Many years ago I hosted a nightly radio show in Miami. One night a member of my “cast” did a crank call of sports with ex-boxer Jake LaMotta. He made believe he was a rabbi, looking for Jewish athletes to help carve the Thanksgiving turkey at the community center.
LaMotta kept telling him, over and over, “BUT I’M NOT JEWISH!!,” as our guy continued to plod forward.
Needless to say, a hearty laugh was had by all.
The reason we mention this is that we want you to know that even though it sounds like it, Sandy Cohen is not Jewish. But he is the guy the Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix hope is going to give then the edge as they battle the Marshall Thundering Herd in the championship game of the College Insider Tournament (CIT), which tips off at 7 PM ET at the Henderson Center in Huntington, WV. Those who want to watch the game can do so at WatchCIT.com, and BetAnySports customers can get better odds with reduced juice before the game gets underway.
Cohen has only played a year and a half at UWGB, but he has already become a legendary figure there. He hit the game-winner in an 87-86 overtime victory over Texas Southern that got the Phoenix here, and he is now at a place where he needs just three points to beat the one-season scoring record at the school. One of the people who is tied for the record is Tony Bennett, who played for his dad in Green Bay and is now the coach of the Virginia Cavaliers, who are in the Final Four.
In two seasons, then three games as a junior at Marquette (he was later granted a waiver and an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA), Cohen averaged only 4.6 points per game, but since coming to Titletown U.S.A. he has been nothing short of the engine that’s made Linc Darner’s offense go. Averaging 17.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists, with the top free throw rate in the Horizon League. He has tallied 20 points or more in 14 of his last 27 games. And while he is not a guy who excels at hitting the three-pointer, he has hit 70% of his two-point shots in the CIT.
In the CIT Championship betting odds, as they are posted at BetAnySports, Cohen’s team is getting points as the visitor:
Marshall Thundering Herd -5.5
Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix +5.5
Over 168 points -110
Under 168 points -110
Let’s take a look at the numbers and trends surrounding these teams. Marshall (22-14 straight-up) is just 13-23 against the spread – 9-15 ATS as a favorite. They are on a string where they have won nine of their last ten games, and they are 15-3 straight-up at home. Green Bay is 21-16 straight-up and 19-16 against the points.
Considering that both of these teams like to play at an accelerated tempo, it may be surprising to some that Marshall has played six of their last seven games under the total, while Green Bay has played nine unders in the last twelve, with only the games against FIU and Texas Southern (both of which went under) having posted totals higher than this one.
If you’re analyzing this game, you are naturally thinking of a total immediately, since you look at the numbers and see that neither one of them takes too long to shoot. Marshall takes an average of 14.4 seconds (3rd fastest), while the Fighting Phoenix take just 14.9 seconds off the clock (8th). So at the very least, you know they CAN play fast enough to exceed this total.
In their four games, Green Bay has scored 100, 98, 80 and 87 points, against East Tennessee State, FIU, Cal State Bakersfield and Texas Southern, respectively. Bakersfield was 303rd in Adjusted Tempo, so they took a measured approach toward slowing things down. FIU is #1 in Adjusted Tempo, but just didn’t cooperate offensively, hitting four of 28 triples. Texas Southern was 4th in the category, but there were only 152 points scored in regulation. So there’s a bit of a caution there.
Marshall’s totals were 151 and 149 against two teams (IUPUI and Presbyterian) that were decidedly more restrained. Hampton was a team that liked to get out there and run, and the total on this game (it was an 80-78 final) would have been much higher had the teams had any success shooting (Marshall was 41.3%, Hampton 37.3%). And the Pirates had been pulling things back a bit, tempo-wise, in recent games.
Keep something in mind as well; with all those unders we just told you about, many of the opponents geared themselves to slowing things down and thwarting what either Marshall or Green Bay did best – and that’s get it up the floor in a hurry. In this particular instance, I’m not sure either one wants to get away from their stock-in-trade.
Neither of these teams are dead-eyed accurate from the field, but both reside outside the top 200 when it comes to defending two-pointers AND threes. JayQuan McCloud (13.8 ppg) comes back for Green Bay after missing the last game with a personal issue. Marshall has as talented a pair of guards as there is in Conference USA, in Jon Elmore (20.1 ppg) and CJ Burks (17.4 ppg), both of whom are in their final college game. And then there’s Cohen, the 6-6 star of a rather position-less team who doesn’t need to spot up and hit threes to be effective. In that way, he could indeed be the difference-maker, helping to push this game over the total.
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