LaQuinton Ross, Lucas Strouble

Health issues clearing up for Ohio State as season approaches

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With Deshaun Thomas gone from last season’s Elite Eight team, the Ohio State Buckeyes have a question to answer as they approach the start of the 2013-14 campaign: how will they account for the 19.8 points per game that Thomas provided? If their 93-63 exhibition victory over Walsh University offered any insight when it comes to the answer to that question, it could be that Thad Matta’s team will rely on offensive balance.

Five players scored in double figures on Sunday, with Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross scoring 15 points apiece to lead the way. Add in a solid effort on the glass both as a team (52 rebounds with 23 being of the offensive variety) and individually from center Amir Williams (ten rebounds) and freshman forward Marc Loving (nine rebounds), and overall Ohio State did what it needed to do. If there’s one concern it would be their 18 turnovers, but the Buckeyes made up for that by forcing 23 Walsh turnovers.

Ross’ performance was key for another reason: according to Matta Sunday was the first time in about a week that the junior’s right (shooting) hand was out of a cast.

Matta said he did not know what caused the injury, and Ross was not made available to the media.

“Something in his right hand on the top,” Matta said. “There was nothing on the MRI, just some inflammation, and it’s obviously gone down. I thought he looked pretty decent offensively today, but it’s been kind of a challenging week for him.”

Ross shot 4-for-9 from the field (making his lone three-point attempt) and 6-for-10 from the foul line in the win. Also of note according to Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch is the fact that freshman Kameron Williams, who was sidelined for about a month due to a case of mononucleosis, is expected to return to practice this week.

“He’s missed a lot,” Matta said of Williams according to the Dispatch. “It’s hard to miss a month of practice, but (he’s a) great kid. It’ll just take some time.”

Guards Aaron Craft (14 points, five assists on Sunday) and Shannon Scott (nine points, seven rebounds) saw the most playing time of the nine Buckeyes to see action against Walsh, playing 28 and 26 minutes respectively. With those two, Smith Jr., Sam Thompson (12 points, four rebounds) and sophomore Amedeo Della Valle (13 points) all part of the equation on the perimeter it’ll be interesting to see if Williams can earn a few minutes once he catches up.

Ohio State opens their season on Saturday against Morgan State, and they’ll host Ohio (November 12) before visiting Big East preseason favorite Marquette on November 16.

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.