SUNDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
Re: SUNDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
25* Afternoon Annihilator
I'm laying the points with Boston on Sunday. I jumped on the defending champs shortly after they corrected their ways and have watched them tear through the league on a current seven-game win streak. I have mentioned several times on these pages that while Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce are obviously the main ingredients, it's Rajon Rondo who stirs the drink. During their 2-7 slide, Rondo couldn't get out of his own way. He truly struggled. But during their incredible run to start the season and once again over the last seven games, Rondo has been fantastic. The former Kentucky Wildcat has averaged 11.6 ppg, 9.1 apg, and just 3.3 tpg during the win streak. His solid, mistake-free play has allowed the stars on the team to concentrate solely on their own game, rather than having to pick up the slack. And for those who thought Boston's win streak was coming against a favorable stretch of opponents, take a look at their most recent win, a statement for sure in their 90-80 win at Orlando. The Celtics were simply nasty on the defensive end once again. They held the Magic to 38% shooting on their home floor. Boston also out-rebounded the Dwight Howard-led Magic, and forced Orlando into an 11-14 assist/turnover night. On Sunday afternoon, Boston plays host to a Dallas team that has been a tale of two teams this week. The Mavs were thoroughly embarrassed in a 133-99 loss to Milwaukee, then rebounded with a 112-91 blowout win at Detroit. But this will be their fourth roadie in seven days, not good for a team that's inconsistent on the defensive end. This month alone, the Mavs have held four opponents to 94 points or less. Yet two opponents have scored 128 points or more. The mental "let-ups" on the defensive end is one of the main reasons they can't get "over the hump." Playing defense every other time down the floor will not get it done against Boston. The Celtics play hard every second of every game. They're holding the opposition to 91 ppg at home, while scoring 104 ppg themselves. During the seven-game win streak, Boston has out-scored the opposition by an average of 103.4-to-88.3. In fact, six of their seven victims have scored 88 points or less! When Boston is on their game, specifically Rajon Rondo, they're as tough as it gets and they win by wide, spread-covering margins. Until I see a sign to "sell' - they're either a "play-on" team, or if the number is too high, a pass. The number is just fine on Sunday, and I'm playing ON the Boston Celtics.
Re: SUNDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
5-Unit Play. Take #822 Syracuse (-1.5) over Louisville (Noon, Sunday, Jan. 25)
2-Unit Play. Take #822 Syracuse (-125) over Louisville (Noon, Sunday, Jan. 25)
2.5-Unit Play. Take ‘Under’ 145.0 Louisville at Syracuse (Noon, Sunday, Jan. 25)
Note: This is my Big East Game of the Year. If you can't play moneylines with your book, play 7 Units on the spread. I'm just extra cautious. I see the game is now a 'Pick'. If you can get it at that game or better, don't bother with a moneyline.
It’s just Syracuse’s time today. And it’s not going to be Louisville’s. The Cardinals are undefeated in Big East play. They’ve covered five straight. They have won all of their road games in conference. They are off a 20-point rout. They are playing as well as anyone in the country. But basketball is a funny game. And on certain days good teams just don’t have it. And I am predicting that today will be one of those days.
The Cards are riding high on a six-game winning streak. But with a single bounce here or there they could be 3-3 in that stretch. Their win at ‘Nova was bizarre. They had to rally to force OT at home against Notre Dame. And some nice home cookin’ from the officials put Pitt in foul trouble and allowed Louisville to erase a double-digit deficit on its home court. But hey, they did win those games so you have to give them credit. But I say that if you look a little closer at those results you’ll see that more than a few bounces went their way in those games, and usually these things even out. Syracuse, on the other hand, has been blown out in its two games against the top of the Big East. But again, those losses weren’t nearly as bad as they look in the boxscore. A perfect example was their most recent loss at Pitt. It looks like they were blown out, losing by 18, but they actually held the lead in the second half. They were also subject to some horrendous officiating, as they didn’t even shoot a free throw in the first half (how does that happen in the Big East?) while also receiving two questionable technical fouls. But now the Orange are at home, and they will be playing in front of 30,000 screaming fans. Louisville hasn’t played anyone at this caliber on the road this year, and two of their three losses this year were outside of Freedom Hall.
This is also a very strong matchup for Syracuse. Defensively, the Orange will sink into their patented 2-3 zone and force Louisville to knock down outside shots. That’s made all the more difficult by the odd dimensions of The Dome and Louisville’s unfamiliarity playing there. And the Cards aren’t a good shooting team to begin with. As a team they are shooting just 23 percent from 3-point land in road games and in their last five games – most of which were at home or against inferior competition – they are shooting just 28 percent. If Louisville gets baited into shooting from the outside then I don’t think they can win. And even if they pound the ball inside they still have to finish among a packed in cluster of defenders. If SU goes man-to-man, then Paul Harris will go one-on-one with Terrence Williams. You stop Williams, you blow out Louisville. And Harris was locking up Sam Young – who I think is better offensively than Williams – until he picked up a BS technical at Pitt. If he does a similar job on Williams, again, it’s trouble for the Cards.
(Oh, and Louisville is coming off its best shooting game of the year – BY FAR – with a 60 percent effort at Rutgers. Yeah, that’s not going to happen again. In fact, the last time they shot 50 percent in a game was on Dec. in a similar rout over UAB. Louisville came back four days later, shot 15-for-54 and lost outright at home to UNLV as a 14-point favorite. I am looking for a similar shooting letdown.)
Offensively, Syracuse is the No. 2 scoring team in the Big East. Louisville plays sensational defense. But they don’t try to grind out the pace like a Washington State-type team that would get under SU’s skin. Louisville will press and try to pick up the pace, which is exactly what Syracuse’s guards like to do. The Orange shoot over 50 percent from the field at home and their O will be energized by the live home crowd. The key in this game is Johnny Flynn. He is coming off his worst game of the year and will face some tremendous on-ball defenders. But Flynn may be the best PG the Cards have faced this year and this comes after Rutgers’ Mike Rosario chewed them up for 21 this week. If Flynn is rattled, this bet is in trouble (unless Devo has a day). But I have faith in Flynn and think he will come to play. Besides that, if the Orange can pound the ball inside and get any one of Louisville’s big men in foul trouble – they have ZERO bench strength with bigs – that also works in our advantage in a big way.
Further, this is a revenge game. Last year the Orange went to Freedom Hall and were down by just two points with under three minutes to play. That was a heated game and there was a lot of jawing. Well, that was also a better Louisville team and they were at home, and they were facing a ‘Cuse team with just seven guys. That includes a freshman Flynn, an awkward Onuaku, and an overburdened Harris. Mix in terrible Donte Green and that Syracuse team was half of what this one is. And beyond that, it isn’t just about revenge against Louisville. Syracuse has been on a mission this year to get back to the NCAA Tournament. In order to do that they have to win games like this. They hammered Notre Dame by 21 in their last shot. They have won at Memphis and at Kansas. They have beaten good teams, and they are about to beat another one.
Louisville has never won at The Dome (0-3) and the home team has won all five meetings between these two clubs. Syracuse is 5-1 ATS after an ATS loss and 5-2 ATS against a team with a winning record. The Orange come to play in these games. They beat Marquette and Georgetown at home, and had Pitt beat before a bizarre finish last year. Two years ago they beat Connecticut and Georgetown at home. Those were weaker SU teams playing stronger opponents than this Louisville team.
So there you go. We have revenge, a live home crowd and hopefully some homer officiating, a team that is due for a loss or a non-cover, a matchup of a team that doesn’t shoot well against an excellent zone in a place that’s difficult for visitors to shoot, and a short line. This game will be around 28-25 at halftime. Not sure who will lead. But Syracuse will be inspired in the second half and will hold off the Cards, winning this one 71-63.
2.5-Unit Play. Take #843 Pittsburgh (+1) over West Virginia (4 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 25)
1-Unit Play. Take #839 Richmond (+2) over St. Louis (3 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 25)
1-Unit Play. Take #847 Northern Iowa (+1.5) over Missouri State (7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 25)
1-Unit Play. Take #831 St. Bonaventure (+14) over Dayton (2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 25)
1-Unit Play. Take #833 Toledo (+5) over Ball State (2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 25)
Well, the line has steamed for Louisville, which is not good for us. I was thinking about letting SU stand alone, but I have added some plays so if we win our GOTY we have a shot at a big day. If we lose it, we can still earn some cash today if we get lucky. That's it for today. Good luck.