Central Florida lands four-star 2015 forward Alex Owens

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Central Florida is making the move to the American this season, but the Knights  also have something to look forward to in 2015 with the arrival of its latest recruit, Oak Ridge High (Fla.) power forward Alex Owens.

The 6-foot-8 Owens committed to UCF on Tuesday, according to ESPN College Basketball Insider Jeff Goodman.

“I wanted to stay close to home and be near my family,” Owens told Goodman. “I really like coach (Donnie) Jones, their staff and how they are with the players. I just felt different about them than the other schools.”

This is an impressive commit for Central Florida. Owens is ranked as the No. 71 overall player in the Class of 2015 according to Rivals. Despite only entering his junior season, the Orlando, Fla. native held offers from Cincinnati, Florida, Florida State, Maryland, Miami, Missouri, N.C. State and Providence.

This summer, Owens played in the Nike EYBL with the eventual Peach Jam champion Each 1 Teach 1 (Fla.). During the Peach Jam in July, Owens saw an increase in his production. He averaged 9.0 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. He played alongside Duke commit Grayson Allen, North Carolina bound Joel Berry and D’Angelo Russell, who is committed to Ohio State.

He also also averaged 11.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game for USA South in the Nike Global Challenge. He ended the four-game showcase with back-to-back double doubles (14 points, 11 rebounds; 17 points, 10 rebounds) against USA Midwest and USA West.

Owens is the second commit UCF has received this summer. In August, Boone High (Fla.) point guard B.J. Taylor became the lone commit in its Class of 2014.

LSU looking into starting lineup options

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - MARCH 7:  Head Coach Johnny Jones of the LSU Tigers watches his team play during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on March 7, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 81-78.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.

While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.

Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?

Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.

Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.

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.