Spencer Dinwiddie’s health much bigger concern for No. 15 Colorado than Sunday’s loss

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Just seven days ago No. 15 Colorado put together an offensive performance worthy of a Pac-12 title contender, scoring 101 points in their win over then-No. 10 Oregon. Guards Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for 50 points and 11 assists, proving to be too much for one of the nation’s better backcourts. With those two leading the way, Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes have the perimeter skill needed to compete not only with the best of the Pac-12 but also make some noise in the NCAA tournament as well.

However things can change due to injuries, and in Colorado’s 71-54 loss at Washington on Sunday afternoon their Pac-12 title hopes may have been dealt a major blow. With just under three minutes remaining in the first half Dinwiddie went down with a non-contact left knee injury, one that sidelined the junior for the remainder of the game and left the Buffaloes without their floor general.

Leading by three at the time and by the same margin at the half, Colorado was a shell of itself without “The Mayor,” and that’s understandable given Dinwiddie’s influence not only from a skill standpoint but also the way in which he leads the team. While it wouldn’t be wise to speculate on the severity of the injury Colorado’s second half performance illustrated the need for other leaders to emerge, most notably Booker.

Booker’s two games in the State of Washington were ones that he’ll want to forget moving forward, as he followed up a 2-for-12 outing at Washington State with an 0-for-9 afternoon on Sunday. Booker was held scoreless for the first time since the 2012 Pac-12 tournament title game, which the Buffaloes won against Arizona.

Colorado was nowhere near as fortunate this time around, with the Dinwiddie injury and Washington’s C.J. Wilcox scoring a career-high 31 points being reasons why. If Dinwiddie is sidelined for an extended amount of time Colorado needs a more consistent Booker, and that includes his not allowing offensive struggles to influence the other areas of his game.

While there is a need to acknowledge that losing your sidekick in such sudden fashion will impact the mindset of a player (and this can be said for the other Buffaloes as well), Colorado’s going to need Booker to be the leader if they’re to move forward without Dinwiddie.

Washington deserves credit for the way in which they played in the second half, with Wilcox and Andrew Andrews taking advantage of the opportunities they were able to create on the offensive end of the floor. However it’s clear that Colorado’s an entirely different team without Spencer Dinwiddie.

The question for Colorado is whether or not they’ll be able to rebound from this major personnel loss if the junior’s out for the long haul. While the Buffaloes have multiple options, it will likely be Askia Booker who determines the path they take moving forward.

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.