The calendar has yet to turn to October, but college basketball teams will turn up the volume on practice this weekend.
An NCAA rule change last spring expanded the time in which Division I men’s teams can conduct preseason practice, from mid-October previously to, now, six weeks before the season opener.
Ohio State will tip off its season on Nov. 9 against Morgan State at Value City Arena, meaning the Buckeyes will begin their regular-season routine of full-squad, full-week practices on Saturday. They have an exhibition game against Walsh University on Nov. 3.
The new rule permits teams to practice 30 of the 42 days leading up to their first game. They are limited to 20 hours of practice time and six days per week.
“We’ll probably be three days on, one day off, pretty much throughout” the preseason, coach Thad Matta said this week.
In previous years, practices began four weeks before the start of the season, many coaches held two-a-day practices in the rush to install their systems, and injuries resulted from asking too much, too soon from players. The extra two weeks could resolve that issue.
“Normally, we got 20 to 22 practices in before we play our first game,” Matta said. “Now we’ve got 30. So it’s not like we’ve got to sprint to the finish line.
“You want to make sure you’re getting into the rhythm of practice and just the constant flow of getting better. The thing I want to guard against is (practicing) too many consecutive days early on. (I want to) let guys kind of get into the flow, get into shape, all while maintaining the good rhythm of practice and making sure we’re progressing.”
Actually, Matta and his staff began installing the system on Sept. 15, when coaches were permitted to begin working with their full squads for two hours per week.
“It’s not like that feeling you used to get back in the early 2000s, like, ‘OK, here we go, day one,’ ” Matta said. “It’s a completely different deal now.”
The NCAA began allowing coaches to work with their full squads on Sept. 15 six years ago. Matta said that date now is when he begins attending to the details he once did in mid-October.
This year, those details involved “a lot of defense,” he said, “kind of revisiting the concepts” of how to play it effectively, and “just getting the generalities of the offense in so we’ve got some structure and guys have to think. That’s pretty much what we’ve done thus far. We only have two new guys, and they’ve been pretty quick learners.”
The Buckeyes return all scholarship players from last season, except leading scorer and first-team all-Big Ten forward Deshaun Thomas and backup center Evan Ravenel, both of whom are playing professionally in Europe.
The “two new guys” are freshmen Marc Loving and Kam Williams. Loving, a 6-foot-7 forward from Toledo, is expected to back up LaQuinton Ross. Williams, a 6-2 guard from Baltimore, could find a role if he can help the Buckeyes’ perimeter shooting. Junior Sam Thompson (40.4) was the only player to make more than 39 percent of his three-point shots last season.