NCAA Basketball Tournament - Kansas State - Syracuse

Patience needed for South Carolina fans

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Vin Parise is a former assistant college coach and the college basketball insider for NBC Sports. He’ll post every week in CBT.

When Frank Martin took over Kansas State in 2007, the response from friends in the coaching world was almost always the same. “People didn’t understand it,” Martin said. “Everyone was like, ‘Why would you want to work there? It’s a graveyard for coaches.”

Soon after, he was coaching the Wildcats in the Elite Eight and honored as the Big 12 Coach of the Year.

Five years later, Martin heard the same type of questions as he began the challenge of rebuilding the brand of South Carolina basketball.

The Gamecocks are 5-3 overall but the signs of a tough road ahead in SEC play are evident.  The season started by sneaking past UW-Milwaukee in overtime.  Then there was the loss to Elon.  And most recently, South Carolina lost their last two to St. John’s and Clemson by a combined 33 points.  The Gamecocks are allowing opponents to shoot 46 percent from the floor.  That is not Frank Martin basketball.  Yet if history repeats itself, it shouldn’t stay this way for long.  As Martin stated on his Twitter account last week: “Sorry we didn’t get it done today for you. We will build a program u deserve.”


I don’t know how many 6-foot-1 guards will be drafted in June, but I know one that should.  Isaiah Canaan is as efficient as any point guard in the country.  Canaan and Murray State critics obsess too much about his size and way too much about how legit the Racers are as a ball club. The ridiculous success Murray State attained last year and their weak schedule sometimes overshadowed their point guard’s stature nationally.  Like a leopard, an elite player does not change its spots.  Remember, Jewuan Long and Donte Pool are gone from last year’s dynamic squad — so expecting Murray State to be the last unbeaten in the nation again is of course unrealistic.

But this team is still very good and their leader is noticeably stronger than last season.  Canaan is 8th in the country in scoring at 22.5 points per game, shoots an astounding 49 percent from the floor, shoots 42 percent from deep and 77 percent from the foul line.  And the Racers as a team?  They are 5-1 with wins against St. John’s, Auburn and Old Dominion.


A little over a week ago the world of college basketball was introduced to Rhode Island’s Xavier Munford.  Who was this transfer who led his team to a double overtime victory at Auburn with 33 points?  Dan Hurley was grateful because it was his first win as head coach of the Rhody Rams.  He’s equally grateful for how long he’s known his junior transfer.  Before his time at Iowa Western College and Miami-Dade College, Munford played for Hurley at St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey.  St. Benedict’s went 26-1 Munford’s senior season and were ranked No. 2 in the nation.  Also on that team, was current URI teammate and Rutgers transfer Gilvydas Biruta.

There’s only eight games under his belt, but Munford plays like a seasoned veteran and defends the only way he knows how — the way Hurley taught him years ago.  Munford is averaging 18.9 points per game — tops in the Atlantic 10 — and is shooting 33 percent from 3-point land.  But his impact goes beyond leading the Rams in scoring.  One day soon it looks like we’ll be talking about Dan Hurley’s revival of Rhode Island basketball — and so far the script reads Xavier Munford as the first name fans from the Ocean State will credit.

Vin Parise is the College Basketball Insider for NBC Sports.  You can catch him on NBC Sports Network’s SportsTalk – Mon-Fri. 6 p.m. ET.  Follow him on Twitter @VinParise.

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.