Harvard v Arizona

Report: Pac-12 officials head investigated for targeting Sean Miller


Some unbelievable news out of the Pac-12 Conference this afternoon as CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman is reporting that Pac-12 Head of Officials Ed Rush is being investigated by the conference for allegedly offering to pay referees to target Arizona coach Sean Miller.

Rush, according to a source within the Pac-12 officiating group, told a group of referees on the Thursday of the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas that he would give them $5,000 or a trip to Cancun if they either “rang him up” or “ran him,” meaning hit Miller with a technical or toss him out of the game. Rush then reiterated during a Friday morning meeting, according to one referee in attendance, that officials should take similar action against Miller if he did anything on Friday in the Pac-12 semifinals against UCLA.

“He was emphatic about not dealing with him (Miller),” the ref told CBSSports.com. “He made that perfectly clear.”

This sounds like the referee equivalent of the NFL’s “Bounty-Gate”. If referees are being asked to zone in on a coach, then there is going to be a serious rift in the system and relationship between college coaches and refs for the time being, as if there already wasn’t one.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott also issued a statement to CBSSports.com.

“Based on the review, we have concluded that while Rush made inappropriate comments that he now regrets during internal meetings that referenced rewards, he made the comments in jest and the officials in the room realized they were not serious offers,” Scott told CBSSports.com. “Following our review, we have discussed the matter with Rush, taken steps to ensure it does not happen again, and communicated our findings to all of our officials.”

Rush also served as a referee in the NBA and as the league’s director of officiating for five seasons.

Goodman also goes on to quote a referee as saying that another official acted out of character when his issued Miller a technical in the Wildcats’ 66-64 loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 semifinals — one that was controversial from the get-go — and confirmed the official, Michael Irving, was in the room with Rush when he issued the alleged bounty. Miller was fined $25,000 for criticizing officials after that game.

Rush should lose his job and any credibility he has. Period. The man has been an official long enough to know that you don’t make statements like this, serious or not. And as of right now, whether he meant the bounty or not, it sounds like at least one official might’ve taken him seriously on that offer. The fact that Larry Scott seems to be ok with just a slap on the wrist is flat out wrong. The only “steps” the conference should be taking to ensure he doesn’t do this again, is by telling him he no longer has a position with the Pac-12.

Bottom line, whether Rush meant his comments or not, they may have had an affect on a pretty important game, which is grounds for severe punishment. His actions put the integrity of the game and those in his profession at risk.

There’s been a ton of scrutiny regarding officials this season, a lot more than in seasons past. And this sure won’t help alleviate the problem.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

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.