Villanova vs. Northern Iowa
Villanova’s superior spacing and ball movement (and shooting, of course) are precisely the type of offensive ingredients that can pick apart the compact UNI defense. Nova should roll assuming they hit just a modicum of their jump shots. It’s a blowout if they shoot like they’re capable of.
PICK: Villanova -13.5
Arkansas State @ South Florida
Simply put, Arkansas State is going to struggle against anyone with size, and that’s one of USF’s few strengths. Deven Simms is a terror for Mike Balado in his Pitino-esque defensive scheme, and USF ball handlers Stephen Jiggetts and Terrence Samuel have had some fairly significant turnovers issues early, so it’s definitely possible ASU can mitigate that size advantage with ball pressure. But the lack of size has forced Balado to rely more on the zone aspect of his trapping zone defense. Brian Gregory teams are always stout defensively in the middle, and generally don’t foul at a high rate in a no-gamble scheme. That’s not a positive for ASU, who relies heavily on penetration from a four- and even five-out scheme.
PICK: South Florida +1.5
Tennessee Tech vs. Omaha
Road weary and shorthanded Omaha has been getting blown off the court, but the few days before traveling to this Florida tournament should serve them well. I’m not sure when Renard Suggs is due back, but the Mavs could certainly use him at the point, and Mitch Hahn’s ankle is still a question, but I think he’s likely to go per the pregame report vs. TCU (that’s strictly reading between the lines of Derrin Hansen’s comments). Tennessee Tech acquitted themselves well against UNM’s press, snagging a huge win at the Pit, but it was buoyed by an absurd shooting game from Aleksa Jugovic, who hit all 7 of his 3s. Steve Payne’s squad can score, with Jugovic, Shaq Calhoun, Kajon Mack and Curtis Phillips, and they’re experienced as the third-oldest team in the country. Payne has had to use a lot of zone to protect his two foul-prone rim defenders, Mason Ramsey and Micaiah Henry. With up to five shooters (if Hahn is healthy), the Mavs are capable of exploiting the TTU 3-2, and the Golden Eagles aren’t going to exploit the Mavs’ lack of height in turn. Should be a lot of points with two four-out offenses exchanging 3s, but I think the Mavs’ shooting is due to improve with rest while TTU’s is bound to regress.
PICK: Omaha +5
Long Beach State vs. Oregon State
LBSU had zero hope against Oregon State’s frontcourt in the first meeting, as Tres Tinkle and Drew Eubanks essentially got whatever they wanted. Dan Monson does have Temidayo Yussuf back, but he appears to be limited still, as he managed to foul out in six minutes, contributing only two turnovers in his debut yesterday. In short, LBSU just isn’t very good, and you can tell just by watching Monson on the bench. I’ve watched a lot of Big West basketball over the years, and I’ve never seen Monson this frustrated. Obviously that’s an impossible assessment to truly quantify, but I think it’s a somewhat telling glimpse inside the dynamics of this team. Monson seems particularly displeased with his PGs Daishuan Booker and Edon Maxhuni, who turn the ball over at an alarming rate. It might be better to slide wing Barry Ogalue on the ball and go with a bigger lineup that can at least get the ball to Gabe Levin in a useful position.
PICK: Oregon State -9
Jackson State vs. UMES
Bobby Collins lost three starters, including leading scorer Ryan Andino and point guard Logan McIntosh, before the season even began. I’m not sure when Andino and McIntosh (or wing Dontae Caldwell) are due back, but the offense has been predictably abysmal without them. Wayne Brent will always extend pressure on the ball handler, and UMES doesn’t really have one. He’ll also fall into a zone in the halfcourt, and the Hawks are shooting the 3 at a dreadful 17 percent clip without Andino. FR PG Cameron Bacote vs. the JSU ball pressure shouldn’t be pretty. JSU has played three D1 teams with outstanding point guards. Today’s opponent should allow them to fully play their preferred style.
PICK: Jackson State -4
BYU vs. Alabama
BYU has been manhandled by quicker, athletic teams already this year. Erick Neal ran amok against the BYU backcourt, and Collin Sexton should literally be able to go anywhere on the floor with the ball today.
PICK: Alabama -7.5
North Carolina vs. Arkansas
Yesssssssssss! Rematch of a thriller in the NCAA Tournament last year, where Arkansas’ questionable play down the stretch combined with some more than questionable officiating allowed the Heels to steal a second-round game en route to an eventual national title. Arkansas’ senior-laden backcourt already looks like one of the best units in the entire country. The question is whether Daniel Gafford and Trey Thompson can keep UNC from playing volleyball on the offensive glass. If they can, and I’m been encouraged by what I saw last night (granted, OU isn’t an offensive rebounding team in general), I think Arkansas wins this game.
PICK: Arkansas +3.5
Utah State vs. Northeastern
Koby McEwen’s ankle is still the source of much speculation. He tried to warm up before the Portland State game but couldn’t go. USU really struggled without him against PSU’s full-court press, but face a much more conducive opponent to their spread pick-and-roll offense with Northeastern in Nashville. That said, USU is awfully reliant on the 3, and Bill Coen teams typically take away the perimeter with a stable of long tweeners who can shoot the 3 on the other end. USU doesn’t have the frontcourt to exploit those tweeners like Tomas Murphy and Bolden Brace in the post.
PICK: Utah State -2
Harvard vs. St. Joe’s
At some point, Harvard’s 3-point shooting rates are going to balance out, and St. Joe’s sagging defense is a great place to start. Harvard can’t get a shot to fall from outside while teams are shooting 40 percent against an Amaker defense that typically doesn’t allow a lot of 3s in the first place. That, more than anything, is at the root of Harvard’s early-season woes, but a slow rotating defense doesn’t help all that much either.
PICK: Harvard +2.5
Toledo @ Cornell
Brutal start for a Cornell team that I thought could make some noise in the Ivy this year. Gunner Matt Morgan and Princeton offense facilitator Stone Gettings have been mostly fine offensively, but that’s about all that has gone right for Big Red, and they’re off back-to-back blowout losses to Colgate and UM Lowell – woof. Toledo’s offense can be a very efficient spread pick-and-roll scheme that spaces out their bigs and can shoot the ball at a lethal clip. They’re not great defending against dribble penetration, and staying in front of Morgan or even Jack Gordon might be an issue today. Both offenses are reliant on the 3-point line, but both defenses are generally structured to take away that option. The ability of the Toledo bigs to operate on both ends away from the rim is key, especially with Luke Knapke and Nate Navigato able to get out on Gettings in the high post.
PICK: Toledo -6
St. Francis College vs. Navy
The Terriers’ offense has received a major shot in the arm with the addition of freshman Jalen Jordan, and Glenn Braica’s four-out offense could give Ed DeChellis’ myriad zone looks some issues. The Terriers are one of the smallest teams in the country, with 6-foot-5 DJ Porter often the nominal 5 as the team’s best shot blocker and rebounder. Navy’s constantly switching defensive schemes might cause young ball handlers Chauncey Hawkins and Rasheem Dunn to have some issues facilitating offense today, but overall this is a much improved SFC team compared to last year’s disaster.
PICK: Navy -9.5
Jacksonville vs. Fairfield
Low-key tough matchup for Fairfield. While the Dolphins are poor in transition defense and protecting the rim, they do have 6-foot-6 scorer Jace Hogan back from injury, and the offense has been much better with him. Tony Jasick teams generally shred zones, and Sydney Johnson has been using a lot of zone early this year. The Dolphins can shoot, as the early numbers aren’t indicative of where this team should be, especially with Hogan back. The Stags can run, though, and JU’s transition defense has been subpar under Jasick. Tyler Nelson is an elite perimeter scorer who can carry the Stags, but Johnson is relying on a lot of new faces this year, and with the inconsistency of talented freshmen like Wassef Methnani, it’s hard to know what to expect from the Stags on a game-by-game basis.
PICK: Jacksonville +8.5
Eastern Michigan @ Indiana
This doesn’t necessarily set up well for the Hoosiers. The Hoosiers torched Arkansas State’s zone last time out to the tune of 1.23 points per possession, but Rob Murphy’s Syracuse 2-3 is extremely aggressive with their traps, and IU’s subpar ball handlers aren’t going to prepared for it. The addition of Elijah Minnie has masked the defensive issues of James Thompson IV on the back end, but that’s still an area IU has to exploit, as Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis are legitimately the only offensive threats for the Hoosiers. However, this is a good matchup for the IU defense as they get more familiar with Archie Miller’s pack line scheme. EMU can’t shoot, and assuming they can keep EMU out of transition (a big if), the Eagles should struggle to score consistently.
PICK: Eastern Michigan +8.5
Loyola Chicago vs. UNCW
UNCW’s shooting from the perimeter is simply unsustainable, so the keys for the Ramblers are keeping the Seahawks out of transition, limiting offensive putbacks, and defending Davontae Cacock as the “roller” in pick-and-roll. Loyola can accomplish the first, but the second two boxes are going to be difficult to check. But as I mentioned, the UNCW perimeter shooting is going to fall off, and it very well could happen on an unfamiliar floor. But Porter Moser is down his best perimeter defender in Ben Richardson. Interested to see how much Moser can get out of frosh Christian Negron today, as he’ll be needed on the glass.
PICK: Loyola -3.5
Duke vs. Texas
Looking forward to this one. Mo Bamba’s athleticism and length are total game changers, and his ability to get out on Marvin Bagley is key, as Duke struggled to hit jump shots against Portland State last night, which could be a recurring theme this year. Texas, meanwhile, has their own offensive issues from the perimeter, so I would expect to see Coach K continue with his zone as well.
PICK: Texas +6.5
Southern Miss @ South Dakota
Matt Mooney was held out against Mt. Marty as a precautionary measure, so he’ll be back today. Craig Smith’s high motion pick-and-roll offense shouldn’t have much issue against USM, but they won’t be able to run in transition, which is typically a significant source of points for the Yotes. Smith goes small at the 3 and 4 often, but that’s not going to be an issue against the country’s smallest team. Smith lines up his two best defenders in Carlton Hurst and Trey Burch-Manning at the 3 and 4, and Doc Sadler’s small ball lineup wants to exploit mismatches with 6-foot-2 Cortez Edwards at the 3 and 6-foot-4 Dom Magee at the 4. That’s unlikely to happen against the Yotes.
PICK: South Dakota -11.5
Friday’s Top Picks Part I:
St. John’s +2
St. John’s/Mizzou over 148.5
Jackson State -4
Jacksonville/Fairfield over 150
EMU/Indiana under 150