Weekend Preview: Ohio State gets a rematch with Indiana


source: AP

(All times ET)

Game of the Weekend: Sunday, 4:30 p.m.: No. 8 Indiana  at No. 5 Ohio State

The last time these two teams played, Indiana knocked off the Buckeyes in Assembly Hall 74-70, giving their fans even more reason to believe they deserved to be ranked somewhere in the top ten. The problem? Indiana probably doesn’t. The Hoosiers are a flawed basketball team, one that struggles on the defensive end of the floor and that doesn’t have the kind of strength in the paint to effectively battle on the glass. That said, if they are hitting their threes, they are dangerous. Ohio State found that out the first time these two teams got together. As did Kentucky. Even Michigan State was on the receiving end of a 25-2 run from the Hoosiers.

The question we all have right now is whether or not IU is capable of winning game on the road against good teams. The two times they’ve played on the road in the Big Ten, they lost to Michigan State despite going on a 25-2 run and they beat Penn State by six despite shooting 16-24 from three. That’s not exactly promising.

Ohio State, on the other hand, was in foul trouble when these two teams tangoed back on New Year’s Eve. It seemed like everyone on their roster had two fouls in the first 20 minutes of the game. That kind of kept OSU from getting into a rhythm offensively. That said, the Buckeyes have had some issues of late. They haven’t looked quite as dominant as we expected them to be, and a large part of that is due to the fact that we all underrated just how much they would miss David Lighty and Jon Diebler.

That’s the bottom line right there. Diebler did not miss when he got his feet set. Lighty could literally do anything on a basketball court and do it well. The guys filling in those roles — DeShaun Thomas, Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith — are capable, but they are not on the level of Diebler or Lighty. Throw in the fact that Sullinger doesn’t appear to be 100 percent or all the way back in shape after the time he had to take off, and it has put a ton of pressure on Aaron Craft to be a primary playmaker. That’s not his forte.

Its sets up a situation with all kinds of intriguing story lines. But most importantly, the loser drops to three games behind Michigan State and out of first place in the Big Ten. That deficit may be too much to overcome.

Three more to watch:

Saturday, 4 p.m.: No. 12 UNLV at No. 22 SDSU: There may not be a more intriguing matchup this weekend that when the Aztecs take of UNLV. On the one hand, SDSU hasn’t played anyone in well over a month. UNLV, on the other hand, has played the role of road dogs, galavanting across the country like they are on the #BIAHRoadTrip. UNLV seems to be the odds-on favorite to win the MWC this season, but the question many people are asking is just how good SDSU is. New Mexico has played about as well as anyone on the west coast over the last month and seems primed to make a run at the league title. If the Aztecs want a shot at winning the conference, defending their home court is crucial.

Saturday, 4 p.m.: Alabama at No. 20 Mississippi State: Who is the favorite in the SEC West? Prior to the start of the season, the obvious pick was Alabama. But as the Crimson Tide started to struggle in early December, the Bulldogs slid into the lead. But Mississippi State has come back to earth, starting with a loss at Arkansas to open up SEC play. Winning this game opens up a two game lead for the Tide in the division. The best part? These two teams match up very, very well. Both teams have big front lines — Arnett Moultrie and Tony Mitchell will be difficult to keep off of first-team all-SEC — while the matchup of Trever Releford and Dee Bost pits two of the best point guards in the league.

Saturday, 7 p.m.: UCF at Marshall: Who is going to be the biggest challenger to Memphis in the Conference USA regular season race? Southern Miss gave the Tigers their best shot on Wednesday, coming up just short as a game-winning three bounced off the rim. Both UCF and Marshall are sitting at 3-0 in the league. Who is for real? Personally, I like Marshall more because I love their back court.

Who’s getting upset?: Saturday, 8 p.m.: No. 23 Gonzaga at Loyola Marymount

Despite all the struggles that LMU has had this season, they are currently tied with Gonzaga are second place in the WCC at 3-1. And, believe it or not, the Lions probably have just as much talent on their roster this season, especially with Drew Viney back in the mix and healthy. Gonzaga is also going to have a tough matchup in the back court as neither Kevin Pangos or David Stockton are really known for their defense and Anthony Ireland has proven to be a player. The Zags are coming off of a 21 point loss at St. Mary’s. They are ripe for the picking.

Three more on upset watch:

Saturday, 1 p.m.: No. 13 Michigan at Iowa: The Hawkeyes have caught a couple of teams napping this year (ahem, Wisconsin), and they are certainly more talented than typical Iowa teams. Throw in the fact that they are coming off of an embarrassing and thorough whooping at the hands of Michigan State — one that caused Fran McCaffrey to body slam a chair — and I think that Iowa will be ready to play. Michigan struggled against Northwestern at home their last time out as well.

Saturday, 1 p.m.: Texas at No. 9 Missouri: To be honest, I love Missouri. I think they proved quite a bit with the way that they beat Iowa State on the road last week. When you can win on the road while doing what you do best poorly, that’s a good sign. That said, I like this Texas squad. I think they have a good young core and an underrated big man in Clint Chapman. But I had to pick someone to get upset, so I’m betting that J’Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo put it all together for a game.

Saturday, 6 p.m.: Tennessee Tech at No. 14 Murray State: Tennessee Tech has a really solid 1-2-3 punch in Kevin Murphy, Jud Dillard and Zach Swansey. They’ll be able to get up and down with Murray State. So yeah, I’m going to call the upset this weekend. Streak: over.

Mid-major matchup of the weekend: Friday, 7 p.m.: Cleveland State at Butler

OK, so maybe I’m just being hopeful because I’ll be at this game tonight, but I think there is a ton of intrigue in this game. Both programs lost a ton from last season, but both are still right near the top of the Horizon League. Hinkle is never an easy place to win, even if Butler is a bit down this season.

Three more to watch

Saturday, 4 p.m.: Ohio at Akron: Two of the best teams in the MAC take the court. Akron had the hype in the preseason, but it was Ohio that made a run early in the year and got themselves considered for the top 25.

Saturday, 9 p.m.: Montana at Weber State: The two best teams in the Big Sky? National Player of the Year candidate Damian Lillard, who currently leads the nation in scoring, has carried WSU to a 5-0 record in the league, but the Grizzlies are currently sitting at 4-0 themselves.

Sunday, 3:30 p.m.: Loyola MD at Iona: Iona blew a 17 point lead in the final eight minutes last night to Manhattan, suffering their first loss in league play. Loyola is sitting just a half game back in the win column, meaning that a win here for the Greyhounds would put them into first place in the MAAC. That is going to be a fun race to watch this season.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

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.