College basketball expert picks and predictions
It is a college football Saturday, but it is also a college basketball Saturday. We’ve got 48 games on the docket. Once again, with CFB taking precedence at this time of year, it’s a small slate. Once we get past football season and the holidays, you’ll see upwards of 150 or more games on Saturdays. For now, Saturdays are lighter.
As I mentioned last week and will mention again, in order to give the article enough lead time on the picks, I typically won’t look at any games played before 3 p.m. ET, depending on how quickly I can navigate the card and get something out. Handicapping that number of games is a time-consuming effort no matter what time I get to my desk in the morning. These links right below will help you with the early games and all of the other CBB action.
Here are some thoughts on the November 18 card (odds from DraftKings):
4:30 p.m. ET
Former conference foes meet in the Arizona Tip Off, as Fort Wayne lays a short number against South Dakota. Fort Wayne was in the Summit League up until 2020. The Mastodons moved over to the Horizon League, so these teams don’t see each other on an annual basis anymore, but they will here.
Fort Wayne is a team I am watching closely this season. With a smaller lineup than most teams, the Mastodons have increased their ball pressure and have a TO% of 26.6% on defense this season in their games against D-I opponents. South Dakota is still trying to figure things out offensively with the losses of A.J. Plitzuweit (overseas pro) and Tasos Kamateros (transferred to Vandy). They only had .908 points per possession against DePaul and then 1.058 yesterday against VMI, who is annually a bad defensive team.
Coffman’s team has also gotten to the tin a lot more this season. Last year’s group had a 33.2% shot share on Close Twos. With a bunch of slashers this season, the Mastodons have a 51.4% shot share on Close Twos. We’ll see if it sticks, as they’ve played DePaul, Texas A&M Commerce, and Northern Arizona, but South Dakota isn’t any better than those teams and, in fact, will be the worst D-I opponent the Mastodons have played.
With Fort Wayne playing at a higher tempo because of the small ball lineup, I think they have the advantage playing back-to-back days here as well because they’ll push it and look to tire out South Dakota’s bigger forwards.
Pick: Fort Wayne -3.5
5 p.m. ET
Harvard is getting a taste of the Ivy League schedule here by playing on back-to-back nights. The problem is that the Crimson played a hugely emotional game last night with a 78-75 overtime win over UMass. That was a big win for the Crimson against an in-state Big Brother and it is a very quick turnaround to take on Earl Grant’s Eagles.
I’m not sure Tommy Amaker got a lot of sleep last night because figuring out how to defend Quinten Post will keep you up at night. The 7-footer is off to a great start, averaging 19.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest. He’s shown a bit of range going 7-of-12 from 3 as well, so it’s not just about matching up down in the block. He stretches the floor and creates opportunities for other guys.
Harvard is shooting 42.4% from 3 to open the year, something I wouldn’t expect to continue, and certainly not tonight with some tired legs. That shooting performance has artificially inflated their offensive numbers in my opinion. They shot 30% from 3 last season, which ranked 349th, so some positive regression was to be expected, but not to this degree.
This is a step up in class for Harvard, and while Ivy Leaguers are good with that in the classroom, I’m not sure it’s a great spot in a back-to-back for the Crimson on the heels of last night’s enormous win.
Pick: Boston College -6
8:15 p.m. ET
It wouldn’t be a college basketball day without a deep cut. For that, we head to Florence, Alabama, where the North Alabama Lions take on the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. The Lions were a team on my radar throughout last season, as they had a 42.1% shot share on Close Twos that ranked 27th, but they only finished at a 52.9% clip, which ranked 336th. They were getting high-quality looks and not finishing them. They had more shot attempts at the rim than Mississippi State last time out, but 20 turnovers led to a blowout.
I think this is the best team that Pujol has had at UNA, as he brought back all of last year’s top contributors and found something late last season, as the team had a run of nine wins in 10 games before running out of gas late in the year.
Jacksonville State should improve as the season goes along, but the offense is a little disjointed right now. Xavier transfer KyKy Tandy and Lipscomb transfer Quincy Clark both have high usage rates and have been the primary contributors, but their supporting casts have been nowhere to be found. As a team, the Gamecocks are shooting just 38.2% on 2s and are playing at a really slow tempo. They’ve shot 36.6% on 3s, but unless those are falling, they’ve had a lot of empty possessions against Utah Tech and West Virginia. In their 79-point performance against Utah Tech, they had 28 points at the free throw line to make that game a lot closer than it could have been.
I think these will be two teams to watch in their respective conferences, but I feel like North Alabama is in a better spot right now.
Pick: North Alabama -2.5
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