Don’t be concerned about Duke following 83-81 loss at Maryland



Should we really be too concerned with the Duke Blue Devils after their 83-81 loss to Maryland on Saturday night?

Well, first and foremost, you should never lose a basketball game when your opposition turns the ball over 26 times. So yes, we should be concerned that the No. 2 team in the country couldn’t capitalize on 26 extra possessions. And yes, we should be concerned that Mason Plumlee scored a season-low four points and grabbed just three rebounds. And it’s true, the Blue Devils interior defense provided little resistance against dribble penetration and entry passes to the Maryland front court.

But after what we’ve seen from the rest of the “elite” teams in the country this season, it should be painfully obvious that you can have fatal flaws and still be a National Championship contender, at least in 2012-2013. Look at Louisville, or Kansas or even Michigan. Each of those teams have pretty glaring weaknesses that can, and have been exposed.

This was not a blowout loss to Boston College. This was a two-point loss to a quality team that took place in arguably one of the most intimidating venues in college basketball.

Saturday night was Maryland’s Superbowl. Every prominent Maryland alum was in the building. Scott Van Pelt, Boomer Esiason, Torrey Smith and Juan Dixon were all court side for the Terp’s biggest home game of the year. Maryland was not losing to Duke on Saturday. The fans at the Comcast Center wouldn’t allow it to happen. Every time Duke made a run, the crowd provided the Terps with the spark they needed.

Belief is a very powerful tool, and the fans belief in their team fueled to Terps to a victory. There was not a team in the country on Saturday night that was going to beat Maryland at the Comcast Center. There just wasn’t. And I say that not because Maryland played great, but because the 14 members of the team and the 17,950 fans on attendance would not allow it to happen.

But if you’re still looking for something to be concerned about, I would suggest looking at Duke’s toughness.

This is not a very tough or physical team. You can bully Mason Plumlee around. There is not much depth in the frontcourt. Josh Hairston showed some fire, but other than that, does anybody on Duke really scare you? Big, physical teams with a deep frontcourt and an athletic backcourt (See: Hurricanes, Miami) will cause the most problems for Duke and there more than a handful of different teams that have the personal and talent to expose Duke’s weakness.

But if you’re panicking because we still don’t know when Ryan Kelly will return, you might want to consider investing your energy in something else.

The Blue Devils are still one of the five best teams in the country, even if they aren’t perfect.

We’re going to have a flawed champion regardless, and Duke is still good enough to cut down the nets in April.

You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

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.