Virginia Tech vs. Washington
The Hokies were inefficient in the halfcourt last night against a SLU team that denied them quick buckets in transition. Buzz doesn’t really have an offensive scheme per se, relying heavily on quick buckets off misses and penetrating one on one. That’s going to be difficult against Washington, as Mike Hopkins already has them getting back off misses to get the 2-3 set up at a more than decent rate. Offensively UW isn’t doing much except high ball screens and iso breakdowns for Jaylen Nowell and feeding Noah Dickerson inside – so this one could look pretty disjointed on no rest. I’d lean toward Virginia Tech responding well to Buzz’s intense criticisms post-SLU loss, but the scheme is problematic, especially if Justin Robinson’s knee is balky.
PICK: Virginia Tech -7.5
Fordham vs. Florida State
FSU may lack offensive structure and creativity, but they’re typically hard to press because Leonard Hamilton always assembles a group of massive and athletic ball handlers. That doesn’t bode well for Jeff Neubauer’s zone pressure scheme. I’ll need to see more of FSU going forward with a lot of new pieces, but history suggests this isn’t a good matchup for the Rams.
PICK: Florida State -14
Northeastern @ Stanford
How many minutes can Anthony Green give Bill Coen tonight? He’s essential defensively against Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey at the rim. On the other end, Stanford might down to an eight-man rotation again, and that loss of wing depth will hurt against a Northeastern offense that can stretch you out with 6-foot-8 shooters Bolden Brace and Tomas Murphy – and it also prevents Jerod Haase from exposing Vasa Pusica’s loose handle. Hard game to predict, as both teams have some offensive advantages against the defensive schemes, and with the Stanford injury report in question, it becomes even more difficult.
PICK: Northeastern +9
Elon vs. FIU
FIU looks like they could be one of the worst offenses in the country this year. They’re entirely reliant on iso penetration from wings Eric Lockett and Josh Stamps (who is questionable for this one). The frontcourt has some upside defensively but is extremely raw and limited on the offensive end, while new PG Brian Beard looks like he’ll battle turnovers/inefficiency all year. The Phoenix, meanwhile, likely vent some frustration on a limited opponent, as the motion offense has looked clunky against two high-level opponents (Duke, obviously) and Furman (a tricky camouflaged defense that really disrupts in the backcourt and limits transition).
PICK: Elon -14
Omaha @ Louisville
This doesn’t set up well for the Mavs, who have been traveling non stop across the country since the season began. 1) Renard Suggs is still AWOL, meaning the primary ball handling option for Derrin Hansen likely won’t be available against the aggressive zone press of the Cardinals. 2) Louisville allows zilch in transition, and the Mavs are in their comfort zone on the run, having failed to play a game below 80 possessions this year, and only played one game below 70 the entirety of last season – the Summit title game against SDSU (69). Louisville, meanwhile, played at an average of just below 68 possessions last season, and Cardinals coach David Padgett has shown every indication of following the Pitino blueprint defensively.
PICK: Louisville -27.5
Providence vs. St. Louis
PC is going to have some issues against anyone with height until/if Emmitt Holt returns. SLU doesn’t have a ton of height, but Javon Bess is a bulldog around the rim. Stud frosh Jordan Goodwin was phenomenal last night, but Ed Cooley’s constantly shifting defense could be a challenge, especially with little to no prep. Cooley also has the much deeper bench on back-to-back nights as well. SLU is likely a volatile team to judge game by game because of so much reliance on the freshman PG Goodwin, so I have no confidence in any prediction involving the Bills, but I think Holt is much more important scheme wise than people might realize. Without Holt on the floor on both ends in ~800 possessions last year, PC was a net -.12 points per possession. That’s a big number.
PICK: SLU +8.5
Georgia State @ Ole Miss
I’m extremely high on GSU in general this year, but this figures to be a tough matchup for the Panthers for a few reasons. 1) Andy Kennedy’s 1-3-1 isn’t as aggressive as Ron Hunter’s, but it’s certainly a scheme his team is very familiar with since they essentially practice against it every day. 2) Kennedy is running out four ball handlers, all extremely capable against the active Hunter zone, and this team looks like it can shoot the lights out on any given night. (There are copious looks from beyond the arc against GSU if you can protect the ball.) Limiting D’Marcus Simonds’ penetration is key (and of course the same reasoning I applied to Ole Miss being familiar with a 1-3-1 applies to the Panthers), and if Ole Miss can turn him into a jump shooter, they’ll really limit the GSU offense.
PICK: Ole Miss -11
Northern Arizona @ Arizona State
No reason to think ASU doesn’t win this by 30 plus unless Bobby Hurley calls off the dogs, which is an extremely un-Bobby Hurley thing to do – although with a short bench and a quick turnaround with UCI on Sunday, it is possible.
PICK: Arizona State -25
North Dakota State @ Missouri State
Between Alize Johnson and Obi Church, Missouri State has a major frontcourt advantage in terms of both skill and athleticism, but of course I said that about USC as well. Paul Lusk’s defensive scheme encourages jump shots so his excellent rebounding team can rip and go, but Dave Richman’s squad can shoot with some big wings.
PICK: NDSU +9.5
Fresno State @ Arkansas
The Hogs’ deep and talented backcourt can handle the bruising extended pressure from Fresno State and burn them on the back end. Fresno State was awful away from Save Mart in OOC (and MWC play for that matter), losing to CSUB and nearly losing to such powerhouses as Pacific, Drake and Oregon State.
PICK: Arkansas -12
LIU vs. Miami (OH)
Raiquan Clark could terrorize Miami in the paint, and LIU has far more athleticism, but MOH already looked like a very principled transition defense in games against Fordham and Wright State. Plus, we know from Derek Kellogg’s history that his teams always struggle to execute in the halfcourt – and that’s where this game will be played.
PICK: Miami OH -2.5
DePaul @ Illinois
The Gavitt Games finally brings these two programs together after 60 years, but the Brad Underwood defensive scheme of denying penetration and keeping the ball away from wings could be a major issue for the Blue Demons. Eli Cain and Devin Gage have been solid handling the ball thus far, but they’ve played a zone in Delaware State and a packed in Notre Dame defense. The Illini defense is a 180 from those schemes, and I think DePaul likely struggles to get the ball to Max Strus in a usable position, and they’ll have to rely on Cain one-on-one breakdowns to score.
PICK: Illinois -8.5
New Mexico @ New Mexico State
The Battle of Paul Weir adds some more gas to this intense rivalry. The question is whether NMSU can handle the UNM press from ball hawks Troy Simons, Antino Jackson and Chris McNeal. My initial thought is that they should be OK with AJ Harris and Sidy N’Dir and a host of athletic wings to come up in the middle of the floor against the press. This is the first time the Weir press has hit the road and the first time they’ve played a team with a legit point guard. Regardless, this should be an interesting game to say the least.
PICK: NMSU -4.5
UC Irvine @ Kansas State
Bruce Weber does an excellent job of spacing out his bigs within his motion offense, and that’s the key to unlocking an oppressive Eater frontcourt led by Big West DPOY Jonathan Galloway (I’m not sure if UCI’s Elston Jones is available, though) and Tommy Rutherford. Dean Wade’s ability to stretch that frontcourt out is key, and if UCI is going to score consistently on the other end, Eyassu Worku, Max Hazzard and Evan Leonard have to handle the bigger ball hawks of KSU in Barry Brown, Xaiver Sneed and Cartier Diarra.
PICK: KSU -14
Northern Colorado @ Pepperdine
UNC has underachieved to date early in the year, but they’re simply a team I had rated much higher than Pepperdine, even if PG Amadi Udenyi is able to clear concussion protocol. Jeff Linder’s motion offense has looked clunky trying to work some of the now-eligible scorers like Anthony Johnson and Andre Spight into the flow, but I think it clicks sooner rather than later.
PICK: Northern Colorado PK
FRIDAY TOP PICK PART II (YTD 20-24):
Tulane +4 (from Twitter)
VCU +6.5 (from Twitter)
Florida State -14
Georgia State/Ole Miss over 153
Arizona State -24.5
LIU/Miami under 145.5
UCI/Kansas State under 133
Northern Colorado PK