Round 2 Picks: A10 Tournament

So I am a little late with this and missed the Charlotte/SLU game that started at 12…so I won’t pick that game.

Butler (-2.0) vs La Salle (+2.0)
I think La Salle is a good match-up against Butler. La Salle did beat Butler last time these teams played. La Salle is also averaging 76ppg in their last 5 games while giving up 71ppg in the same span. Butler, meanwhile, is averaging 65ppg while giving up 68ppg over their last 5. La Salle wins and they definitely cover the 2.0.

St. Joe’s (+7.0) vs VCU (-7.0)
I have VCU winning outright as they are just way more talented than St. Joe’s plus their defense will shut this Hawks team down. VCU covers but it will be because of fouling at the end of the game so if you bet on this game, expect it kind of close until the end.

UMass (+5.0) vs Temple (-5.0)
I have Temple winning this game. However, I think UMass covers. This will be a great game with Chaz Williams and Khalif Wyatt both trying to out-perform each other. There will also be a lot of 3’s. UMass has been keeping it close for the most part this year (win or lose).

So there we have it. Just know I am batting .500 in sports betting so don’t blame me for my wrong picks….and send a piece of the winnings if I am right.

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Bubble Teams And Tournament Analysis

NCAA-logo

Bleacher Report: Providence College: For a team whose only hope of making the Big Dance lies with its conference performance, Providence really failed to seize the moment on Saturday.

The Friars’ usually dangerous offense deserted them on the road at UConn, and they managed just 59 points in an overtime loss.

Conference wins over Villanova (twice), Notre Dame and Cincinnati are all going to work in favor of LaDontae Henton and his mates, but one more quality win won’t be enough.

Providence will probably need to make it all the way to the Big East final (likely beating Cincinnati, Georgetown and Pitt along the way) to feel safe on Selection Sunday.

UMass: A solid 9-7 record in the brutal Atlantic 10 is a good start to UMass’ March Madness hopes, but it’s almost all the Minutemen have.

Their best nonconference wins came against other bubble-quality teams (Ohio, Providence), and they went 0-3 against A-10 powers Butler, VCU and Saint Louis.

A conference tourney opener against George Washington will not do much for UMass’ portfolio, but potential rematches with Temple and VCU later on are a different story.

Beating the Owls and Rams on the way to the A-10 final would give the Minutemen hope (albeit slim) of sneaking into the Big Dance as an at-large.

Xavier: Xavier has added some much-needed quality wins in recent weeks, but Semaj Christon and Co. still have work to do. Wins over Butler, Memphis and Saint Louis are big assets, but losses to St. Joe’s, Dayton and (especially) Pacific really hurt.

Xavier’s biggest disadvantage at this stage is that it has only 17 wins in total, so adding quality wins is less crucial than just adding more wins, period.

With three games between them and a spot in the conference final, the Musketeers should have a good shot at a tournament berth just by getting that far.

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PC: This is kind of a shock considering how PC’s out-of-conference schedule played out with loses to UMass, BC, and Brown. The loses to BC and Brown led into Big East play where PC started 0-3 (which meant a 5-game losing streak) which included a home loss to DePaul. However, having been to a few PC games (URI, ND, and Nova), PC has shown that on any given night, they can play with anybody. The problem with almost all of those big wins: they were at home. The only good road win they have is at Villanova. Do I think PC has what it takes to make it to the Big East tournament championship? Yes I do. Do I think they can play at MSG like they play at the Dunk? Not even a little. I think PC can hope for a bid from the NIT.

UMass: Talk about a Jekyll and Hyde team. At least PC’s inconsistencies are explained by their home and away schedule/record. They started off hot (10-3 out-of-conference record) with their only loses against current tourney teams (Miami and NC State) and then Tennessee. However, once A-10 play started, they couldn’t sustain a streak (in either direction). They were a win 2 then lose 2 the rest of the way. I know the inconsistency ties in directly to Jesse Morgan going down with a torn ACL in their first A-10 game but that shouldn’t be a factor because Morgan isn’t coming back meaning the selection committee will look at what type of team UMass is without Morgan (9-7). UMass has some good road wins against La Salle and fellow bubble-teamer Xavier. UMass also has some head-scratching loses to George Washington, Charlotte, and St. Bonaventure. I think there are just too many teams in the way for UMass to get in without the auto-bid from winning the A-10 tournament.

Xavier: This team is as average as it gets. Some big wins (mentioned by the article above) and some really confusing loses. Beyond what the article pointed out, Xavier also had a stretch earlier in the season where they lost 4 in a row including a home loss to Wofford. Yes, Wofford. Since that streak (because the selection committee absolutely looks at how a team is playing recently when selecting teams), Xavier has not been able to gain any momentum after opening A-10 play. I agree Xavier needs to go far in the A-10 tournament, just for a different reason than the article pointed out (they think it is just to pad the win column). I think they need to get to the finals to show the committee that they are gaining momentum and will carry it forward into the tournament.

Game Preview: University of Massachusetts Minutemen

Minuteman

What To Expect:

-UMass is more of a “push the tempo” type of team. They average 2 shots per minute per game. They take a combined 84 shots per game (2’s and 3’s). For comparison’s sake, URI takes a combined 71 shots. UMass takes a lot of shots which are a combination of their tempo and their defensive skills. UMass pulls down 37 rebounds (25 of which are defensive) per game and steal the ball 8 times per game. These both give UMass extra possessions (read: extra shots). It is no surprise that UMass is 79th in D1 in scoring at 72ppg (that puts them in the top 23 percent of D1).

-Mike Powell might have a tough night. He’s been struggling handling the ball and turning the ball over. The UMass starting PG (well, fill-in PG) Chaz Williams is responsible for 2 of UMass’s 8 steals per game.

-I am thinking that the score will be somewhere in the ballpark of 73-68 with UMass coming out on top*.

-UMass has been up and down during conference play with wins over Richmond and La Salle; both of whom I believe are better teams than UMass. UMass also has losses to Charlotte and George Washington. I believe Charlotte is about on par with UMass in terms of talent but GW is definitely a worse team than UMass. The GW loss was at home too. I think a feisty team like URI can give them a hell of a game. URI has shown me that, outside of PC, St. Mary’s, and VaTech, they don’t get blown out and are always within striking distance in each game (that is a 15% blow out rate which is pretty good for this team).

Defensive Strategies Against Top 3 Players:

-Chaz Williams (#3): 5’9” 175lbs. G. This is their star player. He is a great guard and can play at the 1 or the 2 guard spot. He puts up 16 points, 7 assists, and 3 turnovers per game. He is extremely quick and can get around defenders with ease. His size coupled with his love to go to the basket is his weakness. As long as Jordan Hare (and his 2 blocks per game) can remember to swat the ball BEFORE it hits the backboard, he should be able to keep Williams at bay and make him think twice before driving. He’s going to get his points. URI cannot really exploit a true weakness of his. Just have to contain him and make sure he is uncomfortable going to the hole.

-Terrell Vinson (#33): 6’7” 220lbs. F. He has the size to play the 3 or 4 spot. He certainly has the stats of a PF (the “4 spot”): 48% percent shooting but only 30% from 3-point range. He is a “go to the basket” type of player as he is second (only behind Williams) on the team in free throw attempts. He only is shooting 68% from the FT line; which isn’t good, but it certainly isn’t a weakness to exploit. He will likely be guarded by Malesevic. This is a dicey match-up because 1) Vinson is bigger than Malesevic and 2) Malesevic loves to flop to draw the charge call from the refs. That approach seems to work 50% of the time; the other 50%, he ends up on the ground and the opponent has nobody between him and an easy lay-up/dunk. I think this will certainly have an impact on the game as Vinson will try and use his size to back Nik down and that is when Nik will take a couple bumps, then fall down. Let’s see if the refs are generous or not. If so, that will put Vinson in foul trouble and take him out of the game.

-Raphiael Putney (#34): 6’9” 185lbs. F. He is quite an undersized forward. He has the height, but he lacks the girth to be down in the low post. Putney is definitely in there for his defensive purposes. He puts up 7 or 8 points per game which isn’t anything to worry about. His value is elsewhere on the court, a great role player. He grabs 5 boards a game, gets an assist or 2, a steal or 2, and even a block or 2. For being their 3rd best scorer, his offensive numbers do not impress me and make me a bit optimistic of URI’s chances to win. His rebounding is where he adds the most value. His rebounds mostly are defensive rebounds (4 defensive boards and 1 offensive board per game). As long as URI doesn’t retreat back on defense after every shot, this guy can be neutralized by simply boxing him out. Aaman and Brooks both have the weight advantage on this guy and can easily box him out.

Offensive Strategies:

At this stage of the season, it doesn’t make much sense to alter or change the offensive game plan. Coach Hurley has come up with an offensive style that maximizes the skill set of the team and he should not deviate from that scheme. Just have to hope that each player “does his job,” to quote Coach Bill Belichick. Everybody does their job on offense, that should result in enough points to hopefully win.

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*UMass Scores: 70.2ppg over their last 5 games overall; 77.6ppg over their last 5 home games.
UMass Gives up: 66.6ppg over their last 5 games overall; 70.4ppg over their last 5 home games.
URI Scores: 68.4ppg over their last 5 games overall; 66.6ppg over their last 5 road games.
URI Gives up: 71.4ppg over their last 5 games overall; 73.4ppg over their last 5 road games.
I weighted the “home” and “road” scoring and given up numbers higher than the overall numbers because the UMass home results and URI road results are most applicable to this game.