“They just want to win” – The Denver Post

“They just want to win” – The Denver Post

TAMPA, Fla. — The Avalanche’s run to the Stanley Cup Final has brought all kinds of Denver-area coaches, executives and athletes to the arena, from Michael Malone and John Elway occupying first-row seats behind the goal to Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett revving up the crowd when shown on the videoboard.

The Avalanche also have fans on the Arkansas men’s basketball coaching staff.

Led by coach Eric Musselman, the staff has spent time during their offseason watching video of the Avalanche, which plays Tampa Bay in Game 3 of the Final on Monday night.

After the Game 1 win last week, Musselman tweeted about the Avalanche and explained why watching Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Co., are on his staff’s to-do list.

“For us, we love studying how connected they are as a team,” Musselman wrote in an email to The Denver Post. “To play that fast and sub the way they do, they have to be connected. The players on the ice are connected and the bench is into the game to know when it’s their time to sub.

“We talk to our team all the time about staying connected. We also talk about staying ready on the bench for when your opportunity comes. The Avalanche might call on someone for a 30-second spurt, but they’re ready.”

Musselman, a former NBA head coach with Golden State and Sacramento, has coached the Razorbacks for three years. Last season, the Hogs overcame a 1-5 stretch bridging the end of non-conference and start of SEC play to finish 28-9 and reach the Elite Eight (losing to Duke).

Buy-in and staying ready are requirements at Arkansas. Eight players averaged at least 10 minutes per game and eight players started at least four games.

So what are the coaches watching?

“Offensively, we studied pace of play and how relentlessly fast they play,” Musselman said. “The constant pressure the Avalanche puts on the defense would be much like our team pushing the ball and not wanting to play in half-court sets, but to play opportunity transition offense.

“They constantly push the puck. We call it, ‘No Walk-Ups.’ Don’t walk the ball up the floor. Defensively, the Avalanche seem to be one to put consistent pressure on the puck, (goal) line to (goal) line.”

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