WVU Scouting Begins Quickly For NCAA Match-up With Murray State
Bob Huggins settled into his seat behind a microphone about 20 minutes after he learned his West Virginia team had been granted a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and would play the Murray State Racers on Friday in San Diego as their first round game.
He adjusted the microphone before him, then laid a pack of papers on the table.
He already had begun scouting Murray State.
Once upon a time scouting was a difficult procedure. You had stats available, but they didn’t show anything that Joe B. Fan in Keokuk, Iowa, could look up.
Film? It had to be exchanged by UPS or Fed Ex.
Today, within minutes you can begin downloading tape from the Internet. We are in the information age and you know everything you need to know about another team almost before they know it.
But what do you look at?
During the season, after a game, former player James Long spends the night down breaking things down, compiling film of the upcoming opponent’s last five games and getting whatever statistics are available … and that normally includes everything but what he’s had for breakfast.
“It’s a thankless job,” Huggins said. “James is in here after games, he’s here until three in the morning so we can have stuff to get to the players for practice the next day. He gives me the last five games to watch. If it’s someone we played before, he gives me their made field goals and our made field goals. How we got fouls. How we drew fouls on them.”
Huggins assigns the scout on a team to one of his three assistants and they prepare the game plan and the approach that will taken.
Huggins is a freak for scouting the opposition and he pretty much has it down to a science.
In this case, Murray State, the first thing he did was go over the roster to see if he knew any of the names, maybe saw them in recruiting or maybe they had transferred in.
Then he gets the stat sheet and looks first at field goal percentage.
“Then you look at how they get what they get,” he said. “You look and see they are a very good free throw shooting team, shoot 73 percent from the free throw line. They shoot 49 percent from the field, pretty good.”
Then, in the morning, you watch those tapes.
“You look at their man offense, at their zone offense. With us, you have to look at their press breakers. I don’t foresee us playing any 1-3-1 but you try to find how they play against that, but that’s hard because not many people play 1-3-1.
“You look at what they do, look if their last five games were close games at what their go-to sets were.”
Mostly he is probing for weaknesses that can be attacked, which hand the player likes to use, whether he is susceptible to pressure, whether he can be pushed off the boards.
But Huggins also looks at strengths.
“There are things you might be able to take away that disrupt their best sets,” he said.
But Huggins understands the real reason behind the scouting report and it isn’t for him to know what’s going on.
“The most important thing is it doesn’t matter what I know. It’s what our guys know,” he said.
And getting it across to them isn’t always a simple task.
“When I was starting out at Walsh, you are finding things so I took them in to see Sister Marie Helene. Every time we walked in, she handed us a paper and a pencil and told us to take notes about everything she talked about,” Huggins explained.
“I did that about three or four times and about the fifth time, I told her ‘Sister, I’ve already heard it before. I don’t mean any disrespect but five times I can probably figure it out.’ She said, ‘No, I have found over my years of teaching the more of your senses you use, the better your chances to retain.’
“Everyone learns differently,” Huggins continued. “I’ve had guys who were dyslexic. You hand them the scouting report, they can’t read it. But they watch the film, they do the walk-through, we give them so many different ways to learn that hopefully we hit on the best way for them to learn.
“Some people learn better with written stuff. The dean of students at Walsh called me over one time and said basketball was getting to be such a big thing at the school that he wanted to learn about it.
“I told him ‘Fine, come on over to practice.’ He said ‘I can’t learn like that.’ So I gave him a book, ‘Bob Cousy on Basketball’. That’s how he learned.”
The first game in the tournament isn’t really the problem because you have some time, even with the travel.
“The hard part is the second game because of the quick turnaround,” Huggins said, knowing if they beat Murray State either Wichita State or Marshall lies ahead.
They begin looking at both of them early, of course.