10 tidbits to know: Louisville’s chemistry, McCollum can shoot and more

Leave a comment

Vin Parise is a former assistant college coach and the college basketball insider for NBC Sports. Look for his Top 10 Tidbits every week.

1. For as good as Syracuse is, Louisville is the best team in the Big East right now. The chemistry on Rick Pitino’s team is off the charts and they play both ends of the floor as well as any team in the country. The two-headed attack of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith can be deadly and the 2-2-1 press, back to their match-up 2-3 zone, never allows teams to be comfortable on offense.

2. Not everyone nationally is sold on him yet but C.J. McCollum from Lehigh is the real deal. McCollum has scored over 30 four times this season — including opening the season at Baylor with a 36 point performance. McCollum is shooting 50% from the field, 53% from three point land and 84% from the free throw line.

3. Hard to get more automatic from the free throw line than Nik Cochran from Davidson. How’s shooting 95.7% from the line? The Davidson scorekeeper probably just hits the buttons on the scoreboard as soon as he gets fouled.

4. Hard to find a team that has played more games than Richmond. The Spiders are 10-5 and have a week off until they host Rhode Island. Richmond has struggled on the boards this season but have gotten by because they’ve shot the ball extremely well.

5. Many coaches preach tough non-conference scheduling but Tom Pecora from Fordham is one of the few who practices what he preaches. The Rams this season played at Pitt, at Harvard, at Lehigh, at St. John’s, at UConn and at Georgia Tech. And it’s not over — Fordham plays at Ole Miss tomorrow before A-10 play kicks into gear.

6. Jamaal Franklin and his No. 19 San Diego Aztecs are 12-2 overall and Franklin continues his terrific play. Franklin, the team’s leading scorer, went for 18 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks last night vs CS Bakersfield. San Diego State’s two losses are Syracuse and Arizona.

7. What a terrific job Gregg Marshall has done at Wichita State. Shockers are 13-1 after their last win at Drake. But should we really be surprised? When Marshall coached at Winthrop, his conference coaching record was 104-24.

8. You have to feel for Manhattan’s Steve Masiello. His Jaspers were picked #2 in the MAAC this year mostly because of preseason 1st team selection George Beamon. But because of injury, Beamon has only played in 4 games — and Manhattan is 3-9. The line is too fine at the mid-major level. Tough to win when your best player is not suiting up.

9. Not a good start to Big East play by DePaul. The Blue Demons lost their opener at home to Seton Hall 73-72. DePaul went 4-32 in conference play the last two seasons.

10. Even with 903 wins, I recently heard some criticism of Jim Boeheim because he’s only won one national championship at Syracuse. To criticize Boeheim makes about as much sense as standing in the cold for 6 hours on New Year’s Eve waiting for the ball to drop. Then again, a million people do it every year so what do I know.

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
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.