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Weekend Preview: Michigan-Iowa, Gonzaga-Memphis, and Lumberjack Night!

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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 10 Michigan at No. 17 Iowa, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

Just how good is Iowa? That’s the question that everyone has on their mind at this point in the season. Looking at the numbers, the Hawkeyes look like a top 10 team. Looking at their roster, that theory is more or less confirmed. They are deep, they have lineup versatility, and Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White are two of the best players you don’t hear talked about.

The problem? Iowa hasn’t beaten anyone this season. Their best win is against an Ohio State team that collapsed after playing them. But here’s the thing: they haven’t lost to anyone that’s not really good. Their six losses are all against teams that are ranked in the top 20 on KenPom, including Ohio State.

We know what Michigan is at this point. They’ve been the best team in the Big Ten during league play, currently sitting in a tie for first place with a Michigan State team that they’ve beaten. The Hawkeyes are just two games behind them. Are they really going to be a contender in this conference, or is Fran McCaffery’s club nothing but a pretender.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 23 Gonzaga at No. 24 Memphis, Sat. 9:00 p.m.

Gonzaga probably needs this win more than Memphis. The Zags have eight top 100 RPI wins this season, but just one of them against a team in the top 50. That was BYU. So while Mark Few’s club has once again put up an impressive record, how many people are going to think back to last season’s gaudy record and NCAA tournament collapse with this year’s Gonzaga. Memphis was smacked around by SMU and lost to UConn at home, but at least they already own wins over Oklahoma State, LSU and Louisville.


  • No. 15 Texas at Kansas State, Sat. 1:30 p.m.: Ahh, the Big 12, where every weekend yields matchups between tournament teams. This may be the best of the bunch, as a Texas team that owns the league’s only win over conference-leading Kansas will pay a visit to the Octagon of Doom.
  • West Virginia at No. 8 Kansas, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: West Virginia has been one of the most surprising teams in the country in conference play, but it will take a minor miracle for them to pull off an upset in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.
  • Missouri at Ole Miss, Sat. 5:00 p.m.: Missouri whiffed on two chances to land a season-defining win over Kentucky or Florida, which makes Saturday’s matchup with the Rebels that much more important. They’ll only have so many more chances to land quality wins.
  • Baylor at No. 21 Oklahoma, Sat. 7:00 p.m.: Is Baylor ever going to turn their season around? A win at Oklahoma State looked like it could be a catalyst, but they followed that up by getting drilled by Kansas at home.
  • No. 9 Michigan State at Wisconsin, Sun. 1:00 p.m.: The Spartans finally have Adreian Payne back in the lineup, which is not a good thing for a Wisconsin team that has lost five of their last seven games. .


  • No. 13 Saint Louis at La Salle, Sat. 5:00 p.m.: Defensively, the Billikens are as good as anyone in the country, but they are middle-of-the-pack in the Atlantic 10 in offensive efficiency. Can the Explorers take advantage?
  • No. 7 Cincinnati at SMU, Sat. 7:30 p.m.: The Mustangs have knocked off a pair of top 25 teams in Dallas this season, and they have the pieces to matchup with Cincinnati. They have size inside, a quality point guard and talent on the wings. They’ll have their work cut out for them scoring on the Bearcats.
  • No. 4 Wichita State at Northern Iowa, Sat. 9:00 p.m.: This may be the last real chance for someone in the MVC to knock off the Shockers this season. Wednesday’s loss to Illinois State isn’t exactly promising for the Panthers, however.
  • No. 19 Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, Sat. 9:30 p.m.: The Cowboys are reeling and Marcus Smart is struggling. Texas Tech? They’ve got some size, they’ve got some athletes and they can be tough at home.
  • No. 12 Creighton at St. John’s, Sun. 7:00 p.m.: The Bluejays nearly lost to a streaking St. John’s team a couple of weeks ago in Omaha. Now, the Johnnies will get a crack at them at home. Doug McDermott had 39 in that game and hit the game-winner. Maybe try to slow him down?


1) Three other top five teams will be in action on their home floors this weekend:

  • Clemson at No. 1 Syracuse, Sun. 6:00 p.m. 
  • Oregon State at No. 2 Arizona, Sun. 7:00 p.m.
  • Nevada at No. 5 San Diego State, Sat. 10:00 p.m.

2) Four more top 25 teams will be heading out on the road this weekend:

  • No. 20 Virginia at Georgia Tech, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
  • No. 18 Kentucky at Mississippi State, Sat. 2:00 p.m.,
  • No. 11 Duke at Boston College, Sat. 6:00 p.m.
  • No. 22 UConn at UCF, Sat. 6:00 p.m.

3) Everyone is talking about Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10, but VCU has been pretty impressive in their own right. They’re just a game out of first place, but they’ll visit a St. Joseph’s team playing for their tournament lives on Saturday.

4) Lumberjack Night!!!

5) Minnesota was safely in the NCAA tournament before they lost three straight games to Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue. Indiana was out before they beat Michigan. The Hoosiers probably need the win more than Minnesota.

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.