Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Night College Hoops Preview

Last night we had Nova over Georgetown. It was ugly. I don't want to talk about it.

Tonight, there are some matchups in the SEC, B1G, and ACC matchup that might be worth a look. We have dug quite a hole for ourselves (Saturday was a complete dumpster fire), and we need to climb out. Tonight's picks:

Ole Miss @ Georgia, 7pm, SEC Network
Line: Georgia -4, over/under 138

Ole Miss (11-6, 2-2 SEC): score 74.9 points per game, allow 67.0 points per game
Key wins: 75-68 vs Creighton, 66-54 vs Cincinnati, 79-73 @ Oregon, 65-49 vs South Carolina, 96-82 @ Arkansas
Losses: 66-65 (OT) vs Charleston Southern, 66-54 vs TCU, 81-74 vs Western Kentucky, 78-74 @ Dayton, 89-86 (OT) @ Kentucky, 75-71 vs LSU

Georgia (11-5, 2-2 SEC): score 72.7 points per game, allow 65.7 points per game
Key wins: 64-57 vs Colorado, 65-47 vs Seton Hall, 50-46 @ Kansas State, 70-67 @ Vanderbilt, 73-61 vs Florida
Losses: 80-73 @ Georgia Tech, 88-76 vs Gonzaga, 66-62 vs Minnesota, 79-75 vs Arkansas, 87-84 (2OT) @ LSU

There are only 30 teams in the country (and 2 in the SEC) that allow a greater percentage of opponent's points from the charity stripe than Ole Miss. The Rebs are bottom 50 in the country in opponent free throws attempted and free throws made per game, and are bottom 100 in opponent free throw attempts per field goal attempt.

Georgia relies very little on threes and very heavily on free throws (they are about average on percentage of points from twos). They shoot just 66.5% on free throws (254th), but they attempt 27.2 per game (2nd).

Georgia's guard combo of Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines account for about 24 points per game, but Mann's tendency is to score primarily from inside the 3-point line. Led by Marcus Thornton and Nemanja Djurisic (who combine for another 25 points) down low, the Dawgs grab 31.2% of offensive rebounds (119th) and 74.3% of defensive rebounds (55th).

Ole Miss has a similar (though not quite as strong) reliance on free throws to create points. Georgia is around the median nationally in both percentage of points allowed from the line and free throw attempts allowed per game.

On the boards, the Rebels are an interesting team. They grab 33.9% of offensive boards, which is good for 47th in the country. But on defense, they grab just 70.2% (207th). There is not a single player on Ole Miss that averages 5.5 or more rebounds per game. Part of this is coaching and strategy - they split their minutes up between a pretty large rotation, and they have 9 players that see significant playing time.

The balanced Georgia team will have to deal with Ole Miss' three-guard trio of Stefan Moody, Jarvis Summers, and Ladarius White - they average more than 40 points per game, and combine for about 8 rebounds and 8 assists. Moody and White can shoot from deep (and Summers does shoot, though he probably should not be because he's only shooting 29.2% from three this year).

Both of these teams play offense better than they play defense, and relying on free throws is a safe way to ensure you score points. I'll take the over here, but I would really like to throw it into a teaser and get it to 133 or 134.

You know what? I think Ole Miss is the better team of these two, and I'll throw them in the teaser to make it +8. Georgia is likely missing Juwan Parker - he only averages 5.5 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 assist, but he is a 6'4" guard and you can't afford to be missing that against Ole Miss.

Pick: tease Ole Miss +8 and Over 134

Boston College @ Syracuse, 7pm ESPNU
Line: Cuse -9

BC stinks. And their offense stinks most of all of the things they do that stink. Good luck with that against Syracuse's zone and Rakeem Christmas' 2.2 blocks per game down low (I'll take a player prop over 2.5 if you can find me one).

Cuse's 4-1 ACC record is deceiving because they have been playing a bunch of trash can dwellers. Their 4 wins are against Virginia Tech (RPI 207), Georgia Tech (73), Florida State (124), and Wake Forest (126). They also lost to Clemson, who the RPI rankings have as the 92nd best team in the country and the 11th best in the ACC.

I don't want Syracuse in this game unless it's teased. I don't want to bet on BC ever because they stink. So let's stay away.

Tennessee @ South Carolina, 9pm, ESPNU
Line: South Carolina -6.5, over/under 125

Tennessee (11-5, 3-1 SEC): score 64.3 points per game, allow 62.1 points per game
South Carolina (10-6, 1-3 SEC): score 71.0 points per game, allow 60.7 points per game

I'm going to go one step beyond our normal play for South Carolina (which is we say "tease Cocks", laugh like little schoolkids, and lose all of our money) and dig deeper. These teams have both looked too good for either of them to be favored by this much, except South Carolina has been slumping in SEC play and I'm intrigued as to how they are favored here.

South Carolina is just 1-3 in the conference and those games were against Florida (RPI 64), Ole Miss (43), Alabama (46, the Cocks' only conference win), and Auburn (43). So it's not like they got stuck with Kentucky and Arkansas early. They are just an average SEC team.

They've been struggling because they have been allowing a LOT of free throws. Florida shot 25-30 from the stripe, Ole Miss was 18-22, Alabama was 20-30, and Auburn was 26-33. To put it in perspective, if you score more than a quarter of your points from the foul line, you are in the top 20 teams in the nation. These are crazy foul shot totals, and the Gamecocks will never have a shred of success if that continues.

As for Tennessee's ability to exploit that, they rank 207th in the country in percentage of points from free throws (20.4%), and they shoot/make just 19.4/13.1 foul shots per game (215th/242nd). The Vols make just 67.2% of their free throws, which is a pretty lackluster number. But in terms of average free throws per game, the 4 SEC teams that South Carolina has played average 16.9 attempts (310th), 21.9 attempts (104th), 22.4 attempts (77th), and 24.9 (23rd). Even with the fact that those numbers are inflated by their games against South Carolina, those teams get to the line quite a bit.

I don't expect that trend to continue. I think the Cocks will play with a lot of discipline, because none of them want to deal with Frank Martin screaming about fouls all night.

Pick: South Carolina -6.5 (or you can tease Cocks, if you're into that)

#25 Iowa @ #6 Wisconsin, 9pm, ESPN
Line: Wisconsin -9.5

I am largely unimpressed with Iowa this year. Other than their win at UNC (which, to their credit, was impressive), they look like a team that is properly ranked in the 20s. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has been tested very few times this year and looks (mostly) like a team that could win it all.

The Badgers' 10-point loss at home to Duke has no bearing on this game because Jahlil Okafor completely nullified Frank Kaminsky and the Devils shot 65% as a team. Iowa is not going to do that to Wisconsin.

However, the Badgers did drop another game this season. They went to Rutgers (never a good idea) and lost 67-62. Mr. Kaminsky did not play (concussion) and starting guard Traevon Jackson left halfway through with a broken foot. Rutgers shot 14.3% better from the field than their season average, and the Badgers were an abysman 5-21 from three.

Frank is back now - he scored 22 points last week against Nebraska - but Traevon is down for a while. His replacement, Bronson Koenig, is named Bronson and comes from the town of La Crosse, Wisconsin, So you know he's pretty chill. But as far as the skills he brings to the table (Traevon was good for 10 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds), Bronson shoots similar percentages and seems to turn the ball over less. Anybody playing for Wisconsin is going to be talented, and he is - he was the 35th-best guard in the class of 2013 and the 6th best player from the state of Wisconsin.

So the only thing that worries me is foul trouble, because Bo Ryan cannot afford to lose bodies from what is now a 6 (maybe 7) man rotation. A quick check of TeamRankings will tell you that Wisconsin commits the fewest fouls per game of any team in the country (just 13.4) and allows the fewest free throw attempts against per game (12.4).  Iowa is in the middle of the pack with 18.4 fouls drawn per game (163rd), though they do attempt 23.4 free throws per game (45th).

Iowa's big strength is their frontcourt, but I trust Kaminsky and fellow forwards Nigel Hayes, Sam Dekker, and Duje Dukan to handle their business. The over/under is set around 130 in this game, and I think the only way Wisconsin will cover that is if the total goes way over.

Pick: Wisconsin -5.5 seems like a nice addition to the tease bag

Part of dealing with crippling gambling losses is rebuilding your confidence. I don't feel too confident about anything, so I am (clearly) in the mindset to tease everything. Tonight I like teasing (1) Ole Miss and their over and (2) South Carolina and Wisconsin.

If you are feeling particularly fragile and want a big tease, you can throw Ole Miss +12, South Carolina +1.5, Wisconsin -1.5 at the wall and hope Tennessee doesn't ruin everything.

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