NEW YORK, N.Y.– Peyton Siva’s play down the stretch last season was one of the major reasons Louisville made a run to the Final Four in New Orleans. His run of strong outings began in the 2012 Big East. After No. 4 Louisville’s win Friday night over Notre Dame, we have to ask ourselves if we’re seeing the same thing happen again.
Siva had 12 points, seven steals, and six assists while turning the ball over just two times in Louisville’s 69-57 win over the Irish in the Big East tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden. The win eliminates Notre Dame and sends Louisville on to face Syracuse for the conference championship and an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
Siva’s steal and layup with 6:05 to play pushed the lead to nine points, 50-41, and spelled the beginning of the end for Notre Dame. If he didn’t make a steal, he was integral to Louisville’s ability to defend against the strong Notre Dame backcourt of Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant.
“We were out of place a couple times and Peyton Siva just kept bailing us out with one rotation after another,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “He’s just an incredible player. I sometimes just don’t give him too much of a break because I have so much confidence in him in every phase of the game.”
Siva became the all-time leader in steals at Louisville Friday evening and Pitino compared him to another notable guard that he has coached.
“The two greatest people I’ve ever coached in my life were Billy Donovan and Peyton Siva, just as people,” Pitino said. “Then you match the fact that they were both great point guards. I’ve been very very lucky…”
Siva was half of the backcourt that will likely decide how far Louisville goes this March. Russ Smith complemented Siva with 20 points and six assists. If those two play at this level throughout March, it is not out of the question that Louisville could go on another postseason. A strong backcourt, plus the increased versatility of shot-blocking center Gorgui Dieng, and the Cardinals are in business.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
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.
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.