Troy @ Austin Peay
The loss of Jordon Varnado (out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his foot) hasn’t hurt Troy offensively, as the defending SBC champion has been firing at 1.18 points per possession (per Hooplens.com) without him. However, their defense has been getting torched, allowing 1.11 ppp without Varnado’s versatility and athleticism.
Offensively, without Varnado, Troy has become almost exclusively a pick-and-roll offense running through Wes Person, who has been phenomenal as the pick-and-roll ball handler, scoring at 1.08 ppp per Synergy. The offense will continue to produce running through Person, with the occasional post feed to efficient big man Alex Hicks.
The issue for the Trojans tonight is they run into an Austin Peay team that has bought into new head coach Matt Figger’s deny-heavy defense (essentially a carbon copy of his mentor Frank Martin’s halfcourt defense) that’s highly effective at “ICEing” the ball handler in pick-and-roll situations. Led by outstanding perimeter defender Tre Ivory, the Govs are allowing the pick-and-roll ball handler to score at just .585 ppp, even with a top-50 OOC schedule. Figger will also mix in some full-court pressure, where the Govs have forced turnovers at a 36 percent rate. Troy has struggled the few times they’ve seen extended ball pressure this year, as PG Kevin Baker can be careless with the ball.
While APSU’s defense should contain Person in pick-and-roll, their inefficient offense might not be able to exploit the subpar Troy defense. Figger has often reverted to posting up undersized Averyl Ugba and Terry Taylor, and few teams have shot the 3 as infrequently (341st nationally in attempt rate) or as inaccurately (301st nationally) as the Govs, which could spell trouble against a Troy team that should run a fair amount of zone tonight. APSU’s best chance at offense will likely come on the offensive glass, as Troy’s rebounding has measurably suffered without Varnado.
Ultimately, Austin Peay can’t fully exploit the holes in a Varnado-less defense, and Troy can’t run their pick-and-roll heavy offense efficiently against a burgeoning defensive stalwart.
PICK: Troy/Austin Peay under 147.5
Other quick hitters:
- I’d expect Xavier to play with an “edge” after the ETSU scare on Saturday, and a focused, full strength Muskie team should run amok on the Herd defense. That said, Chris Mack may want to rest the banged up J.P. Macura and Kaiser Gates, and Marshall can be dangerous in transition, where Xavier has been lax at times. The Herd could also have the services of Wake Forest transfer Rondale Watson, who could be a lethal wing in Dan D’Antoni’s system playing with a PG like Jon Elmore.
- Wes Clark could become eligible tonight for Buffalo, as they reportedly wait for grades to post. Regardless, I wouldn’t expect him to have a huge impact against Syracuse in his first game of the season. The Bulls are a mediocre zone offense that thrives in transition, which is not a good combo against the active Cuse 2-3 that denies transition at all costs in order to set their oppressive half-court defense That said, the hyper-athletic Bulls aren’t a team you want to play on short rest with no bench after a come-from=behind OT win in a rivalry game.
- I’ve previously expressed my frustration with Elon, as they continue to play like a team of JUCOs despite being the most experienced team in the country. Both Elon and Canisius run extremely similar spread-motion offenses that rely on spacing their bigs away from rim, yet neither team defends against it well, oddly enough.
- Weird spot for Ohio State against Duggar Baucom’s Loot and Shoot The Citadel, but since Baucom took over three years ago, the Dawgs haven’t come close to holding a power conference opponent under 100 points. OSU has had turnover issues, but they’ve actually been decent against pressure. The Bucks have UNC on deck, but the status of The Citadel’s only interior “defender” Zane Najdawi is unknown.
- ETSU thumped Detroit in Freedom Hall last year, and the Bucs are the type of team that UDM (University of Defense Missing) struggles with. I also listened to Bacari Alexander’s radio show, and he said some interesting things about the state of the team and who would be available to play. He also claimed that he told the team he would quit if they didn’t win the second half against Michigan. The Titans won 39-36, so I guess he will coach tonight (although you never know). ETSU, meanwhile, hits the road for a quick turnaround after the heartbreaking loss at Xavier, where they dominated one of the best teams in the country for 30-plus minutes. A classic flat spot against an opponent they know they can handle.
- Texas A&M CC’s season got off to a brutal start when they lost Ehab Amin, one of the best on-ball defenders in the country. The Islanders are at their best when they can extend their defense in the halfcourt, which is hard to do against a mostly four-out Ole Miss team. The Rebels have been abysmal defensively, but TAMUCC is an excellent team for Andy Kennedy to use the 1-3-1 on, as they score just .69 points per possession vs. zone defenses.
- Missouri State has had nine days off since the embarrassing loss to ORU, where they allowed a team that lost to Southern Nazarene to score 1.22 ppp. Wright State has a much quicker turnaround, but is potentially rejuvenated with the addition of Cole Gentry at the point. Defensively, Wright State does a lot of things well, particularly in the post, which is essential against NBA talent Alize Johnson.
- Murray State is hosting an SEC team, but the student presence should be more subdued during winter break. Auburn’s press and extended matchup zone could give Murray State issues, since dual pick-and-roll ball handlers Jonathan Stark and Ja Morant utilize their speed more efficiently against man.
- Any size gives Drake fits, and South Dakota State’s Mike Daum isn’t just any center. However, Drake’s four-out motion offense can be difficult to prep for, and SDSU could be flat after a heartbreaker in Boulder.
- Decent spot for Pepperdine at Weber State, but the potential loss of Kam Edwards (who was pictured in sweats at practice) would probably be too much to overcome. That said, Weber stretch 4 Brekkott Chapman is also out.
- Eastern Illinois is out for revenge against rival Western Illinois, but the loss of Terrell Lewis really hurts offensively. EIU fires at 1.04 ppp with Lewis on the floor, compared to a paltry .90 when he’s off, per Hooplens.com. However, the defense is significantly better without Lewis, as Jay Spoonhour can go bigger against the two headed monster of Dalan Ancrum and Kobe Webster. Per EIU’s beat writer Justin Rust, the Panthers had some travel issues getting home from Mobile after the USA game.
- Despite a tenuous PG situation, Missouri’s press break offense has been fantastic, handling St. John’s and West Virginia with aplomb, posting 1.25 ppp and 1.12 ppp, respectively. That’s good news for the Tigers, as SFA’s denial, trap-heavy defense can be tortuous (SFA forces turnovers on nearly 30 percent of possessions, the highest rate in the country). It does look as if SFA’s leading scorer Kevon Harris will play after taking a finger to the eye against LSU. I’ve been waiting for the Mizzou 3-point shooting to regress, and an extremely active defensive team like SFA is a good candidate for it to happen against, especially with Braggin’ Rights on deck for Missouri.
- UC Davis is outstanding at defending the pick-and-roll, but they haven’t faced a team with the positionless length and athleticism that Nevada possesses. The Aggies are one of the most fundamentally sound man-to-man defenses in the country, especially in transition, where the Pack thrive. Eric Musselman was extremely disappointed in his team’s effort vs. Radford, and the Pack tend to respond well after Musselman’s postgame tongue lashings. Additionally, UCD’s dominant undersized 4 Chima Moneke is dealing with back spasms.
Tuesday’s Top Picks (YTD: 134-130-2):
Troy/Austin Peay under 147.5
Georgia Tech +4.5
Northern Colorado +8.5
Don’t hesitate to reach out via twitter @jorcubsdan if you have questions on any other games