Betting Rhode Island at St. Bonaventure, Plus Other Mid-Major Matchups
© Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Today, I’ll take an in-depth look at the following three matchups:
- Rhode Island at St. Bonaventure +2
- Georgia State at Georgia Southern +1
- Northern Kentucky at Wright State +1
Follow me on twitter @jorcubsdan for in-game analysis, injury updates, and second half predictions.
Rhode Island @ St. Bonaventure (+2)
7 p.m. ET
The Bonnies currently appear in just 20 brackets according to bracketmatrix.com, which tracks the projections of 109 “bracketologists” from across the globe. That puts St. Bonaventure in the consensus “First Four Out” group. It needs this game, especially since “Quad 1” (a warmed up rehash of “quality wins”) opportunities are scarce in a down year for the A10. Even with a win over URI tonight, I still suspect the Bonnies would have to avoid another loss and probably reach the A10 final to feel safe.
To beat Rhode Island, you must effectively run a 4 out offense against their waves of pressing guards. The Rams’ backcourt is deep, talented, and most of all, physical. Teams that have given them issues in league play have trotted out 4 guards (see Duquesne, UMass) that broke down the pressure with penetration. URI has arguably the best defense in the country in terms of downing three point shooters on pick and roll and running shooters off the three point line in spot up situations. Only five teams in the country allow a lower three point attempt rate than the Rams. And teams hit just 32% from deep when they actually get a shot off. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few key angles in tonight’s matchup.
1) Can St. Bonaventure effectively go “4 out”?
This is complicated. Just looking at the size of its frontcourt, you would assume it’s a 5 out offense. LaDarien Griffin is back from an injury, but the small (6’6) 5 man doesn’t offer any of the perimeter mobility you would expect from a frontcourt player of his size. Essentially, the Bonnies are a de facto 4 out offense, but lack the three point shooting generally associated with that alignment. The Bonnies rank 294th nationally in three point attempt rate, and 10th in the A10. But as I discussed earlier, that’s not necessarily a bad thing against URI. Bona revolves around Jay Adams and Matt Mobley, who make up as dynamic of a backcourt as you will find in college basketball. Adams has gone full out “Kemba” so far in February.
Need to really point out just how good Jaylen Adams has been in February:
26 Made Threes (Only player in NCAA above 20)
St. Bonaventure is 4-0 this month.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) February 16, 2018
Adams and Mobley combined for 38 points in the first meeting ( a loss) with the Rams, so it’s the supporting cast that needs to step up. As I mentioned above, URI throws out waves of outstanding perimeter defenders in the form of Jeff Dowtin, Jared Terrell, Jarvis Garrett, Stan Robinson, Fatts Russell, and EC Matthews (when healthy). You just won’t beat URI with a two man game, no matter how nuclear Adams has been.
The Bonnies really need Courtney Stockard, Idris Taqee, and Izaiah Brockington to provide some offense tonight. In the first meeting, the long-armed Stockard was somewhat effective, scoring 14 points and shooting a team high 8 free throws. However, the freshman Brockington looked like a freshman against one of the nation’s best defenses, and Taqee simply can’t be relied on for any offense. While Stockard plays the 4 in this super small offense, URI has struggled at times against big wings. His ability to take away just a bit of focus from Mobley and Adams is absolutely essential. He’s unquestionably the biggest “x-factor” in this game.
2) SBU Defense vs URI Offense
Thanks to the severely underrated Jeff Dowtin, URI has morphed into a spread pick and roll offense. The sophomore point guard has posted a remarkable 119.6 ORtg in conference play, pairing the league’s highest assist rate with a phenomenally low 15.5% turnover rate. While Dowtin has been a machine, the ability of potential A10 POY Jared Terrell and Jarvis Garrett as secondary ball handlers has also been key.
Defensively, Bona head coach Mark Schmidt mixes pack line principles with a 1-3-1 zone at times. And with the exception of Mobley, the Bonnies are solid in pick and roll defense. This scheme is realistically the best you can ask for against URI. The Rams have just an average zone offense, and can struggle against teams that underscreen their guards to limit penetration. The Rams can make perimeter shots, but it’s just not their preferred modus operandi. Turning the Rams into jump shooters is the best way to slow them down. While URI doesn’t generate much offense through its yin and yang frontcourt duo of Cyril Langevine and Andre Berry, Schmidt’s general defensive scheme can at least protect his ridiculously undersized and limited frontcourt.
Langevine could be URI’s x-factor, as Hurley has made a conscious effort to run more offense through him in the post of late. He’s recorded his three best offensive games of his career in Rhody’s last three games.
3) EC Matthews’ (probable) absence for URI
When EC went down against Richmond, I think everyone assumed the worst given his injury history. As it turns out, he only has a bone bruise on his knee. He didn’t practice yesterday, and I would assume he’s out or extremely limited at best tonight. Matthews has a significant impact on the URI offense, which scores 1.14 points per possession (ppp) with him vs. 1.07 without, per hooplens.com. Conversely, there is almost no difference defensively. The Rams allow .95 ppp whether he’s on or off the court, in large part due to the versatility of Robinson and the URI backcourt depth. One notable difference defensively is that teams shoot the three at a 4% higher clip when Matthews is off the court. Matthews did give the Bonnies fits in the first meeting, going for 20 and 9 as the Bona wings couldn’t stay in front of him.
4) Home-court advantage
The Reilly Center will be rocking. Despite their lack of overall success as a basketball program in recent history, the Bonnies have an extremely passionate fan base. However, Rhode Island completely picked apart VCU in a recent Friday night game in front of the rowdy Stu faithful. The Rams are a veteran bunch with an extreme amount of poise. The Bonnies will surely feed off the crowd’s energy, but it won’t rattle URI.
PICK: Lean Bona +2. Adams might put on his cape tonight, but I don’t feel good enough about the supporting cast.
Georgia State at Georgia Southern
9 p.m. ET
Georgia State remarkably hasn’t defeated rival Georgia Southern in Statesboro since 1996. Tonight’s meeting in front of the “Hanner Hooligans” is all about pick and roll defense, specifically at the point of attack vs the ball handler. Both offenses utilize ball screens at an extremely high rate. Per Synergy, Southern runs ball screens (mostly for Tookie Brown) at the sixth highest rate in the country, while State does at the 17th highest (mostly for D’Marcus Simonds).
So which team defends ball handlers better in pick and roll? That’s tough to answer, as both grade out in the 70th percentile in ball screen defense. However, a key difference is Georgia State’s aggressive 1-3-1 match-up zone makes it virtually impossible to run spread pick and roll offense. Their defense is designed to induce a plethora of jump shots. While Southern isn’t a strong perimeter shooting team, they don’t turn it over, as the phenomenal Brown is surrounded by veterans Ike Smith and Mike Hughes in the backcourt. In fact, the Eagles have the lowest turnover rate in the league, a key against the aggressive State zone.
The first meeting in Atlanta can basically be stricken from the record, as Brown was a late scratch (concussion). Few players in the country are more valuable to their team, and the Eagles were predictably ran off the court. Per hooplens, Southern is 26 points per 100 possessions better with Brown on the floor. We’ll finally get the Simonds vs Brown matchup we deserve. With Southern looking to resurrect their season after three straight heartbreaking losses, I think the Eagles extend their dominance over State in Statesboro.
PICK: Georgia Southern +1
Northern Kentucky at Wright State -1
9 p.m. ET
NKU takes their one game Horizon lead to Dayton for a fascinating battle between the league’s top offense (NKU) and the league’s top defense (Wright State). Working in NKU’s favor is it’s just a tick below the Raiders in defensive efficiency, while WSU is a middle of the pack Horizon League offense. However, that hardly mattered in a high scoring first meeting, where NKU shockingly folded down the stretch at home. In Wright State’s 84-81 win, Grant Benzinger, who is more known as a lethal spot shooter, shockingly carved up the Norse guards. He shot a career high 13 free throws, as he continually beat NKU’s best perimeter Jalen Tate, who played passively because of early foul trouble.
The offensive efficiency from both teams was equally as shocking as Benzinger going full James Harden. Scott Nagy runs a spread pick and roll offense at WSU, but NKU grades out in the 98th percentile nationally in PnR defense, per Synergy. Wright State meanwhile has two excellent perimeter defenders in Mark Hughes and point guard Cole Gentry. Plus freshman wing Jaylon Hall has earned the trust of defense first Nagy. Perimeter defense is essential against NKU PG Lavone Holland and wing Carson Williams.
The key for Norse revenge is big man Drew McDonald, who has lost his shooting stroke in John Brannen’s motion offense. His ability to draw Wright State powerhouse Loudon Love out of the paint is vital tonight. The Raiders will be healthy in the frontcourt, as Parker Ernsthausen should play after taking a shot to the chest against Milwaukee. He and Love are capable of slowing down the interior game of McDonald. NKU has yet to lose a Horizon League road game this season, and it seems to take pride in silencing rowdy opposing home crowds in these HL Friday showcases.
PICK: NKU -1, Under 137.5