Nick Johnson, Tyrone Wallace

Wednesday’s Pregame Shootaround: Pac-12 action heats up

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Cal at No. 3 Arizona, 9:00 p.m.

The last time these two got together, Cal ended Arizona’s undefeated regular season on the same night that Brandon Ashley broke his foot. I think that the Wildcats have some vengeance that they will be looking to exact. Cal, on the other hand, is playing for an NCAA tournament bid. They are in good shape as of now, but a sweep of Arizona would give them quite a bit of breathing room.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: Baylor at No. 24 Texas, 9:00 p.m.

Texas is coming off of a beat down at the hands of Kansas over the weekend. They lost by 31. Baylor, on the other hand, has won four straight games and, at this point, may have played their way out of the First Four. They still have some wins they need to get to ensure that they don’t end up back on the wrong side of the bubble, and a road win at Texas would help to make that happen.

 WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 19 North Carolina at N.C. State, 8:00 p.m.

This will be the last chance for the Wolfpack to get a truly good win this season. N.C. State isn’t completely out of the bubble picture yet, not if they can win out and make a run in the ACC tournament.


1) West Virginia still has a chance to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament, but they are going to have to win a couple games to do so. Beating No. 15 Iowa State tonight would be a good start.

2) Pitt has been in a bit of a free fall of late. They’ll pay a visit to BC tonight. The Eagles picked off Syracuse last week.

3) Perhaps the most important game of the night will be between Stanford and Arizona State. The Sun Devils host the Cardinal in a matchup that suddenly has all kinds of bubble implications for Arizona State.

4) No. 16 Michigan will pay a visit to Purdue as they try to move closer to a Big Ten regular season title.

5) LSU (vs. Texas A&M), Ole Miss (vs. Alabama), and Tennessee (at Mississippi State) are all in action tonight. Losses would push the SEC just that much closer to being a two-bid conference.


  • Butler at No. 8 Villanova, 8:00 p.m.
  • Miami (FL) at No. 12 Virginia, 7:00 p.m.
  • UConn at South Florida, 7:00 p.m.
  • Richmond at George Mason, 7:00 p.m.
  • Rhode Island at UMass, 7:00 p.m.
  • VMI at High Point, 7:00 p.m.
  • Boston U. at Army, 7:00 p.m.
  • Delaware at UNC-Wilmington, 7:00 p.m.
  • Nebraska at Illinois, 9:00 p.m.

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.