BYU has one of the nation’s best perimeter scoring tandems in Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino, with both capable of putting together highly productive nights on a consistent basis. They score in different ways, with Carlino being the more aggressive of the two when it comes to hunting for his shots and that can get him into trouble at times. But it works for the Cougars, who are off to a 6-2 start and are expected by many to be Gonzaga’s biggest threat in the WCC.
Against Utah State on Saturday night the Cougars needed more than those two to beat the Aggies, and three players stepped up to the plate in BYU’s 85-74 win at the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City. Eric Mika, who just over a week ago suffered an eye abrasion in a loss to Iowa State, tallied 15 points and nine rebounds as he more than held his own with Utah State’s Jarred Shaw (12 points, 13 rebounds). Mika’s helped BYU account for the graduation of Brandon Davies, and while the freshman isn’t required to score at the same rate as Davies his 13.1 points per game has given the Cougars a credible interior threat on the offensive end of the floor.
The other two players who stepped up against Utah State were guards Frank Bartley IV and Kyle Collinsworth. Collinsworth (seven points, 13 rebounds and eight assists) had his fingerprints all over this game, and his ability as a primary ball-handler and distributor allows Carlino to aggressively look for his shots. That was a role head coach Dave Rose envisioned for Collinsworth prior to the start of the season, and the guard has performed well through seven games.
As for Bartley he’s proven to be a valuable reserve for the Cougars along with wing Anson Winder, and he accounted for 14 points and five rebounds against Utah State. It was Bartley who sparked the BYU rally that allowed the Cougars to take control of the game in the second half, as he scored ten of his 14 points during a 29-11 stretch that gave BYU a 12-point lead with 3:39 remaining.
Mika, Collinsworth and Bartley won’t be primary scorers for BYU and that’s fine due to the presence of Carlino and Haws. But in order for the Cougars to be at their best that supplementary trio will need to be productive, especially in games like Saturday’s. And on Saturday night, they showed that they’re more than capable of helping to carry the load.
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.