College basketball season is officially underway, as nearly every team has at least one game under their belt. A look at a few games of interest today…

Monmouth @ Seton Hall

The Hawks certainly impressed in their opener, knocking off preseason darlings Bucknell in their first game post-Justin Robinson. The Hawks did it with a style atypical of King Rice, as they mixed in some zone and looked to push in transition significantly less. Micah Seaborn is the undisputed alpha scorer for Monmouth this year, but Diago Quinn looked more than serviceable in the post against Nana Foulland (who he actually outplayed on both ends), which was an area of major concern for the Hawks coming into the season. Rice has waves of young athleticism to throw out against Seton Hall, but I have some concerns for the Hawks today. Kevin Willard totally disrupted FDU in the Pirates’ opener with 3/4 court man-to-man press, and while Seaborn is an offensive facilitator, he isn’t a point guard, and freshman Ray Salnave is the secondary ball handler. Thanks to pulling away from FDU, the Pirates are well rested for the quick turnaround, as Carrington, Rodriguez, Sanogo and Delgado were all able to rest for the majority of the second half – whereas Monmouth scrapped and clawed to the bitter end against Bucknell in a thriller. I think the newfound SHU press will be a major issue for the Hawks, but if Rice sticks with a 2-3 zone, the Pirates’ shooting issues could be exposed. That said, while Monmouth is a good defensive rebounding team, the Pirates are elite on the offensive glass and could play volleyball on that end if Monmouth’s game plan is to induce jumpers via packed-in defensive schemes.

PICK: Seton Hall -15.5

George Mason @ Louisville

I was pretty underwhelmed with George Mason in their opener vs. Lafayette, with the exception of freshman Goanar Mar and Jaire Grayer, who looks like a Marquise Moore redux this year. His swiss army knife game is going to be essential in what is basically a five-out scheme with a short rotation by Dave Paulsen this year. Ray Spalding, Deng Adel and Anas Mahmoud pose a significant challenge to the GMU frontcourt, and the Patriots had a hard time keeping Lafayette off the offensive glass, so that’s certainly a major cause for concern today. That said, Otis Livingston and Ian Boyd leading the five-out offense against the zone pressure of the Cardinals should be favorable for GMU, and they’ll have opportunities to score. Plus, the ability of Mar to stretch out at the 5 will open up the floor post pressure.

PICK: George Mason +19

UMass @ Harvard

Neither impressed much in their opener, but I’m obviously far more concerned with the Minutemen than the Crimson. UMass nearly lost to UM-Lowell, who was playing without essential, do-everything Jahad Thomas. Holloway isn’t in shape to contribute significant minutes yet, and my only real concern is the ball hawking of Luwane Pipkins, who can disrupt Bryce Aiken and Christian Juzang in ball screen defense, which is essentially Amaker’s base scheme offensively. Until Holloway is fully healthy, this is going to be a top of the key, penetration-dependent UMass offense, and Unique McLean and Pipkins could certainly find a way to get Chris Lewis in foul trouble early if they’re getting to the rim. I definitely didn’t like what I saw from UMass on Friday, but scheme wise, they have some advantages here with the backcourt’s ability to match up against playmakers Aiken and Juzang.

PICK: UMass +10

Omaha @ Oklahoma

This doesn’t set up well for the Mavs, as they’re off a quick turnaround in an OT loss to Montana State and now have to travel 1500 miles to Norman to face what should be a typically lethal Lon Kruger transition offense. Watching mostly for the debut of Trae Young, because this one should be a blowout.

PICK: Oklahoma -23

Vermont @ Kentucky

I’m not going to pretend that UVM can match the firepower of the Wildcats, because they obviously can’t. But Vermont is one of the most disciplined and organized defenses in the country, both in the halfcourt and in transition. This one probably plays out incredibly similarly to the UVU game Friday night. The Wolverines were well prepared, and generally forced UK to execute in the halfcourt, which the Wildcats proved they weren’t quite ready to do at an efficient level. Yet.

PICK: Vermont +13.5

Southern Utah @ Boise State

SUU found a willing partner to run with them in their opener against Oregon State, as Wayne Tinkle wants to show off his healthy offensive firepower, and Boise State should be willing to run with Todd Simon’s transition-reliant squad as well. There should be no shortage of points, but obviously the talent and rest is on the side of the Broncos.

PICK: Boise State -21.5

Cal Poly @ Cal

Cal looked brutal in their opener against Riverside. The backcourt talent is low, and Lee and Okoroh looked unable to shoulder the load offensively in the post. That left Don Coleman taking 28 shots and 20 free throws en route to a painfully inefficient 66 points in 78 possessions. It doesn’t get any easier against a Cal Poly defense that will mix in some unique matchup zone principles and not allow for transition opportunities in Joe Callero’s ball control offense. I don’t hold any hope of the Mustangs scoring at an efficient clip, but I’m certainly not eager to watch Cal play offensive basketball in the halfcourt, though Josh Martin has to be able to stay on the floor today for Cal Poly. He was a nonfactor and fouled out in 17 minutes in his first game back from a foot injury that cost him his season last year.

PICK: Cal Poly +7.5

Texas State @ Air Force

No idea why Danny Kaspar didn’t coach in the last Texas State exhibition game, but I haven’t heard any indication that he won’t be on the sideline today. Regardless, this figures to be an ugly game. The Bobcats likely struggle to shoot against Air Force’s zone, while the Falcons’ intricate motion offense will struggle with spacing against Texas State’s aggressive man-to-man defense. Isaiah Gurley, expected to be a key piece in the Bobcats’ offense post KGT, didn’t dress for the last exhibition game and is doubtful today.

PICK: Texas State +3.5

UL Monroe @ SMU

Keith Richard was adamant that his Warhawks were going to significantly bump up the tempo, and one game in, that appears to be accurate. ULM played 78 possessions against TCU, which is more than any D1 game they played last year, which included five OT games. Playing fast against SMU isn’t really an option, though, as you have to work the ball around the perimeter to find an open shot against Jankovich’s concrete mixer zone. This sets up poorly for the Warhawks, who were buoyed by unsustainable 3-point shooting against TCU.

PICK: SMU -17

San Diego @ San Jose State

I’m probably higher than most on USD this year, relatively speaking, with Pinero in the fold to give them some tweener athleticism they lacked last year, but I’m still not sure what to expect from SJSU. It looks like Prioleau is certainly going to extend pressure with his massive team and attack the rim, opening up the floor for Ryan Welage. Can Pinero shore up what was one of the worst rim protection defenses in the country last year? USD’s frontcourt could get blitzed today, especially as Prioleau brings his Tad Boyle influenced transition offense off the defensive glass to the fold.

PICK: SJSU +3

UMBC @ Arizona

I love Jairus Lyles, and his speed on the perimeter could cause some problems for Zona, but the elite size and athleticism of the Wildcats is just overwhelming for one of the smaller teams in the country.

PICK: Arizona -25.5

Bucknell @ Arkansas

Bucknell didn’t look right against Monmouth. The perimeter couldn’t keep any Hawk in front of them, and that doesn’t portend good things at Bud Walton against a dynamic rim attacking backcourt of Beard/Macon/Barford. Plus, the Hogs have athleticism in the frontcourt with shot-swatting Dan Gafford against Nana Foulland – assuming he doesn’t foul out in the first half.

PICK: Arkansas -9.5

UC Irvine @ Denver

Very little time for adjustments for the Eaters on a quick turnaround from South Dakota State, but the UCI defense should remain elite, particularly inside, which doesn’t portend great things for Daniel Amigo today. The issue for UCI is clearly on the offensive end. They have a lack of playmakers, which is amplified with Max Hazzard out. The defense will be there, but the offense dealing with a quick turnaround into altitude against a more prepared opponent (this is Denver’s opener) will be a major struggle.

PICK: Denver -5

UT Martin @ Illinois

Skyhawks on a quick turnaround from a dramatic OT collapse at Marshall, and they showed that they can’t guard a soul on the perimeter. Anthony Stewart’s game plan is to overwhelm opponents with a plethora of athletic wing height, but the much quicker Herd backcourt penetrated at will. Brad Underwood’s outstanding spread-motion offense and deny-heavy defense should have a field day, especially with Matthew Butler being moved onto the ball this year for UTM.

PICK: Illinois -20

Princeton @ Butler

I’m not particularly high on this Butler team, and I have some fairly major concerns with the wing corps. LaVall Jordan wants to extend pressure with Baldwin, Jorgensen and Thompson this year, but that would be a lethal error against Princeton’s backcourt. Myles Stephens can lock down on Kelan Martin, and this could be the game of the night.

PICK: Princeton +9.5

Yale @ Wisconsin

I was high on Yale, but the losses of Mason and Bruner and now on a quick turnaround from Omaha to Madison don’t really portend good things for this road trip. The Bulldogs were completely destroyed at the rim without Bruner, and Creighton only missed four of 36 shots at the rim on Friday. Jones is an outstanding basketball coach and likely has something up his sleeve scheme wise, but I shudder to think of what Ethan Happ will do tonight.

PICK: Wisconsin -15

The Citadel @ Virginia Tech

The Citadel has allowed an outrageous average of 128.5 points against high-major opponents since Duggie Ball came to the service academy.  The Loot and Shoot is simply a layup line for teams with elite talent.

PICK: VA Tech -26

UA Pine Bluff vs Troy

Based solely on visual, Troy might be worse defensively than they were last year. They were toasted in transition routinely by UND’s Geno Crandall in their first game in Hawaii. Maybe they were still finding their island legs, and UAPB is certainly a downgrade in competition, but the season-long outlook for the defending SBC champs doesn’t look good early. Pine Bluff, meanwhile, has an absurd amount of size for a SWAC team (although the frontcourt of David Tillman and Travon Harper managed to pick up nine fouls in a combined 17 minutes against Hawaii). Martaveous McKnight and Trent Steen could actually pose some matchup problems for Troy, and they have the wing length to contend with Varnado.

PICK: UA Pine Bluff +18.5

Howard @ Indiana

That couldn’t have been a worse start for Archie Miller. The “defensive mentality” that old guard Hoosier fans had been clamoring for post Tom Crean was non existent, as Greg Lansing mercifully took his foot off the gas to keep ISU from hanging 100 on the Hoosiers in Miller’s debut. Yes, ISU hit some ridiculous shots, but they also looked more athletic than IU, and the backcourt was dramatically outplayed by Jordan Barnes and Brenton Scott. Scoring was already going to be a major issue for IU this year, but if they play defense like that as well, they’ll certainly be down with Rutgers in the Big Ten pecking order. As for Howard, they represent a chance for IU to rebound, and De’Ron Davis should be able to score at will in the paint. That said, it wouldn’t shock me in the least if star wing C.J. Williams and stud frosh PG R.J. Cole go off. IU has some serious issues on  both ends.

PICK: Indiana -24.5

Eastern Washington @ Washington

UW had to rally behind freshman Jaylen Nowell and his 32 points to beat Belmont in their opener, but the Huskies’ athletic advantage over EWU should keep the Eagles at bay. That said, EWU has length and shooters against the Cuse zone, especially if 7-foot stretch 5 Benas Griciunas can draw Noah Dickerson away from the rim for Bogdan Bliznyuk to work at the high post.

PICK: EWU +9.5

North Dakota @ Hawaii

Major backcourt advantage for UND, as Geno Crandall looks ready to dominate in the Quinton Hooker role, while Marlon Stewart is a solid secondary ball handler moving into Crandall’s role from last year. Dale Jones is an underrated addition as a stretch big, but the Mike Thomas/Gibson Johnson duo in the Bows’ frontcourt poses some major concerns for Brian Jones tonight.

PICK: Hawaii -5

Pacific @ Stanford

Reid Travis should eat against what projects to be one of the weakest frontcourts in the league, and Stoudamire is integrating an entirely new backcourt into the offense; Kendall Small is a high-major talent on the ball, though, and he would love to play well against his former Pac-12 competition.

PICK: Stanford -18.5

 

Sunday’s Top 6 Picks (YTD: 3-7):

George Mason +19

Oklahoma -23

Arkansas -9.5

SJSU +3

Princeton +9.5

Illinois -20

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