Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

Charlie Sports

Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics
Play: Milwaukee Bucks

The (13-11) Milwaukee Bucks of the Eastern Conference Central division will take on the (13-12) boston Celtics of the Eastern Conference Atlantic division in 2012 NBA action. The Bucks are 2-1 straight up and Against The spread this season vs. Boston. Milwaukee is 2-3 ATS their last 5 on the road. The last 5 meetings between the teams have stayed under the total. Boston is only 1-4 ATS their last 5 NBA games. Milwaukee gets the road cover'.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

David Banks

Ball State / Central Florida Over 62

This was a banner season for the MAC, and one of its teams will be on display in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl Friday when the Ball State Cardinals (9-3, 9-3 ATS) take on the UCF Knights (9-4, 6-7 ATS) at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL at 7:30 ET on ESPN. Ball State is one of six MAC teams to make it to a bowl game this year, of course highlighted by the BCS busters from Northern Illinois crashing the Orange Bowl. When we last saw UCF, they took Tulsa to overtime on the Conference USA Championship Game before falling just short 33-27.

Ball State comes in on a six game winning streak after losing its first two MAC games this season, and those two loses came to Northern Illinois and Kent State, who just happened to be the two combatants in the MAC Championship Game. The Cardinals third loss this season came out of conference on the road at Clemson, so Ball State does not have a bad loss all year. The Cardinals ranked 22nd in the country in total offense and they averaged 214.2 rushing yards per game. That is significant here because rushing defense probably cost UCF the Conference USA championship as the Knights allowed 290 rushing yards to Tulsa in that title game and they finished 64th in rushing defense for the season allowing 162.4 yards per game. Now the quarterbacking for Ball State in this game was a concern for a while as the starter Keith Wenning strained his Achilles in the second to last game of the season and his backup Kelly Page suffered a concussion in the season finale. Both quarterbacks are now listed as probable though, meaning that Wenning, who had a spiffy 143.8 passer rating while starting the first five games of Ball State's winning streak, will probably take the start.

UCF averaged 35.2 points and 400.8 yards per game this season, but Conference USA was not very strong, resulting in the Knights having a schedule that ranked only 115th in SOS according to the Sagarin Ratings. Granted this is almost a home game with St. Petersburg being only about 100 miles from the UCF campus, but Ball State was 5-2 in true road games this year so this semi-road game probably will not bother the Cardinals much. Also, if the UCF run defense does not improve, and there is no reason to believe it will, Ball State could control the clock in this contest to silence the UCF faithful that made the short trip. When the Knights do get the ball, quarterback Blake Bortles has not been sharp lately while completing less than half of his passes in two of his last three games. He completed only 14-of-32 passes for 194 yards vs. Tulsa in the C-USA Championship.

Ball State is a sizzling 19-7 ATS in its last 26 non-conference games, as well as 6-1 ATS in their last seven games after gaining more than 200 rushing yards in their previous game. Conversely, UCF is 8-21 ATS in its last 29 games after allowing more than 200 rushing yards in its previous game.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

Jeff Scott SportsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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MTSU/ Vanderbilt Under 126: This neutral site game should be a good defensive battle. Vanderbilt plays great defense as they have allowed just 60 ppg on the year on 41% shooting. The Blue Raiders also come in playing solid defense as they have allowed 60.5 ppg on 41.9% shooting for the year. Both teams are also excellent at defending the 3 as Vanderbilt has allowed just 30.6%, while MTSU has allowed just 27.7% from long range. Vanderbilt on offense has been pretty weak this year as they have averaged just 61 ppg on 42.5% shooting, while when they take to the road they have averaged just 57 ppg on 39.6% shooting. MTSU has been decent on offense as they have averaged 70 ppg overall and 66.2 ppg away from home, but they are not a good shooting team as they hit just 43.8% of their shots overall and 41.4% of their shots away from home.  Another thing to look at is FT shooting and both teams are pretty bad as the Commodores hit just 59.5% of their FT's, while the Blue Raiders hit just 68.4% of theirs. Neither team really pushes tempo and with two solid defenses going up against two poor shooting offenses, we should see less than 120 points in this one. KEY TRENDS--- The Under is 7-1 in Vandy's last 8 neutral site games, while the Under is 11-2 in MTSU's last 13 vs the SEC.
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BAYLOR -7 over BYU:  The Cougars are a decent team but mostly when at home. When this team has played away from Provo they have gone 1-3 and in those three loss all were by DD. They did best Weber State on the road, but were also Crushed by Iowa State by 21 points in their only other true road game. The Cougars on offense have been solid this year, but in their 4 games away from home they have allowed 79.3 ppg, including 83 ppg allowed in their three non-home games vs BCS schools. Not good news when you're about to face a Baylor squad that has averaged 77.5 ppg and has shot 49.3% from the field at home this year. Baylor also plays pretty good defense at home, allowing just 64.3 ppg on 42.6% shooting. BYU can score, but Baylor still has the offensive edge, the defensive edge and they are at home, while BYU struggles away from Provo. Baylor takes this one by DD.
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SMU -3 over WAGNER: The Mustangs are off to a very nice 8-3 start, as new head man Larry Brown has really changed the fortunes of this team. The Mustangs do come in on a 2 game losing streak, but they should be able to bounce back tonight vs a Wagner team that has all sorts of problems scoring this year. Get this, the Seahawks come in averaging just 58.2 ppg on the year and that is with 3 games going to OT. Now that's pitiful offense. They are also 330th in the nation in shooting, hitting just 38.1% of their shots. Defensively Wagner is not all that bad as they allow just 60.5 ppg on 38.3% shooting, but they are taking on a solid SMU offense that averages 66.8 ppg (201st) on a very good 45% shooting (117th). Defensively the Mustangs are also ranked in the top 92 in both scoring (61.5 ppg) and shooting (39.1%) and that is not surprising as defense has alwys been the staple of a Larry Brown coached team. The Defenses are pretty even in this one, but the Mustang offense is far ahead of that of the Seahawks' and that should mean that Wagner will just not put up enough points to keep this one close.
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Washington State -8 over Buffalo: This is not a home game for WSU but it might as well be as this is their home state and Buffalo must travel cross country. The Bulls have won 2 in a row after a 2-7 start, but this team should be a bit rusty after a 16 day layoff. They also might not be all that focused here with the cross country trip, off the layoff and then having another week off after.  Washington State had been home for 6 straight games prior to this one and they are 5-1 in those games, with each win coming by at least 9 points, while that lone loss was on a last second shot vs highly ranked Gonzaga. The offenses are even, with the Cougs scoring just .5 ppg more than Buffalo, but WSU has a solid edge on defense, allowing 9.1 ppg less than the Bulls. Just a terrible scheduling spot here for Buffalo, especially vs a team that has played so well in this state this year. Look for an easy DD win by the Cougars in this one.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

Kyle Hunter

Alcorn St vs. Santa Clara
Play: Over   

The Santa Clara Broncos were horrible last year, but they have really turned it around this year. Santa Clara has three or four very good scoring options on the floor at all times. The Broncos are pushing the tempo more this season, and it is working out very well. Alcorn State isn't good, and I expect Santa Clara to jump out to a big lead in this one. After getting down early, Alcorn State will have no choice but to go ahead and run to try to catch up. Look for both teams to get up a lot of shots here. Take the over.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

Joe Gavazzi

Montana -2 ½

Last year the Hornets lost this matchup, 85-56 in Montana and 67-58 in the Hornet's nest. It was a continuation of the dominance that Montana has had over Sac St in the recent past. But this is the best team in the five year tenure of Sac St HC Katz. He returns all five starters and 70% of his scoring from a team whose win totals have improved from 2 to 10 in his four year regime. This year, they are off to a 6-3 SU, but 1-3 ATS start as the line maker over-rated their improvement. A 1-0 start in Big Sky play at the Hornet's Nest means little against Montana St. More telling may be their 11 point dump to Cal Davis as 5 point home favorite. The return of Will Cherry, the Montana guard who will vie for Big Sky honors as POY has not gone un-lost on the line maker who raised their rating before his first dribble. Earlier in the day, the "numbers guys" stepped in and knocked this down a notch. Two nights ago, we laid a similar number with Montana in their opening night win at N. Arizona. Defense is the key here, as Montana HC Tinkle (full well knowing that Weber is vying for the top spot with them in the Loop), will make it a priority for this 2-0 league start. Key numbers include Tinkle's record of 42-27 ATS con/win, and the Hornet's Nest home court, which is 20-25 SU L3+Y. And 0-2 ATS this year (even against league leader Montana, few figure to show up on Friday night).

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

SPORTS WAGERS

Ball State +7½ over Central Florida

The MAC conference clubs continue to get disrespected by the public and it’s not warranted. The Cardinals are the latest MAC team to be undervalued after they delivered a 9-3 record both straight up and against the spread. Their three outright losses came against squads that went a combined 32-4 in the regular season. Ball State has a strong QB, an outstanding O-line that allowed the QB to be sacked just seven times all year and the running back tandem of Jahwan Edwards and Horactio Banks have fueled this offense even more.

UCF played in the weaker C-USA. They had zero notable wins on the year and when playing any quality club, they lost them all including Ohio State, Missouri and Tulsa twice. You may read about the Knights’ quality defense that ranked first in the conference, allowing just 22 points a game but when they played the aforementioned trio, they allowed over 400 yards per game. The Cards have enough horses to take down this Central Florida outfit if QB Keith Wenning plays and even if senior Kelly Page has to fill in, we don’t see this one getting out of hand.


CELTICS/Bucks Over 190

Celtics basketball has been synonymous with defense for years but this year’s Celtics are just not as physical as previous clubs because they don’t have the same horses to do so. Boston ranks 15th in the NBA in points allowed at 98 per game and Boston has gone over the total in 15 of its 24 games. All of the C’s last five games have seen the winning team score over 100 points.

Milwaukee is coming off back-to-back games against defensive minded Memphis and Indiana. They have three-point specialist Mike Dunleavy back in the lineup and he promptly hit 3 of 5 three pointers upon his return. Dunleavy is capable of putting up 20 or more as he did when he racked up 29 points against Cleveland in a 105-102 Bucks win. Milwaukee plays fast. The backcourt duo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis like to push the ball up court quickly and if the Bucks shoot anywhere near 45%, like they’re capable of, this one should sail over.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

Kelso

Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Clippers
Pick: Sacramento Kings

This may be the contrarian play of the week, especially since the Kings may be without superstar guard/forward Tyreke Evans (knee) and the Clippers are going for their 12th straight win. But I continually remind myself trees don’t grow to the sky and while Los Angeles should get the win, they do not have to cover. In fact, knowing they can dominate the Kings may make the Clippers play with less enthusiasm and focus and make them even more vulnerable to the back-door cover.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

Scott Delaney

My free pick is going to be what should be a competitive game between a pair of BCS schools - Stanford and Northwestern - and I'm playing the home underdog Wildcats who could very well win outright.

Behind a wealth of momentum, as Northwestern comes in after a 74-68 home win over Texas State last Monday, as it closed the game on a 12-0 run over the last 3:31 to pull out the victory.

A win tonight, and another over Brown on Sunday, would give Northwestern (8-3) 10 victories prior to the start of Big Ten play which would tie a school record. And there's nothing better than a boatload of confidence before conference play - no matter what league you play in.

Now, though Stanford leads the all-time series with Northwestern, 4-2, the Wildcats won the most recent meeting, 70-62, Dec. 19, 2009 here in Evanston.

The Cardinal (7-4) arrive after losing at No. 25 North Carolina State Tuesday night 88-79. I'm not sure how the Cardinal is adjusting to travel, but having to sleep in a strange bed the past four nights could be wearing the players thin. Tonight they run into a Northwestern team I've watched improve defensively so far this season. The Wildcats are limiting their foes to an average of 59.9 points per game after allowing 68.2 points per contest a year ago. NU is also stifling opponents to a .401 field goal percentage, and its held five of its foes to less than 40 percent shooting in a game.

Play the home team in this one, as Northwestern aims for the outright win.

3♦ NORTHWESTERN

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

Chuck O'Brien

My free-pick run is at 146-119-3, and tonight I look to improve on that record with the home underdog Vanderbilt Commodores, catching points from Middle Tennessee State.

In an intra-state battle, I'm not sure why the SEC team in this clash is the one getting so many points, but I'll gladly take advantage, especially with the game taking place on a neutral court. Vanderbilt leads the series 29-4 and has won the last five but now is a 7-point underdog.

Makes no sense.

I know the Blue Raiders have an edge with depth, experience and post play, but Vanderbilt has pride, and isn't about to get beat by a touchdown.

Yes, Vanderbilt suffered a three-game losing streak in mid-November, but take that away and it has won five of six matchups. And even though this isn't at home, the 'Dores are just a short trek away from VU's Memorial Gymnasium.

Middle Tennessee hasn't been intimidated on the road, I know that, and I wouldn't be surprised if the offsmakers are right and it won. But it's going to come down to the end and could very well be which team is holding the ball last. This number is too big. Take the points.

2♦ VANDERBILT

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

Craig Davis

Tonight's free play will be better than last night's snoozer on Dallas.

I like Montana minus the small figure at Sacramento State. The Big Sky Conference games are already underway... and if you haven't notice, the conference has expanded.

Cal-State Sacramento and Montana each earned a conference win last week, so this looks like a matchup of the top two teams in the conference. Please!!

Sacto State is nowhere near as good as Montana and the only reason Montana isn't favored by 10 is because it's early, Sacto St. has a few more wins than anyone thought and it's a home game for the Hornets.

That's it.

They don't shoot the ball well, they don't play defense, and they won't rebound against a bigger Grizzlies team.

Granted, this isn't the same Montana team from a year ago, but it's still better than the Hornets.

3♦ MONTANA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

Jeff Benton

Your Friday freebie is the underdog Chicago Bulls to keep things close at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.

New York is off a big showdown win over borough-rival Brooklyn on Wednesday, and while Carmelo Anthony did play - and play well - Melo is still playing through a gimpy ankle injury.

Chicago has done a credible job while they wait for Derek Rose to rehab, and the Bulls come to NYC having won five of their last eight straight up. Chicago is 6-4 both straight up and against the spread away from the Windy City, and they are getting just enough to peak my interest in them plus the points against a Knickerbockers team that may just be a little content after their double-digit win over the Nets on Wednesday.

No arguing the Knicks 11-1 straight up and 9-3 against the spread mark at MSG this season, but with a possible letdown spot tonight, and Melo's ailing ankle perhaps slowing him down a tick, liking the points and the underdog Bulls to be there come the final buzzer.

Underdog play on Chicago.

2♦ CHICAGO

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

Chris Jordan

My free winner is on the Buffalo Bulls in their showdown in Seattle, Washington, where I think they're going to put a scare into the Washington State Cougars.

Buffalo comes to the Northwest riding a two-game winning streak after knocking off UW Milwaukee and Niagara. And even though the Bulls will be playing their first game since losing their starting point guard Jarod Oldham to a wrist injury, suffered in a practice, I still think they will provide the Cougars with a decent test.

What I noticed about Wazzou in a win against Jackson State was how poor the shooting was. Something tells me the Cougars play down to the level of competition, and aren't taking their lesser-considered opponents serious enough.

The Bulls come in on a 9-4 ATS streak after covering the spread, while the Cougars are mired in a 1-7 ATS slide on a neutral site.

4♦ BUFFALO

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

Matt Rivers

Friday night's free play is a blowout, as in the Warriors will BLOWOUT the Bobcats.

Charlotte came close to ending their losing streak at 12 earlier this week in Los Angeles, but the Bobcats blew a 3rd quarter 18-point lead in that one and lost by one. They promptly followed that loss up with a 17-point setback in Phoenix on Wednesday night to make it 13 straight losses and counting.

Add another tonight, as they play the Golden State Warriors, winners of seven of their last nine games. Golden State is off a loss at Sacramento on Wednesday, but they have won seven of their ten home games this year, and they did defeat Charlotte on December 10th, winning a 104-96 decision as the -4 1/2 point road favorite 11 days ago.

Not a lot going on right now for the Bobcats, as they have to be thinking of getting home for Christmas after their stop in Denver tomorrow night. I don't see Charlotte giving much resistance tonight.

Golden State to name it tonight in front of the home crowd.

4♦ GOLDEN STATE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday December, 21

Harry Bondi

Chicago (+6) over NY Knicks

The Knicks are the feel-good story of the NBA season thus far, but the pointspread has caught up to them and they are now one of the most "public" teams in the league. After covering eight of its first nine games, New York is 7-9 ATS in its last 16. The Bulls always play hard and are a tough team to beat by margin. They have only lost one game all season by double-digits because they play tremendous team defense. Let's take advantage of an inflated line and grab the generous points.

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