Will Clyburn, Tyrus McGee, Chris Babb

Pregame Shootaround 1.30.13: Bubble-heavy docket tonight

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Game of the Day: Iowa State at Oklahoma State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Up until a couple of weeks ago, Oklahoma State was ranked nationally. A sluggish start to Big 12 play has changed that, but it hasn’t changed the roster makeup of the Cowboys. They still have Marcus Smart and LeBryan Nash. They still have one of the nation’s best dunkers in Markel Brown. They still have Phil Forte, who is starting to shoot the ball better.

But Iowa State has been one of the most surprising teams in the conference. In addition to coming within a banked-in Ben McLemore three of knocking off Kansas in Phog Allen, the Cyclones also knocked off Kansas State at home. Toss is a loss to Texas Tech, and the Cyclones have been thoroughly unpredictable this season.

The best individual matchup of the night may be Will Clyburn going toe-to-toe with Nash.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 3 Indiana at Purdue (8:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Net)

Indiana’s biggest game of the year to date is on Saturday. They’re hosting No. 1 Michigan. Between then and now they have to go into Mackey Arena and beat a tough — and tougher at home — Purdue team that’s itching for a win over their rival to boost an NCAA tournament resume that, frankly, needs the boost.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: UMass at La Salle (7:00 p.m. ET)

You like up-and-down basketball? You like watching talented guards? Well, La Salle has four of them, and UMass point guard Chaz Williams just may be the best guard on the floor tonight.

Five Things to Watch For

1) At this point in the season, we’re still trying to figure out who the second best team in the Big 12 is. Baylor is 5-1, but they’ve feasted on cupcakes early on in league play. The Bears will get a test tonight against a good — and still improving — Oklahoma team. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

2) VCU takes the court for the first time since losing their second straight league game on Saturday. They’ll visit Rhode Island, who knocked off St. Louis on the road early this month. (7:00 p.m. ET) That won’t be the most interesting Atlantic 10 game of the night, as Richmond, one of the teams to beat VCU, visits Temple, who may be the single most confounding team in the country this year. (7:00 p.m. ET)

3) The score may not make it out of the 50’s, but there may not be more riding on a game than Wyoming has riding on tonight as No. 20 New Mexico visits. The Cowboys have struggled without Luke Martinez, but they have a chance to steal a game from a New Mexico team that managed 34 points against San Diego State on Saturday. (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)

4) Three teams will put an undefeated record in league play on the line tonight. Northeastern hosts Georgia State (7:00 p.m. ET), Memphis visits East Carolina (7:00 p.m. ET), and Akron heads to Bowling Green (7:00 p.m. ET).

5) It’s still too early in the season to get too excited about bubble talk, but tonight there are what feels like 30 games with bubble implications on the docket. From Northwestern and Purdue trying to knock off Michigan and Indiana, respectively, to the middle of the Atlantic 10 and Big East trying to shake themselves out, to the myriad of bubble-battles — Villanova at Notre Dame, Maryland at Florida State, Iowa State at Oklahoma State — happening tonight, it feels the kind of night that is going to give us a lot to talk about on Thursday morning.

The Top 25

  • Northwestern at No. 1 Michigan (6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Net)
  • No. 3 Indiana at Purdue (8:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Net)
  • South Carolina at No. 4 Florida (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 5 Duke at Wake Forest (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 10 Oregon at Stanford (11:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • No. 14 Miami at Virginia Tech (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 17 Missouri at LSU (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Texas at No. 18 Kansas State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
  • No. 20 New Mexico at Wyoming (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)
  • Missouri State at No. 21 Creighton (8:00 p.m. ESPN3)
  • Rutgers at No. 24 Cincinnati (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Other Notable Games

  • Valparaiso at Youngstown State (7:05 p.m. ET)
  • Maryland at Florida State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Boise State at Colorado State (9:00 p.m. ET, ROOT)
  • Dayton at Xavier (9:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)
  • St. Mary’s at San Francisco (10:00 p.m. ET)

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.