12/4 Thursday thoughts

4 Dec

LSU @ West Virginia

LSU off a big home won over UMass in a game Johnny Jones had circled, now they have to turnaround and travel to Morgantown, where the Mountaineers are well rested and anticipating their biggest non conference home game. The quick turnaround with travel on a day’s rest doesn’t necessarily bode well for a team that plays at the 37th fastest pace and only goes 6 deep on the roster. On top of that, they’re facing the high pressure traps of Bob Huggins, and the Mountaineers are currently first in defensive turnover rate. Hornsby and Quarterman aren’t known for their ball handling, and Gray can be turnover prone. That’s where West Virginia will win this game, attacking LSU’s guards and exposing their lack of depth on short rest. If, and that’s a big if, the Tigers are able to get the ball up court consistently and in position to feed Mickey and Martin, they’ll have a big advantage. Despite having Sponge and Williams inside, WV is still 303rd in 2PT % defense, and LSU is scoring 67.6% of their points via 2 pointer, that’s the highest in the nation, and their FG% around the rim is 67%. If the LSU guards are somehow able to handle the traps effectively, you have to think Huggins packs the lane and dares LSU to shoot. One other big positive in WV’s favor, they’re second in offensive rebounding rate. They’ll have a lot of easy makes, and a lot of opportunities to set up the press and traps.

Baylor @ Vanderbilt

I’m incredibly intrigued by Vanderbilt. Stallings’ team is one of the youngest in the country (348th in KenPom’s “experience” category), but they appear to have all the pieces to run Stallings’ motion offense to perfection. Two mobile bigs in Jones and Kornet (Kornet is a seven footer who’s 13-21 from 3), and three talented young guards in LaChance, Baldwin, and Mitchell. Baldwin is currently 12th in assist rate and he and LaChance are a combined 15-34 from 3. Now the competition so far hasn’t been great, losing to Rutgers and beating LaSalle are the only major conferences foes they’ve faced, and I think the young kids will get flustered running a motion offense vs Baylor’s lengthy zone, so we’ll see what happens to the offense when it gets stagnant, as tends to happen vs a zone. Baylor has a big advantage on the glass, as Kornet isn’t a rebounding big, and Gathers can likely get his body into Jones. Chery is ? again for this one, which means Medford will run the point if he can’t go, but it also means more run for Prince, who has been shooting the ball well. He, O’Neale, and Motley are the keys for Baylor in this game. The Dores don’t have the athleticism or length to contain them on the wing.

UW Green Bay @ Georgia State

Big couple days for Green Bay. They were one of the first four out after being upset in the Horizon tourney, and Wardle scheduled some preseason tourneys and some tough road games to help that RPI number (they’re currently first for whatever that’s worth right now), and they have a trip to Miami on Saturday after this. Similar offensive teams here. Neither look to shoot the 3, instead relying on great guard penetration. Green Bay is more reliant on it with an entirely Sykes-centric offensive, while the Panthers have a bevy guards led by RJ Hunter, and they’re a little more versatile with them, although they have little interior presence. Defensively, the teams are polar opposites. Georgia State brings  Hunter’s high pressure zone, while Green Bay prefers to not gamble defensively and get back in transition religiously. Now the Phoenix haven’t exactly fared well against teams that run a zone on them and limit Sykes’ penetration (see EMU last year), but those zones have had a back end presence that served as a wall in front of the rim. Georgia State doesn’t have that. Additionally, if you saw any of UWGB’s game at FGCU, you realized that Jordan Fouse is one hell of a defender, and his length and versatility allowed them to shut down a team that profiles similarly to Georgia State offensively, holding them to .73ppp at home.

VMI @ Samford 

It’s probably not ideal to kick off your conference slate vs the fastest team in the country, two days after a big comeback win in OT, but Padgett is using a lot of guys in his rotation, and applying pressure with it, which can fluster VMI (see Army, UNC Wilmington). This edition of the Keydets might be the most Baucom’d out of all the Baucom VMI teams. They have no semblance of height, and they’re launching 3s at a higher rate, and are currently sub 14 seconds on offensive possessions. They’re also allowing an astounding 71% of opponent points to come via 2 pointer. That’s where Enechionyia and Bradley come in for Samford. VMI’s style marginalizes lengthy shooter Hood, but Jones-Gibson and Cunningham should have an open lane to the rim.

Morehead St @ UAB

10th game of the year for Morehead State already, and they’ve traveled all the way to Vegas and back and Ruston, LA and Huntington, WV and back, now to Birmingham before going back home Saturday and finally getting a week off after the Oakland game. They’ve been plagued by fouls, injuries (Kareem Storey ? with a hamstring issue), and an inability to generate points inside when they have to. Fortunately they run into a UAB team who will be very susceptible to Sean Woods’ high pressure zone. FR Nick Norton has talent, but was thrust into the starting PG role too early with the departure of Frazier, and he’ll have some issues against Morehead’s aggressive guard attack. UAB has had their own injury issues (not sure on HaHa Lee’s status), and they’ve been uncharacteristically weak on the glass. Morehead should be able to get in transition off the glass and via turnover enough to alleviate their interior scoring deficiencies.

Arkansas @ Iowa State

Should be the game of the night. 22nd and 11th in pace respectively, and both average about 14 seconds per offensive possession. Mike Anderson beat Fred Hoiberg twice back in 2011, Anderson’s last year at Missouri and the Mayor’s first in Ames. The knock on Arkansas has always been winning on the road, and they scored a big win at SMU already this year. Now, SMU is probably vastly overrated, but that hardly matters regarding the mental state of the Razorbacks. The kids believe they beat a top tier team on the road, something they have struggled to do. That helps heading into Hilton in primetime, where Iowa State tends to win and weird things happen. Mike Anderson has the depth, balance, and shooters to play the way he wants to play at Arkansas this year, and that’s dangerous. Iowa State will be in a zone defensively to protect undersized Niang and Hogue inside against Portis, Williams, and Harris (still ? for tonight), and to limit guard penetration. Arkansas has actually been shooting the 3 incredibly well, 2nd best percentage in the country in fact, even though they haven’t needed to shoot it that often. Bell, Qualls, Madden, and Beard are all capable of hitting from outside, and even Portis is 5-6 from deep this year. However, hitting 3s at Bud Walton is a lot different than hitting 3s in a hostile road environment where you’ve never played, and if Bell isn’t hitting, watch for Anderson to go to Watkins and ramp up the pressure even more early, and try to expose Iowa State’s lack of depth. Arkansas is 24th in bench minutes, compared to 311th for Iowa State. Now about the Arkansas pressure. Iowa State has no depth as I discussed, but they also don’t turn the ball over. Led by do everything PG Monte Morris, the Cyclones cough it up at just a 13.9% rate, 5th best in the country, and they’ve been tested against Georgia State and Alabama’s pressure early. Really, the key is attacking the rim for both teams. Unless Arkansas is red hot from 3 vs the zone, they’re not going to win a road game settling for long jumpers, and AJ English proved that Arkansas can be attacked in the half court off the dribble, well, that was at least true in the first half, then Qualls pit bulled him in the second half. Very interesting game.

TCU @ Ole Miss

I tried to warn everyone about TCU this year via twitter and podcasts, now you’re seeing the effects of the Horned Frog juggernaut. But seriously, what a difference being healthy has made for TCU. They have great height and guards who can create their own shot and get to the FT line, and Trent Johnson has been able to move away from the wretched zone he was forced to use last year, and they have depth!. Now that’s all well and good and great for TCU, but they hit the road for the first time and will see an Ole Miss team that is strictly using a zone and completely packing in the lane, and attacking the rim offensively. Those are TCU’s two biggest weaknesses, keeping teams off the foul line and shooting the 3 (they’ve actually shot it well early, but it’s not in their offensive DNA to look for the 3). Ole Miss just beat Creighton and Cincy in back to back games in Florida, and even survived using the zone against Creighton, who went 13-31 from 3, but couldn’t keep Ole Miss’ guards in front of them. Expect this game to be similar to Ole Miss’ game against Cincy. Johnson might have to sacrifice defense for offense and get the lengthy sharp shooter Hudson Price on the court more tonight. If Kyan Anderson gets in foul trouble like he did vs Miss St, TCU will be in a pickle, as Chauncey Collins can’t shoot or run the offense yet in his stead.

San Diego @ San Diego State

Both teams coming off tough losses in holiday tournaments. SDSU obviously the bigger loss, losing to Arizona in the Maui title, while USD lost on a buzzer beater to WMU in dramatic fashion. USD takes this rivalry a little more seriously, as it’s one of the biggest games on their schedule, while SDSU has it sandwiched between the Arizona loss and a trip up to Seattle to face Washington. They’ll also be without Aqeel Quinn, one of their only perimeter threats and the guy who check Johnny Dee. At least the Aztecs should get Matt Shrigley back tonight, who can stretch the court when he’s right. The Toreros have their own injury problems though, as Sanadze and Jacobs are both questionable. That would decimate their perimeter and interior length.

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