Wisconsin Athletics

Wisconsin’s Vitto Brown sings national anthem at Red/White Scrimmage (VIDEO)

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With the loss of Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans from last season’s 23-win squad, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan will rely on returnees such as guards Ben Brust and Josh Gasser and wing Sam Dekker to lead the way in 2013-14. Also of importance for Wisconsin is the arrival of a talented five-man freshman class, including guard Bronson Koenig and forward Nigel Hayes.

With two of the team’s top three scorers from last season (Berggren and Evans) gone those newcomers will have an opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation (they also took a summer trip to Canada to help with the learning curve). 6-foot-8 forward Vitto Brown is one of those players, and he can belt out a tune as well. Prior to the start of the team’s Red-White Scrimmage on Saturday Brown, a native of Bowling Green, Ohio, sang the national anthem.

As for the scrimmage the Red team won 67-65 with Brust and George Marshall leading the way offensively with 16 and 14 points, respectively. Dekker led the White team with a game-high 18 points, but more important than any stats from the game was the fact that Gasser made his return to the floor after tearing his ACL prior to the start of the 2012-13 campaign. In 26 minutes of action the redshirt junior tallied 11 points and two assists.

Without Gasser last season more was asked of both Marshall and Traevon Jackson, with the latter making 28 starts and posting averages of 6.9 points and 2.8 assists (led the team) per game. Now with Gasser healthy and the arrival of Koenig, the Badgers have a lot more depth at the point guard position than they did a season ago.

Wisconsin may have lost some key contributors, but since Ryan took over in 2001 the Badgers have yet to finish worse than fourth in the Big Ten in any season (that includes ties for fourth). If the newcomers prove themselves capable of helping out the returnees, Wisconsin will have a good chance of keeping that streak alive.

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.