Creighton McDermott shoots around North Carolina Zeller during a college basketball game in Greensboro

Creighton’s schedule next season leaves much to be desired


Creighton has the potential for a special season in 2012-2013.

With Player of the Year favorite Doug McDermott back in fold, along with a roster that returns all but one player (Antoine Young) from last season’s 29-6 team, the Bluejays have the kind of talent that would put them on the level of Gonzaga, Xavier and Butler when it comes to teams outside the Power Six conferences.

In other words, don’t be surprised if Creighton puts together a 30-win season.

The problem?

There’s no guarantee that a 30-win season will equal success in the NCAA tournament.

On Selection Sunday last season, the Bluejays were 28-5 and fresh off of a win in Arch Madness, the MVC’s always-surprising tournament in St. Louis. They owned victories over San Diego State and Long Beach State in non-conference play and knocked off Wichita State in one of their two meetings during the regular season. Those were the only four games the Bluejays played against teams that made the NCAA tournament, and despite the MVC being relatively strong (the league was eighth in the RPI), Creighton was saddled with an eight-seed in the Big Dance and a date with North Carolina in the Round of 32.

Getting stuck in the 8-9 game is an easy way to see a potential cinderella become an afterthought.

And thanks to Greg McDermott’s stubborn refusal to play guarantee games, Creighton’s schedule may end up being weaker this season:

Creighton is promised only one game against a team that made the NCAA tournament last season. One. That’s at California, which got bounced in the play-in round in March.

There are home games against Akron, Tulsa, St. Joseph’s, Alabama-Birmingham, Boise State and two punching bags to be named later (opening-round games of a Las Vegas tournament).

There’s a road game at Nebraska (in addition to a BracketBusters game in February) and dates in Vegas against two of these three: Wisconsin, Arkansas and Arizona State.

Creighton will also be adding one more opponent, which one can only hope is a big name program.

Now, this schedule isn’t entirely McDermott’s fault. The games with UAB and Tulsa looked much better when they were agreed upon than they do now. The game with Akron is a leftover from last year’s BracketBusters and the Bluejays got a bad draw in the MWC-MVC challenge by landing Boise State instead of New Mexico, SDSU, Colorado State or UNLV.

That said, the concern for the Bluejays isn’t necessarily that they won’t be challenged heading into the Big Dance. This will be a veteran group that already owns a win in the tournament. They’ll be ready to play. The issue is where they’ll be seeded.

If Creighton doesn’t draw Wisconsin in the tournament in Vegas and St. Joe’s doesn’t end up being as good as many expect, it is feasible that the Bluejays will play the entire regular season without facing a tournament team.

What kind of seed can they hope to draw with that kind of a schedule?

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.