Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta watches the court as his player William Buford celebrates during the second half of the men's NCAA East Regional basketball game against the Cincinnati Bearcats in Boston

William Buford wasn’t stellar, but win gets him deserved shot at Final Four

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BOSTON – Currently the school’s fourth all-time leading scorer player, William Buford has certainly left his mark on the Ohio State basketball program.

The player who holds the distinction of starting more games than any other player to pass through Ohio State, Buford has played alongside college basketball superstars Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger and been a part, if not the centerpiece, of many great and important games.

But he’s never been to a regional final, instead ending his first three seasons in Columbus with heartache and under-achievement.

Until now.

Despite another unimpressive performance in the Sweet 16, Buford, speaking in terms of team, got the monkey off his back, as No. 2 seed Ohio State advanced past a pesky No. 6 seed Cincinnati Bearcat squad with an 81-66 victory.

Buford finished with just four points on 1-8 shooting. He also committed four fouls and five turnovers.

His numbers in the game’s box score are nothing which would be something to write home about, and aligned with Buford’s two previous Sweet 16 performances.

Oh well.

“We advanced,” said Buford after the game. “And that’s all that matters.”

Last season, Buford finished with nine points on 2-16 shooting in a Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky.

In 2010, he was inefficient against Tennessee, as the two-seed Buckeyes were defeated by the Volunteers.

The year before, he was the victim of a first round defeat to mid-major Siena.

His NCAA Tournament life has been anything but pleasant.

“It feels great just to say I’m in the Elite Eight,” he said. “I’ve never been this far. Nobody on this team has ever been this far. All the hard work is paying off but we got a long way to go to get where we want.”

So regardless as to how it’s done, the Buckeyes advance, so does Buford.

He gets a chance to play for the Final Four and a shot at redemption. At being the guy everyone points to in the locker room as the star of the game; something he’s shown to be more than capable of doing, just maybe not when the lights are brightest.

As a senior whose name is prominently plastered on the school’s record book, Buford deserves the chance to cut down a net or two this spring.

With the Buckeyes still standing, Buford is just 40 minutes away from doing just that.

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.