College Basketball Notebook: Big East and MWC play begins
Butler @ Georgetown
The Hoyas enter Big East play for the first time under Pat Ewing as a relative unknown, as they have played the easiest schedule in D1 (they’ve already played four MEAC teams). While the Hoyas remain unproven, Butler has struggled with height. Maryland, Texas and Purdue all rank in the top 50 in KenPom’s average height metric, and the Bulldogs only tallied .92, .72, and .92 points per possession in those contests, respectively. Georgetown ranks 28th in that height metric, which could give Butler similar problems tonight on the road.
Butler has shown a propensity to space out Tyler Wideman and Nate Fowler, as they’ve been extremely efficient running their motion offense. Unfortunately, Georgetown’s mobile frontcourt duo of Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson excel on both end on the perimeter. The frontcourt advantage certainly lies with the Hoyas tonight, as Jordan can’t play Fowler and Wideman together, and post-up 4s can exploit Kelan Martin, who allows 1.06 points per possession per Synergy. Georgetown also has a significant length advantage at the 3 with either Kaleb Johnson or Jamorko Pickett, although Butler has a few underrated defenders, albeit small, at the 3.
Butler will have the advantage in the backcourt, where the extremely active hands of Kamar Baldwin and Aaron Thompson should cause havoc against a Georgetown team that lacks a true point guard. Baldwin and Thompson, shut down defenders in pick-and-roll defense, should force a plethora of turnovers out of Trey Dickerson and Jonathan Mulmore, who have struggled in that department, even against the country’s weakest OOC schedule. If Baldwin and Thompson can prevent Georgetown’s backcourt from getting into their frontcourt-centric offense, Butler should win with relative ease.
Xavier @ Marquette
Xavier has a massive height/length advantage at every position, but they also did last year when Marquette scored at 1.24 and 1.34 points per possession in two wins over the Muskies. Marquette’s perimeter-oriented offense, which hit a total of 25 3-pointers in those two games against XU’s pack line and 1-3-1 defenses, offers some of the same challenges that Arizona State gave XU earlier this year. Marquette’s quick backcourt of Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard can get the Golden Eagles into their offense quickly, and take advantage of Xavier’s issues in transition defense.
Defensively for Marquette, Rowsey and Howard both lack size, and struggle guarding in pick-and-roll. Trevon Bluiett (who missed one of the meetings last year) and Quentin Goodin should dominate tonight as the pick-and-roll ball handler. Additionally, Matt Heldt grades out in just the 24th percentile nationally in post defense, and Chris Mack has a trio of post options in Tyrique Jones, Sean O’Mara and Kerem Kanter. 6-foot-11 SMU transfer Harry Froling has two games under his belt since becoming eligible in the second semester, but he’s not a strong post defender.
X will come into the Bradley Center with a chip on their shoulder after last year’s sweep, including a loss on Senior Night at Cintas. Unless Marquette’s hitting their jump shots at a high clip, this could get ugly, as Xavier has too many advantages at the rim, in pick-and-roll, and on the glass.
- Syracuse posted 105 points in 80 possessions and held Eastern Michigan to 57 in a matchup of 2-3 zones last season. Rob Murphy, of course, copied Jim Boeheim’s defense after landing the job in Ypsilanti after seven seasons as a Cuse assistant.
- Playing Wyoming in Laramie at the “Dome of Doom” is no joke if you’re not prepared for the elevation. San Diego State has three vets in Trey Kell, Jeremy Hemsley and Malik Pope who know the challenges of Laramie, but this will feel foreign to Dev Watson and Matt Mitchell. Schematically, SDSU grades out in the 83rd percentile in transition defense, a key against the up-tempo Pokes. The Aztecs also have versatile length that can disrupt Wyoming’s halfcourt motion offense that spaces their bigs away from the rim.
- Air Force scores 1.16 points per possession in their press break offense per Synergy, but the Falcons only scored at .77 pp and turned it over on 30-percent of their possessions against Army (the only full court press they have seen). That spells trouble against a well-rested New Mexico team that had five days to prep for Air Force’s Princeton motion. The Falcons went 2-11 in MWC games last year when their opponent had at least four days of prep, scoring over 1 ppp only three times.
- Fresno State typically gives Nevada’s poor pick-and-roll defense issues, as the Bulldogs run their guards off ball screens as much as any team in the country, and Rodney Terry’s aggressive squad has lived in the paint against the Pack in recent matchups. Jaron Hopkins also returns for Fresno tonight.
- Colorado State and Boise State usually comes down to the final shot with a controversial ending. Schematically, the Rams will have issues tonight. 1) Larry Eustachy loves to underscreen defensively, which could backfire against a good shooting team like Boise. 2) The Broncs will offer up a soft zone press before falling into a 2-3, and CSU’s untested zone offense should struggle, as the Rams shoot sub-30 percent from 3.
- FGCU is pressing more to cover up some of their defensive issues, which won’t bother a now healthy Rhode Island team that generally has two ball handlers on the floor. The Rams match up well against an FGCU offense that tries to exploit mismatches in pick-and-roll defenses, especially with versatile Michael Gilmore eligible. Big guards that can handle the ball pressure from URI’s smaller guards have given the Rams trouble. That’s not the case with the Eagles’ backcourt.
Wednesday’s Top Picks (153-154-3):
New Mexico -10.5
Fresno St +1.5
*all lines via Pinnacle at time of publication