Bulls stout on D, improved on O in preseason

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Bulls stout on D, improved on O in preseason

The Bulls, with six newcomers and without Derrick Rose, will be different in 2012. But if the preseason is any indication, one area where Tom Thibodeau's group won't lose a step is on defense.
Chicago ended its preseason schedule yesterday with a 97-90 win over the Pacers in South Bend. It was the Bulls' fourth straight win, and third straight game holding their opponent to 90 points or less.
Chicago was second in the NBA in defense last year, and showed no signs of slowing down this preseason.
The Bulls allowed 87.1 points in six games, the second best mark in the league. Only the Milwaukee Bucks on Oct. 16 topped 90 points, but did so in a 100-94 loss to Chicago.
Teams made less than 41 percent of their field goal attempts in seven preseason contests (40.8 percent), the fourth best mark in the league. The Bulls were stout, as always, on rebounding, averaging an NBA-best 48.4 per game.
The usual suspects led the way on the glass, with Joakim Noah (10.1), Taj Gibson (8.0) and Carlos Boozer (6.7) all putting up impressive numbers in limited minutes. Even 35-year-old Nazr Mohammed got into the action, grabbing 5.6 rebounds in seven games off the bench.
Chicago was pesky in the passing lanes as well, recording 11.0 steals per game, second in the league. Seven players averaged better than a steal per game, with Carlos Boozer (1.7) leading the way.
On the offensive side of the ball, it was a different story. In seven games, the Bulls averaged 90.4 points (26th in NBA), 3.3 3-pointers (30th), 19.6 assists (22nd) and shot 40.5 percent from the field (28th) and 25.8 percent from beyond the arc (30th).
The numbers leave plenty to be desired, but a closer look shows improvement as the preseason went along.

First three gamesLast four gamesPoints83.395.8FG percent35.744.0Assistsgame15.023.0Turnoversgame21.013.8Record1-24-0
In those four games, the Bulls showed more of a balanced scoring attack, too. Carlos Boozer led the team with 17.7 points per game during the win streak, Richard Hamilton was a nice surprise with 15.8 points, while Nate Robinson, who started twice in place of Kirk Hinrich, averaged 14.8 points in the final four wins. Luol Deng averaged 14.3 points, while Joakim Noah scored an efficient 11.3 points per game.
The improvement on offense may take a while as the newcomers adjust to each other and Thibodeau's style, but as long as the defense is playing as it did this preseason the Bulls may score just enough without Derrick Rose to stay in the win column.

Purdue reportedly interviewed Penn State's Joe Moorhead in case Jeff Brohm said no

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USA TODAY

Purdue reportedly interviewed Penn State's Joe Moorhead in case Jeff Brohm said no

You've got to have a contingency plan, right?

Well Purdue's contingency plan in case Jeff Brohm didn't accept the head-coaching job he officially received Monday will interest Big Ten fans.

According to Pete DiPrimio of the News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Purdue interviewed Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead while the Nittany Lions were in Indianapolis for their win in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Moorhead's work in State College this season has been outstanding, transforming an offense that was stuck in the mud with quarterback Christian Hackenberg into a high-powered point-producing machine that can do things like erase three-touchdown deficits and beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game by a 38-31 score. Quarterback Trace McSorley starred in that game with four touchdown passes. Running back Saquon Barkley has been starring all season and won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors last week.

A bunch of guys get interviewed for openings, and it's no real surprise that Purdue would interview one of the top assistant coaches in the country for the gig. But it's of interest not only because Moorhead coaches in the conference but also because it shows the clear direction the Boilermakers wanted to go: offense and lots of it.

Brohm turned in some spectacular offensive success at Western Kentucky, and his Hilltoppers ranked in the top 10 in the country this season in numerous major offensive stat categories. His arrival in West Lafayette figures to be accompanied by a similar type of offensive firepower.

Moorhead has gained plenty of attention inside the league this season for what he's done with the Lions' offense, and he would've brought a similar reputation to Purdue had Brohm passed on the job.

But Brohm is the hire, one that earned rave reviews across social media Monday, and there are high hopes for what he can do at Purdue.

Malik McDowell announces he's leaving Spartans for NFL Draft

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USA TODAY

Malik McDowell announces he's leaving Spartans for NFL Draft

Back in August, Malik McDowell said he wouldn't depart Michigan State for the NFL Draft unless he was going to be a top-three pick.

Well, either the junior defensive lineman has some really good information or he's taking a less absolutist stance because he announced Tuesday on Twitter that he's leaving the Spartans for the pros.

"I'm excited to announce that after careful consideration and numerous discussions with my family and coaches, I have decided to forego my remaining college eligibility at Michigan State University and enter the 2017 NFL Draft," McDowell posted in a Twitter message. "This was a very difficult decision, and I will always cherish my time in East Lansing. I want to thank my family, coaches, teachers, administrators and teammates. I'm ready to fulfill my childhood dream of playing in the NFL. I promised my parents that I would come back to Michigan State University to finish my college education and get my degree."

McDowell played in only nine games during the Spartans' disastrous 3-9 campaign, recording 34 total tackles, leading the team with seven tackles for loss and posting 1.5 sacks.

McDowell was a high-profile recruit out of Detroit and played in all 13 games as a freshman for Michigan State during the 2013 season. As a sophomore, McDowell had 41 tackles, including 13 tackles for loss and four sacks, plus two forced fumbles and an interception. He earned All-Big Ten Second Team honors as the Spartans won a Big Ten championship.

A quick sampling of mock drafts across the Internet indicates McDowell is generally expected to be a first-round pick. Those NFL Draft sites vary, placing him anywhere from the top 10 to the end of the first round.

Remember what McDowell said in August:

"Top 10 ain't good enough for me," McDowell said, his comments published by the Detroit Free Press. "I ain't leaving if I'm (only) top 10. If I'm not top three, I don't leave. Really. I'm just trying to live day by day. It's one through three, that's the only way I'm going. I'm happy, I like it here, I ain't really in a rush to leave.

"The teammates I have the on-field stuff we do, the off-field stuff we do. Just good people around me. I can't complain."

Well, as we saw with the results for the Spartans this season — they started off 2-0 then lost eight straight games, plummeting from a College Football Playoff participant a year ago to failing to reach a bowl — things can change in a hurry.