Washington State Athletics

Violation of team rule sidelines Washington State PG Danny Lawhorn

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It’s been argued many times over that the point guard position is the most important in college basketball, with successful teams generally having a solid option at the position. Washington State didn’t have that luxury last season, and while DaVonte’ Lacy, Mike Ladd and Royce Woolridge all had their moments the Cougars’ lack of stability at the position was a major factor in their going 13-19 (4-14 Pac-12).

The expectation entering the 2013-14 season is that things will be different for the Cougars at the point, thanks to the arrival of freshman Ike Ireogbu and junior college transfer Danny Lawhorn. But Washington State’s already hit a roadblock in its quest to find a point guard, as it was reported that Lawhorn isn’t participating in practices due to a violation of a team rule.

Head coach Ken Bone made the announcement Friday morning, and he did not disclose the rule that Lawhorn broke. The Cougars, who are also waiting for redshirt freshman guard Que Johnson to fully recover from a stress fracture in his shin, began workouts at an off-campus retreat Friday and will hold their first on-campus practice on Tuesday.

How much can Lawhorn help the Cougars? He averaged 8.4 assists per game at San Jacinto last season, following a freshman season in which he dished out 9.5 helpers per contest. With leading scorer Brock Motum out of eligibility, having a player who can set up his teammates becomes even more important in 2013-14. Washington State has players who can create (Lacy, Ladd and Woolridge all averaged double figures last season), but having a solid option at the point makes things easier for everyone offensively.

With Lawhorn sidelined for the time being, Ireogbu’s progression becomes even more important for Washington State.

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.