Gary Williams: Domes Can Be Tough

Teams have to rely on defense in the Final Four, Williams says, because there will be lulls when neither team scores

Taz and the Moose
March 30, 2018 - 10:09 am

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Gary Williams coached Maryland to a pair of Final Fours, as well as the 2002 national championship. He knows a thing or two about college basketball, and he’ll be the first to tell you there’s nothing quite like Final Four week.

“This week, you have to talk to your players about stuff outside of basketball,” Williams said on Taz & The Moose. “You think the media has been big the first couple weeks of the NCAA Tournament, but it’s nothing compared to the Final Four week if you get there. And if it’s your first time – or for a school like Loyola that hasn’t been there since ’63 – it’s really tough on campus because everybody is so excited. The whole city of Chicago gets excited in this situation. You really have to be able to focus. You want to enjoy things, but you have to focus on each practice each day.”

Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype, hoopla, and celebrity of Final Four week. Coaches, however, can’t let that happen.

“I always tried to tell our team, we have to play like we did all year because we got here playing a certain way,’” Williams said. “‘We can’t get caught up in thinking we’re really good because we’re in the Final Four. If we’re a scrappy team, if we’re a blue-collar team, we have to play that way. We’re not going to win it playing any differently than we did the first three months of the year.’”

Villanova, Kansas, Michigan, and Loyola will have another challenge Saturday: playing in a dome – in this case, the Alamodome. Williams’ Terrapins won the national title at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Fun atmosphere, sure, but shooting can be an issue. 

“Domes can be tough,” Williams said. “I think it can be difficult, but it’s one of those things you can’t talk about to your team. If you start saying, ‘Well, the background is different, there’s too much space behind the basket’ – all those things – you just leave it alone. Players hear it. Nowadays especially they hear everything, so that can be a problem. But the thing you have to really emphasize with your team is, ‘Your defense is what got you here, so if we do have a bad shooting night, we can still win the game.’

“We were fortunate,” Williams continued, referring to his national-title squad. “But I’m sure there’s going to be some stretches in games – and there have been already in the tournament – where nobody scores. You just have to stay with your defense until you can get back down to earth with your offense.”