Richard Pitino

Minnesota lands key win over No. 20 Iowa

Leave a comment

Charles Buggs entered Tuesday night’s game against No. 20 Iowa having scored five points the entire season, but he was ready when his name was called.

The 6-foot-9 freshman scored eight straight points to spark a 24-8 first half run, finishing with 13, as Minnesota took control early and hung on late in a thrilling, 95-89 win over the Hawkeyes.

Austin Hollins finished with 27 points and Dre Mathiue adding 19 and seven assists for the Gophers, who picked up a massive win for the NCAA tournament profile. The Gophers had lost three of their last four and six of their last eight entering the night, playing themselves out of the NCAA tournament in the process. A win over Iowa at home will help them turn things around, but it’s not going to be enough to change the fortunes of their season.

Richard Pitino’s club needs to win at Michigan and avoid a loss at home to Penn State in the season finale to feel comfortable about their chances entering the Big Ten tournament.

If they shoot like they did on Tuesday, that won’t be a problem.

But some of that credit (blame?) has to fall on the shoulders of the Hawkeyes. Iowa was just plain horrible defensively for a 20 minute stretch on Tuesday. Minnesota scored on 13 straight possessions, totaling 30 points, to close out the final 7:48 of the first half, extending their lead to 80-67 with 8:30 left in the game. In less than one half of basketball, Iowa gave up 59 points to a Minnesota team that isn’t exactly known as an offensive powerhouse. That came three days after Wisconsin carved the Hawkeyes up in Iowa City.

Clearly, Iowa has some defensive kinks they need to work out.

I’m just not buying this team at this point. They have the talent, they have the computer profile, but they can’t close out games and if they continue to play defense the way they have of late, they don’t have the firepower to win.

Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.