Tyler Olander, Justin Jackson

UConn senior forward Tyler Olander cleared to rejoin team

Leave a comment

Last month UConn senior power forward Tyler Olander was suspended indefinitely by head coach Kevin Ollie after the Mansfield, Conn. native was arrested on charges of driving under intoxication. Ultimately that charge was dropped when tests showed that Olander was below the legal limit, with the end result being that Olander was required to pay a $75 fine after pleading guilty to driving without a license.

But even with the legal matter resolved Olander remained suspended, with Ollie requiring his most experienced post player to show better judgement on a consistent basis.

“I hope he becomes a better young man from this latest distraction,” Ollie said in a story written by Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant in late September. “That’s the first thing — and the last thing. I just want him to learn, and hopefully he does that, with the different steps he’s taking. He’s doing a great job so far, but every day, you’ve got to win the day. All of us have our vices. Every day, I’ve got to sacrifice my vice — I’m not going to tell you what it is, but I have mine.”

Olander’s apparently done enough to convince the head coach that he’s learned from the situation, as the school announced on Thursday that Olander’s been cleared to rejoin the team. Olander, who averaged 4.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game as a junior, did participate in practice.

Olander’s numbers last season weren’t eye-popping by any stretch of the imagination, but the Huskies will need him due to his experience and their depth. UConn is deeper inside this season than they were in 2012-13 thanks to the arrival of freshman Amida Brimah and the return of both Olander and Phil Nolan, but they’ve yet to hear from the NCAA regarding the status of freshman Kentan Facey.

Olander’s return is good news for UConn, and the hope is that they won’t have to wait much longer for the NCAA’s decision in regards to Facey.

Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.