Who knew it was possible for a team to outgun Missouri?

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It just one of those nights for No. 2 Missouri.

The Tigers – fresh off a win at Baylor and at their highest in the AP poll since 1989-90 – simply couldn’t contain a hot-shooting team Wednesday night, losing 79-72 at Oklahoma State. Usually that’s what happens to the Tigers’ foes.

Mizzou entered the game with the nation’s most efficient offense, small-ball (it starts three guards and uses 6-6 wing Kim English as a power forward) that blends uncanny shooting (39.3 percent from deep; an eFG% of 58.1) and ball-handling (only three teams take better care of the ball), not to mention a defense with more than a few remnants of Mike Anderson’s tenure still evident in their number of steals.

The Tigers didn’t deviate from their usual style Wednesday; it just didn’t have the same result.

Mizzou (18-2) couldn’t hit from outside (4 of 19), but didn’t attempt any more 3s than normal. It committed 10 turnovers on about 70 possessions, which is standard for them. The Cowboys lost about one in every five possessions, also at Mizzou’s average.

The biggest difference, by far, was how the Cowboys shot. They hit 59.6 percent from the field, which is so far from ordinary for them, it’s shocking. Coach Frank Haith said his team lacked focus to win on the road, which means the players probably overlooked the Cowboys (10-10, 3-4 in the Big 12).

“I expected it to be a hard-fought game,” Haith said. “This is Big 12 basketball. There’s good players. We didn’t do what we needed to do to finish the game out once we got control of the game.”

That would be due to freshmen Brian Williams (22 points) and LeBryan Nash (27). Nash scored 13 points, mostly on 3s, during a 17-4 Oklahoma State run that carried the Cowboys down the stretch. Hard to contain a guy who gets hot. Ask Ohio State.

Also, this tends to excite the home team.

It’d be easy to write off Missouri as a team too dependent on 3s and too small to be a serious contender in March. But if as we’ve seen this season, this was the type of game that happens to Top 10 teams, no matter how experienced or talented they are. The Tigers could just as easily be the team on the other side, hitting shot after shot and gunning 3s.

They’ll keep gunning and keep beating teams. But these nights will happen, making the Tigers the ultimate hit-or-miss pick in March. I’d be willing to take my chances with Marcus Denmon & Co., though. They haven’t given me much reason to doubt them yet.

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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.