Analyzing Four Matchups on the Saturday Evening Card
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
On a typically loaded Saturday evening college basketball slate, I will take a closer look at the following tilts:
Towson at William & Mary
Montana at Portland State
Alabama at LSU
Furman at Wofford
Follow me on twitter @jorcubsdan for live injury updates and second half additions.
Towson @ William & Mary
William & Mary improved to 5-0 in the CAA after an improbable comeback OT win over JMU. They not only erased a 20 point deficit, but also trailed by by 9 with 50 seconds remaining. Conversely, Towson blew a 10 point lead with 5 minutes remaining in a home buzzer beater loss to Hofstra.
William & Mary runs an impeccable 4 out, ball screen motion offense. The Tribe own KenPom’s 40th most efficient offense, and hit threes at 43%, second best in the country. They have five lethal shooters on the floor at all times, and hit free throws at 82%, the best percentage in college basketball. Against JMU, the Tribe shot a remarkable 33-36 from the line. So how does Towson match up against the Tribe’s outstanding motion offense? Not great.
In Pat Skerry’s 6+ seasons, Towson has held William & Mary to sub 1 point per possession just once, which came on New Year’s Eve in 2016 when William & Mary didn’t have star Omar Prewitt. While Towson grades out in the 91st percentile against PnR ball handlers per Synergy, the Tribe have routinely beat their constantly switching man to man with back door cuts and hi/lo motion that plays off their aggression. Simply put, the Tribe are great at creating and exploiting mismatches off screens. Nate Knight, William & Mary’s go to option, excels in a league like the CAA because he can play with his back to the basket and also utilize screens in motion outside of the paint. As I mentioned earlier, William & Mary leads the nation in free throw percentage. Towson finished 317th, 271st, and 339th in foul rate, and currently rank 226th. Last year’s two meetings between these two featured 140 total free throws.
Conversely, the Tribe have had their own issues defending Towson. Per Synergy, Towson runs high ball screens at the 7th highest rate in the country. William & Mary’s backcourt of David Cohn, Connor Burchfield, and Matt Milon are lethal offensively, but struggle defending ball screens. Zane Martin and Mike Morsell should exploit the Tribe off high and side ball screens all night. The Tribe have improved in defensive rebounding, clocking in as the 34th best team in the country in defensive rebounding rate. Grabbing misses is essential against Towson, who crashes the offensive glass with reckless abandon.
On the injury report, one of Shaver’s few versatile defenders in ball screens, Justin Pierce, is likely a game time decision tonight.
The Pick: Towson/William & Mary Over 154
Montana will make one of the easier Big Sky road turnarounds from Sacramento to Portland. Facing the constant full court pressure of Portland State presents a unique challenge, as only Manhattan spends more time in a full court press. While the Grizzlies have a quick turnaround, they score in the 93rd percentile in their press offense, per Synergy. While they haven’t faced a full court press, the Grizzlies have two veteran guards in Ahmaad Rorie and Mike Oguine, who both can handle the ball and attack. Additionally, due to the structure of PSU’s pressure defense, they often play without a big to defend the rim, as 7’1 Ryan Edwards simply can’t keep up with their pace. Thus, the Vikings allow the nation’s 23rd highest FG% at the rim, per hoop-math.com. That is problematic against a Montana team that filters offense through Jamar Akoh in the post on every half court possession. Worth noting Traylin Farris and Brandon Hollins both missed PSU’s game on Thursday, as the flu bug hit the team.
The Pick: Montana -1
Collin Sexton vs Tremont Waters! Two of the best point guards in college basketball square off with Alabama visiting LSU. LSU must limit Sexton’s path to the rim off ball screens, and Alabama must obscure Waters’ passing lanes off ball screens with lengthy help defenders. Bama has a far more capable ball screen defense, but Will Wade’s ability to mix in different defensive looks can keep the Tide off balance. LSU completely sags off the opponents’ worst offensive player (Dazon Ingram) to contain dribble penetration. We’ll see if that will contain Sexton as well it did Daryl Macon in the Arkansas blowout.
The Pick: Pass. Just enjoy!
Furman and Wofford, two of three top SoCon contenders, feature prolific three point offenses; Furman attempts threes at the 17th highest rate, and Wofford the 61st. Wofford, however, ranks number 1 in the country in three point shooting, canning 43.2% of their attempts, thanks to Fletcher Magee, who has one of the best strokes in college basketball. Both teams excel from deep, but run very different offenses. Wofford utilizes a lot of zipper cuts and very few ball screens, while Furman uses a lot of ball screen motion for John Davis and Dev Sibley. Both play fundamental man to man defense, but Wofford has an advantage at the rim with Cam Jackson over Matt Rafferty. Wofford should find a way in their biggest conference home game to date at their new gym.
The Pick: Wofford +2.5
Saturday Evening Top Picks:
Towson/William & Mary over 154
Eastern Kentucky +4
Northern Iowa -4.5
Sacramento St +1