Just going to run through some quick hitters on a few things I find of interest in the evening slate…
Old Dominion vs. Dayton
The loss of Trey Landers for Dayton is a little more important than initially realized. Not a lot of quality depth in the Flyer backcourt, and he was providing some solid on-ball defense. Dayton can keep ODU off the offensive glass, so this one should be plenty ugly with paths to consistent offense limited on each side, as ODU’s strong interior defense mitigates the strength of Dayton’s offense.
PICK: Old Dominion -1.5
Houston Baptist vs. Detroit
HBU has a solid lead guard in Braxton Bonds to handle the UDM press, but they can get torched in transition, as was proven last year in a fast league. Ron Cottrell will use an extended matchup zone, but UDM is a better shooting team than they’ve shown to date. Jaleel Hogan was only able to go 13 minutes before fouling out yesterday. That can’t happen again against Josh Ibarra.
PICK: Detroit +1
Colorado State vs. Florida State
FSU is once again loaded with athleticism, but Leonard Hamilton once again doesn’t have any semblance of offensive scheme. That’s not the worst strategy given the one-on-one talent and length he has, but the offense often devolves into a your turn, my turn situation, and the Noles can go long stretches without scoring. CSU, meanwhile, got absolutely torched by Tulane’s spread pick-and-roll, but coach Larry Eustachy’s underscreening defense and sagging matchup zone should be far more effective in keeping jump shot resistant FSU out of the paint, and it will help mitigate the massive length advantage of the Noles.
PICK: Colorado State +12.5
Coastal Carolina vs. Iona
Tough matchup for the Chants, as Iona’s perimeter threats are going to have plenty of spots to chose from outside and get on track against Cliff Ellis’ defensive schemes. Jaylen Shaw struggles against pressure, and the extended Iona zone pressure should be highly effective if Tim Cluess wants to continue to use it on back to back to backs.
PICK: Iona -4
Tulsa vs. Illinois State
With the amount of times Tulsa and Illinois State have played each other lately, it’s almost like Tulsa is back in the MVC. Illinois State is going to be volatile in the OOC, as it’s impossible to predict the defensive intensity from game to game with the new faces and injuries. Sometimes Dan Muller has been able to motivate them (see South Carolina) and other times they revert back to their FGCU form (see yesterday against Boise State). Tulsa is long and athletic on the perimeter and can matchup with Milik Yarbrough and keep him and Keyshawn Evans out of the lane off the dribble. Plus, the Redbirds pose zero threat on the glass, as they’re far worse than the mediocre Golden Hurricanes in that regard.
PICK: Tulsa -2
Northwestern vs. Texas Tech
NU has big shooters in Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law against the Texas Tech pack line, and Chris Beard’s motion offense is pretty similar to what Northwestern runs, but with far worse spacing. NU should be able to score today and be able to switch effectively defensively.
PICK: Northwestern +3
Drake vs. Drexel
Have to be concerned about the legs of the Drake backcourt, especially Reed Timmer, who essentially hasn’t left the court. Timmer has been unbelievable in this tournament, but Drake was starting to get beat in transition by Colorado, which is the first no-no in Niko Medved’s defense, so you know the Bulldogs are running on fumes, and Drexel is a very transition-reliant offensive attack.
PICK: Drake -2
Tulane vs. Fordham
Tulane has length, versatility and shooting across the board along with three or four big ball handlers that can see over the Jeff Neubauer zone pressure scheme. The Rams are also shorthanded and likely without their best overall defender in Chuba Ohams, and I have no idea where Nema Zarkovic has been.
PICK: Tulane -4
Iowa State vs. Boise State
Steve Prohm fixed the offense by moving Nick Weiler-Babb on the ball, now what about the defense? He had to go to a zone to keep Tulsa out of the paint, and now he faces a Boise State team that can shoot the ball and penetrate with Swiss army knife Chandler Hutchinson and two more big shooters in Christian Sengfelder and Justinian Jessup.
PICK: Boise State +2
Vermont vs. Northern Kentucky
Great matchup. NKU can spread the floor and run in transition, but that’s a tall order against John Becker’s defense that both runs out and closes out extremely well on shooters and doesn’t allow much in transition. Both teams feature excellent ball movement offensively, but UVM’s spacing can be a little suspect, and NKU is more disruptive in the backcourt defensively and in passing lanes than UVM – at least in the early going this year. Anthony Lamb hasn’t looked like the same player as teams appear to have a scouting report on him in his sophomore season, while NKU hasn’t really shot the ball like they’re capable of doing in this tourney, but they’ve still run roughshod over the competition.
PICK: Northern Kentucky +5
USC @ Vanderbilt
Two big concerns for Vandy here. 1) I don’t think Djery Baptiste or Ejike Obinna are anywhere near ready for the task of facing Bennie Boatwright, and neither is capable of exploiting his weaknesses on the defensive end. 2) Vandy looked overwhelmed at times by the athleticism of UNCA, and USC brings that at an exponentially higher level.
PICK: USC -3
Mercer vs. Colorado
A few things working for Mercer here. They’re excellent in transition defense, and Tad Boyle loves to push off the defensive glass, especially with this young team still figuring things out on the offensive end. Also, Bob Hoffman’s shell defense is focused exclusively on penetration help and denying easy entry passes. That’s key against George King and the Wrights. Additionally, the Bears can hit jump shots, and Colorado’s defensive scheme is designed to induce those jumpers and run off the (hopeful) miss. I’m extremely high on this senior-laden Bears team, and I think they finish the tournament strong.
PICK: Mercer -2.5
Temple vs. Clemson
The length and athleticism of Obi Enechionyia and Quinton Rose on the wings and Shizz Alston at the point make Temple an extremely difficult matchup, and they don’t have to deal with Clemson’s packed-in interior defense. I was very high on the Owls preseason, and I’ve seen nothing to move me off that position early.
PICK: Temple +2.5
Miami (Ohio) vs. Hartford
New Miami HC Jack Owens is running out a less junkier version of a box-and-one defense, as he’s extending ball hawk Darrian Ringo, and sagging off the perimeter everywhere else. It’s not as simple as a box-and-one, but it’s the same basic principle. That’s a little troublesome against Hartford, who has a dual PG offense with J.R. Lynch and Jason Dunne and five shooters on the floor in almost every lineup.
PICK: Hartford +7
Sunday Evening Top Picks:
Boise State +2
Hartford/Miami OH over 138.5
Colorado State +12.5
Colorado State/Florida State under 149