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TGS COLLEGE HOOPS REPORT..."LOW" MID-MAJORS UPDATE!

                                  by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

We at TGS recall the days when the nightly college basketball cards were less than half as full as the current selection of games available at Las Vegas sports books. But that was a long time ago. Nowadays there are several more conferences included as part of the normal rotation, and there are also “added” games that appear on the printed schedules from Don Best, and many others are also available for wagers at practically every legal betting establishment throughout Nevada.

Mostly for space purposes, we at TGS do not include teams from the “added” leagues (Big Sky, Metro-Atlantic, Ohio Valley, SoCon, and Summit) in our daily forecasts, TGS Power Ratings, or pointspread logs in our Basketball Record publication. But rest assured we keep abreast of all of those entries and often include selections of games involving those teams in our daily TGS Late Telephone Service recommendations. (Indeed, we keep track of all of the college conferences, even those not among the added loops, and within the next month we will provide previews of all of those league tournaments as we prepare for March and postseason action, when numerous extra teams will have spreads posted on their games).

Thus, with so much action available for wagers in those “added leagues” each week, and as we normally don’t provide space to cover each of those “addeds” as we would clashes among ACC, Big Ten, or Big East entries, Big East, SEC, we present a brief rundown of each of those leagues, with any noteworthy trends (plus “totals”) noted. Straight-up records include games thru January 24; Southern Conference update will appear next week.

BIG SKY

Top Contenders: Montana (SUR 12-7)...The Grizzlies are currently setting the pace in the Sky, but they are not dominating the opposition. In fact, Montana has already won four league games in which it did not cover the pointspread! Montana has also failed to cover its last four games (0-2-2) and is “under” in its last five decisions. Though in 6-8 German import PF Martin Breunig (18.7 ppg; 24 ppg last four), the Griz do own the Sky’s best post threat. Weber State (13-6)...Most regional observers believe HC Randy Rahe’s Wildcats will eventually emerge from the Sky thanks to the league’s best 1-2 scoring punch with G Jeremy Senglin (18.3 ppg) and F Joel Bolomboy (17.9 ppg). WSU is 7-1 SU in its last eight games, though the loss came in stunning fashion last Saturday vs. double-digit dog Idaho State. Still, the Wildcats are 5-2 their last seven vs. the line and are “under” in five of their last six. North Dakota (10-9)...Potential gate-crasher that has made noise the past few weeks with SU wins in four of its last five, including a pair of routs at Northern Arizona and Southern Utah last week. Spread positives include a 6-0-1 mark the last seven, 9-1-1 the last 11, and 6-0-1 the last seven away from Grand Forks. They’re now called the “Fighting Hawks” (no more “Fighting Sioux”) and jr. G Quinton Hooker (19.3 ppg) has emerged as one of the league’s best scoring threats.

Others: Idaho (12-8)...The Vvandals continue to perform in a confounding manner, including a 1-4 spread mark at home in Moscow, with the only cover also a SU win vs. nearby Pac-12 foe Washington State. Idaho is also “under” 12-4 this season. Second-leading scorer G Pierre Callandret (14.4 ppg) has missed the past four games with a foot injury but is due back soon. Montana State (9-11)...The Bobcats might be stirring after wins in Bozeman vs. EWU and Idaho last week. MSU is also one of the strongest “under” trenders in the country (9-2 last 11). Northern Colorado (7-13)...The Bears, who upset Colorado State in the only highlight of the first half of their season, have now won their last 3 SU (after losing 11 of their previous 13) and are 3-0-1 vs. the line in their last four. Streaky spread performer, with numerous long winning and losing skeins already. Idaho State (8-10)...The Bengals have a few more highlights than their modest record suggests, with SU wins as a double-digit dog at Portland and Portland State, plus at Pocatello vs. Weber State. The last two of those came back-to-back within the past week and suggest ISU might be a team to watch, thanks largely to juco G Ethan Telfair (18.4 ppg for the season but 27.6 ppg last five; younger brother of Sebastian and cousin to Stephon Marbury). Portland State (7-10)...The Vikings are at 3-3 in Sky play after enduring a tough pre-league slate. Offensive inconsistencies (including just 31.9% beyond arc) are also partly responsible for just 4 covers in their last 11 and many recent “unders” (4 straight and 5 of 6). Check status of second-leading scorer G Bryce White, who missed last Saturday’s win over Sac State. Eastern Washington (9-10)...Last seaaon’s Big Dance qualifier from the Sky under fifth-year HC Jim Hayford, a disciple of NAIA legend Bill Odell at Azusa-Pacific. But the Eagles have missed G Tyler Harvey, last year’s leading scorer in the country now in the NBA-DL. The Eagles have some firepower (81 ppg; 39% beyond arc) and have replaced Harvey with the much-traveled G Austin McBroom, a mercenary who is scoring 19.4 ppg after previous stops at Central Michigan and Saint Louis. Note EWU has developed a home/road dichotomy (3-0 SU as host, 0-4 SU away) in early Sky action. Southern Utah (4-13)...The T-Birds are once again near the foot of the table and have offered little spread value, dropping 5 of their last 6 and 12 of their last 14 vs. the line. The shallow SUU defense has also contributed to a 6-1 “over” mark last seven. Sacramento State (8-9)...The Hornets have stumbled to 5 SU and spread losses in 6 Sky games mostly coinciding with the absence of key G Cody Demps (12.3 ppg), who has missed the last five games with a quad strain, and whose return date in unknown. (A similar injury has kept LA Clippers F Blake Griffin out for more than a month.) Sac State is also “under” 5-2 its last seven. Northern Arizona (3-15)...It’s been a tough go for 4th-year HC Jack Murphy, who steered last year’s Lumberjacks to the CIT finals. Graduation and injuries (third-leading scorer Jalani Neely out since late December with knee woes) have limited NAU, which has also covered just 3 of 13 on the board. Defensive issues also contributing to four straight “over” results.

METRO-ATLANTIC

Top contenders: King Rice’s Monmouth (15-5) has certainly made the most noise of any Metro-Atlantic rep with its non-league wins over UCLA, Notre Dame, Southern Cal, and Georgetown. But the Hawks have some bad losses (Canisius, Army, Manhattan), too, which could harm any Big Dance at-large hopes. Monmouth is also getting saddled with some pointspread premiums and has failed to cover its last three laying double-digits, including both games last weekend. Saint Peter’s (8-9)...The Jersey City Jesuits are making some noise in league play, having won 3 of their last 4 SU and covering all of those into Monday’s game vs. Manhattan. The Peacocks are also 8-1 as an underdog as part of their overall 10-3 mark vs. the line! Iona (10-9)...The high-scoring Gaels are wasting some heroic efforts by prolific G A.J. English (24.3 ppg) because they don’t play any defense, which explains their current 7-game spread losing streak, and 1-10 vs. the number their last 11 on the board. Siena (13-7)...Regional sources say the Saints might be the stretch-runner in the loop, as HC Dancin’ Jimmy Patsos has seen his team rally with wins and covers in four of five, including a Sunday blowout over Canisius. Siena is also 8-0 SU at home and 4-0-1 as chalk, and Patsos has five DD scorers at his disposal, though top scorer G Marquis White (17.3 ppg) is out until February with a foot injury.

Others: Fairfield (11-9)...The Stags have scored back-to-back wins, including a Sunday upset over Iona, Fairfield’s first league cover at home after three previous spread Ls. The Stags’ 6-7 sr. swingman, Marcus Gilbert (18.3 ppg), scored 32 in the Sunday win over the Gaels. Canisius (10-11)...Jim Baron’s Golden Griffs have been erratic, scoring a lot of points (80 ppg), but usually giving them up just as fast. Canisius had gone “over” six in a row before a recent puzzling 5-game “under” streak broken in Sunday’s 99-78 loss to Siena, which followed three lower-scoring wins in a row. Rider (7-13)...The Broncs, who put up good fights and covered in pre-league play vs. ranked Maryland and Providence, have nonetheless covered only 5 of 16 on the board. Offensive inconsistencies mostly to blame and partly responsible for current 5-2 “under” mark last seven. Niagara (5-15 )...Calvin Murphy’s alma mater had a recent six-game unbeaten run vs. the spread ended vs. local foe Canisius. Though scrappy, the Purple Eagles are limited by their 28% three-point shooting. Quinnipiac (5-12)...The “Pollsters” lost too much from last year’s competitive team (including MAAC Defensive MVP F Ousmane Drame) and have mostly floundered, as the Bobcats have covered just 3 of 9 on the board. The “Q” is also “under” 5-1 its last six. Marist (4-14)...Bill O’Reilly’s alma mater seems to have been in the dumps since the days of Rik Smits in the late ‘80s. The Red Foxes, however, have covered 5 of 6 away from Poughkeepsie and are “over” 10-2 their last 12 “totals” decisions.

OHIO VALLEY

Top Contenders: Belmont (15-6)...Underestimate Rick Byrd’s team at your own risk. After taking some hits against a tough pre-league schedule, the Bruins have ripped thru the early portion of their OVC slate to win seven straight out of the blocks. No shock, as four starters returned from LY’s Big Dance qualifier, led by F Evan Bradds (17.3 ppg) and G Craig Bradshaw (16.3 ppg). But Belmont is not dominating, failing to cover in four of its seven OVC wins. Tennessee State (14-5)...The Tigers have been a pleasant surprise and were unbeaten in league play until falling to Belmont on Sunday. TSU has covered 6 of its last 7 on the board. Note that the Tigers also did not have an “over” after their first eight “totals” decisions until their last two games vs. Murray State and Belmont. Tennessee Tech (14-7)...Thanks to the best college “Rowe” we remember since UCLA’s Curtis between 1968-71, TT’s sr. G Torrance Rowe (17.3 ppg), the Golden Eagles have mostly been punching above their weight. TT has covered 8 of its last 11, though still has two games each remaining vs. Belmont and Tennessee State. Murray State (10-10)...Not surprisingly, the Racers have slipped from last season’s 29-6 mark after the early departure of star G Cameron Payne (now NBA Thunder) and HC Steve Prohm (now Iowa State). But the Racers have been providing decent value, covering 4 of 5, and 5 of 7, while also “under” 6 of their last 8.

Others: Morehead State (10-9)...Morehead is better than its record indicates, having been victimized by a meat-grinder of a non-league slate in December, but has rallied to win 4 of its last 5 SU (though covering only two of those). No real go-to threat with only one DD scorer, G Corban Collins (12.6 ppg), and now even he is sidelined with a groin strain that kept him out of Sunday’s loss vs. Jacksonville State. UT Martin (10-11)...Under former Portland State and Wyoming HC Heath Schroyer, who was also an assistant at UNLV and arrived from the Runnin’ Rebels two years ago along with AD Julio Friere, UTM and its collection of senior transfers made it to the CIT semis a year ago, and is scrapping again with a recent stretch of six straight covers. But three Ls in a row have followed, as some of last year’s role players have failed to step into featured assignments for Schroyer. Note six “unders” in the last eight for the Skyhawks. Eastern Illinois (7-13)...EIU has fared decently in OVC play (4-4) after a bumpy ride in pre-league action. Still, the Panthers are getting little scoring from their bench and need bruising 6-4, 245-lb. G Trae Anderson (top scorer at 13.6 ppg) to show more consistency, as three single-digit performances preceded his 20 points on Saturday vs. Austin Peay. Austin Peay (9-13)...Speaking of the Peay, it is sagging, as the Guvs have five spread Ls in a row, and another losing SU mark is bad news for longtime HC Dave Loos, in danger of walking the plank after being on the job for 25 years. Eastern Kentucky (12-10)...EKU made the Big Dance as recently as 2014, but now proceeds minus HC Jeff Neubauer, who fled to Fordham in the offseason. Rick Pitino disciple Dan McHale padded the SU record with a mostly soft pre-league slate, but the Colonels have now dropped four straight and five of six against the line. EKU still should be faring a bit better, as it shoots nearly 50% from the floor and has been aided by Rhode Island transfer F Jarelle Reischel, a German import scoring 19.3 ppg. Jacksonville State (8-15)...The Gamecocks have proven scrappy with four covers in a row and pulled a mild upset over Morehead State on Sunday. Southeast Missouri State (4-16)...Under former Mississippi State HC Rick Ray, SEMS figured to have problems after losing five seniors from last year’s team that got Ray’s predecessor, Dickey Nutt, fired. The Redhawks broke a 6-game SU skid (and five in a row vs. the line) in Sunday’s win over UT-Martin, in which top scorer G Antonius Cleveland (13.9 ppg) scored 20 after missing three previous games due to injury. But not enough scoring threats are on hand for Ray. SIU-Edwardsville (4-16)...SIU-E is also under a new coach, Joe Harris, a Cuonzo Martin disciple who inherited a barren cupboard with no returning starters. Harris, however, has his Cougars controlling pace just enough to make it an interesting pointspread play, covering 5 of 6, and 8 of 11.

SUMMIT

Top Contenders: Omaha! (14-7)...Peyton Manning’s favorite team and Marlin Briscoe’s alma mater is the top storyline of the Summit, leading the league and now eligible for a postseason berth after completing its transition phase to D-I. The Mavericks like to run for 11-year HC Darrin Hansen, with an offense scoring 85 ppg and three bombers tallying 15 ppg or better, led by sr. G Devin Patterson (17.6 ppg) and former Wichita State transfer sr. F Jack White (17 ppg). There’s also a Tre’Shawn (Thurman) and a Tra-Deon (Hollins), each scoring DDs. Omaha has covered 10 of its last 15, and after oddsmakers noted the spate of early-season “overs,” they have adjusted the “totals” so high that Omaha is “under” 7-3 its last 10. South Dakota State (15-6)...In the mix again for vet HC Scott Nagy, though the Jackrabbits, getting perhaps too much respect from the oddsmakers, have covered only 2 of their last 9 on the board. IPFW (16-6)...Recently surging, IPFW had won 9 of 10 SU and covered 7 of its last 8 before losing to rival IUPUI by 2 on Saturday at Fort Wayne. That, however, was the fourth straight game the Mastodons were minus top scorer Mo Evans (16.9 ppg), who will not return after becoming an academic casualty earlier in January. Coach Jon Coffman has three other DD scorers, including former Gardner-Webb transfer sr. G Max Landis (16.5 ppg), but Evans’ loss could be significant. Also note four straight “overs” for IPFW.

Others: North Dakota State (14-7)...We don’t want to dismiss NDSU, which stole the Summit’s NCAA bid from South Dakota State last season. The Bison earlier this season had dropped six in a row vs. the line and have been alternating spread Ws and Ls since just before Christmas. NDSU is also “under” 10-5 its last 15. IUPUI (9-13)...The Jags have emerged as a surprise contender after enduring a mostly-rough pre-league campaign, winning 5 of its first 7 Summit fixtures. IUPUI had had covered six of seven after Saturday’s upset at IPFW, as HC Jason Gardner’s transfer-heavy lineup (three from Loyola-Chicago, plus top scorer Darell Combs, scoring 16.9 ppg, via Eastern Michigan) is showing signs of coagulating. Oral Roberts (11-11)...This figured to be a team in transition with numerous newcomers and transfers, and the Eagles have been mostly uneven in their performance. ORU is just 4-11 vs. the line its last 15 on the board for vet HC Scott Sutton. Junior G Obi Emegano (23 ppg) is the Summit’s top scorer, but he is also the only player tallying DDs for Sutton. Denver (10-10)...Joe Scott’s team has missed the versatility of graduated swingman Brett Olson, and Scott’s modified Princeton offense does not have enough threatening shooters other than sr. G Nate Engesser (12.9 ppg & 53% from floor). The Pioneers have been money-burners this term, dropping 8 of their last 10 vs. the number. South Dakota (10-11)...The Coyotes are rather lively, rocking the DakotaDome often while scoring 77 ppg, though “under” in 5 of their last 7. USD has covered three in a row, however. Western Illinois (7-11)... Perhaps the league’s top disappointment, still winless in league play (0-7), though only one of those losses has been by a double-digit margin. The Leathernecks have dropped five straight spread decisions, most of them close, but we would not be surprised to see that trend turn around. WIU, still playing defense, is also “under” five of its last six.


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