Western Kentucky v Mississippi Valley State

Head coach Sean Woods off to a busy start at Morehead State

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To say that Donnie Tyndall didn’t leave Sean Woods with a bare cupboard when he decided to take over at Southern Miss would be an accurate statement to make.

The Morehead State program has been a consistent contender in the OVC in recent years, which includes a 2011 OVC title and an NCAA tournament win over Louisville.

The task for Woods, who took the job after leading Mississippi Valley State to the NCAA tournament last season, is to pick up where Tyndall led off and take the Eagles to new heights.

With that in mind the former Kentucky Wildcat point guard has been a busy man since taking over, making multiple speeches to alumni groups and other supporters of the university.

This off-season’s been about firing up a fan base that expects Morehead State to compete for conference championships, and Woods has not backed away from the expectations.

As he said at his introductory news conference, Woods wants to make Morehead State “the Gonzaga of the South.” That is to say a mid-major program that can compete with any college team.

Woods smiled and nodded when asked if he used the same line — Gonzaga of the South — to describe his intentions when he became coach at Mississippi Valley State.

“I did,” he said, “and we were headed that way.”

To say the least that’s a very lofty goal to have when considering what Gonzaga has accomplished since they made that first run to the Elite 8 in 1999.

That season was the first of 13 straight that culminated with an NCAA appearance for the Bulldogs, who have also gone out and accepted many challenges in their non-conference schedule as well.

If that’s what Woods has in mind for Morehead State that certainly isn’t a bad goal to shoot for. But it won’t be easy given the presence of programs such as Murray State and league newcomer Belmont.

Coming off of an 18-15 season (10-6 OVC), Morehead State has to account for the loss of two of their top three scorers (Terrance Hill and Ty Proffitt) this season.

Hill missed the second half of the season with a knee injury so there’s some experience in that regard, and 6-7 forward Drew Kelly returns for his senior campaign as do guard Marsell Holden and forward Milton Chavis.

Taking over a new program is never easy, but the fact that Morehead State has a history of success should help Woods and his staff as they look to return the program to the NCAA tournament.

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.