Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 3:30 PM EST odds are subject to change.
IUPUI +7 over Chicago St
Jones Convocation Center -Chicago, IL
8:00 PM EST. On Friday, we covered the plight of the Chicago State Cougars when we faded them as an 8½-point pooch at St. Thomas. The Cougars were down by 30 points and ended up losing by a somewhat more respectable 22 points. They were getting far too much credit then and they’re getting far too much credit here. Chicago State cannot be favored by 7 points over the Jaguars of IUPUI or anyone else for that matter.
Chicago State is an Independent this year, meaning they are a team without a conference. They’re also a team without money so their recruiting budget is a fraction of a fraction less than other mid-majors. ESPN+ covers just about every game in college basketball but they will not send their crews to the south side of Chicago to set up to cover a game at Chicago State. In fact, the Cougars have only four games all year at home against Division I teams because programs refuse to go there because it’s so run down and the neighborhood is so dangerous. Chicago State is a -7-point favorite here because the team they’re playing has no market credibility but trust us when we suggest that the dog is the superior team.
The chance to coach at one’s alma mater is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Matt Crenshaw deserved this golden opportunity. Known for delivering one of the most iconic hardwood moments in IUPUI history, the prodigal son jumped at this chance when the head coaching vacancy arose last summer. Despite his most recent stint as a Ball State assistant, he’s a Jaguar through and through. He’s never strayed far from his Indiana roots, deeply entangled in what many consider to be the heartland of hoops. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Crenshaw detailed big, bold aspirations for the program’s trajectory at the introductory press conference last summer. Little did he know a Geostorm of apocalyptic proportions was in the forecast. The injury monsoon started when Zach Gunn, a former Ball State disciple of Crenshaw’s, tore his ACL in the fall. That was the first domino to fall. Then, even heavier rains came. The tale of last year’s roster carnage is too long to list in detail. All you need to know is that Crenshaw was hamstrung by having just six rotational players — yes, six total — for much of the season (readers of this space may remember we covered it extensively). Sadly, it somehow got worse. After Bakari LaStrap was injured in the Jaguars’ regular season finale, IUPUI suited up only five players for the Horizon Tournament. That’s right, folks. The Jaguars went to war with zero reinforcements. The image of their empty bench went semi-viral, publicizing the conundrum the Jaguars faced. Despite the impossible circumstances, they battled admirably in the opening round before ultimately running out of steam in the second half. That tumultuous 2022 season is officially a wrap.
The Jaguars are 0-2 after two blowout losses. Certainly, that doesn’t add to their appeal but they lost to Iowa State (ranked 53rd in the country) and Drake (ranked 72nd). Those are two quality opponents, thus IUPUI takes a massive step down in class here. Massive.
A flood of new names adorns this year’s roster, but a few holdovers remain. Jonah Carrasco and Boston Stanton III are back in action after getting pressed into prominent roles last year. After starting 16 of IUPUI’s first 19 games, Carrasco succumbed to the ever-present injury bug, but he’s a mobile forward who knows his role. Stanton, meanwhile, was one of the last men standing to end his freshman year. Ultimately, the most pivotal returner is Zach Gunn, who opted to stay put and help Crenshaw rewrite last year’s script. The good news with the timing of Gunn’s injury is that he was already cleared for action this summer. If healthy, bet on Gunn making big waves in his Horizon League debut. He’s got a silky-smooth arsenal and showcases impressive shot making ability from all three levels. Gunn is gifted enough to carry the Jags to a couple of wins on his own.
Bryce Monroe (San Diego transfer, started at Sam Houston State) and Chris Osten (Northern Illinois transfer, started at Arizona State) will help groom a slew of newcomers devoid of significant Division I experience. Despite Crenshaw’s Indiana connections, he’s been mining for additional talent everywhere. While the Hoosier state houses a hotbed of talent, competition is fierce. Wisely, he dug up a few diamonds in the rough from the JUCO circuit. One example is North Idaho swingman Cooper DeWitt. The 6-6 wing is touted as a lights-out shooter and versatile defender. An all-league performer there, DeWitt tallied 13.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game while holding pristine shooting percentages. The pockets of potential are scattered throughout the roster. Crenshaw and the Jaguars overpaid their dues last year and while they aren’t going to win a lot of games, they will be competitive in a tough Horizon League and they’ll win some games to be sure. This one is highly winnable but the points here are so outrageous that we must scoop them up.
IUPUI +7 -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)