2/23 Monday thoughts

23 Feb

Obviously Louisville is in some weird waters right now. Chris Jones is no longer on the team, and regardless of what you think about that improving chemistry or the lockerroom, that’s a large chunk of production offensively and more importantly defensively that you have to replace at a time in the season when ideally all your pieces would be coming together. I mean, we are talking about a senior point guard leaving the team, and an underlying aspect of this is that Pitino has basically been playing 6 guys this year with Jones. I understand a lot of Louisville people are very high on Quentin Snider, and that’s great, but this is a fairly devastating and certainly unique blow at this point in the season, and the Miami game Saturday didn’t do much to quell the fears of this being a team that exits the NCAA tournament in a very quick fashion. In fact, that game actually bolstered that opinion, even though they won. The good news from that game is that they finally forced some turnovers, basically for the first time since the UNC game. The bad news is that quickly turnaround with all this baggage and head to Atlanta to face what can be a dangerous Georgia Tech team. If Georgia Tech doesn’t turn the ball over (a big if), they can score at the rim against Louisville, and that’s essentially the only way the Yellow Jackets score, at the rim. They don’t get to the line a lot, and they frequently miss when they do get there, and they can’t shoot from outside. In fact, the perimeter shooting has taken an even bigger hit with Bolden out, leaving a stretch shooter that’s a major liability defensively as the only guy who can knock down a 3. Georgia Tech is also a tremendous rebounding team, but defensively, they overplay the 3 and the bigs are too slow to rotate on penetration and not athletic enough against premier ACC size. Harrell likely has a monster game for Louisville tonight, and the Tech defense is generally a pretty good matchup for Louisville to get back on track against offensively.

Xavier is looking to avenge a home loss to St. John’s just 9 days ago, but the Johnnies are a tough matchup for the slower Xavier defense. In the first meeting, watching Stainbrook and/or Farr try to guard Dom Pointer was comical at times, and Harrison was able to penetrate at will. There really isn’t much of an adjustment Mack can make in that regard, St. John’s is just too quick and athletic for Xavier, especially since Xavier seems willing to play at the speed St. John’s wants to play. These are the two fastest teams in the Big East, but it would behoove Xavier to slow it down and that’s where the 1-3-1 could come into play. Make St. John’s work offensively instead of just letting them attack the rim with their quickness and athleticism. If you give up the jump shot and they’re hitting them, tip your cap. Plus, St. John’s is all too willing to fall into the 2 point jump shot game, and that’s exactly where Xavier wants them. Pace vs St. John’s can be something of a double edged sword. With Lavin’s incredibly short bench, you kind of want to push them, but then you’re playing their game (the Johnnies gashed Xavier in transition in the first meeting). That’s why I think the 1-3-1 is perfect tonight. It slows them down enough but you can also generate some turnovers by jumping into passing lanes at the top. Offensively, Xavier did alright in the first meeting, but they were just 7-22 from outside, and they didn’t really take advantage whenever St. John’s was in a zone. Since that game, they’ve gone 17-33 from 3. The key tonight might  by JP Macura. Mack loves to use his length at the top of the 1-3-1, and if he’s able to knock down some 3s on the other end, his 15-20 minutes becomes invaluable and the probable difference between a win and a loss.

Manhattan has to be careful at Marist tonight. They have the big rematch with Iona (and trust me, this game still means a TON to both teams even though Iona already locked up the one seed) on Friday, but they have to win this one to make sure they’re not on the same side of the bracket as Iona in the MAAC tournament. You can’t take anything from the blowout first meeting because Lewis, Hart, and Curry were all out for Marist. Marist is probably the best 5 win team in the country, and they’ve lost their last 3 games by a total of 8 points, and that was against Siena, Monmouth, and Iona. The question tonight is whether or not Maker’s Princeton/Beilein hybrid offense can take advantage on the back end of Manhattan’s defense with some backdoor and slip screens, because the Jaspers really take away the 3. And that’s assuming Marist gets past the Manhattan pressure. Tough game scheme wise for Marist, but they’re looking to notch that “statement win” in what looked like a lost first season for Maker early, while also taking advantage of a Manhattan team who might have their mind elsewhere.

For my thoughts on Kansas/Kansas State in Bramlage, I’m just going to copy and paste some Thomas Gipson quotes from Ken Corbitt’s article in the Topeka Capital Journal…

Gipson, one of two scholarship seniors on the team along with Williams, said there is a disconnection among the team.

“Nobody is on the same page,” he said. “That’s what happens when you’re not on the same page, you get distant from each other and you don’t play as a team and you get beat by 27.”

When asked who on the team is giving maximum effort, Gipson replied: “Nobody.”

The Wildcats beat the Jayhawks on Big Monday last year at Bramlage, but that seems a distant memory.

“That was last year, but this is another year,” Gipson said. “We’ll probably lose by 27, who knows? We just have to come out and play hard.”

Maybe I’m wrong and just terrible at picking up context (not as bad as ESPN though, who completely took the quote out of context and used it as a headline), but that doesn’t really sound like a team ready to compete at home against their biggest rival. This is the type of frontcourt Perry Ellis plays well against, and Wayne Selden’s length gives Marcus Foster issues, and KU tends to limit fouls, which takes away a major source of points for a clunky KSU offense.

Despite blowing the 16 point 2H lead at Belmont last game, Eastern Kentucky still controls their own destiny in terms of winning the OVC East. If they both win out, they Colonels hold the tie breaker, and EKU has an absurdly easy remaining schedule. They host Austin Peay tonight in a makeup game, then host Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech. There’s no question they should win out and get that double bye that comes with winning the East. EKU nearly handed Belmont their first ever OVC home loss WITHOUT Corey Walden, who is expected to be back tonight. Additionally, Neubauer said the Colonels are getting healthy at the right time despite Walden’s injury. Jaylen Babb-Harrison is back and provides some instant offense off the bench in addition to his defense, while FR Paul Jackson proved he’s a capable fill in for Walden defensively, and might be worked into more regular spot minutes. Austin Peay meanwhile is simply playing out the season, having already failed to qualify for the OVC tournament for the third year in a row, and if Saturday’s game at Murray State is any indication, they have no plans on being competitive the rest of the way. Against their arch rival, they were beat by 35.         Because of weather postponements, Morehead State has had 9 days off before this game at Tennessee State. Morehead is trying to avoid the Wednesday night session of the OVC tournament (although the scenarios needed for them to become a top 4 OVC team makes it virtually impossible), while Tennessee State is already eliminated from qualifying. Morehead basically got whatever they wanted offensively in the first meeting, and TSU couldn’t keep Karam Mashour off the glass. This is essentially a completely meaningless game.

Southern raced out to a big 17 point lead in the first meeting vs Alabama State in the Acadome, but ASU eventually chipped away and won it OT. Banks’ defenses are always built on a stout interior defense that allows the guards to aggressively guard the 3 point line, but the frontcourt takes a hit with Jared Sam out for a couple weeks with a knee sprain. The good news is that big Frank Snow is back from hand surgery though, but Sam is a significant loss defensively and on the glass, where the Jags can struggle. Led by the best PG in the conference Jamel Waters, Alabama State has the most efficient offense in the SWAC. Pair him with Bobby Brown (who is making his way back to 100%) and a pair of undersized bulldogs on the block in Page and Strong and the Hornets can be a tough matchup for Southern’s top rated defense. The real issue tonight is keeping ASU off the offensive glass though. They grabbed 21 offensive rebounds at a 44% rate in the first meeting, and without Sam, Southern has their work cut out for them. This is a great game between two of the best teams in the SWAC, and it means a ton to them, but unfortunately it means very little because of the profound absurdity that is the NCAA’s APR. Both teams were hit with APR bans, are ineligible for the NCAA tournament.

Zone vs zone in Delaware State and Norfolk State tonight, plus the two best bigs in the conference in Kendall Gray and Rashid Gaston go head to head (Buddy Myers for UMES is up there too). You rarely get to see a big man battle like this in the MEAC, but we also have two pure scorers in Amere May vs Jeff Short as well. Both Short and May have scored in double digits in every MEAC game they’ve played, and May is coming off 69 points in his last two games (you may also remember him from dropping 48 on St. Francis Brooklyn earlier this year too). Delaware State is far more capable of beating Norfolk’s zone from the outside than vice versa, but Norfolk’s extreme length at the top of their zone really makes it difficult to hit from outside against them routinely. Norfolk is coming off their most efficient offensive game of the season, putting up 99 points on 1.35ppp with Gaston, Thomas, and Taylor going 23-34 around the rim and 13-15 from the FT line against the much smaller Coppin State man to man defense. Those kind of numbers won’t happen against Delaware State’s zone, but Norfolk can expose Delaware State in transition. The Hornets are a poor transition defense, even by MEAC standards, and they really look to crash the boards offensively. If Norfolk can hold their own on the defensive glass, they’re going to be able to run. Delaware State started the Hampton Roads trip with a massive win at Hampton, largely thanks to Amere May’s 30 points. He has the opportunity to put up his third straight 30+ point game tonight against that Norfolk zone, but the Hornets probably have to sacrifice the offensive glass somewhat in order to win tonight.

Prairie View A&M is looking for some revenge tonight after a humiliating 37 point loss at UA Pine Bluff in the first meeting. The Panthers come in hot having won 4 in a row, including wins at Texas Southern and Jackson State, and it’s because Hagood, Scott, and Brisco are amping up the ball pressure and getting transition buckets in addition to relentlessly attacking the rim off the dribble in the halfcourt. When teams have slowed them down, Reggis Onwukamuche has been a monster protecting the rim, recording 18 blocks in the four game winning streak. Additionally, the Panthers are likely catching Pine Bluff without Marcel Mosley (still being investigated for his alleged involvement a shooting near campus), who torched them for 26 in the first meeting. Tons of ball pressure from both sides tonight, as these defenses have two of the highest defensive TO rates in the country, not just the pressure heavy SWAC. If this game is played in the 70s or higher possession wise, A&M likely wins. If Pine Bluff can slow it down and compensate for Mosley’s scoring, they’ll win. I’ll say the Panthers get revenge for the earlier beatdown, especially with Pine Bluff on a quick turnaround from a heartbreaking loss at Texas Southern.


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