Draft Day Sports: College Basketball 2 Review

Draft Day Sports: College Basketball 2Let's face it. We've all had a real lack of college basketball video games to play the last few years.

It's been five years since 2K Sports last released one. Three years have gone by since EA Sports' last effort.

Draft Day Sports: College Basketball 2 gives us a choice.

Fortunately for us, it's a very good one.

Wolverine Studios released DDS:CB2 last fall, and I finally got the chance to check it out recently.

DDS:CB2 is a text simulation, meaning that while you can view a 2D representation of your team's games, you don't play them in the traditional sense, the way you would in an EA Sports' game.

Still, DDS:CB2 has a ton of value to offer college basketball fans, especially those who passionately follow the recruiting process.

In the game, you get to step in as a Division I coach, and you have a lot of flexibility as to how you want to do that.

As in the real world, a coaching staff consists of a head coach and his three assistants, each of whom typically focuses on either recruiting, scouting upcoming opponents, or team practices.

You can choose to work your way up the ranks if you desire. In one career I played, I started off as the third assistant in charge of scouting. In the lead-up to each game, I'd check out our opponent's roster and performance, and answer my head coach's questions about what to expect.

Once you're a head coach -- either after getting promoted or having started the game with a head job -- you have much more responsibility, especially in the world of recruiting.

Simply put, DDS:CB2 has the deepest recruiting of any game I've ever played.

First of all, unlike other college basketball games we've played in the past, your budget really does matter, especially if you're coaching a small school. I really appreciate this.

During the summer, you'll sign up for scouting services, choose which summer camps to go to, then you'll hit the road. You have to keep your budget in mind when considering which scouting reports to get and how much travel to do.

When I was the head coach at a low-major school, for example, paying for the most expensive scouting service and going to three July tournaments would have cost me a huge chunk of my budget. For a big school, however, it would have been chump change. It's a good reflection of the real challenges faced by hundreds of college basketball head coaches.

When it comes to recruiting players, you have a lot of options and information at your fingertips.
Not only does each prospect have his own priorities -- prestige, playing time, academics, location, etc. -- but so do the kid's parents! As the head coach, you'll have to balance making everyone happy, especially when choosing what to focus on during in-home visits with the prospect and his family.

(I'll pause for a moment while the college coaches reading this mutter to themselves while pouring another drink.)

The combination of budget, school prestige, and player priorities presents a really interesting psychological challenge for coaches.

When I took the head job at the University of Portland, I knew I'd have a tiny chance of prying prospects away from the University of Oregon and other big state schools in the northwest. The best strategy I came up with -- which is what most real coaches on that level do -- is to find the local kids the big schools aren't recruiting hard and sell them on getting a lot of playing time close to home. If you have good academics, that can help too.

On the other hand, if you're coaching at a school like Duke, you'll find yourself competing for recruits on a national level with schools like Kentucky and Kansas. While you have a huge budget and a national appeal, so does your competition. You'll have to use a completely different strategy than you would as a coach at a small, regional school.

One subtle thing I noticed was that the players' rankings in the scouting reports went up and down as the season went on. While I dislike rankings in the real world, I enjoyed the process in the game.

On multiple occasions as the head coach at a low- or mid-major school, I'd recruit a kid whom I'd scouted as having the skills I looked for, despite the fact that he wasn't even ranked in the top-500 or so prospects in the country. After getting a commitment from him, I'd watch as his ranking rose to the top-100. And indeed, when he finally stepped foot on campus, he started off with strong ratings and potential. That's one of the ways you land a great player as a small school!

(Alas, the reverse happened a few times, too.)

As a recruiting simulation, DDS:CB2 is unmatched, and I hope for future editions that include recruiting underclassmen, which would add a lot of extra strategy and realism.

The rest of the game holds up well.

It gives you control over things like scheduling non-conference games, practice schedules, and what assistants to hire.
During games, you have a couple options for how to view the action. There's a 2D view that mimics the action on the court and a GameView (which I prefer) that's similar to an ESPN.com Gamecast presentation, with an array of stats and play-by-play.

Head coaches can make substitutions, work the refs, set up plays coming out of timeouts, and adjust strategies like how often to press and run certain offensive sets.

While the in-game presentation is quite good, I found the interface cumbersome at times in other areas. It's okay when it comes to recruiting, though some extra filters would be helpful. The interface makes managing your own team, especially setting the depth chart, less efficient than I would have liked.

In other areas of the presentation though, developer Gary Gorski really went the extra mile. The game features a selection show that builds a nice amount of drama regarding which seed, if any, your team will receive in the tournament.

The regular scouting reports in the week leading up to each game and the interaction with recruits go a long way in contributing to your immersion into this college basketball world.

While the game doesn't include all the real colleges and players right off the bat, getting the schools added is a piece of cake with a helpful mod from the Wolverine Studios' forums.

I feel like there's a bit of a learning curve with the menus, but once you get going into your first summer of recruiting, you'll realize quickly just how addictive this game can be.

If you're a college basketball fan, Draft Day Sports: College Basketball 2 is without a doubt a game you need to check out, especially if you're a recruiting junkie like myself.