Kenny Boynton, Ernest Ross

Pregame Shootaround 2.19.13: MSU-IU, VCU-St. Louis highlight loaded slate

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Game of the Night: No. 1 Indiana at No. 4 Michigan State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

We already gave this game the full-post preview treatment. Get your popcorn ready.

Who’s Getting Upset? No. 5 Florida at Missouri (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

If you look at Kenpom’s numbers, Florida has been the best team in the country this season. But there are two factors in that equation that must be accounted for: 1) Their two best wins were blow-outs that came at home back in November; 2) Their only two notable road performances have been a 25 point win at Florida State, who isn’t a tournament team, back on December 5th and the torching they took at Arkansas earlier this month.

Now, Florida heads off to Columbia where they’ll be taking on a Missouri team that has Laurence Bowers back, is playing better basketball than they were a few weeks ago, and has proven to be a much better team at home than on the road. The Tigers desperately need a big win, not necessarily for their tournament chances but for their confidence and to keep the doomsday theorists at bay.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: No. 24 VCU at St. Louis (9:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)

The Atlantic 10 isn’t a mid-major league, so spare me the angry comments. But this is the kind of matchup that deserves some extended discussion. You’d be hard-pressed to find two teams that play more opposing styles, but nonetheless, these two teams are essentially sitting in a tie for first place in the conference. (Technically, VCU has a one game lead in the win column.) The Rams like to press, thriving on their ability to force turnovers and turn those turnovers into layups and three-pointers. St. Louis is a is more of a halfcourt team, one that can be downright stingy defensively.

They execute in the half court and are a nightmare to try and score on when their defense gets set. VCU cannot score when forced to go against set defenses. This should be a fun battle.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Utah State heads to BYU to take on the Cougars in a game that was postponed due to the heart attack suffered by Danny Berger of USU in a practice earlier this season. This is an intense rivalry — as they all are in the state of Utah — but some of the luster as been lost as Kyisean Reed and Preston Medlin’s injuries have had an effect on how good the Aggies are. (9:00 p.m. ET)

2) Wichita State and Indiana State square off in a huge battle in the Missouri Valley. ISU won at Wichita State by 13 points earlier this season and hasn’t lost at home since Dec. 1st. But the Sycamores have also struggled of late, losing their last two games and falling into a position where they are nearly out of the bubble pictures without a win over the Shockers. WSU currently leads Creighton by a game and ISU by two games in the MVC standings. (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

3) San Diego State has dropped two in a row and five of their last nine in Mountain West play. They are all but out of the MWC race, but beating Wyoming at home would help keep them out of the bubble picture. (10:00 p.m. ET)

4) There are four notable bubble battles in the ACC tonight. Florida State at NC State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2), Maryland at Boston College (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3), UNC at Georgia Tech (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3), and, most importantly, Virginia at No. 2 Miami (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

5) Southern Illinois has been the ultimate spoiler in the MVC race this season. The travel to Omaha to take on Creighton tonight. (8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Top 25

  • No. 1 Indiana at No. 4 Michigan State (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Virginia at No. 2 Miami (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
  • Duquesne at No. 15 Butler (7:00 p.m. ET)
  • No. 17 Marquette at Seton Hall (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • No. 24 VCU at St. Louis (9:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Net)

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.