There’s not much going on for the first CBB Saturday, as is typical after opening night – but let’s take a look at the few interesting matchups of the day.
Canisius @ Buffalo
The young Griffs probably have a hard time matching up with the athleticism and physicality of the Bulls, as Malik Johnson and Isaiah Reese both had issues against ball pressure last year, and the Griffs’ offense attack is based on their perimeter ball movement. Jeremy Harris should have a monster game against a very lacking Canisius frontcourt. Reggie Witherspoon obviously will have his team ready for his return to Buffalo’s campus, and the Griffs did have their way offensively last year in this rivalry game, but again, there’s too much athleticism 1-5 for the Bulls.
PICK: Buffalo -9
Penn @ Fairfield
Fairfield couldn’t remotely slow down AJ Brodeur in last year’s meeting, and with foul prone Jonathan Kasibabu representing the Stags’ only rim protection, I don’t hold much hope for a dramatic improvement in this year’s matchup against Brodeur.
PICK: Penn -3.5
IUPUI @ Bradley
IUPUI figures to be one of the worst offenses in the country this year (a title recently vacated by the Braves themselves). They don’t have a point guard, and they’re likely relying on freshman Jaylen Minnett for most offensive production. Bradley looked like they were starting to grasp some things under head coach Brian Wardle to close the year, and I think that carries over into the new season.
PICK: Bradley -9
Dartmouth @ Quinnipiac
No clue what to expect in this one. Dave McLaughlin’s squad was thrown for a MAJOR loop with the sudden departure of Evan Boudreaux, Big Green’s do-everything big. Quinnipiac, meanwhile, is rebuilding under Baker Dunleavy, and his current roster isn’t at all conducive to his preferred spread pick-and-roll system. I think ultimately Dartmouth is a little more cohesive thanks to a veteran wing corps, but replacing the Ivy’s second-highest shot and usage rate player on the fly isn’t exactly ideal.
PICK: Dartmouth PK
St. Peter’s @ La Salle
Rebuild year for John Dunne and the Peacocks, who will likely have significant early offensive issues. Sam Idowu and Nnamdi Enechionyia could pose some matchup issues for La Salle’s lacking frontcourt (although Miles Brookins looks like he could be a massive upgrade as a freshman), but Dunne’s outstanding packed in defensive scheme won’t be firing on all cylinders yet with all the new faces, and the Explorers have the perimeter threats to fire over the top anyway.
PICK: La Salle -9.5
Notre Dame @ DePaul
DePaul opens their new arena with a big time matchup, so the excitement level for Blue Demon basketball is at its highest point in many years at the moment. The question is whether or not the additions of Austin Grandstaff and Max Strus pay immediate dividends, as their much-needed perimeter shooting will be key against an Irish defensive scheme that will negate Eli Cain and Justin Roberts’ penetration to the rim. Can Marin Maric defend Bonzie Colson in the post? Not really. But I’ll side with a revamped DePaul offense in their new home to keep it somewhat close.
PICK: DePaul +9
North Dakota State @ UCSB
NDSU doesn’t have a point guard and they’re likely down A.J. Jacobson on the wing – that could be an issue against Pasternack’s newly-implemented pressure scheme. UCSB has their own injury issues, with Gabe Vincent likely on a pitch count of sorts, but Paul Miller sliding over to the point severely hampers the Bison’s offensive efficiency, especially against what should be sustained ball pressure from the Gauchos. Offense from both sides is probably going to be an issue.
PICK: UCSB -2.5
Cleveland State @ Akron
The Dennis Felton and John Groce rebuilds begin in Northeast Ohio, but I would need to know the status of Kash Thomas before having any sort of opinion on this game. Felton wants to up the pressure and tempo at CSU, but without on-ball defender Terrell Hales and potentially without point guard Thomas, running a pressure-heavy transition attack would obviously be difficult.
PICK: Akron -6
St. Joe’s @ Toledo
The Rockets can shoot the ball against Phil Martelli’s consistently sagging defensive scheme, and their point guard issues won’t be exposed against that packed in defense. I’m high on the Hawks in general, however, but with Shavar Newkirk seeing limited, if any minutes, and Charlie Brown out, I’m going to wait a bit for things to gel with Martelli’s squad.
PICK: Toledo PK
LMU @ UT Arlington
LMU will be without Steven Haney for a few more weeks, which severely limits their offensive ceiling until then. Mike Dunlap will almost certainly abandon his press again and opt for his recent embrace of a simple 2-3 zone, which is actually a better strategy against the Mavs. Kevin Hervey should be able to wreak total havoc, but Dunlap does have one of the better on-ball defenders in the WCC in Jeff McClendon to throw on Erick Neal.
PICK: UTA -14.5
Eastern Illinois @ Nebraska
Nebraska is a team I’m probably unreasonably high on, but I think they have underrated length and athleticism this year, and Tim Miles will utilize that on both ends for a dramatic tempo increase. EIU is going to have some matchup issues in pick-and-roll defense with a much smaller backcourt, but Mussa Dama might end up with double-digit offensive boards, as the Huskers project to struggle mightily on the defensive glass.
PICK: Nebraska -11
Kent State @ Youngstown State
I think you’re going to see a plethora of points in this one. Jerrod Calhoun is implementing a West Virginia pressure defense in his first year as the head coach at YSU, but the strength of Kent St this year is certainly their backcourt, and they won’t be running all the offense through Jimmy Hall in the post.
PICK: Kent State -5
Portland State @ Portland
Another game that should see a ton of points. Portland is backcourt heavy with the Porter brothers in the fold and their dad running an attack-based four-out motion. PSU, meanwhile, is implementing a full-court pressure defense coupled with a spread transition pick-and-roll offense (although oft-injured Braxton Tucker is once again potentially unavailable against the crosstown rival). UP will wrack up the turnovers, but they’re going to find a lot of opportunities at the rim as well.
PICK: Portland +1.5
Top Five Picks (it was hard to cobble together five from this list to be honest) YTD 1-4:
EIU/Nebraska over 142
Kent St/YSU over 165.5
PSU/Portland over 156