Month: February 2017

CBB Picks: 2/28

SOUTH CAROLINA (-13) over Mississippi State

The second-worst offense in the SEC travels to play one of the best defenses in the country likely without the services of their top scorer.

DAVIDSON (-3) over St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies haven’t beaten a team in the Top 120  in seven tries, but now they’re going to go in to Davidson and win on Jack Gibbs’s senior night? The Wildcats are the least turnover prone team in the A-10, so they should be able to hand the Bonnie’s pressure just fine.

IOWA STATE (-3) over Oklahoma State

Feels like it’ll be one of those nights where Hilton alone is going to get a win for the Cyclones, especially with the fact they’ll be honoring six seniors. Outside of that, ISU shouldn’t have much of an issue with an overaggressive Cowboy defense that’ll give them plenty of opportunities to score. OSU’s been on a tear, but I’m not sure anybody could win in Ames tonight.

Season: 137-120-1 (53.3%)

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Big Ten Bracketology: One Week Left

 


Five Stars From the Past Week:

Nick Ward, Michigan State – averaged 21.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in two wins

Malcolm Hill, Illinois – averaged 18.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.5 steals in two wins

Moe Wagner, Michigan – 24 points (22 in first half), 3 rebounds, and 2 steals in win over Purdue

Jordan Bohannon, Iowa – 24 points (8-10 from three), 3 rebounds, and 5 assists in win at Maryland

The Team, Minnesota – significant contributions from everyone in the rotation on the way to two wins

Five Seven Games to Watch This Week:

Indiana at Purdue, Tuesday, 7:00 pm EST, ESPN2

Michigan at Northwestern, Wednesday, 7:00 pm EST, BTN

Michigan State at Illinois, Wednesday, 9:00 pm EST, BTN

Indiana at Ohio State, Saturday, 12:00 pm EST, ESPN

Michigan State at Maryland, 2:00 pm EST, BTN

Purdue at Northwestern, 4:30 pm EST, CBS

Minnesota at Wisconsin, 6:00 pm EST, BTN



 

Locks

Purdue – 4 Seed (4.16 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

The Boilermakers still somehow find themselves in the driver’s seat of the Big Ten, despite not playing particularly well in both games last week.

Let me get out my fire barrel take now: I thought they actually played better at Michigan than they did at Penn State. They didn’t make a lot of smart decisions in Happy Valley, they were careless with the ball even by their own poor standards in that department, and I didn’t think they gave great effort until they realized they just might lose. But they hit 12 threes and the Nittany Lions only hit two, despite getting many open looks.

That’s not to say they were without flaw in Ann Arbor, but that game largely came down to Michigan hitting a lot of shots that they hit on pretty much everyone that walks into Crisler Arena and Purdue missing what seemed like every attempt they had near the rim.

Purdue is very likely going to be a Big Ten champion sometime this week. What form it comes in, we’ll see. Bart Torvik gives them a 66% chance to win it outright and a 96% chance for a share.

I think my favorite outcome of the Big Ten season would be the 0.2% chance (my own calculations) that there’s a four-way tie for first at 12-6.

This week: home for Indiana, at Northwestern

Minnesota – 5 Seed (5.59 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

At one point, Minnesota was 3-6 in the conference. With a week left to go, they now find themselves in that “0.2% chance of happening” spot where they could potentially have a share of the Big Ten title. And that’s probably why Richie Pitino is going to win the COY award for the Big Ten. I’ve been hard on Mini-Slick Rick, but he deserves it.

Remember last week when I made all those graphs showing the volatility of scoring coming from Murphy, McBrayer, Springs, and Curry? Well, this week the former three all scored double figures in both games and Curry scored four in each game.

It turns out having five guys all score a lot of points is really helpful in securing wins.

We also got to see what it looks like for Reggie Lynch not to foul himself out of the game and it looks like eleven (11) blocks.

What we saw this week was Peak Minnesota. Peak Minnesota is a really good team and could go far in March. We’ll see if it lasts.

This week: home for Nebraska, at Wisconsin

Wisconsin – 6 Seed (6.01 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

Turns out that second half against Maryland didn’t jumpstart the Badgers to take off. It’s starting to become a little clearer now that was more likely just part of Maryland’s quick descent to mediocrity.

There were a lot of things I was wrong on when I was projecting the Big Ten this year (Minnesota, Ohio State, and Thomas Bryant come to mind), but here’s what I wrote about Wisconsin when I picked them to finish fifth:

I don’t think I’m giving you any new information when I tell you that the Badgers are returning everyone from last year. To me, there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors with the second half of their season last year. Their offense still left a lot to be desired. They pulled out a few one or two possession games at home or on neutral courts. They caught Maryland and Iowa at the right times.

I’m not saying they’re not good. They’ll still win a lot of games. But they’re not the team that went to back-to-back Final Fours. They don’t have two lottery picks on the roster. Their highest usage player wasn’t very efficient last year and is now a social advocate!

Call me a skeptic, but I view them more as “typical Wisconsin” and not “peak Wisconsin”, if that makes sense.

The Badgers aren’t going to finish fifth, but there’s a semi-decent chance that they finish 12-6, which in a typical Big Ten season is the record of the #5 seed in the conference tourney. The rest of the league didn’t live up to my personal expectation, but Wisconsin is largely what I thought they would be.

I think this week they hit some unfortunate luck in Columbus with Ohio State being uncharacteristically lethal from outside, but the Badgers aren’t in a position to complain. Before this stretch of five games, they came out on the right side of every close game they played. Sure, experience helps in those situations, but the real analytics guys will tell you the outcomes of those close games are largely luck.

With all that said, the Badgers still have a decent chance to get a share of the Big Ten championship this week, same as every year.

This week: home for Iowa and Minnesota

Maryland – 7 Seed (6.84 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

Yikes. There’s been a lot of talk about the freshmen hitting a wall when they saw a dip in their scoring and now it’s on to Melo Trimble’s scoring. But the biggest reason for the drop recently is the Terp defense taking a nosedive.

maryland.png

The strength of schedule is obviously vastly different, but in the first 20 games the Terps only allowed six (30%) of their opponents to score more than a point per possession. In the nine games since, seven (78%) of opponents have eclipsed that mark. Not ideal.

At this point, it looks like Maryland might have to play in one of the dreaded 8/9 or 7/10 games in the tournament.

This week: at Rutgers, home for Michigan State

Almost Locks

Michigan – 9 Seed (9.12 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

The win over Purdue likely locks the Wolverines into the tournament, but they probably need to win one this week to feel truly comfortable and that’s not going to be an easy task.

The good news is that Michigan is playing really well right now. Moe Wagner basically won the Purdue game in the first half with his hot shooting and Derrick Walton put it on ice in the second half of his senior day.

But the most underrated part of that game may be the emergence of Xavier Simpson. He didn’t do anything spectacular, but he got 11 minutes, scored 7 points, and made a couple of really nice plays for his teammates. If he can be another guy in the rotation for John Beilein, that would be huge.

Typically you’re only trying to shorten your rotation at this point, but there’s only six solid in there for the Wolverines right now. Sure, Mark Donnal plays, but it seems like it’s more for the purpose of giving the other bigs a break and not so much that he actually brings any real contribution.

But it’s just one game for Simpson. He had a very similar outing against Michigan State at home and responded by scoring two points over the next four games. Something to keep an eye on this week.

This week: at Northwestern and Nebraska

Northwestern – 9 Seed (9.28 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

Ohhhhhhhhh boy.

I guess it’s only fitting that Northwestern would make this harder than it needed to be. The good news is that they’re still in a pretty favorable position and would without a doubt make the field if it were set today. The other good news: if they win either game this week they’ll essentially be a lock.

The bad news: they’re going to have to play a lot better than they have in recent weeks to win this week. Michigan and Purdue, along with Minnesota, have been the three best teams in the Big Ten over the last month.

And both the Wolverines and Boilermakers will have a lot to play for this week. I’d expect Welsh-Ryan to be very fervent this week, but both visiting teams will be equally motivated.

They could use a hot shooting day, something that’s only happened a couple of times in the past month and a half.

This week: Michigan and Purdue at home

Michigan State – 10 Seed (9.42 Average| 113/113 Brackets)

Big week for the Spartans. As I pointed out a couple weeks ago, they’re really tough to beat at home. The Breslin Center was like a super power for them this Big Ten season. Don’t believe me? Just look at a few things Matt McQuaid did in that Wisconsin game:

And my personal favorite:

But now they hit the road and they’ll only be in East Lansing for practice the rest of the way. These next two weeks we’ll find out just how dangerous they are when it matters.

This week: at Illinois and Maryland

BACK FROM THE DEAD

Illinois – Next Four Out (11.30 Average| 10/113 Brackets)

Time for an overused GIF:

Image result for undertaker coffin gif

I’ll admit it. I recently declared Illinois as the clear 13th best team in the Big Ten. That appears not to be so. They have lately been doing this thing where they win a lot of games.

How has it happened? Improved three-point shooting and really good defense. That part is not a surprise. That’s the same formula as when they went on a tear from post-Brooklyn trip up until Big Ten play. Also not a surprise because making threes and preventing other teams from scoring is a really good way to win in modern basketball.

Now the Illini get another chance for a Top 50 win with Michigan State coming to town. Given the way the Spartans have played on the road, it’s a really, really good chance.

It would be extremely 2016-17 Illinois basketball to beat Michigan State and then lose at Rutgers over the weekend.

This week: home for Michigan State, at Rutgers

Not Officially Dead

Indiana – Others Receiving Votes (12.00 Average| 1/113 Brackets)

The Hoosiers got a big win over Northwestern, but they still have a lot of work to do. The only bracket that currently has IU in the field also has Kansas as 2, Baylor as a 4, Wichita as a 6, and Princeton as a 12. Point being, it’s a terrible bracket.

But they have a great opportunity this week to partially undo that 1-7 stretch. Winning at Purdue, a rival and a team that’s trying to clinch the championship, would be about as impressive a win as they’ve had all season. It doesn’t look probable on paper, but they do have some matchups that prevent problems for Purdue. Parlay that with a win at Ohio State, get themselves a bye out of the first day of the Big Ten Tournament, and all the sudden they’re in business.

Now what are the chances of that happening? Roughly 7%, according to KenPom. Not great, but the odds were probably similar that Indiana would lose 7 of 8 at any point this year.

This week: at Purdue and Ohio State

Iowa – N/A Seed (0.00 Average| 0/113 Brackets)

Beating IU and Maryland in the same week is bigger in terms of beating brand names than what they’re actually worth in terms of a 2017 NCAA Tournament resume, but it still keeps the Hawkeyes hanging around.

Along with Reggie Lynch’s 11 blocks against Penn State, Peter Jok scoring 35 points on 12 attempts is probably the most bizarre stat line of the week. It would be less bizarre if it was someone like Melo Trimble, but Jok’s a volume guy that doesn’t typically spend a ton of time at the line. He had only had double-digit free throw attempts six times in his career with a high of 12. He had 23 against the Hoosiers.

Now if the Hawks can get a win in Madison, that’ll really get them some momentum heading into the postseason, assuming they take care of business against Penn State on Jok’s senior day.

Their best chance to beat the Badgers is the same way they beat the Terps and that’s by burying 1,000 three-pointers (actually 16). That’s obviously tough to do, but it is the weak spot of the Wisconsin defense.

This week: at Wisconsin, home for Penn State

Ohio State – N/A Seed (0.00 Average| 0/113 Brackets)

Their only game of the week was a big win over Wisconsin. I’m not sure the Buckeyes really played any better than they have been, though. The Badgers are obviously scuffling and the only real noticeable difference for OSU was their 10-16 (63%) three-point shooting and 23-27 (85%) free throw shooting.

I’d like for it to be a sign of things to come, but I don’t think that’s a repeatable formula for them. They did a great job defending down low, but I think they’ve done that well all year. It was impressive that they kept that going despite Trevor Thompson only playing 11 minutes due to foul trouble.

If they manage to win both this week and do a little damage in the Big Ten Tournament, they have to at least be in the conversation for the NCAAs, right? I would have to think so, although that FAU loss has been the albatross around their neck all season.

This week: at Penn State, home for Indiana

Dead

Penn State

They nearly beat Purdue, despite only going 2-18 from three. They’ll be a problem for a lot of teams next year.

This week: home for Ohio State, at Iowa

Nebraska

I backed the wrong horse last week. I went with the Huskers, turns out it should’ve been Illinois.

This week: at Minnesota, home for Michigan

Rutgers

They seem to be on a mission to ruin someone’s tournament resume. They’ve just barely failed to close the deal against Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Michigan. This week they get stumbling Maryland and surging Illinois at home. Best of luck to those two.

This week: Maryland and Illinois at home

Comparing This Year’s Final Four Contenders to Recent Participants

Instead of doing another Undervalued, Overvalued, or Properly Valued blog, I figured I’d change it up a bit this time and make some comparisons between this year’s Final Four contenders and past Final Four participants in the KenPom era.

It was a much more time-consuming process than I was expecting. I broke teams down by their four or five attributes that are favorable to their ranking in the MLPPR and the four or five that hurt their ranking.

I then went back and tried to find teams with similar makeups that did make the Final Four. Some were easier than others. None of them are perfect, although some are pretty close. I didn’t want to use any old teams twice, which proved to be a challenge (2013 teams are very comparable to teams this year, apparently).

In a lot of cases, these are versions of this year’s teams as their best selves, which you tend to be when you win at least four games in the NCAA Tournament. I included every team that was in the Top 24 of the seed line, according to the Bracket Matrix. I also included Wichita State and Oklahoma State because the mainstream predictive ranking sites like them and those teams tend to do well in March.

If you don’t know the basis of the MLPPR, you can find out more here.

We’ll be back with a lot more MLPPR-related material in two weeks when the bracket is announced and I’ll be in the middle of a two-week state of euphoria.

1 Seeds

Gonzaga (MLPPR: 1)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, DEFG%, D2P%, O2P%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, OR%, Bench

Final Four Comp: ’06 Florida

I know Gonzaga sucks now because they lost to a Top 70 team and it completely invalidates them winning 29 games in a row – including five against Top 25 competition – but they still somehow find themselves in the Top 6 of both offensive and defensive efficiency and a similar makeup to the last team to win back-to-back national championships. Weird.

This picture is technically of the ’07 title team, but it was practically the same.

Villanova (MLPPR: 8)

Biggest Additions: OE, OEFG%, O2P%, D FTA/FGA

Biggest Subtractions: OR%, D2P%, DEFG%, D A/FGM

Final Four Comp: ’07 Florida

Seems fitting with Nova going for their repeat this year. Similar to the Gators, the offense has seen a slight uptick for the Wildcats in Year 2, while the defense has regressed slightly.

Neither Villanova or Gonzaga have three lottery picks on the roster, but they both have multiple pros, at least.

Kansas (MLPPR: 2)

Biggest Additions: OE, OEFG%, O3P%, D2P%, OR%

Biggest Subtractions: D3P%, DE, DEFG%, DR%, OSteal%

Final Four Comp: ’05 North Carolina

The Jayhawks aren’t quite at that level just yet and one of the biggest differences is they aren’t as good on the glass. That’s an area that’s actually gotten better for KU in Big 12 play, but Sean May is never walking through that door, so…

North Carolina (MLPPR: 14)

Biggest Additions: OE, OR%, OTO%, D FTA/FGA

Biggest Subtractions: DEFG%, D2P%, Bench, OBlock%

Final Four Comp: ’08 North Carolina

All of Roy’s Final Four teams at UNC are pretty much the same and the good news for Tar Heel fans is that this team is in that realm. This team and the ’08 group that lost to Kansas in the semifinals share their dominance on the glass and strikingly similar shooting and point distribution numbers.

2 Seeds

Louisville (MLPPR: 6)

Biggest Additions: Defense, pretty much all of it

Biggest Subtractions: OEFG%, O2P%, D FTA/FGA, Bench

Final Four Comp: ’02 Oklahoma

I don’t remember a single thing about that Oklahoma team other than Hollis Price getting buckets. And if we’re being honest, I won’t remember anything about this Louisville team in 15 years other than Donovan Mitchell getting buckets.

Baylor (MLPPR: 5)

Biggest Additions: Defense, SOS, Bench

Biggest Subtractions: OTO%, OE, O3P%, D A/FGM

Final Four Comp: ’06 UCLA

Basically the exact same team with the small caveat that Baylor has four less future NBA players than UCLA had. Very minor detail.

Oregon (MLPPR: 4)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O2P%, DEFG%, D3P%, D FTA/FGA, D Block%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, OTO%, O Block%

Final Four Comp: ’07 Georgetown

Similar makeup, similar early season struggles (even more so for the Hoyas), and the Ducks would probably be closer to the Hoyas in efficiency numbers if they had Healthy Dillon Brooks all year. Brooks is essentially the Jeff Green in this equation and Chris Boucher is a much more athletic, more versatile Roy Hibbert.

Arizona (MLPPR: 20)

Biggest Additions: O3P%, D3P%, D FTA/FGA, Height, O Steal%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, D2P%, DE, O2P%

Final Four Comp: (Watered Down) ’10 Duke

I was getting pretty desperate for new teams by the time I got to Arizona and this is the result. It’s a weird comparison, but the efficiency numbers are similar. Duke was just better, especially defensively. The thing Arizona has going for it is that they’re actually much more talented, just significantly less experienced. It didn’t help that their best returning player was out until late January.

3 Seeds

Florida (MLPPR: 9)

Biggest Additions: DE, DEFG%, D3P%, D A/FGM

Biggest Subtractions: OEFG%, O2P%, Bench, O A/FGM, D FTA/FGA

Final Four Comp: ’13 Louisville

The tough part about this comp is that Florida would have to go on a run without their Gorgui Dieng, which is John Egbunu. Probably not gonna happen.

Kentucky (MLPPR: 7)

Biggest Additions: Offense, D3P%, D A/FGM

Biggest Subtractions: D2P%, D FTA/FGA, DPoss, DEFG%

Final Four Comp: ’04 Oklahoma State

Last team to win an outright Big 12 title not named Kansas. Oklahoma State didn’t quite have the talent in the backcourt that Kentucky has, but they did have Tony Allen.

UCLA (MLPPR: 17)

Biggest Additions: Offense, D FTA/FGA, D2P%, Height

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, DE, D3P%, OR%

Final Four Comp: ’03 Marquette

I’m just imagining Steve Alford going back to Indiana to replace Crean and telling every recruit that he reminds of him of Lonzo Ball. That joke might be too inside.

Anyway, Marquette also was great at the offense and not so great at the defense with a future Top 5 pick running the show and a couple of other pros around him.

Butler (MLPPR: 30)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, OTO%, O2P%, D A/FGM

Biggest Subtractions: DE, DEFG%, D2P%, OR%

Final Four Comp: ’13 Michigan

This is not your older brother’s Butler basketball. It’s a potent offensive team with some obvious, possibly (probably) fatal flaws. Their numbers look like the Michigan team that damn near rode Spike Albrecht to a national championship, only they have six less NBA players, which is quickly becoming a common theme in this blog.

4 Seeds

West Virginia (MLPPR: 22)

Biggest Additions: OR%, OStl%, DE, DBlock%, DSteal%

Biggest Subtractions: D FTA/FGA, DEFG%, DPoss, SOS, Bench

Final Four Comp: ’94 Arkansas

I had to get inventive here because there’s no team that’s pressed like West Virginia that has made the Final Four in the KenPom era. I was rather young, but if I’m gathering this correctly, Arkansas and its “40 Minutes of Hell” put on a press from time-to-time.

No offense to the Mountaineer crowd, but Nathan Adrian isn’t exactly the equivalent to Big Nasty.

Purdue (MLPPR: 15)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O3P%, D FTA/FGA, DEFG%, D2P%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, OTO%, OSteal%, DBlock%

Final Four Comp: ’16 Oklahoma

Caleb Swanigan gets all of the national attention, but Purdue’s shooting is really the star of the offense. They’re not quite as reliant as the Sooners were last year, but it’s similar. Outside of Buddy Hield, the one thing the Boilers could use that Oklahoma had was a shot-blocker like Khadeem Lattin. They could also use the weakest bracket in the field, which OU was fortunate enough to get last year.

Florida State (MLPPR: 11)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O2P%, OTO%, Height, D Block%

Biggest Subtractions: D FTA/FGA, Bench, DR%, SOS

Final Four Comp: (Watered Down) ’15 Kentucky

Extremely watered down, I suppose.

The Seminoles do have a lot of talent, although not quite 2015 Kentucky levels, but they do run as deep and they have the height. You could make the argument that the Noles are better offensively, but although still good, they’re nowhere near the lever Kentucky was defensively.

Duke (MLPPR: 10)

Biggest Additions: Offense, D3P%, Height

Biggest Subtractions: DE, DEFG%, D2P%

Final Four Comp: ’15 Duke

I’ve made this comparison like three times now, so might as well keep it consistent. The worry about the Blue Devils this year is their defense. They went from 48th to 38th from Friday to Sunday in DE. The 2015 version was probably in a worse spot defensively than this team was until they turned the corner around at the end of February.

Sure, Duke just lost twice this week. You know what they did at this time two years ago? Went to OT against a Virginia Tech team that was 2-16 in the ACC and 175th in the KenPom rankings.

5 Seeds

Virginia (MLPPR: 3)

Biggest Additions: OTO%, SOS, DE, DEFG%

Biggest Subtractions: OE, OR%, D FTA/FGA, Bench

Final Four Comp: ’04 Georgia Tech

Image result for 2004 georgia tech basketball

I’ve become very uncomfortable with the Virginia ranking now that they’re losing a bunch of games, but Georgia Tech is a good comp in more than just their efficiencies.

The Yellow Jackets also had a rough time in the ACC. This was back when there were only nine teams and you played everybody twice, but it was the highest rated league back then and GT was 6-7 before winning their last three games. They entered the tournament at 23-9 overall and a #3 seed before making the final game.

That’s the good news for Cavs fans. The bad news? That Yellow Jacket team won all five of their games by five points or less or in overtime. Fun!

Minnesota (MLPPR: 27)

Biggest Additions: Defense, OTO%, Height

Biggest Subtractions: OE, OEFG%, 2P%, OR%, SOS

Final Four Comp: ’14 UConn

Image result for shabazz napier uconn

Both really good defensive teams with shot blockers with questionable offenses. Of course the Huskies had Bazz, which was nice. The obvious candidate to be that guy for the Gophers is Nate Mason. He’s not as good as Napier, but he has shown that ability to take over and win games for Minnesota. He did it to both Purdue and Indiana this year.

Cincinnati (MLPPR: 13)

Biggest Additions: DEFG%, D2P%, OTO%, D Block%, O2P%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, OE, OFT%, D3P%

Final Four Comp: ’13 Wichita State

Image result for 2013 wichita state basketball

Pretty, pretty similar teams. The Bearcats are actually probably a little better and their seed will be more favorable to go on a run. The obvious concern is the offense, especially going against a zone.

Notre Dame (MLPPR: 24)

Biggest Additions: OTO%, OEFG%, O3P%, D FTA/FGA

Biggest Subtractions: Defense, OR%, O Block%

Final Four Comp: (Watered Down) ’14 Wisconsin

I think most people probably think of defense when they think about Wisconsin basketball, but those back-to-back Final Four teams were actually a couple of the worst defensive teams to make the final weekend in recent years.

Now Notre Dame is still a ways from even reaching Wisconsin’s defensive level, but they’ve been improving on that end lately.

6 Seeds (and Wichita State and Oklahoma State)

Wisconsin (MLPPR: 19)

Biggest Additions: D2P%, OR%, D FTA/FGA, DE

Biggest Subtractions: D3P%, OE, OEFG%, O3P%, SOS

Final Four Comp: ’14 Florida

Image result for 2014 florida basketball

Admittedly kind of a stretch here, especially with how Wisconsin is playing recently, but if Wisconsin is going to succeed in March it’ll be because they grind teams defensively, just like Florida did.

SMU (MLPPR: 12)

Biggest Additions: Defense, OR%, O3P%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, O2P%, D A/FGM

Final Four Comp: ’13 Syracuse

Image result for 2013 syracuse basketball

I love this comparison. Syracuse’s zone was better than SMU’s is this year, but the Mustangs score a little easier. It’s hard to tell exactly how good SMU is because they play in the AAC, but they’ve been really consistent this year. Hopefully whoever they play in the first round isn’t gift wrapped a win because of horrendous officiating.

Saint Mary’s (MLPPR: 18)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O2P%, DEFG%, D3P%, D FTA/FGA

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, D Block%, D Steal%, DE, O Steal%

Final Four Comp: ’06 UCLA  ’07 UCLA

Image result for russell westbrook ucla

I didn’t realize I doubled up on ’06 UCLA. Instead of finding the next best fit, I took the easy way out and just put ’07 UCLA, so we could get Brodie involved. I don’t think Saint Mary’s will make the Final Four, largely due to an extreme lack of Westbrook.

Let’s watch some very grainy footage:

Creighton (MLPPR: 25)

Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O3P%, O2P%, OTO%, D Poss, D FTA/FGA

Biggest Subtractions: OR%, DE, DEFG%, D2P%, SOS

Final Four Comp: ’05 Michigan State

Image result for 2005 michigan state basketball

I was desperate. Creighton isn’t close to rebounding as well as the Spartans, but they shoot a lot better.

The Bluejays are one of like five teams in this blog that matches pretty closely with 2013 Michigan.

Wichita State (MLPPR: 16)

Biggest Additions: DEFG%, D2P%, OEFG%, O3P%, OTO%

Biggest Subtractions: SOS, Bench, D FTA/FGA

Final Four Comp: ’05 Louisville

Image result for 2005 louisville final four

Not a good sized picture, but it’s the only one I could find of the Holy Trinity of Rick Pitino, Francisco Garcia, and Reggie Theus.

This was back in the C-USA days for Louisville, so that part fits the Shockers playing a MVC schedule. That’s just one of the many similarities.

Look at the KenPom profiles:

I don’t know if you can really see all the numbers that well, but you can see the green shading, which is all you need.

Oklahoma State (MLPPR: 47)

Biggest Additions: OE, OR%, 3P%, SOS

Biggest Subtractions: DEFENSE

Final Four Comp: ’11 VCU

Image result for 2011 vcu basketball

I’m having PTSD from the Rams scoring 1,000 points against Purdue.

VCU made the Final Four despite having the worst defensive profile you could possibly have almost. They did it with their guards shredding defenses on the other end, which is what the Jawun Evans could do for the Cowboys. The OSU defense is actually worse than VCU because they not only give up so many easy buckets around the rim, but they double down by fouling all the time.

CBB Picks: 2/25

BOSTON COLLEGE (+6) over Virginia Tech

Who knows where BC is at mentally, but it is senior day and you’d expect them to at least play hard. They can shoot on the Hokies, which they did the first meeting, specifically Chatman. Tough spot for VT. They’re coming off a huge (near) buzzer-beating win over Clemson at home and this game is sandwiched between that and meetings next week with Miami and Wake at home. Big difference in conference records between the two teams, but efficiency numbers suggest the line should only by a couple.

Oregon (-7.5) over STANFORD

Stanford is 0-10 in these KenPom Tier A games and they’ve only been within double digits one time. And I don’t think any of those teams are better than Oregon. The Cardinal are so one-dimensional offensively because they can’t shoot. The line should probably be closer to double what it is.

MICHIGAN (+1) over Purdue

The Wolverines are playing their best defense of the year lately and the type of length their interior guys have has been problematic for Purdue’s big guys. With the way Derrick Walton has played recently, he might have a big day against the Boiler backcourt, which still has some struggles guarding guys off the dribble. That’s not necessarily Walton’s game, but he’s capable. It would only be fitting of this Big Ten season for Purdue to drop this game when they’re in the driver’s seat to win the title.

SAINT LOUIS (+2) over St. Joseph’s

The Hawks are in a landslide with both Kimble and Newkirk out now. The Billikens have been fairly decent at home lately.

GEORGIA (-12) over LSU

Maten is out, but the Bulldogs survived Alabama without him and you have to take every opportunity down the stretch here to bet against LSU.

Nevada (-7) over UNLV

Speaking of teams to bet against, UNLV has been coming apart at the seams ever since they lost three straight games by a combined 8 points. Since, they’ve been blown out four times and lost at home to lowly San Jose State. One of those blowouts was in Reno by 27, a game in which the Pack scored 104 points.

COLORADO ST. (-2.5) over San Diego St.

CSU is in a dead heat with Nevada for the MW race and it should be a raucous environment in Moby with the former kings of the league coming to town. The Aztecs looked horrible the other night against Fresno and really haven’t looked all that good since they whooped Nevada at home a couple weeks ago. I’m picturing the Aztecs shooting themselves out of this one.

UC DAVIS (-3.5) over Long Beach St.

No part of me thinks the Beach can go up to Davis and win this game, which means they probably will.

GONZAGA (-19.5) over BYU

Probably just going to take the Zags to cover every game from now until the end of the season. Their efficiency spreads in WCC play are unprecedented (not a fact supported claim, but it’s hard to imagine anyone doing better than a +40.1).

 

Season: 132-115-1 (53.5%)

CBB Picks: 2/23

MICHIGAN STATE (-4) over Nebraska

Sparty already rolled over the Huskers in Lincoln, but this one is a little different. Ed Morrow is back for Nebraska and Eron Harris is now out for MSU. As poorly as Harris has played in Big Ten play, I don’t think it’s as big of a loss as it might seem. If anything, it probably means a little more PT for Alvin Ellis, who has found his shooting stroke lately. Admittedly, Harris would help defending Tai Webster. But even with Ed Morrow back, I don’t think the Huskers have enough to punish MSU’s lack of frontcourt depth and they still don’t have somebody to slow down Bridges. Above all else – as I’ve written about in the Big Ten blogs – MSU is just a much different team at home.

WILLIAM & MARY (-6.5) over Hofstra – 2u

Speaking of teams that are a lot better at home. The Tribe’s TWELVE (12) least efficient games on offense came on the road. Their NINE (9) most efficient games all came at home. And it’s not just a slight difference. It’s like .4 ppp better, which is a gulf. In their last five games at home (all in the CAA), they’ve had at least 1.24 ppp and won those games by an average of 20 points. And tonight they go against the 9th (out of 10) best defense in the league. I don’t feel like I need to even discuss the other end.

OHIO STATE (+7) over Wisconsin

It’s tough to trust this Buckeye team, but on the flip side, the Badgers have been very average away from the Kohl Center. I think OSU has a much better chance to defend Wisconsin than they did when the two teams met in Madison in January. Happ gets all the love in the league for his post defense, Reggie Lynch as well because of his block numbers, but Trevor Thompson is as good as anybody. He proved as much against Happ in game one. The place to beat OSU is shots on the perimeter and the Badgers haven’t shot it well for a month now, which is largely due to Koenig and Vitto Brown not shooting it well for a month. Say what you want about OSU, but nobody has come out of Value City  with an easy win.

Season: 130-113-1 (53.5%)

CBB Picks: 2/22

Northern Iowa (-1) over INDIANA STATE

ISU is 4-12 in the MVC with those wins coming against three teams with a combined league record of 15-34. They’re going to have a hard time scoring on the Panthers, which is a pretty common theme for the Trees. This is about the time for a Jacobson squad to be at their best and you’d expect them to be ready to go after getting their asses kicked in Wichita.

UConn (+8) over HOUSTON

I don’t really see that much of a difference between the two teams right now, not in their style of play, but their level of play. UConn had a disastrous first half of the season largely due to injuries, but they’ve quietly won 7 of 8 with their only loss coming at Cincinnati. I think they’ll be able to find some success on the perimeter tonight and they’ve shot free throws really well lately, which is key against Houston. They should have an advantage on the glass, but they can’t let turnovers mitigate the rebounding edge.

Oregon (-2.5) over CAL

Of course Cal is always good in Haas, but it hasn’t been enough to get them wins against teams that are strides better than them, which Oregon is. The Bears hang their hat on defense, but guess who’s the one team that’s been even better on that end in Pac-12 play? Not many teams are better suited to slow down Ivan Rabb than the Ducks. With that and Charlie Moore not appearing to be 100%, I think you have to like Oregon’s chances of finding more points.

NEVADA (-5) over Boise State

Massive game in terms of the Mountain West title race. Winner ties CSU atop the standings. The Pack have been nearly unbeatable at home, with the only exception coming against Fresno, who just might be their Kryptonite. Boise loves to settle for jumpers and that’s not the way to beat UNR. It didn’t work the first time when they went 6-24 from three and lost by 19 at home.

Season: 127-112-1 (53.1%)

CBB Picks: 2/21

VIRGINIA TECH (-1.5) over Clemson

Always love the Hokies at home and they’ve been playing well lately, despite losing Chris Clarke. They already won at Clemson this year. It was close, but it was also the Tigers best shooting performance from three-point range all year. Clarke’s absence will have even less of an impact against the Tigers. Clemson is one of the worst rebounding teams in the league.

Auburn (-3.5) over LSU

Not all that different from betting that a team that has lost 13 games in a row is going to lose again. LSU has only really even come close to winning twice in that stretch. Auburn has its own problems, but they’re 11-1 in games that they’re the higher rated team and on this occasion they’re the better team by quite a bit.

VALPO (-13.5) over Milwaukee

Senior day for Alec Peters and Shane Hammink. Nobody loves anything more than white dudes at Valpo love Alec Peters, so it should be a great environment. The Crusaders also are trying to hold off Oakland and they need this one before they hit the road this weekend. They’ve already blown out the Panthers once this year.

GEORGIA TECH (-3.5) over NC State – 2u

Favorite heavy today, but we’ve got a team fighting for its tournament life at home going against a gutless team with a deadweight coach and it’s only 3.5?

Season: 126-108-1 (53.8%)

Big Ten Power Rankings

 


Five Stars From the Past Week:

Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas, Purdue – combined to average 39.0 points and 24.0 rebounds in two wins

Melo Trimble, Maryland – averaged 29.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in two games

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin – averaged 21.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 3.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks in two games

Malcolm Hill, Illinois – 21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in win at Iowa

Tai Webster and Glynn Watson, Nebraska – combined to average 29.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 2.5 steals in two wins

Five Best Games to Watch This Week:

Minnesota at Maryland, Wednesday, 8:30 pm EST, BTN

Wisconsin at Ohio State, Thursday, 9:00 pm EST, ESPN

Purdue at Michigan, Saturday, 4:00 pm EST, ESPN2

Northwestern at Indiana, Saturday, 8:00 pm EST, BTN

Wisconsin at Michigan State, Sunday, 4:00 pm EST, CBS


 

Contenders

1. Purdue – 4 Seed (94/94 brackets)

The Boilers rolled over MSU and Rutgers at home, but maybe the biggest news of the week for them was Wisconsin and Maryland both losing. After dropping some questionable games in the first half of the conference season, it’s now up to Purdue whether they grab at least a share of the title.

It’s not going to be an easy road, but if they’re going to do it, it’s going to come down to the old cliché of “defense wins championships”. The inconsistency of the Boilers in January was entirely due to their inconsistency without the ball.

That has changed. Look at their defensive efficiency numbers from January to February.

Best Worst Range Average
January 75.9 119.9 44.0 102.6
February 79.9 97.7 17.8 89.7

As you can see they’ve not only played better defense, but they’ve done it every single game, not allowing any of their five opponents in February to score a point per possession.

And this has coincided with a bit of a shooting slump at the other end. When they get both of those things going at the same time, they’re one of the best teams in college basketball.

As far as the race for the Big Ten title goes, Purdue will have the toughest road despite the fact that they’ve been playing the best of the top 3 over the past couple of weeks. The schedule isn’t favorable at all, but it’s hard to bet against them right now.

This week: at Penn State and Michigan

2. Wisconsin – 5 Seed (94/94 brackets)

I quietly wondered to myself if maybe the Badgers would be better off playing at Michigan without Bronson Koenig. Not because Koenig isn’t really valuable to the team, but as I’ve pointed out the past couple weeks, he hasn’t shot it well and it’s unsurprisingly negatively impacted his team.

Well, D’Mitrik Trice stepped up in his spot and went 2-15 from the field. So much for that. It didn’t help that Nigel Hayes was largely invisible, which is something that happens far too often for a guy that’s played as many minutes in his career as he has.

But the Badgers responded by getting probably their most important victory to date.

Every fanbase seems to have one guy on their team every year that they repeatedly criticize. Sometimes it’ll change from month-to-month. This guy’s play is the difference between mediocrity and greatness, according to the fanbase.

For instance, Purdue’s guy has alternated between Isaac Haas and Vince(nt) Edwards this year. I’m not deep in the Ohio State message boards, but I would assume it’s either JaQuan Lyle or Marc Loving. Seems like James Blackmon, Rob Johnson, and Thomas Bryant have all had their turn for IU this year.

Well, it appears as if Vitto Brown is the guy for Wisconsin. I’ve seen more and more chatter about the best lineups for the Badgers and seemingly none of them feature the senior forward.

I get it. Brown shot 42% from three in Big Ten play last year and shots beyond the arc only accounted for about a third of his total field goal attempts all season. This year? He’s shooting 25% from three in conference games and about 60% of his total attempts are from out there.

That’s a vast difference, especially factoring in that he didn’t attempt a three-pointer his first two seasons on campus.

It doesn’t help that Brevin Pritzl is starting to come on and one of the leaders of the team is saying things like this:

While I understand Badger fans being infatuated with the shiny new toy, I don’t know that I’d be dead set on just telling Vitto to ride pine. I would just point out that from Feb. 28 on last season, Vitto went 19-36 (53%) from three over the final seven games.

In terms of the Badgers wrapping up their bid for a conference championship, it’ll probably be determined this week. If they sweep, it’s hard to imagine them dropping one at the Kohl Center against Iowa or Minnesota. That would give them a great chance of sole possession. 1-1 this week likely means a tie and 0-2 is disastrous.

This week: at Ohio State and Michigan State

3. Maryland – 6 Seed (94/94 brackets)

All things considered, if you were a Terp supporter, I think you’d have to be at least content coming out of last week with a 1-1 record. Especially with the lack of production from anyone not named “Romelo Trimble”.

It’s only two games so it’s not time to panic yet, but that’s a bit of a trend in the wrong direction. Coming into the season a lot of people, including myself, thought Maryland was going to be the Melo show and a rotating cast of contributions from others. It hasn’t gone that way, though. Cowan, Jackson, and Huerter have played large roles all year for a really good team, but this past week they played a lot closer to the expectations and further away from their reality for the past four months.

I’m not expecting that to continue, but the reality is those three can’t go a combined 11-39 over the course of two games and have the Terps succeed at the same time.

I do have to say it was a bit odd of Mark Turgeon to essentially throw in the towel with four minutes to go. I understand that it’s getting close to the end of the season and guys are a little banged up and tired, but the game was far from out of reach. I don’t think a few minutes is going to make the big difference for the team over the next few weeks. Also, getting a technical with less than 10 minutes to go and your team only down four probably wasn’t the brightest move either.

You would expect the Terps to sweep the rest of the way, but Minnesota and MSU won’t be walks in the park, even if they are in College Park. If they take care of business, they’ll just have to hope both Wisconsin and Purdue lose a game.

[NOTE: After I wrote this, I saw Cekovsky was out for the year. I don’t have much to add, but can confirm that it is, in fact, not a good development.]

This week: home for Minnesota and Iowa

Other Tournament Teams

4. Northwestern – 7 Seed (94/94 brackets)

Oh boy. The Wildcats just barely avoided what would have been an unmitigated disaster by pulling one out at the end over Rutgers at home. A loss to the Scarlet Knights wouldn’t have ended their chances at the NCAA Tournament, but it would have put them at risk, especially when you look ahead at what’s remaining on the schedule.

But Northwestern won, Scottie Lindsey is back, and the dream season lives on. Lindsey was expectedly rusty, but the fact that he was still able to play 24 minutes was a good sign. I assume conditioning is the biggest issue for him to get past right now.

Lindsey or no Lindsey, the Wildcats need to tighten back up their defense. They’re getting beat in multiple ways right now on that end. Rutgers stayed in the game because they hammered the offensive glass, Purdue made a parade of threes against them, and Illinois just scored in every way.

Not many teams in the country are better than Rutgers at grabbing their own misses and the same goes for Purdue at making threes, but that’s not going to cut it for Northwestern. A key for any team to succeed in the postseason is limiting other team’s strengths and the Wildcats aren’t doing a good job of that right now.

They’re still likely to make the dance for the first time, and that’s great. But unless they start taking things away from the opposition, the NCAA Tournament is not only going to be a new experience, but a fleeting one also.

This week: at Illinois and Indiana

5. Michigan – 10 Seed (94/94 brackets)

Not surprisingly, the Wolverines went 1-1 this week and the game they won was the one where they played significantly better defense. I hate to sound like a broken record, but that’s what matters for Michigan.

I know they lost, but it’s an encouraging sign for this team that they were in a toss-up game on the road against a quality opponent when Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin went a combined 10-28.

It helped that DJ Wilson decided he was Robert Horry for an evening:

As well as the Wolverines are playing right now, they’re still going to have to keep it up if they want to guarantee the spot they want in March. They have three of their last four on the road and their only home game is against Purdue on Saturday.

This week: at Rutgers, home for Purdue

6. Minnesota – 7 Seed (94/94 brackets)

I know they just beat Michigan and they’re on a five-game win streak, but the game against the Wolverines was a toss-up in the Barn and I don’t think the Gophers have played a great game still since early January.

Where they get their offensive production continues to baffle me. Mason and Coffey are about the only two guys that consistently contribute in a big way.

Jordan Murphy goes on these ridiculous weeks-long spurts. He’s currently on a good one, averaging 18.0 ppg over the last four. Before that, he had been averaging 6.4 over an eight-game stretch, which was preceded by a five-game stretch where he averaged 13.6.

murphy.png

Akeem Springs essentially does the same thing. He hasn’t scored more than 7 points in their last three games. In the five games before that, he didn’t score less than 14.

springs

Dupree McBrayer scored in double figures in 12 of his first 15 games. Since then? 3 out of 12 games.

mcbrayer.png

In Big Ten play, Eric Curry has three games in double figures and three games with a goose egg.

curry.png

Reggie Lynch is fairly consistent in the scoring category. It’s never a ton, but it’s always something. He’s even more consistent with his 5 blocks and 5 fouls in every game.

It’s good that the Gophers have so many options to score, but I think you’d like a little more stability with who it’s coming from every night. It hasn’t happened recently, but a handful of times they’ve had only one or two guys show up.

So mysterious, the Gophers.

This week: at Maryland, home for Penn State

7. Michigan State – 10 Seed (92/94 brackets)

Spartan Nation got in a war of words with a broadcaster this week. It all started with Dan Dakich calling them whiny on Twitter. They responded by…whining about it? Dakich took it a little too far by calling some people stupid, too stupid to get into Michigan (where his son attends). Tom Izzo put on his tough guy jacket and called Dakich out. The Spartans then lost by a bunch to Purdue and Izzo mentioned his displeasure with “displacement” roughly 327 times in his postgame press conference. Some might have called it “whining” about the officiating.

This has been my favorite feud of the year.

Best wishes to Eron Harris in his recovery. That’s a shitty way to end a career.

This week: home for Nebraska and Wisconsin

What Could’ve Been

8. Indiana – Others Receiving Votes (1/94 brackets)

What’s left to say about Indiana? Things are going very poorly, obviously. All of the talk around the program seems to be whether or not Indiana is going to fire Tom Crean or if Tom Crean is going to leave Indiana on his own free will.

Personally, I don’t think either side should be moving on from one another just yet, but I’m also not very close to the situation.

Certain Indiana fans crush Crean because he’s “only” made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Just as a reminder, he’s been there three times in a five-year stretch. They’ve been there one other time since the early 90’s. He’s won two Big Ten titles, which had also happened only once since the early 90’s.

But you’re in a rush to replace him with who? Gregg Marshall? Why? Because he made the Final Four one year? Cool, so did Crean before he got the big job. The Crean haters always point out the Syracuse loss in the Sweet 16 when IU was a #1 seed. Marshall lost in the second round with a team that was a #1 seed and also 35-0.

Marshall’s just one example. Any legitimate candidate you throw out there, I could poke holes in his resume.

Is Tom Crean the best coach in the country? No, but he’s the best of the four that’s been in Bloomington the last 25 years.

This week: at Iowa, home for Northwestern

9. Nebraska – N/A Seed (0/94 brackets)

One of the best weeks for anybody in the league. The Huskers handled Penn State at home and then went on the road and pulled one out in Columbus.

It’s too little, too late for the Huskers, but if they get on a little roll here at the end and keep it going into the Big Ten Tournament…things could get interesting. Nebraska has multiple really good wins this year and they’ve played the toughest schedule in the country by RPI standards.

The chances are less than 1%, but I don’t think Nebraska has pulled their last upset this season.

This week: at Michigan State, home for Illinois

Likable Young, Mediocre Teams

10. Penn State – N/A Seed (0/94 brackets)

They only played once and they got run by Nebraska. No result in a Penn State game is surprising. It made sense when they beat Maryland and it made equal sense when they lost to Rutgers. That’s just the story of the season for the Nittany Lions. It’s just growing pains.

This week: home for Purdue, at Minnesota

11. Iowa – N/A Seed (0/94 brackets)

Not a good couple of weeks for the Hawkeyes after it looked like they might be able to linger in the NCAA Tournament conversation for a while. Just like Penn State, they’re a young team that’s true to form in their inconsistency. Unfortunately it means we don’t get to see Peter Jok in important games in March.

This week: home for Indiana, at Maryland

Largely Irrelevant

12. Ohio State – Others Receiving Votes (1/94 brackets)

To put it lightly, they disgust me.

This week: home for Wisconsin

13. Illinois – N/A Seed (0/94 brackets)

They play like the young teams, only they’re one of the most experienced teams in the league.

This week: home for Northwestern, at Nebraska

14. Rutgers – N/A Seed (0/94 brackets)

Imagine if the last minute of the Wisconsin and Northwestern games go a little differently. Their resume might be better than Ohio State’s.

This week: home for Michigan

CBB Picks: 2/16

OREGON (-9.5) over Utah

The Ducks have been dominant at home in Pac-12 play, besides the Arizona State game that was two days before they beat Arizona by 1000 points. Utah’s decent, but Altman has always seemed to have Krystkowiak’s number. The Utes are a supremely mediocre high-major team. They don’t lose many games they shouldn’t, but they’re also 0-6 in Tier A games. Utah relies on generating most of their offense around the rim and in the mid-range, which doesn’t mesh well with Oregon’s shot-blockers.

MTSU (-7.5) over WESTERN KENTUCKY

MTSU has destroyed weak zones any time they’ve played them this year. With Williams and Upshaw having a field day (46 points) against the Toppers last time out, I could see them gameplanning more to stopping those two, which is just gonna leave more opportunities for Potts, Dixon, and Habersham. The next good showing for WKU against a quality opponent will be their first. Okay, maybe second. They did beat Ohio at home right before Christmas break.

 

Season: 123-105-1 (53.9%)

CBB Picks: 2/15

Back to the blog today. 1-1 yesterday on Twitter. I have no idea why I ever allow myself to believe in Pitt.

In case you were looking for the picks over the weekend, I’m sorry, but I hit a bit of a technological snag. That snag would be the dog I was taking care of for the weekend broke out of her cage while I was out to dinner, spilled a glass of water on my laptop, and fried the damn thing. So hopefully you can understand.

But we’re back and in good spirits. A month and a day from now (basically a regular month because February is a fake month) we’ll be picking NCAA Tournament games.

PROVIDENCE (-3) over Xavier

Sumner was already out and now it looks like Trevon Bluiett probably isn’t going to give it a go for the Muskies. That’s their two best offensive players. There’s only so many threes JP Macura can hit. Goodin has done an okay job replacing Sumner. He’s distributed the ball well and done a good job limiting turnovers, but he’s also 5-34 from TWO-point range since he took over the gig.

Oklahoma State (+2) over TCU

The Pokes only loss in the past seven games was to Baylor by three points. They’ve also already handled this TCU team, leading from start to finish in Stillwater. The Horned Frogs are one of the most turnover-prone teams in the Big 12, which is music to the Cowboys ears. At the end of the day, OSU has the two best players on the floor and that’s always the preferable side to be on.

Tulane (+14) over SMU – 1H

I really like the Mustangs and have picked them several times, specifically when they’re in Moody, but this one is situational. SMU is coming off their biggest win of the season on Sunday. I’d expect motivation and focus to be at a low with 4-20 Tulane coming in to town. The Green Wave had a full week off and should be well rested. I don’t know how much the practice time matters because Mike Dunleavy is their coach, but the rest helps.

Nevada (-5.5) over AIR FORCE

The Wolfpack have responded well after every loss this season, winning the next game by an average of 15 points. The Mountain West race is so tight that they can’t afford to take anyone lightly. And from an X-and-O standpoint, I’m not sure how the Falcons have any shot at guarding Nevada out on the perimeter. They didn’t in the first matchup. Fenner and Marshall combined for 55 points.

Season: 119-105-1 (53.1%)