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Panthers need to keep quick starts coming

It is not how you start, it is how you finish. That axiom has been drummed in the heads of athletes for years. It implies that it does not matter how teams start games. All that supposedly matters is that their team has one more point at the end of the game then the other team does. This statement might hold true for the vast majority of the college basketball season but that is not the case come tournament time.

Regardless of if it is the conference tournament or the NCAA tournament that the Panthers will begin Thursday night, how you start games in March matters. Why is how you start games so important in March? In the conference tournament, a team’s season might or might not be on the line depending the type of conference a team comes from but in the NCAA tournament it is win or go home for everyone.

The work that players and coaches have put in over months, and it comes down to forty minutes. The season of 25 and 30 games for some players and the 4 and 5 year careers for others is all put on the line come do or die time. The pressure to perform in these circumstances is higher then it has been at any point in the season maybe even in a person’s career. Wasting any of the 40 minutes is exactly that: a waste.

Going back to the Horizon League Tournament, the Panthers got off to very good starts in all four games and that good start propelled them to win the game. The Panthers went on a 19-2 run from the middle of the first half to the end of the first half and ultimately closed the half with a 17 point lead and in firm control of the game. In the second round game against Valpo the Panthers opened the game up nine to nothing in just over two minutes played and held a double digit lead for most of the remainder of the game.

In the semi-final against Green Bay the Panthers got a double digit lead in the first half before withstanding a Green Bay comeback in the second half. In overtime, the Panthers again got control of the game by scoring 11 of the 15 total points. Then in the championship the Panthers jumped out to a 21-7 lead and used that lead to maintain control of the game throughout.

There are several advantages to getting off to a quick start in the NCAA tournament games. Since there is significantly more pressure in the tournament, the best way for the Panthers to take that pressure off themselves and put it on to the Wildcats is for the Panthers to come out shooting well and playing good basketball to start the game.

Another factor in the tournament is the variable of confidence and momentum. The Wildcats are coming into the game feeling confident that they are the better team then the Panthers, as higher seeds always do. The Panthers cannot afford to open the game by allowing that early confidence to turn into early momentum.

Lastly the important thing about a quick start is that it affects the decisions that coaches on the opposing team make. If the Panthers are able to get control of the game early, Villanova may feel compelled to take more chances in relationship to their players concerning foul problems or how deep the Wildcats are willing to go on their bench when deterring their rotation throughout the game and how minutes are allocated.

In the Horizon League Tournament, the Panthers were able to use quick starts to put the pressure of the game on the opponent as opposed to themselves. The Panthers also used the quick starts to generate confidence and momentum that is valuable in tournament games. If the Panthers are going to be breaking brackets this week it will be important for them to have another quick start in order to put some pressure on Villanova and create early momentum and confidence for themselves.

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