Buzz Williams

JT III is great, but Buzz Williams should be Big East Coach of the Year


John Thompson III has done a magnificent job with the Georgetown team he has this season. His Hoyas were picked to finish fifth in the conference to begin the year, overcame the loss of second-leading scorer Greg Whittington mid-season, and still pulled together to finish with a share of the Big East title. For that, he was awarded the conference’s Coach of the Year award Tuesday, the league announced.

Not to discredit what Thompson III has done, but there is someone that the Big East overlooked this year, a 40-year-old Texan who roams the sidelines in Wisconsin, Marquette coach Buzz Williams.

It was a close race, but chose Williams and thinks he deserved the award, if by only a hair, in 2012-13.

Consider what Williams and Marquette lost from last season to this one. Gone is the dynamic duo of Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, who accounted for nearly 50 percent of the team’s offensive output last season. On the staff are three new assistants, Brad Autry, Isaac Chew, and Jerry Wainwright. The team’s leading returning scorer was big man Davante Gardner, who averaged 9.5 points in 19.1 minutes per game last season.

Williams himself had to serve a one game suspension and sit out the Big East opener as part of a self-imposed response to an NCAA violation.

Through all of that, the team picked to finish seventh in the Big East in the preseason snagged a share of the conference title with a buzzer-beating layup in overtime in the season finale, and now moves on in hopes of winning a Big East tournament title.

That was done without a true superstar, like one on the level of Georgetown’s Otto Porter, and based more on steady upward growth from players like Gardner, Junior Cadougan, and Jamil Wilson, as well as the willingness of Vander Blue to take on a leading role. Adding in Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett didn’t hurt, either.

We said it before. It was a close race for Big East Coach of the Year. Both ought to be in the conversation for National Coach of the Year. But if everything works out, perhaps we could settle it on the court if Thompson III and Williams face off in the conference championship game Saturday.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.