Thursday Service Plays

Thursday Service Plays

WUNDERDOG

Purdue vs. Connecticut
Pick: Connecticut -6.5

The Huskies seem to be peaking at just the right time. A.J. Price is playing like an All-American. He averaged 14.6 ppg on the season, but has taken that up to 24.5 ppg over his last six games. Perhaps an even bigger lift for the Huskies has been the emergence of Stanley Robinson who missed the first part of the season, and appeared lost upon his return. Robinson over his last eight games is averaging 14 ppg and 9 rpg. That gives the Huskies a lot of options, as they already have Adrien and Thabeet inside as the only duo in the country each averaging a double-double. And with Robinson's play over the last month, they are close to having three! The Huskies have won their first two tournament games by an average of 41 ppg and are playing as good as anyone in the tournament. Purdue has gotten here in much less spectacular form, as they escaped Northern Iowa by 5 and Washington by just 2. Purdue plays tough defense, but they haven't had to defend a team like the Huskies all season, and the Huskies are right there with them on defense. Purdue doesn't have the answers UConn has offensively, or off the glass, which is where the difference lies in this game. The Boilermakers reached 80 points just once in their last 27 games, and that was against a really struggling Indiana team. The Huskies look like a team that is serious about cutting down the nets for the 3rd time in 10 years, and have too many answers for Purdue in this one. I like UConn to win this one big.

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SPORTS ADVISORS

EAST REGION
(at Boston)

(3) Villanova (28-7, 17-14 ATS) vs. (2) Duke (30-6, 17-17-1 ATS)

After struggling to get past upstart American in the first round last Thursday, Villanova pounded sixth-seeded UCLA 89-69 Saturday as a 2½-point chalk, ostensibly playing a home game at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. The spread-cover snapped a three-game ATS slide, and the Wildcats improved to 5-1 SU in their last six starts (3-3 ATS). Dante Cunningham had 18 points to lead a balanced ‘Nova scoring attack, with six players scoring in double figures.

Duke notched its fifth straight win Saturday, topping seventh-seeded Texas 74-69 in the second round but falling short as a 7½-point chalk. Gerald Henderson led the way with 24 points, and the Blue Devils’ 7-for-14 effort from 3-point range and 21-for-27 performance at the foul line helped overcome the Longhorns’ 50 percent shooting from the floor (25 of 50). During its five-game surge, Duke has outscored opponents by just over nine points per game (74.4-65.2).

These teams have met twice since the 1997-98 season, with Duke winning both contests. The most recent clash came in November 2000, when the Blue Devils won 98-85 at home but Villanova covered as a 19-point pup.

Duke, in its 33rd NCAA Tournament, reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006. Villanova, in its 29th Tournament, has reached the third round for the second straight year, having bowed out in the Sweet 16 last year to eventual national champion Kansas 72-57 as a 12-point underdog.

The Wildcats are 11-5 ATS in their last 16 starts against winning teams and are on further ATS runs of 8-3 after a pointspread win and 5-2 against the ACC, but they also remain on ATS skids of 1-4 as a neutral-site pup and 3-7 in the Tournament. The Blue Devils are on nothing but negative ATS streaks, including 2-9 in the NCAAs, 2-10 as a Tournament chalk and 2-8-1 against the Big East.

Both of teams topped the total in each of their Tournament games last weekend. Also, the over is on runs of 10-4 for Villanova overall (4-1 last five), 4-1 for Villanova at neutral sites and 4-0 for Duke in non-conference play. However, the under is on runs of 8-2 in the Wildcats’ last 10 non-conference games, 7-2 for the Blue Devils against the Big East and 10-4 for Duke at neutral sites.

ATS ADVANTAGE: VILLANOVA


(4) Xavier (27-7, 18-12-2 ATS) (1) Pittsburgh (30-4, 16-11-1 ATS)

Top-seeded Pittsburgh got stern tests in both its games last week, fending off East Tennessee State 72-62 in the opener (falling way short as a 21-point chalk), then getting past eighth-seeded Oklahoma State 84-76 as a nine-point favorite Sunday. The Panthers needed 32 points from Sam Young on 12-for-20 shooting (60 percent) against the Cowboys, and though Pitt is 5-1 in its last six starts, it has dropped three straight ATS decisions.

Xavier won and cashed in the first and second round, whipping Portland State 77-59 as a 10-point chalk Friday and beating 12th-seeded Wisconsin 60-49 Sunday laying 2½ points. The Musketeers are now on a 3-1 SU and ATS surge, all at neutral sites, averaging 64 ppg while allowing just 52.5 in that span. They’ve held seven of their last eight opponents under 60 points, including the last four in a row.

These teams haven’t met since November 1998, when Pitt rolled 94-76 as a seven-point road ‘dog.

Pitt has reached the Sweet 16 after getting bounced in the second round last year and is on its sixth consecutive trip to the NCAAs under sixth-year coach Jaime Dixon. But Dixon’s troops have failed to get beyond the third round on their last five attempts. Xavier is aiming to reach the Elite Eight for the second straight year, after going 3-0 SU and ATS last year before falling to UCLA in the regional final.

The Panthers are on pointspread dives of 1-5 in the Big Dance, 1-4-1 as a neutral-floor chalk and 1-4 as a Tournament favorite. On the flip side, the Musketeers are on a plethora of positive pointspread streaks, including 5-2 overall, 4-0 in non-conference play, 6-1 in the Tournament, 7-1 as a Tournament pup, 11-4-1 against winning teams, 36-16-1 on neutral courts and 13-4 as a neutral-court ‘dog.

The over is 7-3 in Pitt’s last 10 Tournament tilts (1-1 this year), 7-2 in Xavier’s last nine Tournament starts (0-2 this year) and 6-2 in the Musketeers’ last eight non-conference games. However, the under is on runs for the Panthers of 5-1 at neutral sites and 5-2 outside the Big East, and the under for Xavier is on stretches of 9-2-1 overall (4-0 in the last four games) and 7-0 at neutral sites.

ATS ADVANTAGE: XAVIER


WEST REGIONAL
(at Phoenix)

(3) Missouri (30-6, 19-10 ATS) vs. (2) Memphis (33-3, 23-12 ATS)

Memphis, which survived a scare against No. 15 seed Cal State-Northridge in an 81-70 first-round as a 20-point favorite, had no such trouble with 10th-seeded Maryland in Saturday’s 89-70 rout as a 10-point chalk. Freshman sensation Tyreke Evans had 19 points in the Tigers’ 26th consecutive SU win, leading five players in double figures as Memphis hit a scorching 58.5 percent from the floor in moving to 5-2 ATS in its last seven starts.

Missouri heads to the Sweet 16 on a 5-0 SU and ATS roll, drumming No. 14 seed Cornell 78-59 as a 12-point first-round chalk, then hanging on late to beat sixth-seeded Marquette 83-79 Sunday as a 2½-point favorite. Leo Lyons had 18 points against the Golden Eagles to lead five players in double digits, as the Tigers blew a 16-point lead before holding on for the win and cover. Mizzou, which shot 48.4 percent and held Marquette to just 38.3 percent, is now 13-2 SU and 12-3 ATS in its last 15 starts and its 30 victories are the most ever in school history.

Memphis and Missouri had a home-and-home series earlier this decade, with the host winning and cashing each time. Missouri rolled 93-78 in December 2002 giving 8½ points, and Memphis snuck out a 61-59 win as a 1½-point favorite a year later.

Memphis, which brought the nation’s fourth-ranked defense to its 22nd NCAA Tournament, reached the national championship game last year before falling short to Kansas in overtime. The Tigers have made it to at least the Elite Eight each of the last three years. Meanwhile, Missouri got through to the third round to one-up their last Tournament appearance six years ago, when they bowed out to Marquette in the second round.

Memphis is on several ATS upswings, including 15-5 overall, 6-1 outside Conference USA, 12-3 against winning teams and 4-1 against the Big 12. Meanwhile, Missouri’s current 5-0 ATS run has come entirely on neutral courts, and the Tigers are on further pointspread pushes of 4-0 against winning teams, 8-2 in the Tournament and 4-1 as an NCAA pup, but they also carry negative ATS streaks of 1-4 against Conference USA foes and 2-5 as a neutral-site ‘dog.

The over is on identical 8-1 tears for both Memphis and Missouri in NCAA Tournament play, but the under for Memphis is on streaks of 8-2 overall, 8-1 against the Big 12 and 13-3 against teams with a winning percentage above .600. Also, Mizzou is on “under” runs of 4-1 overall and 5-1 on neutral courts.

ATS ADVANTAGE: MEMPHIS


(5) Purdue (27-9, 15-17 ATS) vs. (1) Connecticut (29-4, 14-15 ATS)

Purdue stretched its winning streak to five games by getting through the first two rounds in a pair of tight games, besting No. 12 seed Northern Iowa 61-56 as an 8½-point favorite, then squeaking past fourth-seeded Washington 76-74 Saturday as a one-point pup. Center JaJuan Johnson led the way against Washington with 22 points – nine above his season average – and four blocks. The Boilermakers ended a two-game ATS hiccup and cashed for just the fourth time in their last 10 starts.

Connecticut coasted through the first two rounds, pounding Chattanooga 102-47 giving 20 points, then drilling ninth-seeded Texas A&M 92-66 Saturday as a 10½-point chalk. In Saturday’s rout, A.J. Price (27) and Jeff Adrien (23) combined for 50 points as the Huskies shot a sterling 57.9 percent (33 of 57) while holding the Aggies to just 41.3 percent, including 3 of 15 from three-point range (20 percent). Although UConn’s two spread-covers in the tournament ended an 0-3 ATS slide, the Huskies are still just 3-6 ATS in their last nine starts.

Purdue’s win Saturday followed a pair of second-round exits the past two years, including an 85-78 loss to Xavier last year getting 2½ points. The Boilermakers are on their 23rd NCAA trip, but this is their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2000, when they beat Gonzaga to reach the regional final before losing to Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

Connecticut, in its 29th NCAA Tournament, reached the third round for the first time since 2006 following a pair of first-round exits the past two years. Three years ago, UConn beat Washington in overtime to reach the round of eight, then got stung by Tournament darling George Mason 86-84 in overtime to miss out on the Final Four.

The Boilermakers are on ATS skids of 1-5 after a spread-cover and 2-5 after a SU win, but they also carry positive ATS streaks of 12-5-1 catching points, 4-1 as a neutral-site pup and 6-2 as an NCAA underdog.

Prior to last week, the Huskies had dropped seven straight ATS decisions in the Tournament – all from the favorite’s role – and were on an 0-13 ATS freefall in postseason play. Despite those numbers, UConn is on positive ATS runs of 5-0 after a SU win of more than 20 points, 5-1 on neutral courts, 4-1 as a neutral-site chalk and 5-2 outside the Big East.

The over for Purdue is on a bundle of runs, including 8-3 on neutral floors, 4-1 in the Tournament, 6-1 on Thursday, 8-2 with the Boilermakers as an underdog and 5-1-1 as a Tournament pup. Likewise, the over for UConn is on tears of 6-0 in the Big Dance, 21-7 at neutral sites, 14-3 with the Huskies as a chalk and 6-2 against Big Ten competition.

ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER


NBA

Phoenix (40-31, 29-40-2 ATS) at Portland (44-27, 37-34 ATS)

The Trail Blazers, aiming to bounce back from an upset home loss, play host to the surging Suns at the Rose Garden.

Portland tumbled to Philadelphia 114-108 in overtime Monday night as an eight-point home chalk, halting a four-game ATS run (3-1 SU) built up on a five-game road trip. It was a rare home loss for the Blazers, who are now 28-7 at the Rose Garden this season, averaging 102.6 ppg while allowing 94.1 ppg, with both numbers better than their season averages of 98.8 ppg on offense and 95.2 ppg on the defensive end.

Phoenix outran the Nuggets 118-115 Monday night but narrowly missed beating the spread as a 3½-point home favorite, then followed that with Wednesday’s near-identical 118-114 victory over the Jazz, this time covering as a 3½-point home chalk. The Suns have won six in a row (5-1 ATS), putting up a whopping 125 ppg while allowing 111.

Portland won the last meeting between these rivals, a 124-119 home decision as a four-point favorite, which ended Phoenix’s nine-game winning streak against the Blazers (7-2 ATS). Still, the Suns are on ATS rolls in this series of 23-9-1 overall and 5-1 in Portland, and the favorite is 6-1 ATS in the last seven clashes.

The Blazers are on ATS upticks of 4-1 overall, 4-1 against Pacific Division foes and 4-1 following a two-day break. The Suns are also on a 5-1 ATS run, but they also carry negative pointspread streaks of 0-8 on Thursday, 9-20 against teams with a winning record and 2-6 on the road against teams with a winning home mark.

The under is 4-0 in Portland’s last four starts against winning teams and 4-1 in the last five meetings in this rivalry. However, the over is 6-2-1 in the Blazers’ last nine home starts, and the over for Phoenix is on stretches of 6-2 on the road, 4-0 when playing on no rest and 4-0 on Thursday. Finally, the total has gone high in seven of the last 10 clashes between these two teams at the Rose Garden.

ATS ADVANTAGE: PORTLAND and OVER

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VEGAS EXPERTS

Missouri at Memphis

Missouri was quite fortunate to record an ATS victory in Round 2 vs. Marquette (thank you, Lazar Hayward!), but not so much here in the Sweet 16. The young Tigers are not as good away from Columbia, which is bad enough, but they are also 0-7 ATS off campus vs. Conference USA teams. In what could end up being a high scoring battle, we have no problem laying the points with a Memphis team that is 20-11 ATS as a favorite and hasn't lost since December 20th.

Play on: Memphis

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Matt Fargo

James Madison vs. Old Dominion
Play: Old Dominion -6.5
         
One of the hottest college basketball teams takes the floor tonight and it is from somewhere other than the Sweet 16. Old Dominion is taking part in the College Insider Tournament and right now it is playing its best basketball of the season. The Monarchs have won 12 of their last 14 games and they are doing it with a group of players that were not expected to do much this season due to a lack of experience. Old Dominion’s depth has become important in the post-season as the Monarchs gave eight players extensive minutes in their opening round victory over The Citadel and the team’s high scorer, guard Keyon Carter, came off the bench. Backups accounted for 79 of the 200 minutes played in the game. The two opening victories have given Old Dominion another home game and this one has some added incentive. The Monarchs are 15-3 at home this season with one of those losses coming against a solid UAB team. Another loss came against these same Dukes back on January 7th. Old Dominion was able to avenge that loss by beating James Madison in Harrisonburg later in the month but there is still some revenge in order as the Monarchs want the payback on their home floor. The Dukes won both of their tournament games but both came against much inferior competition. After winning eight of 10 games at one point this season, they dropped eight of their final 13 games. Leading scorer Juwann James missed the last game against Liberty and while he has been upgraded to probable for this one, he isn’t close to 100 percent. He practiced the last two days and will attempt to play today, but head coach Matt Brady said his effectiveness will determine how many minutes he gets. In the Dukes win in the first meeting, they shot an incredible 66.7 percent from the floor and I can guarantee we will not see that type of performance again. In the second meeting, Andrey Semenov but he will not be around for this one. The trends favor James Madison as it has been solid on the road but there is a lot more incentive for the home team as Old Dominion does in fact get its payback tonight. 3* Old Dominion Monarchs

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Tony George

Purdue vs. Connecticut    
Play: Connecticut -6.5         

U Conn is on a mission, and rumors of recruiting violations for U Conn will galvanize this team, and they are on a mission since losing in the semi's of the Big East Tourney in a 6 OT loss to Syracuse, who by the way is also in the Sweet 16! They are on fire on offense scoring 103 and 92 points in BLOWOUT Wins, and Texas AM folks was a very good basketball team who is physical and can shoot the three pointer, very much in fact like this Pirdue team who have simply lived out their shelf life. Narrow wins over Northern Iowa and Washington do not impress me and they wuill struggle to keep pace and trade puinches on offense, U Conn pulls away late there to win by 12.

U Conn 89 Purdue 77 lay the wood

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Craig Trapp

Xavier vs. Pittsburgh    
Play: Pittsburgh -7
         
Today Craig's free winner is in the Pittsburgh vs Xavier match up in the Midwest Region. For Coach Miller of Xavier its a reunion of sorts. Sean Miller was the star point guard at Pitt over 20 years ago. But don't look the Panthers to take it easy on there former point guard. This is the round that has given Pittsburgh fits in the last 5 years. As good as Pittsburgh has been in recent years they have not been able to make it the final four. Lets look at the records and trends for these two teams!

Team records:

Xavier: 27-7 SU, 17-12-3 ATS

Pittsburgh: 30-4 SU, 18-10 ATS

Recent Trends:

Musketeers are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games overall.

Musketeers are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games as an underdog.

Panthers are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 NCAA Tournament games.

Panthers are 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games as a favorite of 7.0-12.5

Craig has been on fire lately and has a big weekend ahead of him. In this match up today Craig loves, loves, loves Pittsburgh -6.5. In fact when Craig did his point spread, he had Pitt favored by 8 and still loved the Panthers. Pittsburgh has the three things you love when picking NCAA tournament winners: Great PG play, great defensive team, and solid rebounding. Xavier on the other hand struggles with a lack of a go to PG and struggle rebounding against big teams. Blair will dominate Xavier and most likely have both of Xavier's center in foul trouble. Fields is a true Point Guard leader and might not be a huge scorer but late in shot clocks or late in the game always makes the big shot. Pittsburgh has not got the job done the last three years in this round by this time they break thru and win big. Enjoy this easy winner!! SCORE PITT 79 - XU 66

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JIM FEIST

LOS ANGELES LAKERS / DETROIT PISTONS
Take: OVER

The Lakers take on a banged up and dispirited Detroit team, on a 1-6 run. Allen Iverson (back) and Rasheed Wallace (calf) are hurting and didn't play Tuesday, while Richard Hamilton (groin) is ailing. They haven't been playing any defense, on an 8-1 run over the total. LA has the third highest scoring offense in the NBA. When they last met, the game sailed over the total -- and Detroit was playing defensive then. Play the Lakers/Pistons over the total.

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Marc Lawrence

Play On: Detroit Pistons

The Pistons return home off back-to-back losses to host the Lakers with strong numbers on their side tonight. That's because Detroit is 13-4 SU and 12-4-1 ATS of late in this series, including 7-1-1 ATS when taking points. They are also 14-7 ATS as home dogs when playing off back-to-back defeats, including 5-1 ATS when taking more than 6 points. With Los Angeles in off an 18-point road win, we'll stay at home and grab the points with the Pistons here tonight.

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Cajun Sports

Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trailblazers
Selection: 2* Portland Trailblazers -7

The Rose Garden will be the site of tonights Western Conference battle between the host Portland Trailblazers and the visiting Phoenix Suns. The Suns are coming off a battle last night at home versus the Utah Jazz which was the late game on ESPNs Wednesday night NBA double-header. They will face a Blazers team that is the fourth best in the league when it comes to defending their home floor behind only Cleveland, Lakers and the Jazz for the best home SU record in the league. Portland should be well rested and anxious to get back on the court because their last time out they lost to the 76ers 114 to 108 as an eight-point home favorite on Monday night. Not only are the Blazers one of the best teams in the league when playing at home they also do a good job of bouncing back from a home loss. Back on December 12th they lost 120 to 112 as an 8.5 point home favorite to the LA Clippers only to come back and defeat Sacramento and Phoenix in their next two home games both SU and ATS. On Christmas Day the Blazers lost at home to the Dallas Mavericks 102 to 94 as a 5.5 point home favorite but bounced right back and defeated Toronto and Boston straight up and against the spread in the Rose Garden. The Suns are in a negative situation that is 10-20-2 ATS that signals a play against them when they are without rest in a certain situation. The Suns are 6-14 ATS as an underdog this season, 2-14 ATS after having won 5 or 6 of their last 7 games and 7-16 ATS revenging a loss where their opponent scored 100 or more points. Portland is 17-6 ATS in home games after covering 2 of their last 3 against the spread the last 2 seasons, 8-0 ATS in home games after a game where both teams scored 105 points or more, 25-14 ATS after scoring 105 points or more, 11-2 ATS in home games after playing 2 consecutive games as favorite and 20-8 ATS after playing a game as a home favorite this season. The Blazers are perfect when playing at home after losing their last game on their home floor versus the spread going 9-0 ATS this year and 8-0 ATS as a home favorite. Lay the chalk with the host as Portland continues this series streak of the home team winning and covering the spread this season.

Graded Selection: 2* Portland Trailblazers 117 Phoenix Suns 105

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DAVE COKIN

MISSOURI VS MEMPHIS
Take: MEMPHIS

Lots of similarities tonight as Missouri and Memphis battle for a spot in the Elite Eight. Neither team feels they've been given the type of respect they deserve off great regular seasons, and they both play with chips on their shoulders. Both teams have all kinds of speed and love to press. Missouri and Memphis have both shown killer instinct, but they've also shown an ability to avoid wilting when the heat is on. The one tangible difference that stands out is the ability to knock down the three point shots, and that's where the Memphis Tigers have the decided advantage over their counterparts from Missouri. I think we're in for a great battle between these two outstanding teams, but in the end I'm siding with Memphis to do just enough to get past the number as they advance.

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Jimmy The Moose

Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers
Prediction: Phoenix Suns

The Suns have been playing some very good ball of late. Phoenix comes into this won 5 in a row SU and went 4-1 at the window. The Suns are trying to catch Dallas for the final playoff spot in the West and will be facing a team they play well against. The Trail Blazers are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games where they have been favored by 5.0-10.5 points. Portland is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games as a home favorite. The Trail Blazers are 8-23-1 in the last 32 meetings between the clubs. Phoenix is 5-0 ATS in their last 5 trips to Portland. Play on the Phoenix Suns +.

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Dennis Macklin

New York Rangers at Atlanta Thrashers
Prediction: New York Rangers

The Broadway Blues have gotten a lift from bringing back instigator Avery winning four of their last five games. The Thrashers are playing out the string losing three of four and have lost four of last five in series with the Rangers. Expect top effort from NYR's playing for home court in first round playoffs. Take the Rangers.

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Jeff Benton

For Thursday’s free play in the Big Dance, we’ll take Memphis minus the points against Missouri.

I don’t want to take anything away from Missouri. At 30-6, they’ve had a marvelous season, and they enter this game on a five-game SU and ATS winning streak going back to the start of the Big 12 tournament.

That said, with the exception of Sunday’s 83-79 win over Marquette – and Mizzou blew a 16-point lead in that one and barely held on for the win – and a nice victory at home over a Blake Griffin-less Oklahoma squad, who have the Tigers really defeated recently? In addition to those two victories, they have wins against Cornell, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Colorado and Nebraska, while their last two losses have come at Texas A&M (96-86) and at Kansas (90-65).

Today, Missouri takes a huge step up in class against Memphis, which has won 27 straight games and the most recent one was arguably the most impressive. After scuffling in a first-round 81-70 win over Cal-State Northridge, Memphis annihilated Maryland 89-70 as a 10-point favorite. John Calipari’s squad was unconscious from the field (31-for-53, 58.5 percent) and its suffocating defense limited the Terps to just 43.5 percent shooting (5-for-14 from three-point land).

Obviously, naysayers continue to poke fun at the quality of Memphis’ competition, but you can’t ignore the fact that this team has destroyed virtually every team in its path. It has won six consecutive games by double digits and 16 of 17 by nine points or more!

Bottom line: Memphis has had a chip on its shoulder for the better part of three months, and it has absolutely relished proving all of its doubters wrong. Well, the doubters are still out there to fuel Memphis’ fire, but I’m not one of them anymore. With stud freshman point guard Tyreke Evans playing like a senior and big man Robert Dozier (17 points on 7-for-10 shooting against Maryland) filling the lane, Memphis has too many weapons for Mizzou to contain. Lay the small chalk, as Memphis builds on ATS runs of 19-7 overall, 13-5 as a favorite, 4-1 against the Big 12 and 12-3 versus winning teams.

4♦ MEMPHIS

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Matt Rivers

For Thursday take the points with Xavier.

Pittsburgh certainly can be a beast of a team to play but to get a full touchdown with a top 15 type of a squad is enough for me here.

DeJuan Blair and Sam Young are awesome and Levance Fields, Jermaine Dixon and others are big-time players for sure but the Panthers have been very pedestrian in the first two rounds of this tournament and to be honest with you very well may lose this game tonight.

Xavier is not a team that wows you and the Musketeers are also a squad that I have gone against a bunch when they are laying high prices. But to get the very solid and at times stout X-men plus a number like this is too good to not make a play on.

Sean Miller is an excellent coach who has been there and done that. His guys are experienced and high quality ballplayers that ran through the Atlantic 10 Conference pretty easily, save some end of the year road defeats. They are also as well balanced of a club as there is. Raymond, Brown, Anderson and Love are no joke and have been around the block with their coach for awhile now. This team will not just crap in their pants and without a doubt should be in this thing throughout.

It certainly is not going to be easy to keep Blair off of the offensive boards but the Musketeers will be in this thing until the end and this live dog is the right side for sure!

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Tony Weston

Today's Selection:

We come through once again as Notre Dame makes easy work of Kentucky to give us yet another Comp Play winner. That puts us at 10-4 with our last 14 Freebies and we’re adding to those winning totals tonight.

We’re sticking with some college hoops action as we’re taking Villanova over Duke in Tournament action.
Many people have been riding the coattails of Duke lately because the Blue Devils coasted through the ACC tournament and have looked decent through the first two rounds of The Tournament.

But the Blue Devils are beatable and susceptible for a let down.

Consider that while Duke has gone 6-1 SU its last 7 games, it has only gone 3-4 ATS in that stretch and failed to cover in its last tournament game, beating Texas 74-69 as a 7 1/2 point favorite.

But when it comes to The Tournament, covering has not been the Blue Devils’ strong point. Over their last 12 games in The Tournament as a favorite, the Blue Devils have covered only twice and have covered only one time in their last 6 games in The Tournament.

Also, Duke has not covered in any of its last five Tournament games when installed as a favorite of between 1/2 and 6 1/2 points. Going a step further, the Blue Devils have covered only twice in their last 11 games against the dominant Big East.

Now Duke has to deal with a Villanova team that has covered in 5 of its last 7 games against the ACC and has covered in 11 of its last 16 games against teams with a SU winning record.

Consider, too, that the Wildcats have been strong against their own conference, the best in the country, as they have beaten Pittsburgh, Syracuse, twice, and just lost to No. 1 overall seed Louisville by a point.

Villanova is one of those under-the-radar teams and will flirt with an outright win tonight. I’m not going to suggest taking the Money Line on the Wildcats, but do take the points and take Villanova on the side.

3♦ VILLANOVA

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Bobby Maxwell

Villanova vs. Duke -2', at Boston 

Easy FREE winner on the college hardwood Wednesday with Notre Dame as the Irish crushed Kentucky. Today we've got a sweet comp play with Duke, laying the chalk with the Blue Devils over Villanova.

Seems like the betting public is in love with Villanova in this matchup, but we love Duke in this one because they've got athletic, talented guards that will dominate today's game.

The Blue Devils won their fifth straight game on Saturday, beating Texas 74-69 but coming up short as a 7 1/2-point favorite. During this five-game streak, they are outscoring opponents by nine points per game.

Gerald Henderson is the leader of this team and he put up 24 points against the Longhorns on Saturday. Duke is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006 and you know Coach K. has got a great gameplan in place with four days to get ready for this one.

Villanova lost in the Sweet 16 last year to Kansas, gettig blown out 72-57 as 12-point underdogs. The Wildcats are on ATS slides of 1-4 as a neutral-site underdog and 3-7 in the Big Dance.

Duke has great guard play and when they put the clamps on Scottie Reynolds, Villanova is going to be dazed and confused. If the Blue Devils hit some early three-pointers, this game could get ugly early. Play Duke.

4♦ DUKE

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Re: Thursday Service Plays

Drew Gordon

Xavier +7 vs. Pittsburgh at Boston, MA. 

Solid Free Play winner on the Celtics covering at the Magic 84-82 last night! We switch our attention to the college ranks Thursday with similar results...

Despite all the love the Panthers, Pittsburgh-backers better be real careful in this match up, as the Musketeers are no pushover, and I fully expect them to keep this game competitive throughout.

We know from last year that this Xavier team has the talent necessary to hang with the big boys, and that'll be true once again here tonight. You see, in order to match up with Pitt, you better have size, and that's exactly what Xavier has with Brown, Love, Frease and McLean. True, of the 3, only Brown has any real offensive talent, but the other 3 are true bigmen and provide more than enough beef to slow stud bigman DeJuan Blair.

In fact, these two teams are built quite similar, in that, they both have solid big men (Blair vs Brown), solid wing players (Young vs Raymond), and plenty of depth. Of course, we give the edge in the PG department to Pitt's Fields, but the guard trio of Anderson, Jackson, and Holloway match up very well overall with Pitt's backcourt.

Finally, the two main edges Pitt uses to win games are all but nuetralized in this contest - rebounding and defense. Xavier excels in both areas, and if you need any proof, check out their double-digit win over a resurgent Wisconsin team (which knocked out red-hot FSU) Sunday! They not only won the battle of the boards (34 to 28), but held the Badgers to just 28% shooting... So do you really want to lay this many points with the Panthers?! I don't, as Xavier keeps this game well within the number Thursday night!

Take Xavier plus the points over Pittsburgh in this college hoops match up.

2♦ XAVIER

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Re: Thursday Service Plays

Karl Garrett

Xavier (+7) vs. PITTSBURGH - at Boston, MA 

Let's go to the Big Dance tonight, and play the Xavier Musketeers plus the points as they take on Pittsburgh in Boston.

The "X"-Men are quite familiar playing at this stage, as 2 of their last 3 Big Dance trips have been to the Sweet 16 or deeper, and I don't think they are going to be outclassed by a Pitt team that did a tightrope dance in each of their first 2 tourney games, surviving against East Tennessee State, and Oklahoma State to get to this matchup.

Pittsburgh has looked the shakiest of the number one seeds, and perhaps it is because they have not been past the Sweet 16 in years. The collar on their jerseys seems very tight to the G-Man, and this impost looks particularly tall to clear.

Xavier is a deep, and experienced team, and if they are able to limit their turnovers, I see them giving the Panthers a major scare this Thursday night.

G-Man playing the underdog Musketeers in this one!

2♦ XAVIER

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Re: Thursday Service Plays

Michael Cannon

Purdue (+7) vs. Connecticut, at Glendale, AZ 

Take the points with Purdue tonight when they take on Connecticut.

At first glance this would appear to be an easy game for the Huskies, but that’s why they play the games.

Purdue is not going to go quietly, I can promise you that.  If anything, the Boilermakers are capable of matching the physical play of UConn in the paint and that right there will keep Purdue close throughout the game.

The Boilermakers also boast a supremely balanced offensive attack and the entire team comes at its opponent for the full 40 minutes.

The Huskies are on a 3-6 ATS slide in their last nine games, while the Boilermakers are on ATS runs of 12-5-1 as an underdog, 4-1 as a neutral-site dog and 6-2 as a tournament pup.

Take the points with Purdue as they battle and stay within the number tonight.

2♦ PURDUE

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Sports Gambling Hotline

Purdue vs. CONNECTICUT -7 - at Glendale, AZ

How can we not like the Connecticut Huskies, as all Jim Calhoun's team has done is win their first pair of tournament games by 56, and 26-points to get to this Glendale game against the # 5 seed Boilermakers who were taken to the limit in the first two rounds, escaping against Northern Iowa, and Washington.

To us, UConn has looked like the strongest of the four # 1 seeds that are still playing in this round, and we see them winning this game by double-digits. Quite frankly we are surprised that the Huskies aren't laying 10-points in this game, so we definitely feel we are getting some line value with the chalk tonight.

We give Purdue credit for advancing to the Sweet Sixteen, but we feel Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon summed it up best when his team was routed by the Huskies, "too big, too fast, too good".

That happens to be the case once again tonight.

Play on Connecticut.

5♦ CONNECTICUT

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