Valparaiso @ Indiana State
It sounds like leading scorer Tevonn Walker will return for Valpo, but wing Joe Burton likely remains suspended. Per Hooplens.com, here’s a look at Walker’s on/off splits:
A dramatic split on both ends of the floor, and Valpo limps back to Indiana after a long road trip out West, where head coach Matt Lottich mentioned the team was looking forward to the holiday break. As for Burton, the Crusaders are actually more efficient on both ends when he’s been off the floor.
As for Indiana State, their offense continues to struggle. Brenton Scott has inefficiently dominated possessions for the backcourt-reliant Trees, but the spacing in Greg Lansing’s offense tends to deteriorate when he’s off the ball. Unfortunately, ISU doesn’t have any other options other than running Scott and Jordan Barnes off ball screens, as the post play between Brandon Murphy and Emondre Rickman is virtually nonexistent.
Defensively, Lansing has deviated from his matchup zone, but the Crusaders are an excellent zone candidate, even with Walker back. On the other end, Bakari Evelyn, Max Joseph and Walker all grade out as plus defenders on the perimeter. If you can effectively limit Scott and Barnes, you effectively limit shut down the Sycamore offense.
Other Valley notes:
- Two completely different styles of offense with Bradley visiting Drake. Under Niko Medved, Drake has run a fairly efficient dribble handoff motion, while Bradley runs strictly pick-and-roll and iso sets. Unfortunately, Bradley’s defense has a length advantage on the perimeter and the versatility to switch effectively on motion screens. Since the dismissal of JoJo McGlaston, known for his defense, the Braves have actually held opponents to .88 points per possession, as opposed to .92 with him (per Hooplens.com).
- Southern Illinois has one win in their last seven meetings with UNI, and has rarely sniffed 1 point per possession in those games. Simply put, SIU can’t shoot, and UNI’s defensive scheme forces you into jump shots. Add in the fact that the Salukis will be down Marcus Bartley, Eric McGill, Thik Bol and potentially Jonathan Wiley, and this doesn’t look promising for Barry Hinson’s squad.
Louisiana Tech @ Western Kentucky
Playing WKU comes down to two aspects: 1) How do you handle their constantly switching defenses? 2) How do you handle Lamonte Bearden in ball screens?
Stansbury has alternated between man, a 2-1-2 zone press, and a 1-3-1 to keep teams off balance, and due to a limited bench with Tapha Diagne and Josh Anderson still out. Per Synergy, WKU’s defense has excelled roughly equally well in each. However, against the outstanding point guard and wing duo of DeQuan Bracey and Jacobi Boykins, Stansbury might have to run more zone. Per Synergy, Louisiana Tech scores at an excellent .97 points per possession against man-to-man, but the Dunkin’ Dawgs grade out in just the 34th percentile against zone. LA Tech won’t have Jalen Harris in the backcourt, which really hurts their offense, as illustrated by the following splits, per Hooplens:
|Points Per Pos||1.18||1.05||0.98||0.96|
Defensively, LA Tech grades out in just the 20th percentile against ball handlers in pick-and-roll, which WKU can take an advantage of, as they rely on Bearden getting into the paint. However, if LA Tech can find a way to ICE Bearden effectively (i.e. force him away from the screen), WKU often turns to Dwight Coleby and Justin Johnson in the post, where they struggle.
Other CUSA notes:
- I’ve previously mentioned my man crush on North Texas head coach Grant McCasland (small sample size, but he is 3-1 with seven-plus days off), who will use a variety of defenses to mask the fact that North Texas allows opposing offenses to shoot nearly 71 percent at the rim, the ninth worst rate in the country, per Hoop-math.com. UTEP freshman post Tirus Smith has excelled in the paint recently for interim coach Phil Johnson, especially against two zone defenses in Howard and Incarnate Word, oddly enough. The Miners could dominate at the rim tonight, especially if 7-foot-1 center Matt Willms plays. Frosh wing Trey Wade also returns.
- Southern Miss defends in the 90th percentile in transition defense per Synergy, which will help against Marshall, one of the most transition-reliant offenses in the country under Dan D’Antoni. The Herd scored just 76 points in 75 possessions in a surprising blowout loss in Hattiesburg last year. USM runs extremely small, which should benefit triple-double threat Ajdin Penava, who adds an extra stretch dimension to D’Antoni’s NBA system.
Other quick hitters:
- Both Tennessee State and UT Martin play a 3-2 matchup zone. Per Synergy, UTM scores at 1.08 points per possession (86th percentile) against zone defenses, while TSU scores at just .74 ppp (5th percentile).
- Creighton has had issues handling the physicality of Seton Hall, but the potential loss of Ish Sanogo would really hurt the Pirates, as he grades out in the 95th percentile as an individual defender. In short, losing an elite defender against an elite offense like Creighton could prove costly. Interestingly, neither team utilizes a “traditional point guard,” but Creighton’s elite perimeter defender Khyri Thomas will probably guard Khadeen Carrington, who penetrated at will against the Bluejays last year, scoring 41 points (with 22 FTA’s). That leaves Desi Rodriguez in a plus matchup for SHU. Creighton has limited offensive putbacks this year, but Angel Delgado is a different animal.
- Hard to know what to expect from Providence with so many injuries, but Kyron Cartwright and Alpha Diallo have had over a week off, and should play at St. John’s. The Johnnies had issues defending PC’s motion offense last year, as Cartwright handled St. John’s extended pressure. Conversely, the Friars struggled defending Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett off the dribble, but LoVett is likely still out.
- Southern Utah has a few advantages over Montana State in Cedar City tonight. 1) Jamal Aytes should continue to dominate the post with a significant athletic advantage over 6-foot-6 Sam Neumann. 2) Dre Marin, an excellent on-ball defender, can disrupt Harry Frey running MSU’s motion offense. Dwayne Morgan could also make his long anticipated TBird debut tonight. If so, Morgan and Aytes will dominate at the rim.
- Milwaukee’s perimeter defense has serious holes, which spells trouble against Oakland’s dribble drive action led by Kendrick Nunn. The Panthers rely on bombing 3-pointers, but their best shot at offense tonight might be Brett Prahl and Bryce Nze in the post, where Oakland struggles to defend.
- Souley Boum returns for San Francisco, a key development for the Dons’ offense before WCC play. Boum, an outstanding penetrator, sucks in help defense off the perimeter, and the shots will eventually start falling for the Dons, a volume 3-point team hitting just north of 30 percent. San Diego’s aggressive man-to-man stays active on the perimeter, which leads to a high foul rate. Boum might live on the free throw line tonight. The Dons embarrassed USD twice last year, although the Torero offense has improved with Isaiah Pineiro in the frontcourt.
- LSU has Brandon Sampson back, as he played 10 minutes against North Florida and should play more against Memphis. Sampson, a long-armed 6-foot-6 wing, will dramatically improve an LSU defense that has lacked a plus ball screen defender. Tubby Smith shifted David Nickelberry on the ball, and the Tigers posted 1.17 points per possession against Loyola Maryland.
- Tyler Nelson, off to a slow start for Fairfield, and Ferron Flavors have to knock down jumpers against the stifling interior defense of St. Peter’s. However, the struggling Peacock offense should see a lot of zone from the Stags, who struggle in man-to-man guarding pick-and-roll. The Peacocks could look pretty wonky if Te Turner and Sam Idowu turn into strictly jump shooters.
Thursday Top Picks (YTD: 155-156-3):
UT Martin +1
SIU/UNI under 128
Austin Peay -7.5
*all lines via Pinnacle at time of publication