Puerto Rico Tip Off, Myrtle Beach, SC
South Carolina vs. UTEP
This one could be pretty brutal. It’s a quick turnaround, of course, and Tim Floyd will surely zone South Carolina, but the Gamecocks can limit a rim-reliant Miner team… unless, of course, Chris Silva gets in early foul trouble, which seems like a given. Whoever wins the offensive glass probably wins this game given the likelihood of missed shots.
PICK: South Carolina -9
Illinois State vs, Boise State
Great game plan from Dan Muller yesterday, attacking South Carolina relentlessly off the dribble with Milik Yarbrough and Keyshawn Evans, getting Chris Silva in foul trouble, and using an active 2-3 against a poor shooting team in an unfamiliar gym. The difference here is Boise State isn’t typically a poor shooting team, but I don’t think anyone can guard the 6-foot-6 Yarbrough off the bounce.
PICK: Illinois State -1.5
App State vs. Western Michigan
App State simply can’t guard dribble penetration, and that’s the name of the game for WMU with Thomas Wilder leading the point of attack. The Mountaineers can score, though, especially if freshman Justin Forrest is going to be as effective as he was yesterday playing off Ronshad Shabazz in Jim Fox’s motion offense – and WMU certainly hasn’t offered up much resistance defensively.
PICK: Western Michigan -6
Iowa State vs. Tulsa
Moving Nick Weiler-Babb to the point was a stroke of genius for Steve Prohm, as he nearly posted a triple double and it took the pressure off Lindell Wigginton and also freed up Donovan Jackson. Of course you have to take into account they were playing the aforementioned ole’ defense of App State. Cam Lard was also a huge addition for the Clones inside, while Hans Brase saw 20 minutes but is questionable on the back to back. Tulsa, meanwhile, dominated off the dribble and in the paint with Junior Etou and won with relative ease over WMU despite shooting 16 percent from 3 – a typical occurrence for Haith’s Tulsa teams. Tulsa’s defense was outstanding, as their athleticism and versatility kept attacking WMU out of the paint all day.
PICK: Tulsa +3
Charleston Classic, Charleston, SC
Auburn vs. Temple
The length of Temple on the wings between Obi Enechionyia and Quinton Rose can negate the athleticism advantage of smaller Auburn. The Owls were a little sloppy with the basketball, which was to be a bit expected given it was their first game of the year, and Josh Brown was shaking some rust off, but that’s something an aggressive Auburn defense with a couple of ball hawks in Bryce Brown and Jared Harper will certainly try to exploit. Scoring at the rim also looks to be a monumental task against Horace Spencer and unique 4 DeSean Murray, but the floor-spacing ability of Obi and Rose is key in that regard today.
PICK: Temple +2.5
Indiana State vs. Old Dominion
I’d be surprised if Brandon Murphy returns at all this weekend, as that eye looked pretty awful and entirely swollen shut. That’s a big loss against frontcourt-centric ODU. That said, the Monarchs have always had issues against teams that can light it up from beyond the arc, and that’s certainly the game plan for Greg Lansing this year with Jordan Barnes and Brenton Scott. If Murphy is out, ODU will absolutely punish the Trees on the offensive glass.
PICK: Old Dominion -4
Ohio vs. Dayton
Anthony Grant utilized a 1-3-1 in the second half that was quite effective, especially with the Greek Freak 2.0 on the back end. It helped mask the penetration issues the Flyers were having against Hofstra’s guards, but I’m not sure that will be necessary against Ohio, which is looking more and more 3-point reliant with Jason Carter and a couple of freshmen bigs out. I was impressed by the Bobcats yesterday, as I expected them to get worked by Clemson, but Dayton simply has to contain Jordan Dartis and Teyvion Kirk in the backcourt, as they have the length between Xeyrius Williams and Freak the Younger to get out on Gavin Block on the perimeter.
PICK: Dayton -3
Hofstra vs. Clemson
Lots of dribble penetration in this one between Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell of Clemson and Eli Pemberton and Justin Wright-Foreman of Hofstra. Foul trouble from Rokas Gustys is always a concern, and Elijah Thomas was a much bigger part of the offense for Brad Brownell against the lacking Ohio frontcourt. Joel Angus’ defense on the perimeter against Donte Graham is another key.
PICK: Hofstra +8
Paradise Jam (Hosted by Liberty University)
Mercer @ Liberty
Similar defensive schemes, as Ritchie McKay’s pack line takes on Bob Hoffman’s sagging shell defense. I’ll take Lovell Cabbil and Ryan Kemrite shooting against the Mercer sag, though, as Mercer’s offense is largely filtered through Jordan Strawberry and Ri’an Holland penetration. Tough to do consistently against this Liberty defense.
PICK: Liberty +3
Drexel vs. Houston
This looks like a rough one for Drexel. The Cougars don’t allow much of anything in transition, and they have plenty of paint depth against Stretch Williams when Drexel is forced to execute in the halfcourt. Additionally, Rob Gray returns from the NCAA’s hamfisted one-game suspension. Too many matchups to exploit when Drexel is in man, and when Zach Spiker wants to switch to his 3-2, Houston typically shreds zones.
PICK: Houston -14
Quinnipiac vs. Colorado
This looks like a typical Tad Boyle team, even with all the new faces. They’re going to pound the defensive glass after forcing jump shots by walling off the paint. Quinnipiac has morphed into a spread pick-and-roll offense under Baker Dunleavy, but the roster is still heavy on Tom Moore’s relentless offensive rebounders, which means they could get toasted in transition when they don’t grab the miss.
PICK: Colorado -17
Drake vs. Wake Forest
Woof. Wake is awful defending ball screens, and Niko Medved will run out four (or even five) guards at Drake around Nick McGlynn, an alignment that gave Wake fits against Georgia Southern. Drake isn’t GSU, though, and they could get punished on the offensive glass. They will, however, get back in transition routinely.
PICK: Drake +9.5
Vermont vs. Bradley
Not really sure Bradley can score enough here. They’re playing typical Brian Wardle defense finally, but UVM’s defense is so good at running shooters off the line. Bradley is shooting waaaaaaaay above their weight to start the year, and that was against the less than imposing defenses of Delaware and IUPUI. That said, I’m not sold on UVM offensively in this game either, as Donte Thomas is an underrated defender, and I can easily envision him shutting down Anthony Lamb.
PICK: Vermont -8
Coastal Carolina vs, UTSA
To be quite honest, I’m not sure what’s going on with Coastal. Cliff Ellis has barely played his frontcourt duo of Demario Beck and Amidou Bamba, going mostly with a four-out look around Josh Coleman. UTSA, meanwhile, has appeared to vastly improved their D1-worst 3-point mark of last year, thanks due in large part to freshmen Keaton Wallace and Jhiwan Jackson. Obviously it’s an incredibly small sample size, but the early returns are encouraging for today’s tilt against Ellis’ infamous junk zones.
PICK: UTSA +3
Northern Kentucky vs. JMU
JMU is extending a lot of pressure again this year, and Lavone Holland and NKU struggled enough against pressure to give me some hesitancy on the Norse here, but JMU looks to be abysmal in the halfcourt, and Drew McDonald poses a major matchup problem on the other end for the Dukes. Plus there’s this less than encouraging quote from Lou Rowe:
“That’s the elephant in the room in our team,” Rowe said. “There are some tough decisions that have to be made, and I’m going to have to find out the guys that are really bought in and the guys that are really with me. We have 12 guys that think that they should play, and that’s what happens when you’re rebuilding and have a young team.
“The reality is eight guys is about what you play and then there are guys who you fit in. Guys have to be comfortable with the rotations, they have to trust me. We have to get down to a rotation and then we have to have guys that within that rotation understand their roles. … You end up playing the guys, as a coach, that you trust out there.”
PICK: NKU -8.5
Iona vs. Weber State
Interesting game because these two saw each other last year, but Iona didn’t play the extended matchup zone in that game that they have been relying on early this year, and injuries have forced Jerrick Harding into the primary ball handler role. That said, the Gaels look like they’re going to struggle to defend in the paint (hence the zone), and post scorer Zach Braxton and stretchy Brekkott Chapman pose a significant problem. That’s a look the Gaels didn’t see last year either, as Randy Rahe has abandoned his dual-big high-low offense. I also don’t expect Iona to shoot as poorly as they have from the perimeter, but Rahe’s defensive scheme always limits perimeter looks as well as any defense in the country. Iona went 13-25 from deep in last year’s game, but that was on the second day of a back-to-back in Alaska, so there were funky conditions to say the least.
PICK: Iona -4
FRIDAY TOP PICKS:
UTEP/USC under 136.5
Vermont/Bradley under 136.5
Old Dominion -4
Northern Kentucky -8.5
Tulsa/Iowa State over 155