Toledo v Kansas

No 16 Kansas hands an impressive Toledo team their first loss

Leave a comment

Naadir Tharpe finished with 20 points and eight assists, hitting 7-for-8 from the floor and 4-for-5 from three, as No. 16 Kansas held off a scrappy Toledo squad 93-83.

The Jayhawks put together one of the most brutal non-conference schedules in the country this season, one that still features a visit for San Diego State. But after tough road losses to Colorado and Florida — which came on the heels of a disappointing trip out to the Battle 4 Atlantis — the Jayhawks seem to have righted the ship. Their last three games have all been double-digit wins over potential tournament teams in New Mexico, Georgetown and Toledo. And while those wins being spread out over the course of 16 days, the Jayhawks look like they have embraced the opportunity to spend some time in the practice gym improving.

Kansas has as much talent on their roster as anyone in the country. With the continuous improvement of Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, and the solid play of Perry Ellis convincing Bill Self to run his offense from the inside-out, Kansas looks every-bit the part of a team that can win the national title.

Most important of all, however, has been the play of Naadir Tharpe of late. Over the course of those last three wins, he’s averaging 12.7 points and 7.0 assists while shooting 63.6% from the floor and 7-for-12 from three. He’s the key to Kansas going from a good team to a scary-good team.

But we all know about the Jayhawks and how good they can be.

I don’t want to focus on that.

I want to talk a bit about Toledo.

Monday night was the first loss of the season for the Rockets. They entered the game 12-0 with a couple of decent wins over the likes of Boston College, Stony Brook and Cleveland State, but Kansas was their first real test. And despite playing on the road, and despite the Jayhawks actually playing pretty well, Toledo would never go away. Every time it felt like Kansas was getting ready to make a run and turn this thing into a blowout, Toledo had an answer, whether it was a triple or a couple of quick buckets in a row.

This is a good basketball team, especially on the offensive end of the floor. They don’t defend well enough to truly be a threat at earning an at-large bid, but any power conference team that draws this club in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament — assuming they are able to make it that far — is going to be in for a dogfight.

Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.