While there are plenty of differences in the game between the NBA and college ball, we will see a big change because of the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors using a small-ball lineup while being on the verge of winning an NBA title will open up the eyes of plenty of college basketball coaches. The Warriors are using a lineup where Draymond Green, an undersized power forward to begin with, is playing the center position – if you want to call it that. Both the Cavaliers and Warriors aren’t necessarily using positions, just putting five guys on the floor and playing basketball.
Let’s take a look at the preseason rankings and look at how this can work at the collegiate level. One of the teams that will for sure use the small ball is Iowa State, one of the teams ranked in the top-five. Jameel McKay will play the center position for the Cyclones, but isn’t a true center. First off he’s undersized and is more of an athletic freak by being able to get up and down the court.
But, the Cyclones can move Georges Niang to the center position and truly mimic the Warriors style. Iowa State plays extremely fast on the offensive side of the ball and looks to simply outscore its opponents instead of defending them. There’s a ton of shooters to surround Niang with, including the best point guard in college basketball in Monte Morris.
There’s also Maryland, who absolutely needs to play small ball in order to be successful. Last season the Terps were good when Jake Layman wasn’t playing the small forward position. Specifically they were the best when Dez Wells played the Andre Iguodala role and played in the post on offense, surrounding him with four shooters.
Now, this year Maryland will have Diamond Stone and Robert Carter, but they shouldn’t play them together if they want to be as good as they can be. Stone or Carter can be the Andrew Bogut of Maryland, albeit more important players due to their talent, but surrounding them with shooters gives the Terps a chance to win and hide head coach Mark Turgeon’s lack of offensive coaching ability.
One of the last teams to look at is Kentucky, who is the third of the top-five teams that small ball will play a major role next season. Now, this may sound crazy since Kentucky is known for talented big guys and running a team that towers over its opponent all the time. However, this season could be different due to the bigs on the roster.
Skal Labbisiere is an uber-talented big guy. But, he’s not a traditional center by any means. Labbisiere is able to stretch the floor and beat guys off the dribble. Then there’s the curious case of Alex Poythress, who has played both forward positions. What about moving him to the power forward slot and letting him control the glass and play a stretch four type position? Surround those two with Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe and Mychael Mulder as three shooters, doesn’t that make the dribble-drive offense easier to run?
The traditional center won’t die in college basketball. But, be prepared to see plenty of small ball. Thanks a lot, NBA.