Virginia Tech vs BYU Preview

11:30PM EST on ESPN2

BYU: 4-3

Head Coach Mark Pope: First season at BYU after a 77-56 record in 4 seasons at Utah Valley, winning 23 and 25 games in each of his final two seasons, respectively. Was a BYU assistant from 2011-2015.

Virginia Tech is 0-2 all time vs BYU

Virginia Tech and BYU are looking to bounce back Wednesday evening as both suffered double digit losses in the semi-finals of the Maui Invitational. Virginia Tech, falling from the ranks of the unbeaten, simply didn’t have the ability to match Dayton’s Obi Toppin in the post, or really anywhere for that matter, but the Hokies do get to face this BYU team without arguably their best player, 6’8 forward, Yoeli Childs. Childs nearly averaged a double-double last season, scoring over 21 points and grabbing just under 10 rebounds per game, on about 51% shooting, and 32% from 3 on about 3 attempts per game. Childs is suspended for the first 9 games of the season due to a violation of NCAA rules. You can’t replace Childs, obviously, but the production has to come from somewhere. A trio of guards have shouldered the majority of the scoring load in Child’s absence, including two senior guards in TJ Haws and Jake Toolson. Take a look at the per game individual numbers for this BYU squad through 7 games.

TJ Haws was in a major shooting slump before finding his way against UCLA on Monday. He shot over 85% from the free throw line last year and about 35% from 3. I expect to see some positive regression (is that how you phrase it?) for Haws in the near future, but hopefully not against the Hokies. Toolson and sophomore guard, Alex Barcello, have been lethal from 3 point range so far, and the Hokies will need to be sure to contest their attempts as much as possible. Speaking of Toolson, what an interesting career it has been for him, to say the least. Toolson was originally at BYU, but he transferred to Utah Valley State to be with Mark Pope (BYU assistant). When Pope got the BYU job, Toolson, who had the opportunity to choose UVA or Duke as a graduate transfer… chose BYU. Pretty cool story if you ask me, certainly not something you see very often in college sports.

Projected Starters:
6’2 SO Guard: Alex Barcello, AGE-21
6’4 SR Guard: TJ Haws, AGE-24
6’5 SR Guard: Jake Toolson, AGE-23
6’7 SR Forward: Dalton Nixon, AGE- 23
6’9 SO Forward: Kolby Lee AGE- (19 or 20 can’t confirm)

Bench:
6’6 SO: Connor Harding- shooting 57% on threes at the moment, but on only 14 attempts
6’7 SR: Zac Seljaas
Nobody else averages more than 6 minutes a game

From a talent perspective I think that this game is pretty even, but BYU will have a major experience factor in this one, plain and simple. Will that experience help? Nobody knows. It didn’t help Michigan State much. But that’s why you play the game, aint’ it? Because anything can happen when you step in between those lines under those bright lights. This isn’t a massive BYU team, and it simply isn’t the best version of their squad due to the aforementioned Childs issue. If Tech can contest shots and contain BYU’s shooters, I like Virginia Tech to win a close one. I think BYU will have trouble guarding the Hokies, especially considering the fact BYU played the late game yesterday, giving them a few less hours to recover and prepare for their next game. For the Hokies, how will they respond to their first loss of the season? Is the energy and effort going to be there? I see some similarities between these two teams in that they want shooters at all 5 spots for the most part. Forwards Nixon and Lee are a combined 10-25 from 3 this season, so Tech will have to respect them from outside, along with the trio of Barcello, Haws, and Toolson. If you are lucky enough to be on the east coast like me, good luck staying up for the 11:30PM tip off, may the force be with you! Time for me to get some coffee.

Prediction: VT 71 BYU 70

Dayton, Toppin, Dominate Hokies, 89-62

Virginia Tech came out of the under-8-minute TV timeout with a Landers Nolley triple to cut the Dayton lead to 3 with 7:36 remaining in the first half. That would be the closest they would get to taking down a downright dominant Dayton team as the Flyers finished the half on a 20-5 run to take an 18 points half-time lead. Guess who started that run for Dayton? You guessed it. Obi Toppin was as good as advertised for Dayton, just an absolute matchup nightmare for the undersized Hokie front court. Toppin showed off his versatility throughout. He was 3-5 from 3, hitting three straight 3-point field goals in a 1 minute, 17 second span to spark the Flyers run to close the first half. He showed his ability to just get whatever he wanted on the block with undersized and inexperienced defenders on him. He had three straight spins baseline for easy dunks in the 2nd half as the Hokies just had no answer for him. It was a tough game for Tech, but they’ll have to forget about this one quickly because they’ll need to give either Kansas or BYU their full attention. BYU would probably be the slightly better matchup primarily because their best player (Yoeli Childs) has to sit out the first 9 games due to an NCAA violation of rules regarding agents (it is a bogus rule, but it is what it is). The Hokies will play Wednesday night, 11:30 PM on ESPN2 in the 3rd place game.

Virginia Tech vs Dayton Preview

8PM ET on ESPN/The ESPN APP

Dayton Head Coach Anthony Grant: Was a 10 year assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida. VCU HC from 2006-2009, Alabama HC from 2009-2015, Dayton HC from 2017-Present. Went from 14-17 to 21-12 his first two seasons at Dayton. Career .624 win percentage.

Virginia Tech stunned the college basketball world last night as the Hokies came away with a massive victory over top 5 Michigan State to shake up the Maui Invitational bracket. Dayton had a bit of an easier time in their game against Georgia, winning by 19 points earlier in the day. Both teams go into this contest undefeated, with Tech 6-0 and Dayton 4-0 respectively. Per HokieSports.com, this will be the 14th matchup ever between the Hokies and the Flyers, with the previous meeting all the way back in March of 2000. Obviously a lot has changed in almost 20 years, so lets take a look at what Virginia Tech is up against, in what is sure to be another tough battle against a formidable opponent with arguably one of the 10 best players in college basketball.

Who is that player, you may ask? Obi. Toppin. If you are a basketball fan, get to know this kid, ASAP. The 6’9 Sophomore has skyrocketed up mock-drafts due to his size and versatility. He is very fluid with his motions, and can beat you from the inside or the outside. Let me show you his numbers as a freshman: in 26.5 minutes per game, he averaged 14.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists, on over 67% from 2 point range, and over 50% from 3 point range… just let those numbers marinate for a second before I tell you his averages after his first 4 games this season… Here is a link to Toppin’s highlights against UVA from last season. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRXYIqKnHdU The kid was apparently only 6’2 as a junior in high school, but now stands nearly 6’9, and is an absolute monster.

After 4 games into his Sophomore season, Toppin is averaging a whopping 24 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1 steal and 1.5 blocks on just under 30 minutes per game. Oh, and he’s shooting 78% from the field on 2-point shots, and 50% on threes. This is a guy that can grab a rebound and take it the full length on his own for a bucket, or play with his back to the basket down low and beat you with his combination of footwork, quickness, and strength, or he can run pick and pop with a ball handler to set himself up for an open 3. Needless to say, this will be arguably the best player Virginia Tech faces all season. PJ Horne will be at a size disadvantage per usual so I think we may see Tech try to bring a 2nd defender over to help get the ball out of Toppin’s hands as much as possible. Just like with Michigan State, you have to find a way to neutralize Dayton’s best player, first and foremost, before worrying about everybody else. But as you’ll see, Toppin’s teammates are no scrubs of their own.

Dayton’s projected starting lineup:

JR 6’1 Guard, Jalen Crutcher: A steady presence in the backcourt, Crutcher started 22 games as a freshman and all 33 games last year as a Sophomore, averaging 13 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds, on about 36% shooting from 3. Crutcher went for 20 points yesterday in the blowout win over UGA, going 4-9 from deep.

JR 6’1 Guard, Rodney Chatman: Transferring in from UT Chattanooga, Chatman has continued to display his solid all around game through the first 4 games of the season, averaging double digit points-per-game to go with 4.5 assists as well. Chatman has shot the ball well from 3 point range as well, averaging nearly 40% on almost 6 attempts per game.

SR 6’5 Guard, Trey Landers: Starting the majority of the previous two seasons, Landers brings experience and toughness to the lineup. He’s not a huge offensive threat in my opinion, as he shot just 9-45 from 3 last season (20%), and he is just 2-7 from deep through 4 games in 2019. Landers is more of a glue guy than anything else.

SR 6’7 Forward, Ryan Mikesell: Another experienced player who has started over 50 games the previous two seasons. Has shown small, steady, improvement over the course of his career, contributing double digit points per game and is a willing and able passer.

SO 6’9 Forward, Obi Toppin: I already talked about Toppin up above, as he is a can’t miss prospect. The versatile big man is a projected first round pick and it is hard to argue with that assessment after watching him. Slowing down Toppin will be a group effort, as just one guy will not be able to stop him.

The Bench

JR 6’5 Guard, Ibi Watson: The 44th ranked shooting guard in the class of 2016 per 247Sports, Watson sat out last season after transferring from Michigan following two quiet seasons in Ann Arbor where he saw about 5 minutes per game. So far this season, Watson has shown the ability to be a solid threat from deep, making almost 43% of his 3.5 attempts a game.

SO 6’2 Guard, Dwayne Cohill: Not a great shooter from 3, going 22% on 37 attempts last season, and has only taken 4 thus far, hitting just 1 to put him at 25% on the year. He has improved his ‘assist-to-turnover ratio’ from 1.0 to 3.5 respectively.

SO 6’9 Forward, Chase Johnson: The former 4 star prospect transferred from Florida after a forgettable couple of seasons in Gainesville. He is still a question mark in my opinion until there is a better sample size of data on him, but he does not seem to be a stretch-4 at first glance. Just a nice energy guy off the bench that can defend and rebound for a few minutes here and there.

JR 6’5 Guard, Jhery Matos: A foot injury ended Matos’s ’18-’19 season early, but a medical redshirt was granted due to the limited number of games he played in. The guard from the Dominican Republic is another energy guy not expected to come in and score a whole bunch, but his defense and decision making provide decent depth for the Flyers.

Bottom Line: It’s going to have to be another team effort for the Hokies to win this one. Obi Toppin is as good as it gets from an efficiency standpoint, so forcing the ball out of his hands and making him catch the ball away from the basket is probably Virginia Tech’s best bet to contain him. Dayton is not loaded with 3 point shooters, so sending a double team on Toppin and making the Flyers prove that their role players can get it done is how Virginia Tech will have a shot at moving to 7-0. Per usual, rebounding will be a major key to this one. Mike Young’s team will usually be the smallest team on the court, so team rebounding from all 5 positions will be imperative. Wabissa Bede has done an excellent job of that, and he helped seal the deal with a few timely rebounds in the final minute against Michigan State. At this point in time, I am simply a believer in Virginia Tech basketball. The youth has produced well beyond any reasonable expectations and I’ve been amazed at the fluidity of the offense for the most part considering all the new pieces having played so few games together. The national media was drooling over Mike Young after taking down Michigan State.

Virginia Tech was picked to finish last in the ACC by most, and based on what they lost and what they were bringing in, that was not an unreasonable assessment. But my-oh-my, how quickly it all can change. While nothing in sports is ever guaranteed, I think it’s safe to say that when you step on the court with Virginia Tech, you can guarantee you’ll be in for a fight. While I’m not at the point where I will proclaim Tech to be an NCAA Tournament lock, a win today against a probable tournament team in Dayton, along with a solid showing against BYU or Kansas in the finals, will have me believing more and more that this team has what it takes to dance in March. Dayton has the best player on the court, but Virginia Tech has the better team, and the better coach. I expect that to hold true tonight.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 77 Dayton 71

Mike Young and Hokies Make Statement, Shock Spartans 71-66

Cassius Winston sat for the majority of the first 20 minutes with 2 fouls and the Hokies were able to take a 4 point lead going into the half against top 5 ranked Michigan State. It was made incredibly clear the impact Winston has on Izzo’s team when he’s on and off the court. Sparty was searching for answers on offense and they lacked reliable ball handlers and passers on the wings. Aaron Henry and Rocket Watts struggled holding onto the ball and running the offense with 3 and 4 turnovers a piece, as MSU lost the ball 11 times in the first half, compared to just 6 for Tech. As I said in the preview, if the Hokies can slow down Winston and make everybody else beat them, the Hokies will have a chance to take this one down to the wire. Winston finished with just 7 points, 2 assists, and 3 turnovers on the night.

As the 2nd half unfolded, no team could manage to gain much separation, with either side only able to distance themselves by no more than 4 points throughout. Finally, Tech managed to breakthrough by way of a few missed shots and turnovers on the MSU side. Closing in on the 6 minute mark, the Hokies took it down and whipped 5 consecutive passes, with Nolley finding Cattoor at the top of the key for 3, to put the Hokies up 54-49. Winston goes down and misses an open look, and Bede follows it up with an And-1 lay up but misses the free throw, to go up 56-49, and Nolley hits a 3 after a Tillman turnover to push the lead to double digits, the largest lead for either team.

With 3:50 to go, the Hokies were up 59-52, with Landers Nolley at the line for 1 and 1 off a Malik Hall foul. Nolley hit both to get it back up to 9. MSU went on a run to get it back to a two point game with 1:55 remaining as Young calls timeout to calm everybody down. Hokies take some time on their next offensive possession before Nolley finishes in the paint to go up 4. With under 90 seconds to go, Tillman drives and dishes to Henry for a wide open 3 to get it within 1 point. Hokies come back with under a minute, and Nolley calmly bangs a 3 to go up 4 points with 47.5 seconds remaining. An “Ice Water 3” as Jay Bilas said on the broadcast. MSU calls timeout and Nolley in the huddle can be heard telling them to let MSU shoot jumpers and to avoid fouling them. Ahrens gets an easy baseline two and Winston automatically fouls Bede with 37.6 seconds left to extend the game. Double bonus the rest of the way, it came down to free throws and stops for the Hokies. Bede makes the first but misses the 2nd to go up 3. Winston forces a shot and misses, with Bede grabbing a huge rebound with 24.5 seconds to go and gets fouled, earning another pair of free throws. Bede misses the first free throw to put the pressure on, but he makes the 2nd. Now a 2 possession game, Winston passed to Tillman for 3, and he misses. Exactly what you want if you are the Hokies. You live with a Tillman 3 point attempt in crunch time 100% of the time. Bede grabbed yet another rebound, and went to the line yet again, and yet again, he missed the first. Clearly frustrated, Cattoor gets in his ear for some encouragement, and Bede calmly knocks down the second. 5 point game, and Henry misses a final 3 point attempt that bounces off the rim, landing in the hands of the Hokies… just a massive victory for Mike Young, the staff, and players. Incredible effort. Nolley finished with 22 for the game, and the Hokies had 5 players in double figures. Michigan State’s star guard, Cassius Winston, was held to 7 points, 10 points below his season average. The Hokies are now 6-0 and play 4-0 Dayton tomorrow at 8PM on ESPN in the semi’s of the Maui Invitational.

NFL Week 13 “Gut” Picks

Week 13 is upon us. Here is a quick recap of the week 12 results. 6-4 Against the Spread. 4-3 on Over/Unders. 10-7 overall.

  • WIN—RAMS OVER 46.5
    LOSS—49ERS OVER 46
    WIN—PATRIOTS UNDER 46
    LOSS—TITANS UNDER 41.5
    LOSS—JETS OVER 45.5
    WIN—BROWNS OVER 44
    WIN—REDSKINS UNDER 42
    WIN—BENGALS UNDER 39
    WIN—BEARS UNDER 40.5
    LOSS—TEXANS OVER 45.5
  • WIN—COLTS +3.5
    WIN—GIANTS +6.5
    LOSS—RAMS +3.5
    LOSS—DOLPHINS +10.5
    WIN—BUCCS +4.5
    LOSS—LIONS -3.5
    WIN—BENGALS +7

Week 13 Picks. 5-4

LOSS—-LIONS UNDER 38.5
WIN—-COWBOYS UNDER 44.5
LOSS—-FALCONS +7
WIN—PACKERS -6
WIN—DOLPHINS OVER 45.5
LOSS—BENGALS OVER 40.5
WIN—BRONCOS OVER 38.5
LOSS—PATRIOTS -3.5
WIN—-SEAHAWKS -3

Make sure to check out my Week 14 NCAA Football picks as well. I have a TON of them for rivalry week.

Week 14 “Gut” Picks NCAAF, Over/Unders added*

Last week I started sharing my “gut” picks for both NFL and College Football. I have attached the link to that article below.

https://everyonegoesbust.com/2019/11/20/ncaa-and-nfl-gut-picks/

Not a bad week with college football, going 9-4 against the spread, and 6-4 on over/unders. I’ll review those picks tomorrow since I’m still waiting on the results of the Monday Night Football game. For now, here are more Against-The-Spread “gut” picks for the upcoming holiday weekend of college football. And yes Hokie fans, I do expect Virginia Tech to keep it rolling, easily covering as 2.5 point favorites over UVA. Keep in mind this will be updated as the over/under numbers come out. I will have a separate write up for NFL picks. *Keep in mind all these numbers could change as the week goes on as Sports Books adjust the numbers based on betting percentages and other factors under consideration.*

LOSS—-VT -2.5
WIN—-ARKANSAS +11.5
WIN—WVU +12.5
WIN—CINCI +11.5
LOSS—-TEXAS TECH +9
LOSS—WASH ST +6.5
WIN—TEMPLE -28.5
WIN—UGA -28
WIN—-KANSAS STATE +4
WIN—-UNC -8
LOSS—-PENN STATE -38.5
WIN—-VANDY +21.5
LOSS—-WAKE -4.5
WIN—-ARIZONA +12.5
WIN—PURDUE +7
LOSS—LOUISVILLE +3
LOSS—MICHIGAN STATE -21
WIN—NORTHWESTERN +10
LOSS—-OKLAHOMA STATE +12.5
LOSS—-ALABAMA -4
WIN—OHIO STATE -9.5
WIN—-FLORIDA -17

WIN—-TEXAS OVER 63
WIN—-UVA OVER 48
LOSS—-ARKANSAS OVER 53.5
LOSS—TCU OVER 44
LOSS—UCF OVER 63.5

WIN—-PITT UNDER 51.5
WIN—GT OVER 46
LOSS—-PENN STATE OVER 49
LOSS—KANSAS UNDER 52
WIN—-MICHIGAN STATE UNDER 49
LOSS—-STANFORD UNDER 51.5
LOSS—-SMU OVER 71.5
WIN—-TENN UNDER 45.5
LOSS—-AUBURN UNDER 50

  • LOSS—-OKLAHOMA STATE OVER 69.5
  • WIN—-UCLA UNDER 51.5
  • WIN—-LSU UNDER 62
  • WIN—-FLORIDA OVER 53.5

9-9 on over/unders, 13-9 against the spread, 22-18 on the week

Top Play Review: Spurs (-2.5) @ Wizards–LOSS

So today I’m going to recap what happened in the Spurs Wizards game last night. As I had written yesterday, I was pretty confident that the Spurs would squeeze out a victory of 3 or more points. What convinced me of this, as I wrote, was the thought that the Spurs, having lost 6 straight games, would have a major sense of urgency to right the ship against a Wizards team that I believed did not have much continuity/team chemistry and (or) motivation to actually compete for an entire 48 minutes.

So, what did I get wrong? For starters, from watching the game, I did not see that sense of urgency that I thought I would see from a team trying to end a 6 game losing streak, let alone a team coached by the legendary Gregg Popovich. I don’t see any leaders on this team, plain and simple. Demar Derozan and LaMarcus Aldridge looked fairly indifferent to all that was going on, and the defense right now is completely non-existent. Davis Bertans once again killed the Spurs, going for 21 points against his former team. While I thought Bertans would have less success in this one compared to the first meeting earlier this year, it was Ish Smith going 9-12 from the floor that really gave the Wizards bench an extra boost to get them over the hump. The Wizards shot over 58% from the field and were 60% from 3. You will not lose many games with those types of numbers, and the Spurs just weren’t capable of stringing together consecutive stops at a time.

If there is any team that you don’t want to count out, it’s usually the San Antonio Spurs. They’ve found a way year after year to make the playoffs, becoming the model of consistency in the NBA. BUT, Spurs fans, I’m afraid it’s time to officially sound the alarms. The Western Conference is unforgiving. They couldn’t stop a Wizards team that is full of fringe NBA players and role players for the most part, and I’m not seeing much improvement from those who have been with the organization. Normally I would caution against overreaction to a single loss, but this is more of a reaction to their overall body of work up to this point. The Spurs are 5-10 at the moment, with a 1-6 record on the road. At the very least they need to split their next two games at Philly and at the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. If they lose these next two games to fall to 5-12 with games against the Lakers and Clippers on the horizon? Not. Good.

1997. That’s over 20 years. Kobe’s rookie season. That is the last time the Spurs missed the playoffs. If they don’t get it turned around ASAP, an amazing run will come to an end.

Virginia Tech vs Michigan State, Maui Invitational Preview

Virginia Tech Men’s Basketball got off to their 2nd consecutive 5-0 start to the season last night, taking care of a winless Delaware State team in Cassell Coliseum. While there are certainly plenty of positives to take away from this young team up to this point, the competition is about to get a whole lot tougher come Monday in Maui when the Hokies take on the number 3 ranked team in the country, the Michigan State Spartans. This will be Mike Young’s first chance to see how his team can hold up against an elite opponent with a clear talent/experience advantage. Without further ado, here is your Michigan State preview.

Michigan State Spartans
WHEN: MONDAY 11/25, 5PM ET on ESPN2
Record: 3-1, loss by 7 to Kentucky on opening night
-How did Kentucky beat MSU? They attacked the paint, earning trips to the free throw line. Kentucky shot 14 more free throws (32-18) and made 12 more free throws than MSU.
-Two blowout wins against Binghamton and Charleston Southern, and a nice road victory at Seton Hall by 3 points sandwiched in between.

Last game: vs Charleston Southern on 11/18 (W 94-46)

Injuries: Joshua Langford: The former 5 star and career 40% 3 point shooter has been sidelined with a foot injury for an extended period of time, and is out indefinitely until January.
Aaron Henry: held out against Charleston Southern due to an ankle issue, and is questionable for Monday.

Projected Starters: (recruit rankings per 247sports)

SR:Cassius Winston– 6’1, ranked 31- he’s not the most athletic, but has a high IQ, and is the leader of this team. You’ll typically see him in pick and rolls with Tillman. When he gets in the paint, he uses his body well to create space to finish.
FR:Rocket Watts– 6’2, ranked 39- it has been a slow start for the highly touted freshman on the offensive end. Shooting under 26% from the field, and under 18% from 3, Izzo is hoping Watts can breakthrough sooner rather than later.
SO:Aaron Henry– 6’6, ranked 140- well built, athletic kid. Probably their 2nd best playmaker after Winston.
SO:Thomas Kithier– 6’8, ranked 161- hustle guy, not going to provide much offensively outside of put backs from offensive rebounds.
JR:Xavier Tillman– 6’8, ranked 112- Izzo describes his defense as “Draymond-ish” (In reference to his former player Draymond Green). Can guard multiple positions but is still developing his low post game. He’s not afraid to shoot from 3 point range, but you’d be wise to let him settle for that shot, as it’s certainly not his strength. He shot under 30% last season on just 27 attempts, and has only made 1 of 9 so far this season.

BENCH:

SO: Marcus Bingham Jr– 6’11 weighs 225, ranked 66. Not afraid to shoot the 3 but still working on his consistency. Can run the floor at a decent pace for his size.
SR: Kyle Ahrens– 6’6, ranked 166- This is where losing a guy like Langford hurts you. He was a career 40% 3 point shooter while Ahrens hovered around 30% last season in 18 minutes per game. Through 4 games, that percentage is at 37.5%, so it’ll be interesting to see if that improvement is real going forward as the sample size increases.
FR:Julius Marble– 6’8, ranked 222- Plays sparingly
FR:Malik Hall– 6’7, ranked 61- Held scoreless the first two games, Hall provided a much needed spark off the bench in the narrow road win at Seton Hall, providing 17 points in just 19 minutes.
SO:Foster Loyer– 6’0, ranked 96-For the brief time Winston rests, Loyer comes in and does not provide much of an impact in my opinion.
SO:Gabe Brown– 6’7, ranked 101- he’s probably their best 3 point shooter, if you leave him open he will not hesitate.

The Spartans play two big men to start, so spreading the court and forcing them out on the perimeter could cause them some problems. If the Spartans kill VT on the offensive glass, it will be a long night, so getting bodies on Tillman and Kithier is going to be imperative. This is a team that is not afraid to dump it down in the post, so I’m interested in seeing how the Hokies handle that. I could actually see some 2-3 zone in this one. Pack it in and make them live with the 3. Here are the 3 point percentages for MSU through each of their first four games: Kentucky, 19.2%, Binghamton, 28%, Seton Hall, 44.4%, Charleston Southern, 23.5%. The 3 point shot is the great equalizer, and if MSU is cold from 3 while Tech manages to hit a few early? Things could get quite interesting in Maui. What makes Michigan State tough is their size and defensive versatility. Izzo has loaded up on athletic wings and players that can guard multiple positions. On the other side, I don’t think MSU has many players who are great at creating for themselves and others, outside of Winston. If we bottle him up, it will make life harder on their entire team to get going in my opinion.

Matchups to watch:

Cassius Winston vs Wabissa Bede
-As previously mentioned, MSU’s success starts and ends with Winston. He’s just a good basketball player with not a lot of flash to his game. He shot 46% from the field last season, but in their 7 losses, he shot about 40.8%. Clearly Bede is going to have to make Winston earn every single point, and make life difficult for him. I still lean towards a 2-3 zone look because I am worried about Bede having to switch on to Xavier Tillman while Horne has to try to prevent Winston from getting in the paint.

Landers Nolley vs Aaron Henry
-Henry will most likely be tasked with matching up with Tech’s leading scorer, Landers Nolley, to start the game, assuming his ankle injury is no longer an issue. Gabe Brown would be Henry’s replacement in the starting lineup if Henry can’t go. Nolley is going to have to be sure not to force the issue, and will probably need to look to get his teammates involved early to take some of the defensive focus off of him. MSU has a few guys they can throw at Nolley, so this will be an intriguing matchup, to see how the star redshirt freshman will react on the big stage.

PJ Horne vs Xavier Tillman
-Horne has been the biggest surprise of the early part of the season for the Hokies in my opinion. The junior was 3-14 from 3 point range through his first two seasons in Blacksburg, but has made 8 of his 17 attempts already through just 5 games this year. His newfound shooting ability creates a ton of space for others to get into the paint and forces the big men to defend all over the floor. Horne is undersized, but he has managed to hold his own thus far. I think Tillman should be able to stay with him, but Horne may have some success if he can utilize the pump fake to draw a couple cheap fouls on Tillman, and(or) to get to the rim.

Bottom Line
Virginia Tech is going to have to prevent Tillman, Kithier, and even Bingham, from crashing the offensive glass every possession. Tech will need to make MSU volume shooters from long range, keep them out of the paint, and put pressure on their star point guard, Cassius Winston, to get MSU out of rhythm offensively. Mike Young has arguably already exceeded expectations with a solid 5-0 start to his head coaching campaign at Virginia Tech, but this is the first true test for his young squad going up against a team with much more experience and talent (on paper). I think this Tech team is not afraid of the moment, but I do wonder how they’ll be able to handle the size advantage of MSU. I see this game remaining competitive for about 75% of the way through, until MSU uses its size and experience to wear Tech out on the offensive glass. Nolley will have a tough time getting good looks and there just wont be enough scoring elsewhere to keep pace when all said and done.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 60 Michigan State 75

Memphis Star Suspended, Must Donate Over 11K to Charity

Star freshman big man, James Wiseman, who was the center of controversy the past couple of weeks, has officially been suspended by the NCAA for 11 games, which leaves him out until January 12th. He must also donate $11,500 to a charity of his choice to become eligible again. Apparently, a couple years back, current Memphis head coach, Penny Hardaway, provided Wiseman’s mother with some financial support to help with the cost of moving from Nashville to Memphis. The issue stems from the fact that Penny has been classified as a “booster” since 2008, when at the time he made a 7-figure donation to Memphis. Because of that, Penny’s payment to Wiseman’s mother was a violation the moment he was hired as the Memphis head coach, per the NCAA bylaws. Memphis issued a statement saying they will “immediately appeal this decision”. Let me be clear, I think Wiseman having to pay that kind of money to a random charity that the NCAA could care less about is an absolute joke. But at this point, this is the NCAA we all know and loathe. From a Memphis basketball standpoint, this hurts, and it would hurt any team to lose a projected top 5 NBA draft prospect, but Penny has enough talent to keep them afloat until Wiseman is back. It will be interesting to see how this team comes together once all the pieces are finally in place, if that ever even happens.

NBA Futures

In gambling, “futures” refer to bets that you make weeks/months/years in advance. So if you want to bet on the Lakers to win the NBA Finals right now 6 months ahead of time, you can do that. But obviously there is some risk involved as well. You can’t predict injuries, and you certainly can’t really predict potential trades either. In regards to NBA futures, what you want to look for are teams that are being undervalued in comparison to similar teams, and also have to be realistic championship contenders when it is all said and done, duh! Right now at this moment in time, if you gave me 100$ to bet on any NBA team to win the title based at the current odds via Bovada, I would probably put that money down on the Miami Heat.

As you can see on the highlighted selection, the Heat are currently +3500 to win the NBA Finals, which would win you $3,500 if you were to bet $100 on them. So why the Heat? What have I seen from them so far that would make me place $100 on their future? I think what it really comes down to for me is they have quality depth at each position, and have been playing well without having their full lineup for much of the season. This team has one of the best benches in the NBA so there really isn’t much drop off from the starters. Jimmy Butler is clearly the alpha there, and he seems to fit that culture perfectly. The Heat to me just play good team basketball, are unselfish, and compete on the defensive end. Similar to the Raptors last year, the Heat have a legitimate shot in my opinion to be the Eastern Conference representatives in this year’s NBA Finals, and can give whoever they face out west a major run for their money. Only time will tell. But I like the direction the Heat are headed.