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UCLA’s Kyle Anderson, Zach LaVine officially enter 2014 NBA Draft

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UCLA made official the news that many had already expected on Wednesday, with guards Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine announcing their intentions to leave school and enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

LaVine, whose draft prospects rose greatly during non-conference play, made his decision the day after the Bruins’ season ended in the Sweet 16 with a loss to Florida. As a freshman LaVine averaged 9.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, making 36 of his 37 appearances as one of UCLA’s key reserves.

“I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2014 NBA Draft,” LaVine said in the release. “I first and foremost want to thank my family for all their support in helping me through this journey to achieve my dream of playing in the NBA. I also want to thank my coaches, UCLA, my teammates and all of the fans.

“I will forever be proud to call myself a Bruin and will never forget the memories that were made here. I truly can’t wait for this next chapter in my life, and again thank everyone for all their support.”

MOREThe entire list of players entering the 2014 NBA Draft

As for Anderson, Wednesday’s announcement makes official a decision that was essentially made before the season even began. Standing at 6-foot-9, the sophomore proved to be one of the toughest match-ups at the point guard position this past season. Anderson averaged 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game, earning first team All-Pac-12 honors.

“I want to thank everyone at UCLA for all they have done for me,” Anderson said in the release. “My two years at UCLA were two of the best years of my life. It was a tough decision to make with my family since our last game, but I have decided to enter my name into the NBA Draft. I will still continue to embrace the UCLA community, and I hope they will do the same with me.

“I would also like to thank Coach Alford for everything he has done for both the team and me this year in so little time. Coach Alford worked hard at getting to know all of us from the outset and created a family atmosphere that was fun to be a part of. He helped me develop as a leader on and off the court, and I appreciate him giving me every opportunity to succeed.”

The question now for UCLA is what happens with guards Jordan Adams and Norman Powell, with both having filed paperwork with the NBA to receive evaluations. The NBA’s deadline for underclassmen to enter the 2014 NBA Draft is April 27.

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.