Davidson men's basketball coach Bob McKillop has won 232 Southern Conference games in his career.
His files on SoCon opponents are thick with diagrammed plays, and shelves around the Wildcats' basketball offices are stocked full of previous games against the likes of Elon, Furman and UNC Greensboro.
The Wildcats will face UNCG tonight as conference competition resumes in earnest. And with that comes intimate knowledge of opponents.
"It's the most important time of the year when every game means so much," Appalachian State coach Jason Capel said. "There's a sense of urgency that comes with every team."
And it's the season of familiarity. Coaches know other coaches' tricks, their plays and usually their game plans.
"Your familiarity is significantly more extensive, and because of that you have to become a little more intuitive about you prepare," McKillop said. "If you were to prepare for everything you know about an opposing team, you wouldn't have enough time to get it done."
Facing familiar opponents both increases and decreases the difficulty of practice preparation.
On the one side, for example, McKillop knows how UTC will double-team the post against his Wildcats, so that is surely something they will go over in practice on Jan. 25 before playing the Mocs the next night.
But there is no way he can prepare his team for the dozens of offensive, out-of-bounds and last-second offensive plays or defensive formations the Mocs have run against his team in UTC coach John Shulman's seven-plus seasons.
"[Most of] our coaches have been around so long that you can look through the file and see, this was done the first game last year and that was done in the second," McKillop said. "The double-team of the post is something that just jumps out when you prepare for Elon or Chattanooga."
Shulman often tries to hide his play calls in SoCon competition by whispering to point guard Keegan Bell, turning his back to the other bench to hide a hand gesture or covering his mouth with a play sheet like an NFL coordinator.
Still, even if an opponent knows the play -- like when a football team on defense knows a run is coming on third-and-inches -- it's up to the other team to stop it.
"The other SoCon guys know our stuff -- they know our defensive stuff, our offensive stuff, our offensive calls -- so you have to be that much better now," said Shulman, whose Mocs will face Western Carolina tonight at 7. "Teams know we're going to double the post. Everybody knows what everybody is doing.
"You don't come up with new plays every day. Can we out-execute Western? Or are they going to out-execute us? Which team is going to play harder?"
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...