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

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