No. 2 Wisconsin didn’t get the ending it wanted Saturday, but that can change in 2015

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Last Saturday night Wisconsin junior center Frank Kaminsky proved to be the one matchup No. 1 Arizona had no answer for, scoring 28 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the Badgers’ one-point win in the West regional final. And with No. 7 Kentucky forced to play without the injured Willie Cauley-Stein in Saturday’s national semifinal, many wondered if this would be the case for the Midwest Region champions as well.

However that would not be the case, with John Calipari utilizing multiple defenders to limit Kaminsky to eight points on 4-for-7 shooting in Kentucky’s 74-73 victory.

Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Julius Randle and even Alex Poythress saw time defending the versatile big man, and they were able to limit the comfortable areas in which Kaminsky got his offensive touches. This was a much better defensive effort than the one Kaminsky saw last weekend, with Arizona able to go with just two different options in Kaleb Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon.

“I thought Dakari could play him some,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said of his freshman center. “Dakari could put that big body on him a little bit. Then we wanted to play all kinds of different people on him. We wanted Alex to guard him some, we wanted Julius to guard him some.”

RELATED: Aaron Harrison’s shot sends Kentucky to title game

In addition to the use of multiple options in defending Kaminsky, Kentucky also switched the pick-and-pop situations in which the center’s been so lethal this season. As was the case in Wisconsin’s win over Baylor, Kaminsky didn’t attempt a three-pointer against Kentucky. However that Sweet 16 victory was also a game in which he made eight of his 11 shots from the field. He would have no such luck against the Wildcats.

Scoring in the paint was an issue for Wisconsin as a whole Saturday night, as they were outscored by Kentucky 46-24. That can’t be placed on Kaminsky alone, and to make that leap would be unfair as Nigel Hayes (two points, two rebounds) also struggled against Kentucky’s front court length. As a result of that length and athleticism the Badgers were unable to consistently find opportunities in the paint on offense, and they struggled to keep the Wildcats out of the lane on the other end.

“We just did not make enough plays on the inside,” Kaminsky said after the game. “Kentucky was able to get things that we were not giving up this entire tournament. It just sucks that it happened at this time on the biggest stage.

“We would have liked to have set the tone physically more but we didn’t, and they came out on top.”

MORE: Alex Poythress’ contributions should not be ignored

The two plays that will receive the majority of the attention when discussing Saturday’s game are Aaron Harrison’s made three-pointer with 5.7 seconds remaining and Traevon Jackson’s miss just before time expired. But in a game decided by a single point, there are a number of spots within the contest that impact the outcome. And for a team that is expected to lose just one starter in guard Ben Brust, the tough end to what was an impressive season will serve as a catalyst for the 2014-15 edition of the Wisconsin Badgers.

Kaminsky, who improved by leaps and bounds from his sophomore season to 2013-14, stated following the game that he’ll be back for his senior season and Sam Dekker did the same with regards to his junior campaign. They’ll get better this offseason, as will Josh Gasser, Bronson Koenig and the other rotation players who have eligibility remaining.

With this being the case, the expectation for Wisconsin is a simple one: to reach this point in hopes of scripting a more satisfying conclusion.

“This is a sour taste,” Kaminsky said. “We are going to be back next year. We are going to be better than ever. We will all be ready. It’s going to be a long road to get back here, but I know we will make it.”

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.