12/29 Tuesday Thoughts

29 Dec

FAU does one thing well, on either end of the court, and that’s take away the three point line as defense. That’s the Owls’ identity under Curry and Snow, and that’s a good identity to have against a UT Martin team that shoots threes at the 53rd highest rate in the country. On the other side, the UT Martin half court defense has been improving incrementally as the season has progressed, while FAU has one of the 25 lowest eFG% as an offense in the halfcourt. It doesn’t help matters that CJ Turman left the program, but his offense had been a net negative in the games prior to his departure. The issue is that new big man Ron Delph, while a better defender, isn’t yet capable of providing the same offense that Turman did when he presumably happier with his role. This is only FAU’s third home game of the season (they’re 1-1 with both games against non D1 opponents), but these teams are heading in opposite directions at the moment, especially with one defense improving and the other offense regressing. I don’t have enough knowledge of FAU team dynamics to comment on whether or not Turman’s departure is something that is ultimately better or worse for the Owls as a team, but I think UTM has two distinct advantages today, as they sag off the perimeter and FAU has struggled from outside all year, and they crash the defensive glass relentlessly (Skyhawks started out looking like an atypical Heath Schroyer team in terms of defensive rebounding rate, but those numbers have been steadily on the rise). UT MARTIN +2.5

Roles are totally reversed from last year when Tulane exploited Memphis’ lack of a PG in a win at FedEx at the start of AAC play. This year, Tulane has had trouble finding continuity at the point with Stark gone (still think Julien is the long term fix there, but Dabney loves to have the ball in his hands), and Memphis addressing their TO issues with the addition of Ricky Tarrant, who of course knows Tulane and Ed Conroy quite well. Memphis still can’t shoot the ball from outside, and Tulane is actually solid in interior defense (Osetkowski and Jarreau play off each well as help side/shot blocker combo), but Tulane’s shot selection offensively is just too poor, and Memphis does several things extremely well defensively that are going to translate in AAC play (they don’t foul at a high rate while also stealing the ball and blocking shots at a very high rate). These are two outstanding half court defenses, so I expect points to be at a bit of a premium, especially with Memphis continuing to have matchup issues with Tulane’s zone. [UPDATE: Dedric Lawson out after warmups with an abdominal strain. With that knowledge, I certainly would switch to Tulane] MEMPHIS -12

Interested to see how Rick Barnes treats this game with Tennessee State today. He’s got some key guys that are banged up, and could use some rest, but the Vols also looked really shaky at home vs another “little brother” in ETSU last time out. There are a few things scheme wise that doesn’t really do Tennessee State any favors either. 1) Ford wants to extend pressure and then pack it in the halfcourt. Tennessee doesn’t turn the ball over, and giving Punter, Moore, and Baulkman open perimeter shots isn’t the best option against the Vols. 2) Tennessee is actually a better transition offense than halfcourt offense, and Tennessee State has been pretty bad in transition defense this year. The good news is that TSU tends to get beat when teams push the ball up the court off the defensive glass, and Tennessee has been poor in that regard this year (although the numbers have been better against smaller teams, and TSU is the 316th smallest team in the country). I’ve heard Jordan Reed won’t be available until OVC play, but those clearance situations are so nebulous, so it’s something to keep an eye on today. TENNESSEE -12

It seems that all the defections and injuries are finally over (for now, still no Ojo for foreseeable future) for Manhattan, although RaShawn Stores only played 8 minutes vs Morgan State (presumably for rest). Eastern Kentucky meanwhile has their own personnel issues with Jarelle Reischel a ? with back spasms and KJ Bluford missing WV due to suspension. Interesting game within the game aspect is that McHale and Masiello are both off the Pitino coaching tree and know each other quite well, and both obviously bring a ton of pressure, but both have struggled to defend mightily in the halfcourt when teams handle that press. The status of Reischel is essential in this one, and if he’s out or limited, I have to side with Manhattan in a battle of two incredibly similar teams that share virtually all the same strengths (forcing turnovers via pressure, getting to the FT line) and weaknesses (turnovers on the offensive end, rebounding, fouling). UPDATE: Reischel has overcome his back spasms which is huge for the Colonels, while Bluford is off the team. MANHATTAN +5.5

Typical brutal travel for Texas Southern to come back to Texas on a day rest after playing in Syracuse (and traveling through some poor weather), but that’s nothing new for TSU. Question is can they hit enough jump shots vs Baylor’s zone to stay competitive in what should be a game Baylor somnambulates through. TSU has the best player in the SWAC, Derrick Griffin, and he could help on the offensive glass, because TSU still isn’t equipped to handle the Baylor zone. TEXAS SOUTHERN +20.5 

It was a tale of two games last year between Temple and Cincy, as the Owls were blown out without Cummings at Cincy, then exacted major revenge in the rematch when they were at full strength. Key today is Enechionyia hitting some perimeter shots with his 6’8 frame to move around that ridiculous Cincy interior defense. I think the Temple defense figures to be significantly worse than last year. They don’t have a shot blocker, and Morgan and Cummings were so quick handed and outstanding in ball defense that their departures have caused the steal rate to basically be cut in half, and Temple has plummeted from the 20th best halfcourt defense in terms of eFG% to the mid 100s this year. CINCY -12

Richmond’s highly modified Princeton offense should be able to find success against Tubby’s ball line defense that allows the three pointer but denies penetration after extending pressure, but the Spiders have had some major travel issues thanks to that awful Texas weather. Good matchup scheme wise for Richmond (especially with the immobility of TTU’s big), but poor extenuating circumstances. RICHMOND +5

Notre Dame might treat this game with Liberty a little differently, as Brey wants to work on some things vs the pack line defense ahead of Saturday’s game with Virginia, and Ritchie McKay is a former Tony Bennett assistant who tried to employ the pack line in his second stint at Liberty. Offensively, Liberty doesn’t do much of anything well, but they shoot a ton of threes, which is certainly where Notre Dame’s defense is most vulnerable. The Flames also have Marquette transfer John Dawson eligible, who immediately becomes the best player on the team. I’m just not sure there’s going to be enough possessions in this game for Notre Dame to win by 32 points. LIBERTY +31.5

SMU is just a tough matchup for Tulsa, as they SMU defense is designed to limit the aggressive, contact drawing guards of Tulsa. Tulsa shot 55 3PTAs in two losses to SMU last year. They averaged ~15 3PTAs against all other AAC teams last year. Additionally, Tulsa’s a team that likes to get out and run off the defensive glass and extending some pressure, and that’s hard to do against SMU. With SMU’s ability to limit Tulsa’s three most distinct paths to offense, I think they’re held to under 1ppp for the third straight meeting vs Larry Brown. SMU -5

Charlotte’s transition defense has improved dramatically in recent weeks, which for purely selfish reasons is disappointing because I had this one circled early as a game where #DuggieBall could run wild with the Loot and Shoot. Price has genuinely done a 180 with this defense, but this is a dead spot in the schedule for them after competing against Georgetown for 40 minutes and only losing by 3, and then CUSA play starting on Saturday at Old Dominion. Additionally, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Price hold Sullivan out again in a meaningless game, particularly given his concussion history. Charlotte’s guards are actually solid against pressure (FR PG Jon Davis is a name CUSA fans will get to know this year), and I think this game ends up similarly to the Campbell game for The Citadel. CHARLOTTE -8.5

I’ve mentioned it several times here before, but Mitch Henderson has done a nice job of adding a penetrate and kick element to Princeton’s offense, but the key to beating Miami is being able to exploit the smaller Newton/Rodriguez with bigger ball handlers who can shoot over the top or back them down off the dribble. Conversely, Princeton guards not named Amir Bell have had trouble staying in front of penetrating guards all year, and McClellan and Reed on the wings should have a big advantage in terms of getting into the lane tonight, as they’ll be able to get by any pressure Henderson extends to compensate for Princeton’s lack of height in the frontcourt behind Miller. If Miami is focused before ACC play, they shouldn’t have a problem with Princeton’s defense. MIAMI -16

Not saying it’s necessarily a major determining factor today, but Robert Morris has had a Power 5 opponent scheduled right before NEC play the last 3 years, and they’ve played well in those three games. Additionally, RMU’s 2-3 is going to certainly test a Georgia team that has the highest FT rate in the country and is generally trying to get the ball as close to rim as possible on most possessions. RMU needs a big game from Pryor and Still shooting over the top of the Georgia defense, as trying to score at the rim against Georgia is an exercise in futility. ROBERT MORRIS +18

Duquesne gains a better defender in Eric James starting in place over Jeremiah Jones, but the Dukes are really going to miss Jones’ shooting and SR leadership in that prolific three point offense. Georgia Tech is a decent candidate for Ferry’s zone, and they can be beat from the perimeter. Mason and Colter vs Heath/Smith defensively is an advantage for the Dukes, but does that negate the frontcourt advantage Georgia Tech has with Mitchell and Jacobs? Additionally, Duquesne has struggled against teams that can limit them in transition, and Georgia Tech has been a plus transition defense. GEORGIA TECH -9.5

If you force George Washington into jump shots, you’re going to give yourself a chance, especially if Cavanaugh is out/limited tonight, and that’s exactly what Donnie Jones’ zone does at UCF. George Washington either bounces back with vigor and really harasses UCF’s turnover prone guards, or they struggle to find anyone who can shoot over the top of UCF’s perimeter length besides Pato Garino (again, particularly if Cavanaugh is limited), and they fail to generate zone offense again. I think the shooting woes continue away from Foggy Bottom. CENTRAL FLORIDA +5.5

Nothing earth shattering to say in Purdue/Wisconsin. The Boilers always play well in Madison, even with bad teams, and they’re just too big and too deep for this iteration of the Badgers. Luckily Wisconsin won’t see a full court press from Purdue. Granted, Gard and company were under some very odd circumstances, but they were wholly unprepared for the Green Bay pressure, which something that takes watching two seconds of Phoenix film to pick up on (given, Wisconsin did take their foot off the gas and had kept Green Bay limited to operating in the halfcourt prior to the Phoenix really amping up the press). The best halfcourt defense in the country should be too much for a Wisconsin team that currently looks nothing like a Wisconsin half court offense. PURDUE -5 

Speaking of outstanding half court defense, the Florida Gators certainly apply. Michael White has not only brought his harassing pressure, but the Gators are shutting teams down around the rim, while turning the ball over on just 14.5% of their possessions, and allowing the lowest rate of transition FGAs in the country. In short, they’re a dominant transition defense and a very good halfcourt defense, which is going to make it tough for a Florida State team who is looking to run (22nd in FGA rate in transition) and get the ball to the rim to score consistently. FLORIDA -5

Excessively difficult to score in the paint vs NC State, but that’s not Northeastern’s game. They’re looking to exploit you outside with several long, lethal shooters led by Walker and Ford, and NC State is unlikely to exploit the Huskies’ turnover issues. Teams that can shoot have had success against NC State this year, and Northeastern certainly fits that mold. The question for Northeastern is if they can hit enough triples to make up for an interior defense that’s going to allow the Pack to get whatever they want at the rim. NORTHEASTERN +6.5

I’m not a fan of relying on a team as enigmatic (to put it kindly) as LSU, but Wake Forest is vulnerable in transition defense, which is where LSU thrives offensively. LSU -7

All the injuries and lack of depth are catching up with Delaware (although they might get a little healthier tonight), but I think the fact that they’ll force Buffalo to run zone offense gives them a chance to hang around on the road. Buffalo’s an attack heavy team that’s looking to get themselves to the FT line, and the one thing Delaware defensively is zone you and keep you off the FT line. Can Delaware score and limit the turnovers though? Buffalo will extend some pressure and then pack in the lane, two aspects Delaware hasn’t been able to cope with this year. DELAWARE +7.5

Simply, I think CMU is getting their groove back with Chris Fowler, and looking like the preseason team they were projected to be, especially offensively, where they lowest ppp they posted with Fowler back was 1.12 in blowout vs Howard. That being said, the scheme isn’t ideal for CMU tonight. William & Mary defense extends out past the three point line, as they’re generally in a four out alignment that has length like Prewitt and all world defender Tarpey wreaking havoc on the perimeter. CMU is a four out offense as well, and attempts threes at the 2nd highest rate in the country. Interesting game. CENTRAL MICHIGAN +7

I literally have no opinion in Jacksonville State/Alabama. I’m not sure if Erik Durham’s ankle has healed (potentially out for a while from what I can gather) or if Cam Biedscheid’s suspension is over. That being said, Avery Johnson has wanted to extend ball pressure, but Drumwright/Townser haven’t been turning the ball over this year, and the Gamecocks really get out on the perimeter defensively, the one thing they do well on that end, and the Tide have been taking threes at a high rate. Plus, it’s not like Alabama is healthy themselves. I guess do have an opinion on this game. JACKSONVILLE STATE +18

Should be some points in Cal Poly/Texas A&M. Both run efficient zone offenses and Cal Poly should be ok against Texas A&M ball pressure. Cal Poly has a deep bench, but I think they’re going to wear down after some travel issues and eventually get beat at the FT line and on offensive glass consistently. TEXAS A&M -15

On paper, NIU is a nightmare matchup for UIC. McClain wants to get the Flames out in transition and spread the floor, but he just doesn’t have the personnel yet. NIU’s high pressure zone is going to exploit the Flames’ turnover issues and inability to hit from outside. Additionally, NIU doesn’t allow anything in transition. NORTHERN ILLINOIS -8

Can Holland check Hamilton? He’s the only Longhorn capable of doing so. Obviously the loss of one of the country’s premier shotblockers is mitigated by the loss of Ridley for Texas. UConn’s pick and roll defense without Brimah is something to watch, as Texas has been fantastic in pick and roll offense this season, but the loss of Ridley to Texas’ offense if FAR more significant than Brimah to UConn’s. UCONN +2.5

Turnovers and fouls are just too much to overlook for Saint Louis, but Kansas State does have Huggins and their “bad basketball” (as Weber described Press Virginia last year) coming into Manhattan on Saturday. SAINT LOUIS +13.5

If you zone this Kansas team, you’re going to get absolutely scorched this year. I think Mamadou gets in some early foul trouble, and the KU ball movement moves UCI’s zone around and opens up gaps. KANSAS -16

Obviously the loss of Denzel Valentine really alters things for Michigan State, but Iowa is still a totally jump shot reliant team, and I’m not fond of picking against Michigan State vs a jump shot reliant team. Yes, I see some very definite issues in terms of who guards Uthoff at the 4. Bess is too small and Goins is too immobile. That being said, I see this game going similarly to last year’s matchup at Carver-Hawkeye, and Fran gets out adjusted at half (Michigan State was down 11 at the half, won by 14). Of course, I could look like a total fool picking a B1G road team without one of the best players in the country. MICHIGAN STATE +3

Do we see Theus finally go away from the zone and amp up the pressure with Wilbut and Smith finally eligible in the backcourt? That also gives him some options outside against Bill Evans’ own dreadful zone, but I’ll take the far more efficient shooting team at home, even it has been moved to tiny Reed Gym due to maintenance issues. IDAHO STATE +2

Portland State is just so bad in the interior defensively, but is that something CSUF can take advantage of with a perimeter oriented, often 4 out offense? There are some internal things going on with CSUF (namely Ro Johnson being unhappy with his role), and I’m not sure how interested they are in this return trip to Portland. PORTLAND STATE -2

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6 Responses to “12/29 Tuesday Thoughts”

  1. aliu2704 December 29, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    Any thoughts on the other games?

    • jorcubsdan December 29, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

      Yes, busy at work, but going to get to as many as I can

  2. aliu2704 December 29, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    Really appreciate your hard work and thought!

  3. Dane Fife December 29, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

    Jordan – great stuff, as always. If you have time, may I ask where you get your transition stats from? I can’t find them on Kenpom, unless I’m missing something. Thanks!

    • jorcubsdan December 29, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

      I assume this isn’t the real Dane Fife, right? 🙂 thanks for the kind words, and hoop-math.com is my go to for transition stats

      • Dane Fife December 29, 2015 at 5:44 pm #

        Not the real Dan Fife, unfortunately. With you being an IU guy I hoped it would catch your eye in order to get a quicker response lol. Thank you, sir – appreciate the help.

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