Kentucky v Indiana

Kentucky’s the favorite, but Indiana is a dangerous matchup


Indiana played pretty close to a perfect game on December 10th.

That was the day that the Hoosiers, then undefeated but unranked, knocked off Kentucky in one of the season’s best games with one of the year’s most memorable shots.

Indiana shot 9-15 from three that day. They won the battle of the back boards, they put five players in double figures and they managed to get Anthony Davis — who never fouls — into foul trouble.

The problem, however, is that many of the issues that Kentucky faced they brought upon themselves. Like, for example, the fact that Terrence Jones spent much of the second half pouting about the fact that he wasn’t playing well. He finished the game with four points, one rebound and six turnovers in 28 minutes. Jones seems to have gotten his head screwed back on over the last couple of month, which should make him a different player.

The other issue is that while Davis did get in foul trouble against the Hoosiers the first time they played, that was basically the last time he’s had foul problems. In the 27 games he’s played since then, Davis has committed three fouls just four times, hasn’t picked up four fouls in a game and has gone without a foul three times.

Need I mention the fact that Marquis Teague is playing his best basketball of the season and Verdell Jones III is out with a torn ACL?

And you’re wondering why this game has all-but been given to Kentucky already?

That said, you’d be crazy to think that the Hoosiers won’t come to play. Remember, this is an Indiana team playing with house money right now. Not only have they already beaten Kentucky this season — having confidence you can win against a team of Kentucky’s stature is half the battle — but they’ve made it farther than anyone expected them to.

Indiana wasn’t supposed to be in the NCAA tournament this year, let alone in the Sweet 16. They were called overrated for months after their hot start. They were a trendy pick to get knocked off in the first weekend. And yet, here they are.

Playing the overwhelming favorite to win the national title who just so happens to be a heated rival.

Indiana has nothing to lose. And that’s what makes them so dangerous.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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.