Bill Self

Bill Self says Oklahoma State has best roster in the Big 12

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That’ll be a fun matchup to watch when conference play starts next year.

Kansas for nine straight years has either won or at least shared the Big 12 regular season title. The Jayhawks have constantly reloaded and continued its success for a decade until Bill Self, but Self can see down the going into next season, the Oklahoma State Cowboys could knock Kansas off its place at the top of the Big 12.

“I don’t know who everybody returns, but based on their roster, no question Oklahoma State would have the best roster returning,” Self told Gary Bedore of the Lawrence Journal World at a fundraiser on Thursday.

Earlier this week, freshman guard Marcus Smart — a projected top-5 pick — would return to OSU for a sophomore season, making the Cowboys not only a strong contender, but the favorite in the Big 12.

“They’ll be preseason top-5, -10 team for sure,” Self added. “It’ll be good for our league, not a bad thing at all for our league. No question going into the summer they have the best roster. There’s also some schools not finished recruiting yet. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Smart returns along with LeBryan Nash, Markel Brown and Phil Forte, the team’s top four scorers, all of which averaged double figures in 2012-2013.

While OSU brings back some familiar faces, Kansas reloads with a five-person class that Rivals considered second best only to Kentucky’s heralded 2013 incoming group. Kansas’ class is headlined by guards Conner Frankamp and Wayne Selden, along with small forward Brannen Green and center  Joel Embiid. The class could also get better if KU lands Andrew Wiggins.

Those freshman will need to play a big role, especially with a team losing Ben McLemore, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey. Perry Ellis (5.8 minutes per game), Naadir Tharpe (5.5 minutes per game) return for the Jayhawks.

Smart is taking a lot of heat for not going for the riches of the NBA. He’ll return as one of the nation’s top players in 2013-2014, and could prove those critics wrong in his sophomore campaign.

Terrence is also the lead writer at and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

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.