Kansas State v Kansas

Even with the upper hand, Kansas State can’t beat Kansas

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Kansas State, this is when it had to happen.

The Wildcats are in the Top 10, they’re heading to play a team that has lost their last three games, one of which was TCU, and had zero confidence in themselves. In the biggest rivalry game of the season for both teams.

You are going into a place that is, in fairness, nearly impossible to win in. I’ll give you that. But if there ever was a time to beat Kansas, a team that K-State has lost to seven of the last eight times, Monday night was it. Instead, it was an 83-62 throttling that restored all confidence necessary for the rest of the season in Lawrence.

The primer was perfect. Four straight wins over marginal-to-good talent in Texas, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Oklahoma and the confidence that you took the Jayhawks to the brink at home, losing by four on Jan. 22.

Apparently, that wasn’t enough. Not the winning streak, not the confidence that comes with a no. 10 ranking, not the mentality that the Jayhawks are in a vulnerable state that is completely foreign to everyone on that roster.

And maybe that’s the reason. Maybe the Wildcats didn’t know what to do having the upper hand. It hasn’t been that way lately.

But they also had no answer for the Birthday Boy, Ben McLemore, who poured in 30 points, including six threes. They didn’t know what to do with Jeff Withey and his double-double talents and his five blocks.

Don’t mind the stat line for Kansas State. Rodney McGruder had 20, but a majority of that came after the issue was put to bed. He was 3-for-11 with eight points at the 11-minute mark in the second half, trailing by 20-plus. They got no bench support, either, with four points coming from the reserves.

After the 10-minute mark in the first half, it wasn’t really a game. A 47-29 halftime deficit showed that.

Bruce Weber is a great coach. He’ll win plenty of games in Manhattan, Kan. But I’m not sure that he’ll get a better shot to beat Kansas, let alone beat them in Allen Fieldhouse.

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.