Arkansas @ Auburn -5
This SEC showdown features two offenses heavily geared toward attacking in transition against two defenses that struggle in transition.
Auburn owns a few advantages offensively. First, while Arkansas excels defending the pick and roll with a hard high hedge from their bigs, they struggle recovering against the roll man, which Auburn can exploit with Anfernee McLemore, DeSean Murray, and Chuma Okeke, who all score over 1 point per possession, per Synergy. Second, the Tigers have been tremendous in their press offense, a key against any Mike Anderson defense. Jared Harper, arguably the most underrated point guard in the country, has a top 75 assist rate nationally and turns the ball over at just a 16% clip. Third, Auburn dominates the offensive glass, and more specifically, places a point of emphasis on kicking out to open shooters off of misses. Arkansas struggles on the offensive glass, and allows 1.1 points per possession on put backs, per Synergy.
Defensively, Harper and Bryce Brown grade out as plus defenders on the perimeter, which is essential against Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon, who dominate possessions for the Hogs. However, Auburn’s reliance on offensive rebounding puts them at risk in transition when they don’t grab their own misses, which the Hogs will fully exploit IF they can rebound. Bruce Pearl has shown a willingness to utilize his athleticism in a trapping zone, but while it might seem tempting to limit the Hogs’ penetration, Arkansas boasts the sixth most efficient zone offense in the country, scoring at 1.21 points per possession, per Synergy.
Arkansas has always played well at Auburn, and both offenses have pronounced advantages to exploit. I expect Auburn to prevail in a shootout.
Pick: Auburn -5
- While every MWC team despises the trip to Laramie, Boise State has thrived at the Dome of Doom the past few seasons, and will have a few distinct advantages tonight. Leon Rice has used a lot of 2-3 zone in the halfcourt this year at Boise. While Wyoming loves to space out their bigs with drag screens in transition, they score at just .73 points per possession (per Synergy) against zones. Additionally, the Broncos allow zilch in transition. On the offensive end, Chandler Hutchison and Lex Williams will force the Pokes into bad switches in PnR. Good match up for Boise.
- How do you slow down Trae Young? I’m not sure it’s possible. The best defense against the Oklahoma superstar point guard might involve letting him score, while ensuring he doesn’t facilitate with his other efficient weapons. TCU sagged off Young, allowing let him drain deep triples, but he still racked up 14 assists en route to a road victory in which OU scored 90 points. “Sagging off” does not exist in Bob Huggins’ vocabulary with his ubiquitous full court press defense that features Jevon Carter, one of the best defenders in the country. Teams haven’t really tried to press Young, who normally shreds pressure, but the hyper aggressive WVU press on the road is a different animal. While the obviously marquee matchup is Young vs Press Virginia, I’m more concerned with how OU will defend Huggins’ cut and fill motion offense and keep the Mountaineers off the offensive glass.
- Furman and Mercer are two of the best perimeter shooting teams in the country. Mercer, who hits at 43% from beyond the arc, runs a hyper efficient ball screen motion offense with Jordan Strawberry, Ria’n Holland, and bigs that can space out and shoot. Unfortunately, for Mercer, the Paladins excel in ball screen defense, as they switch everything. Matt Rafferty’s ability to defend outside of the paint is essential tonight for the Dins, who will also benefit from two outstanding on ball defenders in John Davis and Daniel Fowler. Mercer could also have some issues defensively, as Hoffman sags off the perimeter and under screens in man, and while using a few different zone looks. Furman has shredded zones this year, as Dev Sibley, Andy Brown, and Fowler can all stroke it. Mercer’s a senior laden squad looking to avenge two tight losses to Furman last year, but the Bears simply don’t match up well.
Saturday Evening Top Picks:
Princeton/Penn over 141
Central Michigan -1
Oklahoma/WVU over 173
Western Illinois +7.5
Boise State -1
Western Carolina +5