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

NCAA Tournament: Friday Sweet 16 Notes

23 Mar

SEASON PREDICTIONS: 2042-1848-89, 400-336-19

NCAA Tournament: 28-22-2, 11-8-1

#1 North Carolina vs #4 Butler

He doesn’t get nearly enough credit for it, but Chris Holtmann has catapulted himself into the conversation for best game planner in college basketball, a category ol’ Roy doesn’t rate too highly in himself. All in all, this figures to be a really tough matchup for the Heels. First and foremost, Butler’s defense won’t get beat in transition. They get back religiously off misses, and have basically completely abandoned offensive rebounds this tournament, and they don’t turn the ball over (10th lowest TO rate in the country). Defensively they might struggle against UNC’s double post offense, and when you get Chrabs in a 1-5 pnr situation, which the Heels utilize a lot since they have so much height on the floor, Butler’s defense can break down. However, Roy hasn’t really bought into the whole “stretch 4/5” craze, and that’s a plus for the Butler bigs in pnr scenarios. Unfortunately, UNC tends to lose focus offensively in terms of what is and isn’t effective, and if you’re trying to drive on Butler one on one (not advised against Baldwin), you’re not taking advantage of their weaknesses defensively, which generally lie at the rim. Butler is a very solid defensive rebounding team, but keeping UNC off the offensive glass is an entirely different animal, and a major key to this game because second chance points can demoralize a very good Butler halfcourt defense. Offensively, Butler isn’t overly quick or athletic, but Holtmann runs top notch, primo stuff in the halfcourt (a good synopsis of Holtmann’s sets can be found here at three-man-weave.com), especially with his pnr sets that so effectively spread the floor. With the lack of mobility in the Heels’ frontcourt, they’re not a great pnr defense. Additionally, Butler isn’t necessarily looking to make their hay at the rim, meaning they’re a little jump shot reliant, which is actually a good thing against UNC’s defense. But it can also doom you if Martin and Woodson are cold, which leads to more opportunities for UNC run outs. If the jump shots are falling, Butler pulls off the upset. If not, their prep and ability to make this a mostly halfcourt game will keep them in it, but might limit their ceiling.

ADVANCE: Butler

ATS PREDICTION: Butler +7.5

#3 Baylor vs #7 South Carolina

Some matchup issues for both sides here. Thornwell and Dozier are too big and physical for the Baylor guards/wing corps and too quick for the Baylor frontcourt when they’re at the 4 in Martin’s smaller, quicker lineup. Lecomte, Lindsey, and Wainwright have a bit of an advantage having played the hyper aggressive WVU twice in league play (and Oklahoma State to some extent), so they’re a bit prepared for a South Carolina defense that’s so physical in their pass/cut denial and defend in the jersey of ball handlers. That said, seeing their physicality on tape is one thing, experiencing it on the court is another. Defensively, you want to turn South Carolina into jump shooters, and Drew will certainly utilize the 1-1-3, but the Gamecocks have seen their fair share of zone this year, and while they haven’t been exactly efficient against defenses like the Cuse zone or Ole Miss’ 1-3-1, their defense more than kept them in those games. Silva has to stay on the floor. He’s foul prone (as is every Gamecock), but if he’s not on the floor and the Baylor guards can get the ball to Motley routinely, then South Carolina could run into trouble. He’s also USC’s best defensive rebounder, and Baylor is of course monstrous on the offensive glass. Along with Silva’s minutes, the effectiveness of the Baylor zone to limit Thornwell/Dozier penetration and the ability of Baylor’s guards to handle the aggression of USC’s defense are the three key areas to watch in this one.

ADVANCE: South Carolina

ATS PREDICTION: South Carolina +3.5

#2 Kentucky vs #3 UCLA

Well, I’m certainly not opposed to a rematch between these two, and it should be another thrilling, efficiently high scoring affair. This is a much easier game for Cal to prep for, as Wichita State’s ability to deny transition opportunities and smother ball screens was a nightmare for him. UCLA does neither of those things well (actually they don’t allow a lot of transition opportunities because the other team is constantly taking the ball out of the net). Both pnr offenses in the halfcourt can be beautiful to watch, particularly UCLA. With Fox, Briscoe, and Monk initiating offense, UK can attack or work the perimeter off pnr, and that depends on the roller as well, whether it be Bam going toward the rim or Willis flaring outside. UCLA meanwhile is all about Ball and his insane ability in transition (I swear to God he flies sometimes) and decision making in the halfcourt, where mobile bigs like Welsh and Leaf (and that mobility and efficiency in the middle of the court is so key against a team like UK) and shooters like Holiday (also a lethal slasher when gaps inevitably present themselves), Hamilton, and Alford outstandingly move off the ball. X-factors here: Bam should once again dominate at the rim and UK is far more equipped to at least slow down UCLA’s offense with Monk and Fox up top, whereas Hamilton and Alford in particular get utterly turned around on ball screens. You can’t help but take notice of what UCLA did to Cincy (79 points in 63 possessions), one of the most effective packed in, lane clogging defenses in the country. UK however will take different approach, as they extend past the perimeter and try to disrupt guards before the offense is even initiated. Naturally that means they always limit three point attempts under Cal, and perhaps that’s the key to slowing down UCLA’s offense (see what USC did to Ball at the Galen Center). If you let Ball see the court and the motion unfettered, he will absolutely pick you apart.

ADVANCE: Flip a coin. UCLA

ATS PREDICTION: UCLA PK

#4 Florida vs #8 Wisconsin

Without Egbunu, I think Florida falls into the same trap that Villanova did in that they don’t have two frontcourt players who can guard Hayes away from the rim and Happ at it. Basically, Kevarrious Hayes can’t guard both of them at the same time, and that means UF is going to have to change up their defensive philosophy. If you’re going to pressure the wings and single cover the post against Wisconsin, you’re likely going to lose, unless Koening is absolutely ice cold. Florida relies heavily on pressuring the perimeter with their athleticism and they haven’t had to worry about doubling up inside against ETSU and UVA. That changes against Wisconsin, and those wings are going to have to help on Happ and/or Hayes and quickly recover outside. The good news for Mike White is that his wings are quick, long, and athletic enough to accomplish that. On the other end, Koenig and Showalter will probably have a hard time staying in front of Hill, Allen, and Chiozza, but Happ is so good in stepping up in front of penetration, but that exposes him to fouls (remarkably, Wisconsin still beat Villanova with both Happ and Koenig in foul trouble). Ultimately that’s where UF can win this game, with their spread pick and roll offense. They run a ton of side pnr, and Mike White would be well advised to look at what Michigan did against the Badgers in the B1G championship game. All in all, this is a really interesting game because both sides dictate their style on you, so who budges? Wisconsin isn’t nearly as athletic, but they have a 7 man rotation with explicitly defined roles. Florida’s interior defense hasn’t faced a challenge like this in the guard driven, penetration heavy SEC since probably Georgia, and they had Egbunu then. Wisconsin meanwhile has proven very vulnerable defensively to spread pnr offenses with quick guards and a big shooter (Robinson). Should be a good one.

ADVANCE: Wisconsin

ATS PREDICTION: Wisconsin +2

 

 

3/23 NCAA Tournament: Thursday Sweet 16 Notes

23 Mar

SEASON PREDICTIONS: 2039-1847-89, 398-336-19

NCAA Tournament: 25-21-2, 9-8-1

#3 Oregon vs #7 Michigan

Great matchup here, but I wish Oregon was at full strength. There’s no question that Dana Altman’s excellent defensive schemes have suffered since the Ducks lost Boucher. In three games without Boucher, Oregon has allowed 232 points in 204 possessions, or 1.14 points per possession. Altman’s defense is renowned for switching from a zone press to a matchup zone to man to man all in one possession, and Boucher’s length and versatility on the back end was mega important in that regard. In this matchup in particular, Boucher would have been so key against the Michigan bigs who work outside the paint like Moe Wagner, who apparently took the pill from Limitless before this tournament. Now even without Boucher, Altman is still going to switch on everything against Michigan’s ball screen offense, which is humming with the precision of a Swiss watch. Michigan is so patient and efficient in the halfcourt with that offense that they almost always work to find the inevitable mismatch on a switch. However, those mismatches will present themselves at a much less frequent rate than they did against Louisville, whose bigs couldn’t get outside on Wagner and Wilson. With Oregon’s now smaller lineup due to the Boucher injury, Brooks at the 4 can guard Wilson and Bell is capable of getting out on Wagner. On the other end, Brooks’ speed and ability to put the ball on the floor and initiate offense from the wing in Oregon’s dribble hand off motion offense. Wilson is going to fall behind, allowing Brooks to get to the FT line extended, and then the whole offense opens up because of his ability to shoot, put the ball on the floor, or find the open man from that position. Simply put, Michigan can’t guard Brooks. URI really exposed Oregon’s lack of a traditional ball handler simply attacking Pritchard when he had the ball at the top of the key. Michigan isn’t particularly capable of this. Additionally, Oregon has been demonic on the offensive glass this tournament, and glass cleaning can be a major pitfall for the Wolverines. In short, Walton is playing at such a high level leading the Michigan offense, finding and exploiting nearly every advantageous switch, that’s it’s hard to pick against that. However, this is the first time that Oregon’s Boucher-less defense might actually come in handy with the way Beilein uses Wagner and Wilson. Additionally, I simply don’t think Michigan has anyone capable of keeping Brooks from opening up the floor with his offensive repertoire. Irvin is more capable than Wilson, but he HAS to be on Dorsey. Should be a very good chess match between two coaches I consider to be top 5 in the game.

ADVANCE: Oregon

ATS PREDICTION: Oregon +1.5

#1 Gonzaga vs #4 West Virginia

I love Bob Huggins. He makes you change your gameplan just for his team. Your entire focus leading up to a game with the Mountaineers isn’t what you can do to make WVU react to you, it’s all about how are you going to react the press and the 1-3-1 in the halfcourt. WVU doesn’t change. So how does Gonzaga hold up vs the press and the overwhelming athleticism of the WVU backcourt? Kinda meh. I think Williams-Goss with his height and ball skills will be fine, but you know Jevon Carter will do everything in his power to keep the ball out of his hands, and Josh Perkins as a secondary ball handler vs the press doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. This is going to be the biggest challenge for Gonzaga, and I’m extremely interested to see how Mark Few, an outstanding game planner, accounts for this. Does he return to Karno in this game? Collins has clearly supplanted him in the first two games, as Few obviously thought he had a matchup advantage with Collins more than the brute strength of Karno. However, Collins isn’t close to being the same skilled passer as Karno, and that court vision and passing ability could be a major advantage in seeing over the press in the middle of the floor, but this is also a tough game for Karno’s agility. In short, Karno might not be able to go 20+ minutes, but Gonzaga figures to be at their most efficient when he’s on the floor. The Zags have to capitalize on those ~20 minutes. On the other end, few teams are as solid top to bottom defensively as the Zags. They warp driving lanes, protect the rim better than any team in the country, and rebound defensively very well. That’s all key against West Virginia, who decimated the Notre Dame defense by working inside out without opposition. That’s simply not going to happen against Gonzaga, and the simple truth is that it’s hard to set up your press when you can’t score consistently on the other end. This should be another outstanding coaching chess match, especially in regard to how Few attacks the press without a strong secondary ball handler, and especially when this veteran WVU is rested. The Mountaineers have been exceptional when they have 5 or more days off and they don’t have to deal with the insane Big 12 travel (ask UVA).

ADVANCE: West Virginia

ATS PREDICTION: West Virginia +3.5

#1 Kansas vs #4 Purdue

Another scheme dilemma presents itself immediately here. Does Bill Self double Biggie Swanigan? I don’t think the answer is a simple yes or no here. In this bizarro KU season, Lucas is the only KU big worth a salt in what amounts to a 4 out rotation with Jackson at the 4 for Self. I think Self will certainly bring help on Swanigan to keep Lucas fresh and out of foul trouble, but it’s certainly a risk with Purdue’s lethal perimeter shooters, and a risk you certainly can’t take all game. On the other end, Purdue’s guards have zero chance of staying in front of Frank Mason. It just won’t happen. Painter has to bring a big up to help on penetration, although both Swanigan and Haas mainly just get in the way rather than try to block your shot, as Painter prefers them to avoid fouls, which they generally do. Speaking of Swanigan’s defense, Self has to attack him whenever possible, whether that be 1-5 pnr with Mason and Lucas or trying to isolate him in space against Jackson, where he’ll be utterly defenseless. Haas on the other hand is probably something of a nonfactor in this game, and Painter probably can’t afford to utilize him all that much other than to give Swanigan a breather. He’s just a post up threat, which KU guards well despite the 4 out alignment, and he’s a liability on the other end against that alignment. Key player for Purdue is likely Edwards, as he’ll have to be mainly on Jackson out of necessity, and that’s going to be the matchup to watch. In short, Purdue can exploit KU’s thin frontcourt, and KU can exploit the lack of lateral quickness of the Purdue backcourt and get Swanigan in no win defensive positions.

ADVANCE: Purdue

ATS PREDICTION: Purdue +5

#2 Arizona vs #11 Xavier

I think Chris Mack really exploited his coaching advantage to the fullest in the first two rounds, but that’s not going to be the issue against Sean Miller, an outstanding coach in his own right and obviously these two know each other’s tendencies better than any other coach in the country (Archie Miller excluded). Xavier was able to exploit the lack of FSU’s team defense and break down one on one matchups routinely (namely Bluiett, and Hamilton literally never adjusted on him), as the Noles’ help defense was non existent. That won’t be the case against a Sean Miller coached Arizona team, and I suspect you’ll see Miller attack Goodin with Allen, his best on ball defender, and pin Alkins to Bluiett with lots of help on penetration, essentially daring someone like Kaiser Gates to continue to shoot the ball well. Defensively, Xavier has certainly improved after losing Sumner, but I’m concerned a lot of that is simply three point luck. Xavier has won 5 of their last 6, and in the 5 wins teams have shot 25-104 from 3. Creighton went 13-20 in the lone loss in that stretch (and XU was still competitive thanks to a lacking Bluejay defense). Arizona’s a good three point shooting team, but as is typical for a Miller offense, it’s not the primary source of offense. Arizona is certainly a candidate for Mack’s 1-3-1, and it will be up to potentially unguardable Markkanen to stretch it out, which in addition to the play of Goodin, is probably what this game comes down to. I like Sean Miller, but he isn’t really a guy who is going to switch up what his team does or adjust a lot of things midgame, so if the zone is effective and Arizona can’t hit anything (just like Maryland, just like FSU), Xavier can certainly win this game.

ADVANCE: Arizona

ATS PREDICTION: Xavier +7.5

 

3/22 Postseason Thoughts

22 Mar

UCF -3.5

UIC +4

Idaho +5

CSUB +5.5

UVU +3.5

3/21 NIT Thoughts

21 Mar

SEASON PREDICTIONS: 2035-1844-89, 398-335-19

NCAA Tournament: 25-21-2, 9-8-1

Georgia Tech +5.5

TCU -8

3/20 Postseason Thoughts

20 Mar

SEASON PREDICTIONS: 2027-1841-89, 396-335-19

NCAA Tournament: 25-21-2, 9-8-1

Liberty -1 (Padgett loves to switch defenses in a Pitino mimicking style, but Liberty should be able to bomb away from three, and while Samford can shoot and has play makers against McKay’s pack line, they’re a team that thrives first and foremost off their penetration.)

Campbell PK (Give me a rested Clemons and McGeehan’s Princeton motion against a potentially shorthanded UTM team that hasn’t seen it, and most importantly, the Skyhawks run a similar matchup zone to the Camels, so the offense should be just fine even without Hamer. UTM really needs Martinez back for this one, as he has an advantage inside, and indications are he’ll play.)

Loyola MD +5.5 (Not a great matchup for the Greyhounds, as they love to attack the rim and thrive off their ability to turn teams over. Cliff Ellis loves his junk zones to limit penetration and they don’t turn the ball over, but the Chants are likely without Wiggins again, leaving them short their best ball handler. Jones has an advantage at 4 on offensive end, Coastal can’t exploit him in paint on other end.)

UCF +5 (UCF one of few teams that can match incredible size of Illinois St 1-5, and they actually surpass it as the tallest biggest team in the country. Should be a good one.)

Texas A&M Corpus -1 (Weber takes away three as well as any team in the country under Rahe, but that’s irrelevant against attack heavy Corpus. Thomas is too savvy, quick for Braxton, and Amin’s length on perim can bother Senglin.)

George Washington -6 (Yuta can bottle up UIC guards, UIC doesn’t have anyone who can get out on Cavy.)

Utah Valley +4.5 (UVU good at limiting the three, which is key against Evans and Rice. Can anyone guard Egor?)

UT Arlington -5 (Assuming Bilbao is healthy, Akron can’t matchup against Hervey and athletic size of Mavs, and UTA can certainly negate Big Dog on other end. UTA can attack off dribble and in transition off glass against the Zips. UTA’s ball line defense does allow a high rate of threes, and the Zips can get unreasonably hot, and Cheatham can force the UTA bigs out of the paint on that end, limiting their defensive rebounding prowess, which leads to their transition game.)

Wyoming -9.5 (UMKC allows the highest rate of transition attempts in the country. Not good against transition heavy Wyoming. Should be a three point shoot out)

Boise St +8.5 (BSU shorthanded, but should be able to score around rim)

 

CSUB +4.5 (Not a great matchup at all for CSUB. CSU doesn’t turn the ball over, doesn’t foul, and constantly goes under screens to induce jump shots. CSUB thrives on TOs, attacks the rim constantly and draws a lot of contact, and they don’t shoot jump shots well or frequently. The Rams should also clean up on the offensive glass. That said, I love the experience and tenacity of this Runner team. Think they don’t go down without a fight despite a bad matchup scheme wise.)