Wednesday, January 30, 2002

XU finding no tale of the tape

Disparity of TV games gives foes advantage

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Early in the second half of the Xavier-LaSalle game Jan.19, Explorers junior Mike Cleaves surprised the Musketeers with an alley-oop dunk. Seven minutes later, he burned them again on the same play.

        “They might have been running that play for two weeks, but we didn't have any of their tapes from their (four prior) Atlantic 10 games,” XU coach Thad Matta said.

        Three of XU's four prior games, however, had been on the A-10's TV network, so the Explorers benefited from a thorough scout and nearly upset the Musketeers. Such a disparity in game tapes available resurfaces tonight when XU (15-3, 7-0 A-10) plays host to Duquesne (5-13, 0-7).

        None of the Dukes' first six league games was televised, so the Musketeers have had to assemble much of their scouting report off tapes from the nonconference season. Matta and George Washington coach Karl Hobbs plan a proposal to institute a league-wide tape-exchange program.

        Such programs exist among A-10 coaches in football, women's basketball and volleyball. They exist in men's basketball in some conferences — including the Mid- American, in which each school can request two tapes from an opponent.

        “It's great to be on TV, but for now we pay the price in this regard,” Matta said.

        Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli, head of the league's coaches association, said the issue has come up before at coaches meetings.

        But ESPN this season reduced the number of A-10 games it airs and eliminated the token appearances by middling teams. That meant Duquesne, Rhode Island, Fordham, Richmond, St.Bonaventure and LaSalle have no national TV appearances, and GW has just one.

        Some of those schools, especially those that struggle and are in big markets (read: Duquesne), have no local TV package and only the minimum four appearances on the league's TV network.

        Why all the talk about tapes? Coaches will tell you tapes can make or break scouting. “You can see every little thing a team does,” XU associate coach Sean Miller said.

        If a game is on TV somewhere, schools can find it on satellite. They also write to teams that have played against their upcoming opponents to request game films shot by student managers, and there's a gentleman's agreement in the sport to honor such requests. Like many schools, XU hires a service to dub tapes of its games and send them to teams that request them.

        Tape exchanges between A-10 members are prohibited. The Duquesne-Richmond game Saturday was on A-10 TV, but before then, Miller was watching Dukes games from December.

        When XU met Dayton Saturday, the most recent film of UD available was XU's trip to Dayton three weeks prior. UD got to watch XU three times on A-10 TV since then.

        “When you don't have tapes, you have to be more aware of recent stats and articles you read,” Miller said.

        An area where a lack of game tapes can most hurt is when players become eligible in midseason. When XU played GW on Jan.17, Colonials forward Marquin Chandler had been back for four games. When it played Rhode Island last week, the Rams' leading scorer, Troy Wiley, had been back for five games. XU had one tape of Wiley and none of Chandler.


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