Jared Sullinger is going to get double-teamed just about every single time he touches the ball in the post this season. That’s the way that you have to play him, he’s that good on the block with his back to the basket.
On Saturday, we saw the pitfalls of those double-teams. The biggest Buckeye tried to force his way through the two and three defenders that Michigan State threw at him, and it resulted in a 5-15 shooting performance, 10 turnovers and a hideous, 58-48 loss to the Spartans in Columbus.
Not exactly ideal.
And while it would be easy to pin the blame on Sullinger, the fact of the matter is that he had to force the issue offensively because he had absolutely no support from his teammates. William Buford and Deshaun Thomas, whose roles are to be the guys that take the pressure off of Sullinger, combined to shoot 4-24 from the floor. If Michigan State didn’t face any repercussions from sending triple-teams at Sullinger, why stop doing it?
So would it surprise you that, in Tuesday’s 70-58 win over Minnesota — when Sullinger had 23 points, eight boards and two assists on 6-11 shooting while committing just a single turnover — Buford also had a big game? He hit three jumpers in the first 1:45 of the game and scored Ohio State’s first seven and ten of their first 15 points, and his presence as an offensive threat prevented the Gophers from being able to collapse on Sullinger in the post and forget that the rest of his team existed.
Sullinger is a terrific talent, but he is at his best when he’s surrounded by players that are making shots and spreading the floor. More than any other player in the country, Sullinger forces defense to adjust to him. What made Ohio State so dangerous last season is that they had four three-point snipers surrounding him. Any time an opponent was a step slow on a defensive rotation, they paid for it.
The closest Ohio State gets to that kind of offensive attack this season is when both Buford and Thomas are scoring efficiently.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.
With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.
Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.
“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”
Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.
As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.
Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.
“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.
“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”
Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group. Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.
As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.