Kevin Ollie

UConn head coach Kevin Ollie, wife donating $100,000 towards new basketball facility

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For quite some time the basketball programs at the University of Connecticut have gone without a basketball-specific practice facility, something that’s become the norm for high-level programs in the facilities “arms race” era.

The school’s been looking to change that and approved plans for a project that will ultimately cost $38 million, with $24 million in donations and pledges already made. And shortly after the approval was announced, UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his wife Stephanie pledged $100,000 to the project.

“I thought it was very important to show my commitment to the UConn Basketball Development Center,” Ollie said in the statement. “I have had the incredible opportunity to be a member of the Husky family, and that experience has influenced every part of my life.

“I want to be an example for all former UConn basketball student-athletes, who have had the privilege of playing for two Hall of Fame coaches, to join me in supporting this facility. It will help ensure the long-term success of the programs that all of us helped establish.”

The donation is just the latest step Ollie has taken in his first season in charge of the Husky program to ensure its health in the future following the retirement of Jim Calhoun.

The Huskies are 2-0 on the season, which includes a win in Germany over Michigan State that few expected to happen when considering UConn’s lack of interior depth and the postseason ban.

Ollie’s stressed loyalty to the program while also displaying his loyalty to the players who made the decision to remain in Storrs despite Calhoun’s retirement and the loss of an opportunity to play in the postseason.

And he hasn’t gotten on top of a soapbox to campaign for a new contract either, simply saying that the decision rests in the hands of athletic director Warde Manuel (who has said he would consult with both Calhoun and president Susan Herbst in the decision-making process).

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” Ollie said. “Warde is going to have his decision made on how these kids play, and at the end of the day I’m going to be fine. I’m going to love UConn and bleed blue no matter if I’m here or not here. I’m just approaching every day like I’m going to be here for a lifetime.”

In donating to the facility project Ollie is putting his money where his mouth is. The school plans to break ground on the new project in the spring.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report 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.