The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, March 6, 2019

Championship Week — Rutgers interim head coach Tim Eatman interview — must-click women's basketball links

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While it is the NCAA Tournament that gets most of the March hype, for my money, the biggest drama is Championship Week.

There’s the sheer numbers involved — instead of 64 teams, hundreds have a chance. Good season, bad season, doesn’t matter — it is a chance to wipe the slate clean, build memories in just a few days. Most will not, of course, but there’s that chance when a team takes the floor in a conference tournament, an automatic bid at the end of the rainbow. I love it so.

And then, of course, the flip side: most of these college players will not play in the pros. They enter these games knowing they are playing for a chance to extend basketball careers that date back to early childhood. A loss, though, and it is all over except for the driveway games. The stakes, emotionally, strike me as higher than anything you’ll see anywhere else in sports, certainly on this grand a scale.

So sure, March provides a look at the very best in college basketball. But right now, thanks to the delightful streaming and television options available, we can see virtually everyone in the country play Division I games that matter like few ever will in so many lives.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but that’s what I’ll be doing this week, as reporters fan out for High Post Hoops all over the country and I edit their work.


This Week In Women’s Basketball

Reminder: The underlined words are the links. CLICK these! Clicks = Attention from editors, producers, and webmasters. If you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! hmegdal@gmail.com

One last February link: don’t miss Around The Rim’s Black History Month pod.

Jenn Hatfield provides a statistical throwdown of all the Mabrey siblings and their freshman seasons.

New Down and Dirty video is out from Devereaux Peters.

Teddy Gutkin looks at the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry through the eyes of siblings.

Debbie Antonelli, Mechelle Voepel and I weigh in on Bridget Carleton’s WNBA prospects.

And this breakdown of Megan Gustafson’s WNBA prospects is excellent as well.

Michelle Smith reveals her Pac-12 awards ballot. Do not argue with Michelle Smith. She’s right and you’re wrong.

Blake DuDonis wonders if the loss to Vanderbilt sealed Holly Warlick’s Tennessee fate. I do, too.

Steve Bittenbender was live for Asia Durr’s career night.

And here’s SLAM on Asia Durr as well.

Meet Colleen and Lauren Mullen, coaching couple.

More Michelle Smith, this time on Recee Caldwell.

Don’t sleep on the Lynx signing Kelsey Griffin.

Speaking of the Lynx, they are doing an excellent job with WNBA draft profiles, worth a bookmark.

Here’s Barbara Barker on Teresa Weatherspoon’s Hall of Fame chances.

Across The Timeline does vital archiving work, and this attendance tool is merely the latest.

Lyndsey D’Arcangelo points out that hey, the WNBA still doesn’t have a president, and that’s not ideal!

More Jenn Hatfield, getting you ready for the Big Ten tourney and highlighting the great work out of Kevin McGuff at Ohio State after a slow start.

DeArbea Walker at Philly.com examines the Drexel international pipeline.

And ESPNW gives you predicted champs in every D-I conference, an idea I am stealing for High Post Hoops next season.

Last one, point of personal privilege: there’s a legend around the corner from me, his name is Jeff Jasper, he’s won over 1,000 games at Pascack Valley High School. He just graduated four starters to college programs, turned around and led a young team to a Group 3 title. I watched it live, and it was remarkable. Here’s the game story, but truly, what a pleasure it is to see this program operate in real time.


Tweet of the Week


Five at The IX: Tim Eatman, Rutgers

Eatman held a conference call ahead of the Big Ten tournament. I spoke to him along with several other reporters. He had some really interesting insights into how C. Vivian Stringer’s absence is going.

REPORTER: With the absence of Vivian Stringer for exhaustion, just speak to how you've had to adapt your new role of leading this team and got that victory to get the three seed and the double bye. What have you had to do internally and externally to lead this team?

TIM EATMAN: Well, first of all, there hasn't been a huge change because of the fact that coach prepares us every day of all challenges that we may have. Especially, when you, what she does is if you have a scout, you sit next to her during a basketball game, so it's almost like you're being the head coach at that moment. The only difference is that you're not making the final decisions.

As far as practice leading up to the scout, you're the one that's preparing the team, and the kids hear your voice instructing them on how to do things so it's been an easy transition because I learn from her every day. And they tell you that when you really understand your leader, you understand the next word that she will say out of her mouth, and so we just basically trying to do the things the way that she would want them done. And we're continue to practice and continue to play with that in mind.

REPORTER: With that being said with the double bye that you all have earned, the approach you said that is good to have the team get some rest and to refocus for the postseason. In terms of what you want to see from the team on Friday, what are the good things that your team brings to the table that makes it difficult for opponents?

TIM EATMAN: Well we want to play hard, first of all. There's no substitute for effort, there's no substitute for the energy that you have to bring. Coach Stringer always talks about one thing you have that you can control and that's you. We can control ourselves and when we can control ourselves that means that we're gonna have to be focus, we're gonna have to play with great passion, we're gonna have to play with great energy and we're gonna have to play extremely hard. Those things we can control. We can't control weather we're gonna make the shots. We can't control what our opponent's gonna do, but we can control what we're gonna do.

And so right now, our focus is on today we practice, we practice today, we're still in practice right now, to try to work out a lot of these kinks and things that we're not doing right and then tomorrow we'll take off and then Wednesday we'll come back late Wednesday day hopefully if compliance and the NCAA will allow us to practice after 9 o'clock to start getting prepared for a late start.

So those are the things that we're trying to do to get ourselves ready to play in Indy. But I can tell you one thing, these kids are gonna play hard, and I can guarantee that they're gonna play with great enthusiasm.

REPORTER: Hi Coach, I wanted to talk about Zipporah Broughton in particular and just the fact that she's had obviously an increase in minutes. She's played twenty minutes or more in 3 of the last 4 games. What you've seen out of her, what you think is a reason that she's had the kind of success she had and how you think it augurs for the future.

TIM EATMAN: Well, we brought Zippy in and talked to her and right before she started playing really really good. And we just sat her down and we said now, "You're not a freshman anymore, these are the things that we need from you". And we asked her if she could give us 8 to 10 points a game. We needed that from her. But when we got a chance to sit down and talk to her, we asked her, "How did she want to get those points"? You know, whether she wanted to come off ball screen, weather she wanted to come off staggered, did she feel comfortable running the point guard position. And she shared things with us that we're now able to implement into her game and I think that given her a sense of peace, you know because she sees us all trying to work together, to get her to become the best basketball player she could possibly be.

So it was interesting that prior to the game one of my coworkers said Zippy's gonna have a great night, she looks really refreshed. And, of course she went out there and did that. So, she's always been a talented player. Just understanding how to get the most out of her and put her in the right position on the basketball court, is one of the things that we, as a staff, were trying to make sure we got accomplished.

REPORTER: Obviously it's a challenging situation, wondering how you figure out how workflow operates with Coach Stringer out—what you're going to be doing and how you're going to be incorporating it with her over these few weeks?

TIM EATMAN: Well, number one goal is for Coach Stringer to get some rest. So, that means that she doesn't need phone calls. That means that she doesn't need to be worrying about what's going on here. We have to give her a sense of peace that everything's fine here so she can have the peace at home. So that was the first priority. So as of this moment, right now, from the first day, I have not called her. I have not texted her. She's texted me, said, "Great job, kids are playing hard". But I try to stay as far away from coach as I can because I know coach, that coach is the kind of person that can get consumed with everything. So if you ask her one question, that means you're gonna have to talk about 5 or 10 different things. So I just try to stay away from her so that can be refreshed so when we get to go to the NCAA Tournament that she's back full speed ready to go. And so that's the first priority.

Second priority was to make sure the kids to understand that we have to accept what happened. And that everyone had to take a bigger role. And everyone had to take another step up to try to get the job done. And to their credit, they've all done that.

And then the third thing was to make that I promised them, that we will always be prepared. That they would never go into a game not being prepared. And that was the way I told them, "That's the way that I'm gonna show you that I love you, is by making sure that you're prepared". So that's kind of the approach we've made. And so, my biggest fear was when coach said to me that she wasn't gonna be here and she said that, "I'll be back at the NCAA Tournament". At that moment I realized that there was no looking back. We had to get the tournament because the last thing I want to do is for her to come back disappointed. So we as a staff have been totally tuned in, locked in to getting this team to be the best that they can possibly be at every moment.

As Coach will always say, "All hands on deck". All hands on deck in this office and everyone's focused on that mission.

REPORTER: Hey coach, just wanted to ask about the resiliency of this team, just dealing with the adversity both off the court but also the past two games coming from behind, yesterday by sixteen, just their mindset entering the post-season and how you feel where this team is at going into Friday.

TIM EATMAN: Well I hope their mindset number one is stop being so far behind. That's the first thing. But their mindset has been, when we came into the locker room at Ohio State, I just asked two questions, "Are they beating us because they're better or are they beating us because we're not mentally tough enough"? If they end up beating us because they're better, than I can accept it. But if the answer to the question is they're beating us because they're mentally tougher than we are, then that's not acceptable. And so, we just asked them to just lock down, take one pass at a time, not one play, but take one pass at a time. Make one defensive shift at a time and if we could do those things and stay mentally tough, that we would be just fine.

I shared with them this in the locker room and they kind of laughed. I never knew the score of the game. At halftime I actually thought we were down 7 to 9 and one of my coworkers said, "No, we're down 13". I didn't know we won the game by 10 til I watched the film. I finally realized we won by 10. And that wasn't by design, it was just the simple fact we have to play hard every possession. We're so focused on being the best we can be on the defensive end and being as efficient as we can be on the offensive end, then you don't really have to look at the score. And I told them I can look you in the eye and tell whether we're winning or we're losing. Because, that's how in tune you have to be with each other to know that we're trying to be a good basketball team.


Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women's Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Lindsay Gibbs, @Linzsports ThinkProgress
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren PGA.com
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster