Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

SPORTS WAGERS

Memphis/INDIANA Under 179

After successive losses to Philly and Houston in which they allowed 99 and 121 points respectively, the Grizzlies promised to get back to what they do best against the Nuggets. They delivered with an outstanding defensive performance in which they held the Nuggets to a season low 72 points and won by nine. This visitor strives on defense and rebounding and will now play league’s 28th ranked offense.

The Pacers rarely score 100. Against strong defenses they struggle miserably. Roy Hibbert is shooting a career-low 40.4 percent and averaging just 9.9 points, the fewest since his rookie year. The Pacers rank 2nd in the Association defensively, allowing just 90 points per game. Also note the early start here on a Monday afternoon, which takes these players out of routine. In what figures to be a half-court game, played a snail’s pace, look for both teams to be around the 80 point mark.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

SPORTS WAGERS

N.C. State +7 over Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt ranked 10th nationally in passing yards per game and they rank inside the top 20 in a host of more advanced stats. However, Vandy has seen one good passing team this season (Week 4 against Georgia, which routed the Commodores 48-3). Against Ole Miss in Week 11, Vandy allowed 403 passing yards and while Tennessee was a good passing team at the beginning of the season, its passing game was struggling when it played Vandy in Week 12. We're just not convinced that a Vanderbilt pass defense that has feasted on one of the worst slates of passing offenses imaginable for an SEC team can keep Mike Glennon and the Pack from threatening 30 points.

Vanderbilt played four of the SEC's five non-bowl teams, lost to all four winning teams on the schedule by more than 18 points per game and notched just one win over a fellow bowl team, a miracle one-point escape over a 6-6 Mississippi outfit that outgained the Commodores by 87 yards. Bobby Johnson's 2008 Music City Bowl champs were the last Vanderbilt team to actually beat an opponent with a winning record and that is not the résumé of a team that you want to spot 7 points with. 


USC -7½ over Georgia Tech

USC opened as a 9½-point choice but has dropped because Trojans QB, Matt Barkley, one of the greatest red zone passers in the sport's history and face of the franchise, is out with a separated shoulder. Most see that as a hindrance. We see it as an opportunity. The Yellow Jackets can’t stop the marching band. They were torched by every legit offense they faced this season and this one is no different. Tech's truly miserable coverage units is another huge liability and one that will allow the Trojans great field position all day long. USC is also undervalued because of a late season collapse but that does not reflect the talent on its roster. Let’s also not ignore that it is USC’s return to postseason after a two-year ban and that should have them plenty motivated here.

The Yellow Jackets offense is also very strong and they’re very likely to keep the chains moving. However, their offense cannot keep pace with what their defense will allow and having to play that way led them to a 6-7 record. The Jackets were blown out on numerous occasions this season and that’s not the type of a team you want to back in a bowl game after a month off.


Tulsa/Iowa State under 51½

These two played one another to open the year and the Cyclones won 38-23. After that loss, the Golden Hurricane reeled off seven wins in a row to close out the year with a 10-3 record. The Cyclones went just 6-6 but played in the much tougher Big-12 and that’s significant. When we look at ISU we see an outfit that held Baylor to 21, Texas Tech to 24 and K-State to 27. They also played West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas. Facing the run-oriented Golden Hurricane offense is a big step down in class for these Cyclones.

Tulsa averaged 240 yards a game on the ground for one of the best rushing attacks in the land. However, most of that came against a bunch of non-descript C-USA defenses and facing ISU just doesn’t compare. Both defenses were at the top of their respective conferences in total points allowed and that bodes well here, as Iowa State’s offense is a methodical, grind it one that will lean on redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Richardson while Tulsa will be running left, running right and running up the middle. This might be one of the tightest games of the bowl season and that’s the way we’ll play it.


Clemson +6 over LSU

The ACC Tigers are loaded offensively. They had six all-conference selections including the kicker. The SEC Tigers are loaded defensively with the same six all-conference selections. However, this year’s LSU defense is not as good as previous years and will have to face one of the country’s most explosive passing attacks. LSU allowed three straight 300 yard passing games in its final three games. Offensively, give a big edge to Clemson.   

LSU is a significant price here because its pedigree demands it. They’re 9-1 in the Georgia Dome and they’ve dropped just one of their past 37 non-conference games. That’s impressive but what it does is allow us an opportunity to cash in against that outstanding résumé. For Clemson, this game represents an opportunity for redemption for last season's Orange Bowl debacle. Six points would be an appropriate price for a past, dominant LSU team to spot to this 10-2 Clemson squad. LSU is still a solid club but this is the weakest LSU edition in three seasons and taking the points in what is a toss-up game is the only way to play it.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

Chuck O'Brien

Big game tonight in St. Louis at the Chaifetz Arena, as the Billikens host Mountain West powerhouse New Mexico, which is already 13-1 on the season. My free pick is going to be on the home team, which is laying -4 points.

The Billikens are out for revenge, as New Mexico won a 64-60 thriller last season on New Year's Eve, at the Pit in Albuquerque.

The Billikens come in riding a six-game winning streak, after a 3-3 start to the season. St Louis is in the midst of nine straight home games, and it is currently 6-0 on the homestand. The Bills won't leave Chaifetz Arena until Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, when they take on Temple in Philadelphia. Thus, with it being New Year's Eve, the whole revenge concept... this is a good spot for the Billikens.

New Mexico will have its hands fill against the Atlantic 10's top scoring defense. St. Louis allows a bleak 55.4 points per game. The Billikens comes in after yielding a season low in points in each of the last three games.

New Mexico could be in store for a letdown, as it arrives in St. Louis after recording a 55-54 upset win at No. 8 Cincinnati last Thursday. It was a solid rebound from a shocking loss to South Dakota State.

While the Lobos are mired in a 1-7 ATS slide against Atlantic 10 foes, St. Louis is on on a 7-2 spread streak after an ATS cover.

Take the home chalk here.


2♦ ST. LOUIS

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

Craig Davis

Today's free play is on the Vandy Commodores over NC State. As stupid as it sounds, I'm leaning towards Vandy because they get to stay home in Nashville to play this game. Granted, that's obviously not the only reason I like Vandy here today, but it did clearly factor into my decision.

HC James Franklin got his wish after leading his Commodores to an 8-4 record... the team's best in 30 seasons. Impressive. And they can thank their schedule-makers and the fact they got hot at the right time down the stretch, winning six straight to close out the season.

They finished with a 5-3 record in SEC play which is a major accomplishment considering the league they play in.

Their last loss came against a very good Florida team back on October 13 The only other losses they suffered came against South Carolina (a bowl team), Northwestern (a bowl team), and Georgia (almost in the national championship game).

Despite the team's 7-5 finish to the regular season, NC State is nearly impossible to predict. They lose games they should win and win games they should lose. The biggest win on their schedule this year was when Florida State came to town and they somehow found a way to fight back from a 16-0 deficit.

Yet on the same token... the Wolfpack suffered an embarrassing 33-6 home loss to Virginia. How does that happen???

This is just the second meeting between these two schools in their history, with Vandy winning the only other meeting back in 1946... 7-0.

NC State's defense allowed just under 420 yards per game and often times take too many risks for their own good. Take those risks against a disciplined team like Vandy and pay dearly. I like the 'Dores by 10 as your free play of the day.

2♦ VANDERBILT

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

Jeff Benton

Monday freebie is the LSU Tigers minus the points over Clemson in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl tonight in Atlanta.

Clemson was a juggernaut on offense this season, but in the two toughest games on their schedule this season - Florida and South Carolina - the Tigers ended up as double-digit losers.

Does not take a rocket scientist to see that Florida and South Carolina are BOTH SEC schools, and that Clemson is once again up against an SEC foe.

LSU may struggle in the regular season as the favorite, but in their postseason bowl games, the Bayou Bengals have won and covered five of their last seven.

Keep in mind that both teams lost their bowl games last year, LSU in the title game against Alabama, Clemson in the Orange Bowl against West Virginia in a game they allowed 70 points to be scored against them!

Clemson will want to save themselves another embarrassment, and while they may not give up 70, they will nonetheless give up enough for them to lose both straight up and against the spread.

Take LSU minus the points.

2♦ LSU

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

Chris Jordan

My free pick for tonight is going to be on the Utah State Aggies, laying points against Texas State.

Utah State has now won nine games in a row, and is now 10-1 to start a season for the first time in four years. And make note the Aggies are playing their first two WAC games on the road for the first time in three years and will be pumped up to leave the Lone Star State unblemished in conference play.

Coach Stew Morrill's boys have won their last five road games, and are now on a 24-13 win with a suitcase in hand, dating back to the 2009-10 season. In their three road wins this season, the Aggies average a +4.0 winning margin.

Tonight they're going to manhandle Texas State (4-9, 0-1), which is going to experience some bumps and bruises in its first season as a member of the WAC.

Lay the road chalk.

2♦ UTAH STATE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

Matt Rivers

2-0 Sunday free play sweep with the Vikings and the Eagles-Giants Over the total.

Now 80-67 overall with my free plays.

Today I will take the points and the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech as they take on the USC Trojans in the Sun Bowl.

The Techsters have not had a good go of it when it comes to "bowling, as Georgia Tech has dropped seven straight bowl games, and are on a 1-6 spread slide in those seven losses!

True, that skid may hit eight in a row, but can you honestly say you trust the Trojans to cover this spread? I know I can't.

USC started the season with hopes of playing in the BCS title game, and here they come into El Paso to play this New Year's Eve Day contest. Talk about not meeting expectations.

The Trojans will go without their starting QB Matt Barkley who is still sidelined with the shoulder injury. The Trojans are also just 3-7 versus the spread as the favorite this season.

G-Tech acquitted themselves well in the ACC title game versus Florida State, and do come in on a 5-2 spread run their last seven games.

Take the Yellow Jackets plus the points as they look to snap their seven game bowl losing skid.

4♦ GEORGIA TECH

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

Ray Monohan

North Texas +14

With forward Tony Mitchell on the roster the Mean Green are getting national attention. Unfortunately most of it has been negative this year as the team has struggled despite returning an experienced roster featuring a future pro.

The Sun Belt got a jump on the competition by starting their conference season early and North Texas wasn’t ready - they have already dropped two games. They are in emergency mode right now if they want to make their season meaningful. Mitchell went for 16 and 11 when these squads squared off last season - it was a two point game loss for NT.

I think another close one is in store. The gap between teams in the Sun Belt is not all that great and. Mitchell has to stay out of foul trouble though.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

Bryan Leonard

San Antonio -9.5

The Spurs are a healthy bunch right now and are playing solid basketball. Now 10-2 ATS vs the Eastern Conference this season and 4-2 ATS playing unrested. Last night they were never threatened against the Mavericks and were able to limit the minutes of the key contributors. Tim Duncan is playing with fresh legs and it has shown in the box score.

Brooklyn has played well since the coaching change with back to back wins and covers over Charlotte and Cleveland. But now they take a major step up in talent to face the Spurs. Brooklyn has picked up the pace since PJ Carlesimo has taken over which was a major sticking point with the prior coach. But speeding up the game isn't the best strategy against a San Antonio team that is so talented in the full court game. PJ is a Pop disciple so the San Antonio coach is well aware of what the Nets will try to do tonight.

We will lay the points here with a veteran team on a nice productive run against a Brooklyn team still looking for answers.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

Jeff Scott Sports

4 UNIT PLAY

Indiana/ Iowa Over 151: Kinda been waiting for this game as it should be an exciting one. Both teams play at a very fast pace and that should lead to a ton of points in this one. Both teams come in in the top 86 in the nation in shots per game, while both are also in the top 38 in points per possession. Indiana least the nation is scoring at 89.4 ppg, while Iowa has averaged 76.9 ppg on the year and has put up at least 80 points in their last 6 games. No need for a shot clock in this one as this game eclipses 160 points. KEY TREND--- 10 of the last 14 in the series has gone Over the total.

3 UNIT PLAYS

Cincinnati/ Pittsburgh Under 125: Both teams have really been playing low scoring games of late. Cincinnati's last 3 have averaged just 113.3 ppg, while Pittsburgh's last 5 have put put up 118.4 ppg. Both teams have been excellent on defense this year, but even more so of late as Pittsburgh has allowed a mere 43.6 ppg in their last 5 games, while Cincinnati has allowed 54.8 ppg in their last 5. Cincy is 6th in the nation in defensive FG%, while Pittsburgh is 37th. This will not be an uptempo game and with both defenses playing out of their minds right now I look for this one to struggle to hit 115 points.


UMKC -5.5 over NEB-OMAHA: They say never ask a bad team to win for you. Well I will today day. Actually UMKC hasn't played all that bad despite their 4-9 record. Yes they have blowout losses to Ohio State and Louisville, but also lost by just 8 at Kansas State, by 1 vs SEMO, won at North Dakota and lost by just 5 at home vs Western Illinois. Neb-Omaha has been crushed 20.1 ppg on the year and 2 of their 3 wins have come vs team that don't normally have line put up on them and the other one was vs a very bad Northern Illinois squad. I expect the Kangaroos to hop all over (boy that was bad) the Mavericks in this one.


St Louis/ New Mexico Under 124: The Lobo's come in allowing just 59.6 ppg in their last 5 games and they just held a good Cincinnati offense to 54 points on 31% shooting in their last game. St Louis does shoot the ball well (46.3%), but they play at a slow pace and thus score just 66.23 ppg. On the other side we have a Billikens team that allows just 55.4 ppg overall and 53 ppg at home and while the Lobo's do score 70 ppg, they are not a great shooting team, hitting just 41.9% of their shots overall and 39.8 ppg on the road. Both teams will play at a slow pace and that along with the defense will keep the scoring low.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAY

Tulsa/ Iowa State Over 51.5: Tulsa's offense is a run first offense but they do put up 35 ppg and teams have been opening up their offense a bit more. Tulsa will use their run game to set up some big pays down field. Tulsa does average 240 ypg on the ground and 220 ypg through the air, making this balanced offense hard to defend. They will be taking on a Cyclone defense that allowed 441 ypg, including 280 ypg through the air. The Cyclones do allow just 23.3 ppg, but I feel that Tulsa will find a way to put more points than that on the board. Iowa State mad a late switch at QB to Sam Richardson and he had a good showing in helping the Cyclones put up 75 points in their last 2 games. Tulsa's defense is not easy to move the ball on, but they still allowed 24.2 ppg on the year, including 27.7 ppg in their last 3 games. These teams put up 61 points in the first meeting and could come close to that in this one.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

Wunderdog

New Mexico at Saint Louis
Pick: Saint Louis -4.5

The New Mexico Lobos are off to a 13-1 start on the season and could find it difficult to get the energy level up where it is going to need to be vs. a competent Saint Louis team that is out of the gate at 9-3, winning 8 of 9 on home hardwood. The Lobos knocked the Cincinnati Bearcats from the ranks of the unbeaten with a physical hard fought game that ended in a one point decision for the Lobos. The Billikens are deep and experienced and like to  control the tempo. They don't beat themselves, as they turn the ball over less than 11 times a contest. The Billikens are sustaining momentum off a 20+ point win where they are 8-3 ATS in their last 11. Play on Saint Louis.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

John Ryan

UNC-Greensboro at NC State
Play: UNC-Greensboro

The simulator shows a high probability that Greensboro will lose this game by fewer than 20 points. Supporting this graded play is a proven system posting a 40-12 ATS mark for 77% winners since 1997. Play on road dogs of 10 or more points off an upset loss by 10 points or more as a favorite and now facing an opponent off a home no-cover where the team won straight up as a favorite. Of course this is a mismatch on paper, but NC State has not done well ATS when facing inferior teams. They sport an imperfect 0-6 ATS in home games versus poor pressure defensive teams forcing <=14 turnovers per game over the last 2 seasons. The line is inflated simply because of the ‘flash stats’ showing how poorly Greensboro has done and that NC State is ranked No. 23 in the nation. It is just far too many points given the situation and that State has no reason to make a fool of their state rival. State has used their bench far more in games like this one as a way to make the overall team stronger as they enter the January conference games that matter for more than this ‘scrimmage’. Take Greensboro to compete well enough to keep this game between 10 and 20 points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday December, 31

Andre Gomes

Grizzlies / Pacers Under 178

Indiana will be playing their third game in four days, while Memphis had one day off to prepare for this game. The Pacers is coming from a road loss in Atlanta last Saturday night, where the Pacers were very poor on defense, with Roy Hibbert being benched in the fourth quarter exactly because of that. Indiana's coach Frank Vogel confirmed these defensive problems of his team by saying that "we made a lot of mistakes and had many, many breakdowns as well. We just didn't execute what our defensive schemes are all about."

On the other hand, Memphis is coming from a home win against Denver, where they held the potent Nuggets offense to just 72 points! The Grizzlies played so well in that game on defense that either the Pacers have a defensive bounce back today or they will be in huge trouble today as well. In theory, the Pacers defense has the skills to limit the Grizzlies offense. They have an excellent frontcourt defense and they are also a good defensive rebounding team. Indiana is #1 on points in the paint allowed per game and #5 on defensive rebounding in the league. With Roy Hibbert being humiliated on the team's last game, I expect him to have a big effort on defense tonight against Marc Gasol. Atlanta crushed Indiana's defense with a very good all-around game, especially on the perimeter with 13-20 FG from 16-23 feet and 10-20 treys! Memphis isn't a good team on the outside shooting, as in fact they are just shooting 32% 3pts over their last 10 games, so I believe they won't be able to repeat what the Hawks did against Indiana last Saturday.

Indiana's offense needs to have their post up game working to be effective. Indiana's offense relies around their post ups, spot ups, transitions and pick and rolls ball handler plays, however Memphis is a top defense is all these plays: #3 on post up defense, #8 on spot up defense, #9 on transition defense and #4 on pick and roll ball handler defense! This will be a naturally tough matchup for Indiana, as Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will have Roy Hibbert and David West a big fight, while Tony Allen will be defending Paul George and Mike Conley defending a banged up George Hill. I see these two teams have clear defensive edges over their opponent's offense and therefore, I expect a super low scoring game in here. I'll be taking the Under on this contest.

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