Coaching challenges for contenders
Spring is a time for college basketball coaches to step back and evaluate their rosters as they begin to plan for the coming season. Most break down the previous season's games and identify strengths and weaknesses, but the true contenders will spend a good portion of the spring and summer identifying challenges and obstacles their teams will face. What is the best way to build trust and chemistry? How do you integrate and educate elite freshmen or transfers? How do you get players to compete and defend? How do you deal with the pressures of expectation?
The new NCAA legislation that gives coaches access to their players in the summer provides staffs a chance to introduce drills and concepts, but many times it is the intangibles that will be the difference between fulfilling expectations and having a disappointing season.
Let's take a look at the challenges the coaches of four top championship contenders will be dealing with this offseason.
The Cardinals are coming off a magical season during which they not only returned to the Final Four but won a national title. Despite losing explosive point guard Peyton Siva and defensive standout Gorgui Dieng to graduation and the draft, they return a core group of players, including Final Four MOP Luke Hancock, dynamic guard Russ Smith, physical forward Chane Behanan, big guard Wayne Blackshear and an emerging star in power forward Montrezl Harrell. Stephan Van Treese, at 6-foot-11, gives the Cards solid minutes in a backup role. If Kevin Ware returns, this could be one of Rick Pitino's deepest teams.
The one newcomer whom Pitino needs to have an immediate impact is juco All-American Chris Jones, an elite talent. Though he's only 6 feet, Jones is an explosive, tough guard who can take over a game.
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