Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 6

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 6

Sean MurphyFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Wisconsin vs. NebraskaFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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We've seen defensive slugfests between these two teams in each of their last two meetings over the last two years, and while this one should have a defensive tone as well, I do think we'll see it get into the 120s before it's all said and done. Wisconsin has actually made a habit of scoring in the 70s this season. The Badgers are an experienced squad, and even with the departure of Jordan Taylor....there's still plenty of scoring punch. Nebraska plays at a slow pace, a big reason for the defensive scoring average they've posted. Make no mistake, this isn't an elite defensive squad by any means. I do expect the Huskers to show some life offensively in this one. They were held to only 44 points thanks to a pretty awful gameplan against Ohio State last time out. Dylan Talley, Brandon Ubel, and Ray Gallegos combined to shoot 10-for-41 in that game, a number they'll certainly improve on here. It's also worth noting that the Huskers connected on only six three-pointers, and made just four free throws in that blowout loss. They'll improve on all fronts against the Badgers this afternoon, and ultimately help this one 'over' the low total.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 6

Harry Bondi

Kent State (+3.5) over Arkansas State

Kent State has been underrated all season long and we have made a nice profit riding this team, as they have gone a profitable 11-2 at the betting window, including 5-1 ATS as an underdog. So, we certainly aren't going to get off the Flashes tonight. Arkansas State might be a bit distracted here as their head coach, Gus Malzahn, bolted for Auburn. Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell also accepted a new job at Purdue, but decided to stay behind and coach his team for one last game, and his players are primed to send their head coach out on a high note. Both teams can put up points in bunches, but we like the Kent State offensive match-up against the Arkansas State defense that allowed 386.5 yards and 36.4 points per game. And much like yesterday when we cashed a winning ticket on Mississippi, Kent State is ecstatic to be in this game since this is its first bowl game in 40 years, which means they will be the more motivated team.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 6

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Michigan - over IowaFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Iowa is greatly improved this season and the Hawkeyes nearly stunned Indiana in the Big Ten opener. Iowa has only played one true road game this season however, losing badly in the Big Ten/ACC challenge against Virginia Tech. Off that huge home game this could be a difficult follow-up game and Michigan may be the best team in the nation. The Wolverines have tremendous scoring from the backcourt with Trey Burke and Tin Hardaway and Michigan has been an efficient offensive machine so far this season, shooting over 51 percent with over 40 percent 3-point shooting. At home Michigan has dynamic numbers on both sides of the ball and after losing at Iowa last January this should be a game that has Michigan's attention. Michigan's next game is at home against Nebraska which could be a flat spot but this game should keep the team focused given last year's loss and that it is the home opener in conference play. Michigan is undefeated and there are several impressive wins, beating Pittsburgh, Kansas State, NC State, and West Virginia and most of those games were not terribly close as only one of 14 wins has come by less than seven points. The home team has covered in seven of the last nine meetings between these teams and Michigan can pull away for a convincing win.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 6

Charlie SportsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Oklahoma City Thunder at Toronto Raptors
Play: Toronto RaptorsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The (25-7) Oklahoma City Thunder of the Western Conference Northwest division will take on the (12-21) Toronto Raptors of the Eastern Conference Atlantic division in 2013 NBA action. The Thunder have won the last 2 meetings between the teams including a 108-88 home win back in November. Oklahoma City is only 3-2 Against The Spread their last 5 NBA games on the road. Toronto is 5-1 ATS their last 8 at home. Toronto gets the home cover.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 6

Prediction Machine:

Paul's Pick: Baltimore -6.5 vs. Indianapolis (Covers 57.1%)

The most valuable overall game features the most likely straight-up winner - the only Wild Card Round game where we expect the home team to cover. As has been noted consistently throughout the season, the Indianapolis Colts faced the league's easiest schedule throughout this impressive run from first overall pick to 11 win season. Not only was it the easiest schedule of the year, the gap between Indianapolis and the next easiest schedule (Cincinnati) is the greatest I have seen in nine years of doing this professionally. Give the Colts credit for getting here, but they have struggled when overmatched and they are overmatched in this game against the Baltimore Ravens. As friends of PM Chad Millman and Bill Simmons discuss in their recent NFL Playoff podcast, if this game were scheduled for Week 1 of this season, even with all of the same players starting that are currently expected in this game, this line would be double-digits. That's still right about where it should be. Emotional wagering (the public backing Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano) is all that is keeping this line from a touchdown or more.

The Indianapolis Colts are 11-5 straight-up and 10-6 against-the-spread on the season. On the road, the team is just 4-4 SU and ATS. As a touchdown or greater underdogs on the season, Indianapolis is just 1-3 SU and ATS, with all three losses coming on the road and by an average margin of 43.0-20.7. The Colts finish the year ranked 22nd in our NFL Power Rankings - behind teams like the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Worse yet, Indianapolis does not rank as average or greater (1-16) in any of our strength-of-schedule-adjusted efficiency metrics. This includes a last place ranking in run defense, which cannot be good news facing a well-rested Ray Rice (whose Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda also got to take it easy last week to prep for this game). Maybe the most damning statistic related to the Colts is that, despite playing the easiest relative schedule in a decade, the only two teams that were out-gained by more yards-per-play than Indianapolis were Kansas City and Arizona. The Colts gave up almost a full yard more per-play than they gained on the season.

Baltimore has legitimately struggled with defensive injuries during an up-and-down season that saw the Ravens win the AFC North with a 10-6 record, yet finish just 6-9-1 against-the-spread versus the 18th toughest NFL schedule. While the close to the season, which saw Baltimore lose three of its last four games, is not inspiring, the Ravens never once faced a team that had been eliminated from NFL Playoff contention and still took advantage of weaker opponents when possible. As six point or greater favorites on the year, Baltimore went 3-1 and won all three of those games by at least 13 points (average score of 40.7-16.3 in those wins).

While we have erred on the side of caution and do not expect much positive bonus from getting back LB Ray Lewis for this game, it is important to note that Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Anquan Boldin and Bernard Pollard should all be as fresh as they have been in a long time after getting Week 17 off and that just LB Jameel McClain and CB Lardarius Webb remain as the defensive starters who will miss this game (seven other defensive starters have missed at least one game on the season).

According to 50,000 games played of Indianapolis @ Baltimore by the Predictalator, the Ravens win 71.8% of the time and by an average score of 30.8-21.7. As 6.5 point favorites that win by almost ten points, Baltimore covers the spread 57.1% of the time, which warrants a $50 play from a normal $50 player. The OVER (46.5) in this game covers 59.5% of the time as a recommended $75 play for a $50 player.

Paul's Pick: Seattle -2.5 vs. Washington (Covers 54.5%)

As Dave Tuley noted in this week's (great, as usual) Vegas Beat column, Seattle opened as just one point favorites in most early sportsbooks (we saw PK in at least one spot as well), yet the Seahawks have climbed to -2.5 in some spots and -3 in others (admittedly more now when I am writing the analysis late Wednesday afternoon). The Seahawks are not just the better team, they are by far the more complete team. In a matchup of two rookie quarterbacks making their first ever NFL Playoff starts, the team with the better team around said quarterback is likely to win. Undoubtedly at this point in the year, that is Seattle.

The Seattle Seahawks are 11-5 straight-up and 10-5-1 against-the-spread versus the fifth most difficult NFL schedule from 2012. While it is obvious to note that Seattle struggled on the road - given that they went 8-0 at home - the Seahawks had the ball with a chance to take the lead on a final possession with two minutes or fewer left in every single road loss. They did not lose a game by more than a touchdown on the year. Obviously, to cover Seattle has to win this game, which the Seahawks proved they could also do on the road with two outright upsets as underdogs away from home and a 50-17 win in Toronto in their final road game of the year. In general, not dissimilar to Washington, Seattle is playing its best football at the end of the year with seven wins (and six covers) in the last eight games.

Washington is 10-6 SU and 11-5 ATS against the 15th ranked NFL schedule. Washington has won seven straight games, but only one of those came over a playoff team (Washington's lone other win over a playoff team came in Week 6 at home over Minnesota). In our end of season NFL Power Rankings, the Seahawks finished third overall - entering the playoffs as the most likely team from Wild Card Round to win the Super Bowl. Seattle has out-gained its opponents by 0.71 yards-per-play which is the third best number in the league and more than twice what Washington has been able to do. The Redskins do have a great offense (the main reason this game goes OVER), which finished the year fourth overall, first in passing and fifth in rushing in our strength-of-schedule-adjusted efficiency metrics. However, the defense, which ranks 31st and is below average against the run and the pass, is an area of concern. Washington gives up the sixth most yards-per-play in the league and has the weakest pass rush of any playoff team. If Washington cannot get to Seattle's rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks get to the Redskins' rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III - as is expected in this projection - Seattle should net the victory. Wilson has the better overall team around him and is simply more likely to be standing (victorious and with a clean jersey) at the end of the game.

In 50,000 games played of Seahawks @ Redskins, Seattle wins in Washington 60.3% of the time and by an average margin of 27.1-22.7. As 2.5 point favorites, Seattle covers the spread 54.5% of the time, which justifies a $22 play from a normal $50 player (it is a playable $10 play with 53.3% confidence at Seattle -3). The OVER (46) has more value with 55.9% confidence and a recommended $37 wager from a normal $50 player.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 6

WUNDERDOG

North Carolina at Virginia
Pick: Virginia -2.5

Virginia is 9-0 at home and will be sky-high for rival North Carolina in town. How good is North Carolina anyway? They already have three losses, including a pair to unranked teams Butler and Texas. The Tar Heels are 2-5 ATS in their last seven games vs. a team with a winning percentage above .600 and 6-20 ATS in their last 26 Sunday games.  From one of the most talented teams in ACC history, UNC lost Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall to the NBA after last season. Virginia is formidable, winning nine of the last ten games. Virginia is plus-4.3 in rebounding average this season, thanks in large part to the efforts of 6-8 junior Akil Mitchell (9.2 boards per game). The Cavaliers are on a 7-1-1 ATS run and 6-0-1 ATS in their last seven home games. The Tar Heels are 1-4 ATS in the last five meetings in Virginia and the home team is 11-5-1 ATS in the last 17 meetings. Play Virginia.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 6

Tony Stoffo

Wisconsin vs. Nebraska
Play: Under 

Free Play - Wisconsin at Nebraska Money, trends, and intangibles all pointing towards the obvious lower than normal game here. This making for a solid release on the under in this spot - I just can't see how the Cornhuskers generate any offense in this spot. Under is 13-3 in Cornhuskers last 16 games following a SU loss of more than 20 points. Under is 17-4 in Cornhuskers last 21 Sunday games. Under is 4-1 in Cornhuskers last 5 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 6

Teddy Covers

Northwestern vs. Minnesota
Pick: Northwestern

The Gophers are ‘fat and happy’ off their 18-2 closeout run against Michigan State on Monday, turning a very tight game into a blowout in the final four minutes.  The Wildcats are looking for redemption following their worst loss of the season, a 99-64 home annihilation at the hands of #2 Michigan.

It was a game where the Wolverines couldn’t miss, hitting just shy of 60% of their shots from both inside and outside the arc.  Put those two factors together with this inflated double digit pointspread and Northwestern becomes a clear choice on Sunday.

Minnesota has repeatedly struggled to get good shots against the Wildcats 1-3-1 zone in every recent meeting.  Northwestern has won four of the last seven meetings between these two schools, and Minnesota only has one win by more than eleven points against the Wildcats in the last nine games that they’ve played, a competitive series.  Yes, Northwestern has significant injury concerns right now, but they should get Reggie Hearn and his 14.5 points per game back in the lineup following a two week absence today; a major addition to this depleted lineup.

The Wildcats have been at their best away from home this year.  They pulled the outright upset over Baylor in their last road test, winning by four as 9.5 point underdogs.  They’ve also won away from home at South Padre Island, beating TCU and Illinois State.  Meanwhile, the Gophers have been struggling to reach and maintain margins, failing to cover twice in their last three tries in this home favorite role.  Take Northwestern.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 6

Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAY

Memphis/ Phoenix Under 185: Theses Memphis games have been very low scoring this year, with their games averaging just 183 ppg, including an average of just 171.6 ppg in their last 5 games. Going back a little further and we see that just 3 of Memphis'  last 15 games have put up more than 185 points and one was in Denver (193), one was in Houston, where tons of high scoring games have been played and the 3rd was at home vs Philly (188 points). This is not a team that plays many high scoring games.  The Grizzlies have the best defense in the league, allowing just 89.7 ppg, while their offense is 24th (94.3 ppg). The should have little problem in holding down a Phoenix squad that has averaged just 92 ppg in their last 8 games. The Suns have been solid defensively at home where they allow just 95.3 ppg, including just 88 ppg in their last 2 here. These teams met here earlier in the year and i had that as a 4 unit under play and just 162 points were scored in that one. I expect this one to be played in the 170's.

2 UNIT PLAY

LAKERS -4 over Denver: Los Angeles is 21-4 against Denver at the Staples Center and they seem to be playing much better of late now that Nash is back. Denver has struggled on the road this year at 8-14 and I just don't feel they will come up with enough offense to win this one. Lakers by at least 8.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Sunday January, 6

Jeff Scott Sports

4 UNIT PLAY

Wichita State/ Bradley Under 127:  Have to agree with Pool on this one. This game will be all about defense. Both teams score right around 70 ppg, but for these two teams it has been the defense that has propelled them to very good starts. The Shockers enter his game have allowed just 57.6 ppg on 38.4% shooting and both numbers are ranked in the top 42 in the nation. Bradley comes in allowing just 61.2 ppg on 39.5% shooting and both those numbers are ranked in the top 75 in the country. Now digging a little further we will see that we may not get too many points from FT's or 3's. The Braves actually do shoot FT's well (90th), but the Shockers do not (217th). I also do not expect the 3-ball to be much of a factor here as the Shockers hit just  32.9% (204th) from long range, while allowing just 29.2% (35th) from downtown.  On the other side, the Braves are very poor from long range(315th), while being decent at defending it  32.4% (142nd). Just don't see a bunch of extra points coming from those two area's. Oh and from the-most-useless-stat-department we see that the Braves defend the FT line pretty well as teams hit just 65.8% from the charity stripe, which is 60th in the nation. The Shockers last 5 have averaged just 120.4 ppg, while Bradley's last 5 have averaged 122.4 ppg. This one should fall right around 120. KEY TRENDS--- The Under is 14-2 in Bradley's last 16 overall and 13-3 in their last 16 vs the MVC.

3 UNIT PLAY

North Carolina/ Virginia Under 135: This may be the highest OU line for the Cavs all year. Yes Carolina will look to push the tempo, but at home I have a feeling that the Cavs will not let this game get into a fast paced game. The Heels average 81 ppg overall, but just 68 ppg on 36.5% shooting away from home. The Cavs have best defense in the ACC allowing just 50.7 ppg on 35.3% shooting. at home they have allowed a ridiculous 46.7 ppg on 32% shooting. Just don't see the Heels putting up too many vs a Virginia defense that has allowed them just 61.5 ppg in the last 4 meetings. Virginia is not really an offensive team (64.8 ppg overall) but they still average 67.7 ppg on the year at home and will be taking on a weak Carolina defense, still I don't look for the Cavs to get into a running game with them. I look for Virginia to walk the ball up and then rely on their defense to try an win it. Carolina struggles to shoot on the road and they are horrible from the FT line. The last 4 in the series has gone under the total, with an average of 120 ppg being scored. I expect the same here.

1 UNIT PLAY

Kansas/ Temple Over 141.5:  Sure the Jayhawks have allowed just 59 ppg overall and 56.3 ppg at home, but this temple offense can score some points as they average 71.6 ppg on the year and they recently put up 83 points on a very tough Syracuse defense. The Owls do play an uptempo style and usually teams that do don't have good defensive numbers, but the Owls have allowed  just 64.2 ppg overall and 55.3 ppg in their true road games. A closer look shows that they really didn't face any good offenses in their road games. We also note that they played 2 games on neutral courts vs good offenses (Duke and Syracuse) and those games averaged 159.5 ppg, with the Owls allowing 84.5 ppg in the two games. Today Temple takes on a Kansas squad that averages 78.4 ppg overall and 81.1 ppg at home. The Temple defense will struggle again, while the Owls put up their share of points as well.

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