The Towson Tigers on take on the Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse. The 8 PM (ET) tip-off will be streamed on ESPN3, and NCAAB odds have this clash pegged as one of several great college basketball picks.
Towson vs. Kansas
Kansas is 17.5 point chalk, same as the Jayhawks were in their Tuesday matchup vs. Iona. Sportsbooks are dragging their feet on posting totals, as they so often do this time of season, so check back at SBRforum.com to catch that number when it goes out.
This is a warm-up for the Jayhawks before traveling to the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament next week in the Bahamas, where Wake Forest will be their first opponent. Towson is wrapping up a 2-game road swing that started at Villanova this past Sunday, and the Tigers are taking on their highest-ranked opponent in over 23 years.
It's the third time the Jayhawks and Tigers have met on the hardwood, the most recent coming in Kansas' 2011-12 season opener on this very floor. Bill Self's then-No. 13 KU squad had no trouble at all getting off to a winning start with a 100-54 rout led by Thomas Robinson's double-double. Kansas went on to the finals of the NCAA Tournament before Kentucky stopped them. Towson lost its next 21 games in a forgettable 1-21 showing, Pat Skerry's first season as Tigers head coach.
Skerry Leads Quick Turnaround For Towson
What has happened at Towson since then is nothing short of remarkable, and why the Tigers are legitimate contenders in the Colonial Athletic Association as well as a potentially dangerous opponent for Kansas on Friday. Skerry and his staff orchestrated the end to 16 consecutive losing seasons with an 18-13 record in 2012-13, and Towson should be postseason tournament bound next March now that the program is free and clear of the NCAA.
A huge part of the quick turnaround can be traced to Skerry's ability to attract several transfers to the roster, along with some fine recruiting. Jerrelle Benimon moved over from Georgetown and rang up 20 double-doubles last year. The 6-8 senior is off to a flying start this campaign, leading the Tigers in scoring (17.5 ppg), rebounding (11.8 rpg) and assists (3.3 apg).
Mike Burwell, who transferred in from South Florida a couple of years ago, is joined by former JuCo players Rafriel Guthrie and Marcus Damas, that trio of seniors combining to score 31+ per night and yank down nearly 14 boards.
Two players who have to contribute Friday if the Tigers are going to stay within the number -- or pull off the outright upset -- are sophomores Jerome Hairston and Four McGlynn. Hairston is expected to claim the point job for his own this year, and is coming off a bad performance in last Sunday's 78-44 embarrassment at 'Nova. That was Towson's one and only loss after beginning the season 3-0, and the Tigers came nowhere near coveringt he NCAA basketball odds that were set at a +11.5 spread.
Jayhawks Look To Build Off 20-Point Win Vs. Iona
Kansas continues to come together with a new starting lineup and youngsters filling roles off the bench. The Jayhawks showed some of that inexperience early in Tuesday's matchup against Iona, trailing the Gaels by five in the first 8½ minutes before getting things moving in the eventual 86-66 win and cover.
Some of that slow start could have been due to a bit of a letdown following KU taking down previous No. 2 Duke a week earlier. And while Perry Ellis (21 points) led the team in scoring with an excellent 9-for-11 effort from the field, it was Joel Embiid's performance off the bench that keyed the Jayhawks a few days ago. The big freshman posted his first career double-double with 16 points and 13 boards, both career highs, and has given every appearance of being a quick learner trying to fill the void left by Jeff Withey's graduation to the NBA.
Towson was in a similar spot about 11 months ago as a 14.5 point underdog at Oregon State, and came away with a 67-66 win in OT. The Tigers got a 20-20 performance from Benimon to helpovercome a 19-point deficit, and while I don't expect the outright win tonight, they can certainly stay inside this number. We add Towson to our free NCAA basketball picks as the visiting underdogs.
My pick: Towson +17.5[gameodds]14/250257/?r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]