By: Zachary Warren January 9, 2015 Louisville, KY. (Analyzed Sports)
Warr Zone College Hoops Picks
After the rough ending to the bowl season, the Warr Zone is active again and ready to make some predictions on 10 of the biggest college basketball games over the weekend. First, there is a lot of statistical data I use in my research and I encourage all who read this to check out sites I use on a daily basis: www.kenpom.com and www.teamrankings.com. Both of these sites go beyond the normal box score numbers to interpret the data and provide meaningful information from it. In fact, some of this is even used to find some “advantage” when it comes to betting against the oddsmakers…Shhhh! don’t tell Vegas though!
Ohio State @ Indiana, 12:00 on ESPN
Both teams will like to run up and down the court as Ohio State is ranked 19th and IU is ranked 10th in offense, respectively. Neither team plays stout enough defense to write home about but the Hoosiers are dreadful on the defensive end (199th nationally).
Ohio State is led by talented freshman, DeAngelo Russell (18.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 5.1 APG) and Shannon Scott who averages 7.6 APG. They drive one of the most efficient offenses in the country which is ranked 7th (17.9) in assists, 3rd in FG % (52.2%) and 8th in 3-Point % (40.5%).
IU is also led by a very talented backcourt in James Blackmon Jr. (16.6 PPG and 5.5 RPG) and Yogi Ferrell (16.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 4.9 APG). There is not much in the interior for the Hoosiers but they also offer an intriguing wing player in Troy Williams (12.5 PPG and 5.6 RPG) who has taken a very similar leap to former Hoosier, Victor Oladipo.
The Hoosiers have two advantages: rebounding (8th compared to OSUs 106th nationally) and Assembly Hall. Assembly is one of the toughest environments for visiting teams to play in but I’m not sure it will be enough for them to overcome the Buckeyes.
Ohio State 80, Indiana 76
Kentucky @ Texas A&M, 1:00 on CBS
This appears to be a huge mismatch (almost any UK game this year will be) as Kentucky is the best defensive (1st) and one of the best offensive teams in the country (7th). On the other hand, Texas A&M is middle of the road in offense and defense (98th and 54th, respectively).
I’m not sure where to begin with this UK team as it may prove to be one of the best college basketball teams of the last 30 years. Their National Championship odds recently fell to 1/1 or even money which is unprecedented this early (or any time) in the season. They do come off their two biggest struggles of the year in a 58-50 victory over rival UofL and an 89-86 OT victory over Ole Miss. I would not look too much into it as this is a young team and they will have showings like this every so often. They spread the attack around as seven players average between 7.6 and 11.4 PPG. Willie Cauley-Stein is the leader of the team but his stats (9.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 1.9 SPG and 1.9 BPG) are not the most impressive at first look. He is the motor that drives their attack and he always seems to step up in the big moments
Texas A&M is very bland on both ends but has four Juniors and two Seniors in its rotation. They are led by Jalen Jones (13.3 PPG and 6 RPG), Danuel House (11.4 PPG) and Alex Caruso (8.2 PPG and 6.4 APG). They do not generate much from their defense and will have to try and run on offense to beat the UK defense and pack it in on defense and make the UK beat them from the outside.
The Cats are just too much and have too much talent. I like them to come out strong and remind everyone why they are the best team in the country.
Kentucky 70, Texas A&M 52
Louisville @ North Carolina, 2:00 on ESPN
Great matchup of two teams that will try to shove their strength at each other. North Carolina is one of the best offenses (16th) in the country while Louisville is one of the best defenses in the country (2nd).
Make no mistake, Louisville will go as far as their offense will take them. Their defense will always be great but in order to reach their third Final Four in four years they are going to need their middling offense to pick it up. They are led by one of the best guard-forward combos in the country in Montrezl Harell (15.9 PPG and 9.3 RPG) and Terry Rozier (17 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 2.3 SPG). They also have two other contributors in Wayne Blackshear (12.5 PPG and 5.3 RPG) and Chris Jones (12.8 PPG and 3.1 APG). UofL must improve its less than one Assist/Turnover margin if it wants to get better on offense as well. One side note, this team has to be one of the most top-heavy teams in the country as they have four players averaging at least 12.5 PPG but the next closest averages 3.8.
North Carolina is led by their do everything PG, Marcus Paige (13.5 PPG and 3.6 APG) and big, slimmed-down Kennedy Meeks (12.7 PPG and 8.8 RPG). They do not shoot it too efficiently but they crash the glass at an impressive rate (2nd in the country) which allows them to make up for their poor shooting. Paige will need some help to fight through the UofL press but the game these two teams played last year should give him help on how to prepare for it.
The Tar Heels do not want back-to-back home losses in conference and will look to outpace the Cardinals. This is Louisville’s first big road ACC game and at this time I don’t think they have enough offensively to keep up with UNC.
North Carolina 70, Louisville 65
Maryland @ Purdue, 2:30 on BTN
Both of these teams are respectable on offense but Purdue is not so good on defense as they rank 127th nationally. This will be an entertaining road game for Maryland as each Big Ten team will try to welcome them appropriately (or inappropriately).
Maryland has a nice three-headed attack in Dez Wells (Xavier transfer), Jake Layman (14.4 PPG and 6.2 RPG) and Melo Trimble (16.3 PPG and 3.1 APG). Their problem on offense is a less than one assist/turnover ratio (11.7/13) which could also explain their iffy shooting percentages. If they could reduce their turnovers and pass better they may get open looks and knock down more shots.
One of the most amazing stats in all of college basketball has to be that Purdue has the smallest margin between its leading scorer (Kendall Stephens) and its fourth leading scorer (Vince Edwards) at .6 PPG. Throw in Raphael Davis at 9.3 PPG and you might have the most balanced attack in the country. Purdue’s issues start on the defensive end and it might have to do with the fact they do not cause a lot of turnovers.
This might be closer than some expect but I do expect Maryland to pull this one out as they extend the lead late to make it look a lot less close.
Maryland 70, Purdue 61
Baylor @ TCU, 4:00 on ESPN2
TCU was one of the better stories in college basketball as they were undefeated in non-conference play and then…conference play began and they have started out 0-2. Baylor played a very soft non-conference schedule and has also started out 0-2 in conference play but lost to Oklahoma and Kansas.
Baylor is one of the more balanced teams in the country in that they have six players averaging between 9.6 and 11.7 PPG. They have a nice guard-forward-center combo in PG Kenny Cherry (9.9 PPG and 4.4 APG), forward Taurean Prince (11.7 PPG and 5.1 PPG) and center Rico Gathers (9.6 PPG and 10.8 RPG). They are a good offensive (20th) and rebounding (13th) team but everything else is middle of the road.
TCU started the year 13-0 but played the worst (351st) non-conference schedule of any team in America! Now that they have been forced to step up in competition with the beginning of conference play they have showed their true colors. They do not do anything great but they do a few things reasonably well: block (7th), FG % (36th) and rebound (26th). Their best player is guard, Kyan Anderson (13.4 PPG and 4.1 PPG) and he has some help from wings Trey Ziegler (formerly of Central Michigan and Pittsburgh) and Kenrich Williams.
I expect Baylor to take advantage of TCUs porous defense and win by a decent margin.
Baylor 66, TCU 58
Xavier @ Butler, 4:30
These teams are opposites this year. Xavier is good offensively (14th) but bad defensively (86th) while Butler is good defensively (18th) and bad offensively (81st).
Xavier comes off beating Seton Hall into this new I-74 rivalry between the close schools. Another balanced attack as six players average 8.7 PPG or more. Their two leaders are Trevon Bluiett (13.1 PPG) and Matt Stainbrook (11.8 PPG and 7.5 RPG). They are quite efficient on offense which speaks to their high assist totals but their defense is not up to par.
Butler is not efficient at all as they rank 164th in FG % at 44% and 143rd in three-point FG% at 34.8%. They are a good defensive team due to their fundamentals and style of play. Kellen Dunham is the straw that stirs their drink as he averages 17 PPG. He has a nice running mate in Roosevelt Jones who averages 11.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 3.9 APG.
Xavier has trouble winning on the road and I expect that to continue as they play in the underrated Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler will do just enough to hold home turf and grab a close victory.
Butler 67, Xavier 63
Texas @ Oklahoma State, 5:00 on ESPNU
This is a great matchup of two Big 12 rivals especially now that Texas PG, Isaiah Taylor, has returned back to action. Neither team is great offensively so this may be a struggle to get to 60 points.
As mentioned earlier, Texas gets back its best player in Isaiah Taylor after he missed 10 games with a broken wrist. He is one of the better PG in the country as he averages 12.4 PPG and 3 APG. He is joined by big men Jonathan Holmes (12.1 PPG and 6.5 RPG) and super frosh Myles Turner (11.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG and 2.7 BPG). Texas will make its money on rebounding (4th) and defense (13th) but is one of the most inefficient teams in the country on the offensive end.
Oklahoma State has one of the best one-two punches in the country in Phil Forte III (17.6 PPG) and Le’Bryan Nash (17.5 PPG and 6.5 RPG). After that they have a good group of role players who each have their own specialty. Michael Cobbins provides the rebounding (6.4 RPG) and defense (2.3 BPG) while Anthony Hickey Jr. provides assists (3 APG) and steals (2.1 SPG). The Pokes do not necessarily do anything great but they do a lot above average like steals (12th), defense (32nd) and blocks (42nd).
In a game this close between two teams where one does not have a special skill then I like to go with the home team and that means I like Oklahoma St in a close one.
Oklahoma State 63, Texas 60
Virginia @ Notre Dame, 6:00 on ESPN2
This is the game of the weekend in my mind. Both of these teams are great offensively and Virginia matches that with a strong defense while Notre Dame is efficient in almost all it does.
Virginia was known for its great defense last year and this year they have that same defense back but this year they have the offense to match. They are the only team ranked in the top five offensive (4th) and defensive (5th) efficiency. Their best player is Justin Anderson (15.1 PPG and 4.9 RPG) while Malcolm Brogdon (13 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 2.7 APG) and Anthony Gill (12.6 PPG and 7.1 RPG) are not a bad two-three combo. They do not turn it over and they shoot it efficiently which usually does not lead to many run outs which helps their defense get set.
Notre Dame is about as efficient as you get. They rank 1st in FG % at 54.8% and 7th in three-point FG % at 40.6%. Their main four players are Jerian Grant (17.3 PPG and 6.3 APG), Zach Auguste (14.9 PPG and 6.4 RPG), Demetrius Jackson (14.3 PPG) and sharpshooter, Pat Connaughton (13.9 PPG and 8.3 RPG). Where they will have tough times is on defense where they rank an abysmal 162nd in the nation.
While I like both teams offensively, I like Virginia’s ability to match that defensively. Notre Dame’s crowd will be rowdy, especially after their upset victory at North Carolina,but not enough to overcome the Cavs well-rounded attack.
Virginia 72, Notre Dame 65
Iowa State @ West Virginia, 8:00 on ESPN2
Another great matchup in the deepest league in the country this year. Both teams know how to play offense and will light up the scoreboard.
Iowa State has enjoyed a nice turnaround under Fred Hoiberg. He assembled another talented team but one that is quite different from years past. His teams have always shot a lot of threes but this year they are connecting on 34.4% of them which is good for 155th in the country. Their best player is a post player in Georges Niang (15.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG) and he gets help from Bryce Dejean-Jones (13.4 PPG and 6.1 RPG). They do boast a balanced and deep attack though as six players average at least 9.5 PPG.
West Virginia plays offense well but also offers a pretty good defense as well as they rank 21st nationally which is helped by their country leading 13.1 SPG. The Mountaineers are led by Juwan Staten (16.1 PPG and 4 APG) and big men Devin Williams (10.6 PPG and 7.2 RPG) and Jonathan Holton (10.4 PPG and 6.6 RPG). They are not terribly efficient but their steals happy defense can lead to some easier buckets on the offensive end.
The difference in the defensive abilities of these two teams is the difference for me in this one as I expect WVU to pull this one out on a late home game with a raucous crowd.
West Virginia 80, Iowa State 72
Duke @ North Carolina State, 1:30 on CBS
Duke is in the 2nd tier of teams this year only because Kentucky is in a class by themselves. North Carolina State is not near that 2nd tier though and they will have a tough time slowing down this Duke offense.
While Jahlil Okafor (18.9 PPG and 8.9 RPG) gets all the pub, he has a talented group around him which makes it easy for him to showcase his skills. Fellow freshmen Justice Winslow (12.7 PPG) and Tyus Jones (10 PPG) help complement returners Quinn Cook (14.4 PPG) and Amile Jefferson (8.3 PPG and 7.4 RPG). This year’s Duke team is so much better than last year’s team because they actually play defense (17th in the country). Also, they are really efficient on offense from a FG% (51.8%).
NC State has enough offense to keep it a close game but defensively, not so much. They are rather poor on defense as they rank 117th nationally. Also hurting them is a less than one assist/turnover margin (10.8/11.6) which also contributes to their non-efficient offensive ways. Trevor Lacy (16.7 PG), Ralston Turner (13.1 PPG) and Anthony Barber (11.8 PPG) have the talent to try to keep the game close but they will need help from unexpected sources to try to pull this one out.
Duke is just too deep and talented to lose this one even if NC State will have this game circled as their game of the year.
Duke 78, NC State 68
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