Tahj Tate

Conference Preview: MEAC prepares for life after Norfolk State

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.
Kyle O’Quinn and the Norfolk State Spartans took the country by storm last season, ruining brackets everywhere with their stunning upset of No.2-seed Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. With O’Quinn now in the NBA, programs in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference are back to where they usually are: A college basketball afterthought serving as non-conference filler for programs looking to pad their records.

Delaware State and Savannah State are the two teams most likely to contend for the MEAC championship in 2012-2013. Delaware State returns two of the conference’s top players, sophomore guard Tahj Tate and sophomore center Kendall Gray. Tate was the team’s leading scorer last season despite missing five games, averaging 16.1ppg. He is unquestionably the most dynamic player in the conference, and can single handedly take over the game. Gray is one of the nation’s premier shot-blocker, but was limited to just 17 games last season because of a knee injury. No other team in the MEAC boasts a inside-outside combination like Delaware State, and these two players will ultimately be the reason why the Hornets finish atop the standings.

But the Savannah State should not be left out of the discussion. The Tigers had the MEAC’s best record a season ago and return their top two scorers, senior forward Rashad Hassan (13.1ppg) and senior guard Deric Rudolph (10.7ppg). After the top two teams, the conference starts to get dicey. Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina Central could sneak in to one of the top two spots, and Howard has the talent to cause an upset or two. But inconsistent play and a lack of talent depth will restrict the success of many of the conference’s programs.

The most interesting component of Delaware State and Savannah State sitting atop the league is that the two programs won’t face each other in conference-play. So we may not see the two best teams in the MEAC play each other until the conference tournament. But it’s not a given. Both teams stumbled in the conference tournament a year ago despite playing the best basketball in the conference up to that point. So while we have a good idea of who should win it all in 2012-2013, in the MEAC, nothing is certain.

All-Conference Team (* denotes Player of the Year)

G Pendarvis Williams (Norfolk State)
G Tahj Tate (Delaware State)*
G Deric Rudolph (Savannah State)
G Adrien Coleman (Bethune-Cookman)
F Rashad Hasasan (Savannah State)

Predicted Standings
1. Delaware State
2. Savannah State
3. Bethune-Cookman
4. North Carolina Central
5. North Carolina A&T
6. Howard
7. Norfolk State
8. Morgan State
9. Florida A&M
10. Hampton
11. Coppin State
12. South Carolina State
13. Maryland-Eastern Shore

Troy Machir is the managing editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @TroyMachir.

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.