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Weekend Preview: No. 16 Creighton should be on Upset Alert vs. Cal

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Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 16 Creighton

I like the Bluejays this year. I think they are one of the most fun teams in the country to watch run offense. They spread the floor, they shoot a lot of threes and they don’t turn the ball over. Plus, they have this kid named Doug McDermott, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him. There’s a reason this group is ranked 16th.

But …

The one loss Creighton has this year came against a Boise State team with a strong back court of playmakers that shot the ball very well from three. Sounds a lot like Cal, doesn’t it? That’s who Creighton will be playing — on the road — on Saturday night. With Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe on the roster, the Bears are going to have a chance to play with anyone in the country if they get hot. Throw in the fact that the Bears desperately need this win after losing to Wisconsin and UNLV in their last two games, and you’ve got yourself a dangerous road trip. Can the Bluejays keep a duo that’s averaging a combined 39.7 points from the floor in check?

Who else is on upset alert?

No. 11 Cincinnati: The Bearcats head to Huntington, WV, on Saturday afternoon to take on Marshall at 2:00 p.m. ET. Marshall has been somewhat disappointing early on this season, but they do matchup well with Cincinnati. Deandre Kane has morphed into one of the nation’s most productive playmakers (even if he is shooting 14.3% from three) while DD Scarver is a lightening-in-a-bottle wing scorer and Nigel Spikes and Dennis Tinnon anchor a big, physical front line. This will be a nice road test for the Bearcats.

Miami FL: The Hurricanes will play host to still-undefeated Charlotte, who went into Davidson and knocked off the Wildcats last week. The Canes haven’t played in 13 days, since they went on a three-game run by beating Detroit, Michigan State and UMass. Will Jim Larranaga’s boys be rusty?

No. 4 Syracuse: This is probably crazy, but Canisius a pair of talented back court players, led by talented URI transfer Billy Baron. Will those two be enough to shoot the Golden Griffins to an upset?

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.