There are days when I scroll through the college basketball card wondering which game to profile. Which game will draw some interest? Which game will create a good opportunity to learn more about the teams involved? Teams like Yale, San Francisco, Duke, Cal, Northern Iowa, West Virginia, Butler, Missouri, UTEP, and New Mexico State have made appearances.
Today, there was no question. There was no uncertainty. Oregon and Seton Hall play in tonight’s only top-15 battle. There are other great games on the card, including Dayton vs. Kansas, North Carolina vs. Alabama, and Michigan vs. Iowa State, but this is a game that I have had circled for a couple of weeks now.
This, like most games this week, is a neutral-site tilt in an early-season tournament. Imperial Arena at Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas is the location of this game. As we discussed on Monday’s edition of BangTheBook Radio, this has been a terrific under arena, coming in at 52-37 to the under as of the start of this year’s tournament.
Oregon is favored by a possession with a total of 139. The Ducks are predominantly -1.5 across the market after opening -2. The total appears to be on its way down as well.
Oregon is 5-0 against one of the better schedules in the country for a major conference team. The Ducks have not played an opponent outside of the top 165 per Bart Torvik’s rankings. In fact, they’ve played two top-60 teams already and won those games over Memphis and Houston. This, however, marks the first time that the Ducks have played outside of Oregon.
The win against Memphis was at a “neutral” site, but it was at the Moda Center in Portland. The Bahamas are a long way from home. Nevertheless, you have to love what Dana Altman’s team has done so far. The Ducks are allowing a 20.5% success rate on opponents’ three-pointers. They are shooting 42.7% on their own and also rank in the top 30 in two-point shooting at 56.5%. The Ducks are top 20 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency and top 10 in Effective Field Goal Percentage on both offense and defense.
No team is perfect. The Ducks have allowed far too many offensive rebounds in the games against their best opponents. Memphis had 18 ORebs to Oregon’s 14 in the game in Portland and Houston had 17 to Oregon’s four in that win at Knight Arena last time out. Seton Hall is not a great offensive rebounding team, but they are an athletic bunch that could manage some second-chance points in this matchup.
Kevin Willard’s team survived an early-season scare when Myles Powell suffered a sprained ankle. It was supposed to keep Powell out “indefinitely”, but he tapped into his superpowers and wound up playing just a few days later against Michigan State. Powell had 37 points on 12-of-27 shooting, including 6-of-14 from 3 in that 76-73 loss.
That is a big worry moving forward for the Pirates, though. Powell is an elite player and a Player of the Year candidate in his senior season, but he also needs some assistance. He only played four minutes with zero points against Stony Brook. In his other four games, he’s scored 27, 37, 26, and 23.
For coaches like Altman, it seems like the plan of attack is to allow Powell to get his and hold everybody else down. For his extremely high usage rates, Powell only has nine assists over essentially four games and has 10 turnovers. Quincy McKnight is a good passer, but a low-efficiency scorer. Shavar Reynolds Jr. is more of a defensive presence. He only attempted 65 field goals last season and made 17 of them.
It is tough to fully evaluate Seton Hall’s body of work. The Pirates were right there with Sparty and have four blowouts against inferior teams. The blowout win at Saint Louis was impressive in what was a bad spot off the Michigan State loss. That stands out as the best data point, but Saint Louis is outside the top 100.
Even though Powell is the best player on the floor, Oregon is the best defense he will have seen this season and the Ducks have an extremely balanced scoring attack. It’s never easy going against overnight line moves, but the Ducks are the side for me. Imperial Arena is already tilted towards defense and unders and that should help the Ducks, who already excel in that department. Oregon’s offense has also been very efficient, including 1.222 points per possession against Houston.
As far as the total, in the Bahamas, the under has to be a starting point. Oregon has shown the ability to play at multiple tempos this season and Seton Hall likes to push it a little bit. This could be a bit of a quicker-paced game than we’re used to seeing from Oregon, but they can more than hang in that type of environment. I think the total is lined fairly.
Pick: Oregon -1.5