Reports: Big East, Big Ten to announce scheduling agreement Monday

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In its first season the reconfigured Big East finished fourth in non-conference RPI and seventh in non-conference strength of schedule, with those numbers likely helping Villanova (two-seed) and Creighton (three-seed) land the high NCAA tournament seeds they received on Selection Sunday. However even with those solid computer numbers, it never hurts to further strengthen the schedules of the conference’s teams.

With that in mind the Big East will reportedly announce a scheduling agreement with the Big Ten on Monday, with Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal reporting the news Sunday. The Gavitt Tipoff Games will all be played within the first week of the regular season, with there being plans for eight contests to be played over four days in honor of the late Dave Gavitt. Gavitt founded the Big East Conference.

“We wanted to do something to pay tribute to Dave. The geographic affinity between our two conferences made it a natural to synch up,” said Big East commissioner Val Ackerman. “These [conference] challenges are not uncommon. We want to do something unique, by launching the season with a challenge.”

The event will begin during the 2015-16 season, and there has been no word as to whether or not this agreement will impact the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. That event has been played every year since 1999.

According to the Big Ten Network the games in the Gavitt Tipoff Games will be played on the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the first full week of the college basketball season. Television network assignments will be controlled by the home team; games hosted by Big East teams will air on Fox Sports 1, with Big Ten hosted games airing on either BTN or ESPN.

The question now is what the first match-ups will be. With Rutgers and Seton Hall having already agreed to an eight-year series following the splitting of the Big East, that’s one game we’re unlikely to see scheduled. But what about the possibility of getting Georgetown and Maryland on the same floor? Would the schools allow that to happen, given the fact that they’ve played so infrequently over the years?

Butler already plays either Indiana or Purdue annually thanks to the presence of the Crossroads Classic, a four-team event (Notre Dame being the fourth team) that will be played through 2016 at least. Creighton plays in-state foe Nebraska on an annual basis, and the same goes for Marquette/Wisconsin.

What happens with this Big East/Big Ten agreement in regards to the games remains to be seen, but this is a good move for both conferences. It will help with scheduling, and it also has the potential to set up some games that will help both teams when it comes to putting together quality NCAA tournament resumes.

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.