2/6 Friday thoughts

6 Feb

Niagara and Marist played just a week ago, so the Purple Eagles are familiar with the healthy “new look” Red Foxes, so there’s no catching them by surprise this time with their Princeton style action. Maker will likely stick with his zone, as his team can’t handle any sort of height/athleticism around the rim right now. Niagara has either been surprisingly decent against a zone, or horribly inefficient, and it just depends on if any of their streaky shooters are hitting anything. That could be difficult on the road and possibly without one of their better shooters in Wes Myers. The book is out on Marist’s offense, but it’s still difficult to stop at times, especially when they have a great individual playmaker like Chauvaughn Lewis for when things break down. He retweaked his ankle but played through it last game, and hopefully it doesn’t hinder him at all tonight. Versatility of Blackmon and Snowden the key for Niagara vs the zone tonight. If they’re able to hit some shots from outside early, Niagara will have a chance at back to back wins, especially if they can exploit a very poor rebounding Marist team on the glass. I think Marist will have trouble with the athleticism of Niagara’s forwards tonight and this will be a one possession game.      Siena only turned the ball over 5 times against Rider’s ball pressure last game, and that allowed them to run their flex offense without much disruption, putting up 1.20ppp vs the Broncs. The Saints had a 25% TO rate in the first meeting vs Iona, and that left them disjointed offensively and allowed the Gaels to get buckets in transition, which of course is a death sentence when you’re playing Iona. The Gaels’ offense might me a touch, just a touch, down since Williams went out with a foot injury, but they still have so many weapons that collapsing down on Laury in Williams’ absence isn’t an option, and he torched Siena inside in the first meeting. All in all, the Gaels are just a bad matchup for anyone in the MAAC, but particularly the Patsos era Saints because of their need to run their offense around the rim, and Iona’s sagging defense is designed to not allow that. Something to keep an eye on pregame is the status of AJ English and to a much lesser extent, Kelvin Amayo. No official word from Cluess or the MAAC has been given regarding their status for tonight after Saturday’s incident vs St. Peter’s. UPDATE: AJ ENGLISH HAS BEEN SUSPENDED FOR TONIGHT’S GAME       Canisius was unphased by Manhattan’s press (7 TOs at an 11% rate) in the first meeting, but still lost at home as Rich Williams and Shane Richards were able to find spots vs the Griffs’ zone. It also didn’t help that they went 13-25 from the FT line vs foul prone Manhattan, who themselves went 12-21. All in all, I simply think Manhattan is starting to click offensively and defensively, and they look like the Jaspers of last year. Last 3 games offensive ppp and defensive TO rates:

1.15 and 18%, 1.21 and 31%, 1.18 and 20%

I think that continues tonight vs Valenti-less Canisius. Prediction: Manhattan -3

Harvard and Yale play two bottom half Ivy teams before their big showdown Saturday at Lee Amphitheater. Yale is hosting Dartmouth, and James Jones got fairly testy when asked about the Harvard game after they beat Cornell, as he insisted his team isn’t looking past Dartmouth. The question is can any Ivy frontcourt stop Justin Sears? He’s 28-49 from the field and averaging 23ppg in Ivy play, plus 9ppg and 2.5bpg. Dartmouth will surely collapse down in the paint and challenge Yale to shoot from outside, but that’s obviously what every team is going to try to do. If Duren, Cotton, and Montague are hitting at just a decent clip, you’re not going to beat Yale. Dartmouth’s best chance is to pressure Yale’s guards, like Cornell did, especially since Big Green has the most active, quick handed defensive guards in the Ivy in Gill and Wright, and take your chances that disrupting the offense leads to quick buckets the other way and keeps them from establishing Sears. Pretty brutal start to Ivy play for Dartmouth with such a long stretch on the road, but the back end sets up nicely for them. As for Harvard, they shouldn’t have an issue with Brown. The Bears don’t have the quick guards that can beat Chambers and Miller off the dribble, and Saunders will be able to take Spieth completely out of the game. Kuakumensah is a tremendous interior defender, and Maia is starting to become the go to guy for Brown inside, but they’re too one dimensional offensively with King gone. As for Saturday’s big game, I think Harvard wins. Kenyatta Smith’s return makes a difference in his spot minutes vs Sears and the Crimson are able to make him uncomfortable enough, and Chambers exploits his matchup with Montague while Saunders drapes Duren. X-factor for Yale…Armani Cotton. If SMM/Okolie/Travis can’t defend him outside, that forces Saunders over and Duren can exploit the penetration issues of Harvard’s defense that I mentioned earlier. Once you get into the middle of the floor vs Harvard, things tend to break down defensively,and if Yale can keep Saunders out of the middle of the floor and turn the Crimson into jump shooters, they’ll win. But I’ll stick with my Harvard prediciton.       Columbia looking for some revenge after losing their final home game at Levien to Princeton last year. After a rough start to Ivy play, it appears Maodo Lo is back with a vengeance, but a lot of that can be attributed to the play of Kyle Castlin. He gives the Lions a secondary, versatile threat on the perimeter that can keep teams from hedging hard/double teaming Lo off the pick and roll/ball screen action. Kyle Smith is going to take away the 3 defensively by extending out on the perimeter and pushing teams off the 3 point line. That’s his M.O., and that’s an effective strategy against Princeton of course, given their offense. That makes them extremely vulnerable inside, and susceptible to the famous Princeton back door screen, and that’s exactly what happened in Levien last year. Things get even dicier around the rim defensively for Columbia with Osetkowski questionable. Petrasek had his best game of the year by far against Brown, and he looks like he’s fully recovered from his bout with mono and back in game shape, but he’s not the rim protector nor the wide body that Osetkowski brings in the middle. Player to watch for Princeton is Amir Bell. He’s the most capable Tiger of beating someone off the dribble, and with Columbia’s preference to stay at home on shooters and not help defensively, he could get to the rim a few times tonight unimpeded when the offense breaks down. Certainly the Ivy game of the night.        Nothing much to say about Cornell and Penn. Cornell has shown that they’re going to bring a lot of ball pressure in Ivy play, and that’s something that Penn obviously struggles with, but I think you’ll see Penn pack it in against Cornell, who has been ice cold outside in Ivy play going an awful 15-77 from deep in 4 games. It also allows an already very good defensive rebounding team to be nearer the rim and the ability to push a little in transition off the Cornell misses and get some easy buckets against what has been the most efficient defense in the Ivy. All in all, I’m way more confident in Cornell’s ability to get easy buckets in transition via live ball turnover than I am Penn getting easy buckets via running off the glass. In fact, Cornell might punt offensive rebounding all together tonight in favor of making Penn work in the halfcourt against their stellar defense. Cornell is 24th in terms of fewest transition opportunities allowed.

Interesting matchup between Dayton and George Washington. The Colonials are undefeated at Foggy Bottom (though they haven’t really played anyone) and Dayton has struggled a bit on the road. Dayton’s overall speed and penetrating ability could give the Colonials some issues, and I’m interested to see what defense Lonergan uses. I think he’ll start man to man, realize McDonald can’t stay in front of Scoochie, and then he’ll go to the 1-3-1, and I think Yuta could be the difference maker there. He has the agility and length to give Pierre issues. Both teams really rely on getting the FT line with penetration, but Dayton has the lowest foul rate in the A10, and GW isn’t far behind. Both teams are remarkably similar defensively in that you have to be able to get the ball around the rim to beat them. Dayton likely sags off to take collapse on Larsen knowing that they don’t have to fear GW’s shooters outside and that they have the quickness to recover on the perimeter anyway. On the glass, each team negates the other’s strength. GW is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the A10, while Dayton is the best defensive rebounding team in the conference. GW struggles against teams that move the ball well and quickly and can attack gaps in their defense when they go to the 1-3-1. It happened with Dayton last year and Richmond was nearly able to beat GW at Foggy Bottom using the same principles. The only thing that scares me is that this is a huge game for GW and the Smith Center will be rocking, and Larsen could have a Cady Lalanne type of game inside against Dayton. Should be low scoring given each team’s general ability to take the strengths of the opposing offenses. Prediction: Dayton +3.5

Coastal Carolina got back on track against Asheville despite a sloppy offensive effort, and it helped that Asheville couldn’t hit a FT. The Chants were reeling before that, and welcome in High Point for a nationally televised game tonight. Both teams are going to throw a zone at each other, and in the first meeting at High Point, the Chants were way more efficient offensively, putting up 1.24ppp and hitting 10-15 from three while basically negating John Brown on the other end. Not much changes in the rematch. I think Coastal hits more shots vs High Point’s zone, and I generally consider High Point to be the most overrated team in the Big South. They’re 1-3 vs the three teams directly below them in the Big South, and needed some 2OT luck to beat Winthrop in that one win. Prediction: Coastal Carolina -3

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