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Wednesday, September 25, 2013
An early start for college hoops

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

College hoops is back, baby!

I am so excited to see practices starting all over America this Friday. That's right, college basketball practices beginning before October. We used to have to wait until mid-October, with Midnight Madness. You will still see special events at many schools to commemorate the opening of the new season (for example, Kansas will have its special night at The Phog on Oct. 4).

I think it is great to give the players and coaches more time to work together. It will make the product better, as teams will be more cohesive early on. It is a win-win situation.

Why are practices starting so early? There was a rule change that extended the time for practice from 30 days before the opening game, up to 40. This season, many schools are starting their schedule on Nov. 8, and 40 days before would have meant a first practice on a Sunday. The NCAA allowed schools to have that first workout on a Friday.

An added feature of the rule change is that with the earlier start and the extra time, schools will have 42 days to hold 30 practices. There will be more time off in between those practices, which could help players heal faster and recover better.

Different coaches have different philosophies on how to take advantage of the new rules. The bottom line is, coaches have to be happy to work with their players in an organized fashion, to work on their offensive and defensive concepts, and to prepare for the season ahead.

Coaches will make sure their players are ready and in better shape. It should help newcomers to the college game make the adjustment. They will be able to learn more quickly and get that hands-on work with their coaches.

Basketball is back, and I cannot wait to tip off the regular season. There are plenty of interesting early-season showdowns, like Duke-Kansas, Michigan State-Kentucky and the rest of the marathon action. It should be a super season, capped off by the Final Four at AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium) in Arlington, Texas. It will be awesome, baby with a capital A!