Read through the rest of our Early Entry breakdowns here.
Will Barton, Memphis: Barton is a frustrating guy to see head to the NBA. He’s a terrific athlete and a guy that plays the game hard. He’s a defensive playmaker and a guy that can make a difference on the glass despite being just 6-foot-6. The problem? Barton’s offensive repertoire needs a lot of work. His handle and his jump shot are both suspect enough at this point in his career to the point that it seems unlikely he’ll be a first round pick. I generally don’t have an issue with players heading for the NBA unless they are costing themselves a chance at earning some guaranteed money. Barton may have done just that.
Dominic Cheek, Villanova: I’m not exactly sure what Cheek was thinking here. Does he have family members to take care of? Was he simply done playing college basketball? Both of those things happen, and both of them are legitimate reasons (in my mind, at least) to enter the NBA Draft. But if Cheek thinks he’s going in the first round, he’s going to have a rough draft night party.
Jared Cunningham, Oregon State: Jared Cunningham is arguably the best on-ball defender in this draft class. At 6-foot-3, he’s quick enough to defend point guards and athletic enough to defend shooting guards. He can work around screens and he can stay in front of someone trying to beat him off the dribble. Don’t get me started on his ability to jump passing lanes. But Cunningham’s offensive game is so incomplete that there is a real chance he could go undrafted. The irony here is that I think he will end up carving out a career in the NBA so long as he can become a 40% three-point shooter.
Khris Middleton, Texas A&M: Khris Middleton spent much of 2011-2012 laid up with injuries. When he did play, he didn’t look to be the same player that he was as a sophomore. And as a sophomore, he was criticized for being a relatively unathletic, 6-foot-7 small forward that could do nothing more than shoot the ball in the mid-range. As a junior, he shot 26.1% from three. I guess he didn’t like playing for Billy Kennedy.
Hollis Thompson, Georgetown: I like Thompson as a player. He’s a lights-out three-point shooter that stands 6-foot-7. Those don’t come around all that often. The problem is that for him to be able to succeed at the next level, he needs to be James Posey. Or Bruce Bowen. In other words, he needs to be a terror defensively that spreads the floor offensively. At this point in his career, he’s not that kind of defender. Another year’s worth of work on the defensive end of the floor could have changed that.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
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.
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.