Even before Maryland learned its draw for the NCAA tournament last night, Pat Shannon was at work. As Maryland's video coordinator, Shannon is responsible for making sure the Terrapins have enough footage of their opponents so that the coaching staff can put together a game plan.
With a technology vault that would be the envy of any technology geek -- eight DirecTV receivers, 25 VCRs and a computer with video editing software -- Shannon estimated that during the season he taped nearly 1,000 games, many with the intent to prepare for this week and the ones that follow.
"You want it all in case you need it," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. "You never look at all of it, but you want it there. It gives you a good feeling that you're ready to go. That's important. I've always felt that for one game, the first game each week of the NCAA tournament, you'd like to think that nobody is going to prepare harder than you."
Watching as much videotape as possible is particularly important during the NCAA tournament because teams are playing unfamiliar opponents and have little time to prepare. Unlike the conference season, when the Terrapins know their opponents' tendencies, this week they are learning about a team they likely have never faced in their college careers.
"With the quick turnaround, you can't go over things as much, so [it helps if] you can see it on tape," Maryland assistant coach Dave Dickerson said. "You never know who you're going to play in the NCAA tournament. You never know if you're going to play Weber State or Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and they're probably only on TV once or twice a year. So if we have that tape [as soon as possible], it helps."
For instance, last season, when the tournament bracket was announced, Shannon began seeing what footage he had on all possible opponents. With the capability to tape a dozen games at once, Shannon took in nearly every game from the ACC and all the other top conferences and tried to get whatever else he could.
This past week, with conference tournaments dominating the airwaves, Shannon was able to tape all but two of the games that were televised. He expects to have a film library similar to last season, when on selection night he already had several games on tape of Kentucky -- which ended up being Maryland's round of 16 opponent -- and 22 of Connecticut -- which ended up being the team's opponent in the regional final.
While it might seem like the large supply of tapes is unnecessary, the additional footage allows coaches to sift through the games and highlight only the most important elements. They will put together a tape showing only the clips they deem most important, such as how a team likes to run its offense against a zone defense or how it tries to get the ball to a particular player.
"What's good about having a lot of video is you can really narrow it down and not have a lot of fluff to show the players," Williams said. "What you show the players is what's really important for the team, their basic plays, the things they score off of."
Just in case any games fall through the cracks, Shannon can call Hoop 1, an East Rutherford, N.J.-based company that tapes just about every televised game during the season and then sells them to schools trying to prepare for the NCAA tournament. Hoop 1, whose clients include most of the schools playing in the 65-team field, took orders last night, and this morning will send tapes on flights around the country so that schools can get them as soon as possible.
However, Shannon did not order as many tapes this season as he might have in the past because of the equipment he now has at his disposal since the Terrapins moved into Comcast Center. In addition to the satellite receivers and VCRs, Shannon has a mini-disc player, and Williams has a portable mini-disc player that allows him to watch videotape whenever or wherever he pleases. Williams and his three assistants each have a DirecTV receiver and VCR in their offices.
Maryland's collection of game tapes is believed to be the largest in the ACC. In fact, some of the conference's other members do not have full-time video personnel, instead relying on graduate assistants or other staff members to tape games. At Wake Forest, the director of basketball operations sometimes walks around the athletic department, seizing televisions and tape recorders to tape games.
On the road during the postseason, Shannon packs a red traveling case with four VCRs and also takes two additional VCRs and the mini-tape player so that he can give a copy of each game to each coach as soon as the game is over.
When the team gets back to its hotel after games, Shannon takes the tapes of that day's game and the VCRs from his traveling case and hooks them up in each coach's room.
"A vital part of our success is being able to watch basketball games and getting comfortable with our opponents," Dickerson said. "We just try to break it down so our guys can see what we went over on the floor and get more comfortable with our opponents. These days, I think it's one of the most important things we do."