Saturday Service Plays
Re: Saturday Service Plays
LARRY NESS 2nd Rd GOY
Duke -4.0 vs W.Virginia
Duke got beat in LY's first round by an excellent Va Commonwealth team and Thursday escaped a second straight first round loss by nipping Belmont 71-70, on a layup by Henderson with 11.9 seconds followed by a key steal by Nelson (the ACC's defensive player-of-the-year). Duke's opponent in this second round game is West Va, which beat Arizona 75-65, by making 11-of-19 three-pointers. The Mountaineers won LY's NIT title and this year, in Bob Huggins first season coaching his alma mater, enter this game with a 25-10 mark. Duke was rolling at 22-1 in late February but back-to-back losses to Wake and Miami-Florida and then to Clemson in the ACC semis (ending a 22-game winning streak over the Tigers), proved the Blue Devils could be had. However, I don't believe this is the spot to go against them. The Belmont game was a great "wakeup call" for Coach K's team. Duke is a perimeter-based team which plays excellent defense. The Blue Devils took more three-point shots than any team in the ACC (made almost 40 percent during the regular season) but against Belmont went just 6-of-21 (that's 28.6 percent). Nelson (14.8-5.9-3.0), the team's senior leader and leading scorer, was just 1-of-6 in the Belmont game, scoring just two points. Does anyone expect a repeat performance? Sophomore swingman Henderson (12.6-4.8) had 21 points including the game-winner against Belmont and was the ONLY starter to play well. Singler (13.5-5.9), a 6-8 freshman, had an excellent season and should bounce back and play well in this one. PG Paulus (11.3-3.2) seems to the player everyone loves to hate but along with Scheyer (11.6-4.0), who comes off the bench, combine with Nelson to give Duke an outstanding backcourt. The 6-8 Thomas (4.3-3.4) and the 7-1 Zoubek (4.0-3.5) have had disappointing years but could be effective here. West Va guards Ruoff (13.7) and Nichols (11.0-3.3-3.3) are solid but match up against Duke's strength. The 6-8 Alexander (16.7-6.1) and the 6-7 Butler (13.0-6.2) form an excellent forward duo but 7-0 center Smalligan (2.2-1.9) has had a terrible senior season. A quick check of the boxscore from Thursday's game shows that Alexander, Butler, Nichols and Ruoff scored 68 of West Va's 75 points. Duke may not be Final 4 material but the Blue Devils won't get beat by a four-man team. Coach K gets his 70th career NCAA win in this one and he won't have to sweat out the game's final minutes either. 2nd round NCAA GOY 20* Duke.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
1. 200,000* Pittsburgh
2. 50,000* Hornets
1. Pittsburgh- While its true the Spartans have played better of late, much prefer the surging Panthers, who've won 6 straight games (4 straight on neutral courts), going 5-1 ATS over that span! Pittsburgh has the balance on both ends of the court necessary to beat a solid, but inconsistent Michigan State team in this one and I'll prove it...
First and foremost, if you're going to match up with Michigan State, you better have the size, and that's exactly what Pitt has between forwards Sam Young, DeJuan Blair, and backup Tyrell Biggs. Young can get it done from pretty much anywhere, and will be more than a handful for Raymar Morgan. But its super freshman DeJuan Blair who's the key, because he's so much more athletic than Naymick and the other bigmen coach Izzo rotates in the frontcourt. Panthers are big, strong, and athletic, and should win the battle down-low in this match up.
While I agree Drew Neitzel can be dangerous when he's hot, its his streaky play compared to the consistent efforts of Levance Fields that's the difference in the backcourt. Neitzel can go for 28 points, and then just as easily go for 5 points the next game... And the fact he's matched up against an excellent, upperclassmen-laden group of Pitt guards only makes it that much harder. Panthers clearly have the edge in backcourt depth, as Benjamin and Ramon got plenty of experience when both Fields and Cook went down with injury, while backup G Gilbert Brown is playing great ball of late, averaging 12 ppg over his last 2!
Finally, let's talk about offensive consistency, as the edge clearly goes to Pitt, averaging 74 ppg on 45% shooting over their last 5 games. Spartans meanwhile, are dropping in just 63 ppg on 43% shooting over the same span. Herein lies the problem for Michigan State, as they're extremely prone to offensive dry spells, and that could easily spell doom against this outstanding Pitt defense (allowing 64 ppg on just 37% shooting L5 games)!
Bottom line, when we look to handicap games in March we look at four main factors: recent play, match ups, consistency, and experience. Pitt has edges in all 4 categories: They're playing excellent basketball right now, have match ups they can capitalize on, possess a more consistent offensive unit, and have the more balanced and veteran roster. In the end, the Panthers to get the solid win and cover Saturday night!
Take Pittsburgh over Michigan State as your top-rated play of the day.
2. Hornets- Granted, its tough to pick against the Celtics, but in this particular case, Boston is ripe for the pickings against a well-rested and motivated Hornets squad in this one.
While their record with limited rest is solid, the Celtics find themsleves in one of the more vulnerable situational spots in the NBA - In the last game of a road trip, playing their 6th game in 9 nights. Say what you will, but you can't tell me the Celtics won't be lacking energy in this one. Not to mention they've got Philly, Phoenix, and New Orleans (once again) at the Garden on deck, so there's plenty to look forward to.
Also, its hard to ignore the Hornets recent play at home, where they've beaten the Spurs, Lakers, Bulls and Rockets over their last 4 in New Orleans! We all know about the Hornets offense, led by star PG Chris Paul, but its their defense that makes the difference in this one, allowing 88 ppg on 41% shooting over their last 5 games! Boston has been struggling a bit on the offensive end, averaging just 94 ppg on 44% shooting (25% from 3-point) over their last 5 games, and facing this Hornets defense on the road won't make it any easier!
Finally, New Orleans is one of the few teams that match up particularly well with the Celtics. David West and Tyson Chandler make up a big and athletic Hornets frontcourt, capable of at least limiting Garnett, who's the linchpin of this Celtics team. While Chris Paul clearly has the edge over Rondo, and Ray Allen is still shaking off rust from his ankle injury. Playing on tired legs only exacerbates the Celtics issues in this one.
Bottom line, well-rested (haven't played since Wednesday), playing excellent at home, and with the ability to match up well against the Cletics... Look for the Hornets to swarm, protecting their house and grabbing the cash in this one.
Take the Hornets over the Celtics in this NBA match up.
Afternoon College Action..
1. 50,000* Wisconsin
2. 50,000* Xavier
1. Wisconsin- The party ends for Michael Beasley and company this afternoon against a superior Wisconsin team in this one. Several critcal factors strongly point to the Badgers, but let's start with the most important: Defense.
Any way you look at it (statistically, game film, etc.) the Badgers have a tremendous edge on the defense in this match up. Not only have they proven it time and again in the rugges Big Ten, but lately they've been downright nasty, allowing a minuscule 50 pgg on an incredible 34% shooting over their last 5 games!
Its not just that they can play defense, but they have the personnel to match up with the frontcourt-heavy Wildcats in this one. Obviously Beasley is awesome, and F Bill Walker gets a lot of his points thanks to the crowd gathered around his star teammate every time he touches the ball. However, thanks to their size, Wisky can simply buckle down between forwards Butch, Landry, Stiesma, and Leur among others.
It's when we start peering into the backcourt that the problems begin for Kansas State, as Wisconsin guards Hughes, Flowers and Krabbenhoft are markedly better than the Wildcats trio of Pullen (40% shooter), Stewart (34% shooter), and Young (34% shooter). Not to mention, having 3-point specialist Bohannon coming off the bench gives the Badgers tremendous depth and flexibility.
Bottom line, Beasley and Walker carried the Wildcats past a Southern California team that simply didn't match up effectively... Look for much different results this afternoon, as one thing we know for sure is the Badgers are one of the best (if not THE best) defensive team in the country. Add in the fact the Wildcats play little defense themselves, and you've got all the makings of a solid Badgers win and cover in this one.
Take Wisconsin over Kansas State in this March Mayhem Second Round match up.
2. Xavier- This is a bad match up for Purdue any way you look at it, as Xavier has the inside/outside combo necessary to crack the Boilermakers vaunted defense. Purdue has survived the season without much of a frontcourt, but we knew that would come back to bite them in the ass come tourney time, and this is the match up that does it!
Xavier's two top frontline players, Josh Duncan (12 ppg) and Derrick Brown (11 ppg) lead a well balanced Muskateers attack featuring 6 players averaging double figure scoing (G Stanley Burrell's 9.8 ppg is close enough!). The issue starts in the frontcourt, where Purdue forwards Namanja Calasan and JaJuan Johnson are both average at best, with neither shooting over 42% or grabbing more than 3 rebounds per game. Josh Duncan's size (6'9) and ability to shoot the 3-pointer (almost 42%) make him an incredibly difficult match up. While 6'8 Derrick Brown can hurt you in the paint and on the boards.
Unlike Purdue's First Round match up where their guard-heavy unit got to run up-and-down the floor with Baylor, expect this match up to be completely different, and that favors Xavier. Despite his dimunitive size, PG Drew Lavender is a master at controlling tempo without making mistakes (140 assists to just 57 turnovers), and he'll surely look to make this a more halfcourt game, where Duncan and Brown can go to work.
Finally, while its true Purdue has been a cash machine over their last 19 games, going 15-3-1 ATS, in this case, they've run into a match up that perfectly exploits their weaknesses inside. I can understand why bettors would shy away from the top A-10 team facing off against one of the better teams in the Big Ten, but don't let the conferences throw you off... Xavier dominated the A-10, and has inside presence and guard play to force Purdue to play their style of basketball.
Take Xavier over Purdue in this March Mayhem Second Round match up.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Game: Notre Dame vs. Washington St.
Prediction: Washington St. Reason: I'm laying the points with WASHINGTON STATE. These teams aren't playing for the title and the saying "defense wins championships" is somewhat over-used. That being said, I expect the better defensive team to win this interesting matchup, featuring Notre Dame's explosive offense vs. Washington State's dominant defense. While the Irish outcored opponents by an 80.2-69.6 margin this season, the Cougars outscored their opponents by a 67.2-56.5. That's a very similar margin of victory. However, if we look at the games which were played away from home, we find that the Cougars were significantly stronger. Washington State is 13-4 SU and 11-6 ATS away from home, outscoring opponents by a 66.9 to 58.9 margin. Notre Dame, on the other hand, is 8-7 SU/ATS away from home, outscoring opponents by a 75.9 to 72.5 margin. Both teams were impressive in the first round. However, in my opinion, Washington State was more dominant. After receiving a "wake-up call" in the first half, the Cougars crushed Winthrop by a 41-10 count in the second half of Thursday's game. That led to a decisive victory and gives them some major momentum coming into the second round. Today's over/under line is currently 133.5 or 134. That gives us an idea of the the expected pace/tempo of the game and it's one that should favor the Cougars. Note that the Irish are 1-6 ATS (0-7 SU!) the last seven times that they played a neutral court game with an over/under line in the 130 to 134.5 range. While Notre Dame is also 7-13 ATS the last 20 times it played a game with an over/under line in the 130s, during the same stretch, Washington State is a profitable 14-5 ATS when playing a game with an over/under line in the 130s, going a near perfect 18-1 SU. while beating up on the weaker teams in the Big East, Notre Dame struggled somewhat against the top defenses of the conference, losing vs. the likes of Louisville, Georgetown and UConn. The Irish are 15-19 SU the past three seasons against teams which allow 77 points or less per game, including an ugly 6-14 SU mark when those games came during the second half of the season. Looking at the teams that defeated the Cougars and we find that they were primarily teams like UCLA, Stanford and USC, which play strong or excellent defense. The Cougars didn't have much trouble against high-scoring teams though as they went 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS against teams which score 77 or more points per game. Looking back further and we find that they're a profitable 14-4 SU/ATS their last 18 against teams which average 77 or more points per game. Look for the Cougars to improve on those stats today, building momentum off the Winthrop game and dropping the Irish to 1-5 SU/ATS their last six against teams from the Pac-10. *2nd Round Game of the Year
Game: Michigan State vs. Pittsburgh
Prediction: Michigan State Reason: I'm taking the points with MICHIGAN STATE. These are both solid physical teams and both were impressive in the first round. The Panthers opened as the slight favorite, due to the fact that they closed out Big East play on a big run. They've also been bet up since then, which I feel gives us excellent value with the very talented underdog. Make no mistake, Michigan State is a very capable team. In addition to conference wins over the likes of Indiana and Purdue, the Spartans were a highly impressive 13-1 SU (9-2 ATS in lined games!) in non-conference play. That includes neutral or road court wins over the likes of BYU, Missouri. Bradley and Texas. In fact, the Spartans lone non-conference loss came vs. UCLA, arguably the best team in the country. Note that the Spartans led almost the entire way in that game too and were still up 63-61 with two minutes remaining. They eventually lost by five (as +5.5 underdogs) but earned a narrow pointspread win. Including that result, they're a perfect 7-0 ATS when playing on a neutral court this season. Note that Michigan State's gritty preseason All-American Drew Neitzel missed the team's morning meetings and practice, didn't eat all day and wasn't sure if he'd be able to play even minutes before the UCLA game. Neitzel played but was just 4-of-11 from the field and looking exhausted during and after the game. My point is that the Spartans very well could have won that game with a healthy Neitzel. Having also beaten Texas, I believe that the Spartans have shown, when playing their best, that they are capable of knocking off any team in the country. Coach Izzo has always been great at getting his teams to "play their best" during the tournament and I expect his squad to be fully fired up. Including Thursday's win and cover, the Spartans are 25-9 SU (21-12-1 ATS) their last 34 NCAA Tournament games. They're also 6-2 ATS the last eight times they were a neutral court underdog of three points or less, winning five of those games outright. Pittsburgh is tough but so is Michigan State. Behind a clutch performance from their senior guard (Neitzel) I expect the Spartans to score the minor upset and advance to the Sweet 16. *Best Bet
Game: Kansas vs. UNLV
Prediction: under Reason: I'm playing on Kansas and UNLV to finish UNDER the total. The Jayhawks are right there among the best teams in the country. While their offense rightfully gets a lot of credit, their defense is also really strong. In fact, they allowed an average of just 61.6 points per game on the season, including just 27.5 in the first half, holding opponents to 38.2% shooting. The Jayhawks held Portland State right to that average in the opening round, allowing 61 points. That marked the seventh time in their past 10 games that an opponent has failed to reach 65 points. The Jayhawks, who averaged 74.4 points when playing away from home (81.6 overall), will face a UNLV defense that is playing very well right now. The Rebels held Kent State to 58 points in the first round. That was fairly impressive. However, Kent State doesn't score that much to begin with. Even more impressive was the fact that held BYU to 61 points in their previous game, as the Cougars came into that game averaging 74.5 points per game. Prior to that, the Rebels limited Utah to a mere 55 points. Including those results, they've now held eight of their last nine opponents to 65 points or less and 10 of their past 15 to 61 points or less. While its pretty unlikely that they'll keep Kansas below 61, the Rebels should be able to do a better job of slowing the Jayhawks down than most teams have done recently. Note the UNLV has seen the UNDER go 6-3 this season when listed as an underdog and that the Rebels have also seen the UNDER go 10-5 the last 15 times they faced a team which averages 77 or more points per game. Depending on when and where one played the total, the Jayhawks' game against Portland State could have resulted in an 'under' and 'over' or a 'push,' as the final score landed pretty much right on the number and there was some line movement. Even counting that as an 'over,' the Jayhawks have still seen the UNDER go 26-14 their last 40 non-conference games which had a total and a highly profitable 66-46 in non-conference games over the past decade. The fact that the over/under number has been bet up a few points from its opener has provided us with solid line value and I look for the final combined score to be lower than expected. *Annihilator
Game: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Prediction: Milwaukee Bucks Reason: I'm taking the points with MILWAUKEE. The betting public will surely love Cleveland in this matchup and that already seems to be the case based on the early "consensus" numbers. After all, what's not to like. Milwaukee's been losing, while Lebron has been playing well and the Cavs have been winning. I typically see things a little "differently" though and I also see this evening's game being played out differently. The Cavs received a tough fight from the Raptors last night but eventually prevailed, winning by seven and covering by a basket. That was a big (and emotional) game. Not only did Lebron become the top scorer in franchise history but the game marked a possible first round preview (as the Raptors and Cavs could well finish 4th and 5th) and the win helped strengthen Cleveland's hold on fourth, which means they'd get homecourt advantage in the first round. That was the second straight emotional victory for the Cavs, as they had beaten their rival and division-leading Pistons two nights earlier. After those back to back huge and important victories, it may be hard to 'get up emotionally' for tonight's lesser opponent. Regardless of their 'emotional state,' its worth noting that the Cavs have gone 0-4 SU the last four times that they played the second of back to back games. That brings them 4-9 the last 13 times they played the second of back to back games. This is worse than most back to back situations though. Not only are the Cavs coming off the back to back emotional victories but they're also playing their fifth game in the past seven nights. Conversely, the Bucks haven't played since 3/18 and this will be just their third game in the past nine days. Despite a few losses here recently, the Bucks have been competitive at home all season. They're 11-4 ATS on the season when coming off three or more consecutive losses and 5-2 ATS when listed as home underdogs in the +3.5 to +6 range. They've also played the Cavs tough, winning two of three games and losing the other by just five points. Look for the Bucks to have the fresher legs tonight, as they deliver a highly moitvated effort and improve to 5-0 ATS the last five series meetings. *Contrarian GOW
Game: Boston Celtics vs. New Orleans Hornets
Prediction: New Orleans Hornets Reason: I'm playing on NEW ORLEANS. The Celtics have been playing very well. However, this is a tough spot as it represents the fifth and final stop of their difficult 5-game road trip. Yes, the Celtics had last night off. However, this is still their sixth game in the past nine nights (10th game in last 15!) and their three previous games came against the three "Texas" teams - Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. In other words, I won't be surprised if they're finally affected by some road weariness. Regardless of how they're feeling, winning at New Orleans is no easy task. Indeed, the Hornets are a perfect 8-0 SU/ATS their last eight games here with ALL eight victories coming by double-digits. Most recently, the Hornets humbled Houston by a score of 90-69. That blowout came back on 3/19, meaning they're well-rested for tonight's big game. Note that New Orleans is 9-3-1 ATS (11-2 SU) this season after holding its previous opponent to 85 points or less and 21-10-1 ATS (24-8 SU) when coming off a double-digit win. This game is arguably more important to the Hornets. While the Celtics have locked up their division and all but wrapped up the Eastern Conference, the Hornets are currently in a major battle in the southwest, as only three game seperate the top four teams in the division. This game becomes even more important when considering that the Hornets embark on a 6-game Eastern Road trip after this, which includes a rematch vs. Boston next week. Look for the Hornets to be both the hungrier and the fresher team, as they cool off the Celts and continue their excellent play on homecourt. *Personal Favorite
Re: Saturday Service Plays
GINA -SPORTS RUMBLE
New Jersey Nets (29-40) at Philadelphia 76ers (34-35)
New Jersey has dropped eight of their last 11 games and has played awful away from home. The Nets have lost eight straight road games and are 11-22 this season. The Nets did win the first two meetings of this season, but the last meeting was on December 1, at New Jersey, a 94-92 overtime win, before the 76ers resurgence. Philadelphia has won eight of their last 10 games, 16 of its last 21. Go with Philadelphia. The 76ers are 11-2 ATS in its last 13 games at home and 5-1 ATS in the last 6 versus the Nets.
NJ Nets (29-40) at Philadelphia (34-35) Philadelphia 76ers - 9
Houston (47-22) at Phoenix (46-22) Houston Rockets + 7