Boise State Preview — 11/28/2017

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 8:00 p.m.
Taco Bell Arena, Boise, Idaho

Boise State has flourished in men’s basketball since Leon Rice was named coach in 2010. The Broncos have had six 20-win seasons in the seven full seasons with Rice at the helm, including two NCAA appearances, reaching the NIT last year, and the NIT semifinals in his first season. This year the Broncos were picked to finish third in the Mountain West, in large part thanks to the MWC Preseason Player of the Year, 6’7” senior guard Chandler Hutchison.

Hutchison had a phenomenal junior season at Boise State, averaging 17.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. After declaring for the NBA Draft (but not picking an agent) as a junior, he bowed out of the draft to return for his senior season at BSU. This season he had a game with 19 points and 18 rebounds against Illinois State, but he injured his head falling to the court for a rebound against Iowa State, and didn’t play against Loyola Marymount on Saturday. He will likely be available on Tuesday for the Ramblers.

The Broncos have been very impressive in the early going, demolishing a non-D1 and Southern Utah before reaching the final of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. In that tournament they won a close one against UTEP 58-56, and then demolished Illinois State. The Broncos use a very effective 2-3 zone that completely flummoxed the Redbirds. Hutchison was injured 7 minutes into the loss against Iowa State.

Assuming Hutchison satisfies the concussion protocol, BSU is likely to start the game with 6’11” junior Zach Haney and 6’7” Christian Sengfelder at forward. Marist HS grad and grad transfer from Valpo Lexus Williams, 6’4” sophomore Alex Hobbs, and Hutchison start as guards.

Haney is a gangly but mobile forward who has terrible shot selection, but is excellent on the glass, especially on the offensive glass. He averages 4.2 points and 6.8 rebounds, mostly because he shoots less than 30% from the field. Sengfelder is a grad transfer from Fordham who works hard in the offense to do little things, and is a slightly better shooter than Haney– he averages 11.8 points and 5.5 boards per game.

Lexus Williams was a promising freshman point guard at Valpo who became a bench player after an injury in his sophomore season. He found a starting role for his senior year at Boise State, and he’s making the most of it, averaging 7.3 points per game and posting a 2.33 assist to turnover ratio. Williams is a somewhat reluctant but credible three point threat, and leads the team in steals. Alex Hobbs is an athletic shooting guard who can drive the lane and shoots the lights out—55.4% on field goals, 46.2% on threes, and 92.3% from the free throw line. Hobbs shares the team lead in assists with Hutchison, and along with the team’s star provides a double threat.

With Williams joining the lineup as point guard, Justinian Jessup moved to the first spot off the bench. Jessup, a 6’6” sophomore combo guard, started all but one of Boise State’s games last year and averaged 7.4 points per game. This season, coming off the bench and playing starters’ minutes, he’s leading the team in scoring at 13.8 per game, pulling down 6.8 rebounds per, and leading the team in made threes at a 43.9% rate. Marcus Dickinson, a 6’2” sophomore guard, has been another impact bench player, hitting 11 of his 17 three-point shots and averaging 7.7 points per game. Six-eleven junior center Robin Jorch doesn’t get a great deal of time per game, but is an imposing rim protector who averages 2.3 points per contest. The same goes for 6’10” junior forward David Wacker, who averages 3.2 points.

BSU is loaded with versatile players who can create mismatches, and they help each other get into a situation to create those mismatches. Hutchison is a 6’7” player with guard skills when he puts the ball on the floor. He can slash to the basket and finish, and rebound like a forward. Dickinson has a quick release on his jumper, so don’t leave him too far alone outside the arc. Sengfelder reminds me a little of Wichita State’s Evan Wessel with what he does in the offense to free other players. Jessup is another long guard at 6’6” who can shoot over most guards, and has enough quickness to drive past tall defenders. And many of the Broncos have done quite a bit of strength training.

The Broncos have been prone to turnovers early in the season, averaging 13.5 turnovers and committing 13 more turnovers than their opposition. Thanks to the zone, they are really good rebounders, and they are really good at defending the three, holding the opposition to only 23% behind the arc. Especially with bench players in the game, they can be beaten back into the zone if nobody stops forward progress, so look for the opportunity for some Ramblers going coast to coast. Offensively they like to play in a rhythm, so full court pressure, half-court traps, and switching up defenses is key. Let the big men shoot as many jump shots from 10 feet out as they want, but make sure to rebound the misses. Townes, Ingram and Krutwig need to establish their ability to score inside against the zone.

When the Ramblers beat BSU 48-45 to win the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic December 23, 2014, it was also unexpected and helped give the Ramblers confidence to go on to a 24-13 season and a CBI Championship. Donte Ingram and Ben Richardson were freshmen on that team and both played in that game; Chandler Hutchison was a freshman for Boise State who played four minutes. I don’t know if it was a game that stuck in Boise State’s craw (they made the NCAA Tournament as an 11 seed and lost in a play-in matchup against Dayton—in Dayton), but they know not to underestimate Loyola.

The last time Boise State lost a non-conference game at home was against St. Mary’s on December 14, 2013. Since that game they’re 46-9 at Taco Bell Arena.

Loyola game notes: … df?id=3741

Boise State game notes: Pending

TV/Streaming video:

Vegas odds: Pending

Miss. Valley State Preview — 11/21/2017

Tuesday, November 21, 2017 7:00 p.m.
Gentile Arena, Chicago, Ill.

Just about 53 hours after a grueling, shorthanded 88-67 win over Samford, the Ramblers will be back at it against Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday. Loyola moved to 4-0 on the season by solving the Samford full-court press, getting solid outings from Marques Townes and Donte Ingram, and witnessing a breakout performance from freshman Lucas Williamson. Even without defensive mainstay Ben Richardson, injured and out for 4-6 weeks with a broken hand, it was a very good performance against a team that may finish atop the Southern Conference.

The MVSU Delta Devils also had a game on Sunday, at Kent State, as part of the Savannah Invitational. The school in the SWAC conference, located in Itta Bena, Mississippi (very close to Greenwood), is primarily noted for its football, which produced Hall of Famers Deacon Jones and Jerry Rice. They were last in the NCAA Tournament in 2012. Despite an 0-3 record entering the game, with an average losing margin of 35 points, the Delta Devils gave Kent State a pretty good game (tied up at 38 early in the 2nd half) before losing 80-67. Coach Andre Payne is in his fourth season, and is still experimenting with lineups, playing 12 players an average of double-digit minutes, and starting different combinations.

The better performance at Kent State on Sunday might result in a repeat of that starting group—guards Tereke Eckwood and Jordan Evans; center Emanuel Ejeh; and forwards Dante Scott and Arinze Anakwenze. Dante Scott, a 6’4” junior small forward who transferred from Howard is the only player on the Devils who has started all four games. Scott averages 8.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. Anakwenze, a 6’6” junior forward from Los Angeles, is also likely to start but only plays an average of less than 11 minutes per game.

Emanuel Ejeh, a 6’8” junior center from Nigeria averages 7.0 points per game and leads the team in rebounds with 4.3. Ejeh had a fantastic game at Kent State, where he was 9-for-12 from the field for 21 points and eight rebounds, before fouling out in the final minute on a double technical.

Junior Tereke Eckwood is a 6’2” point guard who leads the team in points (10.0 per game), three pointers (6 made on 11 attempts), and steals. He rebounds well for a guard (3.3 per game) and takes care of the ball well—only six turnovers. Eckwood had 17 points, five assists, and two steals at Kent State. Joining him in the backcourt is shooting guard Jordan Evans, a 6’2” junior who averages 7.5 points and handles the ball well. He has not been shooting well early in the season, only 28% from the field, but he scored 10 points vs. Kent State.

Six players have appeared in every game and average double-digit minutes, all averaging between 2.0 and 5.8 points. Even in the relatively close game at Kent State, 10 players saw nine minutes or more on the court. Among the notable bench players are 6’9” center Jamal Watson (4.3 points, 2.8 boards per game) and 6’5” freshman guard Jeffrey Lewis (4.3 ppg and the team’s most prolific three-point shooter).

The last time MVSU won a non-conference game was on November 29, 2014, a 66-63 win over North Carolina A&T. They are 0-37 since. Their average margin of defeat this season– against BYU, Utah, Utah State, and Kent State– is 29.75 points. But one day soon, if their play on Sunday at Kent State is any sign, they’ll win another non-con game. Maybe really soon, like when they play SE Louisiana Saturday, on a neutral court. But hopefully the Ramblers can keep them waiting until after Thanksgiving for that win.

Loyola game notes:

MVSU game notes: Pending

TV/Streaming video:

Vegas odds: N/A

Samford Preview — 11/19/2017

Sunday, November 19, 2017 2:00 p.m.
Gentile Arena, Chicago, Ill.

Loyola will be facing Samford for the first time ever on Sunday as part of the Savannah Invitational. Samford is a small private school with about 5400 students (only 3300 undergrads) situated in a suburb a few blocks from the Birmingham, Ala. city limits. The school dates back to 1841, making it the 87th oldest college in the United States.

For the 2017-18 season, Samford was voted 2nd in both the Southern Conference Coaches poll, and the SoCon media poll. The Bulldogs finished 20-16 last season, with their first winning season since 2005-06 and their first postseason win (78-74 over Canisius in the CIT), despite finishing 7th in the SoCon. All five starters return, with two making the all-conference preseason team. Coach Scott Padgett is beginning his fourth year with the Bulldogs, and has combined for a 45-57 record. You might remember Padgett as a Kentucky player under Rick Pitino, an NBA player from 1999-2006, or a Kentucky assistant under John Calipari in 2009-10.

Despite the high expectations, the Bulldogs have looked shaky in the early going. Samford was blown out in their season opener at Arkansas, 95-56. A home win against Alabama State was followed by 105-86 drubbing at LSU. All-conference junior center Wyatt Walker has been bothered by injuries throughout his career, and missed the postseason last year with knee problems. He did not play in the game at LSU. When everyone is able to play, the Bulldogs spread the minutes fairly evenly between 10 players.

Samford will likely start Eric Adams (if Wyatt Walker is unable to play) and Alex Thompson at forward, with Christen Cunningham, Josh Sharkey and Darius Denzel-Dyson at guard. Denzel-Dyson is a 6’5” senior shooting guard who transferred from UMass after his sophomore season. He was named to the Southern Conference preseason team, and averages 12.3 ppg and 4.0 rebounds– including 21 points to lead all scorers in the LSU game. Sophomore Josh Sharkey (5’10”) and junior Christen Cunningham (6’2”) are both listed on the roster as point guards, and from the numbers so far on the season it looks like Cunningham is better offensively, and Sharkey is better handling the ball and on defense.

Alex Thompson, a 6’8” senior forward who transferred from Auburn, averages 10.3 points per game and is a rangy shooter prone to fouls. He fouled out in 16 minutes at LSU, and was 2 of 9 from three-point territory at Arkansas indicating he doesn’t like to mix it up. Eric Adams is a 6’7” senior forward who earned a start with Walker out at LSU, and has more offensive rebounds on the season (10) than field goal attempts (8). Preseason SoCon all-conference team member Wyatt Walker averages 9 points and 5 boards per game on the young season, playing only 17.5 minutes per.

Three players off the bench are impact players: 5’10” junior point guard Justin Coleman actually plays more minutes per game than starters Sharkey and Thompson. Coleman likes to shoot the ball, and is second on the team in scoring (11.3 ppg), and leads in assists. Three-point specialist Triston Chambers is a 6’2” sophomore guard that has only taken two of his 16 field goal attempts inside the arc, but when you shoot 50% from distance, why bother shooting a two? Chambers averages 7.7 ppg and plays about 20 minutes per game. Six-foot-seven junior forward Stefan Lakic played well at LSU (seven points, four rebounds in 16 minutes); he will likely get double digit minutes off the bench if Walker and senior forward Alex Peters (who also missed the LSU game) can’t play.

The Ramblers are coming off a game at UMKC where they had a terrible first half in which they managed to score only 20 points and were losing the rebound and turnover battle to a younger and shorter team. But they came out of the halftime break with some real energy, and played their best defensive half of the young season to get a road win. Now it’s time to put together the good halves into full games that are effective on both offense and defense. After the next two games, Loyola starts a stretch of four games in eight days in three different cities and three time zones. But in the meantime, Samford certainly won’t be a pushover.

Loyola game notes: Pending

Samford game notes: Pending

TV/Streaming video:

Vegas odds: Pending