LaQuinton Ross

Aaron Craft is the hero, LaQuinton Ross comes up big for Ohio State Sunday

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Aaron Craft missed a jump shot with 29 seconds remaining and the game tied at 75-75 Sunday in Dayton against Iowa State. The ball then slipped out of bounds off of the Cyclones, giving Ohio State one more shot. And all Craft needed was another chance.

As time winded down, Craft pulled up from the right wing and nailed a three-pointer with 0.5 seconds left, giving Ohio State the 78-75 win and a spot in the Sweet 16. Craft finished with 18 points, including that big shot to win it, and added six assists.

The ability to hit that shot is a full 180-degree turn from the way he had been playing down the stretch, going 2-of-5 from the line including missing the front end of two one-and-ones, and turning the ball over twice in the final 5:35 of play. Despite that, he still stepped up and hit the game-winner, however low-percentage or unlikely a shot it was.

(Click here to see video of Craft’s game-winning shot)

But for as clutch as Craft’s shot in the final seconds was or how important Deshaun Thomas’ 22 points were, don’t forget about the job sophomore LaQuinton Ross did coming off the bench Sunday.

Ross played just 35 minutes during his entire freshman season with the Buckeyes. But he played 21 Sunday and looked like the big-time weapon that the Buckeyes had recruited him to be, all coming in the season’s biggest moment so far.

Ross scored 10 points in a crucial three-minute span of the second half Sunday, finishing with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three-point range.

For Ross, this was his fifth double-digit scoring game since the conference season started, but it came in a huge spot for the Buckeyes. Coach Thad Matta was able to stretch the zone that Iowa State played for parts of the second half with Ross’ help, while still allowing for some versatility defensively. Even with Ross’ outbreak, it took some work for Ohio State to escape in the final minutes.

With 6:04 to play, the Cyclones trailed by 13 points. It took just over two minutes for that lead to be completely erased, tied at 69-69 after a Korie Lucious layup and the foul. In that stretch Craft, a 79 percent free throw shooter on the season, missed the front end of two straight one-and-ones.

But did he ever redeem himself? Of course.

Ohio State now moves on to play Arizona, a team that has breezed through its first two games in this NCAA tournament by beating Belmont and Harvard. The coaching matchup will be what likely grabs most of the headlines between Arizona’s Sean Miller and Ohio State’s Thad Matta. Miller worked on Matta’s staff when Matta was the head coach at Xavier, and Miller took over that role when Matta jumped ship for Ohio State.

Oh, and that game is for a trip to the Elite Eight.

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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
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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.