Feature Article
Hoops Dynasty Delivers

Last month, I wrote about WhatIfSports.com’s online college basketball simulation, Hoops Dynasty. I’ve now completed my first season as the men’s basketball coach at Division III Lasell College, so it’s time to take another look at Hoops Dynasty and find out what all of the buzz is about.

A new head coach’s tenure in Hoops Dynasty begins in the offseason, a few days before the adventure that is recruiting gets underway. This period provides valuable time to get acquainted with a team’s roster. Given that my squad lost only one player from last year’s team, I had only one open scholarship at my disposal. An inquiry into my team’s strengths and weaknesses revealed a fairly balanced roster, with two senior wingmen. As I couldn’t reasonably expect to deliver an impact freshman to a program that had combined for nine victories in the previous two seasons, I elected to groom a replacement for my departing small forwards.

Staying within budget and targeting the right recruits serve as the greatest challenges for a small school. The program receives its funds at the start of the recruiting period, and the coach must apportion these resources wisely. At first the money in the bank appears to be plenty, until you watch it disappear as quickly as if you received your entire year’s salary on January 1. Careful budgeting is the name of the game, with nothing draining funds more than pursuit a recruit who simply has little or no interest in the program. Recruiting options include preliminary options such as letters, phone calls and promising playing time, and more expensive options such as scouting trips, in-home visits, and campus visits. After some deliberation (and losing out on multiple recruits I shouldn’t have wasted my money on), we secured a commitment from a 6’5” small forward who became our most athletic player the day he set foot on campus.

Once recruiting has completed, teams have the opportunity to play a pair of exhibition games before the season begins. These games give teams a valuable chance to see how they look early in the campaign, and this time allows teams to adjust practice and game plans. As a new head coach, the array of options can appear intimidating at first, but from my experience playing various text simulations, I found the interface and options to be neither too basic nor overwhelming. That being said, the early season exhibition and non-conference games provide necessary experience before conference play rolls around.

Lasell College struggled in the non-conference season, winning just two of ten games, although in hindsight, this performance looks slightly better when recognizing that the vast majority of those games were against top teams. These early struggles allowed the team to continue developing as a unit, and by the time the conference season arrived, the rotation had shrunk from eleven players to seven or eight. By then we had established our typical game plan consisting of a half court motion offense, with a 2-3 zone defense that often had to extend out to the perimeter due to having guards with defensive struggles. It’s important to note that each player is rated based on his familiarity with a variety of different offensive and defensive sets. Players increase their familiarity with a set the more they run it, so practice time plays an important role here.

These game plans needed at least some daily adjustment depending on the caliber and style of the next day’s opponent. We finished tied for the second best in-conference record, with our most significant victory an upset win over Husson College. They fell as 23-point favorites, but did not lose another conference game all year on route to the conference title. Rather than extending our defense to the three point line as usual, we elected to pack in our zone against a dominant inside team. Husson struggled against the low post pressure and scored only 38 points while losing by 13.

We had put ourselves in an early hole in the conference season, losing four straight after an opening win, but we recovered by winning four of our last six games, beginning with the upset over Husson. We entered the conference tournament as a four seed with momentum and the knowledge that a conference tournament title was our only shot at a national tournament berth. Unfortunately, we ran into a hot Thomas team that shot the lights out against us in the opening round of the conference tournament, where the curtain descended on our season with a 76-67 defeat.

The season has ended and the time has arrived to look ahead to next season. An impact freshman would be a great catch, especially at the wing position, but my better judgment tells me that Lasell badly needs backcourt depth. The new season lies just around the corner, and signups have opened in some leagues, so the time is now to join the action at Hoops Dynasty!

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