MONDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
Re: MONDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
Weekly Wipeout Winner
There is no denying that the Lakers have the league's best record (50-12) as well as its best road mark (21-8). However, LA has lost its last six games and 12 of its last 14 when visiting the Rose Garden. Kobe (18.4-5.5-4.9), Gasol (18.4-9.4) and Fisher (10.7-3.5 SAPG) have been the team's constants, as Bynum's return is still unknown and the team's fifth starter has been "up for grabs" for most of this season. That's not to say that LA doesn't have a 'boatful' of talent in reserve. Odom (10.7-7.9), a longtime starter in this league, began the year on the bench but when Bynum went down on Jan 31, became a starter. He was terrific through 13 games, averaging 16.5 PPG and an incredible 13.4 RPG but over his last three games, is averaging just 2.7 PPG and 8.0 RPG (Jackson is concerned). As for the Blazers. Oden's absence has meant little, as Pryzbilla (5.1-8.1) is averaging 9.7 PPG over the last 10 games (coinciding with Oden's latest mishap), while the Blazers have gone 7-3, including 6-0 at home. Roy (22.9-4.7-5.1) is "something special" and power forward Aldridge (17.9-7.0) will surely look forward to the challenge of going up against Gasol. Outlaw (12.4-4.2) has almost replicated his career-best numbers from last year (13.3-4.6) while rookie guard Fernandez (10.4) has been a HUGE scoring boost off the bench all season. Blake's (10.7-4.9) return to health at the point has also been important, as who would have ever thought that the best NBA player off Maryland's 2002 national championship team would turn out to be Steve Blake? LA is not the only team having trouble up in Portland this year, as the Blazers have won 11 straight home games, upping their mark to 26-5 SU and 19-12 ATS on the year (outscoing opponents on average,102.4-92.3). LA has easily won both home games this year vs Portland but let me remind you again that the Lakers have lost their last six (and 12 of 14) in Portland. Let me also remind you that those Portland teams were non-playoff teams (Blazers have missed five straight postseasons), while this year's edition is 39-23 and well on its way to the playoffs. Weekly Wipeout Winner Por Blazers (7.5*).
Niagara's leading scorer is guard Lewis (16.2-4.7), who was MVP of the 2007 MAAC tourney when the Purple Aces beat Siena for the title. Siena had beaten Niagara twice during the regular season that year but the "third time was the charm" for the Purple Aces. Siena again won both regular season meetings against Niagara last year (scoring 94 points each time) and took the MAAC regular season and tourney title, although the teams didn't meet in the conference tourney. Beside Lewis, Niagara has swingman Benn (220.127.116.11) and guard Garrison (11.0-2.8-2.6) both former Big East players (Benn from 'Nova and Garrison from U Conn). PG Nelson (8.0-4.4-5.4) does an excellent job running the team and the 6-10 Ejemonye (17.8-6.9) is by far the team's best inside player (although the 6-5 Benn does average 9.2 RPG). Siena went 16-2 in MAAC play this year to win the regular season title by two games over Niagara, led by an outstanding backcourt. The 6-6 Ubiles (14.8-5.0) will offer Benn quite a challenge, while PG Moore (8.8-3.3-6.3) and Hasbrouck (14.7-3.3-2.8) start with Jackson (8.4) coming off the bench. Joining Hasbrouck, Moore and Ubiles in the starting lineup are small forward Franklin (13.5-7.4), who like Benn is an outstanding rebounder for his size, plus the 6-9 Rossiter (9.8-7.5). Both teams are worthy of at-large consideration but both know that's a long shot. Siena is the regular season champ and has a high RPI but the Saints "will not be fooled" into thinking they are in. Siena is quite a team and has played an impressive non-conference schedule to toughen them up. The Saints lost neutral site games to Tennessee and Okla St in late November plus traveled (and lost) to Pitt and Kansas, acquitting themselves admirably both times. So where are we here? Since losing at Lawrence, Kansas 91-84 on Jan 6 (Siena fell behind 30-10 but lost by just SEVEN!), the Saints have won 15 of 17. The losses came at Rider (90-88) and late in the year (Feb 27), at Niagara (100-85). The Saints get this game in their home city of Albany (not their home court but that's HUGE edge), are playing with some recent revenge (for that Feb 27 loss) plus best of all, catch the Purple Aces off a double-OT win last night, in which FOUR of the team's starters (Benn, Garrison, Lewis and Nelson) all played at least 44 minutes, while the team's lone big man (Ejemonye), played 36. That sounds like a "perfect storm" to me! PERFECT STORM on Siena (9*).
Ark-LR won the Sun Belt's Western Division by four games with a 15-3 league mark and will take a 23-7 record into this semi-final game with South Alabama. The team suspended leading scorer, point guard Steven Moore (13.6-3.2 APG), after the team's Feb 19 loss at Western Kentucky. The Trojans have won all four games since, but I believe they are "ripe for the taking," tonight. The starting guards now are Mouzy (10.2) and Patterson (6.1-4.0-2.8), joined in the lineup by the 6-7 Edwards (12.0-5.4). 6-4 small forward Fowler (6.8-4.9) and the 6-8 Burton (3.6-2.8). The 6-7 Smith (6.8-4.9) is a solid contributor off the bench. Watch out for South Alabama! Ronnie Arrow returned to Mobile last year (had led the Jags to NCAA bids back in '89 and '91), after building up Texas A&M-CC from the ground up and taking them to the NCAA tourney in 2007 (scared Wisconsin!). His first season was a HUGE success, as the Jags went 16-2 during the regular season and despite falling in the SBC tourney, the Jags' 26 wins were enough for them to get an at-large bid (rare for the SBC). South Alabama lost leading scorer Bennett (19.7-5.8) and PG Merritt (11.5-5.5 APG) off that team and things have not gone as smoothly this year. However, the Jags have won EIGHT of their last 10 games and will be poised to avenge a Jan 22 home loss of 61-59 to the Trojans. In that game, the Jags shot just 36.3 percent from the floor, including 3-of-16 on threes. Senior guard Tiford had some late-summer legal problems but he's been "good-to-go" all season, averaging 16.4 PPG. He's joined by fellow seniors, the 6-6 Davis (12.6-7.4), the 6-7 Coleman (11.2-8.2) and the 6-8 Douglas (6.1-4.2). Two JUCOs, the 6-5 Watson (7.4-4.4) and guard Sherrer (5.1) have been nice additions, as has freshman guard Garner (5.1). Ark-LR just escaped against Denver on Sunday, winning 58-55 by outscoring the Pioneers, 32-18 in the second half. Without PG Moore, starting guards Mouzy and Patterson made a combined 4-of-15 shots (10 points) but the remaining team members connected on an amazing 19-of-27 (that won't happen again!). Let's remember, the Denver team Ark-LR beat is best known for almost NEVER winning way from home, as the Pioneers just ended a 43-game road losing streak this past Feb 21. Sou Alabama knows that no at-large bid awaits them this year and Ronnie Arrow has proven he knows how to coach in games like this. Expect a double digit win by the Jags. Bailout Mismatch on Sou Alabama (7*).