Co-PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: The two Marcuses
Marcus Smart played his way to the top of our Player of the Year Power Rankings after he put together one of the most dominating two-way performances that we’ve seen this season. Smart went for 39 points and four assists along with five steals and two blocks, leading the Cowboys to a 101-80 win over then-No. 11 Memphis. He was terrific.
But he may not have been the best Marcus in the country this past week, as North Carolina’s Marcus Paige put on a show at Mohegan Sun this weekend. He had 26 points in a win over Richmond on Saturday and followed that up with a career-high 32 points in an impressive win over then-No. 3 Louisville. North Carolina has their issues, but Paige looks like he could be ready to step into that starring role.
They were good, too:
- Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, UCLA: Anderson averaged 15.0 points, 11.0 boards and 9.0 assists and Adams scored 52 points in a 2-0 week for the Bruins.
- Jahii Carson, Arizona State: Carson led ASU to a 2-0 week, highlighted by 40 points and seven assists in a win over UNLV.
- Troy Huff, North Dakota: Averaging 34.5 points, 9.5 boards and 3.0 steals will get you recognized, even if a loss to Wisconsin is included.
- Jeremy Ingram, N.C. Central: Ingram averaged 31.3 points in a 3-0 week that included a 29-point performance in a win over N.C. State
- Alex Kirk, New Mexico: The Lobos finished in third place in the Charleston Classic, but it wasn’t Kirk’s fault. He averaged 21.3 points, 12.0 boards and 4.3 blocks.
- Cady Lalanne, UMass: Has Lalanne become UMass’ best player? He averaged 17.0 points, 11.7 boards and 3.0 blocks as they won the Charleston Classic.
- Shabazz Napier, UConn: UConn won the 2K Sports Classic. Napier went for 27 points and hit every clutch shot in the title game win over Indiana.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: UMass Minutemen
Is UMass the best team in the Atlantic 10 right now? They very well may be, especially after watching VCU struggle their way through the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Perhaps the best sign for UMass is that their star point guard Chaz Williams may not actually be the best player on the team right now. That honor goes to double-double machine Cady Lalanne.
They were good, too:
- North Carolina: The Tar Heels bounced back from a loss to Belmont by winning the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic, including a win over No. 3 Louisville.
- Charlotte: The 49ers came out of nowhere to win Puerto Rico Tip-Off at the buzzer against No. 24 Michigan in the title game.
- Florida State: So maybe we need to pay attention to the Seminoles this season? They blew out VCU and nearly knocked off Michigan before beating Northeastern.
- Providence: The Friars are now sitting at 6-0 after advancing to the final of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.
- UConn: UConn swept Boston College and Indiana to win the 2K Sports Classic.
- Iowa State: After winning against Michigan at home last Sunday, the Cyclones went to Utah and knocked off BYU in one of the toughest home environments in the country.
- NCCU: Three wins, including one in overtime at N.C. State? Impressive.
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.
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.