Saturday Service Plays
Saturday Service Plays
The Sports Advisors
NCAA TOURNAMENT FINAL FOUR
(1) Memphis (37-1, 17-19-2 ATS) at (1) UCLA (35-3, 21-14-2 ATS)
Back in the Final Four for the third straight year but still looking for that elusive national championship, UCLA takes on Memphis, which is back on college basketball’s marquee stage for the first time in 23 years.
UCLA, which had to battle Texas A&M to the finish in the second round, then hold off a game Western Kentucky squad in the Sweet 16, pounded Xavier 76-57 last Saturday as a six-point chalk to win the West Regional. The Bruins snapped a two-game ATS skid and have now won 14 straight contests, though they’ve gone just 7-7 ATS in that span, including 3-5 ATS in their last eight starts.
Memphis hammered Michigan State 92-74 laying 5½ points in the Sweet 16, then capped a dominant weekend by drubbing Texas 85-67 Sunday as a 3½-point favorite to win the South Regional. The Tigers, who had fallen in the Elite Eight the past two seasons, have won 11 in a row since suffering their only loss of the season to Tennessee on Feb. 23. However, despite cashing in both games last weekend, they are still just 4-7 ATS during the winning streak.
This is a rematch of an Elite Eight clash in the 2006 Tournament, a game UCLA won 50-45 giving 2½ points. Earlier that season, Memphis bested UCLA 88-80 as a 6½-point home chalk in November 2005.
UCLA is 1-2 SU and ATS in its last two Final Four contests, with the winner cashing in each contest. In 2006, the Bruins beat LSU in the semifinals before dropping the title game to Florida, while last year, they lost to the Gators 76-66 as a three-point ‘dog in the semifinals. UCLA last won the national championship in 1995. Meanwhile, Memphis hasn’t reached the Final Four since 1985.
The Bruins are on negative ATS stretches of 2-4 overall – all against winning teams at neutral sites – 1-4 on Saturday and 0-5 after a pointspread victory, as they haven’t cashed in consecutive games since Feb. 17 and 21 – a stretch of 12 contests. However, they are 22-7-1 in their last 30 starts as an underdog, including 8-2 ATS in their last 10 as a pup of less than seven points. In its only previous game as an underdog this season, UCLA toppled Stanford 76-67 as a one-point pup.
The Tigers have cashed in just six of their last 18 contests overall, and they’re mired in additional ATS slumps of 1-6 following a spread-cover, 2-4 in non-conference play and 2-5 ATS against the Pac-10. On the positive side, though, Memphis has covered two straight games for the first time since January and is 5-1 ATS in its last six as a Tournament chalk of up to 6½ points.
All four No. 1 seeds reached the Final Four for the first time. Favorites went 3-1 ATS last weekend in the round of eight and are now 37-22-1 ATS for the Tournament.
The Bruins have been solid defensively through much of the Tournament, allowing just 53.3 points per game on 32.8 percent shooting, while averaging 71.3 ppg on 48.8 percent shooting on offense. In addition, they are plus-46 on the glass, outrebounding their four opponents by a 160-114 total.
Memphis is racking up 85.3 ppg in the Tournament, surpassing 77 points in all four games on 49.6 percent shooting, while allowing 69.5 ppg on 42.8 percent shooting. The Tigers have outrebounded their opponents in all four games, winning the board battle by a total of 145-114.
The over for UCLA is on a 2-0 uptick and is also 7-2 in its last nine Saturday meetings and 4-1 in its last five as an underdog. On the other hand, the under is on runs of 16-6 for UCLA in the Tournament, 6-2 for UCLA as a Tournament ‘dog and 4-2 for UCLA outside the Pac-10. For Memphis, the over is on a 5-0 tear in Tournament play (4-0 this year) and is 5-1 in non-conference action, but the under is 4-0 in its last four against the Pac-10.
ATS ADVANTAGE: MEMPHIS
(1) Kansas (35-3, 21-15 ATS) vs. (1) North Carolina (36-2, 24-11 ATS)
North Carolina continues its quest for a second national championship under coach Roy Williams when it takes on a Kansas program that Williams helped build into a national power before moving to Tobacco Road.
North Carolina played its closest game of the Tournament by far in the Elite Eight on Saturday, yet still pulled away late for another double-digit win, beating Louisville 83-73 as a 5½-point chalk to win the East Regional. The Tar Heels are on a 15-game winning streak (8-7 ATS), and they’re a perfect 4-0 ATS in the Tournament, winning by margins of 29, 31, 21 and 10 points.
Unlike Carolina, Kansas, had to battle for its life to get past upstart Davidson in the Midwest Regional final, watching a last-second 3-pointer fall harmlessly away in a 59-57 win, falling way short as a 9½-point favorite. The non-cover snapped a 4-0 ATS run by the Jayhawks, who have won 11 in a row, going 7-4 ATS in that span.
These two college superpowers haven’t met since the 2002-03 season – Williams’ last year with Kansas before taking the job at North Carolina. In that November 2002 clash, the Tar Heels rolled into Lawrence as a 13-point pup and came away with a 67-56 upset victory.
This is the Tar Heels’ second trip to the Final Four in four years. In 2005, Williams’ troops beat Michigan State in the semifinals, then edged Illinois in the championship game, cashing in both contests. The Jayhawks are in the Final Four for the first time since 2003, when they lost to Syracuse in the title game, after which Williams departed for Chapel Hill. Kansas hasn’t won it all in 20 years.
Kansas coach Bill Self is in his first Final Four, after reaching the Elite Eight five times with three different schools.
The pointspread trends are almost all positive for the Tar Heels, including 24-10 overall, 6-1 in NCAA Tournament play, 20-8 on Saturday, 22-7 against winning teams, 40-14-1 after a spread-cover, 39-19 after a SU win and 42-17-1 in non-conference play. Carolina is also 5-1 ATS in its last six against the Big 12. But the Tar Heels are a middling 4-5 ATS in their last nine as a chalk and 2-7 ATS in their last nine as a favorite of less than seven points.
The Jayhawks are on a 4-1 ATS surge at neutral venues and are on further positive pointspread runs of 5-1 catching less than seven points, 6-1 as a ‘dog of any price, 6-2 outside the Big 12, and 7-3 against winning teams. On the downside, though, Kansas is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games against ACC opponents and 2-5 ATS in its last seven after a pointspread setback. Tonight marks the first time all season that the Jayhawks have been an underdog.
North Carolina has averaged an eye-popping 93 ppg in the Tournament on stellar 56.7 percent shooting from the field, while allowing 67.8 ppg on 43.6 percent shooting. In addition, the Tar Heels have killed opponents on the boards, going plus-55 in their four Tournament tilts (149-94).
Kansas has been solid defensively in the Tournament, allowing just 57.8 ppg on 35.2 percent shooting, while scoring 72.8 on 52.4 percent shooting. On the glass, the Jayhawks are plus-33 in their four tourney contests (130-97), and they’ve finished at least plus-6 in rebounds in five straight games.
For Carolina, the over is on streaks of 8-3-1 overall, 6-2 in the Tournament, 8-3 in non-conference play, 8-2-1 as a favorite, 4-1 after a SU win and 4-1 against the Big 12. On the flip side, Kansas sports under streaks of 6-0 in the Tournament (4-0 this year), 8-2 at neutral sites, 6-2 overall and 21-8 in non-conference play, although the over is still 35-16-1 in the Jayhawks’ last 52 non-conference clashes.
ATS ADVANTAGE: NORTH CAROLINA
Orlando (47-28, 45-27-3 ATS) at Cleveland (42-34, 35-41 ATS)
Two Eastern Conference playoff teams square off in this one when the Magic visit the Quicken Loans Arena to take on the Cavaliers.
Orlando has been in a funk lately, dropping four of its last six (2-3-1 ATS), including Tuesday’s 98-97 home loss to the Hornets, pushing as one-point home ‘dogs. The Magic have had three days off since that loss, but they are just 2-2-1 ATS after having a three-day break this year.
Cleveland has also lost four of its last six (1-5 ATS), including an embarrassing 101-98 home loss to the Bulls on Thursday as 7½-point favorites. The Cavaliers were outscored 24-13 in the fourth-quarter, blowing a 17-point lead to the lowly Bulls.
The Magic are 5-2 SU (6-1 ATS) in the last seven meetings with the Cavaliers, and that includes a 104-90 win two weeks ago at home as 6½-point favorites and a 117-116 overtime win in Cleveland on Nov. 14 as a three-point pup. In fact, Stan Van Gundy’s squad has won its last two trips to Cleveland and is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 on the Cavs’ home court.
Orlando is 28-13-2 ATS in its last 43 road games. The Magic are also on ATS streaks of 4-1-1 against Central Division teams, 27-9-1 following a SU loss and 37-18-1 on Saturdays.
The Cavs have dropped two of their last three at Quicken Loans Arena (0-3 ATS), and they are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven at home against teams with a winning road mark and 1-4 ATS in their last five against the Eastern Conference.
The under is on runs for Orlando of 5-2 overall, 5-1 on the road and 4-1 against the Eastern Conference. For the Cavs, the under is on streaks of 5-1 on Saturdays, 8-2 at home, 7-3 after a non-cover and 6-1 when playing on one day of rest.
ATS ADVANTAGE: ORLANDO and UNDER
Atlanta (35-41, 35-40-1 ATS) at Philadelphia (39-37, 42-31-3 ATS)
Just 24 hours removed from a 109-104 Sixers victory in Atlanta, these two teams go at it again, only this time inside the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia built a 28-19 first-quarter lead Friday night and held on for the win in a pick-em contest. The Sixers improved to 13-4 since March 1 (12-5 ATS) and have played their way into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta had a five-game winning streak snapped last night, but the Hawks are still 9-4 SU in their last 13. However, they’re just 4-5 ATS in their last nine, though they did score a 116-99 win in Memphis on Monday as three-point favorites in their most recent outing on the highway.
Atlanta still leads the season series 2-1, getting an 88-79 road win on Dec. 3 as 3½-point ‘dogs and then scoring a 96-91 win and a push as a five-point home chalk. The Hawks are 3-1-1 ATS in the last five head-to-head meetings. Finally, the underdog has been the play in this series of late, going 4-0-1 ATS in the last five clashes.
Philly is 5-1 SU and ATS in their last six home games, with the only loss coming March 28 to the Suns, 107-93 as 3½-point ‘dogs. Maurice Cheeks’ team is on ATS runs of 23-8-1 overall, 12-4 at home and 36-15 on Saturdays.
Atlanta has stepped up its offense lately, averaging 115.6 points on 51.8 percent shooting in its last five outings, better than 17 points more than the Hawks have averaged for the season. However, the Hawks are just 5-13 ATS in their last 18 as a road ‘dog.
For the Hawks, the over is on runs of 6-0 overall, 11-4 as a road underdog, 4-1 on the second night of back-to-backs and 10-3 against teams with a winning home record. The over is also 9-2 in the Sixers’ last 11 games on no days’ rest and 5-2 in their last seven Saturday affairs. However, the under is 9-4 in Philly’s last 13 at the Wachovia Center.
ATS ADVANTAGE: PHILADELPHIA
Arizona (2-2) at Colorado (1-3)
Jeff Francis (17-9, 3.54 ERA in 2007) makes his 2008 debut when he leads the struggling Rockies against Brandon Webb (1-0, 3.00) and the Diamondbacks in the middle game of a weekend series at Coors Field.
Arizona, which got swept by Colorado in last year’s National League Championship Series, earned a little bit of payback with yesterday’s 8-1 victory to even its season record. Meanwhile, the Rockies have now dropped three straight since winning their season-opener, and they’ve been outscored 19-4 during the slide. On the bright side, Colorado is still 40-17 in its last 47 home games.
The DBacks snapped a six-game losing streak to the Rockies with yesterday’s win, but they’re still just 3-10 in the last 13 series meetings, including 2-4 in Coors Field.
Francis started against St. Louis in Monday’s season-opener and quickly fell behind 5-1, but the game was rained out after a few innings and all stats did not count. The last game the southpaw pitched in that counted was Game 1 of the World Series at Boston, and he got rocked for six runs on 10 hits in four innings, losing 13-1.
Last year, Francis was 8-5 with a 4.20 ERA in 18 starts at Coors Field. He also faced the DBacks four times, including one playoff start, and went 2-1 with a 2.29 ERA. Francis is 7-2 with a 3.54 ERA in 14 career starts against Arizona, and that ERA has dipped to 2.20 in his last six outings versus the Snakes.
Webb was sharp in Monday’s debut at Cincinnati, yielding just two runs on three hits in six innings with four walks and six strikeouts in a 4-2 victory. Arizona is 6-1 in Webb’s last seven starts on the road and 4-1 in his last five overall, with the one loss coming against Francis in Game 1 of the NLCS, as the righthander gave up four runs on seven hits in six innings in a 5-1 defeat. Throw in six regular-season starts against the Rockies, and Webb was 1-3 with a 5.80 ERA against Colorado last year (1-1 with a 5.50 ERA at Coors Field).
For his career, Webb is 8-7 with a 3.89 ERA in 21 outings against the Rockies, including 4-5 with a 4.24 ERA in 13 outings at Coors.
The under is 5-0 in Webb’s last five outings dating to last year and 3-0 in his last three starts against the Rockies. Meanwhile, the under is 4-2 in Francis’ last six overall and 6-0 in his last six versus Arizona.
The under is 11-4 in Arizona’s last 15 overall, 3-1 for the Rockies this season and 7-2 in the last nine series meetings at Coors.
ATS ADVANTAGE: UNDER
Texas (2-2) at L.A. Angels (3-2)
Two pitchers coming off tough losses clash at Angels Stadium in southern California, as Rangers veteran Kevin Millwood (0-1, 0.00) opposes Jered Weaver (0-1, 4.26).
Texas took last night’s series opener 11-6 to even its season record and end the Angels’ modest two-game winning streak. L.A. won 10 of the first 14 meetings with the Rangers last year, but Texas has now won six in a row in this series. The home team is 8-5 in the last 13 battles.
Despite last night’s loss, going back to 2005, the Angels are still on a 74-37 tear at home.
Weaver lasted 6 1/3 innings in Monday’s season-opener at Minnesota, giving up three runs on eight hits and getting tagged with the 3-2 loss. Dating to last year, the Angels are 0-3 in his last three outings after going 5-1 in his previous six.
The young righthander went 7-3 with a 4.13 ERA in 14 home starts last year. Also, he dominated the Rangers in three outings, giving up just four earned runs in 19 innings (1.89 ERA). Despite that, Texas won two of the three contests. For his career, Weaver is 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA in six career starts against the Rangers, with the Angels splitting those six games.
Millwood surrendered just two unearned runs on four hits and three walks while striking out four over six innings in Monday’s opener at Seattle. However, he was saddled with a 5-2 loss, as Texas dropped to 1-4 in Millwood’s last five efforts since mid-September and 5-16 in his last 21 road games. Speaking of the road, Millwood was a disaster on the highway last season, going 2-10 with a 5.52 ERA in 16 starts.
In seven career starts against Los Angeles, Millwood is 2-2 with a 3.59 ERA, including 1-2 with a 4.15 ERA in four outings last season
The under is 7-3 in Millwood’s last 10 starts, including 4-0 in the last four, and three of his four outings against the Angels last year stayed low. Meanwhile, the under is 5-2 in Weaver’s last seven starts and 3-1-1 in his last five against Texas.
The over is 7-1-1 in the last eight series meetings, including 5-0-1 in Angels Stadium. Conversely, the under is 6-2-1 in the Rangers’ last nine on the road and 6-3-2 in L.A.’s last 11 overall.
ATS ADVANTAGE: L.A. ANGELS and UNDER
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Atlanta Hawks at Philadelphia 76ers
Hawks take on the Sixers in a right back revenge rematch from last night's 109-104 home loss as they look to stay in contention of a playoff spot. Interestingly, Atlanta has fared well this season in games against unrested foes, going 13-5 SU and ATS. Couple that with Philadelphia's dismal 6-12-1 ATS mark at home versus .400 or greater opponents this season and we'll back the avenging Hawks here tonight.
Play on: Atlanta
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Vegas Experts Tip Of The Day
Seattle Sonics at Denver Nuugets
Every game matters for Denver, who is involved in a three-team race for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. Tonight, they get a Kings team that they've already beaten twice this season. Having been off since Tuesday certainly helps. Offense is never a problem for the Nuggets, who have scored 103 or more points in 16 straight games. That's not good news for a Sacramento team that has lost 9 of 11 on the road.
Play on: Denver
Re: Saturday Service Plays
James Patrick Sports
Wizards vs. Bulls
The Bulls shot the lights out in Cleveland on Thursday and the Wizards now have Arenas back on the court and we look for these NBA teams to put up some numbers in this game and our call for Saturday’s NBA selection is Wash-NJ OVER the TOTAL.
Mets @ Braves
Play: Mets +105
The Atlanta bullpen looks like a real trouble spot right now, and that's a potential difference maker as they host the Mets Saturday. John Maine had a great spring and I like it to carry over to his first regular season start. The Mets are the choice.
Sacramento (35-40) at Denver (46-29)
Key in game in the west for a playoff spot especially for Denver. Sac is already out of it.The Nuggets need the game and they will go all out on this one. The Nuggets have won 7 of 10.They are just .5 game ahead of the Warriors.for the last spot
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Jimmy The Moose
Game: Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens
Reason: The over is 5-0-1 in Toronto's last 6 games. Over their last 5 games the Maple Leafs have allowed an average of 4.60 GPG. The over is 4-1-1 in their last 6 games vs. Eastern Conference opponents. The over is 5-2-1 in Montreal's last 8 games vs. a team with a losing record. In their last 21 divisional games the over is 13-6-2. The over is a profitable 17-6-4 in the last 27 meetings between the clubs. Play the over.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Final Four action tonight, and the G-Man is all about the OVER in the Kansas-North Carolina contest.
Yes, this is a rather imposing total, especially considering the Jayhawks have played UNDER the total in 4 in a row, and 6 of their last 8. But, on the other side of the coin is the fact the Tar Heels have been OVER the posted price in 4 of their last 5 games, and are 8-3-1 OVER the total in their last 12 games overall.
It should also be noted that 8 of the last 11 North Carolina games played against non-conference foes have also eclipsed the posted price.
You know that North Carolina is going to try and push the pace, and the Jayhawks do have the shooters from behind the arc to make their mark in this game.
G-Man expects the points to add up in this one.
Play the OVER.
3* OVER (on a 1* to 5* basis)
Re: Saturday Service Plays
Vegas Sports Pics
Memphis Tigers - 2 over UCLA Bruins
Playing this game off one number. Memphis is 62-2 last 64 games off easily beating Texas 85-67 in the last round. (Final Four. S.A., Tx)
North Carolina Tar Heels - 3 over Kansas Jayhawks
UNC enters on a roll off beating Louisville 83-73 last round, shooting 53.4 percent, the first team to shoot better than 50 percent vs. the Cardinals this season. Tar Heels are 22-0 away from home.
N.Y.Yankees (Pettitte) - 1.5 (-110**) over Tampa Bay (Jackson)
New York is 4-3 last seven home meetings, by a combined 54-18 in the four wins. Pettitte is 13-2 life versus Tampa with a 3.53 ERA.
San Diego (Peavy) - 125* over Los Angeles Dodgers (Penny)
San Diego's 2007 NL Cy Young winner Peavy is 1-0 allowing three hits no runs over seven innings. He's 9-1 life versus the Dodgers with a 2.30 ERA.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
3* on L.A. Dodgers +123
(Listing Penny Only)
Brad Penny as an underdog in any start he makes is a great proposition. Yes, it’s against Jake Peavy of the Padres, but it won’t matter Saturday. The Padres struggle at the plate and Peavy gets little run support because of it. Brad Penny is 14-3 (+10.2 Units) against the money line in the first half of the season over the last 2 seasons. Penny is already off to a great start by pitching 6.7 scoreless inning in a 4-hitter against the Giants on opening day. His success has just carried over from spring training where Penny allowed just 2 earned runs in 19 innings of work with a brilliant 0.95 ERA. Penny takes down Peavy tonight. Bet the Dodgers on the road.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
1 Unit on San Diego Padres -129 (listing Peavy and Penny)
We'll side with Cy Young Award Winner Peavy and the Pads at home here at a decent price. The Padres are 6-0 in Peavy's last 6 home starts vs. the Dodgers and 10-1 in Peavy's last 11 starts vs. the Dodgers overall. Padres are 4-1 in the last 5 meetings when Peavy faces Penny. The Dodgers are 0-4 in Penny's last 4 road starts vs. Padres. The Padres are a sensational 13-3 in Peavy's last 16 Saturday starts. The Dodgers are 1-10 in their last 11 vs. a team with a winning record. San Diego has the edge.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
1 Unit on Kansas/UNC OVER 159
Kansas is 16-7 OVER versus very good teams that are outscoring their opponents by 8+ points/game after 15+ games over the last 2 seasons and 12-4 OVER versus good 3 point shooting teams, making 37% or more of their attempts after 15+ games over the last 2 seasons. UNC is 19-10 OVER when playing against a team with a winning record this season and 6-0 OVER versus very good defensive teams with a shooting pct. defense of <=39% after 15+ games over the last 2 seasons. The Heels are an impressive 11-4 OVER when the total is 150 to 159.5 this season and 8-1 OVER in road games after successfully covering the spread in 4 or more consecutive games over the last 3 seasons. Kansas is also 12-4 OVER after allowing 65 points or less 3 straight games over the last 2 seasons. Oddsmakers are begging for action on the under with this line, but I won’t bite. Together, these teams average 169.8 ppg on the season. Oddsmakers are expecting a high scoring game and that’s exactly what this one will be. Take the OVER.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
TEDDY COVERS ARENA FOOTBALL
New Orleans Voodoo / 4 units
San Jose won the Arena Bowl last year, and came into the 2008 season as one of the favorites to become the first repeat champion since Tampa Bay did it in 1995 and 1996. But, frankly, the Sabercats have not been playing at a championship level through the first five weeks of the season. They’ve lost both matchups against quality foes, losing to Chicago and Dallas by a combined 26 points, despite scoring a meaningless touchdown on the last play of the game against the Desperados.
Yes, even a disappointing Sabercats squad is good enough to beat teams like Arizona and Kansas City, but they struggled offensively even against weaker competition, held to just ten touchdowns on 22 meaningful drives in their victories over the Rattlers and Brigade. It’s surely worth noting that the betting marketplace has been consistently overvaluing this squad – they’ve only covered one pointspread all year long.
The Sabercats defense has given up 58+ on three separate occasions, allowing 10.7 and 9.9 yards per pass attempt against the Rush and Desperados, the only two quality offenses that they’ve faced. And it’s also surely worth noting that the Sabercats suffered three losses last year. All three losses came on the road, early in the season, including a 67-54 loss at New Orleans. San Jose has consistently peaked in the second half of the season under head coach Darren Arbet and this year looks no different so far – they certainly aren’t peaking just yet, making this a very difficult road game for the Sabercats to win.
Meanwhile, all New Orleans has been doing since their Week 1 debacle at LA is win games and cover pointspreads; four consecutive SU and ATS victories for the VooDoo. Quarterback Danny Wimprine has burst onto the scene since replacing Steve Bellasari, with an impressive 24-2 touchdown to interception ratio in his four games as the starter. The VooDoo scored eight touchdowns on nine meaningful possessions against a solid Colorado defense last week, while their own defense has only given up 16 TD’s on 32 meaningful possessions over the last three weeks. We’ll ride the hot team here in a game where a SU win should equate to a pointspread cover. Take New Orleans.
Cleveland Gladiators - Dallas Desperados OVER 101.0 / 4 units
Dallas backup QB Chris Sanders has not been particularly effective as the replacement starter for the injured Clint Dolezel, a future Hall of Famer. Yes, the Desperados are still undefeated after squeaking out a 33-31 victory against the lowly New York Dragons this past weekend. But frankly, the Desperados have succeeded despite Sanders’ presence in the lineup, not because of it. Sanders was not sharp for the third time in four weeks against the Dragons, consistently missing open receivers. In four games as the starter, Sanders has only thrown 18 touchdown passes, while throwing a whopping 58 incomplete passes, an enormous number by AFL standards.
Sanders’ inconsistent run comes to an end this week with Dolezel expected to return to action as the Desperados face Cleveland at home on Saturday, a move that immediately makes the Desperados offense a unit worth respecting enormously. Let’s not forget that this team averaged 63 points per game last year, and have the offensive weapons to approach those numbers again in 2008 now that their starting quarterback is healthy once again. Facing a Gladiators defense that has allowed 63, 57 and 63 points over their last three games, look for the Desperados to enjoy their strongest offensive game of the season on Saturday.
But Cleveland’s offense is in excellent form as well, with starting quarterback Raymond Philyaw upgraded to ‘expected to start’ on Sunday after suffering an injury to his throwing hand in the Gladiators most recent game, an ugly loss at New Orleans before their bye week. The Gladiators also have a tremendous return game, with an average starting field position at midfield in their last win, at Columbus We can expect a return to form from an offense that scored 24 touchdowns on their 30 meaningful drives through their first three games of the season, even against the Desperados solid defense. This total reflects Sanders at QB for Dallas, not Dolezel, a mistake that we expect the linesmakers to regret before this game is through. Take the Over
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THE SPORTS MEMO
MEMPHIS VS UCLA
UCLA played its best game of the tournament in its Elite Eight win over Xavier, shooting 50% from the field, staking claim on the glass and allowing only one Musketeer player to shoot over 50% from the floor. A key for the Bruins in this game is going to be avoiding the large first half deficit,something Memphis inflicted on both Michigan State and Texas. Another key is perimeter defense on the bevy of Memphis guards that are relentless off the dribble. The Bruins are now making their third straight trip to the Final Four, but those appearances have been anything but pretty offensively. Two years ago, en route to a National Title game loss to Florida, the Bruins failed to reach the 60-point mark. Last season, in their Final Four rematch vs. the Gators, the Bruins shot only 39% from the floor. And while the UCLA defense is arguably the best of the remaining four teams, the bottom line is that they are going to need to not only counter the expected offensive surges of Memphis, but find ways to score down the stretch. As for Memphis, it continues to be the Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose show, with both players combining for 43 ppg through four tournament games. On paper, UCLA does not have a player who can matchup with Douglas-Roberts, let alone Rose. Darren Collison has been a disappointment thus far and will likely have a tough time coming with strong efforts on both ends of the court. The matchup in the paint we see as a wash. UCLA’s Kevin Love will inevitably have his 20-10 night but Memphis will be able to throw multiple big bodies at him throughout the night. We need to make mention of the “hack-a-Tiger” theory, something both Texas and Mississippi State utilized. Texas was down double-digits for most of the game and felt its only chance was to start fouling with more than three minutes left in the game. The gamble didn’t pay off as UM shot 30-of-36, 83% for the game, proving good free throw shooting is nothing more than the will to concentrate and focus. In what should have been an easy ticket to cash for those who played the Under became the epitome of frustration as the clock stood at a virtual standstill the last three minutes of the game. Even with the stellar performance from the line from Memphis against UT, if UCLA is down by anything inside of 15, they’ll be fouling until the final buzzer. They say defense wins championships and while there is some truth to that theory, you can’t put enough value on being able to score in bunches. UCLA’s defense is a team-oriented, containment-style that has little trouble shutting down average offenses. Memphis not only has a superior offense, but their individual talent is one few teams have been able overcome. Take the Tigers to advance to the Finals on the backs of their stellar guard play
NC VS KANSAS
Recommendation: North Carolina
Louisville’s game plan was more than questionable especially in the first half as they decided to pick up North Carolina full court. The result wasn’t pretty with Ty Lawson being one of the quickest players in the country free throw line to free throw line. This game is virtually a mirror image of the other Final Four matchup in that UNC, like Memphis, can pour on 8-10 points before KU even knew what him them. So if the Jayhawks want to compete or even win this game, their transition defense needs to have zero flaws. Statistically,UNC’s defense wasn’t all that impressive vs. Louisville but the fact that they were in control of the game for virtually all of the 40 minutes, makes the Cardinals’ 53% field goal night meaningless. KU is a notch above Louisville on offense and will need to have a good balance of transition and half court baskets to keep the Tar Heels honest. Kansas’ defense has flat out dominated each and every opponent thus far in the tournament. Davidson shot the best of the Jayhawks’ four opponents at 39% and more importantly were held to just four points the last 5:20 of the ball game. And for all of those people who feel Kansas took Davidson lightly, we’ll be the first to point out that the Wildcats were not only worthy of being in that game, but had they won, it wouldn’t have been because Kansas overlooked them. Down the stretch, KU did exactly what they needed to do to win the game and that was to shut down Stephen Curry. Now, it took a box-and-one defense to do so, but this far into the tournament,you can’t become wrapped up in how much or little teams win by game to game. For Kansas, this will mark the first time since November of 2006 that they will be playing the role of an underdog. In that game, they defeated Florida, 82-80 in overtime. Florida obviously went on the win the National Title. An obvious key matchup in this game will be how the Jayhawks defend Tyler Hansbrough on the block. Guarding Hansbrough one-on-one isn’t the issue, it is denying him the countless garbage points he seems to always pick up by being in the right place at the right time. We saw Kansas have a tough time defending Michael Beasley (64 points in both games combined) and unlike K-State, focusing too much effort on Hansbrough will ultimately lead to one if not two of UNC’s arsenal of players to have big games. And while we give much respect to KU’s defense, keep in mind North Carolina averaged 82.6 ppg this season when shooting below 45% from the floor. Even though there is going to be an obvious knee-jerk reaction to how “ugly” Kansas played in their win against Davidson, the fact of the matter is we feel the three-point line is just. The play, however,goes to the Tar Heels who look to be one of the most potent and efficient offenses in recent tournament histoRY
UCLA vs. Memphis -1 O/U 134.5
This matchup offers two excellent defensive teams, but we still like the total to go over 134.5. My power rating numbers make the total for this game at 142, so I think there is value in playing the over based on numbers alone. Despite the great defense that both teams are capable of playing, the tempo of this game and the fact that both teams are so good offensively is what also makes this a good bet to go over. Memphis is more well known for their up-tempo game, but the Bruins will also push the pace when given the chance. The UCLA guards, Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook, are both excellent in the open court on the break, and both are tremendous finishers around the rim. Memphis also has a slew of guards and athletes that can get out and finish on the break. Both teams are also well aware of the caliber of defense that their opposition plays, so each coach knows that the need for easy buckets out on the break is key. For that reason, I do not think either coach will want to get caught in a grind-it-out half-court game. Memphis had many opponents try to slow the game down during conference play, but those were overmatched opponents, which UCLA is obviously not. The Bruins actually prefer to play fairly fast, and they are not about to change their style of play because of Memphis. Look for both teams to potentially score in the 70s as we side with the over
Calgary at Vancouver (4/5)
So far heading into this week, nothing has been decided on who will be the Northwest Division champion. Here is a quick breakdown of the contenders for the Northwest: Minnesota is five points up on Calgary but the Flames currently have two games in hand. Minnesota has two games left (one road, one home). Colorado has two out of their last three on the road against the Northwest Division. They are four points back from Minnesota with only two games left. And Vancouver has three out of their last four at home. Injuries are starting to get to the Canucks and I don’t feel they are going to be left standing in the race for the Northwest Division crown. Brendan Morrison and defensemen Lukas Rejoice and Mattias Ohlund are out for the rest of the season and it looks like the Canucks are going to miss the playoffs after winning the Northwest last season. What makes matters worse is that All-Star goaltender Roberto Luongo’s wife just delivered a baby last week and in his first game back he gave up four goals against Minnesota.Calgary plays their last four games on the road all against the Northwest, but having said that I still think they have a good opportunity to win their division because of their vastly improved 19-18 road record this year compared to last year’s dismal mark of 13-28. Look for the Flames to take advantage of a banged up Vancouver team and stay in the hunt for the Division crown
Toronto at New Jersey (4/5)
Tough travels for Toronto, who finds themselves in an unfavorable schedule spot here versus division foe New Jersey. The Raptors are playing their fifth game in seven nights, and come off a home game Friday evening following a pair of road contests. Tough travel and turnaround here taking on a Nets team that is pushing for a playoff spot and eager to turn the tables on Toronto for the two blowout losses this season. Off their Friday contest at Detroit, New Jersey has just two home games remaining in their final seven contests and they will be the more motivated team with better energy and effort.The Nets have become a much more efficient offensive team since the Devin Harris trade, as they share the ball better and have improved offensive rhythm and scoring production. The Nets have scored over 103 points in 10 of their last 12 games entering the week. Meanwhile, despite the return of Chris Bosh and T.J. Ford back into the starting lineup, Toronto has allowed two other top-tier offensive teams to score 109+ points in defeat. The Raptors have lost six-straight road games entering the week, and this game looks quite meaningless to Toronto with regards to playoff positioning. There are also some very strong late-season situational parameters that could be in play here based on these two team’s results during the week. Check back Saturday for the update, but we’ll support New Jersey here regardless as the Nets ‘shoot’ their way to a solid home victory.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
North Carolina over Kansas by 11
You’ve got four #1 seeds in the Final Four, and if it was a game of “Which Doesn’t
Belong and Why?,” then the Kansas Jayhawks would be our pick. They’re a bunch of
talented kids whose coach comes in tied for third-place with Memphis’ Calipari in the
coaching department, who want to run up and down the floor swatting at passes andputting up tough shots while posing for the camera – “Someone take my picture in mid-air, please!” With Brandon Rush, the mentality comes with brother Kareem’s genes. Sasha the Stiff Kaun as the Jayhawks’ carrier to the Final Four? Could have only happened in a match-up against Davidson’s lean front line, which wasn’t beefy enough to get in his way, not deep enough to afford to foul him hard, and whose offensive shooters are less than so-so when matched up vs. athletes of Kansas’ caliber. That analyses contains zero sour grapes, which you know following the “Take the Points!” advice regarding Davidson vs. Kansas from last week (followed with a 7-Star Davidson +9 win for Executive Club members on game-day, which came on the heels of an Executive Club game-day winner on Kansas, -11.5 vs. Villanova). Following a happy, 2-0 weekend of involvement in Kansas games (3-0 run counting Kansas, -13 vs. UNLV in the Second Round), we come to this Final Four game where Sasha the Stiff Kaun is about to pull the incredible disappearing act against Carolina’s reliable Tyler Hansbrough (23 and 10). On the whole, the Tar Heels are not a huge team. Deon Thompson (6-8, 245) and Alex Stephenson (6-9, 245) are sophomores playing just 21 and 14 minutes per game with Hansbrough’s 6-9, 250 body in there for 33 minutes per game. But the Jayhawks are no bigger. Darrell Arthur is also a soph, playing 24 minutes per game at 6-9, 225. At 6-8, 250, this is four-year senior Darnell Jackson’s first campaign with more than 20 minutes per game, and first with a double-digit scoring average (11.3). Kaun, at 6-11, 250, is a 17 minute-per-game senior with a single-digit career scoring average who saw more floor time in match-up advantages against smaller Villanova (whose 6-10, 270 Casiem Drummond conveniently was out injured) and Davidson last weekend. Around the perimeter, at 6-4 and 6-5 and 200-plus pounds, Carolina’s Ellington and Ginyard match up just fine against 6-6 Rush, 6-1 Mario Chalmers and 5-11 Sherron Collins – after all, there is only one ball on the court, and in the highestprofile game of the year against the highest-caliber opponent, this simple fact figures to hurt Kansas. Carolina point guard Ty Lawson is 5-11, 195 and Kansas point guard Russell Robinson 6-1, 200, but not the reliable scorer Lawson is. The Tar Heels also managed to win six out of seven games where Lawson was injured this season, five of them by double-digits. Kansas thinks they’ll love playing at North Carolina’s 73.8-possession pace. They think wrong, and if they want a half-court game, they’re also wrong. We thought Carolina would hate one of those and have a 68-47 Sweet 16 loss with Washington State against the Tar Heels to prove us wrong. NO CAROLINA, 83-72.
UCLA over Memphis by 1
Two weeks before the regular season ended, odds on the UCLA Bruins to win the
NCAA Tournament were 9-2. You began reading on these pages the following advice,
in no uncertain terms: “Buy your NCAA Future on the Bruins,” and the regular reminder, “Have you bought your NCAA Future on the Bruins yet?” With a 9-2 future
purchased, one ignores UCLA here (because there is a $350 return for every $100 if
they win the title) and possibly plays Memphis in this game as a hedging tool. That’s
really the way to play the Final Four – get odds on a team to win the whole thing, get
that team to the Final Four, then hedge elsewhere in an attempt to guarantee a profit
if that team doesn’t make it. If you have a future on Memphis to win it all, then you’d
pass on Memphis here and have UCLA as a possible hedge tool. The teams last met in 2005-06, two times. In November, Memphis won 88-80 at Madison Square Garen in New York. Four months later in March at the Elite 8, UCLA won 50-45 in Oakland.
"We play defense. That's what we do. We didn't let them walk over us," said long-since departed UCLA guard Cedric Bozeman afterwards. But Cedric Bozeman was long and lean, unlike any of the current group of UCLA guards who will attempt to defend against a Memphis backcourt that made Drew Neitzel and Kalin Lucas of Michigan State look like chumps, and made D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams of Texas look like a high school J.V. players. Darren Collison is 6-0, 160. Russell Westbrook is 6-3, 189. Josh Shipp is 6-5, 220, but as a spot-up jump-shooter against players with a wider array of NBA-level skills, he is not versatile enough to be a scary piece of the puzzle. With Memphis’ Chris Douglas-Roberts at 6-7, 200, Derrick Rose at 6-2, 205 and Antonio Anderson 6-6, 210, matching up against Memphis on the perimeter is hard to do Collison is quick and can penetrate – or will think he can penetrate -- but Memphis has a lot of perimeter length to get past, and too many shot alterers and influencers down low. Also, Collison comes in second to Rose in many categories, including size, agility in transition, elusiveness in the lane, ability to elevate. But it just doesn’t seem likely that UCLA will pull a Michigan State and cower at the prospect of being on the floor with Memphis, or pull a Rick Barnes and have no clue how to manage the first half in order to have a chance to stay within range. Collison will more than likely walk it up from start to finish and stay in control – unlike the poorly prepared Augustin kid.Giving Memphis as few possessions as possible will frustrate the Tigers a little bit, and Ben Howland can field some tough-as-nails interior players who have made a collegiate career of willingly doing dirty work inside. Kevin Love’s outside shot takes Memphis’ Joey Dorsey away from total dominance on the defensive glass. When the game stays close, that’s when Memphis’ 59.5% free-throw shooting – suddenly forgotten about after last weekend’s blowout wins – can come into play against them. UCLA, 70-69.
*Denver over Sacramento by 17
Idle since Tuesday, the Nuggets should be rested and primed for a huge effort against Sacramento, a team they’ve already beaten twice this season. With a playoff berth possibly at stake, the Nuggets know they can’t afford a letdown at home. The Nuggets have scored at least 103 points in 14 consecutive games through March 30. Sacramento had dropped nine of its last 10 away matchups through March 29. DENVER 123-106.
Re: Saturday Service Plays
5 STAR: (813) MEMPHIS (-2.5) over Ucla
(Risking $550 to win $500)
5 STAR: (815) KANSAS (+3.5) over North Carolina
(Risking $550 to win $500)
5 STAR: (953) HOUSTON (-$120) over Chicago
(Listing Oswalt and Marquis)
(Risking $600 to win $500)
2 STAR: (963) PITTSBURGH (+$112) over Florida
(Listing Maholm and Hendrickson)
(Risking $200 to win $224)
1 STAR: (951) SAN FRANCISCO (+$163) over Milwaukee
(Listing Correia and Parra)
(Risking $100 to win $163)
1 STAR: (967) TAMPA BAY (+$214) over NY Yankees
(Listing Jackson and Pettitte)
(Risking $100 to win $214)
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