Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Bob Balfe

Kansas State +8

This is going to be a great game. I like Kansas State because I think they will come into this game more focused with a coach who has been in this for many decades going against a coach that could be in the NFL in 24 hours. Kansas State has the best turnover margin in all of College Football. They also have the best punt and kick return numbers and they control the clock which is huge when limiting Oregon’s possessions. This is a very good run defense and Oregon will be without one of their top lineman tonight due to academics. I like Klein at QB for Kansas State and think this team will win outright. Take the Wildcats.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Nelly

Wright State - over UW-Green Bay

Wright State has not played an overly challenging schedule but the Raiders are 5-0 S/U at home and the home team has won eight of the last 10 meetings between these teams. UW-Green Bay is likely better than the 6-7 overall record indicates but the Phoenix are yet to win a game away from home, going 0-6 in road and neutral site affairs. After losing both meetings in this series last season in tight games this is a big game for the host and Wright State is 7-3 ATS on the season, facing a very short number with a very tough home court edge. Defensively Wright State is holding foes to just 55 points per game at home this season while holding foes to less than 40 percent shooting overall.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Harry Bondi

SAN ANTONIO (+1.5) over NY Knicks

After a hot start to the season, the Knicks are in a bit of a funk, losing three out of their last four. The problem is on the defensive end, where the team has allowed 100 points or more in seven of its last 10 games. That's bad news against a Spurs team that certainly doesn't mind pushing the pace. The Knicks got Amare Stoudemire back this week, but suffered a big loss when Raymond Felton went out of the lineup. Any time we can get the Spurs at this short of a price we're definitely looking to bet them, especially since they have dominated in non-conference games, going 40-18 ATS the last three seasons. Just like last night when we cashed a ticket with Golden State over the Clippers, this is a wrong-way favorite. Spurs win.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Bryan Power

Gonzaga vs. Pepperdine
Pick: Pepperdine

The start of conference play typically signals an uptick in motivation for most teams, but in the case of Gonzaga and the West Coast Conference, I don't see it Thursday.  Though the 'Zags saw their record stretch of 11 straight WCC Titles snapped last year, the team comes into tonight off back to back challenging non-conference games.  Laying this many points, with a bullseye on their back, is not a spot I like Gonzaga.

Furthermore, Gonzaga has failed to cover the last six times they have been a road favorite. Prior to going into Stillwater and upsetting Oklahoma State on New Years Eve, 69-68 as a 2.5-point underdog, the Bulldogs had played just one "true" road game this season. It was at Washington State and they failed to cover an 11.5-point spot.  So for those "keeping score at home," Gonzaga is 2-0 SU on the road this season with those wins coming by a combined three points.  They also recently failed to cover for me, laying 8.5 points at home to Baylor, winning only 94-87.  Admittedly, I'm not happy about that result.  But, still being objective, I feel this is too many points for Gonzaga to be laying on the conference road this early in the season.

Granted, Pepperdine has not done well against Gonzaga in past seasons. The Waves have beaten the Zags just four times since 1997, the last win coming in 2002 here in Malibu! That's a 22-game win streak with the average margin coming by nearly 20 points per game! But Pepperdine is playing good defense so far this year, giving up just 63.5 points per game on 39% shooting.  Obviously, the schedule hasn't been as tough as Gonzaga's, but this is a lot of points for what will be the Waves' biggest home game all season.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Art Aronson

Idaho vs. San Jose St.
Pick: San Jose St.

The (7-5) Spartans are back on home court after two good road wins are looking to atone for two losses in a row at the San Jose event center.  I expect the team to be hungry here against a conference opponent that is just under them in the standings in (5-6) Idaho.

San Jose State is 3-2 SU at home this year despite the two previous tough losses to James Madison and Santa Clara.

At home the Spartans are scoring an average of 70.1 points per game while allowing the opponent 66.0 for a differential of +4.1. The team is led by leading scorer James Kinney at 21 points per game. Kinney is coming off his seventh 20 plus performance last time out

The Spartans have ramped it up in conference games this year, going 2-0 SU and ATS; I expect them to make it top priority to win this one too.

Note SJS is 4-1 ATS when playing teams with losing records. Overall the Spartans are a profitable 6-3 ATS this year.

The Idaho Vandals are just 2-4 SU on the road and have beaten just the likes of Seattle and Eastern Washington away from home.

Kyle Baron is leading the way for the Vandals at 16.4 points per game.

The Vandals are averaging 65.5 points per game on the road while allowing its opponent 70.3 a game for a differential of -4.8.

Idaho State won both of last year’s meetings between the two teams; I expect this one to be payback. SJS still owns the all-time series 13-10.

Lay the modest points with San Jose State.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Kyle Hunter

California vs. UCLA    
Play: Over 148½

The UCLA Bruins have changed their strategy a bit over the last couple weeks, and it seems to be working well for them. UCLA is pushing the tempo and using their athleticism to get out in transition. The Bruins have scored at least 89 points in four straight games. California also likes to push the tempo, so I don't see anyone slowing this game down. My projections had this game set at 154 points. The over is 5-0 in the last 5 meetings between these teams. The over is 10-3 in UCLA's last 13 home games. Take the over.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Dave Price

UCLA -7

The Bruins will be out for some serious revenge tonight as they look to end a 3-game losing streak to the Golden Bears. UCLA is the more talented team, and I expect it to get the job done on its home floor. UCLA is a staggering 16-6 ATS as a home favorite of 6.5 to 9 points under coach Howland and has won by an average of 10.5 points in these contests. Cal is 0-5 ATS in its last 5 lined games, and I expect its struggles to continue against the revenge-minded Bruins. Lay the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Jeff Alexander

Colorado +12.5

Plays against favorites of 10 to 19.5 points after 8 or more consecutive wins, provided they are undefeated on the season, are 68-30 ATS the last 5 seasons. Also, plays against favorites of 10 or more points after 10 or more consecutive wins, provided they are matched up against an opponent that checks in with 2 or more consecutive wins, are 60-25 ATS the last 5 seasons. The numbers support Colorado.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Jack Jones

San Antonio Spurs +1

The San Antonio Spurs are red hot right now and they should not be an underdog to the New York Knicks tonight. Somehow, this team continues to be undervalued year in and year out. That has been the case again for the 2012-13 season as the Spurs are 26-8 SU and an eye-opening 21-12 ATS.

San Antonio heads into this contest with the Knicks riding a 7-game winning streak. Four of those victories have come by 20 or more points. The Spurs did lose to the Knicks 104-100 at home earlier this season, but that will only have them hungry to avenge that defeat with a road victory of their own tonight.

New York comes in playing its worst basketball of the season. It has lost three of its last four all to mediocre teams with losses to the Blazers, Kings and Lakers. Its only win during this stretch came 99-97 at Phoenix thanks to a buzzer-beater from J.R. Smith. The Knicks really miss PG Raymond Felton (finger), who has missed the last three games and will be out four-to-six weeks.

The Spurs tend to play better on little rest. They are 11-2 ATS when playing their 4th game in 5 days over the last 3 seasons. San Antonio is 14-3 ATS off an road win scoring 110 or more points over the last 2 seasons. The Spurs are 38-13-4 ATS in their last 55 games following a S.U. win. San Antonio is 41-18-4 ATS in its last 63 vs. Eastern Conference foes. The Knicks are 0-5-1 ATS in their last 6 vs. Western Conference opponents. Bet the Spurs Thursday.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Brandon Lee

Oregon -7.5

Hard to not like Oregon in this one. The Ducks are just as good if not better offensively and I believe they are more than capable of shutting down the Kansas State offense. Oregon simply has too much speed for Kansas State to keep up. The Ducks are 9-2 ATS when playing against a team with a winning record over the last 2 seasons and have won these contest by an average score of 43-25.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Dave Essler

Fairfield +4

Canisius being on such a great ATS roll this season and having already beaten Fairfield at home this season was almost a yellow flag for me. You'd think it'd be more, but with in-season Conference revenge, we've got to go with the Stags in this one. Since that loss to Canisius, Fairfield has rattled off five straight wins, three of them on the road, and on AT St. Joseph's, so we know they're playing good basketball right now. The Stags just play better defense overall, and unless Canisius continues to stroke their three's, this is nothing but a last possession game. Although Canisius is a veteran squad, their travel schedule of late hasn't been kind. Within nine days, they won at Temple, flew to Las Vegas and got crushed, came home for the obligatory cream-puff (Alcorn State) and flew up to lose a close game at Detroit. They've simply got to be a bit weary, whereas the Stags haven't traveled far and have had reasonable separation between games. Canisius was simply an awful team last year, and it's obvious that Jim Baron has taken Parrotta's players to a new level, but they are still Parrotta's players and if Baron can take them from the 300+ worst team in the nation to the near the Top 100, more power to him, but in THIS game it's all about revenge and value, which lies with the road team. We hit our free play with ease last night as UTEP +10.5 pushed Colorado State to the wire, and we'll see if we can't do it again tonight.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Ian Cameron

Marist at Niagara
Play: Niagara

The home team has dominated this series between MAAC conference rivals. Niagara has won the last three home games against Marist by 17 points or more dating back to 2010. The Purple Eagles come in to this game well rested having not played since their road loss at Notre Dame on December 21st. It will mark only the sixth home game this season for Niagara who are 4-1 SU on this floor which includes a win over New Mexico State. Niagara notched a very impressive early season MAAC conference road win against defending MAAC champion Loyola Maryland proving this team is capable when all their pieces are working collectively as a team. The Purple Eagles played one of their toughest non-conference slates they’ve had had in years taking on quality teams like Notre Dame, New Mexico State, and Oregon State and that should have them prepared for MAAC play starting tonight. Niagara junior guard Marvin Jordan accentuates the focus of his team on this conference home game: “It’s go time. It’s time to refocus and get down to business.”

Niagara will have their full lineup intact with the expected return of the aforementioned Jordan joining a solid starting five which includes the likes of Antoine Mason and Juan’ya Green. While Niagara is healthy for this game, Marist will be without starting junior guard Jay Bowie for a second straight game due to a concussion which takes away his 7.5 ppg and 4.7 rpg contributions for tonight. Niagara should have a major edge on the glass as Marist is the worst rebounding team in the MAAC. Marist has also been plagued by turnovers committing over 14 per game and the Red Foxes really struggle to get stops. Marist has given up 75 points per game on 43% shooting in their last five games.

After a decent start to the season, Marist has hit a speed bump losing three in a row against Bucknell, Hartford and Charleston with two of those losses coming by double digit margins. In my opinion, Marist is starting to look like the same old team that has been near or at the bottom of the MAAC for years. It’s worth noting Marist lost to the same Hartford team that Niagara blew out by 15 points earlier this season. This is a great spot for Niagara facing a team they’ve crushed repeatedly on this court in recent years. Lay the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Rob Veno

Wisconsin-Green Bay at Wright State
Recommendation: Wright State

Not at all reluctant to lay the short price here with the double revenge minded home team. Wright State has been tenacious on the defensive end this season. Through 13 games they are allowing just 39.8% from the field and according to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers, own the Horizon League’s best adjusted defense rating at 93.3 which ranks 67th in the country. The return of 6-10 junior A.J. Pacher to the WSU lineup (missed last three games) figures to be key here as his size will be counted on to help neutralize the Wisconsin-Green Bay twin interior forces of 7-1 center Alec Brown and 6-9 265 pound senior Brennan Cougill. The projected deliberate pace here doesn’t figure to bother either side since these teams prefer slower tempo. Wright State head coach Billy Donlon made a lineup switch last game inserting junior Jerran Young into the starting unit and that could be a key difference maker tonight. Young has led the team in scoring and rebounding the last three games. Each team has played at Idaho this season with the Raiders winning 80-70 and WGB coming up short 72-62. Wright State’s defense, home court (5-0 SU, 2-0 ATS), bench depth (can comfortably go nine deep), addition of Pacher and atonement for last season all add up to a Wright State cover.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Scott Delaney

My free pick run is now at 63-39-2 after Wyoming cashed in by a half point last night, and tonight I'm headed to Honolulu for my comp winner, as I like Cal Fullerton over Hawaii.

The Titans hit the island after a successful start to Big West Conference play in front of their hometown faithful. Fullerton (7-5, 1-0 in league play) now opens a three-game road swing this week, beginning with conference newcomer Hawaii tonight.

Fullerton's win streak reached a season-best four games with its victory over UC Santa Barbara last week, and during its run, the Titans are averaging 83.0 points per game while four players are averaging more than than 12 points per game. And it's not just offense that has propelled this team, as Fullerton is limiting opponents to a mere 70.8 ppg.

Meanwhile, Hawaii comes in with the exact same records - 7-5 overall and 1-0 in Big West play - but I don't believe with the same kind of offensive explosiveness the Titans have.

Cal State Fullerton's 83.8 ppg., coming into this the week trailed only No. 5 Indiana's 89.4 ppg., as the highest-scoring team in the nation. The Titans also rank among the top 10 in four other categories: free throw percentage (5th at .786), three-point field goals made per game (7th at 9.2 pg), and three-point percentage (9th at .409).

Fullerton has eclipsed the 90-point plateau four times in seven victories this season, and tonight its offense is going to exploit Hawaii's weak scoring defense that ranks 254th in the land, allowing 70.1 ppg.

The Titans come into this showdown on a 4-1 ATS road streak, while the Warriors have dropped five of six to the books at home and four of five overall. Take the road team here, as the Titans steal this win.

3♦ FULLERTON

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Craig Davis

I love catching the Knicks at home when they are playing a good team. It seems as if they step up their intensity level when the better teams come to town, and it doesn't get much better than San Antonio.

I've said this before and I'll say it again... this Spurs team is just trying to get through the regular season as healthy as possible, hoping to get some home games along the way. That's it.

The Spurs are synonymous with playoffs, so it's almost a given that they'll be there in May. So what happens in the other months leading up to May? Well, the Spurs pretty much put it on cruise control and their talent, alone, is usually enough to get them there.

The Knicks are 12-3 on their home court but enter tonight's game having lost two straight... something strange to the Knicks this year. But like I said, they don't get up for teams like Portland... and that's what happens.

Today, San Antonio will bring out the best in them.

Carmelo Anthony returned to the lineup after being sidelined for two games with a knee ailment and scored 45 points on 14 of 24 shooting (and added seven rebounds). Not only that, but big man Amare Stoudemire returned to the lineup in the Knicks last game, scoring six points on 3 of 8 shooting, getting 16 minutes of playing time.

If you like basketball, this will be a game to watch. Or if you're a college football fan, record this game and watch it later --- it will be worth it.

I like the Knicks at home as your free play of the day.

4♦ NEW YORK

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Jeff Benton

Your Thursday freebie is the New York Knicks as they take on the San Antonio Spurs in a TNT marquee matchup.

The Knicks have already claimed the first series meeting this year, winning outright by 4 points as the +5 1/2 point underdogs in San Antonio. Now the Knicks get a shot at the season-series sweep on their home floor.

New York has been slumping just a little of late - losers of their last pair and five of their last eight overall - but they were off last night and should be itching to get back to their winning ways.

The Knicks have won 12 of 15 straight up this season at Madison Square Garden while sporting a 9-6 spread mark.

San Antonio ran their win streak to 6 in a row with the win last night, but we all know how Greg Popovich likes to rest his aging stars when it comes to back-to-back games, especially on the road.

I am backing the Knicks to complete the season-series sweep.

2♦ NEW YORK

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Matt Rivers

Thursday's free play comes in the NBA as I back the underdog Minnesota Timberwolves plus the points against the Denver Nuggets.

Even if Ricky Rubio has to sit this one out, I feel the Nuggets extra-effort win over the 17-wins in a row Clippers the other night will have Denver in a bit of a "letdown" mode, as the Nuggets leave room for the T-Wolves to get inside of this impost.

The teams have split the two meetings straight up this season - both meetings thus far in the Twin Cities - and Minny has gone a mighty respectable 9-1 against the spread their last ten visits to the Pepsi Center.

Minnesota was on court in Utah last night getting pasted by a 106-84 count which should have them in a little bit of a nasty mood tonight.

With this line on the rise, just enough wiggle-room here for the Wolves and that 9-1 spread mark in the Mile High City the last ten visits.

Take Minnesota plus the points.

1♦ MINNESOTA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Hollywood Sports

Gonzaga at Pepperdine
Prediction: Pepperdine

The Bulldogs (13-1) are playing in just their third true road game in this one -- and they are just 2-9-1 ATS in their last 12 games on the road. Gonzaga has also failed to cover the point spread in 10 of their last 14 games against West Coast Conference opponents. The Bulldogs do come off their nice 69-68 win at Oklahoma State as a 2-point underdog -- but they have then failed to cover the spread in 4 of their last 5 games following a win. Pepperdine (8-5) comes off a 60-59 win versus Fresno Pacific last Friday. The Wave have been reliable in situations like this. They have covered 4 of their last 5 games on their home court. Additionally, Pepperdine is 5-2-1 ATS in their last 8 games against teams with a winning percentage over 60%. Take the points with the Wave.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday January, 3

Jeff Scott Sports

4 UNIT PLAY

USC/ Stanford Under 125: Here's a stat for ya. in the last 6 meetings between these teams, the OU line average was just 119.5 with not one of those lines being above 125, yet all 6 games have gone under and by an average of 13 ppg. This has been a very low scoring series of late and I don't see it changing here. Stanford has played some higher scoring games than normal away from home, but they have played 4 teams that play faster than USC (Northwestern, NC State, Missouri and Minnesota), while the one game they played vs a slowdown team (Northern Iowa), just 116 points were scored in that one. USC started the year at home vs Coppin State and in that game 160 points were scored. Now since then they have had 6 home game and those games have averaged just 111 ppg (regulation). That is how this team likes to play. They want the game in the 50's. Stanford allows just 63.6 ppg on 40% shooting overall, while USC allows just 57.4 ppg on 34.8% shooting at home. I feel that at home the Trojans will get the pace where they want it and that should keep this game from reaching the 120's.

3 UNIT PLAY

NEW MEXICO STATE -12.5 over Texas- San Antonio: These Aggies may be just 6-8 on the year, but they are also 5-1 at home and have always played well here. NMSU has gone 21-8-1 ATS in their last 30 lined home games, including 3-1 ATS this year, while outscoring their opponents by 14 ppg at home on the year. TXSA has gone 2-5 on the road this year, but each road loss has been by DD and they have been outscored by 18.2 ppg in those losses. Their losses included an 11 points loss to SC Upstate and a 33 point loss to Cal- Santa Barbara and the Aggies are clearly a better team than those two team, especially at home. The Aggies get a slight edge on offense, but a bigger edge on defense, where they have allowed just 58.4 ppg on 35.1% shooting at home, while the Roadrunners have allowed 73.9 ppg on 47.8% shooting overall and 41.1% shooting from long range on the road this year. I just don't expect the Roadrunners to come up with enough stops to keep this one close. Aggies by 17+ here.

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