Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday Night College Hoops Picks

Last night was heartbreaking. Statistically, LSU was the lock of the week. Then their two best players (both forwards, mind you) combined to shoot 7-23 from the field and just 4-13 from the foul line. The team as a whole shot just 36.4% from the field, 27.3% from three point range, and 56.5% from the free throw line. They left ten points at the charity stripe, which is NOT what you want to see when the game was tied at the end of regulation and the spread was just 2 points. LSU has 19 turnovers on the night, including two in the final two minutes that were passes dropped right out of bounds.

Credit to Mizzou, though. Without their star freshman guard with a French Canadian name and with just 7,500 people in attendance, they had 5 players score 9+ points (balanced between 2 guards and 3 forwards). With everyone healthy, they would have a pretty solid 8-man rotation.

But fuck, man. I have no idea how they beat LSU last night.

Tonight, there are only three games in all of D-1 college basketball. They are showdowns in the MAC, the MAAC, and the Horizon League. Here is the most degenerate post I have ever written on this site:

Akron @ Toledo, 7pm, ESPNU
Line: Toledo -5.5

What Akron (10-4, 1-0 MAC) does:

  • 245th strongest schedule in the country (8th of out 12 teams in the MAC)
  • 69.8 points per game is 138th in the country
  • 60.4 points allowed per game is 55th in the country
  • 35.6 rebounds per game is 153rd in the country
  • Notable non-conference games: beat Southern Cal 66-46, lost 79-51 to Miami, beat South Carolina 68-63, lost 78-72 @ Penn State
What Toledo (8-6, 0-1 MAC) does:
  • 208th strongest schedule in the country (6th in the MAC)
  • 74.3 points per game is 46th in the country
  • 68.6 points allowed per game is 240th in the country
  • 35.9 rebounds per game is 134th in the country
  • Notable non-conference games: lost 87-78 @ VCU, lost 78-68 @ Oregon, lost 82-79 at home to Detroit, lost 86-69 @ Duke
Going in, it seems like Akron +6 is going to be the easy play. Before the season, Akron was picked to win the MAC East and Toledo was picked to win the MAC West. This should be a heavyweight fight in America's favorite conference, but Toledo has been pretty disappointing so far this year.

Akron's preseason all-conference forward Demetrius Treadwell has played just one game this season (suspended indefinitely for assaulting a female). He only played the first game of the year, so the team stats pretty accurately reflect the team they'll have tonight (but that preseason ranking may not).

Toledo, on the other hand, has a pair of preseason all-conference guards, Juice Brown and Justin Drummond. They have played all 14 games, average 30 and 32 minutes respectively, and combine for 27.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and shoot 44.3% on field goals, 42.6% on threes, and 78.7% on free throws. 

Akron gets just 41.1% of their points from 2-pointers, which is the 10th-lowest number in the country. They are in the middle of the pack (240th) with 19.5% of points from free throws. They make it up by getting 39.3% from 3-pointers, 11th-most in the country. The Zips hit 34.8% of their threes, which is 127th in the country. 

Toledo allows their opponents to shoot 33.8% from three, which is 183rd in the country. They allow their opponents to get 31.2% of their points from beyond the arc, which is the 72nd largest percentage in the country. That looks to be advantage: Akron. 

On offense, Toledo is split pretty near the national average between twos-threes-ones (50.2%-28.3%-21.5%), and that balanced split comes with pretty impressive percentages for each: they shoot 49.4% on twos (117th), 38.0% on threes (42nd), and 74.9% on free throws (23rd). 

Akron's defense matches Toledo's offense in that they don't allow one area of the court to be dominated. Their opponents' split is 50.5%-30.3%-19.2%, so the Zips could be vulnerable to a team that wants to shoot (and can make) a lot of threes. Toledo is not an overly aggressive team from long range, but they can certainly stroke it if it's there. 

In terms of rebounds per game, Akron and Toledo are about as close as you can get. They each snag about 30% of available offensive rebounds, and Toledo snags about 1% more defensive rebounds. Call it a was on the boards. 

This game comes down to one thing: can Akron shoot threes as well as they have all season? If they hit their average for the year (which is right around Toledo's defensive average), then they will cover easily and might even win. Here's how Toledo fared against teams that like to shoot from distance (I cut it off at top-100 in terms of percentage of points that come from threes):
  • Beat Northern Arizona 71-58 and held them to 6-22 (27.3%) from deep. NAU shoots 34.1% on the year and gets 32.1% of their points from threes, but they are a middle-of-the-pack Big Sky team so that doesn't hold too much weight.
  • Lost 87-78 at VCU, who shot 9-25 (36.0%) from long range. VCU scores 35.0% of their points from distance (40th), and they shoot 35.9% on the year (100th). This is a more fair comparison, but VCU is undoubtedly a better team than Akron. A little bit of a too cold/too hot situation for these first two games.
  • Lost 81-79 at Oakland, who shot 10-20 (50%) from three. For the year, threes make up 31.2% of Oakland's points (93rd) and they make 34.8% of their threes (130th).
  • I left out Cleveland State and Chicago State because they get a lot of their points from three, but they also stink. I left out Duke because they are in a completely different class of talent. 
  • Most recently, they lost 65-62 at home to Central Michigan, who average 40.9% of their points from three and make 40.5% of their threes (6th and 10th in the country). Against Toledo, CMU shot just 7-25 (28%). Toledo did everything they needed to do to win, except they lost the turnover battle 13-4. 
So where that leaves us is Akron should win. They should be able to shoot and make three point shots, and their 17.4% turnover ratio should mean they don't lose the turnover battle against Toledo, who turn it over on 18.8% of possessions. I don't love Akron, but 5.5 points is a lot - especially because they could blow it open and win by 10.

Pick: Akron +5.5

Quinnipiac @ Monmouth, 7pm, ESPN3
Line: Monmouth -1.5

There are 29 ESPN channels on TV, and this game is not good enough to be shown on any of them. Let's preview it! (Sorry, mom.)

What Quinnipiac (6-7, 0-4 MAAC) does:

  • Lead the nation in rebounding with 46.0 rebounds per game
  • Lose MAAC games by an average of 9.8 points per game, while out-rebounding those opponents by 10.5 boards per game
  • Score 69.4 points per game (146th) and give up 68.3 (232nd) for the season
  • Strength of schedule: 234 (4th in the 11-team MAAC)
What Monmouth (7-7, 4-0 MAAC) does:
  • Dominate the conference (not actually dominating other than their 16-point win over Niagara, but they are undefeated)
  • Score 64.1 points per game (268th) and give up 63.4 (121st)
  • Strength of schedule: 255 (5th in the MAAC)
QU's offense:
  • Just 42.7% of their points come from 2s, which is 312th out of 351 teams. They make 42.7% of their twos (312th)
  • Just 21.0% of their points come from 3s, which is 316th. They make 28.8% of their threes (313th)
  • Transitive property, they get 25.7% of their points from free throws, which is 16th-most in the nation. They shoot 23 free throws per game (60th), and they make 77.6% of them (4th)
  • Their 41.9% offensive rebounding rate is the 4th best in the country (behind Kentucky, Baylor and UNC). That's even better than their 76.2% defensive rebounding rate, which is 26th in the nation
So Quinnipiac needs to get to the line to score points. Monmouth commits 19.3 fouls per game (222nd fewest), allows 19.6 free throws per game (148th fewest), and allows free throws to make up 21.6% of opponents' points (219th fewest). It seems like QU is going to be able to get to the line 20+ times, which is a huge plus for their chances. 

On the other side, Monmouth's offense:
  • They don't lean too heavily on any particular area of the court, scoring 51.9% from two point shots (150th), 26.7% from threes (213th), and 21.4% from free throws (150th)
  • They shoot the ball fairly well from all three zones (121st/141st/68th in 2s/3s/FTs)
  • They grab only 25.1% of offensive rebounds, which is 284th in the country (their defensive rate, by comparison, is an even more terrible 66.4% - 307th)
Do you guys know any bookies who have a pointspread on the rebounding totals? I would like to hammer QU. No? No bookies have rebound lines for a Friday night MAAC game? I need to get some friends? What?

As noted above, Quinnipiac have shown that out-rebounding opponents doesn't turn into wins. To find out how they do that, let's look at how they've gotten their wins against teams in the top half of the RPI rankings (note: Monmouth's RPI is 186):
  • Yale (RPI 65): Not a great sign for your tournament chances that the best team you've beaten is Yale, guys. Oh and by the way it was the very first game of the season, at home, and it took 2 overtimes. Yale shot just 38.5% from the field (they average 43.4%). They were just under their average from three and just over their average from the free throw line. QU out-rebounded Yale 54-38 and out-assisted them 21-11, and that allowed them to overcome their -6 turnover margin to squeak out the win. 
  • Oregon State (RPI 125): Did people know that Gary Payton Jr plays for Oregon State? What an idiot! I'd be at Arizona State or FSU tearing it up. The entire state of Oregon is for people who wear flannel, and that is most certainly not what I think of when I think of Gary Payton. QU won this game because they dominated the boards (46-27, including 18-6 in offensive rebounds) and held OSU to 39.6% shooting (they average 43.9%). There have been games where QU dominated the boards but lost, but this was not one of those situations. 
  • Lehigh (RPI 156): QU smoked Lehigh by 25 points. They out-rebounded them 53-30, out-assisted them 22-12, and (the biggest reason) attempted 18 more shots. Eighteen! That's what rebounding gets you, and that's the reason a solid rebounding team like QU scares me. 
I feel very similar to how I felt yesterday about the LSU-Iowa game. There is one team that is clearly better and they should cover the small spread. This game features a team that rebounds the ball but can't score, and another that has a very shallow 4-0 record and looks ready for their first conference loss. At the end of the day, you have to bet on the better team. That's gambling rule number one. 

Pick: Monmouth -1.5

Green Bay @ Milwaukee, 9pm, ESPNU
Line: Green Bay -9

The second half of tonight's epic ESPNU doubleheader is going to be a Horizon League beatdown. Tale of the tape:
  • RPI ranking: Green Bay 63rd, Milwaukee 300th
  • Conference record: GB 1-0, UWM 0-2
  • Overall record: GB 12-3, UWM 5-11
  • Avg margin against non-major D1 teams: GB 64.9-55.5, UWM 62.9-70.0
If you want to tease, then tease. I don't need to write a lot here, just take Green Bay and thank me later. 

Pick: Green Bay -9

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