SUNDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
SUNDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
*WICHITA STATE over Evansville...MVC insiders have suddenly become bullish on WSU after positively responding to HC Marshall’s doublepractice sessions by displaying plenty of hustle and floor burns in 74-61 breakthrough victory vs. MVC preseason favorite Creighton on Jan. 17. We concur. Previously-underperforming WSU owns the athleticism and quickness to disrupt E’Ville’s motion offense, which tends to operate in sloooow-motion away from Roberts Stadium—Aces have dropped 15 of last 16 on MVC trail. And it’ll be one and done for E’Ville shooters after rededicated Shockers out-boarded Bluejays by a whopping 40-19 margin.
*WICHITA STATE 74 - Evansville 57 RATING - 11
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SLAM DUNK GAME OF THE MONTH! *14-7, 67% Run!
I'm laying the points with Syracuse. I have to give Louisville some credit up front. The Cardinals looked like a team that was far from a 5-0 Big East start when they lost at home to UNLV in December. But they have run off five straight conference wins, including a home win over national championship contender Pittsburgh. But winning again, in one of the best environments in college baskets is going to be too tough for the Cards, as far as I'm concerned. The Orange don't get their just-due on the defensive end because they score a lot of points. And it's that offense that keeps the opposition constantly on their heels and off-balance. Syracuse is averaging over 80 ppg this season, hitting a ridiculous, 50.4% from the field! They have scored 85 or more on nine occasions this season. I expect a supreme effort on the offensive end on Sunday following a 60-point season-low in an 18-point loss to Pitt last time out. They trailed by just three at halftime, but couldn't overcome a rare, but poor shooting night. In fact, they finished the game with a 41% mark. The Orange also caught Pitt in an incredibly tough situation. The Panthers had lost to Louisville in their previous game, blowing a 10-point lead in the process. This time it's the Orange who're in the strong spot. Not only are they looking to hang close to Marquette and Louisville in the Big East standings, but the Cardinals have not shot too well away from home. In fact, Rick Pitino's squad has made just 40.2% of their FGA in six road games this season. They're hitting just 25% from area code three, and even struggle at the charity stripe, where they're making just 63.4% of their shots. Now they have to face a fired-up Syracuse team that has held their 14 visitors to 38.3% from the field, and under 29% from behind the arc. The Orange backcourt has been tremendous inside the dome. They know how to draw fouls and stay away from picking up PFs on the other end. Syracuse has averaged 26 FTA per game at home while their opponents have averaged just 14! Add it up and the Orange are in a strong "play-on" situation on Sunday. This is almost a "must win" spot for Syracuse, and while I don't get involved in a lot of those, I feel extremely confident in doing so today. I'm laying the points with Syracuse on Sunday.
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Las Vegas Insider - NCAA
The 24th-ranked Gators (16-3) are the SEC's lone top-25 team but after a 10-game win streak got them back into the poll this past Monday (Florida was ranked for the first four weeks of this season), the Gators lost 70-69 Wednesday night in South Carolina. The loss was 'killer,' as Florida missed the front end of a one-and-one in the game's final seconds and the Gamecocks won it at the buzzer. Florida plays in Nashville this afternoon vs Vandy, a team which has dropped three of its last four, including a 76-63 home loss to Tennessee on Tuesday, which ended Vandy's nine-game home winning streak against conference foes. The Gators have won 13 of their last 16 series matchups against the Commodores but the teams have split the last four with each team winning on its home court last year. Florida's star is the 6-6 Calathes (17.8-5.1-6.6) but Billy Donovan's team doesn't lack for talent or depth. The backcourt starters are senior Hodge (7.7) and 5-8 freshman Walker (8.8) with another freshman, Shipman (4.2), coming off the bench. Up front it's the 6-8 Tyus (12.2-6.6), the 6-7 Werner (9.3-4.3), the 6-9 Parsons 9.0-5.5) and 6-10 freshman Kadji (5.4-2.7). Florida is scoring 78.4 PPG and shooting 49.1 percent but Vandy is holding opponents to 59.8 PPG on 37.3 percent shooting. The 6-10 Ogilvy (15.8-6.8) and guard Beal (11.9-4.1-3.1) are the key returning players from LY's 26-win team but two freshman have made a major impact this year. The 6-7 Taylor averages 12.2 PPG and 6.2 RPG and guard Tinsley averages 10.2 PPG and 2.6 APG. Those four double digit scorers combined to make just SIX of their 30 shots in Tuesday's home loss to Tennessee and I surely don't expect a "repeat performance!" Despite that 'ugly' loss to the Vols, Vandy is 9--3 at home, outscoring opponents on average, 69.8-to-58.3 PPG. This contest will be Vanderbilt's first this year vs a ranked opponent and the Commodores have won EIGHT of their last 12 vs top-25 teams. Make that NINE of their last 13!
Las Vegas Insider on Vanderbilt
Weekend Wipeout Winner - NCAA
Donnie Jones is a second-year head coach at Marshall and after going 16-14 (8-8 in C-USA) in his first season at Huntington, he's 9-9 (2-2) through the first 18 games of his second season. In comparison, UCF's head coach Kirk Speraw is in his 16th year at the Orlando-based school. His team is also 2-2 in C-USA but is a more impressive 12-6 overall. UCF will have the best player on the floor in the 6-4 Taylor, who after averaging 20.8 PPG and 4.7 RPG as a junior, is averaging 23.6 PPG and 5.3 RPG this season.He's the team's lone double digit scorer but the Knights are a fairly deep team. Seven other players are averaging between 14 and 25 MPG, with 6-7 freshman Davis (9.0-5.5) being the second-leading scorer. Also in the frontcourt is 6-9 vet Zondervan (5.7-4.3) and the 6-9 Tyler, who comes off the bench to average 6.4 PPG and 3.8 RPG. Other than Taylor, the backcourt is very young, with three freshman and a sophomore. Sosa (8.6) is the leading scorer of the bunch (although he doesn't start), joined by fellow freshman Rompza (5.3-4.8 APG) and Baez (4.3) plus sophomore Young (3.8). The Thundering Herd also have a young backcourt as freshman Pitts (11.1-4.0 APG) and Johnson (9.1) both start. Lutz (8.4) is a junior and two 6-6 swingman, Pena (4.3-2.1) and Baines (7.9-4.5) round out Marshall's perimeter game. The 6-8 Wilkerson (10.9-6.1) and the 6-6 Humphrey (9.8-4.4) are the team's two best inside players. Marshall is NOT a good road team (1-6 SU on the season) and since Dec 1 has lost all FIVE of its road games, by margins of 12, 10, 23, 11 and 19. Meanwhile, UCF moved into a brand new arena last season and after playing well at home LY, is 9-2 SU and 5-1 ATS at home this year. Since Dec 1, the Knights have won NINE of 12 games overall, losing only to Florida and Memphis (at home) plus at UAB. Taylor leads the way here to an easy win over the poor-traveling team from Huntington, which UCF beat last year at this site, 77-63. Second verse, same as the first.
Weekend Wipeout Winner on UCF
9* College Hoops 'Perfect Storm'
I've always like Seth Greenberg (particularly that hairline of his) and was happy to see his Hokies upset No. 1 Wake Forest on Wednesday (it was my free play that day). However, this is a BRUTAL spot for his team. The Hokies have three terrific players, 6-6 senior Vassallo (17.8-6.5-3.1) plus sophomores Delaney (16.9-4.4-3.9) and Allen (13.9--8.8). PG Delaney had 21 points in the upset of Wake, the "tough as nails" 6-7 Allen had 16 points and seven rebounds and the team's lone veteran, Vassallo, had 16-6-4. The other two starters, the 6-6 Thompson (5.1-3.8) and the 6-8 Davila (4.5-2.4) combined for just 10 points while the bench contributed 15 points. Behind the team's "Big Three," only Thompson averages more than five PPG. This is an obvious "let down" spot and Miami-Florida is hardly the 'right' opponent. In fact, for the Hokies, they are absolutely the 'wrong' one. The Hurricanes are very deep. McClinton (17.8-3.0-3.1) leads a backcourt which also includes Dews (8.8) and Hurdle (7.6). The frontcourt starters are the 6-8 Collins (11.7-7.8), 6-6 freshman Jones (3.7) and 6-8 senior Graham (3.4-5.8). However, the 6-9 McGowan (6.7-5.8), the 6-7 Asbury (6.2-4.7) and the 6-7 Thomas (4.4) are all pretty talented as well. The 'Canes won 23 games last season and put a real 'scare' into Texas in their second-round NCAA meeting and enter this game 14-4 on the year. However, the 'Canes have flopped in just about everyone of their "step-up" games so far. They lost to U Conn 76-63 in the Paradise Jam tourney in late November, lost at home to Ohio St (73-68) in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge in early Dec, lost at home to then-unbeaten Clemson 91-72 on Dec 21 and a week ago Saturday, lost 82-65 at North Carolina. A win here over a Va Tech team, which just beat No. 1 Wake Forest is "just what the doctor ordered." Miami is even playing with a nice "revenge motive," as the Hokies beat them 63-49 in LY's ACC tourney. I'm calling this a 'Perfect Storm' on Miami-Fla
9* Perfect Storm Play on Miami-FL
NBA TV Game of the Week
When the Spurs and Lakers get together it's no ordinary game, as the two teams have combined to win NINE of the last 10 Western Conference titles and SEVEN of 10 championships. These teams met Jan 14 in San Antonio with the Spurs winning 112-111. The Lakers overcame an 11-point 4th-quarter deficit in that game and took the lead on a Kobe three-pointer with 12 seconds left, but Roger Mson (who's made a habit of these things TY), hit the game-winner shortly after Kobe's shot. The Lakers are in much better shape this time around, as both Vujacic (6.2) and Walton (3.8) are back in the lineup and don't think that's not important. Both are key reserves and with "all hands on deck," LA's main edge over the Spurs these days is not only its youth but its quality depth (an advantage the Spurs used to have over the Lakers). Also, unlike in that meeting in San Antonio when the Lakers were off a tough 105-100 win the night before in Houston, the Lakers are well-rested (off since Thursday). The Spurs have won four straight coming in but this aging team opens a tough three-game road trip with this contest (Jazz and Suns up next) and this marks San Antonio's SIXTH game in 10 days, four of which have come on the road. The Lakers won all FIVE home games vs the Spurs last year (including the playoffs) and will show that there really is a 'class difference' between these two teams in 2009!
TV Game of the Week on LA Lakers
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30 Dime: LAKERS
10 Dime: MICHIGAN STATE
If you don’t think the Lakers want to win this game and make a big-time statement in the process, you don’t know the NBA. It was 11 days ago when Los Angeles went to San Antonio and flat-out gave a game away, losing 112-111 as a three-point underdog when a stupid shooting foul by Derek Fisher allowed the Spurs to erase a two-point deficit by converting a three-point play. You better believe that Kobe Bryant and his teammates want to avenge that loss in a huge way in this nationally televised contest – by that I mean, a two- or three-point win isn’t going to cut it for the Lakers. They want to bury the Spurs, and behind their ultra-competitive superstar and rising big man, they’re going to do it as Los Angeles is playing tremendous team basketball.
After suffering a bit of hangover two days after blowing the game in San Antonio – they lost a six-point decision at home to the Magic – the Lakers have since come back to rip off three straight blowout double-digit wins over the Cavaliers, Clippers and Wizards by a combined 48 points. In those three victories, Los Angeles made 132 field goals in 254 tries – an impressive 52% – while holding the Cavs, Clippers and Wizards to a combined 45.4%. And if you go back to the loss at San Antonio and include the loss to Orlando, the Lakers are averaging 108.8 ppg on 50.2% shooting in their last five contests.
Meanwhile, after beating L.A., the Spurs won four of their next five games. However, they were hardly impressive doing so. After getting blown out at Philadelphia 109-87, San Antonio barely got past both the Bulls (92-87) and Bobcats (86-84) on the road, and although they came home and throttled the Pacers by 17 points on Tuesday, the Spurs nearly lost to New Jersey at home Friday (94-91 win). Over that five-game stretch – all against teams that are under .500 – San Antonio averaged only 91.6 ppg, shot 41.6% overall and a woeful 31.6% from beyond the arc. Conversely, those five opponents made 42 percent of their treys.Also, San Antonio has had absolutely no success at the Staples Center recently. Including last year’s Western Conference Finals playoff series, the Spurs have lost five straight games on L.A.’s home court, going 1-3 ATS in the last four. And only once in those five games did San Antonio have to deal with Lakers big man Andrew Bynum, and that was last December – long before Bynum became a dominating force in the post. In his last two games, Bynum has combined for 65 points and 29 rebounds, and while you could question the competition (Wizards and Clippers), the fact is he did that damage while averaging just 31½ minutes on the court.
Bynum had 18 points in the Lakers’ loss at San Antonio earlier this month, but just three rebounds. After that game, you have to figure that coach Phil Jackson instructed his young pupil that he needed to be more of a force on the glass, and the 7-footer sure delivered with 15 boards against the Clippers and 14 versus Washington – his first back-to-back double-digit rebounding games since early December.Bynum’s coming of age makes the Lakers incredibly lethal, because when he’s dominating, teams can no longer double Pau Gasol down low, and that opens the court even more for Kobe (not to mention Fisher and quality bench guys Sasha Vujacic, Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza and Vlad Radmonvic, all of whom are playing great basketball).
Bottom line: The Lakers – who have scored at least 100 points in all but six of their 42 games including the last 13 in a row, and are averaging 109.3 ppg at home – have way too many weapons for the Spurs to handle. And that 112-point effort they put up at home against L.A. two weeks ago is not going to be repeated today. The Lakers are 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings in this rivalry, 8-3 ATS in their last 13 games against the stout Southwest Division and 6-3 ATS as a favorite of less than eight points. Lay the points and watch L.A. win this one by at least 15 points.
After getting blindsided in a seven-point home loss to Northwestern earlier this week, expect the Spartans to bounce back in a big way this afternoon against an Ohio State squad that’s not nearly as good as its record. Prior to losing to Northwestern – a team it beat by 11 points on the road just 17 days earlier – Michigan State had won 11 straight games, including a nine-point home win over Ohio State on Jan. 6 as well as quality victories over Illinois (home), Minnesota (road), Kansas (home) and Texas (road). They had won their first five Big Ten contests by an average of 8.6 points per contest, including three wins (2-0-1 ATS) on the road, where Michigan State averaged 75 ppg.Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are coming off a horrendous 67-49 loss at Illinois, which was their third double-digit loss in Big Ten play. Granted, all three came on the road, but all three came against the best conference foes they’ve faced to this point (Michigan State, Minnesota and Illinois). Also, Ohio State has played two conference home games, and the first was an uninspired three-point win over mediocre Iowa and the other was a blowout win over Indiana, which is far and away the Big Ten’s bottom feeder. The point: Michigan State is without question the best Big Ten team to visit Columbus so far. Not only that, but the Spartans are the best team period to play at Ohio State since West Virginia on Dec. 27. How did the Buckeyes fair against the Mountaineers that day? They got crushed 76-48 as a one-point home favorite.
West Virginia’s a solid basketball team, but it isn’t even ranked. On the other hand, Michigan State is rated the seventh in the country -- and the seventh-ranked team in the country is coming to Columbus extremely ticked off after what happened the other day against Northwestern. Is there any DOUBT that Tom Izzo will have his talented team ready to go today? Not in my mind there isn’t. After all, it’s hard to argue with this fact: The last six times the Spartans have lost a game going back to last season, they’ve come back and cashed in their very next game. They’re also 6-2 ATS in their last eight after not covering in the previous game, and they’re 5-0 SU in true road games this year and 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven away from home.Throw in the fact that the road team has covered in nine of the last 12 meetings in this rivalry, with Michigan State going 5-1 ATS in its last six trips to Ohio State, and you have to absolutely love the Spartans in this one.
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Vegas Sports Experts
10* Take Ohio State (+3) over Michigan State (NCAA Power Play)
• 16-4 SU coming off two or more consecutive UNDER the totals
• 6-0 SU after scoring 50 points or less the last game
• 8-1 SU coming off two or more road games
5* Take Louisville (+2) over Syracuse (NCAA Bonus Play)
• 8-1 ATS as a road underdog of 6 points or less the last 3 seasons
• 12-2 ATS in road games the last 2 seasons
• 5-0 ATS over the last 5 seasons
Bonus Hoops & NHL Plays are
3* Take Denver (-6.5) over Utah (NBA)