3/11 Friday Conference Tournament Thoughts

11 Mar

PREDICTIONS (2050-1594-103):

FOR THE TWITTER POLICE: TIME STAMPED 11:25 AM Eastern using Pinnacle lines on Maddux

TEMPLE -11 (Temple has had their issues dealing with USF’s size in the paint offensively and on the glass. Bond was just coming back from a back injury in the first meeting with the Bulls, but USF is a team you have to zone, and Dunphy of course never zones anyone, and generally wants to take away the three point line defensively. On the other side, Antigua uses a lot of zone because the Bulls have had depth issues with injuries and suspensions all year, especially in the backcourt. Zoning Temple isn’t the best idea. I think this one probably goes along the lines of the second meeting. Temple’s going to hit enough from the perimeter and generally do what they want offensively (1.2ppp that game), while USF is going to be able get decent looks at the rim, but the FTs are what’s going to be the difference. The Bulls shot 27 in the first meeting, atypically high for a Dunphy defense, to keep the game in relative arm’s reach, but only 5 in the second meeting.)

DAYTON -4.5 (Dayton doesn’t necessarily play “uptempo”, but they’re constantly probing in transition and will generally rush the ball down court off misses, but Richmond doesn’t allow anything in transition. The problem will come in the halfcourt defensively for the Spiders, as their guards haven’t been able to contain dribble penetration all year, and Smith and Cooke went nuts in the first meeting. Both offenses went nuts actually in the first meeting, as TJ Cline shredded Dayton’s halfcourt offense off of Moody’s motion. The loss of Wood hurts here, as does Davis’ bad ankle for the Spiders, especially when you have no depth to begin with and you’re playing back to back )

INDIANA -7.5 (The Hoosiers ran Michigan off the Crisler floor in the first meeting thanks to a 25-0 run, but what was equally important was how Anunoby harassed Zak Irvin on the defensive end for IU. Offensively and defensively, Michigan just doesn’t matchup well with the Hoosiers. IU can drain jumpers set up by quick perimeter ball movement and Yogi penetration, both of which Michigan struggles to defend, and Beilein’s defense isn’t going to exploit IU’s lack of a secondary ball handler. Offensively, UM takes a lot of jump shots, and limiting jump shots is the strength of an IU defense.)

TEXAS A&M -4 (Florida had one of their better shooting performances of the season in the first meeting with the Aggies, and that atypical shot shooting from the Gators kept them in the game. If UF doesn’t get that same hot shooting today against A&M’s extending pressure zone, they’re going to be in trouble because the Aggies really limit transition opportunities, and they have the best ball movement in the SEC with the wizard Caruso and Collins as dual PGs)

CINCINNATI -2 (Should be another slugfest that comes down to who can hit a few more jumpers, as Cincy’s pack line and UConn’s crushing interior with Brimah back are both top 5 2PT% defenses nationally. Daniel Hamilton has been completely stymied by Cincy’s length, and his midrange game has been completely ineffective in both meetings. It doesn’t help the Huskies’ chances in avoiding a sweep that Cincy is getting healthier too)

PURDUE -11 (The dream probably ends for Illinois in blowout fashion in Indy today. The Purdue offense is clicking as Painter has finally locked in on a rotation, and the Boilers are looking to avenge the embarrassing loss where shorthanded Illinois posted 1.2ppp in C-U. Boilers should dominate the paint/offensive glass, and rely less on jump shots than Iowa)

ST. JOE’S -1.5 (Generally, Lonergan makes solid in season adjustments, but I’m not sure how much he can do against a St. Joe’s team that GW doesn’t match up well against. The Hawks have too many ways to attack the creases/short end of 1-3-1, and they sag so far off the perimeter, foul so infrequently, and pack the paint defensively that it makes it hard for a get the ball to the rim/FT line offense like the Colonials to operate. Now, that St. Joe’s defense has been terrible of late, but it’s been torched by teams who can shoot the ball. GW isn’t necessarily a bad shooting team, it’s just that shooting the 3 and perimeter ball movement is in their offensive DNA. GW is looking to atone for the unholy beatdown they took at Foggy Bottom and to possibly climb onto the bubble, but with the rest and refocus, I’ll take the St. Joe’s packed in scheme over GW’s offense. Could very well be wrong of course if the Colonials are hitting shots and Cavanaugh is able to unpack the floor)

JACKSON STATE -9 (Marcus Romain has been a one man wrecking crew for MVSU, simply putting his head down and trying to get into the lane on every possession. Romain will get his, but Jackson State’s much bigger, aggressive backcourt is going to wreak havoc as well today. Jackson State is a good transition defense, and when you force most SWAC teams to operate in the halfcourt, you’re going to have a great chance, and that’s particularly true against MVSU, the most transition, downhill reliant team in a transition, downhill reliant league)

LSU -4.5 (Despite the terrible “Johnny Jones is a bad coach” narrative, he made some outstanding adjustments vs Florida and TAMU, and I’m interested to see what happens vs the Vols today. Tennessee embarrassed LSU in the first meeting, which was also their first game without Punter, which was also the weird Ben Simmons not starting thing. Since then, the Vols have been impossible to figure out. They closed the regular season looking like a team that was playing without their best player and there were some blowups on the bench along the way. Then they regrouped and they’ve looked great in the SEC Tourney so far (albeit vs a decimated Auburn team and an enigmatic Vandy team), but everything points to LSU dominating the paint against tiny Tennessee, and being able to get in transition against a tired Vols team that already tends to allow a lot in that regard)

WESTERN KENTUCKY +3.5 (Harper is getting big minutes out of his bigs lately (namely a rejuvenated Lawson), and that’s big against ODU, who plays big despite not being very big. Lawson was a nonfactor in both games vs ODU, but that’s because he can’t defend pick and roll, and that’s been a weakness for WKU all year, and I’m not sure how they change that up against Freeman in that regard, who obliterated the Tops with the best midrange game in the country off pick and roll action. That being said, and I hate to be a “body language” reader, but WKU didn’t act like they just won the Super Bowl when they knocked off UAB, a potential rematch they had been talking about for weeks. WKU actually led in the 2H in both losses vs ODU, and I think the Tops move on.)



HAMPTON -6.5 (Hampton’s offense yesterday: outstanding. Reggie Johnson carved up Morgan State in transition and in the halfcourt. Hampton’s defense yesterday: atrocious. They couldn’t stop MSU’s tweeners from getting into the lane at will. That’s not going to be an issue today against Savannah State. The Tigers either get the ball to the rim off their pressure or they essentially don’t score and end up taking a contested three from Martin or Jenkins. Jenkins didn’t play in the first meeting, but Buck Joyner’s defense is going to force you to play offense when they extend, and those missed threes are going to lead to a lot of Hampton runouts the other way off the glass, and in the halfcourt, Savannah State doesn’t have anyone who can stay anywhere near Chievous in terms of keeping him out of the paint. This is basically a nightmare matchup for Horace Broadnax’s style)

SFA -16 (Talked about this game in SLC preview, but Underwood’s interchangeable, multiple PG spread motion offense is just too much for the SLC, and add in their harassing pressure and you have the reason why SFA is obliterating conference foes. HBU is a strictly attacking team, so the fact that SFA completely takes away the three doesn’t really matter here, but the fact that they don’t really have a PG against the pressure does. Odunsi draws more contact than anyone in the entire country, but SFA does an excellent job of taking the ball out of his hands with the pressure and forcing other, worse ballhandlers to dribble. Odunsi has shot 12 total FTs in two meetings with SFA this year, and he generally makes that total in a single game. Additionally, HBU’s one lane clogger against that SFA motion, Josh Ibarra, is out)

SOUTH ALABAMA +11.5 (These teams hate each other, as there were “dust ups” in both meetings. USA zones ULL and gets back in transition religioiusly, which can tend to frustrate the Cajuns, and they know how to get under the skin of the volatile Long. That said, USA has some personnel issues with Whittingham being dismissed, and more importantly, Juice Williams is dealing with an ankle injury after rolling it late vs Georgia Southern. If Williams can go, and this is totally dependent on his availability, I think USA will once again frustrate the Cajuns, but if he’s out, ULL rolls and that would be my pick) UPDATE: JUICE WILLIAMS IS INDEED OUT FOR USA WITH A BROKEN FOOT

AKRON -9 (BGSU’s modified pack line defense forces you to hoist threes. Well, that’s not a great concept against the Zips, who were 35-73 from 3 in two blowout wins, posting 1.19 and 1.25ppp. BGSU’s offense is predicated at getting the ball to the rim, where Akron can’t guard anyone, but BGSU just isn’t very efficient when they do get the ball inside. Of course, this is the *exact* same rationale for why I thought CMU would roll the Falcons yesterday, but the Chips were just 4-20 from 3)

PROVIDENCE +9 (How healthy is Chef’s ankle? Jay Wright made a nice adjustment in the second meeting by not doubling Dunn like he did in the first meeting, which Dunn exploited by finding the mismatch out of the double by simply seeing over the top. Second meeting they turned him into a jump shooter by being less aggressive and sagging off him. PC has to make their hay against a thinned Nova frontcourt though)

MTSU -1.5 (The Blue Raiders were much more successful attacking D’Antoni’s version of the loot and shoot the second time around, particularly Buford, and they didn’t have Giddy Potts in that second meeting either. MTSU lost some depth with Simpson breaking his ankle, but interested to see how Marshall’s style holds up on back to backs with their 7 man rotation)

VCU -13 (Unofficially, UMass is the streakiest shooting team in the country. They hit, I believe 7 in a row at one point vs VCU in the first meeting en route to an atypical 10-16, while Melvin Johnson was ice cold. VCU couldn’t check any UMass guard in that game, and that’s something that has surprisingly carried over a bit (see Cooke and Scoochie on Saturday))

MICHIGAN STATE -13 (The Spartans’ ball movement makes a mockery of Ohio State’s compact, rim protecting defense. Barring a cold shooting night from basically every Spartan and Izzo easing off the gas for some rest, I don’t see the Buckeyes threatening in this one)

KANSAS -6.5 (KU’s ball movement and Bill Self’s new found love affair with the 3 pointer has been torching Baylor’s zone this year. Baylor even tried a burn offense last game, but it cost them a 2H lead, and KU still scored 1.20ppp in a 55 possession game. Any chance Self goes easy here for some rest? Sure, but I think Drew doesn’t know what to try now against the Jayhawks regardless)

NOTRE DAME +7 (Irish were 3-16 from 3 and still were able to beat UNC because they grabbed 44% of their misses. I expect both of those numbers to reverse tonight, as the Irish hit more jumpers, and thus grab less offensive rebounds (groundbreaking analysis, right?). Brey is on quite the streak vs Roy, and I anticipate another barnburner tonight)

KENTUCKY -12.5 (I love the way Avery Johnson’s team guards, and I love Taylor at the rim, but this is a brutal matchup for the Tide in several areas, namely the fact that Calipari teams always take away the three point line (while of course also locking down the paint), and on the offensive glass. On the other end, Bama actually runs teams off the three as well as UK, but with the exception of Taylor, they don’t guard like UK in the paint, and if Skal is playing with sudden confidence now, watch out)

HOUSTON -12 (I would have liked Tulane’s chances to stick around if they had Jarreau. The Green Wave actually played some solid interior defense when Conroy went big with him and Osetkowski, but he’s had to restructure to a team that tries to shade shooters now. That’s not going to work out against a Sampson offense that works to get every possession into the paint. Additionally, Tulane just can’t shoot the ball, and they’re trying to get going in transition to mitigate their halfcourt offense deficiencies, but the Coogs essentially allow zilch in transition. Houston spacing offensively in the halfcourt has been on another level of late. Tough game for the Green Wave to compete in)


NORFOLK STATE -4 (Jones went off script and was strictly in man vs NCCU last night, which was strange, but it obviously worked. That’s a wrinkle SC State’s potent offense is going to have think about tonight, but the more glaring issue is SCSU’s defense, or lack thereof, and their sagging perimeter was torched by NSU’s lethal wings. I don’t think NSU will hit 14 threes again, but it might be close)

TEXAS A&M CORPUS CHRISTI -3.5 (I think you’ll see one of the oldest teams in the country finally get over the SLC semi final hump against the team that has knocked them out in Katy two years running. SHSU handled the intense Islander pressure much better seeing it the second time (31% TO rate reduced to 15%), but the Islanders erased a late double digit lead after foul trouble forced Wilson to sit his dominant mobile bigs Douvier and Thomas (DPOY and matchup nightmare for Majauskas on the other end), and they rallied with them back in the game. Foul trouble is once again a concern here, as the aggressive pressure lends itself to a lot of whistles of course. If the Islanders can keep the big men and PG Ali on the court for the majority of the game, I think they exact some pent up revenge)

UT ARLINGTON -8.5 (If Montalvo is out with a concussion, Texas State has very little hope against UTA’s aggressive ball line defense that puts a lot of pressure on ball handlers and forces you to beat it with jump shots. KGT found his stroke last night, but Montalvo is Kaspar’s best shooter. This is a tough matchup for Texas State when healthy, brutal when they’re not. The Mavs regrouped after the Hervey injury, and even with Jones at the 4 at times, they’re still a dominant rebounding team that can get in transition quickly off the defensive glass)

NORTH DAKOTA +5.5 (UND’s pressure has to be able to disrupt Weber State again in the third go round, because you don’t really want to face Rahe’s halfcourt defense if you don’t have to. That said, UND was so fluid in a lower possession game, albeit at home, in their win. The recent play of Drick Bernstine is certainly a favorable development for Jones. It gives him another competent big against Bolomboy when this game slows down. UND hasn’t been able to slow down Senglin in either matchup, and a Senglin/Hooker showdown looms)

NEBRASKA +8 (I don’t have much for you on this one, but I like the mobility of Shields/White on one end, but obviously not on the other, and tired legs eventually run out of gas)

NEW MEXICO STATE -10.5 (NMSU won both games by one point, blowing a big lead in Las Cruces, and needing a big rally in Kansas City in a game that didn’t mean anything to the Aggies. NMSU actually handled the zone press well in both meeting, but the back end of that is the zone aspect, which they didn’t handle well. NMSU isn’t a jump shooting team (why would you be with Siakam?), but if UMKC isn’t getting turnovers, they can’t score against NMSU’s oppressive half court defense)

SAN DIEGO STATE -7.5 (Who’s going to hit some jump shots in this game? We know what SDSU’s length can do to opposing offenses, but Nevada’s interior is grinding teams to a pulp as well. Difference maker tonight: Malik Pope at the 4. Musselman uses a small lineup with Criswell at that position,and Pope was a nonfactor in the first meeting playing only 7 minutes. He could be the bucket getter that lets SDSU ease by late. Nevada was awfully emotional after breaking through in the MWC tourney finally. Interesting to see how they respond on short order)

ARIZONA PK (Miller is going to pound it inside all night. Anderson and Zeus can go right at the thinner Oregon frontcourt, but it comes down to stopping Brooks and keeping him out of the lane if you’re Zona. Brooks was too big for Allen, Arizona’s best defender, and Trier isn’t capable of guarding him yet. Heavyweight fight in Vegas)

BUFFALO +1.5 (Bulls got waxed in the first meeting without Bearden and they couldn’t guard Tony Campbell at the rim, but Oats doubled him every time with a smaller defender in the second game, and he was afforded that luxury with Bearden back. I like Buffalo’s ability to expose some mismatches off the dribble (namely Hamilton vs Kaminski at the 4, Massinburg vs Dartis), and that’s going to make Phillips trade some offense for defense)

Out of time…




MEMPHIS +5.5 (Memphis doesn’t match up well against a lot of the AAC elite, but they do against Tulsa because their frontcourt is overwhelmingly more athletic, even with Smith back)

ST. BONAVENTURE -1 (The extra rest is going to be key for the Bonnies’ dynamic backcourt, and Davidson can’t stay in front of either MP3 or Adams. Aldridge is a matchup nightmare, and the first game saw a road weary Davidson trying to defend those guards, but I think the Bonnies can outscore the high octane McKillop motion tonight)

SOUTHERN +5.5 (Roman Banks is a pound it inside coach, and you’re not going to beat TSU on the perimeter. Get the ball inside and try to get Griffin in foul trouble, and the Jags will have a chance for the upset)

HAWAII -3.5 (Janks, one man zone buster. UCSB hasn’t played a top half Big West team in 5 weeks when they lost to Hawaii at the Thunderdome)

GEORGIA +1.5 (Georgia’s 2-3 matchup zone has been effective against USCe in both meetings, and UGA still rebounds exceptionally well out of it, which is key vs a Frank Martin team. Really difficult matchup for the Gamecocks, especially without Carrera)

IDAHO +3.5 (While I really like them talent wise, I don’t necessarily trust Montana’s young guards vs Verlin’s modified pack line and zone defenses. Breunig will get his, but Verlin has Callandret for this one, and more depth inside with one of the Sherwoods playing well and Egbert back, so Ark foul trouble isn’t a doomsday scenario for the pack line)

CSUB -11.5 (Maybe I’m looking at this too statically, but I watched CSUB’s pressure just obliterate Seattle, and their lack of a PG was evident in both meetings, and Westendorf was actually worse the second time around, and CSUB’s smaller guards completely busted the Seattle zone with penetration. CSUB isn’t a jump shooting team by any stretch, but their pressure and penetration has made Seattle’s zone a nonfactor.)

FRESNO STATE -5 (It’s possible CSU stays in this game simply because you can hit jump shots on the Fresno St defense, and Eustachy’s squad can shoot, but the Rams cannot guard the Bulldog wings at all) UPDATE: OMOGBO OUT FOR CSU TONIGHT. That’s a big loss on the glass, especially on back to back to backs

UTAH -2 (Another heavyweight fight in Vegas. Can’t wait for this one. These teams are so similar as they’re dominant interior defenses and they don’t allow anything in transition or from the three point line. These are two Final Four potential teams in my mind, and I’ll give Utah a slight edge because of their ball movement in the halfcourt)

UC IRVINE -4 (LBSU’s offense is underrated in their ball movement thanks to Bibbins, and you have to move the UCI zone around, but the Beach is going to get overwhelmed in the frontcourt again. I doubt Nelson goes 6-7 from 3 again though)








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