Manny Arop Indiana State

Virginia, Indiana State have two of the strangest bubble resumes


Believe it or not, it’s now mid-February, which means that March Madness is right around the corner. We’ve already given you our newest bracket and bubble watch, but we will also be taking a weekly look at some of this season’s wackiest at-large profiles. All RPI and SOS numbers via

Virginia (17-6, 7-3) RPI: 81, SOS: 154

Virginia may have the strangest profile I’ve ever seen. The Cavs are 6-0 against the RPI top 100, and have managed to put together some impressive wins — at Wisconsin, NC State, North Carolina, at Maryland. The problem, however, is that the ‘Hoos have been just atrocious against some of the worst teams they have played. All six of their losses have come against teams with RPI’s in the triple digits. They are 0-3 against the CAA, including the RPI killing loss to Old Dominion (who is 3-22 and 319th in the RPI). They’ve lost at Clemson, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. They played the 320th worst non-conference schedule in the country. Only Iowa’s is worse among teams in the RPI top 100.

Only USC in 2011 has gotten an at-large bid with six bad losses, and only George Washington in 2006 (when they went 26-2 and got an eight seed) has gotten an at-large bid with a non-conference SOS as high as 320.

But here’s the catch. Starting point guard Jontel Evans was injured earlier this year. He didn’t play in losses to ODU and George Mason and played just three minutes in the loss to Delaware. Do they win those games with Evans? How different does Virginia’s profile look without those ugly losses weighing it down? And, if Virginia has a healthy Evans and beats Delaware, they would have headed to the Preseason NIT semifinals in NYC, where they would have played Pitt and either Michigan or Kansas State. That would have boosted their non-conference schedule just a bit, I’d say.

Here’s the good news: Virginia still gets to play at North Carolina, at Miami and at home against Duke. They’ll have their chances to play their way into the tournament.

Indiana State (15-8, 9-4) RPI: 45, SOS: 50

The Sycamores are like a miniature version of UVA. Their good wins are really, really good. They beat Miami (No. 2 in the RPI) and Ole Miss in the Diamond Head Classic out in Hawaii, they won at Wichita State by 13 and knocked off Creighton at home by 19. They are tied for first in the Missouri Valley and can win the conference outright if they win out and if Wichita State wins at Creighton.

But the Trees also have some head-scratching losses. Morehead State beat them, as did Drake, Illinois State and Southern Illinois, who is 215th in the RPI. They have three road games in their final five in league play. Might want to avoid losing one of those.

Illinois (16-8, 4-7) RPI: 26, SOS: 5

No one in the country makes less sense than Illinois. They started off the regular season looking like an actual threat to compete for a Big Ten title, as they went into Spokane and knocked off Gonzaga, won the Maui Invitational with a 17 point win over Butler and smacked around Ohio State in their Big Ten opener. And then, the Illini proceeded to lose eight of their next 11 games and all but knocked themselves out of bubble contention.

Just when it seemed like John Groce’s club quite on the season, they turned around and beat Indiana at home and then went into Minneapolis and knocked off Minnesota. Put it all together, and Illinois has a top 30 RPI, five wins against the top 50, the fifth-toughest schedule in the country and a 4-7 record in the Big Ten.

Ole Miss (18-5, 7-3) RPI: 47, SOS: 105

The Rebels have a profile that looks like it would belong to a team coming out of Conference USA or the WAC. Their computer numbers aren’t terrible, but they aren’t great. They’re competing for a league title, but they are doing so in a conference that’s a long way from good. They haven’t lost to anyone outside the top 50 in the RPI, but they’ve only won one game against the RPI top 50 and that came when Missouri was playing without Laurence Bowers.

In essence, there is nothing bad about Ole Miss’ resume other than the fact that there is nothing good about it. And the worst part is that playing in the SEC won’t provide anymore chances for big wins until the SEC tournament. The Rebels play as many teams with an RPI in the 200s as they do teams in the top 100 — three.

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.