Archive | February, 2016

2/29 Monday Thoughts

29 Feb

I’m mainly prepping for the start of conference tournaments, but a few really quick thoughts on a light Monday slate…

No idea if anyone really cares in the Chattanooga/VMI make up game. The Mocs have already gone through a net cutting ceremony after their home win over Samford that locked up the 1 seed, but they could secure the outright SoCon title with a win at VMI tonight. VMI meanwhile is locked into the 8/9 game vs Samford, and they’re coming off an emotional win over The Citadel and former coach Duggar Baucom. Additionally, it’s entirely possible these two could see each other on Saturday in the quarterfinals. For all intents and purposes, this is an entirely meaningless game that both teams probably would have agreed to being cancelled. The Mocs won the first meeting in a blowout just 11 days ago, leading 67-27 at one point. UTC used to leave the three point line open in their matchup press defense, but that’s no longer the case, as McCall realized he was in a league where his top competition (Wofford and ETSU) can shoot the hell out of the ball, so he’s altered his defense to be way more aggressive in terms of running teams off the three point line, and VMI can basically only score from outside with the remnants of Baucom’s Loot and Shoot. The Keydets have gone 23-61 from 3 their past two games.

The first time Roy saw the Syracuse zone in ACC play, UNC stumbled to a 57-45 loss at the Carrier Dome, posting .75ppp. Since then, 1.16 and 1.22 and two wins over the Orange. In the first meeting this year, UNC eventually wore down the Orange inside and Syracuse ran out of gas down the stretch. UNC isn’t going to be able to run like they want to against the Orange, who limit transition opportunities as well as any team in the country, but the interior of the 2-3 is as weak as I’ve ever seen under Boeheim, and that should once again be the difference in the game, as UNC doesn’t need to hit the 3 to win (just 3-16 in the first meeting), and they’ve shredded zones this year because they’ve generally been excellent at working at the middle behind the top of the zone and hitting holes. Additionally, because of the infamous zone, UNC will be able to dominate the offensive glass. That being said, UNC does have Duke II on Saturday, and Syracuse will be able to chuck away from 3 (9-31 from 3), so if Cooney, Richardson, Gbinije get hot, anything is possible.

The Oklahoma State offense sans Jawun Evans has been putrid, and it looks like McKay is fully engaged for the Iowa State stretch run, and he missed the first meeting in Stillwater with one of his suspensions. Can’t really imagine the Cowboys being competitive in this game, especially after they sounded like they were ready for the offseason after the WVU loss in Stillwater, plus Hammonds and Carroll are both out, leaving Ford with basically 6 guys tonight.

Texas Southern can clinch the outright SWAC title with a win over Alabama State to close out their home season tonight. Derrick Griffin has been on an absolute tear for TSU, recording double doubles in 11 straight games, and he went for 19 and 15 with 4 blocks in the first meeting in Montgomery. Griffin has missed 8 total FGAs in his last 7 games. After a surprising 1-7 start to the SWAC season, the Hornets have gone 6-1, with the only loss being in OT at Pine Bluff after losing an 18 point lead. The difference has come on the offensive end, as Jamel Waters has gotten back to playing like the best PG in the league, and Tony Armstrong and Corvon Butler, while undersized, have given Lew Jackson some production inside (when they’re able to stay out of foul trouble, which isn’t often). The defense though still remains an issue, especially in the paint with the undersized Armstrong/Butler duo, and that’s where TSU thrives offensively with Griffin, and TSU as a team takes 45% of their FGAs at the rim. Defensively, Mike Davis is always going to crowd the three point line, and Griffin has been the best eraser in the league on the back end, and ASU doesn’t have the post play inside anyway.

Quick turnaround for Kansas after accomplishing one of their season goals (winning yet another Big 12 regular season title), and now they have to head to Austin. Key for the Horns tonight is Kerwin Roach being able to use his athleticism against Perry Ellis defensively to try to slow him down somehow, because he’s a matchup nightmare for the Texas bigs (I love Ibeh’s athleticism, but you don’t want him straying far from the rim). Shaka teams are always going to boot you off the three point line, but KU went 10-25 in the first meeting (by the way, Self has suddenly embraced the three in Big 12 play, and I’m sure it helps you come around when your team shoots the way the Jayhawks do), so that’s an area to watch tonight as well.

PREDICTIONS (1845-1421-91):

CHATTANOOGA -12.5

NORTH CAROLINA -13

IOWA STATE -13

TEXAS SOUTHERN -10

TEXAS +4

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2/28 Sunday Thoughts

28 Feb

PREDICTIONS (1828-1413-91):

PENN STATE +17.5 (Michigan State has an absurdly easy close to the B1G regular season, and they should head to Indy with a 6 game winning streak, but PSU might actually be the toughest of their 3 remaining games. PSU has quietly won 4 of their last 5, including wins over Indiana and Iowa, but they’ve been terrible on the road. Of course it’s entirely possible that Michigan State torches PSU again from the perimeter in the first meeting, and PSU goes on long scoring droughts (my God the final 5 min of that Nebraska game) because they’re essentially only able to do one thing offensively (pick and pop with Garner and Taylor))

SETON HALL +2.5 (Farr dominated in the first meeting when Delgado/Sanogo got in foul trouble, but the Pirates are usually tough to beat at the rim, and while XU can shoot, they’re not a team that works outside/in. Biggest concern today is that Seton Hall doesn’t space the floor well or move the ball well in the halfcourt, and when XU goes to the 1-3-1 it could get pretty dicey. XU can’t come out flat after the Villanova win, because it’s difficult to come back on the road against a defense of this caliber)

ST. JOE’S -17 (St. Joe’s defense is going to be compact and force you to take a bunch of threes. SLU has been playing fairly well recently, and the Hawks have a big rematch with the Bonnies on tap, but few teams in the country shoot as poorly from outside as SLU)

UCONN -10 (Brutal finish to the AAC season for Houston, as Sampson’s offense is predicated entirely on action at the rim, and few defenses in the country are better at the rim defensively than UConn and Cincy)

UNCG -3.5 (Final SoCon bye on the line in Greensboro today (although oddly I think the Spartans would be better served with a loss because they’ll have an easier draw with The Citadel and then ETSU, but obviously that would involve playing an extra game). Mercer won the first meeting in Macon, but obviously those were happier days for the Bears, as things have taken a terrible turn on the court and off, and Mercer is on a 6 game losing streak to end the year)

PITT +1.5 (Jamie Dixon once again can’t find a combination of bigs that works defensively (or offensively for that matter) and teams are gashing them at the rim. Fortunately for the Panthers, that’s not how Duke’s offense operates. Unfortunately Pitt’s best offense has been offensive rebounding)

SIENA -14 (A win gives Siena the 3 seed and means they likely face Manhattan in the quarters. A loss means they play Fairfield. Frankly I’m not sure who Patsos prefers if he had his druthers, but in reality the Saints shouldn’t have much problem with Quinnipiac today, and they want to finish the season strong at home after the Iona loss, and set the tone at the TUC, where the MAAC Tournament is being held)

CREIGHTON -14 (Kudos to Mullin, as the Johnnies certainly haven’t quit on this rebuilding year, but this one could get ugly. St. John’s is incredibly slow footed  defensively on their makeshift perimeter, and they won’t be able to stop Mo Watson from getting into the lane and breaking down the defense today)

SMU -19 (Outside of Morgan and maybe Dabney, Tulane is a horrific jump shooting team, and you kinda have to be able to hit jumpers to have a chance against SMU. Defensively, the once stout Green Wave interior is far more compromised with Jarreau out)

UIC +17 (Outside of Senior Day festivities for Matt Tiby, this is a meaningless game. The Flames have been playing well (relatively) lately, and Dixson’s athleticism on the wing could be enough to keep the Flames from getting completely blown out, and the Panthers are coming off the OT loss to Valpo)

GREEN BAY +5.5 (Drew has said he’ll play straight up today, but this is another completely meaningless game for both teams)

TENNESSEE STATE +1 (A win by the Tigers against their Nashville rival (and Belmont isn’t playing for anything) gives them the final OVC bye, but Dana Ford is going to have to make some MAJOR adjustments defensively. The Tigers were totally clueless against Belmont’s motion offense that let Bradds dominate inside with a plethora of wide open layups, and they were terrible in transition against Byrd’s patented drag screen transition offense. If they can figure out a way to slow Belmont down, they should be fine on the other end, as DeShields and McCall essentially waltzed into the lane every time down court, scoring at the rim or getting fouled in the process (65 combined points, 21-29 from 2 and 20-31 from the FT line))

CANISIUS +12 (Iona can just hoist 3s on Senior Day, but I wonder how much Cluess will show against what could very well be a quarterfinal opponent in Albany)

IOWA -4 (The Hawkeyes are a pretty bad matchup for OSU if they rediscover their jump shooting stroke as a team. The Buckeyes can be beat easily by good jump shooting teams that can shoot over their stout interior defense. OSU gets lost defensively both in transition and against teams who utilize a lot of motion and run shooters off myriad screens, of which Iowa does both. Defensively I think Fran probably has to go zone. He loves to hedge hard with his bigs in ball screen defense, and that’s not the best way to stop Lyle. Cut off the lane and make Lyle and Bates-Diop jump shooters, especially without Tate around who could work out of the high post)

TULSA -2 (Tulsa’s another AAC defense that is incredibly compact in the paint and severely limits transition opportunities, and Memphis isn’t capable of scoring efficiently against defenses that place a high value on rim protection and limiting transition (although they’re less potent on that end if Smith is still out)

COLORADO -7 (Surely a Bob Hurley team shows a little fight after two flat out embarrassing losses, but they’re so poor in transition and they’re on the back end of the mountain trip against a team that can really beat you down court off the defensive glass. I think the Sun Devils will actually be competitive today, but they’re just going to run out of gas)

COLORADO STATE +3 (Tough to match CSU’s firepower offensively if Coleman can’t go for Musselman today. Nevada is generally pretty good at shading the three point line, but the always strong on the glass Rams ate Nevada alive on the offensive glass in the first meeting)

NIAGARA +17 (Obviously this could get ugly with Monmouth going for the outright MAAC title on Senior Night (Hawks playing for injured Deon Jones), but Niagara does one thing well defensively, and that’s limit transition opportunities, and they did precisely that in the first meeting. They’ll ugly up this game as best as they can) UPDATE: NO MATT SCOTT FOR NIAGARA TONIGHT

WISCONSIN -5 (This is a nightmare matchup for Michigan. I love Beilein, but I have no idea how he intends to guard Hayes and Happ with the Irvin/Robinson/Donnal triumvirate, and defensively Wisconsin takes away the three point line as well an any team in the country, which really hinders UM’s offense. The Wolverines’ best hope is to attack Koenig every time down court)

RIDER -5 (No clue. Masiello might call off the dogs a bit to rest up for the MAAC Tourney with such a short rotation, but Rider’s defense allows so many 3s, which is basically the only way the Jaspers score if they don’t turn you over)

VIRGINIA TECH +4 (Both offenses work strictly downhill, and the massive FT disparity from the first meeting could be reversed at Joel Coliseum, but VA Tech struggles against packed in defenses, which isn’t how Manning structures his defense at all. Wake should have Devin Thomas back from suspension tonight)

OREGON STATE -11 (Wazzu is nearing the BC/Rutgers level of power conference ineptitude. Their zone offense is essentially non existent)

MINNESOTA +5 (Gophers are actually playing some pretty good basketball right now, and Illinois, well, they aren’t. Minnesota can’t guard anyone at the rim, but Illinois can’t score at the rim. Illinois is going to have trouble matching the athleticism of Jordan Murphy, and guarding King away from the rim) UPDATE: MINNESOTA’S BACKCOURT HAS BEEN SUSPENDED

CAL -8 (Tough matchup for USC. Cal’s an elite defensive team in pretty much every regard. They’re outstanding in rim protection without doubling the post, so they take away the three point line as well, and they allow zilch in transition. They can struggle against methodical, motion offenses that can move the ball and exploit gaps. That isn’t really USC’s game. Offensively I still have some concerns about Cal, but USC’s defense isn’t going to do much to limit Brown)

OREGON -10.5 (You can pound it inside vs Oregon, but that’s not how UW operates offensively, and the Ducks aren’t going to turn the ball over vs UW’s press (lowest TO and steal rate offensively in the Pac12)

2/27 Saturday Thoughts

27 Feb

PREDICTIONS (1776-1371-86):

LEHIGH +2

TEXAS TECH +13.5

ECU +11.5

GEORGETOWN +2

UAB -9

OLE MISS +3.5

TEMPLE -11.5

GEORGIA TECH -9

DAYTON -7.5

VCU PK

VMI -3.5

IPFW -1.5

CLEVELAND STATE +7

TOWSON +8

FAIRFIELD +3

WESTERN CAROLINA PK

UTAH -3.5

WICHITA STATE -16

BRADLEY +13.5

GEORGIA STATE -9

SYRACUSE -4.5

ELON -3

TEXAS +1

VILLANOVA -8.5

NORTHWESTERN -18

EVANSVILLE -4

DAVIDSON -3.5

FAU +2.5

BALL STATE -2.5

GEORGE MASON -2

MIAMI FL -2.5

LOYOLA CHICAGO -2.5

WILLIAM & MARY +2.5

MISS STATE PK

NORTH DAKOTA -5

MIAMI OH +1.5

WOFFORD +4.5

SOUTHERN UTAH +6

EASTERN WASHINGTON PK

NOTRE DAME PK

PURDUE -4

TEXAS A&M -9.5

NORTHEASTERN -4

UMASS +10

KENTUCKY -1.5

LMU +6 (No Jacko again for LMU, so this might be a lame duck)

CHARLESTON +8.5

PROVIDENCE -11

BUFFALO +4.5

NORTHERN ILLINOIS -4.5

UCLA -1

CHATTANOOGA -12.5

ALABAMA -11

SOUTH ALABAMA +9

UL MONROE -3.5

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE -12

MOREHEAD STATE -8

DENVER -1.5

SAN DIEGO STATE -6.5

WEST VIRGINIA -6.5

DUQUESNE +1

HARVARD -2.5

CORNELL +18

MARSHALL +3

KANSAS STATE +9.5

VIRGINIA -3

UTSA +16.5

TEXAS STATE +14

LONG BEACH STATE -11

TOLEDO -6.5

PENN +5

YSU +3

CHARLOTTE -5.5

RICE +9

AUSTIN PEAY -11

ARKANSAS +1

WESTERN ILLINOIS PK

MURRAY STATE -5

BYU -2.5

UNLV -9.5

UT ARLINGTON -7

BAYLOR -8.5

YALE -15

SOUTHERN MISS -1 (post publication add)

MISSOURI STATE +10

TENN TECH -2.5

FLORIDA +2.5

MONTANA +3.5

NORTHERN COLORADO +3

UTAH STATE -10.5

PORTLAND -1

SANTA CLARA PK

UCSB -5

MONTANA STATE +2.5

FRESNO STATE +6.5

SAINT MARY’S -8

HAWAII -13.5

UC DAVIS +9

 

 

 

2/26 Friday Thoughts

26 Feb

Iona/Manhattan has lost a bit of luster tonight with neither team really playing for much, but we do have some intrigue with Columbia looking to make the Ivy a legit three team race with a huge game at Princeton, Oakland looking to secure the coveted second double bye in the Horizon with a win over rival Detroit, and Rider looking to avenge their meltdown vs rival Monmouth in West Long Branch. Let’s get started with the MAAC

Ostensibly, Iona is still playing for the 1 seed in the MAAC Tournament and Manhattan the 6 seed, but is there any difference between playing Marist or Niagara at this point if you’re the Jaspers? That being said, this is a bitter rivalry game, and these two were in a similar situation last year in the second meeting with Iona locked into the 1 and Manhattan the 3, and it was a thrilling 79-75 Iona win, so I don’t think there’s much chance of either team “taking it easy” at Draddy tonight. My thoughts from before the first meeting…

“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.”

Well, Manhattan never made a run and Iona played with Jordan Washington in foul trouble the whole game. Iona has been defending like I’ve never seen a Cluess team defend. They’re very aggressive in the passing lanes and English looks 100% engaged, and Cluess has that 2H vs Siena to motivate them further. The Jaspers meanwhile are reeling, coming off a blowout loss at home to St. Peter’s, the first time Masiello has ever lost to the Peacocks. This is lame analysis that should be roundly mocked, but despite the lack of evidence this season, something tells me Masiello and the Jaspers still have a run in them.

Another rivalry game tonight with Rider trying to return the favor at Monmouth after the epic nationally televised collapse at the Zoo. Here’s what I wrote ahead of the first meeting…

“King Rice has always struggled with rival Rider, even before they became MAAC rivals. Rice is 1-6 in this rivalry game since coming to Monmouth (Rider has won 12 of the last 14, including 9 straight until last year), with the one win coming last year after a 2H comeback to win by a point at Alumni Gym. Even though this game is at WLB, it figures to still be a tough one for the Hawks simply because Rider is a team committed to getting back in transition. I’ve said it a million times this year, but Monmouth will crush your soul in transition, especially off the defensive glass. That being said, Rider is going to have some major issues on the offensive end tonight. Monmouth doesn’t allow anything at the rim, and after some early season struggles, Baggett has restructured his offense from an Okereafor penetration with motion principles based outfit to a paint touch, pound it inside to Thomas and Lundy on the block unit. While Monmouth’s interior defense is very good, Rider’s FG% at the rim is actually a touch better, but the real key is obviously finding a way to contain Justin Robinson in the halfcourt, and that duty will mainly fall on excellent on ball defender Zed Sadler, and look for Baggett to use 6’7 Shawn Valentine’s length to try and bother Robinson at times tonight. Now, Rider’s interior defense is so good not because they rely on a monster rim protector (although they have several solid shot blockers), but because they really pack in the lane and make it difficult to get to the rim. The problem with that philosophy tonight is that Monmouth is more than capable of torching you from 3. In fact, they’re the best three point shooting team in the MAAC, and against teams that have utilized zone or a sagging perimeter defense focused on clogging the lane, the Hawks are shooting 42% from 3. Rider’s ability to take away transition will keep this game close, but their inability to stop Monmouth from the perimeter and their inability to score inside consistently compounded by their inability to shoot from 3 could eventually undo them in this rivalry game. Additionally, I’m concerned about their ability to handle pressure (which is strange because they’re such a veteran backcourt), and the Hawks will extend their guards (Monmouth actually has the highest steal rate in the MAAC at the moment). Really tough rivalry game that I’m not at all convinced Monmouth can win with the added incentive of a huge target on their back, but head/paper says Hawks, heart/history says Broncs.”

Now a few things have changed since that first meeting. Deon Jones broke his hand and is still out for tonight, and I’ve written extensively about how that affects Monmouth’s lethal transition game because it limits them on the defensive glass, and he was a versatile, plus defender, a “glue guy” if you will. Since Jones went out, teams have shot 24-40 in the post vs the Hawks, and Kevin Baggett has Rider reformed as a pound it inside offense in the 2H of the MAAC. But, Monmouth is playing at home to clinch the MAAC regular season title, and they’re going up against a rival that they know has their number, so there’s plenty of motivation. Rice gave his guys two days off after the St. Peter’s game to recharge their batteries, and the Hawks looked like a team that needed a break. This season has been a circus for them and they’re getting everyone’s best shot night after night. The Broncs will likely be without Zed Sadler again, their best defender on the perimeter.

And then there’s Quinnipiac at Marist. Not much to say about this one. Marist has been playing much better basketball, especially at home, despite Hart and Parker battling through some nagging injuries. The zone defense has been a touch tighter and Brooks has been battling on the glass, but Quinnipiac is a pretty awful matchup for the Red Foxes because you know they’re going to pound the offensive glass relentlessly, and Marist is still a poor rebounding team, despite Brooks’ recent efforts. Additionally, Tom Moore’s defense always runs shooters off the three point line, which isn’t ideal for Maker’s modified Princeton offense, and they were just 2-19 from 3 in the first meeting. That being said, I also don’t expect poor shooting Quinnipiac to go 13-26 from 3 again, and Marist is surely aware of FR Andrew Robinson, who came out of nowhere to hit 5-9 from deep over the zone in the first meeting. Since that game, Robinson has scored a total of 8 points in 6 games.

In the Horizon action tonight, the marquee game is Oakland hosting rival Detroit with a chance to clinch the two seed and thus a double bye in the Horizon Tournament. Detroit dominated the paint/mid range game with Hogan and Bass in the first meeting, but since then Martez Walker has come alive and Percy Gibson has been a different player defensively. In the first meeting, Kampe made a concerted effort to chase UDM off the three point line, which I think is a mistake in hindsight. The Titans are too athletic and versatile in the paint/mid range, and trying to take away jumpers hinders Oakland’s ability to get out and run off misses, which Detroit tends to do. Cut off the lane, keep UDM off the FT line, and rebound those misses and go. Obviously, that’s easier said than done against the length of Bass, Hogan, and Jenkins.

As for the other Horizon games, they’re basically meaningless. Valpo has already clinched the Horizon one seed, they’ve already had their Senior Night, and they’re at Milwaukee tonight. For what it’s worth, Drew has said they’ll play the remaining games straight up, and if they are the Crusaders are a really difficult matchup for Milwaukee because of the height they can put on the perimeter defensively. Green Bay meanwhile hosts a much improved UIC team that they barely snuck by in Chicago in the first meeting. Apparently Darner has a bunch of potential recruits in tonight, so I’m sure he wants to showcase RP40. Again, who knows here?

A quick run through the Ivy…Yale’s offense becomes a lot more one dimensional with Montague officially not returning. Granted, they’re outstanding at that one dimension, but when teams are collapsing on Sears and Sherrod, their ability to stretch the floor is a lot less potent, as is their perimeter ball movement, which makes those big Harvard bodies shift defensively. Harvard’s 2PT% defense isn’t nearly as dominant as it used to be, they obviously still have the bodies inside to contend with Sears and Sherrod. The problem is that Yale only shot 3-11 from 3 in the first meeting and won easily at Lavietes, so an inability to stretch the floor wasn’t an issue vs the Crimson. [UPDATE: No Tommy McCarthy tonight for Harvard.He’s out with a concussion] Columbia is looking for some revenge in the biggest Ivy game of the night, as the Lions can make this a legitimate three team race. Princeton came back from a late double digit deficit thanks to a Cannady miracle 3. Generally speaking, Princeton isn’t an offense looking to work through the post, which is Columbia’s overwhelming weakness defensively, but nevertheless, Pete Miller had his way inside, going 9-10 the first go round. Henderson has REALLY been extending pressure since the first meeting, and it decimated Yale and Brown. Columbia’s a hard team to press (lowest TO and steal rate in Ivy and Lo can really attack pressure), but it’s certainly going to be a wrinkle the Lions have to prepare for. A Steve Donahue defense is always going to chase shooters off the three point line, but there’s really no chasing Morgan and Hatter who jack up 25 footers without conscience. Cornell’s going to be a team that goes on prolonged scoring droughts because they rely so heavily on those threes and generating turnovers via ball pressure. When that doesn’t happen, you’re going to have what happened in the Harvard game occur. Penn is going to be able to work behind that extended Cornell defense again, as Donahue’s offense is always going to maximize high percentage shots at the rim when they’re not shooting the 3. Brown’s offense…fun. They utilize a lot of spread pick and roll action with their bigs and at the outstanding Blackmon at the point, and they spread the court in transition quickly. Brown’s defense…putrid. Kuakumensah is an elite shot blocker of course, but they have major mismatches on that at the 3 and 4 when Spieth, Massey, and especially Hobbie are on the floor, but Martin doesn’t want to sacrifice their offense. Offensively Dartmouth is strictly a get to the rim offense with Boudreaux inside. The don’t and can’t shoot the three, and defensively they’re going to extend pressure when Gill is on the floor, and Cormier loves to double the posts with his smaller, quicker perimeter guys, which leaves the perimeter pretty wide open, and Boudreaux hasn’t really developed as a rim protector yet. I basically have no idea who wins this game.

Bowling Green’s defense does one thing really well, and that’s keeping teams away from the rim. Unfortunately, that can be a lost effort against Akron because the Zips can obviously bomb away from 3, which they did at BGSU to the tune of 16-32 from behind the arc in the first meeting. Now, McAdams has a sore back, so he’s a bit limited, and he was 5-11 in the first go round. Dambrot hasn’t really been able to rectify Akron’s issues against dribble penetration, but I sense the Zips will right the ship, especially with BGSU coming off a big home win over Ohio that snapped a 7 game losing streak. I think we’re unlikely to see Forsythe tonight for the Zips.

PREDICTIONS (1770-1367-85):

PRINCETON -7.5

AKRON -8.5

QUINNIPIAC +3

MANHATTAN +7

MILWAUKEE +5

PENN -4.5

BROWN +1

HARVARD +12 (If I knew about McCarthy’s concussion before publication, this prediction would be Yale)

UIC +16

MONMOUTH -9

DETROIT +10

2/25 Thursday Thoughts

25 Feb

Basically only have time for some random quick thoughts on tonight’s slate, plus I’ve talked about all of these teams ad nauseam at this point…

PREDICTIONS (1743-1342-83):

DELAWARE +4.5

SOUTH DAKOTA +3.5 (Win and the Coyotes are in the Summit Tourney, but they have a tough time with teams that can extend their guards and disrupt their spread motion offense, which is exactly what IUPUI does. That said, the offense has been much more fluid with Tyler Flack healthy and in a prominent role.)

MERCER -7 (Looks like Stair and Jelks are good to go, and the Bears are trying to avoid PIG Friday in the SoCon tourney, but this just depends on how many jump shots jump shooting VMI hits against Mercer’s zone.)

UNCG -11 (Copy and paste from above. Spartans looking to avoid PIG, but they allow a ton of 3s and let Duggar dictate the pace in the first meeting. Spartans coming off a big win over the Mocs as well that spoiled a UTC SoCon victory party on their home court.)

FURMAN +4 (Forbes has proven to be a solid in season adjuster (not surprising given his coaching tree), but the Bucs are 0-4 vs the top tier of the SoCon, and they really struggle to keep penetrating guards in front of them, and there’s no rim protection on the back end, which is why the struggled so mightily with Croone in the first meeting.)

WESTERN CAROLINA -1 (WCU is playing perhaps the best basketball in the SoCon at the moment, but they’re in the same boat as Mercer and UNCG in terms of avoiding a PIG. Have to force feed Brummitt because you’re not going to beat Wofford from the perimeter (Cats only attempted 10 threes in the first meeting), and you have to be able to chase lethal three point shooting Wofford off the line on the other end.)

TENNESSEE STATE +1.5 (Skyhawks can clinch the West (and a double bye in the OVCT) with a win and a Murray State loss at EIU. Have to be able to beat Tenn State from the perimeter, but the Skyhawks’ shooting has fallen off. TSU meanwhile is a “get it to the rim at all costs” offense, and that’s in theory difficult to do against UTM’s matchup zone, but teams like EIU and APSU have had a great deal of success recently behind the zone. The Tigers could still win the East, but they need to win at UTM and then beat Nashville rival Belmont, which isn’t likely, but they can still clinch a single bye. Something to keep an eye on is the status of Kedar Edwards and Chandler Rowe, as they were in an incident that involved the police on Sunday.)

TENN TECH -1 (The Golden Eagles are in the same boat as Tenn St, while Morehead State is looking to avoid PIG and earn a first round bye. Morehead State is a good shooting team, but that’s not their game, and generating offense inside against Tech is fairly difficult. The same holds true for Morehead State’s defense, but Rowe can handle the Morehead pressure, and they have multiple options on the perimeter. Morehead is likely without Collins again)

UTEP +7.5 (UTEP isn’t going to be able to thrive in transition at ODU like they have been since going smaller, but ODU, who builds a wall around the lane defensively, has struggled mightily against offenses who can spread the floor with 4 guards and attack the seams (like Marshall, like Rice, like UAB). Floyd’s decision to go small has been a total game changer, and you know he’s going to throw a billion and 1 junk zones at Freeman. A 2,000 mile road trip at the end of the season isn’t ideal though)

SMU -4.5 (Mustangs deny transition and force you into jump shots. Halfcourt and zone offense are clearly not Memphis strengths.)

PENN STATE -1

SETON HALL -5 (You have to cut off the lane against Seton Hall, and PC doesn’t do that at all)

FLORIDA STATE +9.5

WESTERN KENTUCKY +7 (WKU looking for revenge in a rivalry game after a big comeback fell short at Diddle. MTSU off a disappointing home loss to league leader UAB, and the Blue Raiders are still searching for a PG, and WKU really struggles to defend pick and roll in terms of hedging on penetration, which isn’t an MTSU strength.)

CHARLOTTE -15.5 (This one could get really ugly. Charlotte’s shell defense isn’t going to put you on the FT line/allow a lot of penetration, and UTSA gets absolutely torched in transition)

CHARLESTON +4 (Charleston defends like a rabid dog on the perimeter, but they’re coming off a big home effort in an OT loss to league leader UNCW, and Northeastern didn’t have Ford the first time around)

WILLIAM & MARY -3

HOFSTRA +4 (Seahawks were in this situation last year (clinching the CAA outright title) and got trounced by Elon. Now they have a Hofstra team looking to avenge a 20 point meltdown in the first meeting)

APP STATE +6.5 (Mountaineers looking to avenge the infamous Mike Hughes four point play loss to GSU, and the Eagles are coming off a big nationally televised home win over rival Georgia State. App State’s motion offense will have plenty of opportunity from 3 against GSU’s pressure zone, but can they avoid the TOs that have plagued them all year? App State needs to win to keep their SBC Tourney chances alive. The problem is that App State is really bad.)

UCONN -13.5

NORTHERN KENTUCKY +1

WRIGHT STATE -8.5 (WSU trying to stay alive for the Horizon double bye, and YSU doesn’t match up well with the Raiders)

CANISIUS -8.5

OMAHA -6 (No motivation for either team here really)

SIUE +2 (Jake Newton as a zone buster has been a big development for SIUE. APSU has to win out to qualify for the OVC Tourney, but you have to beat SIUE in transition, which negates their strength, which is filtering offense through Horton in the halfcourt. UTM doesn’t have to win tonight to win West with game vs Murray on Sat)

EASTERN KENTUCKY -5 (Colonels are in the same boat as APSU in terms of qualifying for the tournament, but they have a much easier task against a JSU team depleted by injuries/defections (most importantly to Drumwright), and they have no chance of stopping Mayo on the block)

NORTH DAKOTA -4.5 (Extending pressure and then collapsing on Forte is the formula against PSU, and that’s exactly what UND does defensively.)

Out of time…

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE -9.5 (NDSU down Paul Miller still and Kabellis out tonight with a concussion, which leaves them without a PG)

RICE -1.5

UAB -7.5 (Big CUSA game with Marshall looking for revenge from a baffling end game call, but UAB is on a different level with Dirk Williams playing with confidence like he is. Important to note UAB basically handled the Herd in that meeting until a late rally spurred by a raucous home crowd)

TOWSON -2

UL MONROE -5

LITTLE ROCK -6 (UTA’s an outstanding transition offense, but Little Rock doesn’t allow anything in transition. The Mavs chuck up the 3s though, and that’s basically all that’s available vs Little Rock’s pack line, so if they get hot, they could be in this game.)

TROY +8.5

ARKANSAS STATE -3 (ASU scores only at the rim and denies everything at the rim on the other end. Texas State uncharacteristically hit 9-15 from 3 in the first meeting, and all everything PG Donte Thomas got hurt late in that game. Texas State is fighting for their SBC Tourney lives, but I think their poor 3PT shooting outside of Montalvo (and he’s nursing an ankle sprain and Gant a knee sprain) catches up with them tonight, as does their weak 2PT% defense. It should also be noted that with a few different bounces, ASU could realistically have just 2 SBC wins.)

WINTHROP +5 (Kelsey will let Brown get his by not doubling, but he’s going to pinch on the three point line and make High Point one dimensional offensively. High Point will take away transition from the fastest team in the BSC, but Winthrop is a tough team to zone because Xavier Cooks is a one man zone buster)

SACRAMENTO STATE +2

MONTANA -5 (Grizz have Weber coming up, but they have multiple defensive stoppers to put on Telfair, and Breunig can dominate inside the matchup zone)

IPFW -3.5 (This game could be meaningless for WIU if USD beats IUPUI earlier)

UTAH -12 (ASU was spiritually and emotionally depantsed at Huntsman last year, and it might happen again tonight. Really bad matchup at wings and frontcourt for the Sun Devils)

ILLINOIS +8 (Groce called out his team after the first loss, but the fact remains the Hoosiers matchup extremely favorably against the Illini. Indiana is in a weird spot schedule wise, and we all remember what happened at PSU in a similar situation.)

ST. JOHN’S +5.5

CAL -7

NORTH TEXAS +12

WEBER STATE -9.5 (Weber has a huge game with Montana on deck, but they’ll be without Bolomboy tonight. However, they drew an ideal opponent in their first game w/o him because MSU has zero post presence, and is extremely reliant on the 3, which a Rahe defense will always take away. Baker is obviously a far far cry from Bolomboy as Rahe goes smaller, but he’ll be another defensive presence on the perimeter vs MSU’s 4 out offense.)

MURRAY STATE -5 (Racers still vying for West title and double bye. Have to bank on winning out at EIU and vs UTM, who plays earlier vs SIUE. Langston has to stay out of foul trouble tonight)

PACIFIC -1 (Pacific’s WCC Tournament tonight vs a porous USF defense looking more towards a home finale vs rival SMC)

CAL POLY -8

GONZAGA -14.5

UCSB -2 (CSUN is a revamped team with Theus’ backcourt finally eligible, but I don’t trust a downhill team without a true post presence that can exploit Beeler/Brewe vs Bob Williams’ 3-2 zone)

BYU -17.5

SANTA CLARA +16.5

HAWAII -14.5 (Janks goes nuts without Johns around, but the Highlanders might have better chemistry without him)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2/24 Wednesday Thoughts

24 Feb

PREDICTIONS (1724-1331-83):

VCU -9.5 (I just don’t have that much to say about George Mason. Moore being back gives them another rim attacker and a plus perimeter defender, but there’s just so much wrong with this offense. Essentially, all they can do right now is attack the rim offensively, which is their clear strength, but VCU is so aggressive defensively without fouling. They can’t shoot on kick outs, and Thompson clearly hasn’t developed as a post threat. He can’t pass out of double teams at all and every team in the A10 knows it. GMU had a higher TO% than FG% in the first meeting, and I don’t necessarily see how that changes drastically tonight, although the return of Moore does help in some regard.)

FORDHAM -2.5 (Teams that force La Salle to play offense and not go into burn offense mode have had success in speeding up the Explorers, and Neubauer will certainly try that with his aggressive zone traps. However, I don’t really trust Fordham on the road and without Neubauer’s Corey Walden for this team, Mandell Thomas. If La Salle doesn’t totally crash against the modified Beilein traps, they’ll have plenty of looks from 3, which is basically all their offense does. That’s a big if though, as La Salle has the highest TO rate in the league, but they have at least seen Fordham once this year (4 steals for Mandell Thomas in that game). La Salle’s going to zone you, and Fordham has been an all or nothing team from 3, and it’s been more nothing than all for most of the A10 season, but individually there are guys who are shooting below their career marks in league play who should in theory get a little hotter down the stretch. Some concern over Antwoine Anderson, who appeared to reinjure his shoulder late vs SLU. If he can’t go, Fordham is severely (no pun intended) limited in the backcourt if Thomas is once again out, which is likely.)

GEORGIA -5 (I have no idea what Pearl wants to do with such a limited roster (although he at least gets Dunans back to move Bowers off the ball). You know he wants to play fast, but with the lack of bodies, that probably isn’t the best idea. Additionally, despite Mark Fox’s intervening, UGA is actually a more efficient offense in SEC play when they get in the open floor. Fox had some success in OOC with the super slow motion sets (namely the big win vs Georgia Tech), but it’s just not working at all in conference play, and when they’ve ran with the LSUs, guys like Frazier and Gaines have broken out. Unfortunately, they can’t defend that way, and that’s where you see Fox’s thinking, as it takes away the strength of their defense, which is their oppressive interior. Auburn’s only win in a month came in a 78 possession game where they hit 15 of 23 threes, and they had Tyler Harris for that game. So what we have tonight is a shorthanded team that can only score in transition and from the perimeter playing a Georgia team that scores more efficiently in transition and dominates the interior defensively in the halfcourt. So the loss of Harris here isn’t necessarily going to hurt Auburn as much as it would vs other teams, because he likely wouldn’t be a huge factor tonight vs UGA’s interior. Unless Auburn gets unruly hot from 3 again, I don’t quite see how this works out for them. They have to score in transition to be effective, but they have a limited amount of bodies at this point, and it might be playing into the strengths of UGA’s offense anyway, despite the best efforts of Mark Fox.)

VILLANOVA -1.5 (So this is a pretty big game. This rivalry has been totally lopsided since Xavier joined the Big East, with Villanova winning all 6, posting an average of 1.24ppp and going 70-161 from 3. Essentially, Xavier has no way of defending Villanova. Mack’s base defense is a man to man modified pack line, which Nova shreds, and when he goes to the 1-3-1, Nova shreds that even more because they have such outstanding ball movement. Every XU defense is predicated on making you take long jumpers, which Nova’s tends to hit at a high rate (it’s been a little different this year as the shooting numbers have been down, but they’re still the most efficient offense in the league). On top of that, Villanova’s defense is excellent against heavy ball screen offenses because of the underrated athleticism and versatility on switches they have 3-5 with Jenkins, Hart, Bridges, Reynolds, and Ochefu. Sumner being available does change things a bit, as Nova has proven to struggle with big guards with blow by ability (Cousins, Brogdon, Dunn), but I don’t think his presence is going to be enough to reverse course. Cintas will be insane though, and there’s surely a lot of pent up revenge rage inside XU tonight.)

HOUSTON -5 (This is a weird thing to say, but Donnie Jones’ rotation is just too big for his 2-3 zone. Any sort of halfcourt ball movement exposes their immobility, and wide open creases appear and easy shots at the rim follow, the one thing his zone is designed to prevent. Not the greatest spot schedule wise for the Cougars though, who are off a tough home loss to Temple that saw them blow a double digit 2H lead, and they head to Storrs on Sunday after this jaunt over to Orlando, plus this is a UCF team they already dominated 11 days ago, and they’ve tended to lose focus in these situations (see games vs USF and at ECU), but I don’t trust much about these bottom half AAC teams)

MISS STATE +12 (Weatherspoon has to keep shooting the ball like he has been in wins over Vandy and Bama, otherwise this could get ugly offensively vs TAMU without Newman (although it appears he might give it a go tonight). That being said, the Aggies are obviously off an emotional OT win, but you have to be able to hit jump shots to beat this Aggie defense) [UPDATE: MALIK NEWMAN WILL PLAY]

GEORGE WASHINGTON +1.5 (Colonials looking for some revenge from a 2OT loss in Foggy Bottom, but can they keep Jones from getting into the lane? They have the versatility to guard Wood/Allen/Cline (although they didn’t actually do it in the first meeting), but not all of them when they’re on the floor together, and Richmond has been destroying the 1-3-1 every time Lonergan falls back on it. That being said, that combination of players can’t defend anyone, and you trade offense for defense with Fore and Davis.)

NORTHWESTERN +7 (Two areas of critical importance tonight…1) Michigan’s pick and roll defense is solid, and Northwestern can really only generate offense in Demps and McIntosh PnR. 2) The three point line. Huge advantage for Michigan on both ends. They can shoot it and it will be available, and Northwestern basically can’t. That being said, Collins has proven to be solid with extra prep (see OT game at Michigan St last year), while Michigan is coming off the tough loss at Maryland on Sunday.)

ST. JOE’S -7.5 (St. Joe’s is always a brutal matchup for UMass because they essentially take away everything UMass wants to do offensively, which is run and get to the FT line via penetration. Have to hit 3s to beat the Hawks, and UMass is the streakiest team in the A10. They either hit everything they take or they miss everything from outside. Minutemen dealing with a lot of lingering injuries too.)

FAIRFIELD +4 (Siena is 2-4 on one day MAAC turnarounds this year, with one win being at Niagara (which I guess is balanced by the other win being at Iona), and one loss at Marist. Add in that Sydney Johnson has proven to be a master adjuster the second time around vs MAAC teams, and I think the Stags have a chance at a big win on Senior Night. The problem is that Fairfield has to completely pack in the paint tonight. Siena’s frontcourt was an absurd 23-39 in the first meeting, but Siena has been shooting the 3 much better of late (which is why they’re such a dangerous team come MAAC Tourney time, especially since they have Wright back and the tournament is at the TUC). You can beat Siena in transition (it would help if Jerry Johnson is able to return tonight from some terrible off court events), but it basically just comes down to how effective is Fairfield at clogging up the paint vs Patsos’ modified flex offense, and how many jump shots does Siena miss. If they’re missing, Fairfield can run off the glass and spread the court in transition. The problem there is that Siena is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, and that might be the difference tonight, especially since Fairfield is so weak on the defensive glass.) [UPDATE: Still no Jerry Johnson, and Curtis Cobb is out, which is a significant loss on the perimeter both offensively and defensively for the Stags}

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS +4.5 (The Redbirds have been taking away all transition opportunities and cutting off the lane in their recent MVC run. Have to be able to hit jump shots (like UNI) or else you’re not going to score. That’s not SIU’s forte. Obviously the Redbirds have Wichita State on deck, but assuming DAK is ok, I don’t see the Salukis being able to play their game. That being said, it’s a weird spot schedule wise for ISUred with SIU in between UNI and WSU (weird because this used to be a big rivalry), and then you throw in Senior Night weirdness and a BloNo snow storm, and this just seems like a spot where the Redbirds come out flat.)

ST. BONAVENTURE -6.5 (Duquesne dropped 95 and 1.2ppp in the first meeting with the Bonnies, and wasn’t just Mason and Colter (who combined for 50), as the Bonnies were torched at the rim as well. Bona is coming off a massive win at Dayton, but I worry about the legs of both of these teams. They’re both so reliant on a core backcourt and have a thin bench, that I can’t see this one going nearly as fast as the first meeting (79 possessions). When you keep the Dukes in the low 70s and even into the 60s possession wise (which has happened just twice this year), their efficiency tends to hit the skids. The last ~10 minutes are going to be key here, as Duquesne has shown an unfortunate propensity to completely run out of gas and blow big leads. In fact, they blew double digit 2H leads in 3 straight games, and have lead in the 2H in 4 straight, and have an 0-4 record in those last 4 games.)

ECU +3 (Tulane’s once stout interior defense has basically fallen to pieces with Jarreau out. ECU blew a late 2H lead at home in the first meeting to lose in 3OT to the Green Wave. Tulane, a 30% three point shooting team, hit 12 threes in that game vs the ECU zone. Lou Dabney has been a different player since missing the USF game, and the Green Wave tend to go as he goes. Hard to differentiate between these bottom half AAC teams.)

NORTH CAROLINA -8 (NC State kept the first meeting at 62 possessions, and still lost. UNC is just a terrible matchup for NCSU because the Pack can’t score from the perimeter and they’re poor on the defensive glass. Terribly discouraging that the Pack limited transition opportunities (despite a 29% TO rate) in the first meeting, and still lost by 12. Essentially the pace of the game was right in NC State’s wheelhouse, and they did take a brief 2H lead, but Paige and Johnson also had their worst games of the year.)

PITT +2 (Pitt was embarrassed to the tune of .65ppp and a 30% TO rate in the first meeting with Louisville, while the Cardinals are coming off an emotional Duke win that they were literally counting down the days until the rematch with the Blue Devils. Situation is reversed this time around, and Pitt is going to be far more prepared for the Louisville pressure, and the Cardinals are missing two members of the frontcourt this time around as well.)

NORTHERN IOWA -10 (I mentioned it before the last Trees game, but there are some behind the scenes things going on (likely involving Lansing leaving the team after this season), and the Sycamores look completely checked out)

Out of time..

CREIGHTON -7.5

DRAKE +6

COLORADO +5.5 (Buffs really need Collier to snap out of it, as I’m much more concerned about the CU backcourt than I am the frontcourt right now (CU holds opponents to the 20th lowest FG% at the rim in the country). If he does, I think they have a chance to avenge their depantsing at the hands of Zona in Boulder last year.)

WICHITA STATE -14 (Seems like a likely spot for the Shockers to ease up before a revenge game with Illinois State, especially since they’ve already clinched the MVC’s top spot, but FVV loves to play at Gentile, his home away from home (Rockford native). His numbers in Chicago are absurd, nearly averaging a triple double and he hasn’t missed a shot at Gentile since the Ramblers joined the MVC)

WISCONSIN +7 (Iowa’s an outstanding jump shooting team that can get to the FT line and is lethal in transition, and Wisconsin takes away those aspects of an opposing offense (although I’m a bit wary of the latter still), and Iowa looks like their Iowa State counterpart in terms of not fouling, and Wisconsin’s offense has been very reliant on drawing contact around the rim. That being said, Iowa’s interior has been vulnerable when teams pound it inside, and Wisconsin will certainly do that with Happ.)

NOTRE DAME -7 (Auguste status?)

SOUTH CAROLINA -7.5

OKLAHOMA -14.5

NEVADA -4 (Musselman and his staff have done an outstanding job of making adjustments the second time around, and I sincerely doubt this turns into another jump shooting contest with USU, which doesn’t favor the Pack. But are they past that UNLV loss?)

UC IRVINE -4.5 (LBSU has the shooters to beat UCI over the top, which you have to do, but the Eaters don’t allow much of anything in transition, and Bibbins didn’t look near 100% to me last time out, plus Spencer and Levin are both limited for the Beach)

AIR FORCE +11 (Falcons are a different team with Siples and Van in the backcourt, but Fresno State is getting healthy (Watson likely to return tonight))

SAN DIEGO STATE -4.5 (The Aztecs just crush teams that rely on jump shots (which Wyoming is nearly 100% reliant on))

OREGON -18

OREGON STATE -4 (Tough matchup for young UW. OSU doesn’t allow much in transition at Gill, they don’t turn the ball over, and they don’t rely on the three offensively, which UW takes away.)

2/23 Tuesday Thoughts

23 Feb

It’s Tuesday, so let’s take a look at the MAC

Kent State is coming off a huge, season saving win over rival Akron, but I’m doubting there’s going to be much letdown for a trip to Buffalo tonight. The Bulls won at Kent State in the 2nd MAC game of the year, and things got fairly chippy on the court, and of course both teams are playing for a top 4 finish, which guarantees a first round bye in the MAC Tournament. The first meeting saw Buffalo’s bevy of attacking guards get into the lane at will against the KSU defense, and offensively KSU will be down Pollard and Walker from that first meeting. Buffalo was also able to beat KSU in dtransition routinely in that first meeting, as the Golden Flashes are a team that crashes the offensive glass better than any team in the MAC, but Buffalo did a good of rebounding defensively and beating them down court for easy buckets (the Bulls play at the fastest pace in the league thanks to those athletic guards). Kent State has to be able to turn Buffalo into a jump shooting team tonight. KSU was doing that fairly efficiently in the OOC play, but injuries on the perimeter have really taken their toll (although Cancer, who only played 13 min in first meeting, is a plus on ball defender at the top). Really it just comes down to KSU being able to keep Bearden/Massinburg/Hamilton/Conner (there are so many Bulls attackers, which is why it’s so difficult) in front of them and out of the lane. Offensively, it comes down to Kent State being able to force-feed Hall and Spicer routinely and exploit a subpar Buffalo interior defense, which I think they can do if Thomas and Cancer limit the TOs against the harassing Buffalo backcourt. The one problem are could once again be Buffalo transition buckets. With the loss of Pollard, Senderoff has really been pushing going after misses to supplement the post Pollard offense, but that can be dangerous against the Bulls if you don’t actually grab those misses. Key matchup is at the 4. Blake Hamilton can beat anyone off the dribble that KSU throws at him, but he can’t guard anyone KSU throws at him inside on the other end.

Western Michigan exploded for one of their most efficient offensive outings of the year in the first meeting with Eastern Michigan, exploiting the 2-3 to the tune of 1.28ppp, and gashing it with penetration from Wilder and 10-14 three point shooting (5-5 from Wilder, who had 35 points). That being said, the WMU defense played like the WMU defense that game as well, which isn’t a good thing, as they surrendered 1.18ppp and let EMU back into the game. EMU is coming off a dominant offensive performance themselves against Toledo, going for 1.34ppp and that was with JTIV essentially being a nonfactor (the FR big man might be hitting a bit of a wall, as he plays a TON of minutes for a guy his size, and the effects are starting to show in some sloppy, out of position fouls). Hawkins is most assuredly going to sag back off the perimeter and challenge guys like Mangum and Toney to hit jump shots, and the steady guard play of Wilder and Moore isn’t really bothered by the harassing length at the top of EMU’s 2-3, which helps limit an often transition reliant offense. WMU’s offense is actually more efficient when they get into more of an open court game that allows Wilder to survey and attack (I love Hawkins as an x’s and o’s guy, but he simply doesn’t have the big man he loves to filter offense through in his halfcourt sets, although Drake LaMont has seen a substantial increase in his shots). When WMU has been bogged down with Akron, Ball State, and Miami, they’ve really struggled. EMU isn’t going to do that to you.

Central Michigan uncharacteristically struggled with Northern Illinois’ zone press in the first meeting. The Chips operate with essentially three point guards, and not surprisingly have the third lowest TO rate in the country (and it reduces to just 12% in MAC play), but in that game against NIU, Fowler, Rayson, Simmons combined for a 13 of CMU’s 16 TOs. The turnovers compounded the season long issue of CMU’s defense at the rim, as NIU shot 61% on two pointers. Both teams come into this one reeling, with NIU having lost 6 of their last 8 and CMU 4 of their last 5, but both are still battling for a top 4 seed and a bye. I think that nearly double their MAC average TO rate from the first meeting drastically reduces the second time around, and the Chips bounce back at home tonight. This is the year of the Bigs in the MAC (Tony Campbell, Big Dog Johnson, JTIV, Jimmy Hall, Nathan Boothe), and both of these teams have struggled in that regard, but in opposite ways, with NIU on the offensive end (Maric is getting there, but still one of the worst 2PT offenses in the MAC despite attempting shots at the rim at the 33rd highest rate in the country) and CMU on the defensive end.

Miami will have McKnight and Moore back tonight with Akron in town, but how much will it really matter? The Zips won the first meeting in blowout fashion, as they didn’t turn the ball over vs Miami’s frantic zone traps, and thus the three point bombing Zips were able to bomb away from 3. Akron’s defense has some glaring issues. 1) They love to chase shooters off the three point line, but they’re terrible against dribble penetration 2) They’re having all sorts of issues with rim protection this year, especially with Forsythe essentially being out or playing far below 100% the entire year and 3) they allow a high FGA rate in transition. The good news for Akron is that Miami is weak in all three of those areas. The RedHawks have the worst 2PT% offense in the league, the second lowest FT rate, and they’re the slowest team in the MAC, and only get in transition if you turn the ball over, which Akron generally doesn’t. Akron should have a little extra motivation tonight after being embarrassed by a rival on Friday night, but they are going to be banged up and shorthanded. Forsythe will be out again, Williams and Johnson are nursing ankle injuries, and McAdams didn’t practice yesterday for some reason. Miami is still battling, but this clearly has to be Cooper’s last year, right? This is the oldest team in the MAC and they’re going to have a lot of scholarships opening up. If a change doesn’t occur at the end of this dreadful season, it will be a real head-scratcher. For all I know, Cooper has already been told he won’t be returning and Miami is in “win one for coach mode”.

Ohio has won 5 in a row and is currently looking like the team to beat in the MAC. The offense can be lethal because of their versatility. Simmons has been a godsend at the point, and Kaminski should be back to tonight to stretch out a Bowling Green defense that somewhat surprisingly allows the 22nd lowest FG% at the rim. Offensively the word is clearly out on BGSU. Huger wants to pound it inside at all costs with a modified flex offense (8th highest FGA rate at the rim in the country), but they’re terribly inefficient at the rim, and teams are basically daring them to shoot jump shots (except Buffalo last game, which is more troubling for the Bulls tonight against Kent State). BGSU won the first meeting 91-75 (a ridiculous foul fest that saw Ohio rack up 30 fouls, and three techs on one play, which resulted in what has to be the first and only 10 point possession I’ve seen in my basketball watching life), but since then, their seasons have gone in polar opposite directions. The Falcons are 2-9 after that win, while Ohio has gone 8-3. Nevertheless, there are some certain scheme advantages for the Falcons tonight. Both defenses have been taking away the three point line, but as I mentioned, BGSU is also shockingly solid at rim defense (but can be beaten routinely off the dribble), and they’re not looking to score from the perimeter anyway, which Ohio chases you off of. That being said, these teams are worlds apart in terms of mindset and confidence at the moment.

Big showdown in the West with first place Ball State traveling to Savage to take on second place Toledo. The Cardinals manhandled Toledo in the first meeting, putting up 1.32ppp in an 87-69 drubbing that wasn’t even that close. Ball State’s top rated MAC defense has been the key, as they’re able to slow games to a crawl and pinch on the three point line thanks to the unheralded play of undersized forwards Calhoun and House, and the shot blocking of Moses (who is also a *phenomenal* big to big passer out of doubles and out of the high post, especially when you consider the fact that he’s just a FR). Toledo’s sagging perimeter defense has been getting torched by everyone in the MAC (even EMU was 11-16 last time out), and Ball State spreads the court with the shooters, and can reverse the ball and work in and out of the high post in the half court better than any team in the MAC. Toledo’s third rated MAC defense is a bit misleading. They’re terrible in the repeatables (generating blocks and steals) and they’re 10th in eFG% as a defense, whereas Ball State is tops in the MAC both offensively and defensively in that regard.

MAC PREDICTIONS: KENT STATE +5.5, WESTERN MICHIGAN +6, CENTRAL MICHIGAN -6, AKRON -6.5, OHIO -2, BALL STATE +8

Georgia State somehow eked out an OT win in Atlanta in the first meeting with rival Georgia Southern, a game that was ugly but somehow not nearly as ugly as their epic 38-36 SBC title bout last year. These two teams are nearly identical in SBC play, their seasons couldn’t be any more different. Georgia St is a veteran team who has played far below expectations, while Georgia Southern is the second youngest team in the country, and they’ve far exceeded expectations. It’s always a bit surprising that these two teams always struggle offensively against each other because they essentially play the same defense, some hybrid/matchup zones with a ton of ball pressure. Georgia Southern is far more equipped to handle that defense though with stellar FR PG Tookie Brown being the best offensive player on the floor. Brown dictates the terms of the game, and with him at the point, the Eagles have the lowest TO rate in the SBC, which is always key against the Panthers’ defense. Ron Hunter meanwhile hasn’t been able to find an offensive combination that works consistently. Hollowell has emerged from his slump, but PG play has been an issue all year (although Williams is coming off a stellar game against Arkansas State), and it appears Hunter is basically ready to punt offense and go with the FR Donaldson for 20+ min a night. Donaldson has been touted as an elite on ball defender, and he’s proven it in limited minutes thus far. Speaking of outstanding on ball defenders, Georgia Southern is likely without Mike Hughes again, and he was sorely missed vs Little Rock. Hughes is legitimately one of the best on ball defenders in the country, and he also brought rebounding, ball handling, consistent jump shooting, and the ability to get to the FT line. His absence creates a massive void in Byington’s rotation. The loss of Hughes really hurts, but it doesn’t necessarily mean Georgia State’s poor offense improves. They were just 2-13 from 3 with a 25% TO rate in the first OT win, but were able to win the game with FT disparity at home. Byington does have 6’8 Montae Glenn at his disposal tonight. The FR big was hurt for the first meeting, and he’s showing signs of being able to help a poor rebounding team on the glass as he gets his conditioning up to par. Nationally televised game at Hanner Fieldhouse vs a rival, so the Eagles should have a good crowd on hand tonight, even with the weird 6PM tip time to accommodate for TV. [UPDATE: HUGHES WILL PLAY AND START]

SBC PREDICTION: GEORGIA SOUTHERN -1.5

The first meeting between Rider and Marist was a wild 2OT affair that saw Teddy Okereafor shoot 30 FTs (!), but the Broncs might not have Zed Sadler to guard Hart/Parker this time around. Sadler’s the best on ball defender for Kevin Baggett, and the only way Marist can beat you is with Hart and Parker on the perimeter (and Sadler was more of an offensive threat in that game anyway, as Hart and Parker both went off). Rider is a good zone offense, but Marist’s zone defense is the worst in the MAAC in basically every imaginable metric. Rider has been much more focused on getting the ball to the rim with Thomas and Lundy since that first meeting, and Marist is essentially sans frontcourt. Of course, Rider has a big game in West Long Branch on tap Friday night, but Marist is still dealing with nagging injuries to Hart and Parker, so who knows who will actually suit up for the Red Foxes.

Poor St. Peter’s. This is their fourth game in seven days now, and the second time they’ve had to play hyper aggressive Manhattan, and they’re coming off a heartbreaking home loss to Monmouth in OT. John Dunne finally broke out against Masiello, and is now 1-10 against the Jaspers since Masiello signed on. The Peacocks handled the pressure well in that meeting, but the Jaspers shot exceptionally poorly from outside, going just 4-20.

MAAC PREDICTIONS: RIDER -4.5, MANHATTAN -4

The Rest…PREDICTIONS (1710-1320-83):

DAVIDSON -3.5 (The Wildcats are starting to find their groove, but it’s difficult to rely on the 3, which McKillop’s motion offense does, and beat URI’s oppressive perimeter defense. That said, URI’s offense has been AWOL on the road this year, but they should be able to pound it inside to Martin, where Davidson really struggles to defend.

TULSA -6.5 (Good adjustment made by Fran Dunphy in terms of his defensive scheme against Houston, and it’s something that he should carry over to Tulsa tonight on a quick turnaround, as they’re another team looking to score at the rim constantly, and Dunphy’s defense has always been known as one to chase shooters off the perimeter. Tulsa meanwhile might be without Rashad Smith, which delivers a blow to their interior, and they’re on the same quick turnaround but coming back to Tulsa from Orlando. However, Tulsa is 3-0 in the is revenge games, beating Cincy, SMU, and Houston the second time around, and they lost at Temple in OT in the first meeting after blowing a late double digit lead)

LSU +4.5 (We’ve seen LSU without Hornsby, and it wasn’t pretty, but I think LSU can stay in this game simply on the glass, and for all of the perceived faults against Johnny Jones, he actually outschemed a team that applies ball pressure the second time around vs TAMU. Either the Tigers rally after the Tennessee debacle, or they completely fold. We’ll find out tonight)

CLEMSON +2.5 (Offensively Georgia Tech doesn’t matchup well with what Clemson does defensively (4th lowest FG% allowed at the rim in the country), and defensively, the smaller Yellow Jacket guard core can’t defend without fouling, and they’ll once again have trouble staying in front of Blossomgame. That said, hard to trust Clemson on the road as well, especially considering Tech just saw them and they’re playing their best basketball of the year right now)

KENTUCKY -13.5 (Tough matchup for the Tide, who are outstanding at taking away the three point line, but UK isn’t looking to shoot that shot. I love Jimmie Taylor defensively at the rim, but if he gets in foul trouble early, this is likely a blowout)

VANDERBILT +4 (Florida’s an elite defensive team and is so long and physical at three point line, but in the first meeting Baldwin was able to get into the lane and Jones was able to operate in the post, which mitigated the fact that the Dores couldn’t get any looks from outside. Against top half SEC defenses, Florida has gone over 1ppp just once, and that was the first SEC game of the year when they logged 1.08ppp against UGA)

KANSAS -2 (Odd for a Bill Self team, but the Jayhawks are a taking a significantly higher volume of 3s in Big 12 play, and why not? They shoot the hell out of the ball. Can that regress on the road? Certainly, but it’s a necessary component against Baylor’s defense. KU humiliated Baylor in the first meeting, but a team that relies on their offense at the rim faces the best 2PT% defense in the Big 12, and a top 40 FG% at the rim defense nationally)

DAYTON -12.5

MINNESOTA -12.5 (Sure, the Gophers are off the emotional Maryland win, but it’s Rutgers, and the Gophers have been knocking at big wins all season, while Rutgers, well, they’ve been nowhere near)

MICHIGAN STATE -6 (Sparty’s outstanding ball movement is key here against OSU’s defense, as teams that can move the ball in the halfcourt have been able to exploit the Buckeyes (see Indiana). The loss of Tate really hinders an already wonky offense as well)

BRADLEY +15.5 (.55ppp for Bradley in the first meeting, but the Braves are playing much better basketball at this point (hard not to really), and Antoine Pittman is playing with a lot of confidence)

VIRGINIA TECH -5 (I have no words for BC at this point. Maybe pride shows up)

OLE MISS -10 (Mizzou is playing better, but they simply can’t shoot over zones, as they’re hitting at just 25% from 3 in SEC play, and they somehow managed to hit 10 of 21 in the first meeting w/ Ole Miss. That number is likely reduced by at least half tonight)

TEXAS TECH -11.5 (TCU is a poor three point shooting TO machine when Trent dominates the ball. He was out for the first meeting vs Tech, and the Frogs were competitive vs Tubby’s ball line defense. I’ll stop myself there)

COLORADO STATE +1.5 (Can you shoot the ball? If so, you’re going to have a great chance against CSU’s under screening defense. Biggest issue for the Lobos tonight is their inability to rebound defensively against an always good offensive rebounding CSU team. The problem is that while Brown can fill it up from outside (he attempted 17 threes vs Air Force), that isn’t how UNM wins games, as evidenced by the fact that they lost that game to the Falcons. CSU meanwhile just allowed Josh Adams to attempt 16 threes. CSU wants you to take that jump shot, and they hope that you miss so that they grab the board and go. Can UNM hit those jumpers, sure. But it was proven at Air Force that that’s not how they win games with Brown and Neal chucking from outside, because when the miss they get toasted in transition.)

BOISE STATE -7.5 (Boise State’s a strictly jump shooting team, but they have to be able to take advantage of UNLV inside with the Rebels missing their entire frontcourt)