Ralph Sampson, Tubby Smith

Is Tubby Smith a Minnesota lifer?

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It seems like every time a BCS-level job comes open, Tubby Smith’s name is mentioned prominently as a possible hire. His name has been dropped everywhere from Oregon (prior to Dana Altman’s hiring) to LSU (where Johnny Jones took over for the recently departed Trent Johnson) and everywhere in-between. It begs the question: is Tubby Smith really going anywhere?

Smith took the Kentucky Wildcats to the 1998 national title, but stumbled to a pair of unacceptable (by Lexington standards) 9-7 SEC campaigns before departing for Minnesota in 2007. Smith left of his own volition, but many felt he was fleeing town one step ahead of the metaphorical posse.

The not-so-subtle implication is that nobody in his right mind — least of all a coach who had been to the mountain top with Kentucky — would want to stay in Minneapolis for the long haul. Tubby Smith himself has never given any indication that he’s restless nor lent any credence to the rumor mill that surrounds him on a near-constant basis during the offseason.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if other programs are using Tubby to generate buzz,” says Jonathan Foster of the Minnesota-centric blog From the Barn. “They know that Tubby is a big name coach, and they know that the perception exists that Tubby Smith wants out. So why not leak his name when it comes to potential coaching candidates? The athletic director doing the hiring can at least claim he went after a big name, which tends to appease the masses that think their program deserves a big name coach.”

Foster’s take has merit. As often as Smith’s name is brought up in coaching searches, he never seems to physically turn up in any of the towns he’s supposedly itching to burn rubber to. He never exhibits the merest public twitch of dislike for his home of the past five-plus years, either. In fact, he seems to genuinely enjoy the Twin Cities.

“He has frequently mentioned how much he enjoys living on the river front, within walking distance to work. He appreciates living in a historic neighborhood, in a thriving city with parks, theater, music, food, etc that can compete with any big city in the country,” Foster said. “He has stuck around for the same reasons that many people in Minneapolis have. He just happens to coach a basketball team.”

Tubby Smith is 60 years old. He may very well intend to finish out his career at Minnesota. He may not. But it may be time to put the kibosh on the idea that he’s dying to escape his present gig. Smith would obviously take a hard look at a big-money offer from a team in position to contend right away, should such a thing come his way in the next five years. Absent an encounter with that near-mythological beast, don’t be surprised to see Tubby Smith in maroon and gold for keeps.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He likes to crack wise and talk about college basketball @stfhoops on Twitter.

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.