Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

Jeff Benton

Your Saturday freebie is the Washington Wizards in their matinee at Boston against the Celtics.

This series has been ALL Boston, with the C's winning 7 in a row straight up, but this is a different Boston team this year under Brad Stevens.

Boston has lost 3 of their last 5 games straight up, and they are catching Washington coming into this game with some momentum on their side, as the Wizards are off back-to-back road wins at the Knicks and at the Nets.

This Washington team is now 8-5 against the spread on the road, and if ever there was a time for the Wizards to end their 7 game slide versus the Celtics than Saturday afternoon is the day.

Book it baby, Washington gets their first series win since 2011.

2♦ WASHINGTON

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

Craig Davis

Free play of the day on the Dallas Mavericks plus the points against the Phoenix Suns out in the desert.

There aren't many logical reasons to release the Mavs in this spot, considering their 4-8 road record, but that's usually all the more reason to go against logic.

If Dallas can actually lead the Toronto Raptors 37-22 in the 2nd quarter and watch the lowly Raptors battle their way back to tie the game and force overtime (and actually win the game), they can come to Phoenix and win. That's just the way they roll.

No doubt about it... the Mavs were embarrassed last night. It's ridiculous to lose to Toronto at home, period!! And that's why the general public is going to jump all over the Suns tonight. And why not? Despite being only 15-10 on the season, the Suns are a league-best 18-6-1 against the Vegas number because the oddsmakers simply haven't given them a lot of respect.

They haven't been a favorite very often, and that's another reason I like Dallas here. Phoenix is used to being the dog and either just covering the number or winning outright. Regardless, they are in a rare role and I don't think they'll handle it well in the end.

Dallas has beaten Phoenix eight of their last 10 meetings and has covered every game they won SU. That's right... on the two occasions that the Suns won... they covered.

Watch for Dallas to not only cover, but win outright as your free play of the day.

2♦ DALLAS

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

Scott Delaney

My free play is in college basketball today, as I take it to Wichita, Kansas, where the Gonzaga Bulldogs will face the Kansas State Wildcats.

Yes, I know Gonzaga is off to a strong start once again, and comes into this one 10-1, but I'm still stuck on how bad the Bulldogs pulled up lame last year in the dance. Something about quality competition seems to challenge this team, which tells me wins over Colorado State, Washington State, Arkansas and West Virginia shouldn't necessarily be considered quality... yet.

The Bulldogs are efficient on offense because of Kevin Pangos, one of the best guards K-State will face all season. But I think the Wildcats are going to clamp down on him and frustrate the Bulldogs' overall offensive effort from the field.

The Wildcats come in riding a five-game win streak after a sluggish start to the season. This is K-State’s fourth neutral-court game of the season, and should get a decent crowd with the venue being about two hours away from Manhattan. This is a trip the Wildcats like to make for recruiting purposes, so I expect to see their best effort.

The Wildcats play well enough on defense and should be able to keep this game close. Whether or not it can score enough to win outright is another question. But I'll side with the underdog here to keep it inside five points.

4♦ KANSAS STATE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

Brad Wilton

Wow, who made the Texas schedule?

The Longhorns are still a little high after their big win at North Carolina on Wednesday night, and now they return home with the task of trying to take down one of the other big redwoods in the college game, the Michigan State Spartans.
Don't expect Rick Barnes' team to win this game - even at home.

Michigan State has rebounded from their own home loss to UNC by winning their last pair of games. I suspect Coach Izzo will have his players attention in Austin today.

Sparty took down the Horns by 11 points last season in East Lansing as the -11 1/2 point favorite. The price in this one is significantly lower, and I will back MSU to catch Texas still savoring their win at Chapel Hill on Saturday afternoon.

3♦ MICHIGAN STATE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

Brett Atkins

My free play for Saturday is on the Under in the first bowl game of the day, as I think we're going to see Colorado State and Washington State stay low. We have a pair of somewhat mediocre teams within their respective conferences, but that have their own unique ability to take over a game.

Colorado State, out of the Mountain West, finished the season 7-6, and went over in nine of 12 games this season. But the Rams have to know this Wazzou team can be very dangerous offensively under coach Mike Leach. With so many different tactics, the Cougars are capable of putting up a 40-spot at any given moment.

The problem with Washington State is it promotes a one-dimensional offense with junior quarterback Connor Halliday, who leads the fourth-ranked passing game. Real simple: slow him down, and force the Cougars to run the ball. That won't work well, and will put Wazzou in keep-away mode. Colorado State recorded 27 sacks this season, which isn't too shabby when you consider the fact the Mountain West Conference labeled this season the year of the quarterback.

As for CSU's offense, it will turn to sophomore Kapri Bibbs, who rushed for 1,572 yards and 28 touchdowns. The Rams are well aware that Wazzou's defense allowed 184 rushing yards per game, and they can control the tempo with a heavy dose of smash and dash.

Colorado State has stayed under in six of seven against the Pac 12, and both teams are prolific under teams when playing on grass. This one stays low.

5♦ Colorado State/Washington State Under

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

Ben Burns

Sacramento Kings at Orlando Magic
Prediction: Orlando Magic

The situation should favor the home team here.

While the Kings are off a hard game at Miami last night, the Magic had the past two days off.

This is worse than a typical back-to-back spot though ...

Not only did last night's game come against the defending champs, but the the Kings will also now be playing their fourth game in the past five days.

Note that Sacramento, which got blown out last night, is only 1-6 ATS the last seven times that it was a off a double-digit loss.

Playing without Afflalo, the Magic managed only 82 points vs. Utah last time out. He's expected to be back this evening though.

Orlando's leading scorer had this to say: "There was a little something going on with my throat or something. I'm fine," he said. "I'll be OK."

The Magic are 3-1 ATS the last four times that they were off a game in which they scored 85 or fewer points. This should be a good spot to improve on those stats. Consider laying the small number.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

Kevin Thomas

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Milwaukee Bucks    
Play: Philadelphia 76ers +2

Two of the worst teams face off, 76ers are getting healthy and won last night against the Nets. In overtime which could take a toll on them in 3rd.4th quarter. 76ers are young and should play well on short rest. Take the 76ers +2 and the under 202 for a small parlay.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

Brad Wilton

Going to back Stanford to continue their success on the east coast this Saturday night at the Barclays Center against the Michigan Wolverines.

Stanford just pulled the upset of Connecticut earlier this week in Storrs, and now Johnny Dawkins' team will get his shot at adding another big name to the Cardinal resume in Michigan.

This is not the same Wolverines team that danced all the way to last April's title game before bowing to Louisville, as John Beilein's team comes into this game licking some wounds, as the Wolves have lost 3 of their last 5 games straight up.
The Tree meanwhile is clicking right now with 3 straight wins and 3 straight covers.

If Stanford can nail this one down, strong chance the Selection Committee will remember their back-to-back December wins over name programs Connecticut and Michigan.

That being said, I will back the Cardinal plus any points.

1* STANFORD

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

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Xavier Vs AlabamaFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Alabama Crimson Tide may be just 5-5, but they have been toughened by a tough schedule that has included losses to Duke, Oklahoma and most recently Wichita State 72-67 here at home on Tuesday. That brutal schedule plays a part in Alabama being ranked a good 58th on the Pomeroy Ratings despite the .500 record and the Tide continue to play tough defense, ranking 37th in efficiency and seventh in three-point defense, which is a big key to this game. The Xavier Musketeers are 8-3, but they have only faced a non-conference schedule ranked 224th in SOS while relying on their 40.1 percent three-point shooting, which should be neutralized here in a tougher true road game. The Musketeers have also turned the ball over way too much despite the soft slate, ranking 284th in offensive turnover percentage. Xavier is 1-4 ATS in its last five non-conference games.
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UL Lafayette vs TulaneFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns are expected to be without quarterback Terrance Broadway for this New Orleans Bowl, but that may actually be serving the purpose of making then undervalued vs. a Tulane Green Wave team that has the worst offense of any bowl team! Yes, Tulane played its home games here in the Superdome this season, but they averaged a measly 275 yards per game on 3.5 yards per rush and a putrid 4.7 yards per pass attempt in those games. Even without Broadway, the Cajuns should still win this game as long as they establish the run, as ULL was 25th in the country with 207.6 rushing yards per game on 4.8 yards per carry. Also, and quite surprisingly, Sun Belt teams have only been bowl underdogs four times since 2000 and they are 3-0-1 ATS. UL Lafayette is 17-6 ATS in its last 23 games following a straight up loss.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

River City Sharps

Colorado St / Washington St Over 65.5

This game features two really good offenses against two really bad defenses...enough said there. Colorado State can score their share of points, averaging 35.3 ppg while the Cougars average almost 30 ppg. Colorado St is a much more balanced offense, but make no mistake, both of these teams want to throw the ball down the field. With that in mind, you get lots more plays and therefore, more possibilities for scores. We think this is a back and forth game with lots of offense, so the number is what we are really eyeing up.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

Wunderdog

Eastern Michigan at Oakland
Pick: Eastern Michigan +4.5

Eastern Michigan has had a tough schedule, playing the likes of Kentucky, at Purdue and UMass, but has been playing well with a winning record. The Eagles are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 road games, 7-1 ATS versus the Horizon League.  They face a bad Oakland team that can't shoot (42%) or rebound (334th in the nation) and the Eagles are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games vs. a team with a losing record. The Golden Grizzlies are 5-11 ATS in their last 16 games overall, so grab the better visitors. Play Eastern Michigan.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

OC Dooley

Fresno State +5

Both sides have had lengthy Bowl droughts as the USC Trojans have not come out on the winning end of the scoreboard since 2009, while for Fresno State (2007) is has been an even longer wait.  That makes “taking” the points tempting especially when you consider that Southern California once again has to overcome a major disruption.  In last year’s Sun Bowl the Trojans in a lower-tier contest foe which they did not care about were basically a no-show operating with a reserve quarterback after struggling with injury down the stretch of the regular campaign.  This year it has been unrest at the head coaching position as USC after reacting positively to the firing of Lane Kiffin just lost “interim” leader Ed Orgeron who resigned after not being given the chance to coach the squad in 2014.  USC has hired the same Steve Sarkisian who used to be their offensive coordinator to hopefully lead the school out of the ramifications of recent NCAA imposed sanctions.  While the Trojans once again are dealing with their second “interim” head coach of the 2103 season, Fresno State has a chance to make a statement against an opponent from a power-conference.  Fresno State came very close to garnering one of the lucrative BCS Bowl spots and despite a late season setback, they are actually EXCITED to be in this game according to the head coach.  The entire country gets to watch Fresno star quarterback Derek Carr who leads the nation in total offense, touchdown passes and average completions per outing

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, December 21

NHL Predictions

St. Louis Blues -½ +107

I have faded the Oilers a few times this season, and more often than not, we've stroke gold. If you've been fading Edmonton all season long, then you probably have a nice bankroll at the moment. The Oilers come into Saturday night with a dismal record of 11-23-3 and 5-10-1 at home. They are a young bunch that I am not particularly fond of. Past Taylor Hall, the lineup is pretty bare with playmakers. The Oilers are in future mode, as they try and develop Hall with 1st overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He's a promising player for this franchise, but currently from what I have seen, there is a lot of work to be done. Too many times he gets out muscled for loose pucks which turn into chances the other way. That is something that can be worked on in the offseason, so like I said, it is all about the future with the Oilers. The Blues on the other hand are thinking about right now, and more specifically, going deep in the playoffs. They have a team built for that, with solid defense and goaltending, and some offensive power. The Blues who average 3.41 goals per game should be able to take advantage of a team that gives up as much as they score, 3.41 goals. Conversely, the Blues are strong defensively as well, allowing only 2.35 goals per game. The Oilers are in the midst of a five-game skid, with their last win coming against Carolina in overtime. Note that Edmonton only scored six goals during this losing stretch. I like the Blues to add to their misery tonight, as they dispatch the Oilers by a score of around 4-2 Saturday night.

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