Drake v Wichita State

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Arguing over whether or not Wichita State deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country is a conversation that is going to overtake college hoops over the next couple of weeks.

Here’s my take:

Florida deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country this week, even with their struggles over the course of the last seven days. They’ve played like the best team in the country for an extended period of time, and with the Orange finally dropping a pair of games this week, Billy Donovan’s club hops on up into the top spot.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Shockers get a number of votes when the polls come out, however. When you are undefeated in late-February, you’ll deserve any ranking you get. I may not agree, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not a valid argument for ranking the Shockers as the best team in the country.

Personally, I don’t think Wichita State is. I think they are very good, capable of making a Final Four and deserving of a No. 1 seed should they enter Selection Sunday undefeated, but they wouldn’t be one of the five teams that I’d pick to win the NCAA tournament before the brackets get released.

All you can do is beat who is on your schedule, and the Shockers have done that. They are a tough-minded, well-coached basketball team with size up front, exceptional guard play and a couple of potential NBA players. They’re legit.

I’m not sure they are on the same level as Florida or Kansas or any of the other national title contenders.


1. Florida (25-2, LW: No. 2): The Gators had a couple of close calls this week, watching Auburn pull an Auburn to survive at home and overcoming a 22-point first half against Marshall Henderson on the road. They deserve that No. 1 rankings.

2. Wichita State (29-0, LW: No. 3): The Shockers are the first 29-0 team since Illinois in 2004-2005.

3. Kansas (21-6, LW: No. 6): I jumped the Jayhawks passed Duke and Arizona because, with Joel Embiid healthy, I think that this is the most talented team in the country. He sure looked healthy this week.

4. Duke (22-6, LW: No. 4): The Blue Devils lost to North Carolina in the Dean Dome, but followed that up with an impressive win over Syracuse in Cameron.

5. Arizona (25-2, LW: No. 5): Was the 88 points that Arizona scored at Colorado a sign they’ve figured out their offensive issues, or did they just beatdown a depleted team?

6. Syracuse (25-2, LW: No. 1): The Orange came back down to earth a bit with close losses to Boston College and Duke this past week. They need Tyler Ennis to break out of this three-game slump he’s mired in. He was 2-for-13 at Duke.

7. Creighton (23-4, LW: No. 9): The Bluejays just keep on winning. They beat Seton Hall on Sunday night behind 29 more points from Doug McDermott.

8. Louisville (23-4, LW: No. 15): Louisville made a statement when they went into Cincinnati and knocked off the Bearcats. They still visit Memphis and SMU and host UConn this season.

9. Kentucky (21-6, LW: No. 11): Things are starting to click for Kentucky. You can see growth every time out. This will be one of the most interesting teams to track in March.

10. Cincinnati (24-4, LW: No. 8): The Bearcats lost by a point at home to Louisville on a Russ Smith buzzer-beater. Can’t drop them too far after a loss like that.

11. San Diego State (23-3, LW: No. 7)
12. Villanova (24-3, LW: No. 12)
13. Wisconsin (22-5, LW: No. 17)
14. Saint Louis (25-2, LW: No. 13)
15. Virginia (23-5, LW: No. 14)
16. Michigan (19-7, LW: No. 23)
17. Iowa State (21-5, LW: No. 16)
18. Michigan State (22-6, LW: No. 10)
19. North Carolina (20-7, LW: No. 25)
20. Ohio State (22-6, LW: No. 22)
21. Iowa (19-7, LW: No. 18)
22. Texas (20-7, LW: No. 19)
23. Memphis (21-6, LW: No. 21)
24. UConn (21-6, LW: No. 20)
25. New Mexico (21-5, LW: UR)

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.