Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Patrick Webb

VCU vs. Massachusetts    
Play: VCU +1½

VCU and UMASS met twice last season and the result was two dominant wins for VCU. UMASS has a tough match up in this game as they play at an almost identical pace to VCU and struggle with TO% (19.2%). Last season UMASS committed 47 turnovers in the two meetings with star guard Chaz Williams responsible for 11 of them. VCU is forcing opponents into a turnover on over a quarter of their defensive possessions this season.

UMASS has a sterling 10-1 record at home, but are only 4-7 ATS meaning they are consistently under-performing at home. VCU is 4-4 ATS on the road but they are 3-0 as an underdog this season. In almost every advanced metric these two teams are neutral, but given the styles of these two teams, VCU's success vs. UMASS last season and UMASS struggles with turnovers I love VCU in this spot.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Dennis Macklin

Oakland vs. Illinois-Chicago    
Play: Oakland -1½

You'd be hard pressed to find a team that plays more close games than Oakland. The Grizz last three games were decided by three points or less and four of their last seven were decided by a single point. The first meeting was also decided by a single point in a 76-75 Oakland home win back on January 25th. In that game, Oakland was able to escape by forcing 22 turnovers. UIC has lost 16 straight and are 0-13 in the lowly regarded Horizon. The Flames have been close in last two but will pretty much need to win straight up here. Not sure that this 5-22 (2-8 ATS at home) outfit is capable. Oakland is worth a look.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

LT Profits

Manhattan vs Siena
Pick: Manhattan -5

The Manhattan Jaspers are 20-6 and they will be favored in their last three games counting this one. The Jaspers are the highest ranked MAAC team on the Pomeroy Ratings at 68th overall, and many feel if they win out and end the season 23-6, they would have a strong case to receive an NCAA Tournament at-large berth should they get knocked out of the MAAC Tournament. But they must win out first, and Manhattan usually wins with defense ranking 51st nationally in defensive efficiency, 31st in effective field goal percentage allowed and 17th in defensive turnover percentage at 21.9 percent vs. a national average of 18.5 percent. The Siena Saints are 11-16 overall, they are a terrible shooting team ranked 309th in effective field goal percentage and they are vulnerable to pressure ranking 314th in offensive turnover percentage. Manhattan is 41-18-3 ATS in its last 62 road games.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

David Banks

Chicago Bulls -7

There is a rather intriguing non-conference battle from the Windy City on ESPN Friday night when the defensive minded Chicago Bulls (28-25, 26-27 ATS) serve as hosts vs. the run-and-gun Denver Nuggets (24-28, 22-30 ATS) at the United Center in Chicago at 8:05 ET. The Bulls may struggle mightily to score points a lot of the time, but their outstanding defense had keyed a four-game winning streak that has them at three games over .500 for the first time since they began the season at 6-3, and Chicago is currently seeded fourth in the East. The Nuggets have now lost five straight games straight up and six straight games ATS, and they are 11th in the West at 6 games behind the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Bulls are seeking some revenge here as they have lost the last five head-to-head meetings with the Nuggets including a 97-87 loss at Denver the first time these teams met this season. Considering the direction that each of these teams is heading in lately, this seems like a prime spot for Chicago to get that revenge, and perhaps in rather emphatic fashion too. The Bulls come off of a big 94-92 win on the road in Toronto on Wednesday that allowed them to pull to within one-half game of the Raptors for the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Remember, as long as the Bulls have the best record among non-division winners in the East, they would have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, although obviously they would get an easier matchup if that can finish as the third seed. Chicago is suffocating teams as usual, just like Coach Tom Thibodeau likes it, as it is second in the NBA in points against at 92.3 points per game, third in field goal percentage allowed at 43.4 percent and second in defensive efficiency. Granted the Bulls are dead last in the league in scoring at 92.3 points per game, exactly matching their points against average, but they have raised that average a bit to 94.5 points during the win streak and the Denver defense can make just about any offense look better than it is.

The struggling Nuggets have gone back to playing the running style they played under former coach George Karl with practically zero regard for defense, and as a result they have now allowed at least 100 points in 10 consecutive games and in 15 of their last 16 contests! And that is pending Denver's result in Milwaukee Thursday as this game marks the second of a back-to-back. The Nuggets are still only 11th in the NBA in scoring at 103.1 points per game, although that average has been climbing since new coach Brian Shaw abandoned his desire to install more of a half-court offense, but that has not done much good with a defense ranked 28th out of 30 teams in points against at 104.6 per game. Denver does not figure to have its usual offensive success playing here in Chicago vs. a hot defense, and if that is the case the Nuggets do not have much to fall back on in an attempt to win this game.

The home teams are 9-2-1 ATS in the last 12 head-to-head meetings overall including the Bulls going 4-1-1 ATS in the last six meetings in Chicago. The Bulls are also 13-5 ATS in their last 18 games vs. teams with losing straight up records. The Nuggets are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games playing with no rest and 0-6 ATS in their last six games vs. the Eastern Conference.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Primetime Insiders

Mercer -1

Mercer takes the floor tonight against Florida Gulf Coast tonight in Fort Myers, Florida. This is a battle between the two best teams in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Mercer won the earlier meeting between these two squads by 13 points. We are looking for a similar outcome but a closer contest in Fort Myers tonight. Mercer has the number #1 offensive in the conference by shooting a sizzling 42.5% from downtown in conference play. Mercer also does an excellent job on the offensive glass getting a second chance look on 34% of their possessions. Florida Gulf Coast has the #2 defensive in the conference and does an excellent job at defending the interior but does not do as well defending the 3 point shot. They are also not the best defensive rebounding team which should allow Mercer to get many second chance looks. The offensive of Mercer runs through the best player in the conference Langston Hall. He is a double double threat every night he takes the floor. His senior leadership and the way he commands the floor is something special. In the previous matchup against Gulf Coast he recorded 18 points and 11 assists. Mercer is also the top defense in the conference limiting opponents from field as well as on the offensive glass. Florida Gulf Coast scores almost all their points from inside the arch where they shoot a blistering 53% however Mercer's interior defensive is no pushover. Daniel Coursey is a force inside and is one of the shot blockers in the conference if not the entire country. Coursey's presence inside should deter Gulf Coast from driving to the basket. Mercer does an excellent job at turning teams over with the stealing capabilities of Langston Hall. If Hall can stay out of foul trouble he should be able wreck havoc on both ends of the floor. Even though Gulf Coast is looking to avenge the previous loss at the hands of Mercer they just don't have enough firepower to keep up with the senior lead Mercer squad.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Dave Mathews

Denver Nuggets at Chicago Bulls
Play: Chicago Bulls -7

The Denver Nuggets are coming off a win over Milwaukee last night and now they have to take on a physical Chicago team. That's without speedy guard Ty Lawson, who has broken ribs. The Bulls are 15-10 at home and have won four straight games. They could finish in third place in the Eastern Conference. They will dominate an short-handed Denver team that will be tired playing in the second of a back-to-back.


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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Mid-Major Matt

Brown at Columbia
Pick Brown +5.5

Brown has some work to do if they hope to get themselves in the Ivy League race and join Harvard and Yale. They are at Columbia on Friday night. The Bears have won five of their last seven games including one on the road at Dartmouth. Sean McGonagill is one of the best scorers in the conference and he's joined by Rafael Maia who is also the team's leading rebounder. Brown is 15th in the country in rebounding per game. Columbia is ranked 254th in that category. The Lions have lost four of their last six games. They are led by Alex Rosenberg and Maodo Lo. Brown already has a win over Columbia from February 1st in which the Bears won despite shooting 39.3% from the field. Brown has won four straight in this series and is probably the better team overall. We'll take the road team to get the cover.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Teddy Covers

San Antonio vs. Phoenix
Pick: San Antonio

My clients and I have already cashed four winning bets supporting San Antonio on their annual ‘Rodeo Road Trip’. And we’ve got another prime opportunity to make money riding the Spurs as they close out their extended trip tonight in Phoenix.

The Spurs go through this February stretch every season, and just about every season, they make money for their supporters.  They went 7-2 SU on this trip last year, 8-1 SU on this trip in 2012 and 6-3 SU on the trip in 2011.  I could go back further, but you get the point.  It’s surely worth noting that the Spurs have closed out their successful trips with a victory in their last Rodeo Road Trip game in each of the last three years

“Spurs head coach Greg Popovich gets the point too.  “This is a time when we always try to make hay. Historically, that ‘Rodeo Road Trip’; that time before, during and after the All Star break has always been good for us. We’ve got a lot of away games. It’s a great time to come together and get the bunker mentality, and all that trade crap.  But it works for us.”

The Spurs are getting healthier, despite the injury loss of Tony Parker, who’s absence hasn’t been felt too much with Patty Mills and Marco Bellinelli stepping up in the backcourt.  Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili have all returned to the lineup in recent games.  Tim Duncan is expected back on the floor tonight after sitting out the second night of back-2-backs at Portland on Wednesday.  And underrated forward Kawhi Leonard could be back on the floor tonight, giving Popovich the roster depth that he covets.

The Suns came up on the short end of the scoreboard in both previous meetings with San Antonio this year, and they’ve lost each of their last two home games against a defensive minded foe (Chicago and Miami).  I’m not expecting this ‘step up in class’ opportunity to be any different for a Suns squad that has maxed out in terms of their abilities and their ATS value following a truly impressive first half of the campaign.  The time to make money supporting the Suns was a month or two ago, not now.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Larry Ness

New Orleans Pelicans at Charlotte Bobcats
Prediction: Charlotte Bobcats

Charlotte hosts New Orleans Friday night looking to win its SEVENTH in its last 10 games. The Bobcats are 7-2 ATS over their last nine, coming off consecutive wins in a home-and-home with the Pistons, winning 108-96 in Detroit and 116-98 in Charlotte. Center Al Jefferson (20.5-10.5) has been 'on fire,' averaging 27.6 PPG on 54% shooting plus 10.8 RPG over his last 10.

Kidd-Gilchrist (8.0-4.9) has been back for awhile now and while he's no star, his solid overall play is welcomed. More importantly, the return to action of PG Kemba Walker (from an ankle issue) has been a major bonus, as he's averaged 15.7 points and 8.2 assists since returning six games ago (had 46 points and added 22 assist in the two wins over Detroit).

Jefferson wasn't available when these two teams met in New Orleans way back on Nov 2 (a 105-84 Pelicans win) and this time around, the Pelicans will be without then-starters PG Holiday (14.3-4.2-7.9) and center Jason Smith (9.7-5.8) plus the team's valuable sixth-man Ryan Anderson (19.5 PPG and 40.9% on three-pointers) also remains sidelined for New Orleans.

Yes, Davis (20.4-10.1) has played at an All-Star level all season and Gordon (16.0) is a consistent scorer but Charlotte can 'smell' the playoffs and that's a BIG deal. Charlotte has qualified for the postseason only ONCE in its previous nine seasons of existence (a first-round sweep at the hands of Orlando in 2010) but it currently holds the eighth spot by 2 1/2 games over Detroit, plus is just one game behind Washington and Brooklyn, which are tied for fifth.

The Bobcats bolstered their ranks by acquiring guards Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour from Milwaukee prior to Thursday's trade deadline. Neal should help Charlotte improve upon a perimeter attack that ranks 29th in the NBA with an average of just 5.8 made three-pointers, as he is a career 39.3 percent shooter from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Pelicans, despite a similar record (23-30 to Charlotte's 25-30), New Orleans finds itself EIGHT games out of a playoff spot in the much more competitive West.

I don't say this often but lay the points with the Bobcats.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Michael Alexander

Denver Nuggets vs. Chicago Bulls    
Play: Chicago Bulls -7

Chicago has won four straight to pull three games over .500 and into fourth place in the underwhelming Eastern Conference. The Nuggets are hoping Thursday’s triumph sparks a quick change in its own fortunes, as they sit six games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference after being the No. 3 seed last season. The Denver Nuggets pulled out of a five-game skid at the expense of the worst team in the NBA and will attempt to keep that momentum up against stiffer competition when they visit the Chicago Bulls

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Tom Grassi

Dartmouth vs. Princeton    
Play: Dartmouth +13

This Ivy League matchup is one in which the double-digit favorite actually has the revenge angle in its favor, after Dartmouth shocked Princeton’s Tigers on February 1 in a 78-69 win in which they were a 7.5 home dog.

However, it’s been a consistent pattern over the past five years that heavily-favored teams such as the Tigers that haven’t played for close to a week don’t cover in such situations. During that time, more than three-quarters of the games played ended up with the underdog covering once again.

In addition to that, this has been a series dominated by the road team over the past decade-plus, with the Big Green having covered 11 of the last 12 times they’ve come to Princeton.

The Tigers have a slight edge when it comes to the early money on this game, though the line has been bumped down a half-point. That sounds as if some of the wiseguys see enough of a cushion with the pointspread to go with the dog. We do as well, so take the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Dennis Macklin

Oakland vs. Illinois-Chicago    
Play: Oakland -1½

You'd be hard pressed to find a team that plays more close games than Oakland. The Grizz last three games were decided by three points or less and four of their last seven were decided by a single point. The first meeting was also decided by a single point in a 76-75 Oakland home win back on January 25th. In that game, Oakland was able to escape by forcing 22 turnovers. UIC has lost 16 straight and are 0-13 in the lowly regarded Horizon. The Flames have been close in last two but will pretty much need to win straight up here. Not sure that this 5-22 (2-8 ATS at home) outfit is capable. Oakland is worth a look.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Alex Smart

Mavericks vs. 76ers
Play: Over 212

The Dallas Mavericks are on two days rest and will be ready to run and gun here this evening. They have gone OVER 5 straight times with two or more days rest and have gone OVER in 6 of their L/7 against a team like Philly with a winning % of less than .400 on the season.The Mavericks offense should explode here tonight on a Philadelphia team that comes in allowing a league-high 110.5 points per game. The Sixers will have to reciprocate and try to keep up by putting some points on the board, which should easily set forth a situation that sees this lofty total eclipsed

Final notes & Key Trends: The Over is also 7-2 in Mavericks last 9 road games vs. a team with a losing home record. Meanwhile, the 76ers are also rested with 2 days off and are 43-21-1 OVER their last 65 games playing on 2 days rest.


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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Mr. Masterline

Harvard vs. Pennsylvania
Play: Harvard -10.5

Twenty days ago, Harvard crushed Penn by 30 points. Tonight won't be too much different. They dominated the glass 32-16. Harvard has won 6 out of 7, while Penn has lost 4 out of 6, covering only 1 during that stretch. Penn has been devastated with injuries, as they have 4 scholarship players out for the season, and two move questionable tonight. Easy win for Harvard, almost like if they were playing chess!

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Rob Vinciletti

Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Play: Los Angeles Lakers -1.5

The Lakers have lost 14 of the last 16 at home and 8 straight. A streak they will look to break tonight against the Boston Celtics, who arrive off a road loss to Phoenix in their first game back from the break. The Lakers were Blasted by the Rockets on Wednesday. This game has a Powerful system that plays on home teams off a home spread loss, like the Lakers that played that last game with 4 or more days off, and are taking on an opponent that scored 90 or more as a road dog and also had 4 or more prior days off before that game. These home teams are winning by an average 13 points per game. The Celtics have lost 4 of the last 5 here and LA will look to play well in this one despite not having recently traded S. Blake, a move Kobe Bryant called. "Not Cool". That said we think the Lakers will rise up and get this one tonight.


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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Wunderdog

Atlanta at Detroit
Pick: Atlanta +4

The Atlanta Hawks are looking to get back on track as they have lost seven straight games, and have failed to cover any of them. They will try and do so vs. an equally struggling Detroit Pistons team that is just as ugly over a much longer stretch at just 8-16 in their last 24, and are riding a three game slide themselves. One difference is that the Pistons' three game losing streak is to three losing teams, failing to cover any of those, and two of them were on their home court as well. The Hawks will have their best foot forward tonight, as they are 17-6 ATS in their last 23 on a day of rest, while the fragile Pistons are now just 4-10 ATS in their last 14 off an ATS loss. Go with Atlanta.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Erin Rynning

Denver at Chicago
Play: Under 190

The Denver Nuggets head to the Windy City searching for answers across the board, particularly on the offensive end of the floor after losing point guards Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson.  Randy Foye has tried to fill in but he’s obviously playing out of position.  Tonight, it won’t get any easier for the Nuggets as they’ll face one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.  The Bulls with outstanding head coach Tom Thibodeau thrive at being able to take away what the opposition does well.  Catching Denver in a back-to-back situation will make scoring for the Nuggets a true uphill battle.  The Bulls have held the opposition to an average of less than 85 points per game their last four and have gone UNDER the total in 8 of their last 11.  They’re playing arguably their best basketball of the season, while winning four in a row with an eye towards the playoffs.  Look for a low scoring, sloppy game in Chicago tonight that goes UNDER the total.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Hollywood Sports

VCU at Massachusetts
Prediction: Under

VCU (20-6) looks to rebound from a 64-62 loss at St. Louis last Saturday as a 5.5-point underdog. The Rams have then played 4 straight games Under the Total after a point spread win.

UMass (20-5) has played 19 of their last 26 games Under the Total against teams with a winning percentage over 60%. And in their last 8 games on their home court, the Minutemen have played 6 of these games Under the Total. Look for these team trends to continue and take the Under in this one.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Dave Price

New Orleans Pelicans +3

The knee-jerk reaction might be to go with a Charlotte team at home that's playing well as it seeks revenge for a 21-point loss at New Orleans in the season's first meeting. However, history says we should resist that tendency. Instead, you want to fade home teams that are seeking revenge for a road loss of 20 points or more if the team they're seeking revenge against checks in off an upset loss. That's because doing so has produced a 131-80 ATS mark since 1996. You also want to take teams like New Orleans when the line is +3 to -3 that are off an upset loss at home, provided they are playing for just the third time or less in a 10-day span. Doing so has produced a 40-15 ATS result since 1996. In addition, fading favorites off a win of 15 points or more in a game involving two teams with a +/- 3.0 ppg differential has produced a 73-37 ATS mark the last five seasons. Charlotte hasn't been a strong revenge play, going just 29-54 ATS the last three seasons when seeking revenge for a same-season loss. It also doesn't bode well for the normally offensively-challenged Bobcats that they have reached the century mark in their past two games. Consider that they are 1-10 ATS the last two seasons after scoring 100 points or more in two straight games. They have lost by an average score of 101.4 to 89.6 in this spot. Lastly, it is worth noting that New Orleans has won eight of the last 10 meetings with the two losses coming by just one and two points, respectively.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, February 21

Jack Jones

Nuggets/Bulls Under 190.5

I fully expect a defensive battle tonight between the Denver Nuggets and Chicago Bulls. This is a National TV game as well featured on ESPN, which also favors the under as teams tend to give better effort in these situations.

The Bulls will control the tempo playing at home tonight. They like to go at a snail's pace, ranking 28th in the league with only 92.9 possessions per game. They make up for their lack of offense with a defense that ranks 2nd in the league in efficiency, yielding just 97.8 points per 100 possessions.

Denver is in a world of hurt right now offensively. It has been without its top two point guards in Ty Lawson (18.0 ppg, 8.8 apg) and Nate Robinson (10.4 ppg). It did trade for Aaron Brooks, but he's going to be lost out there in his first game with the team.

Chicago is a perfect 7-0 to the UNDER in home games versus teams who average 53 or more rebounds per game this season. The Bulls are 24-8 to the UNDER versus a team with a losing record this season. The UNDER is 19-7 in Bulls last 26 home games. Bet the UNDER in this game Friday.

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