Ray Giacoletti

Ray Giacoletti has high hopes for Drake basketball

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Ray Giacoletti is used to winning.

In his previous three head coaching jobs — North Dakota State, Eastern Washington, and Utah — he posted winning records at each school.

As an assistant on Mark Few’s at Gonzaga from 2007 – 2013, he won 20+ games and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each year.

Now, as he embarks on his first year on the job at Drake, Giacoletti hopes to transform the program into the next Gonzaga. Ambitious? Perhaps. But, he ostensibly knows what it takes to win and have success at smaller schools.

It’s more than just Gonzaga, though. Giacoletti has seen what Butler and Davidson have accomplished in recent years, and believes Drake — as an institution — is capable of finding that success.

He told The Associated Press during the team’s media day:

“Maybe 10 years ago people didn’t believe you could do both,” he said Tuesday during the team’s media day. “You can do both. There’s enough people out there that have proved it. That’s something Drake needs to be, in the same sentence with Butler, Davidson and Gonzaga. That would be our hope and vision.”

Giacoletti understands a program cannot be transformed overnight: it takes an institution that is committed to success, a rabid fan-base behind the program, a good head coach, and strong recruiting — all traits of Gonzaga’s program.

He said: “Gonzaga’s been playing basketball for over 100 years. It’s the last 15 years that are prevalent. Before that, one thing rings out: John Stockton. That’s the only thing you can think of for that basketball program before 15 years ago.”

For the better part of 40 years, Drake has been stuck in neutral; many 14-18 wins seasons, but never truly becoming a fixture in the college basketball landscape. Aside from the 2007-08 season under Keno Davis where the Bulldogs went 28-5 earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament — a truly magical year that can aptly be categorized as a fluke considering their record in years before and after that season — Drake hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1971.

To make a parallel between Gonzaga and Drake, prior to Mark Few taking over as head coach in 1999, Gonzaga went to a mere two NCAA Tournaments in program history. Since then, 14 straight years — they have gone to the NCAA Tournament every season Few has been head coach.

Probably unreasonable to expect Giacoletti to have that kind of success right away, especially seeing as Few was a long time assistant with Gonzaga and knew the program inside and out, but it does demonstrate building a program is possible when the right people are in place and the school is committed.

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.