thoroughly review and teach everything there is to know about a foe. Even though Brown began working on his assignment as soon as the brackets were known, time becomes a limiting factor in delivering that knowledge to the team. WVU finished its game Friday afternoon, but got only 90 minutes of practice item on Saturday, plus a short shootaround on Sunday, to prepare on the floor. And while the Mountaineers will also watch tape, especially of Friday's game, plus conduct some walkthroughs at their hotel, time is very limited in preparing for a foe no one knows much about.
"You can't cover everything, but we get the basics down," point guard J.D. Collins said. "As long as we understand [the opposing] personnel, we should be fine, because we have a lot of experience and we understand how to guard just about any thing they might throw at us."
In this age of digital technology and cut ups, it might seem surprising that more emphasis is placed on knowing personnel rather than plays or schemes, but in the quick turnaround between weekend sessions, that is the best use of the time devoted to scouting and study. Players must first know their opponents and their strengths and weaknesses, and know how to attack those in order to put together a successful game plan. That, in turn, plays into the work the Mountaineers will do to get ready. For example, WVU won't even practice its 1-3-1 defense on Saturday, because it has no way to know how the Demons will attack it.
"We'd just be guessing," head coach John Beilein noted, "so we won't even waste time doing that."
Of course, West Virginia does have some idea of what Northwestern State will do. The Demos will come at WVU in waves, and one of the challenges will be to recognize which players are on the court and adjust accordingly.
"I think they play ten guys that have double figure minutes, and they played 11 guys in their game last night," Brown said of the challenges posed by the Demons' rotation. "They are going to run guys in and out, and they are extremely athletic, so it should be a heck of a game."
That WVU will be using Brown's scouting report does come as a surprise to many, of course, because few people picked the Demons to knock off Iowa in the first round. However, Brown wasn't caught off guard at all, and put his full effort into producing the report, because he's been in that situation in the past and seen the underdog come through.
"I was telling Coach Maker that in my history of doing this in the tournament, which has been about ten times, seven or eight times, I have the lower seed, and they always win," Brown laughed. "So I'm ready."
Of course, Brown wouldn't dream of shorting an assignment just because he didn't expect his team to advance. He, like the rest of the WVU assistants, are conscientious with their assignments. However,
"We watched the game yesterday, and one of the first things Coach Maker said when it was a 12-point game with about 14 minutes to go was that it was not over, because of their style of play," Brown said. "With the way they press, they are never out of it, because they are going to be able to create runs. That keeps them in the game."
That's one point, most assuredly, that made it into the scouting report for Sunday's game.