Duncan Robinson, of D-III Williams College, considering transfer to Michigan, Davidson

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In March, Williams College (Massachusetts) reached the Division III national championship game behind 30 points and six rebounds from first-year forward Duncan Robinson in a 98-69 national semifinal win over rival Amherst College. The next night, Robinson scored 17, but the Ephs came up short, falling to Wisconsin-Whitewater, 75-73, in the final second.

Following a freshman season where he averaged 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 55 percent from the field and 45 percent from three, Robinson, the D-III National Rookie of the Year, made the decision to explore his options after Williams head coach Mike Maker accepted the job at Marist. Robinson was immediately contacted by schools in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, Atlantic 10, Ivy League, Patriot League and American East. Some called him just to check in, others called to offer him.

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While returning to Williams for a sophomore season is still very much a possibility, Robinson will take visits to Michigan and Davidson within the next week, he told NBCSports, making him the most interesting transfer in college basketball this season. Four months ago, Robinson was suiting up for a small liberal arts school tucked in the corner of northwestern Massachussetts. Now, he is being pursued by a D-I program two years removed from a national championship game appearance.

“I really made the decision that the only schools that were worth leaving Williams — because I value Williams so much — would be a school that competes at a really high level and one that is great academically,” Robinson said on Tuesday evening. “With that in mind, I weeded out a lot of those options and it came down to those two.”

Duncan Robinson (AP)

Robinson will visit Davidson, the newest member of the Atlantic 10, from Aug. 1-2, followed by Michigan on Aug. 4-6. Worth noting here: from 2005-2007, Maker was an assistant to John Beilein at West Virginia.

“By no means is Williams out of the question. I loved my past year there,” Robinson added. “That’s why these visits are so important because it’s going to take a lot to pull me away from such a special place like Williams.”

Less than two years ago, Robinson had interest from multiple schools in the Ivy League and Patriot League, but none of those programs pulled the trigger and offered him. He did, however, have a scholarship waiting for him at Division II Merrimack College. In September of 2012, during the first month of his postgraduate year at Phillips Exeter Academy (New Hampshire), he pledged his commitment — upon acceptance — to Williams while on a campus visit.

“Those (Division I) teams were there all July, following us play,” said Michael Crotty Jr., coach of the Middlesex Magic, Robinson’s AAU team. Robinson spent that summer playing alongside Stony Brook’s Chris Braley and Princeton’s Pete Miller.

“He played well,” Crotty added. “He battled one injury that limited him a little bit. He played well enough, in my opinion, to be recruited more heavily by those schools. But he was 6-foot-6, 175-pounds.”

Robinson, now a 6-foot-8, 195-pound wing, was recruited by Williams the hardest, according to Crotty. By the start of January 2013, some of those schools from the summer made more of a push, but by then it was too late.

“At that point, he was very, very happy with his decision,” Crotty added. “I don’t think there was a school that came after him that would have changed his mind.”

Williams College is ranked as the top liberal arts college in the country by the U.S. News and World Report. It’s a perennial Division III powerhouse with tremendous fan support. It’s also not uncommon for players from Williams, and other standouts from around the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), to find opportunities to play overseas once their college careers are over. Crotty, a two-time All-American and a member of Williams’ national championship team in 2003, went on to play one season in Germany. He was a 6-foot point guard. Robinson is a 6-foot-8 knockdown shooter.

On July 19, Kevin App, a former assistant at Cornell and Army, who also spent one season on the Williams coaching staff under Maker, was named the Ephs next head coach. It didn’t take long for him to travel to New Castle, New Hampshire for a dinner with Robinson and his mother.

“Coach App is a very nice guy, and knows a ton about basketball,” Robinson added. “He’s been great with me. First thing I did was explain to him my situation and he’s been very accepting of that.”

A decision will come shortly after Robinson returns home from Ann Arbor. It’s a close battle between the allure of Division I basketball and the environment he’s enjoyed so much at Williams College, playing for a competitive team that was one-second shy of a national championship.

“There’s definitely a big part of me that wants to chase after that national title,” he said. “That’s another key reason why Williams is still very much in the mix. At the same time, I kind of have to weigh my options and see if a school like Michigan or Davidson brings something to the table that outweighs that unfinished business that I might be leaving behind.”

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.