Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 7

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 7

SPORTS WAGERS

NEW JERSEY -½ +116 over Buffalo

With the news that Jonas Enroth will start tonight for the Sabres, we’ll now step in on the reeling Devils. Much has been made about the Devils losing streak coinciding with the loss of Martin Brodeur to injury. While Johan Hedberg has been less than stellar, he’s been a mirror image of Brodeur, allowing soft goals from time to time while making brilliant saves at other times. The six-game New Jersey losing streak has nothing to do with the loss of Brodeur. The Devils players are eager to get a win for Hedberg. They will come out tonight in the second game back from a trip and will play their hearts out. The Devils want this one badly, especially after outplaying the Sabres last week and losing 4-3 in OT.

When push comes to shove, these Sabres can be had. After reeling off three wins in unimpressive fashion, Buffalo has dropped its last two. Now Jonas Enroth steps in with his 4.73 GAA and .847 save percentage, which is last in the NHL in both categories. The Devils are too good to keep losing at this pace. This is a focused Devils group that has hit a bit of a snag but they’ll snap out of it. With its stock sinking, you can expect this determined New Jersey squad to come out tonight and play one of its best games of the year and put away this very beatable guest.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 7

Bryan Power

Toronto vs. Boston
Pick: Boston -1.5

I don't look to "lay" the -1.5 on the Puck Line all too often in the NHL, but with the money line too high for my tastes in this matchup, I'm going to do just that with the Bruins here as they host a Toronto team that played last night. For only the second time this year, Boston has dropped back to back games, the last coming in overtime on the road to Washington. I expect a strong bounce back here.....

Lost in the remarkable start by the Blackhawks has been the fact several other teams around the league are off to great starts.  One of them is the Bruins, who at 14-3-3 have the second most points in the Eastern Conference, trailing only Montreal because they've played three less games than the rival Habs.   The OT loss to the Caps occured in Boston's third game in four nights, a tough scenario.  They should immediately benefit from having had Wednesday off while Toronto was busying holding off Ottawa last night.

Before suffering the back to back losses, Boston had won six straight games, allowing only nine goals.  Netminder Tuukka Rask went 5-0 during that stretch with a 1.38 GAA.  Rask, who was actually drafted by Toronto, has dominated the Maple Leafs in his career.  He's won his last four starts against them, compiling a 0.94 GAA in those games.  As a team, Boston has won eight straight against the Leafs, outscoring them 37-10 and most important for our purposes is that five of the wins have come by at least a three-goal margin.  Lay the -1.5 here.

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Teddy Covers

Southern Illinois vs. Missouri St.
Pick: Southern Illinois

There's no question that Southern Illinois is playing their best basketball of the season right now.  The Salukis have won five of their last six, ending their long road losing streak in the process with an impressive upset at Drake on senior day last weekend.

The key to their recent surge has been defensive pressure leading to easy fast break buckets.  They've scored at least 15 points on fast breaks twice in their last three games and their 277 team steals this year were their most in the last seven years.

Missouri State head coach Paul Lusk knows what he's up against.  "They’ve done a terrific job with that (forcing turnovers). They've played about as solid and inspired basketball as you could play over the last month.  They've really come together, but there’s no doubt that their turnovers, and the turnovers that they force create offense for them. They’ve been outstanding with that. When we played there it was 10-0 because of that. They forced a lot of turnovers against Drake. They did the same thing against Northern Iowa.  They can get out and pressure you. They’re a mobile team. They’re undersized, but they’ve very mobile and athletic, and they can cause some havoc at the defensive end.”

The Bears aren't big enough to dominate Southern Illinois in the paint, with only a modest +7 margin on the boards combined in the two regular season meetings between these two teams.   And Lusk's squad is not a team to trust away from home; 2-14 SU on hostile or neutral courts this year including an 0-fer for the last two months of Missouri Valley Conference play.  Eight of those last 12 defeats away from home have come by double digit margins.

First year Southern Illinois head coach Barry Hinson is the former Missouri State head coach, and he's absolutely a coach I want my money on at this stage of the season.  Hinson ranks #3 all time in wins in the MVC tournament, guiding the Bears to to three tournament championship games in the process.  The Salukis are not poised for a deep tourney run this year by any stretch of the imagination, but they are most assuredly primed to get out of the first round!

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Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAYS

New York/ Oklahoma City Under 207: The Under is 5-1 the last 6 in this series and the last 2 between these teams failed to put up more than 199 points. I see the Thunder coming out a bit flat offensively in this one, after playing the Nuggets, Clippers and Lakers in their last 3 games. The Thunder offense has been unstoppable in their last 8 games, averaging 112.5 ppg over that stretch, but two over their lowest outputs during that stretch were vs Chicago (102) and Miami), two good defensive  teams and the only teams in that stretch vs the Eastern Conference. Now they face a Knicks team that is 9th in the league in points allowed, allowing just 96 ppg. The Knicks have been even better defensively off late, allowing 93.1 ppg in their last 6 games overall, and they have allowed just 95.1 ppg at home fr the year. The Knicks offense was great earlier in the year, but teams are figuring them out and starting to lockdown their 3 point shooting. THe KNicks do average 101.7 ppg at home, but in their last 10 overall they have scored just 95.1 ppg and have shot just 33.3% from long range i their last 5 games. The Thunder defense is not that great but and they do allow 99.1 ppg n the road, but I just don't see this Knick offense getting to 100 off them tonight. Both defense should have their way in this one as this game struggles to reach 198 points.


DENVER -4.5 over LA Clippers:  The Nuggets are one of the Hottest teams in the league right now and they are also one of the best in the league at home, going 26-3 and outscoring teams by 9.9 ppg on their home floor. Denver loves to push tempo at home, where they have averaged 108.8 ppg and they should be good for at least that vs a Clippers squad that is playing on BB nights in the altitude tonight. The Clippers average just 98.1 pg on the road and Denver allows 98.9 ppg at home. I just don't see LA coming up with enough points to keep this one close. Denver has been awesome at home, they best the Clipper here at home by 14 in January and they are rested. Look for Denver to tire this team out and pull away in the 4th quarter. 114-104 sounds about right.

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Jack Jones

Northwestern -5

The Northwestern Wildcats have certainly been struggling of late with six straight losses to drop to 13-16 on the season. However, this recent stretch has them undervalued tonight as they host the Penn State Nittany Lions.

There's no question that the Wildcats will be up for this game considering it is Senior Night. This is certainly a senior-led team with four seniors on the roster, including leading scorer Reggie Hearn (13.5 PPG). I look for these players to rally around Hearn and company and to send them out with a win in their final home game.

Penn State made its season with an 84-78 home victory over then-No. 4 Michigan on February 27th to pick up its first Big Ten win of the year. I suspected it would pack it in after that huge victory, and that appears to be the case. The Nittany Lions went on the road and lost 44-73 at Minnesota in their next game, and I look for them to get throttled again tonight.

The Nittany Lions are 0-8 in true road games this season. They are getting outscored by a whopping 14.4 points/game away from home this year. Penn State is 0-5-1 ATS in its last 6 road games vs. a team with a losing home record. The Wildcats are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games vs. a team with a losing road record. Bet Northwestern Thursday.

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Jeff Alexander

Butler +1.5

Off back-to-back losses to the top two teams in the league, I expect Butler to bounce back strong this evening. The Bulldogs have won or lost by a single point in 7 of their last 9 road games. Plus, they are an impressive 29-16 ATS when catching points under the direction of coach Stevens. UMass has been a very poor investment in games oddsmakers expect to be close. It is on a 42-70 ATS slide in games when the line is +3 to -3 and is just 21-37 ATS at home in this situation during this span. It has lost the home ones by an average of 4.3 points. Bet Butler.

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Brad Diamond

Michigan State -4½

When the Badgers return to their most hated venue East Lasing, they will be following a SU home favorite loss to inconsistent Purdue 69-56. The Spartans board as the chalk tonight after losing a heart breaker to MU on Sunday 58-57. They have now lost three straight on the season. We know Wisky is a stellar defensive unit holding opponents to 55.8% from the
field. However, it appears they are over their heads this evening with the Spartans in a bad mood looking to come back strong after their recent issues. MSU has won 11 of 13 SU in the series, covered the last 4 in East Lasing. Wisconsin played well in a 49-47 loss at home to the Spartans this season, but MSU has a "strong" emotional edge going in with a beatable number.

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Nelly

Massachusetts - over Butler

With Butler's recent tournament track record and the universal acclaim for Brad Stevens that has been well earned, this years Bulldogs team may have fooled many of us. Butler will be in the NCAA Tournament and at 9-5 in a solid Atlantic 10 and this team will compile a fine record by season's end but there are alarming concerns in the past month of the schedule. Non-conference wins over Marquette, North Carolina, Indiana, and Gonzaga gives Butler all the muscle it needs for the selection committee but since that win over the current #1 team in the nation Butler is just 6-5. Only one of those six wins has come against a team in the top half of the conference and the road wins came by slim margins against bad teams, beating George Washington by three and beating Fordham by five. Against St. Louis and VCU, the two best teams in the Atlantic 10, Butler has lost by a combined total of 49 points. Massachusetts lost guard Jesse Morgan in January to injury but the Minutemen have continued to compete. Massachusetts has won four of the last five home games with the lone loss coming by a single-point against Temple and this will be the first meeting ever for Massachusetts with Butler and the first chance to face one of the more prominent teams in the conference. Butler owns a winning road record but holds a negative point differential and the Massachusetts will push Butler out of its comfort zone with a fast paced attack, scoring nearly 77 points per game at home. Look for the Minutemen to make this is a very tough situation for Butler to get back on track.

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Tony George

Virginia -3

There is a reason the Cavs are favored here and it is a strong statement since they have not won a game in the state of Florida since 2001.  UNREAL.  The Cavs defense held FSU to under 40 points in the first meeting this year in a blowout win, and while it seems ranked opponents on the road are getting beat like a drum against unranked opponents, I am drinking the Kool-Aid here with a vastly better team, who has 20 wins on the year and are clearly a mis-match here for Florida State.  Virginia is inconsistent and been on a roller coaster since beating Duke but this is a winnable road game and it counts for tourney seeding, the Cavs will show up here and play that patented defense and get the win.

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Harry Bondi

FLORIDA STATE (+3.5) over Virginia

Florida State's worst loss of the season was at Virginia on January 19th when they lost 56-36 to the Cavaliers. It was the Seminoles lowest point total in over 3 years and they were an amazing but true 1-15 from 3 point land! We think FSU remembers that game and gets its revenge on the Cavaliers tonight. History and trends are with us here as well as Virginia has lost 7 of their last 8 games versus Florida State and UVA has been a money burner on the road all year going 3-8 ATS.

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SPORTS WAGERS

Texas Arlington +13 over DENVER

Of all the schools in the WAC, Texas Arlington gets less recognition than any of them. They will not make it to the main event this year unless they win the conference tournament but their play has improved and they’re in a perfect spot here. The Mavericks have won seven conference games in a row. UT Arlington’s last conference loss was by 13 points when playing on the road at Louisiana Tech, who is 16-0 in the WAC. The Mavericks are still 11-5 in the conference, they had 24 wins a year ago and they can surely hang around in this one.

The Pioneers are in line for an at-large bid. They host Louisiana Tech on Saturday and that is without question their game of the year. A Denver win at home on Saturday against the 16-0 Bulldogs almost assures them of a spot in the field of 68.  Besides that, do you really want to spot 13 points with Denver? The Pioneers play at a snail’s pace. Denver produces the second-fewest possessions per game in the country. In nine of the Pioneers 16 conference games, they’ve scored 64 points or less. That’s not conducive to spotting big wood. This is a Pioneers team that relies heavily on the three-point shot and seldom gets an offensive rebound. With more important fish to fry and a Tournament appearance on the line on Saturday, this host will be looking to just win this one and nothing more.

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NHL Predictions

Tampa Bay Lightning -150

These two teams have similar records on the year. Winnipeg is coming off of two straight loses, their latest a 4-1 loss in Florida against the Eastern Conference's worst team right now. The Lightning broke a 5 game losing skid with a big 5-2 victory and they will happy to head back home after playing 6 of 7 on the road. Tampa Bay has already beaten Winnipeg 8-3 this year and they've won 3 straight vs the Jets. The Lightning are 15-3 in these two teams last 18 meetings and 9-1 in their last 10 meetings in Tampa Bay. Take the Lightning.


Penguins / Flyers Over 6

We will go back to the OVER for the third time this season between these two teams. The first meeting was at the very start of the year (first game) and it was a final score of 3-1. Their latest meeting was more like a Pittsburgh/Philly match up with 11 goals scored and each team with over 30 shots on net. The Flyers have scored 30 goals in their last 8 games (just short of 4 goals per game), while the Penguins have scored 11 goals over their past 2 games, and 21 over their last 5 (over 4 goals per game). The OVER is 20-8-1 in the Penguins last 29 road games and 40-17-2 in their last 59 overall. The OVER is 6-2 in the Flyers last 8 overall. Take the OVER.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 7

David Banks

Denver Nuggets -4

One the best offenses in the league hosts one of the best defenses on the NBA on TNT Thursday when the stingy Los Angeles Clippers (43-19, 35-27 ATS) visit the run-and-gun Denver Nuggets (40-22, 37-24-1 ATS) at the Pepsi Center in Denver at 10:35 ET. Now if this were the playoffs, the defensive team would have the advantage, but in a regular season game between two teams not worrying about making the playoffs, the running style of the Nuggets combined with the high altitude could prove too much for the Clippers to overcome especially with Denver looking to take over the fourth seed to gain the home court advantage in the first round that comes with it.

The Nuggets are currently fifth in the Western Conference, but now only one game behind the fourth seeded Memphis Grizzlies and even only three games behind these Grizzlies in third. Denver put itself in this position by winning six straight games with the latest win coming on the road 120-113 at Sacramento on Tuesday. But the real story has been the play of Denver at the Pepsi Center this season as the Nuggets are now tied with the Miami Heat for the best home record in the entire NBA at 26-3! Denver is third in the NBA in scoring at 105.7 points per game overall and fourth in field goal percentage at 47.6 percent, but the Nuggets have taken things to a whole new level in the altitude while averaging an impressive 108.8 points on 48.2 percent shooting at home. Even the defense is allowing less than 100 points per game at home at 98.9 points, and although Denver is 25th in the league in points allowed overall at 101.8 per game, it is in the upper half of the league in field goal percentage allowed in 12th at 44.5 percent, as a lot of the points the Nuggets allow are a by-product of ranking second in the league with a tempo rating of 97.7 possessions per game, trailing only the Houston Rockets.

Now the Clippers are obviously one of the best teams in the league and they recently had big road wins at Indiana and at the New York Knicks. The Clippers rank fourth in the NBA in scoring defense allowing 94.0 points per game and they are second in the higher scoring Western Conference in that category behind only the Memphis Grizzlies. Still, it takes more energy to play defense than it does to play offense, and playing in this altitude while playing the second game of a back-to-back after hosting the Milwaukee Bucks in Los Angeles on Wednesday is not an ideal situation for the Clippers. To their credit, the Clips did hold the Nuggets to just 92 points when they last visited Denver on New Year's night. However, using that much energy on defense may have directly impacted the offense in that 92-78 defeat as the Clippers shot only 38.5 percent from the floor.

The Nuggets are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 home games vs. teams with winning road records, as well as 7-0 ATS in their last seven games vs. the Pacific Division. The Clippers are 2-5 ATS in their last seven games vs. teams with a winning percentage above .600.

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