Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

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Cal/UNLV Over 132FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Both of these teams are solid offensively. California averages 67.5 points per game while UNLV averages 71.7 points per game. Neither team has a defense that intimidates their opponents. California is allowing 66.4 per game and UNLV 64.7 when playing away from home. The over is 5-1 in California’s last 6 games against Mountain West teams and it is 6-2 in UNLV’s last 8 vs teams from the PAC-12.
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California’s offense has been hot coming into the NCAA tournament averaging 74.5 points per game in their last two games against Stanford and Utah. When these teams met back in December UNLV put up 76 points and California scored 75 points. The total on that game was set at 147.5, which is obviously substantially higher than the total on today’s game. Not much has changed for these teams since that game so it seems the total is much lower than it should be.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

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Gonzaga -22FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Gonzaga Bulldogs have been hearing all week that they are the worst number one seed and that they aren't going to get to the Final Four. Mark Few's team has been consistently great against inferior teams this year, and this Southern team is very inferior. Southern hasn't played anyone good this year since their season opener when they lost to Iowa State by 23 points. Southern will be outclassed badly here. Gonzaga should make a major statement. Take Gonzaga.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

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St. Louis -9½FOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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St. Louis has won and covered 15 of their L16. They are a very well-balanced unit. Five players are either flirting with or posting DDs with Dwayne Evans leading the team in both scoring (13.1PPG) and rebounds (7.7 RPG). They play very methodically on offense forcing foes to adjust to their game. It is the Billikens "D" that truly stands out. They led the Atlantic 10 in both scoring defense and TO margin. They rank 19th , yielding a mere 58.1 PPG and allowing just 41.3% FGs. 6'11" 240 lb Rob Loe and 6'9" 240 lb Cody Ellis will play very physical against New Mexico State's 7'5" 355 lb, Sim Bhullar. The Center averages 10.2 PPG and 6.5 RPG . NM State won 5 straight but those wins were against Louisiana Tech, Texas Arlington twice, Idaho, and Texas State. The only solid team they had faced this season was back-to-back contests vs. New Mexico in December in which NM State lost and failed to cover both. Because of their 2 Big men, the Aggies can rebound. However, their overall offensive stats are 68 PPG, 32% 3-pointers, and 65.6% FTs. On "D" , they just give up tons of points and are very vulnerable vs. teams that can shoot from beyond the arc. The Billikens are 4-0 ATS their L4 non-Conference games, 6-1 ATS their L7 games played on neutral sites, and 20-6 ATS their L26 games played overall. Take St. Louis.

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Virginia Commonwealth -7.5FFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Akron will have a tough time dealing with VCU's defensive pressure without Alex Abreu (PG), who is out indefinitely due to a violation of team rules. He is by far the best ball handler on the team, as evidenced by his 173 assists compared to 85 turnovers. That's a solid 2:1 ratio. Akron was one-and-done in the NIT last season while VCU defeated Wichita State in its opening NCAA tournament game and then nearly shocked Indiana. The Rams have won six games in the Big Dance the last two seasons so they clearly have more big game experience. VCU has been money this time of year as it is on an 11-1 ATS run in NCAA tournament games. The Rams have seen Akron 4 times since 2008 and have won all 4 meetings. I expect them to continue their dominance of the Zips while picking up the cover in the process. Lay the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Dave Cokin

Missouri vs Colorado State
Pick: Colorado State

Two of the best rebounding teams in the country match up as Missouri tangles with Colorado State. The Rams are as experienced as it gets, and the goal for this team all season has been to get that long awaited NCAA win. I like this Rams team from a poise standpoint as well. Mizzou has pressure, thanks to what happened to them in last season's tournament, and when the Tigers leave home they simply are not very good. I give Eustachy a tactical advantage over Haith on the sidelines, and while this figures to be a tough game, I'm expecting Colorado State plus the points to produce the winning ticket.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Jeff Alexander

Harvard +11

Harvard isn't getting quite the respect it deserves here. The Ivy League champs bring back 3 starters from a team that played Vandy to a 9-point game in last year's NCAA tournament. The Crimson won at Cal, played Saint Mary's to a 1-point game on the road and played Memphis to a 10-point game on the road to cover the spread in each of those games. Those are all NCAA tournament teams. Harvard is 12-4 ATS in road/neutral court games versus non-conference foes over the last 2 seasons. The Crimson are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 non-conference games and 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games versus a team with a winning record. The Lobos are just 1-4 ATS in their last 5 NCAA Tournament games. New Mexico will have a tough time stretching this one out to double digits against a disciplined Harvard squad that shoots a high percentage and rarely takes a bad shot. Take the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Lee Earnest

Colorado State +3

This is basically a tossup game that could go either way and figures to go right down to the wire. Missouri has been a team that has underperformed pretty much all season. While they do have some key wins at home this season, they have been mediocre if that away from their home floor. Last season Missouri was bounced early in the tournament by a much smaller and less talented school than Colorado State. Missouri has lots of of talent on their roster and often times play a style of basketball that is fun to watch, however they have given away a lot of games that they probably should have won. Often times the deciding factor between a Missouri win and a Missouri loss has been the play of point guard Phil Pressey. Pressey can be spectacular at times, but he can also be flat out lousy at other times. Pressey is really the key to this game. When he plays under control and minimizes his mistakes, he can control the game and the Tigers can roll. When he is shooting poorly, taking bad shots and committing turnovers, Missouri has little chance.

Colorado State is a solid team that relies on taking high percentage shots and are absolute beats when it comes to rebounding. Colorado State's 6'10" Colton Iverson is one of the best all around players in the country and is severely underrated for a big man. Iverson has a chance to emerge in this tournament. Colorado State has been solid and were once ranked in the Top 25, thanks mostly to their lengthy home winning streak. Colorado State has not nearly been as dominant on the road, but with this being a neutral court game, I believe they o still have an advantage. Missouri has just been plain bad away from their home court. If Colorado can limit Missouri's second chance opportunities and disrupt the play of Pressey then I believe they have a chance to win this game outright. Take the points


VCU -7

Starting Akron Point Guard Alex Abreau was arrested this past weekend and this has been a detrimental blow to this team. Abreau is the Zips best all around player. While Akron was able to get by Ohio after news of his arrest, this is a completely different scenario and will going up against a VCU team who just like last year could be poised to make a deep run in this year tournament. As much as people may want to play down the issue of Abreau being out, the fact remains that this would be a completely different game with Abreau in the lineup. Akron is really going to struggle on the offensive side of the ball especially with the pressure defense that VCU brings. VCU is one of the nation’s best scoring teams and it is because of their ability to force turnovers.

The Rams like to create havoc with their pressure defense. If the game turns into a wild, reckless affair, as postseason games often do, VCU has a definite advantage. Akron will have trouble controlling the pace and maintaining its poise without their point guard in the mix. VCU should roll in this game.


Oregon +2.5

This is one game that has upset written all over it. I still am honestly in shock that the Oregon ?Ducks were slated as a 12 seed in this tournament. Maybe just because of that we are seeing the line-makers create some value there. The Ducks are playing better basketball with Dominic Artis back in the fold and did manage to win the Pac 12 tournament this year. Lets not forget that they were ranked as high as number 10 this season and had some big wins against key team both at home and away ( UNLV ). It kind of makes me wonder where they would have been seeded had Artis not been injured.

This game is being played in San Jose California which while it is not Oregon, is still closer to home to them than Oklahoma State. State has a good offensive team lead by Marcus Smart and I will bet that the Ducks will have trouble slowing him down, but what this game comes down to for me is the fact that Oregon is just the all around better team. Offensively, defensively, Oregon just matches up well with Oklahoma State. Arsalan Kazemi has been a double-double machine for Oregon and could be the difference maker in this game.

I believe that Oregon is seeded to low and that Oklahoma State is perhaps a seed or two too high. Oregon pulls the upset today, take the points.


Wichita State +4

This game features a team from a traditional "power conference" (Big East) against a one from a mid-major (Missouri Valley). Statistically however these team match up rather well together. I have not really been impressed with Pittsburgh's play at all this season. For playing in the Big East they have severely underperformed. They are a team that has no true stand out player, or one that can take a game over when needed and that has hurt them.

Both teams are strong inside teams, so you will likely see a back and forth battle in the paint. Both teams are also good rebounding teams so this should turn into a game about who really wants it more. I believe that is Wichita State. Whenever you match up a mid-major with a powerhouse you always see the smaller, lesser known school up their game on the big stage. Wichita State is not a team that anyone should sleep on. Forward Carl Hall can be an absolute difference maker in this game and if he gets hot, I believe State could potentially pull the upset.

     
Belmont +4

This is another game where I feel that an upset is here. Belmont is a team that shoots the 3 ball incredibly well and has the potential to be this year's "Cinderella" team. Ian Clark has been the heart and soul of this team and has carried them all the way to this tournament. Arizona was once ranked the #3 team in the country, something that I believe was sorely overrated and it's no secret that have have struggled lately. This is a game that no doubt Belmont will "get up for". Again this is a smaller mid major school with a chance to knock of a power house school who is reeling right now.

Arizona does not defend the 3 pointer very well which has been their Achilles Hell and which has also been a major strength for Belmont. A lot of the pressure is going to be on Wildcat point guard Mark Lyons. If he has a off game and continues to turn the ball over, Arizona could be making a quick exit out of this tournament. This game will be closer than the line suggests.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

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Calgary vs. NashvilleFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: NashvilleFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Preds are coming off a grueling road trip, playing five in a row away from home. They lost the last four of those games, and they now sit four points out of eighth in the Western Conference, and out of the playoff picture.
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They are likely happy to return home, where they have enjoyed far more success, and they face an opponent that appears to be tailor-made for a team that is badly in need of a win.
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The Calgary Flames come into Nashville with little hope remaining as far as the playoffs are concerned. After losing four of six, and seven straight on the road, Calgary sits level on points with last place Colorado in the Western Conference. The return of starting netminder Mikka Kiprusoff hasn't helped, as only two teams in the league have allowed more goals this year than Calgary. Kirprusoff has won his last two starts at home, allowing five goals combined in those games. He hasn't fared so well on the road though, allowing 10 goals in his last two starts away from home, losing both those games.
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Nashville has really struggled all year on the road, but they are a much better team at home. Pekka Rinne has a lot to do with their success, and while he's been lit up during this recent road trip, he's only allowed a single goal in his last two starts on home ice. Rinner leads the league with five shutouts already this season, and four of those have come in Nashville. I expect to see the veteran netminder on top of his game tonight, with his team playing solid defense in front of him.

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Pittsburgh/ Wichita State Under 119: Pittsburgh played allot of slow down grind it out games in the Big East and they relied more on their defense to win games and that will be the same game plan they will look to employ in this one. Pittsburgh is 17th in the nation in defensive efficiency and they allow just 55.4 ppg overall, including 58.6 ppg away from home. The Panthers also rank 32nd in effective FG% defense and 51st in 3pt defense. This is an all around good defensive squad. The Shockers can also play some defense as they are 31st in the nation in defensive efficiency and they allow just 60.7 ppg on the year. The Shockers also rank 69th in effective FG% defense. Both teams plays at a slow pace and neither is good from the FT line. With two strong defenses on the court, in a slow down game, this one will have much more defense than offense. 
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St Louis -9.5 over New Mexico State: St Louis has the feel of a team that could make a deep run in the tournament and I do not feel that the Aggies have what it takes to stand in their way in this one. St Louis was a mediocre 3-3 when Rick Majerus passed away, but since then they have gone 24-3, winning both the A-10 regular season and the A-10 Tournament. The Billikens have also played well away from home, going 10-4 in all those games. St Louis beat Butler and VCU in back to back a-10 Tourney games and hat is much more impressive than the Aggies 3 wins vs Idaho, Texas State and Texas Arlington in their conference tourney. Yes the Aggies have won 18 of their last 20 games, but they also played a weaker schedule than St Louis and other than Denver they haven't really played a team with a defense this good. That St Louis defense is on fire right now as they have allowed 58 points or less in their last 6 non-OT games and that gives them a huge edge over an Aggie squad that has allowed 69.1 ppg away from home. Look for St Louis to continue to roll as they take this one by 13+, behind another stellar defensive effort.
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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Brett Atkins

My free pick for Thursday's early action is on the Valparaiso Crusaders, who come in after an impressive run in the Horizon League, to take on the Michigan State Spartans.

Valparaiso (26-7, 13-3 Horizon) will be making its first appearance in the tournament since 2004, and as the 14th seed in the Midwest Region, I think it's a bit underrated in this region and in this game.

The Crusaders are here thanks to an exhilirating 62-54 victory over Wright State in the Horizon League tournament championship back on March 12. Led by the play of fifth-year senior and tournament MVP Erik Buggs, the Crusaders simply weren't going to be denied. Anyone who watched the game, knows the will and determination of this team.

Much of this team's motivation can be attributed to second-year coach Bryce Drew (48-19), who led the Crusaders to a school-record 26 wins this season, as well as two Horizon League regular season titles and one tournament championship. He's instilled a level of confidence in this team, and I don't care who they're going against, you're going to see the Crusaders scrap to the end.

Michigan State (25-8, 13-5 Big Ten) comes in mired in ATS slides of 1-4 in large dance games, 1-5 in non-conference contests and on neutral courts and 2-6 overall. On the flipside, Valpo is in on ATS win streaks of 7-1 after an ATS loss and 4-1 in non-conference games.

Take the pup in this one.

1♦ VALPARAISO

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Brad Wilton

My Thursday free play will be for Missouri to take care of Colorado State in their meeting at the Rupp Arena.

Last year in the Big Dance, Mizzou came in as a 21 point favorite against Norfolk State and lost OUTRIGHT! You know damn well that the Tigers do not want to suffer another loss in their opening round this season, so expect a focused effort this time around.

Missouri did play on this court in conference play this year, so they have some familiarity with the arena, falling in overtime to Kentucky earlier in the season.

Colorado State did go just 4-4 straight up down the stretch, and point guard Dorian Green is still not at 100% since spraining his ankle on March 9th.

That being the case, I will side with Missouri as the small favorite to edge Colorado State for both the win and the cover.

2♦ MISSOURI

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Jeff Benton

Thursday's freebie is Bucknell plus the points against Butler.

The Bison has a solid resume coming into this game at Rupp Arena, as they have beaten Purdue out of the Big 10, and have also recorded victories against tournament teams La Salle (and you saw what they did last night!), and New Mexico State.

Butler is a "good" team, but they are not in the league of previous Brad Stevens' editions, and watching leading scorer Rotnei Clarke fire it up at will (and miss plenty by the way!), scares me when it comes to laying points with these Bulldogs.

Last year Patriot League rep Lehigh took down Duke in their opening game, I see no reason why Bucknell can't do the same today versus Butler.

Take the points and the Bison.

2♦ BUTLER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Craig Davis

Free play of the day on the OVER in the Arizona/Belmont game.

The total in five of the last seven Arizona games has gone under the total, so why am I giving you the OVER in this first round matchup?

Becauase I know the Wildcats are loaded with offensive talent, they don't play much defense, and Belmont is built much like them. The Ohio Valley champions average just under 80 points per game in a league that tries to play defense. Unfortunately for many of their opponents, it didn't work out like planned.

Belmont is actually ranked in the RPI higher than most people expect, but that's because they score so many points and average a lot of blowouts. Even when they stepped out of conference for a "bracket buster" game back in late February, they impressed the heck out of me.

In fact, that's when I first really took notice of them. They beat a solid Ohio team by double digits and the game was never really close. And this was an Ohio team that advanced to the third round of the Big Dance last year.

Belmont is loaded with three-point shooters and guys who aren't afraid to take the ball to the rim and draw a foul. There's no better way to score cheap points and achieve "overs" than when the clock is stopped and points are being scored.

True, Arizona does have some advantages in this game, but none of them are on the defensive side of the ball. Everything is offensive related and when all is said and done, that's all I care about. Arizona might win, but Belmont will score a boatload of points and make it close.

Take the OVER 140 in the Arizona/Belmont matchup as your free play of the day.

2♦ BELMONT-ARIZONA OVER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Scott Delaney

Now let's get to my free pick for Thursday, as I am playing the Belmont Bruins plus the points against Arizona Wildcats.

The Bruins are in after defeating Murray State, 70-68, in overtime for the Ohio Valley Conference Championship, as senior Kerron Johnson tied the game with nine seconds to go in regulation, then won the game with 1.2 seconds left in overtime.

Now the Bruins, who claimed a fourth straight regular season conference championship - the previous three coming in the Atlantic Sun Conference - take aim against the Wildcats, who couldn't get past top-seeded UCLA in the Pac 12 tournament last week in Las Vegas.

Belmont not only went undefeated at home this season, it also boasts 13 victories away from home, ranking among the nation's best road teams.

What I like about this team - which is always important this time of the season - is Belmont returns a veteran backcourt. Ian Clark and Johnson were each named All-OVC, and get this, they're part of a team that returned 11 letterwinners from a team that went 27-8 a year ago.

I like the experience in this team and think Arizona will have its hands full in this game.

3♦ BELMONT

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Chris Jordan

So here is the rematch the Cal Golden Bears have been waiting for, but trust me when I tell you there is something about the Runnin' Rebels looking to avenge last Saturday's debacle at the Thomas and Mack, against New Mexico in the conference championship.

I expect some big things from the Rebels' two freshman - Katin Reinhardt and Anthony Bennett - on the offensive end. Of course, the 6-foot-8 Bennett has been leading the Rebs all season, so that's no surprise. But Reinhardt has a lot to atone for after following his career game in the semis, with a dismal showing in the title game.

Now against a Cal team the Runnin' Rebels have already defeated this season, I think we're going to see UNLV come out firing and pushing the tempo with senior Anthony Marshall running the floor, and sophomore Khem Birch filling up space in the paint. Mike Moser should do work for the Rebs off the bench, as he'll be looking for a little revenge. See, the Cal game was when he suffered a dislocated elbow and saw the rest of his season sort plotz along.

On paper, I honestly thought I'd see Cal being the better team, but after looking at this one in depth, the Runnin' Rebels are the right side of this game.

Lay the chalk.

3♦ UNLV

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Will Rogers

Vancouver vs. Phoenix
Pick: Vancouver

The Coyotes haven't had much luck finding the back of the net lately, and I don't see that changing tonight when the Vancouver Canucks pay a visit.  Phoenix is off an 0-3-1 road swing, and while the have beaten the Canucks three straight times dating back to last season, the trip was so poor that I don't see that particular streak continuing.  Vancouver has some momentum coming off a 3-2 win over St. Louis Tuesday night.

Here are my keys to the game:

1. Offensive woes - After being shutout in a franchise record three consecutive games, the Coyotes finally tallied a pair of goals in the third period Tuesday in Los Angeles.  But it wasn't enough as they fell to the Kings 3-2. All told, Phoenix went 245 minutes, 32 seconds without finding the back of the net.  Just not what you're looking for and I feel its going to take some time until they get back on track.

2. Revenge - Though the Coyotes have beaten Vancouver three straight, the Canucks have earned themselves at least a point the last six games in this series. Still, they will be hungry to avenge a  4-2 home loss last month.  Over the last two seasons, Vancouver is 17-4 in road games when they are playing with revenge.

3.  X-Factor - While Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo has struggled a bit of late, he has a 1.47 GAA, including a shutout, his last two starts here in Phoenix.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Freddy Wills

Southern +23

I think we have some value in this play despite Southern coming from a bad conference they still were 2nd nationally in 2 point defense and 12th nationally in 3 point defense. 23 points is a lot and I think many may be looking at their match up from 2010 which featured a completely different Southern team ranked 300th in 2 point defense. They are also top 25 in turnovers/possession so it will be hard for Gonzaga to score a ton of points if they can't get out in transition. I could see this being a Gonzaga win by 10-15 points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

SPORTS WAGERS

Washington +145 over WINNIPEG

Regulation only. The Winnipeg Jets are attracting a lot of attention these days. The Jets are coming off an impressive 3-1 win over the Bruins in a game not many gave them a chance in. Winnipeg has now won four of its past five games to shoot to the top of the Southwest Division. We often suggest that the best time to jump off a team is when everyone jumps on and that applies here. Give the Jets credit for being a tough out and exceeding expectations but they are overpriced here.   

Washington went into Pittsburgh on Tuesday against the red-hot Penguins and gave Pittsburgh one of its toughest games of the year in a 2-1 Pittsburgh win. Since their awful start, the Caps have won 10 of its past 18 games and one of those included a 3-0 win over these same Jets back in Washington on February 2. In one less game than Winnipeg, Washington has scored one less goal than the Jets, while allowing one more goal and its power-play and penalty kill both rank higher than Winnipeg’s. The Caps don’t have any significant injuries, they have an edge in net, they’re taking fewer penalties than the Jets and in what is really about as even a contest as you will find, taking back 45 cents here on this visitor offers up as much value as any game on today’s board. 


CAROLINA/New Jersey over 5 -130

OT included. Martin Brodeur returns from injury after missing a month and the total is set at 5? Brodeur is a 41-year-old goaltender, past his best years, who doesn’t figure to be sharp when playing just his 14th game in the past 10 months. The goaltending situation in Raleigh isn’t much better with Dan Ellis and/or Justin Peters filling in for Cam Ward. Without its #1 goaltender, the Hurricanes have lost four straight, including a 4-1 loss to the dreadful Panthers in their last game.

In addition, Carolina is without shutdown defender Justin Faulk. They are also missing defenseman Joe Corvo. Those are the Hurricanes’ best two defensemen. When these two hooked up back on February 19, also in Carolina, the ‘Canes won 6-3. With shaky goaltending, shaky defense and plenty of offense on both sides, these two are now being asked to score five less goals than the first meeting to keep this one under today’s total. In six of the last seven meetings between these two clubs, the winning team has scored four goals or more. We don’t often play totals. We back away even more when asked to spot a price when doing so. However, this one is wrongly set and even at -130, we’re confident we found one of the more beatable numbers of the season.


PHOENIX +103 over Vancouver

Regulation only. The Canucks broke out of their funk with a 3-2 win over the Blues on Tuesday night. That was on paper. On the ice, it was the same old thing as the Canucks were badly outplayed getting outshot 15-3 in the first period and 34-19 for the game. That wasn’t a well earned win by the Canucks, it was a game stolen by goaltender Cory Schneider. It was the Canucks second regulation win over its past eight games with the other one being a 7-4 win over the Predators in a game they were outshot 33-22. Vancouver has one road win since February 22, a 2-1 OT victory in Columbus. The Canucks have scored 11 goals on the road over its past six games. Vancouver’s reputation has them wrongly favored on the road here. It’s also worth noting that the Canucks have the Kings on deck tomorrow in Los Angeles.

The Coyotes have dropped four straight, all on the road. For Phoenix, losses only make them work harder. On Tuesday in Los Angeles, Phoenix outshot the Kings 42-29 but lost 3-2. Phoenix now returns home, where they have won two straight (defeating L.A. and Dallas) and four of its last five with the other two victories both coming against Anaheim. A closer look reveals the Coyotes having played the Kings three times, the Blue Notes twice, Anaheim twice and Minnesota once in eight of their past 11 games. That’s a tough slate of games that should serve them well against weaker clubs like the one they will face here. Vancouver is not the strong team they’ve been over the past decade. Games like this will prove that even further.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Wunderdog

Missouri vs. Colorado State
Pick: Colorado State +2.5

It has been quite a ride for the Colorado State Rams this season as they won 25 games. It wasn't just 25 games, it was 25 games in what was to turned out to be the highest rated conference in terms of Conference RPI. Missouri was 12-2 through 14 games, but struggled as the competition got better and closed at 11-7. The Tigers played well under the line at 7-11 ATS, while Colorado State, despite being from a mid-major, played a stronger schedule. The Tigers are getting tamed by winning teams at just 4-10 ATS in their last 14, while the Rams own a 5-1 ATS mark in their last six vs. the SEC. Play on Colorado State.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday March 21

Harry Bondi

ST LOUIS (-9.5) over New Mexico State

Wait until New Mexico State sees the defense pressure Saint Louis will bring today. Aggies have been red-hot down the stretch and 7 ft freshman Sim Bhullar is a handful but the Billikens enter the tournament playing as well as any team in the country and have gone 24-3 straight up and an amazing 20-7 against the spread since Head Coach Rick Majerus passed away in December. This is a veteran St Louis squad that has a balanced motion offense and a disciplined pressure defense that will suffocate New Mexico State. It's a first round blowout for the Billikens today.

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