Tim Miles

Nebraska freshman Tai Webster still waiting to hear from NCAA Eligibility Center

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The summer months for incoming freshmen can be a tense period for some, especially if they’ve yet to hear from the NCAA Eligibility Center about their status for the upcoming season.

A ruling in the affirmative means (obviously) that they’re cleared and ready to take the floor for their new school, with the hope of making an immediate impact. But to be declared a partial (you can practice and receive a scholarship, but can’t play in games) or non-qualifier (you can’t receive a scholarship or join the program) means that their college career hits a speed bump for that freshman campaign.

Nebraska freshman guard Tai Webster has made the long voyage from his native New Zealand to Lincoln, with the expectation that he’ll begin taking summer school classes on Monday. Expected to be an impact newcomer for Tim Miles’ squad, Webster averaged 18.5 points and 4.4 assists per game for the Waikato Pistons last season.

But, Webster has yet to be cleared to play this season according to Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald.

Neither [summer school] enrollment nor class attendance in college affects the NCAA certification process, which focuses on initial eligibility factors such as core high school courses and standardized test scores.

A denial of NCAA certification for 2013-14 would create the possibility of time at a prep school or delayed full-time college enrollment.

The Huskers don’t lack for experience in the backcourt, with senior Ray Gallegos (12.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and sophomores Benny Parker (2.7 ppg, 2.1 apg) and Shavon Shields (8.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg) all being members of the rotation last season.

But Nebraska does have to account for the loss of their leader in both scoring and assists, Dylan Talley (13.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.5 apg).

With Talley leading the way the Huskers ranked 30th nationally in turnover percentage, handing the ball over on just 17.2% of their possessions (16.1% in conference games, 2nd in the Big Ten), so this is a notable loss to say the least. The return of the aforementioned perimeter contributors certainly helps, and the 6-3 Webster is expected to figure prominently in the discussion as well.

It certainly helps Webster in regards to both his physical development and getting used to Miles’ system that he’s on campus now, but those positive words from the NCAA Eligibility Center can’t come soon enough.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

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.