Today starts one of the best week and half stretches of the year for me. Nothing beats day time basketball and I'm a sucker for these early season tournaments. We get a little taste this week before Maui Invitational and Battle 4 Atlantis next week. A nice little early season primer for March. Let's get into it.
As always - all the lines come from the Barstool Sportsbook. Download the app here.
2021-22 Record: 23-25-1
Best game of the day and a little Ohio battle. Remember the last time they met?
Cintas Center is low key one of my favorite places to watch a game. Not a bad spot in the house and a couple of bars. Big fan of being able to get a beer at the game - every place needs to be like this. But on the game, I know Justice Sueing hasn't played a ton this year, but this news is significant.
As for how does Xavier match up with Ohio State? I actually like it. EJ Liddell is awesome. But Xavier has a couple different looks to throw on him. They have Iowa transfer Jack Nunge. They have Dionte Miles who is a defensive specialist. Their defense has been much better this year and a lot of that is due to the versatility they have. I know that Xavier not having Zach Freemantle is huge. You can tell based on their offense so far - it's been inconsistent. They are basically getting points on offensive rebounds. They are shooting miserably. That should should improve though. Kunkel is too good of a shooter. Odom and Johnson can shoot the ball. Another huge key is getting KyKy Tandy back after missing the start of the season. They are due for an improved shooting stretch at some point. What can I say though? I'm a sucker for a small home favorite. Computer projections actually have Xavier winning this by 1.
Pick: Xavier +2
I absolutely love this UAB team. Andy Kennedy has the program rolling and is bringing in high-major transfers. That's a key. I like to focus on transfers, especially this year when there was no sit out rule. I tend to trust a high-major guy transferring down vs the other way around to start the year. The biggest key here though? Turnovers. Both teams thrive on turning opponents over. The difference though is UAB is 3rd in the country at taking care of the ball while South Carolina is 254th. Not what you want to see against UAB's defense. For two teams similar defensively, I just can't trust South Carolina's offense. They don't do anything incredibly well there. They don't shoot threes, they are average inside the arc and they are a shitty free throw shooting team.
Pick: UAB -2.5
I don't know how Washington or any team can zone this Wyoming team. They surround Hunter Maldonado, who is a unique matchup in his own right, with a bunch of shooters. We've seen Washington get beat up already this year. They lost to a BAD Northern Illinois team and struggled with Texas Southern and Northern Arizona. None of those three teams are ranked inside the top-225 on KenPom. Wyoming is going to dare Washington to shoot the ball too. That plays right into what we want since Washington shoots 26% from three as a team. I just don't see one advantage Washington has over Wyoming.
Pick: Wyoming +2
The head coach of Charlotte was a former assistant of Tony Bennett. What does that mean? Pack Line defense. App State, who made the Tournament last year, basically got hot in March. They shoot a ton of threes, which helps against the Pack Line. But they aren't shooting well. They are at just 27% as a team this year. Similar to Virginia, Charlotte rebounds well defensively and doesn't even try for offensive rebounds. They get back and eliminate transition. Charlotte also has the best player on the floor in Clemson transfer Clyde Trapp. I'll trust the lack of shooting from App State here.
Pick: Charlotte +3.5
EMU is one of the more undervalued teams in the country. Stan Heath was a perfect hire and that 2-3 zone is going to give NKU fits. This is especially true since NKU doesn't really have shooters. They are shooting 30% from three. They are shooting just 40% from inside the arc. That's not … ideal. This is even more important when NKU is currently 21st in the country at 3PA/FGA. There's a good chance they just flat out shoot themselves into EMU's hands.
Pick: Eastern Michigan +8.5
An interesting day time game here. St. Bonaventure is a good team but Osun Osunniyi is banged up. There was a report on Twitter that he's in uniform and expected to play but he's not 100%. That is a HUGE development considering how good he is defensively. He's really the one that lets St. Bonaventure be good on that side of the ball. Then there's the shell defense that Boise State runs. They sag just enough to make you think you're open, but it's long twos. It's honestly awesome to watch. Boise State also should have a positive shooting swing after getting off to a slow start.
Pick: Boise State +4.5