Monmouth, Quinnipiac moving from the NEC to the MAAC

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The news that was thought to be on the way Thursday is now official, as Monmouth and Quinnipiac will leave the Northeast Conference at the end of this academic year to join the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

While Monmouth has already released a statement announcing its decision Quinnipiac will make its announcement on Saturday according to Mike Anthony of the Hartford Courant. The move pushes the MAAC to 11 members in 2013 (Loyola (MD) is joining the Patriot League) while dropping the NEC to ten.

“Monmouth is flattered by the invitation to join the MAAC. I thank the Council of Presidents for having confidence in us,” said Monmouth president Paul G. Gaffney. “While we have enjoyed our relationships with the NEC member institutions and our successes on the field, Monmouth is pleased with the opportunity to aim for new goals.

“There is little doubt that Monmouth and our NEC friends will find ways to continue valuable competitions. I look forward to working closely with new colleagues in the continual advancement of our new home conference.”

Monmouth’s arrival means that three schools located in New Jersey call the MAAC home, as they join Saint Peter’s and Rider. Rider’s campus is located about an hour away from Monmouth, and they’ve met 38 times since the 1974-75 season. The Broncs hold a 23-15 edge in the series, most recently beating the Hawks 65-62 on November 17.

As for Quinnipiac they become the MAAC’s second member located in Connecticut, as its Hamden campus is just over a half-hour drive from Fairfield. But there’s isn’t much basketball history between the schools as they’ve met just once, a 72-60 Fairfield win in the season opener for both last year (part of the Connecticut 6 Classic).

“We are delighted to be joining the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference that will continue to advance us both athletically and academically,” said Quinnipiac President John L. Lahey in a statement released by the school. “We also want to thank the Northeast Conference which has provided collegiality and support to Quinnipiac’s athletic teams since our becoming a Division I program.”

The question for the NEC, provided they only lose Monmouth and Quinnipiac, is whether or not they’ll look to replace those schools with new members. Ten would allow the NEC to keep its 18-game conference schedule with a true round robin, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.

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.