Oklahoma @ Wichita State

This is a really interesting matchup that comes down to a few key factors:

1) How does Wichita State defend in OU in transition?

Trae Young is the best player in college basketball, and he’s made Lon Kruger’s always excellent transition offense a tour de force. Per Synergy, Young is scoring at 1.22 points per possession, and his running mate Chris James is at a lethal 1.46 as Young’s primary outlet. The Shockers have been surprisingly lax in transition defense to date, but having Savannah State on your schedule is going to skew those numbers. Regardless, Young is unstoppable in the open court, and even making shots doesn’t keep the Sooners out of transition, as they’re 10th nationally in transition FGA rate off opponent makes, per hoop-math.com.

2) Can Wichita State hit jump shots?

Oklahoma doesn’t do much well defensively, but Kruger defenses are always going to clog up the lane, and opposing offenses are making shots at the rim at the 19th lowest rate in the country, per hoop-math.com. The Shockers are shooting 40 percent from 3, but they’re a paint touch offense, filtering through Shaq Morris and Darral Willis. If OU can swarm on their post touches, the Sooner defense might be able to compete, as WSU has proven to struggle against zones and compact defenses when you turn them into primary jump shooters. That said, Wichita State has been one of the better half-court offenses in the country per Synergy, and if you make OU defend deep into the shot clock, they’re going to give up a good look, and Landry Shamet and Conner Frankamp can certainly knock those down.

3) Can OU rebound?

The answer to this one is easy. Plain and simple, no. WSU is beastly on the glass on both ends, and it could be the most pivotal point in this game.

 4) Can Wichita State’s bigs guard in pick and roll?
It’s been an issue all year for Wichita State, even exposed by Cal’s Don Coleman. Willis and Morris aren’t agile enough to contain Young on a hard hedge AND recover in time to pick up the roller. Zach Brown is an elite defender, but Young is simply phenomenal at choosing the right option off the screen, even against good help defense. Something to look for: Gregg Marshall has been known to trap on ball screens, and might prove to be effective at slowing Young down.

Other notes:

  • Butler has struggled against size, especially when the Bulldogs are forced to execute in the halfcourt against that length (see Texas, see Maryland, see Ohio State), and Purdue presents many of the same problems. Butler doesn’t “play fast” per se, but they’re at their best when Kamar Baldwin and Aaron Thompson are able to extend against weaker guards and create some turnovers. That’s not going to be the case against Purdue, and the Boilers can’t essentially sag off Baldwin and Thompson in the halfcourt defensively. It does help that Sean McDermott will be available for the Bulldogs today.
  • Memphis relies on two things offensively: getting the ball to the rim and putting back their own misses. That’s an exceptionally difficult task to pull off against long Louisville, who rebounds well and doesn’t allow anything at the rim.
  • North Carolina State and Markell Johnson can be a little loose with the ball, and that’s a potential issue against UNCG’s extended full-court pressure. However, Kevin Keatts’ press is more likely to do some damage against Demetrius Troy and his defensive schemes always run shooters off the 3-point line and disrupt in the backcourt, which is objective number one against Franc Alonso, one of the most prolific shooters in the country. UPDATE: Johnson has been suspended.
  • Quick turnaround for Western Kentucky in a game they thought they should have won at Wisconsin if not for some questionable officiating down the stretch. That said, Indiana State’s backcourt has issues against dribble penetration, and everything WKU does offensively is initiated by Lamonte Bearden getting into the paint or entry passes to Justin Johnson. Far lesser guards than Bearden have torched ISU off the dribble this year.
  • The Georgetown-MEAC challenge is over, and the Hoyas host former Big East rival Syracuse in their first test of the season. It’s impossible to glean much from the Hoyas’ OOC schedule, but they have great length to combat the always long Orange, but there’s just no way to trust them against the zone, especially with how focused Pat Ewing has been on making the Hoyas a transition based, spread PnR offense- which is always difficult to pull off against Syracuse.
  • The status of SFA point guard Aaron Augustin is of utmost importance as he’s the catalyst in Kyle Keller’s pressure-heavy denial defense, and the offense hums at 1.11 points per possession when he’s on the floor, per hooplens.com. He’s a game-time decision, as his injured foot didn’t have any structural damage. Without Augustin, ball screen defense on LSU’s outstanding point guard Tremont Waters becomes an issue, and the offense will have to filter through Ty Charles in a point-forward role, which is where LSU’s best defender (Wayde Sims) lurks. LSU will underscreen against the Jacks, as Duop Reath can’t guard TJ Holyfield outside the paint, so that means Holyfield and Kevon Harris are going to have to hit jump shots today out of the spread motion offense, which they’re capable of doing.
  • Too much length and size for Florida State against Oklahoma State and the iso heavy Noles can break down the deny heavy OSU defense one v one. The Pokes are shorthanded with the dismissal of Davon Dillard and Zack Dawson, but they do add the services of rim protector Yankuba Sima today, and could help the Pokes on the offensive glass, where Rutgers dominated to hang with the Noles- who always seem to struggle on the defensive glass because of a reliance on shot blocking, which leaves them out of position.
  • Iowa is vulnerable against athletic frontcourts, which isn’t Drake at all. Niko Medved runs a 4-out motion with exceptional ball movement, but it doesn’t take advantage of the weaknesses of the Iowa defense. Iowa should also have plenty of looks from the perimeter against a sagging Drake defense designed to mitigate their overall lack of athleticism.
  • Virginia Tech and Kentucky are two of the most dribble drive reliant offenses in the country, but if Coach Cal is going to continue to use the super long and disruptive 3-2 zone he used against Monmouth, that could be an issue for the Hokies’ penetrate and kick offense. That said, it’s hard to see this UK team pulling away from anyone with the way they struggle to shoot jump shots and protect the basketball, two areas where Virginia Tech is significantly sharper. But as with most opponents, UK can play volleyball on the offensive glass.
  • Wright State and Toledo is an interesting contest, as the struggling WSU offense gets a boost with the eligibility of PG Cole Gentry and power forward James Manns. Gentry completely changes Scott Nagy’s offense, and allows for better spacing, which has been an issue for the Raiders so far. Meanwhile, Toledo’s struggling defense immediately improves with the eligibility of 6’6 wing Willie Jackson. Nagy has said he wants to push the pace with Gentry on the ball, and Toledo has been poor in transition defense.
  • One way to beat Virginia’s pack line defense is to fire away over the top, and Davidsons sharpshooters can certainly do that, but so much of Bob McKillop’s outstanding motion offense filters through the lane, which is virtually impossible to achieve against Tony Bennett’s defense.
  • Brock Stull is slated to return for Milwaukee today, but given the way Loyola can shoot and given Milwaukee’s total inability to rotate on the perimeter, it might not matter. That said, the Ramblers are down Clayton Custer at the point and their best perimeter defender Ben Richardson. Loyola shoots an absurd 46 percent from 3, and Milwaukee allows teams to shoot 41 percent from deep, including 30-59 from their opponents the past two games. If Stull does indeed return, Milwaukee has been holding opponents to .90 points per possession with him on the floor, and 1.21 without him, per hooplens.com.
  • Mike Brey with a week of prep and Notre Dame against a pack line defense is a terrifying notion if you’re an IU fan. IU can have some success offensively by pounding Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis, and crashing the offensive glass.
  • This is the first true road game Central Michigan has played outside of the state of Michigan, and it comes in the altitude of Cedar City, Utah, against an uptempo Southern Utah team. Unfortunately for the T-Birds, it’s extremely difficult to speed up Keno Davis’ team, as they use a 2-3 base defense and get back religiously in transition defense to set up the zone. They also have outstanding ball movement and shooters against Todd Simon’s 1-3-1. The pending eligibility of Dwayne Morgan is something to watch for SUU, as he would immediately be the best player on the floor.
  • Cincinnati’s often fledgling offense should have plenty of opportunities to score against a UCLA defense that’s slow to recover in ball screen defense after hard hedges, and can’t contain penetration in 3-2, as Alford likes to gamble high when in zone. Cincy has been surprisingly lax in transition defense at times this year, and that’s obviously a major concern against the Bruins.
  • Evansville is now down Ryan Taylor and Dru Smith, the two most efficient scorers in Marty Simmons’ motion offense. Austin Peay is a better team than the numbers may show, as they’ve quickly bought into Matt Figger’s Frank Martin inspired defensive system.
  • With EC Matthews and Cyril Langevine back, Rhode Island is getting healthier, and Charleston’s offense has struggled against even the WCU’s of the world. That said, the strength of the Cougars is clearly their backcourt, and if you can handle the intense URI ball pressure, you can find ways to score, and Joe Chealey, Grant Riller, Cam Johnson, and Marquise Pointer can do that.
  • Both UNI and Iowa State force you to hit jump shots, but UNI’s defense is designed better in terms of forcing you to take jump shots you don’t want to take, whereas ISU allows you to take jump shots that you’re comfortable with. The Clones are also going to be forced to operate strictly in the halfcourt, and we’ll see how Lindell Wigginton and Nick Weiler-Babb operate in that scenario.
  • MTSU’s frontcourt of Brandon Walters and Nick King has been absolutely dominant, but Auburn is long and athletic in rim protection and blocking shots at the fifth highest rate in the country, and allowing teams to shoot at the 37th lowest rate at the rim, per hoop-math.com. The Tigers can struggle to defend straight up in the post (see Chris Cokley) and against stretch bigs outside the paint, especially against DeSean Murray. That’s precisely what Walters and King bring to the table offensively.
  • For the most part, Oregon handled Portland State’s full court press. They’ll face another extended ball pressure defense at Fresno State today, and the Bulldogs could have the services of former 4-star point guard New Williams. Dana Altman’s teams typically do well against “chaos” defenses because he doesn’t necessarily run a lot of set motion action, allowing his players freedom. Oregon can struggle against zones that force methodical movement. That’s not Fresno State, who is also potentially still down their best ball hawk in Jaron Hopkins, and per hooplens.com, the Bulldogs score at 1.21 points per possession with him on the floor, and they haven’t been tested by Cal Poly and UA Pine Bluff without him.
  • If Tamas Bruce is out for Arkansas State, Ron Delph and FAU should go nuts inside. ASU has zero height, and FAU is improved in the backcourt defensively thanks to Payton Hulsey.
  • Dayton could really use Xeyrius Williams against Georgia State’s hyper-aggressive 1-3-1, but this is a major mismatch in the backcourt. The Flyer guards are going to really struggle against Ron Hunter’s active zone, and D’Marcus Simonds can penetrate at will.
  • Long Beach State has actually been ok against zones, but they haven’t seen it a lot, and they certainly haven’t seen Eastern Michigan’s massive and athletic trapping 2-3. EMU should dominate on the offensive glass between James Thompson IV and Elijah Minnie.
  • New Mexico State has been efficient against pressure defenses, and while Illinois doesn’t extend full court often, Brad Underwood’s defense is focused on denial, denial, denial. Leron Black and Kipper Nicholas practiced for Illinois, which is a good sign for their availability in Chicago tonight. Chris Jans and Underwood are very familiar with each other, and both are outstanding game planners. Should be one of the better games of the night. Of course the status of AJ Harris and Eli Chuha for the Aggies is key, but it sounds like both were held out of the Eastern New Mexico game for precautionary reasons.
  • Zoning UNLV is certainly the way to go, and that’s what Damon Stoudamire will do with his Pacific defense tonight, especially when his only rim protector is Tony Townes against Brandon McCoy and Shak Juiston. Led by Kendall Small and Miles Reynolds, the Tigers are small and quick off the dribble, but it’s hard to consistently penetrate against a Marvin Menzies defense because he never doubles in the post, and that’s not a concern against Pacific anyway. That means help and hard hedges on ball screens will be abundant, essentially an extra defender to help on every screen.
  • Grant McCasland is one of the best young game planners, and North Texas has been extremely well prepared for nearly every opponent this season. They’ve had a week off to prep while San Diego heads home after a big win in altitude over a Pac12 opponent. North Texas is extremely poor in rim defense, but USD’s strength is on the perimeter, where they shoot the three at the 22nd highest rate in the country.

Saturday’s Top Picks (YTD: 125-119-1):

Wright State +5
CMU/SUU under 156.5
Charleston +10.5
Austin Peay +4.5
EIU -2
FAU -7
Georgia State +4.5
North Florida +23
North Texas +9.5

*all lines via 5Dimes at time of publication


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