Ryan Evans, Keifer Sykes

Pregame Shootaround 1.15.13: Indiana has lost 10 straight to Wisconsin?

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Game of the Day: Wisconsin at No. 2 Indiana (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Want to hear one of the stranger stats in college hoops? Wisconsin has beaten Indiana the last ten times they played. Seriously. The Badgers also come in having won their last six games — including a 23-point thrashing of Illinois over the weekend — and playing their best basketball of the season as they seem to have finally figured out a way to thrive without Josh Gasser in the fold. But Indiana also played their best basketball of season in the first half against Minnesota on Saturday, which can only mean one thing: this should be a great game.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 20 Notre Dame at St. John’s (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Notre Dame is coming off of a loss at home against UConn while St. John’s knocked off Cincinnati at Fifth Third Arena two weeks ago. The Johnnies have pretty good perimeter attack and a shotblocker in the paint that should help keep Jack Cooley in check. The Johnnies have plenty of athleticism, the question is whether or not they are going to be disciplined enough defensively and can execute well enough offensively.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Northern Iowa at No. 12 Creighton (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Two months ago, we would have thought that this was going to be one of the best games of the Missouri Valley regular season. While Creighton has been as good as advertised, Northern Iowa hasn’t held up their end of the bargain. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Panthers can’t knock off the Bluejays, which is why this falls under out Mid-Major Matchup of the Day. UNI has a really good trio of guards and a couple of talented big men.

Also worth noting: Doug McDermott originally signed his LOI with Northern Iowa before his dad took the coaching gig at Creighton.

Five Things to Watch For

1) The night kicks off with one of the more intriguing games in the SEC this season. Kentucky hosts Tennessee, with both teams desperately needing to pick up a win for their at-large profiles. Big Blue Nation might revolt with another loss in Rupp.

2) George Mason was one of the favorites in the CAA heading into the season, but they’ve started out league play just 2-2. Tonight, they host James Madison, who is a game out of first place.

3) Ole Miss puts their undefeated SEC record on the line in Nashville tonight as they take on a Commodore team that managed all of 33 points against Arkansas on Saturday.

4) Stony Brook is probably the best team in the America East this year, but Boston U. has a talented enough back court to challenge the Terriers.

5) Cincinnati had climbed into the top ten a couple of weeks ago, but they needed a win over Rutgers to snap a stretch where they lost three out of four games and fell out of the top 25. The Bearcats shouldn’t have trouble at DePaul tonight.

The Top 25

  • Wisconsin at No. 2 Indiana, (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Northern Iowa at No. 12 Creighton, (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 20 Notre Dame at St. John’s, (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Other Notable Games

  • Tennessee at Kentucky, (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Cincinnati at DePaul, (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, (9:00 p.m. ET ESPN2)

You can find Rob 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.