Bryce Cotton

Bubble Banter: Providence loses a heart breaker to Villanova

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There are 25 days left until Selection Sunday. Every morning from now until the bracket comes out, we’ll help you get caught up on the happenings with impact on the bubble from the night before. 

You can see’s latest bracket here.

If Providence (RPI: 58, KenPom: 56) ends up missing the NCAA tournament this season, they are going to really regret Tuesday’s loss to Villanova. The Friars had a nine-point first half lead, going blow-for-blow with the Wildcats as they took Jay Wright’s club to double-overtime. The Friars at a chance to win at the end of the first overtime and a chance to tie at the end of the second overtime.

Instead, Providence took the loss, and while they still might be in the tournament as of today — they’re right there on the cut line — they would be sitting a lot prettier with a win.

Providence has now lost four of their last five and five of their last seven. They beat Creighton, but their next best win is one of the three fellow Big East bubblers they’ve beaten — St. John’s, Xavier and Georgetown. Here’s the bigger issue: the Friars play three of their last four regular season games on the road, heading to Butler, Seton Hall and Creighton while hosting Marquette.

With the loss to Villanova, Providence probably needs to win at least four more games this season to feel comfortable. That’s not going to be an easy thing to do.



  • George Washington (RPI: 37, KenPom: 39) picked up a big win, knocking off Richmond (RPI: 39) on the road. They’re not 9-6 against the top 100 with wins over Creighton on a neutral court and VCU. They’re in the dance right now, and that won’t change as long as they beat George Mason and Fordham.
  • Tennessee (RPI: 54, KenPom: 44) picked up a surprisingly good win on Tuesday by knocking off Georgia. They’re now 7-9 against the top 100, but have just two top 50 wins, one of which is No. 50 Xavier. The Vols are right there on the cut line, meaning they can’t afford losses at Texas A&M, at Mississippi State, against Vanderbilt or at Auburn. Win those four, and they might be able to survive a loss to Missouri in the finale.
  • Clemson (RPI: 75, KenPom: 51) managed to stay in the conversation with a win over N.C. State on Tuesday, but the only reason they’re there is the win over Duke in January. They’ll have to win out and do some work in the ACC tournament in all likelihood.
  • St. John’s (RPI: 53, KenPom: 34) has played their way right onto the bubble by winning eight of their last nine games, but that doesn’t erase the losses to Penn State or DePaul. The Johnnies have just one top 50 win (Creighton) and are just 5-7 against the top 50. They’re at Villanova on Saturday, which is almost a must-win at this point.


  • Ole Miss (RPI: 66, KenPom: 81) had a chance to play their way into the tournament this week, as they hosted Kentucky and Florida. On Tuesday, they got drubbed by Kentucky. If they don’t beat Florida on Saturday, they’re done. They may be anyone.
  • N.C. State (RPI: 51, KenPom: 77) lost at Clemson on Tuesday. With Tennessee’s recent struggled, the Wolfpack no longer had a top 50 win. They’re 4-9 against the top 100. With games left against Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College, N.C. State may need to win out.
  • Richmond (RPI: 39, KenPom: 67) is missing a couple of key pieces, but Shawndre Jones has been terrific since Cedrick Lindsay went out. But his 25 points weren’t enough to get them a key home win over George Washington on Tuesday.

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.