Mike Moser, Demetris Morant, Daquan Cook

UNLV forward Mike Moser returns to practice, but will he play Saturday?

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That’s the question many UNLV fans are likely asking after hearing reports that Moser was a full go in practice on Wednesday for the first time since suffering a dislocated right elbow in a game at California on December 9.

But according to Taylor Bern of the Las Vegas Sun reported that it’s unlikely that the junior forward will be on the floor when the Runnin’ Rebels take on North Carolina in Chapel Hill, even adding that Moser said “no way” when asked about the possibility of playing against the Tar Heels.

“He’s worked hard with his rehab and we’ll just see,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “He’s day-to-day. He’s got a ways to go to be in game shape.”

After an immediate fear that the injury could sideline Moser for the remainder of the season the timeframe changed to four weeks, with a January 9 game against New Mexico working out to be exactly four weeks after the injury occurred.

But even with the allure of adding another talented player to the rotation in advance of Saturday’s tilt, does it benefit UNLV in the long run to have Moser return ahead of schedule?

Make no mistake about it Saturday’s game is big especially when looking at North Carolina’s resume, which features losses to Butler, Indiana and Texas with their best win arguably being a 78-63 win at Long Beach State on November 16.

But for UNLV, which has designs on winning the Mountain West and making noise in the NCAA tournament, does the reward of a non-conference victory outweigh the risk of a rusty Moser re-injuring his elbow?

Keep in mind that he’s also missed the win at Portland due to a hip injury, so in Moser’s case the more rest UNLV can get him the better at this point in time especially when considering Rice’s comment in regards to Moser not being in “game shape.”

With Anthony Bennett playing as well as he has and Khem Birch coming off of his best game at the collegiate level (20 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots in a win over Canisius) UNLV doesn’t lack for options in the front court (Carlos Lopez-Sosa and Quintrell Thomas also factor into the rotation).

The excitement of Moser being able to participate in practice may lead some to hope that he plays on Saturday, but the prospects of what a full-strength UNLV team can achieve down the line is of more importance.

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.