Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, February 22

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, February 22

SPORTS WAGERS

WASHINGTON -6 over New Orleans

We’re not sure how much the Pelicans will have left in the tank here. New Orleans played last night in Charlotte and they were fighting an uphill battle the entire night. New Orleans was down the whole game by 8-10 points and finally made a late run to tie it up late in the fourth. However, the Pelicans could not finish and that fourth quarter, combined with another loss had to take a toll. Two Days prior, the Pelicans were fighting it all night again in New ans were fighting it all night again in New York in a seven-point loss. New Orleans has now lost four of its last five with only victory over that span occurring against Milwaukee by four lousy points. The Pelicans return home after this one to play the Clippers on Monday and may show up in body only here.

The Wizards should be primed and ready to go here. The came off the break with a loss to Toronto but responded by blowing out the Hawks the very next night. That was Tuesday and Wednesday and so the Wizards come into this one as the much more rested club. The Wizards backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal is among the best in the business and the addition of Andre Miller, who figures to be very hungry after sitting since Dec. 30, only adds to the Wizards already strong backcourt. Miller reunites with Wizards coach Randy Wittman, who coached Miller when he was a rookie in 1999-2000 and Wittman was a rookie head coach with Cleveland. The Wizards have many distinct advantages in this game that includes, health, rest, and perhaps most importantly, a far superior defense. In a good scheduling spot for the Wizards, the Pelicans may hang around early but this visitor has been fighting too many uphill battles lately to hang around late.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, February 22

River City Sharps

Notre Dame +11.5

We are going to take a shot here with the Irish today with a couple of good trends in our favor. This is the second meeting of the season for these two teams, the first was a game where the Cavaliers had their best shooting night in ACC play, shooting 53.8% from the field on their way to a 68-53 victory. The Irish are coming off a tough loss at Miami, while the Wahoos salvaged a comeback victory over in-state rival Virginia Tech. The reason we are siding with the Irish is because we think they are in a nice bounceback spot and we are riding a nice system that has gone 35-7 over the last 5 seasons, which is 83.3%, and this year boasts a 8-1 record ATS. The Irish keep this one close today as Bray has his troops ready for the road.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, February 22

Chris Jordan

My early free winner for this fine Saturday is going to be none other than Oklahoma State laying a big number to Texas Tech. It's time for the Pokes to make a run.

I'm sorry, but something tells me Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla., will be rocking this afternoon, for a game being televised on the Big 12 Network, and with the Cowboys looking for revenge. Texas Tech won the first meeting in Lubbock, 65-61.

Yes, Oklahoma State (16-10 overall, 4-9 Big 12) is in after a deflating 70-64 overtime loss at Baylor on Monday, but the Cowboys have had four days to overcome that loss, prepare for the Red Raiders and welcome back Marcus Smart to the lineup. You already know the details, you've seen the tape, so let's not rehash what he did to the dufus in Lubbock near the end of the first meeting between these two teams.

Fact is, I do think it'll be a motivating factor for Smart and company, to get revenge in a big-time way, considering everything that has taken place. Besides, prior to the loss, the Cowboys had won six straight in the series. OSU, which is averaging 81.2 points per game this season, has won 10 straight over Texas Tech in Stillwater, dating back to 2004.

If there is one game the Cowboys are going to shake their funk, and right the ship for a late-season surge off this seven-game skid, it's this game today. It's well worth the shot as a free play, to look at Oklahoma State at home, in Smart's first game back since that incident.

Lay the home chalk here.

5♦ OKLAHOMA STATE


My second complimentary winner for tonight is on Boise State against the UNLV Runnin' Rebels. And I'm not going to get long-winded on this one, as I'm making a move based on Vegas thoughts here.

There are two ways to look at this game, as a handicapper. No. 1, when making my lines on this one, first thought was the Broncos  would be laying a 3-pointer, maybe with a hook, based on season number and power ratings. Number crunchers in this business will fall in love with UNLV, as there's simply no way the power rating differences reveal this big of a favorite. And whenever an underdog is revealed in a game like this, the number guys tend to favor the pup.

The second way to look at it is this, the oddsmakers working in Vegas, the ones who set the line and basically help build those big buildings with bright lights down on the famed-Las Vegas Strip. They made Boise State a touchdown-favorite for a reason. The indicator is how big this number is, as it tells me the Broncos are supposed to spank the Rebels tonight.

Again, this one isn't about playing the talent, the rivalry, the teams or even the momentum either team may or may not have. This one is about playing the edge, in how the wiseguys would look at it, and in this case, it's siding with the books.

3♦ BOISE STATE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, February 22

Scott Delaney

My free play for Saturday is on Virginia, minus the points against Notre Dame.

The Cavaliers are now the No. 1 team in the ACC. After Syracuse spent the past few weeks as the No. 1 team in the nation, undefeated, the Orange were shocked by Boston College in overtime, 62-59. And just like that, Virginia (22-5,13-1) has a chance to solidify its spot atop the league, as it's currently one half-game ahead of Syracuse (25-1, 12-1).

Virginia, ranked No. 14 by The Associated Press, has four regular-season games left, and the first three are at John Paul Jones Arena, where the Cavs are 12-2 this season. Laying double digits to Notre Dame (14-13, 5-9) tonight shouldn't be too much of an issue, especially since they just survived a treacherous schedule that included five of seven games on the road - including the past two: a pair of victories at Clemson and Virginia Tech.

The Cavaliers, winners of 10 games in a row, beat the Irish 68-53, in South Bend, Ind., last month. They check into this one on ATS win streaks of 11-3 overall - all in conference play - 4-0 after failing to cover and 10-1 against winning teams. The Irish, meanwhile, are in on ATS slides of 1-12 after a straight-up loss, 4-14 in league play and 3-10 overall.

Time to get focused as the No. 1 ACC team. Lay the chalk.

3♦ VIRGINIA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, February 22

Brad Wilton

Have to lay it y'all with St. Joseph's this Saturday when they play Fordham.

The Hawks did not cover earlier this week at Rhode Island, but they did at least escape with the outright win after trailing for the majority of the 40 minutes. St. Joe's is now 18-7, and are gaining momentum for an at-large bid to next month's tournament if they can close the regular season out strong.

Expect that to happen against a Rams team that owns just 2 wins in their last 13 games, and with the spread is not much better at 4-8-1. Fordham has lost by single-digits just once in their last 9 Atlantic Ten conference games, so perhaps they should have stayed in the MAAC?

The Hawks have won all 8 series meetings since 2008, and they are 4-0-1 against the spread when those games have been played on their home court.

Look for some "style points" today from the host. Hawks by 20.

2♦ ST. JOSEPH'S

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, February 22

Gabriel Dupont

My free play for tonight is on West Virginia at home, minus the points, against Baylor.

West Virginia (15-11) iss virtually in must-win mode these days, as the last thing it wants to do is play itself off the bubble it's probably on now. Baylor seems to be in a good position for an at-large bid, at 17-9. Realistically this is a very good spot for the Mountaineers.

Why West Virginia will cover this game - I am a Bob Huggins fan and will always side in the favor of a good coach. He's the third-winningest coach and he's seen enough in his time to properly prepare for certain teams. For instance, he's going to know that Baylor has a problem of falling behind early in games. So he'll have the Mountaineers fired up from the start for this one.

Why Baylor will struggle in this game - While the Bears are used to rallying from large deficits - like the double-digit ones they fell into in the second half against Kansas State and Oklahoma State - they also were able to recover because they were at home. Now they're on the road, in a hostile environment, and they're no going to have it so easy.

In conclusion, why West Virginia is my SMART FREE PLAY in this game - Size appears to be an issue, on paper, as Baylor brings some trees in the paint. But the Mountaineers’ top three scorers are guards, with Eron Harris averaging 17.6 points and Terry Henderson chipping in 12.1. And I like to side with speed and athleticism in games like this. West Virginia won the first meeting, on Jan. 28, when Juwan Staten buried the game-winning reverse layup at the buzzer to resuscitate the Mountaineers' season.

Admittedly, this is as important to the Bears, as it is West Virginia. Both teams are in a very precarious spot, in terms of making it to the postseason. With this one in Morgantown, it really is difficult to go against the home team here, especially when the Mountaineers will be out to avenge that horrible loss to Texas. Bottom line here, West Virginia needs this much more than the Bears, and Huggins will have his troops prepared.

3♦ WEST VIRGINIA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, February 22

Alatex

Missouri at Alabama
Play: Missouri +1

Missouri comes in to Tuscaloosa on a three-game win streak while the host Crimson Tide has lost six of seven. Alabama is basically down to six players after forward Nick Jacobs took an indefinite leave of absence. Bama dropped its first game without Jacobs to Texas A&M, 63-48, on Wednesday night and played six players 25 minutes or more and two others for a combined four minutes. Only two of the six players are taller than 6-7 and both are freshmen. Bama may have the least amount of talent in the conference with only guard Trevor Releford playing at a high level. The Tide somehow has been installed as a favorite over a 19-7 Missouri team. The Tigers’ win streak has come at home with close wins over Arkansas, Tennessee, and Vandy, but they have some decent road wins this year. Missouri won at Arkansas and Auburn as well as at NC State in non-league play. The Tigers are definitely on the bubble for an NCAA tourney berth, and shouldn’t overlook the struggling Tide in this one. Mizzou had no trouble in the first matchup between these teams, crushing Alabama 68-47 at home a month ago. Missouri held Bama to just 14-of-48 shooting and got to the free throw line 34 times. I look for the Tigers to extend their winning streak with a road win over the hapless Tide.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday, February 22

OC Dooley

Boise State -7

This is a rare HOME game for Boise State against this particular league opponent as three of the most recent four clashes have been played in Las Vegas. Keeping with this theme to night is the “second to last” home game for them in the 2013/2104 regular season. For those who have followed Boise State through the years they have been a dominant side when getting support in the stands and this season is no different as the Broncos are 11-3 straight-up at HOME. But in wager one could call a law-of-averages special Boise has gone a dreadful 2-9 “against the spread” in front of their supporters so they are due to cash a wagering ticket. The last time Boise hosted Nevada Las-Vegas (2/2/13) they won outright as an underdog and tonight the oddsmakers expect them to garner a “margin” triumph. Boise who sits alone at #2 in the latest Mountain West Conference standings is led by Australian guard/forward Anthony Drmic (17 points per game average) who compiled 565 points as a sophomore (all time school record) while registering 348 as a freshman (second-most in school history). My research indicates that in the past three years after winning 6 times outright in an eight-game span Nevada-Las Vegas (5-14 ATS/ROAD) has always had problems handling prosperity

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