Carleton University Ravens' Hinz holds the trophy after defeating the Lakehead Thunderwolves during the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship game in Ottawa

Four-time defending Canadian champion Carleton will play Indiana and Memphis this August

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The Carleton Ravens play north of College Basketball Talk‘s normal coverage area, but the Canadian basketball powerhouse is worth talking about. Simply put, Carleton is making a John Wooden-at-UCLA type of run right now in the CIS.

The Ravens have won four consecutive CIS titles and have been champions for 10 of the last 12 seasons. They’re an astounding 292-14 since the year 2000.

Carleton might be beating up on overmatched competition in the CIS, but they’re better than a lot of Division I basketball programs. Want proof? Last summer, Carleton beat eventual Final Four team Wisconsin and led former 2013-14 No. 1 team Syracuse by 15 in the second half before losing in overtime.

Carleton also had a respectable road loss to NCAA Tournament team Cincinnati in exhibition play last fall and the Ravens also beat TCU and Towson at home last summer. Going 3-2 against that kind of Division I schedule as a Canadian team is no joke. These guys can really play.

So that brings us to this summer. Carleton is once again hosting four Division I schools for exhibition matchups in August. Every four years, the NCAA allows Division I basketball programs to take a foreign trip for exhibition games and using that trip to play a team as good as Carleton will only help gauge how a team might look for the 2014-15 season.

The Ravens will begin their home exhibition schedule with a game against Indiana on August 11th. Carleton then hosts Vermont on August 12th and UIC on August 14th.

Memphis comes in for two games against Carleton on August 16th and August 19th and it seems like Tigers head coach Josh Pastner has a lot of respect for the Ravens and their basketball program.

In a release from Memphis about their Canadian exhibition tour Pastner commented on the strong competition the Tigers will face. Memphis will also face McGill University and the University of Ottawa on the trip.

“The most important thing about putting this trip together was finding great competition, and this tour has it,” Pastner said in the release. “The teams we’ll see on the tour took Louisville, Syracuse and Wisconsin down to the wire last summer, and the Cardinals, Orange and Badgers were three of the best teams in college basketball this past season. We’ll face teams that run really good stuff, and if we don’t play well, we can get beat. But, it will be good for us to face that level of competition this summer.”

As you can see, Pastner really respects Carleton and I’m sure the coaching staffs at Indiana, UIC and Vermont feel the same way about going to Canada to face the four-time defending champs.

Of all of the foreign exhibition games that happen this summer, these contests at Carleton will probably be some of the best games played. Don’t be surprised if the Ravens come out with a winning record in the five games against Division I compeition.

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.