The Air Force Reserve Tip-off starts on Saturday. Virginia comes in as the clear favorite, especially how they have played early this season. A first-round matchup between St. John’s and Arizona State will be fun, as both of these teams like to run. Expect a lot of points in that game.
Dates: November, 23-24, 2019
First-round matchups: Virginia vs. Massachusetts, Arizona State vs. St. John’s
The Cavilers have been nearly perfect defense to start the season. They’re holding opponents to 41.2 points per game, and rank 1st in defensive efficiency, according to Kenpom. On offense, they run through Mamadi Diakite who averages 15.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. They have three other players average double digits, which is pretty impressive when they are one of the slowest paced offense in the nation.
Bobby Hurley enters his fifth season at Arizona State. The Sun Devils are all about defense as they force turnovers and limit teams quality shots. On offense, they rank 77th in efficiency, according to Kenpom. They’re averaging 84.3 points per game early this season, and three players averaging over 13 points per game. Their matchup against St. John’s should be fun.
The Red Storm are off to a 5-1 start this season. A lot of this is thanks to Mustapha Heron who is leading the team with 17.8 points per game. Also, they have three other players averaging double digits. Their defense has been solid as they rank 84th in defensive efficiency. One issue is defending the perimeter. St. John’s ranks 207th in three-point defense, which may have an affect in their game against Arizona State.
UMass is off to a surprising 5-0 start. A lot of this is thanks too their shooting. They rank 13th in the nation in three-point shooting, and 23rd in limiting turnovers on offense. This is something that a team needs if they want to pull off an upset, and if UMass wants to hang around against Virginia, they need to hit their shots when they get a chance. They have to rely on a lot of freshman to do that.
Virginia will take care of UMass. Their defense is too suffocating for a team like the Minuteman to get through. The St. John’s and Arizona State game should be fun. Both teams like to run, so there will be a lot of points scored in this one. Also, St. John’s has struggled defending the three and finishing around the rim. This could be the ultimate decider on Saturday.
Potential finals matchup
This is Virginia’s tournament to lose. Regardless if they play St. John’s or Arizona State, they should win convincingly. However, Arizona State does seem to be the tougher matchup. The Sun Devils can force turnovers and wreak havoc on the defensive end. The contradicting tempos on offense would be interesting to see.