2/12 Friday Thoughts

12 Feb

PREDICTIONS (1501-1146-70):

On paper, Niagara doesn’t match up well with St. Peter’s, as they’re a team looking to get the ball to the rim as often as possible with Scott and Blackman penetrating from the wing, but the Peacocks are always going to be a difficult to team to score inside on consistently, and you generally have to be a good perimeter shooting team to beat Dunne’s defensive schemes. Niagara is the worst three point shooting team in the MAAC at 27%. That being said, there are always going to be extenuating circumstances, and that certainly applies here. First, Niagara has already defeated St. Peter’s this year (Peacocks were making the 6 hour trip from Poughkeepsie to Buffalo on a Mon/Thurs turnaround), and yes, they did it by pounding the ball inside and getting Welton in early foul trouble, and Justin Satchell, typically a perimeter lurking big (although he’s been getting more and more comfortable in the post), finished 8-8 from the field against the Peacocks. Second, the status of Trevis Wyche is still up in the air, and without Wyche, the already meager Peacock offense takes a serious blow. They did however defeat Quinnipiac without him, thanks to FR Portley rediscovering his scoring panache, but if you’re going to play against any MAAC team without your PG, I think every coach in the league would choose to play against Tom Moore’s no gamble defense. Of course, it’s not like Niagara is Masiello-ing anyone this year, as they have the 8th lowest defensive steal and TO rate in the league, so it’s entirely possible the Peacocks can get by again without Wyche running the offense tonight. All in all, if Welton stays out of foul trouble this time around, Niagara should be running into the teeth of Dunne’s defense all night. [UPDATE: TREVIS WYCHE STARTING FOR ST. PETER’S]

SAINT PETER’S -7

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.

MONMOUTH -4.5

Tough trip for Ohio. Quick turnaround from a last minute win at Muncie and now they make a 500 mile trek to Buffalo, and Simmons is playing through an illness. He wasn’t 100% vs BSU, and I’m not sure how close he is two days later. However, Buffalo has some personnel issues going on. PG Lamonte Bearden is serving the second game of his two game suspension tonight, and while I don’t think his absence necessarily precludes a Buffalo win (they did go 2-0 when he was out with an injury a few weeks ago, including a win over CMU, who also shorthanded), it does make things more difficult in terms of guarding Simmons. Offensively, I think Bearden’s production can be replicated by Skeete and even the 6’6 Hamilton at the point, but down the stretch against Toledo, you saw where Buffalo is really hit without him, and that’s defensively. Jonathan Williams took Conner and then Hamilton off the dribble two times in the final 45 seconds to win the game, and I have to think Bearden (one of the best on ball defenders in the MAC) gets a stop at least one of those times or at the very least forces the ball out of his hands. Additionally, CJ Massinburg limped off at the end of the Toledo game, and I’m not sure of his status for tonight. The Bulls have backcourt depth, and they’re an attack first group, which is key against Ohio, as Phillips really has them taking away the three point line, but dribble penetration has been a major issue (see CMU, see KSU).

BUFFALO -4

The versatility of Pollard and Pierre give a defense like Rhode Island’s fits because they’re so efficient in the middle of the floor. It looks like Kuran Iverson is going to be back (I’d guess between 15-20 minutes if he is cleared), but I don’t consider him capable of defending either Pollard or Pierre when they’re facing the basket. Rhode Island has been shooting the ball well from 3 (39% in A10 play, which is 13 points higher than last year), and that ability to shoot from 3 with McGlynn is key tonight, as Dayton is an outstanding defense in terms of clogging up the lane. McGlynn and Garrett probably have to hit 10+ threes tonight to win, and obviously if Iverson is able to contribute on that end, the better. Dayton doesn’t play “uptempo” by any stretch, but they constantly look to probe in transition, and will rush the ball up court off the defensive glass, but URI is a very solid transition defense in terms of FGA rate allowed, so this game is going to come down to halfcourt execution (both meetings last year were 61 possession games). Dayton’s an outstanding ball reversal offense, but URI is so disruptive in the backcourt defensively (lowest assist rate allowed in A10 play, second lowest in the country), but again, I think this game comes down to URI’s inability to guard Pierre, Pollard, and even Cooke in the middle of the floor/FT line extended.

DAYTON -1.5 [UPDATE: OBVIOUSLY KENDALL POLLARD BEING UNAVAILABLE ISN’T IDEAL]

Just a few quick notes on the Pac12 games…Arizona State’s defense has been horrendous in league play. They’ve only held Washington State (2x) and Oregon State to sub 1ppp OEs, and it stems from being really unathletic on the wings, and they’ve been the worst transition defense in terms of FGA rate in league play. Those are two areas that USC can clearly exploit. Arizona State’s defense actually wasn’t terrible in their earlier meeting at the Galen Center, but USC was coming off the Washington trip, and had a huge game with Arizona on tap for a Thurs/Sat turnaround, and the 10 point margin of victory was the closest the game was for the entire 2H. Of course USC has a trip to Tucson coming up on Sunday, but I think they should get by ASU tonight with 8 days to rest some nagging injuries to Ju Jacobs and Bennie Boatwright. Speaking of Arizona, I’m not sure they have much problem with UCLA tonight in a revenge game. The Bruins have been getting torched on the defensive end on the road (with a nonexistent bench, they look worn down to me), and offensively, this game basically boils down to whether or not UCLA hits a ton of two point jump shots. The Bruins love to take them, and Arizona’s defense is designed to make you take them (3rd highest rate in the country). The first meeting saw UCLA hit a ton of them, so of course it’s possible, but I see far less of them falling in Tucson tonight.

USC +1, ARIZONA -11.5

Quick Ivy notes…

What was thought to be a pretty balanced Ivy season has clearly become top heavy at the halfway point, as Harvard has dropped out of the race and it’s between Yale, Columbia, and Princeton. Princeton is in Ithaca tonight for Cornell before a big one at Levien tomorrow, so they could certainly be looking past Big Red a bit. Cornell wants to get out in transition via ball pressure, but it’s going to be Princeton’s transition offense that dominates tonight, as I don’t think people quite realize how lethal this team can be when getting quick looks off the defensive glass (Cornell is a horrendous rebounding team) and turnovers (highest TO rate in Ivy play).

Columbia on the other hand, has a tougher challenge at Levien with Penn before their showdown with Princeton tomorrow. Steve Donahue is known for his prolific three point offense, but Donahue isn’t recognized as a great basketball mind because of his staticism, and he has recognized he simply doesn’t have the roster in place yet to play like his great Cornell teams of several years ago, and the Red and Blue have drastically reduced their three point attempt rate in Ivy play. So where are the shots coming from now? DNH and Rothschild in the post. They went straight at Harvard on the block on Saturday with Edosomwan out, and those two combined to go 16-26 from the field, and you have to assume that’s the game plan tonight against a Columbia team that can still struggle to defend at the rim. The problem for Penn tonight remains their extremely high TO rate, as Kyle Smith has proven dedicated to extending ball pressure (Lo had 7 steals vs Yale!), which has been a swift departure from his previous defensive philosophies.

Brown has played 5 of their 6 Ivy games at home, and they’re allowing 1.14ppp, which makes them by far the worst defense in the league, and certainly doesn’t portend a turnaround on the road. They’ll be at Harvard tonight, who should have Big Z back the post, and despite the shot blocking of Kuakumensah, Brown has the worst 2PT% defense in the league. Brown has been filling it up from behind the arc lately, and McCarthy vs Blackmon at the point is mismatch in favor of Brown at this point in their careers, but without an efficient post threat (Kuakumensah is a far more effective defensive player), Okolie and Johnson can really extend out on the perimeter tonight (matchup of the Okolie brothers tonight by the way).

Yale is a tough matchup for anyone in the Ivy, but they figure to be particularly tough for Dartmouth. Big Green relies heavily on scoring at the rim (41% of their FGAs come at the rim), particularly from the talented FR Boudreaux (who might be wearing down a bit as well). Relying on scoring at the rim against Yale is likely a losing proposition though, as they’re a top 40 defense nationally in terms of FG% at the rim thanks to Sears and Sherrod. Yale’s weaknesses are few (if they’re going to continue to shoot like they have been from outside in conjunction with their post game, you can probably hand them the Ivy title), but they will turn the ball over, and Cormier will extend pressure with Gill and swarm the post with smaller, quicker defenders to frustrate opposing bigs (see what they did to Big Z). Turning Yale over, and turning them over a lot, is probably Big Green’s only hope tonight.

PRINCETON -9.5, HARVARD -6.5, PENN +10.5, YALE -9.5

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