FRIDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
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Arizona at Utah
Many argued this week that Arizona's resume does not deserve a Big Dance Invite. That may be true. But now that they're here, the only thing that matters is the task at hand. Arizona is a bad matchup for the Utah Utes. First of all, for Utah to win against decent competition, they have to hit from the perimeter. While they ranked 45th in the nation from behind the arc, overall, the Utes were nothing special in this category in games played away from home, hitting 33.8%, which would have them ranked 176th. This is troublesome for Utah because I do believe 7'2 senior center Luke Nevill is in for a battle tonight. Nevill takes up a lot of space and he is a decent talent, but he is not the quickest or most athletic big man. The problem is, he'll have to matchup with Arizona forward Jordan Hill. At 6'10, Hill is at least in Nevill's neighborhood. But Hill is much quicker and can harrass Nevill on both ends of the court with his quickness advantage. Hill and fellow forward Chase Budinger will both be playing for pay next season. But that's not the whole story. The Wildcats are led by a highly underrated PG in junior Nic Wise. He's outstanding on the perimeter and he's a tenacious defender who can give the Utah ball-handlers fits. And instead of saying the U of A doesn't belong, let's take a look at some of the teams they have BEATEN this season. The list includes: UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State, Houston, Kansas, and Gonzaga, all of which are playing in the postseason. The 'Cats will not be intimidated one bit in this one and I believe they're set to deliver a public shocker. The Wildcats are my opening round SHOCKER GOM.
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Ai Simulator 10* graded play on Buffalo as they host Philadelphia slated to start at 7:35 EST. Supporting this graded play is a system that has gone 125-88 making 35.4 units since 1996. Play on any team against the money line off a road loss against a division rival and with the game taking place on Friday nights. Buffalo is in a solid role noting they are 91-68 against the money line (+27.3 Units) against explosive offensive teams scoring 3+ goals/game in the 2nd half of the season since 1996. Philadelphia in a miserable role noting they are 106-111 against the money line (-52.1 Units) after 2 or more consecutive unders since 1996. Buffalo HC Lindy Ruff is a solid 139-100 against the money line (+40.0 Units) against good offensive teams - scoring 2.85+ goals/game in the 2nd half of the season. Most dominant is the fact that the AiS shows a 90% probability that Buffalo will get 32 to 36 shots on goal. Note that Philadelphia is 21-47 losing 28.6 units over the past 3 seasons when they allow their opponents to get 32 to 36 SOG. Philly is fading a bit having lost 3 of the last 4 and the most recent hated divisional rival Rangers by a 4-1 blowout. Take Buffalo.
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20* 1st Round Total GOY (12-5 or 70.6% run s/Mar 3)
My 20* 1st Round NCAA Total of the Year is on USC/BC Over at 7:20 ET. USC went into a "free-fall" this past February, losing SIX of seven games. That left Tim Floyd's team with just ONE path to the "Big Dance" and that was to win the Pac 10 tourney. That's EXACTLY what the Trojans did this past weekend in LA. The Trojans easily dispatched of Cal 79-65 on Thursday, upset UCLA 65-55 on Friday (had lost both regular season meetings to the Bruins) and then overcame a 15-point halftime deficit by outscoring ASU 42-24 in the second half of Saturday's championship game, for a 66-63 win. The 10th-seed Trojans (21-12) get a first round matchup with No. 7 seed Boston College, which went 22-11 this year, highlighted by notable upsets of then-No.1 North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Jan 4 (Eagles won 85-78 as three-TD underdogs!) and 80-74 at home over Duke on Feb 15. BC almost upset Duke a for a second time this year but fell 66-65 last Friday night in the ACC quarterfinals, after leading 29-22 at the half. Who knows how good USC may have been this year if OJ Mayo (20.7-4.5-3.3) had stayed and if fellow freshman Jefferson (12.1-6.3), who wasn't drafted, hadn't hired an agent which prevented his return? As is, the Trojans are not a deep team but their seven-man rotation is quite impressive. Lewis (14.1-3.2) and Hackett (12.5-5-4.2-4.7) are both 6-5 and form an outstanding guard duo. The 6-9 Gibson (14.3-9.4) has had his best season as a Trojan, while a pair of 6-7 freshman, DeRozan (13.6-5.7) and Washington (6.1-4.1) have had their moments. DeRozan 'EXPLODED' during the Pac 10 tourney, averaging 21.0 PPG and 9.0 RPG. Johnson (3.6) was playing regularly in the backcourt in the early going but Floyd's insertion of Simmons (2.0) into the staring lineup towards the end of the year, was credited with stabilizing the team, as Simmons' perimeter 'D' is outstanding. BC is generally a young team, although guard Rice (17.1-3.9-5.4) leads the way and has had a superb senior year. The rest of the starting lineup has great size, as 6-5 swingman Sanders (12.8-4.8) is joined by the 6-8 Trapani (13.5-6.6), the 6-6 Raji (9.8-6.1) and the 6-10 Southern (6.1-5.1). Joining the mix are freshman guard Jackson (7.1-3.2), the 6-7 Roche (3.6) and guard Paris (3.5), who came out of nowhere to score 15 points in last Friday's one-point loss to Duke. Both teams defend the perimeter pretty well, as BC allows opponents to make just 32.7 percent of its threes, with USC is allowing 33.7 percent. I was all set to make a big play on BC is this game (catching USC off its upset win of the Pac 10 tourney) but I believe the better play is to take the 'over.' Matchups often dictate how teams will play and while USC is said to have a tough 'D,' I see plenty of flaws, as this team is often caught "out of position." As for BC, I believe the Eagles will have more than a little trouble handling Gibson and DeRozan inside plus Lewis and Hackett's size could also be an issue on the perimeter. Note that in BC's two biggest wins this year, at North Carolina and home to Duke, the point totals in those games finished at 163 and 154 respectively. That's an average of 158.5 PPG, which is more than three TDs higher than the opening total on this game. 1st Round Total of the Year 20* USC/Bos Coll Over.
Las Vegas Insider-CBB (38-25 or 60.3% CBB run s/Mar 3)-Night
My Las Vegas Insider is on Arizona at 7:10 ET. This is the 49th meeting between Arizona and Utah but the first since 2005. Arizona HAD to be one of the last teams into the tournament, as the Wildcats somehow are 'dancing' for the 25th consecutive year. However, the team's at-large bid left a handful of other schools claiming they were more deserving. It's an easy argument to make. The Wildcats were just 9-9 in the Pac 10's regular season and the school's 68-56 loss to ASU in the Pac 10 tourney (Wildcats lost all three games with the Sun Devils TY) dropped Arizona to 19-13 overall, with FIVE losses in its last six games. However, the committee will point to non-conference wins over Gonzaga and Kansas plus Pac 10 wins over UCLA, USC and Washington to make its case. In the end, the Wildcats are 'in,' so where do we go from here? Utah was part of a three-way first-place tie in the MWC (with BYU and New Mexico) but it was the Utes who won the postseason tourney, edging SDSU 52-50 in the title game. The 7-2 Nevill (16.9-9.1) starts with the 6-10 Tiillie (3.1-4.5) up front but Tillie gives way early to the 6-8 Green (10.4.9). The backcourt is deep, with starters Borha (11.7-3.3), Brown (9.4-5.2-3.2) and Drca (7.8-3.5 APG). Kepkay (10.1) gets plenty of minutes off the bench. Utah is a solid club but the Wildcats own the three best players in this game. The 6-10 Hill (18.5-11.0) is an NBA-talent (Nevill really isn't), the 6-7 Budinger (17.9-6.3-3.4) is capping a terrific four-year career, plus junior PG Wise (15.1-2.4-4.6) is BY FAR, the best backcourt performer in this game! The 6-6 Horne (6.8-5.2) and freshman guard Fogg (6.2) round out the starting-five, while Johnson (6.2) is the only reserve of much note. I don't foresee the Wildcats going too far in this tourney but I do see them winning here and justifying their selection. Las Vegas Insider on Arizona.
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MAIN EVENT - TOP 1st Rd Dog (50-33 CBB RUN)
I'm taking the points with SIENA. As you know, the Buckeyes come from the much bigger conference. In fact, many casual fans would assume this to be a real David vs. Goliath type of matchup. However, Siena is no ordinary MAAC school and there was nothing ordinary about the Saints' non-conference schedule. In addition to dominating the MAAC, the Saints faced the likes of Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, St. Joseph's, Northern Iowa, Wichita State and Kansas. In other words, they've seen plenty of this level of competition and will NOT be intimidated by what the Buckeyes bring to the table. You may recall that the Saints upset Vanderbilt in the first round of last year's tournament. This is essentially the same team, only now they've got another year's worth of growing up and experience under their belts. The Buckeyes do have a couple of advantages. They're bigger and they're also playing this game fairly close (at Dayton, Ohio) to home. However, unlike the Saints, they're also still relatively inexperienced. Their most experienced player, David Lighty, went down with an injury earlier in the year. Evan Turner has proven to be a bigtime player for the Buckeyes. However, Siena's senior guard Kenny Hasbrouck, the MAAC player of the year, is no slouch either. In addition to having the more experienced team, with four players averaging double figures (the Buckeyes have 3) the Saints have more scoring weapons in their starting lineup. The Saints averaged 77.7 points on the season, including 79.4 in their final five games. While the Buckeyes were admittedly facing much tougher defenses, they averaged just 66.7 points, including only 63.4 in their final five. The Saints are 13-7 ATS the last 20 times that they were listed as underdogs. That includes a 3-1 ATS mark since December. I expect their experience to prove to be a big advantage and believe that they've got what it takes to score another upset. *Main Event