Championship Sunday: How to Bet the AAC, Big South and Atlantic Sun Titles
© David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Today is the college basketball version of Championship Sunday. If you missed it, I previewed the Big Ten final earlier this morning. I will now take a look at the following three games, two of which will send a team to the dance and the other will decide a regular season championship:
- Cincinnati at Wichita State -2.5 – 12 p.m. ET on CBS
- Liberty at Radford -2.5 – 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
- Lipscomb at Florida Gulf Coast -7.5 – 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
Follow me on twitter @jorcubsdan for in-game analysis, injury updates, and second half predictions.
Cincinnati at Wichita State (-2.5)
12 p.m. ET on CBS
This rematch between the Bearcats and Shockers will determine the AAC’s regular season champion. Judging by the first meeting in Cincy, Mick Cronin has some major adjustments to make if he wants to compete at the Roundhouse. On the injury front, it looks like Cincy guard (and leading scorer) Jacob Evans will suit up. He was held out in the second half against Tulane as a precautionary measure.
Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall believes in bullying teams at the rim. That’s his personality and his teams reflect that. In the first meeting, he forced Cincy forward Kyle Washington to defend, and the Shockers routinely exposed his defense in both pick and roll and in the post. It ultimately forced Cronin to bench his best rim protector midway through the second half.
Marshall runs a plethora of high ball screens for guard Landry Shamet. I found it bizarre that it took so long for Cronin to hard hedge on those screens, which I think is his best course of action in the rematch. Since Shamet’s ball skills are suspect, blitzing him on ball screens is the best way to defend him. It will just be up to Washington to prove he can recover in time after the hedge.
Offensively, Cronin found success late with Cane Broome running the show. WSU’s bigger guards simply couldn’t stay in front of him. However, I’m certain Marshall will go zone whenever Broome is on the floor this time around. If Broome can’t replicate his shooting performance from the first meeting, I’m not sure how Cincy competes offensively.
THE PICK: Wichita State -2.5
Liberty at Radford (-2.5)
1 p.m. ET on ESPN
Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay is a phenomenal basketball coach. I just got done discussing the stubborn refusal of certain legendary coaches, but McKay is the opposite. In between his two tenures at Liberty, McKay spent several years as an assistant to Tony Bennett at Virginia. Upon being re-hired at Liberty, McKay immediately installed the infamous UVA pack line defense.
However, starting with the last game of the regular season, McKay has shifted to a 3-2 match up zone, which has thrown Big South coaches for a loop.Within that 3-2 zone, junior guard Lovell Cabbil has been absolutely phenomenal on the perimeter. In two Big South tourney games, he has held elite scorers Chris Clemons (Campbell) and MaCio Teague (UNCA) to 11-33 shooting. He will surely be tasked with shutting down Radford’s engine freshman point guard Carlick Jones.
I will say the tiny Dedmon Center in Radford, Virginia will be rocking. And Radford forward Ed Polite has torched the Flames in a regular season sweep, but I’m not sure the Highlanders can respond to Liberty’s new defensive scheme on such short notice. Additionally, Radford head coach Mike Jones likes to extend full court pressure, but the Flames have multiple ball handlers that have been efficient in press offense all year.
THE PICK: Liberty +2.5
Lipscomb at FGCU (-7.5)
3 p.m. ET on ESPN
The No. 1 seed and No. 2 seed will meet for the ASUN title, with a trip to the dance on the line. These two teams split their regular season meetings. However, I should note that FGCU’s loss to Lipscomb came after the Eagles had already clinched the ASUN regular season title. The rubber match between the Bisons and Eagles on Dunk City’s home floor has quite a bit of schematic intrigue.
First and foremost, you have to stop FGCU from scoring at the rim. Per hoop-math.com, only two teams in the country (Sacred Heart and Rider) attempt a higher rate of shots at the rim than FGCU. Head coach Joe Dooley runs an old school 2 Play flex offense with two posts and two ball handlers. It’s not the most interesting offensive scheme, but with dual point guards Brandon Goodwin and Zach Johnson, and a litany of post options, it certainly gets the job done. Lipscomb has been middle of the pack defensively in terms of protecting the rim. Bisons forwards Eli Pepper and Rob Marberry are solid, but not spectacular paint presences (outside of cleaning the glass).
Defensively, FGCU hasn’t been entirely effective against Lipscomb’s ball screen motion offense. Lipscomb’s offense is a copy and paste replica of Rick Byrd’s offense at Belmont. (Bisons head coach Casey Alexander served as Byrd’s right hand man for 16 years after playing point guard for him for four years). FGCU mainly had a hard time staying in front of Lipscomb guard Garrison Mathews, who routinely exploited FGCU’s weakness at the wing.
While Lipscomb should find some offensive success on the wing again, FGCU simply has an overwhelming advantage in both the backcourt and frontcourt. The Eagles also have much more depth, which should eventually wear down the Bisons today at The Nest,
THE PICK: FGCU -7.5
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