Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Marc Lawrence

Los Angeles Lakers at Minnesota Timberwolves
Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers

The lowly Lakers take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota Tuesday evening with Minny looking to avenge a 13-point loss they suffered in Los Angeles as 6-point chalk earlier this season. If history has a say, revenge will not matter. That's because the Lakers are 23-1 SU the last 24 games in this series, including 11-0 the last eleven on this floor. Granted, Kobe Bryant was in uniform in the majority of those games but with Los Angeles 16-8-1 ATS as a dog in games versus sub .575 opposition this season, look for more of the same tonight. We recommend a 1-unit play on the Lakers.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Larry Ness
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Maryland at North Carolina
Pick: North Carolina
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Maryland is off to the Big Ten next season, so tonight's visit to Chapel Hill will be the Terps' final one as a member of the ACC. Maryland comes in 13-9 overall, 5-4 in ACC play. Maryland hasn't had much recent luck when playing North Carolina, having lost SEVEN in a row to the Tar Heels and 13 of the last 17 meetings. Carolina defeated the Terps three times last season, including a 62-52 victory in Chapel Hill.
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North Carolina comes in 14-7 overall (4-4 in the ACC) and I'll note that both teams come in with some momentum after slow starts in ACC action. North Carolina has won four of its last five games, including three consecutive games, since beginning 0-3 in ACC play while Maryland brings a two-game win streak into the contest after losing four of its previous five games. Tar Heels coach Roy Williams and Maryland coach Mark Turgeon are close friends with Turgeon serving as an assistant for four seasons (1988-92) under Williams when he was the head coach at Kansas.
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6-5 junior guard Dez Wells transferred from Xavier and is in his second season at Maryland. He leads the team in scoring at 15.0 PPG and is joined by another key transfer, the 6-8 Smotrycz (from Michigan), who checks in averaging 11.6 & 6.5. Three other players average in double digits for the Terps, 6-8 swingman Layman (12.5-5.0) plus guards Allen (10.5) and Faust (10.1).
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Sophomore PG Marcus Paige leads the Tar Heels in scoring (16.7-3.6-4.4) and is joined by SG McDonald (11.2). Starting up front are a pair of 6-9 players, McAdoo (15.0-6.7) and Meeks (7.6-6.4) plus 6-5 small forward Tokoto (9.0-5.6). The top reserves are the 6-9 Johnson (9.7-6.3) and guard Britt (5.5). Carolina is beginning to shoot better from three-point range, which the team will need to do if it plans on 'dancing' in March.
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It's been a strange season for Roy Williams' team, as the Tar Heels have beaten then-No. 3 Louisville (neutral site), won at then-No.1 Michigan St plus took down then-No. 11 Kentucky (in Chapel Hill) but also lost SEVEN times, including home to Belmont and at UAB. However, North Carolina has owned Maryland in recent years and let's NOT get too excited over Maryland's 80-60 win at Va Tech.
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First off, the 8-13 Hokies aren't much of a team and no way Maryland shoots 51.8% again (8 of 15 on threes), here at North Carolina. After all, the Terps are shooting a modest 44.0% on the season (just 35.9% on threes) and lost their first three ACC road games by 20 at Pitt, 24 at FSU and nine at NC State. Lay the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Sean Higgs

LA Lakers vs. Minnesota
Play: LA Lakers +10½

The LA Lakers come to town having given up 100 points in 14 straight games and find themselves with only the Kings protecting them from the basement of the Western Conference. LA will be without Pau Gasol, but I think the return of Nash and Blake will help the team out here. They haven't played since Friday and should be rested and ready having lost 6 straight.
I can barely find a positive trend for the Lakers. They have been terrible and there is no way I can paint a pretty picture using their brush. But we have seen LAL go 6-1 ATS last 7 in the series and the road team a profitable 12-4 ATS last 16. We will grab the double digit dogs here.

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David Banks

Phoenix Suns -7

It will certainly be a contrast in styles in a non-conference affair on NBA TV Tuesday night when the surprising, fast-paced Phoenix Suns (29-18, 32.14.1 ATS) host the plodding, defensive minded Chicago Bulls (23-23, 21-25 ATS) from US Airways Center at 9:05 ET. Not much was expected from the Suns this season after finishing with the worst record in the Western Conference last year, yet they are now second in the Pacific Division at 3 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers. The Bulls are in second place in the Central Division but 13 games behind the Indiana Pacers.

The fact that the Suns have been able to turn things around while playing in the tougher Western Conference is rather remarkable as they are currently the sixth seed in the conference, although they are far from assured of anything right now as they are still just 2 games away from being out of the playoffs, which is their lead over ninth seeded Dallas. Still, their 29 wins this season has already surpassed their 25 wins from all of last year, so anything from here on out is gravy. And the Suns have gone back to their hectic style they used to play under former coach Mike D'Antoni when Steve Nash was in his prime as they are sixth in the NBA in scoring at 104.9 points per game but 16th in points against at 101.3 per contest. Goran Dragic is now the point guard in the offense and he leads the team in both scoring (20.0 points per game) and assists (6.1). The Suns have won seven of their last eight games, and this stretch includes two wins over the team with the best record and best defense in the NBA in the Pacers while scoring 124 points against them here in the desert and 102 points in Indianapolis.

That does not bode well for the Bulls here as they are a team that relies on defense and lack the firepower to keep pace with the more potent offenses of the Western Conference. The Bulls are second to the Pacers in points against at just 92.7 per game and third in filed goal percentage allowed at 43.3 percent, but they have had their difficulties in non-conference game vs. teams that can solve their defense, mainly because their offense ranks second to last among the 30 NBA teams in scoring averaging 92.5 points and 28th in field goal percentage at 42.5 percent. Chicago is also 28th in pace rating, but its has been unable to slow down most of its non-conference opponents this year and there is no reason to expect that to change vs. a Phoenix team ranked sixth in pace rating, especially with this game played in Arizona where the Suns are averaging a potent 108.4 points. This is also the second of a back-to-back for the Bulls after playing in Sacramento on Monday so fatigue may become an issue.

The Suns are 35-16-1 ATS in their last 52 games overall, 9-2 ATS in their last 11 home games vs. teams with losing road records and 5-0 ATS in their last five games vs. the Eastern Conference. The Bulls are 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games vs. the Western Conference.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

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Toronto at FloridaFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Toronto Maple Leafs head to sunny South Florida tonight to battle the Florida Panthers.  I have been a big proponent of playing the Maple Leafs of late during their 10-1-1 hot streak and my clients and I have certainly been rewarded.  We had a huge 20* victory with the Leafs on Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators in a 6-3 victory and another 20* winner on the Leafs last Thursday night when they beat the Panthers 6-3 on their home ice.  They are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now and riding high with a ton of confidence.  They sport perhaps the best line in the NHL as forwards Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, and James van Riemsdyk continuously light the lamp and give opposing teams problems.  Kessel has been particularly impressive offensively earning second star in the NHL for the month of January.  Fortunately, we get the Leafs at a cheap price tonight on the road against a struggling Florida team.  Florida certainly doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep up as their 8.6% PP (good for last in the NHL) puts them behind the eight-ball as soon as the puck drops.  People can talk about a revenge spot for the Florida Panthers, or a trap game here for the Maple Leafs, but teams playing great hockey have the ability to remain focused in these situations.  At a pick ‘em price, it’s an easy decision to take the much deeper, more offensive, and hotter team right now.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

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Atlanta Hawks +3FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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At first glance Indiana would look like the obvious play. The Pacers have the best record in the NBA and they also have the best road winning percentage in the Eastern Conference and are laying just three points on the road at Atlanta but I like the Hawks in this spot. Atlanta is playing very well having won five out of their last seven games and they are averaging 111 points per game over their last eight games which is about ten points more than their season average. Atlanta has also been a very tough place to play for the Pacers as they have lost tweleve consecutive regular season games in Atlanta since 2006 which is Indiana's longest active road losing streak against any opponent in the league. This streak also includes a 97-87 loss here on January 8th despite a 28 point outburst from Indiana All-Star Paul George. Take the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Sam Martin
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Missouri at FloridaFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This game smells like a trap, and we're not going anywhere near the 12-point spot with Missouri tonight. In fact, we looked up series history to find out why the linesmakers were obviously begging for Tigers action in this matchup, and we found out why immediately.
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Florida beat Mizzou by 31 points last year here on this court (as a similar 13-point home favorite) and so far in conference play this season they are winning by 15 ppg while only allowing their foes to score 55 points per contest. Missouri not nearly as good on the road as they are on their home court, and being an unconfident road team against this defense is a recipe for disaster.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Jimmy Boyd

Georgia Tech +7

This is too many points for a mediocre team like Clemson to cover, especially against an equally matched opponent like Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have covered the spread in three of their last four games when facing an ACC opponent, while the Tigers have failed to cover the spread in two of their last three. Clemson does have a solid defense, but they also lack the ability to score points. This should be a low scoring game, and I just cannot see the Tigers covering such a large spread when such a small amount of points will be scored by both teams.

Georgia Tech is coming off a confidence boosting win on the road in their last game. They were a 4.5 point underdog against Wake Forest and managed to win that game by nine points. The Yellow Jackets are a very good ball control team and they have also proved to be an outstanding rebounding team. If they continue to keep turnovers in check and have a good night on the glass there is no reason the Yellow Jackets can't pull off their second consecutive upset. Even if Georgia Tech comes up short, I can see this game coming down to the wire.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Ray Monohan

Indiana Pacers -2½

The Pacers have not been looking as sharp lately losing three of their last 6 games (5 of 6 ATS) before beating up on the Magic Monday night.

Even though it is the second game of a back to back, and on the road, I think the Pacers recent struggles represent a nice buying opportunity against Atlanta.

The Hawks are in the bland middle of the East and have some players in their lineup who should not be NBA starters. With a better than .500 record they are firm in their playoff position but have little hope of really advancing to catch Miami and significantly improve their position.

The Hawks beat Indiana by 10 at home in early January which because they have so few is a loss the Pacers will remember - it probably brings down the price too.

Indiana is 13-9 ATS on the road this season.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

John Ryan

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves    
Play: Los Angeles Lakers +10½

The simulator shows a high probability that the Lakers will lose this game by fewer than 10 points. Supporting this graded play is a proven system posting a 82-26 mark for 76% winners since 2008. Play on road teams (LA LAKERS) that are good offensive teams scoring 98 to 102 PPG and are now facing a poor defensive team allowing 98 to 102 PPG and after allowing 100 points or more 2 straight games. Lakers are further supported noting they are a solid 13-4 ATS (+8.6 Units) after failing to cover 4 of their last 5 against the spread over the last 2 seasons and that Minnesota is just 5-16 ATS (-12.6 Units) in home games against Pacific division opponents over the last 3 seasons. HC D'Antoni is 16-3 ATS (+12.7 Units) in road games after 5 or more consecutive losses in all games he has coached since 1996. Take the Lakers.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Doug Upstone

Maryland vs. North Carolina    
Play: Maryland +7½

On Tuesday, Play Against Home favorites of 3.5 to 9.5 points like North Carolina, making four or less 3-point shots a game on the season. The logic for this free play is team's making this few of long distance shots will have a harder time pulling away as a favorite or having a more difficult time catching up if they are trailing. Also, if they have a working margin at the end of games, their lead is suspect to back door cover possibilities by the opposing team. In the past five years these teams are just 44-92 ATS.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Jeff Alexander

Baylor +4

Baylor has underachieved to this point given the level of talent it has so I don't see it suffering a letdown after it was able to end a 5-game skid with an impressive win at Oklahoma State. The Bears now have some much-needed momentum and confidence on their side. They will also draw a little extra motivation from a 10-point loss at Kansas Jan. 20. The Bears were just 9 of 20 (45.0%) from the foul line in the game or the final score could have been much closer. While Baylor isn't a good free throw shooting team, it does shoot them much better at home where it averages 20 makes on 30 attempts (67.1%). Baylor is a solid 67-53 ATS when out for revenge under coach Drew. It defeated the Jayhawks 81-58 as a 4-point home dog last season, and I expect it to give them all they want and more tonight.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Freddy Wills

Ole Miss vs. Kentucky    
Play: Ole Miss +11½

This line is a bit sketchy when you consider that both teams are 6-2 in conference play. I really like the fact that Ole Miss features the better defense in conference play particularly inside the arch where Kentucky will attempt over 70% of their shots. Ole Miss has actually defended really well on the road this year allowing only 39.4% from the field which should keep them in this game throughout. Kentucky is also off a big time road win against Missouri and both these teams are tied for 2nd in the SEC. This is a big time game and I don't believe we see a blow out like the oddsmakers are predicting. Marshall Henderson has been great for Ole Miss, a fearless leader who seems to have grown up a bit. Ole Miss defense and offense from Henderson will be enough to cover this large spread.


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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Jack Jones

Suns/Bulls Under 191½

I fully expect the Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls to take part in a defensive battle tonight. This will be the second meeting between these teams in a month, and that familiarity will certainly help pave the way for the UNDER.

The last two meetings in this series have been very low-scoring, and I look for this one to follow suit. Chicago beat Phoenix 92-87 at home on January 7 for 179 combined points in their first meeting this season. In their final meeting of '13, the Suns won 97-81 at Chicago for 178 combined points.

Chicago has been an UNDER machine of late, finishing under the number in each of its last five games overall. It is scoring just 84.0 points per game and allowing 91.0 during this span, combining with its opponents for an average of 175.0 points per game. This should come as no surprise with the losses of Derrick Rose and Luol Deng.

The Bulls are 12-2 to the UNDER versus poor passing teams that average 20 or less assists per game this season. The UNDER is 19-7 in Suns last 26 games when playing on two days rest. Chicago is 26-12 to the UNDER when playing its 3rd game in 4 days over the last two seasons. Bet the UNDER in this game Tuesday.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Dave Price

Chicago Bulls +8

Off back-to-back losses, including a dreadful 99-70 defeat in Sacramento last night, Chicago will be lacking no motivation here. The Bulls are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games following a loss, 4-1 ATS in their last five games following a loss of more than 10 points, 8-3 ATS in their last 11 road games and 4-1 ATS in their last five games when playing without a day of rest. Looking back further, Chicago is on an impressive 88-62 ATS run off two or more consecutive road defeats. It's 32-18 ATS the last three seasons after failing to cover the spread in two or more consecutive games. The Bulls won the season's first meeting 92-87 at home nearly a month ago. While Phoenix will be looking for revenge, we can't ignore the fact it is just 21-41 ATS the last three seasons when seeking revenge for a road loss. The Bulls have won eight of the past 10 meetings while going 7-3 ATS during this stretch. They are 4-0 SU and ATS in their last four visits to Phoenix, winning these contests by an average of 9.0 points. Take Chicago.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Steve Rosen

Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks    
Play: Atlanta Hawks +3½

The Hawks are one of the NBA's hottest teams at the moment. They have won 5 of their last 7 games. They are well rested and beat Min by 7. They also have beaten recently top tier teams like Miami. The pacers as good as they are, do not play good on the ROAD when playing talented teams. They lost to Denver and Phoenix recently. Don't forget the Hawks already beat the Pacers in January by 10 points at home!

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

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N.Y. Islanders +128 over WASHINGTON
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Regulation only. The correlation between losing and allowing too many shots on net has been present in the NHL for decades. This statistic takes a look at the 'average shots for' versus the 'average shots against' for a particular team. The theory is a team with a positive differential gets more shots on net, allows fewer shots against (because they are in the opposition’s end for extended stretches), and hence has proportionately more scoring chances than their opponent. In the last 40 years, 63% of Stanley Cup winning teams have been in the Top 5, and 90% of winning teams have been in the Top 10 when it comes to overall shooting differential. We mention this because the Capitals have allowed the second most shots on net in the NHL since the beginning of December. As a result, it should therefore come as no surprise that the Caps have just five wins in their past 18 games and at least two of those were of the extreme fortunate variety. One of those five victories occurred against Detroit on Friday night in a game the Caps were outshot 45-29. Another victory occurred against the Bolts in which Washington was outshot 36-20 and one other occurred against the Rangers, 3-2, in which the Caps allowed 40 shots on net. Washington could conceivably be on a run of 16 losses in 18 games. This is a bad hockey team with awful defense, one scoring line and that scores a high percentage of their goals when they have the man advantage. Regarding the Capitals, the best advice is to fade them when they are favored because their chances of losing are greater than their chances of winning.
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The Islanders have dropped five straight but their last five opponents have been Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Boston and the Rangers twice. That’s a tough slate and the Islanders could have easily won three or four of those games, as they had St. Louis down 3-2 with under a minute remaining, they had Pittsburgh down 2-0 and they were not outplayed by the Rangers in either game. The Islanders now take a huge step down in class after facing that group and we like what we see from this team. Offensively, the Isles are creating as many scoring chances as any team in the league and despite losing, they still scored three on the Blues and Bruins and four on the Pens. Prior to that, the Islanders scored four goals or more in seven of 10 games. Offense is not an issue. Defensively, the Islanders have struggled most of the year but Evgeni Nabokov has looked sharp in his two games back since being injured. Also back for the Islanders is veteran Lubomir Visnovsky, who is playing 20 minutes a night now. Additionally, young defensemen Calvin de Haan, has all the potential in the world and hasn’t looked a bit out of place since his call-up. The kid is good, real good. The Caps are on a current 0-6 run against the Metropolitan Division and remain one of the best fades in the league. The Capitals have a high winning percentage in extra time and it’s for that reason we’ll play this one in regulation only.
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Tampa Bay +106 over MINNESOTA
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OT included. Speaking of risky favorites, one need not look further than the Wild. Minnesota has one of the best home records in the NHL at 19-7-2 but regression is forthcoming because the Wild just aren’t good enough to sustain that high winning percentage, no matter where they play. The Wild play hard and work hard but this is one of the most offensively challenged teams in the league. In fact, Minnesota’s 26 shots on net average per game is the NHL’s worst mark. In five of the Wilds’ past seven games, they have mustered just 23 shots on net or fewer. That does not bode well here against the stingy defense of the Lightning and great goaltending by Ben Bishop. It’s also worth noting that Minnesota returns home here after a four game trip through San Jose, Anaheim, Colorado and Calgary.
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Seldom are the Bolts out of a game. When they lose, it’s usually by a goal and in fact, an incredible 13 of their 18 losses in regulation this season have been by one goal and they’ve accomplished that without the services of Steven Stamkos for all but 12 games. Had Stamkos not been injured (he’s due back on Saturday), Tampa might have had the NHL’s best record. As it stands, they still have the third best record in the East, just behind Boston and Pittsburgh.  The Bolts D-corps is stacked. Victor Hedman and Matt Carle are studs. Radko Gudas is a stud in the making and guys like Sami Ohlund and Eric Brewer aren’t exactly duds. Tampa has won four of its past six, 14 of its past 22 and they are a far better option taking back a tag than the Wild are spotting one. The much better team in a better situational spot gets the call.
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Dallas +122 over PHOENIX
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OT included. The Coyotes are a hard-working bunch that can be difficult to play against but they remain too risky as the chalk. In fact, since Dec 10-12, a span of 25 games, the Coyotes have won consecutive games just one time. Almost every time these Dogs take a step forward, they usually take two steps backwards. The Coyotes biggest issue is preventing goals, as only two teams in the West, Edmonton and Calgary, have a higher goals against average than the Coyotes. Mike Smith is the confirmed starter here and we couldn’t be happier about that. Over his last 11 games, Smith has posted save percentages of .800, .885, .862, .889, .868, .857 and .893. Mike Smith is the most overrated goaltender in the NHL and it’s not close. He’s had one good year in eight NHL seasons and this year has been his worst ever. We also like the spot for the Stars, as Phoenix is coming off a win over Pittsburgh and they have the Blackhawks up next.
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Don’t look now but here come the Stars. Dallas is just six points out of a playoff spot after picking up points in five (four wins and an OT loss) of its past six games. They’re coming off a near flawless 2-0 victory in Anaheim and have recorded three shutouts in their past six games (Anaheim, Pittsburgh and Minnesota). That’s Lindy Ruff hockey and the Stars are finally starting to get it. The Stars are a team with huge potential that is loaded up the middle. They’ve got proven offensive talent throughout the roster with one of the Calder Trophy front-runners in Valeri Nichushkin. That kid is going to be a legit star in this league. All that talent has the luxury of playing in front of breakout experts Sergei Gonchar and Alex Goligoski and suddenly, goaltender Kari Lehtonen is getting very hot. Dallas has not peaked yet but is showing all the signs of doing so. This team is on the verge of breaking out and they have the talent to change the balance of power in the West. As a pooch in a good situational spot and playing well, the Stars offer up all the value in this one.
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Pass NBA & CBB

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Kyle Hunter

Butler / Marquette Under 129

The Butler Bulldogs and Marquette Golden Eagles got together a few weeks ago, and the game was about as ugly as you'll see. The total finished at 126 after an overtime. At the end of regulation, the score was 49-49. Marquette's zone was tough for Butler to handle. Butler slows the game down a lot this year, but their offense is so inefficient because they rely too heavily on one guy (Dunham). The under is 4-0 in their last 4 Big East games. The under is 4-0 in their last 4 overall. The under is 7-1 in their last 8 following an ATS win. A 15-1 angle here. Take the under.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Tuesday, February 4

Wunderdog

Iona at Monmouth
Pick: Under 157

This line is set based primarily on Iona's numbers. The Gaels have averaged over 160 points per game on the season. But, things have changed and this total is out of whack. Iona's offense is getting into the high eighties at home but on the road they average a lot less (77.4 per game). Of late their defense has picked up, allowing just 73.6 per game over their last five. Monmouth games have averaged just 143 per game total over their last five games. I expect a more defensive game than what we would see at first glance here. Take the UNDER.

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LT Profits

James Madison Vs Towson
Pick: James Madison +6

The Towson Tigers are 14-8 overall and in second place in the CAA with a 5-2 conference mark, while the James Madison Dukes are the opposite at 8-14 and only 3-5 in CAA play, but the ability of the Dukes to force turnovers should keep them in this game. While James Madison is above average nationally in defensive turnover percentage at 19.4 percent vs. a national average of 18.5 percent that figure climbs further to 21.0 percent in inside the CAA, the best in the conference. Towson has lost some of its air of invincibility in its brand new gym since starting 9-0, as it nearly lost for the second time in three games here in a two-point win over Drexel Saturday. The Achilles heel of the Tigers has been turnovers (19.2 percent), which plays into the Dukes’ strength. James Madison is 12-4-2 ATS in its last 18 road games.

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