IUPUI college basketball team returns four starts and six lettermen from last year’s squad, and the offseason was much smoother for second-year head coach Jason Gardner. After suffering four overtime losses and five of its regulation losses by five points or less last year, coach Gardner believes his team now possesses the requisite experience to take the next step in 2015-2016.
The Jaguars’ backcourt is led by junior transfers Darell Combs (Eastern Michigan) and sophomore transfer Jordan Pickett (Loyola Chicago), both of whom currently lead the team in scoring with 15.2 points and 10.3 points per game, respectively.
IUPUI’s backcourt is further enhanced by senior Marcellus Barksdale, who was last year’s leading scorer and is considered the team’s “glue” by coach Gardner. Barksdale has significantly improved his perimeter shooting (45.3% FG vs. 39.1% last season) and is contributing 7.0 points and 4.7 rebounds in 25:35 minutes per game.
Senior Mason Archie II is one of the best defenders in the Summit League and is contributing 26:18 quality minutes per game off the bench. Two junior transfers from Loyola Chicago, Matt O’Leary and Nick Osborne, have paid immediate dividends in the frontcourt. Sophomore Aaron Brennan provides depth off the bench, while 6-7 freshman Evan Hall is shooting 50.0% from the field in 14:30 minutes per game.
Overall, IUPUI is averaging 67.7 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 69.2 points per game so the Jaguars’ have been subpar offensively. The Jaguars have also been mediocre at the defensive end of the court, allowing 73.8 points per game to teams that would combine to average 73.3 points per game. However, that mediocrity is good enough to limit a pedestrian Missouri State attack that has been 5.3 points per game worse than average this season (67.4 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 72.7 points per game).
The Bears are shooting just 40.4% from the field, 30.0% from beyond the arc and 65.1% from the foul line this season. At home, the Bears are shooting 29.7% from three-point territory and 59.1% from the charity stripe so IUPUI should have little trouble containing Missouri State’s offensive sets. Overall, IUPUI possesses a 4.8 points per game advantage defensively over the Bears’ anemic attack. Similarly, Missouri State’s defense owns a 3.5 points per game edge over the Jaguars’ mediocre attack.
Missouri State head coach Paul Lusk was expecting big things from senior guard Dorrian Williams and JUCO Dequon Miller, but both have struggled from the field. Specifically, Williams is shooting 34.0% from the field and 30.0% from beyond the arc (5.9 points per game; 30:17 minutes per game), while Miller is shooting 26.2% from the floor and 27.0% from three-point territory (10.4 points per game; 30:26 minutes per game).
Coach Lusk also had high expectations for junior guard Austin Ruder and junior center Tyler McCullough, but both have failed to live up to those expectations. McCullough was the team’s leading shot blocker last season but missed a lot of the offseason due to shoulder surgery.
The 246-pound shit blocker is only averaging 5:24 minutes per game, while Ruder is averaging just 3.6 points per game on 27.3% shooting from the field. Ruder has not played since November 27 and is questionable tonight with a hip injury. Meanwhile, Shawn Roundtree, a talented guard, is questionable with a hamstring injury and has not played since November 27.
Both Ruder and Roundtree were integral components to coach Lusk’s plans this season, and their absences have left the Bears with little to no depth. Indeed, three starters – Williams, Miller and Chris Kendrix – played 35 or more minutes against Oklahoma State last week.
Speaking of Oklahoma State, the Bears secured their first road win over a power five conference opponent since December 22, 2016 when it took down the Cowboys on December 5. Aside from the obvious letdown factor, the Bears are a money-burning 1-4 ATS in their last five games off a win, 0-3-1 ATS in their last four games versus .499 or worse opposition and 11-27 ATS in their last 38 non-conference affairs.
In contrast, IUPUI is a profitable 13-6 ATS in its last nineteen road games, including a perfect7-0 ATS following a double digit loss over the last two seasons. The Jaguars also handle adversity well, going 19-7 ATS on the road off a loss by fifteen or more points. My math model only favors Missouri State by four points and the situation strongly favors the live underdog.
Let’s not forget that IUPUI nearly defeated Marquette (75-71; overtime) and Georgia State (78-72) on the road, while walking away with a 72-70 road win over an extremely-talented Indiana State squad. And, while the Bears’ most recent 80-53 loss at Purdue looks bad, they were within five points in the second half of that game before it ultimately got away.
Finally, IUPUI has covered the Vegas number in four of its last six road games and three of its last four games overall, which demonstrates how the college basketball betting market continues to undervalue the Jaguars. Grab the points in this college basketball clash and invest with confidence.
Oskeim Sports College Basketball Best Bet: IUPUI (+6) (-120)