With this being the month of March Madness, let’s take a look back on the time the Montana Grizzlies had in the craziness of March last season. The Griz would draw the powerhouse Michigan Wolverines in Wichita, Kansas. The Griz were ranked as a 14 seed after winning the Big Sky championship game and having a dominant record of 26-7. Montana would fall to the 3 seeded Wolverines 47-61. Michigan would make it all the way to the National Championship game and eventually fall short to Villanova.
THE JOURNEY OF A MID-MAJOR STUDENT BASKETBALL MANAGER
The majority of people hear the job title “basketball manager” and instantly think of a water boy who does laundry but, it is way more than that. Student basketball managers are the back bone to any successful program. They are the people who are first in the office and the last to leave. They are the ones who show up to practice a whole hour before anyone else. The people who strive to be a student basketball manager want only one thing… and it is not the glamour but, it is to see the players and the team succeed.
“People look at managers and they think of guys getting balls and water. The reality is that the manager is managing the program. They’re putting in as many hours as anyone else, and they’re as valuable as anyone in the program because they’re the liaison between the student-athlete and the staff.” – Travis DeCuire (Montana Head Coach)
The real MVP’s in student managers come at the mid-major level. The level of college basketball where the talent and expectations are the same as those at the high major level. The manager staffs at the mid-major realms are quite a bit smaller because of school size and budget. The normal manager staffs at the high major level have an average of 8-12 managers and travel somewhere from 5-6 managers. Compared to the mid-major level, have staffs from 1-5 managers and travel 0-2 managers.
For most managers they are on complete staffs. Meaning, they have a coaching staff that completes each role. But for Montana the role of Director of Basketball Operations has fallen on a manager over the past 2 seasons.
For myself being a manager at the University of Montana it has been a HUGE advantage to be at the mid-major level in my college career. Over the past 5 years I have been behind the scenes for the Griz and mastering every trait that has come my way. I have been thrown some ridiculous tasks and tremendous responsibilities.
When I first came in to college basketball, I had to send email after email to the former Director of Basketball Operations for the Griz until I was given an opportunity to prove my worth. I had to tryout at that year’s basketball summer camps as a camp coach. This story has a twist to it that is very common in college athletics, a coaching change. The summer I was auditioning to become a manager for Montana the entire staff left for Oregon State and a new staff came in. With the unknown of whether or not I would still have the same opportunity or not I introduced myself as if I was going to be a part of the team.
Entering season number one and not knowing what to expect from being a student manager and still not knowing what will be expected of me I took all tasks to the best of my ability. Being under a tremendous Head Manager, Kramer Ungaretti, and learning under him and the new staff that was more technology driven than the last. It led me to wanting to pursue a job in basketball front office. I would spend the next 2 years being a student manger and have the tasks of; assisting in creating graphics for recruits, updating recruiting records, setting up practice, assisting in practice, film setup, managing and clipping film, assisting ordering team meals, sending weekly mailouts, and yes, I also was getting water while wiping up sweat from the floor. These tasks helped me form into taking over the head manager position once Ungaretti graduated.
Year three ended up being the year of the most growth. I stepped into the role of Head Manager and brought on more responsibilities. I moved into my own desk into the coach’s offices, where I shared with an assistant coach. I was in the office, FINALLY! In a way for a young professional to be given their own space in a work place that they have always dreamed of working, gave me a peace of mind. I wanted to prove myself and prove that I can fill the shoes of my predecessor and not let the team feel like they took a step backwards. My advice to current and potential managers is to “strive to be the first one in and the last one out” as this has helped me excel in ranks. My family has taught hard work and they believe you have to start from the ground up to really know the industry. The year of being a head manager I was fortunate enough to be able to travel with the team and see what it takes for a mid-major team to travel on a more minimal budget. Traveling with the team has taken me to some remarkable areas. Areas like Costa Rica, the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and across the United States. For this year I was still doing all the same tasks as I was before but was granted more advanced tasks. I was in charge of all meals on the road and assisted the Ops with anything else that was needed for travel. I was also the head of Team Communication, was in constant communication with the entire team on upcoming events, travel, academic meetings and community outreach programs. I continued to develop as a video coordinator and started making my own highlight films for the team.
I also spent hours in assisting the coaching staff with scouts and other projects. One skill that a majority of managers overlook is the use of Photoshop. Photoshop is a skill that can put you over the top as a manager. Having the capability of making graphics and other informative tools will separate you and make you more widely used.
Jumping forward to my last two years of being a student basketball manager, I moved into the role of Director of Operations. Not holding the title as the teams Director of Operations but having the majority of the tasks. As the last two seasons I planned all of the team’s travel. Everything from booking flights, hotels, bus transportation, scheduling of away facilities, head coach recruiting travel and team meals. All while keeping track of the team’s budget. I also keep numerous statistics. I keep track of the teams plus/minus, shot charts, teams passing shot percentage, defense and offense efficiency, hustle chart, and the teams different lineups used in a game with how they performed.
For managers it is a very competitive environment and the managers that do not focus on the glam are those who are in it for a career. Managers take this job seriously. You will not find many individuals sprinting to wipe up sweat on the floor or running to give a head coach a board. You always need to be aware of what is going on as a manager and be on edge during every aspect. It is a thankless job. Managers develop skills in all aspects of the basketball world. They become masters at crafts that have nothing to do with basketball. As an Assistant Coach at Montana, Coach Flores, has said to me, “this job is 80% organization/hard work, 15% completing tasks, and 5% basketball”. Summer camps are the bread and butter for managers. They are typically asked to show off their leadership and at some schools run the entire camp. Being a camp counselor all the way to a camp director has taught me the most. The amount of planning and detail you need for a camp is quite extensive. It is a job that takes multiple people and multiple departments throughout the University to make it successful. Not to mention the leadership it takes to speak in front of hundreds of kids and get all their attention and instruct them to do something can be overwhelming for first timers and will take some time to fully develop. As I have mentioned many tasks above, there are so much more that a manager does to help aid the coaching staff and do not forget they are still full time students.
The 4 C’s of Being a Great College Basketball Manager:
Commitment, Communication, Consistency, Common Sense
* To the JOB
* To your TEAM
* To the SCHEDULE
* With your BOSSES
* With your COACHES
* With your TEAM
* With your fellow MANAGERS
* In your ACTIONS
* In your APPEARANCE
4. COMMON SENSE
* With the KEYS
* With the EQUIPMENT
* When TRAVELING
With being a part of a small staff and having full time responsibilities at such a young age for a program that is on the rise, I have gathered so much information that has set me up for a bright future. With a mid-major staff, the majority of them are guys who are from the DII ranks or high major teams, they offer a verity of connections for you to network with. With the specific staff at the University of Montana and the other coaches that have moved onto other programs their connections and experiences are impressive. There have been peaks and valleys to this whole process and I am eternally grateful for what the University of Montana, the Missoula community, current/past players, coaches, and Coach DeCuire have provided for me.
“It’s not an easy job to be successful with, and that’s why a lot of the better managers move on to high positions. Some of the best coaches were managers, because they realized that X’s and O’s aren’t always the biggest thing when it comes to managing basketball programs.” – Travis DeCuire
So instead of people looking for glamour, schools are looking for students who want to:
• Haul luggage onto buses and hotels in the late hours
• Fill and refill Powerade bottles
• Cut and edit film until their eyes cross
• Chart hustle plays and other obscure stats at games
• Work camps in the summer
• Sacrifice weekends and holiday trips in exchange for practices
• Stand, just so far apart, ball tucked under one arm, other arm on hip, towel over shoulder.
In other words, individuals who are willing to do just about whatever they are asked to do to make life easier for basketball players their own age. At the end of the road you will not want to replace it for anything else in the world. Best college job.
Quotes of Inspiration
“Don’t let the peaks and valleys get to you. Keep rolling.”
– Chad Buchanan (Indiana Pacers GM)
“Rest at the end and not in the middle” – Mr. Fisk (Kobe Bryant’s English teacher)
“Inspire the people next to you, that is how you create greatness” – Kobe Bryant
A Guide To March Madness Bracketology!!
Every year, in March, when the college basketball brackets are released, there are people all over the country analyzing teams and players, trying to fill out the perfect bracket. There is no record that a person has ever filled out a perfect bracket. There is no sure fire method to the madness, but here is a guide that can help you make intelligent decisions when it comes time to fill out your bracket.
(Technically it is the 2nd Round, but for clarity we will be referring to it as the 1st Round since it is the 1st Round in the bracket)
1 Seed vs. 16 Seed
A 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed in the history of the NCAA Division One Basketball Tournament. This is not a bet that you will want to make, take every 1 seed to the 2nd round. A 1 seed makes it into the sweet sixteen 88% of the time and the elite eight 71% of the time.
2 Seed vs. 15 Seed
A 15 seed has beaten a 2 seed seven times in history. This rarity is a possibility and has happened three times in the past three years. In 2012, Norfolk State beat Missouri and Lehigh beat Duke, then in 2013 Florida Gulf Coast beat Georgetown en route to the sweet sixteen being the only team to ever be in the sweet sixteen as a 15 seed. It is still a huge gamble and probably shouldn’t be done unless you have some very strong evidence that it is a possibility.
3 Seed vs. 14 Seed
Only eighteen times in history has a 14 seed beaten a 3 seed. If you are trying to win your bracket pool this risk might not pay off unless there is a strong contender against a team that has possibly been overrated. Just recently, in 2014, Mercer beat Duke and in 2013 Harvard beat New Mexico. If you pick all of the 1, 2, and 3 seeds to advance to the next round your bracket will be looking pretty good!
4 Seed vs. 13 Seed
A 13 seed has beaten the 4 seed twenty-five times in the history of the NCAA Division One Basketball Tournament. In the last ten years there have been nine, 13seeds that have beaten the 4 seed, so keep this in mind if you are looking to pick a 1st round upset. However, since there are four 1st round games, where a 4 seed plays the 13 seed, the challenge is figuring out which game is it going to happen in, if it happens at all. In 2014 not one 13 seed beat a 4 seed, although in 2013 LaSalle defeated Kansas State in a stunning upset.
5 Seed vs. 12 Seed
Now this is where the madness happens folks. There have been forty-two times that a 5 seed has beaten a 12 seed. Since the year 2000 at least one 12 seed has beaten a 5 seed every year except for in 2007. Unbelievably in 2013 and 2014, three of the four 12 seeds advanced to the 2nd round. This definitely seems like a gamble that could pay off. It is almost a guarantee that at least one 12 seed will advance and this is where watching a lot of College ball pays off. The last three years have been particularly impressive with 12 seeds posting an 8-4 record. SFA moved on to the 2nd round last year as a 12 seed and is once again a 12 seed this year. They might be a team worth taking to the 2nd round. Notably, Montana beat Nevada to advance in 2006.
6 Seed vs. 11 Seed
Surprisingly only forty-one 11 seeds have beaten a 6 seed, which is one less than the 12 seeds that have beaten 5 seeds. In the last ten years at least one 11 seed has advanced to the next round every year. Most recently in 2014, Dayton beat Ohio State and Tennessee beat UMASS.
7 Seed vs. 10 Seed
The 10 seed has beaten a 7 seed fifty-seven times in history, which is about 40% of the time. It is a bit of a toss up on whether to pick the 10 seed or the 7 seed. It is best, in this situation, to not base your pick on rankings but to instead pay attention to who you think has been a strong contender through out the regular season.
8 Seed vs. 9 Seed
You will be hard pressed to find a harder decision while filling out your bracket than whether to pick the 8 or the 9 seed to advance. An 8 seed beats the 9 seed 52% of the time. Even though the 8 seed seems to have a slight advantage, this match up is virtually a toss up. You should base your picks on is a team has had a really hot player or finished their season really strong. Rankings seem to have little to no predictability when it comes to the 8 and 9 seed.
Additional Facts That May Help You
Like I stated earlier, a 1 seed makes the sweet sixteen 88% of the time, 2 seeds make the sweet sixteen 68% of the time, 3 seeds make the sweet sixteen 60% of the time and the 4 seeds make the sweet sixteen 58% of the time.
The last five times that Georgetown has been in the tournament, they have lost to a team ranked at least five spots worse than they were. So they could be one team to choose for an upset against Eastern Washington.
Although all of the 1 seeds are a heavy favorite, there has only been one year in history, 2008, that all of the 1 seeds made the final four. Only six times in history has the championship game featured two 1 seeds. Only three times in history, most recently in 2011, has a final four not featured a 1 seed.
Among active coaches in the NCAA tournament this year, Duke’s coach Mike Krzyzewski has won 4 championships, followed by Louisville’s coach Rick Patino and North Carolina’s coach Roy Williams and they have both won two. Other active coaches in the tournament that have won a championship include SMU’s Larry Brown, Kentucky’s John Calipari, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Kansas’s Bill Self.
A 1 seed has won the championship five of the last six years. A 2 seed has not won a National Championship since 2004.
A 5 seed has never won a National Championship. Only four times in history has the winner of the National Championship been worse than a 4 seed, in 2014 Connecticut as a 7 seed, in 1988 Kansas as a 6 seed, in 1985 Villanova as a 8 seed and in 1983 North Carolina State as a 6 seed.
A 12 seed or worse has never made the final four and has only once made the elite eight, which happened when 12 seed Missouri made it in 2002.
Of the teams in this years NCAA tournament, nineteen of the sixty-eight teams have won a National Championship in their school history. UCLA has won eleven championships, Kentucky has won eight and North Carolina and Indiana have both won five National Championships.
Although Kentucky is a heavy favorite, only three times in the last twenty years has the topped ranked team in the country won it all. However the last time it happened was in 2012 and Kentucky was ranked #1 and won the tournament, so there is a good chance that they will do it again this year.
What follows is a link to where you can go to print off a bracket. There are so many outlets out there where you can enter into bracket pools that you should have ample opportunity to have some fun this march madness season. I hope this breakdown of odds will help you when making your predictions. Good Luck!!