Melvin Ejim

No. 8 Iowa State’s loss to No. 15 Kansas not promising, but far from a disaster

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This just wasn’t No. 8 Iowa State’s night.

Listen to some of these numbers: the Cyclones shot 31.4% from the floor and 4-for-25 from three. Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang and Dustin Hogue were a combined 12-for-45 from the floor and 2-for-15 from three. Niang alone was 4-for-20 from the floor and 0-for-9 from three. Those three guys, their ability to create mismatches with opposing big men, are at the crux of what the Cyclones do offensively. They can’t win on a night when they post numbers like this.

Deandre Kane returned to the court after injuring his ankle on Saturday, and while he finished with 21 points, the 8-for-16 he shot from the line is going to loom large when he looks at the box score.

You really want to get a feel for just how badly Iowa State shot on Monday night? They won the turnover battle by 17, forcing No. 15 Kansas into 24 miscues while committing just seven of their own, and the Cyclones still lost to the Jayhawks at home, 77-70.

If I’m an Iowa State, the bright side is pretty obvious here. The Cyclones could not have had a worse shooting night even if everyone on the team had to shoot every shot left-handed. Their all-american point guard was, at the very least, hampered by his ankle. Naadir Tharpe had the best game of his collegiate career and Joel Embiid played as well as he has all season in the second half.

And the Cyclones only lost by seven points.

I don’t think painting moral victories is a good thing for a conference title contender to do, but it could have been much, much worse.

Is Iowa State still a contender though?

I believe so. It’s going to be tough — they’re already two games behind the 4-0 Jayhawks in league play and they already got Baylor and Kansas at home — but everyone is going to get knocked around in the Big 12. There are just too many good teams in the league for Kansas to make it through unscathed. If I had to make a prediction, I’d say that going 14-4 may win you the league outright.

That said, Kansas has the talent to take complete control of the conference race, but until their most important players display more consistency on a nightly basis, this is still a league that the Cyclones can win.

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.