By Charles Jay
The DePaul Blue Demons are the only team left from the Big East that is still in the running to win something. But to do that they are going to have to win the last two games of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). After dropping Game 1, they line up for Game 2 at their own McGrath-Phillips Arena in Chicago. ESPNU will televise the contest, and if you’re a BetAnySports customer, you can get reduced juice before the game and real-time wagering after it starts with Live Betting Ultra.
In the first three games of the CBI, DePaul posted scores of 100, 97 and 92 points, and this leaves the impression that the Blue Demons are a monster run-and-gun team. But that is the exception, not the rule, as they have scored 90 or more only six times. And the truth of the matter is that unless you are able to run up and down the floor with the efficiency of Paul Westhead’s old Loyola Marymount teams, you can be slowed down by a team that comes into the game with every intention of doing it.
That team is South Florida, which played its intended deliberate game on Monday and beat DePaul 63-61. Now, understand that USF is a team that is so dependent on getting opportunities at the free throw line that they have put up half as many foul shots as they have field goal attempts, and that is the highest percentage ratio in the nation. Yet, against DePaul, that rate was down to 32.7%. And even though they are 17th in the country in defensive turnover percentage, they were able to force only ten turnovers against the Blue Demons. So the two things they do best had minimal effect, because they were able to exercise control over the tempo, and also made things difficult inside the three-point arc. DePaul is usually respectable from three-point range (34.7%), but not enough to blow anyone’s doors off.
So here we are, with USF now on the verge of winning this title, and most people assuming that DePaul is at least going to be able to even it up and send it to a third and deciding game.
In the college basketball betting odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, the home team is favored;
DePaul Blue Demons -6
South Florida Bulls +6
Over 147 points -110
Under 147 points -110
If you’re old enough to recall it, DePaul went to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament back in 1979 under the legendary Ray Meyer, who was head coach for over 40 years before being succeeded by his son Joey. That season they had a fabulous freshman named Mark Aguirre who averaged 24 points a game. The last time they were in the Big Dance was 2005, when Dave Leitao got them there. He left to go to Virginia and came back after he was let go, to be succeeded by Tony Bennett, who installed the Pack Line defense and has the Cavs in the Final Four this week.
OK, enough of the history lesson; let’s talk about the here and now/ DePaul exhibits pretty good balance, with Max Strus (20 ppg) the leading scorer. But they’ll get contributions from Eli Cain (13.2 ppg), Paul Reed (12.1) and Femi Olujobi (12.8). All of those guys are at least 6-6. And on occasion the Blue Demons have sprung surprises, able to defeat Seton Hall and St. John’s twice.
South Florida gets 15.7 points and 2.1 steals per game out of David Collins, who is 16th in the nation in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. And his backcourt mate, Laquincy Rideau, has averaged 5.4 assists and 2.9 steals (third nationally in Steal Percentage, in fact). The inside guys are 608 Alexis Yetna (12.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg) and seven-foot Michael Durr, who actually went scoreless in 27 minutes on Monday. One reserve worth mentioning is TJ Lang, who would have been playing in the Final Four this week with Auburn had he not transferred.
As good as they may be when it comes to forcing turnovers or fouls, USF is a paradox because they are sloppy with the ball (335th in offensive T.O. percentage) and foul a lot (340th in that department). This may, under normal circumstances, dictate stoppages in play that promote more scoring. But they have played 18 unders in 35 games.
They sank ten triples against DePaul on Monday, and that’s usually not them. And they generally get the benefit of the whistle a lot more at home, as 13 of their 16 best free throw “rates” (ratios to field goal attempts) have come at home. They are also 7-2-1 against the spread on the road. Our instinct here, as we continue with WagerWAR, the battle for the World WagerSport Ultimate Championship, is to take a small nibble on the underdog, but understanding that DePaul’s three previous opponents in the CBI were more than happy to play at a fast tempo, while USF thinks in the opposite direction, the UNDER gets some play from us as well.
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