Archive | February, 2017

OVC Tournament Preview

28 Feb

Bracket

WHEN: 3/1-3/4

WHERE: Nashville

TEAM TO BEAT: Top seeded Belmont nearly ran the table in OVC play and dominated both offensively and defensively. It’s typical that a Rick Byrd coaches his league’s most efficient offense, but this is the first time since Belmont’s first year in the OVC that they were also the league’s best defense, and they’re allowing zilch in transition this year. If Belmont is defending at a high level in addition to that prolific three point offense couple with efficiency monster Evan Bradds inside…watch out. If the perimeter shots are falling for Belmont, you have no chance. Basically have to hope to catch them on an off night.

IF NOT THEM THEN: Woof. I guess similar to last year, if Belmont gets upset it could literally be anyone else. Anthony Stewart did a phenomenal job in his first year at #2 UT Martin, getting the Skyhawks to the 2 seed thanks to a 9-3 finish to conference play. Offensively the Skyhawks are a force thanks to slashing/sharp shooting Jacolby Mobley on the perimeter and hyper efficient/glass eater Javier Martinez inside. Defensively…it’s another story. Stewart uses a fairly ineffectual matchup zone, and if you can shoot, you can score in bunches against UTM. The Skyhawks did go 3-1 vs their half of the bracket this year, and as the two seed of course have the double bye to the semis. That said, they matchup excessively poor against Belmont if chalk holds to the finals.

SLEEPERS: Again, everyone else. Let’s just break down the other six teams quickly. #3 Morehead State lucked out with their draw a bit, avoiding Tennessee State and Jacksonville State, two teams that gave them trouble with their frontcourts. Preston Spradlin did a “remove the interim tag” worthy job after taking over the head coaching position following the Sean Woods mess. The Eagles under Spradlin are a little less physical, a little aggressive, and more guard oriented instead of brute force oriented. The Eagles will run dual PG sets with Xavier Moon and Miguel Dicent, creating high quality three point looks and opening things up for DeJuan Marrero, who has played poorly down the stretch and suffered a suspension as well. The Eagles finished in a tailspin largely due to Marrero’s drop off in production in the paint. You can gash them at the rim routinely, but like I said, the teams that pound it inside are in the top half of the bracket. Good for the Eagles.

#4 Jacksonville State received the final bye after Ray Harper came in from WKU and worked miracles in his first season. JSU’s an intriguing entry at the 4. They have a veteran backcourt with Drumwright at the point, the slashing Tucker off the ball, and sharp shooting Durham on the outside. They have a 7 footer in Giga who can dominate when game flowed in (and healthy). Defensively they don’t allow much of anything at the rim with Giga, the athletic Cross, and Cunningham protecting the paint. For that reason, JSU matches up very favorably against pound it inside Tennessee St in their bracket, and if they play SEMO, they have the veteran backcourt to handle the traps Rick Ray throws at you and consequently expose a weak SEMO frontcourt. That said, they didn’t fare well vs Belmont in their two meetings.

#5 SEMO will have #8 Tennessee State first, a fairly tough break for the Redhawks, who simply don’t have the frontcourt to contain Wayne Martin, unless Rick Ray wants to utilize some sort of junk defense. McCall will probably have his fair share of turnovers vs that vs wave of traps/pressure, but when he doesn’t turn it over TSU should score fairly routinely. Defensively Dana Ford’s philosophy has McCall and Chaney in the ball handlers jersey, and basically everyone else with at least a foot in the paint. SEMO’s offense isn’t just slashing Cleveland, as FOY Mahoney and PG Calvin can really shoot the ball. Really interesting game to kick off the tourney.

I hate to count out the inside/out duo of Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller, but #7 Murray State looks like they’re really limping into Nashville. Maybe the spirited comeback at the end of the UT Martin game on Saturday is a turning point (also the play of Dupree inside was a major head turner), but the Racers, already prone to poor defense, haven’t stopped anyone since they lost Croaker. The good news for the Racers is that #6 Tennessee Tech’s defense, while solid, is compact. If Stark, Miller, and Jones are getting the shots to fall, the Racers can overcome their porous defense with copious offense. Furthermore, Tech doesn’t have the frontcourt to challenge the Racers at the rim, meaning if Stark and Jones actually defend against Rogers, Jugovic, and Mack, MSU should be fine. Murray State will of course have a big crowd on hand in Nashville, as the Racers always travel well.

PREDICTIONS: Belmont over JSU in the semis, Murray State over UTM in the semis

Belmont over Murray State

First round predictions: Tennessee St -4.5, Murray St -3.5

Big South Tournament Preview

28 Feb

Bracket

WHEN: 2/28-3/5

WHERE: Campus site for first round, Winthrop hosts quarters/semis, highest remaining seed hosts title game

My thoughts and a general primer on the Big South Tournament can be found at midmajormadness.com, but here’s a look at the first round games and set quarters…

#10 Presbyterian at #7 Campbell

The Blue Hose limp into Buies Creek hurt and nursing an 8 game losing streak (Millner out for the tournament per the estimable Dave Friedman) . I love Coach Nibert, but having a hard time seeing PC pulling off an opening day surprise like last year against Radford. Campbell had no problem running their motion against PC’s zone, and Chris Clemons was too quick for it to be effective anyway, hitting gaps off the dribble with ease in both matchups. If the Camels do advance, can they give UNCA a game? No, not really. The Bulldogs are uniquely quick and long on the perimeter, and they really harassed Clemons in Asheville, and when you take away a guy who is 5th nationally in usage and 2nd nationally in % of his team’s shots, you’re not left with a lot. Clemons didn’t play in the meeting in Buies Creek, however.

#9 Longwood at #8 Charleston Southern

The Bucs swept this series this year, but I’m sure Barclay Radebaugh would love to exact some revenge on the Lancers after being knocked out in their first Big South game two years running by Longwood (the loss and subsequent “drama” two years ago as the one seed still haunts him I’m sure). CSU is tiny. Javis Howard is their only frontcourt player and Radebaugh has to rely on uber frosh Christian Keeling to make up a lot of the glass work that’s missing. Keeling is a phenomenal rebounding guard, currently playing out of position. Longwood has once again been limited by injuries, especially at PG, but this is a game Khris Lane really has to dominate at the rim. He was 10-12 from 2 against CSU on Saturday, and realistically should put up similar numbers again. Longwood surprised by starting the conference season 3-0. They haven’t won since. They have a physical edge over the Bucs, but the lack of a point guard really limits any continuity offensively. Winner gets Winthrop, and the Eagles had no issues with either in all four meetings.

Looking ahead to the set quarterfinal games…

#6 Radford struggled against #3 Liberty’s pack line in both meetings, as McKay’s defense neutralized Ed Polite. Radford’s underrated and undersized big man was 6-24 from the field in two Radford losses to the Flames. That said, Radford’s defense really focuses on staying at home on shooters and that Polite/Phillips frontcourt is small but mobile, allowing them to really disrupt the perimeter attack and weave of Liberty (the Flames have by far the highest 3PTA rate in the league). Liberty might have won both meetings, but it wasn’t pretty (in OT win at Radford they were up 37-12 (in 2H!) before needing 5 extra to hold on). Essentially neither offense is built to beat the opposing defense. With injuries at PG Radford can’t break down pack line of Liberty, three point reliant Flames can’t find consistent open looks against a defense that forces you off the line.

#5 High Point can present some problems for my Big South sleeper #4 Gardner-Webb. HPU defensively will use some different zone looks and generally pack it in, which is a problem for a team that works exclusively downhill and attacks the rim in transition. That said, HPU is down a ball handler in Wright, which allows Rideau’s ball hawking to be even more effective. If Robateu and O’Reilly are hitting shots early, the lane will really open up for Rideau and GWU can start working downhill. The Runnin Bulldogs are a tough matchup in a short rest tournament setting.

PREDICTIONS: Campbell -13, Longwood +11

SEASON PREDICTIONS: 1772-1570-68, 340-292-16

Buffalo +4.5

Rutgers +6

Seton Hall -3.5

Miami OH +14.5

EMU -2.5

 

South Carolina -13

BGSU +3

Missouri +4

Toledo -5.5

Duke -7

Purdue -11

Davidson -3

NIU -2

Creighton -9

PC -11.5

Penn St -1.5

Oklahoma St +3

Pitt +2

Vandy +11.5

Boise St -4.5

Wyoming +7.5

 

 

Patriot League Tournament Preview

28 Feb

Bracket

WHEN: 2/28-3/8

WHERE: Campus sites, higher seed hosting

 

TEAM TO BEAT: Top seeded Bucknell ran roughshod over the league for the most part. The Bison were easily the Patriot League’s most efficient offense and best defense. Nathan Davis in just has second season at the helm has a loaded roster anchored by PL POY Nana Foulland in the middle, do everything wing Zach Thomas, and outstanding PG Stephen Brown. The Bison are a lethal transition offense because of their ability to quickly spread the floor with multiple ball handlers off the break. Defensively they aggressively shade the three point line knowing that the league’s best shot blocker in Foulland lurks at the rim. Teams that can draw Foulland out of the lane consistently on pnr and pick and pops have had success (see Kempton and Lehigh). That said, there aren’t a lot of weaknesses on this team, but they do enter banged up, with Foulland suffering from some sort of eye issue (he missed Saturday’s game), and Thomas reinjured a troublesome ankle. Hopefully the rest allows them to be good to go come Thursday. The Bison will host the winner of #8 Army and #9 American, both of whom come in playing their best basketball. Army comes in having won three of four and Jimmy Allen has maintained the transition reliant, three point heavy offensive attack that Zach Spiker fostered in West Point. The Black Knights are fairly young and inexperienced, but if dual PGs Jordan Fox and Tommy Funk are getting into the lane and Luke Morrison is feeling it from outside, they’ll put up points. American’s also a young team and Mike Brennan’s Princeton style offense isn’t necessarily a quick learn, especially with a freshman in Sa’eed Nelson running the point and a freshman in Mark Gasperini running the high post, but the Eagles have won two in a row coming in. Interestingly, Brennan has started to use a zone in the winning streak (and a look from American that Army hasn’t seen yet), which is strange coming from a coach known primarily for his defense’s ability to pressure the ball handler and take away the three point line. This is certainly a style contrast with American’s methodical cuts and motion and Army’s transition based attack. These two split in the regular season, with each winning on the road.

IF NOT THEM THEN: #3 Lehigh was the preseason favorites in the PL, stumbled out of the gate, but recovered to finish 6-1 down the stretch, but most importantly swept top seeded Bucknell. Lehigh also has all the pieces offensively. A dominant mobile big who can move opposing centers away from the paint in Tim Kempton anchors the team, while playmaking PG Kahron Ross is surrounded by sharpshooters Kyle Leufroy, Pat Andree, and Austin Price. If Lehigh defends like they did down the stretch, there’s no question they can win this tournament. They’ll host #6 Colgate who they overwhelmed in both meetings. Matt Langel runs an inverted motion offense, which is no problem for the mobility of Lehigh’s 4 and 5, and Colgate’s defense is no match for Lehigh on the other end.

#2 Boston U has to warrant serious consideration since they swept Lehigh and would host them in a potential semifinal meeting. Joe Jones has a very good point guard in Kyle Foreman, an underrated big in Justin Alston, and a wing combo of Eric Fanning and Cedric Hankerson that can really defend on the perimeter. Offensively Hankerson is a streaky shooter but Fanning routinely creates offense by getting into the paint. Against Lehigh Jones adopted a “let Kempton get his” philosophy that used his perimeter length to negate Lehigh’s shooters. BU would have to first get by the winner of Tuesday’s matchup between #7 Loyola MD and #10 Lafayette in Baltimore. BU had some major issues with speed of Andre Walker in a series split with the Greyhounds. Loyola comes in tough luck losers of three in a row (could easily be riding a four game winning streak) and split with Lafayette in the regular season. GG Smith is going to use a modified ball line defense (much like his dad) to limit penetration and looks at the rim, and extend a little pressure. The Greyhounds are undersized at the rim defensively, and when they lose, they tend to get gashed in the paint. Fran O’Hanlon, a genius offensive tactician who has never really cared much for defense (he’ll throw some junk zones at you to keep you off balance), will run a lot of his action with Klinewski at the rim, and Zalys up high to keep teams from doubling him. He’s also got a fantastic SR PG in Nick Lindner running his offense. Klinewski had two poor outings against Loyola and the ball line defense, and the Greyhound guards led by Walker are just quicker and more athletic. If the high/low stuff with Klinewski is working more efficiently, the Leopards certainly have a chance, but it often looks like Lindner is dragging his teammates along with him.

SLEEPERS: Have to consider the winner of #4 Navy and #5 Holy Cross in the quarters a sleeper. Of course we all know what Holy Cross is capable of doing in this tournament under Bill Carmody, as last year the Crusaders stunned the league and won 4 games to win the whole thing, proving along the way how tortuous Carmody’s aggressive 1-3-1 and methodical offense can be even if you know what’s coming. Holy Cross comes in hot, having come close to knocking off the 2 and 3 seeds in this tournament in the last few weeks. Everyone of consequence returned from last year’s miracle team, and the Crusaders had a four game improvement in the regular season with some tough luck losses. They split with Navy in the regular season, but the Middies are playing the worst basketball of their season coming in, having lost their last 4 and were non competitive against Bucknell to end the year, and the Bison were essentially resting key starters. Turnovers and poor shooting have plagued Navy all year, which is pretty much a death sentence against Carmody’s 1-3-1, but Navy’s an excellent rebounding team, especially on the offensive glass, and having those extended possessions in a low possession game is key, particularly since Holy Cross is exceptionally weak on the glass. Ed DeChellis loves to zone as well, but it’s not the best strategy against Holy Cross, and certainly not against Bucknell.

PREDICTION: #1 Bucknell over #3 Lehigh

FIRST ROUND:

American +7

Lafayette +10

Atlantic Sun Tournament Preview

26 Feb

Bracket

WHEN: 2/27-3/5

WHERE: Campus sites

TEAM TO BEAT: Defending champ and top seeded FGCU certainly has to be considered the team to beat. The Eagles returned nearly everyone from last year’s championship team, and added a dynamic scoring point guard in Brandon Goodwin from UCF. With Goodwin in the fold, this is no longer a team with a dominating frontcourt and an iffy backcourt. The Eagles are capable of scoring from anywhere. That said, the focus of Joe Dooley’s offense is still getting the ball to the rim as often as possible (15th nationally in FGA rate at the rim, 31st in FG% at the rim) via a frontcourt of the mercurial Marc Eddy Norelia, Meech Morant, and Antravious Simmons, or via penetration from Goodwin and Zach Johnson. Defensively, the Eagles were the best unit in the ASUN (basically tied with Lipscomb in both offensive and defensive efficiency), and feature a lock down defender on the perimeter in Johnson and major rim protector in ASUN DPOY Morant. Where can the Eagles struggle? If you throw a zone at Dooley’s squad or wall off the paint effectively, they shot a woeful 28% from 3 in league play and don’t really have a facilitator in the high post against zones (Ray Tucker perhaps?). The Eagles mitigate that poor 3PT shooting by crashing the offensive glass relentlessly. FGCU will host last year’s tournament crashers 8 seed Stetson in a rematch of last year’s title game. The Hatters nearly pulled off what would have been one of the more bizarre occurrences in championship week history, as having been disqualified from competing in the NCAA Tournament due to academics, they would have had to cede the title to top seeded UNF (a team that had already been eliminated) had they defeated FGCU. As it were Stetson lost in OT in a thrilling title game, and became a mere footnote to history. This year’s Hatters are essentially the same team as last year’s, a multiple ball handler driven transition offense that has found a little more balance with the return of Brian Pegg down low. Stetson did in fact give FGCU some issues in both regular season games (although the second didn’t carry much significance). In fact, Stetson probably should have won in DeLand as the quickness of Rivera and Myles was an issue. Think Drake’s speed boats vs the Spanish Armada. Corey Williams also went almost strictly zone in the second meeting, but FGCU obviously knows that’s in the playbook, having just seen it a few days ago. But back to the Eagles, when FGCU ran into trouble in league play this year, it was when teams shot over their compact defense (Lipscomb) or had the bigs to contend with them in the paint (USC Upstate), which is a perfect segue to…

IF NOT THEM THEN: 2 seed Lipscomb has to be viewed as a very serious contender in this tournament. When you think of Lipscomb, think Belmont, as Casey Alexander runs the same up tempo, three point reliant, transition drag screen offense as his mentor Rick Byrd. Alexander’s offense is much more efficient this year as he found his “Evan Bradds” in WKU transfer Rob Marberry. Marberry has at times feasted on easy looks created by defenses overplaying PG Nate Moran and wings Garrison Mathews and Josh Williams on the perimeter. Mathews has developed into something of an unstoppable offensive force with the ball in his hands, as he can create offense in a multitude of ways. The Bisons are also an improved defensive team this year, with Alexander willing to extend pressure (more so) when FR Kenny Cooper is on the floor, and essentially abandoning the zone that he utilized at times last year. Lipscomb’s depth has taken a hit of late with some injuries, particularly in the frontcourt, but there’s no question that the Bisons are capable of winning the whole thing. Unfortunately they’re also on the same side of the bracket as North Florida, who swept them in the regular season. Lipscomb will host 7 seed NJIT on Monday. The Highlanders have had to regroup after the devastating loss of do everything guard Damon Lynn, a player as valuable to his team as anyone for any team in the entire country. NJIT has a bit of momentum heading in, having won two straight to close the regular season, their first two wins since losing Lynn for the season. The Highlanders are a good rebounding team thanks to the addition of USA transfer Abdul Lewis and do everything wing Tim Coleman, but they don’t matchup well with Lipscomb, although the Bisons did come out flat in a similar situation in last year’s ASUN tourney.

SLEEPERS: 3 seed North Florida went 5-1 vs their half of the bracket (and the one loss was when NJIT had Lynn and he went off for 33), and have a trio of players who have won this thing before, led by electric scoring guard Dallas Moore. The Osprey have struggled when teams take advantage of Driscoll’s philosophy to rarely, if ever double the post, relying on a trio of shot blockers in Davenport, Aminu, and Banks to hold their own as the perimeter overplays the three point line. That didn’t against the Upstates and the FGCUs of the league, but as I mentioned, those teams are on the other side of the bracket. UNF can also struggle to find offense outside of uber scorer Moore, and the whole thing can often devolve into Moore isos. Fortunately he’s talented enough to deliver on most nights. UNF has a tricky first round game with 6 seed Jacksonville, their River City Rumble counterpart. UNF swept the regular season against their rivals, and the old adage is “it’s hard to beat a team three times”, and while Tony Jasick is a very good coach, the simple truth is that JU isn’t built to take advantage of UNF where you can exploit them. The Dolphins are a three point reliant offense and a defense reliant on turning you over with some pressure. If you don’t turn it over, you’re likely going to find an easy bucket. Additionally, JU’s top scorer JR Holder has been mitigated by the all over athleticism and mobility from guys like Chris Davenport in both meetings.

FGCU probably wasn’t pleased to see USC Upstate end up on the 4 seed right below them. The Spartans are the only team with the frontcourt capable of contending with FGCU in the paint, thanks to big Mike Buchanan and the more mobile, pick and popper Phil Whittington. The issue for Eddie Payne all year is that he has to limit both of their minutes (Whittington because he fouls like a machine and Buchanan simply because he’s too big), but thankfully for Payne the tournament isn’t a back to back to back format, and this is why he’s been limiting his minutes, to keep him fresh when it really matters. Payne is also a master of zone defenses, a major plus against FGCU, and has a lethal perimeter shooter in Mike Cunningham to keep teams from completely sucking down on his frontcourt. What he doesn’t have is a ballhandler. Cunningham is much more effective off the ball, but unfortunately that simply isn’t an option for Payne. It’s no knock on Cunningham’s ball skills, because they’re solid, it’s just that teams can sic their best perimeter defender in his jersey without consequence. You can beat Upstate fairly routinely in transition off the defensive glass, because they’re often caught with some heavy lumber out there, and their first opponent, 5 seed Kennesaw State, is an excellent defensive rebounding team with excellent shooters to complement Al Skinner’s ubiquitous flex offense against Payne’s zones. Led by the outstanding Kendrick Ray and sharpshooting wing Kyle Masterson (one of the best shooters in the entire country), the Owls are certainly capable of putting up points in Spartanburg. The question is can they defend an unleashed Big Mike? Aubrey Williams is a fantastic offensive player at the 5, but it will be on Jordan Jones to defend the Upstate monsters. This should likely be the best game of Monday night with a great chess match on the sidelines between Payne and Skinner.

PREDICTION: Lipscomb over FGCU

Monday Predictions:

Stetson +14.5

Upstate -3

Jacksonville +4

Lipscomb -9

Monday Predictions:

SEASON PREDICTIONS: 1759-1564-68, 337-291-16

Chattanooga -7.5 (I guess we’ll really see where this team is at tonight. It’s currently in the darkest place in D1.)

ETSU -2.5

ULL -3.5

Western Carolina -1.5

West Virginia PK

UNC -3.5

UL Monroe +5.5

 

Mercer -5.5

Arkansas St PK

UT Arlington -10

Texas St -4

Georgia Southern +3

Hampton -2.5

Oklahoma +14.5

Virginia Tech +1.5

2/26 Sunday Thoughts

26 Feb

SEASON PREDICTIONS: 1747-1554-68, 336-288-16

Last night: 49-50-1, 11-10

Valpo -2

UAB +6.5

La Salle -1

UIC +8

Rider -2

St. Peter’s -2

George Washington -3.5

Fairfield -2.5

Louisville -10

Detroit +10

Oakland -8.5

Cincy -5.5

 

Butler -2

Wisconsin -2

Marist +12.5

Iona +2

Tulsa -6.5

Houston -1.5

Notre Dame -11.5

Arizona St +3

Nebraska -4

Washington St +1

2/25 Saturday Thoughts

25 Feb

SEASON PREDICTIONS: 1698-1504-67, 325-278-16

Bucknell -10

NC State +8

Wichita St -14

SMU -5.5

NIU +5

Hofstra PK

Temple -10.5

St. John’s +1

Clemson +1.5

UNC -9

Indiana St +3.5

South Carolina -6.5

Eastern Kentucky -2

Furman -6

Illinois St -1.5

UNCW -14

Texas Tech +6.5

Seton Hall -7.5

Bradley +3.5

Kentucky -4.5

Western Michigan -3.5

Towson +5

Rhode Island -2.5

 

West Virginia -4.5

Fordham +1.5

Penn St +7.5

Southern Miss +6

Creighton +10

Missouri +11

App St -5

Youngstown St +7

BGSU +1

Michigan -1

Boise St -11

Providence -1.5

Oregon -8

Vandy -7.5

Pepperdine +6.5

Baylor +2

VA Tech -6

Duke -3

St. Bonaventure -13.5

EWU -13.5

Morehead St -4.5

St. Joe’s -2

ULL +1

VMI +15

South Dakota St -4

Mercer +8.5

Charleston -11

APSU +7.5

UT Arlington -13

Troy +1.5

Weber St +1

Belmont -9.5

Nevada -7.5

Oklahoma +2

Kansas -8

Charlotte +1

Cornell +12.5

Wyoming -2.5

Georgia -10.5

Iowa +7

South Dakota PK

ETSU -16

Samford -13.5

UT Martin -3

UTSA +4.5

ODU -10

Elon -12

Dartmouth +5.5

Penn -1.5

Kent St -1.5

Georgia St -1.5

UTEP -2

EIU -5

 

NDSU +1

LA Tech PK

Cal Poly +1

LBSU +3.5

San Diego St +1.5

Arkansas St -6.5

Brown +12.5

Loyola Chicago PK

Alabama +3.5

Indiana -3.5

Arizona -1.5

Fort Wayne -7.5

Arkansas -1.5

North Dakota -4.5

Montana St +1

Utah St -7

San Diego -5.5

Santa Clara +13.5

LMU -1.5

Gonzaga -21

SUU +9.5

NAU +11

UC Irvine -10

Hawaii -3.5

2/24 Friday Thoughts

24 Feb

SEASON PREDICTIONS: 1688-1498-67, 321-276-16

Last night: 24-17-1, 5-1

CMU +8

Columbia +7.5

Cornell +6

Brown +1.5

Yale +5.5

Oakland PK

Fairfield +5

Monmouth -9.5

St. Peter’s -5.5

UIC +8.5

Valpo -2

Buffalo -2

Detroit +4

Dayton -2.5

Iona -11

Oregon St +18