Ball State @ Indiana State
Big backcourt battle at Hulman Center, as neither team is getting much of anything from their frontcourt, which is also mostly by design. Ball State’s spacing and perimeter ball movement is much crisper, and if Trey Moses is finally getting close to 100 perfect, the Cardinals are certainly the better team. Brenton Scott has to be able to move off the ball better than he does. Too often he cripples ISU’s spacing. ISU blew an 8-point lead with 8 seconds remaining to lose in OT in Muncie last year, so a bit of revenge might be in mind for the Sycamores.
PICK: Ball State +1.5
Georgia Southern @ Bradley
I’ve discussed the ubiquitous PnR use by GSU a lot, and it’s pretty effective given the fact that Tookie Brown, Mike Hughes, and Ike Smith have played together for so long. Bradley is likely down one of their better perimeter defenders in Jayden Hodgson, which certainly hurts against the GSU perimeter action. Bradley has to get the ball to Donte Thomas and Eli Childs inside early and often against GSU’s four-out rotation. While Montae Glenn is much improved, interior defense is still a relative weakness for the Eagles. Bradley could also live on the offensive glass if Wardle chooses to go big.
PICK: Georgia Southern +2
Hofstra @ Siena
Spread PnR offense vs compact flex offense, and the Pride won this matchup handily last year. The spacing in Jimmy Patsos’ compact offense is even worse than usual this year, and the game plan appears to be let Nico Clareth shoot until he needs Tommy John surgery. Former Siena guard Kenny Wormley will likely be tasked with guarding him, but the biggest concern for Patsos has to be on the defensive end, where he can’t guard Eli Pemberton and Justin Wright-Foreman one vs one, and his zone just got absolutely blitzed by Bucknell.
PICK: Hofstra -3
Fort Wayne @ ETSU
ETSU’s offense has been an unmitigated disaster, but the defense has been predictably strong under Steve Forbes, a Gregg Marshall disciple. Fort Wayne’s defense on the road is typically a good salve for a struggling offense, but the one thing they do well is disrupt on the perimeter with Bryson Scott and Jon Konchar, and ETSU has suddenly become a jump shot reliant team this year. Long guards who can handle the ball give the Dons trouble, and only Desonta Bradford fits that profile for the Bucs.
PICK: Fort Wayne +4
Northern Kentucky @ Memphis
Memphis is probably in a bit of trouble at home against the Norse. NKU can handle Tubby Smith’s ball-line pressure defense, as they can shoot (despite some bad results early on an unfamiliar court), and they can handle the rock with steady PG Lavone Holland II. Those are the two keys to beating a Tubby Smith defense that looks to limit penetration via dribble and entry pass. NKU also does an excellent job of disrupting on the perimeter without fouling, and this Tiger squad looks very dependent on drawing contact. There’s great team experience dichotomy here, as NKU is 13th in minutes continuity, while the new -look Tigers are 319th.
PICK: NKU PK
Georgetown @ Richmond
The Hoyas have put up some gaudy numbers against less than stellar competition, and that was Pat Ewing’s plan from the beginning with this team. With Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson, the Hoyas have a massive size and athleticism advantage against the Spiders, who have struggled this season against teams with size. Struggled probably isn’t the right word, as the Spiders were absolutely obliterated at the rim earlier this season. That said, I think the Richmond backcourt and Princeton-style offense (which Ewing should actually be familiar with) will expose some issues with the Hoyas’ backcourt that the lower-level opponents on Georgetown’s early schedule haven’t been able to.
PICK: Richmond +4
Davidson @ Appalachian State
App State is coming off a total meltdown in double overtime at James Madison while Davidson is traveling back across the country from a trip to Reno against a very good Nevada team. Davidson won this game with relative ease last year (App State actually had a second-half lead at one point), as Bob McKillop knows everything his former pupil Jim Fox is going to do, and it should be noted that Davidson played without Jack Gibbs last year in that one. Limit Ronshad Shabazz’s penetration and you contain App State. Not sure how out of hand this will get, as McKillop is probably content to ease past his former assistant and friend.
PICK: Davidson -9
Akron @ Dayton
John Groce has brought his sagging, pack-line-principled defense to Akron, and Dayton really has only one shooter in Darrell Davis, but if the Flyers can get the ball inside to Josh Cunningham and Xeyrius Williams finally starts knocking down some shots as a stretch 4, the Flyers shouldn’t have much difficulty with the Zips’ 4-out lineup.
PICK: Dayton -7.5
Penn @ Monmouth
Monmouth’s season took a turn for the worse with the news that King Rice was shutting down Micah Seaborn, who hasn’t recovered fully from a meniscus tear. The offense was predictably horrific without him against UNCA, scoring just 51 points in 72 possessions. Without Seaborn, the offensive workload is suddenly thrust on freshmen wings George Papas and Deion Hammond. Defensively, Monmouth might have some issues with Steve Donahue’s dual post offense that can also utilize AJ Brodeur in the pick and pop, as the interior D is far less stout than in previous years. Small sample size, but Monmouth’s offense was scoring at .96 points per possession with Seaborn and just .86 without him. Last year those numbers were 1.10 with, and 1.05 without (per HoopLens).
PICK: Penn +3.5
Old Dominion @ William & Mary
The Tribe won at ODU last year, but that was with Daniel Dixon scoring nearly every point. The Monarchs will have a serious advantage on the glass, but interior oriented lineup pays a price when trying to guard Tony Shaver’s 4 out motion offense, which could be even more effective with a legit post presence in Nate Knight, and the scary part about W&M’s offense is that Matt Milon and Connor Burchfield haven’t really shot it like they’re capable of doing yet. Keys for William & Mary are Justin Pierce and Paul Rowley being able to provide serviceable defense and rebounding when Shaver has to rely on a second big, although Pierce is just 6-foot-6.
PICK: William & Mary +5.5
Western Illinois @ Iowa State
The switch from Lindell Wigginton to Nick Weiler-Babb on the ball was a stroke of genius for Steve Prohm, but it doesn’t do much to rescue the defense (although they finished strong against Boise State in their preseason tournament). Dalan Ancrum looks poised for a massive senior year, and he has another shooter alongside him in FR Kobe Webster. Brandon Gilbeck is a severely underrated big man on both ends when he stays out of foul trouble, but the Clones are probably looking to atone for the egg they laid against Milwaukee in their only other game at Hilton so far this year. But ISU can’t sleep on Billy Wright’s motion offense because they can hit shots against the sagging Clone defense.
PICK: Western Illinois +18.5
Southern Illinois @ Murray State
Same as it ever was with Barry Hinson’s squad, build a shell around the lane and limit SIU’s penetration, and you’re probably going to have a reasonable shot at a relatively easy win. SIU is slowly getting healthier with Armon Fletcher back, and that helps the defense more than anything, but PG Marcus Bartley still isn’t ready, and neither is rim protector Thik Bol. A porous Racer defense decidedly did not limit the Saluki penetration in an OT loss in Carbondale last year, and it appears MSU did little shore up those defensive issues at the rim this year. This could be a breakout offensive performance for SIU 5 Kavion Pippen. Murray State’s backcourt is absurdly talented and can certainly carry the Racers to victory, especially against an SIU defense that doesn’t really guard in the halfcourt.
PICK: Murray State -6
BC @ Providence
The Eagles nearly followed up a nice win over La Salle with an egg at home against Colgate, having to rally from a 17 point 2H deficit after Matt Langel’s inverted offense bombed away from 3, exposing some rotation issues on the BC perimeter. Providence is shooting the 3 at an unsustainable rate coming in and still needed a buzzer beater to snag an improbable victory from Belmont. With Teddy Hawkins and Stef Mitchell in tow this year, BC can actually match the inside out versatility of the Friars, at least to some degree. This one might be closer than expected with BC able to garner supplemental offense on the glass, but I’m sure the Friars haven’t forgotten last year’s debacle against the Eagles.
PICK: Providence -9
LMU @ Boise State
BSU struggled to handle the LMU press on a quick turnaround from Evansville to Los Angeles but rallied to win late in last year’s meeting. This year the Broncs are at home and well-rested (especially key with Chandler Hutchinson’s concussion), and should be able to find plenty of offense against the zone press of LMU. The Lions meanwhile are the team traveling on short rest from San Antonio up to Boise. Leon Rice will extend a 3/4 court trap, but his team generally doesn’t foul in the process. They also get trips to the free-throw line, while turnovers and second-chance points are vital to the LMU offense. BSU is adept at limiting all three of those aspects.
PICK: Boise State -10.5
Southern Utah @ UNLV
Todd Simon nearly knocked off his former team in Cedar City last year, but this Rebel squad is totally different with a major influx of talent thanks to freshmen Brandon McCoy, JUCO Shakur Juiston, and Milwaukee transfer PG Jordan Johnson. The Rebels are coming off a major throttling of Utah, so they could be overlooking a bad TBird team just a bit. SUU is one of the most transition-reliant offenses in the country, but trying to run with these Rebels is a lethal mistake- but there is no Plan B for Simon. If UNLV is motivated, they should put up 100+, with McCoy capable of putting up something crazy like a 40-20 line, as Marvin Menzies’ offense is very focused on feeding him as often as possible. SUU will use a 1-3-1 defensively, which could throw the young Rebels for a small loop early.
PICK: UNLV -25.5
Saturday’s Non-Tournament Top Picks (YTD 66-63):
Northern Kentucky PK