Archive | January, 2016

1/31 Sunday Thoughts

31 Jan

PREDICTIONS (1283-985-58):

BOSTON U -3 (BU is using less zone in PL play, but still sagging off the perimeter a good deal, and Lehigh can shoot. Look for Jones to pinch on shooters though, which will leave Kempton with a lot of one on one sets. These nationally televised PL games are always tricky though, and Lehigh loves to push in transition off the defensive glass, which BU simply doesn’t allow)

ST. JOHN’S +20 (If you’re going to play without Ochefu, you hope you’re playing St. John’s)

GEORGE WASHINGTON -8

NORTH DAKOTA ST PK

RIDER -3.5

WRIGHT STATE +3 

NOTRE DAME -9.5 (Jackson making a surprise return though for the Irish)

OHIO STATE +5

WESTERN ILLINOIS +7 (WIU takes away jump shots as a defense, which IPFW is totally dependent on (Max Landis has been outstanding in lieu of Mo Evans). WIU is second to last in KenPom “luck factor”, while IPFW has been the “luckiest” team in the country, if you’re into that sort of thing)

TEMPLE -8

NORTHWESTERN +11

SAINT BONAVENTURE PK

UTEP +8.5 (Hooper Vint’s status is key here. Miners can’t rebound even with him. Can Miners score? Worst offense in CUSA, but the best defense in CUSA should keep them in this in Ruston, but I’m not sure how the smaller backcourt can match up with LA Tech’s athletic, lengthy backcourt)

UCONN -8

WICHITA STATE -3.5 (Key guy for the Aces is Brzoja. Simmons’ motion offense is great and all, but they’re often playing a two man game. If Brzoja plays anywhere near the way he played in Carbondale, that offense is lethal and capable of handing the Shockers their first MVC loss)

NORTHERN IOWA -5

COLORADO -4 (Back end of the mountain trip for Cal, and they couldn’t keep Colorado off the offensive glass in Berkeley)

RUTGERS +28.5

PITT -10

JAMES MADISON +3.5 (Best offense in CAA (W&M) hosts best defense (JMU). Tribe dominated the Dukes last year because Brady hedged on Shaver’s myriad screens too hard with his bigs, which allowed the versatile Prewitt/Dixon/Tarpey to waltz to the rim. Has to adjust that tonight, but teams have been bombing the Tribe from 3 all year, and JMU can’t certainly fire away from 3)

WISCONSIN -2.5 (If you take jump shots away from Illinois, which Wisconsin does, how do they score?)

OREGON -2 (Tough spot in terms of the schedule for the Ducks, but their offense is so versatile. They’re efficient inside and out, and that same length/versatility is lethal in Altman’s trapping schemes)

 

1/30 Saturday Thoughts

30 Jan

PREDICTIONS (1221-949-55):

TEXAS -1

MICHIGAN -9

EAST CAROLINA +4

MARSHALL -1

BUTLER -2.5

FLORIDA -1

CLEMSON +3.5

SYRACUSE -5

FORDHAM +4

THE CITADEL -4

VIRGINIA +6 (No Onuaku)

AKRON -2

NIAGARA +3

CHARLOTTE -3.5

DELAWARE +10.5

OLE MISS +7.5

TENNESSEE -1.5

WESTERN MICHIGAN -1

IOWA STATE +4.5

DAYTON -20

DEPAUL +10

INDIANA -18.5

UL MONROE -6

NC STATE +5

DRAKE -11

USC -7.5

SACRAMENTO STATE +8.5

NIU -5 (Washington status dependent WASHINGTON IS OUT)

SOUTH DAKOTA ST -6.5

FURMAN -3

UT MARTIN +2.5

SAN DIEGO

ARKANSAS -5.5

BC +27

UIC +5

DREXEL +8

INDIANA STATE -3

ILLINOIS STATE

UNC GREENSBORO +9

NEBRASKA +12

CENTRAL MICHIGAN -8.5

UTAH -10.5

BOISE STATE -6

SJSU -2

OKLAHOMA -4.5

SOUTHEAST MISSOURI ST +6.5

UT ARLINGTON +5.5

TENNESSEE ST -3

EIU

ST. JOE’S +3.5

DUQUESNE -4.5

TULSA -14

WYOMING -3.5

ALABAMA +8

BAYLOR -11.5

MONMOUTH -12.5

SIENA -13.5

WOFFORD -5 (No Rhett Harrelson for WCU tonight)

MOREHEAD STATE -1 (No Collins or Dicent again, who were slated to return. Bad call here)

CHATTANOOGA -4.5

UCLA -11.5

KANSAS -5

TOLEDO -5.5

UNCW -6

OLD DOMINION -3

YALE -3

DARTMOUTH

HARVARD +1.5

BROWN -1

ELON +7.5 (Ford out again)

LITTLE ROCK -7

OMAHA -8.5

GEORGIA SOUTHERN +4.5

PROVIDENCE +2.5

OKLAHOMA STATE -1.5

CREIGHTON -5

VALPO -22.5

SMU -9

UNLV -4.5

SAN FRANCISCO +16.5

RICE -7.5

MTSU -1.5

UTSA +7

SOUTH ALABAMA -2

TENN TECH +3

CAL POLY -3

MISS STATE -2 (No Gavin Ware tonight, so this is a dud)

NORTH DAKOTA -1

WEBER STATE -19.5

IDAHO STATE -6.5

NEVADA +5.5

MONTANA STATE +4.5

ARIZONA -13

PORTLAND STATE +3

PEPPERDINE +11.5

SANTA CLARA +6

UC IRVINE -6.5

UC RIVERSIDE +1 (looks like both Coggins and Brooks will go for CSUF tonight, which makes this a potential lame duck)

PACIFIC +12

HAWAII -7

 

1/29 Friday Thoughts

29 Jan

A few quick notes before the WIU/IUPUI tip, and then I’ll add some Ivy/Horizon thoughts on my lunch break...PREDICTIONS (1213-945-55):

Western Illinois has approached a couple of dubious achievements. They’re one day short of a full calendar year between Summit wins (they beat IUPUI at home last year on Jan 30), and one day short of two full calendar years between Summit road wins (won at IUPUI on Jan 30, 2014). Certainly the hopes were high for WIU after the Wisconsin win, but they look like the odd man out for the 8 team Summit Tournament. The problem has clearly been the offense, as they’re at just .94ppp in Summit games. The hot three point shooting during the OOC schedule fell back to Earth in dramatic fashion, and teams that can extend their guards, like Gardner does with IUPUI, have been hell on WIU’s clunky motion offense. WIU actually only turned it over 8 times at a 12% rate in the first meeting with IUPUI in Macomb, but managed just .91ppp, and defensively they couldn’t stay in front of Combs or guard Osborne outside of the lane. Billy Wright didn’t have Miklusak in that first meeting, and he has some mobility with his height, but I sincerely doubt he was the difference between a win and a loss. Interior production has been an issue for WIU all season, and while Stensgaard has been providing some quality minutes and production of late, the Leathernecks just aren’t equipped to take advantage of IUPUI at the rim (although Chapman had a good game in the first meeting), where they tend to struggle defensively (hence Gardner extending his guards). Unfortunately, I don’t think Covington and Fuller necessarily have any interest in filtering offense through the post consistently, but they sort of have to today. IUPUI has had plenty of time to come down off the big road win at IPFW, but I think the Leathernecks get enough from Chapman and Stensgaard to keep this a couple one or two possession game most of the way.

WESTERN ILLINOIS +6.5

First weekend of Ivy back to backs. Some quick notes…

Yale and Princeton play Penn and Brown, respectively, before a big showdown in New Haven tomorrow. To be honest, both should win easily easily tonight, with Yale hosting Penn and Princeton at Brown. Yale’s offense looks downright terrifying early (granted, two games against Brown), and with Sears and Sherrod inside, Mason and Montague outside, and Victor on the wing (throw in Downey for bursts of absurd offensive efficiency), you have to consider Yale the team to beat as we get into the heart of 14 game tournament with back to backs starting up. The scary thing is that Yale just crushed Brown into a cube, and they didn’t even shoot that well from outside, or from the FT line for that matter. Penn meanwhile is in for a long year. The roster simply isn’t in place for Donahue’s hyper efficient, three point bombing offense, especially considering that your most prolific shooter, Sam Jones, appears to have his confidence shot after scoring 9 total points the past 4 games, and going 3-24 from 3. There have been some positives for Penn, namely the revitalization of DNH (although it’s been intermittent at best of late) and the recent strong play of touted FR Jake Silpe and the shooting of FR Jackson Donahue. The one are that may come back to haunt Yale is their inability at times to handle ball pressure. Mason is really the only trustworthy ball handler, but ball pressure simply isn’t in Donahue’s coaching DNA. Donahue doesn’t like to double posts, preferring to pinch the three point line and stay at home on shooters, but you essentially have to against Sears. Combine that with the fact that DNH isn’t likely to have any sort of success against the vaunted Yale interior defense and Penn’s perimeter shooting is even more AWOL than usual with Jones in a slump, and I think you have the makings of a relatively easy Yale win, even with Princeton on deck. As for Princeton’s trip to Pizzitola tonight, they shouldn’t necessarily have any problems. You have to be able to expose Princeton’s frontcourt at the rim, and I’m not sure Brown is capable of that. I love Kuakumensah, but he’s been incredibly inefficient on the offensive end of late (still a stud defensively, but Maia’s absence has taken a toll on his rim efficiency), and Brown’s generally an offense that has to get in transition to be effective (Blackmon’s a great transition PG who struggles a bit in the halfcourt), however, Princeton’s pick and roll defense has been suspect at best, and Brown basically only a pick and roll offense in the halfcourt.

Harvard and Columbia are basically in the same situation as Yale and Princeton, as the 4 (projected) top half teams play (projected) bottom half teams before playing each other on the back to back Saturday. Even with Harvard’s offense still going through prolonged scoreless droughts (what is it with the Crimson allowing massive 25-2 scoring runs against Dartmouth?!), their wonky offense is still better than a Hatter-less Cornell offense. Surely Courtney is going to extend some pressure on Harvard, and if it results in a ton of fouls, which is likely, I think Big Red has to take that chance, especially given the way that Harvard shoots FTs (Holy God 58% as a team, dead last in the country!), the deep bench he has at his disposal, and the fact that Morgan is the only player capable of generating offense without Hatter (defensive stud Onuorah had nice little 10 point explosion vs Columbia, but he’s not going to find anything at the rim against Harvard). Dartmouth’s run against the Crimson was spurred by smaller defenders surrounding Big Z (Malik Gill did his Malik Gill thing), and that’s probably Cornell’s only hope tonight. Press, fall back into a compact zone, and swarm Big Z on every touch. Columbia meanwhile had their two most glaring flaws exposed last year vs Dartmouth, as the Big Green swept the Lions by 1) exposing their inability to generate at offense at times when the perimeter is taken away (DC’s defense is meh, but they can be hyper aggressive with pressure and extending past the three point line with Gill, Crescenzi, and Wright) and 2) exposing the team wide slow-footedness of the Columbia defense. Evan Boudreaux, who the Lions didn’t see last year, could have a monster game tonight, as Smith still hasn’t really figured out a rotation that doesn’t give away too much of his offense for defense. I thought he had something going with Meisner while Rosenberg was out, but he was a negative on the offensive end.

IVY PREDICTIONS: YALE -13, PRINCETON -8.5, CORNELL +10, DARTMOUTH +4

Horizon notes…

Wright State is going to take a lot of jump shots, which with most teams tends to lead to runouts for Oakland’s transition offense, but the Raiders get back religiously off misses, plus they tend to hit those threes, which is, you know, always a good thing. Donlon’s probably going to be able to keep this at 70 possessions or below, and if that happens, Wright State’s going to have a decent chance at a big road win.

Detroit has been the most tough luck loser in the Horizon. They’ve lost the to the teams currently sitting in the top 5 spots in the standings, and if you exclude the Valpo game, they’ve lost 4 of them by a total of 15 points, which includes a 7 point OT loss at Green Bay last time out. The Titans are poor in rim protection, and they’ll face the undersized but powerfully crafty Billups tonight (ironically, he and undersized but powerfully crafty Hogan are very similar players). I don’t think the UDM offense will have much trouble tonight, but the defense often allows teams that probably shouldn’t be in the game to stay in the game. Good game UDM to get back on track at Calihan.

What’s the status of Akeem Springs? It’s a pretty big question, because I think realistically he’s Jeter’s best chance at guarding Fouse. He’s been ruled out by some sources, but I’m not sure I buy that. Milwaukee’s transition defense is a major cause for concern tonight. They’re 326th in FGA rate in transition defensively, while Green Bay has the highest FGA rate in transition as an offense in the country, taking nearly 40% of their shots in transition. Now, Green Bay’s main source of transition points come via steal off of Darner’s high pressure defense (aka RP40), and Milwaukee has the second lowest steal and TO rate in the Horizon, thanks to the great Jet Johnson. Can Green Bay get in transition off long misses? Sure, Milwaukee loves to shoot the 3, and Arians has certainly been missing a lot of them in Horizon play, but Green Bay also isn’t the strongest rebounding team, namely because Darner has smaller, quicker players on the floor for his defense, and that’s where Milwaukee tends to get beat in transition most often. That being said, Green Bay is still a top 40 transition offense 0-10 seconds after a defensive rebound, per hoop-math.com.

HORIZON PREDICTIONS: WRIGHT STATE +5.5, DETROIT -7.5, GREEN BAY +5

MAAC notes…

I feel like I’ve written 10,000 words on the Manhattan/Iona rivalry over the last few years, so I’m not going to go into too much detail, but this one is always going to be a game of runs given the nature of Iona’s offense and the nature of Manhattan’s defense. The Jaspers will eventually turn you over and Iona will eventually score points in bunches, but what tends to swing these games in Manhattan’s favor when it has mattered (ie MAAC tournament) is that they’re able to take away the three point line consistently, but Iona also is more adept at finding transition 3s in an up and down game than any other team in the MAAC, as that’s how Cluess structures his offense.

Could see a lot of points in Canisius/Fairfield. Both teams generally spread the court in transition and shoot the three at will, while both defenses tend to sag/zone because of the structure of their 4 out offenses (although the Griffs play significantly slower than Fairfield this year, which is odd saying). Canisius was just humiliated at home by Siena’s flex offense, which Fairfield doesn’t remotely run, but I have a feeling Kasibabu could have a breakout performance offensively against the thinner Bleeker. Johnson has been involving him a little more within the offense.

MAAC PREDICTIONS: MANHATTAN +11.5, FAIRFIELD -1

Out of time…

VCU -1.5 (We know all about Havoc, but VCU’s halfcourt defense is phenomenal this year, and completely taking away the three point line. Davidson dominated vs VCU at Belk last year, but I think VCU’s halfcourt defense is structured far more towards limiting Davidson’s motion offense this year, and I have a sense this game will actually be won or lost in the halfcourt because Davidson isn’t going to turn the ball over vs the VCU pressure. MAC and Tillman could have big numbers tonight for the Rams offensively against a Davidson defense that can’t stop anyone at the rim)

OHIO -2 (Ohio has some in season revenge in mind, and they’re healthier for the rematch with Setty over the flu and Dartis and Block back from injury. That being said, I can’t trust Ohio’s defense. Kent State got the ball to the rim at will in the first meeting either via Pollard/Thomas penetration or entry passes to Hall. However, it’s not like Kent State’s defense really limited Ohio in that game. The Bobcats are a tough matchup for any defense that wants to take away everything at the rim, namely because Phillips uses Kaminski and Setty away from the rim so much. If the Ohio defense can get a modicum of stops (big if), they could score some revenge at home tonight)

1/28 Thursday Thoughts

28 Jan

Kicking off with some CAA notes…

UNCW dominated James Madison in both meetings last year, as the Dukes had major issues with Keatts’ pressure/trapping schemes, and were never able to get going in their ball reversal offense because the Seahawks are so disruptive on the perimeter. JMU has significantly lowered their TO and steal rate from last year, but there still really isn’t a secondary ball handler to help Curry with the pressure. Additionally, no team in the CAA takes away the three point line better than UNCW, allowing just a 27% 3PTA rate. That being said, I’m not at all convinced UNCW can even remotely sustain their 40% shooting from 3 in CAA play, and it’s probably wise for Brady to keep mixing in zone (he’s been using a lot of 1-3-1 with his man), and test the UNCW perimeter and keep their athleticism and length out of the lane as much as possible, especially if Ponder is out or limited. UNCW has played by far the easiest CAA schedule to date, as they’ve had the luxury of playing Drexel and Delaware twice already. We’ll learn a lot about the Seahawks tonight in Harrisonburg (where JMU has been lackluster, at best), but this is still a bad matchup for the Dukes, especially if Dalembert doesn’t return his Hofstra/Northeastern form. It seemed like the big man was breaking out of his season long slump, but he wasn’t much of a factor against Drexel and Elon. He has to be able to put up huge numbers on the back end of the UNCW pressure tonight.

Does William & Mary exact some revenge tonight after two puzzling losses to Delaware last year, where the Hens basically scored at will in both games and they couldn’t keep Holden out of the lane? William & Mary is a very good perimeter shooting team, but Shaver’s high motion offense tends to wonkify against teams that sag/zone/clog up the lane, and that’s exactly what Hofstra did and what Delaware will do. Against teams that extend out on the perimeter and pinch the three point line and make the court less compact defensively, they’ve been able to run their screens and back door action (NC State, Charleston, Drexel, Elon). Now I’m not saying William & Mary can’t sit back and fire away at a zone, because they clearly can, but it’s not how Shaver’s offense functions. Regardless, the offense isn’t really the issue for Shaver’s club, it’s been the defense. They have trouble with quick guards on straight line drives (Holden) and they have trouble with any sort of 4/5 who can score on the block (MKD). I think the Hens’ struggling offense can score tonight, but can the soft zone and lack of bodies keep it up for 40 minutes? Probably not.

Bruiser Flint prides himself and his teams on their “toughness”, but clearly, Towson was the “tougher” team in the first meeting. The Tigers basically do what Bruiser wants Drexel to do, but they do it significantly better than the Dragons. Towson is a much better rebounding team, and they get to the FT line way more often, which are typically basic tenets of Bruiser ball. A few notes about that first meeting though…1) Drexel was playing on the Saturday end of a (typically) shorthanded road trip, and the Thursday night game was an all out effort vs Hofstra where they came up short 2) Walter Foster was an absolute terror defensively for Towson that night, blocking 7 shots, and altering several more en route to Drexel shooting 11-45 on two point FGAs. Foster’s status for tonight is unknown after missing the Northeastern game, and his presence inside against a Drexel team that can’t/won’t shoot from 3 is enormous. 3) Towson tends to lay a major egg after big wins, and they’re coming off one at Northeastern (albeit the Huskies were without Ford, but Towson was without Foster).

Hofstra is second to last in bench minutes nationally, and they just lost their sixth man, Malik Nichols, for the year. That’s a significant loss not only because a short bench gets even shorter, but because Nichols is essentially the only guy who can spell foul prone Gustys. He’s also an excellent rebounder, and pushing off the defensive glass is a big component of Mihalich’s spread pick and roll transition attack. Fortunately for the Pride, they have a temporary reprieve with tonight’s opponent, the Phoenix of Elon. Matheny is a McKillop disciple, and they run a perimeter motion, four out offense that is rarely going to challenge anyone at the rim, in fact they have the 302nd lowest FGA rate at the rim in the country. They’re also a poor rebounding team that can be beat in transition, and they’re shorthanded themselves without talented FR scorer Santa Ana. Elon defensively, when they’re playing well (which they clearly haven’t been) can be disruptive on the perimeter to compensate for the lack of height, and they can get red hot from outside, and Mihalich is left with no choice but to sag some off the line given his roster limitations. Hofstra, of all teams, is probably looking to slow this game down dramatically compared to previous Mihalich/Hofstra offenses, and that change of pace is something to watch with the Pride going forward.

Obviously the key thing to watch with Northeastern tonight is the status of Quincy Ford. He missed the Towson game with a concussion, and the Huskies looked bad on both ends, at home, without him. He’s just such a key cog to everything they do offensively and defensively. Charleston of course is dealing with their own injuries, as they’ve been this year’s Drexel, losing a key player basically every month (Chealey, Riller, Bourne, Barry), but it hasn’t changed Earl Grant’s dogged defense on the perimeter, where Charleston is arguably the best team in the league at chasing shooters off the three point line, and the Cougars have the highest steal rate in CAA play. Even with Ford, Northeastern has been a much more perimeter oriented team in the absence of Scott Eatherton, and the Huskies, who don’t play with a “traditional point guard”, continue to be haunted by a fairly high steal rate, although it has improved in CAA play. This could turn into a first to 50 game if Ford isn’t cleared to play.

CAA PREDICTIONS: UNCW +4, WILLIAM & MARY -6.5, DREXEL +2.5, ELON +12, CHARLESTON -1

SBC notes…

Apparently UL Monroe turns into a Duggar Baucom team whenever they get back to Fant-Ewing. The Warhawks’ offense looked miserable in a four game road losing streak in SBC play, never reaching 1ppp, and barely sniffing that mark just once. In the two subsequent games at F-E, 1.29 and 1.33ppp, as Troy and USA couldn’t defend the mobility of Samuel and Deng at the 4/5. When those two play like they have been in the two recent home wins, ULM looks like the team to beat in the SBC when you combine that with Coppola’s steady PG play and an ever shifting defense that keeps teams off balance between man and a lengthy zone. As for UT Arlington, there was certainly something to be learned in that loss to Little Rock on Saturday. The Trojans started the game on an 18-0 run, and were up 42-14 at one point in the 1H, but the Kevin Hervey-less Mavs rallied and only lost by 6. Even though they had already defeated Arkansas State without Hervey (he blew out his ACL on his final warm up shot before the game, one of the most devastating injuries to a great player I can recall in recent memory), but the Little Rock game was the first game they knew for sure they would be without him, and that 2H was sort of cathartic and a demarcation point for the rest of the post Hervey season.Now, on to the actual matchup. Kennedy Eubanks, Hervey’s replacement, simply doesn’t have the same length/athleticism combo that had NBA scouts coming to check out Hervey, but he’s a capable offense player that can also get out on the perimeter defensively. Cross wants to play fast. He’s going to have the Mavs push off the defensive glass, and ULM has been a suspect transition defense, as teams who work the ball to the rim from four positions tend to be, but Hervey was such a huge component of that transition game. He could lead the break on his own off defensive rebounds, where he was a monster. UTA’s ball line defense should be something of an issue for ULM tonight, as it’s designed to pressure ball handlers, then drop back after halfcourt in order to deny all penetration and post passes, leaving the perimeter wide open. Despite some recent hot shooting, the three ball isn’t ULM’s strong suit by any stretch, and Coppola is essentially the only ball handler for Richard. Ultimately, I’m still trying to wrap my head around post Hervey UTA, as the first game without him was a bizarre situation, and the second game was such a disparity between halves, that it really just muddied the situation. Even with what I perceive to be a “scheme” advantage for the Mavs tonight, who wants to go against ULM at home, where the Warhawks look like the Warriors at Oracle?

Bob Marlin and Danny Kaspar certainly know each other well. Not just from SBC play, but from their days at Sam Houston State and SFA, respectively. As always with these two, we have a clash of style and pace. Kaspar’s aggressive man to man has generally been successful in at least slowing down the Louisiana offense and keeping possessions in the mid 60s. The problem has always been Texas State’s offense, as they’ve cracked 1ppp just once vs ULL since Kaspar came over to the SBC. This year, the Bobcat offense has looked far more fluid. The motion is less clunky, and Naylor, Gilder-Tilbury, and Montalvo have all made significant jumps in their personal Ortgs to help Gant inside. I think we’ll see something similar to the SBC tourney game last year where Kaspar aggressively doubled Long with KGT and Naylor to keep Gant out of foul trouble, and it worked for the most part. The problem, again, was the TSU offense.

Quick turnaround for Georgia Southern after the miracle finish in Boone. The Eagles are on a three game week, and have to go from Boone to Little Rock, and face a completely opposite style with Little Rock’s shut down pack line defense and commitment to taking away transition opportunities. Little Rock is probably playing a better pack line that UVA at the moment (obviously the competition is disparate), and they are allowing the lowest FG% at the rim in the country. That’s great, but Georgia Southern is a team not looking to score at the rim unless it’s off a turnover generated by Byington’s high pressure zone. In the halfcourt, they’re going to shoot threes, and that’s basically the only shot available to you vs Little Rock. The question is, can young GSU hit them on the road? Little Rock isn’t likely to be phased by the GSU zone press. They can shoot and they have an outstanding SR PG in Josh Hagins who has seen this before in a zone press heavy league.

Not surprisingly, Georgia State’s offense is woefully behind last year’s 1.12ppp SBC squad. That’ll happen when you lose an NBA draft pick. The problem is the defense is allowing over 1ppp in SBC play, which is strange to see from a Hunter club. Fortunately for GSU, they run into an Arkansas State team down to 7 players without Dure and most importantly Donte Thomas, arguably the best PG in the league (nearly averaging a triple double in SBC play). Without Thomas, I’m not sure how they handle GSU’s high pressure, matchup zone. This is an ASU team that relies on his abilities in transition and feeding Livingston in the post/getting into the lane/FT line off penetration (7th highest FT rate in the country). If he’s unable to go to tonight, I have a hard time seeing how they operate against a GSU team that allows transition attempts at the 9th lowest rate in the country.

App State is on a quick turnaround from that devastating home loss to Georgia Southern that has made the national media rounds. Now they have to head south for the Alabama swing starting with Troy tonight. Lost in the shuffle of that wild finish is how well App State played offensively, posting 1.28ppp, their most efficient game of the year. When Fox’s “McKillopian” motion offense gets cooking with Frank Eaves in the “Jack Gibbs” role, the Mountaineers can be tough to contain, and Fox has really been emphasizing pushing the pace in transition, as they’ve veered in on 80 possession territory each of the last 3 games, and Troy isn’t a team that’s going to stop anyone in transition. If Fox can Georgia State in a 75 possession game, I’m pretty sure the Mountaineers can get Troy close to 80 as well, as the Trojans are a bottom 50 transition rate team as a defense. Additionally they’re not an offense that can expose App State’s glaring weakness, defense at the rim. Troy’s a four out offense, penetrate and kick offense, and their lone big, John Walton, has been logging some serious minutes, and has looked like he’s been committing some “no legs” fouls in the paint. App State’s superior depth could be a factor tonight, especially since they’re the team on the quick turnaround.

SBC PREDICTIONS: UL MONROE +3.5, TEXAS STATE +12.5, GEORGIA STATE -2.5, LITTLE ROCK -15, APP STATE +3.5

PREDICTIONS (1185-920-54):

SOCON:

WOFFORD -1.5 (The Terriers can’t defend height at the rim, and ETSU doesn’t have any height at the rim offensively (Banks’ numbers against The Citadel have to go through a conversion rate). Two teams on the opposite end of the fickle finger of fate lately)

FURMAN -7.5 (Likely no Fowler again for Furman, but WCU’s perimeter/transition based offense is going to run into some trouble against a defense that’s hyper aggressive on the perimeter and doesn’t allow much of anything in transition (top 20 defensive FGA rate in transition). Mounts off a 2OT win over Mercer, which is likely the high water mark of their season and hitting the road, where they’ve been dreadful)

THE CITADEL +2 (UNCG handled Duggie Ball at VMI last year, but I’m concerned from what I’ve seen from UNCG against pressure. They have the lowest TO rate in the SoCon, but they were shellacked by UTC’s press, but on the other hand they handled Samford’s pressure on Sunday. Nevertheless, with Baldwin being the only ballhandler, my concerns linger. I only saw the end of The Citadel’s loss to ETSU, but I’m wondering why Derrick Henry only played 15 min, and just the first 4 of the 2H)

MERCER -13.5 (Bad matchup for VMI, and I doubt Mercer needs OT for the 4th straight game tonight)

CUSA: 

UAB -4 (Not buying the “bad apple” element being out of the lockerroom will automatically improve the team chemistry theory, and CHD isn’t the reason why WKU leaks like a sieve in pick and roll defense, allowing 1.34ppp on pick and roll action in CUSA play)

MTSU +1.5 (Middle’s an excellent defense in terms of FGA rate in transition (23rd lowest), and the mobility of their bigs Upshaw and Harris are going to be an issue for the Herd tonight, as is the clear advantage the Blue Raiders have on the glass. My main concern for MTSU…the lack of a PG vs D’Antoni’s pressure)

LA TECH -16.5 (Bulldogs are going to be able to get in transition tonight, something CUSA foes have taken away, but UTSA isn’t likely to)

UTEP -3 (This is realistically the only chance for the Miners to get a road win, and UTEP’s junk zone offense should in theory be ok, since Tim Floyd is the master of junk zones)

CHARLOTTE +2 (Big backcourt advantage for Charlotte, who has navigated the hardest CUSA schedule to date. Can Uchebo contain Diaz?)

OLD DOMINION -7 (The Monarchs have been a disappointment, especially defensively, but the incomparable Trey Freeman should be enough. He’s been on a tear with the midrange game of late, and the Monarchs simply aren’t looking to shoot the 3, where FAU’s defense is strong)

The Rest…

ROBERT MORRIS +7.5 (Good rivalry brewing here. RMU got blown out at home in the first meeting without Pryor. He’s back (though he doesn’t look 100% yet). Mayhem vs RMU’s pressure zone defense tonight, the two highest defensive TO rates in the NEC. RMU actually did a good job defensively in the first meeting, but without Pryor, they had no chance offensively. This is a nationally televised home game for the Mount, but I think the Colonials are playing their best basketball of the year, especially defensively, after getting healthy (relatively, I think Frederick will play and could be an x factor of sorts))

Ok, really out of time now…

UCONN -2

IOWA +5.5 (Should be a good one. Iowa’s an outstanding jump shooting team, and you’re not likely to consistently beat the Terps at the rim. Terps need a huge game from Stone and Carter. Iowa hedges super hard on pick and roll defense with their bigs (and they’ll do that particularly tonight against Trimble), and there’s a lot of room to operate at the rim against the Hawkeyes)

SYRACUSE -2 (Brey with 5 days of prep is remarkable, but the loss of Jackson is too much for me, and I think even the masterful Brey, to overcome tonight)

MARIST -4.5

QUINNIPIAC +10.5 (Monmouth is going to get everyone’s best shot. Huge battle on the glass. Quinnipiac, as usual, is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. Monmouth meanwhile, is the most prolific transition offense off defensive rebounds in the country. The Bobcats will get torched in transition if they’re not grabbing those O boards at that excessively high rate. That being said, the (likely) loss of Stewart tonight is significant for Monmouth. He’s an outstanding floor stretcher in transition because of his shooting ability, and he’s an underrated defender. I think the Hawks get their first win in Hamden since 2006, but it’s going to be close)

ORAL ROBERTS -4

OMAHA +8.5

BELMONT -9

UT MARTIN +1

RIDER +3.5 (It’s been a weird few weeks for the Peacocks and they have a huge game with Monmouth on tap, and Baggett has been great with in season revenge this year (particularly because he’s using a bigger lineup lately), but the Broncs can’t shoot, and you have to be able to shoot from outside to beat Dunne’s defense.)

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS +2.5 (Hinson hasn’t shown he’s figured out how defend the Evansville motion offense, but I’ll side with Hinson Revenge Tour tonight)

VALPO -20.5 (No Andre Yates for Cleveland State tonight)

YOUNGSTOWN STATE -3

ARIZONA STATE -5

IDAHO STATE -5.5

DENVER -2

SEMO +8

TENN STATE +5 (I’ve been harping all year on TSU’s interior defense. Martin is going to be limited tonight, and he was already at less than 100% with a knee injury. Big road win for Dana Ford’s squad tonight)

WEBER STATE -20.5

ARIZONA -7

SANTA CLARA +20

ILLINOIS -2

MICHIGAN ST -6

RICHMOND +5

PORTLAND STATE +6.5 (Good matchup, relatively speaking, for PSU. Geving has shifted the offensive focus to the interior this year with Forte, and extending pressure defensively and disrupting perimeter ball movement, which are both areas in which EWU struggles. The Eagles have been dominant in Cheney, but against two of the worst teams in the league)

SACRAMENTO STATE +4.5 (So many injuries. No Sanders or Callendret for Idaho, Demps ? for Sac State still UPDATE: NO DEMPS AGAIN)

WASHINGTON +6

 

UC RIVERSIDE +8 (Highlanders can spread the court with shooters (not just Bland) against that Cal Poly matchup zone, and Johns can mitigate the athleticism of Awich (who is still fairly banged up). Pretty good matchup for the Highlanders on the road)

SAN FRANCISCO +4.5

PEPPERDINE -6.5

LBSU -5

WASHINGTON ST +12

LOYOLA MARYMOUNT +15.5

 

 

 

 

 

1/27 Wednesday Thoughts

27 Jan

Starting with the A10 today…

Probably another road implosion for the Fordham offense awaits them in Kingston tonight. Rhode Island is just too aggressive on the perimeter defensively, and with Martin playing at such a high level at the rim, it’s tough to see Rhoomes continuing his recent efficient post play. Iverson has a plus matchup offensively against Sengfelder tonight for URI as well. While the blue Rams have been doing more fouling than generating TOs lately, Fordham has the lowest FT rate in the A10. Can Neubauer’s zone presses and traps create enough turnovers and offense via defense to negate their struggles in the halfcourt? Probably not, plus they might be down a key cog in that defense with Antwoine Anderson leaving the Dayton game early with a shoulder injury.

Who are these Saint Louis Billikens?! SLU has gone for 1.25ppp and 1.13ppp in their last two games, both wins, and it seems Crews has finally found a rotation that works, as FR Jermaine Bishop has basically taken over at PG the last four games, and this has all come with Yarbrough out with a concussion. Additionally, Crews has gone to 6’0 JR walk on Aaron Hines for big minutes at the expense of Davell Roby, which is a fairly stunning development. There’s no question Bishop and Hines have injected some life into the team, but how long will it last? There’s certainly been a “surprise element” with Bishop running the show, as A10 teams had little to no tape on him, but they travel to Dayton tonight, and the Flyers have basically been steamrolling the A10 since that head scratching loss at La Salle. SLU has been shooting the ball slightly better from outside during this two game winning streak, but their recent success has been spurred by getting the ball to the rim via penetration, which is fairly difficult to do against a Dayton defense that’s exceptional at clogging the lane. You have to be able to hit some threes and stretch them out (even then it might not be enough, ask Davidson and GW), otherwise you’re doomed, and I’m not sure SLU can do that enough on the road tonight. Lost in SLU’s offensive outburst, and rightfully so, is the fact that they’re still not playing defense or rebounding.

UMass has generally had a tough time with St. Joe’s the past few years because 1) St. Joe’s sags so far off the perimeter to keep you away from the rim and 2) the Hawks are always a team that’s going to get back defensively and drastically limit transition opportunities. Those are the two areas UMass’ offense has thrived under Derek Kellogg. UMass started out the year hot from outside, but they’ve regressed to their typical A10 level of around 30% from deep. UMass’ last four meetings with St. Joe’s have averaged ~66 possessions and the Minutemen are 1-3 with a sub 1ppp average OE. Add in that this is a much better Hawks offensive team than the Minutemen have seen the last two years, and you’re likely to see UMass’ A10 losing streak extend to 6 games.

A10 PREDICTIONS: RHODE ISLAND -10, DAYTON -16.5, ST. JOE’S -13.5

Austin Peay, led by one of the best pure posts in the country Chris Horton, is an offense almost completely predicated on scoring at the rim (45% of their FGAs come at the rim, 18th highest rate in the country). Unfortunately, the Govs will be visiting a Morehead State team that plays the best 2PT% defense in the OVC, despite their relative lack of size in the frontcourt. Against Sean Woods’ defense, it’s either take a contested 3 or get fouled by the hyper aggressive backcourt. Dave Loos’ offense HAS to get the ball to Horton. There’s no other way around it, if the offense isn’t filtered through Horton on pretty much every possession, the Govs can’t function. They don’t have a PG (I like Thompson’s game, but he’s an open court/transition PG at the moment, and can’t really run offense in the halfcourt) and they’re the worst shooting team in the OVC. Josh Robinson at the 2 has been drawing a ton of contact off the dribble lately (32 FTAs in 2 OT games in a row), and that could certainly be a path to secondary offense tonight if Horton is mitigated, but he’s also very turnover prone the more he has the ball in his hands, and Morehead will turn you over. To protect Horton, Loos has been utilizing a 3-2 zone in the halfcourt and a 2-2-1 zone press a lot this year, and the Govs actually have the highest steal rate and TO rate as a defense in OVC play (followed by Morehead in both stats). The Eagles have actually been an efficient zone offense this year, as their guards are outstanding at getting to the middle of floor, and the Eagles, while not shooting it often, are hitting the 3 at a ridiculous 46% in OVC play (obviously unsustainable). However, Woods is potentially without a cornerstone in the backcourt, as Corban Collins could miss his second straight game with a groin injury, and the Eagles are already shorthanded without Miguel Dicent. Without Collins, Morehead looked discombobulated Sunday at home against a bad Jacksonville State team. They fell behind 30-10 early, made a run in the 2H, but were totally lost defensively on the perimeter, as JSU torched them from outside. His status is clearly something to keep an eye on tonight.

If Eastern Kentucky’s Pitino influenced zone press/traps aren’t turning you over, you’re going to score in droves at the rim. In OVC play, when EKU turns you over at a high rate, the ppp decreases…

19% TO rate: .96ppp

26% TO rate: 1.07ppp

25% TO rate: .82ppp

28% TO rate: .97ppp

On the other end of the TO rate spectrum…

13% TO rate: 1.35ppp

10% TO rate: 1.22ppp

15% TO rate: 1.22ppp

So, does Murray State take care of the ball…generally, yes. The Racers have the lowest TO rate in OVC play (15.6%) and the second lowest steal rate. Now, the Racers are shorthanded in the frontcourt without Sanchious and potentially in the backcourt without Culbreath, and a 7 man rotation could be an issue against EKU’s pace (the fastest in the OVC), but under McMahon, the Racers have been an elite transition defense in terms of eliminating those opportunities. In fact, only Syracuse and Cal allow FGAs in transition at a lower rate than Murray State. It’s been strange to see, but the Racers haven’t played an OVC game that’s gone into the 70s possession wise, while EKU hasn’t played a sub 70 possession game in the OVC. Murray State hasn’t won on the road, but they’ve come close in OVC play. They rallied at Tenn State from a big deficit, and then blew a late 5 point lead. At Belmont, they had a 2H lead before Belmont Belmont’d and got red hot and went on a massive run. If Murray State is turning the ball over on the road and Reischel and Hawkins are getting out in transition, than this game is probably over early. If they’re taking care of the ball vs the McHale traps, than they’re going to have a great chance at their first road win, although EKU’s halfcourt offense is potent as well with FR post Nick Mayo playing at a really high level in OVC play. Wayne Langston HAS to stay out of foul trouble tonight, as he’s the only interior defender for McMahon.

OVC PREDICTIONS: MOREHEAD ST -7.5 (Collins dependent), MURRAY STATE -1

As long as Luke Nelson doesn’t fall in love with quick perimeter shots against the soft CSUN zone, UC Irvine shouldn’t have a problem at the Matadome tonight. CSUN is an offense that absolutely has to work downhill, ie getting the rim off penetration from Warren, Smith, and Parks from the perimeter. With Wilbut, Smith, and Parks all eligible, Theus has increased the ball pressure and the tempo, and the Dors are actually played the fastest pace in the Big West. The problem is working downhill against the Eaters probably isn’t going to work, and the veteran backcourt of Nelson, Young, and Martin simply don’t get the ball stolen from them at an appreciable rate. UCI can keep CSUN out of transition, they can keep them from getting to the rim off the dribble (CSUN has the 5th highestFGA rate at the rim in the country, and UCI has the 13th lowest FGA rate allowed at the rim as a defense), and the Eaters don’t put teams on the FT line. On paper, this should be another UCI blowout win, but it is a road game, and with CSUN ineligible for the Big West tourney, this is their chance to knock off the champs.

UC Davis is back from the island, and hosting CSUF tonight (sandwiched in between the Hawaii trip and the Golden Horseshoe rivalry with Cal Poly), which could represent their last real chance for a third Big West win. With Berry and White out, Jim Les has a very short bench, and it’s been odd watching his offense this year, as they’re way less perimeter oriented and essentially reliant on efficient but undersized post Josh Fox to carry the offense. Schneider, Graham, and Lemar can shoot the ball, but the offense works completely inside out with all offense being filtered through Fox, as opposed to last year’s Hawkins dominated team. I think it’s fair to characterize CSUF as a mess right now. Taylor’s squad has undergone defections (Ro Johnson and Blackwell) and injuries (Malcolm Brooks still ? with an ankle injury), and there is absolutely zero ball movement in the halfcourt offensively, particularly with Brooks out, who can stretch out the defense with his shooting. Without him, Leslie, Coggins, and Ahmad basically take turns on iso sets with a simple ball screen at the top of the key, and defenses are basically just packing in the lane against the Titans (but they’re still drawing a ton of fouls). Enter the UCD defense that doesn’t foul (lowest FT rate in Big West play), but also doesn’t defend anyone off dribble penetration or in the post. I’m sure Les is simply going to pack all five guys like sardines in the lane tonight. Have to keep an eye on the status of Brooks though, as he’s a game changer in terms of Fullerton’s half court offense.

BIG WEST PREDICTIONS: UC IRVINE -8.5, UC DAVIS -2 (Brooks dependant)

The Rest…PREDICTIONS (1167-909-52):

TEMPLE -5.5 (I’ll keep rolling with Temple’s zone offense, even potentially without Bond and in a dead spot after the big SMU win)

AUBURN +7 (Moody probably back (and Newby), but Auburn is another solid zone offense, and shorthanded Ole Miss has been getting torched in SEC play)

MICHIGAN -24

TEXAS A&M -3 (Weird spot in the schedule for the Aggies, but they’re an elite transition defense, they don’t turn the ball over)

CLEMSON -1.5

INDIANA STATE -8.5 (Trees off the big nationally televised win over Evansville, but the Bears had trouble getting to Terre Haute, and I think they struggle against Lansing’s harassing matchup zone tonight and experienced guards, who are playing at an extremely high level right now (Scott/Clemons/Brown/Smith), and Mo State will be playing with a limited, or even completely sidelined, Cam Boone inside against those rim attacking guards)

BUTLER -14 (Butler’s banged up (no Lewis), but a good game for Dunham and Martin to get on track)

ST. JOHN’S +16

SOUTH FLORIDA +7 (Oh my God these offenses. Perry back for USF? Jarreau back for Tulane? Both key in the interior. No Lou Dabney for Tulane tonight, which means Von Julien will see the majority of minutes at PG, which in turns means the Tulane offense might actually be more efficient tonight, if you’ve followed my Tulane commentary all year)

NC STATE -4 (Looks like Cat’s good to go)

LOUISVILLE -9 (Tough matchup for both offenses, but Cardinals win on the glass)

HOUSTON +1 (With the exception of the UConn, I haven’t been overly impressed by Tulsa’s rim defense in AAC play, and Houston’s an offense predicated on running all their action to get a shot at or near the rim. Can Houston’s defense keep Tulsa off the FT line/away from the rim themselves?)

MARQUETTE -19.5 (What the hell. The Hatters have zero height for Marquette’s twin towers, but they have two ball handlers in Rivera and Myles against the Marquette pressure, and this is a big game for a team that is post season ineligible. I’m sure they’ll get blown out)

NEW MEXICO -14 (Kuiper looked awfully good, albeit against SJSU, and Noodles might have stumbled upon a solid rotation, even with Cullen out)

NORTHERN IOWA -14

COLORADO -7 (Cardinal get back in transition and force turnovers at a high rate, areas in which Colorado can struggle, but can the Cardinal score on the road? They also can’t defend against any height, and Josh Scott had a big game in Palo Alto)

LOYOLA CHICAGO +18.5 (Nothing here at all except Doyle’s ankle has looked a lot healthier to me lately)

MINNESOTA +14.5 (I’ll take a chance on the dreadful Gophers at the Barn with Swanigan unlikely to go. Gophers can’t score at the rim, but they weren’t going to anyway against Purdue. Of course, that means they can’t defend the Boilers at the rim either)

OKLAHOMA STATE +4 (I probably have a little too much faith left over in OSU lane clogging defense, and the Bears did dominant inside in the first meeting at Waco)

KENTUCKY -18

SJSU +12 (I don’t trust CSU’s defense to slow down even the Spartans’ offense, a team they need a buzzer beater to get past in the first meeting, and surrendered 1.12ppp)

UNLV -3.5 (BSU isn’t going to be rattled by Simon’s emphasis on pressure, but can a BSU offense so reliant on the three find success at the rim, because UNLV just doesn’t allow anything from the perimeter, and I’m having some flashbacks of similarly structured defenses (Zona, Michigan St) that BSU struggled against)

CAL +7 (Two outstanding interior defenses go head to head here, and I trust Cal’s backcourt more than the Utes’, even without Wallace)

 

 

1/26 Tuesday Thoughts

26 Jan

Some quick MAC notes…

Akron’s porous defense dribble drive defense got a reprieve last time out against hapless Miami, and maybe they worked out some kinks in that helpside dribble penetration that overplays the three point line with their perimeter height (that being said McKnight still basically waltzed to the rim, he just didn’t have any help from his teammates). The Zips will be hosting Northern Illinois, a team that can certainly beat you off the dribble with Baker and Armstead, but the key to NIU’s success this year has clearly been Montgomery’s high pressure zone, which has led to the most efficient defense in the league, and by a wide margin (.94ppp in MAC play, BSU/KSU are second with 1.02ppp). The problem the Huskies face tonight is that they’re facing an Akron team that doesn’t turn the ball over with dual PGs in Robotham and Jackson, and shoots 50% of their shots from behind the arc, and they tend to make them. Montgomery’s probably going to have to use more man than he’s comfortable with tonight, but Maric and Key (and even the FR Levi Bradley has been playing well lately) are proving to be excellent interior defenders, and Armstead and Baker are lock down defenders on the perimeter. Ultimately, I think this one falls on the Akron defense again. I think the offense isn’t going to turn the ball over much and allow what can be a clunky NIU offense to score off their defense (47.5% eFG in non transition), but they have to be able to stay in front of Baker and Armstead, and there’s one key area where NIU has a distinct advantage tonight, and that’s in transition. Akron allows the third highest rate of shots in transition off defensive rebounds in the country (sandwiched between two MEAC teams and Duggie Ball at The Citadel, so you know it’s bad), and NIU is the best defensive rebounding team in the MAC (despite utilizing that zone press). If Akron is missing shots tonight, NIU is going to be able to score in transition off those rebounds.

In Central Michigan’s sole meeting with Miami OH last year, they put up the most dominant offensive performance of the season anywhere, in any conference. The Chips were 16-24 from 2, 19-27(!!!) from 3 and posted 1.7ppp!!! Fowler and company just tore to pieces Cooper’s frantic, pressing and trapping zone, and I have to think Cooper goes back to man early, like he did against CMU Lite Ball State. Otherwise, I have to suspect it’s going to be more of the same. The problem is that Miami has a really hard time generating any sort of offense that doesn’t come as a direct result of live ball turnovers, so they’re damned if they press, damned if they don’t. The two areas CMU struggles mightily in, defense and rebounding, are two areas Miami isn’t equipped to exploit.

By now I’m sure we all saw the atrocious officiating that possibly cost Eastern Michigan a win against Ball State, so we’ll see how the Eagles move on afterwards, but they’ve got a tall order at Kent State tonight, who I think is probably the best team in the MAC, at the moment. There are a lot of problems with EMU right now. It’s clear James Thompson, while a dominant offensive force, isn’t ready to anchor Murphy’s 2-3 zone, and he’s sort of getting picked apart inside. The offense has actually been the most efficient in the MAC to date, but they’re going to struggle against teams that zone or pack in the lane, like Kent State does, because Murphy’s team of lengthy defenders/rim attackers can’t really shoot the ball from outside, and when Thompson is neutralized (at least somewhat), they have some issues. Kent State’s focus this year defensively is denying everything that nears the lane (a totally different structure from last year’s defense). On the other end, Kent State’s zone offense hasn’t exactly looked unstoppable this year. This is an offense entirely predicated on getting the ball to the rim, either by filtering offense through Jimmy Hall, or via Pollard/Thomas dribble penetration. However, like I mentioned earlier, Thompson has been lost defensively inside the zone this year (and the Eagles are potentially without Nobles, who suffered a concussion vs Ball State, and he can be key defensively), so it comes down to whether or not Pollard and Thomas (and Walker and Cancer) can handle the pressure and length at the top of the 2-3, and I think they can (KSU has the second lowest steal rate in MAC play).

I was starting to come around on Ohio’s defense, but as a general rule, never buy into a MAC defense just because they shut down WMU or Miami OH this year. The Bobcats looked like they had things turned around on that end vs WMU, but then went up to Mt. Pleasant and got pasted, with the same issues defensively. The Bobcats haven’t won on the road in the MAC, and Phillips’ defensive philosophy isn’t one likely to give Toledo a lot of trouble because they don’t gamble defensively, and Toledo’s turnover prone offense should be able to get the ball to Boothe and Williams should be able to execute in the halfcourt tonight. Of course, the same can be said about Toledo’s saggy defense, as Simmons’ TO issues aren’t going to be exploited, and the mobile bigs Setty and Kaminski, and the sharpshooter Dartis, will have open looks from outside. Additionally, both of these teams are poor transition defenses, and it might come down to who can beat the other down the court off misses more often. Probably going to see a lot of points in this one.

I’m not too concerned about Ball State’s legs coming off 2OT and heading to Buffalo, as Whitford generally uses a deep bench, but I am concerned about Ball State’s ability to guard the hyper aggressive Bulls off the dribble. Buffalo will attack you from the top with Bearden (not quite 100%) and Massinburg, and from the wings with Hamilton and Conner. They have multiple ball handlers on the floor at all times between Bearden, Massinburg, and Skeete, but that hasn’t stopped TOs from being a major issue in MAC play, but I’m not sure that’s something Ball State will necessarily exploit tonight. I’ve talked before about how underrated Ball State’s interior defense is (best 2PT% defense in the MAC), but House and Moses are foul prone, and if Buffalo is getting into the lane and drawing fouls, which I think they can, the Cardinals might be in trouble. The good news for BSU is that Oats has generally maintained Hurley’s sag heavy approach defensively. They’re dead last in defensive TO rate in MAC play, and Ball State, who is shooting the three often and shooting the three well, should be able to function offensively (but you have to assume Oats is going to at least try to shake things up on the perimeter defensively after what WMU did from outside in Kazoo).

I’ve probably been wrong about Bowling Green more often than any team in the country. I doubted the Pep Joseph/Ismael Ali combo would work as well as it has at PG and I doubted they could sustain their hot OOC three point shooting through MAC play, but they’ve actually been better from outside at over 40%. That being said, I’m going to start doing some more doubting. The Falcons are 9-29 from 3 their past two losses, and I strongly maintain that if you crowd Parker and clog up the lane against this BGSU team, they’re eventually going to struggle offensively. I also think they’re going to struggle when they run into good defensive rebounding team, like Kent State, like Toledo, and like Western Michigan tonight. There’s no question that Bryce Moore’s increase in playing time has been a huge boost to the WMU lineup (I had been wondering all year why the Park Tudor product was languishing on the bench), as the Broncs have registered their two most efficient offensive games in MAC play with Moore in a key role. Moore gives Hawkins another slashing/shooting guard at the top with Wilder, but it makes WMU smaller, and we know how much Hawkins loves to utilize height and filter offense through the post (both low and high), but this is a much more aggressive lineup capable of extending pressure and playing more uptempo (all three games since Moore has received more minutes have gone 70+ possessions). I expect to see Hawkins get out and press more with Wilder and Moore, and then fall back into a zone against the Falcons tonight (even though BGSU has been shredding zones all year).

MAC PREDICTIONS: NORTHERN ILLINOIS +6, BUFFALO -4, KENT STATE -5, CENTRAL MICHIGAN -4 (Update: Eric Washington out for MOH), OHIO +7, WESTERN MICHIGAN -4.5

I wonder if Duquesne set the Guinness World Record for number of times singing “99 Bottles of Beer” on their 30 hour bus “ride” home from GMU. They’ll host a La Salle team tonight that might actually be more boring than being stuck in the snow on a bus for two days, as Dr. John is going to take away transition opportunities, no matter what. The Explorers are slowly getting healthier with Rohan Brown back, but they’re going to limit possessions as much as humanly possible, and Duquesne’s efficiency has plummeted when the game slows down and they’re kept out of transition. The Dukes’ two lowest possession games in A10 play were 68 at GW and 72 at home vs Dayton. Those also happened to be two of their three least efficient offensive games of the season. La Salle wants to play even slower than that, they’ll zone and run a burn offense before chucking up a 3 and getting back defensively, and try to get this thing sub 60 possessions. The good news for La Salle is that Ferry has embraced a more pack line defensive approach, and that’s going to leave some shots open for the Explorers. The bad news is that no one can really shoot the ball except Jordan Price. Ultimately, a typically good shooting Duquesne team should be able to find their stroke against La Salle’s defense, but it’s not going to be pretty.

LA SALLE +11.5

South Alabama ran into some MAJOR issues vs ULM’s height last time out, and got torched to the tune of 100-68 and allowed 1.33ppp. USA is still on the road at Troy tonight, but the good news is that the Trojans are a 180 from what they saw in Monroe. Troy runs a four out offense and they’re not going to exploit USA’s deficiencies protecting the rim. USA’s offense also has a couple of things going for them tonight. 1) Troy is a really bad transition defense.  They’re reliant on a lot of penetration from Peace, Hollimon, and Varnado at the top of the offense, and when they don’t get fouled or get to the rim, they have a hard time recovering and rotating back defensively. 2) Troy is a really poor ball screen defense, as Person and Walton (the only big) can be exploited, so they can’t really switch, meaning Cunningham wants to utilize a zone press with Peace, Hollimon, and Miller, who are excellent on ball defenders, and since he has no height. The problem is that he doesn’t have a bench and can’t really afford to extend pressure like he was in OOC play. Graves utilizes a ton of screens for Juice Williams, and I think Troy is going to have a hard defending that with two liability defenders. Some injury concern for USA with Nick Stover banged up vs ULM, and his presence on the wing is fairly key offensively.

SOUTH ALABAMA +7

Texas A&M Corpus has a huge advantage over almost every SLC team because of the Thomas/Douvier duo, who can play both in the post or facing the basket/off the dribble at 6’7. Throw in sharpshooter Brandon Pye and one of the most aggressive pressure defenses in the country led by Hameed Ali and Ehab Amin (both top ten in steal rate), and you get a sense of why the Islanders are undefeated in SLC play and are a legit threat to SFA’s supremacy. Speaking of, they have SFA coming to Corpus on Saturday, so is there any chance they’re looking past SELA? Maybe, but this is a nationally televised home game for the Islanders, not something that rolls around often is south Texas, and they should be plenty amped. What does Corpus have to be worried with the Lions tonight? 1) They’re a guard oriented team that takes care of the basketball (lowest steal rate in SLC play) with Zay Jackson, Marlain Veal, and Josh Filmore essentially three PGs on the court at the same time. 2) They can bomb away from three. However, they’re a poor offensive rebounding team (oddly, their transition defense numbers are poor as well, but that might be a reflection of their tough OOC schedule), and they won’t be able to capitalize off missed threes against the worst defensive rebounding team in the SLC, as the Islanders are often out of position for rebounds after going for the swat between Thomas and Douvier. SELA’s also going to have some major issues defending Thomas and Douvier. The Lions have no height, so they really pack in the lane, but the Islanders can open up the court because of the mobility of those two bigs, and the shooting of Pye. Mo Greenwood, the only rim protector on the roster for the Lions, HAS to stay out of foul trouble, something he hasn’t been able to do all year (8 fouls per 40 in SLC play). The Lions have been decimated in the frontcourt like no other team in the country with the losses of ULM transfer Grieves, NW Florida transfer Charleston, and MVSU transfer Currington. Something to keep an eye on, 6’8 Byron Smith, an offensive lineman on the football team, was added to the roster for some bulk inside. The Lions can handle the Islander pressure, and they have some confidence after scoring their first SLC win (and D1 win) against Lamar, but can they possibly stop Thomas and Douvier?

SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA +14.5

The Rest…PREDICTIONS (1152-899-51):

GEORGETOWN -3.5 (The Hoyas have to find a way to generate points in the paint against Creighton, otherwise it’s going to be another loss to the Bluejays. Post production has been an issue all year for Georgetown)

WAKE FOREST +7.5 (Virginia’s a bad matchup for the Deacs, but UVA has been dreadful on the road)

SIENA -8 (Siena’s flex offense was a well oiled machine on the first leg of the Buffalo trip (1.41ppp!), but Casey has really been packing in the paint. That being said, the Saints’ offense worked through their stuff with ease in first meeting)

KANSAS STATE +10.5 (The Bruce Weber “Bad Basketball Bowl” has actually churned out some close, if not hard to watch, games. FR Stokes is playing with a lot of confidence, but Weber’s guards have to be able to rebound in Weber’s system, and that’s a tall order against WV)

 

BC +10 (At the very least, BC can force TOs against FSU. That’s all I got for the Eagles)

OKLAHOMA -12.5 (At some point, the Sooners have to cool off from 3, but not sure that happens against Tubby’s ball line defense, and the loss of Odiase on the back end of that defense is huge)

WISCONSIN +1.5 (No more Bo, but Crean’s struggles at Kohl continue. Turnover, rim defense against Happ are going to be issues for IU, and I don’t expect three big OG threes again on the road. Hope I’m wrong)

MEMPHIS -4 (Memphis’ zone offense was fine against ECU, and they’re facing another lengthy zone in UCF tonight. The issue Sunday was the defense. UCF’s transition defense has not been good in AAC play, and that could be an issue tonight)

MISS STATE +8.5 (Good enough in transition defense, but can they keep South Carolina off the offensive glass when they pack in the lane to force jumpers from the Gamecocks?)

ILLINOIS STATE -8.5 (As a kid from Terre Haute who was raised on Valley basketball, it pains me to say they’re unwatchable this year. Drake is an awful 2H team and Giacoletti has tried every type of offense and lineup combination, including a jumbo double post setup, while Illinois State can’t stop taking (and missing) contested jumpers. The good news, I guess, for the Redbirds is that Drake essentially takes away jumpers, the one thing they do well defensively, but DAP torched them off the dribble. I’ve said too much about this game already)

TEXAS -11 (The Horns rectify a miserable shooting night in Fort Worth. I’m not trying to cast aspersions, but TCU’s prodigious offensive TO rate dipped when Trent was suspended)

PROVIDENCE +1.5 (I don’t really trust Xavier’s offense on the road, especially against a defense like PC’s, the best in the Big East, even on a quick turnaround from the huge win at Nova)

ALABAMA -3 (Tide are an excellent transition defense that has trouble stopping any post with a pulse. Vols rely on transition and scoring from the perimeter with the phenomenal Punter, and won’t expose the issues the Tide have on the glass)

LSU -8

VANDY -4

WYOMING +8 (Fresno can’t hit jump shots, Wyoming forces jump shots. Can the Cowboys score though? I’m sure Fresno remembers the 3OT loss at home last year too)

SAN DIEGO STATE -5

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/25 Monday Thoughts

25 Jan

Byington’s high pressure zone at Georgia Southern wreaked havoc on App State’s perimeter based motion offense last year, holding the Mountaineers to .72 and .92ppp and 28% and 21% TO rates in two GSU wins. Now, GSU is the second youngest team in the country, but there are definite signs that the young Eagles are buying in to Byington’s system (see what I did there?). It also helps when you have a dynamic FR PG like Tookie Brown paired with one of the best on ball defenders in the country in Mike Hughes. Despite being so young, GSU rarely turns the ball over, and in SBC play their TO rate is a slim 14.5%. The rest of the offense needs some work though. They’re struggling to shoot the ball despite taking threes at a high rate, and if Brown and Hughes are kept out of the lane, GSU has no way of generating offense in the post, and they’re often in a 5 guard alignment. Relying on the three isn’t how you beat App State’s defense (again, think Davidson here on both ends of the court for the Mountaineers), but App State’s going to turn the ball over against GSU’s zone press, and the Mountaineers have been a bad transition defense all year (as has GSU for that matter). If GSU can get some production out of Coye Simmons (this is where the loss of FR Montae Glenn really hurts the Eagles), or Brown and Hughes can consistently get to the rim off the dribble, the Eagles have a good shot at a road win tonight.

If you’re a fan of motion offenses that spread the court and use their frontcourts away from the rim, Davidson at Richmond is the game for you. Each team last year racked up massive numbers in wins on their home courts (Davidson posted 1.33ppp at Belk, Richmond 1.4 at the RC on 31-54 shooting from the field). These are two of the worst defenses in the A10, and Davidson particularly has been struggling. McKillop teams are almost always going to get torched at the rim, as McKillop recruits mobile bigs who can operate in his motion offense, but usually that translated to at least being able to take away the three point line with that mobile length. That’s not the case this year (although they’ve been dealing with a plethora of injuries), and they just surrendered 1.25ppp to SLU. Richmond meanwhile is another defense that’s always stingy at the three point line defensively with Mooney’s aggressive guards. Last year the Spiders led the A10 in eFG% defense at 45.6%. This year through five games, Richmond is dead last at a whopping 56.5% eFG. They’re run into some bad luck against some ridiculously hot shooting, and that can certainly continue tonight against Davidson, but it’s not just bad luck, as their TO rate has significantly decreased this year (they’ve been trying to hide Jones’ weaknesses on the perimeter defensively a lot more this year).

The last time John Dunne beat Manhattan the Peacocks were en route to a MAAC title in 2010-11 and Barry Rohrssen was in his final season at Manhattan before Steve Masiello took over. Since then, the Jaspers have won 10 in a row over the Peacocks. Masiello always does an outstanding job of negating your primary ball handler, in this case, Trevis Wyche, and the Peacocks unfortunately don’t have anyone who is going to be able to handle the zone press/traps. Portley is an electric scorer as a FR, but he hasn’t really developed his ball skills yet against what he’s going to see tonight. Chazz Patterson is a great defensive guard in Dunne’s system, but he’s certainly not a ball handler. You’re not going to be able to find much success against Dunne’s defensive interior, it’s just not going to happen, but the Jaspers aren’t looking to score at the rim much at all this year, unless it’s off a turnover. The big question tonight though is the status of RaShawn Stores. He reinjured his hammy at the very end of the Monmouth win, and if he’s unable to go, the entire complexion of this game changes, as he’s so important to Masiello’s press and halfcourt offense.

Furman embarrassed VMI in Greenville in the first meeting, posting 1.25ppp in a game that saw them lead by 30+ for stretches. Croone got into the lane off the dribble at will, and VMI’s lacking frontcourt couldn’t handle Acox at the rim. It was a thorough beating inside and out. The Keydets are coming off their first SoCon win of the year and by far their best offensive game of the year, posting 1.18ppp against Samford, thanks to some ridiculous shooting from QJ Peterson. VMI kind of looked like the Loot and Shoot of Baucom’s teams, as they forced some turnovers and fired 30 threes on the day. Obviously, that’s not Dan Earl’s style, at all, but that’s what this team was built for, so he’s sort of limbo in terms of implementing his system (ball control, lots of zone anchored by a big frontline, which he obviously doesn’t have), which isn’t going to win games this year because he doesn’t have anything close to the necessary roster, or does he let the Keydets loose a bit and try to win some games in the interim? It’s certainly something to keep an eye on moving forward. Furman meanwhile is on a quick turnaround from knocking off Wofford at home on a buzzer beating tip in by Croone. The importance of that win for this program can’t be overlooked, as they hadn’t defeated the Terriers since 2013 and they lost all 3 games to the defending champs last year, including a heartbreaker in the SoCon title game that they probably would have won had Acox not been injured in the first few minutes. So we have a Paladin team on a quick turnaround off their biggest win of the season against a team they already housed with excessive ease vs a team buoyed with confidence after their first SoCon win of the year. It’s obviously a bad matchup for the Keydets scheme wise, as you have to be able to score at the rim against Furman and their aggressive backcourt, and VMI is basically incapable of doing that, but the situation VMI is catching the Paladins in couldn’t be better. Additionally, Furman could be down Daniel Fowler after he injured his shoulder late against Wofford. Fowler’s the best shooter on the team and a plus on ball defender with his length in that aforementioned aggressive backcourt of Medved’s.

Obviously, the thing to watch for with Bucknell tonight is the health of Chris Hass. He’s been in a walking boot with a foot injury and missed the BU game, which necessitated a big rally from the Bison to secure the road win. They’ll have rival Lafayette at home in a nationally televised game tonight, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Hass sit out for more rest, as the Leopards are a team that in all reality they should handle with relative ease without him. FOH’s defense is just as atrocious as last year, but Lafayette doesn’t have the Trist/Hinrichs duo that ran such great high-lo action with Hinrich’s in the high post, top of the key at 6’8, and they don’t have the sharp shooting of Ptasinski either. What they do have is an outstanding PG in Nick Lindner, but the offensive efficiency has taken a major hit, going from 1.11ppp in PL play last year, down to just under 1ppp this year. That being said, you never want to count out an O’Hanlon offense, especially with Klinewski still developing in the Trist role and Zalys in the Hinrichs roles, Scott back from injury, and Lindner still at the helm, but that defense could get toasted tonight on the road, especially in transition against one of the better transition offenses in the country.

Speaking of transition offenses, Detroit and Green Bay should be an uptempo barnburner, as Green Bay clocks in as the 2nd fastest team in the country per KenPom’s adjusted tempo (with the quickest APL), and UDM is 7th. Detroit is coming off a loss at Milwaukee that featured some poor officiating and a bizarre finish. Green Bay meanwhile is coming off bludgeoning at the Resch Center where Oakland posted 1.32ppp with Hooper hitting 9 threes and Felder dictating everything about the game, and therein lies the problem with Darner’s RP40 system…when they run into teams that have solid backcourts and can not only handle pressure but attack it, they’re going to get torched. Oakland did it, Valpo did it, and even YSU did it (underrated backcourt for Slocum). Can Detroit do it? I think the answer is…maybe. Bass, at 6’8, is arguably McCallum’s best ball handler, and he could have a monster game being brought up to the middle against the press, but I’m not sure I trust the primary ball handlers, McFolley (assuming he isn’t facing any sort of discipline after being ejected vs Milwaukee) and Brundidge. Interesting game.

The other Horizon League game is even more interesting, with Oakland heading to Milwaukee to finish up the Wisconsin trip. There’s a great individual matchup at PG with Kay Felder (2nd highest assist rate in the country) vs Jet Johnson (3rd highest assist rate). That being said, the key tonight is probably Tiby vs Hayes and Panoske vs Gibson (if he’s not in Kampe’s doghouse) inside. The other key is Milwaukee’s transition defense. They tend to invert the offense with mismatches height wise for Tiby and Arians on the perimeter, but if they’re missing those jump shots, they’re going to get beat in transition by Oakland, who wants to get out and go quickly off misses (despite Kampe’s recent talk that his team might be playing too fast, they’re still running when the opportunity presents itself), and the Panthers allow transition attempts off of defensive rebounds at the 17th highest rate in the country. If you’re a team that relies on taking a lot of jump shots, you’re likely going to give up some transition buckets. Of course, Kampe’s defense is set up to allow those jump shots, and if you can shoot like Milwaukee can, you’re going to score some points. Essentially, it comes down to keeping Hayes and Gibson off the glass or getting back in transition if you’re going to miss those jumpers. If you’re hitting them…well, chances are you’re going to win with relative ease.

The Alabama A&M offense is just fine from what I’ve seen. They have a playmaking PG (when he’s not trying to do too much) in Rakiya Battle, a mobile big in Nick West, and a long slashing/shooting wing in Ladarius Tabb (currently the SWAC’s leading scorer). The problem is they don’t play defense. They get beat with dribble penetration and West just isn’t a rim protecting big man. In fact, they have the least efficient defense in the SWAC. Southern meanwhile has gotten their season back on track after opening SWAC play with two road losses (at TSU expected, at PVAM…not so expected. The Jags have won 5 straight, and not surprisingly, their winning streak has coincided with Trelun Banks and D’Adrian Allen recovering from ankle injuries. The Southern defense hasn’t been the typically dominant interior that a Roman Banks team usually features, but they’re getting there with Sam and Allen healthy again, but the real issue for Southern tonight is getting out on A&M’s perimeter attack, which has been pretty lethal in SWAC play, but offensively, Southern is going to pound it inside all night, and the Bulldogs have little chance of stopping them at the rim, whether it be off the dribble from Banks (which opens up the court for Rodgers) or Sam in the post. Roman Banks is 10-0 vs Alabama A&M.

PREDICTIONS (1146-895-51):

GEORGIA SOUTHERN +4

MANHATTAN +4.5 (Totally dependant on Stores’ availability)

RICHMOND -6

SOUTHERN -7.5

VMI +6.5 (Partially dependant on Fowler’s availability)

OHIO STATE -8.5

DUKE +4

LAFAYETTE +16.5 (Hass availability?)

DETROIT +5.5

IOWA STATE -1

OAKLAND +3.5