Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

River City Sharps

Fresno St +13.5

Our systems say "GO" here in backing the visitors and the play was close to becoming a 4 Unit Diamond play. Cal is 7-3 on the season while Fresno comes into the game at 6-4. but neither team really has a "quality" win on their resume, so it's not like Cal is some world beater. One area of this game where there is a statistical mismatch is on the glass, where Cal out rebounds Fresno St by nine boards per game. However, Fresno St. shoots almost 48% from the field as a team, so if they can make some shots to keep close to Cal, we really think the Golden Bears will have a difficult time covering this number. Fresno St is also the better FT shooting team, in case we need some at the end. Fresno St is 22-11 ATS in road games over the past 3 seasons and 9-1 ATS after a loss by 10 points or more over the last 3 seasons. We think this game is close, well within the number,

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

Harry Bondi

KENTUCKY (+4.5) over North Carolina

Kentucky's latest group of talented freshman have already lost twice to Michigan State and Baylor and we expect the public to be all over the Tarheels here to make it three in a row. But the reason those squads were able to best the Wildcats was that they were able to play tremendous zone defense and bury three pointers. North Carolina does not do either of those things well Coach Cal also laid back in those games to see if his squad could figure out a way to win and they couldn't. Now that he has their attention look for him to be active down the stretch and come away with a big win for his team that will get better as the year goes along. Carolina has been erratic so far and will struggle with Kentucky's speed. Take the Wildcats.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

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Navy (-12½) 32 Army 19FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Normally I look to the under in games between two option teams, as teams that run an option offense tend to defend the option better than they defend in general - so Army's bad defense should be as bad against an option team. However, Army allowed 456 yards at 8.6 yards per play to Air Force in a 28-42 loss in week 10 so perhaps their knowledge on how to defend the option can't make up for their bad tackling. My math model favors Navy by 13 1/2 points with a total of 57 points. However, games between option teams are 28-13-2 Under and the Army-Navy game has gone Under 7 consecutive years. I'll adjust 6 points on the total and will project 51 points. However, I don't recommend the under anymore because the line has gone from 55 down to 51 1/2 points and the value of the Under trend is gone. I suggest passing on this game and waiting for bowl season to begin next week.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

Jimmy Boyd

Green Bay -4½

Green Bay is the better team in this game, and they should have no problem covering such a small number against South Dakota. The Coyotes are coming off a strong performance on the road against Kansas State, and I think that has garnered them a little too much respect from the oddsmakers. The bottom line is simple; South Dakota is a 3-6 team. They have little-to-no home court advantage, and Wisconsin Green Bay has played a much stronger schedule this year.

The Phoenix have an impressive win over Virginia this year, and they were within three points of going to overtime against in-state rival Wisconsin. Green Bay is 6-1 ATS in their last seven games against a team with a losing record, and they are 36-17 in their last 53 games following an ATS loss. The Phoenix should win the battle on the boards, and they are the better ball control team and force more turnovers. They are also a good foul drawing team, and I expect the additional free throws to give us an easy cover in this game.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

Tony Bucca

Army vs. Navy    
Play: Navy -12

Traditionally a tight, hard fought game. Low scoring game also. Will today? Last year Army had it's best shot at winning, fumbling near/on the end zone line. This years Navy is MUCH improved, and very improved as the year has gone on. Defense is going to give up yards but their offense right now is unstoppable. Army was supposed to be improved this year but, in my opinion, have taken a step back. Their offense racks up plenty of yards but they either stall or turn it over. Their defense won't stop Navy. I see a 20+ point win for Navy. No opinion on the total.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

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Chicago -½ -105 over TORONTO
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Regulation only. I live in Toronto and can tell you that I’ve never seen this city that happy after a Maple Leafs loss as they were when they lost to the Kings on Wednesday night. The Leafs played their hearts out and deserved better but they ran into a super-hot goaltender. That game knocked the crap out of Toronto, as they went into St. Louis the next night and predictably fell behind 4-0 early in the second period before ultimately losing, 6-3. Now after games against Los Angeles and St. Louis, it doesn’t get any easier for the Maple Leafs. Toronto has five wins over their past 17 games. Three of those wins occurred when they allowed 50 shots on net and the two other wins came against the Islanders and Sabres. Toronto has been outscored by a count of 14-6 over their past three games and they have allowed four goals or more in six of their past 10. One has to wonder how they’ll compete here against the NHL’s hottest offense.
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Chicago has scored six or more goals in three straight. This is a team that has been killing it with ordinary goaltending but suddenly a new face has appeared on the scene in Antti Raanta. Raanta is undefeated since taking over from the injured Corey Crawford. In those five games since taking over, Raanta is 4-0-1 with a 2.00 GAA and a .932 save %. Chicago is on a current 4-0 run in Toronto and they are on a current 8-0 run against the Maple Leafs overall. The Blackhawks are 12-4-1 on the road and should have little trouble creating a ton of scoring chances against the NHL’s worst defensive core. The fade continues. 
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Los Angeles -½ +128 over OTTAWAFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Regulation only. That’s two down and one to go for the Kings on their current trip through Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa that ends tomorrow in Chicago but there will be no “look-ahead” factor regarding tomorrow’s showdown. The Kings have nine Ontario born players on their roster and they didn’t have their best game in Toronto, despite winning, 3-1. The Kings are the NHL’s hottest club right now. They have not allowed a first period goal in 17 games and have not allowed more than two goals in any of those. Although unconfirmed, today’s starter in net is likely going to be Martin Jones again because the kid is playing too good to leave on the bench. This kid is brilliant. It’s not a fluke either. He mostly stays on his feet and he’s quick as a jack rabbit with outstanding reflexes and his vision is off the charts. The kid sees everything. The Kings have won five in a row and have outscored the opposition 18-5 over that stretch. The lone goal they surrendered to the Maple Leafs came with L.A. two-men short.     
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We like the Senators as a team. They’re undervalued on most nights and maybe even so here because they are under .500 but they are too talented to remain under .500. That said, we can’t play this team with Craig Anderson in net (he’s confirmed today) because Anderson has been brutally awful most nights and we have no idea why the stubborn Paul MacLean insists on sticking with him over Robin Lehner. It makes no sense. Anderson was the winner in the Sens last game against Buffalo but so what. Buffalo has scored the fewest goals in the NHL. Prior to that, Anderson allowed four goals on 29 shots against Philly (.862 save %) and three goals on 31 shots against Toronto (.903 save %). In four games from November 17 to the 28th, Anderson’s save percentage against Columbus, Minnesota, Washington and Vancouver was .818, .840, .879 and .733 respectively. Sure, he had a couple of great seasons but so have a lot of players that regressed back to being ordinary or worse (see Jonathan Cheechoo). Anyway, what we have here is a goaltender that is fighting it on a squad that currently sits 26th in the NHL in goals against and that’s a huge liability when playing a team as good as the one they’ll face here. Note the 2:00 PM EST start.
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PHOENIX -½ +106 over CarolinaFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Regulation only. Carolina is among a group of teams that are forced to go with its inferior goaltender because of such big contracts. Justin Peters started the last game in Calgary so it would be safe to assume that Cam Ward will get the nod today. Peters has been much better than Ward. Ward’s .901 save percentage ranks him 55th out of the 60 current NHL goaltenders that are on an NHL roster. He has five wins in 15 starts and most of those losses were of his own doing. Now after games in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary that NHL players have been calling the three toughest road games in succession for years, Carolina takes its three-game losing streak to play in Phoenix.
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The West has been beating up on the East this entire season and now the Coyotes are beginning to peak. Phoenix has picked up five out of a possible six points over their last three games and was near flawless in a 3-1 win over Colorado last week. How good is this team? Consider that Phoenix has just eight regulation losses over their first 31 games with the majority of those occurring against Western clubs. At home the Coyotes are 10-2-2. Phoenix is deep right through the line-up. Just look at their centers: you start with Mike Ribeiro, have a couple of two-way aces in Antoine Vermette and Martin Hanzal on your second and third lines, and have Kyle Chipchurra holding down fourth-line duty. That’s a strong, well balanced group. Combine a deep forward group with Phoenix’s ridiculously loaded blue-line group and you can understand why this team is do tough to beat.  A few words of advice: never bet against a rigid systems team with good defensive personnel when a mediocre team from the East visits. That applies here.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

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UL LAFAYETTE -9 over HoustonFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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When looking at the records and to a lesser degree the rankings of these two clubs, it would appear that not a lot separates these two and therefore taking back nine points with the Cougars looks pretty good. However, a close look reveals nothing could be further from the truth. The Cougars are 7-4 while the Ragin’ Cajuns are 6-3 but the similarities or comparisons end right there. You see, the Cougars strength of schedule ranks 335 out of 351 Division I schools. Additionally, the Cougars have dropped four of their past five after defeating five creampuffs in a row to open the season. This is a team that can’t defend anyone and the Ragin Cajuns are more than capable of exploding on them. The Cougars ranked 269 th last season in defensive efficiency are stepping up a weight class this season in moving from Conference USA to the AAC. Outside of TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House being able to put some points on the board, the Cougars need several upgrades in every other department and they’re just not ready to compete with a team as good as the Ragin’ Cajuns.
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Louisiana Lafayette is 6-3 on the season. Its three losses occurred against #7 Louisville, #23 Baylor and to a very good Arkansas squad that is 7-2 and that ranks 20th in the country with an average of 85 points per game. The Ragin’ Cajuns RPI ranks 57th in the country while the Cougars RPI ranks 249th. Despite the tough schedule, ULL ranks 30th in the nation in points scored and 43rd in rebounding. The Cajuns are battle tested, they have two legit powers in Elfrid Payton (who is also a great defender and rebounder) and Shawn Long to go along with a nice supporting cast and they’re a definite threat for a tournament berth in March. All three games against Louisville, Baylor and Arkansas were on the road. ULL has played just three home games this season and in those games they are 3-0, winning by 34, 26 and 31 points respectively. The Cougars figure to be their next victim.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

Chris Jordan

My free play for Saturday night is on Gonzaga, laying the points to visiting South Alabama.

It always amuses me when teams from the East coast come across the country to play Gonzaga (9-1), as they don't know how tough it is to play the Bulldogs. It's not in Spokane, but Seattle is close enough, and the Jaguars are in store for a rude awakening.

South Alabama, which is 0-2 all-time against Gonzaga, comes in with a 5-4 mark. The Jags have been off for a week, as they lost to Rice by three, in triple-overtime, back on Dec. 7.

The Battle in Seattle returns to KeyArena for its 11th season, and Gonzaga’s record in the Battle in Seattle is 6-4. Gonzaga is 6-1 all-time against current Sun Belt Conference teams.

I don't doubt South Alabama will be formidable come conference play, but it's going to struggle in this cross-country trip.

5♦ GONZAGA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

Jeff Benton

Your Saturday freebie is the Under in the annual Army-Navy battle from Philadelphia.

This will be the 114th annual meeting between these service academies, and one thing for certain these are a pair of schools that sure know how to defend the triple-option since they see it each and every day in practice!

The weather forecast is calling for an accumulation of 3 inches of snow on the field at the Linc, and while it could serve to see some busted plays and big gains, I think the track record we have seen in these yearly showdowns has to be respected.

Each of the last 7 series meetings between the teams has held Under the total, and 8 of the last 10 series meetings overall have stayed Under the total.

Hard to argue those trends, so with each team knowing how to defend the triple-option, and the snow expected to play a factor, let's make it 8 straight series Unders after this one is in the books.

1♦ ARMY-NAVY UNDER

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

Craig Davis

Free play of the day on the Milwaukee Bucks over the Dallas Mavericks, catching 12 1/2 points at the time of this writing.

When is Vegas going to learn... the Mavs simply don't beat teams at home by double digits... especially the ones they're supposed to beat by double digits. If you'll go back and look at all my NBA free and premium releases, you'll see the two times I've given you Dallas's opponent plus a bunch of points and you'll see both times I was victorious.

They were favored by 11 1/2 over Philly and won by 3... following that up with a 10-point win over the Jazz as an 11-point favorite.

I'm not saying the Mavs don't have the capability of beating the Bucks tonight by double figures, but so far they're 0-2 when listed as a 10+ fav PLUS the road team has won the head-to-head matchup outright the last three times these two have met (and four of the last six).

Dallas comes back home from a tough west coast road trip which included a heart-breaking loss at Golden State in the final second of the game. They're going to be happy to just come home, get the job done and call it a night.

Dallas wins, but Milwaukee covers..

3♦ MILWAUKEE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

Scott Delaney

My free play for Saturday night is on Southern Utah, plus the points, against the UNLV Runnin' Rebels. I don't trust the Rebels, as they play up to the level of competition, and play down to their level of competition. It doesn't matter who they've played, the Rebels just didn't seem to be the team coach Dave Rice hoped it would be.

There's still time for them, before Mountain West play, but something tells me they're going to struggle a little bit in Cedar City, Utah tonight, where the Thunderbirds are always tough and generally look to play bigger and tougher opponents, well, big and tough.

UNLV just lost a player, as forward Jamal Aytes is gone an transferred to BYU. The San Diego-native obviously didn't like the way things are going, and told Rice and the Rebels he was leaving the program. Not sure whether or not it's an indicator of him not liking his playing time, or lack thereof, or that Rice isn't the coach everyone thinks he is.

This should be closer than expected, as Southern Utah will keep this in single digits, and challenge the Rebels.

5♦ SOUTHERN UTAH

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

Brad Wilton

NBA comp play winner here on Saturday night, as I back the Los Angeles Clippers to get a road win and cover as they close out their 7 game road swing in D.C.against the Wizards.

Doc Rivers has had an emotional couple of days, as his new team has made stops in Boston (to face the team he helped raise a championship banner), and the Clips also stopped in Brooklyn for an emotional reunion with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce on Thursday night. Now after a day off the Clippers look to make this a winning road swing, as they are 3-3 straight up and against the spread on this trek, and they do have the benefit of a night's rest on Friday on their side.

Washington was on court last night in Atlanta, and the Wizards are just 1-8 straight up the last 9 series meetings, with a 3-5-1 against the spread mark in the last 9 showdowns.

The Wizards have covered 4 straight when playing unrested, but I think they are catching the Clippers with their focus squarely on heading back to Lob City with the win.

Take L.A. as the road chalk.

2♦ L.A. CLIPPERS

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

Brett Atkins

My free play for today is in College Basketball, as I like Air Force over Cal Riverside, which is no match for the Falcons, especially in Colorado Springs, Colo. This is cheap number to lay.

Air Force is wrapping up its eight-game homestand against the Highlanders, as the Falcons come in at 5-4 after trouncing Western State, 94-53, last Monday. The Highlanders, meanwhile, are 3-4 after beating up on the University of LaVerne, 92-77, at home back on Dec. 5.

Air Force is 4-1 this season when it has scored 70 points or more and there is no doubt in my mind it will score at least that at home against a rather bad Riverside team. At the other end of the court, defensively speaking, the Falcons are 4-0 when allowing 70 points or less. Riverside will have trouble getting there in this altitude.

Take the Falcons.

3♦ AIR FORCE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

Sean Michaels

I'm going to back Indiana (-4') against Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The Hoosiers are obviously going to be the fan favorite among the four teams playing in the tournament (the others being Butler and Purdue), and they need a big non-conference win after failing against Syracuse on the road and U.Conn on a neutral court in the season's first month.

Notre Dame's confidence had to be shattered with this week's home loss to North Dakota State. The Irish sport a four-guard lineup and that will give them problems against a bigger Indiana team.

2♦ INDIANA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

Jeff Scott Sports

2 UNIT PLAY

Army/ Navy Under 51.5: Bad weather is expected in Philly for this game, and the Under has cashed in the last 7 in this series. Those 7 games have averaged just 37.3 ppg, with no game putting up more than 48 points. A big part of that is the fact that both teams run the ball a ton and that keeps the clock running. Add in the bad weather here and we should have a game that just may be played in the 30's.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

Wunderdog

Illinois at Oregon
Pick: Illinois +8

This is a non-conference showdown game as Illinois takes on an Oregon team the Illini is 4-0 against. This is a strong Illini front court, and they have rebounded 38% of their misses, ranking 35th in the nation in offensive rebound percentage. Illinois has just one loss, and the Fighting Illini are 4-1 ATS in their last five neutral-site games. They are a good sized dog to an Oregon team that is off an OT win at Ole Miss, a long road trip to Oxford, Mississippi, and now they come home. Ole Miss made 15 three-pointers and Illinois can bomb away, as well. Grab the dog in this even game. Play Illinois.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

LT Profits

UC Riverside vs Air Force
Pick: Air Force -7

The Air Force Falcons get one more chance to beat up in a lightweight at home before beginning play inside the tough Mountain West as they host the UC Riverside Highlanders. Air Force has little trouble scoring points, ranking 28th in the country in effective field goal percentage thanks to shooting 40.1 percent from three-point land and 51.8 percent of its two-pointers, and the Falcons also like to pick up the pace here at home, where they have the added advantage of playing at mile-high altitude in Colorado Springs. On the other side, Riverside is one of the worst shooting teams in the country ranking 316th in offensive efficiency, and that is while facing a weak schedule rated 304th in non-conference SOS. The first time Riverside faced a Mountain West team it lost by 36 to San Diego State. Air Force is 10-2 ATS in its last 12 home games.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 14

The Duke's Sports

Oklahoma -11.5

Tulsa off to a sluggish start and they it shouldn't get any better here. In state rival Oklahoma is hitting buckets at a 48% clip strong for a usually defensive minded Kruger team. They're averaging 87 ppg and the Golden Hurricane will have difficulty trading points averaging just 72 ppg. Tulsa's FG% is a sluggish 43% and they struggle late in games finishing. We'll look for the Sooners to bump to 16-5 ATS at home as Kruger wants to keep top recruits from the rich Oklahoma recruiting pool at home and should poor it on here.

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