This man loves basketball practice.

RICHMOND, Va. – Players and coaches tend to differ in a lot of ways, but none more than when it comes to practice. Coaches, they’ll practice all day and night. For players, well…practice is something to do between games.

The week and a half will be player-friendly in that regard. VCU will play four games in seven days – and five games in 10 days overall – starting with Thursday’s matchup with William & Mary at the Verizon Wireless Arena at 8 p.m. (ESPNU).

It’s a stretch that will cut heavily into preparation time. After Thursday’s game, the Rams will have one day to get ready for rival Old Dominion before hosting the Monarchs Saturday at 8 p.m. On Monday, VCU will welcome Hofstra to Richmond. Games at Towson Jan. 25 and Georgia State Jan. 28 follow. VCU’s Shaka Smart, a coach, and therefore by definition someone who loves practice, accepts that he’ll have to pull back on the reins for a little while.

“We probably won’t practice quite as long,” Smart said. “I love practice. I would practice for three hours every day, but it just doesn’t make sense for the next 10 days.”

The scheduling crunch is the result of two factors. First, the Colonial Athletic Association Championship (March 2-5 this season) is played early, relative to most leagues. The CAA usually crowns a champion a week before the NCAA Selection Show. Second, BracketBusters is played on a weekend previously reserved for conference play (Feb. 17-19). To compensate, there are two weeks during the CAA season with three games instead of two. That leaves VCU with no more than two days of preparation for any game over the next 10 days.

“I was talking to [Boston Celtics Assistant] Kevin Eastman about this stretch and he said, ‘Welcome to the NBA,’” Smart said. “In a lot of way it will be similar in regard in terms of short turnaround.

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