It will probably sound like a broken record but the simple reality for all college programs is that the opportunity to play is valued more than ever during the 2020-21 season.
That was the first thing that came to mind when UVU head men’s basketball coach Mark Madsen talked in Thursday’s teleconference about getting ready to host Cal-Baptist in the WAC opener.
“We’re looking at this as a tremendous opportunity,” Madsen said. “Cal-Baptist has a tremendous team. They almost beat USC at USC in a very close game. They’ve played every opponent at a high level.”
There aren’t any certainties in the world of the COVID-19 pandemic but Madsen is as confident as he can be that the scheduled games against the Lancers are going to happen.
“Obviously COVID-19 continues to be an issue for a lot of schools. Every school is finding its way, ourselves included. I do think that the double-header will happen this weekend between UVU and Cal-Baptist. I’m thrilled because right now it looks like we are playing the games this weekend. A lot of schools don’t have that opportunity. “
Both teams have dealt with cancellations because of virus outbreaks.
“It is unique in the sense that we don’t have as many games as we all want,” Madsen said. “I’m sure Cal-Baptist wishes it had had more games. We wish we had had more games. There is rust, but there is rust for both teams. That is something we as a staff and myself as the head coach, we have to do our best to minimize that, to simulate things in practice to help with that. When it is all said and done, there is no substitute for live play.”
The Wolverines are scheduled to host Cal-Baptist on both Friday and Saturday, a schedule which allows coaches to get more preparation time.
“It’s very different,” Madsen said. “Coaches are able to dive much more into one team. This is more of a firehose of one team early in the week. This almost feels like the NBA playoffs in a sense because of the amount of preparation that can go into things.”
There are still some chess-match elements, however, since coaches have to decide whether to keep things the same or mix them up.
“The two games are back-to-back with the same teams but what each team does offensively and defensively can change dramatically,” Madsen said. “By the same token, it can stay consistent. I think adjustments will be huge, especially between the two games but also during the game. You have to look at minutes. Each coach has to decide how the minutes will be allocated.”
He believes that a team will have to very consistent at both ends of the court to win both contests.
“For any team to get a series sweep, there has to be tremendous defense and attention to detail,” Madsen said. “It will take energy, the ability to win four-minute segments and the ability to get multiple stops in a row throughout a game. There a lot of things that go into that. We’re also going to need some individual performances. We’ve had that in many games this year.”
He expects the Lancers to test his Wolverine squad in a variety of ways.
“Cal-Baptist is playing at a high level,” Madsen said. “They run really good stuff offensively and have a strong defense. They can shoot the three, they can attack off the dribble, they can post it up. It should be a great series.”
The first of the two-game set is scheduled to take place at the UCCU Center in Orem on Friday at 6 p.m. The second game is slated to tip off at the same time on Saturday.