Maverick Ahanmisi, Andre Hollins, Trevor Mbakwe

No. 12 Minnesota falls at Wisconsin, 45-44


Wisconsin stayed a game out of first place in the Big Ten standings on Saturday afternoon with a 45-44 win over No. 12 Minnesota that featured one of the wackier endings that we’ve seen this season.

Traevon Jackson hit jumper on back-to-back possessions in the final minute to put the Badgers up 45-43, the second of which hit the back of the rim and bounced high off of the back board before falling through. Minnesota got the ball up to half court where Tubby Smith called a timeout with 1.7 seconds left.

On the ensuing inbounds, Mike Breusewitz was called for a touch foul on Trevor Mbakwe, who somehow managed to sprain his right wrist on the play. He was taken out of the game, meaning that Bo Ryan got to pick out who he wanted to shoot the free throws. After ruffling through some stat sheets, Ryan sent Rodney Williams to the line. Williams rattled home the first shot but missed the second.

It goes without saying that this was a big win for Wisconsin.

But the bigger issue here is Minnesota.

When the Gophers smacked around Illinois in Champaign 17 days ago, the general consensus was that the Gophers were ready to give Indiana and Michigan a fight for the Big Ten title. But Minnesota has not won a game since then, losing four straight, which includes the loss they took at Northwestern on Wednesday night.

So what can we make of this team?

On the one hand, they don’t have any depth. Minnesota might play ten players, but no one averages more than 3.9 points off the bench. The ten points they got from Maverick Ahanmisi and Elliot Eliason on Saturday says more about the 2-22 that Williams, Austin Hollins and Joe Coleman shot than anything.

That leads me to my second point: Minnesota isn’t a very good offensive team. They’re efficient, because they’re by far the best offensive rebounding team in the country, but that doesn’t mean they’re running good offense or executing their sets to perfection. The teams keep them from getting those second-chance opportunities — like Wisconsin — are going to have a very good chance of winning.

Those offensive issues also make it possible to throw the Gophers out of wack by playing uncommon zones, like what Northwestern did.

I don’t think it’s time to be too concerned about Minnesota just yet. They lost three of those four games on the road. Two of them came against top ten teams. In the Big Ten, everyone is going to take some lumps.

But Minnesota better be sure to turn this around now.

No one is going to be digging themselves out of a hole in the Big Ten this season.

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.