Niagara @ UMass
This certainly seems like a winnable game for the Purple Eagles. Khalil Dukes can likely handle the ball hawking of Luwane Pipkins, and while the Niagara bigs of Dom Robb and Marvin Prochett aren’t flashy, they can both force Rashaan Holloway to guard outside the lane in pick-and-roll. The final score of Niagara’s game at Minnesota was a little misleading, as they were within three with 10 minutes left before the athleticism and length of the Gophers wore them down.
PICK: Niagara +5
Quinnipiac @ Liberty
Pretty tough matchup for the young Quinnipiac backcourt against a pack line defense they haven’t seen before. The Flames are looking to close out a tournament on their home court with a strong showing, but it’s hard to come back so quickly after a buzzer-beating loss against a power conference opponent.
PICK: Liberty -10.5
Monmouth @ Virginia
The Hawks are better than I anticipated in their first few games without Justin Robinson, and UVA is off the big win at the Stu, so there’s no question that Monmouth can keep this game within reason, especially with a big guard like Micah Seaborn who can maintain his dribble against the pack line while backing his man down to make it collapse. Just a matter of guys like Deion Hammond hitting perimeter shots off the reversal at that point. If he and Louie Pillari can hit some shots, the Hawks will compete. If not, they’ll score roughly 50 points and UVA will roll.
PICK: Monmouth +17.5
Indiana State vs. Ohio
Ohio is down to a seven-man rotation on the final day of this tournament, but they’ve at least been competitive, whereas Indiana State has not. Frustration seems to be boiling over for the Trees, as Greg Lansing called out Brenton Scott’s shot selection post-ODU loss. Ohio is essentially missing their entire frontcourt, but that’s not an area ISU is built to exploit, especially with Jordan Barnes, Tyreke Key and Scott dominating possessions in the backcourt. Ohio’s backcourt is bigger across the board and should give the Trees some issues today. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Scott start this game on the bench.
PICK: Ohio -2
UC Irvine @ Arizona State
Until UCI finds some semblance of a workable backcourt, they’re going to continue to be one of the least efficient offenses in the country – and the Eaters lost one of their only perimeter threats in Spencer Rivers for the year. UCI’s backcourt was completely worked by KSU’s, and I suspect the same to happen today against what can be a prolific four-out perimeter utilized by Bobby Hurley. Jonathan Galloway, Tommy Rutherford and Elston Jones are an outstanding three-headed monster defensively in the frontcourt, and could limit hyper efficient Romello White, but they offer less offensively than the backcourt does. ASU should roll even against a very good defense, unless Well Fargo is dead on a Sunday morning and the Sun Devils sleep walk after beating SDSU.
PICK: Arizona State -13.5
North Dakota @ Nebraska
UND is back on the mainland, but this game might take four hours to play with all the likely whistles. Both teams are heavy rim attackers off pick-and-roll. While Nebraska has great length, it was useless against the speed of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett when they played St. John’s. UND is constructed incredibly similarly on both ends of the floor, and the guard trio of Geno Crandall, Cortez Seales and Marlon Stewart could exploit the same gaps that the Johnnies did. UND can be exploited in the post, but Jordy Tshimanga and Duby Okeke are strictly defensive bigs. At some point, you would think Isaac Copeland and Glynn Watson would get rolling in pick-and-roll and hit some jump shots, and perhaps that comes at home today.
PICK: North Dakota +9
Seattle @ Belmont
Should see upwards of 70 3-point attempts today. Jim Hayford all but confirmed that he’s going back to his spread pick-and-roll offense that was so prolific in Cheney in the early part of his tenure there before he got Jake Wiley in the post during his last season at EWU. Belmont, of course, runs Rick Byrd’s fantastically precise motion and drag screen transition offense. The Bruins nearly blew a 27-point second half lead against Houston Baptist yesterday, so they’ll come out with a little more poise today. Amanze Egekeze can get out on the stretcher Matej Kavas and Josh Hearlihy, but the return of Mack Mercer from a sprained ankle would certainly help in that regard. I’d say Mercer is questionable at best for today.
PICK: Belmont -13
Bradley vs. Weber State
This is where Koch Bar’s passport issues could hurt the Braves, as Zach Braxton is the first legitimate back-to-the-basket post threat they’ve seen in this tournament. Randy Rahe hasn’t got much from star offseason addition Brekkott Chapman in the Bahamas, as he’s basically been in foul trouble from the opening tip. Defensively, Bradley is legit thanks to Donte Thomas, but outside of Nate Kennell’s jump shot, the offense is still pretty ugly.
PICK: Weber State +2
Western Michigan vs. South Carolina
Not much to suggest anything changes from the first meeting between these two. Yes, the first game was at USC and the Gamecocks were playing with some extra emotion on Final Four banner raising day, but Thomas Wilder was able to do his thing and get into the paint, and the Broncs still lost by 18. (It didn’t help that they missed 12 free throws.) I liked WMU in that first meeting, and they kept it around 10 for much of the way but eventually got overwhelmed. I still think Wilder is the best player on the court, though.
PICK: Western Michigan +9
Northeastern @ Ohio State
Pretty extreme travel for Northeastern, who is coming to Columbus from Palo Alto with just a day off. NU’s stretchy bigs, Tomas Murphy and Bolden Brace, could give OSU some issues, but that comes at the cost of not being able to defend at the rim, and Kaleb Wesson could eat if he’s off suspension (and it sounds like he is). Northeastern’s not a team that’s going to exploit C.J. Jackson’s early turnover issues, but they’re a solid defensive rebounding team that can limit OSU on the offensive glass, where they’ve feasted early.
PICK: Northeastern +10
Houston @ Wake Forest
Wake Forest is still struggling mightily to defend any pick-and-roll, and Kelvin Sampson’s 1-4 high-post offense with its myriad quick hitters should be effective today. I’m not sure if Keyshawn Woods is going to dress for Danny Manning or not today.
PICK: Houston -1
Samford @ Loyola Chicago
Samford has looked horrific defensively. The press has been largely ineffective against two teams with good to great backcourts, and Scott Padgett has used a soft 2-3 in the halfcourt. Both the Bulldogs and Ramblers are likely shorthanded, with Wyatt Walker possibly out (Samford’s best frontcourt option) and Ben Richardson definitely out for the Ramblers. Richardson is a particularly big loss for Loyola. In 1,700 possessions with him on the court last year, the Ramblers scored at 1.09 points per possession and an even 1.00 ppp with him off. Not only is he a dead-eye shooter, but he’s probably Porter Moser’s best on-ball defender. We’ve also yet to see the debut of highly-touted Christian Negron in the Loyola frontcourt. Without Richardson, the Samford press could actually be effective against the Ramblers, as FDU transfer Marques Townes has shown a loose handle to his point, they lose a top perimeter shooter against the zone, AND they lose a plus defender against a dual point guard backcourt of Chris Cunningham and Josh Sharkey.
PICK: Samford +7
BC vs. La Salle
Nik Popovic has to be fed early and often against the lacking La Salle frontcourt, who will seemingly give up buckets to anyone. Factor in the length the Eagles can throw on B.J. Johnson, namely Teddy Hawkins, and I think Jim Christian has a good shot to score a nice win in Connecticut.
PICK: BC PK
Sunday Afternoon Top Picks (YTD: 37-37):
North Dakota/Nebraska over 152