Marshall: Thursday’s CBK Primer with Picks

Marshall: Thursday’s CBK Primer with Picks
Rutgers at Purdue (-15.5, 139)… We get to once again test the recuperative powers of Purdue, which has bounced off the deck like Larry Holmes vs. Earnie Shavers in ‘79 by winning convincingly in each of the two games following its pair of losses earlier this season. Another bounce-back chance awaits tonight at Mackey Arena after the Boilermakers played like they were planning to go out dancing instead of a basketball game when they were stunned by a staggering Ohio State on the weekend, right on the heels of the Buckeyes hitting the eject button of HC Chris Holtmann. The bigger question with the Riveters is if they are any better than they were a year ago when they took a number one regional seed into the Dance and were promptly bounced by Fairleigh Dickinson in just the second 16-over-1 upset in Big Dance annals. For the record, we aren’t convinced either the Purdue of this campaign or a year ago are better than Matt Painter’s edition from two seasons ago that also had NBA lottery pick Jaden Ivey to team with 7-4 Zach Edey.  Yes, Edey (23.2 ppg) is now two years older and perhaps a bit more dominant, but there are still no comparable talents to Ivey, instead a collection of functional if not spectacular guards in Lance Jones, Braden Smith, and Fletcher Loyer, all scoring between 11-13 ppg. Enough to pull clear of the ‘Gers?  We’ll see; remember, the Scarlet Knights gave the Boilermakers all they could handle last season, beating Purdue at Piscataway and almost doing the same at the Big Ten Tourney (covering in a 70-65 loss), then hung close again on January 28 at Jersey Mike’s in a combative, spread-covering 68-60 setback. Steve Pikiell’s bunch has also won four of five since former Iowa State transfer G Jeremiah Williams (13.2 ppg) was activated earlier this month, while defensive stopper Mawot Mag returned from a brief absence to play on the weekend vs. Wisconsin. But maybe the best thing Rutgers has going for it is 6-11 Clifford Omoruyi, who held Edey under his scoring average in both meetings last season and made big Zach work hard for his 26 points (helped greatly by free throws) in the late January matchup, and recently blocking a Wilt-like 8 (yes 8!) shots in a win over Wisconsin. (Omoruyi’s 3.3 blocks pg also ranks second nationally.) Totals alert–note the Scarlet Knights’ 17-8 under mark this season. Purdue 71 – Rutgers 62 PLAY RUTGERS and UNDER
Michigan at Northwestern (-12.5, 140)… The rumor mill began to whirr more than a month ago in the Big Ten, with behind-the-scenes chatter first centering upon Ohio State.  Prescient, as it turned out, as the Buckeyes didn’t even wait for the end of the season to make Chris Holtmann walk the plank. That’s not the end of the regional chatter, however, with Indiana and especially Michigan now getting much of the same attention. Though it might seem a bit harsh in Ann Arbor, with Juwan Howard having missed early games this season while recovering from heart surgery, but the Wolverines were already in big trouble this term after C Hunter Dickinson escaped via the portal to Kansas. Howard’s roster thus became a mish-mash of disparate pieces, and there is never any excuse to those who wear the M for their team to be buried in the basement of the Big Ten. Moreover, some of Howard’s past antics (including the on-court scuffle with Wiscy counterpart Greg Gard a couple of years ago) never wore well with the booster class, and votes of confidence from Athletic Directors like Warde Manual have often been nothing more than calms before the storm. We’re talking about the off-court issues at Michigan because there might be less good to say what’s going on with the team, which has won just twice since Christmas and has been one of the country’s premier money-burners, dropping 4 of its last 16 vs. the number. A suspect bench and an inverted assist/turnover ratio are always invitations to disaster in the Big Ten.  Much better news from Northwestern, which for the first time ever seems destined to qualify for back-to-back Big Dances. The Cats are also at home, where they haven’t lost in Big Ten action (in fact, the only loss in Evanston this season came against Chicago State, of all teams!), and Chris Collins has not one, not two, but three starters all hitting better than 40% beyond the arc, including top scorer G Boo Buie (19 ppg; 41.3% triples). Totals alert–NU also on a 12-2 over run into Thursday. Northwestern 81 – Michigan 63 PLAY NORTHWESTERN and OVER
Washington State at Arizona (+12, 150.5)… The payback theory gets another test here with Arizona, which is happy to get its revenge shot at Wazzu in Tucson.. hat’s mostly because the Cats haven’t lost this season at the McKale Center, where they have routinely brought out the hammer against Pac-12 foes, with wins by margins like 19 (vs Utah), 26 (vs. Cal), 45 (vs. ASU), and 47 (vs. Colorado). Not every home conference game has been a cakewalk, however; UA has dropped three of seven spread decisions vs. Pac foes at McKale, and was in real trouble vs. UCLA and Stanford. Real trouble was also the theme for the first meeting vs. the Cougs, who gutted out a  73-70 decision at Pullman on January 13, which seemed to kick-start an extended surge by WSU that has seen it now win 10 of 11 (9-2 vs. line in those games). In the first meeting, the Cougs survived a late Cats surge led by Caleb Love (who scored 28) to win at home by simply out-executing UA down the stretch with Idaho transfer 6-9 PF Isaac Jones (scored 24) doing the bulk of the damage. That result seemed to infuse Wazzu with confidence, as star frosh G Myles Rice (15.9 ppg), Jones (15.7 ppg), and D-II transfer F Jaylen Wells (15 ppg since start of January; via Sonoma State) have picked up the baton and carried it to near the top of the conference (where the Cougs will find themselves all by themselves if they win again tonight). Not to mention a new projected “Bracketology” seeding well safe of the cut-line and showing up on the 7-9 seed range of the Big Dance mock brackets. All of which having made HC Kyle Smith much in demand in case he would like to explore any of the current or expected power conference openings before WSU temporarily moves to the WCC for the next two years. Speaking of coaches, Smith can’t be any happier than UA counterpart Tommy Lloyd, who inked a nice contract extension earlier this week. Any sort of win will likely be an extra cherry on top for Lloyd, but maybe not Cat backers, who have a considerable spread mountain to climb on Thursday. Arizona 79 – Washington State 72 PLAY WSU   
Loyola Marymount at Santa Clara (-9.5, 147)… True, there have been times this season when Santa Clara couldn’t hit the broadside of the on-campus mission with its three-pointers. Including a couple of recent games like a home loss to USD when missing 25 of 29 triples. But on most nights, the Broncos don’t shoot like they’re wearing blindfolds, such as both occasions last week when taking care of Pacific and the same Toreros (in a rematch) with dispatch. This despite the absence of top scorer Adama Bal, though Herb Sendek has no shortage of scorers and shooters from his vast collection of portal adds. Back in the rotations after a December injury and making few contributions the past two months, Mount Saint Mary’s transfer PG Jalen Benjamin has re-emerged and played a key role off of the bench last Saturday at USD with 23 points and 6 assists in 27 minutes of court time (points and minutes both high marks for the season) and suggesting Sendek has one more rabbit under his hat. With 17 wins, the Broncos also look like they can make their third straight NIT, if not cause trouble in the upcoming WCC Tourney after scoring wins over the likes of Pac-12 Stanford, Oregon, and Washington State (none of those at home, by the way), plus Gonzaga. SCU’s last five wins have also been by 13 points or more, all since a comfy 11-point win at Westchester back on January 4 when the Broncos’ defense swarmed the LMU shooters, who could only hit 29.8% from the floor. Things have not gone much better since for the Lions, who have lost six straight, and in recent games minus top scorer G Dominick Harris (14 ppg), dealing with a sore knee. Santa Clara 80 – LMU 64 PLAY SANTA CLARA
Queens at Stetson (-6.5, 159)… Anyone still hanging around Daytona Beach after the 500 on Monday who wants to watch some college hoops can make the short trip to the garden spot of Volusia County in DeLand for a chance to watch a game at beautiful Stetson. Also an opportunity to see if Donnie Jones can continue to steer the surprising host Mad Hatters to another win at home, which they have done vs. everyone at the cozy Edmunds Center save, surprisingly, those barnstormers from Chicago State, who scored a non-conference upset in the middle of Stetson’s A-Sun campaign. No league foes have won in DeLand, however, mostly because Jones has a multi-pronged offense with four double-digit scorers led by arguably the A-Sun’s MVP, G Jalen Blackmon (20.5 ppg), who also led the way with 19 points in an easy 84-66 win in Charlotte vs. Queens back on January 12. There’s another bonus here going against the Royals, who while sometimes combative at home also haven’t beaten anybody this season on the road and have failed to cover five straight as an A-Sun visitor, too. The problem for Queens is defense, which the Royals consider as a mere annoyance between possessions; allowing a whopping 82.1 ppg; Queens would rank 348th out of 352 in scoring defense if the NCAA included the Royals (who are in their second year of transitioning to D-I) in the national stats. But since Queens also scores 80.3 ppg with a rapid-fire attack paced by G A.J. McKee (18.4 ppg), the Royals have offered an almost-irresistible all offense-no defense combo for overs which they hit nine straight times before falling a bit short in Saturday’s home win over Jacksonville. That was also the first under since the previous meeting vs. the Hatters, but keep in mind that Stetson is scoring a cool 82 ppg in its last six wins and will be glad to get up-and-down the court as Queens usually prefers. While this 159 still looks a bit steep on the totals side, note that Royals games have cleared that hurdle seven times in the past nine tilts. Stetson 88 – Queens 76 PLAY OVER and STETSON