12/11 Thursday thoughts

11 Dec

A quick note: After receiving repeated requests, I’ve decided to include who I think will win each game after my little blurb. Take these with a grain of salt, as I don’t consider myself a handicapper, gambler, or Vegas insider. I don’t track line movements or anything like that. They’re just my opinions as a basketball fan who watches a ton of hoops, and strictly for fun. And thanks for reading. Onto tonight’s games…

UT Chattanooga @ The Citadel

SoCon opener for both. UTC won in Charleston in their only meeting last year, with Z Mason dominating inside and grabbing 11 offensive rebounds. Turnovers and a lack of an interior presence killed The Citadel in that one, and they’re still a guard oriented team, but fortunately for the Bulldogs Mason is gone. Citadel’s only D1 win was over a depleted Navy team on Saturday, but they’ve played relatively well in their 4 losses, and a healthy PJ Horgan has been a key addition. Citadel is playing the slowest offensive basketball in the country with a nearly 23 second APL. Absurdly slow. Will Wade is looking to push the pace when possible with Chaos, and the high turnover rates of Sledge, Moore, and Harris will provide those opportunities. The Mocs are a poor outside shooting team, and Driesell is playing a really sagging zone to limit penetration, and thus, they aren’t really fouling at all, which negates a lot of UTC’s offense, particularly from Casey Jones. UTC does get Martynas Bareika back tonight, who was their leading 3 point shooter from a year ago, so some immediate help against the zone is in uniform. Citadel’s pace has proven effective in limiting faster teams (see VMI game for evidence), so this one should be plenty ugly as UTC works around the zone and Citadel holds the ball for the entirety of the shot clock.

Pick: UTC -2

DePaul @ George Washington 

DePaul has played one “road” game, at Chicago State. They travel to DC tonight, where GW was nearly unbeatable last year. DePaul has been almost entirely reliant on a penetrate and kick offense, and it has worked for the most part because 1) Garrett can penetrate and kick and 2) bigs like Henry, Robinson, and even Hamilton are hitting their 3s consistently. That won’t work tonight. GW brings a trio of really active guards on the defensive end in Garino, Savage, and McDonald. Lonergan mixes in a pressing 1-3-1 and 2-2-1 that will give DePaul fits as well, and GW simply takes away the 3 by extending their guards. They’re also a team that doesn’t rely on the 3 offensively, and should find it easy to shred DePaul after their pressure. Nothing about this sets up well for DePaul.

Pick: GW -9.5 

Wright State @ Belmont

In season revenge for Belmont, who is just off a home loss to Evansville where they didn’t have Craig Bradshaw. Bradshaw should be back tonight, but there are some other personnel changes from that first meeting. JT Yoho, Wright St’s best shooter, missed the first game, and he has made a huge impact on Donlon’s offense, while Byrd has played Nick Smith a lot more lately because of his ability to stretch the court. Belmont had a 28% TO rate in the first meeting, and that number probably gets drastically reduced at home and especially since it’s not the first game of the year, but the fact remains that Wright State’s guard pressure really wreaked havoc on the motion offense. In 8 games (excluding Wright State), Belmont has averaged 12 made 3s on 28 attempts. Against Wright State they were 3-15.

Pick: Wright State +8

Elon @ Missouri

I don’t want to read too much into what Elon did vs Virginia Lynchburg and Central Pennsylvania, but Matheny used a lot of 4 guard lineups, and the results were damn near McKillopian. Again, he could have just been tinkering with lineups given the competition, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see a lot of it vs Missouri tonight as they start to play bigger teams. If you can’t beat them inside, don’t try and waste the possessions. It’s best to beat Missouri with bigger guards who can attack. Elon really only has one candidate in that regard and it’s Elijah Bryant, who I didn’t realize was first in usage and 4th in % of shots taken in the country. Missouri should be able to get whatever they want inside, but don’t be shocked to see Matheny extend Eddy and Bryant out. He did it to rally against Morgan State and Miami OH.

Pick: Elon +13.5

Central Florida @ UIC

Not much to say about this one. UCF’s zone has been shredded by teams that can shoot (see Davidson) and dominated inside by teams with height (FSU) or even just someone who is above 6’7 (see Wiederman for Georgia Southern). They’ll also be without their best offensive player, BJ Taylor, again. They also haven’t won a road game outside of the state of Florida in a year and a half, and this is the first one they’ve played this year. Fortunately, they play a UIC team that can’t score inside or out. Tonight would be a good night for Jay Harris to find his stroke because Odiase isn’t an offensive threat yet, and Wiegand is 12-38 since his stellar game inside vs Kent State. No idea who wins this one, but I’ll lean with the home team against a bad road team without their best player.

Pick: UIC -1.5

Idaho @ Western Illinois

Billy Wright can pull off the double loss to the Verlin twins tonight in what should be another ugly game. WIU has looked awful against real competition, and Idaho does have the benefit of already having traveled to NIU for a game this year. WIU is entirely reliant on Garrett Covington and shooting the 3. Those opportunities will be there, as the Vandals sag defensively and go under screens to crash the defensive glass off those missed 3s and run out in transition. They’re 38th in FG attempts 0-10 seconds after a defensive rebound, and they’re 17th in defensive rebound rate. It’s a big reason why they were able to beat Washington State and UC Davis, both three point heavy offenses.

Pick: Idaho +2

Eastern Washington @ San Francisco

EWU has this trip to San Francisco in between trips to Seattle to play in state rivals. USF is looking to work the offensive inside out with Tollefsen and Pinkins (the Dons are 2nd in the nation in % of shots at the rim), while EWU is just the opposite, relying on a trio of sharp shooters to open things up for the rapidly improving offensive threat of Venky Jois, and for him to clean up any misses on the offensive glass. This will be the first time EWU has faced a team that looks to score so heavily around the rim. They’ve faced three point reliant IU and a beavy of tiny teams (NKU 340th in height, UVU 326th, and Texas Southern 315th). Interesting road test for an EWU that looks to be the best in the Big Sky. Not sure how much of a factor it plays tonight, as EWU doesn’t generally foul out of their sagging defense, but they have a short bench, and Rex Walters uses one of the deepest in the country.

Pick: San Francisco -4

San Diego @ UCSB

The Toreros just got done with a brutal stretch of their schedule, now travel to Santa Barbara who has destroyed them inside the past 3 seasons, and whose perimeter defense they have struggled to shoot against. The Gauchos themselves though are off a heartbreaking OT loss at SMU that would have been the biggest win of their season. Brandon Perry was something of revelation vs UCLA for USD. He was 7-10 from the field and the CSUN transfer looked healthy for the first time all year. Bob Williams has been using a lot less zone, and really pushing teams off the 3 point line, which is problematic for San Diego’s Johnny Dee reliant offense. Perry providing some punch inside would be much needed.

Pick: UCSB -7

Cal State Fullerton @ Sacramento State

The Hornets have been an disappointing team to date. The defense can’t stop anyone inside, and Katz has had to go to a zone. The good news is they play a very guard oriented team that relies on penetration and kick outs in Fullerton. Lanerryl Johnson and Alex Harris are one of the best Big West backcourt duos, but that plays into the strength of Sacramento State with McKinney and Garrity, and McKinney is a particularly ferocious on ball defender. Stuteville is a very slow footed big, but Boyd can’t exploit offensively, and Esume isn’t ready for serious minutes.

Pick: Sacramento State -4

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