College basketball notebook: Tuesday tournament matchups
Manhattan vs. Missouri State
The Jaspers look awful offensively, and some of that can be chalked up to an early game in an unfamiliar gym, as they really struggled to shoot from outside. Missouri State, meanwhile, looked awful defensively, unable to contain GSU’s myriad ball screen action. There’s no reason the Bears shouldn’t win this game with relative ease, but I’ve said that about a lot of Mo State games in the Paul Lusk era, and they are facing a press on no rest that will force the ball out of Alize Johnson’s hands. (He’s essentially been running the offense.) In the halfcourt, the Jaspers are simply going to sag/zone.
PICK: Missouri State -8
Iowa vs. South Dakota State
The Hawkeyes were obliterated by ULL’s frontcourt, and now they have to take on Mike Daum. While Daum is more skilled that Bryce Washington or Jakeenan Gant, he’s actually a pick-and-pop style big that Iowa can match up a bit better with, although he does have a nice arsenal of post moves. ULL also swarmed every ball screen yesterday, making it impossible for the Iowa guards to operate. That’s not how SDSU operates defensively, and the Hawkeyes should get off to a much better start on that end than they did yesterday.
PICK: Iowa -7
Montana State vs. Binghamton
Obviously so much depends on the status of Tyler Hall for Montana State. The Bobcats’ electric scorer is reportedly “50/50” for the early tip in Cancun. Regardless, MSU has been a disappointment early, as they haven’t looked like the Big Sky contender they were pegged to be in the preseason. They have major issues in rim defense and containing dribble penetration, which as you can imagine is a pretty deadly combo of defensive lapses. Binghamton is a pretty iso-heavy offense, relying on a simple high ball screen for J.C. Show or dumping inside to Thomas Bruce. Wing Willie Rodriguez has apparently taken a back seat with a healthy Show, and that might be a plus overall for the offense considering his efficiency numbers.
PICK: Binghamton +7.5
Northern Illinois vs. FAU
NIU was absolutely obliterated by Penn at the rim, as dual bigs A.J. Brodeur and Max Rothschild went a combined 15-21 in the paint. That’s music to FAU’s ears, as this team can’t shoot and their best offensive weapon is 7-foot-1 Ron Delph. FAU struggles to defend bigger, athletic wings when Payton Hulsey isn’t on the court, and Michael Curry has been going away from him more and more because of his struggles on the offensive end. That’s also good news for the Owls, as NIU’s offense is essentially iso for Eugene German, and Anthony Adger has proven to be a plus on-ball defender early in his FAU career.
PICK: FAU +4
Penn vs. Towson
The new A.J. Brodeur/Max Rothschild dual big offense of Steve Donahue’s worked to perfection against the overmatched NIU frontcourt, and they could have a similar mismatch against what has become something of a four-out offense of Pat Skerry’s with Brodeur’s ability to stretch out causing some issues. That’s not to say the Tigers are any less physical than past Tiger teams of Skerry’s, it’s just that Skerry is trying to get a little more efficient offensively with undersized Eddie Keith at the 4 – and with the exception of the ODU game, it has mostly been a success. However, he’s sacrificing some of his patented rebounding prowess in the process, and Penn is fairly weak on the glass. Spread pick-and-roll offenses have given Towson issues in the past (see William & Mary), and Brodeur has a matchup to exploit if Penn can handle the physicality of the Tigers.
PICK: Penn +2.5
Marquette vs. Wichita State
One would suspect Gregg Marshall has his Shockers ready to go today after they were blitzed early by Don Coleman’s speed on the ball and the well-designed traps of Wyking Jones and Cal. They’ll face a Marquette offense that can absolutely light it up from outside but offers zero resistance on the defensive end. The length of Landry Shamet and Zach Brown should be a major issue for Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard, and Shaq Morris and Darral Willis likely get Matt Heldt in early foul trouble again. The Shockers grabbed an astounding 24 offensive rebounds, which amounted to a 50 percent offensive rebounding rate, and 12 of those came from reserves Rauno Narger and Rashard Kelly, meaning Marshall isn’t necessarily forced to sacrifice offense per se when he goes to a bigger lineup and to his bench on the back-to-back.
PICK: Wichita State -10
Louisiana vs. Wyoming
This should be a fun one. Both are up-tempo, transition-heavy offenses. Wyoming’s positionless brand of basketball where Allen Edwards inverts nearly all of his bigs will force Bryce Washington and Jakeenan Gant to defend in pick-and-roll outside the paint. The Pokes are a far more stout interior defense against those two than Iowa was yesterday, led by Alan Herndon as a rim protector. When the Cajuns played teams that also liked to run in transition last year, they generally struggled, as would be expected from an offense that’s reliant on pounding the ball at the rim and crashing the offensive glass. The biggest concern for Wyoming is their turnover prone backcourt of Cody Kelley and Ny Redding against the swarming ball screen defense of the Cajuns.
PICK: ULL +2
CSUN vs. SEMO
Rick Ray’s trapping defense is most effective against teams that lack quality ball handlers, and it can be easily broken with dribble penetration before the trap is set, creating chaos within the structure of the defense. SEMO is generally heavily susceptible to iso-heavy offenses, and that’s precisely what CSUN is between PG Terrell Gomez, wing Micheal Warren and Tav Dawson on the block, where SEMO doesn’t have a lot of height. Conversely, CSUN probably can’t guard SEMO’s long shooters Denzel Mahoney and spot up wing Ledarrius Brewer. There’s going to be a lot of one-on-one action in this game, and Jonathan Dalton has proven to be a solid on-ball defender at the point of attack. That’s key vs. Gomez.
PICK: SEMO +1.5
Oklahoma State vs. Pitt
No idea what to say about Pitt anymore. They went five-plus minutes without a point and 10-plus minutes without a field goal yesterday against Penn State. OSU can be overwhelmed in the post, but that’s not something Pitt can remotely exploit. OSU shot poorly against the length of TAMU yesterday, but Jeffrey Carroll had a chance to shake some of the rust off.
PICK: Oklahoma State -11
VCU vs. Cal
Cal looked really well prepared for Wichita State, and Don Coleman was flying by any and every Shocker on the perimeter (you wonder how much Coleman can take playing as Allen Iverson, as he took so many hits at the rim and hit the floor probably a dozen times). Cal offers a stout interior defense with Marcus Lee and Kingsley Okoroh, and they’re relentless on the offensive glass, which is where you can really exploit the Rams. All in all, this sets up well for Cal schematically, but you have to wonder how a very young team responds after having their heart ripped out down the stretch against Wichita State.
PICK: Cal +5
UAB vs. Buffalo
UAB looked pretty awful yesterday, as Richmond completely collapsed in on the vaunted Blazer frontcourt and dared the guards to beat them from outside, and they couldn’t. Buffalo is coming off a brutally physical battle with Cincy, so the Bulls might be a little gassed, but this is a team with Detroit Pistons Bad Boy attitude. Both offenses are structured similarly in that the idea is to get the ball to the rim, but UAB’s guards have to be prepared for a more physical test on the perimeter against an extremely active Buffalo man-to-man. There is good news for UAB, as Buffalo struggles to shoot from the perimeter, and they’re heavily reliant on the offensive glass; UAB is one of the better defensive rebounding teams in the country. They’ll also foul a ton given their aggressive nature, and the Blazers are a good FT shooting team, especially Chris Cokley, and it’s a major lift when your big man can knock down free throws like he can. Generally speaking, four-out offenses with excellent ball movement is the way to beat Buffalo, so this is a game where Nick Norton and HaHa Lee must find their perimeter stroke, as they’re just a combined 5-23 from 3 vs. D1 opponents this year.
PICK: Buffalo PK
Richmond vs. Cincinnati
Cincy is coming off a tough, physical battle with Buffalo, and Richmond gained some traction with a beatdown of UAB. The Spiders have to be able to knock down the perimeter shot at a better clip than they have been against Cincy’s pack line principled defense, as they can’t rely on another Grant Golden outburst, and you can’t collapse on this Cincy team like you could against Mick Cronin’s teams of the past.
PICK: Cincy -16
UMKC vs. Georgia Southern
The Roos didn’t handle the MC press all that well, but they hit their 3s and free throws while the Jaspers didn’t. GSU is one of the few teams UMKC will face this year that doesn’t have a massive height advantage on them, as they also go four out, but defending the Tookie Brown/Ike Smith pick-and-roll is a tough cover for anyone, and no team in the country runs it more often than the Eagles. Good opportunity for the much-improved Montae Glenn to have a breakout offensive performance in the paint.
PICK: Georgia Southern -11.5
Louisiana Tech vs. George Mason
First and foremost, I need to know the status of Justin Kier and Jaire Grayer after they got hurt vs CSUN. If they’re a full go, I like GMU’s chances. Additionally, stud Louisiana Tech PG Daquan Bracey turned his ankle last time out and is a question mark. Dave Paulsen has fully embraced the “positionless” revolution, and that’s embodied by freshmen A.J. Wilson and Goanar Mar. Louisiana Tech is a spread-and-attack offense, a scheme Paulsen’s foul-averse, no gamble principled defense generally does well against. You can beat GMU in the post, but massive Joniah White simply isn’t a part of the offense, and GMU can exploit him in pick-and-roll defense on the other end with Wilson and Mar.
PICK: George Mason +4.5
Texas A&M vs. Penn State
Robert Williams looked like a man among boys in the paint against Oklahoma State’s overmatched frontcourt in his return to action, but he’ll run into a legit rim protector in Mike Watkins today. I’m really looking forward to that battle between the Williams/Tyler Davis frontcourt and Watkins/Lamar Stevens. At some point DJ Hogg is going to miss a shot (I think), but he and Admon Gilder are playing at an incredibly high level, opening up single post coverage on Davis and now Williams, and the Aggies still don’t have JJ Caldwell at the point or Savion Flagg healthy. TAMU did a see a return of the old turnover issues from last year without a true point guard, and they gave up a lot of offensive rebounds, both areas that PSU is built to exploit with long perimeter defenders Josh Reaves and Naz Bostick. What’s terrifying about the Aggies is that they still won by 17 despite the near 30 percent turnover rate and high offensive rebounding rate. Schematically it’s not a bad matchup for PSU, and Tony Carr will have chances on the perimeter, but the Aggies seem matchup proof at the moment.
PICK: TAMU -6
Evansville vs. Fresno State
Interesting game, as the nonstop screening of Evansville’s motion offense is hard to prepare for, as is the physicality of Fresno State’s “San Diego State defense.” The Aces have struggled when aggressive teams that extend pressure can knock them off their sets, and the physical Fresno State wings can certainly do that. Preventing hyper efficient Dru Smith from initiating the offense is priority one for the Bulldogs tonight. Offensively, Fresno has to feed Bryson Williams early and often, as the Aces are extremely weak at the 5.
PICK: Evansville +5.5
Creighton vs. Baylor
This should be a good one, as the deadly Bluejay perimeter can find spots against the morphing Baylor zone, while Jo Lual Acuil and T.J. Maston will certainly test a limited Creighton frontcourt. Creighton has proven to be a solid defensive rebounding team thanks to tweeners like Ronnie Harrell crashing the glass, but the Bears are an entirely different animal on the offensive glass. The ability of Khyri Thomas to guard Manu Lecomte off the dribble is a major check mark for Creighton, as Wisconsin simply wasn’t able to contain him, and it disorganized the defense from there.
PICK: Baylor -1
Notre Dame vs. LSU
Gotta love Tremont Waters and the early job Will Wade has done with LSU. The Tigers were unstoppable offensively, and the weakness of the Irish is certainly on the defensive end. (LSU and Michigan put on a pick-and-roll clinic last night.) Matty Farrell is going to have issues with Waters in pick-and-roll, but LSU looks like they’re going to have major issues defending all year, hence the constantly switching defenses employed by Wade to keep teams off balance. Bonzie Colson should eat tonight.
PICK: ND -8
Wisconsin vs. UCLA
UCLA won’t be able to play at their preferred speed, which will frustrate Jaylen Hands, and the Bruin frontcourt should have a lot of problems containing Ethan Happ. UCLA thrives when teams want to play in transition, and they were at times brilliant offensively in that situation last night against Creighton. Unfortunately, this defense looks even worse than last year’s.
PICK: Wisconsin -2
UCSB vs. Montana
UCSB has Marcus Jackson back, which is a boost for the offense, but there are major issues defensively, as they can’t contain dribble penetration from anywhere on the floor, and Joe Pasternack has had to use some zone. If you can’t slow down Michael Oguine off the dribble, you’re going to have problems containing Montana offensively, and zoning Ahmaad Rorie is ill advised.
PICK: Montana -2
Oral Roberts @ Pepperdine
Both teams looks excessively poor defensively. Paul Mills tried to use a bigger lineup for his 1-1-3 zone, but it wasn’t much help against penetrating Montana, while Pepperdine’s offense exploded with the return of Amadi Udenyi at the point. Matthew Atewe turned an ankle for the Waves, and he’s needed against Albert Owens and Manny Nzekwesi.
PICK: Pepperdine PK
Tuesday’s Top Picks (45-45):
FAU/NIU under 142
Sacramento State/UC Davis under 135.5
Tennessee Tech/New Mexico over 157.5