Oregon State v Washington - Quarterfinals

Early Entry Breakdowns: Under the radar picks

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Read through the rest of our Early Entry breakdowns here.

G J’Covan Brown (Texas): Brown is a household name for many given the fact that he was the leading scorer as a junior at Texas. But with many projections placing him at the back end of the second round, he could end up being a pick that provides more value than expected. Brown averaged 20.1 points and 3.8 assists per game last season, both significant improvements from 2010-11. And while his decision-making could still use some refinement, Brown’s assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4) and turnover percentage (16.0%) in 2011-12 were the best of his career in Austin.

G Jared Cunningham (Oregon State): First-round athleticism but Draft Express has Cunningham slotted into the early part of the second round. That likely means that Cunningham is a player who could work his way into the first round with good workouts, provided he display the ability to consistently knock down perimeter shots. Cunningham shot just 33.8% from three as a junior and 34.4% for his career in Corvallis, but his scoring (17.9), rebounding (3.8) and assist (2.8) averages in 2011-12 were all career highs.

F Moe Harkless (St. John’s): With more names entering the draft Harkless slipped from teetering on the edge of the lottery to the latter stages of the first round. That may be a bit low for a guy who along with D’Angelo Harrison carried much of the offensive load for the Red Storm in 2011-12. And while the Big East Rookie of the Year didn’t experience a great amount of success in the wins department, Harkless’ versatility was evident on a nightly basis. And Harkless did this while playing at the ‘4’ on most nights; more freedom to roam at the next level could pay off for whichever team selects him.

F Hollis Thompson (Georgetown): Thompson improved both his scoring (12.8) and rebounding (5.5) numbers as a junior, but it feels like he left Georgetown without realizing his ceiling in college. At 6-8, the Los Angeles native is capable of being a match-up problem on the wing, shooting 47.7% from the field and 43.9% from three in three seasons. Thompson didn’t take too many shots at attacking foes off the dribble in college, and if he can show in workouts that he’s capable of doing so at the pro level Thompson could rise up draft boards.

F Royce White (Iowa State): White had an outstanding season at Iowa State, leading the Cyclones to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005. But pro drafts tend to also mean the digging up of past foibles (“red flags”), which could lead to a drop in his stock. And while there is a need for teams to do their due diligence that would prove to be a mistake with White. If teams were to use this as an excuse to drop White out of the first round, someone’s going to end up with a steal early in the second.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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.