Baylor @ Xavier
Chris Mack’s pack line defense was annihilated by Arizona State’s four-out offense, with the Sun Devil guards either shooting over the top of the XU perimeter or driving past Quentin Goodin, as ASU scored an absurd 102 points in 73 possessions. Baylor represents a different kind of test for the Muskie defense, as they’re far more interior-oriented than ASU, but that doesn’t mean that Manu Lecomte, King McClure and stretch 4 Nuni Omot can’t/won’t get hot from deep just like ASU – and Lecomte was 6-9 from 3 last year vs XU. Xavier’s a good defensive rebounding team, which limits the Bears on the glass (always a key), but it’s a moot point if XU is taking the ball out of the net on most possessions. The length of Ed Sumner and Trevon Bluiett on the perimeter was effective in breaking down the shifting Baylor zone defense last year, but that was about all that worked for Xavier offensively, and obviously Sumner is no longer with the team. It’s hard not to expect a major improvement on the defensive end tonight from XU, especially with how vocal Mack was in his disappointment with his team on that end. Mack is a great game planner and has knowledge of the opponent. XU has been dominant at home in OOC play, and it has a big week on tap with the Bears tonight and then the Cincy game. The one common characteristic with Scott Drew’s best teams is that they force opponents to play at their pace with their unique zones, and they eventually wear you down with their height. It will be interesting to see how XU responds to that. Defensive effort will be there for the Muskies, but I’m not sure how they’re going to fare offensively when they can’t work inside out against the Bears.
PICK: Baylor +4.5
Iona @ Ohio
Saul Phillips is showing off his coaching chops so far this year, as he’s kept Ohio more than competitive despite losing his frontcourt of Jason Carter and Kevin Mickle already. (It sounds like Mickle is out for a bit longer with a torn meniscus, and Carter is still probably a week or more away.) Last year in New Rochelle, the Gaels won thanks to an anomalous game from Jan Svandrlik, who hit five 3s (I think he hit only about a dozen more the rest of the season), and Jordan Washington torching the Bobcats at the rim. You can’t expect that production from Svandrlik again (and he might not even be available for this one), and Washington is gone of course. But Tim Cluess is utilizing a full-court press this year, and he has C.J. Seaforth available tonight for additional backcourt depth. The Gaels have also had nine days off since playing in the Bahamas. The good news for the Bobcats is that makeshift PGs Teyvion Kirk and Gavin Block handled Mt. St. Mary’s pressure well, turning the ball over just twice while totaling 12 assists between them. Iona has to go to TK Edogi early and often against the lacking Ohio frontcourt, who in turn isn’t likely to expose the Gaels’ severe issues on the glass.
PICK: Iona +3.5
Detroit @ Fort Wayne
Very little defense will be played in this game (you can use last year’s 93-86 Don win last year as an example), and it’s hard to know what to expect from UDM, who has won three straight, including a shocker at St. Louis. Fort Wayne can’t guard Kam Chatman, and it appears Jaleel Hogan is working his way into the good graces of Jermaine Jackson (currently coaching the Titans with Bacari Alexander in some sort of weird suspension purgatory that the UDM front office is being oddly mum about), and the Titans should be able to score at the rim at will. Meanwhile, John Konchar and Bryson Scott should be able to penetrate and kick at will in the halfcourt and in transition, as the Titans essentially don’t guard anywhere on the floor.
PICK: Fort Wayne -9.5
Chattanooga @ Akron
Former Akron assistant Lamont Paris returns to the JAR in his first season with the Mocs and presents an interesting matchup for John Groce’s Zips. Groce is running a four-out offense and trying to utilize a pack line defensively, which a good-shooting UTC team can exploit, especially with big, mobile shooters. However, first and foremost for the Mocs is getting Makinde London healthy. London sat vs. Tennessee Wesleyan, so hopefully his shoulder injury isn’t serious. If London suits up, he’s unquestionably the best player on the floor as a mobile 6-foot-11 center with ball skills. Keeping the Zips from firing away from 3 is the first priority, and that’s the focal point of Paris’ Bo Ryan structured defense. I think the Mocs are probably undervalued, as the one bad loss was a beatdown at UAB that can be chalked up to the Blazers seeking revenge and UTC on a quick turnaround from a tough game in the altitude of Laramie, Wyoming. The Mocs can steal a road win if London is available.
PICK: Chattanooga +8
Davidson @ Charlotte
Davidson can’t guard against dribble penetration and has major issues in pick-and-roll, both of which are major issues against Mark Price’s spread pick-and-roll offensive attack, led by the outstanding Jon Davis, who should be able to play through a couple of nagging injuries tonight. Davidson was exposed by Bob McKillop disciple Jim Fox’s spread pick-and-roll led by their own dynamic ball handler, Ronshad Shabazz, and when the perimeter shots aren’t falling for McKillop’s motion offense, the Wildcats can lose to anyone – including Charlotte. The Niners have their own issues defensively, but they’re at least disruptive in the backcourt with Andrien White and versatile Austin Ajukwa, a key vs. the perimeter motion of Davidson. You can beat Davidson at all five positions one-on-one, and that’s exactly what Charlotte’s offense brings to the table. Of course, Davidson is capable of hitting everything in site and winning by 20-plus.
PICK: Charlotte +8
Brown @ Rhode Island
Brown’s pick-and-roll heavy offense comprised almost entirely of attacking wings has typically given URI’s aggressive man-to-man issues, as they’ll go to the free throw line at least 30 times, and they’re typically a strong shooting team at the stripe. The Bears are getting healthier with Obi Okolie back, while the Rams are heading the opposite way without E.C. Matthews and Cyril Langevine likely out again tonight. The Rams also have this rivalry game sandwiched between the Brooklyn games and a tilt with chief rival Providence. Brown is still prone to giving up points in bunches, though, thanks to a poor transition defense (typical of high-possession teams) and an often loose grip on the basketball.
PICK: Brown +20
App State @ VCU
The Mountaineers are off their big win over Davidson, which carries even more significance for Jim Fox, as he beat his mentor, Bob McKillop. App State can be a lethal transition offense, an area that the VCU defense has really struggled with. App State is very similar to Marquette, who scored 94 points in 77 possessions against the Rams in Hawaii, as they spread the floor with shooters around a dynamic playmaker in Ronshad Shabazz. The Rams will still be a little shorthanded without Issac Vann tonight. They have this one wedged between the Hawaii trip and a battle with rival Old Dominion.
PICK: App State +11
South Dakota State @ Ole Miss
Probably another tough game for the Ole Miss defense, which has had some issues against reputable mid-majors already this year. Mike Daum’s ability to score in the post and in pick-and-pop situations extended to the 3-point line represents a distinct problem for the typically four-guard Ole Miss lineup. Reed Tellinghuisen is another inverted shooter for the Jacks, while frosh David Jenkins has already emerged as a deadly perimeter threat. You can score in droves against SDSU, though, as Tevin King is the only plus perimeter defender against what can be a lethal Ole Miss perimeter attack between Terence Davis, Deandre Burnett and Markel Crawford, with Devontae Shuler waiting for kickouts. Interestingly, if/when Andy Kennedy turns to the 1-3-1, that’s a scheme SDSU is well familiar with, having played it almost exclusively for the first half of last season.
PICK: South Dakota State +11
IUPUI @ Western Illinois
These two are obviously very familiar with each other as Summit rivals. IUPUI had trouble with the overall length of WIU, particularly Brandon Gilbeck, as he was a nonfactor with fouls in the Jags’ win last year, while he dominated the post in WIU’s victory. WIU, meanwhile, had problems with mismatches in pick-and-roll against smaller and quicker IUPUI guards. This year’s Jags are more interior oriented, though, and that’s an issue against a compact WIU defense with Gilbeck lurking at the rim on the back end of a morphing 3-2 base zone.
PICK: Western Illinois +2.5
Utah State @ Valpo
Sounds like road weary USU is going to be shorthanded again, with Koby McEwen doubtful after re-aggravating his ankle injury, not to mention the Aggies are already down two other contributors. Valpo is long and athletic with a 7-footer on the floor at basically all times. That’s a bad combo for a perimeter-oriented USU team with major issues at the rim.
PICK: Valpo -7.5
Western Michigan @ St. Louis
Travis Ford has rebuilt the Bills to be tough at the rim defensively and strong on the glass. They were neither in a shocking home loss to Detroit, and the wear and tear of a seven-man rotation was evident with SLU. With nearly a week off, I would expect SLU to be refocused in these two areas, which is troublesome for a WMU team that’s extremely reliant on Thomas Wilder getting the ball into the paint and forcing defenses to help on him. Jordan Goodwin is Ford’s best option on Wilder, but that exposes his best offensive player to foul trouble. Steve Hawkins is also potentially down two frontcourt players with Seth Dugan out for an extended period with a stress fracture in his foot (never good for a 7-footer) and Brandon Johnson day to day with a high ankle sprain.
PICK: SLU -4.5
Louisville @ Purdue
This is the first team that Louisville has faced that can spread the floor with multiple shooters AND has height. Purdue has had issues on the defensive glass, which can buoy the Louisville offense with second chance points, but the Boilers should be able to spread out the massive Louisville frontcourt and exploit.
PICK: Purdue -8
Colorado State @ Missouri State
CSU is notorious for underscreening defensively and trying to induce jump shots and grab the miss. That’s a good idea on paper against Missouri State, who has struggled mightily to hit jump shots early this year, but at some point Alize Johnson and Ryan Kreklow are going to find their stroke, and the athleticism of the Bears in the frontcourt allows them to grab their misses at one of the highest rates in the country. Mo State’s defense is actually structured incredibly similarly to CSU’s, as they allowed the fifth-lowest FG attempt rate at the rim last year (per Hoop-math.com). Outside of Prentiss Nixon (who should be back from a concussion), the Rams lack shooters. If both teams are missing jump shots, which is a distinct possibility given early performances, the battle between a very good defensive rebounding team in CSU and a very good offensive rebounding team in MSU will be what to watch. Ronnie Rousseau is doubtful for Paul Lusk tonight with an ankle sprain. It’s been a mixed bag for the Bears with Rousseau on the floor. The Bears are scoring at just 1.01 points per possession in roughly 300 possessions with Rousseau on the floor and a whopping 1.14 with him off in an almost equal number of possessions. Defensively, however, Missouri State is limiting teams to 0.88 ppp with Rousseau on the floor, and .94 with him off (per HoopLens.com).
PICK: Missouri State -9.5
Iowa @ Virginia Tech
Both offenses are going to have ample opportunity to put the ball in the bucket routinely tonight, as Iowa can’t defend against the constant penetrate-and-kick action of the Hokies, and Virginia Tech has issues in transition defense and rotating on the perimeter. The Hawkeyes have consistently posted one of the lowest foul rates in the country under Fran McCaffery, and limiting the Hokies at the stripe is always a key. Cassell Coliseum is known for the odd sightlines and can be a difficult adjustment for teams that are unfamiliar with it. Iowa will return Nick Baer tonight, which should help on the defensive end, but I’m not sure how many minutes he can give in his first game back.
PICK: Iowa +8.5
Illinois @ Wake Forest
Major coaching mismatch between Brad Underwood and Danny Manning, and Wake should have some serious challenges guarding the Illini spread motion offense, and Underwood’s deny-heavy defense could wreak havoc on a turnover-prone Wake backcourt, assuming they can reduce the fouls, which they haven’t been able to do early. Defensively, Manning has been uncharacteristically stressing getting back in transition, as he recognizes the serious flaws in his pick-and-roll defense and is trying to limit possessions. First game away from C-U for Illinois, which is always tricky, but this is a game they should be able to efficiently execute their halfcourt offense.
PICK: Illinois +2.5
Kennesaw State @ Washington
Mike Hopkins’ Syracuse 2-3 still has some major holes as the Huskies adapt to the scheme, but Al Skinner’s flex offense is a perfect opponent to fix that. The KSU offense is extremely compact and will have trouble operating against the length of UW. It should be noted that while the Owls didn’t take very many attempts last year, they were the second-best 3-point shooting team in the country, and Nick Masterson is a long, deadly shooter. Unfortunately, the offensive scheme simply doesn’t utilize the 3-pointer as a primary option.
PICK: Washington -15
Loyola Chicago @ Boise State
Of course a lot is dependent on the status of Chandler Hutchison, who has at least been practicing. Leon Rice’s statements make it sound like he’ll be ready, but that was true before the LMU game as well. BSU uses a 2-3 base defense, which could be problematic against a very good jump shooting Rambler team, but Boise runs some of the best halfcourt offense in the country, and you have to be able to disrupt them on the perimeter, which becomes difficult for Porter Moser without Ben Richardson. The Ramblers are a very effective penetrate-and-kick motion offense, but the zone could be useful in that regard, especially with the Broncs’ ability to keep Loyola off the charity stripe.
PICK: Boise State -4
UCSB @ San Francisco
Few coaches experiment with lineup rotations in November more than Kyle Smith, so it’s hard to know what to expect from the Dons early in the year. The Joe Pasternack era at UCSB has started swimmingly, and they have the ability to penetrate from the 1-4 positions. Plus, Jalen Canty draws a ton of contact inside, an area that USF has struggled with defensively. This sets up similarly to the LBSU game for the Dons, as they can be overwhelmed by speed and athleticism on the wing and backcourt.
PICK: UCSB +5
Tuesday’s Top Picks (YTD: 78-74):
All lines via 5Dimes
App St/VCU over 159.5
Western Michigan/SLU under 133
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