So who cuts down the nets? That’s easy — Kentucky



I know that’s a cop out and I know that’s the way to ingratiate myself with Big Blue Nation and I know that makes me kind of boring and cliche and whatever. Kentucky is the best team in the country. No one can match their talent level. I’ve been saying it since January, and there is no reason for me to change my mind at this point.

So Kentucky it is.

How do they get there?

Well, they’re not losing to Western Kentucky, that’s for sure. I think Kentucky’s draw might be actually a bit more difficult than I originally believed. Whoever they end up facing in the round of 32 — be it UConn or the Iowa State Fighting Royce Whites — is going to be a tough matchup, but the ‘Cats aren’t losing in Louisville. In my bracket, I have Wichita State getting to the Sweet 16, and they could end up giving Kentucky some trouble there as they have size, experience and a talented perimeter attack, but the key to beating Kentucky is being able to attack Anthony Davis offensively, and I don’t see Garrett Stutz doing that.

Regardless of who makes it that far, I don’t see issues for the Wildcats in the Elite 8. Duke can’t beat them. I don’t think Baylor can either. UNLV? Notre Dame? Xavier?

Welcome to New Orleans.

And the way I see it, UK will be the only No. 1 seed that makes it that far.

Obviously, without Fab Melo in the lineup, Syracuse is more vulnerable. This is not a secret. I still think that with their guard play and the inevitable switch by Jim Boeheim to a more uptempo style and a more pressuring defense, that the Orange will be able to make some noise this month. You’ll need play-making guards and a quality big to beat them even without Melo, and I don’t think K-State has enough back court firepower and I’m afraid Brad Tinsley will be eaten alive by Dion Waiters.

So that opens up the East Region for Ohio State, who I think will end up playing Kansas in the Final Four. I think the Jayhawks just matchup up with North Carolina too well. Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey can nullify any advantage UNC’s big men have and Tyshawn Taylor will be going up against one of the worst defensive back courts in the country.

I took Kansas over Ohio State to make the title game, where I see them playing Kentucky, who will beat Missouri in the other semifinal. Why do I have Missouri in the Final Four? Well, as risky as it is to bet against Tom Izzo in a tournament situation, I think the injury to Branden Dawson is going to hurt them more than people think, especially if/when they go up against physical teams like Memphis and New Mexico. I have the Lobos in the Elite 8, getting beaten by Missouri.

So Kentucky and Kansas.

Wouldn’t that be fun?

Kentucky already owns a win over the Jayhawks this season, having playing in the Champion’s Classic in NYC. More interesting, however, is that the last time a John Calipari team played Kansas in the title game, this happened.

You ready for the ride? It may get a bit bumpy, so I hope you buckled up.

(Click here to a larger version of Rob’s bracket)


Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.