The Morning Mix

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– The big news item of the day deals with Syracuse center Fab Melo, who will be unable to participate in the NCAA tournament due to eligibility issues. This is the second time this year Melo has been ruled ineligible.  He had to sit out three games in January, and the Orange subsequently lost their first game of the season to Notre Dame. Jay Bilas assesses the impact of Melo’s absence.  Since Melo won’t be able to participate for the rest of this season, it seems as though he has decided to declare for the NBA draft

– Speaking of Syracuse, ESPN anchor Ryan Burr, a Syracuse alum, sent out a tweet directed at  highly-touted recruit, and potential replacement for Melo, Nerlens Noel. The tweet has since been deleted, but the NCAA doesn’t usually approve of things like this

– Position Logistics provided a great-read about the makeup of this very blog you are reading

– Richard Deistch provides by-far the best ultimate guide to viewing March Madness. Don’t be fooled by silly imitations. This is all you need

Mascot rankings for all 68 tournament teams

– John Gasaway explains why there will be no 12-5 upsets this year

– Matt Norlander put together a travel mileage chart of all the NCAA Tournament teams. Pretty cool stuff

– Jeff Eisenberg details the three “second round” games that feature lower-seed favorites

– Your obligatory “Who is this year’s VCU?” article

– If Ohio is able to upset Michigan in the second round, don’t be surprised if you see Jon Croce’s name appear on the hot-lists for new coaching hires in the off-season

– UConn’s punishment for low APR scores is a tournament ban in 2013 But if next year’s APR scores were applied now, 13 current tournament teams wouldn’t be dancing

– Oral Roberts and Drexel are two of just 15 teams since 1985 to go undefeated in league play only to lose in their conference tournament by single digits, thus losing out on the March Madness experience

– Andy Staples does a great job at projecting the next breakout tournament star

–  The odds that you pick a perfect second round bracket is 13.46 million-to-1

– Ten tournament truths you must abide by

Five entertaining yet unconventional ways to fill out your brackets

– Five first round upsets to look out for

– Does the lack of tailgating hurt the widespread popularity of college basketball?

– Former-Penn State guard Monroe Brown, who helped lead the Nittany Lions to a 1991 Tournament upset victory over UCLA, died on Friday at the age of 41

– Former NBA assistant coach Dick Harter led Penn to two NCAA tournament appearances and was the Oregon coach when the Ducks ended UCLA’s 98-game home winning streak. He passed away on Monday at the age of 81

Georgia Tech has dismissed Glenn Rice Jr. from the basketball program after he was involved in a shooting incident prior to the ACC Tournament

– With Northwestern in yet another N.I.T., is Bill Carmody’s time up in Evanston?

– Darrin Horn has been fired as head coach at South Carolina after four seasons on the job. Could Wichita State head coach Greg Marshall be in the running?

– Rhode Island fired their coach Jim baron last week after an abysmal season. The school has now gotten permission to interview Dan Hurley, who led Wagner to an impressive 25-6 season in the NEC. Hurley is the brother of former-Duke guard Bobby Hurley, and the son of legendary New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley

UCLA has decided to keep Ben Howland as their head coach despite a tumultuous season

Samford fired head coach Jimmy Tillette after 15 years at the helm

– Charlotte and UT-San Antonio are leading candidates in Sun Belt Conference expansion. This is why expansion stinks. San Antonio and Charlotte are nowhere near each other on a map. Neither is Marquette and South Florida. Or Boston College and Miami.  Or Syracuse and everywhere

– The 2012 Carrier Classic is likely to be held off the coast of Charleston, SC on the deck of the USS Yorktown 

– The Big-XII and ESPN are close to finalizing a blockbuster TV extension

– Georgetown’s mascot Jack the Bulldog, the real JtB, not the fake one, tore his ACL over the weekend. Yes, I know, I’m confused too. But apparently have ACLs and  can tear them. You learn new things every day

– When half-court shots fall short, way short 


Troy Machir is the managing editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @TroyMachir

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.