Jahii Carson

Pregame Shootaround 12.12.12: Memorable date with forgettable match-ups

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Each day, CollegeBasketballTalk brings you the “Pregame Shootaround,” which will lay out a preview for the slate of games that night. We’ll take a look at some key match-ups and important games, as well as make some predictions and point out what you need to watch for. Take a look below at today’s edition:

Note: The weekend editions of Pregame Shootaround will be published half an hour prior to tip-off of the day’s first game.

Game of the Day: DePaul vs. Arizona State

Really? Yes, and here’s why. This match-up is the only one Wednesday that features two BCS conference schools. Would you rather tune in to see No. 7 Ohio State likely take care of Savannah State early? Perhaps. But individuals are the ones who make DePaul-Arizona State worthwhile.

Point guard Jahii Carson has completely transformed the way the Sun Devils play offense this season. Last year, Herb Sendek’s team finished 305th in the nation with just 61.0 points per game. This year, with Carson running the point and pushing the offense, the Sun Devils are ranked 29th in the country with 79.0 points per game.

On the other side, Cleveland Melvin is another major asset on a team that has struggled in recent years. He’s averaging 18.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Towson vs. Temple

The slate is pretty dry Wednesday night on quality mid-major match-ups, so Towson vs. Temple is your best bet. The Tigers are coming off a game against Georgetown that was about as ugly as they come, and they came up six points short. They now travel to Temple, which was handed its first loss of the season to Duke over the weekend.

Scootie Randall was unable to get going for Temple against Duke, but expects the Owls’ leading scorer to bounce back against Towson. Khalif Wyatt also struggled, shooting just 3-of-15 from the floor in the loss.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Point guard Jahii Carson has completely revitalized the Arizona State offense and he faces off against Cleveland Melvin and DePaul tonight. (See above).

2) Ohio State is the lone ranked team in action Wednesday night. They take on Savannah State. Who will be the second scoring option alongside Deshaun Thomas?

3) Since losing its season opener to Kentucky, Maryland has won eight in a row. Alex Len continues to look like a lottery pick. He matches up with Monmouth Wednesday.

4) After beating Kentucky, Baylor stumbled with a loss to Northwestern. They have a chance to bounce back against in-state rival Lamar, who is just 1-8 this season after making the NCAA tournament in 2011-12.

5) Wisconsin lost a tough in-state game to Marquette on Saturday. Freshman Sam Dekker was just 2-of-10 in that game. See if he bounces back against Green Bay.

The Rest of the Top 25:

No. 7 Ohio State vs. Savannah State

Other Notable Games 

Colorado vs. Fresno State

Monmouth vs. Maryland

Green Bay vs. Wisconsin

Lamar vs. Baylor

Oregon State vs. Portland State

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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.