Wednesday’s Pregame Shootaround: Time to recharge after Tuesday’s ‘marathon’

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Florida State at UCF (7:00 p.m.; ESPN News) 

These two programs have met nine times prior to tonight’s meeting, with none of those games being played on the UCF campus. That should be enough to get the fans going, and in senior guard Isaiah Sykes the Knights have one of the best players in the American Athletic Conference. UCF returns four starters from last season’s squad, and they’ll definitely challenge Devon Bookert and the Seminoles. Okaro White led five FSU players in double figures with 18 points in their win over Jacksonville, but they’ll need to clean up the turnovers (20, with White racking up seven) tonight.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: Kent State at Seton Hall (7:00 p.m.; Fox Sports 2) 

Two nights after winning at Temple the Golden Flashes look to pick up another road victory, and in order to do so Rob Senderoff will need to slow down Seton Hall’s Fuquan Edwin. Foul trouble limited the versatile wing on Saturday, and it tough to see Edwin struggling with that problem for the second consecutive game. Sterling Gibbs led The Hall past Niagara with 23 points, and he’ll need to be at his best again tonight. Devareaux Manley and Dexter Jackson scored 17 points apiece to lead Kent State past Temple, with the Golden Flashes shooting 11-for-22 from beyond the arc.

MID-MAJOR MATCHUP OF THE NIGHT: Buffalo at Niagara (7:00 p.m.) 

Two of the best scorers you don’t see on national television every week will be on the same floor, with Buffalo’s Javon McCrea and Niagara’s Antoine Mason being the feature attractions. Mason scored 34 points against Seton Hall on Saturday, and while McCrea struggled in Buffalo’s loss at Texas A&M he’s coming off of a season in which he averaged 18.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Buffalo’s a team many believe should factor into the MAC East race, and while the Purple Eagles did lost Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley they can still put a high number of points on the board.


1) Colorado’s looking for some payback tonight, as they host a Wyoming squad that knocked them off in Laramie last season (9:00 p.m.; Pac-12 Network). Josh Scott’s played well for the Buffaloes through two games and fellow forwards Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson played well on Sunday, but the Buffs really need shooting guard Askia Booker to get untracked. Larry Nance Jr. will lead the way for Larry Shyatt’s Cowboys.

2) Devon Collier returns to the court for Oregon State, and given how the Beavers performed on Sunday against Coppin State it’s clear that Roberto Nelson needs some options to step up alongside him. OSU host Portland (9:00 p.m.; Pac-12 Network), and while the Pilots aren’t a contender in the WCC they do have one of the league’s best interior players in senior Ryan Nicholas.

3) Kansas State looks to rebound from their season-opening loss to Northern Colorado, but that won’t be easy as Oral Roberts is the visitor in Manhattan (8:00 p.m.). Forward Shawn Glover was a preseason All-Southland selection, and in their win over city rival Tulsa the Golden Eagles grabbed 17 offensive rebounds (43.6% OR%) and out-rebounded the Golden Hurricane 45-28.

4) Bucknell visits Penn State (7:00 p.m.) in what should be an interesting affair. Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill stood out in the Lions’ win over Wagner on Saturday, but they need to be careful as the Bison nearly took out Stanford on Friday. Ben Brackney led a balanced attack with 13 points, and Steven Kaspar dished out nine assists in the 72-68 defeat.

5) How will No. 18 Oregon, the only ranked team in action, build on their solid win over Georgetown? The Ducks host Western Carolina (11:00 p.m.; Pac-12 Network), and while Dana Altman’s team should win the Catamounts have a very good guard in senior Trey Sumler. And with five starters back, WCU won’t be intimidated.


Mount St. Mary’s at Villanova (7:00 p.m.; CBS Sports Network)
Wright State at Georgetown (7:00 p.m.; Fox Sports 1)
Brown at Providence (7:00 p.m.; Fox Sports 2)
Valparaiso at Illinois (7:30 p.m.; Big Ten Network)
Cal State Fullerton at Seattle (10:00 p.m.; ROOT Sports)

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.