College basketball notebook: Sunday slate
Tulane @ UNC
I’ve been high on Tulane from the preseason, but Mike Dunleavy has to make some lineup adjustments which will ultimately affect his spread pnr offense. Those lineup adjustments involve utilizing some rarely used height in order to matchup with UNC’s frontcourt. The Green Wave are big and have been a solid rebounding team, but they haven’t played anyone with height, which has allowed Dunleavy to maximize his pace and space offense with a smaller lineup. Cam Reynolds will draw Luke Maye, which isn’t a bad matchup for him on the offensive end, but he can’t rebound with Maye. Tulane can shoot, and the perimeter is always open against UNC, and this one could have a similar outcome as the Davidson game.
PICK: Tulane +20
UCF @ Alabama
The Tide have fared well against compact defenses like Memphis and UTA this year, thanks to Collin Sexton’s ability to break absolutely anyone down off the dribble. UCF is a bit different because they have so much length on the perimeter and can contest so well when they induce jump shots. Only three teams in the country allow a lower FG% at the rim than UCF (per hoop-math.com), so the Tide hitting jump shots today is key. On the other end, only three teams in the country attempt more shots at the rim than UCF, and Alabama’s interior defense has only really been tested by Minnesota, and they had some issues. That said, UCF’s offense is going to continue to be wonky until BJ Taylor returns.
PICK: UCF +9.5
SIUE @ Fort Wayne
There’s not much to like about SIUE today, as the Cougars have the third-lowest field-goal-attempt rate at the rim in the country and take an absurd amount of two-point jump shots. If you’re not going to attack Fort Wayne at the rim, you’re not going to exploit their glaring weakness. The Cougars are also one of the worst transition defenses in the country, allowing the 16th-highest FG attempt rate on the run in the country, per hoop-math, and the Dons can score in bunches. I also don’t know the status of SIUE PG Justin Benton.
PICK: Fort Wayne -15
Temple @ George Washington
Mo Joseph finally made a PG switch in the 2H against Morgan State, going to Justin Mazzulla over the ineffective Jair Bolden. I’m interested to see if Joseph sticks with that against the Owls. Yuta Watanabe is a monster on both ends, but one of Quinton Rose or Obi Enechionyia is going to have a plus matchup, as Watanabe can’t guard both of them. Temple lost to Yuta-less GW at home last year, so there’s some revenge in mind for a healthier and much-improved team for Fran Dunphy this year.
PICK: Temple -11
Vanderbilt @ Kansas State
Vandy is due for some positive shooting luck at some point, as they’re too good of a 3-point shooting team to continue to shoot under 30% from behind the arc, and your early season offensive numbers are always going be a bit skewed when you have UVA on your OOC schedule. That said, I’m not certain that improvement comes today against a highly aggressive and athletic KSU perimeter defense, and Vandy’s scoring issues inside the arc are probably a season-long problem. Saben Lee has improved upon his early season turnover woes, but I’m hesitant to think they won’t rear their ugly head against KSU’s backcourt, but this is also the first true road game for Bruce Weber’s squad.
PICK: Kansas State +1
Samford @ Jacksonville State
JSU hasn’t won in this rivalry since 2005, but that should end today, especially if Samford doesn’t have Wyatt Walker back in the frontcourt, as JSU has one of the best frontcourt units in mid-major basketball. Scott Padgett will extend pressure (although perhaps not as much if ball hawk Josh Sharkey is still out) and fall into a 2-3 zone in the halfcourt, and JSU has a veteran backcourt and plus shooters on the perimeter, with Norbertas Giga representing a matchup nightmare as a stretch 5. JSU can dominate the offensive glass today as well.
PICK: Jacksonville State -8.5
George Mason @ Auburn
Rumor has it that Austin Wiley could be cleared and even make his debut today, but regardless of that, Auburn can overwhelm the Patriots with their length and athleticism, and they have the ability to shoot over Dave Paulsen’s small pack line- but the Tigers under Bruce Pearl have tended to struggle against defenses that cut off a path to the rim and won’t put you on the free throw line, which is the primary objective of GMU’s halfcourt scheme. GMU is a very disciplined defense, but if you’re going to be as small as the Pats, you have to be able to force some turnovers, and that simply isn’t the case with Paulsen’s D. Auburn profiles as a better shooting LA Tech, who GMU really struggled to defend.
PICK: George Mason +15.5
Portland @ Boise State
Quick turnaround for the Broncos after the wild half court buzzer beater to win at Oregon. Portland and the Porters (and stretch 4 Josh McSwiggan) do one thing well, and that’s bomb away from 3. Leon Rice has been using some 2-3 in the halfcourt, which wouldn’t make much sense against the Pilots. The problem for Portland is that Terry Porter has had to use a lot of zone defense as well, and Boise is shooting the ball extremely well.
PICK: Portland +19
Seton Hall @ Louisville
First true road game for the Pirates, and they should run into a few issues. 1) Seton Hall’s primary objective offensively is to pound the ball at the rim, but Louisville’s interior defense is among the best in the country. 2) Seton Hall’s offense is buoyed by offensive rebounding, but the Cardinals clean up misses as well as any team in the country. That puts a lot of pressure on Myles Powell and Desi Rodriguez to hit jump shots, which of course they’re capable of doing, and they’re a more consistent source of offense than Louisville’s backcourt. This likely turns into a rock fight, and I’m not sure the Cardinals can muster enough offense.
PICK: Seton Hall +1.5
Nebraska @ Michigan State
Nebraska is very reliant on the PnR, and the Sparty PnR defense is just too good at denying penetration, and the Huskers can’t shoot consistently enough from outside to remain competitive for long in this one. That’s going to lead to run outs from an elite rebounding and transition team.
PICK: Michigan State -19
Bradley @ San Diego State
This is a really tough spot on the schedule for the potentially severely short-handed Aztecs to be playing a well-coached Bradley team that will make scoring in the halfcourt hellish with an extended ball-pressuring defense. SDSU is coming off a win over crosstown rival USD (although the Aztecs don’t really view it that way), and are finishing off 5 games in 11 days. The Braves are going to completely muddy up this game, and the Tecs will have to battle through a slogfest.
PICK: Bradley +11.5
Tennessee @ Georgia Tech
Two good sell-high, buy-low candidates, respectively, but the Vols look legit. They embarrassed the bigger Jackets last year with their athleticism and versatility in PnR defense. Surely Georgia Tech isn’t as bad as the Grambling loss, but the Vols are a horrific matchup.
PICK: Tennessee -6
Maryland @ Illinois
The Terps were completely flummoxed by the floor spacing of Purdue. That won’t be an issue against Illinois, but the Terps’ propensity to turn the ball over against Brad Underwood’s deny-heavy, ball-pressuring defense could be. If Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter can handle the disruptive Illini perimeter, the Terps can score at will at the rim.
PICK: Maryland -2.5
Dayton @ Mississippi State
PG and ball hawk Lamar Peters is back for MSU today, giving the Bulldogs a massive backcourt advantage with his return an already loaded guard corps led by the Weatherspoon brothers. The Flyers desperately need Xeyrius Williams to return, as the offense only scores at .96 points per possession with him off the floor, and 1.13 when he’s on, per hooplens.com.
PICK: Miss State -9
CSUN @ Montana
The Grizz can’t defend at the rim or against dribble penetration, which is all the CSUN offense does, dribble drive and feed Tav Dawson on the block. Of course, the reverse is true too, as Montana’s offense is entirely reliant on Ahmaad Rorie and Mike Oguine penetrate and kicks out of the backcourt, and CSUN is even worse defending at the rim than Montana.
PICK: CSUN +14
Sunday Top Picks (YTD: 98-92):
Bradley/SDSU under 135.5
CSUN/Montana over 143
Seton Hall/Louisville under 142.5