1/14 Wednesday thoughts

14 Jan

Houston doesn’t really seem to have a plan offensively, other than let Stiggers take an ill advised three every other possession. Stiggers is 34-73 (32%) in Houston’s seven wins, 24-80 (23%) in eight losses. Devonta Pollard has seen his minutes drastically cut by Sampson and I’m not sure why, and their best player, Chicken Knowles, is phased out of the offense in large chunks because of the propensity to jack up the 3. They collapsed in the second half and lost at home to UCF in OT (thanks to some ridiculous shots from Brandon Goodwin), and then that carried over to a blowout loss at home to Memphis for the second time this year. ECU is nothing special, but they’ve had 8 days off and they needed it to get BJ Tyson, PRC, and Guilmette healthy. Guilmette gives them some much needed height around the rim, where they’ve struggled to defend when teams are able to get past the guards up front. You’re not going to beat ECU from behind the arc, so Houston has to use Knowles’ athleticism and mobility and Pollard on the block, assuming he’s not in Sampson’s doghouse, but who knows. ECU was really bothered by Cincy’s length and physicality last game, starting the game 1-15 from 3 before hitting some late ones when it didn’t matter anymore. Houston has a ton of length and athleticism, especially on the perimeter, and they could dominate ECU on the offensive glass.      Tough break for Temple, as it looks like Will Cummings will be limited even if he is able to play tonight. Losing your do everything PG and best perimeter defender is a massive blow, especially when you’re hosting the presumed conference favorite SMU and their pressure zone. Temple was up 11 early in the second half hosting Tulsa when Cummings had to leave the game, and it went steadily downhill from there. Bond has been a consistent force inside for Temple lately, but against SMU’s defense, it’s going to take a hot shooting night from Morgan and DeCosey for Temple to win this game.       I’ve talked about my growing love for this Tulane team, and I think they have a great chance to add another road win at UCF tonight. Tulane can be beat by guards who can handle their aggressive 4 guard (at times) man to man defense and by height. UCF has neither of those. Henriquez’s height and versatility could give them some issues, but Conroy extends his guards and forces you to beat them inside, virtually eliminating 3 point production. Don’t read too much into Tulane needing OT at home to beat USF. Stark, their PG, had the flu and Michael Jordan’d it through the game, only without playing as well as MJ. Prediction: Tulane -1      

Not much to like about Ohio right now. The guards can’t stay in front of anyone defensively, and teams are basically waltzing to the rim. That’s bad news against attacking Toledo. Offensively the Bobcats don’t have anyone to help Ndour, and Bean Willis, their best shooter, is 1-14 from 3 in MAC play so far. The pieces are there for Ohio, but they don’t have it together yet under Phillips. Last year’s game at the Convocation Center was one of the best games of the year period, not just in the MAC. I don’t think tonight’s game reaches that level.     I think you’re going to see Akron’s guards struggle with Bowling Green’s guard heavy pressure zone attack. If Robotham and Evans are able to handle it, perimeter shots will be able for Akron’s lengthy shooters, but BGSU generally closes out extremely well from what I’ve seen, and with Forsythe essentially the only option inside (where Holmes lurks) the Falcons can really extend out. Additionally, Kwan Cheatham is a game time decision for the Zips. Cheatham is a big part of what Akron does offensively with his length and shooting ability, not to mention he and Forsythe provide tremendous rim protection and he’s one of Dambrot’s best rebounders, if not the best. Akron’s guard pressure shouldn’t bother BGSU, even if Clarke is out again, and the Falcons should be able to find their spot from outside, just a matter of knocking them down tonight.       Always about how you beat Murphy’s zone when you play EMU, but things are different this year with Riley no longer anchoring the 2-3 in the middle. When LJ Livingston and Franko House are able to work behind the zone, you know it’s not as strong as in years past. Kent State really struggled last year against the zone, and they’re just as reliant on the 3 this year, but they have Jimmy Hall inside this time around. Murphy has gone to Mike Samuels more in MAC play to try and shore up the interior, but it hasn’t really been working, and he’s not providing much offense either (although there were signs of life vs Miami). With the lack of consistent post production and Kent State’s ability to virtually shut down all perimeter production, I think EMU is in trouble of falling to 0-3 in the MAC. Lee, Ward, and Talley can all attack the rim, and Kent State is prone to fouling, and that represents EMU’s best chance at offense tonight. EMU has two losses in OT to what were supposed to be MAC bottom feeders, and they blew late leads in both, and this after what was a reasonably successful non conference season that saw them win handily at Missouri State and of course win at Michigan. The offense has just completely sputtered to start MAC play, and I don’t see it getting going tonight at Kent State.  Somewhat surprisingly, EMU gets in transition off the defensive glass at one of the higher rates in the country, but the Flashes are solid on the offensive glass.      I say it every time I talk about Western Michigan, but if you don’t pressure them, even token half court or 3/4 court pressure, they’re going to get into their sets and carve you up. Buffalo wasn’t able to bother them enough, and Ritchie broke out of his slump and the Broncos went for 1.11 ppp against the Bulls. Ball State has surprised with their 2-0 MAC start, but this is a pretty tough matchup against WMU’s pressure zone. Zavier Turner is off a tremendous game where he only turned the ball over 2 times in 30+ minutes, just the second time in his career he’s done that, but he had major turnover issues against WMU last year. Jeremiah Davis gives Ball State a level of athleticism they were lacking before, and he’s something of a zone buster with his versatility, but all in all, I don’t think Ball State can handle WMU’s pressure enough to be able to take advantage of the zone with their plus shooting, and conversely, I don’t think they can apply enough pressure to keep WMU’s offense from finding the shot they want.       Central Michigan was torched from outside and allowed a lot of transition buckets off the defensive glass in a shellacking in Muncie. Miami is a good defensive rebounding team, but they get their offense via turning teams over with their pressure. Central Michigan, led by steady veteran PG Fowler, isn’t going to be susceptible to the RedHawks’ zone press, and in that case the sharp shooting Chips should thrive offensively. In both meetings last year, Miami was able to get what they wanted inside. CMU has improved their interior defense this year, adding 6’11 Luke Meyer, but he’s still not a great rim protector, and the Chips are still vulnerable in that regard.       Buffalo hosts Northern Illinois with the good fortune of just having seen another high pressure zone in WMU. Shannon Evans struggled against it in terms of turnovers and shooting from outside, but it helps to have just played against one, plus Skeete is back with a game under his belt. If the Bulls are able to handle the press, Moss shouldn’t have much issue scoring, much like he did against WMU, especially with Bowie unlikely to play again. Same scheme two games in a row for the Bulls, and against a significantly worse offense, leads me to believe a bounce back home win is in order. Montgomery at least is starting to give Travon Baker 30 minutes a game at least.

Davidson’s motion offense is predicated on finding the open 3, while UMass’ defense is predicated on extending guards and pushing teams off the 3 point line. This game will be played at UMass’ preferred speed, but that doesn’t mean UMass will get in transition. Davidson is solid with the ball, and you have to be able to beat them inside, because they’re going to take away the 3 defensively, which actually works in UMass’ favor. Player to watch for Davidson tonight…Jordy Barham. He’s possibly the most athletic player in the conference, and that’s saying something. Ultimately, I don’t think UMass is a good enough defensive rebounding team to push off the glass, and Davidson is going to get some second chance opportunities, where they love to kick it back out for another 3 point attempt. Potential to be the game of the night. Prediction: Davidson -1     Dayton vs LaSalle actually profiles incredibly similarly to Davidson vs UMass. LaSalle is predicated defensively on pushing teams off the 3 point line, and offensively they don’t look to shoot from outside, like UMass. Dayton, with their frontcourt being decimated, has become more reliant on the 3, but I think Dyshawn Pierre is the difference here, as I don’t think Cleon Roberts has the size to stop him, and Wright and Zack don’t have the mobility.     I think you’ll see Milik Yarbrough play the role of zone buster tonight for St. Louis, who really struggles to shoot from outside. Duquesne is off a devastating home loss to Rhode Island, and I’m not sure of their mindset coming into this one. SLU’s defense got carved up by Davidson, and Duquesne has two deadly shooters in Mason and Colter, but they’re far easy to defend than the Wildcats. I think St. Louis gets back their defensive philosophy of pushing teams back off the line after what Davidson did to them. Prediction: St. Louis -3.5    St. Bonaventure/Richmond didn’t turn out like I thought it would Sunday, but George Mason should have a tough time scoring tonight given the Bonnies’ ability to apply pressure out of their zone considering their turnover issues and the fact that they have one of the lowest 3PTA rates in the country. The problem is the Bonnies’ offense. They don’t have anyone who can shoot the ball to keep defenses from collapsing on Wright and Ndoye (0-10 from 3 vs Richmond). Probably going to see a low scoring affair in this one. Prediction: St. Bonaventure -4.5

Bullet points…

As long as St. John’s doesn’t fall back on their bizarre infatuation with the 2 point jump shot, I think they have a chance for a much needed road (much needed win in general). You’re not going to beat PC from outside, and the Johnnies aren’t looking to score from outside. Their ability to put the floor on the deck and attack the rim from multiple positions always intrigues me, plus they’ve had a week to rest, which is big given their short bench and nagging injuries to Harrison and Obekpa. Prediction: St. John’s +3.5 

Given Wright State’s ball handlers and shooters, they should be ok tonight against Cleveland State’s pressure zone. The always injured Raiders have had nearly a week to rest as well. Additionally, when teams are able to throw some size at Trey Lewis and Charlie Lee, the Vikings tend to struggle. Wright State can do that. Prediction: Wright St -2

Have to be able to beat Northeastern in the paint, and Hofstra can’t do that. Northeastern should score a win at the top of the CAA. Just a matter of limiting turnovers and being able to work the ball inside to Eatherton. Prediction: Northeastern -2.5 

Out of time, so condensed thoughts…

Tulane -1

St. John’s +3.5

Davidson -1

Wright State -2

St. Bonaventure -4.5

Elon -5.5

Northeastern -2.5

South Dakota -1

St. Louis -3.5

South Dakota State -9.5

Evansville -1.5

Southeast Missouri State -3.5

Florida State +6.5

Wyoming -1.5

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