J.J. Moore, Dane Miller

Dunk of the Year Awards

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With the 2011-2012 season finally in the books, its time to look back at the moments that made this season so special. We’ve addressed the best tournament moments, and best games of the season. But each game is made up of individual moments which can stand out on their own given certain circumstances.

The 2011-2012 season had no shortage of gravity-defying dunks. There was not a week that went b without somebody ending up on the wrong end of a posterization. In fact, poster-dunks were at such a premium this season, it’s not too long before the word “posterized” make’s it into the Webster’s dictionary.

But what made all the dunks, slams, alley-oops, and rim-rockers great was the circumstances. We saw opening-tip poster-jams, game-winning dunks, and highlight reel slams at all levels of competition.

Before we get to our top-10 dunks of the 2011-2012 season, have a gander at the best dunks from a variety of different categories, including “Dunker of the Year”.

Best Single Game Peformance: Trevis Simpson –  UNC-Greensboro vs. Miami

There were a bunch of worthy candidates in this category. Any time Alabama’s Tony Mitchell stepped on the court, he was good for at least four dunks. Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown was a human dunk machine night in and night out. Southern Mississippi’s Torye Pelham dropped three Top Plays in one game, and Xavier’s Dez Wells put on a showstopping performance against Duquesne, but Simpson takes the honors here because of what he did to the basket. He dunked so hard that a few bolts broke off the rim. Now that’s called “Sending it in”.

Best Alley-Oop: Julian Boyd – Long Island vs. Robert Morris

A half-court alley-oop is one of the prettiest sights in college basketball. But when it’s thrown down in a conference championship game, with a tournament bid on the line, in front of a sold out crowd, well, you just can’t get any better than that. Well, Spike Lee was there, so maybe you can. Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown caught a three-quarter court alley-oop from Keiton Page, but it wasnt as pretty as Boyd’s.

Most Creative Dunk:  Darrion Pellom –  Hampton vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore

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Is there really any debate with this one? We’ve seen guys catch alley-oops off the backboard from teammates, but to do it all yourself? Now that’s just impressive. The best part is that he threw it up, went behind the defender’s back and caught the slam. There’s a reason this dunk also made our Top-10 list.

Best two-footed Dunk: Kyisean Reed –  Utah State vs. Southern Utah

You would be surprised at how many dunks are started by jumping off of two feet. Sure, most of the highlight reel dunks are fast-break poster-dunks, but Utah State’s Kyisean Reed shows us that if you got “hops” you don’t need a running start. In fact, you get a more explosive jump when using two feet, which mean be the reason why Kyisean looked like he was getting shot out of a cannon.

Best One-Handed Slam: Rodney Williams – Minnesota vs. Nebraska

Rodney Williams has excellent hops and excellent length, which makes his an excellent dunker. He is a slashing guard who you do not want to give up the baseline to. If he get’s past you on the baseline, it’s take-off time for the “The Rodney Williams Express Airlines”. This one-hander is so spectacular because he gets such good extension and velocity. Most of the season’s best dunks were one-handers, but this one stands out.

Best Poster-Dunk: DeShon Minnis – Texas Tech vs. Southeastern Louisiana

Like the previous category, many of the best dunks of the year were of the poster-variety. But “Biggie” Minnis’ dunk takes the cake for several reasons. First, if you aren’t aware, just dunking over somebody doesn’t constitute a “posterization”. The defender has to make a serious effort to thwart your dunk attempt.

Elgin Bailey, the 300-pounder on the wrong end of this dunk, makes more than a serious effort to get the block. You can see him take the stutter-steps needed to pin the shot up against the glass. But unfortunately for Bailey, he’s not as athletic as Minnis. The chaos that ensues following the dunk si what really seals the deal. Poor photographer. While there are a host of other poster-worthy nominees, this one is by far the most entertaining.

Best Tip-Dunk: TrayVonn Wright –  North Dakota State vs. South Dakota

You probably never saw this dunk. You probably never even knew when these teams played. Hell, you probably didn’t even know these two teams played at all. And for shame, because Wright’s one-handed tip-jam was out-of-this-world. Dunks like these are only  thrown down by guys like Anthony Davis, and TrayVonn Wright is no Anthony Davis. Seriously, this was the best dunk of the year that nobody saw.

Dunker of the Year: Markel Brown, Oklahoma State

It was a tough decision. There were so many guys who threw down SportsCenter Top Plays on a weekly basis. Here is the group of ten finalists we narrowed it down to:

Quincy Acy (Baylor), Doug Anderson (Detroit), Markel Brown (Oklahoma State), Dion Dixon (Cincinnati), Chris Evans (Kent State), Tony Mitchell (Alabama), Andre Roberson (Colorado), Dion Waiters (Syracuse), Dez Wells (Xavier), Rodney Williams (Minnesota)

But Markel Brown gets the nod because of his overall resume. Tony Mitchell probably had more dunks, and Rodney Williams probably had a better vertical, but Brown’s overall package was as well put together as you could imagine. He caught full-court alley-oops. He threw down reverse  two-handed alley-oops, and back-door one-handers, and countless posterizations. But the icing on the cake was his dunk-related ejection against Missouri on January 25th.

He dunked all over Kim English on the first play of the game, and was assessed a technical foul for “excessive celebration”. When you “yunk” on somebody that bad, you get to celebrate excessively. Later in the game, he posterized Matt Pressey, and once again drew a technical foul. Brown may be the first person in the history of college basketball to get ejected from a game because he couldn’t help himself from posterizing every member of the opposing team.

Markel Brown was instant showtime.

But where’s the “Dunk of the Year” award? It’s coming in our next section, which will chronicle the ten best dunks of the 2011-2012 season.

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.