STORRS — A good way to tell how times have changed with the NCAA Tournament was how little time it took for the UConn coaching staff to gather what it needed Monday night.
Within 20 minutes of the announcement that the Huskies were headed to the Lincoln, Neb., bracket, coach Geno Auriemma and his staff, with the help of video coordinator Keith Anderson, had a cache of material to help get ready for Sunday's first-round game against Prairie View — and beyond.
"By 7:30 [Monday night] we had the schedule, the games that were available [to scout]," said Chris Dailey, UConn's associate head coach. "In the first round [of the NCAA Tournament], you can request a tape from an individual game from an opponent, as they for us."
"Years ago, there was a business you would call to order game tapes of opponents from all over the country and they would overnight it to you. But now, because of advancements in the technology, I already have games loaded up for all possible opponents; we have games and stats and everything we need."
At this time of year, every hour is essential. If your team is successful, the road to the Final Four is paved with sprints through two weekends and possible games followed by short days of recovery and preparation.
The homework must be focused and precise. And for UConn, the advance work likely is focused as much on what follows next — Georgia or St. Joseph's on Tuesday — as it is on Prairie View.
The players are not familiar with many of the programs and players they might face before the Sweet 16, so they rely exclusively on the research of their coaches for information.
"The most important thing for us is to know who the go-to player or players are and, depending on whether it is a post or guard, which of us is going to guard them," Bria Hartley said. "You look at their tendencies, what they like to do, go left, take pull-ups, whether they like to take three-pointers."
"And once you know that, you can focus on taking those things away from them, make the three-point shooter drive, for instance. It's mostly small technical things, but it's amazing at times how little things like that can force a change, make a player do something they are not usually comfortable doing. It can change a game in a very dramatic way."
Beginning late Sunday night and early Monday, the coaches began watching the Prairie View tapes to find clues needed to quell a 14-17 team that lost its first 11 games.
"We watch a lot more film than the kids will actually see because we focus on what we need to do," Dailey said. "Geno [Auriemma] will watch the film, although he doesn't actually do any of the [technical breakdown]. But you simply can't go over every play a team is likely to run, especially in a short period of time."
"So what we like to do is show them what the opponent likes to do, how they will try to score, how they will defend us — their tendencies."
The coaches communicate this information through the presentation of a tape supplemented by a written scouting report in clear language.
"It's obvious we don't know a lot about Prairie View's personnel, so we trust the coaches to tell us everything we need to know about it," Breanna Stewart said. "We get a scouting report that will have the defensive matchups on it, what each person on their team is good at, what they like to do. Then we will watch the actual film and go over everything."
Either during Saturday's practice or Sunday's pregame, the coaches will implement the specific game plan, at which point the responsibility will shift to the players.
"The most important aspect of it all is just paying attention to what's said, what's going on in the meetings and on the floor," Hartley said. "When I was a freshman, there were times when I had trouble focusing, paying attention to all that stuff."
"It's also important to communicate with your teammates once the game is going on because there are times you will be switching off [from the player you are guarding] defensively. So you tell your teammate that 'she likes to go left, or drive or she's a three-point shooter.' There's a lot of that stuff going on."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun