Manhattan vs Towson

Masiello’s zone pressure looks a little less foul happy this year, as they’re seemingly doing a better job of showing their hands and disrupting rather than physically trying to rip the ball away. Brian Starr is solid with the ball, but Towson doesn’t have a secondary ball handler, and I think they’re shooting above their weight class early in the year from the perimeter, I expect that to regress on back to backs against Manhattan’s 2-3 zone halfcourt defense. The Jaspers are of course without Rich Williams, but they posted by far their highest efficiency rating of the season yesterday against Holy Cross. Towson is a lot more athletic than the Crusaders, but I think the Jaspers can keep this one close thanks to some likely poor shooting from the Tigers.

PICK: Manhattan +8.5

Cincinnati @ Xavier

Looking forward to this one, as both teams are Final Four caliber clubs and it’s, of course, one of the most heated rivalries in the country. Something has to give at the rim today. Cincy only allows teams to shoot 41% at the rim, second-lowest mark in the nation, while Xavier shoots 70% at the rim and is one of the most efficient inside-out offenses in the country (both marks per hoop-math.com). Cincy has piled those defensive numbers up against a relatively weak OOC schedule, but they almost always turn out the same when extrapolated over an entire season. The stretch shooting of Kaiser Gates is the key offensively for Xavier in terms of spacing out the pack linish Cincy defense, while Quentin Goodin is the key defensively. He has great length against the smaller Cincy backcourt of Cane Broome and Justin Jenifer, but I’m worried about his lateral quickness against those two waterbugs. Cincy has an advantage in the frontcourt, but I’m hesitant to dismiss the junkyard dog ability of Tyrique Jones as a factor today, as this is definitely a task built for him rather than Sean O’Mara, but the frontcourt is still going to be an issue against Gary Clark and Kyle Washington, and that’s where Cincy can win this game. I would expect Mick Cronin to do everything in his power to limit Trevon Bluiett after he put up 40 points on the Bearcats last year. An elite defensive team simply doesn’t forget about the time a player put 40 on them in the biggest regular season game of the year, so he’ll be doubled off ball screens or hedged aggressively every single time he touches the ball, which means Gates and Macura are going to have a lot of open shots today.

PICK: Xavier -2.5

Indiana @ Michigan

Both defenses are going to have major issues today. IU simply can’t guard ball screens effectively, and while Michigan’s primary PnR duo of Charles Matthews and Mo Wagner has been hit or miss early, they should have plenty of success today against IU’s still developing pack line defense. The opposing frontcourt poses a quandary for both coaches, as Archie Miller has to find a way to contain Mo Wagner on the perimeter and in PnR, while John Beilein likely would have to sacrifice some offense with Jon Teske against De’Ron Davis, as Wagner can’t defend him in the post. IU’s off a major effort that fell short against Duke in their biggest home game of the year. Interesting to see how Archie has them prepared today.

PICK: Michigan -7.5

Colorado @ Colorado State

Not really sure why they’re playing this game at 11 a.m. local time, but the Buffs likely have some issues against CSU’s underscreening defense, as they have a dearth of shooters outside of George King. Whoever wins the glass battle wins this game, as CSU always crashes the O glass hard, and Tad Boyle loves to run in transition off misses. Oddly the road team has dominated of late in this rivalry, and you have to wonder what the Moby atmosphere will be like with such an odd start time, but this is Colorado’s first true road game as well.

PICK: Colorado State +3

Green Bay @ Belmont

Austin Luke isn’t the best custodian of the ball in Rick Byrd’s otherwise extremely efficient motion offense, and Linc Darner brings his RP40 ball pressure, but the Phoenix are incredibly young and Darner is still figuring out a usable rotation, especially after a home shellacking by Stetson. Bruins can probably name their number today, but they are in a weird spot with lots of travel from TCU and a Boulevard rematch with Lipscomb on deck.

PICK: Belmont -15.5

Virginia Tech @ Ole Miss

Andy Kennedy’s team has some major defensive issues that need to be resolved, and it likely involves sacrificing some significant offense. The Hokies’ lethal penetrate and kick offense should have a field day, but the Buzz Williams’ defense hasn’t exactly been lockdown either, and the largely 4 out Rebels can put up points in bunches, especially with this being the Hokies’ first true road game. This has all the makings of a shootout unless Kennedy finds a way to not get torched at the 4, where Terence Davis has spent a lot of time. That lineup is allowing 1.11 points per possession in nearly 300 possessions so far this year, per hooplens.com.

PICK: Virginia Tech -2

St. Bonaventure @ Buffalo

It sounds like Jay Adams has the potential to play, as he’s been a near full participant in practice lately. Adams torched the Bulls last year, but Buffalo’s frontcourt is going to be an issue for Bona, especially with the versatility of Nick Perkins and Jeremy Harris against Mark Schmidt’s 1-3-1. The Bulls have a marked advantage in athleticism and physicality in this one.

PICK: Buffalo -1.5

IUPUI @ Ball State

Jason Gardner’s offense is structured entirely different this year, as he’s using far more flex and post feeds than dribble handoffs with his guards, and that’s good for Ball State because they’re a pretty poor ball screen defense, and BSU struggled with that at home against IUPUI last year. Trey Moses is getting healthier, which is key against the restyled Jaguar offense, but turnovers are always a concern for BSU, and Gardner is aggressive with his extended backcourt on that end.

PICK: Ball State -8

Wichita State @ Baylor

Sounds like Landry Shamet is a go for the Shockers while Zach Brown is far less likely. Baylor meanwhile is down TJ Maston. Maston is a lowkey huge loss for the Bears, as they were scoring at 1.19 points per possession when he was on the floor, per hooplens.com. Wichita State is one of the best hedging defenses in PnR thanks to guys like Rashard Kelly, and the loss of Maston really hurts the Bears in that regard, as he was essential in Scott Drew’s rip screen-heavy offense. Maston was also the Bears’ best offensive rebounder, a large part of the Baylor offense as a whole, and that was already due to take a hit against a great rebounding team like WSU. The loss of Maston puts Drew in a tough spot, as he probably has to move Manu Lecomte off the ball to initiate more offense, and that in turn probably induces Gregg Marshall to extend pressure on Jake Lindsey. Baylor’s shifting zone could give Wichita State some issues. You’ll recall they struggled against a fairly generic Notre Dame 2-3 in the second half in Maui, but Marshall has had more time to prep for a known zone defensive scheme.

PICK: Wichita State -2.5

Georgia @ Marquette

Marquette torched UGA’s defense last year in Athens, but they had no answer for Yante Maten in the post. There’s little to suggest either of those two truths change in the rematch, as UGA’s guards will have trouble staying in front of Andrew Rowsey and rotating on Marquette’s perimeter ball movement, and Marquette has been dominated in the paint by the likes of EIU.

PICK: Georgia +6

UC Davis @ Washington State

Wazzu can shoot the lights out, and Jim Les uses a lot of 2-3 zone to mitigate his lack of height and protect Chima Moneke. However, Wazzu is poor in rim defense, and Moneke could once again carry the Aggies, and UCD is an excellent transition defense. Of course the Cougs toasted SMC, one of the best transition defenses in the country, in Fullerton.

PICK: UC Davis +7.5

Air Force @ Denver

The Falcons have struggled mightily against zones and in rim protection, both of which will rear their head against the Pios and Daniel Amigo today.

PICK: Denver -5

Saturday Afternoon Top Picks:

La Salle -10 (from twitter)

IU/Michigan over 141

Wichita State -2.5

UC Davis +7.5

*lines via 5Dimes at time of publication