Mike Davis re-loads Texas Southern with a Big Ten transfer and former five-star prospect

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Mike Davis has done a nice job competing in the SWAC at Texas Southern by taking on transfers that many other coaches wouldn’t think twice about.

The former Indiana coach might not be able to recruit high-level athletes and talented players out of high school to the low-major program, but he’s made a big mark taking risks on certain players.

After having recent success with SWAC Player of the Year Aaric Murray, a former La Salle and West Virginia transfer, Davis told Scott Gleeson of the USA Today that he’s added a few more risky transfers with checkered pasts for the 2014-15 season.

Davis has added former Nebraska guard Deverell Biggs and former Marshall guard and five-star prospect Chris Thomas to Texas Southern this season.

The 6-foot Biggs was the third leading scorer for Nebraska last season at 9.9 points per game before he was dismissed from the team after only 15 games for multiple offenses. Biggs missed multiple film sessions that led to benchings and also had some run-ins with the law thanks to a few driving issues.

Thomas, a 6-foot-5 native of Colorado and former highly-touted five-star prospect, will also get another chance at Texas Southern as well. At Marshall, Thomas averaged 12.7 points and 4 rebounds per game as a sophomore before being dismissed from the program in June for violating team rules.

Both Biggs and Thomas have had multiple issues but Davis has been a steady presence for players looking for a final opportunity to play college basketball. Thomas, in particular, is the interesting case to watch here. The talented wing can really get rolling as a scorer, but he’s had multiple issues at a lot of programs.

Thomas went through a handful of prep schools, ended up at Chipola Junior College and later decommited from Xavier. While Chipola was in the postseason in 2013, Thomas missed the run while he spent time in jail. Thomas then signed with Manhattan but the team pulled his scholarship before he played a game due to a positive test for marijuana.

If Davis gets these two guys to buy in with the rest of the team, he’ll have two of the most talented players in the SWAC at his disposal and Texas Southern could be the favorite in the league.

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.