Archive | January, 2015

1/31 Saturday abbreviated thoughts

31 Jan

Noon through 6pm eastern abbreviated thoughts. More in a bit…

Boston College +4.5

St. John’s -3.5

Davidson -3.5

Pitt +4.5 

Iowa State -10

Kansas -11

IPFW +4

Georgetown -2

Drexel -1.5

Richmond +9.5

UTSA -1.5

North Dakota -4

Miami OH -2

George Washington +3

Morehead State +1.5

6 PM through the rest of the night…

Colorado State -11

Northwestern +2

Akron +3.5

Duke +6

Penn +8

CSUN +3.5

Se Mo St +1.5

UT Martin +11

Towson +12.5

Northern Arizona -2.5

UC Irvine -7

Portland State -6

Montana +3

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1/30 Friday thoughts

30 Jan

Western Illinois started Summit play with back to back wins. They’ve since lost 5 in a row and the offense has fallen off a cliff in that losing streak, with ppp of .66, .85, .92, .80, and .88. Teams are taking away Covington and that leaves the Leathernecks with no viable scoring options, exacerbated by the fact that they have no interior presence at all. They’ve had 8 days off and host IUPUI tonight, who has their own offensive issues. The Jaguars, despite not being able to shoot and also not having an interior presence, have surprised Summit foes in Jason Gardner’s first year with their aggressive ball pressure. In all four conference wins, they’ve forced teams into a TO rate of at least 19%, with three of them being 22%+. In two of three conference losses, the turnover rate was below 19% (even then, those two Ls were in OT at ORU where they blew a late lead, and in OT at home vs NDSU). WIU isn’t particularly turnover prone, but against teams that press (Cleveland St, UNO), they have been. IUPUI needs those extra possessions to supplement a weak offense, and with no rim presence for WIU, I think the Jags find enough ways to score more points tonight. Prediction: IUPUI -1.5

Big MAC game in Buffalo when Kent State comes to town tonight, and at a weird time. An eastern time zone game will be tipping off at 10pm to accommodate ESPNU. Buffalo has been stellar at home all year, and I expect they’ll get another win tonight. The Bulls will sag defensively, which has potential to burn them vs a good outside shooting team like Kent State, but they’re going to take away penetration while not fouling, and they have a versatile defenders like Xavier Ford who can contest out of the packed in defense. Conversely, Kent State really takes away the 3 defensively, but Buffalo is rarely looking to generate offense from behind the arc. They attack and let Moss work inside. Kent State has a much higher foul rate than the Bulls, and if this does turn into a FT shooting contest, Kent State will lose. They’re laughably bad at shooting FTs while the Bulls are around 72% from the line. Jimmy Hall vs Justin Moss will be fun, but the Bulls should win at home tonight.

I love Jimmy Patsos. He took suggestions from his players for ideas on how they should play the rest of the season. He said everything is up in the air tonight basically in terms of starters and playing style. That being said, Siena is still extremely thin in the frontcourt, have been turnover machines in MAAC play (after taking care of the ball well in nonconference), and still have zero depth because of injuries and suspensions. Those are all bad signs when you travel to Draddy to play Manhattan.      Quinnipiac is the hottest team in the MAAC as they make the Buffalo trip. They’ll face a zone vs Canisius, which is always a dicey prospect for a Bobcat team that doesn’t shoot the 3, but a zone vs by far the best offensive rebounding team in the country really hurts the Griffs. Canisius will apply some pressure as well, and Chandler and Hutton aren’t exactly Brian Barbour with the ball, but they did just weather St. Peter’s and Manhattan’s pressure and have had a week off since then. Defensively Quinnipiac has taken the three out of the gameplan in their winning streak. You have to be able to score around the rim to beat them right now, and I don’t think Canisius can do that. Prediction: Quinnipiac +5       Marist finally has everyone healthy and finally got their first MAAC win. Maker said they’ve been able to actually run their offense in practice and that’s translating to game day. We’ll see if it continues on the road during the Buffalo trip, starting with Niagara. The Purple Eagles are one of the youngest teams in the country, and they might not be prepared for the revitalized Princeton style offense of the Red Foxes. Two teams heading in opposite directions right now. Prediction: Marist +3.5      Sydney Johnson’s Fairfield teams are usually much better vs a MAAC team the second time around, and I would expect the Stags to be much more adept at handling Monmouth’s zone press this time, especially at home in front of ESPNU cameras (although that probably won’t be enough to get people in seats sadly). Amadou Sidibe, one of the best rebounders in the MAAC, missed the first game for Fairfield. Hopefully he can play tonight, but it’s very much up in the air right now. Side note, Sydney Johnson has added his old coach Bill Carmody to the staff in Gene Keady for St. John’s type of role. Carmody is a brilliant basketball mind, and should help on the X’s and O’s side of things, which is particularly handy vs a scheme like Monmouth’s. I think Fairfield will take better care of the ball this time around, so it will be a matter of getting enough 3s to fall tonight. Prediction: Fairfield +3.5

It’s clear that Harvard’s offense is a major issue. Chambers seems to be regressing, and it’s likely because there are less perimeter options to kick it to off penetration. They blew a big lead at home to Dartmouth when smaller guards like Gill and Mitola gave them issues by getting under them defensively, particularly Gill with his super quick hands on Saunders. The same thing happened against Holy Cross as well. Is Princeton capable of that type of feisty guard pressure? Not really, but they will mix up defenses and employ a 1-3-1, but Saunders is a natural zone buster with his excellent ability in the middle of the court. Kenyatta Smith will be back for Harvard tonight, and that’s important because when SMM gets in foul trouble, things tend to go to hell for Harvard, as they already have trouble getting production from their forwards with him in the game. Always tough to win at Jadwin for the Crimson, but I think they limit the three point barrage, dominate the glass, and Princeton won’t be able to produce the live ball turnovers that have killed Harvard recently.      It’s so hard to know what to expect from Penn. Lots of talent paired with poor execution and utterly baffling decision making. I mentioned the quick hands of Dartmouth’s Malik Gill earlier, and he and Miles Wright should be able to turnover turnover-prone Tony Hicks at a high rate. I think DNH will out play Maldunas and keep Penn in the game at the Palestra, but the Dartmouth back court of Mitola, Wright, and Gill wins the game. Prediction: Dartmouth -2      Leland King leaving Brown is a devastating loss, and something you don’t see very often in the Ivy. It really throws Brown’s entire season off track and they look destined for a potential last place finish. Tough to rely on the 3 to beat Brown, as they’re aggressive in taking it away knowing that the defense is back ended by Kuakumensah protecting the rim, and Cornell tends to be reliant on the 3. However, they are capable of attacking 1-4 with Cancer, Miller, Hatter, and Cherry, and I think you’ll see them get to the line frequently tonight at home. They’ll also pack it in defensively and force Brown into outside shots, where they’ve been dreadful so far, and it will only get worse without King. Prediction: Cornell -4.5      Columbia has some scoring issues. Maodo Lo is a fantastic player, but the Lions’ offense often turns into Lo or bust. Teams are hedging high with a bigger, athletic player on the pick and roll, and Lo is getting trapped and things break down from there. Kyle Smith is one of the brightest minds in the game, and I’m sure he has something figured out, but guys like Cohen are going to have to be able to take some of the pressure off Lo. Another problem is that they initiate their offense so late in the clock that when teams are taking away Lo, there just aren’t a whole lot of options but a poor shot. I think Yale continues to do that tonight with the versatility and length of Duren and Cotton, and they win another down to the wire slugfest at Levien.

You have to be able to beat Arizona State inside with superior height and physicality. Goodman often ends up at the 5 when Jacobson is in foul trouble, and at 6’6 he’s a very versatile defender, but real height can beat the Sun Devils. I don’t think Oregon has that capability. I think Cook is a bulldog and I love his physicality, but Goodman can defend him on the block. ASU is also getting more consistent PG play out of Holder. Oregon remains winless in true road games after tonight.      Arizona with revenge in mind after the loss at Corvallis, and I expect them to be much more aggressive in attacking the zone tonight, but it will be troubling and a cause for major concern if Arizona’s zone offense looks lost once again. Oregon State uses a six man rotation, so playing their second game in three days against a massive team in a hostile environment doesn’t bode well for them.

1/29 Thursday thoughts

29 Jan

Charlotte has had some tough luck lately, losing three in a row with 2 coming in OT and the other by 3 points. The Niners have five CUSA losses, all by single digits, and they’ve blown late leads in nearly all of them. I don’t know if that’s a result of the coaching situation being in disarray or lack of execution, but it’s probably both. Whenever you play FAU, you know one thing, you’re not going to win with the 3. In CUSA play, teams are averaging just 12 3PTA through six league games when they play the Owls. Conversely, they surrender the most point via 2PTFGA in the entire country. That’s good news for a Charlotte team that doesn’t really shoot the 3 much and has two solid bigs in Thorne and Clayton. Charlotte has been using a zone a lot in league play, and FAU has some capable shooters in Botley, Trapp, and Poole, but the Niners’ backcourt has a big size advantage there, particularly over Botley and Poole. FAU doesn’t provide much pressure or gamble defensively, preferring to sit on the 3 point defensively and completely take it out of the equation. That’s also good news for a Charlotte team that struggles with pressure and were completely rattled when MTSU started trapping Henry last game. It should be noted that FAU’s soft interior gets a major boost tonight with the return of big man and rim protector Justin Raffington. He’s reportedly been a full participant in practice, but hasn’t played in a game since Dec 16.      Old Dominion kicks off a 3 game home stand against FIU, and should rather easily run their CUSA record to 7-3 before making the west Texas road trip (nothing epitomizes CUSA better than a team from Norfolk, VA playing two conference games near the Mexican border). Expect the Monarchs to completely collapse down on Adrian Diaz in the paint and take away Mavin’s penetration. I’m sure Jeff Jones has stressed this to his team regardless after the UAB debacle in the paint, but you absolutely have to make FIU take as many perimeter shots as possible, because they don’t have anyone capable of making them. Defensively FIU will use a shell defense to protect Diaz from foul trouble, and ODU has struggled to shoot the ball consistently in CUSA play, but should be able to dominate the glass on both ends. Ugly game potential here in Anthony Evans’ return to Norfolk.       CUSA game of the night is Western Kentucky making the difficult journey to Ruston to take on Louisiana Tech. Unfortunately, I don’t think this one is going to be that close. WKU has seemingly eradicated the turnover issues that have plagued them in the past, and in fact have the lowest turnover rate in CUSA (possibly a reflection of who they’ve played, although UTSA’s pressure didn’t phase them). However, LA Tech’s press on their home floor is an entirely different animal. It’s all about breaking the press and getting the ball to Fant around the rim, because you’re not likely going to be able to beat LA Tech from 3. LA Tech is a poor defensive rebounding team, as they’re often out of position because they focus so much on the shot block around the rim, but I don’t think WKU is strong enough on the offensive glass to really exploit it. All in all, I think the Bulldogs can take away Price on the perimeter when (more likely if) WKU does get past the press. Prediction: Louisiana Tech -8.5            Marshall and Southern Miss is a battle between the two teams most likely not to be participating in the CUSA tournament. Well, we know for certain USM won’t be in, but Marshall is looking like the odd man out even after picking up their first win in an upset over UTEP. JP Kambola came out of nowhere for the Herd and had a monster game, giving Marshall at least the semblance of an interior offense moving forward. USM meanwhile nearly picked up two road wins and seemed to be playing with a little extra passion after the self imposed post season ban news. All that being said, Marshall is just going to chuck 3s vs the USM zone, while Norville Carey should be able to get whatever he wants inside vs Marshall’s interior. UPDATE: With the ineligibility of two USM players (possibly more), USM is potentially down to 6 players. Sadler might have to suit up Millinghaus. Prediction: Marshall +3.5      MTSU’s offense has improved dramatically in CUSA play, and the return of Ivory has been a major boost as well. But I’m not ready to trust the Blue Raiders on the road quite yet, especially against a UTSA team that can press and zone them. UTSA is also adept at attacking the basket against a foul prone MTSU team, while limiting the fouls themselves defensively when in a zone. MTSU relies heavily on production from the FT line. Jeromie Hill is something of a matchup nightmare for MTSU because of his versatility offensively. UTSA is the best offensive rebounding team in the conference, but that’s always mitigated when you play a Kermit Davis team who will always own the defensive glass, and I’m not sure I trust UTSA against a physical team.       UAB has found their stride in CUSA play, coming into El Paso to take on struggling UTEP having won three in a row and are 6-1 in the CUSA play, with the only loss a 3 point defeat in Ruston. Robert Brown is probably the most underrated player in the league with his height and decision making on the perimeter, and the Blazers are actually getting some production inside now on both ends of the court from Mehinti, Lee, and Washington, which is particularly important against massive UTEP. UTEP comes in off a tough road trip, having lost two of three, including an OT loss in Bowling Green followed by a humiliating defeat at Marshall. UAB is going to test UTEP’s backcourt tonight by bringing up the line traps and packing the paint when in the halfcourt. I’ve said all year the talent is there in the UTEP backcourt, it’s just young and/or inconsistent. UAB will test UTEP’s lack of depth and ability to consistently hit perimeter shots, something the Miners have to do to open things up for Hunter. Prediction: UAB +11.5 

Idaho State kicks off the toughest road trip in the Big Sky when they head to Greeley tonight to play Northern Colorado and then have to travel nearly 1,000 miles to Grand Forks to play an early afternoon game at North Dakota. Generally, Northern Colorado tends to struggle with Idaho State’s zone because they’re reliant on getting into the paint with their wings to initiate their offense. The Bears are always a very good three point shooting team, but that comes as a result of their offense getting the ball to the middle of the court, always difficult against a zone. The Bears’ defense is a different story. Their zone is getting torched from outside in a league full of perimeter threats, and taking a zone to Cheney and then Moscow is just asking for it. That being said, Idaho State isn’t a team built to beat a zone at all, even though they practice against one every day. In short, I’m way more confident in UNC’s ability to penetrate ISU’s zone at home than I am the other way around.         Weber St heads to Grand Forks off three straight losses and practically unprecedented back to back home losses. Weber has won all 6 meetings with North Dakota over the past two years, but they’ve always had turnover issues here against Jones’ frenetic defense. The defense has really struggled in every aspect once you get past the pressure, but Weber’s interior defense has been a major issue lately. There’s no help for Bolomboy, and the Weber defense is predicated on taking away the 3 and funneling the defense inside where they usually have plus rim protection. The last 3 games though have proven otherwise though, and that’s the focus of North Dakota’s offense, and they have some additional height this year with Carson Shanks. Weber will win the FT disparity though against North Dakota’s aggressive but foul prone defense, and they’re one of the best FT shooting teams in the country.        Montana State’s offense is lousy. Their only hope of scoring is via the 3, and Sacramento State’s 3-2 zone allows it, but they contest well. Hornets shouldn’t have any problems with Montana State tonight unless Norman and Robison prove to be an issue with their height on the perimeter.      Portland State’s a tough team to figure out. They have a guard heavy attack and an undersized but talented frontcourt with Tucker and Bamba. Both are 6’6, and I think they’re going to have a hard time with Bruenig tonight, and I love the perimeter defense of the Grizzlies led by Mario Dunn, probably the best on ball defender in the league. The Vikings are also a little short handed with Bryce White out for the year. His production wasn’t huge, but he was a 6’5 perimeter guy who could get to the line and knock down a 3. Portland State’s guards aren’t going to turn the ball over (lowest TO rate in Big Sky), so Montana’s guard pressure is negated (highest defensive TO rate in the Big Sky). The onus really falls on Tucker and Bamba being able to limit Bruenig inside. I expect both teams to pack it in; Montana so that they can limit PSU penetration, and PSU so that they can force Montana into jump shots. I basically have no idea who wins. Should be the Big Sky game of the night.

CSUN was totally blitzed by Hawaii’s pressure on the island, to the tune of a 35% TO rate, but I would think seeing it the second time around and at home will benefit them. CSUN’s zone is generally pretty awful, but it’s still the best way to go to negate Hawaii’s athleticism. Hawaii’s one conference road game resulted in a .87ppp outing vs Riverside’s zone, but it should be noted they were without Webster-Chan and Nevels. A little bit of distraction surrounds Hawaii, as usual. On the trip to Riverside one of the player hotel rooms was reported to smell like marijuana, which launched an investigation, which launched a lot of hysteria, which resulted (rightfully) in no action from Benjy Taylor. Hawaii is the better team, but I don’t trust them on the mainland.       UC Davis has a big nationally televised game on Saturday night in their home gym, but I don’t think they’ll have a problem with a Big Al-less UCSB team and their zone, especially with a week to prepare. The Gauchos are also make the arduous trip from Santa Barbara to Davis, then all the way back to Irvine on Saturday. Not fun, especially if Gabe Vincent is still out. Prediction: UC Davis -1       UC Irvine is playing the best basketball in the Big West right now, and they have a huge homestand with Cal Poly, UCSB, and UC Davis after coming back from Hawaii. The Eaters have been winning by running an efficient offense and switching defenses based on the strength/weakness of the opposing offense. That means you’re likely to see a lot of zone tonight for Irvine, and Cal Poly will of course be in their match up zone. I’m sure the Eaters would love to get some revenge after their upset loss in the Big West tourney to the Mustangs.      Teams are just zoning Fullerton to death, because outside of Ro Johnson, they don’t have anyone who can hit a jump shot consistently. Expect the same from Long Beach State tonight. You have to be able beat The Beach inside with dominant height, or get red hot from 3. Neither of those remotely apply to Fullerton.

Mercer has the height with Hallice to battle Tuoyo inside, but UTC is actually a fairly efficient zone busting team despite being an inconsistent 3 point shooting team because of their ability to get into the lane with bigger guards and get to the FT line. That will be put to the test against Mercer who has lengthy wings of their own at the top of the zone, and they don’t foul. Mercer is also reliant on using motion sets to attack gaps and get to the FT line, but they’re potentially without Nwamu tonight, and he’ll be limited even if he can go. That would be a significant loss on both ends of the court, especially when you factor in the lack of a bench for the Bears. Nwamu is definitely the biggest game time injury to keep an eye on tonight.   Interesting matchup between VMI and Western Carolina. WCU tends to struggle when a team can get in Sinclair/Harrelson/Brown’s face, and VMI is of course going to press and try to create those transition 3s they’re famous for. In a post QJ Peterson world, shot distribution has been spread out more, and I have a feeling that’s eventually going to be a good thing for the Keydets. The 3 will be there for VMI tonight. Just a matter of them falling. Prediction: VMI -2

Bullets….

Towson should be able to get to the FT line tonight at Charleston, and I think the Cougars will have a hard time scoring against Skerry’s defense that really pushes teams off the 3 point line and has to be beaten around the rim. Prediction: Towson -2.5  

Revenge for ULL in a major way, especially since they were essentially beaten at their own game. They’re going to push off the defensive glass and Shawn Long might have a 20 and 20 game. Except to see some more pressure as well. Prediction: ULL -6

Simply put, UT Arlington can’t matchup with Georgia State. Expect more of the same from the first meeting. A boatload of Mavs turnovers, and a parade to the FT line for the Panthers. Prediction: Georgia State -5

I’m alternately impressed and dismayed with the way Rider handles ball pressure. Great against Manhattan, terrible against Iona, ok vs Canisius. The pride and joy of Dunne’s team is his defense, particularly limiting shots around the rim, and Matt Lopez embarrassed the Peacocks in the first meeting. I expect Dunne emphasised shutting him down this time around. Prediction: St. Peter’s -2.5

Murray State easily handles the EKU press, Fairell and Williams dominate inside, Racers grab nearly every offensive rebound. Racers get revenge for OVC tournament last year. Statement game for OVC dominance. Prediction: Murray State -7

UT Martin is going to be able to play their game vs EIU, which is dominating the defensive glass and getting easy buckets off outlets, especially with Chris Olivier out for EIU. Prediction: UT Martin -6

Colorado and Washington are going to be able to play their game, transition off the defensive glass. Prediction: Washington State -2, Colorado -2.5 

San Diego is going to take away Santa Clara’s only source of scoring, the three, with their aggressive perimeter defense that pushes teams off the line. Prediction: San Diego -7.5 

1/28 Wednesday thoughts

28 Jan

Biggest game in the CAA today is a struggling Hofstra team heading to William & Mary, who’s fresh off a big rebound win over Northeastern after the Delaware debacle (blew a huge lead by allowing the Hens to score 52 points in the 2H). This game will feature the two most prolific perimeter offenses in the conference and the four best three point shooters in the league will be on the floor at the same time with Tanksley (6th nationally), Bernardi (14th), Thornton (15th), and Dixon (37th). So there’s going to be some firepower on the court, and neither team is known for their defense. The Pride were actually one of the better defensive units in the CAA until their recent stumble, where teams not named Drexel have put up 1.21ppp, 1.16, and 1.05, all losses for Hofstra. Neither team looks to get much production from inside, but William & Mary is far more capable of producing points around the rim given their Princeton style offense. Hofstra loves to push the ball off the defensive glass, but William & Mary focuses on getting back in transition off of missed shots, plus they tend not to miss that often anyway, and the Tribe take care of the basketball better than anyone in the CAA. I think Hofstra bounces back up after a recent poor stretch, but comes up short on the road. Key matchup: Terry Tarpey vs Ameen Tanksley. Tarpey’s versatility can match Tanksley’s height and athleticism.INJURY UPDATE SEAN SHELDON IS OUT FOR W&M (that’s a key piece in the middle of the court for the Tribe. Prediction: Hofstra +3.5      James Madison is off a huge road win at Hofstra to keep them in the thick of the CAA race, and I think the length of their zone should give Delaware some issues. The Hens will be content to chuck it from outside, and while JMU isn’t exactly world beaters against a zone themselves, I think the Dukes are playing better basketball without Andre Nation, having won 3 of 4 since he was dismissed. The key tonight is denying Kory Holden penetration. When he gets going, the Delaware offense tends to ignite, a la the 2H vs William & Mary.      When you think Drexel basketball, transition offense probably doesn’t pop into your head immediately, but that might be the only way the Dragons can score enough to compete. Northeastern still has major turnover issues, and Drexel has the highest defensive turnover rate in CAA play. Drexel will also get a boost with the rumored return of Rodney Williams tonight. He certainly won’t be in major minutes game shape yet, but he can still be a body against Eatherton in the paint. Drexel probably should have beat Northeastern in both regular season games last year, and they’re not afraid to be physical with the Huskies, who I think tend to struggle when you body them up and get in TJ Williams and David Walker’s faces. Wouldn’t shock me at all if Drexel was in this until the final buzzer.       Matheny has been forced to primarily use a 4 guard lineup with Winters out, and I think Elon will run into some trouble at Wilmington tonight. Keatts will likely match with a 4 guard lineup himself and press and 3/4 court trap early often with either Williams or Gettys on the back end. None of the four Elon guards are truly ball handlers, and I think the Seahawks’ pressure will work early. If not, or if the refs are calling a bunch of touch fouls early, Keatts can easily go big and dominate inside with the huge height advantage UNCW will enjoy tonight, plus he can mix in a 6’9 stretch shooter like Dylan Sherwood that will be an impossible cover for Elon, even if Matheny is in a zone. I think the Seahawks have a good matchup here across the board even if Freddie Jackson sits. Prediction: UNC Wilmington -5  

South Dakota State lost at home to Omaha last year, but the Jackrabbits have sort of exacted revenge already by dominating the Mavs twice in Omaha since then. In the first meeting this year, UNO completely feel apart and couldn’t hit a shot in the 2H, while SDSU caught fire and blew them out. Dev Patterson wasn’t close to 100% in that game, and it certainly helps that he is now in the rematch. SDSU is coming off a big Summit road win at Oral Roberts, so maybe they’re overlooking a Mavs team they’ve dominated the past two times on the road, but the Jackrabbits are just a bad matchup for UNO. They’re a balanced offensive that surrounds a very solid big in Larson with lengthy, accurate shooters, and Marshall has provided a steady and potentially offensively explosive option as dual point guard of sorts with Bittle. Larson almost always gets opposing bigs in foul trouble early, particularly Mike Rostampur. Right now, I think SDSU is the best team in the Summit, and may not be all that close really.

Morehead State is going to do three things every game. They’re going to crash the offensive glass relentlessly, they’re going to take away the 3 defensively, and they’re going to foul you. A lot. When they attack the rim with Warner and Arrington and combined with the first two things I listed, they’re going to win. Warner can be prone to fits of settling for the jump shot, but I think Woods has gotten the message across after the EIU game. Morehead loses some of their offensive rebounding tenacity with Billy Reader serving the final game of his three game suspension, but Karam Mashour is happy to pick up that slack. As for Austin Peay, their offense is terrible. They work the ball around the perimeter trying to find a post angle for Horton, and when that fails, Josh Robinson chucks up a 3 late in the shot clock. They also have some major turnover issues with basically every member of the backcourt. The defense will apply some pressure, but other than that, they have no identity there either. They are off a surprising road win at EIU, but the Panthers had several things working against them having just lost a big nationally televised home game to Murray State two days prior, they didn’t have Chris Olivier, and Trae Anderson got in early foul trouble. The APSU press really changed that game as the struggling APSU offense converted a plethora of EIU turnovers into easy buckets, and I would expect Loos to go to it early against a Morehead team that has their own issues with turnovers.

Missouri State is basically unwatchable without Marshall, and they were borderline with him. They haven’t played a game where they reached 60 possessions since he left the team, and they’ll be without big man Tyler McCullough tonight when they travel to Illinois State. Nothing to suggest the Bears are competitive offensively in this one.      The rest of the MVC is just as ugly tonight. Northern Iowa has to be on high alert at Carbondale though. They’ve lost 3 of their last 4 at SIU, and they’re off a big comeback win at Illinois State and have the big home showdown with Wichita State on Saturday. SIU has been much improved lately, but you still have to be able to hit outside shots to actually beat UNI, and SIU just can’t do that. UNI atypically struggled containing Paris Lee off the bounce on Sunday, and Jacobson flipped the script completely and went to a 3-2 zone that stymied Illinois State. I would hate to see what that would do to SIU with Jeremy Morgan’s length and athleticism at the top, but the Panthers probably won’t need it tonight. SIU just isn’t capable of making shots from outside, so they might as well play to their strength and let Beane try to penetrate and work like hell to get Caroline and Olaniyan in one on one situations on the block. Who knows, maybe UNI will get in early foul trouble and the Salukis hang around.         As mentioned previously, Wichita State has the trip to Cedar Falls on deck, but Loyola’s offense is non existent with Milton Doyle out.              Not much to say about Drake and Bradley. Neither team can score inside at all, but Drake’s zone is brutally awful.

Oakland is finishing up a four game conference homestand where they defense has been fantastic, winning all 3 with UWGB, the best team in the Horizon, being the only team to crack 1ppp at 1.03. It probably irks Kampe to no end, but he’s playing significantly slower this year, and grinding out wins and working the ball in the halfcourt. That’s important because he has no bench, and Wright State won at the O’Rena last year when the Grizzlies ran out of gas against the Raiders’ depth. With all the injuries and walking wounded, Donlon doesn’t have that luxury this year. I don’t think Karena will be able to stop Petros inside tonight, and with Wright State’s lack of height and reliance on the 3, Oakland can really extend out with their lengthy perimeter defenders. Prediction: Oakland -4

Random bullet points….

Not sure where Marquette’s points come from tonight because Seton Hall is going to take away the 3 and they should be able to handle the pressure Marquette brings. The Pirates have talked frequently about how “embarrassed” they were at Butler on Sunday, so I would expect some more intensity. Rumors floating around that Isaiah Whitehead will return tonight, but I can’t see that making a huge difference given how long he’s been out. Seton Hall is 5-40 from 3 in their past two games, and that has to change against Marquette’s zone tonight. Gibbs and Sina are a combined 3 for their last 40 from 3. They can’t possibly continue shooting that poorly. Prediction: Seton Hall +3.5 

Not sure exactly how Indiana and Purdue plan on stopping the other’s offense, but Painter is going to try to slow this down by pounding the ball into the bigs and switching up defenses to make IU work the ball a little longer on the offensive end. For IU, can they get Haas/Hammons in foul trouble? Will the limitations of an injured Robert Johnson have a big impact (spells Yogi at point)? Can good Troy Williams show up instead of out of control Troy (a key to every single IU game. He can be impossible to matchup with or a liability)? Can IU’s ball movement and shooting force the slower footed Purdue out of position defensively? Unfortunately for my Hoosiers, Purdue players (namely Isaac Haas) have talked about how this game is all that matters in terms of their season. Tough to play against that mentality on the road.

Penn State is going to go to a smaller four guard lineup with Foster getting more minutes alongside Newbill, Garner, and Thorpe, partly to combat Minnesota’s press and because Brandon Taylor will be limited severely even if he plays. Could be effective, but it limits their ability to exploit the Gophers on the offensive glass.

You have to be able to beat South Carolina by hitting at least a modicum of perimeter shots (unless you’re Kentucky), and I don’t think LSU can do that. LSU also isn’t a team who gets to the FT line at a high rate, which helps out a foul prone South Carolina team. For their height and athleticism inside, the Tigers are also a poor defensive rebounding team, and I think SC can get some easy points there when the offense struggles, in addition to creating some turnovers via Josh Gray harassment. Prediction: South Carolina +5

Notre Dame’s smaller lineup can exploit Duke’s defense (no matter if K mixes it up), but then the issue is defending Okafor. I’m not necessarily sure height is the key on an Okafor double team, but rather being physical and bodying him, which really frustrated him in the North Carolina State game. That being said, opposing bigs have had their way against the Irish. ND can exploit Duke on offense, but not sure they can stop them consistently on defense. I think this one will live up to the hype.

If you like free throws, tune in to Kansas/TCU. It might end around 2 am. I think TCU is back to being underrated and Kansas is going to struggle to put up points not earned at the FT line. Now the question is can TCU actually hit their FTs when they get there? Prediction: TCU +5

Creighton should get a win tonight against a St. John’s team that will give them the 3 and is facing some letdown after the big Duke extravaganza. Prediction: Creighton +1

So much of Washington’s season was predicated on Upshaw anchoring the middle of the court, mitigating the slow footedness of their backcourt on defense. That’s obviously gone now, Stanford is a difficult matchup to adjust to on the fly. Side note, the Cardinal are finally starting to realize they’re a very good three point shooting team. Prediction: Stanford -2

1/27 Tuesday thoughts

27 Jan

Ohio has bounced back from MAC oblivion with two straight wins, including a walk off dunk from Mo Ndour to beat Buffalo on Saturday (Phillips’ celebration drew the ire of Bobby Hurley), and now they travel to Ypsilanti to face a desperate EMU team. EMU has faced a brutal MAC schedule so far (trips to CMU, Kent St, and Bowling Green), but have also shot themselves in the foot with a bad OT home loss to Ball State and blowing a massive lead at Miami. Murphy’s 2-3 zone has been just fine this year, the issue has been the offense. The rangy length that’s so effective defensively isn’t translating offensively, except when they’re able to get in transition. Ohio will turn the ball over, they’re not a strong rebounding team to exploit EMU’s weakness on the defensive glass out of the zone, and defensively the Bobcats have held just one MAC team under 1ppp, and that was Saturday vs Buffalo. Offensively I think the length of the zone and the pressure EMU can apply out of it bothers the smaller shooters like Bean Willis, and Ndour was a nonfactor offensively last year against the zone (having Riley helped of course, and this year minutes are still up for grabs in the frontcourt). Eagles likely pick up a much needed home win tonight, but Karrington Ward is nursing an ankle injury, and that offense is still very suspect. If not, it would certainly be panic time in Ypsilanti. Prediction: EMU -5     Miami’s hectic pressing and constant trapping resulted in a 28% TO rate for Toledo (including 9 turnovers for Juice Brown), but the Rockets were able to score inside with Boothe and Weatherspoon on almost every possession that they didn’t turn the ball over. They also crushed Miami on the glass. Not sure much changes tonight. Toledo’s defense has been atrocious, as guards have basically been able to penetrate at will, and last game vs BGSU was the first time in MAC play they’ve held an opponent under 1ppp. That’s troublesome against a Miami team that usually deploys 4 guards to wreak havoc defensively, and who look to generally attack the rim when not getting in transition, and Toledo is also a poor defense in transition. That’s why Miami can keep it close. I think Toledo’s hard fought win over rival BGSU will galvanize them though, and they’ve got a stretch of four very winnable games before a murderer’s row of at Buffalo, Kent State, at Akron, at WMU.        Akron probably completed the most impressive win of the MAC season by going to Kalamazoo and beating WMU (themselves without a key piece in Richie) without Forsythe and Kretzer. Both are listed as game time decisions (Dambrot said both practiced nearly fully, but not quite), but Isaiah Johnson (not 100% himself) was huge in Forsythe’s place, while BJ Gladden gave the Zips a little more athleticism defensively in place of Kretzer. That being said, Akron really needs those guys back, especially against a Ball State team that has no interior presence, especially if Kamieniecki is out again (didn’t practice Monday, I would say questionable at best, and without him, Jimmy Hall went 13-16 around the rim on Saturday. Not saying he makes a huge difference, but 13-16 is absurd). Ball State is a young team, I thing you’re going to see them hit something of a wall shortly, if it isn’t happening already. Zavier Turner played 24 minutes last game, and interested to see if he’s fully out of Whitford’s doghouse for this one and back up to his usual starting spot and 30+ minutes. Akron’s length and size and every position, even if shorthanded again, should be enough to score a relatively easy home win over the Cardinals.        Western Michigan could very well be without Austin Richie again tonight in their rematch with Buffalo, and that would be a significant loss. Buffalo is a defense that really sags off and protects the paint at all costs. Richie hit 4-7 from 3 in the first meeting and really opened up the floor for Tava. Wilder, Richie’s replacement, is a better defender it appears, but he’s not a shooter, more of an attacker. That’s not going to work against Buffalo. WMU’s aggressive zone press will put the Bulls on the FT line, just like in the first meeting, but Skeete and Evans have to have better shooting nights vs the zone to make life easier on Moss. Bulls should bounce back with a big win, but keep an eye on Richie’s status. Prediction: WMU +8      Northern Illinois got Darrell Bowie back vs Miami, but lost Aaric Armstead. He’s a gametime decision tonight against Bowling Green, but I think BGSU should be fine here even if he plays. The Falcons are not a good shooting team and that can take a toll on Holmes when teams are able to collapse down, but BGSU shouldn’t have an issue handling NIU’s zone press, and there should be easy scoring opportunities around the rim when they break it and attack before NIU gets set. Of course it would help if the Falcons hit some perimeter shots, but NIU’s offense is so poor and they turn the ball over at the highest rate in the MAC, which will be a major issue vs Jans’ aggressive guards.          Big game between Central Michigan and Kent State in terms of MAC supremacy (for the time being), but I think this sets up well for the Golden Flashes. CMU is so reliant on the 3, and rightfully so. They have several deadly shooters, and two of them are 6’7 and 6’8. The problem with that tonight is that few teams in the country take away the 3 better than Kent State. With their active perimeter length, Senderhoff is basically forcing teams to beat Kent State inside, and while CMU has 6’11 Luke Meyer, he isn’t a post banger. Conversely, Jimmy Hall is going to be able to work in the paint tonight, and that will open things up outside for a Kent State team that doesn’t shoot a lot of 3s but shoots them well when they do. Additionally, with everyone generally on the perimeter for CMU, they’re a very poor offensive rebounding team, which means they can’t exploit Kent State’s big weakness on the defensive glass. Prediction: Kent State -3       

It helps that George Washington saw Havoc three times last year, but the Colonials still struggled with it in all three meetings. However, in the one meeting where GW had their full complement of guards, they were able to score at will inside. It helped that they were at Foggy Bottom, but it proved they could beat VCU and handle the diamond press, and in fact, Shaka used much more straight man to man press in the last two meetings. Defensively, GW can be more disruptive with the 1-3-1 than last year when they put freakishly athletic 6’8 Yuta Watanabe at the top, and it could give VCU some issues tonight. GW’s gameplan is simple really. Handle Havoc with a modicum of success (scoring in the paint will then come), pound the glass on both ends (they should be able to win that battle easily), and disrupt defensively with the 1-3-1. Simple, but of course easier said than done at the Stu.        St. Joe’s is bad, but a team like LaSalle is one they can beat because Martelli’s sagging defense will limit penetration and force you to beat them from outside, and LaSalle isn’t going to beat anyone from outside. On the flip side, LaSalle isn’t going to let you beat them from outside, but that hardly matters vs a St. Joe’s team that can’t shoot. Limiting Bembry is key, because there’s virtually no chance at offense for the Hawks if he’s contained. That’s easier said than done though, and he’s been on a tear lately. This is a similar game to the UMass game for St. Joe’s, and I thought the Hawks had a great chance to win that one and they did. However, a rivalry game at Tom Gola puts this one in a little different light, but I think St. Joe’s keeps it a one possession game with a chance to win. Prediction: St. Joe’s +5

Fresno State could very easily be 6-1 in the MWC right now if not for 3OT loss to Wyoming, but I think they’re probably in trouble tonight, plus that record is a little misleading since they’ve played the second easiest MW schedule to date. San Diego State is looking for some revenge and Fresno State’s 10 worst defensive performances this season in terms of ppp have all been on the road or at a neutral site, and Viejas is an uber road game. The Aztecs have also been much more efficient offensively of late, and if Malik Pope plays have as well as he did vs Colorado State, this one’s probably a blowout.      Wyoming has played an extra half of basketball in their past two games and hit the road to play Utah State tonight, which is tough when you have virtually no bench like the Cowboys. Utah State is off their own OT game, a brutal loss at UNLV where they killed themselves with some of the stupidest fouls I’ve seen all season. Utah State on paper should be able to stay in this game/win because of the schemes at play. USU is a good outside shooting team, and Wyoming will give up the three with a defense designed to limit penetration and be in position to grab the defensive rebound. Conversely, Utah State is a super sagging defense that dares you to beat them with the 3. Wyoming struggles to shoot from outside and they rely on getting to the FT line, but Utah State is not going to foul you. Like I said, on paper this is a good matchup for USU and they’re always hard to beat at the Spectrum, but as un-insightful as this sounds, I think they lack toughness. Wyoming, assuming they have the legs, is going to bully them on the defensive glass and will be way more physical defensively. Can’t trust USU to pull off the upset even though the scheme behooves them to.       UNLV probably feels like they have a monkey off their back when they finally won a close game Saturday vs Utah State, and I’m certain revenge is a big motivating factor tonight after losing at T&M to a Nevada team that is generally seen as the second worst team in the MWC. David Carter mixed up the lineup a little bit at Fresno to some mixed results, but the Pack did seem to play harder and Fresno needed a second half rally to pull out the win. As always, UNLV has by far the most talent on the floor, but it rarely gels. They’re the worst defensive rebounding team in the conference, and AJ West ate them alive on the offensive glass in the first meeting. There’s nothing to suggest that changes tonight, but UNLV (I say this every game) should win on talent alone. Expect Dave Rice to use his zone looks a lot tonight against the worst perimeter shooting team in the country, but UNLV has to be able to rebound with a modicum of success out of it. Otherwise West could grab every single miss.      Keys for Boise State tonight are Webb and Duncan. If they shoot the ball like they did against Air Force, Boise State will win. Marks should be fine tonight after experiencing altitude sickness at Colorado Springs, and he was only 60% by his own estimation in the first meeting with Colorado State. Marks decision making on the pick and roll is key as well, because the Rams have some questionable defense in that regard, and as I mentioned earlier, Duncan and Webb should be able to get their shot from deep with their height and the fact that Eustachy defenses work under screens in order to position themselves for a rebound. I think Boise’s offense will be just fine tonight, the question is whether or not they can string together enough stops defensively. This isn’t a particularly solid unit, and Rams offense can beat you inside and out, but they’ve had their issues on the road when facing even a semi legit defense. Prediction: Boise State -1.5 

Basically your best hope at beating Tulsa right now is to get hot from 3. They’ll sag off a little (they still contest well with length and athleticism) and “allow” you to shoot it, and they deny penetration without fouling. That’s bad news for Tulane’s guard attack. Hook and Dabney can shoot it, but it’s a losing game plan to rely on it vs Tulsa. Tulsa is also going to get back in transition consistently, as Haith has taken the priority off offensive rebounding. Can Tulane compete tonight? Absolutely. Can they win? Probably not. I think you’ll probably see a tight ball game with another tough loss for the Green Wave, and Tulsa wins the game via FT disparity.

I think Kansas State will eventually weather Press Virginia’s attack and win the game via free throw disparity. Big advantage on the offensive glass for West Virginia though, even more so when KSU is in a zone to try and exploit West Virginia’s poor long range shooting.

Mack is mixing in some defensive switches with a matchup zone, a 2-3, and a 1-3-1, all designed to protect the paint. I don’t think Georgetown hits from outside consistently enough tonight. Xavier might get a big sweep of the Hoyas for their resume. Prediction: Xavier +4

All I have time for, but I think Tennessee is a tough matchup for Arkansas, and they keep it close at Bud Walton. Prediction: Tennessee +10.5 

1/26 Monday thoughts

26 Jan

Nationally televised Patriot League game between the two teams with most contrasting tempos in Army and American. American plays at the slowest pace in the country, and is also 351st in average possession length at an even 22 seconds. Army meanwhile plays at the fastest pace in the PL, and is 8th nationally in terms of apl offensively. American swept the series last year, playing the first game at much faster pace than they prefer (68 possessions) and still won at West Point and put up 1.33ppp. They won the second meeting at home in a game much more suited to their style, but Army didn’t have Tanner Plomb for that game. Under Mike Brennan, American works the clock on every possession for an open 3 from Reed/Gardner/Schoof with their Princeton style offense. Speaking of those three, they’re 2nd, 3rd, and 5th nationally in terms of minutes (Reed and Schoof played all 50 minutes of a 2OT game with Colgate this year), and consequently American has the shortest bench in the country, which means it’s basically non existent, and there lack of a one probably cost them a game vs Boston when Schoof got in early foul trouble and could only play 24 minutes. Army, like American, is an offense reliant on the 3, but Wilson and Cox are more than capable of attacking off the dribble, and ideally they would put the ball on the floor and try to get some early fouls on American. But like I said, getting to the FT line isn’t really in the DNA of either of these teams. Where Army gets into trouble with American is that they won’t be able to get in transition, and that limits their offense severely. American allows the fewest transition attempts in the country, while Army is third nationally (behind only Iona and VMI) in terms of FGA rate in transition. The Eagles completely disregard offensive rebounds in favor of getting back after shots, and given the fact they have the lowest possession rate in the country, there aren’t a ton of attempts to be had in anyway, even off made buckets, which is where Army really looks to push the pace. Defensively, both teams push their opponents off the 3 point line (particularly Army), but that’s pretty much a necessity in the sharp shooting Patriot League. The heart of Army’s offense is the length they have on the perimeter/wings with Cox, Wilson, Plomb, and Toomey. American has no height in the interior, but they can actually match Army’s length out there. Army can exploit the Eagles on the offensive glass, but given that American is adept at taking away the two keys to Army’s offense (transition buckets and the 3), I’ll go with the Eagles to win a nationally televised home game. It will be close though.

Tonight is potentially the last real hurdle for North Carolina Central in terms of an undefeated MEAC season. I know there’s still a long way to go, but they’ve already played and won at Hampton, Norfolk State, and UMES, and they’ve defeated Howard and South Carolina State as well. That’s every MEAC team currently with a winning conference record, and given the MEAC scheduling, they don’t play any of those teams a second time. So tonight’s home game on ESPNU with 4-1. Delaware State is looking legitimately like the last obstacle, and it’s a fairly difficult test. Delaware State’s still a zone team, even with a new coach in Keith Walker (he was after all a long time assistant for Greg Jackson and coached the final 11 games last year), and NCC can struggle at times with their zone offense. The Eagles are a team reliant on getting the ball around the rim, whether that be via feeding Jordan Parks or Hilliard/Holmes penetration. McDonald is basically the only shooter on the team who can beat the zone from the outside. Back ending the zone is the best big man in the conference, Kendall Gray. I’ve raved about Kendall Gray on twitter because he’s been a monster in MEAC play (also had 14 pts, 16 rebs, and 8 blocks in win over Wake Forest). He’s currently averaging 13 ppg, 3 bpg, AND 18 REBOUNDS PER GAME!!! Offensively the Hornets are going to struggle against the best defense in the MEAC, but they’ll try to push the pace off Gray rebounds. Otherwise, they’re very easy to guard because Amere May (he of the 48 point game against St. Francis Brooklyn) basically takes all of their shots that aren’t Gray post feeds. NCC does struggle on the glass, so you might see Moton totally eschew offensive rebounding to get back off Gray outlets. Offensive rebounding is already a weakness, so he might as well totally punt it. Speaking of transition defenses, Delaware State is the worst in the country in terms of allowing transition attempts. NCC plays deliberately offensively, working the ball and looking to attack a gap, but they do apply an ample amount of ball pressure, and gamble defensively and aren’t afraid to funnel offenses to the paint knowing they have two solid shot blockers around the rim. Delaware State can be a touch turnover prone, but that weak transition defense is mostly exploited by teams themselves pushing off the defensive glass (ironic against the Hornets, I know), but again, that’s not a strength of the Eagles. Hard to see NCC scoring enough with their zone offense to beat Delaware State by double digits, but the Eagles should stay undefeated in MEAC play.

UA Pine Bluff comes into a big nationally televised home game with Prairie View A&M having just defeated Texas Southern (TSU played without Deverell Biggs though) in their biggest win of the year (they also won at Houston earlier this year). Both teams are going to bring a ton of pressure, and two of the best ball hawks in the SWAC will be going head to head with Tevin Hammond for UAPB and Treshawn Hagood for PV A&M. The difference defensively is that Pine Bluff will settle into a zone, while Prairie View generally stays in man to man. Prairie View is far less reliant on the three than Pine Bluff, and in fact have some decent size for a SWAC team, and Byron Rimm has used that to his advantage, giving 6’10 Reggis Onwukamuche more run (seemingly at the expense of John Brisco) in their recent 3 game winning streak. The Panthers are also fresh off a win over MVSU, who plays a very similar pressure zone to UAPB, so there really shouldn’t be any surprises here for here Prairie View. As I mentioned, Rimm has being going bigger in SWAC play, and Jovaugh Love has returned just in time for Pine Bluff. Love represents the Lions’ only height, and he’s something of a stretch big, but Karim York is more than capable of checking him for Prairie View. Both teams foul a ton, even by SWAC standards, but with Pine Bluff so reliant on the three, they rarely get to the FT line. I think Prairie View is the better team here, and their aggressive man to man and ability to take away the 3 combined with their height advantage will be the difference. I think Pine Bluff is getting a little too much credit for their win over a Texas Southern team who was without their best player. Granted, Prairie View hasn’t won at Pine Bluff since 2005, and never under Byron Rimm, but those were some bad Panther teams back then. There have been some epic OT and 2OT battles at Pine Bluff between these two teams in recent years, and I think this one probably goes down to the wire as well. In a close game, neither team holds a significant advantage at the FT line in terms of shooting percentage. They’re both equally bad in that respect. Prediction: Prairie View A&M +3

Lee, Grady, and Lewis stepped up big and scored 60 points for Cleveland State in their win over Detroit. They had to with Mason and Yates out, and I doubt either of them will play tonight. Mason had to receive a spinal tap to test for meningitis he was so sick, and Yates has a high ankle sprain. Those are two significant losses to deal with in back to back games, and both are essential to Waters’ high pressure zone. Turnover prone Oakland did a decentish job of protecting the ball in the first meeting, but the zone totally negated Petros inside. I love Greg Kampe, but he wasn’t particularly strong in revenge games last year, in fact he went 0-4, and 8 of Oakland’s 9 Horizon losses were via losing to the same team twice. Read into that as little or as much as you want, but I would take it with a grain of salt given it was Oakland’s first year in the league. Oakland is in the middle of a big home stand where they’ve already defeated Green Bay, and I think they score another big win over a likely shorthanded Vikings team. Prediction: Oakland +2.5        Whenever discussing Wright State, you might as well start with the injuries. Kendall Griffin should be available tonight, JT Yoho is out, Steven Davis might be available, and Reggie Arceneaux is still way below 100% with a broken bone in his foot, but is still playing. Wright State games basically come down to if they’re hitting shots or not. If they’re not, they’re going to lose. They can’t rebound and they have no post production. I talked about Detroit’s tremendous athleticism on the wings (see Paris Bass. Freak) and how they often negate it with two point jump shots and how Howard tends to make the offense stagnate. That’s exactly what happened in their first meeting with Wright State. Defensively the Titans will sag and contest the 3s they allow with that wing length. Wright State hits those shots, they can win.           Valpo is off the tough loss at Green Bay Friday night, so tough to bounce back against a Milwaukee team they should dominate on paper, but the Crusaders have some extra motivation tonight since the Panthers upset them in last year’s Horizon tournament. Valpo limps into this one with Keith Carter still out and Alec Peters nursing a turned ankle (he’ll play tonight). UWM will have a shooters chance because you’re not going to be able to beat Valpo inside, and no teams is attempting more 3s in HL play than the Panthers. The problem is they aren’t making many of them. Last game out vs Oakland they finished 3-23 from outside. Conversely, Valpo should have no problem scoring around the rim tonight against a non existent UWM interior defense.

UNC looked god awful vs the 2-3 last year at the Carrier Dome (45 points, .75ppp, 2-12 from 3), but Syracuse’s offense is significantly worse this year, and they don’t have a CJ Fair who can get their own bucket. UNC is really banged up, but they have the fortune of playing a team with zero depth tonight. Boeheim is basically playing the five starters and Ron Patterson. If Christmas gets in any sort of foul trouble (and expect Roy to work it into Johnson and Meeks often), Syracuse is probably KO’d early. It’s really hard to trust UNC vs a zone, but I don’t think Syracuse can score enough to win this game.

Texas is coming off the disappointing home loss vs Kansas, and Iowa State is looking to bounce back at Hilton after the bad loss at Texas Tech, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Clones win with decent ease, but Texas matches up well here because they have the ability to keep Iowa State out of transition. Iowa State isn’t going to turn you over, instead they run off the defensive glass, and Texas is such a good offensive rebounding team, that those opportunities might be limited. However, I have noted before how good Iowa State’s guards and bigs are at pushing off of long rebounds, but that’s an stat I don’t have the ability to quantify. Texas has to attack and score with their bigs, but Iowa State is so good at using your aggressiveness against you on defense. They’re not going to put you on the line and they use their versatility inside to force you into some bad shots. If Texas is taking 3s at even a moderate rate, they won’t win this game at Hilton, but it’s easier said than done to score otherwise against the Cyclones.

1/25 Sunday thoughts

25 Jan

Can Ohio State get enough out of their frontcourt to exploit Indiana’s lack of one? The IU offense looks even more explosive with Hartman in place of HMP because of his ability to shoot the ball and spread the floor even more, opening driving lanes for Yogi, Blackmon, Johnson, and Williams. Of course Hartman doesn’t bring anything defensively or in terms of a legit post presence, which allows defense to extend out with their guards, making the Hoosiers’ ball movement incredibly important. In the first meeting, Ohio State wasn’t able to shift quickly enough defensively, and they weren’t able to exploit IU inside. Both of those have to change, and it appears Anthony Lee is on the way up and Amir Williams on the way down in terms of frontcourt minutes. Ohio State has started slow in almost every game, and it’s something Matta addressed, so I expect them to come out with a little more intensity defensively and probably apply some ball pressure with Scott and Russell to disrupt the potent IU offense early. Eventually, I think both teams will get into an offensive rhythm and we’ll see some points today, as IU’s defense is nothing to be scared of, and Matta has made wholesale changes in defensive philosophy twice this season. Should be a good game and I think closer than the 9 point spread suggests, assuming IU can contain the dribble and limit shots around the rim as much as possible.      In the other Big Ten game, it’s all about Maryland not settling for the 3 vs Northwestern’s sagging defense. The Terps can certainly shoot the ball from outside, but they’re at their best when Trimble is penetrating and getting to the FT line and initiating offense from getting into the lane. Northwestern is going to take your aggression away from you, and force you to work the ball to find a good shot. Maryland will eventually win because Northwestern can’t score enough points to win .Prediction: Northwestern +11.5

Boston College is bringing the patented Jim Christian ball pressure and sitting in passing lanes and disrupting the 3, and that can bother Georgia Tech’s guards, but the offense is still so reliant on the 3 even though they don’t shoot it well, and if Georgia Tech can get it around the rim, they’re going to score. Wreck should also be able to dominate the glass.      Virginia shoots the ball well from outside, but they don’t shoot it a lot from 3, so Buzz’s packed in defense could give them some issues, but the Hokies offense isn’t built for the pack line at all, and they’re still without Bibbs.      Pitt is so weird this year because they’re playing unlike any Jamie Dixon Pitt team I’ve ever seen. He’s actually extending his guards a ton and applying some pressure because of the lack of interior size, and they can’t rebound. Pitino has owned Dixon in recent years, and has had over a week to work on the offensive side of things after the Duke zone debacle. Pitino said before this game that Jamie Dixon teams never change, so I hope he realizes he’s wrong or he’s just throwing out soundbites and knows that Pitt isn’t your typical Pitt. I would guess it’s probably the latter.

No interest in watching or even talking about the AAC games today really. UConn should be able to roll in an ugly one and USF is without Perry and Cincy might struggle some with UCF’s zone, but the Knights won’t be able to score.

Monmouth’s zone press has been stifling in MAAC play, but playing your third game in 5 days at Draddy Gym against a Masiello’s pressure and against a Manhattan team looking to avoid a three game losing streak is a recipe for a double digit Jasper win. Shane Richards needs to get back on track though. 0-8 from 3 vs Quinnipiac. Prediction: Manhattan -2.5         

Ok, I’m clearly out of time today, so abbreviated thoughts for the rest…

Strength vs strength in terms of Siena offense vs St. Peter’s defense. I’ll lean with Dunne’s defense on more prep time. Prediction: St. Peter’s +1.5

St. John’s has the offense built to exploit Duke’s defense (assuming they don’t settle for the 2 point jumper, and Duke doesn’t totally zone them out), but Harrison’s calf is a concern, as is St. John’s inability to effectively close out on shooters consistently. I think St. John’s keeps this close with a “playing with house money” kind of attitude, but Coach K Day on national TV has me a little nervous about the Johnnies’ chances to actually win. Prediction: St. John’s +7

Northern Iowa is going to be able to handle Illinois State’s pressure and they have multiple 1-3-1 busters whether it be Washpun’s ability to handle it off the dribble, or the patented UNI corner 3. Prediction: Northern Iowa +1

I wouldn’t be shocked if Marist got their first MAAC win today, but a 3 point reliant, Princeton style offense vs a Sydney Johnson defense is not ideal for the Red Foxes, even fully healthy, which they’re not with Colletta and Truog potentially out.

The Bonnies are a bad matchup scheme wise for Rhode Island on paper. Schmidt’s pack line principles force you to beat them from the outside, especially with Ndoye lurking inside, but the Rams have the ability with Matthews and Terrell to back their man down against the pack line. Can Posley and Cumberbatch hold their own against those two? That’s kind of what this game comes down to. Bonnies off the wild comeback at Duquesne, but I think they keep this close (update: EC Matthews is out with a foot injury). Prediction: St. Bonaventure +7