Frank Kaminsky

Wednesday’s Pregame Shootaround: Michigan State-UNC outshined by Wisconsin-UVA

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GAME OF THE DAY: North Carolina at No. 1 Michigan State, 9:00 p.m. ET

So which North Carolina team shows up tonight? Will it be the one that beat Louisville handily at Mohegan Sun earlier this season, or is it the group that lost to Belmont at home and UAB on the road? The Tar Heels have no depth in their back court and are young at key spots — point guard and center.

Michigan State is going to give the Heels all they can handle at those two spots. Keith Appling and Adreian Payne are both seniors having great seasons that are going to be matchup programs for the Heels. Can UNC’s slow-footed big men chase Adreian Payne off the three-point line? Can the small-ish Nate Britt handle a bigger, more physical Keith Appling? It will be interesting to see what happens in the matchup between James Michael McAdoo and Branden Dawson as well. Dawson is the same kind of physical specimen that McAdoo is, but he’s a lot tougher.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 8 Wisconsin at Virginia, 7:00 p.m. ET

Virginia will be getting their second real test of the season after having lost to VCU at home earlier this year. Both the Badgers and the Cavaliers play similar styles: pack-line defense, methodical offense, keying on offensive execution and controlling pace. Where the ‘Hoos have a bit of a size advantage, especially along the perimeter, Wisconsin has three guards and can really spread the floor with their perimeter shooting. Sam Dekker and Joe Harris are both all-american candidates, but I’d expect either Justin Anderson or Akil Mitchell to start out guarding Dekker.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Louisiana-Lafayette at Louisiana Tech, 7:30 p.m. ET

Louisiana-Lafayette has two of the best mid-major players in the country in Shawn Long and Elfrid Payton, but Louisiana Tech is a tough team to play against with their ability to pressure the ball defensively. Payton is the only player in the country averaging 20 points, five boards, five assists and 2.5 steals.


1) Maryland heads to Columbus to take on No. 5 Ohio State tonight in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Buckeyes have the best defensive back court in the country and Maryland is playing without their starting point guard.

2) We’re really going to know a lot about New Mexico after their next five games. At New Mexico State tonight, followed by Cincinnati, Kansas, NMSU again and Marquette.

3) Some Big 5 action tonight, as No. 14 Villanova takes on Penn and St. Joseph’s squares off with Temple.

4) Chris Collins will make his triumphant return to North Carolina as Northwestern heads to Raleigh to take on N.C. State in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

5) If you like tough, veteran mid-major programs built around defensive execution, than Cleveland State vs. Drexel may be your Christmas.


  • UMKC at No. 7 Louisville, 7:00 p.m. ET
  • Delaware State at No. 25 Dayton, 7:00 p.m. ET


  • Rutgers at George Washington, 7:00 p.m. ET
  • Davidson at Charlotte, 7:00 p.m. ET
  • Harvard at Northeastern, 7:00 p.m. ET

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.