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Do Tennessee fans want Bruce Pearl back as head coach?


As Tennessee lingers on the bubble again under head coach Cuonzo Martin and after a tough loss to Texas A&M, the fans in the state might be getting a little restless.

According to a report from Nick Cole of the Tennessean, former Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl was in Nashville to be apart of SportsFest, a fan-friendly event that had the old Volunteers coach as part of a Q&A. Pearl wore an orange and white shirt and said fans should support Tennessee and Martin, according to Cole and Pearl also told fans his thoughts on this year’s team.

“I think right now, today, Tennessee is in the tournament,” Pearl said to the fans, according to the report. “They played such a good nonconference schedule, and the win against Virginia gets better and better every time Virginia plays, and that serves them well.”

Then things started to get interesting. Fans started to ask about Pearl’s return to coaching after his clause ends and he can coach again in 2014-15. Then it turned to Pearl potentially returning to Tennessee and the crowd got into it:

Pearl declined to comment on the possibility of returning to coach at Tennessee, instead insisting he was happy with his job as an analyst and would consider any opportunity to become a coach when his show clause expires later this year.

“It’s going to be about the opportunity,” Pearl said. “And quite frankly, I will pray about it at the time and hope that God puts it in my heart that this is what I should do again.”

Radio personality Clay Travis grabbed a microphone shortly after Pearl fielded that question to make a plea of his own.

“I’m not God, but I’d like to put it in your heart to come back to Tennessee and take over our basketball program please,” Travis said. “Everybody here wants you back in Knoxville in an orange jacket.”

Travis’ comment was met with loud applause from the Vols fans.

I mean, wow. Those are some very interesting fan intereactions with Bruce Pearl, who is clearly still loved by a segment of the Volunteer fanbase. With Cuonzo Martin struggling and the charismatic Peal returning to coaching next season some fans will ask for Pearl’s return but its also unfair to count out this season’s Tennessee team with the talent they have in place.

So is this a small — but vocal — segment of the Tennessee fanbase or is the preference to return to Bruce Pearl.

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.