After arriving in town Tuesday and eating a meal, did Hurricanes players sit through a lengthy meeting on how to guard Villanova? Did they hunker down for hours of film study?
No and no. As part of their preparation for the most important basketball game of their lives, they played baseball.
They marked a home plate and bases on the floor with tape, used their hands for bats and whacked a Nerf ball around an empty hotel ballroom. Two innings, guards against big men, and Jim Larranaga – who came up with this idea, as a way to keep his team loose – as umpire.
I’m petrified of this game. Jim Larranaga is on some next-level shit. Any coach who can take George Mason to the Final Four, or inspire his team to play their A game with the promise of a truly inventive Muhammad Ali dance, is channeling some vodoo that, quite honestly, freaks me out. Never mind that he beat Villanova in the tournament in 2011. So, consider me positively CONCERNED that he has his team relaxed, playing basbeall in the hotel.
But Jay, too, knows when to ease off. In 2005, before playing North Carolina in the Sweet 16, he opted to have Villanova take a bus to Syracuse. The plan was to have a fun(?) five-hour ride and get McDonald’s along the way as a reward for four years of hard work. If I recall, they got delayed by a snow storm and watched an HBO documentary of the 1985 team on the way to keep things light. It almost worked, as Villanova barely lost to North Carolina (“TWO! TWO STEPS!!!”). They should’ve won, and were the only team in the tournament to give North Carolina even a scare. So I’d score that as a win for Jay’s tactics.
As for the Miami game? While Larranaga is playing games, Nova got to open their new shoes from Nike ???:
— Jay Wright (@VUCoachJWright) March 23, 2016
If this is enough to get by the Hurricanes*, I have no doubt Jay will out-coach Bill Self in the Regional Final.
*I’m shitting bricks.