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11.8.2013 CBB Opening Night Preview

by: Rich Salvatori @dickiesalvatori - posted on: 03-Nov-2013

Davidson @ Duke (-17.5)

Duke is a unique group this season. The addition of Jabari Parker combined with the loss of several talented guards and the expectation for increased minutes from Rodney Hood and Amile Jefferson seems to signal a changing of the guard for the Dukies.

Historically speaking, their teams have been guard heavy. They still have talented and now veteran guard play, but the dangerous aspect of this team stems from what they can do inside given their expected rebounding prowess.

That attribute will be particularly beneficially in a game like this. Davison loses four seniors from a year ago and, while clearly being a strong program capable of regrouping, I just don't think they have the skill set to hang in this matchup.

De'Mon Brooks and Chris Czerapowicz are quality forwards who can step outside and make shots, but they will be undermanned on the glass all night. In handicapping this game, I'd give the Blue Devils up to 7.5 points just based on rebounding advantage alone. 

Additionally, the overall point guard depth for this Davison roster is also a question mark waiting to be answered. Duke can pressure and prefers to play up tempo, something which could cause fits here. 

This line may seem somewhat inflated. I give Davidson a lot of credit for what it has built and continues to develop, but just have this elevated based on how good this Duke team will have a chance to be. The actual line is 16 or so and it seems like it could be heading down to 15.5 or even lower.

Duke could be as good of a bet as there is on this board right now, as I only see this getting driven down in the coming hours. 

Duke -15

Illinois State @ VCU (-20.5)

Speaking of programs whom have been ravaged by change, the Redbirds are right up there. They have only three scholarship players who received meaningful minutes from last season.

Two of those players are guards Kaza Keane and Nick Zeisloft, which will be helpful given VCU's style. Having capable guard play who can at least get the ball up the court is critical in facing off against Shaka smart.

That being said, I see a decimated roster for the Redbirds and just don't think they can hold up all that well in this spot. Trevor Graham and Juvonte Reddic provide quality scoring for the Commonwealth that is simply not duplicated by Illinois State's roster right now.

ISU did not have a good defense last year, as they surrendered 70+ points to weaker, in-conference competition on multiple occasions. VCU has better program depth and the ability to turn this into a laugher, although I do believe it could be a slower game than the Rams would like early on. 

The issues with Illinois State make me believe this could get ugly and maybe even get as high as 30, but I'm not excited about taking a VCU team that has inconsistent offense to cover a massive number.

UConn @ Maryland (+6.5)

UConn is one team I have marked down as being very potent coming into 2013. They have some serious depth issues, but when you have dynamite talent at the guard spots, you should be in good shape.

Not only are Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright one of the better backcourts in the nation, but they are also experienced and battle tested within the former Big East conference. 

Maryland loses Seth Allen to injury and Pe'Shon Howard to a transfer. They will also still be struggling with the loss of first rounder Alex Len. Len was a supremely talented center who caused matchup nightmares for opponents with regularity. 

Shaquille Cleare is a pretty talented young big man, but his conditioning is still in question and he fought several injuries in the offseason. I have these two groups even on the glass and both with depth concerns.

Still, the scoring potential provided by the Husky guards is important. They can take a low scoring game over quickly. I also like the length Omar Calhoun offers as a defensive matchup for Dez Wells, the most capable playmaker for the Terps. Niels Giffey is a longer, 6'7 forward who can also deal with Wells off the Bench.

All of that thrown together has me with the Huskies as sizable favorites. This one will be played in Brooklyn, and traveling to the Big Apple is something that UConn's program is a bit more familiar with as well.

With the number at 5.5, I like the Huskies here. Maryland has more unknowns in regards to experience and production and that should be a factor especially given their guard concerns. 

UConn -5

Georgetown VS. Oregon (+4.5) (in South Korea)

Georgetown loses their best player but brings back quality guard depth, excellent rebounding and an overall program toughness that makes them well suited for this matchup.

After bowing out to "Dunk City" in the tournament, the Hoyas lost all world forward Otto Porter to the NBA draft. They return many of their other key players, and should pose an interesting challenge for the Ducks because they will likely be the better team on the glass and can play the same style the Ducks tend to incorporate.

Oregon is slowly becoming a very good basketball program under Dana Altman. They are doing a great job of flooding their program with talent both directly out of college and through transfers. 

They did lose some serious pieces in E.J. Singler and Tony Woods. Fortunately, they still have a very talented 6'11 interior presence in Waverly Austin. Ben Carter is a player many in the program have high hopes for as well. But he, along with starting point guard Dominic Artis, will be ineligible for this one.

The front court will be aided by the transfer of Mike Moser, a really good player whose role within UNLV's program was derailed in recent seasons. Part of that had to do with the presence of Anthony Bennett and even more of it had to do with poor coaching and offensive execution. 

Moser will be a huge X-factor in this scheme, however, because he will be asked to do what he does best. He will be a scorer who will have opportunities to produce both at the three and four spots. 

The Ducks were, at times, a brutal offensive group last year. That issue given their opponent when combined with the roster turnover they experienced and the critical suspensions to impact players at key positions make me question them here. 

Georgetown enters this game with more continuity. I think Georgetown projects a bit better right now because of that and the way they are coached. I had this game at G'Town PK prior to the announcement that Artis would be out of it, and have since moved it a full four and a half points (to compensate for Carter's absence partly as well) to Ducks +4.5. That number is consistent with most books and I don't trust the Hoyas enough to expect them to notch  cover here. 

Drexel @ UCLA (-8)

In perhaps one of the more intriguing games of opening weekend, Steve Alford is provided the chance to make his debut at Pauley Pavilion. His opponent includes an experienced coach and a hard-nosed back court. 

Drexel enters this game with Chris Fouch back from injury. Fouch teams with Damion Lee and Franz Massenat to provide the Dragons with a guard grouping that could be dynamic in the CAA. 

But this will not be the CAA, as UCLA has more athleticism and talent than anyone the Dragons would play on a regular basis. Jordan Adams and Normal Powell are very talented guards who can control match ups against the aforementioned Drexel back court.

The Dragons are young on the interior, but have acquired several young bodies whom Bruiser Flint believes will bring more size and strength to what had been an undersized interior. This will be an interesting test for Drexel because they are playing a superior program with more overall athleticism and scoring. UCLA also might have as many questions about their front court as the dragons. 

The Bruins could be without Travis Wear early in the year. That creates added stress for an already thin set of forwards. Kyle Anderson should prove a matchup nightmare in this game for whichever Dragon is assigned to him in coverage. Anderson is long, fluid and does everything you need to do to win games. Drexel has no one gifted enough to cover him here, and he is a primary factor in them being somewhat sizable favorites. 

But my concerns about the Bruins make them a non bet here regardless. Given some of their roster questions and their coaching change, I can't buy into backing them against a potent and likely hungry opponent. 

St. Johns @ Wisconsin (-4.5)

St. Johns returns all five starters from an up and down campaign a year ago, and an early season road tilt in a difficult environment will make things interesting early. 

The Red Storm's biggest issue was likely decision making and effort last year. Improving on their overall maturity is an essential part of their potential for success in 2013. With the Badgers being one of the most disciplined and sound teams in the nation, St. Johns should expect a difficult challenge right from the get go.

On paper, the Johns have everything. They have shot blocking in center Chris Obekpa, a dynamic three point shooter in D'Angelo Harrison, and an all around playmaker in Sir'Dominic Pointer. Phil Greene IV is a solid point guard too, and the Johnnies are beginning to recruit under Steve Lavin in a way that has not been duplicated within this program in over a decade.

A major key for them in becoming a better team will be the play of their rotational bench players. Jamal Branch is a junior with limited experience. He will combine with transfers Orlando Sanchez and Max Hooper in order to provide this team the bench it needs.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, has been a more consistent program over time. Sophomore Sam Dekker could become the next big player for Bo Ryan and company. His overall frame, length and ability to score in different ways will aide a team that loses three starters from 2012-2013.

The one area that really separates the Badgers from a team like St. Johns comes down to point guard play. Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson are veteran bodies who gives stability to an important position for Bo Ryan. Josh Gasser will be back this year after an ACL injury a season ago. I'm not sure as to weather or not he will be quite the player he was before. But he can certainly come off the bench and provide a spark behind Jackson to aide Ryan's depth.

But the center position is very undetermined for the Badgers. that is not good considering its importance in Ryan's system over time. Ryan prefers a methodical offense reliant on quick cuts and movement from all five players. Weather or not he has a center or two who can facilitate that role is an uncertainty.

Overall, i think the stability of what Wisconsin has at the point has to be considered very important here. But St. John's is a team with a much more established front court and much better scoring potential. 4.5 might seem a bit high, but the Johns have not proven themselves a quality road team capable of playing a methodical and disciplined opponent as of this point in time. 

Colorado @ Baylor (-3.5)

If you read what i had to say about the Bears before, you'll note that I believe them to be a far different group when compared to last year. Baylor boasts some really strong players on the inside, and they could come into play in this matchup in a big way.

Colorado is also an interesting team, though. They have some really good guard play. Tad Boyle is an old-school coach with a lot of moxie who enables his players to make plays, something his guards will have to do even more of this season.

Andre Roberson and Sabatino Chen are gone from what was a pretty good group last year. Roberson is a particularly important loss. He was the perfect complement to the guards Boyle already has. 

Roberson knew his offensive game was green, and he simply focused on making things happen on the glass and defensively. He was one of the best neutralizers on that end of the floor in the entire PAC-12.

Baylor could control this game on the boards depending on what Colorado shows they have in their front court. Xavier Johnson is an excellent young forward who, at 6'6, is one of the best pound for pound rebounders and shot blockers in America. 

Wesley Gordon is a freshman from Colorado Springs. Many around the program feel he has all the tools to replace Roberson over time. Within this game, it is imperative that he combine with sophomore Josh Scott in order to prevent Kory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin from having their way on the glass.

Colorado has a lot more offensive efficiency given the presence of Spencer Dinwiddie running the point. He is a really good player and has the length to create shots and quality passing angles in most match ups, this one included. 

Keep an eye on Ish Smith in this one. He is only a freshman, but is drawing rave reviews from throughout the Baylor athletic program. His ability to help neutralize the aforementioned Johnson could go a long way in determining the winner here. He is built comparable to Johnson, and the battle of the small forwards could well determine the winner here. 

I give the Buffaloes the edge in terms of offensive efficiency. Both groups should look like different version of what they were in 2012, but both have loads of talent. Baylor has a more established overall rotation from top to bottom, which I think means something here especially given the fact they are at home. 

Also, Colorado must cope with the loss of Chris Jenkins, a player who left their program two days ago. Jenkins, along with Jaron Hopkins, projected to be critical bench freshmen could come in and add depth to this lineup.

I have to give the edge to Baylor, although I'm not confident enough in their offense to take them in this spot at the number 4 after having this one slated at 4.5.