SUNDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
Re: SUNDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
2 Star Selection
Philadelphia (-4 1/2) over SACRAMENTO
The 76ers are coming off a couple of losses, so they should be focused for this meeting with a Kings team that tends to lose at home to better teams. Sacramento is just 4-15-1 ATS at home against teams with a win percentage of greater .333 when they are not getting at least 8 points. Philadelphia applies to a 188-84-5 ATS road bounce-back situation and my ratings favor the Sixers by 4 1/2 points - so the line is fair. I'll take Philadelphia in a 2-Star Best Bet at -5 or less.2-Stars at -4 1/2 or less.
Arizona State (+2 1/2) over Syracuse
Syracuse has made a nice late season run that earned them a #3 seed, but Arizona State has been the better team over the course of the season and my ratings favor the Sun Devils by a point in this game and the math model picks this game even using only games from January on against quality teams only. I'll lean with Arizona State at +1 or more and my math model predicted total is 136 points.
Wisconsin (+3) over Xavier
My ratings favor Xavier by just 2 points in this game, so I'll lean with a tough Badgers team to at least keep this close. I'll lean with Wisconsin at +3 or more. My predicted total is 126 1/2 points.
3 Star Selection
Kansas (-7 1/2) over Dayton
Dayton is a team that tends to play to the level of their competition, as the Flyers are 1-6 ATS this season as a favorite of more than 9 points and 5-2 ATS as an underdog after their upset of West Virginia in round 1. Using all games for each team would results in a predicted margin of Kansas by 10 1/2 points in this game, but I get Jayhawks by 8 points (with a total of 134 1/2 points) if I only use games against quality opposition, so the line on this game has been adjusted for Dayton's habit of playing up to their competition. When Dayton does lose, they usually don't lose close, as 6 or the Flyers' 7 losses have been by 8 points or more. While the line on this game is fair, the situation favors a Kansas team that also is better against better teams and is 15-5-1 ATS this season when not favored by more than 12 points, including 9-2-1 ATS more recently. The only problem with this Kansas team is that their defense is designed to be active and protect the paint, which results in giving up too many open 3-point shots. Kansas is one of the best teams in the nation defending the 2-point shot (42%, when 48% is normal) but the Jayhawks allow teams to make 33.7% of their 3-point shots, which is just a bit better than average. North Dakota State is a good 3-point shooting team that made 10 of 24 3-pointers against Kansas, but Dayton is not likely to exploit the Jayhawks' only weakness since the Flyers are not a good shooting team (33% 3-pointers and 43% FG overall). In addition to not matching up with Kansas very well, Dayton applies to a very negative 5-34 ATS round 2 situation. And, while Dayton does pull off some upset wins, the Flyers are 0-7 ATS recently after winning straight up as an underdog - so they are not likely to duplicate their first round effort. I'll take Kansas in a 3-Star Best Bet at -8 or less and for 2-Stars at -8 1/2 or -9 points.3-Stars at -8 or less, 2-Stars at -8 1/2 or -9.
3 Star Selection
Pittsburgh (-9) over Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State has been on a roll of late, covering in 10 of their last 11 games, but the Cowboys also have struggled against good teams this season. OSU is 15-11-2 ATS for the season but they are just 2-8-1 ATS as an underdog of 3 points or more and today the Cowboys apply to a very negative 5-34 ATS round 2 situation while Pittsburgh applies to a 21-1 ATS situation that won for me with Memphis yesterday. My ratings favor Pitt by 9 points using all games for each team and by 13 points using only games played against other good teams. I would still favor Pitt by 8 points even if I only use Oklahoma State's games during their recent 10-1 ATS streak - so the line is fair even if I assume Oklahoma State will continue to play well - which is doubtful given the negative situation that the Cowboys are in. Pitt plays much better, on a relative basis, against better teams - going 2-5 ATS this season as a favorite of 17 points or more and 15-5 ATS in all other games. I'll take Pittsburgh in a 3-Star Best Bet at -9 or less and for 2-Stars at -9 1/2 or -10 points. My predicted total is 156 points.3-Stars at -9 or less, 2-Stars at -9 1/2 or -10 points.
2 Star Selection
Marquette (+3) over Missouri
The Big East is proving to be as good as advertised and Marquette's guard heavy lineup should be able to handle Missouri's pressure today - especially with point guard Dominic James coming back from his foot injury today. Missouri applies to a negative 24-60-1 ATS letdown situation and my ratings only favor Missouri by 2 1/2 points even if James did not play and I'd favor the Tigers by only 1 point if James plays at his usual level. I'll take Marquette in a 2-Star Best Bet at +2 points or more.2-Stars at +2 1/2 or more.
Michigan State (-4) over Usc
USC has been on an impressive roll lately, winning the Pac-10 tournament and then whipping Boston College in the first round, but the Trojans' run should end today. USC is a tough team, but Michigan State is a team that can match that and the Spartans are a better basketball team. My ratings favor MSU by 5 1/2 points and the Spartans don't tend to lose games like this. In fact, Michigan State is an incredible 77-20-2 ATS when favored from 4 points to 11 points. USC is 18-7 ATS as an underdog of 3 points or more the last 3 seasons, but I'll lean with Michigan State at -5 points or less. My predicted total is 127 points.
2 Star Selection
Louisville (-11 1/2) over Siena
Siena survived a double-overtime game with Ohio State, but the Saints apply to a negative 24-60-1 ATS letdown situation. Louisville, meanwhile, applies to a 21-1 ATS 2nd round situation and the Cardinals are the 2nd best defensive team in the nation on a compensated points per possession basis. Louisville's only flaw is an offense that sometimes has trouble in the half court set, but the Cardinals are facing a Siena team that allowed 43.5% shooting to a schedule of teams that combined to average only 42.8% shooting on offense. Siena's only hope is to force turnovers, which they do pretty well, but Louisville takes care of the ball pretty well and handled Villanova's pressure in their 69-55 win over the Wildcats in the Big East tournament. My ratings favor Louisville by 11 points and I'll take Louisville in a 2-Star Best Bet at -12 points or less and for 3-Stars at -11 or less. My predicted total is 144 points.2-Stars at -12 or less, 3-Stars at -11 or less.
2 Star Selection
Arizona (-2 1/2) over Cleveland State
Cleveland State is a very good defensive team that has allowed 40.9% shooting and forces 16 turnovers per game, but the Vikings are challenged offensively (43.4% FG and 31% 3-point shooting) and Arizona is actually a pretty good defensive team after adjusting for the level of opposition that they faced. Arizona is a much better offensive team than Cleveland State and the Wildcats have at least 2 future NBA players in Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger, and perhaps Nic Wise. Arizona is an inconsistent team that is capable of beating the very best teams and capable of losing to teams that they shouldn't lose to, but the Wildcats are in a good situation today with Cleveland State applying to a negative 15-43-1 ATS letdown situation. When two teams meet in the 2nd round that won as lower seeded teams in round 1, the better seeded team usually wins and covers. In fact, teams seeded #6 or worse are 16-4 ATS in round 2 since 1991 if they are facing a team seeded even worse and the record is 11-0 ATS if they better seeded team is favored by 7 points or less (or getting points). My ratings favor Arizona by 3 points (with a total of 135 points), so the line is fair, and I'll take Arizona in a 2-Star Best Bet at -3 or less and for 3-Stars at -2 or less.2-Stars at -3 or less, 3-Stars at -2 or less.
Re: SUNDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
NCAA 2nd Round GOY
Marquette coach Buzz Williams signed on as Tom Crean's assistant and a year later, took over the program when Crean suddenly left for Indiana at the conclusion of last season. He entered this year with a spectacular trio of senior guards plus an excellent 6-6 sophomore in Hayward. The Golden Eagles didn't have a true big man but it didn't seem to matter. Marquette was 23-4 and ranked 8th in the nation when it hosted then-No. 2 U Conn at home on Feb 25. However, James (11.4-3.3-5.1) when down with a season-ending injury and it led to Marquette losing its final four regular season games. McNeal (19.5-4.5-3.9) and Matthews (18.1-5.7-2.5) plus Hayward (16.4-8.6) were already playing 'monster' minutes and now that became even worse. Marquette did beat St John's in the first round of the Big East tourney but then, after overcoming a HUGE deficit against Villanova, lost at the buzzer. Marquette opened the NCAA tourney with one-point win over Utah St, as McNeal played 39 minutes, Matthews 38 and Hayward 37. The 5-8 Acker (2.9) is replacing James in the lineup and he had five points, while the 6-8 Burke (2.8-3.5) has been the fifth starter for most of the year. The only other contributors this season have been 6-6 sophomore guard Butler (5.6-4.0) and fellow guard Cubillan (1.8), who has become a non-factor this year, after averaging 5.3 PPG the last two seasons. Now, Marquette must play its second game in three days vs one (if not THE) deepest teams in the nation. Before getting to Missouri, let me point out that Marquette was showing signs of "wear and tear" prior to the James injury. The team lost at USF 57-56 on Feb 6 as an 8 1/2-point favorite and was in a 1-4 ATS slide BEFORE its game with U Conn, when James went down. As for Missouri, head coach Mike Anderson "made a statement" with his team last year, in January! A handful of players had been present at a nightclub where a brawl broke out. Simply by being there, they had broken team rules. Anderson was well-aware that Missouri had been wracked by NCAA problems, drunk-driving arrests and quickly suspended five players. Missouri would finish 16-16, missing the NCAA tourney for the fifth straight year. However, Anderson had proved to his players, he wasn't messing around. He stated at the beginning of this year that he had the talent and depth to implement what his mentor (former Arkansas head coach Nolan Richardson) called, "40 Minutes of Hell." He was right. The 6-8 Carroll (16.7-7.3) and the 6-9 Lyons (14.5-6.1) have been dominating inside players, while the 6-7 Lawrence (8.8 PPG on 42.5 percent from three-point range) leads a contingent of seven (and sometimes even nine) more players, who are all capable of playing and competing. Joining the above three in the starting lineup are Tiller (7.9-3.5 APG) and Taylor (6.6-3.5 APG), who are both capable playmakers. Missouri was unbeaten at home this year, owning the nation's largest average margin of victory. The Tigers easily dispatched Cornell in the first round and the game was an excellent example of how well so many of their players are interchangeable. Lawrence was 0-6 from three-point range in the game, so Anderson went to the 6-6 English (6.4), who promptly made 3-of-4 three-point shots. Missouri is on a current 16-3 SU (14-5 ATS) run and enters averaging 81.0 PPG on 47.2 percent shooting. The team's constant motion on offense always greatly helps its defense, tiring out its opponents when they have the ball (Missouri allows 66.3 PPG and opponents shoot just 30.7 percent from three-point range). Missouri's outstanding depth allows them to "push it" on offense plus trap and pressure defensively, throughout (those 40 minutes of hell, I was talking about). Missouri is EXACTLY the type of team Marquette DIDN'T want to face in the second round! NCAA 2nd Round GOY 20* Missouri
Okla St went 2-7 (1-7 ATS) from Jan 17 through Feb 10 but beginning on Valentine's Day (Feb 14), suddenly "found themselves." The Cowboys won six in a row before falling in a very competitive 82-78 loss at Norman to the Sooners. OSU the beat Okla (71-70) on its way to a Big 12 tourney championship game showdown vs Missouri. OSU lost to Missouri but that's hardly a knock against them. Travis Ford's team then beat Tennessee 77-75 on Friday, giving them an impressive 10-1 ATS run over its last 11 games. However, all good things come to an end and the Cowboys are in the WRONG place at the WRONG time vs the Pitt Panthers on Sunday. OSU is a perimeter based team with the 6-6 Anderson (18.3-5.8) being joined by two other 6-5 players, Harris (13.9-4.7) and Muonelo (12.5-7.3). The starting guards are both small (under six-foot), senior Eaton (14.3-5.5) and freshman Page (8.9). The 6-11 Thomas (8.3-3.9) quit the team after seven games and it wasn't until sometime in January, that the Cowboys found ANY inside player of note. The 6-6 Moses has been that player of late, topping double digits in points in SIX of his last nine games and double digits in rebounds in SIX of his last 10 (10.0 RPG in that stretch). In Friday's two-point win over Tennessee, Moses had 16 points and 11 rebounds. Now here's the rub, Moses will be "up against" here, vs Pitt's unrelenting Blair. Blair (15.9-12.3) is just 6-7 but his size and strength make him a 'monster' underneath. While Pitt hardly looked like a No. 1 seed in Friday's 10-point win over East Tenn St, don't blame Blair, who had 27-16. For that matter, the terrific 6-6 Young (18.5-6.3) wasn't too bad either, with 14-13. Pitt's guards were terrible, as Fields (10.6-7.7 APG) made just 3-of-10 shots (0-6 on threes) and Dixon (8.8) went scoreless (0-of-3 on FGs). Pitt's fifth starter is the 6-8 Biggs (6.8-4.4). Do NOT expect a repeat performance from a team many think (myself included), has a great chance to reach the school's first-ever Final 4. Fields is a great leader (just two TOs per game vs almost eight assists) plus Blair makes this team (along with Mich St and U Conn), one of the nation's top-three teams in rebounding margin (all three schools are right at plus-10 per game). The offense is efficient (77.8 PPG / 48.0 percent shooting) and the defense is relentless (64.0 PPG / 40.7 percent on FGs). Pitt's first round poor effort only "makes it worse" for Okla St today (ask Maryland about Memphis' effort on Saturday, off its poor first round game!). The Cowboys find out EARLY and OFTEN, that the Pitt Panthers of the Big East, hardly resemble the Vols of Tennessee (just how bad was the SEC this year?) PERFECT STORM 20* Pittsburgh.
Las Vegas Insider
Wisconsin won 31 games last year, losing in the Sweet 16. Xavier won 30 times. advancing all the way to the Elite 8. The Badgers lost the 6-11 Butch (12.4-6.6) and guard Flowers 99.6) from LY's team, while the Musketeers lost three starters, the 6-9 Duncan (12.4-4.7) plus guards Lavender (10.8-4.5 APG) and Burrell (9.7-3.8 APG). The two meet on Sunday, with the winner returning to the Sweet 16. Bo Ryan of Wisconsin is 193-72 (.728) in his eighth year at Madison, while Sean Miller is 119-46 (.721) in his fifth season at Xavier. While the fourth-seeded Musketeers advanced with an easy 77-59 win over Portland State, the No. 12 seed Badgers had a much tougher time, rallying from a 12-point halftime deficit to beat Fla St, 61-59 in OT. Wisconsin endured a six-game losing streak (Jan 11-31) but snuck into the tourney field at 19-12. Xavier's been ranked for a good portion of the season but for the second straight year, fell in the A-10 tourney. Both teams are solid defensively, with Wisconsin allowing 59.0 PPG and Xavier, 62.3. However, the Musketeers allow opponents to shoot just 39.2 percent, while the Badgers allow 44.1 percent (pretty wide gap!). I sometimes get the feeling Ryan "does it with mirrors.," as this Wisconsin team is very limited offensively. The 6-7 Landry (12.4-4.4) is the team's leadings scorer, with guards Hughes (11.9-2.9 APG) and Bohannon (10.5) joining him in double digits. The 6-10 Leuer (9.0-3.9) has made excellent strides this year (averaged 2.9-1.3 LY) but as we saw vs FSU, when he went 0-of-7 from the floor with one point and three rebounds, he's limited. Swingman Krabbenhoft (8.4-6.8-2.6) is the kind of player every coach wants, while the 6-8 Nankivil (4.5-2.2) had a surprising 14 points in the win over FSU. Xavier offers Wisconsin a much different defensive challenge, as FSU really owns just one "go-to" guy in Douglas (had 26 of FSU's 59 points!). Xavier had four players in double digits in its win over Portland St and nine players got 10 minutes or more of action. The starters are the 6-8 Brown (13.8-6.0), 6-6 swingmen Raymond (13.8-4.2) and Anderson (10.2-5.6), the 6-9 Love (7.0-5.9) plus PG Jackson (6.5-3.4-2.8). Depth abounds with 7-0 freshman Frease (5.4-3.8) and 6-8 transfer McLean (4.4-4.4) in the frontcourt plus freshman PG Holloway (5.6) and guard Redford (5.4) in the backcourt. Xavier has the same type of defenders (size and length) inside that allowed Florida State to completely shut down Wisconsin for long stretches of the game on Friday plus the Musketeers are more than capable of dominating the glass (plus-8.4 rebounding margin). Offensively, they have tremendous balance and ALL five starters were a part of last year's Elite 8 team, giving them a plethora (a tribute to Howard Cosell for you old-timers!) of tourney experience. Las Vegas Insider Xavier.
Congrats to Siena for its gutsy double-OT win against Ohio St on Friday, as the Saints overcame an 11-point second-half deficit. The 6-6 Ubiles (14.8-4.8) is a talented swingman who is joined in the frontcourt by the 6-5 Franklin (13.5-7.5) and the 6-9 Rossiter (10.8-8.0). Hansbrouck (14.7-7.3-2.9 APG) and Moore (8.8--3.6-6.7) are the starting guards. However, the Saints really only go six-deep, as guard Jackson (8.2) is the only other main contributor. In Louisville, the tourney's No. 1 overall seed, the Saints will now face a group of athletes like they've never seen, applying pressure that starts at the baseline and doesn't relent for the full 94 feet. Even the most experienced of teams have come apart vs Louisville's full-court defense. The 6-9 Clark (14.0-8.7) is a swingman with a MAJOR height advantage over almost every opponent in which he's faced. Then there is the 6-6 Williams (12.4-8.5-5.0) who plays point-forward and is at times, un-guardable. Inside, the 6-9 freshman Samuels (12.0-4.7) has more than lived up to expectations while as always, Pitino has his usual bevy of guards, who do most things well (shoot from outside and play pressure defense to name just two). The group includes Smith (7.6), Sosa (7.2) , Knowles (6.2) and McGee (5.6). Taking nothing away from Siena's win over Ohio St but the Buckeyes did make some serious blunders. The two most notable (down the stretch) were in-bounding the ball to poor FT shooter Mullens (56%) with a four-point lead and Mullens promptly missed BOTH shots. Then, at the end of the first OT, OSU failed to foul Moore, who tied the game with a three-pointer. Siena will get no such help from the Cardinals but then again, the game won't be close. Siena head coach Fran McCaffrey put his starting five on the floor against OSU with 14:27 to go in regulation and didn't substitute again. The final tally of minutes played reads like this. Franklin 50 minutes, Rossiter 47, Ubiles 46, Moore 46 and Hasbrouck 44. By the mid-second half (if not MUCH sooner), the Saints will be done 'marching!' MAJOR MISMATCH 15* Louisville.