NBA Draft Winners

Detroit Pistons- Cade Cunningham, G, Oklahoma State, Luka Garza, C, Iowa, Isaiah Livers, F, Michigan, Balsa Koprivica, C, Florida State

The Pistons have not drafted an all-star since 2012 when they scooped up Georgetown center Andre Drummond.  They had their chance to grab the future and they didn’t over think it when they selected Cade Cunningham with the #1 pick in the 2021 draft.  

Cunningham immediately upgrades their entire roster, he is a 6’8” point forward that can control the game with or without the ball. He turned around a young Oklahoma State team, making them a contender in the stacked Big 12 all season.   He will join a young Pistons core led by Saddiq Bey and the returning 2020 first round pick PG Killian Hayes.  Time will tell whether Cade will primarily play on the ball or without it as Hayes was struck with the injury bug last season before anyone could gauge his skill at the NBA level.

Much like 2020 I feel like the Pistons didn’t just crush their first pick but were able to add multiple players that could make an impact on the roster.  Adding Michigan’s Isaiah Livers not only gets them a perfect fit for their state fan base but gives them a legit two-way player that has NBA size at the 3.  Livers will fit in well off the bench for a Detroit team that will have an open competition for nearly every position.  Oh they also added Luka Garza,  the most dominant player in all of college basketball.  There are a lot of questions surrounding his game transitioning to the NBA, but his skills and late round pick really make him a gamble worth taking at such a low cost.

Koprivica is 7 feet tall and has skills that allowed him to play the up-tempo offense that Florida State played.  An NBA body that is worth the risk.

Golden State Warriors- Jonathan Kuminga, F, GLeague Ignite, Moses Moody, G, Arkansas

The Warriors could intend to move both of these players to grab veteran depth to go along with their trio of stars.  Nevertheless they grabbed the best possible talent available at 7 and 14 and it is not even that close. 

Golden State had Jonathan Kuminga dropped to them at #7, a forward that already has an NBA body at 6’8” and 220 pounds.  Kuminga already has a professional season under his belt, playing in the G League, averaging 15 points, 7 rebounds and nearly 3 assists per game.  He is a two way player that features a 7-foot wingspan that will allow him to guard positions 1-4 and potentially 5’s in today’s small ball era.  The one knock on Kuminga is an inability to stay focused on the defensive end, with the veteran leadership of Draymond Green that problem should be handled.  He is a rim runner that will fit in nicely with the skills of Steph and Klay opening up the inside for him.  

With the 14th pick the Warriors grabbed Moses Moody.  Moody was actually projected in the top ten.  Many thought the Warriors would have to take him at #7.  Shockingly he fell to them and it is a perfect fit for both parties.  Moody also has a professional level body at 6’6” with a long wingspan.  Moody has to improve his 3-pt shooting, but his overall game fits in nicely on the offensive end.  The Warriors will likely be patient with Klay Thompson, likely trying to reduce his workload.  Moody will get many opportunities to be in the limelight. 

Charlotte Hornets- James Bouknight, G UConn, Kai Jones, C, Texas, JT Thor, F, Auburn, Scottie Lewis, G, Florida

Charlotte had a lot of holes to fill around LaMelo Ball. First they needed a big man, they traded for Mason Plumlee.  A perfect fit for the pick and roll offense along with Ball.  Plumlee had a career season in 2021 and he allowed the Hornets to draft and fill in other needs. 

Much like the Warriors the Hornets took advantage of a talented player that seemed to fall into their lap.  UConn guard James Bouknight was projected in the top 6 but was sitting their at #11.  Rather than get tricky, Charlotte grabbed Bouknight and now has a backcourt that will grow over the next five years minimum. 

The Hornets continued to add athletes, taking Texas big man Kai Jones and Auburn’s JT Thor.  Jones could be a diamond in the rough, he is a mobile 6’10” player that shot 38% from behind the arc and he will be able to move with the pace that Ball and company will bring.  JT Thor didn’t dazzle statistically in his freshman season but his raw ability and size make him a project that will reward in the long run if coached up.  He brings a lot of defensive ability. 

Honorable Mention- Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets

Can Cade save the Pistons?

The draft lottery can change an organization. If you win you have a chance to choose the next great star for your organization that could potentially lead your organization to prominence or can set you back for a decade. The Detroit Pistons have been looking for their next great star for over ten years. The last time they were relevant at all was the 2007-2008 season. Since that season the Pistons have been over .500 just one time and made the playoffs just one time. Much like their team the organization has shot and missed continually on draft night.

If you take a look at the Pistons top ten picks over the last 15 years only Andre Drummond has made an All-Star team. Players like Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Stanley Johnson were all selected in the top ten and none of them were successful in making an impact on the team. None are currently on their roster and other than Caldwell-Pope none of them even find themselves in an NBA rotation. The Pistons attempted to build their team through free agency and trades, acquiring former Clippers star Blake Griffin . The past his prime Griffin helped them make the playoffs for the first time in ten years but his diminishing skill set accompanied by a lack of any guard production…and Andre Drummon stinking forced the Pistons to rethink everything. The Pistons moved on from Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin in order to help them plummet to the bottom of the league. They were looking for a chance to start over and they needed that big time player, a difference maker to build their organization around. The ping pong balls dropped their way on lottery night and the prize was Cade Cunningham.

Cade Cunningham coming to the Motor City will immediately change the landscape of the organization. To build an organization you have to have a centerpiece. The NBA is a league led by stars and the Pistons currently lack any semblance of a star. Their leading scorer in 2021 was Jerami Grant who is better known for his effectiveness off of the bench. He was thrust into a leadership role as the Pistons shredded their roster to get where they are. With the addition of Cunningham and the return of last year’s first round pick Killian Hayes, Grant will be able to return to a role more suited for him as a bench player and secondary scorer.

Cunningham was able to turn Oklahoma State into a contender in the most competitive division in college basketball. His length and athleticism make him a perfect fit for a point-forward in the league. He can control the game with the ball in his hands, but he has also shown the ability to make the players around him better, averaging almost four assists per game in college. Cade can run the pick and roll with great precision, Mason Plumlee or Jerami Grant will thrive working with this young star to be.
He is a floor general, he will help the rest of the young talent Detroit has assembled excel. A full season with a healthy Saddiq Bey, Seko Doumboya, Hamidou Diallo and Killian Hayes should be fun to watch develop over the next five seasons.

The Pistons will have their growing pains as any young team does. They should not overthink this decision. There are two levels of #1 overall picks I rank them from Lebron James to Anthony Bennett, Cade will no doubt be much closer to LeBron than Bennett. He will be the franchise, but it will take time.

St. Louis Cardinals Season Outlook

The baseball season has snuck up on us.  Seems like just yesterday Cardinal nation was asking for John Mozilieak’s head after watching their former star prospect Randy Arozarena lighting up opposing pitchers on the biggest stage baseball has.  What was once a mutiny has turned into a celebration of brilliance after obtaining Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies for Austin Gomber and some spare giveaways he found in a Memphis promotional closet.  The Cardinals enter the 2021 season as the favorites to win the national league central.  Depsite some injuries that have derailed the plans in the rotation this team should still have high hopes heading into the summer.  

The Infield

The Cardiansl finalized their 26-man roster today.  While the mainstays were not in question a few decisions showed the direction the team is looking to go in this season. Most notably was the addition of 28-year old John Nogowski making his first opening day roster.  Nogowski was a longshot coming into spring but his bat made him impossible to overlook.  His 3:1 BB/K rate seems like an anomaly in today’s game, to compare it to a modern day player is impossible.  In fact you there hasn’t been a player since Barry Bonds to put up that kind of ratio.  

Nogowski will fill a role that is currently being held by Matt Carpenter.  Carpenter’s spring was the complete opposite of his counterpart, getting one hit in 35 at bats.  This is not just a veteran struggling to get going, this has become a recurring theme of the aging Carpenter.  The organization understood that his time was up or else you likely don’t see the move to bring in Nolan Arenado and Nogowski likely doesn’t get a chance to make the team.

Tommy Edman will step right into the role vacated by gold glover Kolten Wong.  He is a strong defender up the middle, but his bat will be his most important attribute.  Edman will get the first shot at the leadoff spot, a part of the order that has been in flux for the last two seasons.  Wong took over the role last year but was not able to be as effective as the Cardinals needed last season.  Edman will be protected by arguably the best corner infield combination in all of baseball, he has to be able to get on base and force pitchers to throw to Arenado and Goldschmidt.  If he does not improve on his .317 OBP the Cardinals will again find themselves looking for answers at the top of the order. 

Paul Dejong is overrated.  That is all I have to say about that.  

The Outfield

Justin Williams will play a prominent role off of the bench as the lone left-handed bat outside of Carpenter on the bench.  Williams brings the pop that is needed in late inning situations and he may see even more playing time with the injury to Harrison Bader.  The outfield still has a few question marks, presumably it will be O’Neil in LF, Carlson in CF and whomever matches up best in right field.  Sending down Lane Thomas made it clear that the Cardinasl will lean on Carlson to man center until Bader recovers.  

The key to the outifled and potentially the entire lineup will be the emergence of Tyler O’Neil.  O’Neil will be given the chance to play everyday and if he succeeds then this lineup will succeed.  The power and speed he brings to the table is hard to match based on raw ability.  Moving on from Dexter Fowler was an indication that the club thinks he is ready to break out.  He will be tested early with teams not letting Arenado or Goldschmidt beat them, they will take their chance with O’Neil and he will make them pay. 

The Arms.

St. Louis has had a lot of rotational depth in their system for a number of years and each one of those years it gets tested.  The Cardinals will start 2021 with Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson and Kwang Hyun Kim all on the IL, Hudson will likely miss the entire season.  The Cardinals will roll with Jon Gant and Daniel Ponce de Leon at the end of the rotation.  Both solid major league arms, both having the same problem… they don’t eat up many innings.  Ponce de Leon has averaged only four innings per start in his career and Gant, who was a former starter with the Braves is coming off multiple seasons primarily out of the bullpen. 

St. Louis will have to rely on their bullpen to eat up a lot of innings early in the season.  Most notably we should see a lot of innings from former first round pick Jake Woodford.  He will be called upon in long relief roles in tight games.  Genesis Cabrera, the power lefty picked up from the Rays will also likely see multiple innings of relief for each appearance.  Both Cabrera and Woodford are young arms that haven’t dealt with the longevity of a full major league season.  We will likely see a rotation of arms throughout the year.  Guys like Johan Oviedo, Zach Thompson, Kody Whitley and Mathew Liberatore will all make appearances for the major league team.  The Cardinal will have to rely on their depth of arms to make a run and luckily they have the guys to get them through the season.  If they do need additional help their depth should allow them to make a move for a veteran arm at the trae deadline.  One that could make a difference down the stretch. 

The rotation will rely on Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright to be as  great as they have shown over the last two seasons.  Veteran Carlos Martinez is a wild card in this situation but his potential has shown through before and his usage of the cutter through spring training has made him more efficient and effective.  The key to Martinez will be controlling his pitch count and his emotions.  If he can do both he will be a nice fit behind the veteran and the ace.  

Conclusion

The Chicago Cubs let most of their pitching staff go, the Brewers didn’t do enough to improve their offense, the Reds don’t seem to know what their direction is. The Cardinals will rely on their pitching depth and firepower in the middle of their order.  They compare well in every facet of the game against all of their NL Central counterparts.  If they get anything from Tyler O’Neil and Tommy Edman on offense they should be set.  They could be on the market for a veteran starter at the trade deadline to consider themselves true contenders for an NL Championship but they should be the frontrunners to win their division. 

Central Division Prediction

St. Louis Cardinals

Milwaukee Brewers

Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati Reds

Pittsburgh Pirates

Deep Fantasy Sleepers MLB


Bobby Dalbec, 1B, Boston Red Sox (ADP 285)

Do you like dingers?   We all like dingers, Bobby Dalbec really likes dingers.  He hits them in bunches.  In 2019 Dalbec smashed 27 homers in 130 games in the Red Sox minor league system.  He immediately jumped up the prospect list for Boston becoming their top power prospect in the system.  His power transitioned very well in his first official shot in the show.  In 23 games last season he hit eight homers with an insane .330 ISO.  

The path has been cleared for the 25 year-old rookie.  Mitch Moreland was moved last season and the team has moved on from the thought of Michael Chavis at first base.  Dalbec will be inserted right into the middle of a lineup that features plenty of protections around him.  His bat is made for Fenway Park’s green monster and he will be a value for anyone looking for power in the late rounds.  He brings a high strikeout rate and a lack of on-base consistency but with an ADP of 285 he is an extreme value for someone that needs depth and huge potential upside. 

Jared Walsh, 1B, Los Angeles Angels (ADP 208)

The Angels found themselves a gem last season.  The 27-year-old Walsh hit 9 homers and knocked in 26 runs in just 30 games during the 2020 campaign.  Walsh is a late bloomer, but the power didn’t come from nowhere.  In 2018 Walsh had a .329 ISO and in 2019 he followed that up with a .361 ISO in triple-A.  The Angels have a surplus of power hitting first baseman and DH candidates but they won’t be able to ignore the production that Walsh brings.  

Albert Pujols has already announced that he intends to retire at the end of the season and the Angels need to look toward the future at the position.  Walsh brings power and a solid defensive ability which will be an asset to the Angels.  At-bats will be inconsistent this season to start but he is worth a shot in the later rounds to stash. He can easily find himself with consistent opportunities hitting in front of Mike Trout and behind David Fletcher. 

Dylan Moore, INF/OF, Seattle Mariners (ADP 156)

Dylan Moore was a huge pick up for me last season.  His ability to play mutliple positions makes him a great fit into any fantasy lineup.  He had a terrific 2020, in 38 games Moore stole 12 bases, hit 8 homers with an OPS of .854.  The Mariners are in a transition year, with top prospects Taylor Trammell, Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic soon to be joining Kyle Lewis in the middle of the order, Seattle will be looking to find out who else will be rounding out their roster for the future.  

Moore has the flexibility to fit into the Seattle lineup everyday and hit at the top of the order due to his speed.  Last season had a bit of luck involved but his tools are great for anyone looking for literally anything.  

Bobby Bradley, 1B, Cleveland Indians, (ADP 819)

Fantasy pros has Bobby Bradley projecting in the 800’s.  Calling him a sleeper is very much an understatement.  Bradley brings real power to the table, hitting 33 homers last year in triple-A and following it up with a terrific spring training.  The 24-year old Bradley has been a top prospect in the Indians system since being drafted in 2014.  When given at bats all he does is produce.  In his minor league career his WRC+ has never gone below 109 and his ISO has never gone below .175.  

The Indians cleared the path for Bradley this offseason and he has shown what he can do in the spring.  A young Indians team can allow him to continually get at-bats in the middle of the lineup.  You may not even need to draft Bradley but keep your eye on him post draft if you need some power. 

Myles Straw, SS/OF, Houston Astros (ADP #322)

Astros manager Dusty Baker announced that Myles Straw is a likely candidate to take over the lead-off role with the departure of George Springer.  Straw gives you two position flexibility at both SS and OF.  Straw has been a top prospect in the Astros system since 2015, he got his first real chance in the majors in 2019 where he showed some of his potential stealing 8 bases, scoring 27 runs with a .378 OBP in 56 games.  

Spring training has been a revelation for what he can bring to the Astros with a slash line of .346/.370/.500.  If he is named starter his ADP of #322 makes him an extreme bargain for anyone looking to get a player that will score runs and steal bases.  

NCAAB Play of the Day: Stanford Cardinal vs California Golden Bears

The Pac 12 tournament gets started tomorrow in Las Vegas and the first matchup that intrigued me is the same one that we enjoyed on Super Bowl Sunday.  That game saw the Cardinal fall apart down the stretch winning the game but blowing the 10 points spread in the final three minutes.  The Cardinal are losers of four straight, mainly due to their star center Oscar de Silva.  The Cardinal leading scorer should be active for this game and he has been dominant in their first two meetings with the Golden Bears scoring 23 and 24 in those two victories. The Cardinal will also have star freshman Ziaire Williams who missed both games against California this year. Williams will bring more trouble for a California defense that gives up a lot of easy buckets in the paint. 

The California Bears lean on their outside shooting, Matt Bradley and Grant Antevich both shoot over 35% from deep, while Andre Kelly anchors the middle.  The California offense will have their hands full against Stanford who ranks 31st in th antion in defensive efficiency.  The addition of the length that Zaire Williams brings should make it a miserable night for the Golden Bears.  Stanford should be fully healthy for the first time in a while and their depth and defensive efficiency will be way too much for California.  The opening line of – 6 for Stanford seems like it is biased on the recent losses for Stanford rather than the complete talent mismatch.  

Play of the day: Stanford Cardinal – 6

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: 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: Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Iowa Hawkeyes

A Big10 matchup with two teams going in the opposite directions will meet on Wednesday night when the Rutgers Scarlet Knights take on the Iowa Hawkeyes.

The Scarlet Knights have won four straight games and now find themselves back in the top 25.  Rutgers is a strong defensive team, ranking 17th in Kenpom in defensive efficiency. The return of big man Cliff Omoruyi has added to the depth in the middle, along with starter Myles Johnson they should be able to make trouble for Iowa star Luka Garza.  On the offensive end Rutgers has a litany of talent that makes them unpredictable at times.  Ron Harper Jr. leads the team in scoring averaging 16 ppg.  He is one of four that average double digits along with Montez Mathis, Jacob Young and Gio Baker. They really spread out the scoring and it showed in their first matchup with the Hawkeyes with five players scoring 13 points or moreAs a team the Rutgers offense averages 68 ppg but they are extremely efficient in getting those points.  They are a top 50 team in offensive efficiency.  

Iowa has not lived up to the preseason potential.  The offense is still elite, ranking 3rd in the nation in scoring, averaging 87 ppg.  Iowa did a lot of that damage against some of the lesser competition in college basketball.  They have had an issue with some of the more athletic teams in college basketball.  Indiana gave them trouble on the defensive end, doubling down on Garza as much as they could and forcing it out of his hands.  The potential return of CJ Fredrick could help with the outlet passes that can lead to points.  Iowa will find points but their problems on defense are impossible to ignore.  They are currently giving up 74 points per game on the season ranking 279th in the nation.  

Iowa is the superior team on offense, but they have an issue with turnovers and consistency.  Garza put up 25 in their first matchup shooting 9 for 11.  Rutgers played that game without Cliff Omoruyi, his addition will create more havoc for Garza.  Keegan Murray stepped up in their last matchup, he is the only player on Iowa that can match the athleticism of Rutgers.  The Scarlet Knights will keep this game close.  Seven points in this matchup is too much for two teams that are going in opposite directions. 

Play of the day: Rutgers Scarlet Knights +7

NCAAB Play of the Day: St. John’s Red Storm at Butler Bulldogs

The St. John’s Red Storm are the talk of the Big East.  Winners of six straight, including victories over UConn, Villanova, Marquette and most recently Providence.  They have also been the talk of the betting community, covering the spread in eight straight games.  The Red Storm are a hurricane, moving fast and causing devastation on the offensive end.  They are the 12th fastest team in the nation according to Kenpom and they are very efficient, ranking 41st in the nation in offensive efficiency.   Their offensive is highlighted by super freshman guard Posh Alexander, he leads the team in assists with 4.4 a game.  He has also picked up his scoring output over the last five games, averaging 17.4 ppg.  Alexander’s runningmate and the team’s leading scoring Julain Champagnie (18.6 ppg), is a matchup nightmare for any team in the Big East.  Champagnie is 6’8” and shoots 43% from three. 

The Butler Bulldogs have had a rough season.  They lost guard Aaron Thompson early in the season, which set them back to start the season.   Even with Thompson the Butler offense seems lost.  As a team they only average 63 ppg (331st in the nation).  The Bulldogs ended a three game losing streak on Saturday when they took down Depaul at home.  Butler cannot find consistent points from anywhere, they are horrible in the paint and even worse from the free throw line. Jaire Bolden leads Butler in scoring with 12.1 ppg, he is coming off of his worst game of the season, scoring just 3 points in their win over Depaul.  In order to keep up with the fast paced Red Storm, Bolden will have to be better. 

The Bulldogs at home in the past would have been an easy cover spot, but this team is having problems on the offensive end that is hard to ignore.  For Butler to win they will have to slow the pace of the game. They also have to defend the three, something they have not done well all season.  Butler gives up 37% shooting from deep, that is a strength for St. Johns who shoots the ball at 36% (71st in the nation).  These two teams met once this year with St. John’s taking the victory at home 69-57.  The Bulldogs were able to play their pace in that game but turned the ball over 16 times.  The game plan for St. Johns will be simple, move fast and force Butler to score.  If you grab a lead early on the Bulldogs they do not have the firepower to come back.  Take the Red Storm.  

Play of the day: St. John’s ML