Dan Shaughnessy should stick to writing about the Red Sox

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“Who is Dan Shaughnessy and what does he do?”

I kid you not, I asked myself that very question when this column popped up in my email.

I’m a pretty well-rounded sports fan — I’ll watch anything from football to soccer and baseball to hockey — but I freely admit that the vast majority of the reading I do in regards to sports is of the college basketball variety. I’m a busy guy. I have important things to do. The third season of Sons of Anarchy isn’t going to watch itself for the third time. I’m trying to be proactive here.

So forgive me if I never paid much mind to a Boston Globe columnist. Boston’s a pro sports town. This is a college basketball blog. Our topics of interest don’t intersect all that often.

Which is why its so interesting to me that Shaughnessy decided to pen a column bashing the NCAA Tournament. You can go read it if you like. I’d recommend against it. Why? Well, its a lot like this:

OK, everybody likes their brackets. The David-vs.-Goliath themes are fun, great finishes always fascinate, and sometimes it’s nice to check in on old State U. But is there any connection between folks who actually follow the college game and this gluttonous festival of 24/7 bracketology bombardment? No. There isn’t.Here’s a little test: Walk out your door and try to find someone who can name five players in this year’s tournament. You won’t find anyone unless you live next door to Bob Ryan, my boss Joe Sullivan, or one of the pudding-eating, basement-dwelling blog boys who’d normally be tracking UZR or NFL fantasy teams.

I’m going to refrain from voicing my true feelings on these two paragraphs, only partially because I’m no longer a basement-dwelling blog boy. I’m moving up in the world. This is NBC Sports. I’m now officially a living room-dwelling blog boy.

I’m also going to refrain from picking apart the rest of this column piece by piece. I’m not as funny as the guys from Fire Joe Morgan. And I’m probably too fired up to avoid saying something that could get me in trouble at NBC.

See? Living room-dwelling blog boy. I have some class now.

What I won’t refrain from is pointing out that those two paragraphs — and the column in general — are entirely hypocritical.

One of Shaughnessy’s main points is that everything about the NCAA Tournament is a cash grab. Whether its coaches with the exorbitant salaries and tournament bonuses, the television networks making 11 figures deals with the NCAA to broadcast the event, or the money the schools rake in from the event, everything about the NCAA Tournament screams cha-ching.

The irony in that?

The online media outlets covering the NCAA Tournament get a windfall as well. The traffic over at my site Ballin’ is a Habit more than tripled during the week leading up to the start of the NCAA Tournament. I’m sure NBCSports and ESPN and Yahoo! and all the other major media outlets saw even bigger spikes in the traffic going to their college basketball pages.

You don’t think Boston.com wanted a slice of the pie? Its a coincidence that this column was posted was posted online on Sunday, the last day of the first weekend of the tournament, right? And its also a coincidence that, after last season’s tiff with Kentucky Sports Radio’s Matt Jones at right around this same time of year, Shaughnessy made sure to get in a couple of paragraphs worth of jabs at John Calipari, right?

Because otherwise, that would have been a desperate grasp at the traffic bump that comes with the attention of Big Blue Nation.

The bottom line is that this column isn’t about what is wrong with the NCAA Tournament. Its about what is wrong with college sports. And there is plenty wrong with college sports — the recruiting violations, the agents, the lack of “student-athletes” at the highest level. I could go on for days.

Nothing that was written in this column was new. Nothing was enlightening. It was a pot-stirring rant looking to drive up the controversy to get a couple of extra clicks.

Dan Shaughnessy is a grumpy old blowhard writing for a newspaper in a pro sports town that decided to go on a rant about what is wrong with the world of college athletics.

Feel free to ignore what he has to say.

Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
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Throughout Tom Izzo’s tenure at Michigan State the team’s half-court man-to-man defense has been a staple, and the Spartans have generally proven difficult to have a high rate of offensive success against. The reliance on that defense is why Izzo’s conversations earlier this summer about using some token full-court pressure due to the shortening of the shot clock caught some people off-guard.

According to the Detroit Free Press there’s another wrinkle the Spartans may use, and it’s likely that this wrinkle will show up more often than the full-court press. During Friday’s opening practice the Spartans worked on a 2-3 zone, and Izzo wants his assistants to make sure the team works on the defense consistently throughout the season.

That’s also why zone in general isn’t going to get heavy play at MSU, but having it as a tool could be beneficial — especially in games with touch fouls on the perimeter called in droves.

“I told (my assistant coaches): ‘You hold me accountable to working on it every day some’ … I have a tendency to drift off on that, and I don’t want to drift off on it,” Izzo said of the 2-3 zone. “But we will be, rest assured, a 90-some percent man-to-man team still and hopefully take some of those principles to zone.”

As noted in the story one of the risks in using pressure is allowing quality shots, which is why it’s unlikely that Michigan State will go to it. But even with Izzo vowing that his team will work on the zone, that doesn’t mean they’ll be playing it as often as Syracuse does.

Man-to-man has been Michigan State’s staple and it will continue to be. But it doesn’t hurt to look for other ways to keep opponents from getting the looks they want, especially if teams have five fewer seconds to find those shots.

Virginia used 3-on-3 to adjust to new shot clock

Malcolm Brogdon
Associated Press
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When the college basketball rules committee made the decision to trim the shot clock down to 30 second from 35, one reason for the switch was the desire to improve offensive production. With offensive numbers at their lowest point in years, proponents of the move see the shot clock change as a necessary move if scoring is to improve.

Whether or not that winds up being the case will be seen throughout the upcoming season, but teams are still having to make adjustments during the preseason.

Virginia, which has played at a snail’s pace (and with great success, mind you) in recent years, made some adjustments to their summer work in anticipation of playing with a 30-second shot clock. One adjustment was more games of 3-on-3 with a 15-second shot clock, which forced all involved to be more decisive in their offensive decision-making.

While the pack-line defense will always be a staple of Tony Bennett’s teams, the feeling in Charlottesville is that they’ve got the offensive firepower needed to both play faster and be more efficient offensively than they were in 2014-15 (29th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy). One of the players who will lead the way is senior guard Malcolm Brogdon, who led the team in scoring and was a first team All-ACC selection, and he discussed the team’s outlook with Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

And even though Anderson’s highlight-reel shot blocking was the thing that frequently fueled fast-breaks for U.Va. last season, Brogdon and [Anthony] Gill said they expect this year’s team to actually push the tempo even more.

“I think we’re going to be a team that gets out and runs more,” Brogdon said. “I think we’ll have three guards on the floor, most of the time, will be able to handle the ball as a point guard and get out in transition. I think we’ll play a lot faster.”

Brogdon and Gill are two of the team’s three returning starters with point guard London Perrantes being the other, and the Cavaliers also return most of their reserves from last year’s rotation. That experience will help them on both ends of the floor as they prepare for a run at a third straight ACC regular season title. And in theory it also allows them to extend themselves a bit more offensively than they did a season ago.