NIT Season Tip-Off

College Basketball Talk’s Ten Most Disappointing Players

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source: Getty Images

Preseason prognostication is, more or less, a guessing game.

The picks that the so-called experts — myself included — make are educated and generally well-researched, but they’re still guess. And oftentimes, those guesses end up wrong. 

Through a month of the season, who did we swing-and-miss on the most?:


Luke Hancock, Louisville: Maybe our expectations for Hancock were too high heading into the season given that he was basically a role player prior to the Final Four. But even as a role player, Hancock isn’t doing his job. He’s shooting 31.4% from the floor and 22.9% from three.

Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, Virginia: The ‘Hoos have been one of the most disappointing teams this season and it’s mainly due to the play of Harris and Mitchell. Harris is averaging 11.3 points this season, five point less than a year ago, while Mitchell’s numbers are down to 6.3 points and 4.8 boards.

Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, Michigan: No one is feeling the loss of Trey Burke like these two. McGary’s struggles we can explain away as a back injury. GR3? Well, he’s been exposed as a spot-up shooting athlete that is either unable or unwilling to attack the basket off the bounce. He may end up regretting not leaving for the NBA after last season.

James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina: McAdoo is a freak athlete, but maybe it’s time to accept that he’s just never going to morph into the star that we all expect him to be. But if he does? Think about it like this: North Carolina beat Louisville and Michigan State when he combined to go 6-for-22 from the floor.

Alex Poythress, Kentucky: Poythress has become the Invisible Man for the Wildcats. He’s buried in Kentucky’s front court rotation, which means he’s been forced to play on the perimeter. He’s not a perimeter player. He’s averaging 4.8 points and 6.2 boards and coming off of a scoreless six minutes against Baylor.

Joshua Smith, Georgetown: Smith has been good for Georgetown this season. He’s been averaging 13.6 points, drawing fouls and taking up space in the middle of the floor. But he’s playing less than 20 minutes a night, not a presence on the glass and an atrocious defender. He has the ability to dominate, but he’s not.

Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke: Sulaimon has fallen way out of favor with the Duke coaching staff. He took the dreaded DNP-CD in Duke’s win over Michigan, and the likes of Tyler Thornton and Matt Jones have passed him in the rotation. He’s averaging 3.4 points over his last seven games.

Gabe York, Arizona: York came out on fire this season, which is part of the reason that his recent struggles have been a disappointment. In the five games since putting 20 on Fairleigh Dickinson, he’s averaging 5.0 points and shooting 5-for-17 from three.

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.