Duke v Albany

Duke shows qualities of a champion in first tourney game


Duke beat Albany 73-61. Big deal, right?

You’d better believe it’s a big deal to a team that got bounced by C.J. McCullom and the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in a similar seeding situation last year. Missouri didn’t learn the lessons of 2012, so it’s meaningful to note that Duke did.

This year, the Duke machine was well-oiled, tuned up and purring. They showed exactly why they deserved a No. 1 seed. That honor went, instead, to Gonzaga, who came oh-so-close to being the first 1-seed to lose to a 16 when they narrowly edged the Southern Jaguars last night. Duke showed how it’s done, romping over a 15 seed with a big second-half run.

I wrote earlier this week that Louisville will not win the national title. The inclusion of Duke in their bracket was the primary reason I gave. Discussing brackets with my college-hoops-mad buddy Stormy last night, I said of Duke: “If you asked me to design a team that could win a national title, that’s what it would look like.”

I’ll elaborate. Duke has a point guard, Quinn Cook (nine assists, one turnover today), who likes to distribute. That’s where everything starts. Cook could probably score a few more points per game, but it’s crucial to the Blue Devils’ success that he’s not obsessed with doing so. When he’s looking for someone to dish to, here’s what he sees:

Seth Curry, a pure shooter who can also handle the ball well enough to get his own shot.

Rasheed Sulaimon, a freshman wing who loves to drive the lane.

Ryan Kelly, who can and will hit a bucket anywhere from one to twenty-four feet from the hoop.

Mason Plumlee, a big body with soft hands, a variety of moves and the smarts to know how to use them.

Defensively, the Blue Devils became top-notch once again when Kelly came back from a foot injury that cost him half the season.

So, if you’re an opposing coach, what do you game-plan to stop? You can’t stop all of it, so you end up in a game of Poison Cup with Mike Krzyzewski, who has been playing and winning since you were in high school, in all likelihood.

Now, Rick Pitino may be able to gain the upper hand if the anticipated Louisville-Duke game comes to be, because you never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line. But I’m not sure anyone else in the Midwest Bracket has the goods.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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.