The Marshall Thundering Herd was a very curious and sometimes frustrating crew at one particular juncture this season. They had lost seven out of eight games (and we might add, also dropped ten straight to the number in one stretch) and were in danger of becoming completely irrelevant in the Conference USA race, where they did something a little different this season, dividing the teams into various “pods” down the stretch, so that the top, middle and lower level teams played each other. Marshall, which was considered by quite a few BetAnySports basketball betting aficionados, among others, to be the favorite in the league, found themselves in the middle.
But that was before they heated up considerably, looking a little more like the team that won last year’s conference tournament and beat Wichita State in their first round game before West Virginia beat them – badly – at their own game.
Winners of their last five regular season games, they beat Rice before dropping a decision to defensively-stout Southern Miss in the C-USA tourney.
The consolation was a spot in the College Insider Tournament, a rather low-profile event that is designed for schools that are not part of a “major,” which means no ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12, AAC, A-10, Mountain West, and yes, Conference USA teams need apply. That is to say, usually. In this instance they made an exception, perhaps because a number of schools turned down invites.
And they have moved past IUPUI and Presbyterian to make it to the semis.
Their opponents are the Hampton Pirates, who were surging down the stretch and have, like Marshall, won eight of their last nine as well, losing only to Campbell in the Big South tournament. They have beaten St. Francis (NY), Charleston Southern and NJIT in this CIT event.
In the basketball betting odds at BetAnySports, Marshall is favored:
Marshall Thundering Herd -5.5
Hampton Pirates +5.5
Over 174 points -110
Under 174 points -110
Mike D’Antoni’s brother Dan is Marshall’s coach, and as you might guess, these guys like to push the pace as much as possible. They are fifth in the nation in Adjusted Tempo, get rid of the ball faster than all but three teams in the country and seek to gain points in transition through turnovers, forcing them on 21.4% of their opponents’ possessions. They feature an all-conference pair of guards in CJ Burks and Jon Elmore, who holds school records for points and assists.
So if the Herd is fueled by pace and steals, can Hampton provide an energy shortage?
Well, the Pirates are one of those teams that knows how to take care of the ball, ranking 13th-best on offensive turnover percentage. But Marshall’s last opponent, Presbyterian, had much the same story, as they were 10th in that department, and they coughed it up 15 times. Remember that those numbers are a little skewed because of the level of competition.
But this is a poised, fundamentally-sound team on offense. Ordinarily, we would say that the presence of Elmore and Burks gives Marshall a huge edge, but Hampton starts three seniors and two juniors and has been to the NCAA Tournament in 2015 and 2016, the CBI (College Basketball Invitational;) in 2017, and the NIT last year. So they aren’t “green.” They have their own very prolific scorer in Jermaine Marrow, who is fourth in the nation in point per game. And for what it’s worth, almost anybody would be a superior rebounding team to Marshall, which ranks in the nation’s bottom 30 on both the offensive and defensive end.
And although Hampton is 31st in Adjusted Tempo, we’re not sure they are going to go out there and have a track meet with the Herd. They appear to have played a more controlled brand of ball during this 8-1 string, and we might add that not once in this nine-game period have they come close to this posted total. Marshall hasn’t exceeded it in its last eight games either. And our instinct is that Hampton is more likely to create the contrast in pace, so as not to fall into the Herd’s game. So it’s a big vote for us on the UNDER in this CIT semi.
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