Ben McLemore

Pregame Shootaround 1.22.13: Sunflower Showdown highlights a solid Tuesday

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Game of the Day: No. 3 Kansas at No. 11 Kansas State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

As frustrating as it may be for some folks that live outside the state of Kansas, the Sunflower Showdown may end up only being available to some of you on an online stream. Frankly, that would be unfortunate, as the Jayhawks are looking to strengthen their in-state rivalry with the Wildcats, replacing what was lost when Missouri headed off to the SEC.

Everything about this matchup should be awesome. This is arguably the best Kansas State team since Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente were manning the back court for Frank Martin, and that group had the Octagon of Doom — also known as Bramlage Coliseum — rocking for every home game. KU has won 44 of the last 47 meeting between the two schools, but this is a different Kansas State program than it was two decades ago.

The best part about this matchup? The best player on both teams — Ben McLemore and Rodney McGruder — play the same position. They’ll likely spend the majority of the game guarding each other. I ain’t complaining.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 13 Michigan State at Wisconsin (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

We already know that the Badgers are capable of beating anyone in the country this season, as evidenced by their win at Indiana last week. And we also know that they can go out and lay an egg against anyone in the country, with the proof being the 30-10 hole their dug themselves against Iowa in the very next game. The Badgers don’t commit turnovers, they rebound the ball very well on the defensive end of the floor and they are always going to be a tough out at the Kohl Center. The Spartans have a nice record and a couple of quality wins, but they’ve yet to do anything that would make an observer think they are a dominant force this season.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Tulane at Memphis (8:00 p.m. ET)

This isn’t really a mid-major matchup, but there aren’t really any mid-major matchups today. Memphis is once again dealing with a moody Tarik Black, and they are going to have to figure out a way to control Tulane’s 1-2 punch of Josh Davis and Ricky Tarrant.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Kentucky is far from a lock for the NCAA tournament right now. If they are going to avoid the embarrassment of following up a national title and preceding the 2013’s ridiculous recruiting class with a trip to the NIT, than the Wildcats are going to have to do things like go into Tuscaloosa and knock off a tough, physical Alabama team. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

2) Iowa is coming off of a win over Wisconsin, but it came at home. Can the Hawkeyes pull off an upset and truly thrust themselves into the NCAA tournament conversation at No. 14 Ohio State? (6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten)

3) This may make things difficult for No. 22 Missouri tonight:

4) Both Illinois and Pitt have been up and down this season, and both head on the road to take on teams at the bottom of their respective conference. Illinois heads to Nebraska (8:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten) while Pitt visits Providence (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3).

5) The perfect recipe for Maryand’s offensive struggles: Boston College’s 212th ranked defense. (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

The Top 25

  • No. 3 Kansas at No. 11 Kansas State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 5 Louisville at Villanova (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 13 Michigan State at Wisconsin (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Iowa at No. 14 Ohio State (6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten)
  • No. 18 NC State at Wake Forest (7:00 p.m. ESPN3)
  • South Carolina at No. 22 Missouri (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

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.