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Thursday Service Plays
Re: Thursday Service Plays
REASON FOR PICK: I've been a big fan of Dennis Felton at Georgia, who took over in Athens after the mess left by Harrick and Sons. Before this season even began, he dismissed last year's leading scorer and rebounder in Brown (14.2-5.6) plus did the same with the Bulldogs best athlete, guard Mercer (13.6). Georgia's improbable championship run in the SEC last week, was "just desserts." However, the Bulldogs have the shortest possible turnaround time, having played late Sunday afternoon (after a Saturday double-header) and now the earliest starting time of any of the Thursday games (12:20 PM).
Worse yet, the Bulldogs face Xavier, a team with six double digit scorers, coming off a loss to St Joe's in the A-10 semifinals. Xavier head coach Sean Miller has led this program to three consecutive 20-win seasons and three straight NCAA appearances. The Musketeers had Ohio St on the ropes in LY's second round and seem well-equipped this year to make a Sweet 16 run (or deeper) into the tourney. Georgia has excellent guards (always important come tourney time) with the 6-1 Gaines (14.8-6.1-4.2), who leads the team in rebounding, paired with Humphrey (12.2-3.6) and swingman Woodbury (10.8-4.0). A pair of 6-10 guys start in the frontcourt, in Bliss (7.6-5.6) and Jackson (3.7-4.2). Two freshman, guard Swansey (4.1) and the 6-8 Price (8.1-4.3), are the top players off the bench. Despite losing three excellent forwards from LY's 25-win team in Doellman (13.7-5.5), Cage (10.5-5.4) and Cole (5.8-4.7), this year's Xavier team has been better. The 6-9 Duncan (11.6-4.6) comes off the bench but leads the team in scoring. Swingman Raymond (10.3) is a second double digit scorer coming off the pines. runs the team to perfection and fellow guard Burrell (10.0-3.8 APG) is an excellent defensive player. The 6-9 Love (6.2-5.5) starts in the middle, playing alongside the 6-8 Brown (10.7-6.6) and the 6-6 Anderson
(10.6-6.0). The Musketeers shoot 47.8 percent as a team (just under 40 percent from three), while holding opponents to 40.4 percent and just 62.3 PPG. Georgia had won just four SEC games all season (in a year in which the league was down) and had lost 11 of 13 games heading into the SEC tourney. Then came an OT win over Ole Miss, a doubleheader sweep on Saturday (including an OT win vs Kentucky)
and then a 66-57 win on Sunday vs a hot Arkansas team. I just have to believe ENOUGH is ENOUGH. Xavier won nine games this year vs top-50 RPI teams and is as balanced as any team in the nation.The Musketeers shoot well and defend well. What's NOT to like. Georgia is in for a long day! First Round GOY Xavier -8.5 - (9*).
REASON FOR PICK: Billy Gillispie fashioned on of the great all-time turnarounds in two years at UTEP (from 6-24 to 24-8) and then took over an A&M team which was 0-16 in the Big 12 the year before he arrived, leading the school to 21, 22 and 27 wins in his three seasons, which featured NCAA appearances in his last two years. I doubt he realized he was taking on yet another reclamationproject this year, taking over for Tubby at Kentucky, one of CBB's most-hallowed programs. despite the loss of 6-8 freshman Patterson (16.4-7.7) at the end of February. Early home losses to Gardner-Webb and San Diego were the season low-lights but the Wildcats finished a strong 12-4 in the SEC regular season. If not for the Patterson injury, who knows? As is, the Wildcats just don't have the 'horses' to match up with Marquette (guard Jodie Meeks is also out). Two vets, the 6-5 Crawford (17.3-3.6) and guard Bradley (15.8-4.2-3.3), plus 6-9 sophomore Stevenson (5.8-5.1) will not be able to get the job done vs Marquette. The Golden Eagles were a memberof the AP's top-25 for all but one week this year and the team's trio of perimeter players, are primed for an NCAA tourney run. So is head coach Tom Crean, who is 0-2 in the Big Dance,
since taking Marquette to the 2003 Final 4. McNeal (14.3-4.8-3.3.6), James (13.0-2.7-4.3) and Matthews (11.2-4.4) are tough matchups for any team, especially a depth-shy one like Kentucky. Marquette even has solid depth in the backcourt with Cubillan (5.4) and Acker (4.6). The 6-10 Barro (5.5-5.5) never really improved this year (averaged 8.1-6.9 LY) but the 6-6 Hayward sure has, going from averages of 6.6-3.6 to 13.0-6.5. The 6-9 Fitzgerald (4.1-2.) is no star but plays hard. Marquette is eager to get back on the court after losing in the Big East semis to Pitt and Kentucky will play the perfect foil. STP on Marquette (5*).
REASON FOR PICK: UNLV was lucky that the MWC tourney was on its homecourt for the second straight year (Rebels have won each time). I'm not sure an NCAA at-large invite would have been forthcoming, so the auto bid was huge. UNLV made a Sweet 16 run LY and almost came back vs Oregon, just missing a regional final appearance. No such run is expected this year. In fact, I see the Rebels falling here.
PG Wink Adams (16.4-4.0-3.1) is the lone returning starter from LY's team. The 6-5 Terry (10.9-3.3-4.9) and the 6-6 Rogeau (9.1-5.9) played well in the MWC tourney (as did Adams) but things will be much tougher here in Omaha, Ne. The 6-7 Darger (11.2-4.2) is the team's lone frontcourt player of note. In Kent State, the Rebels will face a program which has won 20 games or more in each of the last 10 seasons (rare company!) and this year's team is poised to makes some 'noise' in the tourney. Head coach Jim Christian has been around for the last six 20-win seasons and he's looking for his first NCAA win(lost to Pitt by 15 points in '06). The team's two senior forwards are terrific players. The 6-7 Scott (13.1-6.1) is the better scorer but the all-around play of the 6-8 Quaintance (10.0-7.5) makes him just
as valuable. The "X-factor" of this year's team has been guard Al Fisher (14.0-3.8-4.1), who led the team in scoring. Fisher was a juco transfer and wound up being voted this year's MAC player-of-the-year(not a bad seven-month run!) . Singletary (10.2-3.2) is his backcourt partner, while McKee (5.6) and Sherman (5.4) add depth. Two 6-5 players, Wood (5.1) and Sullinger (3.7), help out in the frontcourt. KSU's size is suspect but UNLV has none of its own. While UNLV's Lon Kruger has proven to be an excellentcoach and the Rebels do own some gifted athletes, this Kent team has something to prove. Akron, likelya better team that UNLV, was primed for its "double-revenge" game vs Kent in the MAC title game last Saturday, after two close regular season losses. However, Kent easily dispatched of the Zips 74-55, as Fisher,Quaintance, Scott and Singletary all scored in double digits. Expect Kent to roll in this one. STP on Kent State. -2 (5*)
REASON FOR PICK: Arizona has something to prove, as many felt the Wildcats were undeserving of an NCAA bid to injuries at different times. All players are on deck for this one, facing a West Va team, coming off asolid season in Bob Huggins first year at his alma mater. West Va won the NIT last year (27 wins) and while the 6-5 Young (15.3) was expected to be missed, the 6-8 Alexander improved his scoring from 10.3 PPG to 16.8PPG this year, as well as getting 6.1 RPG. Butler (12.8-6.1), the team's other starting forward, had a verysolid year as well. The disappointment of the frontcourt was the 7-0 Smalligan, who came on at the end of LY but averaged just 2.4-1.9 this year. The guard duo of the 6-6 Ruoff (13.5-3.3-3.0) and PG Nichols (10.9-3.4-3.2) is pretty solid. While Arizona lost three talented players from LY in the 6-7 Williams (16.6-6.7), the 6-10 Radenovic (15.1-7.6) and four-year PG Shakur (11.9-6.9 APG), this year's team has plenty of talent,if not depth. Bayless (20.0-2.7-4.1) is one of the nation's top freshman and is joined in the backcourt by senior McClellan (8.6-3.7-2.7) and 5-9 sparkplug Wise (9.1-2.7-4.1). The 6-7 Budinger (17.0-5.4) is just a "basketball player," while the 6-9 Hill (13.2-7.8) shoots 62 percent and can block shots. I'm not convinced that Arizona can go too far in this tourney but West Va is a good first-round matchup for them. STP on Arizona +2 (5*).
FOR PICK: The Big 12 is an overrated conference, which like the ACC, is top-heavy with little quality aftewhich features the fabulous 6-10 Beasley (26.5-12.5) and another excellent frontcourt player in the 6-6 Walker(15.8-6.4), but little else. Stewart (7.0-3.1-3.2) and Young (6.1-3.5) are the starting guards, with Pullen
(9.8) adding depth but in order for Beasley and Walker to make a big impact, they'll have to get the ball in good position. Expect USC to disrupt KSU's offensive flow, as Tom Floyd vs first-year head coach Frank Martin, is a coaching mismatch. Floyd out-coached Calipari back in early December (at Madison Square Garden), as USC almost beat Memphis, losing 62-58 in OT. His team has also been talented enough to win at Pauley vs UCLA and press Stanford into submission on the final day of the regular season, beating the Cardinal by 13 points. Last year's freshman have turned in excellent sophomore seasons for USC. The 6-9 Gibson (10.8-7.8) is a tough inside defender while the team's pair of 6-5 guards, Lewis (10.9) and Hackett (8.5-3.7-3.3) are terrific all-around players. This year's freshman, the highly-touted OJ Mayo (20.8-4.6-3.3) and the 6-8 Jefferson (12.0-6.3), give USC a starting five which can match most teams in the nation. KSU was 11th in three-point percentage in the Big 12 and was dead-last in the league defending it, a terrible combo. While Walker had a good season, he was 0-for-14 with one point in a late-Feb game at home vs Texas and then in the team's next game, at Kansas, scored just nine points. If he's the team's only other real threat, then KSU is one-and-done! Beasley's great but his coach and the rest of his team are in over their heads against Floyd and the very talented Trojans. Laying this cheap of a price is a bargain. Oddsmaker's Error on USC -3.5 (8*).
Re: Thursday Service Plays
Keithmartinsports Hammer Play
My NCAA Tourney HAMMER is on Washington St Over
Winthrop 25 of their 33 games have gone over 113
Wash St. 26 of their 32 games have gone over 113
Winthrop game ave's 123
Wash St game ave's 124
Combine both their defenses and the ave would be 115
Winthrop is 3-0-1 over 113 in March
Wash St is 3-0-1 over 113 in March
Winthrop Road games ave 129
Winthrop last 5 games ave 114
Wash St Road games ave 126
Wash St last 5 games ave 133
Winthrop vs NCAA tourney teams 6-1 over 113
Wash St vs NCAA tourney teams 18-4-1 over 113
Re: Thursday Service Plays
4 Unit Play. Take Xavier -8 ½ over Georgia
The pressure is off the Dawgs, as they have made a remarkable run to save Coach Felton’s job by winning four straight games. That did come in their home state, but that will not be the case on Thursday, as the Verizon Center will be their last game of the year. Xavier is a solid team and do not be put off by their two losses to St. Joes, as the Hawks are a conference team that plays them regularly. Getting out of conference will do this team good and they have great balance to blowout Georgia. When handicapping the entire body of work, there is only one side to consider and that lies with the No. 3 seed.
4 Unit Play. Take Kent State -2 over UNLV
The Rebels are not the same squad from last year’s sweet 16 run and have not had much success when playing away from the Thomas & Mack Center. Vegas has lost three of their last four road games and will get all that they want from the Golden Flashes on Thursday. State has four players averaging in double figures led by Al Fisher and this squad dominated the MAC, winning both the regular season and tournament title. This squad is no fluke and will advance on to the second round against a team that struggle to make shots from the outside.
5 Unit Play.Take Temple +7 ½ over Michigan State
The Owls continue to fly well under the radar despite being one of the hottest squads in the A-10 when the conference tournament last week in Atlantic City. They have won seven straight games and this is not your typical John Chaney squad, as they have good players led by Dionte Christmas. He will be the best player on the floor averaging over 20 points per game. Michigan State like much of the big ten has trouble scoring points and do not have many explosive players on the floor. They have trouble winning close games and thus I would not be surprised if they lost this game straight-up.
4 Unit Play.Take Pittsburgh -8 ½ over Oral Roberts
The Panthers are playing some of the best basketball around and are coming off a dominating performance against Georgetown on Saturday night. They are now healthy and should be able to reach the sweet 16. They have won seven out of their last eight games and have great balance with four players averaging double figures. The Golden Eagles play in one of the weakest conferences around and had their conference tournament held in their home state. They will get blown out by double-digits, as we collect big in the process.
4 Unit Play.Take Notre Dame -6 ½ over George Mason
Many experts believe that this squad is similar to the George Mason team that made a run to the final four two years ago, but that is certainly not the case. The Patriots went just 12-6 in a mediocre CAA Conference this season and were fortunate that they did not have to play VCU in the conference tournament. This Irish have the best player in the Big East Conference in Luke Harangody and he is averaging over a double-double on the season. The Irish had a better conference record then the Patriots and that came from playing in the Big East, a conference that sent eight teams to the tournament this season. Cinderella dies here as the Irish advance.
4 Unit Play.Take BYU +1 ½ over Texas A & M
The Aggies went through a coaching change and lost much of their talent from last season. This team went just 8-8 in the Big XII and had some very questionable losses to teams like Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Nebraska. The Cougars dominated the Mountain West going 14-2 and just suffered a finals loss to UNLV on their home floor. The squad does not really have a bad loss on the season and should be able to make short work of an overrated Aggies squad.
1 Unit Play. Take North Carolina (+400) to win 2008 NCAA Championship. Carolina is a favorable schedule to reach the Final Four in San Antonio and this is the year that Roy Williams will cut down the nets for a second time in his career. They have the depth, experience, balance, and coaching to get it done in 2008!
Re: Thursday Service Plays
STRIKE POINT SPORTS
3-Unit Play.Take Temple +7.5 over Michigan State
More recently we have seen the Spartans rely way too much on Drew Neitzel, and if he isn't scoring, they are in trouble. And the way Temple can get after it on defense, the Owls have what it takes to advance. Temple has a duo of big time scorers in Dionte Christmas and Mark Tyndale, and they can bring fits all game long to the Spartan defense. This game will be a halfcourt game, and as much as Michigan State likes to control tempo, I think it favors the Owls even more. The number will be good here, and don't be suprised if Temple takes it as the No. 12 seed.
3-Unit Play. Take Baylor +3 over Purdue
The Boilermakers' tough defense might look good when they face bad Big Ten offenses, but Purdue will run into trouble against a high tempo Bears offense. Baylor has stellar guard play, and they'll trump over the young freshman from Purdue in this one. Curtiss Jerrells is a stud, while others like LaDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter add depth and a good range of scorers from three point range. Here's an upset, as the No. 11 seed moves forward to the second round.
2-Unit Play.Take Kent State -2 over UNLV
Here's a match-up where the Golden Flashes' athletic starting five can really get after a UNLV team that relies way too much on the three point shot. This Rebels team has overachieved, with a majority of their starters from last year's Sweet 16 team gone. Kent State has a super point guard in Al Fisher and a trio of big time athletes in Hamin Quaintance, Michael Scott and Chris Singletary. The Flashes have covered eight of their last ten games coming into the NCAA Tournament, and they'll score the win in this 8/9 match-up.
2-Unit Play.Take Oral Roberts +8.5 over Pittsburgh
This game in my eyes has a lot of comparison to last year's first round match-up between Oregon and Miami (OH). The Ducks came into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country after blowing through the Pac-10 tourney, however the Redhawks kept it close all game long and had a chance to win. That's exactly what Pitt just did in the Big East tournament, however ORU plays a very steady and strong halfcourt style like Miami did, and that can be beneficial to the Golden Eagles. Oral Roberts has the offensive balance I look for, with shooters Moses Ehambe and Robert Jarvis on the outside, as well as a solid frontcourt with Robert King and Marcus Lewis. Five players average at least nine points for Oral Roberts, and while the majority is jumping on the Pittsburgh bandwagon, the Summit league champ will surprise everyone with a big time effort and keep it the score a one or two possession game either way.
3-Unit Play.Take Arizona +2 over West Virginia
Fully healthy, this Wildcats team is very dangerous. Now having Nick Wise back, Arizona boasts one of the best backcourt trios in the tourney, along with Chase Budinger and Jerryd Bayless. You throw sophomore center Jordan Hill into the mix and this team can find itself in the second weekend of the Big Dance. And I think the West Virginia team we saw against Georgetown in the Big East tourney was more like them, rather than against UConn. I like the combination of shooters and slashers that 'Zona has on the wing. That will be the difference here, as the killer B's in Bayless and Budinger will be too much.
Re: Thursday Service Plays
Big Dance Trifecta
Xavier is a legitimate Top 10 team, vastly undervalued by both the betting marketplace and the general public. They’ve proven their mettle against major conference schools, beating Indiana by 15, Kansas State by 26 and Virginia by 38. While the Atlantic-10 is not comparable to a major conference at the bottom, there were seven 20 win teams at the top – the Musketeers most assuredly have been tested repeatedly throughout the course of their season, and they passed the vast majority of those tests.
Yet, even with a #3 seed and a current ranking of 12th in the nation, Xavier continues to search for respect. Senior guard Stanley Burrell, the A-10 defensive player of the year, prior to Xavier’s first round game in the A-10 tournament last week: “We went 14-2, top 10 in the nation… I'm sick of people overlooking us. I'm sick of us being labeled as a mid-major; we don't get no respect, man.” This is an outstanding team with a chip on their shoulder, exactly the type of squad worthy of support in Round 1 against a major conference foe.
Georgia got incredibly hot in the SEC tournament, winning four games in four days against a relatively weak field. Do not expect that momentum to carry over to Thursday’s early start game. The Bulldogs are a #14 seed for a reason, finishing 4-12 in that watered down SEC during the regular season, winning just twice on the road (at Hawaii and at Auburn, a pair of sub .500 clubs). The Musketeers are the better offensive team, the better defensive team, the better free throw shooting team, the better rebounding team, the deeper team – you name the stat, and Xavier is the better team. Expect a blowout.
Of all the teams seeded fourth or higher, USC has the most upside. In fact, a quick check of the future board at any Las Vegas sportsbook will show you the respect afforded to the Trojans, as their price to win it all is far lower than ANY comparably seeded squad. If you’re looking for a Final Four sleeper, look no further than Tim Floyd’s Trojans.
USC has consistently stepped up their level of play for ‘big games’. They beat UCLA at Pauley Pavilion earlier in the year, and took the Bruins right to the wire in the PAC-10 tournament. They took Kansas right to the wire as well, in a four point loss. They took Memphis to overtime, holding the Tigers to their second lowest point total of the season despite the extra five minutes of play. This is, quite simply, an outstanding defensive team, and the Taj Gibson/Michael Beasley matchup is one that USC should win. Tim Floyd’s defensive coaching prowess cannot be underestimated.
Other than Beasley and Bill Walker, Kansas State really doesn’t have much else. The Wildcats went 3-7 on the highway this year, and got bounced out of the first round of the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City. Narrow that down to games against NCAA tournament teams and the Wildcats were a woeful 1-6 SU and ATS away from home. They have weaker offensive, defensive and rebounding numbers compared to USC, and rookie head coach Frank Martin is unlikely to devise a gameplan to negate those Trojan edges. There truly is a class difference between these two teams that is not accurately reflected in this pointspread.
In each of the last two years, Washington State has absolutely dominated their non-conference opposition. The Cougars reeled off 14 consecutive victories to start off this season, 9-4 ATS during that run. That included SU and ATS road victories at NCAA tournament bound teams Gonzaga, Baylor and Boise State, not to mention a 15 point win at USC on the opening weekend of PAC-10 play. Last year, the Cougars went 11-1 in early season non-conference action, and started the season by covering ten of their first fifteen lined games.
Tony Bennett’s team runs an extraordinarily difficult offensive system to defend, particularly for opponents who haven’t seen it before. That’s why their SU and ATS results tend to deteriorate down the stretch of the PAC-10 campaign – the other PAC-10 schools have seen it before, and they can prepare for it much better the second time around. A team like Winthrop has no such advantage.
Washington State beat Oral Roberts by 16 in their opening round game last year (laying a similar price to what they are laying this year) before losing in OT to hot shooting Vanderbilt in Round 2. There’s little reason to think that the Cougars won’t have similar success early on in this year’s Big Dance. The Big South did not have a good year as a conference, and Winthrop lost their top three players and their head coach from the team that upset Notre Dame in the first round in 2007. We saw the Eagles lose by 17 at NCAA tournament bound West Virginia, lose by 13 in a non-competitive effort at home on Bracket Buster weekend to NCAA tournament bound Davidson and lose by 8 to Baylor in the Paradise Jam tournament back in November. Mount St Mary’s, the #16 seed in the play-in game, beat Winthrop! Expect Washington State to have little trouble pulling away from this squad, particularly considering the Eagles inability to hit free throws (under 60% for the season).