Editor's Note: This will be the final installment of Gene Steinmeyer's weekly columns.
By 9:00 pm last night, the basketball season had ended for 245 NCAA II women's basketball teams. About the same number of NCAA II men's teams can wash and store their uniforms until late next fall. You could add all other divisions except NCAA I who were forced to end their season before March Madness begins.
March Madness is the common name for postseason basketball. You realize how special it is to make the NCAA or other division's national tournaments. The abrupt end to the basketball season comes with consequences. Some coaches will lose their jobs. Some players will be asked to not come back. Many programs will utter those positive words, "Wait 'til next season."
It may be hard to understand just how a basketball coach feels when the season comes to a close. It's like taking a twelve-month journey to play the ultimate game. After twelve months, you find out you're not wanted. The only alternative is to start all over.
The journey begins with a few weeks of post-season drills. Nothing serious, but the coaches just can't let the team slide idly into summer vacation.
Summer school at Northwest begins in May, but June is the most popular month to take summer classes. Also, colleges begin holding basketball camps. This is where the season really begins. Players use their spare time honing their skills in the gym. Coaches hang out nearby to see how their players are progressing.
Before you know it, Labor Day is here and school is underway. It seems a long time until games begin, but that doesn't stop the preparation. Freshmen and transfers have to find their niche on the team. Bonding takes place, not only with the players but with the coaches.
Then October rolls around and you start some serious practicing. Finally, you can begin to learn the system all over again. New coaching brainstorms are put into the team's repertoire. Old traditions are taught to new players. A team is beginning to form.
Exhibition games soon follow. Some players who look like a million bucks in practice can't shoot or guard an opponent when the games begin. The reverse is true, too. Some players just aren't practice players. Turn them loose in a game and you may have an All-American.
Pre-Christmas games are interesting. You can't mess around much in these games. An early loss can cost you later as you try to qualify for postseason. It's a fine balance, giving everyone a chance to perform without losing games.
It doesn't seem like it, but Christmas arrives. While all the rest of the college students are enjoying almost a month away from their studies, there is a very small break for college basketball players. A coach has an even smaller holiday window. Instead of free time, there are games to recruit, tapes to break down, and practices to plan. The conference season will soon become very serious business.
As January slips by, the "Dog Days" of the basketball season begin. To the players, it seems like the basketball season will never end. It may seem shocking, but I would feel the same way. Coaches try to fight the redundant routine and make an attempt to break the monotony.
I know the men's basketball team at Northwest will occasionally play whiffle ball in place of a practice during the Dog Days. My favorite was "Sunday, Monday" where we would eat ice cream during Monday's film session.
Then it's February and there's a faint light at the end of the tunnel. March is closing in with all the madness. Seeding for the conference tournament is more important than at any time of the season. Just qualifying for the tournament is very important.
As the month comes to a close, I always asked my players, "Are you the type that couldn't wait for the season to be over or are you the type that can't wait to play in postseason." Only one state of mind leads to success.
I once had a team I was sure was the former. We were beaten in our final game by a team that was so bad, they fired their coach. Earlier, we had lost to a team by 42 points.
Then we won the first game of postseason. I soon realized the team had the attitude of the latter. They won the conference tournament and almost won the region despite being the eighth seed.
Post season is sudden death season. You may not stop breathing, but if you are beaten, it feels like someone is stealing your oxygen. The twelve month journey is over and the death was sudden.
Practices are over; scouting reports are no longer needed; players won't gather for pregame meals again until November. What do I do now?
I might be retired, but I feel those emotions like it was happening to me now. When the Northwest women lost to the number one seed, I felt terrible despite the team's many accomplishments. I went into depression when the men lost in overtime in the finals.
Since I am retired, instead of recruiting, I'm going to Arizona for spring training with Sam and Jacob.
I guess I'll live.
By Gene Steinmeyer Guest Columnist
The Maryville Daily Forum - Maryville, MO
By Gene Steinmeyer Guest Columnist
Updated Mar. 12, 2013 @ 6:27 pm
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