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THURSDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
Re: THURSDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
Clemson (-4.5 Points) vs. Michigan
Clemson has a distinct advantage at the guard position as both Michigan starters are freshmen. Clemson also boasts the best big man in this game, Trevor Booker, who averages 15.3 ppg and almost 10 rpg. That inside play of Booker’s and steadier guard play down the stretch gives Clemson a nice win tonight.
Play: Clemson (-4.5 Points)
Minnesota (+5 Points) vs. Texas
As their records indicate, these two teams are evenly matched. Clearly strong defense is what has given the Golden Gophers their success this season. They give up only 61.1 PPG . While Texas can put up points on the board, look for Minnesota head coach, Tubby Smith, a wily veteran, to devise a defense to keep Texas stars A.J. Abrams and Damion James in check tonight.
Play: Minnesota (+5 Points)
Villanova (-16 Points) vs. American
While American has a nice 24-7 record it certainly is against MUCH weaker opposition than Villanova. They have been trounced by at least 24 points by both Georgetown and Oklahoma. Villanova is a very good and experienced team that has a chance to go deep into the March Madness Tournament. Look for Scotty Reynolds and company to win this one by at least 20 points. Villanova is much better than American in every aspect of the game.
Play: Villanova (-16 Points)
Re: THURSDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
20* BYU -2.5
20* California -1.5
20* No Iowa +8.5
10* LSU -1.5
10* Washington -6
North Carolina -25
20* UCLA -7.5
20* Morgan St +16.5
10* Western Kentucky +5
10* Akron +13.5
10* Minnesota +5
Re: THURSDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
3-Unit Play. Take #710 Texas (-4) over Minnesota
You want to talk about backing into the NCAA Tournament. I honestly and truly have no idea what Minnesota is doing in this tournament. I think they are an awful team and other than one fluke win over Louisville back in mid-December this team has done absolutely nothing to justify its berth. The Gophers have lost seven of their last 11 games and 9 of their last 14. They did not beat Purdue, Michigan State, or Michigan in the Big 10 this year, and their only wins in conference after Jan. 16 were against Indiana (twice), Northwestern (twice), and Wisconsin and Illinois with both games at The Barn. Minnesota has been pathetic on the road this year and when I look at this team I just don’t see it.
Say what you will about Texas – about how they underachieved this year and about how overrated they are – but they have wins against Villanova, UCLA and at Wisconsin. They also played Michigan State much, much tighter than Minnesota did in any of its three attempts. The core of this Longhorns squad has played in six NCAA Tournament games over the last two years and Rick Barnes has won at least one game (and coached in 10) in the tourney in each of the past three seasons. This Texas team has a shot at redemption here. They have a shot to salvage a disappointing year. And that makes them dangerous. Texas’s weakness is it’s point guard situation. But the Gophers don’t have the guards to really exploit Texas’ shaky backcourt. A.J. Abrams is easily the best player on the floor and I just think that Texas’ big men are simply better than Minnesota’s inexperienced group. Texas has four double-digit scorers to Minnesota’s one and we’ve seen the Tubby Smith NCAA Flameout before (that is why he got bounced from Kentucky).
2.5-Unit Play. Take #734 Washington (-6) over Mississippi State
This play falls into the exact same systems that I used last year to score a nice top play winner with Xavier in the first round of last year’s tournament. The crux of the system is on two things: 1) a top seeded team that was upset in its conference tournament, and 2) an underdog that just made a run and won its conference tournament. Last year it was Xavier, which got bounced early out of the A-10 tournament, meeting the SEC Cinderella Georgia. This year we have a Huskies team that has played very strong basketball most of the year going up against another SEC underdog.
No. 4 seeds that are off a straight-up loss are 26-10 ATS in their first round game. If they are off a loss and a favorite of 9.0 or less they are a solid 16-3 ATS. Further, underdogs that are getting 3.0 or more points that are coming off a win as an underdog of 6.0 or more are a terrible 21-42 ATS in their first round game. Now, the line on the Miss. State game against Tennessee closed at 5.5. But I think that the reasoning is sound and that it fits this system.
Next, Washington has not been a great road team over the last few years. But they are playing in nearby Portland, which is a long way from SEC country for Mississippi State. I think that the Huskies are underrated and coming from an underrated Pac-10 this season. I believe that their experience and their balanced scoring will lead the way, and I look for Jon Brockman to really go at Jarvis Varnardo. Brockman has been getting it done for four years against NBA-caliber forwards and centers in the Pac-10 so he isn’t going to be scared of Varnardo. I like the Huskies to pull through late after getting behind early, and I like them to send home the SEC reps from Mississippi State with an 11-point loss.
2.5-Unit Play. Take #730 Clemson (-5) over Michigan (
I really think right now that people are not giving this Clemson team enough credit. This Tigers team has proven itself against some of the top teams in the country over the last two seasons. And right now they have a Big 10 team teed up in their sites and I think that they could roll in this one. I know that Michigan is a “sexy” sleeper pick right now but I’m not buying this young team making many waves.
Ever hear of the ACC-Big 10 shootout? Who ALWAYS dominates that series? The ACC, right? Well why should we expect it to be any difference here. Clemson is 5-1 ATS in its last six games against the Big 10 while Michigan is 1-5 ATS against the ACC. This one is about relative conference strength and I don’t think there is any doubt that there is better basketball being played in the ACC. The Tigers won at Illinois this year while Michigan really floundered away from home – including a five-point loss at Maryland and a 15-point loss against Duke – while compiling just a 6-11 road/neutral record.
The Tigers are more athletic and – and this is key – I like their guard play significantly more than I like Michigan’s. The Wolverines enter the tournament just 7-10 since mid-January. And much like Minnesota their wins were against Northwestern (twice), Minnesota (twice) and then a couple home wins. That’s not at all impressive. Clemson is just 1-4 in its last five games. But since mid January five of their eight losses have come to North Carolina, Wake Forest and Florida State. Not too shabby. I love Trevor Booker and Michigan doesn’t have anyone to matchup with him on the inside. And although Manny Harris can be explosive I think Clemson will key on him and be able to hold him down a bit. And Clemson has two guys who are just as explosive as Harris in the backcourt in K.C. Rivers and Terrence Oglesby.
2.5-Unit Play. Take #726 California (-1.5) over Maryland
I really feel like the Pac-10 is getting no love from the public and certainly no respect from the NCAA selection committee. I believe that this is a very dangerous Cal team and I think that if they can get out of this first round game they are a team that can make some serious noise. I think Mike Montgomery has this team pointed very securely in the right direction and that the talent that this team has in the backcourt is as good as anything you can find in the country.
Maryland has been playing very good ball to close the season. But other than a stunning overtime win at home against North Carolina and a neutral site win over shaky-as-hell Wake Forest, I can’t say that I have seen many quality wins on the Terps’ schedule over the last month-plus. In fact, heading into the ACC Tournament this team was just 6-9 in its last 15 games with the wins coming mostly at home (Miami, UVA, Va. Tech) or at the expense of North Carolina State. That doesn’t impress me. And I also wonder if the Terps expelled so much energy just to get to the Big Dance if they have anything left.
Cal is the No. 1 3-point shooting team in the country. And those boys are legit on the perimeter. If you can knock down shots – and Cal runs a great offense – then you can win games in the NCAA Tournament. Cal won at Washington. They won at Arizona. They won at Utah and at UNLV. Those are no-joke road wins. The Terps were just 4-8 in road/neutral games prior to their tourney. I love Jerome Randle. And I don’t think that Maryland has the size underneath to take advantage of the Bears’ weakness. Cal has better scoring differential, shooting and assist-to-turnover ratio.
1.5-Unit Play. Take #721 UCLA (-7.5) over VCU
1-Unit Play. Take 'Under' 137.0 UCLA vs. VCU
You want to talk about disrespected – how about the team that’s made three straight Final Fours and coming one game short of another piece of the Pac-10 title getting a No. 6 seed! That’s ridiculous! And what’s worse, Ben Howland and his team knows all about it. Howland’s numbers when he has extra time to prepare are so ridiculous that I’m not even going to state them here. This team is way underseeded and they are playing a big public underdog. Everyone loves VCU for what it did to Duke a few years ago and they know all about Eric Maynor. But that was a soft Blue Devils team and there is nothing soft about this Bruins club. They are known for their rugged defense and who do you think they are going to be keying on? And what is VCU going to do when Darren Collison, one of the most accomplished point guards in college over the last 30 years, locks him up? UCLA has the size inside to really pound VCU on the boards and on the interior. Further, teams off back-to-back SU and ATS wins are notoriously poor performers in the first round. Add on top of that the fact that VCU was not great on the road in the nonconference portion of the schedule and the fact that UCLA has absolutely destroyed some opponents this year – 16 wins of 15 or more points – and I think that the Bruins can take care of business.
1.5-Unit Play. Take #723 Cal-Northridge (+20.5) over Memphis
1-Unit Play. Take ‘Under’ 132.0 Cal-Northridge vs. Memphis
This is a total system play. The other thing that I like is that Memphis is so “underrated” and “disrespected” by the selection committee and the general public that they are overrated and given too much respect. This team showed at home against Tulane in the conference tournament that they have a hard time getting up for weaker opponents that they know they are better than. Especially earlier in the day. It’s 11:30 a.m. local time. You think Memphis is going to have it’s game face on? I don’t. Throw on the fact that this game is the only one on today’s card where the public is banging one team at more than 75 percent action and we’re in business.
No. 2 seeds favored by more than 18 points are just 16-25-1 ATS in their last 42 games, and if that favorite is coming off back-to-back ATS wins they are just 53-90 ATS. Playing against No. 2 seeds that covered the spread in their last game by more than 10 points is a solid 10-5-1 ATS angle and add on top of that the fact that No. 2 seeds have been the biggest ATS underachievers, especially in Round 1, over the last 10 years and we have ourselves a play. Just close your eyes and hope for the best! It’s not going to be pretty, but the numbers suggest that we’re in a decent spot.
1.5-Unit Play. Take #707 Binghamton (+22) over Duke
No. 2 seeds have been one of the weakest ATS seeds in the tournament over the last 10 years so it behooves us to play against them almost blindly. Binghamton features a lot of transfers from other larger schools and you know that they will be way, way up for this game to get a crack at the Blue Devils. Duke hasn’t covered a first round game in several seasons and could be due for a slight letdown after their sweet ACC Tournament run. No. 2 seeds favored by 18 or more points are just 16-25-1 ATS over the last several years. And I understand that no one is going to confuse Binghamton for an ACC school. But routs of Maryland and Virginia near the end of January were the only wins of 20 or more points for this Duke team since the first of the year. This club won’t have the benefit of the Cameron Crazies. And after their weak showings in the first rounds of the last two tournaments we have to fade the Blue Devils on principle until they prove that they will cover these fat lines.
1.5-Unit Play. Take #711 Radford (+25.5) over North Carolina
I definitely hate to mess with North Carolina. But count me amongst those that think the absence of Ty Lawson is having as much of a mental effect on the Heels as it is a physical one. They simply weren’t very good in the ACC Tournament without him and Lawson will be on the bench today as well. Without their leader the Tar Heels lose some of their quick-strike capabilities, especially after made baskets by the opponents. Radford is a team that is used to scoring points. They are one of the higher scoring teams in Div. I. So they aren’t going to slow down on offense even as the game gets more and more out of reach. They’ve scored 80 or more points in six of their last seven games and It’s not as if the Tar Heels are a very defensive-minded club. Radford has some size and they have some experience playing together. The Heels really stopped beating teams by 30 points or so in mid-December, even though it took the oddsmakers months to catch up. And that was with Lawson. I see no shame in a solid 21-point win for the Tar Heels and that’s a win-win for all involved.
1.5-Unit Play. TEASER: Take #732 Purdue (-3.5) over Northern Iowa AND Take #737 Akron (+18) over Gonzaga
1-Unit Play. TEASER: Take #721 UCLA (-2.5) over VCU AND Take #732 Purdue (-3.5) over Northern Iowa
1-Unit Play. Take 'Under' 124.5 Purdue vs. Northern Iowa
Re: THURSDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
At 4:55 pm, on Thursday, our Opening Round Game of the Year is on the Washington Huskies minus the points over Mississippi State. The Bulldogs surprised a lot of people when they won the SEC Tourney. Miss State dispatched an awful Georgia team in the opening round, and then pulled three upsets after that to snare the title. Along the way, the Bulldogs defeated LSU 67-57 in the semi-final round, and that win was significant to the extent that LSU was the SEC's only Top 25-ranked club for much of the season. But what that fact says to me is that the SEC was a VERY weak conference this season, so I'm not overly impressed with the Bulldogs roll through the field to win the SEC Championship. In Thursday's game, Miss State will have to beat the Pac-10 regular season champion, the Washington Huskies, who lost by 10 points to Arizona State in their conference tournament. So this game offers two situations which I like to exploit in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. One thing I like to do is look for certain #1 seeds which lost in their conference tournament. These teams are 70.3% ATS in the NCAA Tourney since 1993 when not laying double digits. And I also like playing against teams which won their conference tourney as a #3 seed (or lower), if they are not catching double digits in their first round NCAA Tourney game. These teams have covered just 32% ATS since 1993 (and 25% when seeded 10th thru 13th). Take Lorenzo Romar's Huskies in a blowout: Opening Round Game of the Year on Washington.
At 12:30 pm, our Early Morning High Roller is on the BYU Cougars minus the points over Texas A&M. BYU opened as a 2.5-point favorite, but got hit, and is now as high as -3. Still, according to my database, the Cougs have a lot of value here. These two teams actually matched up last year in the Tourney, and A&M won that game, so BYU is playing with revenge. And teams playing with revenge from a Tourney loss the previous year are 67% ATS in the post-season since 1993. Additionally, BYU falls into 47-27, 79-33, and 44-18 ATS systems of mine which all play on certain teams off a loss in their conference tourney to end their regular season. But prior to falling by two points (64-62) to San Diego State in the Mountain West Semi-finals, BYU had won five straight (and 10 of 11), with a 9-2 ATS run. Finally, BYU excels as a favorite, and has cashed over 60% since 1999 in that role, including 58-28 ATS vs. a foe off a straight-up loss. In contrast, when BYU is an underdog, it's an awful 30-61-1 ATS its last 92. Take BYU.
At 9:50 pm, our Bailout Blowout is on the UCLA Bruins minus the points over VCU. The Bruins were upset by USC 75-65 in their conference tourney (as a 6.5-point favorite), but have one of the best coaches in the business in Ben Howland. At Pittsburgh, and now at UCLA, Howland's troops have excelled when coming off a pointspread loss, going 61-28 ATS their last 89! That's one reason I love UCLA. Another is that the Bruins fall into several of my best Tourney systems (with records of 79-33, 66-31 and 47-27 ATS) which play on certain teams in the NCAA 1st Round which lost in their conference tourney. The Rams are an awful 21-37 ATS off a SU/ATS win when matched up against a foe off a SU/ATS loss, and also fall into a negative tourney system which is 11-29 ATS since 1990. What we want to do is play AGAINST any team off a pointspread win of more than 12 points vs. a foe off a pointspread loss of nine or more points. With VCU in off a 71-50 win (as a 3.5-point fave), we'll fade the Rams here, and take UCLA.
At 7:25 pm, our Opening Round Shocker is on the Akron Zips plus the points over Gonzaga. The Bulldogs blew out St. Mary's 83-58 to win the West Coast Conference tourney, and they covered the 7-point spread by 18 points. However, in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tourney, teams off back to back ATS wins are a dismal 0-20 ATS since 1995 when priced from -8 to -14.5 points, if they covered by more than 6 points in their previous game, and are now matched up against a foe that's NOT off a SU/ATS loss. The Zips play great defense, and are led by Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year Nate Linhart (10.3 ppg; 6.1 rebounds). Akron ranked 7th nationally in defending the 3-pointer, and gives up just 59.8 ppg. I look for the Zips to control the tempo, and come well within the double-digit number. Take the points with Akron.
Re: THURSDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
There was some confusion with his picks. Here they are again.
Friday's Best Bets are Wake Forest (-7 1/2) 3-Stars at -8 or less, 2-Stars at -8 1/2 or -9 and Arizona State (-4 1/2) 3-Stars at -6 or less, 2-Stars up to -7. I'll re send Friday's analysis shortly.
Sorry for any confusion.
3 Star Selection
***Butler (+2 ½) over Lsu
Butler has built a great tradition of excellence that continued this season despite coach Brad Stevens being forced to start 3 freshman. The Bulldogs aren’t as good offensively as they’ve been in recent years, but they play great defense (38.2% FG allowed) and take care of the ball (just 12 turnovers per game). Teams in the Horizon League are used to Butler’s deliberate offensive system, but the Bulldogs have frustrated non-conference opponents over the years and they are 19-2 ATS in their last 21 non-conference games when not laying more than 1 point (as dog, pick or -1), including a perfect 5-0 ATS this season. The Bulldogs have impressive wins at Davidson and at Xavier this season and lost by just 3 points at Ohio State and 4 of their 5 losses were by 4 points or less – so they figure to keep this game very close if they don’t win it straight up. Of course, I expect Butler to win this game straight up against an LSU team has struggled against teams with good interior scorers (Butler’s leading scorer Matt Howard fits the bill) this season. My ratings favor Butler by ½ a point and the Bulldogs apply to a very strong 24-2 ATS subset of a 99-36-3 ATS round 1 situation. I’ll take Butler in a 3-Star Best Bet at +1 or more and for 2-Stars at pick or -1. My math model predicts 126 total points.
3 Star Selection
***Ucla (-7) over Virginia Commonwealth
VCU is everyone’s first round upset pick, but I just don’t see that happening. UCLA isn’t as good as they’ve been in recent years, but they’re not that much worse either. The Bruins certainly have a different sort of team, relying more on their offense to atone for their mediocre defense, but UCLA’s offense is among the best in the nation. In fact, the Bruins led the nation in field goal percentage and their adjusted offensive efficiency (points per possessions adjusted for the level of opponent’s defensive efficiency) is the best in the nation since sharp shooting Nikola Dragovic was inserted into the starting lineup on January 11th. The Bruins’ defense, while not as good as in recent years, still ranks 49th in the nation in my rankings using games with their current lineup (defense is a bit worse with Dragovic starting), but VCU’s adjusted defensive rating is 48th in the nation. The difference is the offenses of these two teams and VCU’s offensive rating is 74th in the nation after compensating for opposition. My ratings favor UCLA by 10 points, which is where this line opened, but I’ve adjusted that number down to 8 ½ after factoring in VCU’s higher level of play against better competition. So, while the opening line of 10 was indeed too high, a line of 7 points is now too low and the Bruins apply to a very good 19-1 ATS subset of an 82-29-3 ATS round 1 situation. I’ll take UCLA in a 3-Star Best Bet at -8 or less and for 2-Stars at -8 ½ or -9 points. My math predicts 142 ½ total points, so I’ll consider the Over a Strong Opinion at 137 or less and a regular opinion at 137 ½ or 138 points.
3 Star Selection
***California (-1) over Maryland
Maryland is getting too much credit for being an ACC team while the Pac-10 is incorrectly perceived to be a lesser conference. The ACC is indeed a better overall conference than the Pac-10, but 1.5 points on average, but that’s because North Carolina and Duke are pulling up the average. The Pac-10 doesn’t have any elite teams, but 9 of the 10 teams are in the post-season and 8 of them are actually good teams and the median Pac-10 team (USC, Arizona) is better than the median ACC team (Miami-Florida, Maryland). Cal and Maryland actually played a schedule that rated exactly the same in difficulty and the Bears were 22-10 while the Terrapins are just 20-13 straight up. Maryland is getting some credit for beating North Carolina at home and for beating Wake Forest in the ACC tournament, but those were their only 2 wins of the season against teams that rate as highly as Cal or better (against 8 losses). The Bears, meanwhile, were 10-7 straight up against teams as good or better than Maryland and the Bears have some wins over good teams too (2-0 against Washington and a win over Arizona State). Maryland was is just 5-11 against teams rated in my top 50 while the Bears are 7-7 against top-50 teams and Maryland doesn’t even rank in the top-50 (they’re #51). Cal is actually 6-1 straight up against teams that rate within 3 points of Maryland’s rating (UNLV, 2-0 against Arizona, 2-0 Wash St, 1-1 Stanford) while Maryland is 3-5 against teams that rate within 3 points of Cal’s rating (wins over Michigan, Miami, and Wake and losses to Georgetown, Miami, Florida State, Clemson and Wake). The Bears should certainly be favored by more than just 1 point in this game and my ratings favor Cal by 2 ½ points and by 4 points using only games against other good teams. The Bears also match up well, as Maryland is better defending the interior while allowing opponents to get open looks from the outside (they allow 34.4% 3-point shooting to teams that combine to average 34.8% shooting). Cal leads the nation in 3-point shooting at 43.4% and their top 3 scorers are all perimeter players, so Maryland’s ability to defend the paint doesn’t really mean much. Maryland’s bad offense (42% shooting) just won’t be able to keep up with the Bears’ outstanding offense. In addition to the line value and match-up, the Bears apply to a 24-3 ATS first round angle while Maryland applies to a negative 42-70-1 ATS game 1 situation that is based on their good play in their conference tournament. I’ll take California in a 3-Star Best Bet at -2 or less and for 2-Stars at -2 ½ or -3 points. My predicted total is 144 total points.
2 Star Selection
**Washington (-5 ½) over Mississippi State
Mississippi State has won 6 consecutive games while covering the spread in all 6 and winning 5 of those as the underdog. However, major conference teams that weren’t likely to make the NCAA Tournament without winning their conference tournament generally fall flat in the NCAA opener and the Bulldogs apply to a 9-33-1 ATS letdown situation in round 1. Also, teams that win 3 or more consecutive games as an underdog are just 28-75-1 ATS as an underdog or pick in their next game if facing a team with a winning record, including 2-11 ATS as a dog of less than 12 points in the NCAA Tournament. Washington, meanwhile, is 7-0 ATS this season after a loss so the Huskies should bounce back from their loss to Arizona State with a good effort in this game. Washington also applies to a 24-3 ATS first round situation. My ratings favor Washington by 6 points in this game, but I don’t particularly love the match-up. Mississippi State shot blocker Jarvis Varnado, who averages an incredible 4.7 rejections per game, should neutralize Huskies’ big man Jon Brockman and Washington’s mediocre outside shooters (34% 3-pointers) will be forced to take more 3-pointers than they usually do (just 12 per game). Washington’s top two scorers are guards, so they don’t completely depend on inside scoring and they do score enough in transition to negative Varnado somewhat, but overall I think the match-up favors the Bulldogs a bit. In fact, my match-up analysis projects a fair line of 5 points instead of 6 points. The situation is simply too good to pass up and I’ll take Washington in a 2-Star Best Bet at -6 points or less and for 3-Stars at -5 or less. My math model predicts 149 total points.
Opinions/Possible Best Bets
Duke (-21 ½) vs Binghamton
Duke is coming off a win in the ACC Tournament Finals, but the Blue Devils are just 4-11 ATS as an NCAA Tournament favorite of 14 points or more following a victory and big favorites often letdown after winning their conference tourney. In fact, teams that win the ACC Tournament are just 5-12 ATS in their first round NCAA tournament game the last 17 years, including 2-6 ATS when Duke is the conference champ. Duke does have the benefit of playing this game in nearby Greensboro and teams playing in their home state are 115-76 ATS in the NCAA Tournament over the years. However, my ratings favor Duke by 22 points after adding in 3 points for that crowd advantage, so the line has already been adjusted. I’d lean slightly with Binghamton at +22 or more and I’d lean slightly with Duke at -20 or less. My math prediction for the total is 140 ½ points.
Texas (-4) vs Minnesota
Minnesota applies to a negative 9-33-1 ATS first round situation while Texas applies to a 42-18-1 ATS round 1 angle. The issue with playing Texas is the fact that the Longhorns are an overrated team that has covered the spread in just 6 of their last 20 games. Minnesota has also fallen off since their 16-1 start to the season (just 4-11 ATS in their final 15 games), but my ratings favor Texas by just 1 ½ points in this game and I get the Longhorns by 2 ½ points using more recent games. The situations that favor Texas are negated by the lack of line value and I have no opinion on this game at the current price. I would lean with Texas at -3 or less and my predicted total is 126 points.
North Carolina (-25) vs Radford
North Carolina doesn’t have a lot of quality depth, which is why they were just 3-9 ATS as a favorite of more than 19 points this season (big leads were often dwindled late by the subs). However, the Tarheels are 24-6-1 ATS after a loss under coach Gary Williams, including 3-0 ATS this season with those 3 wins coming by an average of 30 points against 3 teams that are as good or better than Radford. Radford lost at West Virginia and at Wake Forest by an average of 28.5 points, so they did not perform well against NCAA Tournament caliber teams. Those games, however, were before Chris McEachin took over the for the suspended Martell McDuffy at the off guard spot and the Highlanders improved after that lineup change in early January. My ratings only favor North Carolina by 22 ½ points after giving them 3 points for playing in nearby Greensboro with point guard Ty Lawson out. Lawson missed both of North Carolina’s 2 ACC tournament games in which the Tarheels didn’t come close to covering, so his value to the team is pretty obvious. I don’t want to buck North Carolina after a loss, but UNC is a different team without Lawson. I’ll pass this one. My math projects 165 total points.
Connecticut (-20 ½) over Tennessee Chattanooga
Connecticut is just 1-6 ATS in 7 games since losing guard Jerome Dyson, but the Huskies have more than enough talent to dominate Chattanooga in this game. The Huskies have had plenty of time to get over their 6 overtime loss to Syracuse and Chattanooga applies to a 42-70-1 ATS first round situation. My ratings favor the Huskies by 21 points, so the line is fair, but the situation isn’t strong enough to play as a Best Bet I’ll lean with U Conn at -21 points or less. My math projects 142 total points.
Byu (-2 1/2) over Texas A&M
Déjà vu. These teams met last season in the first round of the tournament with BYU as the 8th seed and Texas A&M as the 9th seed. The Aggies of A&M won that game 67-62 as pick thanks to some uncharacteristic 50% 3-point shooting (they were 36% for the season and BYU allowed only 30% 3-pointers for the season). The Aggies will likely win again if they make half of their 3-pointers, but that’s not likely to happen. BYU applies to a very good 99-36-3 ATS round 1 situation that is particularly good for smaller favorites or dogs. My ratings using all games for both teams would favor BYU by 6 points, but the Aggies have played better against good competition while BYU hasn’t played quite as well, on a relative basis, against better teams. I still get BYU by 3 points even after factoring that in. I’ll take BYU in a 2-Star Best Bet at -2 points or less and I’d consider the Cougars a Strong Opinion at -2 ½ or -3 points. My math model predicts 144 ½ total points, so I also lean with the over.
Villanova (-16 ½) over American
This is basically a home game for Villanova playing in nearby Philadelphia and teams playing in their home state are 115-76 ATS in the NCAA Tournament. American lost by an average of 23 points in road games at Oklahoma (lost by 29), Georgetown (lost by 24) and Maryland (lost by 16) and that doesn’t bode well for them here. My ratings favor Villanova by 18 points, with 3 points added for playing in Philly, and I’ll lean with the Wildcats at -17 or less. My math model predicts 130 total points.
Memphis (-19 ½) vs CS Northridge
Memphis beat up on Conference USA teams again this season (average win by 18 points) and Northridge is about the same as an average CUSA team (excluding Memphis). My ratings actually favor the Tigers by 19 ½ points and their aggressive defensive should wear out a thin Northridge squad whose depth has been hurt by injuries to starting guards Deon Tresvant (leading scorer) and Josh Jenkins (top assist man). I actually think the starting 5 is better for the Matadors because neither Tresvant (39% FG) nor Jenkins (35% FG) shot the ball well, but I expect Northridge to run out of gas in this game. CSN played relatively worse against good teams Stanford, UCLA, New Mexico and San Diego State this season, so a 20-plus point loss is certainly a reasonable assessment given the Tigers’ 13-4-1 ATS mark as a favorite of 12 points or more since moving Evans to the point in late December. However, Memphis applies to a negative 52-80-1 ATS first round situation. I have no opinion on this game (I’d only lean with Memphis at -18 or less) and my math predicts 130 total points.
Oklahoma (-16 ½) vs Morgan State
Oklahoma hasn’t played well lately, but losing their first conference tournament game in upset fashion to Oklahoma State should have the Sooners more focused for this game than they otherwise would be. Morgan State does have an outright win at Maryland to their credit, and they lost by just 14 points at Washington, but overall they’ve played at the same level against good teams as they did overall this season. Oklahoma tends to let up against weaker teams, but I don’t see that happening after losing to the Cowboys and my ratings favor the Sooners by 17 points. I have no opinion on this game at -16 ½ or higher, but I’d lean with Oklahoma at -16 or less (strong opinion at -15) and my predicted total is 139 points.
Michigan (+5 ½) over Clemson
Michigan is capable of beating good teams, as they proved this season with wins over UCLA, Duke, Illinois and Purdue, and the Wolverines’ 1-3-1 zone and funky offense are capable of giving non-conference teams problems. Coach John Beilein’s teams at West Virginia had success as underdogs in the tournament and the Wolverines could make some noise too if their abundance of 3-point attempts (they average 26 per game) are falling. Clemson is worse than average defending the 3-point arc, allowing 35.8% to a schedule of teams that combines to average 34.0% from long range, so the Wolverines should have some open looks. My ratings favor Clemson by just 4 points and I’ll lean with Michigan at +5 points or more. My math model predicts 142 ½ total points.
Purdue (-8) vs Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa started the season slowly, but the Panthers played well once conference season started and they backed up their regular season Missouri Valley title by winning the conference tournament. The addition of big man Lucas O’Rear to the rotation after Christmas seems to have been the catalyst and the Panthers are 15-7 ATS with their current rotation of players. My ratings only favor Purdue by 7 ½ points, so the line move from the opening number of 9 points was certainly justified. The number looks right now and I have no opinion at the current line, but I’d lean with Northern Iowa at +8 ½ and I’d lean with Purdue at -7. My predicted total is 126 points.
Illinois (-4 ½) over Western Kentucky
Illinois is a much better team than Western Kentucky if the Illini were at full strength, but the injury to point guard Chester Frazier hurts. Frazier averages an impressive 5.3 assists per game and he is also the Illini’s best on ball defender (1.4 steals per game). Illinois played well in a 10 point win over Michigan and poorly in a 10 point loss to Purdue in the Big 10 tournament without Frazier, but my best guess as to his value is about 2 points. The opening line on this game (Illinois was favored by 6 ½ points) suggests that the oddsmakers had already adjusted for Frazier’s likely absence, as my ratings favor the Illini by 8 points using all games. The subsequent line move down after opening at 6 ½ points gives us line value in favor of Illinois. Apparently, the public has been listening to TV analysts that hype the #12 seed over #5 seed upset and point out that the Hilltoppers upset #1 seed Louisville earlier this season. However, they forget to mention that Western Kentucky also lost by an average of 17 points to the 3 other good teams that they faced (Houston, Florida State, and Miss State). Also, #12 seeds are only 50% ATS against #5 seeds the last 18 years, so there is no magic in betting on a #12 seed. I favor Illinois by 6 points after adjusting 2 points for Frazier being out and Western Kentucky applies to a negative 4-22 ATS first round situation. I’ll consider the Illini a Strong Opinion at -5 or less and a regular opinion at -5 ½ or -6. My predicted total is 126 points.
Gonzaga (-12 ½) over Akron
Gonzaga is very good on both sides of the ball and the Zags should be too much for an Akron team that has a tendency to play better against mediocre and bad teams than they do against good teams. The Zips are pretty good defensively (they rank 51st in my adjusted points per possession defensive ratings), but Gonzaga is the 6th best offensive team in the nation in adjusted efficiency and I just don’t see how Akron’s bad offense (41.9% shooting) will be able to get anything going against a Gonzaga team that allowed just 36.8% from the field this season. My ratings favor the Zags by 14 points without giving them anything for playing close to home in Oregon. I’ll lean with Gonzaga at -13 or less and my predicted total is 134 points.
Re: THURSDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
Butler +2 Wager 880 to win 800
BYU -2.5 Wager 880 to win 800
California -1.5 Wager 880 to win 800
Texas -4 Wager 880 to win 800
Clemson -5 Wager 880 to win 800
UCLA -8 Wager 880 to win 800
WKentucky +5 Wager 880 to win 800
Washington -6 Wager 880 to win 800
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