Michigan v Kansas

Trey Burke leads Michigan to thrilling win over Kansas


For the first time since 1994, Michigan will be heading to the Elite 8, and they have NBCSports.com National Player of the Year Trey Burke to thank.

It didn’t look that way for the first 20 minutes, as Burke headed into halftime scoreless on 0-4 shooting. But after the break is when Burke took over. He finished with 23 points and 10 assists as No. 4 Michigan erased a 14 point second half deficit to knock off No. 1 Kansas 87-85 in the first semifinal of the South Regional.

With 1:16 left, Michigan was still down 74-66. Burke hit a three to cut the lead to five, and followed that up with a long jumper two possessions later to cut the lead to three. After Elijah Johnson missed the front end of a one-and-one with 12.6 seconds left, Burke hit a three from about 30 feet to tie the game. When a three from Naadir Tharpe bounced harmlessly off the front of the rim, the game was headed to overtime.

In the extra frame, Burke opened the scoring with another three and then a driving layup. A pair of buckets from Mitch McGary, who finished with 25 points and 14 boards, put the Wolverines up five, and they were able to survive after Kansas was only able to get a runner from 23 feet from Tharpe.

Do the match, and Burke scored 13 points in the final 1:16 of regulation and the first 1:37 of overtime.

That’s unbelievable.

And it’s the reason Burke was our National Player of the Year. He’s the first player to go for 20 points and 10 assists in the Sweet 16 since Billy Donovan in 1987.

This is what he’s done. When Michigan is playing their best, it’s not necessarily Burke that’s scoring all the points. He creates for the rest of his team. He sets up McGary around the rim or his shooters on the perimeter or the athletes on his team in transition. He runs the Michigan offense and looks to get everyone else involved, especially when he has two and three defenders running at him.

But when the game’s on the line?

When it’s ‘winning time’?

Burke is the one with the ball in his hands and he’s the one making the plays. And as he’s proven time and time again that he can make those plays.

It’s enough that it’s carried the Wolverines to the brink of the Final Four, where they will play the winner of Florida and Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday.

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.