Deshaun Thomas

Ohio State will struggle if it can’t support Deshaun Thomas


You can’t fault Deshaun Thomas Sunday. The 6-7 junior scored 26 points, including going 8-of-9 from the free throw line in Ohio State’s 81-68 loss to No. 1 Indiana.

The cause for concern, though, is the point distribution.

Thomas will get his points, as those who lead a major conference in scoring will, but it is the complementary pieces like Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Sam Thompson, and LaQuinton Ross who need to step in and produce.

To Craft’s credit, he had 16 points, but Thomas still accounted for 38.2 percent of Ohio State’s total offensive output, even higher than his usual 27 percent portion of production. Thompson was just 2-of-8 from the floor. Smith, Jr. had six.

Ohio State should be pleased with the progress of Ross, who had 11 points, but the Buckeyes need more of a split like they had in their overtime loss to No. 3 Michigan earlier this week if they want to make a run in the NCAA tournament.

In that loss to Michigan, Thomas accounted for just 22.9 percent of the offensive, helped along by Ross, Craft, and Smith, Jr. in double figures, along with strong single-digit production from Amir Williams and Sam Thompson. It’s that balance that keeps the defensive-minded Buckeyes able to compete.

That is why it may be difficult for some to pick Ohio State to advance deep into March because it’s unclear whether the Buckeyes can string together a series of games against high-level competition with Thomas as the lone go-to scoring option and defense as the focus. This also hurts when Ohio State begins to slip behind, as it did Sunday against Indiana.

Thomas can only do so much. It would be asking a lot of a single player to dig a team out of a 10- or 15-point hole in an NCAA tournament game.

The Buckeyes return to the floor Thursday against Northwestern.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.