Portland and Bradley square off in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic Friday night in a matchup of West Coast Conference versus Missouri Valley. The Pilots stay on the West Coast while the Braves take a bit of a longer trip out to Vegas to play this game on a neutral floor. Portland has opened up as a 3.5-point favorite.
Portland just dropped its first game in the last four when it fell to Montana State at home. Other than that, the Pilots have been pretty darn good this year. Their only other losses have come against North Texas in double-overtime, (at the time) #1 Michigan State by 15 points and at Oregon State by six points in early November. Portland is led by three double-digit scorers with experience and diverse skill sets. Kevin Bailey is the Junior guard that puts up over 17 a game. Scoring is Bailey’s game and he is efficient from pretty much all over the floor. Ryan Nicholas and Thomas van der Mars are on the front line and score 13.2 and 12.8 points per game, respectively. Nicholas is a forward that can stretch all the way out to the three-point arc – where he converts over 35 percent of the time. van der Mars is a 6’11” center that Bradley will have lots of trouble trying to matchup against. The three provide a nice blend of size and scoring from different parts of the floor.
Bradley comes into this one losers of three straight games and five of its last six. The Braves are led by two Seniors – Walt Lemon Jr. and Tyshon Pickett. Lemon Jr. is probably the best player on the floor in this one. He averages nearly 17 points per game, 3.5 rebounds, over 4 assists and almost 2 steals per game. The do-it-all point guard will be crucial to his team’s success like he is just about every game for the Braves. Pickett is a hard-nosed forward that will probably find himself on either Bailey or Nicholas depending on the rest of the personnel on the floor at the time for either side. Bradley’s biggest matchup problem will be van der Mars as the Braves don’t have the size to guard 6’11”. Auston Barnes is Bradley’s 6’8″ big that is really just getting his first bit of action this year with the departure of Will Egolf. He will have his hands full trying to keep the big Dutch center out of the paint and off the boards and I expect Portland to test Barnes early in this game.
This game is fairly unpredictable with two teams that very seldom ever have mutual opponents. Both teams are very unproven on the road but I’ll give the nod to Portland as a team that balances the floor a little better and is playing closer to home.
Free Pick: Portland -3.5