November 17, 2017 10:19:16 AM
STARKVILLE -- Collin Crane had only been on the job as Mississippi State men's basketball's strength and conditioning coach for a few months when he sat down with his boss, Ben Howland. It was early August and they had the coming winter's full schedule in hand.
Crane's eyes were drawn to a stretch in the week leading up to Thanksgiving: three games in five days. Crane didn't want to improvise the plan for that stretch, so he, Howland and the medical staff set it months in advance.
That stretch begins Saturday.
MSU's three-game homestand begins with Florida A&M (0-2) 3 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network+) at Humphrey Coliseum before welcoming Wisconsin-Green Bay on Monday and Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday, the latter two expected to be contenders in their respective conferences. Crane spoke with The Dispatch about the team's plan for keeping its players healthy and fresh in that series of games.
That process started a week ago.
The players were given a day off after Nov. 10's season opening win over Alabama State, a Friday; Crane said the team was supposed to watch film, lift and practice the following Sunday, but they decided to cancel practice and, "lay off their legs one more day." Crane thinks the move is crucial at this point in the season, in hopes that more rest now means better stamina for both the next three games and the full season ahead of them.
On the team's off day this week, Wednesday, Crane brought in massage therapists from Golden Triangle Massage Therapy in Starkville, a group Crane said the program will really rely on in this stretch of games.
On Saturday, the players will make a return trip.
Crane said immediately after the Florida A&M game, he's sending his player to Golden Triangle Massage Therapy for cryotherapy. Cryotherapy is a treatment in which the body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures, sometimes -150 degrees, that athletes use to relieve muscle pain, among other effects.
"By doing cryotherapy, we can turn off some of those inflammatory pathways, decrease muscle swelling, things like that, as well as giving a great spike in natural endorphins," Crane said. "It's even been shown to help with hormone output -- testosterone and growth hormone outputs -- so when they go to bed that night, it'll help them recover through their sleep."
The plan is the same for the Monday and the Wednesday in between games: shorter practices with visits from the massage therapists afterward. The team is still practicing on the days in between the games not only to install and prepare for the opponents, but also because Crane wants to use it as active recovery.
Howland has worked ahead to make the one day of preparation time serviceable.
"We've been preparing a little differently for the games coming up, we're trying to have a little more of an idea about Wisconsin-Green Bay and Stephen F. Austin, we started working on them last week," Howland said.
The games come so close together as part of the Hoops in the Heartland event, a benefit for the non-profit Men Against Breast Cancer. Howland has no plans on resting players whenever possible in the game against Florida A&M in hopes of higher energy against Wisconsin-Green Bay and Stephen F. Austin.
"We hope to win on Saturday, that's No. 1. We don't have the depth to do what you're trying to suggest," Howland said.
He was referencing injuries to freshman forward KeyShawn Feazell (ankle), who missed the season opener, and guard Xavian Stapleton (knee) who only played five minutes in that season opener. Howland was hopeful Feazell could practice Thursday to help get him ready for the Saturday game; Stapleton was going to see a doctor Thursday afternoon. MSU announced earlier in the week there was no tear but there was a sprain of the ACL in his knee.
That comes on top of forward Abdul Ado's quad injury that kept him out of both preseason exhibitions and the season opener. Howland said Ado practiced for three days leading up to the Alabama State game but MSU chose not to play him; he expects Ado to play against Florida A&M.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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