11/16 Monday Thoughts and Predictions

16 Nov

Busy Monday with the Tip off Marathon starting tonight as well. Let’s take a quick look at a few interesting games, and then predictions on every game…

Wyoming doesn’t have the interior presence to exploit a weak Indiana State frontcourt, but the Sycamores are going to have trouble scoring in half court situations all season long, and one of the few constants in college basketball is that a Larry Shyatt Wyoming team is going to take away most chances at transition buckets (8th lowest opponent FGA in transition rate last year). Shyatt teams also turn you into jump shooting teams, which isn’t a strength of ISU either. The Sycamores need guys like Smith, Scott, and Brown to get going downhill towards the rim, and I’m afraid that isn’t going to happen a lot tonight. Wyoming’s offense however has a bunch of unknowns around Josh Adams, and early returns suggest this version of the Pokes is going to shoot the 3 at even higher rate than last year, when they were at the 45th highest rate in the country. It looks like Adams is surrounded with several shooting wings like Aka Gorski, Marshall, and McManamen, and few legit options inside. That’s troubling because Greg Lansing’s teams are usually outstanding at taking away the three point line. I think both teams are going to struggle to find offense at Hulman Center tonight……Buffalo is a team I’m keeping an eye on in the MAC. I think they’re probably being slept on with Hurley, Moss, and Evans all gone, but Oats knows the players, knows the program, and he’s going to bring a ton of ball pressure with a deep backcourt. Oats has veterans like Skeete, Wiggington, and Bearden supplemented by newcomers Conner and Massinburg in the backcourt, and I think you’re going to see a lot more aggressive pressure before falling back off the three point line to protect against their lack of height, especially with Johnson out. Nick Perkins is a kid to watch for Buffalo. He’s big and athletic and runs the floor well, and could eventually slide into the Moss role. Old Dominion is a little short handed too with Mosley, Talley, and Pervier suspended, but the two bigs missing for frontcourt depth isn’t an issue against Buffalo. Additionally, ODU can handle ball pressure as well as any team in the country with Freeman, Bacote, and another ballhandler in Caver this year. They played, and beat, UNCW, VCU, Georgia St, Mount St. Mary’s, and Louisiana Tech last year. The frontcourt is a little concerning in terms of replacing a lot of rebounding from last year. Taylor is legit, but Stith is the key since Taylor can’t do it all. Niagara kept it from being a full blown laugher against ODU because of the offensive glass…..Charlotte has a lot of talent on their roster, but I don’t it’s likely to gel anytime soon. The final score against Elon is a bit misleading, as the Phoenix really put it on the Niners and ran their motion offense unabated for the most part. Mark Price wants to play fast, especially because he’s so small at the wings, but his bigs Sullivan and Uchebo can’t run the floor. ECU doesn’t have a point guard, and the frontcourt doesn’t have a lot of proven talent with Guilmette being forced to hang em up because of all the injuries. That means we’re going to see a ton of threes out of the Pirates again, and if White and Tyson are off, they’re going to struggle to score. Could see a lot of backcourt chucking in this one…..Miami is thin in the frontcourt once again with Kamari Murphy suspended, and it’s tough to really consider Cruz Uceda a presence there on either end, as his game is the stretch game. The guards around Jekiri and joining McClellan and Rodriguez are deep and versatile though, and tend to mask the frontcourt deficiencies. Louisiana of course loves to run, with athletic wings surrounding the most NBA ready player on the floor in big Shawn Long. Keeping up with Long is where Murphy would be most useful tonight, but Bob Marlin added two incredibly athletic wings in Wooten and Hedgeman. Larranaga is a master at switching defenses and keeping teams off balance, and zoning Louisiana slowing down Long is something you’re going to see for long stretches tonight. Miami has a trip to Puerto Rico right around the corner, but hard to believe a Larranaga team would overlook a quality opponent like Louisiana……Marquette’s defense was obliterated by Belmont’s motion offense, as the three point shooting out of the sets opened things up for Evan Bradds, who destroyed Cheatham in the post. Marquette should fare much better against IUPUI’s more simplified pick and roll offense, but the main concern here is how a young backcourt handles IUPUI’s ball pressure. Jason Gardner beefed up the front court with Osborne and O’Leary (more of a stretch guy), but they’ll have major issues defensively against Ellenson and Fischer. IUPUI’s wings are much improved, as Combs looks to be a legit go to scorer for the Jags and the arrival of some height allows Barksdale to move to the three, where he’s much more suited. I know Wojo has talked about how there’s going to be a lot less zone this year, but IUPUI is a very good zone candidate…..Pretty good early test for Michigan’s defense, as Elon has the pieces to be a well oiled, efficient offense. Think Davidson lite, as Matheny runs the same motion since he’s off the McKillop tree. Eddy is healthy and he’s flanked by a shooter in Samson and a potent rim attacker in Thompson, and talented FR Santa Ana hasn’t really worked his way into the rotation yet. The problem for Elon will be their defense. If they don’t force a TO (48th in def TO rate last year), they tend to give up a plethora of easy buckets, although the frontline is significantly better than last year’s Phoenix squad. The problem is that Beilein teams don’t turn the ball over, no matter what the personnel situation is. Michigan won’t have any problems offensively, even if Irvin isn’t ready to suit up…..James Madison scored one of the more impressive but under the radar wins of the weekend when they pasted Richmond’s defense to the tune of 1.34ppp, and it was at the Robins Center! And it was without talented big man Dalembert! And it was with Morgan, a Butler transfer I figured to be a key player even early, only playing two minutes! Curry was phenomenal against Richmond’s harassing guards, but JMU faces an entirely different form of ball pressure with West Virginia’s 40 minute full court press, and Huggins was it again already, with WV forcing Northern Kentucky into a 37% TO rate in their opener. The Norse doesn’t have a PG of Curry’s caliber, but that’s still frightening. Brady wanted to use far less zone this year, but I would expect to see JMU in zone base for most of the night, as WV has a big advantage inside with Williams, Holton, and even FR Ahmad, who started as Adrian still works his way back to 100% health. With WV’s style and the point of emphasis on freedom of movement, they’re going to get a lot of whistles, and that was the case against NKU, but they’re going to earn a lot of foul calls on the other too with their guard aggressiveness, and they shot 46 FTs in their opener. Best to zone and make Carter and Miles prove they can shoot it….Eastern Kentucky and UNCW is an interesting one, as both teams have a ton of new faces, and both coaches are off the Pitino coaching tree, and both are going to bring similar high 3/4 court presses and traps. McHale has already shown that he’s going to go with the newcomers, most of whom he recruited, over the veterans like Babb-Harrison, Jackson, and Hood. Freshmen Weaver and Mayo look to be getting significant minutes early, and transfers Reischel, Bluford, and Hawkins look to be the core of the team with returnees Powell and McGlone. Hawkins looks like he’s going to be used as a big 6’5 ball handler in transition. The same can be said of JUCO transfer Flemmings for UNCW. Presumed PGs Talley and Charlotte transfer Ingram haven’t played yet for Keatts, and Ponder apparently wasn’t back on the ball either vs Milligan. It appears Keatts wants to play his new wing length with Flemmings, Bryce, Matthews, and Grundy, and really wreak havoc with pressure from those guys. That also means 7 footer CJ Gettys isn’t going to see much playing time, especially against a team like EKU, who figures to press as well. Keatts has an underrated rim protector with a high motor in Ogbodo, so I think the back end of the press is going to be just fine without Gettys seeing the floor. It will be interesting to see how the new faces respond to similar types of pressure on each team, but UNCW has the higher talent level…..Tennessee State and Ohio are both teams I had penciled in to show massive improvement from last year. TSU added some key transfers in the backcourt in McCall from Niagara and Deshields from Montana, plus they’ll have one of the best backcourt rebounders in recent memory in Jordan Reed come second semester. Dana Ford also added some help in the frontcourt with Griggs-Williams out of LBSU. JUCOs Johnny Woodard and Wayne Martin round out Ford’s rotation, meaning five newcomers plus Marcus Roper receive nearly all the minutes. Martin is particularly key, and he had a monster game in the nice season opening win at Loyola MD, because Chris Mekowulu, the only interior piece, is out for the season with an ACL tear. Regardless, Ford has quickly transformed TSU into a team that can compete with any other midmajor in the country. Ohio was impressive against FGCU, who surprisingly at full strength with the clearance of Simmons, so the win wasn’t a cheap one. The Bobcats have this sandwiched in between that big opening win and a trip to the Virgin Islands, so I wonder how they’ll come out mentally. Jaaron Simmons gives Phillips a legit PG, and with Kaminski eligible and Mompremier healthy, the frontcourt was outstanding vs FGCU. These are two teams who have quickly improved from last year…..Inauspicious start for Dave Paulsen at George Mason, as they lost at home to a Colgate team that is in rebuild mode. They’ll be without Holloway again, and this team can’t score without getting the ball to Thompson or getting to the FT line (where they were a putrid 18-35 vs Colgate). It’s excessively hard to score inside of Mercer’s zone, and I think GMU is in for another ugly offensive performance since they’re not going to get fouled or be able to feed Thompson consistently…..Tulane looked disorganized offensively in their first game without Stark running the point, and it led to a fairly shocking OT loss at home to Alabama A&M. Dabney isn’t best served on the ball, but he might have to be the guy, as Malik Morgan didn’t look comfortable there and FR Von Julien might not be ready. There’s a lot of wing talent with Dabney, Morgan, Frazier and the sharpshooting FR Harris, but they’re down two guys in Mack and Reynolds at the moment. UW transfer Jarreau gives the frontcourt a legit shot blocker, but there’s nothing behind him and Osetkowski. They’ll host a Drake team tonight that I think is flying a bit under the MVC radar. They have a ton of height with the two 7 footers, and a deep guard core with Timmer, Rivers, and Madison being joined by Woodward from Penn State. They’ve also added a mid range game and stretch shooting wing in Kale Abrahamson from Northwestern. The offense should be a top tier unit in the MVC, but the defense needs massive improvements everywhere. I don’t expect Tulane to shoot as poorly as they did vs Alabama A&M, and there’s going to be plenty of shots available from the perimeter, but I also think they’re facing a Drake offense that’s a lot better than people realize……South Dakota State is a little shorthanded for Weber State tonight with shooter/slasher Deondre Parks likely out with a groin injury. The Jacks are still trying to sort things out in the post with Larson gone, but this is an offense that has talent and length at every position, but they’re a little reliant on the 3, more so, without a slasher like Parks, and Rahe teams are focused on taking away the three point line defensively, and I would think they’ll have an added emphasis on that aspect after USU went 8-20 from outside in Ogden. I was a bit discouraged by Weber’s performance defensively on Friday, and offensively they’re going to have trouble getting the ball into Bolomboy against a SDSU that’s going to sag and sag early while they try to figure out life post Larson. That means Senglin and Richardson are going to have to carry the offense, and this might be a game for stretch shooter Kiko Stavrev to play more than 2 minutes, and maybe put Gittens on Bittle in defense for offense tradeoffs with Cannon…..Tough stretch for Illinois State coming off a trip to San Diego State, then back home quickly to face a Morehead State team that you know is going to be physically press and try to run off turnovers and the d glass at every opportunity. The Redbirds played in a foulfest at Viejas, and when you play Morehead, you can expect more of the same. The biggest issue I see for ISUred tonight is if Akoon-Purcell and Lee get in foul trouble, who is the secondary ballhandler? Woods has the guard depth, so he’s not afraid to be ultra-aggressive even with the point of emphasis whistles…..Beeler and Brewe are likely going to get worked by Rabb and Brown, but at least UCSB should have Bryson back, and the offense will be better than what they showed at Omaha. Williams will certainly throw in a zone to slow this Cal team down and force some shaky jump shooters (besides Mathews) into some poor shots. That’s the only chance UCSB has to keep this one competitive……USC can’t turn into the Reinhardt show against Monmouth’s zone press. If they can handle the ball pressure, and I think they can, Jovanovic and Boatwright become unguardable against an overmatched Monmouth frontcourt……Two teams who are looking to press arguably more than anyone else in the country, Rice and Manhattan, travel to the west coast and are extremely short handed. San Francisco’s lone strength at the moment is their backcourt of Watson and Derksen, so I think they’ll be fine vs a very shorthanded Rice, while Manhattan faces a St. Mary’s team that I’m not sure what’s to be expected. Rahon joins Naar in the backcourt, so I think they’ll handle the press ok, but they jacked up 37 threes vs San Francisco State despite Bennett adding a ton of height. Jacking up 37s triples isn’t an option against Manhattan when they’re right and healthy…..Belmont should get what they want from outside, as Hurley teams have shown a propensity to sag off the three point line when they fall back into the half court defensively, which is why it took Buffalo three tries to beat CMU last year. Arizona State’s early struggles continue.

Out of time….but one last thought, watch out for UMBC vs. St. John’s. They’re healthy with Elliott back and have underrated athleticism across the board. Aki Thomas has the depth to bring the pressure he wanted to last year. They’ll pull off the upset if they can hit FTs.

PREDICTIONS (41-28):
UNCW -5.5
Tennessee State +6
Mercer -7.5
Ball State -7
Indiana -30
Michigan -19
JMU +12
ECU -7
Buffalo +10.5
Miami -11
Wyoming +5.5
Georgia Tech -7
South Carolina -14
Virginia -6.5
Weber State +6
Morehead State +11
Bradley +28
Drake +1
Georgia Southern +16
Kennesaw State +23.5
NAU +17
Air Force -8
Marquette -13.5
Columbia +4.5
Utah -5
USC -10.5
SJSU +11
Belmont +4.5
St. Mary’s -9.5
UCSB +16
San Francisco -4.5
Oregon +2

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