Bob McKillop

Southern Conference tournament preview

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Another year, another Southern Conference title for Bob McKillop’s Davidson Wildcats, who finished the regular season 17-1 in league play. Jake Cohen was the coaches’ pick for SoCon Player of the Year, and he combines with De’Mon Brooks (who won the award last season) to form the conference’s best front court tandem.

Elon, led by guard Jack Isenbarger and forward Lucas Troutman, won the North Division by three games over Appalachian State. The College of Charleston managed to go 14-4 in SoCon play with point guard Andrew Lawrence running the show, finishing second behind Davidson in the South Division.

The Bracket

Where: Arena at Asheville’s U.S. Cellular Center and Kimmel Arena, Asheville, North Carolina

When: March 8th-11th

Final: March 11, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2

Favorite: Davidson

Having two players the caliber of Brooks and Cohen makes Davidson the team to beat, and McKillop has more than just two weapons at his disposal. Nik Cochran (9.8 ppg) leads five other Wildcats averaging between 7.3 and 9.8 points per game, and both he and J.P. Kuhlman have been solid distributors this season. With their weapons and efficiency on both ends of the floor Davidson’s going to be a tough out this weekend.

And if they lose?: College of Charleston 

Elon (13-5 SoCon) did manage to win the North but it’s Charleston who won 14 conference games. Lawrence was also the starting point guard for Great Britain in last summer’s Olympics, and he’s got plenty of experience running the show. He and Anthony Stitt lead the way offensively, and sophomore Adjehi Baru has performed well inside. Charleston’s strong suit is their defense, and if they can control tempo the Cougars can win the tournament.

Sleepers: Elon

Tough to say a team that won 13 conference games is a sleeper, but that’s the role Elon will find itself in this weekend. Isenbarger and Troutman lead the way for the Phoenix, who enter the tournament having won five of their last seven. No team outside of the top three seeds finished .500 overall, which makes the pickings quite slim when considering sleepers.


– F Jake Cohen and F De’Mon Brooks (Davidson): The last two coaches’ selections for SoCon Player of the Year, they’re most definitely studs.

– G Trevis Simpson (UNC Greensboro): Simpson averages 18.8 points per game for the Spartans, and he dropped 41 on Chattanooga back on January 27.

– F Nathan Healy (Appalachian State): Healy (14.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg) won SoCon Defensive Player of the Year due to his work on the boards and ranking second in the conference in steals (2.0 spg) and third in blocks (1.4 bpg).

CBT Prediction: Look for some upsets throughout the weekend but in the end Davidson and College of Charleston will play for the title, with the Wildcats earning their second consecutive NCAA appearance.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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.