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Cliff Alexander lists four schools he wants to officially visit

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Cliff Alexander (Curie High/Chicago, Ill.) is ranked as the No. 4 overall player in the Class of 2014 by Rivals, and after recently trimming his list of offers to only 10, the 6-foot-8 power forward is already looking to take some official visits.

Over the weekend, the Chicagoan told Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal that he would like to take official visits to Arizona, Kansas, Louisville and Memphis.

Scott Phillips/NBC Sports

In June, Alexander cut his list to Arizona, Baylor, DePaul, Illinois, Indiana, Louisville, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis and Michigan State. Alexander told Jones that he has previously been on campus at Michigan State and Kentucky for unofficial visits, and the new list of four official visits will allow him see other campuses.

Though he may not take officials to both Kentucky and Louisville, he had high praise for the two most recent national champions.

“I love Louisville,” Alexander told Jones. “Coach Pitino is a great guy.

“Coach (John Calipari) has been recruiting since last year when they first offered me,” Alexander continued. “I love him. He’s a great guy.”

Besides making news within the recruiting world, Alexander has made some noise on the hardwood as well, especially on the EYBL circuit. He averaged 16.0 points and 11.4 rebounds per game helping Mac Irvin Fire clinch an automatic berth in this week’s Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C.. This is with the nation’s top player, Whitney Young center Jahlil Okafor sidelined with injury for much of the season.

Rumors have surrounded Alexander joining a potential package deal with Okafor and point guard Tyus Jones (Apple Valley High/Apple Valley, Minn.), but Alexander has denied the importance of teaming up with the duo in college. Alexander did tell the Courier-Journal that he believes playing in the frontcourt alongside UK 2014 commit Karl Towns (St. Joseph’s/Metuchen, N.J.) “would work.”

Despite the package-deal rumors and list of official visits, Alexander states he has no favorites at this point.

“I’m just looking for a school that has a great relationship with my parents, a school that gets out and runs and me and the coaches have to see eye-to-eye,” Alexander told back in May.

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.