Facing the same team on back-to-back nights is nothing new in sports. It’s a familiar format that we see in baseball, softball as well as playoff hockey and basketball at the professional level.
But it’s a new concept in college basketball.
“These back to backs guys. They’re different,” Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay said.
For teams like Liberty and Radford, conference play takes on a repetitive nature. Play an opponent one night and then do it all again the next night.
“It’s definitely different, it takes a toll on your body for sure but I kinda like it,” Radford junior forward Chyree Walker said. “The things that you did the first game, you just let them go learn from em and then you just try to hone in on them the next game.”
The Big South and ASUN are among a handful of conferences adopting the back-to-back format this season in a move designed to limit teams’ travel during the pandemic. And as schools continue to deal with scheduling changes related to COVID-19 issues, playing two games in a row is a way to maximize the number of games for each team.
“I just think there’s a mental part of it that you have to be really really prepared for,” McKay said. “There’s a mental part of this that you got to have some maturity and some toughness in order to get a sweep.”
Playing on consecutive nights often happens at holiday tournaments and conference championships. But rarely does it happen during college basketball’s regular season, especially against the same opponent.
“Both teams have to deal with that fatigue. I think it’s mental as much as it is physical. I think it’s both. None of us in college basketball are used to playing back to back games,” Radford head coach Mike Jones said. “It’s forced us to really try and manage the time that we put on their legs. It’s forced us to try and have to, especially with a young and experienced team, help them understand having juice and enthusiasm is by the second day and we’re still learning.”
But there is an upside to facing a team two nights in a row.
Jones said: “Well the number one advantage is that if you win two, it feels really good.”