Archive | March, 2017

3/31 CIT/CBI Finals Notes

31 Mar

Season Predictions: 2051-1856-89, 403-339-19

NCAA Tournament: 32-26-2, 13-10-1

Wyoming really took advantage of shorthanded Coastal on a quick turnaround in the altitude, and game 2 got way out of hand. Wyoming’s shots were falling, tired Coastal’s weren’t, and when you have two jump shot dependent teams with that disparity, you end up with a final score like that. The good news for Coastal is that science tells us your body acclimates to the altitude after 48 hours, but this is still an uphill climb for the Chants given the travel, short rest, and injuries. Coastal’s looks against the Wyoming 3-2 zone weren’t terrible in game 2 however, and if their legs are more acclimated, they could certainly be more competitive tonight, but it’s all about the jump shots falling. If they’re not, Wyoming can run off misses and this series will end in a blowout.

The CIT final has St. Peter’s being shipped right back to southern Texas, but at least Corpus had to go east to the burbs of Baltimore for thr semis, so they’re on the same travel schedule. To put it simply, John Dunne is a defensive mastermind, and Welton can guard Thomas in space, and while Wyche and Patterson are smaller, they can lock down on the perimeter, even against Amin and Kilgore. If not for bad luck, the Peacocks could have been one of the most celebrated midmajors on the country. 5 of their 6 MAAC losses were by a single possession, and two came in OT. Corpus is going to have to execute in the halfcourt efficiently, and Thomas runs into a defender who can check him inside and out.

PREDICTIONS: Wyoming -8.5, St. Peter’s -3.5

3/30 NIT Finals Notes

30 Mar

I don’t really have a strong opinion on this game. Georgia Tech got here with a combination of a highly effective extended, morphing 1-3-1 defense (while still protecting the rim at one of the best rates in the country) and punching above their weight offensively. That’s not to say Pastner hasn’t done a good job offensively with this team, because he has. The Wreck is pushing hard off misses before defenses get set, and he added some Princeton motion wrinkles in the halfcourt. TCU meanwhile has tons of height to contend with Tech at the rim (both of these offenses are predicated on working inside first and foremost), but their bigs are mobile, which really stretched out an excellent UCF zone thanks to the ball skills of zone busting, triple double threat Kenrich Williams and the pick n pop game of Vlad Brodziansky. Robinson at the point has had his issues against extended defenses, and that’s really my biggest concern with TCU tonight. X-factor? The Frogs on the offensive glass. They’re good at it and Tech has their struggles rebounding when they’re in the zone, a double edged sword because it’s their most effective defense. 

PREDICTION: TCU -4

3/29 CIT/CBI Notes

29 Mar

Just a few quick lunchtime notes on tonight’s CIT/CBI games. Sorry for stream of consciousness style, but don’t really have time to organize into cohesive paragraphs.

CIT Semis: UMBC’s bigs can’t guard Rashawn Thomas for TAMU Corpus. Thomas moves all around the floor, is lethal in pick and pop situations, is an adept passer out of the high post, and runs the floor well. Will Darley is a mobile stretch 5 for the Retrievers, but he’s a total liability defensively, especially in pnr situations. Thomas will predictably get his. On the flip side, the Islanders are a poorly disciplined transition defense (especially if you can rebound defensively), and UMBC is an explosive transition offense. Both teams really look to attack the rim foremost, but UMBC also loves to spread the floor in transition with Jairus Lyles and KJ Maura as dual PGs that are impossible to stay in front of and Darley and Joe Sherburne as big shooters who space the floor and are lethal from outside. The Islanders are excessively long in the backcourt since 6’5 Kilgore moved to the point, and 6’4 Amin is an absolute menace defensively, but they’re not as quick as the smaller Lyles and Maura. So in the backcourt we have an intriguing length vs speed matchup. The travel has to be a concern for Corpus, as they’ve not been anywhere near the east coast and they haven’t left Corpus Christi during this tournament until now. Should be plenty of points, as UMBC can’t guard Thomas or the bigger Corpus guards, but TAMUCC’s pressure defensively will backfire against Lyles and Maura and they’re so poor in transition defense.

St. Peter’s has had to endure some tough travel on fairly short rest, but at least they’re returning home to the Yanitelli Center ( although I’m not sure SPU really wants people to see the YC on national TV tbh) from San Marcos this time. The Peacocks got off to an expected slow start at Texas St, but recovered thanks to their lock down defense. The Peacocks will host Furman, a similarly structured solid defensive team, and they’re also a four out offense, but more efficient than SPU in that regard. You basically have to beat either of these defenses by shooting the three, as they both really wall off the paint, and opposing offenses have gone 21-89 combined against these two teams in this tournament. Hence the reason both are in the semis. If you can’t hit jump shots against these two defenses, you’re probably not going to win. Both of these teams are very good jump shooting teams, so each stands a chance tonight. The Paladins are a little more consistent from outside with Sibley, Davis, and Brown (who I’ve been on record as saying has the best form in D1), but Quadir Welton is capable of guarding Kris Acox in pnr (which was why SPU was able to shut down KGT and thus Texas St in San Marcos), a major key tonight for SPU in the frontcourt battle. Offensively you really want to take advantage of the injury ravaged Furman frontcourt, but Welton, as good as he’s been defensively in this tournament, hasn’t matched that on the other end. Coaching wise we have a mismatch, as Furman’s Niko Medved has left for Drake, leaving recruiting specialist Bob Richey in charge tonight, while SPU of course has defensive mastermind John Dunne roaming the sidelines. However, Richey has been at Furman longer than Medved, and recruited all of these guys, and is definitely a candidate for the full time job. The Paladins aren’t going to quit on him. Interesting game between two very similar teams, but the Furman offense is a few tics more efficient.

CBI Game 2: I wrote a few hundred words on how these two matchup scheme wise for Game 1, and nothing really changes on that front, but Coastal lost Colton Ray-St. Cyr for the rest of the series in game 1, which is a fairly substantial blow. Wyoming simply didn’t show up defensively after the long trip to Conway, as they were toasted routinely in transition and provided zero help side defense on penetration. They looked sluggish and Labinowicz was throwing down dunks all over them (including an ill advised windmill attempt instead of running out clock, which riled up Wyoming up a bit I’m sure). The quick turnaround back to Laramie is tough, but I expect a much more thorough defensive effort tonight against short handed Coastal, who at least does have some experience out west and in altitude this year, as I mentioned in the game 1 preview.

PREDICTIONS: Wyoming -8, UMBC -2, Furman +3

 

3/28 NIT Semifinal Notes

28 Mar

Season Predictions: 2049-1854-89, 403-338-19

NCAA Tournament: 32-26-2, 13-10-1

CSUB and Georgia Tech should be a brutal slugfest. Per hoop-math.com, CSUB allows the third lowest FG% at the rim in the country, while Tech is tenth nationally in that category. Easy buckets are going to be few and far between against a CSUB team that swarms the post as well as anyone in the country, and will extend pressure as well, denying penetration. Meanwhile Tech denies points at the rim more traditionally with their superior length and one of the best rim protectors in the country in Ben Lammers. Offensively, both teams have been punching above their weight. Tech had posted over 1ppp just twice since Jan 18 before this tournament, but they’ve scored 220 points in 210 possessions during this run. That’s not Earth shattering, but a steep increase for the ACC’s worst offense nonetheless (caveat emptor, they’ve played three mediocre defenses, none of which are close to the level of team defense CSUB employs). CSUB meanwhile has posted their three most efficient offensive games since a stretch in early January, and they’ve done it by looking like last year’s Villanova team in March in every 1H. It’s uncanny. The Runners literally can’t miss from 3 in the 1H in this tournament (and they shot just under 31% from 3 in WAC play), they build a massive lead, and then basically just take the air out of the ball in the 1H. While they have played better defenses in this tournament than Tech, they caught a Cal team who couldn’t have cared any less without Rabb and Bird and a coach out the door, and a worn down CSU team. I’ve mentioned it before during this tournament, CSUB is one of the oldest teams in the country, and one of the most cohesive I’ve seen this year. Defensively they open and close like a hand making a fist, swarming the interior and extending back out on the perimeter. If they shoot even close to how they have been during this tournament, they’ll be playing for the title.

TCU’s offense has been absurdly efficient the past two games, but Jamie Dixon’s back screen, down screen motion should run into some issues against UCF for a few reasons. 1) UCF is massive. They’re the biggest team in the country and these big teams in their own right like Colorado, ISU, and Illinois (and TCU is also one of the biggest teams in the country) just wear down against a team that goes from 6’5 to 7’6 at the two through five. 2) UCF’s defense not only holds opposing offenses to the second lowest FG% at the rim in the country, but Johnny Dawkins’ amoeba zone doesn’t even let you get the ball to the rim. TCU beat up some incredibly weak interior defenses in Iowa and Richmond. UCF is a 180 from those teams defensively, and the Frogs have to hit jump shot tonight.

Both teams really struggle with ball pressure, which shouldn’t be an issue tonight for either side. UCF is also an outstanding rebounding team, especially defensively, and the offensive glass has been a key for TCU this tournament. All that said, TCU’s ball movement is outstanding, and Kenrich Williams and Vlad Brodziansky’s ability to stretch the UCF defense in pnr and Williams’ passing ability in the high post is a major key for the Frogs tonight. They’ll force Tacko to move. Teams that have great ball movement and a skilled passing big that can work away from the paint have been the teams that UCF has struggled with.

PREDICTIONS: CSUB +2.5, TCU -2.5

CBI Championship Series Notes

27 Mar

The best of three CBI series between Wyoming and Coastal Carolina probably comes down to two main factors: 1) Who hits their jump shots more efficiently (both are fairly reliant on the three offensively, particulary Wyoming, who attempts them at the 15the highest rate in the country) and 2) Who responds more effectively to the cross country travel. Coastal had been out west to Utah and Vegas this year (and played in altitude), and they had some extreme travel in their first year of SBC play. Wyoming meanwhile never ventured anywhere near east of the Mississippi. The Pokes will fly east to Conway, then both teams will spend their off day traveling to Laramie. So while Wyoming has the advantage of two games at home, they also have to make the cross country flight twice in two days. Outside of those factors, scheme wise Coastal has some issues. As I mentioned, Wyoming loves to jack up the 3, and they love to spread the floor in transition and shoot/slash off a heavy dose of drag screens. Coastal is a poor transition defense, especially getting back off misses, which is where Wyoming really attacks under first year coach Allen Edwards. Cliff Ellis willl throw out his ubequitous junk zones to slow Wyoming down, but once the Pokes figure out what they’re looking at, it’s just a matter of the jumpers falling or not. Wyoming defensively plays a no gamble man but extends into the backcourt with their guards, and they have a lot of length/athleticism 2-5, and are able to switch on ball screens effectively. The Chants will really miss Wiggins in this series, as he would likely be able to live in the lane off the dribble against Lieberman. With the versatility and length of Adams, Dalton, and James, Ellis’ small lineup used to create mismatches at the 3/4 with Wilson and Ray-St.Cyr really loses a lot of its effectiveness, and coud be the key to a Wyoming CBI title. We’ll see how Wyoming responds to the travel and Ellis’ shifting defense tonight, but this is a series they have more advantages in and should win. 

Prediction: Wyoming -1 

Season Predictions: 2049-1853-89, 403-338-19


NCAA Tournament: Sunday Elite 8 Notes

26 Mar

SEASON PREDICTIONS: 2046-1852-89, 401-337-19

NCAA Tournament: 31-25-2, 12-9-1

#4 Florida vs #7 South Carolina

Every team that South Carolina has dispatched in this tournament has said the same thing post game. It’s generally something along the lines of “we weren’t prepared for how physical they are defensively”. That has been the key to this Gamecock run. Thornwell, Dozier, and Felder deny every passing lane, every cut, every entry feed. If you haven’t experienced it first hand, it’s impossible to simulate exactly how they jump on you immediately and refuse to let you run your offense, and suddenly you’re just trying to complete simple perimeter passes. This is where Florida has an advantage. They’ve seen the Gamecocks twice as SEC opponents of course. The first time the Gators saw South Carolina this year, they simply weren’t prepared, and posted a meager .76ppp. The second time in Gainesville? 1.16ppp, and without Egbunu. Thornwell will get his today, as Florida doesn’t have anyone who can remotely keep him from living in the lane, but Mike White will focus on taking everyone else away, although limiting Silva will be more difficult without Egbunu (basically, you can’t have BOTH Thornwell and Dozier attacking the rim relentlessly if you’re going to beat South Carolina). Key for Florida is Devin Robinson in White’s side pnr offense. Robinson’s length and shooting ability can be a problem for Thornwell, and the best way to beat him defensively is to shoot over him. Ideally Allen, Hill, and Chiozza get Silva in foul trouble early (as he is wont to do) by attacking out of the spread pnr sets, which makes the “roll man” even more lethal on the perimeter (Robinson or Leon). Besides their defense, South Carolina has a few advantages. They can supplement what can be, more often than not, an inefficient offense if they’re not getting to the free throw line (although they’ve had a great run offensively in this tournament so far) by crashing the offensive glass, a weakness for the Gators since Egbunu went down (although the Gators also have an advantage on the offensive glass against a South Carolina frontcourt that’s so aggressive going after blocks, often leaving them out of rebounding position). Additionally, South Carolina is a top 50 defense in terms of FGA rate in transition, and it’s always key against a Mike White team to contain their athleticism to the halfcourt. In short, the number one thing that has spurred this South Carolina run is that teams simply aren’t prepared for how physical and strong in denial defense they are. It’s the same reason they jumped all over teams like Michigan and Syracuse in OOC and started 9-1 in SEC play. Obviously that advantage is negated by the fact Florida has faced them twice this year.

ADVANCE: Florida

ATS PREDICTION: Florida -3.5

#1 North Carolina vs #2 Kentucky

Having Theo Pinson available for the rematch is obviously helpful, as maybe Malik Monk doesn’t go for 47 (!) this time around with Pinson to help on him. Obviously this is a massive heavyweight battle with both teams playing at a high level at the right time.UK has more versatility off pnr (UNC doesn’t have that stretch shooter that can flare outside like Willis, and their bigs aren’t always the best decision makers in the halfcourt). Keeping UNC in the halfcourt is obviously key, but UK doesn’t have a big, athletic wing that can effectively crowd Jackson, which is the best way to keep him from going off and forcing him to put the ball on the floor, generally disrupting his rhythm. Both teams are outstanding on the glass on both ends, but UNC is in a tier of their own on the offensive glass. Deciding how aggressive you want to be on the offensive glass against UNC is always a key decision, as that aggression can lead to vulnerability in transition. Of course there wasn’t a big need for putbacks in the first meeting, with both offenses doing whatever they wanted. With Fox’s penetration, Monk’s shooting ability, and a dominant finisher at the rim in Bam or a stretch guy in Willis, UK’s pnr has too much versatility for a questionable UNC pnr defense to defend for 40 minutes (although, as I mentioned earlier, the return of Pinson really helps in that regard). From Cal, I think you’re going to see him extend some sort of pressure on Berry/Britt, and collapse hard on UNC’s bigs as soon as they receive an entry pass, as they’re simply not good decision makers when they’re crowded, particularly Meeks.

ADVANCE: Kentucky

ATS PREDICTION: Kentucky +2.5

CIT Notes: Fort Wayne can’t possibly guard Rashawn Thomas, and the Islanders extend pressure with Ehab Amin, a big guard who can really prevent the Don’s from running their efficient spread pnr offense. Teams with perimeter length have given Fort Wayne a lot of issues, and that’s exactly what Corpus brings defensively, especially with Kocher back.

Stylistically, this is a tough matchup for UMBC. They like to spread the floor in transition with Lyles and Maura attacking and spacing the court with big shooters like Darley and Sherburne, who are absolutely lethal from outside. Liberty meanwhile plays Ritchie McKay’s pack line and really limits transition. That said, UMBC has the individual play makers and speed with Lyles and Maura to break it down, and as I mentioned, big dead eye shooters to shoot over the top, they’ll just have to do it more in a halfcourt setting, and the Retrievers struggled in a similar setting against league foe Albany.

Texas A&M Corpus +1

UMBC -3

NCAA Tournament: Saturday Elite 8 Notes

25 Mar

SEASON PREDICTIONS: 2044-1850-89, 401-337-19

NCAA Tournament: 30-24-2, 12-9-1

#1 Gonzaga vs #11 Xavier

Chris Mack has been putting on a coaching clinic in this tournament (and of course it helps that Bluiett has been unstoppable for most of the 120 minutes they’ve played). Mack alternated a morphing 1-1-3/2-3 zone and 1-3-1/man against Arizona, and eventually negated the Wildcats’ size advantage by forcing them into way more jump shots than they were comfortable with. Additionally, NWG is clearly not having a good tournament, and his ability to read and react to the constantly switching defense is a major key tonight. Essentially, we’re likely to see the same game plan tonight, as Gonzaga is another team with a big frontcourt advantage talent wise (Mack has to be reminded of Matt Stainbrook when he watches Karno’s interior passing ability, he’s so good at finding the open shooter or big to big passing with Williams when defenses collapse) that can sometimes struggle to hit from the perimeter consistently (Zags haven’t had a good three point shooting game in a month now). That frontcourt has become even more nightmarish with the athleticism of Collins paying huge dividends. Everything Mack does offensively is predicated on getting the ball into the paint, either via post feed, penetration, offensive rebounds, or outstandingly designed set plays. Even Thursday in the first 15+ minutes with XU seemingly getting nowhere against the Arizona bigs, Mack relentlessly pounded the ball inside, and that’s essential to opening up the court for Bluiett and taking the pressure of Goodin. The problem tonight is that the Muskies run into, per hoop-math.com, the best halfcourt defense in the country and the best rim protecting defense in the country. Bluiett however does have a plus individual matchup against Mathews and/or Melson most likely (I doubt Few sticks his best on ball defender, NWG, on him too often). So, the keys tonight…for Gonzaga: how prepared are they on a quick turnaround for the nebulous Xavier zones and how effective can NWG be in dissecting them? Mark Few is an excellent game planner, and I’m sure he has a few tricks up his sleeve that heavily involve the passing ability of Karno. For Xavier: how does an offense that’s so predicated on paint touches/getting the ball to the rim (23rd nationally per hoop-math.com in FGA rate at the rim) function against the most stifling halfcourt/rim protecting defense in the country? You’re not going to beat Gonzaga in transition either, and the Zags are a very good defensive rebounding team (although the relentless Mountaineers found a lot of success on the offensive glass), and Xavier relies heavily on that supplementary putback offense. If Gonzaga is raining threes over the zones, this one could be over early.

ADVANCE: Gonzaga

ATS PREDICTION: Gonzaga -8

#1 Kansas vs #3 Oregon

The KU offense is on an eerily similar “Villanova run” from last year’s tournament, so I’m obviously reluctant to step in front of that efficiency monster. That said, this is another matchup where Oregon’s smaller, Boucher-less lineup actually benefits them. As has been well documented here and elsewhere, this KU team isn’t your typical Bill Self team, as they’re a 4 out spread pnr team with the nation’s best PG in Mason and nightmare matchup in Jackson at the 4. That’s precisely what Oregon is as well without a Boucher lineup available. However, that means Dillon Brooks runs into an opposing four who won’t fall behind when the Ducks initiate their side to side pnr sets, typically led by Brooks from the wing on dribble hand off motion. When Brooks gets the ball to FT line extended off pnr, it usually results in a bucket because there’s almost always a mismatch at that point. That won’t be the case against KU, and the Jayhawks obviously have a huge advantage in the backcourt. As for the Bell/Lucas matchup, I’m basically willing to call that one a wash. Bell is a monster on the glass and defensively with his versatility, key in Altman’s ever morphing 1-3-1 soft press to matchup zone to man defenses, but he tends to play smaller inside (when he’s not slamming a putback on someone’s head), and I’m not sure he can fully exploit some weaknesses in Lucas’ defense. KU finally runs into a team that can match the explosiveness of their 4 out lineup, but that advantage in the backcourt is tough to overlook.

ADVANCE: Kansas

ATS PREDICTION: Kansas -6.5

Quick CIT notes: John Dunne is a master game planner defensively, but he hasn’t had to much prep time for Texas St and they had some tough travel to San Marcos. That said, there isn’t a whole lot to game plan for with the Bobcat offense outside of KGT. These are two of the better midmajor defensive coaches in the country and a pair of questionable at best offenses. Should be a major rock fight, like first to 50 wins. Patterson might be undersized, but he’s a lockdown defender and I’m interested to see if he’ll be on KGT.

Furman has a few distinct advantages at Campbell. 1) They’ve seen a modified Princeton attack centered around one elite scorer (VMI and OJ Peterson) and shut it down 2x, although Campbell’s motion is way more crisp. 2) Campbell doesn’t have the frontcourt to exploit a Paladin interior ravaged by injury. That said, Furman could come out rusty while Campbell is both rested and in sync with their offense and matchup zone defense, and obviously stepping in front of the Chris Clemons train right now is ill advised. Offensively Kris Acox could be a problem with his speed in the frontcourt, and the Dins have a lethal trio of shooters in Brown, Davis, and Sibley.

St. Peter’s -1

Campbell +6