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Saturday Service Plays
Re: Saturday Service Plays
20 Dime: LOUISVILLE (plus the points vs. North Carolina)
10 Dime: UCLA-Xavier UNDER the total
5 Dime: BULLS (minus the points vs. Bucks)
I’m not big into regrets in this business – there’s just no use for that kind of wasted emotional energy. But I have to say, I do have one regret to this point in the NCAA Tournament: not using Louisville as my Best Bet on Thursday (I used the Cardinals as a free play instead). After what Louisville did in its first two Tournament game – destructions of both Boise State and Oklahoma, which was preceded by a sensational run at the end of the regular season – I should’ve been all over Rick Pitino’s boys against Tennessee. And of course the Cardinals buried a third straight opponent, this one a very talented, 31-win Volunteers team that had lost four games all season and was ranked No. 1 in the nation about a month ago.
Well, tonight, I rectify that error, as there is no doubt in my mind that Louisville is the real deal. There’s also no doubt in my mind that Louisville is winning this game outright against North Carolina. You read that correctly – I like the Cardinals to beat the Tar Heels straight-up, although we WILL take the points just to be safe.
Let’s go over Louisville’s resume: Since starting out 5-3, the Cardinals have won 22 of their last 27 games, and they come into this one having cashed at a 17-4-1 ATS clip in the last 22 contests, going 3-0-1 as an underdog. Among the victims for Louisville: Georgetown, Notre Dame, Villanova, Pitt, Marquette (twice), West Virginia and Kentucky, all NCAA Tournament teams. What’s almost as impressive is the fact that the Cardinals have lost just three games since mid January – a two-point loss at UConn, a three-point loss at Georgetown and a seven-point overtime loss at Pitt in the Big East tournament. That’s it!
In its first three Tournament wins, Louisville has been consistent on both ends of the floor, scoring 79, 78 and 79 points against Boise State, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Additionally, the Cardinals held those three foes to an average of 56.3 points per game on 40.1 percent shooting. And if you go back to the regular season, the Cardinals have held five of their last six opponents (including Georgetown and Villanova) to 61 points or less. (Only exception was the overtime game vs. Pitt.)
What about North Carolina, you ask? Haven’t the Tar Heels dismantled all three of their Tournament opponents, including Washington State – a team I backed with my Best Bet on Thursday? Indeed they have. But I’m the first to admit that I underestimated Washington State’s offensive deficiencies – the Cougars ended with just 18 field goals and shot a woeful 31.6 percent from the field. But Wazu’s defense DID step up like I thought it would, holding Carolina to 43.1 percent, including 5-for-15 from three-point range. The point: Louisville is just as good as Washington State defensively, but far superior offensively, as the Cardinals are shooting a whopping 55.8 percent from the field in the tourney.
Bottom line: Last year, North Carolina got to this point in the Tournament after three-straight double-digit blowouts and looked like a sure-fire lock for the Final Four … then the Heels faced Georgetown of the Big East and the Hoyas pulled out a 96-84 overtime win as just a 3½-point underdog. Tonight, we’re getting nearly double those points with a Louisville squad that I think is playing better right now than last year’s Georgetown team.
The Cardinals, who have cashed in four straight games against the ACC, five straight non-conference games and four of their last five Tournament games, shock the world tonight. Play Louisville plus the points.
UCLA-Xavier UNDER the total
Forget about UCLA’s defensive implosion in the second half of Thursday’s game against Western Kentucky, when the Bruins yielded 58 points in a half that featured a total of 105 points. UCLA was up by 21 points at the break and just took its foot off the gas – something you KNOW pissed off coach Ben Howland, so that ain’t happening tonight. Besides, if you take away those 58 second-half points, UCLA has given up a total – TOTAL – of 98 points in the other five “halves” of basketball. And if you go back to Jan. 26, you’ll see that the Bruins’ sensational defense has allowed an average of 59.2 ppg over an 18-game stretch, with eight of those opponents scoring 62 or fewer. So in other words, good luck to Xavier scoring the ball tonight. Heck, just look at how the Musketeers were held down against the last four defensive-oriented teams they faced: They scored 53 and 66 in two losses to St. Joe’s, 57 at Dayton and 66 at home against George Washington. And earlier in the year, they managed just 55 points at Arizona State.
Meanwhile, Xavier’s defense has been very stout of late. Prior to giving up 78 points in a foul-filled second-round game against Purdue and 75 in Thursday’s overtime win against West Virginia, the Musketeers had gone through an 15-game stretch in which it gave up 61.4 ppg, with nine of those 15 foes scoring 62 or fewer. Tonight, Xavier faces a Bruins team that can score when pushed (like offensive-minded Western Kentucky the other night), but tends to have trouble putting the ball in the hoop in games that are slowed down. Just look at last Saturday’s final against Texas A&M: UCLA won 51-49, but made just 19 of 44 field goals.
Finally, if history tells us anything, it’s that this is the round that UCLA’s plays at a snail’s pace. Last year, the Bruins beat Pitt 68-55 in the Elite Eight, a year after edging Memphis 50-45, with both games staying under the total. In fact, the under is 6-1 in the Bruins’ last seven Tournament games and 16-5 in the last 21 in this event, including 10-2 “under” when UCLA is favored.
In the end, I don’t think UCLA will allow Xavier to play at a fast pace, and to be honest, I don’t think Xavier wants to anyway. The Musketeers know they don’t have the athletes to run with the Bruins, and that the way to hang in this contest is to limit possessions, bang the ball down low and try to get UCLA into foul trouble. This one gets played in the 50s, folks. Play it UNDER the total.
Both the Bulls and Bucks are coming off Friday night losses and come into this one after traveling overnight, so the back-to-back part of the equation is a wash. What we’re left with is this: You’ve got a dead team (Milwaukee) playing on the road where it has sucked all year (6-29 SU, 12-22 ATS) against an opponent (Chicago) that still has a playoff pulse and is back at home where it is 7-4 SU and ATS in its last 11, with the winner covering the spread in each of those 11 contests. Also, there’s a very strong trend that favors the Bulls in this one: They’re 0-2 in their last two contests, but they haven’t lost three straight games since the day after Christmas (a stretch of 46 contests).
Finally, take a look at what the Bucks, who got DRILLED at home by Orlando last night, have done in their last seven road games: 115-96 loss at Atlanta, 78-73 loss at god-awful Miami (as a nine-point favorite, no less), 105-97 loss at Washington, 128-106 loss at Indiana, 120-106 loss at New Jersey, 127-100 loss at Detroit, 107-96 loss at Dallas. Oh, and since barely covering in the Dallas game, they’re 0-6 ATS on the highway. Throw in the fact that the Bucks are 3-15 ATS this year as an underdog of eight points or more, and I have no trouble laying the big number with the Bulls.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
5* socker gow..............memphis
5* total..............cavs under 82.5
5* total...............nets over 24
ncaa tourny goy............ucla
under the hat.....................pistons
ncaa tourny total of year........lville over
Re: Saturday Service Plays
No Best Bets for Saturday, but I have one NBA opinion and opinions on both NCAA tourney games.
Sunday's Best Bets will be released on my Best Bets release page at .cfm?p=4 starting at 9:15 am Pacific on Sunday morning.
Saturday NBA Opinion
DENVER (-7) over Golden State
Denverâ€™s annual late-season surge is well underway, as the Nuggets have covered in 9 of their last 10 games, and the inconsistent Warriors are due for a down game after beating Portland on Thursday. Denver is now 55-26-1 ATS from game 60 on (regular season only) under coach George Karl and the Nuggets are 77-46 ATS under Karl in home games if they did not play the previous night (15-4 ATS recently). Golden State, meanwhile, is only 8- 26-1 ATS after their last 35 wins and the Nuggets apply to a very good 64-15-2 ATS general situation. The problem with this play is the inflated line, as my ratings favor Denver by just 4 Â½ points in this game. Using recent games only would result in a fair line of 6 Â½ points, but that would assume that Denverâ€™s trend of playing well later in the season has nothing to do with random variance â€“ and there is certainly a good chance that it does. If I used Denverâ€™s home games with rest against the Warriors games off a win then I could justify the higher line on this game (I would get a prediction of 7 Â½ points), but that would assume that those team trends are 100% predictive, which of course they arenâ€™t (or weâ€™d all be hitting 70% simply playing team trends). Iâ€™ll lean with Denver at -7 points or less, but I will not make the Nuggets a Best Bet since the line is simply too high.
Saturday, March 29
Louisville (+6) over North Carolina
North Carolina and Louisville have both been very impressive so far in this tournament, with both teams covering the spread in all 3 games. I expect Louisville to continue their pointspread run today as they qualify in a 20-4-2 ATS round 4 situation. Louisville struggled in their pre-conference schedule without big man David Padgett (4-6 ATS), but the Cardinals are 17-6 ATS with Padgett in the lineup, including 16-4 ATS when not favored by 14 points or more and 8-1 ATS as a favorite of less than 4 points or as an underdog â€“ so theyâ€™ve played well against other good teams. North Carolina is 23-10-1 ATS this season but a lot of their spread wins were against mediocre or bad teams (12-2 ATS as a favorite of 14 points or more) and the Tarheels are just 2-3-1 ATS as a favorite of less than 8 points this season. My ratings favor North Carolina by 5 points after awarding the Heels 2 Â½ points for playing in nearby Charlotte. As good as North Carolina has been in the tournament so far, my math model using only the 3 NCAA Tournament games for each team also favors the Tarheels by 5 points. The only thing keeping this from being a Best Bet on Louisville is the 114-75 ATS record of teams playing in their home state in the NCAA Tournament. Iâ€™ll lean with Louisville at +5 points or more. My predicted total is 153 points. Xavier (+6 Â½) over Ucla
UCLA is just 0-5 ATS the last 3 years as a favorite of more than 3 points in round 2 or higher of the NCAA Tournament (0-2 ATS this year) and the Bruins are up against a scrappy Xavier team that is 5-0-1 ATS in all NCAA tourney games under coach Sean Miller and 6-0 ATS under Miller as an underdog of 5 points or more. My ratings favor UCLA by just 5 points and teams seeded #3 or worse are 15-5-2 ATS as underdogs in round 4 against teams seeded #2 or better since 1995. Iâ€™ll consider Xavier a Strong Opinion at +6 points or more and Iâ€™ll lean with the Musketeers at +5 Â½ or +5 points. My predicted total is 130 1/2 points.