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There are teams in college basketball that are an absolute mess. Then there is Chicago State.

The 4-18 Cougars have lost their past 12 games, and over that span they have tallied more than 64 points only twice, three of their victories arrived against non-Division-I foes, and they’ve been double-digit dogs in all 19 of their chalked games this season.

As a 39-point dog, it lost to Purdue, 93-49. As a 40-point dog, it got trounced by Florida State, 113-56. Getting 33 points against Missouri, they got belted, 91-33. And those were with Xavier Johnson and Jace Colley — more on them below.

Take a seat, though, and grab a Bromo-Seltzer to try to digest the rough part. They are 2-63 in the Western Athletic Conference over the past five seasons.

And they’re getting worse. The third-worst team, nationally, in defensive efficiency, Chicago State has only been slipping in that area to an even lower degree in its past three, and it is the second-worst squad in the country in effective offensive possessions.

The most well-known campus figure had been Chris Zorich, the former Notre Dame and Chicago Bears football player who had served as the Cougars’ athletic director for 15 years, but he resigned the post last summer. A few others, perhaps, should have followed him out that door.

Well-traveled coach Lance Irvin, with rich ties and deep roots in the Chicago hoops community, seems puzzled about the ineptness.

“We were like deer out there,” he said after a November game. Many more headlights would freeze these Cougars.

Irvin, though, doesn’t give up. “Grinding” he wrote on his Twitter feed last week, in addition to “Chicago Toughness.”

Saturday afternoon, the Kansas City (formerly UMKC) Kangaroos visit the Jones Convocation Center, in Chicago. They have been an adept Over team since Thanksgiving. And as 7-point underdogs, the Roos recorded a surprising 67-57 victory Saturday at Cal Baptist, which had won 11 of its past 12 games.

A contest against an NAIA program will be a mere tune-up before they travel to Chicago, where issues abound. Good luck, though, trying to obtain any information out of 9501 S. King Dr., site of the JCC — this is the North Korea of collegiate roundball.

Colley, a 6-foot-7, 200-pound junior who played two years at Holland College in Canada, averages 9.1 points and a team-high 5.3 rebounds for the Cougars. But he last played on Jan. 2. Johnson, a 5-11 junior guard from Texas, leads them with 17.3 points a game. But he last played Jan. 11.

Johnson did miss a game Dec. 30, with some sort of injury, but no details were provided. There have been no follow-up reports, and return timetables for either are non-existent.

The Rat tapped a savvy professional bettor about the dearth of information about Chicago State, and he said he had learned about a concussion that had likely sidelined Colley. Nothing else.

“When I looked into the Colley injury and saw how horrid their coverage was, I stopped wasting my time … they are so bad, but without [Johnson and Colley], they are even worse,” my source said.

KenPom, in fact, rates the Cougars 353rd out of 353 Division-I programs. The Roos (9-11, 2-4 in the WAC) came out of the weekend more than 110 spots higher than Chicago State in those rankings.

Veteran Vegas oddsmaker Kenny White — as he does with selections below — installs Kansas City as a 19-point favorite, with a Total of 140.5. Once again, Chicago State will be grinding, its toughness will be tested. KANSAS CITY


Abilene Christian at Stephen F. Austin -10.5: It is impossible for the Rat to view the visitor’s name and not think of the George Hamilton IV ode to the “prettiest town” he’s ever seen.

Sentiment aside, these teams — two of the country’s top three in limiting foes’ effective possessions — will pester each other from start to finish, so nab the points out of principle. ABILENE CHRISTIAN

Vanderbilt at Kentucky -19: Since the shelving of Aaron Nesmith (23 ppg) with a foot injury, Vandy has averaged only 55.2 points in five games. In 2020, the Wildcats, who are rolling, having won seven of their past eight and have averaged 77.3 points. KENTUCKY


Gonzaga -17 at Santa Clara: The Zags have just entered the élite, as one of only five programs among the nation’s top-10 percentile in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They’ve won 13 in a row, scoring fewer than 83 points only once in that run. GONZAGA

Last week: 5-0

Season: 30-24


About the Author
Rob Miech

Rob Miech

Rob Miech is a writer and contributor for Gaming Today, covering soccer and producing sports betting features. He has written about college hoops for the Las Vegas Sun, CBS SportsLine and the Pasadena Star-News. He is the author of four books, including Sports Betting for Winners.

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