1/13 Wednesday Thoughts

13 Jan

Let’s kick Wednesday off with a quick run through the OVC

Quietly, Steve Payne has done a helluva so far at Tennessee Tech this year. The Golden Eagles have moved to 4-0 in the OVC after road wins at Murray State and Austin Peay. Too bad they play in the far more competitive OVC East, but they’re at another West contender in UT Martin tonight. Tech is a three point reliant offense led by Torrance Rowe, who is having a monster SR year at PG. With Rogers, Thomas, and Jugovic making up the rest of the backcourt, there isn’t a lot of length at the 2/3 positions, which can be a weakness, but that’s not an area UT Martin can exploit, as the Skyhawks are small in the backcourt themselves. Payne has proven he can develop big men, and he’s certainly doing that with Ryan Martin and Anthony Morse. Martin is the more offensive minded of the two, while Morse is one of the best rim protector’s in the OVC. The Golden Eagles may have a high three point attempt rate, but they’re efficient at the rim as well. In fact, after 4 OVC games, they’re first in both 3PT% and 2PT%, and the bigs and Rowe draw a ton of contact, giving them the highest FT rate in the OVC as well. Basically, they’re a much more well rounded offense than last year. Defensively they’re not great. Payne has them using a matchup zone to basically keep the ball away from the rim and limit Martin/Morse foul trouble. UT Martin meanwhile has recovered after a rough start to the season, but they still have some issues. Namely the lack of a PG and the fact that they’re still not quite rebounding defensively like a typical Heath Schroyer team, which throws his entire defense out of wack, which is predicated on sagging off the perimeter and sending all five guys to crash on the missed jumper. The problem is, they’ve been giving up a lot of offensive rebounds this year (destroyed by Morehead State putbacks last time out, as so many OVC teams are), and they’re the opposite of Tech in that they shoot a lot of 3s, but they’re not making them (partially due to their best shooter, Alex Anderson, having to be on the ball so often now), and they don’t generate points in the post or at the FT line, and they’ve been lucky defensively against some poor perimeter shooting (EKU, one of the best shooting teams in the country, just went 7-31 against them). I think the more versatile Tech offense has a good chance tonight on the road against that saggy/zone heavy UTM halfcourt defense, and could move to a surprising 5-0 OVC mark.

Besides a bizarre Jan 19 date with Hannibal LaGrange, SEMO’s home game against Jacksonville State tonight likely represents their best chance at a win for the rest of the year, and certainly the only game they’re likely to be favored in. The problem is they only had 7 players last game vs EKU after Rick Ray suspended some more guys, and their best player, Antonius Cleveland, is hobbled by a bad knee, and he’s unfortunately been completely ineffective in 61 minutes since hurting it early vs Morehead State. Flip a coin on this one. Jacksonville State has had their own personnel issues with Durham not 100% and Biedscheid out for personal reasons (maybe suspended? regardless, that situation doesn’t look like it’s working out), but the one thing they can do is shoot the ball from outside, and Ray has been forced to zone with the lack of bodies. JSU has also looked completely disinterested on the road in OVC play, scoring .7 and .9ppp in two losses, and SEMO is a desperate team. However, if SEMO is in fact severely short on bodies, Ray can’t press like he wants to to generate offense via turnovers, and they’ve been getting torched when forced to defend in the halfcourt with that zone.

OVC PREDICTIONS: TENNESSEE TECH +3, JACKSONVILLE STATE (If Cleveland is a scratch, I’m not sure how SEMO scores)

MVC thoughts…

Where to even start with Bradley. At the very least, their KenPom page is mostly Bradley red. Granted we’re only 4 games into the MVC season, but since KenPom started keeping track, the worst MVC season OE was Illinois State’s .85ppp in the 05-06 season. Through four games, Bradley is on pace to shatter that, as they currently sit at .68ppp. Through those four games, they’ve made 59 FGs compared to 85 turnovers. Bradley heads to Chicago to take an a very disappointing Loyola Chicago team who is 0-4 as well. If it weren’t for Bradley, we could be talking about Loyola being the worst MVC offense in the KenPom era, as they’re at just .87ppp through 4 games (Drake too!). Doyle has been banged up and has seen a massive drop in efficiency in and they’re generating little to no frontcourt offense. They were an unreasonably good shooting team on 2PT jumpers last year, but that percentage has plummeted, so not only are they taking a lot of the worst shot in basketball, but now they’re missing them. Defensively they’re ok though, and they’re generating some offense off of turnovers this year, and it’s not like you need to be the 85 Bears to beat Bradley’s offense. May God have mercy on the poor souls who watch this game.

Northern Iowa is always a tough matchup for Indiana State. Greg Lansing always has the Trees playing a tough matchup zone in the halfcourt that forces you into contested jump shots, but that’s exactly what UNI wants. They’re a jump shooting team, hitting 40% from 3 and 45% on two point jumpers. On the other side, it’s more of the same for the Sycamores, as their offense doesn’t matchup well with UNI’s defensive scheme, which also forces you into jump shots (although they’ve been far less effective at that than last year’s elite defensive team), and they allow transition attempts at the 12th lowest rate in the country. ISUblue is a team that thrives in transition and attacking the rim/getting to the FT line, led by small, quick guards like Brown, Scott, and Clemons, and a big wing in Smith. Unfortunately for the Trees, UNI just doesn’t foul (third lowest FT rate defensively), and as I mentioned, they get back religiously when they miss those jumpers. That being said, UNI hasn’t exactly looked like world beaters on the road, and their last MVC road game was a bad loss at Missouri State, and ISU’s only MVC loss at home last year was to Wichita State (despite playing in an almost always empty Hulman Center). Last year ISU shot 43 threes and 24 FTs in their two losses to UNI. That’s rarely going to be a winning ratio for the Trees.

If Wichita State were prone to let downs, this would certainly be a good spot, as they head to Springfield for Missouri State after beating MVC “contenders” Evansville and smacking down SIU in humiliating fashion in front of a sold out SIU Arena. That being said, I think the Shockers shouldn’t have a problem beating the Bears for the 11th straight time. MoSt is down two guards in Williams (not a huge loss efficiency wise) and Kendrix (more important because of his defense), and that represents 124 three point attempts for a team that really struggles to shoot the ball. If the last two games have been any indication, Lusk isn’t going to initiate any offense until 20 seconds have gone off the shot clock, and this could very well be a sub 60 possession game. Unfortunately for the Bears, that’s just fine with the Shockers, and the underrated but undersized Boone/Church frontcourt won’t have an advantage like they did vs Loyola’s soft frontline, as Grady is rounding back into shape, and Marshall is getting quality minutes out of the Brown/Morris/Kelly trio, and McDuffie could be a matchup nightmare for the Bears.

MVC PREDICTIONS: BRADLEY +15 (They can’t be this bad to be outscored by 15 by the second worst offense in the league, right? Right?!), NORTHERN IOWA -1.5, WICHITA STATE -13.5 (might not be enough possessions to completely blowout the Bears, but the Shockers beat Utah by 17 in a sub 60 possession game, and they might lead the NCAA in the “low possession game blowout” category)

Summit thoughts…

A bit of turmoil for North Dakota State when they host South Dakota tonight, as Carlin Dupree has apparently left the team. He was a steady veteran guard for a young team, and arguably the best perimeter defender for Dave Richman. Both teams come in reeling having lost two straight, but the Coyotes are particularly smarting after blowing a 21 point 2H lead at home to Omaha. That being said, South Dakota’s offense should have some success tonight in Fargo (although they were held to .81ppp there last year, and watched as Lawrence Alexander dropped 31 on them). NDSU’s defense is structured differently this year, as Richman as them playing more aggressively on the three point line instead of sagging off (although does that change with Dupree gone?). However, that’s going to be a plus for Craig Smith’s unique motion offense that sits really high on the perimeter and invites teams to extend their guards to open up the middle of the floor and create high percentage looks around the rim, and they work the baseline as well as any offense I’ve seen in the country. That motion offense is why they’re shooting 58% on two pointers despite not really having a dominant post. That macro motion offense forces teams to try and collapse the floor, leaving open looks for sharpshooter Casey Kasperbauer. I’ve been wrong on USD a few times this year, but I think they matchup well vs NDSU’s altered defense (although Richman could very well start to sag again without Dupree).

SUMMIT PREDICTIONS: SOUTH DAKOTA +7.5

A10 thoughts…

I don’t think George Mason is totally lost in the woods right now, they’re just plagued by an inability to shoot the ball from outside and an avalanche of turnovers (not something a Martelli defense is going to exploit). Defensively, they matchup reasonably well against St. Joe’s, as they’ve obviously adopted Paulsen’s no gamble, stay in front of your man at all costs man to man defense (dead last in defensive TO and steal rate), and the Hawks are a team that love to get in the middle of the floor with  the lengthy trio of Bembry, Brown, and Miles. That being said, the Patriots don’t matchup well at all offensively vs St. Joe’s sagging defense, because as I said earlier, they simply can’t shoot the ball from outside (although the return of stretch 4 Gujanicic is big in that regard, and he’s had two games to get his legs back under him). Additionally, GMU can be quite reliant on Thompson, one of the best rebounders in the country on both ends, grabbing the plethora of missed perimeter shots, but St. Joe’s is a very good defensive rebounding team, which makes sense given how much they sag off the three point line. GMU’s dormant offense awakened vs Davidson and cracked 1ppp for the first time in A10 play, but that was a good matchup scheme wise, and St. Joe’s simply isn’t. GMU’s defense will likely keep them within striking distance of their first A10 win, but they’re going to need Gujanicic to go off to have a real shot at victory.

Some injury questions for Richmond coming off their thrilling win at Fordham where they posted 1.35ppp on some ridiculous shooting numbers, but Taylor is questionable at best tonight and Wood isn’t likely 100% either. They’ll be playing a LaSalle team that’s also severely shorthanded (playing a 6 man rotation), and thus Giannini is completely taking the air out of the ball on offense (they don’t call him doctor for nothing!). The Explorers’ upset win over Dayton featured 59 possessions, and when Dayton couldn’t hit a shot, they couldn’t speed the game up. So tonight’s game is predicated on LaSalle being able to keep this close early (you can’t play stall ball if you fall behind quickly), and that means Richmond’s prolific, three point shooting up tempo offense will have to be off early, because I don’t really see how LaSalle’s four guard lineup can guard the versatility and mobility of Richmond’s bigs, Wood, Cline, and Allen. If Richmond is hitting shots early, this game is over early. If they’re missing, LaSalle’s going to stick around with a burn offense that’s likely to find some success, as Richmond hasn’t really stopped anyone all year in the halfcourt (51% eFG in halfcourt defense).

I gotta hand it to Saint Louis. They at least played hard against VCU after one of the worst offensive starts to a game that saw them make just 2 FGs in the 1H, but they were somehow still in it for 30 minutes. Simply put, this team cannot shoot the ball, even with Crews going to a mostly 4 guard lineup for the last 5 halves of basketball they’ve played, and they’re going to face a Duquesne team who’ll zone them all night long. For SLU, it’s either get to the FT line or don’t score (26 of their 56 points vs VCU came at the line). That 4 guard lineup hasn’t really translated to better perimeter defense either, and Duquesne’s stagnant offensive attack could be in store for a breakout game. The Dukes have missed Jones and Mason’s bum ankle could certainly be the root of his recent shooting slump. Hard to call anything a “must win” at this point, but if Duquesne wants to feel reasonably confident about the rest of the A10 season, this is a “must win” at the Palumbo Center.

Fordham heading to the Stu to face VCU could be the most entertaining game of the night. Jeff Neubauer isn’t unfamiliar with the raucous VCU home environment, as he took his EKU team there two season ago and nearly won, as the Colonels had a lead with under two minutes to play, but fell in OT. Unfortunately for Neubauer, I don’t see this game going as well unless Joseph Chartouny can return tonight from his severe ankle sprain. He’s been missed both offensively as a shooter and defensively in Neubauer’s high pressure, Beilein influenced trapping schemes. That being said, VCU does have a tilt at rival Richmond on Saturday, and Fordham is a team these guys have handled easily in the past (albeit they’re a completely different ball club now), but Will Wade is an excellent game day prepper, and I’m sure he has his team aware that these aren’t the same Fordham Rams of previous years. [Side note: VCU usually dominated whoever they played before the Richmond game under Shaka. It was a thing.]

Last year Rhode Island dominated St. Bonaventure defensively in Kingston, holding them to .76ppp and completely shutting down Posley and Adams. In fact, the Bonnies managed to shoot just 6 threes in that game, and it should be noted the Rams were without Matthews for that game, which is of course the case tonight. If it wasn’t for Dion Wright, the Bonnies wouldn’t have broken 40. That being said, Bona was excellent defensively that night as well and even had a slim lead with 5 minutes remaining. Expecting a similar style of game tonight is reasonable, as the Bonnies’ guards could struggle against the ultra aggressive perimeter defense of the Rams, while URI could struggle to find offense against Schmidt’s pack line principled defense (although he has largely moved away from that this year with his lack of height). The difference this year is that Rhody can shoot a little bit and create a little more offense with McGlynn and Iverson, even with Matthews out. However, that has come at a cost to the defense, where neither play typical Hurley defense. URI has yet to hold a team to under 1ppp on the road (a feat they accomplished in 7 of 11 road games last year), and they haven’t exactly been playing offensive juggernauts (Nebraska, Brown, ODU). I think offense for MP3 and Adams should be a bit easier to come by tonight, and we’ll see how Martin passes out of double teams, an aspect he struggled with against St. Joe’s. Of a somewhat minor note, St. Bonaventure isn’t in session at the moment, so the student section at the Reilly Center could be a bit sparse.

A10 PREDICTIONS: ST. JOE’S -4.5, LA SALLE +13, DUQUESNE -8.5, VCU -13.5, ST. BONAVENTURE 

MWC thoughts…

There are a few issues I have with Nevada’s matchup with Boise State in Reno tonight. 1) Boise State is an outstanding transition offense, particularly because they spread the court so quickly with lengthy shooters, and they drill a lot of transition 3s. Nevada is actually pretty good in transition defense though, and I’m sure Eric Musselman, who fully embraces analytics, is aware of this Boise trend, but can they stop it? 2) Speaking of stopping Boise’s transition, the battle on the glass is of the utmost importance tonight. Nevada is a good offensive rebounding team, even without West, but Boise is a strong defensive rebounding team, which could lead to run outs. 3) Boise is a strong defensive rebounding team because they tend to clog up the lane defensively and hang back off the perimeter, something they’re surely going to do against a Nevada team that scores 80+% of their points from 2PT range and the FT line. Boise is a defense built on limiting penetration (59th in FT rate) and shots at the rim (23rd lowest rate at the rim in the country). The good news, as I mentioned earlier, is that Musselman is aware of his teams’ strengths and weaknesses matchup to matchup, but are they something that can be corrected?

Tough spot in the schedule for both Wyoming and SJSU. Wyoming has the trip to San Jose in between a win over UNLV and a trip to the Pit, while SJSU is off a heartbreaker against Colorado State where they were up 4 with under 30 seconds left and lost in OT at home. Scheme wise, this game favors the Pokes though, as Wojcik has gone to a lot of zone because his team isn’t capable of defending man to man in the halfcourt for long stretches, and Wyoming is a jump shooting team. On the other end, Wyoming defensively forces you into a ton of jump shots, which isn’t a strength of the bigger Spartans (even though they take a lot of them, mostly because defenses are aware of this fact).

Tough road trip starts tonight for SDSU, as they have Colorado State at Moby and then Boise State, and this trip will sort of prove whether or not those OOC “kinks” have been worked out. SDSU, for as poor of a shooting team as they usually are, tends to have success against that underscreening Eustachy defense, while SDSU’s length has generally bothered the Rams’ jump shooters (except at Moby last year). CSU has won two straight after it appeared their season was spiraling downward without Clavell, but it came against an “out of sorts” UNLV team and they needed to rally to win in OT at SJSU, and both involved last second Gillon heroics. Can CSU jump shoot their way to a win at Moby, and can SDSU’s offense struggle? Yes, those are two very feasible possibilities, but I certainly trust the Aztec defense more.

MWC PREDICTIONS: BOISE STATE -4, WYOMING -4, SDSU -3

The Rest…PREDICTIONS (901-698-38):

SMU -13.5 (Nothing serious here. Teams realize that if you zone the Pirates and keep them out of the lane/off the FT line they can’t score. They’ve shot 16 totals FTs the past two games, and thus, they haven’t scored, and SMU isn’t a team that’s going to put you on the line. Mustangs don’t shoot a lot of threes, but when they do, Milton, Moore, and Brown usually hit them, and I doubt they have much issue with ECU’s zone)

RUTGERS +20 (“Get the ball to the rim Rutgers” won’t score on OSU, but I don’t think OSU’s offense can outscore anyone by 20 right now)

GEORGETOWN -8.5

TENNESSEE +5 (Big vs small, and I think Tennessee can get in transition enough (UGA 214th in transition rate as a defense) and Punter can hit enough jumpers against a team that doesn’t allow much inside to give the Vols a chance at a nice road win)

HOUSTON +10 (Dependent on Gray/Johnson/Dotson hitting jump shots, because it’s excessively hard to score in the paint against Cincy’ pack line principles (47.2% at the rim as a defense), and Houston’s interior defense is improving as Chicken Knowles sees more run. Cougars either stay close if the jumpers are falling, or they get blown out)

DUKE -7.5

BC +11

TEMPLE +6 (No KJ again for Memphis and the fact that Temple doesn’t turn the ball and thus doesn’t allow a lot in transition and doesn’t put teams on the FT line should give the Owls a chance at a road win)

BAYLOR -12.5 (Maybe some let down for the Bears after the big win at Hilton, but can you trust TCU to not turn the ball over, hit jump shots, and defend without fouling the aggressive Baylor interior)

PURDUE -16.5 (I love Penn State’s interior D, and I think they actually slow down Purdue inside, but their guards can’t stay in front of anyone, and they can’t shoot, which you kinda have to be able to do if you’re going to beat Purdue. Good matchups for Stephens, Edwards, and Davis, but I thought that vs Illinois too)

VILLANOVA -18 (That’s a ton points, but this is a nightmare matchup for Marquette’s defense that relies on turnovers and forcing jump shots and offensively scoring at the rim)

OKLAHOMA -8 (Oklahoma State is going to try to slow this game down to a screeching halt by eschewing offensive rebounds and taking the air out of the ball on the offensive end, but I’m not sure how they generate any offense. They can’t shoot, OU clogs the lanes as well as any team in the country, and they don’t foul)

NOTRE DAME -8

VIRGINIA TECH (Hokies should be able to both get to the rim and get in transition tonight against Wake, and conversely force enough jumpers from the Deacs to win)

NC STATE -2

ALABAMA +4.5 (Good matchup relatively for Alabama’s offense, and I certainly don’t trust SC to keep shooting like they have (already starting to regress with Vandy game), but the glass is MAJOR issue even if the Tide successfully keep SC out of transition/away from the rim, as they might allow an absurd amount of putbacks)

LSU -10

UCLA -2.5

COLORADO -4.5 (First Pac12 game away from Gill for the Beavers, they can get beat in transition off the defensive glass because they’re a little offensive rebounding reliant, and Colorado has been more efficient against zones this year thanks to an influx of shooting talent)

 

 

 

 

 

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