NCAA Basketball Tournament - Kansas v North Carolina

Latest on UNC hoops’ connection to the academic scandal


Jason McIntyre over at The Big Lead took his turn doing a little bit of investigative work into the growing academic scandal at North Carolina.

And while he — like the Raleigh News & Observer, who has been all over this story — has yet to find direct evidence that unquestionably links the basketball team to the academic fraud, the amount of smoke growing around Roy Williams’ program makes it more and more difficult to believe that there isn’t fire in there somewhere.

TBL’s findings focuses on two people: Wayne Welden and Deb Crowder.

Welden was in charge of tracking the academic progress of Williams’ program at Kansas and followed him to North Carolina in 2003. Interestingly enough, Welden was listed as the responsible person for the Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving teams for the Spring 2010 through Fall 2011 semesters.

Crowder was an administrator in the African and Afro-American Studies department, where the majority of the academic fraud is alleged to have taken place. She had “unusual access” to the team and also left her position in the summer of 2009, a full year before the story about the scandal broke. From TBL:

So in 2009, a year before the scandal went public, the academic adviser to the basketball team – a team which had a history of players who majored in African and Afro-American Studies – left UNC, as did a longtime administrator in that department. Since the departures of Walden and Crowder, records obtained by the News & Observer (click here for the UNC academic info PDF) show a dramatic drop in athletes majoring in African and Afro-American Studies. We specifically looked at the basketball team’s numbers in that major from when Roy Williams took over in 2003-2004, and here are the numbers we found (African & Afro-American majors/players who had chosen a major):

2003-04 AA 5/13
2004-05 AA 7/13 <—- Won NCAA title.
2005-06 AA 3/11
2006-07 AA 3/15
2007-08 AA 2/12
2008-09 AA 1/16  <— Walden and Crowder left after this school year.
2009-10 AA 0/10
2010-11 AA 0/8
2011-12 AA 0/9

Again, this is nothing definitive.

It’s possible that this is all a coincidence.

But I get the feeling that there is more to this story that will eventually come out.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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.