Advocare Invitational, Orlando

Missouri vs. Long Beach State

Obviously Missouri’s season outlook took a major hit with the loss of Michael Porter Jr. The Tigers haven’t exactly looked like an at-large contender without him, losing handily at Utah and then struggling past mighty Emporia State. Cuonzo Martin apparently doesn’t care for senior PG Terrence Phillips, who has seen a drastic reduction in minutes while grad transfer Kassius Robertson manages the bulk of ball-handling duties. Jeremiah Tilmon has to be able to stay on the floor against a LBSU team that’s thin in the frontcourt with Temidayo Yussuf on a pitch count. That said, it’s a plus matchup for Gabe Levin at the 4 against Kevin Puryear, and the Missouri backcourt isn’t going to exploit the turnover issues of Edon Maxhuni and Deishuan Booker at the point, but the Beach will have to score in the halfcourt against an always stout Cuonzo transition defense. That might look pretty clunky given the early start time for this game, especially for a West Coast team.

PICK: Missouri -11

Oregon State vs. St. John’s

Much more potent offense for Wayne Tinkle and the Beavers with his son Tres back, as well as the Thompson brothers, alongside post Drew Eubanks. OSU is massive 1-5, but they lack the lateral quickness to stay with the lightning fast backcourt of Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds. This is an incredibly similar game to the Nebraska tilt for the Johnnies, where they were at a length disadvantage but routinely blew by the slower Huskers. The only difference is OSU has a legitimate post threat in Eubanks to throw at the small but block-happy St. John’s frontcourt. The poor Beavers are playing their fourth game of the season, and all will have come against transition-heavy attacks. They’ve shown some definite lapses in that regard against SUU, Wyoming and LBSU.

PICK: St. John’s -5

UCF vs. Nebraska

Two massive teams with clunky offenses. UCF can’t shoot at all and are sans B.J. Taylor at the point, leaving freshman Ceasar DeJesus and wing Chance McSpadden on the ball. Tim Miles will surely use a generic 2-3 zone, while Johnny Dawkins’ amoeba zone should keep the Huskers out of the lane all day, where they’re awfully reliant on drawing contact and running pick-and-roll with Isaac Copeland. Offensive rebounding won’t be a source of secondary points for the Huskers either, with Tacko Fall and A.J. Davis on the back end of the zone.

PICK: UCF -4.5

West Virginia vs. Marist

Mike Maker runs a Princeton motion and is using a Princeton motion with Aleks Dozic at the high post with Brian Parker, Ryan Funk and David Knudsen as shooters around him. Press Virginia has seen two Princeton style offenses the past two years – VMI was held to .70 points per possession last year and American was held to .90, and both turned the ball over at a 31 percent rate.

PICK: West Virginia -29.5

NIT Season Tip Off, Brooklyn

Virginia vs. Vanderbilt

Vandy has the capability to beat the pack line with shooters like Riley LaChance and Matthew Fisher-Davis (and even Jeff Roberson), but the real key will be Saben Lee and Larry Austin maintaining their dribble when the help arrives and making the correct kick out pass. Austin looked great against USC, and he’s very familiar with the pack line coming from Chris Mack’s program at Xavier.

PICK: Vandy +6

Rhode Island vs. Seton Hall

EC Matthews’ effect on the the Rhody offense? Major impact. The Rams scored at 1.12 points per possession with him on the floor last year, and just .98 in 700 possessions with him off. Defensively the Rams were roughly the same. Jeff Dowtin has a year under his belt, so that helps in that regard, but the Rams are also dealing with an injury to Cyril Langevine, which would leave them in a bad spot against the rugged Seton Hall frontcourt. Which ball pressuring scheme prevails? SHU’s 3/4 court press or URI’s extremely hard-nosed man-to-man? Wish Rhody was healthy for this one, as it would have been the best football game of Thanksgiving between these two bruising squads.

PICK: Rhode Island +4

Continental Tire Invitational, Las Vegas

George Washington vs. Xavier

I’ve question GW’s overall athleticism outside of Yuta Watanabe on this site before, and the Rider game did nothing to move off that position. Realistically there just isn’t much chance of GW staying competitive in this one.

PICK: Xavier -17.5

Arizona State vs. Kansas State

This should be a good one. KSU’s backcourt is loaded with ball hawks and length defensively, and it can slow down ASU’s potent four-out offense. Romello White poses a problem for Dean Wade with his physicality, but conversely Wade can make White guard outside the lane within Bruce Weber’s motion offense. Could be the game of the night, even with PK80 kicking off.

PICK: Arizona State +4

Hampton vs. Northern Arizona

NAU touches on just about every issue you can think of. They can’t handle ball pressure, they can’t defend at the rim, and they get absolutely blasted in transition. Those are the three areas Hampton generally excels in under Buck Joyner, as they’re physical defensively, they like to pound the ball inside, and they like to run off the glass. Two years ago these two played a 2OT game in Flagstaff, for whatever that’s worth. Hampton is a bit too one dimensional at the moment with Jermaine Marrow taking the highest percentage of his team’s shots in the country, and he has the highest usage rate in D1 as well. Can NAU swarm him on ball screens? That’s about the only option they have defensively.

PICK: Hampton -4.5

Rider vs. UC Irvine

Tough matchup for transition-reliant Rider, as UCI doesn’t typically give up a lot on the break, and they have three outstanding defensive big men in Jonathan Galloway, Tommy Rutherford and Elston Jones. Kevin Baggett will use a fair amount of zone, but while Stevie Jordan is a very good sophomore point, they’re small at the top, which could bode well for the small Eater backcourt of Evan Leonard, Max Hazzard and Eyassu Worku, who all got their shot on track against Arizona State.

PICK: UCI -3

Wooden Legacy, Fullerton

St. Mary’s vs. Harvard

I’m not especially concerned by Harvard’s slow start, a team I picked to win the Ivy. Tommy Amaker always experiments with lineup rotations in November, and likely unsustainable poor shooting and sloppy ball handling have plagued the Crimson early. The recent play of Danilo Djurcic has been a bright spot, as he gives Amaker another shot blocker and body against Jock Landale if/when Chris Lewis gets in foul trouble. SMC’s motion offense is of course top shelf, generally no matter what the defensive scheme, but I think they could have trouble against Bryce Aiken off ball screens on the other end. The Gaels tend to have issues against quick playmakers that can isolate against Emmett Naar, although Jordan Ford is proving to be a plus perimeter defender this year.

PICK: Harvard +12

St. Joe’s vs. Washington State

Looks like Charlie Brown is still a few weeks from returning to the banged up Hawks. A down Wazzu team could pose a few problems for  St. Joe’s, simply because they’re capable of throwing flames from deep against Phil Martelli’s sagging defense. Between Robert Franks, Carter Skaggs, Vionte Daniels and Malachi Flynn, WSU is chucking up the 3 at the third highest rate in the country, hitting 40 percent of them early.

PICK: Washington State +9

Georgia vs. CSUF

Sounds like Jackson Rowe missing the Bethesda game for CSUF was precautionary, but it’s worth keeping an eye on as he’s essential on both ends of the court, especially against Yante Maten in UGA frontcourt. Georgia’s guards aren’t particularly good, but CSUF’s backcourt of Kyle Allman and Khalil Ahmad are strictly slashers, and that’s going to be problematic against a stout UGA interior defense. The Titans could very well be the worst shooting team in the country this year.

PICK: Georgia -10

San Diego State vs. Sacramento State

The poor Hornets are on their third string PG and are having a hard time simply getting into an offensive set. The early efficiency numbers are absolutely horrifying, as Sac State hasn’t sniffed 1 point per possession vs a D1 team, and they just bottomed out vs UC Davis, posting .67 ppp. Justin Strings is the only offensive option, and SDSU has more than enough length to mitigate any of his offensive production.

PICK:  SDSU -19

PK80, Portland

Duke vs. Portland State

A touch of intrigue here, as Trevon Duval faces a full-court press for the first time, and Barret Peery’s squad is deep and experienced. That said, if Duval handles the press, Duke can name their number, and something insane like 120 isn’t out of the question. I’m also not sure about the status of Deontae North, who didn’t dress against Utah State. His offense is essential for PSU to have any chance of remotely staying with the Blue Devils. Duval might look flustered at first, but points will be a plenty on the back end once he settles down. PSU will also have the advantage of staying in Portland and having every other fan base there rooting for them.

PICK: Portland St +24.5

Butler vs. Texas

Intriguing matchup. I love the backcourt duo of Kamar Baldwin and Aaron Thompson, as both are ball hawks defensively, and Thompson is showing a better ability to run the offense than Paul Jorgensen. Baldwin and Thompson harassing FR PG Matt Coleman is a key today, as turnovers could rear their ugly head again after last season’s disaster holding on to the ball in Austin. That said, Coleman, Kerwin Roach and Andrew Jones have looked great on the ball against lower competition to date. What I don’t like about Butler today is their overall lack of athleticism and height. With Mo Bamba in tow, Texas looks elite defensively (again, against lower competition), and with Kelan Martin playing an undersized 4 for Butler, Shaka has lineup options between going big with offensive facilitator Dylan Osetkowski, or a small lineup that can put Roach/Jones on Martin if Osetkowski and/or Jericho Sims are struggling to handle Martin in pick-and-roll defense.

PICK: Texas -2.5

Florida vs. Stanford

Enormous backcourt advantage for Florida with Chris Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen, but the Stanford dual big lineup of Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey does pose a problem for a thin Florida frontcourt. That said, the Gator backcourt is just far and away above the Cardinal backcourt, and the matchup pressure should make life difficult for frosh Daejon Davis, and getting the ball to Travis/Humphrey in usable situations will be an issue for Stanford all game.

PICK: Florida -12.5

Gonzaga vs. Ohio State

Ohio State has impressed early, and Chris Holtmann is going to clog up the lane expertly and force Gonzaga to beat them with jump shots. Johnathan Williams and Killian Tillie might not be factors in this game offensively, but between Zach Norvell, Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Corey Kispert, the Zags can shoot the ball. OSU, meanwhile, has some issues on the offensive end if they’re not getting the ball to the rim. Can Jacob Larsen stay on the floor for meaningful minutes as a rim protector today to spell Tillie? Gonzaga doesn’t gamble defensively, which is good news for C.J. Jackson, so the Ohio State offense might actually look a little less clunky. But the athleticism of the Zaga frontcourt will still be an issue, even if they’re not the elite rim-protecting unit of last year.

PICK: Ohio St +5

North Carolina vs. Portland

I don’t see much hope for the Pilots here. Terry Porter does have two rim protectors in Phil Hartwich and Tahirou Diabate, but both foul at an excessive rate and will struggle vs the dual big offense of Roy Williams. If UNC is cold from the field in an unfamiliar gym, they legitimately could grab three-quarters of their misses. Portland State grabbed 26 offensive rebounds, nearly 50 percent of their missed shots, in Portland’s only D1 game to date.

PICK: UNC -26

Arkansas vs. Oklahoma

I love this Oklahoma squad. With Trae Young at the point they’re capable of playing Lon Kruger’s hyper efficient transition offense, and the quick development of Brady Manek allows him to utilize his typical lane-clogging defense. However, Arkansas will test the young Young with Mike Anderson’s pressure, and the Hog backcourt is stellar in their own right, and much more experienced. Should be a great game, but I’m concerned about Arkansas’ offense against a defense that walls off the paint and doesn’t foul. Hogs have to hit some jump shots today.

PICK: Oklahoma -2

DePaul vs. Michigan State

DePaul is likely down a PG in Devin Gage, meaning Justin Roberts and even Eli Cain will be on the ball. That would also take away Dave Leitao’s best perimeter defender, and generating steals against turnover-prone Cassius Winston and TumTum Nairn is a key component for DePaul staying in this game. MSU is of course without Miles Bridges, but they have a huge talent advantage in the paint (although I love what I’ve seen from Jaylen Butz of late). MSU’s defensive scheme dares you to take jump shots, and outside of Max Strus, I don’t know who can do that consistently for the Blue Demons.

PICK: Michigan St -13

UConn vs. Oregon

I’m waiting to see Oregon play a team with a legit frontcourt, as I think they have some holes there defensively, especially against teams with big bruisers who can lower a shoulder into MiKyle McIntosh’s chest. UConn isn’t that team. The Jalen Adams/Alterique Gilbert backcourt can carry the Huskies, and they’re a touch better than Payton Pritchard and Elijah Brown, but the best frontcourt option is perimeter drifter Terry Larrier, and Troy Brown and McIntosh can easily match his athleticism in that regard. UConn has struggled against an easy OOC slate to date, while the Ducks have crushed their lower conferences foes, but this is a game where Oregon will have to operate in the halfcourt almost exclusively for the first time, and they’re also playing a better backcourt.

PICK: UConn +8.5

Thursday’s Top Picks (YTD 52-53):

LBSU/Missouri under 149

Georgia/CSUF under 140

Oklahoma -2

Sac State/SDSU under 141.5

Portland State/Duke over 168.6

UCF/Nebraska under 138

Rhode Island +4

Ohio State/Gonzaga under 150.5

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