Jake Thomas

No college basketball players among six active athletes in O’Bannon lawsuit

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Late Thursday evening word spread that six current college football players have joined the list of plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon vs. NCAA lawsuit. Those players are Arizona linebacker Chase Fischer, Arizona kicker Jake Smith, Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson, Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham, Minnesota receiver Victor Keise and Minnesota tight end Moses Alipate.

The follow-up question: why aren’t any current college basketball players among the list of plaintiffs?

According to Michael McCann on Sports Illustrated, while many players communicated interest in joining the lawsuit ultimately concerns over possible retribution from the NCAA (or their schools) proved to be too much to overcome.

Some parents even cited the tumultuous beginning for former UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad, who had to sit out three games while being investigated by the NCAA before being cleared to play.

Parents of those players, in particular, expressed concerns about the potential for retribution by the NCAA, specifically that negative information might surface that might impact the player’s draft status and corresponding rookie NBA contract.

The parents focused on what they considered to be an unwarranted drop in Shabazz Muhammad’s draft prospects. Muhammad was widely projected to be a top two pick before he entering UCLA as a freshman last fall. Although he played well for the Bruins — he was named the Co-Freshman of the Year in the Pac-12 — Muhammad encountered controversy off the court. The NCAA suspended Muhammad before UCLA’s season opener because he allegedly received impermissible benefits. Muhammad also attracted negative attention when it was determined he was a year older than he claimed.

Not all of Muhammad’s issues (the age debate being one) that led to him going 14th overall in the NBA Draft had to do with the NCAA. But, there was real concern on the part of the plaintiffs before any current student-athletes joined the suit that there would be consequences (in regards to their status as collegians and professionals) for them doing so.

Of course the NCAA responded to this concern last week, but they governing body did note that it wasn’t responsible for what schools may do if a player were to join the lawsuit.

Wouldn’t that be even more of a concern for a college football player, who has to wait three years after his class graduates from high school to enter the NFL? Well, that aspect also led some parents of the college basketball players to ask if joining would really have an impact since the NBA’s rule is that you only have to be one year removed from high school to enter its draft.

Could this ultimately change down the line? Possibly, but at this point the lawsuit may need to earn class-action certification before college basketball players volunteer to join.

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.