Montana State @ Milwaukee

The health of Jeremiah Bell is somewhat important for Milwaukee today, as he’s essential on the perimeter defensively against Tyler Hall. Per hooplens.com, Milwaukee’s defense allows teams to score just .87 points per possession in the 257 possessions that Bell has been on the floor. Conversely, the Panthers are allowing teams to score at a robust 1.15 points per possession in 200 possessions when he’s off the floor. MSU’s interior defense is poor, and Bryce Nze and Brett Prahl are developing into a nice two-big offense for Pat Baldwin.

PICK: Milwaukee -5

Dartmouth @ Canisius

DC’s focus defensively is on limiting perimeter attempts with an extended backcourt, and Canisius’ first shot motion offense is highly dependent on the three and perimeter ball movement. That said, it’s hard to imagine Dartmouth keeping up offensively with the Griffs, especially with Guillen Smith’s status unknown. Dave McLaughlin’s defensive philosophy focuses almost entirely on limiting the three and denying transition, which should keep Big Green in this game.

PICK: Dartmouth +7.5

Monmouth @ UConn

UConn is likely without Alterique Gilbert again, and Monmouth is a different team with Micah Seaborn back, even in limited minutes. King Rice typically employs a packed in defense akin to UNC under Roy Williams, and turning UConn into jump shooters is priority number one. Terry Larrier won’t continue to hit jumpers at the same rate he has early, and defensively UConn has had major issues containing dribble penetration, where the Hawk offense excels.

PICK: Monmouth +9

Rider @ Drexel

Shorthanded Drexel can’t really play at the pace Zach Spiker prefers at the moment, which might be a good thing against a transition reliant Rider team. Kevin Baggett is going to dare Drexel to shoot jumpers, sag off Kurk Lee, and collapse on Stretch Williams and try to run off missed jump shots.

PICK: Rider -3

Oral Roberts @ Little Rock

Its the third game of the week for ORU, after two on the road and an overtime game to start, and they’re likely shorthanded without PG RJ Fuqua and sharpshooter Austin Ruder. Little Rock is tiny and plays a lot of zone, but ORU has to find a way to get the ball to Javan White, Manny Nzekwesi, and Albert Owens today.

PICK: Oral Roberts +5

Richmond @ Wake Forest

Chris Mooney’s motion offense has struggled against compact defenses, so I suspect Danny Manning will stick with the 2-3 zone he’s been rolling out of late. Richmond’s offense should see an uptick with Khwan Fore fully re-integrated into the scheme, but limiting Doral Moore at the rim figures to be a major issue for the Spiders, who have been overwhelmed by any semblance of a frontcourt this year.

PICK: Richmond +9.5

Cornell @ Northeastern

Matt Morgan torched the Huskies last year, and Northeastern still has similar problems defending against dribble penetration. Defending Cornell’s Princeton motion sets isn’t my concern for NU today, but staying in front of Morgan is.

PICK: Cornell +8.5

Tulsa @ Illinois State

These two are well familiar with each other over the last few years, as it’s basically been like Tulsa has been back in the MVC. ISU used a 2-3 zone to mitigate the athleticism of Tulsa in Puerto Rico, and Dan Muller’s team has a habit of following up a poor defensive effort with a stellar one. The status of Milik Yarbrough is uncertain though, as he was knocked unconscious against Nevada after a knee to the chin. He was stellar in the first meeting against Tulsa because of his ability to see over the long backcourt of Frank Haith, but it’s unlikely that ISU shoots 12-23 from 3 again.

PICK: Illinois State -2

Sacred Heart @ St. John’s

This figures to be a tortuous matchup for the Pioneers, as Cha Cha Tucker and Sean Hoehn turn the ball over routinely even against teams that don’t press, and Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett could live in transition tonight. Pio frontcourt gets a boost with the return of De’von Barnett though.

PICK: St. John’s -21.5

Mercer @ Memphis

Status of Ria’n Holland’s ankle is of course something to watch (but it sounds like he’s going to give it a go), but these are two defensive schemes that are decided to induce jump shots at a high rate- but Mercer is far more capable of hitting them than the Tigers. Bob Hoffman’s shell defense packs in the paint and limits penetration, fouls, and second-chance points, all entirely essential to the Memphis offense. Mercer’s the oldest team in the country starting 5 seniors, playing a team still looking to gel with a lot of new pieces.

PICK: Mercer +1.5

Tennessee Tech @ Furman

Obviously, you have to like Tennessee Tech’s chances if Dev Sibley is out. Per hooplens.com, Furman scores at 1.15 points per possession with him on the floor, and an anemic .92 when he’s off. They’re also slightly better defensively as well. Tennessee Tech. Under Bob Richey, the Furman transition defense hasn’t been nearly as disciplined as it was under Niko Medved, and TTU can torch in transition with their 4 guard lineup.

PICK: Tennessee Tech +6

UT Martin @ Chattanooga

Methodical swing motion offense from Chattanooga should find some opportunities against UT Martin’s matchup zone, but the pace on this one is going to crawl. Mocs have seen a remarkably similar defense to Anthony Stewart’s when they played Ray Harper and JSU, posting 1.10 points per possession before falling in OT.

PICK: Chattanooga -6.5

Providence @ Rhode Island

Is this the year Danny Hurley finally beats Ed Cooley? The issue for the Rams is that Kyron Cartwright is just so phenomenal at breaking down the aggressive URI backcourt, and the Rams don’t have the same frontcourt behind them this year, and I’m not certain the Rams can expose PC’s issues in rim protection.

PICK: Providence +3.5

LMU @ Oregon State

Tough opponent to be playing your first game without your point guard if you’re Wayne Tinkle, as Mike Dunlap brings a lot of zone pressure. That said, Jaquori McLaughlin was having a dreadful year and had fallen out of favor with Tinkle, and the offense was being filtered through Tres Tinkle in the high post regardless, and FR Ethan Thompson moved on the ball against Marist. OSU has a decent post advantage with Drew Eubanks, unless shot blocker Petr Herman is able to return today for the Lions, and 7’3 Mattias Markusson can be an imposing presence in the paint.

PICK: Oregon State -10

Wright State @ Western Kentucky

Probably tough sledding for Wright State offensively, as their goal is to pound the ball inside via post feed to Loudon Love or penetration from Justin Mitchell, and Rick Stansbury’s 1-3-1 has been fairly effective in limiting post touches and highly effective in keeping teams off the free throw line. I do think WKU is probably overvalued a touch after its strong play in the Bahamas, but this isn’t a good matchup for WSU schematically.

PICK: WKU -9.5

St. Peter’s @ Elon

The Peacock offense has come alive, albeit against two very poor defenses, but this figures to be tough matchup for John Dunne’s stifling two-point defense, as Elon takes care of the ball and spaces their bigs in a McKillop inspired motion offense. The Phoenix posted 1.11 points per possession in Jersey City last year, against a much better Peacock defense. Probably time to buy low on the experienced Phoenix.

PICK: Elon -5

Hawaii @ Utah

First trip off the island for Hawaii. The Bows’ offense flows entirely from the post between Mike Thomas and Gibson Johnson, and an excellent big passer in Jack Purchase at the high post. Utah’s defense is strong at the 4/5 between David Collette and Tyler Rawson, and when those two are on the floor together, the Utes are only surrendering .73 points per possession, per hooplens.com. The defense dips when Collette gets in foul trouble though, as Jayce Johnson is a drop off on both ends of the floor.

PICK: Utah -13.5

South Florida @ App State

Interesting game because USF just played a very similar offense to App State, taking Elon to OT before falling on the road. Key defensively for the Bulls is staying in front of Ronshad Shabazz, but bigger USF has had some trouble against penetration.

PICK: USF +8

Old Dominion @ VCU

VCU is potentially shorthanded again without Issac Vann and Malik Crowfield, and they have a few other issues schematically here as well. Jonathan Williams’ penetration will be walled off by ODU, and VCU can’t crash the O glass against the Monarchs, who also aren’t going to turn it over with an experienced PG. That leaves perimeter shooting for VCU, and the Rams have been shooting a bit above their weight I think, but that’s always the best option for beating a Jeff Jones defense.

PICK: Old Dominion +2

Akron @ Marshall

Have to be able to beat Akron at the rim, where the Zips are weak in a 4-out lineup, but that’s not in the game plan for pace and space Dan D’Antoni. This one actually could play out quite similarly to the Herd’s game with William & Mary, with the glaring exception that John Groce doesn’t have a Nate Knight type scoring in the paint.

PICK: Marshall -5.5

South Alabama @ FIU

Matt Graves is going smaller and more perimeter reliant, which is probably ok against FIU, who tends to sag on the perimeter and PG Brian Beard and two 6’5 wings take basically every single shot. USA’s defense has gotten away with some good perimeter shooting luck, while the reverse is true for the FIU offense.

PICK: FIU +1.5

Saturday’s Top Picks Part II (YTD: 89-83):

Dartmouth +7.5

Mercer +1.5

Elon -5

St. Peter’s/Elon over 135

SJSU/SIU over 138.5

Missouri State +2.5

St. John’s -21.5

FIU +1.5

Old Dominion +2

Richmond +9.5

Richmond/Wake Forest under 145.5

Ohio State/Wisconsin under 134

UT Martin/Chattanooga under 133.5

Tennessee Tech +6