Memphis v Georgetown

Some will say that the Josh Pastner Era is off to a bad start


In-fighting, crying and a missed opportunity.

That’s the Memphis Tigers 2012 NCAA Tournament appearance summed up in a concise lede.

Chris Crawford was peeved at Will Barton for his shot selection, Barton ended up crying in the post-game press-conference  and, as a result, a team that had won their last seven games and boasted top 10 talent were bounced by a more disciplined Saint Louis squad.

With the loss, Tiger fans are flocking to their favorite medium to express their disdain – not just disappointment – for Pastner, who was heralded as a young coaching prodigy when he replaced John Calipari.

Watch last night’s game and it’s clear Rick Majerus outcoached Pastner. Playing at the pace they wanted, the Billikens overcame an eight point second-half deficit, got Tarik Black in foul trouble, and took advantage of a Tigers team that shot just 39 percent from the floor with an alarming 19 percent assist rate.

The grace period for the Tigers head coach is now over, and a reality check is in order.

There’s no doubt that Pastner can recruit: three McDonalds All-Americans (which does not include Barton) during his tenure, but there’s a lot of question of whether or not he can coach. Pastner is 75-29  overall in his first three seasons with zero NCAA Tournament wins or victories over a top 25 team.

John Calipari went 71-31 in his first three seasons in Memphis but 104-10 in final three years. Many fans were hoping for a near seamless transition between the two coaches, not something that stunk of rebuilding work.

But at the same time, Pastner apologists exist, and between them and impatient fans who can’t quite believe how much their basketball team has fallen in the past three years,  there’s surely to be plenty of back-and-forth banter between fans this off-season with no hope of finding common ground.

The bottom line is that Calipari made Memphis a brand name. He’s the one whose success turned them into an elite program and earned the school an invite to the Big East.

When they join,  the Tigers will no longer have a cupcake regular season schedule. They’re going to have to bring it night-in and night-out, relying on far more than just talent. Some sort of execution of a sound game plan will be imperative for success.

I’m not saying Josh Pastner can’t do it, but I am saying that his coaching seat will probably feel a bit warm entering next season.

Follow Nick Fasulo on Twitter @billyedelinSBN

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.