Tommy Amaker

Colorado’s second half run results in a missed opportunity for Harvard

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At halftime of their game at Colorado on Sunday afternoon, the Harvard Crimson had the look of a team poised to grab a needed resume-building victory. Leading 42-30, the Crimson executed well on both ends of the floor, finding quality shots offensively while limiting Colorado’s quality looks on the other end.

But as the Crimson began to wear down the Buffaloes were able to wrestle away control of the game with an 18-2 second half run, going on to win 70-62 with Spencer Dinwiddie leading four scorers in double figures with 17 points. But in the win there are concerns for Colorado moving forward, and with non-conference games against Kansas (December 7) and Oklahoma State (December 21 in Las Vegas) still yet to be played the Buffaloes’ execution on both ends needs to become more consistent.

Another concern going forward has to be the shooting of junior guard Askia Booker. Booker scored 12 points on Sunday but did so by shooting 5-for-15 from the field. And on the season he’s shooting 39.3%, and while that’s an improvement on his field goal percentage from a season ago (36.4%) Colorado won’t reach their full potential if Booker isn’t knocking down shots (and just as importantly, taking good shots) at a decent clip.

While Colorado picks up a solid win for their resume the same can’t be said for Harvard, and a look at their remaining non-conference schedule reveals just how important Sunday’s result was. Harvard still has games against Boston College and UConn, and their Great Alaska Shootout opener against Denver will be tougher than some realize. But there aren’t a high number of opportunities to land wins over teams from major conference remaining on the schedule. And if Harvard were to somehow not win the Ivy League that could be an issue for a team that has the look of a group capable of racking up a lot of wins this season.

The return of veterans Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry gives Harvard two talented players who earned All-Ivy honors before missing the entire 2012-13 season. Add them to a group of returnees from last season’s NCAA tournament squad, which includes guards Siyani Chambers and Laurent Rivard and forward Wesley Saunders, and the Crimson have the pieces needed to not only return to the NCAA tournament but also win a game once there.

But their non-conference schedule doesn’t give Harvard much room for error once Ivy League play begins in January. Harvard should win the Ivy League once again, but if they don’t that could mean trouble come Selection Sunday.

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.