Thursday, November 01, 2012

Previewing Sunday, November 11th

For my November 9th previews please click here and here. My November 10th preview is here. Let's keep this going with a preview of November 11th:

Marshall at Villanova (1 PM) - This is one of those intriguing early season measuring stick games. I didn't pick either of these teams to make the NCAA Tournament or to be right on the bubble, but both are certainly plausible bubble teams. Villanova had a horrible season last year, tumbling all the way to 5-13 in Big East play. They lose point guard Maalike Wayns, but it's hard to consider that an irreplaceable loss when they finished 2nd from last in the Big East in A/FGM ratio in conference play (51.2%). The loss of Dominic Cheek is bigger, since he was the team's most efficient scorer. They have several options at point guard. 2011 recruit Ty Johnson and 2012 Ryan Arcidiacono will compete with Wake Forest transfer Tony Chennault.

This will be a particularly interesting match-up for Villanova because Marshall can score, and Villanova's biggest problem last season was defense. Marshall loses three regulars from last year's bubble team, but they arguably bring back their two most important players: leading scorer DeAndre Kane (16.5 per game) and dominant big man Dennis Tinnon.With a couple of Juco additions and a big recruiting class, it's hard to tell which way Tom Herrion will go with his lineups.

Southeastern Louisiana at #23 Wisconsin (2 PM, ESPN3) - I was very intrigued to see this new Wisconsin lineup anyway, but even more now that they found out on Saturday that Josh Gasser will be out for the year with a torn ACL. It's a terrible blow for a Wisconsin team that was way underrated at #23 (even losing Gasser, their most important player, I still think they'll finish the year higher than 23rd). We get so used to Bo Ryan having a starting lineup filled with fifth year seniors, but this year he's going to have two newcomers in very key positions: point guard George Marshall (redshirt freshman) and swing forward Sam Dekker (true freshman). With Gasser out and with Mike Bruesewitz likely to miss the first few games with his own injury, I expect both freshmen to start.

Wisconsin is very deep in the front court with established quality players (Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and Frank Kaminsky, in addition to Bruesewitz). But without Gasser, this Wisconsin backcourt is going to very new to Big Ten fans. Ben Brust is a good three-point shooter, but after that? Maybe Traevon Jackson? Can Dekker play shooting guard? We might see some awfully large lineups from Wisconsin. That is why the loss of Gasser is so important, particularly trying to get through a Big Ten conference that is going to be really good from top to bottom. By the way, Southeastern Louisiana plays at a slow tempo and finished 343rd in the nation in adjusted Pomeroy offensive efficiency last season. They might not score 35 points in this game.

Manhattan at #2 Louisville (4 PM) - Louisville is one of several teams getting #1 hype preseason. In my most recent bracket I shifted them up to #1 overall myself. But the top of the bracket is as wide open as it's been in modern memory, and I put Louisville up at #1 not so much because I think they're the best team but because I think they have the easiest path to a conference title of any of the other 1 seed contenders. The Big East just isn't anywhere near as good at the top as the Big Ten is, which will make things much harder on Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan.

I can go through the Louisville roster, but the reality is that we know their defense is going to be awesome. The only thing that can hold them back is their offense. Both Peyton Siva and Russ Smith had moments of brilliance last season where they looked like All-Americans. And they also had moments where they looked lost and were more likely to turn the ball over than do anything good with it. If those two can put it all together this season then they will be awfully good.

And interestingly enough, Manhattan's head coach, Steve Masiello, played for Rick Pitino for four years at Kentucky and then was an assistant under him at Louisville for six years before taking the Manhattan job. Manhattan only lost one starter to graduation from a team that finished in a tie for third place in the MAAC last season, though they were dealt a blow when Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey was declared ineligible to play this season. Manhattan's best player is George Beamon, an explosive shooting guard. They are hoping to shore up their biggest problem last season (point guard play) with 2012 recruit CJ Jones. They will likely contend for a MAAC title, and are certainly no cupcake for Louisville.

Charleston Southern at #12 Arizona (6 PM, Pac-12 Network) - There isn't a team with a bigger disparity between my projections and the human polls than Arizona. Arizona was a decent team last year and they have a good recruiting class coming in, but they also lose four of their top six minutes earners from last season, including two of their three best scorers as well as their best point guard. They will obviously hope that Kevin Parrom can come back at full strength, and Mark Lyons is an important transfer from Xavier, but those two along with Solomon Hill represent the only proven scorers on the roster.

Much of Arizona's success or failure this coming season will be on the impact of star freshmen Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley. I'm dubious that they'll be able to figure it out early in the season. And while the Pac-12 can't possibly be worse than it was last season, when it was the worst BCS conference in the modern 64/65/68 team NCAA Tournament era, but it's still going to be very weak. Unless Arizona picks up a bunch of big wins in their non-conference slate, how can they possibly build the type of resume required to earn a 3 or 4 seed? I just don't see it. I think they'll be on the bubble.

Charleston Southern is no cupcake, by the way. They only lose one starter off a team that went 11-7 in the Big South last season. They are my pick to win the conference this season. It would be pretty shocking if they won at Arizona, but don't expect this to be a 40-50 point win for the Wildcats. I'd guess something like a 15 point win for Arizona.

New Mexico State at Oregon State (9:30 PM, ESPNU) - The Oregon State fanbase is surely ready for their program to turn the corner. They actually got a little bit of bubble buzz last season before fading to 7-11 in Pac-12 play. They had no seniors on the roster, but lost Jared Cunningham to the NBA. Devon Collier will probably be the most important returner, having developed into one of the better big men in the Pac-12. Angus Brandt is also a good player who can stretch the floor with his size. Eric Moreland, a freshman last season, is another quality big. They have a deep recruiting class also, if not a particularly top heavy one.

The biggest concern for the Beavers will be their defense, which was terrible last season (10th best in the Pac-12, according to Pomeroy). Oregon State hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament since 1990 (in fact, they only have a single NIT appearance since then), and if they're going to finally break through and earn an at-large bid then they will have to do it on defense. New Mexico State, with their ability to get after the boards on both ends of the floor, will be a good early test for them.

New Mexico State finished 2nd in the WAC last season, though they lose three key players, including star Wendell McKines. Look for 6'10" Tshilidzi Nephawe to excel with the additional playing time. Their biggest question mark will be point guard, where they were weak last season and lose starter Hernst Laroche. They will be looking for an immediate impact from New Orleans transfer KC Ross-Miller.

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