College Basketball Notebook: Breaking down Thursday’s card
Bowling Green @ Green Bay
A fledgling Green Bay offense hosts a fledgling Bowling Green defense. Green Bay will finally have a key player in uniform, as Marquette transfer Sandy Cohen will make his debut. Cohen averaged 11 and 6 for Linc Darner in Green Bay’s tour of Puerto Rico in the offseason, and he’ll provide a much-needed boost to their scuffling offense.
The arrival of Darner to Green Bay also saw the implementation of a full-court pressure defense, colloquially known as “RP40” (Relentless Pressure for 40 Minutes). Per Synergy, Green Bay has pressed on nearly 24 percent of their defensive possessions. The Falcons have yet to see pressure this year, having only been pressed on 40 total possessions, and BGSU is extremely young at the point between Rod Caldwell and Nelly Cummings. The addition of Cohen on the wing will allow Darner to send more up the line traps, an aspect his man-to-man press has been missing.
As you can imagine, a system with the moniker “RP40” is focused on attacking the rim in transition, and to whit the Phoenix have the 10th-highest transition rate in the country, per Hoop-math.com. Similarly, BGSU runs a rim-attacking offense out of pick-and-roll, and it has the 66th-highest transition attempt rate in the country. With BGSU’s reliance on getting to the rim, it makes them particularly vulnerable in terms of rotating back on defense. If the Phoenix can rebound/get stops in the halfcourt, they’ll have the ability to run on live ball turnovers, and off misses.
Cohen’s presence should also help Green Bay’s poor halfcourt offense. Darner runs a lot of ball screen motion with Khalil Small, and Cohen can help ease some of the doubles he sees off screens. The Falcons were sliced and diced at home by Evansville’s precise motion offense to the tune of 1.30 points per possession, and the Aces were without leading scorer Ryan Taylor. Obviously Green Bay’s motion with a very young team isn’t on the same level as Evansville’s, but they’ve had two tune-up games vs D2 teams, while BGSU has had nearly two weeks off after a humiliating loss to Old Dominion. Intuitively, BGSU will benefit from the extra rest/prep for a high-pressure team like Green Bay, but the Falcons haven’t been much better with extra rest in Michael Huger’s short tenure.
Ultimately, Green Bay has the advantage of adding a key player, but both transition/rim-attacking offenses should thrive in attack mode.
PICK: Over 160.5
- Kent State is likely down Danny Pippen and potentially B.J. Duling, who are both essential against an Oregon State team that will pound it inside to Drew Eubanks and utilize Tres Tinkle out of the frontcourt to facilitate offense. KSU’s inefficient zone offense should also struggle against the Beavers’ 1-3-1.
- Charlotte looked refocused in Houston Fancher’s first game as the interim head coach, but it came against a terrible ECU team. An inability to defend anything at the rim could once again haunt them against South Florida, which works through Isaiah Manderson in the post and attacks with side ball screens from the wing. Fancher mixed in several defenses in his debut, which could keep USF off balance.
- UNCW defends ball screens as poorly as any team in the county, and North Dakota State runs a lot of ball screen motion through Paul Miller and Tyson Ward. NDSU might have issues defending Devontae Cacok as the roll man, but CB McGrath has oddly gone away from that, now trying to run the UNC “secondary break” offense of his mentor Roy Williams. Regardless, this is a poor matchup for UNCW.
- Even without Tarkus Ferguson, UIC has excelled at defending one-on-one iso, which is basically all NIU runs on offense with lightning quick Eugene German. Not only does UIC have quick defenders on the perimeter, they also have an elite shot blocker at the rim in Tai Odiase.
- Omaha continues to deal with injuries, but Renard Suggs should make his season debut at the point. Omaha lost to Montana State 89-80 in overtime earlier this season. In that game, Omaha only hit 2-20 from 3, and both backcourts penetrated at will, with Tyler Hall and Harry Frey combining for 48 for MSU, while Omaha’s Zach Jackson finished a remarkable 12-12.
- Idaho’s motion offense is predicated on outstanding perimeter shooting and excellent ball movement, two keys against the size of UC Irvine. That said, UCI has seen a motion offense like the Vandals’, which is modeled after Randy Bennett’s offense at St. Mary’s. Offensively, UCI struggles against zones and compact defenses, which could be a challenge against Idaho’s pack line.
- Mark Few’s message was received loud and clear, as Gonzaga throttled IUPUI after the North Dakota debacle. Gonzaga has actually defended better in zone this year, as they’re holding opponents to .75 points per possession (per Synergy) when Few goes away from man-to-man. San Diego State’s zone offense was horrific in the embarrassing loss to Cal, but Viejas should be rocking. The Aztecs can at least limit extra shots against a strong offensive rebounding Gonzaga team. That said, Trey Kell is not 100 percent, which caps SDSU’s potential on offense. Per Hooplens, SDSU scores at 1.12 points per possession with Kell on the floor, and just 1.03 with him off.
- Cal’s press break offense scores at just .66 points per possession (per Synergy), and few teams in the country full-court press more than Portland State. Cal has also been torched in transition when Wyking Jones has two bigs on the floor. That said, when Cal doesn’t turn the ball over, their post heavy offense should dominate. PSU’s efficient zone offense should also exploit the holes of Cal’s trapping zone. Expect points.
Thursday’s Top Picks (137-136-3):
USA/Tulane under 141 (via twitter)
BGSU/Green Bay over 160.5
North Dakota State -2.5
Oregon State -4
PSU/Cal over 167
*all lines via Pinnacle at time of publication