ONE THING that may be worth keeping an eye on as the high school basketball season unfolds is what effect, if any, the revamped NHIAA schedules will have.
As in the fall sports season, teams have been lumped into groups, creating regionalized schedules in hopes of mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Of more interest here is the fact that in most cases the same teams will meet in consecutive games. For example, the Trinity boys basketball team is scheduled to play 12 regular-season games that are packaged into back-to-back contests against six opponents: Goffstown, Bedford, Manchester Central, Manchester Memorial, Manchester West and Concord.
“I think the most important thing is the kids are out there playing,” Trinity coach Keith Bike said. ”It helps in a sense that they can learn how to adjust quickly. You play one team and then you play that team again, so you’re gonna have to make adjustments — make adjustments so you can compete in the next game. It’s good in that sense.
“The second time you play each team hopefully it will be more competitive. It’s going to show how tough we are mentally. If you go out there and get waxed Tuesday night can you come back Friday night against the same team? It’s gonna show us a sense of toughness, which is good.”
Of course the reverse could also be telling. If a team wins by a lopsided score in the first meeting, will the players give an all-out effort in the second contest? Maybe they’ll have a hard time getting up for the second meeting and just go through the motions. That could lead to some surprising final scores.
Manchester Memorial girls coach Greg Cotreau said playing back-to-back games against the same opponent could alter coaching strategy as well.
“From a coaching standpoint, you don’t want to let too much out of the bag in that first game because you’re gonna want to have other things you may need to go to in that second game,” he said. “The other thing that’s good about it is because you’re playing the same opponent, when you look back at the game film, as a team you’re able to make the adjustments that maybe you wish you could have made during that first game. You’ll have a day or two (some Manchester schools are not allowed to use the gym on Wednesdays) to take a look at that, digest it and make adjustments that you’ll try to apply in practice before you play again on Friday. There are some advantages from that standpoint.
“In a normal world, I don’t think it’s an ideal thing, but I think every team around the state is just happy to play in whatever form that takes place.”
Basketball practices this season could look more like football practices in the sense that teams will be focused on one opponent for an entire week.
“We play Goffstown (tonight) and we play them Friday night, so all day Thursday we’re going to talk about what we did Wednesday and what we have to do better for Friday night’s game,” Bike said. “You’re really just focusing on one team for the entire week. I don’t know if that’s going to be a good thing or a bad thing. We’ll see how that goes.”
Bike also stressed that a team’s conduct on the court (e.g. sportsmanship) could have added significance this season.
“I think it is important when you play that first game whether you’re winning or losing not to do anything to light a fire under the other team — to get them going for the next game,” he said. “You have to remember that. Whether you’re up by 20 or down by 20 you’re playing that team two nights later, so whatever you do or say at the end of the game is important carrying over. It goes back to win with class and lose with class. I’ve always been taught that.”
Some notes related to the University of New Hampshire men’s and women’s basketball programs:
• The UNH men (6-5, 5-3 America East) will enter Saturday’s home game against Albany with two of the top seven scorers in America East: Junior forward Nick Guadarrama (15.1 ppg) and junior forward Jayden Martinez (13.6).• The UNH men lead the conference in offensive rebounds (11.4 per game) and are second in rebounding margin (5.3). Martinez leads the conference in rebounding (9.0).
• Defense has been the No. 1 issue for the UNH women (4-9, 4-5 AE), who are allowing an average of 64.1 points per game. UMBC is the only America East team allowing more (64.3).
• Nashua’s Amanda Torres, a senior guard, will enter Saturday’s game at Albany ranked seventh among America East players in scoring (11.6).
A reminder that Exeter resident Hunter Long will play for the National Team in this year’s Senior Bowl, a college football all-star game that will be held Saturday, Jan. 30 in Mobile, Ala. Sam Ehlinger (Texas), Ian Book (Notre Dame) and Feleipe Franks (Arkansas) are the National Team quarterbacks who will be throwing to Long, a 6-foot-5 tight end from Boston College.
The Senior Bowl may have added importance this season since there will be no in-person workouts at this year’s NFL Combine. The game can be seen on NFL Network (2:30 p.m. kickoff).