1/6 Tuesday thoughts

6 Jan

I generally find discussing major college basketball to be a bit boring, as it’s like talking about the wallpaper. We all see it every day, so we should know what it’s all about, but it’s Tuesday, so that’s about all we have today…

Kentucky could be a little rusty after the extended “Camp Cal” break after Louisville, but they generally throttle their next opponent after these respites.

Scores and after Louisville game under Calipari….

Miss St 85-63

EMU 90-38

UALR 73-51

Penn 86-62

Georgia 76-68

Basically this is just like any other Kentucky game this year. Ole Miss doesn’t have anywhere near the ability to score inside, nor can they shoot well enough consistently from outside. Cal said he’s “worried” that Ole Miss can go 20-25 from 3 and win this game. I genuinely believe he was being serious. This Ole Miss team couldn’t go 20-25 from 3 in practice. I’m sure Cal is just trying to keep his team motivated in some regard, but saying a team would need to have an historic shooting night to beat your team is telling. Ole Miss did look sharp against a really bad Austin Peay defense in prep for this, and hit 11-21 from 3. If they can somehow replicate those numbers from outside tonight, they’ll be able to keep it respectable, but that’s a tall order. Kennedy will switch up defenses and show a lot of zone (which they’ve primarily utilized this season), which is basically a necessity against Kentucky. The shortcomings of road Arkansas are well known throughout the college basketball land, and it looked as if the Hogs were trying to shed that reputation with an early win at SMU. That win might have been a mirage though, as they caught a turnover prone SMU team shorthanded in the stretch of several games on short rest, and Arkansas proceeded to get throttled at Iowa State, and then collapse down the stretch to lose in OT at a mediocre Clemson team. Arkansas suffered a similar fate in Athens last year, losing in OT after holding a late lead. The issue is that the press isn’t as effective on the road, Arkansas loses transition opportunities, and they’re forced to defend in the halfcourt more, where they tend to give up easy baskets around the rim. That’s bad news against a Georgia team who is decent at taking care of the ball, but more importantly rarely looks for the 3. 40% of their FGA come at the rim, and they’re 7th in FT rate (the only problem is they’re a bad FT shooting team). Defensively Georgia doesn’t really gamble or try to disrupt passing lanes, preferring to lock down on the ball, knowing that they have shot blocking freak Yante Maten lurking. Probably another tight one, but Georgia should prevail. Bruce Pearl and Kevin Stallings aren’t exactly best buds, with the rivalry of course dating back to Pearl’s days at Tennessee. Pearl makes his return to Memorial Gym with his Auburn team playing their best basketball of the season. The Tigers haven’t exactly been good offensively away from home with ppp of .83, .56, .77, .84 in four losses. The first three of those losses came without Antoine Mason though, and he’s starting to look more like himself, attacking the basket regularly and getting to the foul line. I think they’ll run into trouble against Vanderbilt, who generally slumps towards the paint, and lets you beat them with the 3, which isn’t Auburn’s game. Vandy doesn’t generally put teams on the foul line, and conversely, they actually get to the line more frequently than Auburn, who does tend to foul. Auburn doesn’t have anyone who can check Kornet outside, or someone who can contain uber-athletic Jones inside. Bowers is a bulldog, and he can throw his width around inside, but Jones is a freak. If someone like Granger can’t get out on Kornet, and Mason isn’t knocking down outside shots to help Harrell and make Vandy play up and give Bowers some room to work, I don’t see Auburn winning this game. Vandy is coming off a 2OT game, but this is a young team excited for the start of SEC play. I don’t see any lag coming from that. SEC game of the night is probably Texas A&M at Alabama. Both teams tend to play off and let the opposing team shoot the 3 (TAMU particularly), and that’s probably a sound strategy. Bama will jack up the 3 with Cooper and Tarrant, but they’re generally a poor shooting team. The Aggies pretty much refuse to shoot the 3, instead attacking the rim with a beavy of long, talented wings in Jones, House, Green, and ridiculously skilled PG Caruso. The problem here is that they hit those FTs at just a 64% clip, and Jalen Jones will be limited with an ankle sprain, if he plays at all. The Aggies will extend pressure before settling into a zone, and the length and athleticism at the top can be super disruptive, but Tarrant and Randolph are both incredibly sound with the ball. A&M’s offense can be lackluster, at best, when it stagnates, but they have a nice advantage on the glass tonight, and that will help them generate some points as easy buckets in transition are unlikely. Interesting game, but with Jones not 100% and the Tide at home, I think Bama should pull it out.

The two best offenses in the MAC open up against each other, as Central Michigan heads to Savage Arena to take on Toledo. The Chips have put up some ridiculous offensive numbers, particularly from outside, as they’re 3rd in 3PT shooting % while also being 3rd in attempt rate, so the sample size isn’t small. However, these numbers have come against the second easiest schedule in the country, so we’ll get a good sense of where CMU stands against the prohibitive MAC favorite Toledo. The Rockets will give up the 3, which is troublesome against CMU. The Chips also love to get in transition, and are one of the more efficient teams in the country scoring in transition off a steal, defensive rebound, and even an opponent make, with the latter being key against a good Toledo offense. Toledo also happens to be 333rd in eFG% in transition defense. Now again, these numbers are skewed because of CMU’s easy schedule, and Toledo has played a much more challenging schedule with games against VCU, Oregon, and Duke. The Juice Brown/Chris Fowler matchup is intriguing, but I think the issue for CMU is their ability to cover Toledo’s slashing/athletic wings. Rayson has quick hands and feet, but how can he matchup against Drummond or Williams? Weatherspoon has tons of athleticism, and can get out on stretch 4 Simons, who won’t be able to cover Weatherspoon defensively. Meanwhile Meyer won’t be able to match the mobility of Boothe. I think Akron has a great chance to take advantage of Western Michigan tonight. If Robotham and Evans can handle the pressure from WMU, and I think they can, the Zips’ lengthy shooters could have a field day against WMU’s zone. Whittington terrorized Akron inside last year, but he’s gone and LaMont won’t  be able to replicate that production. Same story holds true as last year against WMU. You have to apply some ball pressure and extend your guards. They’re still going to struggle with turnovers and you can’t let Hawkins run his sets, where he can carve you up. Prediction: Akron -4

Hard to imagine that New Mexico/San Diego State games can turn into bigger defensive slugfests, but tonight might actually top the battles of years past. New Mexico has no point guard or the ability to shoot consistently, but were able to get a career offensive game out of Sam Logwood inside to beat a banged up Colorado State team. Seems unlikely Logwood replicates that production against spidery SDSU, leaving the offense to come from….? SDSU’s offensive issues have been well known for years of course, and they’ll play against a New Mexico team willing to switch defenses often, and fall back on a 2-3 that has proven problematic for opponents. The last time UNM played in Viejas SDSU switched to an aggressive 1-3-1 zone and erased a 16 point Lobo lead with 12 minutes left to win the MWC title. Should be another UNM/SDSU where points are at a premium.

Iona leads the country in transition FGA rate (.3% higher than even VMI), but Quinnipiac is a top 20 transition defense, despite being 3rd in offensive rebound rate. It makes sense, since they generally get the offensive rebound if they’re going after it, and are able to put it back and get set defensively after the make. However, Iona is strongest in terms of transition offense off of an opponent make with English and Casimir getting the ball up the court quickly off the inbound and getting a quick 3 point look early in the shot clock. So that will be an interesting battle, because Quinnipiac will be able to board offensively against Iona. The Gaels will predictably sag and goad Quinnipiac into jump shots. As usual with Quinnipiac, it’s all about limiting them somehow on the offensive glass. In their win over the Gaels last year, they had 20 offensive rebounds at an absurd 51% rate. In their loss, they had 8 at about half their season average rate. The Bobcats are likely staring at a surprising 0-4 MAAC start.

I somehow managed to delete several thoughts on Big East and AAC games, and I don’t have time to retype them right  now, but I’ll try to get to some more games in a few hours.

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