North Carolina v Indiana

No. 1 Indiana steamrolls North Carolina


North Carolina probably wishes they never turned the lights back on.

With 19 minutes left in the second half of the Tar Heels visit to Bloomington, the lights cut out at Assembly Hall. They immediately came back on, but the Tar Heels never showed back up. After using a 15-6 surge to close the half and break a 31-all tie, the Hoosiers proceeded to open up the second half with a 22-3 run, taking a 68-40 lead and turning one of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge’s marquee matchups into a laugher.

Are you still convinced Duke is the best team in the country?

If you are, that’s fine, but Indiana sure did provide a convincing argument to the contrary, as Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey combined for 58 points on 24-39 shooting in the 83-59 win.

Indiana was firing on all cylinders on Tuesday night. Zeller routinely beat every Tar Heel defender down the floor in transition — off of makes and misses — getting at least four layups simply off of hustle in the first 25 minutes of the game. Oladipo did what Oladipo does, coming up with easy buckets off of offensive rebounds and cuts to the rim while locking up Reggie Bullock on the defensive end of the floor. Sheehey proved to the nation why he’s the clubhouse favorite for sixth-man of the year while Yogi Ferrell and Jordy Hulls took turns carving up North Carolina’s defense to the tune of a combined 14 assists to just a single turnover.

Think about this: Indiana was this impressive, and they got nothing out of Christian Watford. Well, that’s not completely true; he did score once, a thunderous dunk with five minutes left to put the Hoosiers up 31. He was 1-9 from the floor.

Indiana still have some weak links. For as well as the Hoosiers were moving the ball, and for as many wide open shots as they were getting all night long, it was frustrating to see Watford force a couple of jumpers. And while Oladipo and Ferrell are both terrific defenders, when Hulls and Watford are on the floor together, the Hoosiers will be playing with two guys that are below-average defenders.

But after a performance like this, that almost feels like I’m picking nits.

The Hoosiers have so many weapons, so many talented players that understand and excel in their roles. Case in point: Oladipo has the physical tools to be a first round pick, and while he needs to prove that he can be dangerous as a scorer, I doubt you’ll see him do much more than play the role of Indiana’s glue-guy this season. He wants to win, and he knows that the best chance for the Hoosiers to win big are if he spends every second that he’s on the floor as the hardest-worker.

That’s a luxury.

And so is Assembly Hall. Even when the lights stayed on, that place was as loud and intense as any sporting venue you’ll ever see.

No wonder John Calipari didn’t want to play there.

Can you really blame him?

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.