Northern Colorado vs Southern Miss
UNC isn’t shooting the ball like I think they’re capable of within Jeff Linder’s spread motion offense, and I think the Bears could get on track against a sagging USM defense, although the lack of legs on both sides could of course be an issue, but more so for USM off a game against pressing Youngstown State- UNC did play the night game however, so they’re on literally no rest. Southern Miss is likely down both Dom Magee and Eddie Davis, as they both were injured in the YSU game. USM is the smallest team in the country, and rely heavily on their perimeter, where UNC’s defensive scheme funnels action off the three point line.
PICK: Northern Colorado -1
Navy vs Denver
Bench depth on quick turnaround certainly favors Navy here, but the back end of Ed DeChellis’ zone schemes have been quite weak, and Navy is playing more man than I’ve seen in recent years. Either way, it’s not a favorable matchup for the Navy defense against Denver post Daniel Amigo.
PICK: Denver +1.5
St. John’s vs UCF
Similar to Press Virginia, the Johnnies’ press should be a major issue for a UCF team playing without a point guard. UCF doesn’t allow anything at the rim or in transition typically, but it’s hard to limit transition opportunities when you’re allowing live-ball turnovers, and Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett should have no qualms shooting over Johnny Dawkins’ packed-in amoeba zone.
PICK: St. John’s -4
Tulane @ Georgia State
Two teams that I’m higher on than most. Tulane is extremely long 1-4 and can shoot the ball, both musts against Georgia State’s aggressive morphing 1-3-1 zone. What will be tested for the Green Wave is their “positionless” scheme that leaves them without a true ball handler, which can be a problem against Ron Hunter’s defense. Tulane is also a little transition reliant, which is tough to depend on against a GSU defense that routinely limits transition attempts at one of the lowest rates in the country annually. GSU is coming off a fairly shocking loss to Prairie View A&M in Vegas, but D’Marcus Simonds could rebound at home against a Tulane defense that doesn’t have a defender who can stay in front of him. Tulane’s strength as a defense is their ability to disrupt passing lanes with their length, which isn’t really a concern for a ball screen, iso-heavy, Simonds-penetration-focused offense like GSU.
PICK: Tulane +4
Jacksonville vs Gardner Webb
Tony Jasick’s offense has a hard time generating points when the perimeter shot isn’t falling, and they have no defense at the rim whatsoever. Fortunately for the Dolphins, they’re playing a very small, 4 out Gardner Webb team who has been struggling to hit perimeter shots as well, perfect for JU’s 3-2 zone. Tim Craft used to run a 3-point heavy offense, but shifted to attack mode last year with uber penetrator Laquincy Rideau. I’m not entirely sure what GWU’s offensive identity is this year without him, as they’ve both struggled to shoot and get to the free throw line early.
PICK: Gardner Webb -2.5
Gonzaga vs Texas
Both teams are coming off heartbreakers, and I think this one comes down to whether or not Gonzaga gets off to a quick start offensively. If Josh Perkins and Zach Norvell can a hit a few jumpers early, it’s hard for the Texas offense to generate points efficiently, especially since you can routinely pack in the paint against the Longhorn backcourt. If Gonzaga has a slow start offensively, it’s playing into Texas’ hands, as the defense is an elite unit thanks of course to the addition of Mo Bamba. You can’t help but look at what Texas’ defense did to Duke’s offense for 30 minutes and think they can do the same to the Zags, but they are still a young team, and it was devastating to let that game slip through their hands.
PICK: Gonzaga -2
Oregon vs Oklahoma
Oregon’s youth and holes in its interior defense have been exposed against better competition in PK80, and Oklahoma should be able to do the same. This meeting should be a lot more open than the NCAA Tournament meeting two years ago, as Dana Altman is known for the freedom he extends to his offense and Lon Kruger is a genius transition basketball coach. Looking forward to this one, but Khadeem Lattin could have a monster game, and Brady Manek could have his first breakout offensive game, while electric Trae Young should have no issue vs the Oregon trapping defense, even as a freshman ball handler.
PICK: Oklahoma -2.5
Manhattan @ Fordham
The Battle of the Bronx could be extremely hard to watch. Both Steve Masiello and Jeff Neubauer will utilize a zone press, which results in a lot of fouls, and neither team is strong shooting the ball (although the Jaspers do have an edge in both free throw and 3-point shooting). Joe Chartouny is the best ball handler on the court, which is a positive for the Rams, but Manhattan has the decided edge in the frontcourt and the game’s best pure scorer in Rich Williams. Neubauer is also down his best overall defender in Chuba Ohams. Fordham’s offense looked like a disaster in Jamaica, and I’m not sure the week off does much to help that issue.
PICK: Manhattan +4
Sacramento State vs St. Joe’s
The Hornet offense is a mess, and can’t shoot against Phil Martelli’s consistently sagging defense, but it’s hard to trust the Hawk offense as well with so many key pieces missing.
PICK: Sacramento State +15.5
Nebraska vs Long Beach State
Temidayo Yussuf looks ready to contribute valuable minutes after a strong showing against Oregon State, and Deishuan Booker had a coming out party at point guard, which Dan Monson desperately needed. Beach can match up athletically against the PnR heavy Huskers but might be worried about the ability to score against Nebraska’s length and the Huskers won’t put them on the free throw line as often as Oregon State did.
PICK: Nebraska -8
Jacksonville State @ Mississippi State
JSU has a lot of athleticism for a midmajor, especially in the frontcourt, and Ray Harper’s 3-2 matchup zone is going to test a Mississippi State team with a lack of shooters outside. This MSU team looks more like a Ben Howland structured defense that totally disrupts perimeter ball screens, but JSU can stay in this game with their ability to dominate the glass on both ends. This isn’t a low midmajor frontcourt the Bulldogs are facing today.
PICK: Jacksonville State +7.5
Miami OH @ Austin Peay
Both teams are really inefficient offensively as new head coaches Matt Figger and Jack Owens work to install new systems, but Miami’s switching man to man is sound, while APSU is going to crash the offensive glass relentlessly. It seems like Owens is having personnel issues already, particularly with Darrian Ringo.
PICK: Austin Peay -2.5
Montana State @ Fresno State
Have to keep an eye on the status of MSU point guard Harry Frey, who suffered a head injury against SEMO in Cancun. The Bobcats are finishing up a long road trip against an aggressive Fresno State team that always has dramatic home/away splits. Difficult for a transition reliant, spread PnR team to beat a Fresno defense that typically switches on everything.
PICK: Fresno State -8.5
Youngstown State vs South Dakota
USD is off an awful shooting night against Northern Colorado, but Craig Smith 4 out motion offense should have no problem handling the YSU full court press. Expect a bounce-back game from the Yotes in the final game of their tournament.
PICK: South Dakota -14.5
Arkansas vs UConn
Great backcourt matchup here, but UConn’s frontcourt is going to get Arkansas in foul trouble like UNC did, which totally altered the course of that game. UConn is typically very good in transition defense, which is key vs. Arkansas, but they were extremely porous in ball screen defense vs. Michigan State.
PICK: Arkansas -5.5
Butler vs Ohio State
The Chris Holtmann Bowl should be a pretty brutal offensive contest. Butler’s backcourt of Kamar Baldwin and Aaron Thompson can harass CJ Jackson, but the loss of Sean McDermott hurts Butler’s ability to consistently make jump shots against a compact Ohio State defense. Jae’Sean Tate is going to be a matchup problem for Butler. Bulldogs have a lack of athleticism on the wings, and Holtmann is using Tate like a more athletic Rose Jones. High likelihood LaVall Jordan gets outschemed by Holtmann on a quick turnaround, as Holtmann obviously knows the Butler personnel.
PICK: Ohio State PK
Sunday Afternoon Top Picks:
Northern Colorado -1 (from twitter this AM)
Ohio State PK
Ohio State/Butler under 142
Jacksonville State/Mississippi St under 146.5
Youngstown State/South Dakota over 162.5