Robert Morris

2013 Northeast Conference Tournament Preview

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The Northeast Conference features six teams that have won 11 or more conference games. Safe to say, several teams have a shot at the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Robert Morris took the regular season title and the Colonials are looking for their third tourney title since 2009.

Robert Morris is atop the league, but LIU Brooklyn has been the best team in the NEC over the last two seasons. Robert Morris and LIU Brooklyn, for all their recent success, may not be dancing when it’s all said and done. Wagner and Bryant are two teams that have improved over the years and are ready to make a run at the NCAA tournament.

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The Bracket

Where: Campus sites (higher seeds)

When: March 6, 9, 12

Final: March 12, 7:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Favorite: Robert Morris

The Colonials were the best team in the NEC this year with a 14-4 conference record. Velton Jones leds a balanced scoring attack for the Colonials. The senior guard is averaging 11.3 points and more than five assists per game. Robert Morris dropped the first two conference games before rallying off six straight. The Colonials could make their way to the tournament behind their shooting from behind the arc, shooting 39 percent as a team on the season.

And if they lose?: Good chance this happens in the semifinals. Robert Morris has a potential matchup with Bryant — having its best season since joining the Division I ranks. The Bulldogs and Colonials have split the season series by a total of nine points (Butler won by seven, Robert Morris won by two). Wagner also could be in the mix, falling to Robert Morris by only four and going 1-1 against Bryant this season.

Sleepers: Mount St. Mary’s is playing its best basketball heading into the tourney. The Mountaineers have won seven straight and nine of their last 10. Quinnipiac is the last team to take down top-seeded Robert Morris. LIU Brooklyn, winners of the last two NEC tournaments tied for second place in the NEC with Wagner and Bryant.


Jamal Olasewere, LIU Brooklyn: The senior forward is the third leading scorer in the league with 19.2 per game while pulling down more than eight rebounds per game.

Velton Jones, Robert Morris: Experienced guard has led the Colonials to the top of the NEC. One of the NEC’s top floor generals knows what it takes to go dancing and has led the versatile Colonials’ offensive, leading the team with 5.2 assists and scoring 11.3 per night — good for third on the team.

Dyami Starks, Bryant: The redshirt sophomore averaging a team-high 17.7, barely ahead of Alex Francis (17.1). Bryant is on the rise and Starks, the transfer from Columbia, is a big reason why.

CBT Prediction: Top-seeded Robert Morris advances past No. 3 LIU Brooklyn.

Terrence is also the lead writer at and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

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.