Maui Invitational 2014: Updated Schedule, TV Info and Predictions

The only thing more beautiful than the Hawaiian sunsets that come across your television screen during the Maui Invitational may be the actual basketball on the court.

College hoops fans will be treated to a pre-Thanksgiving treat on Wednesday, as two Top 15 teams square off for the Maui Invitational championship. There will also be some appetizers featuring a Big 12 and ACC showdown between Kansas State and Pittsburgh as well as BYU testing its mettle against Purdue from the Big Ten.

With that in mind, here is a look at the schedule, broadcast information and predictions for all four games on Wednesday.

 

Championship Game Breakdown

Arizona and San Diego State headline a full slate of college basketball games on Wednesday and will face off for the fifth time in four seasons. The winner gets to add Maui Invitational champion to its early-season resume.

Arizona reached the finals after it crushed Missouri and then narrowly escaped Kansas State in the final minutes with a 72-68 win. San Diego State beat BYU in a double-overtime thriller and then dismantled Pittsburgh on Tuesday. It’s the third game in three days for both teams, so fatigue may come into play in the second half.

Arizona is No. 3 in the country and on the short list of national title contenders, but San Diego State has a chance to pull the upset because of its suffocating defense.

If you take away the double-overtime game with BYU, where the Aztecs won 92-87, they are yet to allow more than 58 points in a single contest. They gave up only 57 against Pittsburgh and a measly 27 against CSU Bakersfield earlier in the season. In that Pittsburgh blowout, San Diego State forced 17 turnovers and blocked 10 shots.

Skylar Spencer is a defensive superstar who swatted five Pittsburgh shots and is averaging four blocks a game in the early going. He checks in as a 6’10″ athlete who covers one side of the paint to the other and can chase down ball-handlers in the open floor. He is the perfect rim protector in an aggressive defense and allows the guards and forwards to take chances.

Incredibly, Tuesday’s win over Pittsburgh was San Diego State’s 16th in a row in the regular season with 24 hours or less of rest between games. That is a testament to the defense and the overall depth, athleticism and conditioning on the team.

However, Arizona has been a thorn in its side and has beaten San Diego State in 10 of the last 12 head-to-head games. The Wildcats even knocked the Aztecs out of last season’s NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16.

If nothing else, San Diego State will be plenty motivated against one of the kings of the West and has likely been waiting for this opportunity all offseason. Forward Winston Shepard certainly suggested as much, via Mark Zeigler of U-T San Diego:

For me, this will be my fourth time playing them. Oh-and-three so far … I remember my old (high school) teammate Nick Johnson stealing a win from us in Hawaii. We had played great. Chase Tapley had a great look. Nick just made a great play. Me personally, I just want to redeem that.”

The Aztecs are No. 5 in Ken Pomeroy‘s pace-adjusted defensive efficiency rankings and will unleash that motivated defense on Wednesday evening.

Arizona will counter with a number of offensive weapons, including Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, T.J. McConnell, Brandon Ashley and Stanley Johnson. With all of those weapons, it is No. 5 in Pomeroy‘s offensive rankings and can score by attacking the rim, hitting perimeter jumpers or working the ball down low.

Something has to give between San Diego State’s defense and Arizona’s offense. 

The difference in this game, though, will be on the other end. The Wildcats are No. 6 in Pomeroy‘s defensive rankings while the Aztecs are No. 59 offensively. Matt Moreno of GoAzCats.com suggested that Arizona’s defense belongs right in the same conversation with San Diego State’s:

Offensively, the Aztecs haven’t found their go-to scorer quite yet after losing Xavier Thames. As a team, they are shooting 39.5 percent from the field and will have a difficult time facing the pressure defense that Arizona is bound to use.

That Arizona defense has a rim protector of its own in Kaleb Tarczewski as well as athletic and versatile forwards to cover the wings and harass ball-handlers in Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson, and it has McConnell as the senior guard spearheading the efforts on the perimeter. When engaged, the defense can be as effective as any in the country, which is a problem for a middling San Diego State offense.

Arizona thrives on both ends of the floor, and San Diego State is yet to fully figure out one. That will make the difference in this early showdown, much to the delight of Wildcats fans.

Prediction: Arizona 81, San Diego State 72 

*Pomeroy numbers and overall statistics are as of Tuesday night.

 

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Oklahoma City Thunder Schedule Breakdown and Record Predictions for December

November has been a month to forget for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the holiday season is bringing the best present head coach Scott Brooks could ask for. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are both recovering nicely from their respective injuries and could be back soon to rescue OKC from the depths of their 3-12 start, according to Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman.

Even with the superstars back in the fold, however, it’s going to be an arduous trek back into the playoff picture in the wild, wild West. It’s always a dangerous exercise to forecast the schedule on paper, but that’s exactly what we’re going to do to get an idea of how much trouble the Thunder are in.

The month of December is going to make or break OKC’s season because there is no margin for error. OKC cannot afford to lose to the league’s bottom-feeders, nor can the Thunder afford for Durant and Westbrook to show significant signs of rust. Another injury to either of them would be devastating and all but extinguish any playoff hopes.

With their dominant one-two punch back on the court, here’s what awaits the Thunder in December. Each week will get its own slide complete with the schedule, a breakdown of the most interesting and important matchups and a prediction for OKC’s record. The last slide will contain a prediction for the entire month’s record and some goals for the Thunder to keep them in the hunt for a chance to play the role of Cinderella when the playoffs roll around.

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Jason King’s Early-Season Final Four Predictions

The preseason rankings have been set, the tournaments are underway—college hoops season is here.

A few games into the year, it’s not too early to survey the college basketball landscape and see who has the inside track at making it to the Final Four.

Which teams are favored to get there?

Find out as Adam Lefkoe is joined by Bleacher Report’s Jason King to dish out four teams that are early favorites to reach the Final Four in the video above.

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Memphis Grizzlies’ Schedule Breakdown and Record Predictions for December

For those wondering if the Memphis Grizzlies can prolong their run as one of the Western Conference’s top teams after a hot start, December will provide some clarity. The Grizzlies will face a tougher slate that month, testing their mettle for contention.

The end of the calendar year brings a series of games against the NBA‘s most serious teams. Eleven of the Grizzlies’ 14 games will pit them against surefire playoff teams, including seven from the West. Memphis faces the San Antonio Spurs three times and the Houston Rockets twice.

The Grizzlies will play four back-to-backs.

On the other hand, this stretch provides a couple soft aspects. Only five contests will be on the road. Memphis will enjoy four periods with multiple days between games.

The following is a week-by-week breakdown with win-loss predictions for each segment of the second stage of the Grizzlies’ season.

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Gulf Coast Showcase 2014: Teams, Schedule, Bracket and Predictions

The eight-team field at the 2014 Gulf Coast Showcase may not feature the marquee power conference squads that some of the other early-season tournaments do, but you could do worse than scouting some potential NCAA tournament teams in Southwest Florida in late November.

Green Bay, East Carolina, Fresno State, Evansville, Florida Gulf Coast, Marist, San Francisco and Hawaii make up the field and will try to add an impressive tournament win to the resume before conference play begins.

Here is a look at the essential information for this showcase that will take place in Germain Arena in Estero, Florida. A bracket can be found here, courtesy of the event’s official website.

 

Predictions

Florida Gulf Coast is the first team name to jump off that list and will certainly be a fan favorite at the event. The Eagles will bring in the local crowds over the holiday week, and head coach Joe Dooley was excited for the opportunity, via bdglobalsports.com:

We’re excited to participate in the Gulf Coast Showcase alongside some great teams while challenging ourselves against quality competition. A field of several 20-win teams has been assembled, and we’re looking forward to having the opportunity to compete in three games over three days at a venue just down the road from our campus.

Florida Gulf Coast will attract the fans for more than just the proximity of the team, though. The Eagles feature one of the best backcourt combinations of any mid-major team in the country and could reach the NCAA tournament again because of the guards’ production.

Bernard Thompson is a scoring machine on the wing, and Brett Comer is more than ready to set him up with impressive passing. 

ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla took notice of the pair during a win over Ohio, while Zach Miller of the Charlotte Sun pointed out that it was a record performance for both guards:

Florida Gulf Coast is a perfect 3-0 on the season and will reach the finals of this event behind the impressive guards. It loves to push the tempo on both ends of the floor and will overwhelm most of its opponents based on sheer athleticism alone. However, its run will end against Green Bay in the championship contest.

The Phoenix lost at Wisconsin in one of the nation’s most difficult venues to play in, but they bring a balanced attack to the table that features a strong defense and offense. Ken Pomeroy had the Phoenix as the No. 85 offense and No. 87 defense in the country in his pace-adjusted efficiency rankings (Florida Gulf Coast was No. 106 and No. 162, respectively) as of Sunday.

The Phoenix have a superstar of their own in Keifer Sykes. Sykes scored 22 points and dished out six assists against Illinois-Springfield and then followed that up with a 20-point performance in Madison.

Florida Gulf Coast can score, but it won’t be able to stop the Phoenix in the closing minutes. Sykes is the go-to guy, and if he can impress at Wisconsin, he can certainly put up some big numbers against the Eagles.

Predicted title game: Florida Gulf Coast vs. Green Bay 

Predicted champion: Green Bay

 

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New York Knicks’ Schedule Breakdown and Record Predictions for December

A difficult season will only get tougher. 

Throughout the month of December, the New York Knicks will have their hands full with some of the league’s more talented teams. With desperation already setting in for New York, a bleak season could quickly be lost if a fire isn’t lit under the organization.

Could the franchise turn its fortunes around, or is this mountain too steep to climb? 

Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the Knicks in the final month of 2014. 

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Hall of Fame Tip-Off 2014: TV Schedule, Live Stream and Updated Predictions

The 2014 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off isn’t a March Madness-type of tournament, and it doesn’t pretend to be.

After all, there are two separate brackets, and only one of them follows the traditional winner-moves-on format of a tournament event. Play comes to an end in both the Naismith and Springfield brackets Sunday. 

Here is a look at the schedule and television information for every game. All four contests can be seen online courtesy of Watch ESPN, and both brackets are available at ESPN.com.

 

Predictions

Naismith Bracket: Massachusetts vs. Florida State and Notre Dame vs. Providence

There is no official winner in the Naismith Bracket, as every team gets a chance to play each other as part of a nonconference showcase before league play begins. It is a golden opportunity for all four clubs to pad their resumes in the early going against potential NCAA tournament opponents.

Both Massachusetts and Florida State are coming off of poor performances in losses, with the Seminoles falling to Providence, 80-54, and the Minutemen losing to Notre Dame, 81-68.

Defense has been optional for Florida State recently, and it allowed Providence and Northeastern to shoot a red-hot 53.7 percent from the field the last two contests, including 52.9 percent from downtown. The Seminoles countered with an abysmal 4-of-22 combined shooting from three-point range on the other end.

UMass has already beaten Boston College and will be particularly motivated against the Seminoles since Florida State knocked off the Minutemen last year. UMass player Derrick Gordon commented on that motivation, via Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette,“It’s definitely personal with them because they were talking smack the whole game. They came out with the win and we definitely have to return the favor.”

The Seminoles are 1-2 on the season, including a shocking loss to Northeastern, and are struggling on the defensive end. UMass will find a way to get that revenge against a vulnerable defense.

The other game features two 4-0 squads and arguably the best player at this event in Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant. Grant scored 24 points on a blistering 10-of-13 shooting from the field against the Minutemen. He also earned some praise from CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein:

Grant will have some help of his own in Zach Auguste. The big man has double-digit points every game this year and at least seven rebounds in three of four contests.

Providence has its own dynamic duo in point guard Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton. Henton scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the win over Florida State, while Dunn scored 15 points and dished out nine assists.

Despite the presence of Dunn and Henton, the inside-outside combination of Grant and Auguste will ultimately prove to be too much for Providence, just like it was against Massachusetts. 

Predicted winners: UMass and Notre Dame

 

Springfield Bracket: Binghamton vs. Navy and Manhattan vs. Northeastern

Northeastern is clearly the best team in the Springfield bracket. It already beat Florida State and is a perfect 3-0 on the season after crushing Navy on Saturday, 68-44. It should have no issue with a Manhattan team that lost to the same Florida State squad Northeastern beat.

The David Walker and Quincy Ford combination in the backcourt will be far too much for Manhattan to handle.

In the other game, Navy has gotten off to a nightmare start. It is 0-4 on the season and lost its last three by a combined 100 points. Interestingly, the only game Navy stayed close in was the season-opening loss to Michigan State.

Binghamton is only 1-3, but it will have more athletes on the floor than Navy. It will outlast the Midshipmen by getting out in transition and pushing the tempo all game, which will eventually wear them out by the second half.

Predicted winners: Northeastern and Binghamton

 

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Coaches vs. Cancer Classic 2014: TV Schedule, Live Stream, Updated Predictions

There might not be a better place for four very different teams to prove their worth than the bright lights of New York City.

This year’s Coaches vs. Cancer Classic features a national title contender loaded with freshmen, an experienced squad trying to build off last season’s Sweet 16 appearance, a young but talented mid-major looking to play with the big boys and a proud program hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 2013-14 campaign.

Each squad has a different goal going forward, but all of them want to leave Brooklyn with a tournament title and some quality wins on the resume. The players also probably won’t mind leaving with some swag from what has become one of the bigger early-season events in college basketball.

Still, this is certain to be an exciting tournament, so here is a look at the full schedule with a breakdown of the semifinals from the Barclays Center.

Watch games online at truTV.com. Full bracket available at RealGM.com.

 

Stanford vs. UNLV

There are few teams in the nation with as much young talent as UNLV. A freshman class that includes Rashad Vaughn, Goodluck Okonoboh and Dwayne Morgan will have a huge impact right away.

The problem is that the Rebels will be too reliant on newcomers this year, including senior transfer Cody Doolin. Head coach Dave Rice has the ability to get this team into shape by the time March rolls around, but there will be a lot of mistakes early in the year.

Stanford will not have this problem, as the squad is led by senior Chasson Randle. ESPN’s Jay Bilas called the point guard one of the more underrated players in college basketball:

CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein had a similar thought at the end of last season:

With Stefan Nastic also showing his ability in the early couple of games, the Cardinal have a chance to be one of the top teams in the Pac-12.

This will be a close battle between teams likely to be involved in the NCAA tournament, but Stanford’s experience will be the difference at this stage of the year. Look for Johnny Dawkins’ team to control the pace and earn the late win.

Prediction: Stanford 75, UNLV 71

 

Duke vs. Temple

Just a week into the season, it already seems like Duke is going to be one of the teams to beat this year. Not only did the Blue Devils dominate weaker opponents in Presbyterian and Fairfield, even Michigan State appeared to be no match for the talented squad.

The first player you notice watching this team is Jahlil Okafor, who is averaging 17.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in his first three games of his college career. The freshman center is a force in the low post and it will likely take at least two men to stop him at this level.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski had high praise for the center, via Laura Keeley of the Charlotte Observer:

Meanwhile, he still thinks the young player is getting better:

This is a scary thought for opposing teams, especially considering how good the rest of the lineup has been. Fellow freshmen Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones are making a big impact in the starting lineup as well, while Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon are providing veteran leadership when they are in the game.

As a result, it will be an uphill battle for Temple to even keep up with the Blue Devils in this one. The Owls won two games in very different ways, showing off the defense with a 40-37 win over American before surviving a back-and-forth battle against Louisiana Tech in a 82-75 contest.

This versatility embodies a veteran lineup that should be much better than last season. However, there is just not enough depth to stick around with Duke, and Temple will fall in this semifinal.

Prediction: Duke 87, Temple 71

 

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2K Sports Classic 2014: TV Schedule, Live Stream Info and Updated Predictions

After a pair of blowouts in the semifinals, fans at Madison Square Garden are hoping for some better action from Day 2 of the 2K Sports Classic.

Texas got off to a slow start against Iowa in the first matchup, but a dominant second half helped the Longhorns pull away and win, 71-57. They will face California in the finals after the Bears earned an easy 73-59 win over Syracuse.

With the way each of these teams can play, no outcome would truly be surprising in either the consolation or championship rounds. That being said, here are predictions for the final two games of the tournament Friday.

 

Third-Place Game

Matchup: Syracuse vs. Iowa

When: Nov. 21 at 5 p.m. ET

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City

Watch: ESPN2

Live Stream: ESPN3

 

Syracuse is known for its 2-3 zone, usually capable of squeezing opponents into forcing turnovers and bad shots throughout the game. That simply was not the case against California, as Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated noted:

While the length and the athleticism is still there for Jim Boeheim, there is a severe lacking of experience with two freshman starters and a rotation with few players who have spent a great deal of time on the floor.

As a result, Cal was able to move the ball well and finished with 20 assists on 26 field goals. The squad created a blueprint for a team that can pass well and shoot from the outside.

Unfortunately for the Orange, Iowa fits this description as well and is perfectly built to beat the zone. The Hawkeyes are an unselfish team that is loaded with guys who can hit three-point shots—usually at least four on the floor at a time.

Although the shooting went cold in the second half against Texas, Aaron White should be able to lead a talented group back into form against Syracuse.

Meanwhile, the other end of the floor was just as much of a problem for the Orange against California, as no one seemed capable of creating offense. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports gave some harsh criticism during the game:

Syracuse has the ability to be a much better team once March rolls around, but the current squad does not appear ready to compete at this level just yet.

Prediction: Iowa 72, Syracuse 65

 

Championship Game

Matchup: Texas vs. California

When: Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City

Watch: ESPN2

Live Stream: ESPN3

 

After being down 30-24 at the half, Texas looked like a different team after intermission. The squad used its size to shut down Iowa offensively before using its athleticism to get down the floor in a hurry and scoring in transition.

While the Longhorns are known for their frontcourt, they got a lot of their scoring done from the perimeter with Isaiah Taylor, Jonathan Holmes and Javan Felix. The only question at this time is the health of Taylor after injuring his wrist late in the game.

Head coach Rick Barnes wanted to make sure his point guard was all right before the next game:

The good news is even if Taylor is unable to play, Texas has a huge advantage in this game in the paint. Holmes, Cameron Ridley and Myles Turner should be able to get easy buckets with limited resistance from Cal down low.

Outside of David Kravish, the Bears do not have much size and will end up struggling on both ends of the court.

California’s elite backcourt of Jabari Bird, Jordan Matthews and Tyrone Wallace should be able to help the team keep up on the scoreboard for a majority of the game, but it will take some incredible outside shooting to make up for a lack of production inside.

Eventually, the shots will stop falling, and Texas will be able to take advantage to earn an important early-season win.

Prediction: Texas 68, California 63

 

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2014 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic: Previews, Predictions for Early-Season Matchups

The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, makes a great setting for four respected college basketball programs playing games for a cause at the 2014 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Duke, Temple, Stanford and UNLV will take the court on Friday and Saturday night for four games that impact each team’s eventual NCAA tournament resumes but more importantly benefit the American Cancer Society.

None of the four teams has tasted defeat thus far this season, winning a combined nine games, most of which were also part of the CVC Classic’s preliminary rounds. The championship rounds present the opportunity for one nationally ranked blue-blooded program to prove its place among the game’s elite and three ascendant teams to make noise in the national discussion.

What can we expect from the weekend?

 

Game 1: Stanford (2-0) vs. UNLV (2-0)

TV: TruTV, 7:00 p.m. ET

All-Time Series: Stanford leads 2-1

Stanford has beaten a pair of low-major opponents by deceptive margins, while UNLV has barely survived a pair of similar games in nail-biting fashion.

Both Morehead State and Sam Houston State put the Runnin’ Rebels in double-digit holes during the second half only to see Vegas rally behind freshmen Rashad Vaughn and Patrick McCaw. Another rookie, big man Goodluck Okonoboh, has swatted 13 shots in the two games to anchor UNLV on the defensive end.

The 6’10″, 225-pound Okonoboh will have a different kind of fight on his hands, however, with the Cardinal’s post duo of Stefan Nastic and Reid Travis. Nastic has 40 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks in his first two games, shooting 73.7 percent from the floor. Travis put up 14 points in his debut against Wofford.

Nastic, Travis and guards Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown all average double figures through the first two games—a much more balanced attack than UNLV’s. The Rebels have gotten 44 points from Vaughn over the first two games, but no one else has more than 19. Vaughn’s output has accounted for 36.9 percent of the Rebels’ overall scoring.

Stanford has done its job on the glass, ripping 44.8 percent of available offensive rebounds according to Ken Pomeroy (subscription required). By contrast, UNLV has allowed 38.8 percent offensive rebounding through two games (again, against Morehead State of the Ohio Valley Conference and Sam Houston State of the Southland Conference).

The Cardinal big men are salivating at the prospect of crashing the glass against Okonoboh and 6’11″ sophomore Christian Wood. Nastic and Travis each hold a 20-pound weight advantage over their counterparts. Neither team has dipped heavily into its bench so far this year, so whichever team can get the opponent’s bigs in foul trouble will hold a pronounced advantage.

Stanford holds a pronounced experience advantage over the young Rebels, as seven of UNLV’s nine players who have seen action this season are freshmen or sophomores. That should be enough to see the Cardinal through to a win, but Stanford could stand to make a few shots (5-of-21 from deep).

Prediction: Stanford 70-63

 

Game 2: No. 4 Duke (3-0) vs. Temple (2-0)

TV: TruTV, 9:30 p.m. ET

All-Time Series: Duke leads 19-10

Duke rolls into Brooklyn on the back of two huge CVC preliminary wins over Presbyterian and Fairfield and a convincing victory over Michigan State at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. The 113-44 thrashing of Presbyterian and the 109-59 win over Fairfield, in fact, featured the two highest point totals in Classic history.

Temple has demonstrated the ability to win in both a defensive struggle40-37 over Americanand a higher-scoring duel, beating Louisiana Tech 82-75. The Owls knocked off American despite shooting a sickly 22.9 percent from the floor.

It’s unlikely that anyone’s defense can contain Duke well enough to win with shooting so poor. Six Blue Devils are averaging at least eight points per game through their first three outings. Point guards Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook are each averaging at least five assists per game while shooting a combined 62 percent from the floor. Perhaps most importantly, they’ve committed only four turnovers between them.

The guards are mere setup men, however, for the closer: freshman center Jahlil Okafor. Okafor has missed only five of his 30 shots so far, even sinking eight of 10 against Michigan State. He leads the team with 17.7 points per game and ranks second with 6.7 rebounds per game.

As a team, Duke is shooting 60.2 percent from the floor this season. Temple’s opponents are shooting 36.8 percent so far, but the Owls are making only 33.3 percent. Louisiana Tech helped bail Temple out by shooting only 38.9 percent (7-of-18) from the foul line in the second half, leaving several more attempts on the table by missing one-and-one front ends.

Temple guard Will Cummings has scored 18 of his 27 points from the stripe in the early going. His 75 percent foul shooting helps make up for his weak 15.4 percent work from the floor (4-of-26). Cummings and backcourt mate Quenton DeCosey (36.8 percent) must shoot efficiently if Temple stands any chance of pulling the upset over the Blue Devils.

The Owls have only four bodies 6’8″ or taller to throw at Okafor—five if Texas transfer Jaylen Bond can finally make his debut after missing the first two games with an ankle injury. Okafor is only 3-of-7 from the foul line, and a deeper team would be able to push him around and make him earn his points via free throws.

In the end, Duke should have too much firepower for Temple to stay competitive. The Owls surrendered 9-of-26 shooting from long range to Louisiana Tech, which is a solid shooting team but no match for the Blue Devils’ talent level. Even if Temple can slow Okafor, gunners like Cook, Jones, Justise Winslow, Grayson Allen, Matt Jones and Rasheed Sulaimon represent too much perimeter ability.

Prediction: Duke 85-67

 

Consolation Game: UNLV vs. Temple

TV: TruTV, 7:00 p.m. ET Saturday

Temple willingly exploited Louisiana Tech’s pressure defense, getting to the charity stripe 49 times. Cummings took 18 of those.

UNLV hasn’t been quite so aggressive with its defense, surrendering only 24 foul shots through two games. Perhaps some more heat might be beneficial for the Rebels in a game like this, as Temple has coughed up 29 turnovers so far.

Of course, Cummings and DeCosey would be well-served to take the ball right at the freshman Vaughn. If he landed in foul trouble, the Rebels don’t have a proven second option yet.

Neither team has shot the ball well or allowed its opponents to do the same, so this game could be one that sets basketball back 20 years or so. When in doubt, turn to the team with the best player on the floor, and that may be UNLV’s Vaughn.

Prediction: UNLV 55-51

 

Championship Game: Duke vs. Stanford

TV: TruTV, 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday

An Okafor-vs.-Nastic center matchup could be better than the casual fan would expect. The experienced fifth-year senior should have some tricks to show the talented freshman, but Okafor’s array of post moves is far beyond his years.

On the perimeter, Stanford’s shooting woes could be exacerbated by the surprising defense Duke is playing so far this season. Presbyterian and Fairfield were predictably impotent, but even Michigan State shot only 5-of-20 from the arc. Noted snipers Bryn Forbes and Travis Trice were a combined 4-of-13.

Anthony Brown’s defense would be a key for Stanford. At 6’6″, he has a substantial advantage over Quinn Cook at the 2. The 6’5″ Matt Jones or Rasheed Sulaimon would come more into play, and either one would be a handful for Brown in his own right.

The point guard matchup could be the most entertaining of all. Tyus Jones and Chasson Randle are both considered iffy defenders, but both are quick ball-handlers capable of leaving the other behind in an instant.

Where Jones is fully invested in running the offense and finding the best shot for his teammates, Randle finds his own looks first and sets up others later. The problem is, Randle hasn’t gotten into much of a rhythm against Wofford or South Dakota, so his odds of finding the range against Duke don’t seem that promising.

Prediction: Duke 78-65

 

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