Michigan Ohio St Basketball

Pregame Shootaround 2.5.13: Michigan’s revenge, and Craft v. Burke Pt. II

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Game of the Day: No. 10 Ohio State at No. 3 Michigan (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Trey Burke vs. Aaron Craft. Those two might try to downplay the significance of their matchup, but that is what’s going to determine the outcome of this game.

What Ohio State wants to do against Burke is something that John Beilein refers to as “locking the rails”. They allow Craft to more-or-les guard Burke 1-on-1. They won’t help off of shooters on the perimeter, counting on the nation’s best on-ball defender to be able to make life miserable for the nation’s best point guard. It worked in the first game, as Burke struggled to 15 points and four assists in what was a 56-53 win for Ohio State.

But this matchup will be on the Wolverines home court with sole possession of second place in the Big Ten on the line. This is key for Michigan, because they’ll be visiting Wisconsin and Michigan State in their next two games.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 2 Florida at Arkansas (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Florida may be the best team in the country this season. They are certainly the most dominating team in the country right now, as they’ve rolled over every SEC opponent that they have faced in dominating fashion. But Arkansas’ Bud Walton Arena is a tough place to get a win, and Mike Anderson has become notorious for being a coach that wins a lot at home and loses a lot on the road. How will the Gators handle the Razorback press?

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: Evansville at Bradley (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Evansville has arguably the most dangerous scorer in the MVC this side of Doug McDermott on their roster in Colt Ryan, but the road is not a kind place to be in the Valley. He’ll be going up against Bradley’s leading scorer, guard Walt Lemon Jr.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Kentucky looks like they are starting to turn a corner. They went into Oxford and beat Ole Miss last Tuesday and followed that up with an overtime win over Texas A&M on Saturday. Can they keep heading in the right direction with a win over South Carolina tonight? (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

2) Wake Forest has been a pesky team to beat this season, as they already own an upset of NC State and nearly knocked off Duke. UNC is their next test. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

3) No. 13 Kansas State will head out on the road and take on Texas Tech, who has one non-TCU win in the Big 12 this season, which came against Iowa State. (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

4) Florida State has lost four of their last six games and fallen off of the bubble for now. Georgia Tech is coming off of a win over Virginia on Sunday. Can the Noles bounce back? (9:00 p.m. ESPN3)

5) Villanova is 2-5 in their last seven games. They’ve beaten Louisville and Syracuse and lost to everyone else. Which means that they probably will lose to DePaul tonight, right? (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

The Top 25

  • No. 2 Florida at Arkansas (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • No. 10 Ohio State at No. 3 Michigan (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Boston College at No. 8 Miami (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 13 Kansas State at Texas Tech (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

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.