Jamee Crockett, Vander Blue

Vander Blue’s scoring will dictate Marquette’s finish

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There’s no real question that Vander Blue is the primary scorer for Marquette. His 15 points per game justify that.

Monday night at Georgetown, Blue scored seven on 3-of-9 shooting in a 63-55 loss to the Hoyas, his worst scoring output in Big East Conference play and lowest overall since a six-point in a 49-47 loss to Green Bay on Dec. 19. It was also the last time Blue finished in single-digits scoring.

That right there will tell you how valuable Blue is to this team, offensively.

Blue has done his thing in the big games this season, win or lose. Against Florida, he dropped 20 in a loss. At Pittsburgh, he scored 22 and had 19 in a loss to Cincinnati. Don’t forget 21 in a close loss to Butler. Just because, he dropped 30 in a win over South Florida.

Monday night was a prime example that Blue has to be on his game if Marquette hopes to make a run in the Big East tournament and get a decent seed in the NCAAs, Blue has to be the guy who played well, even in a loss, against the Gators (he was 8-of-14 from the field and 2-of-5 from three) and play less like he did against the Hoyas (3-of-9, 0-of-4).

Fortunately, the home stretch for Marquette favors them. Road games at Seton Hall, Villanova, Rutgers and St. John’s — all winnable — flank home games against Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame, all of which could or should be ranked when they go down. Blue will need his big-game talent for all of them.

He didn’t get off to a great start with seven at no. 15 Georgetown.

There are other scoring options. Devante Gardner’s 12 points are a nice compliment. Jamil Wilson scored 13 in the loss on Monday and averages 8.2 per for the season.

But the team runs through Blue on offense. It has to if the Golden Eagles want anything to do with the late postseason in the middle of March.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten.

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.