Wake Forest has made a habit of giving top teams in the ACC a tough time in Winston-Salem, and that was no different for No. 4 Duke on Wednesday night.
The Blue Devils were down for most of the first half, entered the break trailing 36-33 and couldn’t seem to get any separation from the Demon Deacons until Jabari Parker’s dunk with 5:45 left on the clock. That put Duke up 66-59, their largest lead of the game.
And it was also apparently the spark Wake Forest needed for their finishing kick.
Parker would pick up two fouls in the next 36 seconds and Wake Forest would go on a 17-0 run over the next five minutes en route to an 82-72 win over the Blue Devils. It completed Wake’s home sweep over the teams in the triangle (UNC, Duke, N.C. State) and may be enough to get head coach Jeff Bzdelik one more year at the helm of the program.
For Duke, this is now the third ugly ACC loss they’ve suffered, dropping games at Wake, Notre Dame and Clemson. This is also the second time in recent weeks that they’ve had fits offensively when a team threw a zone at them.
This is what Duke’s offense produced on the ten possessions they had while Wake was on that 17-0 run:
- Missed three
- Missed layup
- Missed three
- Missed three
- Missed three
- Missed three
It sounds bad when you read it. It looked worse when you watched it. Duke simply cannot have lulls like that offensively, because they are not a good defensive basketball team. They’re better than they were in December — and they’re probably better than they were a month ago — but that doesn’t mean they’re Florida or Arizona.
The same thing happened down the stretch against North Carolina. It happened throughout the game in the losses to Clemson and Notre Dame. They have trouble getting the ball to the high post. They settle for threes, which isn’t a good thing when they shoot 6-for-27 from beyond the arc. They lose any and all ball movement. It’s just not what we expect out of this Duke team.
And it’s something that is going to have to be rectified in the next two weeks, because it’s going to be hard to trust the Blue Devils to make it through four straight tournament games without hitting one of those lulls.
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.
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.