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Overheated locker rooms, pregame stunts are all part of the game

Coaches and players will do just about anything to get an edge on their opponents. But when does it cross the line? Is it gamesmanship or cheating? From manipulating home courts, practices and locker rooms to painful pregame intros to questionable maneuvers in the paint, ESPN.com's college basketball experts share their stories.

Heat Wave

Maryland's Cole Field House was a tough place for visiting teams in the 1980s. But the Terrapins' talent on the court wasn't the only reason opposing squads felt uncomfortable.

"Maryland used to turn up the heat in the visitors' locker room, to the point that we would dress in the hall at times and pry open the back window," former Duke player and current ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said.

For the record, the Blue Devils were 3-1 at Maryland during Bilas' career, with the only loss coming in his junior season.

More from the locker rooms:
•  The Cincinnati visitors' locker room is quite a bit farther from the court than the home locker room. The visitors' locker room is downstairs, and the time it takes to get down there and back can shave off a few minutes during halftime.

•  The Clemson locker room also is a long way from the court. Visiting teams have to go up the tunnel, take an elevator to the concourse level and walk around several corners to get to the tiny room.

•  A Pac-10 player told Andy Katz that Oregon puts opposing teams down in the dungeon and turns up the heat to 90 degrees. The player said that before games even get started, the heat makes the athletes feel tired.

The Games Before The Game

When Bilas played for Duke from 1982 to 1986, he encountered a few pregame rituals, some of which were of the painful variety.

"NC State used to use a different ball for warm-ups than for the game. It was nothing more than a minor annoyance, and I have no idea whether it was done intentionally or simply chance," Bilas said. "I did not consider it cheating, rather, just gamesmanship."

Meanwhile, former NC State star Cozell McQueen tried to gain an advantage during the introductions. "Cozell McQueen used to take a wild swing at your forearm during pregame alternating intros," Bilas said. "You would have your hand out to shake, and instead of slapping five, he would slap the hell out of your forearm, and it left a big mark and stung like crazy. I hated that."

More pregame exploits:
•  A couple of SEC teams also get into the pregame act, according to Katz. Mississippi State apparently saves money -- and annoys visiting teams -- by turning on only the dimmers in the gym the night before a game so the opposing teams practice in limited lighting. Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said he deals with this every day, but the issue has become enough of a problem for opposing SEC coaches that it came up at the coaches meeting this past spring. Coaches from Florida, LSU and South Carolina said they have had trouble seeing their notes.

•  An SEC coach claimed that Auburn, while under former coach Cliff Ellis, took the air out of the ball for a shootaround. The SEC coach confronted Ellis about it in jest, but he is convinced that a manager did it maliciously.

Game On

Bilas said former Georgia Tech standout John Salley and former Terrapin Cedric Lewis were notorious for their on-court distractions.

"[Salley] would grab your inside arm by the wrist when being boxed out. He would try to pull it behind your back, and while you were trying to free it, you were not concentrating on rebounding. Cedric Lewis was a shorts puller. He used to tug down on your shorts to distract you and win the position battle.

"If someone can gain an advantage by holding, it is the officials' job to deal with it."


More in-game behavior:
•  Colorado State used to put the team mascot, a live ram, behind the visitors' bench as a distraction. When the Rams hosted New Mexico a few years ago, the stench was a huge problem for the Lobos players and staff.

•  A school that played Kentucky Wesleyan was convinced the Panthers put the rims at 9 feet, 5 inches in the second half of a game a few years ago.

Practice Players

Timing is everything. A former Colonial Athletic Association coach told Katz that he manipulated the clock to gain an advantage for his team before day games.

The coach said he messed with practice times the night before a game, especially the night before a day game. In one instance, Drexel was booted off the court by the women's team, and there was no time to conduct a shootaround under the shortened time frame before a day game.

More from the practices:
•  At one time, East Tennessee State and Chattanooga didn't close the gyms during opposing teams' practices, so students would be running around on the court.

•  Connecticut officials said students used to come in and heckle Khalid El-Amin during practice in the old Fitzgerald Fieldhouse on Pitt's campus.

•  When Alabama played at Auburn during Ellis' tenure as the Tigers' coach, Tide coach Mark Gottfried noticed someone looking through the blinds from the coaches' offices during practice. So, Gottfried gathered the team at center court and told his guys to turn around and wave on the count of three. He said that when they did, the person behind the blinds suddenly shut them.

ESPN.com writers Jay Bilas and Andy Katz and men's college basketball editor Kim Baxter contributed to this story.