NCAAB Play of the day: Northern Kentucky Norse vs Oakland Grizzlies

The Northern Kentucky Norse are on a nice little run.  Winners of 9 of their last 11, the Norse are coming off of an awesome comeback against another hot team in the Detroit Titans. The Norse are not a great defensive team, ranking 212th overall.  But they bring a serious offense attack led by guards Trevon Faulkner and Marquis Warrick.  The freshman Warrick was the catalyst in their victory of Detroit, scoring 20 points in their 1-point victory. Northern Kentucky has too many guys that can penetrate the paint and handle the inside. They are a matchup problem for their non-defensive minded foes. 

Oakland has a surprisingly high scoring offense, averaging 75 ppg (82nd in the nation).  They score a lot due to their pace, they rank 87th in the nation in pace, the second highest in the Horizon League.  The Grizzlies have Jalen Moore who averages 18 ppg on the season.  They are going to try and push the pace to make up for their lack of defensive identity.  Oakland has been horrible controlling the glass and defending opposing shooters, giving up an effective field goal shooting percentage of 56.1%.  

Offensivly these two teams can match each other but the big difference between the two is on the defensive end where the Norse will have the advantage.  The advantage will also be huge for Northern Kentucky, they are 22nd in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage.  Oakland will have such a disadvantage on the boards it will be tough for them to quicken the pace in order to play the way they want to.  If the Norse control the pace they should be able to score at will against a Grizzlies team that gives up one of the highest true shooting percentages in the nation.  Northern Kentucky has too many advantages to lean any other way.  They should be able to control this game and win easily.  

Play of the day: Northern Kentucky Norse -1.5

NCAAB Play of the day: Oklahoma State Cowboys at Baylor Bears

The Baylor Bears got back on track this week covering the spread in OT versus West Virginia on Monday night. Baylor was able to lock up the Big 12 title and do it in a tough situation after a loss and of course a long covid pause to the season.  The Bears are the third most efficient offensive team in college basketball.  They are led by Jerad Butler, Macio Teague and Davion Mitchell, all average double digits, led by Butler’s 16.9 ppg.  Baylor has multiple scorers and thrives from deep.  They have been tested twice this week and will be tested again in this matchup.

The Ok State Cowboys are as hot as any time in the country.  Sweeping a series with their rivals the Oklahoma Sooners.  They are 4-0 ATS in their last four games and are in a prime spot to make a statement leading into the BIG12 tournament.  Everyone knows about Cade Cunningham but it is the rest of the young roster that has been stepping up for Ok State.  Avery Anderson has put up 16, 15 and 11 over their last three upset victories over Oklahoma (2) and Texas Tech.  His ability to penetrate the defense has been a nightmare for opposing defenses that are forced to leave him one on one with the threat of Cade Cunningham looming.  The outside shooting of Bryce Williams has also opened up the interior for the OK State slashers like Kalib Boone.  The Cowboys consistently attack the interior averaging offensive rebounds at a 31% clip.  They are relentless and it usually leads to free throws or tip ins.  The Baylor Bears don’t have a lot of weaknesses but they can be exposed on the defensive glass. In their last two games the Bear were outrebounded by 20 versus Kansas and by 5 versus West Virginia.  

The first matchup between these two teams saw Baylor was able to pull out the victory over Ok State without Cade Cunningham 81-66.  Baylor was leading by just 4 at half before pulling away in the second half.  The second half is where you saw how badly the Cowboys were missing Cade Cunningham who thrives downt he stretch of games.  The Cowboys with Cunningham are facing a Baylor team that has had two hard fought matchups with Kansas and West Virginia and is in for another one Thursday night.  This line seems like it is leaning more on the first matchup rather than the talent on the court.  The Cowboys have been great on the road this year going 6-3-1 ATS, they can match the Bears.

Play of the day: Oklahoma StateCowboys +12

Three Keys to Cardinals Success in 2021

Kwang Hyun Kim 

There was a lot of attention paid to re-signing Adam Wainwright and the arbitration hearing of Jack Flaherty.  The veteran and the ace will both play a huge role in the formation of the rotation but the key pitcher of the entire staff could be the second year lefty from Korea Kwang Hyun Kim.

Kim’s first season in the MLB was fantastic by traditional standards.  He had a 1.62 ERA in eight games pitched (seven starts), finishing with a record of 3-0.  ERA is a deceiving number, you look at any ERA under two and assume that he was an effective starter but in reality Kim had issues in 2020.  His ERA is likely a product of his ability to strand base runners.  He stranded 86% of baserunners in 2020, he was one of seven players to do that all season.  Through just seven starts, that number can be maintained.  How will that play out over the longivity of a 162 game season.

The Cardinals have a lot of options for the rotation, but after Jack Flaherty and Wainwright there lies a lot of strictly potential.  Unfortunately potential doesn’t lead to victories.  The options of Miles Mikolas (missed most of 2020), the unpredictable Carlos Martinez, the often injured and unproven Alex Reyes, the starter turned reliever turned starter Jon Gant, and the stable Daniel Ponce de Leon all are going to have a chance to compete for a spot but they all bring uncertainty.  For St. Louis to be a real contender for a championship they will need stability somewhere in the rotation.  Kim is a veteran  of professional baseball, he features some nasty stuff that can be effective against major league hitters, but his consistency will be a question and his continued ability to pitch around trouble.  There was luck involved in Kim’s success last year.  That same luck may not be there this year. 

Kim’s performance will dictate the entire staff.  

Tommy Edman taking the leadoff spot.

On opening day the Cardinals will not have Kolten Wong on their roster for the first time since the 2015 season.  His dazzling defense will be missed but it could be his steady play at the plate over the last few seasons that will leave a gap that even his backhand couldn’t plug up.  Wong took over the leadoff spot in 2019, leading to the best offensive season of his career with a .361 OBP, 25 steals and 11 homers.  2020 was not a stellar offensive season for Wong but he still was able to amass a .350 OBP, which was good enough for third on the team behind slugger Paul Goldschmidt and veteran Brad Miller.

The Cardinals have to find an answer for the top of the order.  Guys like Dylan Carlson and potentially Matt Carpenter could fit the mold.  Carlson fits better in the #2 slot in the lineup, allowing the young hitter to get fastballs being protected by Goldschmidt and the newly acquired Nolan Arenado. Carpenter, entering the age 35 season, has seen nothing but regression. 2020 saw Carpenter have his lowest WRC+ (83), his OBP was decent at .325 but he also had his strikeout rate jump to 28%.  Carpenter’s bat speed has dropped at an alarming level ccausing his hard hit percentage to be at just 35%.   His time at the top of the order is over.  

Edman has the versatility to stay in the lineup.  He can play all over the field and can switch hit, making him a great matchup for any starter.  Edman will get the first shot at the leadoff spot and if he can bring the same offensive output he brought in 2019 the Cardinals offense will be impossible to stop.

Tyler O’Neill living up to the hype. 

The time has come for Tyler O’Neil.  Is he a boom or a bust? He won a gold glove last year, so that would be a positive.  He has hit 140 career homers in the minor leagues over seven seasons.  That is Crash Davis level power at the minor level.  It’s time for the organization to find out what they have in the burly bomber.  

The Cardinals committed to the youth in the outfield movement.  Moving Dexter Fowler, made Harrison Bader the oldest projected starter at 26 years old.  Top prospect Dylan Carlson will move into the biggest role on the team, projecting to play multiple spots in the outfield as well as be primed in the middle of the order.  The aformentioned Bader will man centerfield and play gold glove level outfield, anything from the plate will be a plus but not much can be expected.  The Cardinal’s will need O’Neill to live up to his early career promise.  The strikeouts will be there but the power has to show up. 

St. Louis showed it’s commitment to a new approach in the outfield, they have to have the confidence to stick with O’Neill and allow him to get comfortable at the plate.  Let him go through early growing pains to figure out his swing.  He will reward the Cardinals with the power and protection needed for your big bats.  Oh, he is also the fastest player in baseball.  Let this guy loose. 

NCAAB Play of the day: Detroit Titans at Northern Kentucky Norse

The Horizon League tournament is continuing Tuesday night with a matchup of one of my favorite teams the Detroit Titans versus the Northern Kentucky Norse.  

Detroit is on a 11-2 run over their last 13 games after a dreadful start to the season.  The offense has been the story for the Titans, they are averaging 76 ppg on the season. They have put up at least 80 points in 6 of their last 7 games.  They are led by arguably the best guard in the Horizon League in Antoine Davis.  Davis put on a show inthe first round of the Horizon tournament scoring 46 points against Robert Morris.  He leads an offensive that has an effective field goal percentage of 54.7% and as a team they are one of the top free throw shooting teams in college basketball shooting an astounding 80% from the line.  

Northern Kentucky has an efficient offense of their own, ranking 139th in the nation in offensive efficiency.  The Norse are strong on the inside averaging 54% from inside the arc and average a 34% offensive rebound rate.  Their advantage on the inside will allow them to score against a mediocre Detroit defense.  The Norse feature guards Trevon Faulkner and and Marquiss Walker, both have the ability to penetrate the defense and get easy buckets. 

This game features two teams that are efficient on the offensive end while lacking the ability to get consistent stops on defense. The Detroit offense will set the tone behind Antoine Davis and try and get this game to a more uptempo pace. This being a conference tournament game means we will likely see a lot of fouling at the end which plays in perfectly for the over.  Detroits ability to his outside shots and put away teams on the free throw line should lead to a victory and a higher scoring matchup. I am leaning towards Detroit at -1.5 but my favorite play is the over.

Play of the day: Over 146 (Like Detroit -1.5)

NCAAB play of the day: St. Joe’s Hawks vs Richmond Spiders

The Hawks stunk to start the season.  They began 2021 going 1-14 with their one win coming in a non-cover against Albany.  Their horrid start was primarily without their star Ryan Daly.  Daly has returned to the lineup and so has the offense.  With two straight A-10 victories over Dayton and LaSalle scoring over 90 points in both contests the Hawks have seemed to find their groove.  St. Joe’s record is terrible but they have been an overly competitive team during most of the season.  They have had four games go to overtime and lost six games by single digits.  

The Richmond Spiders started the season completely different from the Hawks.  The Spiders started the season 7-1 with a marquee victory over college basketball blue blood Kentucky.  The Spiders looked like a potential mid-major sleeper team.  Richmond came back down to earth with losses to Hofstra and LaSalle, they now find themselves on the outside of the bubble.   Richmond is an efficient offense, ranking 21st in the nation.  They have an offense that can compete with anyone but they have a problem on the defensive end.  The Spiders give up an effective field goal percentage of 52%. That will be a problem against the fast paced Hawks that will be looking to move up and down the court. 

The Hawk’s record is bad, but they are solid against the spread at 7-10 and are playing a lot better with Daly back in the lineup.  Along with Daly, St. Joe’s has Taylor Funk coming off a 36 point game against Dayton.  The combination of Daly and Funk will be able to put up points against a subpar Richmond defense.  The pace will be quickened and the Spiders will have problems pulling away.  The Hawks played their last game against Richmond without Daly and that led to a 23 point loss.  With Daly in the lineup and a lot of momentum going into this matchup, St. Joe’s should be able to give the Spiders a game.  This spread is too high for a conference matchup with a fully healthy Hawks team.  

Play of the day: St. Joe’s Hawks +14.5

NCAAB Play of the day: Duquesne Dukes at La Salle Explorers

The Duquesne Dukes are just 7-7 on the season but they have been red hot ATS, covering 6 straight games.   They build their brand on the defensive end ranking 65th in defensive efficiency, they give up just 65 ppg.   The Dukes had a three game win streak ended by Richmond this weekend, but they gave the Spiders all they could handle.  The Duke’s are led by a trio of seniors Marcus Weathers (14.9 ppg), Michael Hughes (11 ppg & 8 rpg), and Tavion Dunn-Martin (10.8 ppg).

La Salle has been on a horrible run, losing four straight games including a recent loss to St. Joe’s and a loss to Fordham.  The Explorers are just 160th in adjusted offensive efficiency and even worse on the defensive end ranking 250th in adjusted defensive efficiency.  La Salle will not be able to get anything going on offense.  The Dukes can slow down the pace and dominate the exterior and interior of the defensive end.  La Salle’s defense has been a problem all season and will continue on Wednesday night. 

This game features two teams going in opposite directions.  The Duke’s have been playing at a high level while the Explorers have had trouble even competing in games. Duquesne is led by seniors while La Salle is led by underclassmen.  This is going to be a low scoring affair that fits right into the mold of the game plan for Duquesne.  This game should be set more around a 6 point spread which means there will be value on the Duke’s

Play of the day: Duquesne Dukes -4 

NCAAB Play of the day: Oklahoma Sooners at Kansas State Wildcats

The Sooners are 8-2 ATS in their last ten games, including victories over Alabama, Texas, Kansas and West Virginia.  With a litany of big victories under their belt they came out flat in their last matchup against Iowa State, sneaking by the Cyclones by only ten points and failing to cover the spread.  I expect Lon Kruger’s bunch will come out to set the tone early on the road against the cellar dweller Kansas State.  They will look to make quick work of a team that historically they have not had a lot of success against.  

Oklahoma is not an offensive juggernaut, when they do score, they do it efficiently, ranking 31st in offensive efficiency.  Austin Reaves, De’Vion Harmon and Brady Manek all average double figures and should be able to have their way with a less than stellar Kansas State defense that gives up 72 ppg and 46% shooting.  In their first matchup of the year Oklahoma handled Kansas State winning 76-50 on January 19th.  They were able to cover the spread while only shooting 11/21 from the free throw line.  It was their top 20 ranked defense that shined forcing 23 Wildcat turnovers.

Kansas State has no offensive identity, because they don’t score.  They average just 61 ppg with an effective field goal percentage of 47.6 on the season ranking them near the bottom. They don’t shoot three well (29%) and they can’t make anything from the free throw line (65%), their leading scorer is Nijuel Pack who averages 12 per game, he didn’t play in their first matchup with the Sooners but he will have a tough task of going against Reaves and Harmon, they will lock him down and stop any kind of K-State offensive push.  The Wildcats don’t have any kind of home court advantage either, they are 3-12 ATS at Bramlage Coliseum.

Oklahoma is better in every facet of the game and will show it on Tuesday night. 10.5 points on the road is a lot but the Sooners have a defense that will hold K-State under 60 and Lon Kruger will take advantage of multiple mis-matches.  

 Play of the day: Oklahoma Sooners -10.5

NCAAB play of the day: Sam Houston State Bearkats at Lamar Cardinals

Sam Houston State is red hot winning 13 of their last 14 games.  They are an offensive juggernaut in the Southland conference, averaging 81 ppg in 2021.  They are one of the faster teams in college basketball, ranking 64th in pace.  They are a stellar unit from behind the arc shooting 36% as a team from three.  Their offense is led by Zack Nutall, averaging 19 ppg.  Nutall was dominant in their first game of the season, scoring 28 points.  

The Lamar Cardinal’s offense has been less than stellar this season.  They are averaging just 64 ppg this season.  They are putrid from deep, shooting just 28% from three on the season, they do not have the firepower to stick with the Sam Houston State offense.  Lamar can’t guard the three at all, giving up 39% shooting from deep.  They are going to get picked apart by the Bearkats offense that thrives from deep.  

Lamar has already been owned by Sam Houston State losing by 25 points earlier this season. The Cardinals have not been able to get anything going this season and have little to play for, Sam Houston State has the chance to still win the Southland Conference and are looking for a shot to make the NCAA tournament.  The Bearkats will be too much to handle for Lamar, this is a double digit victory.  

 Play of the day: Sam Houston State Bearkats -9.5

NCAAB Play of the day: Robert Morris Colonials at Detroit Titans

The Robert Morris Colonials head to the Detroit Titans Friday night in a Horizon League matchup featuring two of the weakest defenses in all of college basketball.  Detroit and Robert Morris both rank worse than 280th in defensive efficiency in the nation.  Robert Morris in particular has given up at least 79 points in seven of their last eight games.  The Titans have scored over 80 points in three of their last four.

Robert Morris can’t guard the perimeter, they give up threes at 38% per game on the season.  The Titans are a great outside shooting team, as a team they shoot 38% from deep.  Detroit guard Antoine Davis leads the offensive attack, averaging 22 ppg, he has scored 23 points in five straight games..  Along with Davis Detroit features guards Noah Waterman and Bul Kuol, both are double digit scorers. Detroit doesn’t move quickly but they are all about efficiency on the offensive end.  

The Colonials give up 77 ppg on the season. Their offense has begun to catch up with their defense scoring 81 and 88 in their last two games. Guard AJ Bramah leads the offensive attack averaging 21 ppg and 10 rpg, they only feature one other double digit scorer but the offensive works well around Bramah and their recent offensive output makes them a real problem for the Titans defense.  

The Colonials and the Titans are both terrible on the defensive end.  They both can shoot the ball well from deep and it should be an easy flow for both offenses.  Detroit is a 9.5 point favorite that should be able to cover the spread, their offense should be able to get to 80 and Robert Morris is red hot on the offensive end.  This number is too low for how bad these defenses are. 

 Play of the day: Over 143.5

NCAAB Play of the day: BYU Cougars at Pacific Tigers

The West Coast Conference is on full display Thursday night.  The matchup between the BYU Cougars and the Pacific Tigers will be the undercard for the Gonzaga/St. Mary’s matchup.  The undercard always has great value and I think this game is a perfect example of it.  The Cougars are 15-5 overall on the season with losses to Gonzaga (2), USC, Boise State and Pepperdine.  All but Pepperdine are likely NCAA tournament teams and all losses have something in common, the opposing team’s prolific athletic talent took away the strengths of the Cougars.  That will not be the case in this matchup. 

Pacific plays at one of the slower paces in the nation ranking 288th overall.  Their pace has hidden a lot of their flaws on the defensive end.  They are efficient according to the analytics ranking 98th overall in defensive efficiency but they still give up 71 ppg. They really have trouble defending beyond the arc giving up 35% shooting.  While this BYU team is the shot-chucking team of the last few seasons they still can hit the three when given the chance making 35% of them on the season.  Pacific relies on leading scorers Daniss Jenkins and Jeremiah Bailey, both average 12 ppg, other than that they don’t have any consistency on the offensive end.  The Tigers got huge performances from their bench in the first matchup from Jabril Price-Noel and Justin Moore, who gave them 34 points in a OT loss.  They can’t assume that they will get that kind of production again.  

BYU guards the interior very well only allowing 44% shooting from inside the three point line this season.  The Tigers are a horrible outside shooting team, they have to force turnovers and drive to get baskets and an offense reliant on that will have problems with the length BYU brings to the table.  The Cougars have a group of offensive threats most notably guard Alex Barcullo who averages 15 ppg.  They have two post threats that are ferocious on the glass in Caleb Lohner and Purdue transfer Matt Harms,.  The interior will be completely controlled by BYU, they average 78 ppg and should have no problem scoring in this matchup.  

The Cougars are not scared of playing on the road.  They are 4-1 ATS on the road this season and they are in need of a win.  While there are no stats that back up the desperation for a win, I like to go with teams on the bubble playing teams with little to play for.  Pacific is a tough team led by a former NBA player and will keep this close in the first half, ultimately the better offense will pull away. 
Play of the day: BYU Cougars -5.5