Mike Brey

Notre Dame Fighting Alumni win first annual $500,000 basketball tournament

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In its first year of existence The Basketball Tournament has garnered a solid amount of attention this summer, with fans starved for some live basketball got the opportunity to watch players they may have remembered from their college (or even professional days). And the 32-team event also drew in squads that didn’t have that much playing experience, with fan voting influencing which teams were allowed to play.

And it didn’t hurt to have a $500,000 winner-take-all prize on the line.

Saturday evening at Case Gym in Boston, the Notre Dame Fighting Alumni and Team Barstool played for the title, with Notre Dame winning by the final score of 72-68. Tyrone Nash, who played at Notre Dame from 2007-11, led the way offensively with 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting. Nash was named MVP of the event.

Three Fighting Alumni finished the game in double figures, with Ryan Ayers (15 points, five rebounds) and Rob Kurz (11 points, three rebounds and three assists) being the others. Chris Thomas, the point guard on Notre Dame’s last Sweet 16 team (2003), tallied a team-high four assists. Of the 11 players on the roster ten were a part of the Notre Dame basketball program as collegians, with former Seton Hall guard Paul Gause being the lone exception.

Team Barstool, which possessed a roster of current and former pros featuring former Duke guard Dahntay Jones (he was last a member of the Atlanta Hawks in October before being waived), was considered by some to be the favorite to win the title before the event began. Jones finished the title game with a game-high 21 points, with Andre Barrett (13 points, six rebounds and five assists), Matt Walsh (12 points) and Josh Boone (12 points, 12 rebounds) joining him in double figures.

However even with four double-digit scorers Team Barstool fell short of winning the cash prize, with the Fighting Alumni’s superior shooting percentages (46 percent to 39 percent from the field; 7-for-19 3PT compared to Barstool’s 7-for-26) that made the difference. Team Barstool also shot 17-for-25 from the foul line, with the Fighting Alumni making 13 of their 16 attempts.

As for what the Fighting Alumni will do with their $500,000, the plan is to donate some of the winnings to Coaches vs. Cancer.

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.