It's here. It's fucking here. College basketball season is finally come and I couldn't be more jacked up. We're going to do something different this year as I give out picks. We're giving out stats too - I'm tracking every team in the country, going to give out trends and stats that matter as I go through games along with a breakdown of teams. Take it for what you will, but essentially this will be your one-stop shop for everything you need to get bets in, every day there are games. Obviously we're starting game 1 so the stats will be limited to start. I'm not someone who looks at previous years in terms of 'this team shot xx from the 3' because rosters turn over so much. Instead we're looking at coaching trends and things like that early as we build trends for this season. There will be no rhyme or reason for the amount of games picked each day since you're looking at 100+ a majority of the time, just games I like. Let's get into it. I'll update the blog if lines come out for later games that I want to play too.
Today's full schedule (as of the moment, cancellations can happen obviously)
It's fucking glorious!
Note: all lines come from Barstool Sportsbook, ranks are from KenPom. Download the awesome, wonderful and absolutely beautiful Barstool Sportsbook here.
Game is at 11 in Estero, Florida (neutral court)
Abilene Christian (Offensive rank: 186, Defensive rank: 140. Lose 2 guys from last year's rotation, return 7)
Key Player: Joe Pleasant (2019-20 stats: 11.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
What you need to know: I know Abilene Christian sounds like a made up school, but they are actually pretty good! Projected to finish 2nd in the Southland behind Stephen F. Austin. They are going to force turnovers. Last year they were 2nd in the country in turnover percentage. Oh on top of that, they bring a 7'0" off the bench to replace their 6'8" starting big man. They can go big, obviously like to play small as well. The other thing they do well that translates, especially with what they return is get to the free throw line. Last year they were 13th in the country in FTA/FGA and shot 74% as a team. That helps get you to a cover.
ETSU (Offensive rank: 184, Defensive rank 153. Lost all 5 starters plus another rotation player, return just 1. Also lost head coach ETSU to Wake Forest)
Key Player: Ty Brewer (2019-20 stats playing at Southeast Louisiana: 14.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.5 spg)
What you need to know: ETSU has been a staple in the mid-major programs across the country for years now. However, Forbes left for Wake. The entire team followed him via transfer or graduation leaving them in a weird spot. They did do the smart thing though and stayed in house promoting Jason Shay to head coach. It's unclear if Shay is going to follow Forbes system of the press and trying to force turnovers or if he'll slow it all down.
Pick: ACU -4
Reasoning: I'm rolling with experience here. Both of these teams are about the same from a talent standpoint, but you have ETSU with a brand new team and a brand new coach playing a team in ACU that wants to press. They are going to create havoc. I expect a ton of turnovers in this game and wouldn't be surprised if ACU puts more pressure than normal.
Game is at 1:00pm at Asheville (neutral court)
Western Carolina: (offensive rank: 160, defensive rank: 255. Lose two guys from last year's rotation, return 5)
Key Player: Mason Faulkner (2019-20 stats: 17.8 ppg, 5.9 apg, 6.0 rpg)
What you need to know: WCU is coached by Mark Prosser, yep the son of Skip and he's coming off arguably the best year in WCU history. More importantly, we know what they are going to do offensively. They run everything through Mason Faulkner, an all-SoCon point guard and they are going to launch threes. They were 24th in the country last year in 3PA/FGA. They rely on shooting the ball a lot and rebounding the ball. They were top-160 in the country in both offensive and defensive rebounding. It's similar to what we see with D'Antoni at Marshall where WCU only wants to get to the rim or shoot threes. They are going to spread people out this year, let Faulkner play ISO ball and high ball screens and surround him with shooting.
UNC-Wilmington: (offensive rank: 245, defensive rank: 268. Lose 1 guy from last year's rotation, return 7 plus get 1 back from injury)
Key Player: Jaylen Sims (2019-20 stats: 11.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
What you need to know: They are in year 1 of new head coach Takayo Siddle, who comes from the Kevin Keatts coaching tree. More importantly, he was the lead assistant under Keatts while at UNC-Wilmington, so the program knows him. From a gambling standpoint it's worth noting that Siddle wants to play fast with a small lineup. Projected starting five will have no one over 6'6" in it, so it makes sense why he wants to play fast.
Pick: Over 149
Reasoning: Everything I just listed. You have two teams that want to play fast with a bunch of guards. If it's a decent shooting day, they get to the over with ease. On top of that UNC-W will try and force turnovers, leading to easy points one way or another. Either they are scrambling in halfcourt or it's a layup off a steal. Throw in that WCU is a decent offensive rebounding team with a clear size advantage and we could get even more cheap, free points.
Game is at 2 at Kansas State
Drake: (Offensive rank: 157, Defensive rank: 173. Lost 2 guys from last year's rotation, bring back 6)
Key Player: Roman Penn (2019-20 stats: 12.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.6 apg)
What you need to know: Man, if Drake could have kept Liam Robbins (Minnesota transfer) we'd be talking about them as a potential favorite in the Missouri Valley. They did get former Seton Hall big man Darnell Brodie healthy, who can hopefully take away some of what was left by Robbins on the defensive side of the ball. Roman Penn is a damn good mid-major point guard as well and really can take guys off the dribble and set others up. He knows when to attack.
Kansas State: (Offensive rank: 192, Defensive rank: 69. Lost 3 players from last year's rotation, bring back 4)
Key Player: Mike McGuirl (2019-20 stats: 6.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.8 apg)
What you need to know: I honestly have no idea what to make of this team this year. They don't have any real offensive firepower except maybe DaJuan Gordon or McGuirl. They are still great on the defensive side of the ball, but will they ever be consistent on the offensive side? They are going to rely on a ton of freshmen and the class is good. But they aren't stars yet. They are all nice pieces that will come together in a couple years and Kansas State will be in the Tournament again then.
Pick: Drake +5.5
Reasoning: As I said, Kansas State is going to be a bit of a mess on the offensive side of the ball. That should be the case today until this freshmen get more playing time together. Kansas State doesn't have that massive big guy to throw the ball into inside and get some free buckets with Drake just having Brodie there, so they match up well. Drake will run a man-to-man and I trust their offense a bit more than Kansas State.
Game is at 2 at Providence
Providence: (Offensive rank: 72, Defensive rank: 36. Lost 5 guys from last year's rotation, bring back 4)
Key Player: David Duke (2019-20 stats: 12.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.1 apg)
What you need to know: Talk about a bizarre year last year for Providence. By all accounts they were dogshit during the nonconference before ending as one of the hottest teams in the country. It's worth noting that Providence has taken a step back on the offensive side of the ball the last few years. Cooley still runs the flex and his version of motion offense, so there hasn't been a philosophical change. For the second year in a row they will have a transfer start at PG - this time it's Jared Bynum from St. Joe's.
Fairfield: (Offensive rank: 327, Defensive rank: 147. Lost 6 guys from last year's rotation, bring back 5)
Key Player: Jesus Cruz (2019-20 stats: 11.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.5 apg)
What you need to know: Well, it's year two for Jay Young here and things have to get better on the offensive side of the ball. They were one of the worst shooting teams in the country. They were one of the worst offensive teams in the country. They essentially just launched a shot and prayed for an offensive rebound. On the flip side, they are pretty damn good defensively. They rebound the ball well. They take away the paint and force you to shoot outside. They also are above average in forcing turnovers too.
Pick: Under 127
Reasoning: You have two good defensive teams with one team being complete dogshit offensively. Are we sure Fairfield can get 50 against Providence? They both play a slower pace too. Fairfield was one of the slowest teams in the country a year ago. Fairfield should at least make Providence work on the offensive side of the ball as well. The clock and missed shots are our friends here.
Game is at 2pm at Maryland
Old Dominion (Offensive rank: 129, Defensive Rank: 82. Lose 1 guy from last year's rotation, bring back 7.)
Key Player: Xavier Green (2019-20 stats: 12.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
What you need to know: If you think Virginia uglies a game up, you're going to love Old Dominion. They play an incredibly slow pace, they want to grind it out, they are one of the best rebounding teams in the country and typically rank in the top-50 nationally defensively. They especially look to take away the paint defensively and dare you to shoot against their rotating zone.
Maryland (Offensive rank: 47, Defensive rank: 58. Lose 2 guys from last year's rotation, bring back 4)
Key Player: Aaron Wiggins (10.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
What you need to know: Gone are Jalen Smith and Anthony Cowan. Smith was obviously a freak, going 10th overall and was a DPOY in the conference while also being a mismatch offensively. Cowan, for as much as I didn't like about his game, turned into one of the best closers and really bailed Maryland out a ton offensively with his ability to create. Will run both Aayla and Morsell as the lead guard, although neither feel like a lead guard by nature. Maryland has an incredibly short rotation and coming off a year where the bench minutes were 346th in the country it's not ideal for a year like this.
Pick: Old Dominion +7.5
Reasoning: First, the pace. Old Dominion is going to slow it down and Maryland isn't exactly a team that plays at an incredibly fast pace. I'll rely on that for a shortened game, leading more and more to liking a dog here. I know it's a road game, but do we really care about that this year? Not yet for me. First game without Cowan and Smith against a good defense isn't ideal either. It could be ugly to start and Maryland doesn't return a great free throw shooter. Their best one is 75%. That's enough for me to take the points.
Game is at 2pm in South Dakota
Memphis: (Offensive rank: 66, Defensive rank 18. Lose 3 guys from last year's rotation, return 8)
Key Player: DJ Jeffries (2019-20 stats: 10.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
What you need to know: Gone is Precious Achiuwa, the only freshman in the country to average a double-double last year. But DJ Jeffries is a borderline All-American this year and a popular pick for AAC Player of the Year. On top of that they got Landers Nolley, a Virginia Tech transfer and great scorer, eligible immediately for this season. The biggest problem last year is Memphis was one of the most turnover prone teams in the country, mostly because of young guards. They also were just dogshit in the halfcourt. They already played at the 17th fastest tempo last year and Penny wants to play faster than this this year. They ranked 210th in the country in offense last year. That HAS to go up.
Saint Mary's: (Offensive rank: 79, defensive rank: 74. Lose 4 guys from last year's rotation, return 3)
Key Player: Tommy Kuhse (2019-20 stats: 5.9 ppg, 3.8 apg, 3.4 rpg)
What you need to know: Jordan Ford is gone. That's step 1. He was one of the best point guards in the country last year and really excelled at Saint Mary's offense. Yeah, they still want to play slow. They want to put you in a million ball screens. Saint Mary's doesn't want to post anyone up offensively. Instead they want to spread you out, run a motion offense with ball screens. They look to attack off of that and find a mismatch or open shooter on a weak rotation. Defensively they are going to be the same. They play man-to-man, they don't gamble and they try to make you work the shot clock.
Pick: Over 138
Reasoning: I really like this Memphis team this year. I do think we see that massive jump in offense because of the return of the guards. I'm going to chalk up that turnover percentage to guys like Boogie Ellis being young and getting a year under his system in Penny's uptempo offense will go down. Specific to this game, Memphis should be able to just out athlete Saint Mary's and run when they want. I know Saint Mary's tends to dictate tempo, but they don't have a guy this year to really do that. They'll be patient, but Memphis will gamble and force them to speed up a bit. Plus, we know Penny isn't one to hold back and wants to make a statement after last year's mess. He won't be scared to run scores up this year.
Game is at 5pm at Pacific
UC Riverside: (Offensive rank: 281, Defensive rank: 187. Lost 1 person from last year's rotation, return 7)
Key Player: Arinze Chidom (2019-20 stats: 11.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg)
What you need to know: Listen, Riverside returns a ton. That matters. But uh, they really aren't great. They are one of the worst offensive teams in the country and the offense simply doesn't make up for it. I actually really like what Mike Magpayo - the first full heritage Asian head coach in Division I history - is doing. He's improving the defense. He's building a roster. But he's still early in the development here.
Pacific (Offensive rank: 152, defensive rank 102. Lost 4 from last year's rotation, brings back 7)
Key player: Justin Moore (2019-20 stats: 8.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg 1.9 apg)
What you need to know: I know Pacific has a lot to make up with losing Jahlil Tripp, last year's defensive player of the year in the WCC, but they do return a deep roster. Plus they are coached by Damon Stoudamire, that has to be worth 4-5 wins. They do return one of the best passing guards in the country in Pierre Crockrell, who was 20th in the country last year in assist rate.
Pick: Pacific -5.5
Reasoning: Basically I'm playing this because Riverside's head coach left yesterday because his wife gave birth to their first child. No coach, game 1 while on the road? Give me the home team with the solid guard. Nothing more here than that.
Game is at 6:30pm in San Diego (neutral court)
UC Irvine (Offensive rank: 180, Defensive rank: 98. Lose 4 guys from last year's rotation, bring back 5)
Key Player: Collin Welp (2019-20 stats: 13.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
What you need to know: Not only were the 4 guys in the rotation that Irvine lost, they lost 4 senior starters. If it wasn't for the fact they are a mid-major dynasty, this would be a dagger. But they are able to rebuild with guys they've had in the system for a few years. In the last 8 years under Russell Turner, Irvine has ranked in the top-18 nationally in 2pt defensive percentage. That's important. I know analytics look at 3pt and everything like that. But when you're making those easy buckets next to impossible during a game, that's MASSIVE. Hence, why we like Irvine every year as a mid-major. It's worth noting they don't have experience at the guard spot. That's something I'm targeting here. Welp is a 6'9" big guy that will play next to 6'11" Brad Greene. That's where Irvine is going to go for offense.
Pepperdine: (Offensive rank: 92, Defensive rank: 124. Lose 1 player from last year's rotation, bring back 4 players plus 2 from injury)
Key player: Colbey Ross (2019-20 stats: 20.5 ppg, 7.2 apg, 4.7 rpg)
What you need to know: Colbey Ross. That's the first thing you need to know. He's not just one of the best mid-major guards in the country, he's just flat out one of the best in the country. Pepperdine also has Kessler Edwards who averaged 14 per game from that 4 spot as a 6'8" athlete. Oh, remember Lorenzo Romar? Yeah, he's their coach too. The biggest thing to watch is if Pepperdine gets a 3rd guy to consistently play with them, especially if one goes to the bench as well as stopping the defensive lapses. Then again, Romar is the coach.
Pick: Pepperdine -2
Reasoning: Essentially I'm going to fade a mid-major that lost 4 starters and has basically no experience in the backcourt. That's especially true when they are going up against arguably the best mid-major guard in the country in Colbey Ross. I know UC-Irvine's defense is strong. But in game 1? Will that translate? I'm willing to bet against that, obviously.
Game is at 9pm at Georgia Tech
Georgia State: (Offensive rank: 89, Defensive rank: 129. Lose 4 players from last year's rotation, return 6)
Key Player: Kane Williams (2019-20 stats: 14.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.4 apg)
What you need to know: Another consistent mid-major team here. More importantly, they are incredibly balanced returning three guys that scored at least 13 per game last year. On top of that, all three of those guys are guards. Yep, love that. Rob Lanier, in his second year after taking over for Ron Hunter, tends to run 3-4 guard lineups and surround them with 6'10" Jalen Thomas in the middle. They aren't great necessarily on the defensive side of the ball as they do foul a ton. But it's not like they are bad defensively either. They rotate presses, zone and halfcourt defense to mix it up.
Georgia Tech: (Offensive ranks: 85, defensive rank: 67. Lose 1 player from last year's rotation, return 5)
Key Player: Michael Devoe (2019-20 stats: 16.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.0 apg)
What you need to know: Josh Pastner is still the coach. Yep, that Josh Pastner. The guy that was supposed to be the next one at Memphis when he took over for Cal. Did you know his best offensive team was last year at 171st in the country? Yuck. That said, I even like his team! Jose Alverado is an underrated guard. Bubba Parham can score. Michael Devoe is solid. They really weren't a great shooting team last year outside of Devoe and turn it over a ton. Also Josh Pastner is once again firmly on the hot seat.
Pick: Georgia State +8
Reasoning: Well, it's simple here. I don't trust Josh Pastner teams at all. Never have, never will. You're giving me a Georgia State team that matches up well size wise and with the multiple guard looks with Georgie Tech plus the fact that they can force turnovers and you have my attention. I actually think Georgia Tech is a tad overvalued considering they ended the season winning 7 of 9 but not really against great teams. People see that plus what they return and expect a jump. I don't see that. I think we know who Georgia Tech is and I'll take Georgia State with the points.
Game played at 10:30 at San Diego State
San Diego State: (Offensive rank: 52, defensive rank: 41. Lost 3 guy from last year's rotation, bring back 4)
Key player: Matt Mitchell (2019-20 stats: 12.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.1 spg)
What you need to know: Listen, last year was brutal for San Diego State and fans. They were going to be a No. 1 seed and the tournament was cancelled. You can't just replicate that season. Gone are Malachi Flynn, Yanni Wetzell and KJ Feagin, but there's still a ton to like about this team. First they are bringing in Terrell Gomez, who was a 20 point scorer last year at Cal State Northridge. Then there's Matt Mitchell who is the favorite for defensive player of the year in the conference. Finally, we have to talk about Nathan Mensah. The big man was forced to sit out due to a major injury scare, but he's one of the best rim protectors in the country. If he can play, there won't be a huge drop off from the defensive side of the ball.
UCLA: (Offensive rank: 18, Defensive rank: 44. Lost 1 player from last year's rotation, bring back 8)
Key Player: Chris Smith (2019-20 stats: 13.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
What you need to know: Everyone's favorite team to make a big time jump based on what they did in the Pac-12 last year and it makes sense. They return everyone but Prince Ali and somewhat shockingly bring back Chris Smith from the NBA Draft. Not to mention they add Johnny Juzang a Kentucky transfer and this is a deep team that is a projected top-40 team in the country. But let's be honest. This is Mick Cronin. They are going to defend their asses off. They'll play a little faster than Cincinnati teams because of the wing depth and guys like Tyger Campbell at point. But this is a defensive team first.
Pick: Under 133.5
Reasoning: You take away Malachi Flynn and San Diego State's offense has a ceiling for game 1. Mick Cronin is turning UCLA into that Cincinnati defense. But this is about San Diego State's defense for me. Mensah is a monster in the middle. They are deep enough to defend. They match up well and can defend Chris Smith with Mitchell, who I said is one of the best defensive players in the country.
Abilene Christian -4
Over 149 UNC-Wilmington/Western Carolina
Under 127 Providence/Fairfield
Old Dominion +7.5
Over 138 Memphis/Saint Mary's
Georgia State +8
Under 133.5 UCLA/San Diego State