Monday, January 26, 2015

Weekend College Hoops Recap (and Monday Night Preview)

We got a little bit screwed by our teaser on Saturday. Kentucky would have covered, the UCLA/Oregon over would have just missed (but it hit the teased number), Arizona covered easy, and Stanford covered easy. We would have lost on West Virginia and Wisconsin (but hit on Frank Kaminsky's points).

Well, the way we allocated everything, we ended up basically breaking even for the day instead of going 4-2 or 4-3. Fucking tease life, man.

But we got right back on the tease horse yesterday and nailed a Kentucky-Louisville-Villanova teaser (none of which needed to be teased and we left a ton of money on the table but whatever).

There isn't a huge schedule of games for tonight, but there is one pretty intriguing ACC game.

Syracuse @ North Carolina, 7pm, ESPN
Line: UNC -10.5; Syracuse +480

I love the idea of the Syracuse zone (god damn, do I hate that defense) forcing an injury-ravaged UNC team into a low-scoring game. The Heels are down (either missing the game or playing hurt) guards Theo Pinson, Joel Barry, Stillman White and Luke Davis and forwards Sasha Seymour and Joel James. Guards Marcus Paige and Nate Britt and forward Brice Johnson also played through some pain last game.

In terms of minutes played, here are the players who are currently 100% healthy: small forward JP Tokoto, guard-forward Justin Jackson, forward Kennedy Meeks, forward Isaiah Hicks, and a bunch of guys who average less than 5 minutes per game.

Do we really expect Marcus Paige and his plant or fast shi'ite ish to be able to consistently break the vaunted Cuse press by himself? And his team is favored by ten points?

Syracuse has only lost two games by double digits all season: (1) against Cal (at MSG) in November, in which the Bears shot 48.1% from the field and 44.4% from three, held the Orange to 37.1% from the field, and out-assisted Cuse by a crazy 21-8 margin (2) against Clemson (at Clemson) about a week and a half ago, in which Clemson shot 45.1% from the field and 40% from three, out-rebounded Cuse 40-30, and held the Orange to just 2-15 from three.

Against good teams (which is kind of a subjective term but roll with it), UNC has covered ten points four times and lost outright twice. The wins:

  • 90-72 over Davidson in November (neutral court): there isn't really any area that I can see UNC dominated from the box score, but shooting 47.8% and holding your inferior opponent to 33.8% is a recipe for a big win every time
  • 78-56 over UCLA in November (neutral court): brutal night for the Bruins, as they shot 1-14 on threes, got out-assisted 15-7, and lost the turnover battle 23-11
  • 75-64 over Florida in November (neutral court): it's tough to win when you shoot 32.8% from the field and 22.2% from three, as the Gators did here. That becomes even tougher when you allow your opponent to shoot 45.1% and 50%. Heels probably should have won by even more
  • 74-50 over Clemson in January (at Clemson): another case of absolute embarrassment, the Heels held Clemson to 28.3% from the field, 6-26 from three, out-rebounded the Tigers 49-30 and out-assisted them 20-8. Woof
But what about the games UNC has lost? Not counting their loss to Kentucky, there are only three: 
  • 74-66 to Butler (in the Bahamas): as a product of their 57-40 rebounding advantage, Butler attempted 15 more shots (12 more threes). The Bulldogs also held UNC to 4-16 from three, and those three stats basically decided the game
  • 60-55 to Iowa (at home): the Heels, who usually shoot pretty well from the field, shot just 27.9% from the field and 17.4% from three. The game was tight on the boards (46-42 in favor of UNC) and in terms of assists (9-8 in favor of Iowa). A single-digit assist total is a huge red flag for UNC, as their huge wins have come when they get into the high teens or twenties
  • 71-70 to Notre Dame (at home): another 4-16 showing from three point range, but the Heels almost overcame it by out-rebounding ND 43-26. They did not, however, and they missed 13 of their final 14 shots to blow their comeback
So we know Cuse is going to have to hit the boards, force turnovers, and make shots so they can get into their zone/press. Here's how they do in those areas:
  • Offensive rebounding rate: 33.9% (48th)
  • Defensive rebounding rate: 72.4% (115th)
  • Opponent assist/turnover ratio: 0.951 (170th)
  • Opponent turnovers per possession: 20.8% (74th)
  • Field goal percentage: 43.8% (134th)
  • Effective field goal percentage: 48.0% (209th)
  • Free throw rate: 25.6% (202nd)
Rebounding should be alright, as should the turnover/assist battle. I just don't know if Syracuse can score enough to keep it close. In 7 conference games, big man Rakeem Christmas is averaging 20 points and 8.9 rebounds. Throw in games against other power conference teams, and he's averaging 19.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 57.8% shooting in 11 games. 

UNC is on a 4-game winning streak against non-elite ACC teams. From a player prop perspective, they've been giving up more points to guards, so I don't think I will like a point total for Christmas. That said, Cuse has a pair of guards that might be primed for big nights - Trevor Cooney is averaging 15.7 points in conference play (19.2 if you throw out his duds against Ga Tech and Clemon), and Michael Gbinije is averaging 12.7. In their recent run against Syracuse-caliber teams, UNC has given up the following stat lines to opposing guards:
  • 20 points on 7-17 shooting (5-14 from three) in 28 minutes (Turner, NCST)
  • 19 points on 4-13 shooting (1-6 from three) in 38 minutes (Lacey, NCST)
  • 11 points on 4-9 shooting (3-6 from three) in 20 minutes (Smith, Va Tech)
  • 9 points on 3-9 shooting (3-7 from three) in 27 minutes (Johnston, Va Tech)
  • 20 points on 6-14 shooting (1-3 from three) in 31 minutes (Miller-McIntyre, Wake)
  • 35 points on 14-26 shooting (5-11 from three) in 38 minutes (Rathan-Mayes, FSU)
I don't even know if Bovada is going to do player props (nothing is posted now, just before 2pm), but I think I'd take Cooney over about 16-17 and Gbinije over 12-13. We will have to see where the lines are set, if at all - but UNC has not been containing guards.

As for the game itself, I had a gut feeling that Cuse was the play, but it could really go either way. They haven't moved from the +10.5 position that I saw this morning, and I'm really tempted to take it. I think Christmas is too good down low, and UNC doesn't have enough depth to contain both Cooney and Gbinije and also break the Cuse press. 

I'm in for one each on Cuse, Cooney, and Gbinije. I think 2/3 are hitting for sure. 

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