Creighton v Duke

Since scoring 36 vs. Miami, Ryan Kelly has made five shots outside the paint


Ryan Kelly may have had the most talked-about foot in all of college basketball this season.

When he went down with a right foot injury in January, it became one of the biggest stories in the country. Duke, at the time, was playing as well as anyone, and Kelly was a huge reason for that. And when he exploded back onto the scene with 36 points and seven threes in a win over Miami, the consensus was that Kelly’s return had once again turned Duke into a favorite to win the national title.

We all accepted that as fact, and have since ignored a disturbing trend from the 6-foot-11 senior: he hasn’t been able to shoot since that game.

Kelly went 10-14 from the floor and 7-9 from three against Miami. And in the Blue Devils’ next game, an 85-57 win over Virginia Tech, Kelly finished with 18 points on 6-12 shooting, hitting just 2-7 from three.

In the four games since? Kelly’s averaged just 6.3 points and 4.0 boards while shooting 8-28 (28.2%) from the floor and 0-10 from three. He went 0-6 from three in Duke’s loss to Maryland in the ACC tournament and finished with just a single point in a win over Creighton in the round of 32.

It gets worse.

As this shot chart from Luke Winn indicates, Kelly is just 3-13 from two-point range on shots that weren’t right at the rim since the Miami game. Do the math, and Kelly has gone 5-30 on jump shots since his 36 point performance against the Hurricanes.

That’s bad news because Kelly’s shot-making ability is the reason he’s so valuable for the Blue Devils. It forces opposing defenses to either gamble on defending Mason Plumlee 1-on-1 in the post or risk leaving open one of Duke’s knockdown shooters on the perimeter.

His ability to defend is just as important as his contributions on the offensive end of the floor, so even on an off-night, Kelly’s a valuable piece for Duke. But if he doesn’t snap out of his funk, Duke will have a tough time with Michigan State on Friday night.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.