mike lonergan

Vin Parise’s 30-second timeout: Five questions with Mike Lonergan

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Vin Parise of College Basketball Talk caught up with George Washington head coach Mike Lonergan, whose Colonials host Fordham Saturday afternoon.

CBT: Let’s first start out with how this all happened.  Preseason you were picked 10th and today you’re projected as a postseason team.  What’s been the difference?

Lonergan: Maurice Creek hitting the court for us this year solved a lot of weaknesses.  We really needed a scoring wing and Maurice has been that, and more!  And our freshmen last year improved to be terrific sophomores this year. Kevin Larsen, Patricio Garino, Kethan Savage and Joe McDonald all improved their bodies and their games.
CBT: How has the injury to Kethan Savage affected your team?
Lonergan: It’s affected us for sure, especially with McDonald being banged up as well.  Savage has been great at getting to the rim and dribble penetrating out of our offense.  And most importantly, it gave us a 2nd ball handler vs pressure; so we’ll continue to adjust.
CBT: Did you honestly think the A-10 would be this strong as of February?
Lonergan: I honestly felt our league would be strong this season and we haven’t disappointed.  Now for us, I can’t honestly say I knew we’d be Top 4 in the standings – but I was confident we could finish a lot higher than 10th.  Our league has always flown under the radar at times.  I always think back to the fact that Butler finished 5th in our league last year.  But I think it obviously starts with how impressive UMass and St. Louis have been – and that’s before you even mention our preseason #1 VCU.  It’s a great league.
CBT: What your thoughts on the matchup Saturday with Fordham?
Lonergan: Their guards concern me because they shoot so many 3’s and because they’re good athletes as well.  We’re a big team and at times it’s difficult for us to chase smaller perimeter guys around.  But I think our size can be to our advantage down low so it should be an interesting matchup.  We’ve played well at home this year so we’re hoping that continues.
CBT: You’ve obviously payed your dues but you didn’t go the longtime assistant coach route – you’ve gone more the John Beilein route, and you’ve been a head coach every year since 1992 except for your one season under Gary Williams at Maryland. What did you learn from Williams?
Lonergan: Gary is the most competitive person I’ve ever seen.  He wanted to win so bad and hated to lose so much.  From a coaching perspective, I learned to never take any team lightly.  Gary was great at taking it one game at a time and being prepared for every opponent like they were Duke.  He rarely had bad losses at Maryland because he was so prepared and I’d like to think that has rubbed off on me as well.
Follow Vin on Twitter:  @VinParise

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.