Thursday Service Plays
Re: Thursday Service Plays
Lenny Del Genio
Boston at Dallas
Big non-conference showdown here, but the Celtics are in the midst of a simply brutal scheduling stretch. This is their fourth road game in six nights and the previous two were in San Antonio and Houston. Like Chris Rock said in the movie Head of State, ?That Ain?t Right!? They did upset the Spurs Monday Night, coming all the way back from down 22, to win by two points as 3.5-point underdogs. We were lucky enough to be on the Celtics that night, but that probably does not leave much in the tank for Houston on Tuesday. They do get a night off before completing the Texas Triangle, but let?s face it, by Thursday, they?ll be ?dead team walking.? After losing five of its first nine with Jason Kidd in the lineup, many began to question Mark Cuban?s last-second blockbuster deal to bring in the high priced point guard. However, all Dallas needed was some ?Eastern cooking.? The Mavs crushed five straight Eastern Conference clubs, all by double-digits, from 3/8 to 3/16 and have a big date themselves with the banged up Lakers Tuesday Night. Remember, Dallas has won 29 of its first 33 home games and figures to be a very slight home favorite in this one. Go with the home team playing against a road weary visitor.
Play on Dallas
Re: Thursday Service Plays
Kent State vs UNLV
The Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year, Lon Kruger is a master of fundamentals. The Rebels lack height and shoot just 42% from the field with a lacking inside game, so they have become a fierce defensive team that holds the opposition to 39% shooting. The Rebels average over 8 steals per game. The guard-oriented lineup is led by junior Jo'Van 'Wink' Adams (15.9 PPG). 6-5 senior Curtis Terry stepped in for departed Kevin Kruger (the coach's son) and leads the team in assists (5.1 APG). Rene Rougeau adds backcourt depth, while up front 6-7 junior Joe Darger (12 PPG, 5 RPG) and 6-8, 240-pound Matt Shaw work the glass. UNLV did struggle when stepping up in non-conference opposition, losing 52-49 to Arizona and a 68-48 loss to Louisville. They will struggle against teams with strong frontcourts. As you can tell by those finals, the Rebels will control the tempo on most occasions, whether they win or lose. The Kent State Golden Flashes are another powerful defensive team, allowing 62 points and 42% shooting. The strength of this team is in the frontcourt with 6-7 senior Mike Scott (13 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and 6-8 senior Haminn Quaintance (10 PPG, 7.7 RPG). Scott and Quaintance both rank top 10 among MAC rebounders, combining for over 14 boards a game. Sophomore guard Rodriguez Sherman was on the MAC All-Freshman Team last season and is a strong defensive player. He gets steals and is usually called on to guard the opposing team's top perimeter scoring threat. After going 17-11 under the total last season with that tough defense, Kent started 9-4 under this year.
As you can tell, I'm looking for a slow-tempo, defensive gem. Both coaching staffs and squads expect strong defensive intensity on every possession. That won't change a bit in this one. Look for Kent & UNLV to finish UNDER the posted total.
Re: Thursday Service Plays
San Antonio hasn’t been a shut-down defensive team of late that we are used to, allowing over 100 points in 4 of the last 7 games. That’s remarkable when you realize for the season they are allowing just 91 ppg. They take on a Chicago team that is more offensive-minded since dumping Ben Wallace. The Bulls have scored over 100 in 6 of the last 8 and are riding a 6-1-1 run over the total.
Play the Spurs/Bulls over the total
Portland had a great run early in the season, surprising for such a young team, but then cooled off. Well now this young team is offering value again, led by star guard Brandon Roy and fiery coach Nate McMillan. Portland is 4-0 Su/ATS the last 4 games as a favorite, and they are rested for this game. They take on an LA Clipper team that has packed in the season, on a 2-12 SU, 3-11 ATS run. The Blazers have sold out 19 games in a row at home and can give that crowd a blowout win over a very bad team.
Play the Blazers
Re: Thursday Service Plays
Black Widow Sports
1* on Texas A&M -1.5
You'll see the talent of the Big 12 Conference clearly represented here as the Aggies win easily over the BYU Cougars. Texas A&M is 11-2 ATS versus poor pressure defensive teams - forcing <=14 turnovers/game over the last 2 seasons, 11-2 ATS in all neutral court games over the last 3 seasons, and 7-0 ATS when playing only their 3rd game in a week over the last 2 seasons. BYU is just 45-71 ATS as an underdog since 1997 and 20-40 ATS in road games versus good defensive teams - shooting pct defense of <=42% since 1997. Texas A&M defense will be the difference here.
Re: Thursday Service Plays
1. 200,000♦ Washington State
2. 50,000♦ Arizona
3. 50,000♦ George Mason
1. Washington State- Be honest: What's the first thing you thought when you looked at the line on this contest? I bet the majority of the public muttered to themselves: "There's no way this Cougars offense covers that number!" But I'm here to tell you they can and here's why:
First and foremost, this isn't some middle-of-the-road basketball team. This is a PAC-10 squad that has continued to blossom under second year head coach Tony Bennet, balancing outstanding defense, with careful methodical offense. This is especially dangerous for an Eagles team more than capable of long scoring droughts, facing a Cougars defense allowing just 57 ppg on 42% shooting this season (against much much better competition than Winthrop).
Second, speaking of competition... How can you possibly compare battling night in and night out in the PAC-10 to the Big South Conference? Sorry Winthrop-backers, but your team's stats look nice, but just how seriously can we take a team that beats up on the likes of Radford and High Point?! The fact the Eagles played only 5 lined games this season (3-2 ATS), should immediately tell you something about their level of compeitition.
Third, I hear many in the media saying these two teams are alike, but that's a stretch at best. Yes, they both rely on defense to win games. And yes, they both have methodical offenses, but that's where the comparisons end. Winthrop has a serious size disadvantage, with twin 6'10 bigmen Baynes and Cowgill patrolling the paint. Not only that, but the edge in the backcourt clearly goes to the Cougars smart defensive trio of Low, Weaver, and Rochestie - all three of which can shoot the rock and run back and play defense.
Finally, one of the factors that becomes even more critical come tourney time is free throw shooting. Winthrop isn't just bad from the charity stripe, they're terrible, averaging just 59%. Make no mistake, the Eagles piss-poor free throw percentage will come into play tonight.
Bottom line, lay the points with the superior Cougars in this one, as Winthrop gets to see what real basketball looks like tonight. Sorry but garbage competition prepares you for nothing, and tonight the Eagles pay the price against one of the best defensive teams from one of toughest conferences in the country. Cougars take a bite out of the Eagles in this one, grabbing the cash along the way!
Take Washington State BIG over Winthrop as your top-rated play of the day.
2. Arizona- A lot of controversy surrounding Arizona and whether or not they belong in the tourney over teams like Arizona State. Fact of the matter is they dealt with a lot of injuries, but when healthy (like they are now), this Wildcats team is definately deserving and they'll prove it tonight.
While its easy to concentrate on the games that either Bayless or Nic Wise were out, as the Wildcats when 3-8 over that span... What real sense does that make? Both Bayless and Wise will play tonight, giving the Wildcats their full array of weapons to attack a good, but not great Mountaineers squad.
If you saw West Virginia's last game, a 72-55 shellacking at the hands of Georgetown, you've seen the blueprint in how to beat this Mountaineers team. Namely, perimter defense and inside play. We know this Wildcats team can play defense, may be not as well as the Hoyas, but they're more than athletic enough to match up with a perimeter-oriented Moutaineers offense. And if Roy Hibbert can light up this WVU defense for 25 points and 13 boards, then you can expect the Wildcats to attack with 6'9 Jordan Hill, who averages 13 ppg on 62% from the field.
Finally, speaking of whether or not they belong, you best believe all the talk about the Wildcats "sneaking in" is perfect bulletin board material. Using an "us against the world" attitude can make a hell of difference when trying to motivate college kids.
Bottom line, you can't just blankly stare at Arizona's record and declare them un-worthy... Had Bayless and Wise played together all season, they'd be a lot better than a 10th seed, and I'm treating them as such. Problem for perimeter-oriented teams is when the jump shots stop falling, the party's over, much like it was against Georgetown last Friday.
Take Arizona plus the points over West Virginia in this NCAA Tournament First Round match up.
3. George Mason- For as good as good as Notre Dame is playing, they're about to run into a veteran-laden Patriots squad, that's playing their best defense of the season of late. Everyone loves talking about Harangody and the Irish offense, but George Mason is allowing a miniscule 55 ppg on 39% shooting over their last 5 games... Underesimate them at your risk in this spot.
First things first, don't think Harangody is going to run rampant over this Patriots team. We all know about F Will Thomas, who goes for 15 ppg and 10 boards per game this season. But its actually a lesser known player that has emerged to help George Mason - 6'7 240 lbs. junior Chris Fleming. His recent play has been a boon for the Patriots, and he'll get his chance to do it again against Harangody and company tonight.
Second, it should be noted that the Notre Dame's offense wasn't nearly as good on the highway this season, especially on neutral courts, scoring 73 ppg on 42% shooting in 3 nuetral court contests this season (1-2 SUATS). If they thought Marquette's defense was tough in their last one, just wait until they have to deal with this Patriots defense tonight.
Also consider the two backcourts, as Irish G MaAlarney is solid, but overall its hard not to like the Patriots trio of Campbell, Vaughan, and Smith. The three George Mason guards are all upperclassmen, and all capable of winning their match ups against the Notre Dame guards.
Bottom line, not only is it hard to ignore George Mason based on just an experience level, but if you watched them play defense throughout the CAA Tourney, you know this a team peaking at precisely the right time. They may not win SU, but they'll battle tooth and nail with this Irish squad tonight, grabbing the cash because of it!
Take George Mason plus the points over Notre Dame in this NCAA Tournament First Round match up.
Re: Thursday Service Plays
40 DIMER - USC TROJANS....20 DIMER - STANFORD CARDINAL....10 DIMERS - KANSAS JAYHAWKS, & KENT GOLDEN
40 DIMER - USC TROJANS
They are talking about the Beasley-Mayo fabulous-frosh matchup, and while it will be fun to watch, I am counting on SC to handle the Wildcats and move on!
These schools come in with near identical records, but K-State only went 2-5 their last 7 games, while failing ALL 7 against the spread. Southern Cal closed with wins in 6 of their final 8, while going 5-3 against the spread.
Kansas State figures to have a little more support with this one being played in nearby Omaha, but I like Mayo, Gibson, and Jefferson over Beasley and his mates in this spot.
The line is nice a low, and I see the Trojans taking it comfortably by 9 or more.
20 DIMER - STANFORD CARDINAL - 5 PM
Sticking with the PAC 10, as Stanford uses their superior size to their advantage in this game against Ivy rep Cornell.
The Big Red has won their last 16 games, but playing the Ivy League, and playing the PAC 10 is like night and day, and the fact the Lopez twins should control the glass at will in this one leads the G-Man to believe that the Cardinal will get on top of this big number before we are finished with the 40 full minutes.
Cornell is traveling 'cross country for this date, while Stanford has the luxury of playing in the same time zone, and just down the road a little from their campus.
Lay the chalk here.
10 DIMER - KANSAS JAYHAWKS - 12:25 PM
This is another blowout, as Portland State is not going to know what hit them in this game.
KU will push the pace, bang home a few 3-balls, and before you know it, it is going to be "Good Night Irene!" for the Vikings from Portland.
Omaha crowd figures to be pro-Jayhawks, and this has the makings of a 30-point rout.
Jayhawks live up to their #1 seeding.
10 DIMER - KENT GOLDEN FLASHES - 2:55 PM
UNLV had the luxury of hosting their end of the season conference tournament, and for the second time in a row, Lon Kruger's team punched their Big Dance ticket with that luxury. Today they face the lone MAC team in the field of 65, and Kent is a tough one!
The Golden Flashes not only won their conference tourney, they have lost just once in their last 13 games. Kent State is on an 8-2 spread run their last 10 games.
This game is pretty much a pick'em affair, and I see no reason why the Flashes won't advance to round two.
Re: Thursday Service Plays
Thursday's Early Plays...
30 Dime –
Take the points with Temple this afternoon in the South Region over Michigan State.
This could very well be the first upset of the big dance.
Temple is playing with supreme confidence right now, having reeled off seven consecutive victories.
There’s no doubt they have a tough draw here, but Temple has the ability to create mismatches on the offensive end with its big backcourt combination of Dionte Christmas and Mark Tyndale.
Both players are 6-5 and can post up against smaller defenders when the opportunity arises.
Michigan State relies too much on guard Drew Neitzel for its offense and if he isn’t feeling it the Spartans could struggle to piece together consistent possessions.
The Spartans didn’t play particularly well away from home, losing six of their last eight games away from East Center. They also have a history of coming up short in the Big Dance, with three first round losses in their last six appearances.
Temple has been on a moneymaking spree, covering 16 of its last 21 games.
Those of you looking for a 12-seed upset in your brackets would be wise to consider this game right here.
For now, let’s settle for taking the points with Temple as they continue their torrid run.
10 Dime –
Take Purdue this afternoon minus the points over Baylor in the West Region.
No doubt Baylor will be fired up for this game since this is their first appearance in the Big Dance in 11 years, but the euphoria will be short-lived.
The Bears don’t have the necessary ingredients to advance in this tournament. They are a perimeter-oriented team that allowed a Big 12-worst 74 ppg. They also lost eight of their last 13 games, including an upset versus Colorado in the conference opener. Colorado torched the Bears for 91 points in that loss, oh by the way.
Purdue is a stingy defensive-minded team that should match up well against Baylor. Offensively the Boilermakers can get scoring from the inside or outside with their trio of E’Twaun Moore, Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer.
Purdue has also been good to their backers; going 14-3-1 ATS in the last 18 games overall.
Matt Painter, the Big Ten Coach of the Year, was successful in last year’s tourney, upsetting Arizona and losing by just seven points to the two-time defending champion Gators in the second round.
Take Purdue minus the small number as they grab the win and cover.
Thursday's Late Plays...
20 Dime –
Take West Virginia as the small chalk over Arizona tonight in the West Region.
A lot of the talking heads out there were arguing whether or not Arizona deserved to be in the tournament, but I’m telling you after tonight it will be a moot point.
West Virginia is going to roll over this team.
The Mountaineers have the best player on the court in Joe Alexander. The junior forward was having a breakout performance down the stretch until the loss to Georgetown in the Big East semifinals.
Alexander is averaging 26.8 ppg over his last six games.
Arizona has a good backcourt combination of Jerryd Bayless and Nic Wise, but they can be neutralized by a Mountaineers defense that permitted just 62 ppg this year.
Bob Huggins has gotten much more out of this West Virginia team than anyone predicted. His influence has already surfaced in the Mountaineers ranking No. 2 in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio and No. 6 in fewest turnovers overall.
West Virginia is simply a team that won’t beat itself.
Arizona is a young team that Huggins should be able to exploit both offensively and defensively, and when West Virginia needs a big shot they will have the best player on the floor.
Take West Virginia as the small chalk as they grab the easy win and cover.
5 Dime –
Take the points with Winthrop tonight over Washington State in the East Region.
Washington State had a great season, finishing with 24 wins but they drew a tough, first-round opponent.
Winthrop is a fundamentally sound team that plays tough defense. They knocked off Notre Dame in the first round of last year’s tournament and this marks the eighth trip to the NCAA’s in the last decade for the Eagles.
This game has all the makings of a full, 40-minute struggle, which makes the points the play here.
Winthrop is 13-6 ATS in its last 19 games overall.
Take the points as Winthrop keeps it within the number.
Re: Thursday Service Plays
Game: Texas A&M vs. BYU
Prediction: BYU Reason: I'm playing on BYU. I respect A&M but still feel that the wrong team is favored here. Hailing from the Mountain West, the Cougars don't get all that much attention from the media. Make no mistake though, this is an excellent team. Despite a loss at UNLV to close out the conference tournament, BYU is a highly impressive 15-2 its last 17 games. Looking back earlier in the season and we find that the Cougars beat Louisville in a tournament before playing North Carolina tough for 38 minutes the following day. The Aggies are also an excellent team. However, they struggled down the stretch, winning just four of their final 10 games. Both teams play very good defense. I like BYU's backcourt better though and believe that they'll be more capable of dictating and controlling the tempo. The Cougars lost by two points to Xavier in the first round last year. Look for them to take the next step by bouncing back from the loss to UNLV and scoring the minor upset.
Game: Oral Roberts vs. Pittsburgh
Prediction: Oral Roberts Reason: I'm taking the points with ORAL ROBERTS. After playing four games in four days to win the Big East, I expect the Panthers to be somewhat drained here. Note that Pittsburgh is 0-3 ATS the last three times it was a neutral court favorite in the -6.5 to -9 range. Oral Roberts comes in with plenty of confidence, after winning its third straight conference tourney title. In addition to beating up on their conference rivals, the Golden Eagles played a trio of top tier teams fairly tough earlier in the year, giving them some experience to deal with the type of physical play that Pittsburgh brings to the table. Those teams were Texas, Arkansas and Texas A&M and the Golden Eagles played each one of them away from home. While they lost each game, they were relatively competitive in each and improved each time out. After losing by 14 at Texas A&M, they lost by 11 at Arkansas. Next, they lost by 10 at Texas. Having benefitted from playing those three elite opponents, they "stepped down in class" to fact Oklahoma State and promptly pounded the Cowboys by 15 points. Look for them to give the Panthers all they can handle here.
Game: Kentucky vs. Marquette
Prediction: under Reason: I'm playing on Kentucky and Marquette to finish UNDER the number. Kentucky managed just 56 points (60-56 loss to Georgia) in its most recent game, with the final combined score staying below the total by nine points. A closer look at that game shows that only 100 points were scored in regulation as 16 of those points came in the overtime frame. That brought the UNDER to 9-3 the Wildcats' last dozen games. The Golden Eagles also saw their most recent game stay below the number as they managed only 61 in a loss vs. Pittsburgh in the Big East tournament. That brought the UNDER to 2-1 their last three and 4-2 in tournament games this season. Both teams saw their first round NCAA matchups fall significantly below the total last season and I expect a similar result this year.
Game: Kansas State vs. USC
Prediction: Kansas State Reason: I'm taking the points with KANSAS STATE. Despite the fact that they have superstar Michael Beasley in the lineup, the betting public is really down on the Wildcats right now, as they failed to cover in seven straight games. That's given us terrific value, which has become even better with the line having been bet up from its opening number. Looking at those seven straight ATS losses and we find that the Wildcats really only lost badly in one game (at Kansas) and that they won two of the final three games SU while losing the other by only three points. They've had plenty of time to recover from their gruelling Big 12 schedule and I expect them to play with a chip on their shoulder here as they've got something to prove. Keep in mind that before the ATS losing streak, they'd been on a profitable 8-2 SU/ATS run, which included a 9-point win over Kansas and blowout wins over the likes of Missouri and Oklahoma State. Note that the Wildcats are 5-2 the last seven times that they played with five or six day's rest in between games and 21-10 their last 31 in that situation. The Wildcats, who were 15-2 at home this season, will be playing within roughly three hours of their campus. USC, on the other hand, is thousands of miles from home. Look for the Wildcats, 10-6 ATS the last 16 times they were underdogs of four points or less, to have the majority of the crowd behind them and for that to play a significant factor, as they bounce back from their poor start to the season and improve to 9-2 ATS the last 11 times they were coming off a game which saw them score 60 points or less. *Opening RD GOY
Game: Georgia vs. Xavier
Prediction: Xavier Reason: I'm laying the points with XAVIER. After their improbable run through the SEC Conference Tournament, the Bulldogs have been a great story. However, they haven't faced a team with the type of balance that they'll have to contend with this afternoon and I fully expect their "story" to come to an end here. Prior to their run through the tournament, the Bulldogs had previously lost 10 of their last 12 games and were 13-16 on the year. While the Bulldogs only outscored opponents by one point per game on the season, the Musketeers won their 27 games by an average of 13 points each. While Georgia hasn't been to the Big Dance in several years, Xavier has four players that have over 1,000 points in their collegiate careers in senior G Stanley Burrell, senior F Josh Duncan, senior G Drew Lavender and junior swingman C.J. Anderson. They're joined by Derrick Brown and B.J. Raymond to form a lineup that features a whopping six players who average in double-digits in scoring. The Musketeers are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 NCAA Tournament games and 9-5-1 ATS the last 15 times they were coming off a conference loss. After not having any players voted onto the All-Atlantic 10 first team and the not winning their conference tournament, they've got something to prove. The Musketeers have got the perimeter defense to contain Georgia's guard-oriented attack and I look for their balance, depth and experience to prove too much for the Bulldogs to handle. *Personal Favorite
Re: Thursday Service Plays
Black Magic Sports
1 Unit on UNLV +2
UNLV has been impressive against elite teams at 8-1 ATS when playing against a top-level team (Win Pct. > 80%) over the last 2 seasons. The Runnin' Rebels are 24-9 ATS versus good teams - outscoring their opponents by 4+ points/game over the last 2 seasons. What you're about to see is that the MAC was a much weaker conference this year. UNLV made a run to the regional semifinals last season and Kruger has his boys playing solid hoops once again. We'll take the Rebs here.
Re: Thursday Service Plays
5.5-Unit Play. Take Xavier (-8.5) over Georgia
Clearly, I think Georgia’s amazing run is about to come to an end. I think that Xavier is an elite team, and I believe that Georgia will be snapped out of the bubble they were in last week in Atlanta. Georgia fits into one of our themes of today: fade conference tournament winners because they have covered less than 39 percent over the past 11 years in the NCAA Tournament. But there are some other seeding trends that support this play.
First, play against any underdog of 3.0 or more that is coming off a straight-up win as a dog of 6.0 or more. That system is a fantastic 42-22 ATS in the last decade. Also, top seeds that were upset in their conference tournament (as Xavier was) that have a winning percentage of .760 or above are 21-6 ATS in the first round of the tournament. If our top team is seeded No. 1-4 this trend becomes an incredible 11-0 ATS!
Xavier has depth and talent. They are healthy and focused. I think Stanley Burrell, a sensational one-on-one defender, will be able to handcuff Sundiata Gaines and slow an exhausted Georgia team. UGA may make a run at this one, but I think the stronger team prevails.
4.5-Unit Play. Take Washington State (-9) over Winthrop
Note: I see this line is moving. I do recommend buying a half-point if needed because that would keep it in our range for our system. The play qualifies because of where it opened and where it was all week.
The thing that caught my eye about this game is that the total is incredibly low (112) yet the chalk is relatively high on the Cougars. I think that’s a red flag. Washington State spent the first half of the season as a fringe Final Four contender. They have that type of talent and an excellent system. They are flying a bit under the radar at the moment and I think we can cash in on a Pac-10 power against a team from a far inferior conference. In the nonconference schedule, Wazzou beat four other tournament teams – at Boise State (by 12), Mississippi Valley State (by 45), at Baylor (by 3), at Gonzaga (by 4) and Portland State (12). They won three of those games on the road, and even if you throw out the MVS blowout their average in those four wins, against far better competition, was still a solid 7.8 points. That’s just one point off this line against a Winthrop team that had to make the trek to Denver.
There are also some great systems and trends that back this play. If a No. 4 seed is a favorite of 9.0 or less they have been a stellar 24-12 ATS in the first round, and if that seed has a season winning percentage of .733 or higher they are 25-15 ATS. Also, No. 4 seeds that enter the tournament off a loss are 30-10 ATS, while if they are favored by 9.0 or less off a loss they are an amazing 18-2 ATS!
This Winthrop team is not as good as the one that beat Notre Dame last year. Kyle Weaver should be able to harass Winthrop’s go-to guy, Mike Jenkins, and if Jenkins is off then I don’t see where the points are going to come from. I do think this game will be within three or four points of the number, but I think we’ll be on the right side of a score around 56-44.
2.5-Unit Play. TEASER: Take Xavier (-3.5) AND Take Washington State (-4)
Same reasons. Really like these games, and if we don't get one of them due to some BS, we could hit this teaser and the twosome will be a success.
3-Unit Play. Take Temple (+7.5) over Michigan State
The Atlantic 10 has been tearing up the major conferences all season long, so we might as well jump on board. The Owls are on a seven-game winning streak, and for those people that are waiting for the Spartans to snap out of their two-month funk it could be an expensive day. I like Temple’s ability to score the basketball and I like that they have two go-to scorers. It seems as if Michigan State is desperate for Drew Neitzel to carry them, but we’ve found out this year that he’s just not that type of player. I think the Spartans have bad karma and I think this is a game that the Owls could win straight-up.
2-Unit Play. Take Cal State-Fullerton (+11.5) over Wisconsin
Note: This was inadvertently posted as a 3-Unit play. It should be a 2-Unit selection so it was changed at 9:08 a.m. EST. Sorry for any inconvenience.
The Big 10 champions have been a perennial disappointment in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, posting just a 2-4 ATS mark over the last six years. However, those numbers are in keeping with the overall tournament norm. Round 1 favorites that won their conference tournaments are just 30-47 ATS (38.9 percent) over the past 11 years.
Also, No. 3 seeds that come into the dance off back-to-back straight-up wins are just 4-14 ATS in the opening round. Throw in the fact that favorites between -11.0 and -14.0 have produced well below average over the past 10 years (19-33, or 36.5 percent) and we could be in business here. There are three other factors at work here. First, this play is random. Not too many people have the CS-Fullerton upset on their bracket. And as you know, anything can happen this time of year. Next, doesn’t this line seem low? That could be a red flag. And finally, Fullerton is a guard-heavy team. That is the complete opposite of Wisconsin, and contrasting styles go to the team that can force the tempo. I think Fullerton can, so we’ll take the points and look for an upset!
3-Unit Play. Take Oral Roberts (+9) over Pittsburgh
This play reminds me a bit of our Miami, OH win over Oregon in the first round of last year’s tournament. At first glance it seems suicidal. But there are a tremendous amount of statistical trends that support this play.
First, the Big East Tournament champion is a pathetic 2-12 ATS in its first round game in the NCAA Tournament. Pittsburgh just went through an outstanding four-game run in Madison Square Garden, winning as a dog in the final three days. Now they are in Denver playing a group of crazy Christians in the first round of the tournament. I smell a letdown. Next, favorites of 14.5 or less that are off a run of 3-0 (or better) SU and ATS are just 7-25 ATS in the first round of the Big Dance. Finally, this is another line that just seems conspicuously low.
3-Unit Play. Take West Virginia (-2) over Arizona
Who else is ready for another vintage Arizona flameout? I know I am. The Wildcats are traveling west-to-east to take on a very game Mountaineers squad. Excluding two blowout wins over feeble Oregon State, the Wildcats are just 1-6 SU in their last seven games and 3-8 since Feb. 1. They are 2-4 ATS as an underdog and they are 2-5 ATS against a team with a winning record. West Virginia is 6-0 ATS in NCAA Tournament games and over the past few years has been the best nonconference bet in the country, posting a stellar 42-20-1 ATS mark. They are also 29-14-1 ATS as a favorite and I think they have even more offense than the Wildcats. Joe Alexander is the hottest player in the nation and I think a strong WVU following will give the Mountaineers the boost that they need in this one.
3-Unit Play. Take Kent State (-2) over UNLV
Today’s plays have two underlying concepts at work: fade the conference tournament champions from the BCS leagues, and play on the small favorites to see if their recent success (L4 years) continues. I’m not flying blind here, I like the matchups. And this one is an example.
UNLV has overachieved this year and was one of my fade teams. In fact, I can nearly guarantee that they wouldn’t be playing right now if the Mountain West Tournament hadn’t been held on their home floor. The MAC has gone 5-2 ATS in the first round recently while the Mountain West is a paltry 2-6 ATS. I love this Golden Flashes team. They have great guards, a load of experience, and they have an impressive resume. They have mid-major wins over George Mason, St. Mary’s, and Illinois State. I think they rack up one more with a victory over the Rebels.
3-Unit Play. TEASER: Take Arizona State (-1) over Southern Illinois AND Take Maryland (+10) over Syracuse
Let's not forget about the NIT today!!! Southern Illinois has been a mess on the road for most of the year and ASU should win this one on talent alone. SIU had it's swan song for its seniors against Oklahoma State and now not having their starting point guard should catch up with them. With Syracuse, I just don't see them beating a decent team by double-digits. Gary Williams can obviously keep his team motivated, and their experience should carry them against a young, and relatively disinterested, Syracuse club. I think Maryland can win outright so we'll take the (extra) points.
2.5-Unit Play. Take USC (-3.5) over Kansas State
Small favorite. Also the better team, from the better conference. K-State is 0-7 ATS over the last month. They are overvalued, and their lack of guard play has caught up with them. USC has a far superior backcourt and has enough big men underneath to at least hang with Walker and Beasley. If USC can handle UCLA and Stanford on the interior I think they can beat K-State. The Trojans were the team that ended Kevin Durant's season last year so I think there's a symmetry to them beating Mike Beasley this year.
2-Unit Play. Take 'Under' 136 Cornell vs. Stanford
I like all of the 'unders' in this round, but here's one that sticks out. Cornell hasn't played in 12 days so you really can't expect them to come out and be sharp. Stanford doesn't run-and-gun and their guards don't shoot particularly well so I don't see them hitting the 80's in this one. I think this one is going to stay comfortably 'under', as Stanford struggles to hit 70 and Cornell will be lucky to muster 50. I like the Cardinal (#732) to cover as well and I'll, personally, have a Unit on them to dominate this one. The Ivy League is just 3-6 ATS in the last nine tournaments. Throw in the travel and the severe size disadvantage and this one will be all Cardinal.
2-Unit Play. Take 'Under' 137 Cal-State Fullerton vs. Wisconsin
One of these teams would have to hit 70 in order for this number to get cleared. I don't see it happening. Wisconsin is No. 1 in the country in scoring defense and I don't see them trying to force an uptempo game. I see this one played in the 60's and us staying under the number.
That's it for today. However, I do have some leans for you. I've noticed that my last plays off the board have been killing it for months - hence my nearly 70 percent run on free picks - so I'm going to list all the other games I'll be betting myself. First, bet 1 Unit on every single 'under' on the board. I know it seems crazy, but over the last decade the 'under' has hit around 60 percent for the first round. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it and I'm going to be blindly hammering this trend. Next, I like George Mason (+6.5), Stanford (-14.5), Kentucky (+6), and Texas A&M (-1.5).