Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wake-up Call: Prepping for a.m. Games

How to prepare for the coffee-time basketball game, a 6 a.m. start Tuesday?

That’s the situation Saint Peter’s faces, hosting Monmouth at the Yanitelli Center for a national viewing audience, courtesy of its role in ESPN’s 24-hour basketball marathon coverage that day.

Two other MAAC teams are hosting games: Niagara, in an 8 a.m. start against Drexel; and, Siena, in a noon start against Northeastern.

The noon game shouldn't be too tough on Siena in terms of following a relatively normal pre-game routine. While the working-stiff fans might have to call in sick, it still looks there will be a strong turnout. Early accounts are that there were already close to 5,500 tickets sold for the game as of Sunday.

Niagara, though, faces an eye-opener at 8 a.m., but no one has ever likely faced a 6 a.m. starting time before.

ESPN has confirmed that the 6 a.m. Saint Peter’s game with Monmouth marks the first time the all-encompassing sports network has televised a live college game in that time slot.

So, how do the Peacocks handle it?

“There will be a lot of extra coffee around for the coaches that morning,” said John Dunne, who has to be sharp a little extra early to speak at a school pep rally at 4:30 that morning. “Otherwise, we just won’t do a whole lot in terms of getting them up too early."

Dunne scheduled an 8:30 a.m. practice on Sunday “just for them to see what it's like to get up and moving early in the morning."

Monday’s day-before practice will be extremely light. Dunne said players won't even tape ankles prior to going on the court for that day's workout.

“On Tuesday morning, we’ll let the players get here as late as we possibly can do it, about 4:45 a.m.,” added Dunne. “We’ll have juices, Gatorade and fruit available in the lockerroom. We’ll let them drink and eat lightly when they’re getting tapped.

“But this won’t be any sort of normal pregame situation. We won’t go on the court until 20 minutes before the game. In that respect, it’s like playing the second game of a doubleheader. Then, we’ll just grind it out. It’s `Get out there and let’s go.’

“It is exciting for our players for our school and for our fans. There’s a definite buzz around. It’s exciting for our alums to see the school’s name in the newspapers for this. We’re trying to do some things to get the Saint Peter’s brand out there. I give a lot of credit to the administration for allowing us to participate. It should be a lot of fun.”

Once everyone wakes up, of course.

And, the best thing,” said Dunne. “Is that the game will be over in time for our players to attend classes that day.”

Mihalich’s Niagara players might miss morning classes, but they’ll be in time for afternoon ones.

“We’re not going to do a lot special in terms of day-of-game prep,” said Mihalich. “We’re not going to get up at 4 a.m. and have a full pre-game meal, or anything like that. We’ve had morning practices before. We’ve even had some good morning practices before, so we’ll have that type of routine for this.

We’ll probably start preparing two days prior in terms of making sure everyone’s eating well in the days before and sleeping well, getting to sleep early, at least two days before. We’ll handle it.

"This isn’t something you can do unless you have a team full of guys who love to play. Our guys don’t care what time they’re on the court, whether it’s midnight or 7 a.m. We’ve got a bunch of guys who just love to be out there playing.”

Mihalich said his team had a recent 7:15 a.m. practice, and handled it well.

“When we go early, we’re not eating bacon and eggs before we go out there,” added Mihalich.

As for the coach?

Shouldn’t bother me … what coach sleeps during basketball season?” he joked. “Honestly, I’m always in the office early. Maybe this time I’ll get there about 5:30, which is a little earlier than usual.”

But conference coaches involved aren't complaining. The national publicity and exposure associated with the novelty of early morning, nationally televised games makes getting up and playing a little earlier than usual more than worthwhile for those involved.

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