Night two of the challenge is tonight, and while a couple of the games are somewhat interesting, some others are kind of, blah. Pittsburgh is in action tonight, but not in the challenge, they will be hosting High Point and trying to avoid another embarrassing loss at home.
On to the important stuff…
Florida State (-4.5) @ Rutgers 7pm ESPNU
This game is somewhat interesting, but ultimately falls on that “blah” side I was talking about. The ‘Noles have the height and the athletes while Rutgers has the home court and the coaching. Yes, Pikiell is a superior coach to Leonard Hamilton. If someone in the southeast would come to their senses and offer Carlton Young a head coaching job Hamilton would be fired quite shortly thereafter.
A concern for Rutgers has to be that high scoring Rutgers junior guard Corey Sanders is having an atrocious start to the season, averaging a career low 11.8 points per game, while going 2-18 from deep. In fact, as a team Rutgers is only shooting 26% from three point land and 58% from the line. They are 6-0, but they have played literally zero teams of any significance in the college basketball landscape.
I am not going to spend a lot of time on this game. The #41 ranked team in adjusted defensive efficiency is playing the worst power 5 school in the country. Florida State is going to shut down the perimeter game, while JMCK and Obiagu are probably going to combine to block six to eight shots and Florida State will win by 9-13 points.
Me blowing off this game means one thing will happen: Corey Sanders is going to score 40 and the Scarlet Knights might win by 60.
Prediction: FSU 68 Rutgers 57
Louisville @ Purdue (-7.5) 8pm ESPN
This game is also known as the “Let’s find out if David Padgett can coach” game. The fact that the game is being played in West Lafayette makes me thing that Padgett is going to take his medicine in this one. Purdue just beat Arizona by twenty-fucking-five. Which, hey, Arizona might not be all that, but they are really god damn good.
I really felt Carsen Edwards was getting shorted this past offseason by the media. Edwards was under-recruited, played well as a freshman, and was probably the best player on that U19 team in Egypt. Look for him to get some praise by the broadcast crew tonight.
The match-up to watch in this game is Dakota Mathias and Deng Adel. Adel has had a very nice start to the season, averaging 17.5 points per game, but Mathias is probably the best perimeter defender the Big 10 has to offer, and now he is also scoring the ball a ton. They may negate each other, but if Mathias can score and shut down Adel, that could be where this game is ultimately won.
Anas Mahmoud is going to have his hands full with big Isaac Haas, who outweighs him by almost 100 pounds . Vincent Edwards is going to run Ray Spaulding all over the place if they happen to match up, and I don’t think Jordan Nwora can keep up with V. Edwards either. VJ King can stay with him but I think he would still get abused. I just do not see this being a very good match-up for the Cardinals, especially since Quentin Snider has not played very well to this point.
Purdue is a team that plays like they are all seniors. That tournament they played in the University Games has really helped them gel and they may be further along than some teams right now. C. Edwards, only a sophomore, plays like a senior and seems at times to be unflappable.
For Louisville, at some point Darius Perry is going to do something really impressive and get the best of Edwards, and Ray Spaulding and VJ King are going to display their athleticism, but at the end of the day I think Purdue wins this game quite handily.
Prediction: Purdue 77 Louisville 63
Georgia Tech (-1) @ Northwestern 7pm ESPN2
Of course I am really interested in this game. As a matter of fact, this is probably the game I am going to watch tonight. The Jackets, who are still without Josh Okogie, will host preseason darlings Northwestern.
I did not understand the love that Northwestern was getting before the season. Yes, they made the tournament last year. Yes, that Derek Pardon play against Michigan was absolutely bonkers. But, let’s not forget, before that play, they probably weren’t going to the dance. They were probably out and TCU was probably in. They got a lot of help when TCU went into the toilet late last year. Top 4 in the Big 10? Ha, no.
So far the Wildcats are 4-2 with a nice win over LaSalle, and a close loss to Creighton. The Wildcats got absolutely destroyed in the Hall of Fame Tip-off by Texas Tech though. I watched Texas Tech kick the shit out of Boston College as well, and if you’re into the transitive property, that ain’t good for Northwestern.
This may be the hardest game of the challenge to pick. Ben Lammers was clearly not comfortable on that injured ankle the other night against North Texas. If not for some timely shooting by freshmen Curtis Haywood II and Jose Alvarado, the Jackets may have had a bit of a stumble themselves. Brandon Alston has played surprisingly well for the Yellow Jackets, but this step up in competition has me fading him a little bit. Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law are really nice veteran wing players to go with a senior point guard in Bryant McIntosh, that trio has me shaking in my Justins a little bit. Northwestern has struggled a little bit on the defensive end, currently ranking 309th in opponents field goal percentage, if Haywood, Alvarado and possibly Cole get some good open looks, the Wildcats are going to be in trouble.
Home court advantage is the deciding factor here for me. Some are going to call me bias, but GT doesn’t lose at home very often. Pastner is 19-4 inside McCamish Pavilion, and being at home will help these freshman close the gap on those Northwestern vets. If Lammers is not 100%, AD Gueye needs to be effective on the glass. Look for Tadric Jackson to come off the bench, but get starters minutes, the senior returned last week and had 14 points in 27 minutes. I think Scottie Lindsay has a good game, but I don’t see Pardon being effective against Lammers and Alvarado could give McIntosh fits.
Prediction: Georgia Tech 64 Northwestern 61
Illinois @ Wake Forest (-2.5) 9pm ESPNU
This one is fairly difficult to predict as well. Wake Forest definitely has the edge in talent, as well as the luxury of playing at home, but Illinois has a coach. The Illini are also being rewarded for their patience with Leron Black who is having a fantastic start to the season averaging 14.8 points 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. While Black and Mike Finke have played well enough early on to get Brad Underwoods team to 6-0, Mark Smith, Trent Frazier and Mark Alstork are going to have to give them something in order to win this game. As a team Illinois is shooting 33% from deep on the early season, yet somehow are still putting up 89 a game. They are also holding opponents under 70 a game thus far, but they haven’t played anyone who should put up more than 70 against them.
Wake is easily the most talented team Illinois will face in its first seven games, the trio of Brown, Crawford and Woods are currently averaging a collective 40 points per game, while Doral Moore is showing signs of life, going for 17 and 7 his in the Deac’s last game out. Wake still does not play any defense, giving up 75 a game, good for 230th in the country, but I like their home court advantage and I like Crawford going up against Mark Smith. Keep on eye on Terrance Thompson as well, he has not done a whole lot lately, but I think he is going to be a valuable player once Wake Forest gets into the meat of their schedule.
Prediction: Wake 87 Illinois 82
Iowa @ Virginia Tech (-8) 9pm ESPN2
Much like Wisconsin getting a bum draw with Virginia, Iowa got a real bum deal with this draw. Virginia Tech is loaded with guys that seemed to have it figured out all at the same time and they are lighting up the scoreboard.
I knew before the season that Ahmed Hill was a player to watch, I even included him on one of my preseason watch lists, but I didn’t expect him to average 20 points a game. I also didn’t expect him to shoot the deep ball at a 60% clip on his first 37 attempts. The funniest part about Hill’s statistics, is they aren’t even the most surprising on this team. Justin Bibbs is averaging 21 points per game in his first four games. For his career he has averaged 10.7, so at some point I would expect him to taper off a bit and come back to earth, but I am not sure it will happen tonight. Nickiel Alexander-Walker has also been fantastic early on for the Hokies, averaging 17 points per game to go with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. I voiced concern about his outside shot in the preseason and so far he is only shooting 47% from deep on the season, so I guess I’ll just shut the fuck up about it.
Iowa has been somewhat disappointing early on, dropping games to Louisiana and South Dakota State, though there really is no shame in losing a game to Mike Daum’s squad. Expectations should have been tempered when they lost Nicholas Baer to a finger injury, but Baer should be back for this game tonight. The 6’7 junior forward is expected to be a leader on this team and will create a formidable quartet with Tyler Cook, Isaiah Moss and sophomore sniper Jordan Bohannon. Baer averaged 8 and 6 as a sophomore and ranked in the top 10 in both steals and blocks in the Big Ten last season.
Early on I though Virginia Tech may boat race the Hawkeyes, but the return of Baer has me backing off that a little bit, and I am now thinking this could be the game of the night. I think the Hokies still win, but it’s going to be tight.
Prediction: Virgina Tech 76 Iowa 70