Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

DUNKEL INDEX

NBA

Portland at Chicago
The Blazers look to take advantage of a Chicago team that is 2-9 ATS in its last 11 games versus Northwest Division opponents. Portland is the pick (+5) according to Dunkel, which has the Blazers favored by 1 1/2. Dunkel Pick: Portland (+5)

Game 701-702: Portland at Chicago (8:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Portland 119.453; Chicago 117.842
Dunkel Line & Total: Portland by 1 1/2; 192
Vegas Line & Total: Chicago by 5; 188
Dunkel Pick: Portland (+5); Over

Game 703-704: Philadelphia at Denver (9:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Philadelphia 113.417; Denver 132.427
Dunkel Line & Total: Denver by 19; 189
Vegas Line & Total: No Line
Dunkel Pick: N/A

Game 705-706: Minnesota at Sacramento (10:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Minnesota 111.882; Sacramento 123.860
Dunkel Line & Total: Sacramento by 12; 208
Vegas Line & Total: Sacramento by 5 1/2; 212
Dunkel Pick: Sacramento (-5 1/2); Under

NHL

Calgary at Nashville 
The Predators look to take advantage of a Calgary team that has a 5-13 record in its last 18 games versus teams with a losing record. Nashville is the pick (-140) according to Dunkel, which has the Predators favored by 2. Dunkel Pick: Nashville (-140)

Game 51-52: Florida at NY Rangers (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Florida 9.903; NY Rangers 12.146
Dunkel Line & Total: NY Rangers by 2; 5
Vegas Line & Total: No Line
Dunkel Pick: N/A

Game 53-54: Toronto at Buffalo (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Toronto 11.129; Buffalo 11.004
Dunkel Line & Total: Toronto by 1/2; 6
Vegas Line & Total: No Line
Dunkel Pick: N/A

Game 55-56: New Jersey at Carolina (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: New Jersey 10.909; Carolina 10.175
Dunkel Line & Total: New Jersey by 1/2; 5 1/2
Vegas Line & Total: Carolina (-120); 5
Dunkel Pick: New Jersey (+100); Over

Game 57-58: Montreal at NY Islanders (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Montreal 12.170; NY Islanders 11.745
Dunkel Line & Total: Montreal by 1/2; 5
Vegas Line & Total: Montreal (-130); 5 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Montreal (-130); Under

Game 59-60: Boston at Ottawa (7:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Boston 12.483; Ottawa 11.955
Dunkel Line & Total: Boston by 1/2; 4
Vegas Line & Total: Boston (-145); 5
Dunkel Pick: Boston (-145); Under

Game 61-62: Washington at Winnipeg (8:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Washington 11.413; Winnipeg 11.072
Dunkel Line & Total: Washington by 1/2; 6 1/2
Vegas Line & Total: Winnipeg (-145); 5 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Washington (+125); Over

Game 63-64: Vancouver at Phoenix (10:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Vancouver 10.894; Phoenix 11.459
Dunkel Line & Total: Phoenix by 1/2; 5 1/2
Vegas Line & Total: Vancouver (-115); 5
Dunkel Pick: Phoenix (-105); Over

Game 65-66: Calgary at Nashville (8:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Calgary 10.544; Nashville 12.676
Dunkel Line & Total: Nashville by 2; 4 1/2
Vegas Line & Total: Nashville (-140); 5
Dunkel Pick: Nashville (-140); Under

Game 67-68: Dallas at Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Dallas 9.826; Los Angeles 12.118
Dunkel Line & Total: Los Angeles by 2 1/2; 4
Vegas Line & Total: No Line
Dunkel Pick: N/A

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DUNKEL INDEX

NCAAB

Akron vs. VCU
The Rams look to build on their 11-1 ATS record in their last 12 NCAA tournament games. VCU is the pick (-7 1/2) according to Dunkel, which has the Rams favored by 9 1/2. Dunkel Pick: VCU (-7 1/2)

Game 707-708: North Carolina A&T vs. Louisville (6:50 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: North Carolina A&T 50.898; Louisville 78.019
Dunkel Line: Louisville by 27; 119
Vegas Line: Louisville by 25 1/2; 123 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Louisville (-25 1/2); Under

Game 709-710: Missouri vs. Colorado State (9:20 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Missouri 67.227; Colorado State 66.212
Dunkel Line: Missouri by 1; 145
Vegas Line: Missouri by 3; 142 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Colorado State (+3); Over

Game 711-712: Davidson vs. Marquette (3:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Davidson 64.840; Marquette 66.761
Dunkel Line: Marquette by 2; 128
Vegas Line: Marquette by 3 1/2; 133
Dunkel Pick: Davidson (+3 1/2); Under

Game 713-714: Bucknell vs. Butler (12:40 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Bucknell 60.135; Butler 62.042
Dunkel Line: Butler by 2; 127
Vegas Line: Butler by 3 1/2; 122
Dunkel Pick: Bucknell (+3 1/2); Over

Game 715-716: Valparaiso vs. Michigan State (12:15 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Valparaiso 61.969; Michigan State 73.335
Dunkel Line: Michigan State by 11 1/2; 129
Vegas Line: Michigan State by 10 1/2; 126
Dunkel Pick: Michigan State (-10 1/2); Over

Game 717-718: St. Mary's vs. Memphis (2:45 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: St. Mary's 69.277; Memphis 67.195
Dunkel Line: St. Mary's by 2; 134
Vegas Line: Memphis by 1; 138
Dunkel Pick: St. Mary's (+1); Under

Game 719-720: Akron vs. VCU (9:45 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Akron 58.834; VCU 68.177
Dunkel Line: VCU by 9 1/2; 130
Vegas Line: VCU by 7 1/2; 134 1/2
Dunkel Pick: VCU (-7 1/2); Under

Game 721-722: South Dakota State vs. Michigan (7:15 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: South Dakota State 59.139; Michigan 68.777
Dunkel Line: Michigan by 9 1/2; 144
Vegas Line: Michigan by 11 1/2; 139
Dunkel Pick: South Dakota State (+11 1/2); Over

Game 723-724: Southern vs. Gonzaga (4:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Southern 52.744; Gonzaga 72.285
Dunkel Line: Gonzaga by 19 1/2; 121
Vegas Line: Gonzaga by 22 1/2; 126 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Southern (+22 1/2); Under

Game 725-726: Wichita State vs. Pittsburgh (1:40 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Wichita State 65.119; Pittsburgh 67.699
Dunkel Line: Pittsburgh by 2 1/2; 122
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh by 4 1/2; 118 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Wichita State (+4 1/2); Over

Game 727-728: Harvard vs. New Mexico (9:50 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Harvard 56.144; New Mexico 66.199
Dunkel Line: New Mexico by 10; 130
Vegas Line: New Mexico by 11 1/2; 125
Dunkel Pick: Harvard (+11 1/2); Over

Game 729-730: Belmont vs. Arizona (7:20 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Belmont 62.630; Arizona 65.486
Dunkel Line: Arizona by 3; 136
Vegas Line: Arizona by 4 1/2; 140
Dunkel Pick: Belmont (+4 1/2); Under

Game 731-732: Oregon vs. Oklahoma State (4:40 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Oregon 65.241; Oklahoma State 66.443
Dunkel Line: Oklahoma State by 1; 138
Vegas Line: Oklahoma State by 3 1/2; 134 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Oregon (+3 1/2); Over

Game 733-734: New Mexico State vs. St. Louis (2:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: New Mexico State 61.954; St. Louis 72.249
Dunkel Line: St. Louis by 10 1/2; 118
Vegas Line: St. Louis by 8 1/2; 122
Dunkel Pick: St. Louis (-8 1/2); Under

Game 735-736: California vs. UNLV (7:27 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: California 62.529; UNLV 67.049
Dunkel Line: UNLV by 4 1/2
Vegas Line: UNLV by 2 1/2; 131
Dunkel Pick: UNLV (-2 1/2)

Game 737-738: Montana vs. Syracuse (9:57 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Montana 56.818; Syracuse 68.500
Dunkel Line: Syracuse by 11 1/2; 133
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 13; 127 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Montana (+13); Over

Game 739-740: Denver at Maryland (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Denver 64.696; Maryland 71.146
Dunkel Line: Maryland by 6 1/2; 124
Vegas Line: Maryland by 3 1/2; 128
Dunkel Pick: Maryland (-3 1/2); Under

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Carlo CampanellaFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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New Mexico -11½FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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New Mexico (29-5) will face Harvard (19-9) in Salt Lake City, Utah, to open the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. The bookmakers opened New Mexico up as 11 point favorites, but bettors quickly moved that line to 11.5 points as the Lobos enter March Madness as one of the hottest teams in college basketball, winning 9 of their last 10 games (9-1 SU & 8-2 ATS). The Total opened at 126 points, but is currently 125 points after dropping by less than a basket.
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New Mexico own a 29-5 record this season behind an impressive 15-1 home mark, but the Lobos should have no trouble in this tournament as they're true road warriors, posting a 14-4 SU (11-7 ATS) record playing away from home. New Mexico averages 67.4 points per game while shooting 42.5% from the field. The Lobos are known for their stingy defensive play, holding opponents to just 60.4 points per game and 38.8% shooting from the field.
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Harvard is 19-9, but most of those victories came against lesser competition during Ivy League Conference play. Harvard backed in the Madness after ending the season at 2-2 SU & 1-3 ATS. Harvard is averaging 68.9 points per game and is known for their patience to wait for the open shot, as their incredible 48.2% shooting percentage indicates. Harvard allowed foes to average 63.9 points per game and 44.1% shooting. The main question on Thursday will be if Harvard can continue their accurate offensive shooting against the smothering New Mexico defense that's much stronger than the Ivy League defenses.
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Harvard last played on March 9, beating Cornell, 65-56. They'll have 12 days of rest to prepare for New Mexico, but the long layoff might work against them as they're 0-10 ATS when playing with a week or more of rest behind Head Coach Amaker. Expect this jump in class to be to tough for Harvard and the New Mexico defense will force them to take bad shots. Lay the points as New Mexico advances to the next round!

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Larry NessFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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South Dakota State vs. MichiganFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: South Dakota St.FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Michigan won its first 16 games this season but was just 10-7 SU (5-11-1 ATS) down the stretch. The Wolverines do get an excellent venue for this game (Auburn Hills is just miles from the Ann Arbor campus) but the Wolverines get no favors in their opponent, the South Dakota St Jackrabbits. Coach John Beilein's team makes its fourth trip in six years to the Big Dance and matched its No. 4 seed from a season ago, but the Wolverines (-5.5) lost their first game of the tourney last year to the 13th-seeded Bobcats, 65-60. Could a similar fate await them this year? Just maybe.
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There is no doubt that Michigan fields a talented group but during the season’s second-half, the Wolverines have shown a lack of mental and physical toughness at crucial times down the stretch plus WAY too often, the offense (despite its many options), has become over-reliant on sophomore guard Trey Burke (19.2-3.1-6.7). Michigan’s perimeter-oriented team lacks a reliable post threat (Wolverines rank 156th in rebound margin), so one can expect that the Jackrabbits, a junior and senior-laden group, just may make the Wolverines ‘sweat’ the last few minutes of this game. SDSU’s 6-4 senior guard Nate Wolters (22.7-5.6-5.8) is a “player” and is joined by three other double digit scorers. That trio includes 6-8 junior Dykstra (12.5-7.9), 6-7 senior Fiegen (10.1-3.5) and 6-6 junior White (10.0-4.0).
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The Jackrabbitts almost won at Alabama (lost 70-67 as six-point dogs) in this season’s first game and handed New Mexico (tied with Michigan for 10th in the final AP poll) its only loss this year in “The Pit,” 70-65 back on Dec 22 as 15-point underdogs. Let’s also not forget that in last year’s NCAA tourney, SDSU gave Baylor all it wanted, before falling 68-60 (that Baylor team would advance to the Elite 8). I expect Michigan to squeak by but I’m taking the points.

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Teddy CoversFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Akron vs. VCUFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: AkronFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Ohio U’s strong performance in a truly awful spot at Denver in the NIT on Tuesday Night helps make the case that Akron really is worth supporting in a matchup that looks very bad for the Zips at first glance.
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Remember, the Bobcats lost to the Zips in all three meetings this year, including an embarrassing blowout loss in the second half of the MAC Championship game.   So, when Ohio U can hang around at a quality Denver squad for the full 40 minutes in a tough emotional and travel spot, it makes the Zips look that much better as they make the short trip to suburban Detroit to face their own tough test against VCU.
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VCU is a very popular team right now in the betting markets, and we shouldn’t forget that the Rams have enjoyed a 7-1 pointspread run over the last two NCAA tournaments.  That being said, VCU was an overvalued commodity in the betting markets all year, just 10-17 ATS for the season, including a 2-6 ATS mark down the stretch.
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The Rams offense is often like fingers on a chalkboard; ugly to watch and heavily reliant on their ability to make three point shots.  Akron’s defense beyond the arc has been stellar all year, holding foes to 32% shooting from long range.  A similar showing on Thursday and we can expect the Zips to hang within this generous number.  A healthy dose of contrarian thought goes a long way at this time of year...remember, there are no ‘accidental’ pointspreads posted – ever!   Take Akron.

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Jim FeistFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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California vs. UNLVFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Under 131FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Cal likes to play tough defense and the Golden Bears got here on a 12-5 run under the total. They will need to play the physical game against a UNLV team that can play any style but prefers to run. The under is 11-4 in the Golden Bears last 15 neutral site games. UNLV has plenty of defense, tops in the Mountain West in blocks and steals, plus ranked third in field goal shooting defense (38.8%). The under is 7-3-1 in the Runnin' Rebels last 11 neutral site games and 19-6-1 following a loss. Play Cal/UNLV under the total.

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David ChanFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Belmont vs. ArizonaFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: ArizonaFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Situational Analysis
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Belmont is coming off a 70-68 OT win over Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship game on March 9th. Kerron Johnson had 12 points; JJ Mann had 18.
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Arizona is coming off a 66-65 loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals. The Wildcats had already been assured a spot in the Tournament. Brandon Ashley had 15 points; Mark Lyons had 13.
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Statistical Analysis
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Note that Belmont is 1-2 ATS its last three as an underdog, and only 1-6 ATS this season in all tournament games.
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Note that Arizona is 7-5 ATS vs. good defensive teams that allow 64 points or less per contest.
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Pick Analysis
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There's some room to read between the lines in the Bruins victory over the Racers, as they were actually outshot 53.3 percent to 49.1 percent, and were outrebounded by a whopping 33 to 23. The Wildcats on the other hand are coming off a frustrating setback, and will be eager to take their frustrations out on someone: ''I don't know what seed we're going to get,'' Arizona coach Sean Miller said after the loss to UCLA. ''We played well from start to finish and we lost. It's hard when you lose to a team three times.'' Consider laying the points on the "better" team!

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Art AronsonFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Washington vs. WinnipegFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: WashingtonFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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These teams have played each other twice this year, and will now play each other twice over the next two nights North of the border: Winnipeg won 4-2 at Washington on January 22nd, before Washington won 3-0 in Winnipeg on March 2nd. I was looking at a couple of underdogs today which I believed had a legitimate shot at winning, and between this one and the Islanders at home to the Habs, I decided the greater value lay with Washington in the end. The Capitals are 12-16-1 on the year, including just 4-9-1 on the road. Winnipeg is 16-12-2, including 7-6 at home. This is a critical two game divisional set for both teams obviously, but in my opinion, there is no question that this could be a make or break two game series for the Capitals. This sets up as a trap game for the Jets, sitting atop the Southeast, and coming off a big 3-1 victory over Boston last time out. One player you'll want to track is Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, who had his teams lone goal in a 2-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, and who has two assists vs. Winnipeg this year. I think the Jets are getting the job done with smoke and mirrors right now, as they're just 4 for 49 on the power-play over their last 21 games. As stated above, great line value on the hungry Capitals. Consider a second look at the visitors.

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Alex SmartFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Belmont +4½FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Wildcats are in my humble opinion one of the most over rated teams in the nation. Don't get me wrong they are a solid team, and are strong on the glass and defensively efficient! However, it has been documented that they have had problems keeping their opposition from connecting from downtown behind the 3-point line. Belmont with its talented duo of guards Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark- when given room in an uptempo transition game, can fire their cannons with scarey accuracy from trey land! Belmont has taken out the likes of Midd Tenn State,and Ohio this season and are a dangerous dog that must not be underestimated or ignored!

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Jack JonesFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Harvard +11FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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I'm backing the Harvard Crimson as a double-digit underdog in the opening round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. I believe they have what it takes to upset New Mexico here, but I'm just taking the points for some insurance in a game that will go right down to the wire.
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Harvard has gone out West and played some very good teams tough this year. It won at California 67-62 as an 11-point underdog, and lost at St. Mary's in the closing seconds 69-70 as a 12-point underdog. Both of those teams will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
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Those weren't the Crimson's only impressive showings on the road, either. They lost at UMass 64-67 as an 11-point underdog, won at Boston College 79-63 as a 4-point dog, lost at UConn 49-57 as a 9-point dog, and lost at Memphis 50-60 as a 13.5-point dog. As you can see, Harvard is certainly battle-tested heading into this one.
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Harvard is 6-0 ATS in road games after allowing 65 points or less 2 straight games this season. The Crimson are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600. Harvard is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games vs. a team with a winning record. The Crimson are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 non-conference games. Bet Harvard Thursday.

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Ray MonohanFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Missouri -3FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The pressure is much less this time around for Mizzou. This is a very talented team getting a nice opening round game against Colorado State - a good team but far from an imposing one. The key is hitting the glass, as long as Mizzou doesn’t get lazy they should be easily able to outshoot a slower less athletic team. This team has the talent to beat any team in this tournament. This is the time of year where having one of the top 5 point guards is supposed to pay off. The Tigers could win this one by 20.

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SPORTS WAGERSFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Butler -3½ over BucknellFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Many folks are calling the Bison a potential Cinderella team after the school recording the most wins (28) in their history. Four of Bucknell’s five losses were by a total of nine points combined. With the tallest team in the Patriot League this season, Bucknell used its inside presence to squash opponents and usually run right over them. However, this isn’t Lafayette, Lehigh or some other average Patriot League member. Statistically speaking, the Bison are out of their league in this matchup. They rank 346th out of 347 Division I teams in forcing turnovers. On the offensive boards the Bison rank 240th. When Cinderella’s win it’s usually because they are strong three-point shooting teams and go after offensive rebounds. That does not apply here as the Bison hardly rely on bombs at all, shooting just 20 percent of scoring from 3-point shots, ranking 320th in that category. This is a “play it safe” squad with a style that is not likely to find success against this smart and aggressive enemy.
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Comparing the schedule of these two schools is like comparing Rosie O’Donnell to Charlize Theron. Butler played the 36th toughest schedule in the country while Bucknell played the 194th toughest. The Bulldogs have great balance with five double-figure scorers. Coach Brad Stevens has pages and pages of plays with more variety than Bucknell has ever seen. Stevens will have the collective heads of this Bison defense spinning. Butler plays an incredibly physical brand of basketball that wears opponents down and as the season wore on this young squad kept getting better. The 6 versus 11 seed has a history of upsets in this tournament and that too has added to Bucknell’s appeal, especially with everyone "looking" for upsets. However, the Bulldogs are too talented and far too superior for an upset to occur here. Cheap price has us confidently stepping in.
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Davidson +3½ over MarquetteFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Here we have a #3 seed, the Marquette Golden Eagles, a three-point choice over a #14 seed, the Davison Wildcats. That’s the oddsmakers sending a clear message, almost daring you to take Marquette. The Golden Eagles are a familiar Big East team that finally made an appearance in the Top-25 in mid-January and stayed there the rest of the way. Marquette is an outstanding rebounding club on the offensive glass. They’ve been on the rise all year and they didn’t lose a game at home the entire year. However, they’re not a big threat from three-point range and if the Wildcats can keep their shooting to the perimeter, an upset is a distinct possibility.
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Davidson is much less known, playing in the Southern Conference with a bunch of other teams you’ve never heard of. However, they own the nation’s longest winning streak at 17 and they come into this round with a strong résumé and a very good history at this event. The Wildcats also come in experienced and battle tested with three seniors and two juniors in the starting lineup. During the regular season, they played New Mexico, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke, beating both Vandy and West Virginia and Mountaineers while leading the New Mexico and the Zags by double figures before losing. The Wildcats won't be intimidating in this setting or by this foe. Again, we can’t stress enough how the odds very often dictate the play and while the Wildcats are certainly on our Cinderella radar, this choice is more about “reading between the lines” where the oddsmakers fully expect the dog to cover or win outright. That’s good enough for us. 
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Arizona -4½ over BelmontFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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This tournament has come a long way over the past decade and has now become the second most popular betting event of the year. Las Vegas hotels are booked solid, the sportsbooks are jam packed with college fans and everyone has a bracket filled out. More people will call in sick over the next two days than any other two days of the year. Underdogs have become more popular every year at this event and this year is no different. When the brackets were announced Sunday, Twitter lit up with people picking Belmont to upset Arizona. They were quick to point out that Arizona has dropped three of its last five games straight up and that the Pac-12 is the weakest of the major conferences. Meanwhile, Belmont has won six straight and has picked up a bandwagon following. We often talk about overpriced favorites but this is the exact opposite. Too many folks, including many of the prognosticators on TV and radio have mentioned Belmont far too often for our liking. Belmont is the #1 upset pick of the first round but we’re not buyers. The Bruins have become a Big Dance fixture of late but have never won an NCAA tourney game, registering only one near-upset (a 71-70 loss to Duke in 2008). Their other NCAA tourney losses have all come by double digits, including a 15-point loss to Georgetown last March.
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Belmont routinely loses the battle on the backboards (they were 278th nationally in rebounding) and in order for them to pull this off they will have to hit a high percentage of its shots. Arizona’s offensive execution and scoring balance is as good as they come. Mark Lyons, Nick Johnson, Kevin Parrom Solomon Hill, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski give the Wildcats at least six players that the defense has to be concerned with. They are one of the tallest teams in the country and when you win the battle of the boards and get great guard play, you are usually going to win. The Wildcats will also come into this game with a chip on its shoulders, knowing that Belmont is high on people’s bracket-buster list. Motivated and highly talented, the Wildcats may just be the most dangerous #6 seed at this year’s Madness. They’ll prove so here.
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Colorado State +142 over MissouriFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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This is an interesting time of year from a betting perspective. Oddsmakers not only set lines based on how the teams compare in power ratings but also in anticipation of how the public is going to bet. This is a prime example of a line that is incorrectly priced due to that. Missouri is a big-conference school playing a mid-major one. Missouri resides in the SEC, a conference that despite having a down year is perceived as the much stronger conference than the Mountain West, where Colorado State resides. We’re suggesting that the Mountain West was stronger than the SEC this season and that the Rams are a better team than the Tigers. CSU’s strength of schedule ranked 35th in the country compared to Missouri’s SOS ranking of 48th. The Rams limit turnovers, they rarely attempt bad shots and lead the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. It all adds up to good use of each possession. In other words, Colorado State won't beat itself. It forces opponents to make plays and hit shots and that could be a serious problem for the Tigers.
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Missouri went just 2-8 on the road this season. It has a solid combination of size, athleticism, scoring punch and guard play but in some of its most disappointing losses, that offense sputtered. Guard Phil Pressey is the man in charge of the Tigers offense. He’s wickedly talented but in big games he’s prone to lapses in judgment. He finished the regular season with 221 assists, but he also committed 114 turnovers. Missouri also rank in the lower regions of Division I in forcing turnovers and that’s a handicap against a team that takes care of the ball as well as the Rams. The Tigers bowed out of the tournament last March as a No. 2 seed when they lost to No. 15 Norfolk State. As a nine seed here, favored against an eight-seed they are to be even less trusted.
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Akron +8 -110 over VCU
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Virginia Commonwealth has become a marketplace favorite, especially after its 84-52 thrashing over Butler in early March that really put them on everyone’s watch for this event. After that win, they instantly became a lot of people’s “sleeper” pick. No question the Rams are loaded with quick and talented guards. Shaka Smart has become one of the most respected coaches in the country and he’s made VCU a difficult squad to prepare against. The Rams also have inside presence with Juvonte Reddic, who usually goes off for a double-double. What VCU doesn’t have is size or depth up front. Only two players over 6’6” see significant minutes and a team with size can exploit that. The Zips have size.
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The biggest news regarding the Zips is the suspension of point-guard Alex Abreu, who was suspended March 7 due to pending marijuana trafficking charges, leaving the Zips' backcourt extremely thin. All the experts are going to drill it into your head that teams without strong guard play can’t win at this event. We’re not asking the Zips to win. We’re asking them to cover an inflated price because of that suspension and frankly, it wouldn’t surprise us if they did win. Akron is fierce on the offensive glass, grabbing its own misses an incredible 38% of the time. Those misses and subsequent put-backs are draining both mentally and physically on the opposition. From a matchup perspective, VCU is going to have to deal with the MAC’s leading shot blocker, 7-foot center Zeke Marshall (nicknamed “The Tree") inside. It may also surprise you to learn that the Zips put together an NCAA best 19-game winning streak this season. The Zips have all the make-up of a team that can upset. They launch and make three’s at a good clip, they’re outstanding on the boards and with seven combined juniors and seniors, they are experienced and confident. Quietly, the Zips are probably thrilled to have drawn the Rams because of the matchup edge they have up front. Upset alert is on.

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Marc LawrenceFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Portland vs. ChicagoFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: ChicagoFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The battered Bulls return home off a 1-point home loss to Denver looking to avenge a 102-94 defeat suffered the opening month of the season in Portland.  That works well for Chicago backers this season as they stand 11-4 SU and 10-5 ATS in games off a loss when taking on a foe also off a loss. Better yet is the Bulls brazen 11-1 ATS mark in games against foes when playing with triple revenge exact.  With the Trailblazers looking dead ahead to a same season revenge rematch at Atlanta tomorrow night, and just 2-10 SU and 3-9 ATS in games before hooking up with the Hawks, look for with Windy City wonders to work their magic here tonight.  We recommend a 1-unit play on Chicago.

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California vs. UNLVFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: UNLVFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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UNLV has too much inside the paint for California so we recommend laying the points with the Runnin’ Rebels in this game on Thursday night.
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These two teams already played this season; UNLV won 76-75 at California.  The Runnin’ Rebels scored 45 points in the first half as California simply did not have an answer for UNLV’s interior players.  This is a terrible match-up for the Golden Bears because they have nobody who can guard Anthony Marshall and now UNLV has another insider player in Khem Birch who didn’t play in the first meeting.  California is perimeter heavy with guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs and the team goes as they go.  Combined, Crabbe and Cobbs average 34.2 points per game which is more than 50% of the total points California’s offense averages per game (67.5).
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UNLV is a well-balanced team that has four guys that average more than 10 points per game which is a huge edge against a team like California that relies too heavily on their two guards.  UNLV has too much inside the paint for California so we recommend laying the points with the Runnin’ Rebels in this game on Thursday night.

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Memphis -1FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Talk about getting no respect. Go undefeated in your conference then with the Conference tournament, wind up with a 6 seed, despite a solid 12th Best RPI Ranking and become a 1 point dog to a play in St. Mary's team. If thats not enough Motivation for Memphis nothing is. The Tigers 11-2 after scoring 80 or more and 11-4 vs teams who average 65 or less. When playing against winning teams they are 19-4. St. Mary's is 1-7 ats with 1 or less day of rest. Look for Memphis to advance here today.

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Steve JanusFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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UNLV -3FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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I think UNLV is showing some great value as a 3-point favorite here. A lot of that has to do with this being a 12 vs 5 matchup and the public jumping all over California. I've watched both of these teams play and I have not been that impressed with Cal. They don't have a true inside presence on offense as they run most of their offense through their three-guards. UNLV generates a lot of turnovers on defense with blocks and steals that lead to a lot of easy baskets in transition. It will only be that much easier for the Rebels defensively only having to worry about shutting down the perimeter. I'm also not a fan of Cal's defense. They struggle to guard the perimeter and don't create any turnovers. I give UNLV the edge on both sides of the ball, which makes them an automatic play with this line.

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Red Dog SportsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Memphis +1FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Saint Mary's had to play in Dayton for a play-in game with Middle Tennessee on Tuesday night and then has to play Memphis in the #6/11 game. Yes, the higher seed is actually the underdog here. Matthew Dellavedova is a great guard for Saint Mary's but I like a rested squad that is well coached by Josh Pastor.

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Bruce MarshallFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Southern vs. GonzagaFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: SouthernFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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We’re not expecting this to be the first-ever win for a No. 16 seed vs. a No. 1 in the Big Dance.  But capable SWAC reps have usually avoided embarrassment in sub-regional action. And the fact the Selection Committee didn’t see fit to send Baton Rouge-based Southern U (16) to one of the Dayton play-in games suggests that the Jaguars have a little more going for them than recent SWAC champs.  Indeed, after being toughened by a brutal non-conference slate that saw Southern be more than respectable at locales such as Nebraska, Wyoming (when the Cowboys were at full strength in November and on their way to a national ranking in late December), and Tulane, plus a win at capable Texas A&M, this might not be your normal 16th-seeded pushover.  Besides, Gonzaga (1) could be feeling the heady nectar of its first-ever NCAA No. 1 (its best previously was a 2 in 2004).  While 7-0 Kelly Olynyk (17.7 ppg) is an impossible matchup for the Jags, Southern does possess the quickness on the perimeter than many believe can give Gonzaga some trouble.  Watch Jags’ six-man Malcolm Miller (16 ppg), who provides instant offense off the bench and is a 46% three-point shooter.  No compelling reason for the Zags to run up the score with more challenging assignments on deck.

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Hollywood SportsFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Akron at Virginia CommonwealthFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Virginia CommonwealthFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Shaka Smart's Rams' team is the best in the nation in creating defensive pressure. VCU (26-8) not only steals the ball in 17.1% of their opponent's possessions but they also force turnovers in 28.7% of their opponent's possessions. Both metrics are tops in the nation which is a very ominous sign for a Zips team that has lost their point guard Alex Abreu to an injury. As it is, Arkon turned the ball over 20.4% of the time with Abreu in charge (201st in the nation). The Zips need to compensate for these lost possessions -- but this not a team that likes to rely on the 3-ball given their 36.6% three-point attempt to field goal attempt ratio (69th in the nation). Akron nails only 33.8% of these shots (198th in the nation). They will not be able to generate enough offense against this Rams' team that is 20th in the nation with an Offensive Efficiency of 113.3. There is a reason that Smart's teams at VCU have covered the point spread in 11 of their last 12 games in the NCAA Tournament. Lay the points with VCU.

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Montana vs. SyracuseFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Play: MontanaFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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We have seen Syracuse in this position before. As a number four seed back in 2005, the Orange lost to number 13 seed Vermont and if they are not careful, they could be a victim once again. The regular season ended horribly for Syracuse which lost four of its last five games and turn what was a very impressive season to one that was pretty average. But then the Orange gave their fans some life with wins over Seton Hall, Pittsburgh and Georgetown. Then after building a big lead over Louisville, they allowed a 27-3 run and the questions once again came out. Montana has responded very well after the loss of forward Mathias Ward who was lost for the season in February with a foot injury. He was the leading scorer at the time, averaging 14.8 ppg and after going down, the Grizzlies has to rely more on their backcourt and Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar have not disappointed as they account for 38 percent of the team's scoring. Overall, the Grizzlies have a 6.1 ppg scoring margin and they have won six straight games so momentum is clearly on their side. Syracuse got a pretty bad draw as well as it has to head out to San Jose for its first set of games. The Orange could have some issues against the Grizzlies matching up with their great outside shooting. Montana meanwhile has a shorter trip and got a better than expected seed as head coach Wayne Tinkle said Montana's close games with some of the top Mid-Major programs in the nation like South Dakota St. and Davidson, as well as their first game against Colorado St., helped the Grizzlies snag a higher seed. Montana is 16-4 ATS in its last 20 games following a conference win by three points or fewer while Syracuse is 8-17 ATS in its last 25 games following a loss by 15 or more points. A 13 seed has defeated a 4 seed in each of the last five years, including twice in 2008. While the outright upset is not out of the question, the generous amount of points here makes this a play on Montana.

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