Villanova Wildcats head coach Wright yells at officials during NCAA men's basketball tournament against North Carolina Tar Heels in Kansas City

Villanova’s offense needs more balance to be an elite team

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In the game’s opening nine minutes against Syracuse, Villanova looked like one of the nation’s elite teams as they jumped out to a 25-7 lead in the Carrier Dome and silenced the crowd early.

The Wildcats started 5-for-7 from behind the three-point line as they moved the ball quickly around the perimeter and found open players for jumpers.

Villanova was aggressive and assertive on both ends.

But reality quickly set in for the Wildcats as the Orange made adjustments in their zone. A mediocre-shooting Villanova team — they’re shooting 32 percent from the three-point line on the season; and they shoot a lot of threes — missed their next six three-pointers and began rushing shots and Syracuse’s zone took over as the Orange went on a 71-37 run to close out the game for the 78-62 victory.

Things began to unravel for Villanova when the perimeter shots stopped falling.

Spacing became an issue for the Wildcats towards the middle of the first half as they attempted to throw the ball around the perimeter and Villanova settled for jumper-after-jumper. It almost seemed like for minutes at a time, Villanova wouldn’t work the ball inside their own three-point line during their offensive possessions.

Look at this photo of Villanova’s floor spacing captured by CBT’s own Rob Dauster:

That kind of floor spacing might work in an intermediate men’s league — or if Steph Curry is your floor spacer — but with the kind of length, lateral quickness and athleticism that Syracuse brings with their zone, Villanova needed to do a better job of being patient and working the ball in the high post to find better looks.

If Villanova is going to beat long and athletic teams, their offensive attack has to be more patient and seek out better shots.

Working the ball into the high post would be a big step in that equation. James Bell played well offensively for Villanova — going for 25 points before fouling out — but Nova’s other guards did a poor job of working the ball inside, or even pass faking to move the Syracuse zone from side-to-side to create driving or passing lanes. The Wildcat starters around Bell on offense — Ryan Arcidiacono, Darrun Hilliard, JayVaughn Pinkston, Daniel Ochefu — combined for only four field goals as they seemed to feel the affects of Syracuse’s zone as their halfcourt offense crawled to a halt.

Villanova ended up shooting 10-for-31 from the three-point line for the game against Syracuse — which, at 32 percent, matches their season average

Villanova is going to shoot a lot of three-pointers —  at 45 percent of their attempts coming from there this season that should be a continuing trend — but they have to make sure they’re smart about it.

The Wildcats shot their season average from three-point range and lost by 16 to a superior team, but there is plenty of time to refine their approach before facing another opponent like Syracuse. Thankfully, there aren’t a lot of teams like Syracuse for Villanova to face, but can they strike more balance in their offensive approach? It might be the only way the Wildcats reach their full potential.

Knee injury temporarily sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.

Duke figuring out approach for this season

Duke University head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski speaks with the media about the Blue Devils' 2013-14 basketball season, Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Durham, N.C. (Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
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Duke is coming off of a national championship but the roster will look almost completely different for the 2015-16 season. That means last season’s approach to things on the offensive and defensive end will have to change and head coach Mike Krzyzewski mentioned to reporters on Friday how the Blue Devils are still figuring some things out.

“We’re putting in a different offensive system, to personalize it for these guys,” Krzyzewski said to reporters. “And a different defensive system so that we can max out on the talents that they have.

“We’re really proud of our team. I think we’re going to be a really good team.”

Without Jahlil Okafor in the middle, Duke’s offense could shift to a mostly perimeter-oriented team, as the wing and guard depth is superior for this year’s group.  Coach K and his staff making adjustments to schemes to fit personnel is a nice move from the Hall of Famer, as he’s done a better job in recent years of making adjustments like this after his stint with USA Basketball.

As the program moves on from Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook, it’ll be intriguing to see who emerges as a potential go-to offensive player early in the season and how Duke’s offense potentially evolves as the season wears on.