Battle 4 Atlantis

Purdue vs. Tennessee

These are two teams I was very high on in the preseason, and this sets up as a great size vs. speed battle. The problem for the Vols is that Matt Painter can utilize an effective smaller lineup as well (thanks to Grady Eifert, who has been plugging in some valuable minutes early, and Nojel Eastern). A player to watch will be Vince Edwards, who has three inches on Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bowden. Purdue looks like an offensive machine, as every player on the floor can shoot it around Haas, and they simply don’t turn the ball over. Rick Barnes will extend some pressure with his interchangeable parts, but all four Boilers around Isaac Haas/Matt Haarms can handle the ball. It’s a similar matchup for the Boilers as the Marquette game.

PICK: Purdue -9.5

Villanova vs. Western Kentucky

I don’t see how Rick Stansbury’s defense, be it the 1-3-1 or whatever else he wants to utilize, can slow down the offensive juggernaut that is the Villanova Wildcats. The spacing and penetration by Jalen Brunson is impeccable, and Mikal Bridges is playing like a lottery pick. The addition of Omari Spellman seems almost unfair, and if Villanova is hitting its shots, WKU doesn’t have much chance to compete, although Lamonte Bearden can be a very disruptive force against Brunson.

PICK: Villanova -21.5

NC State vs. Arizona

This looks like a potential disaster for NCSU. Pressing Arizona’s athleticism is likely a terrible idea, and to whit the Wildcats shredded CSUB’s press last time out. A poor NC State halfcourt offense has been buoyed by offensive rebounding and turning teams over at the highest clip in the country. Those “extra shots” are unlikely to be available tonight.

PICK: Arizona -13

UNI vs. SMU

This one essentially comes down to who hits more jump shots, as both defensive schemes eliminate large areas of the court around the rim and lane. The good news is that both of these teams can shoot, but SMU does it via some of the best ball movement in the country thanks to the addition of Jimmy Whitt. UNI has had a hard road with injuries already, and it seems like Spencer Haldeman is doubtful for this one, and he’s one of Ben Jacobson’s best shooters. SMU, meanwhile, could be getting healthier in the frontcourt with Akoy Agau potentially available for the first time tonight. UNI can be a challenge to guard because of Jacobson’s inverted offense, but this game has a wide variety of outcomes due to the reliance of both teams on perimeter jump shots.

PICK: SMU -7.5

Great Alaska Shootout

Cal Poly vs. Charleston

The Cougars’ offense might struggle a bit against Joe Callero’s funky matchup zone, but Earl Grant’s lockdown man-to-man is hell on 3-point reliant teams, and that certainly describes the Mustangs. Cal Poly has had offensive success against a Pac-12 team and a nice win at Santa Clara, and that was without their best frontcourt option Josh Martin, who does appear ready for the Alaska tournament.

PICK: C of C -9.5

Central Michigan vs. Sam Houston St

Schematically this doesn’t set up well for the Chips. While CMU figures to be far less iso-based without Marcus Keene and Braylon Rayson, they’re still highly reliant on the perimeter and the three ball, and they’ll face a four-out Bearkat lineup that’s extremely aggressive on the perimeter and in passing lanes. Additionally, Keno Davis has been playing mostly zone defenses, and SHSU is capable of shooting from outside. (It torched UT Tyler’s zone. I know, it’s Tyler.) The Bearkats were a senior-laden team that disappointed last year, and reading between the lines, it sounds like Jason Hooten likes this team’s cohesion a little more already. Likely to see some points here, as the Bearkat scheme lends itself to transition opportunities, and Keno is more than happy playing fast, especially if Shawn Roundtree can handle the ball pressure.

PICK: SHSU +3

Idaho vs. Santa Clara

Good opportunity for two good shooting teams to get on track from outside if they can adjust to an unfamiliar court. Idaho plays a hybrid packline/zone, while Herb Sendek has been using a 3-2. Both the Vandals and Broncs have shooters, but neither have been shooting well as a team, and they’ve both played schemes that really limit the three ball.

PICK: Idaho -2

Wednesday Top Picks (50-48):

App St/JMU over 151.5

App St +2

Arizona -13

Buffalo -1

Marquette -4.5

Idaho/Santa Clara over 135.5

ETSU/Troy over 146

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