Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, Friday, March 21

Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday, Friday, March 21

DUNKEL INDEX

NBA

Boston at Brooklyn
The Celtics travel to Brooklyn tonight to face a Nets team that is 8-1 ATS in its last 9 home games. Brooklyn is the pick (-9 1/2) according to Dunkel, which has the Nets favored by 12. Dunkel Pick: Brooklyn (-9 1/2)

Game 801-802: New York at Philadelphia (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: New York 116.275; Philadelphia 106.397
Dunkel Line & Total: New York by 10; 216
Vegas Line & Total: New York by 12; 208 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Philadelphia (+12); Over

Game 803-804: Chicago at Indiana (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Chicago 120.083; Indiana 114.277
Dunkel Line & Total: Chicago by 6; 186
Vegas Line & Total: Indiana by 5 1/2; 181
Dunkel Pick: Chicago (+5 1/2); Over

Game 805-806: Oklahoma City at Toronto (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Oklahoma City 123.625; Toronto 118.615
Dunkel Line & Total: Oklahoma City by 5; 209
Vegas Line & Total: Oklahoma City by 3; 204
Dunkel Pick: Oklahoma City (-3); Over

Game 807-808: New Orleans at Atlanta (7:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: New Orleans 113.375; Atlanta 118.468
Dunkel Line & Total: Atlanta by 5; 198
Vegas Line & Total: Atlanta by 6 1/2; 202 1/2
Dunkel Pick: New Orleans (+6 1/2); Under

Game 809-810: Memphis at Miami (7:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Memphis 121.761; Miami 120.087
Dunkel Line & Total: Memphis by 1 1/2; 195
Vegas Line & Total: Miami by 6; 191
Dunkel Pick: Memphis (+6); Over

Game 811-812: Boston at Brooklyn (7:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Boston 110.261; Brooklyn 122.268
Dunkel Line & Total: Brooklyn by 12; 191
Vegas Line & Total: Brooklyn by 9 1/2; 196
Dunkel Pick: Brooklyn (-9 1/2); Under

Game 813-814: Denver at Dallas (8:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Denver 117.962; Dallas 120.050
Dunkel Line & Total: Dallas by 2; 210
Vegas Line & Total: Dallas by 7 1/2; 220
Dunkel Pick: Denver (+7 1/2); Under

Game 815-816: Detroit at Phoenix (10:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Detroit 111.236; Phoenix 121.053
Dunkel Line & Total: Phoenix by 10; 221
Vegas Line & Total: Phoenix by 8; 217
Dunkel Pick: Phoenix (-8); Over

Game 817-818: San Antonio at Sacramento (10:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: San Antonio 127.597; Sacramento 115.179
Dunkel Line & Total: San Antonio by 12 1/2; 202
Vegas Line & Total: San Antonio by 8; 208
Dunkel Pick: San Antonio (-8); Under

Game 819-820: Washington at LA Lakers (10:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Washington 115.154; LA Lakers 111.587
Dunkel Line & Total: Washington by 3 1/2; 213
Vegas Line & Total: Washington by 5 1/2; 217 1/2
Dunkel Pick: LA Lakers (+5 1/2); Under

NHL

Boston at Colorado
The Bruins head to Colorado tonight where they are 4-1 in their last 5 games against the Avalanche. Boston is the pick (-120) according to Dunkel, which has the Bruins favored by 2 1/2. Dunkel Pick: Boston (-120)

Game 51-52: NY Rangers at Columbus (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: NY Rangers 11.704; Columbus 10.883
Dunkel Line & Total: NY Rangers by 1; 6
Vegas Line & Total: Columbus (-115); 5 1/2
Dunkel Pick: NY Rangers (-105); Over

Game 53-54: Carolina at Chicago (8:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Carolina 10.664; Chicago 12.729
Dunkel Line & Total: Chicago by 2; 4 1/2
Vegas Line & Total: Chicago (-230); 5 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Chicago (-230); Under

Game 55-56: Boston at Colorado (9:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Boston 13.163; Colorado 10.477
Dunkel Line & Total: Boston by 2 1/2; 5
Vegas Line & Total: Boston (-120); 5 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Boston (-120); Under

Game 57-58: Nashville at Calgary (9:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Nashville 11.875; Calgary 10.975
Dunkel Line & Total: Nashville by 1; 6 1/2
Vegas Line & Total: Calgary (-120); 5 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Nashville (+100); Over

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

DUNKEL INDEX

NCAAB

Stanford vs. New Mexico
The Cardinal open the NCAA Tournament today against a New Mexico team that is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 non-conference games. Stanford is the pick (+4) according to Dunkel, which has the game Even. Dunkel Pick: Stanford (+4)

Game 823-824: Mercer vs. Duke (12:15 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Mercer 55.402; Duke 70.933
Dunkel Line: Duke by 15 1/2; 133
Vegas Line: Duke by 12 1/2; 140 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Duke (-12 1/2); Under

Game 825-826: Coastal Carolina vs. Virginia (9:25 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Coastal Carolina 53.168; Virginia 71.410
Dunkel Line: Virginia by 18; 117
Vegas Line: Virginia by 21; 121 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Coastal Carolina (+21); Under

Game 827-828: George Washington vs. Memphis (6:55 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: George Washington 62.426; Memphis 67.993
Dunkel Line: Memphis by 5 1/2; 147
Vegas Line: Memphis by 3; 142 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Memphis (-3); Over

Game 829-830: Stanford vs. New Mexico (1:40 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Stanford 68.385; New Mexico 68.202
Dunkel Line: Even; 130
Vegas Line: New Mexico by 4; 137
Dunkel Pick: Stanford (+4); Under

Game 831-832: Eastern Kentucky vs. Kansas (4:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Eastern Kentucky 57.716; Kansas 70.742
Dunkel Line: Kansas by 13; 152
Vegas Line: Kansas by 15; 146 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Eastern Kentucky (+15); Over

Game 835-836: Kansas State vs. Kentucky (9:40 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Kansas State 63.668; Kentucky 71.295
Dunkel Line: Kentucky by 7 1/2; 130
Vegas Line: Kentucky by 5; 132 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Kentucky (-5); Under

Game 837-838: Nebraska vs. Baylor (12:40 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Nebraska 66.260; Baylor 71.837
Dunkel Line: Baylor by 5 1/2; 137
Vegas Line: Baylor by 3; 130 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Baylor (-3); Over

Game 839-840: UL-Lafayette vs. Creighton (3:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: UL-Lafayette 55.892; Creighton 72.541
Dunkel Line: Creighton by 17; 158
Vegas Line: Creighton by 13 1/2; 154 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Creighton (-13 1/2); Over

Game 841-842: Providence vs. North Carolina (7:20 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Providence 63.636; North Carolina 70.487
Dunkel Line: North Carolina by 7; 139
Vegas Line: North Carolina by 4; 143
Dunkel Pick: North Carolina (-4); Under

Game 843-844: North Carolina Central vs. Iowa State (9:50 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: North Carolina Central 62.369; Iowa State 67.345
Dunkel Line: Iowa State by 5; 138
Vegas Line: Iowa State by 9; 144
Dunkel Pick: North Carolina Central (+9); Under

Game 845-846: Stephen F. Austin vs. VCU (7:27 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Stephen F. Austin 62.457; VCU 66.241
Dunkel Line: VCU by 4; 129
Vegas Line: VCU by 6 1/2; 137
Dunkel Pick: Stephen F. Austin (+6 1/2);

Game 847-848: Tulsa vs. UCLA (9:57 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Tulsa 61.629; UCLA 73.110
Dunkel Line: UCLA by 11 1/2; 154
Vegas Line: UCLA by 9; 146 1/2
Dunkel Pick: UCLA (-9); Over

Game 849-850: Weber State vs. Arizona (2:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Weber State 53.314; Arizona 70.720
Dunkel Line: Arizona by 17 1/2; 119
Vegas Line: Arizona by 20; 127
Dunkel Pick: Weber State (+20); Under

Game 851-852: Oklahoma State vs. Gonzaga (4:40 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Oklahoma State 68.094; Gonzaga 69.274
Dunkel Line: Gonzaga by 1; 143
Vegas Line: Oklahoma State by 2 1/2; 139
Dunkel Pick: Gonzaga (+2 1/2); Over

Game 853-854: Robert Morris at Belmont (9:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Robert Morris 54.750; Belmont 60.407
Dunkel Line: Belmont by 5 1/2; 144
Vegas Line: Belmont by 9; 149
Dunkel Pick: Robert Morris (+9); Under

Game 857-858: Towson at East Tennessee State (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Towson 54.903; East Tennessee State 55.997
Dunkel Line: East Tennessee State by 1
Vegas Line: Towson by 3
Dunkel Pick: East Tennessee State (+3)

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

Jimmy Boyd

Oregon -5½

This matchup is screaming blowout for the Ducks. BYU will have to play without Kyle Collinsworth, and that puts them at a serious disadvantage. Collinsworth was second on the team in scoring with 14 points per game and he was the team's leader in both rebounds and assists. The last time these teams met Oregon picked up a four point win, but without Collinsworth in the lineup the Ducks should have no problem drastically increasing that margin of victory.

Oregon has an explosive offense that averages 81.8 points per game. That ranks the Ducks 11th in the country in scoring. I think they will make easy work of a Cougars defense that has surrendered 83.3 points per game on the road this season. BYU had a losing record when playing away from home while the Ducks posted a respectable 8-6 road record which includes a 9-5 record against the spread in those games. Oregon is the better team and with BYU struggling on the road and playing without Collinsworth this game should be a blowout.

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

Don Best ConsensusFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
FOR THE LARGEST SELECTION OF FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
North Carolina Central vs Iowa StateFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: Iowa StateFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
FOR THE LARGEST SELECTION OF FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
The NC Central Eagles were one of the few teams to dominate a smaller conference all season and follow through by winning their conference tournament. This is not the MEAC however. Iowa State was one of the best in the Big 12 all year and won the conference’s tournament championship. N.C. Central ranks 133rd in effective field goal percentage and is essentially a total non-factor from behind the arc. The step up in class is too much for the Eagles who can't keep up in scoring with the Cyclones.

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

Dr Bob

Duke (-12½) over Mercer

Mercer is a pretty good team but the Bears are not in the same class with Duke and the Blue Devils have a tendency to beat up on lesser teams. These teams actually rate about the same defensively in compensated points per possession allowed but Duke’s offense is ranked #2 in compensated points per possession while Mercer ranks 114th offensively and depends too much on the 3-point shot, which isn’t good when facing a Blue Devils’ defense that defends the 3-point arc very well (30.5% allowed). Duke is once again relatively better against worse teams while Mercer’s mediocre defense was relatively much worse against better offensive teams, so Duke should be able to score very easily in this game. My ratings favor Duke by 16.3 points and a 101-36-2 ATS first round situation favors the Blue Devils. Playing in nearby Raleigh also helps, as teams playing in their home state are 144-92-3 ATS in NCAA Tournament games over the years. I’ll take Duke in a 3-Star Best Bet at -14 points or less and for 2-Stars up to -15 points.

Virginia Commonwealth (-6) over Stephen F. Austin

S.F. Austin has won 28 consecutive games but all of those wins were against teams rated 140th or worse in my ratings and their only game against a good team was at Texas back in November and the Lumberjacks lost that game by 10 points despite making 11 of 24 3-point shots to just 2 for 9 for Texas. In other words, they were lucky to only lose by 10 points. S.F Austin is actually a pretty good offensive team (46th in compensated points per possession) because they get a lot of layups off turnovers (#3 in the nation in defensive turnover percentage). However, their defense is terrible when not forcing turnovers so any good team that can handle their pressure is going to be a problem. This game against VCU is interesting because VCU is #1 in the nation in forcing turnovers and they did that against much better competition than SF Austin faced. The Rams should win the turnover battle and they’ll have an easier time scoring in the half court set than they normally do, as SF Austin is horrible defensively when they’re not forcing turnovers. My ratings favor VCU by 7 ½ points and the Rams apply to a 101-36-2 ATS first round situation. I’ll take VCU in a 2-Star Best Bet at -7 points or less. I have no opinion on the total (I get 136 points).

Virginia (-21½) vs Coastal Carolina

Coastal Carolina is pretty good defensively but they rank near the bottom of the nation in compensated offensive points per possession, which is the case due to a combination of bad shooting and sloppy play (297th in offensive turnover percentage). Coastal Carolina played two borderline NCAA Tournament caliber teams with mixed results – a respectable 10 point loss at Minnesota and a 29 point loss at Clemson. While I don’t expect much scoring from the Chanticleers their defense is good enough to stay within a big number in what should be a very low scoring game. My ratings favor Virginia by just 20½ points (with a total of 117 ½ points) but #1 seeds favored by 24 points or less are 16-5 ATS, so I’ll pass on this game.

George Washington (+3) over Memphis

These teams are very similar in their overall rating and very similar in their statistical characteristics with Memphis being a little better offensively and George Washington being a little better defensively. Both teams prefer to attack the rim and both teams are relatively worse defending the interior than they are defending the 3-point line. So, I expect both teams to have pretty good success offensively. My ratings favor Memphis by just 1 point and GW could get a boost if #2 scorer and top defender Kethan Savage can play some quality minutes. Savage missed 13 games and came back to play just 1 minute in their Atlantic 10 conference loss to VCU. But, Savage may be ready to contribute more, which would be a bonus considering his efficient shooting (52% FG) and great defense (1.9 steals per game). My ratings like the Colonials even if Savage doesn’t play at all (I get Memphis by 1 ½ points in that case) and if Savage is 100% and playing his normal 27 minutes per game then I’d favor GW by ½ a point. I’ll lean with George Washington plus the points and I have no opinion on the total (I get 143.5 points but that number would be lower if Savage and his good defense return to the rotation).

Stanford (+3) over New Mexico

New Lobos’ coach Craig Neal was an assistant under former head coach Steve Alford and this year’s New Mexico team is very similar to last year’s #3 seeded squad that got ousted in the first round by Harvard. I picked Harvard to win that game because the Crimson could take advantage of New Mexico’s bad 3-point shooting defense and wouldn’t be stupid enough to try to challenge the Lobos inside (they were 9th in 2-point defense last year). This year’s team is 4th in the nation is 2-point defense (41.4% allowed) but they are just average defending the 3-point arc (34.4%) and don’t force turnovers (341st in defensive turnover percentage). New Mexico was able to beat #4 seed San Diego State twice because the Aztecs are a bad shooting team that couldn’t take advantage of the Lobos’ defensive weakness, which is also the reason they were able to beat Cincinnati, who ranks 207th in 3-point shooting. However, Stanford can shoot the ball (37.1% 3-pointers) but the Cardinal actually don’t take that many 3-point shots (260th in 3-point shots as a percentage of overall shots). If Johnny Dawkins is smart enough to realize he needs to shoot more 3-pointers then the Cardinal should win this game and my ratings only favor New Mexico by 1 point (with a total of 138½ points) without taking the match up into account. I’ll consider Stanford a Strong Opinion at +3 or more and I’d still lean with the Cardinal at less than +3.

Over (148) - Kansas (-14½) vs Eastern Kentucky

Eastern Kentucky is a highly efficient offensive team that makes 39% of their 3-point shots and ranks 3rd in the nation in 2-point shooting percentage at 56.2%. However, the Colonels are a horrible defensive team that has given up 56.1% on 2-point shots and 36.3% on 3-pointers while also sending opponents to the line a lot. Eastern Kentucky depends on creating turnovers, and they do rank 5th in the nation in defensive turnover percentage, but when the Colonels are not creating turnovers then they’ll give up points readily to any offense with a pulse. Teams that can handle the ball and play good defense will destroy the Colonels, as was the case when they visited Wisconsin in mid-December (a 61-86 loss). The Colonels did play well in an overtime loss at VCU, but the Rams are a bad shooting team that can get a bit sloppy with the ball at times (16 turnovers against Eastern Kentucky). Other than those two tournament teams, the next best team the Colonels faced was NC State, a team that takes care of the ball and runs an efficient offense. The result was a 21 point loss for Eastern Kentucky. On the plus side, Eastern Kentucky is 12th in 3-point shots taken percentage and 29th in 3-point shooting percentage and Kansas ranks 256th in the nation defending the 3-point arc (35.9% allowed). The Jayhawks are also turnover prone, ranking 232nd in offensive turnover percentage. Without injured shot blocker Joel Embiid (2.6 blocks per game) the Jayhawks are now more vulnerable inside and Eastern Kentucky’s efficient offense should have success. The Jayhawks will score at will though but relatively the matchup works for the Colonels and my ratings favor Kansas by 14.3 points with Embiid out. Unfortunately, Kansas applies to a 90-37-4 ATS first round situation that will force me to stay away from the side in this game. However, my math projects 154 total points with Embiid out and the Jayhawks have gone Over the total in 4 of the 5 games their defensive star has missed this season. I’ll consider the Over a Strong Opinion at 150 or lower and I’ll lean with Kansas at -15 or less based on the favorable situation.

Kansas State (+5) over Kentucky

Kentucky’s good play in the SEC Tournament (3 spread wins), combined with the poor recent play of Kansas State (0-3 straight up and 0-3 ATS) has skewed this line some, as my ratings favor Kentucky by just 3 ½ points. While it’s certainly possible that Kentucky is suddenly a better and more consistent team, we shouldn’t forget that the Wildcats had lost 5 straight to the spread before the SEC Tournament and that two of their good performances were against teams that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament field. The other, a 1 point loss to Florida, was close because Florida couldn’t make their free throws (7 for 17) to close out a game that they led comfortably most of way. Kentucky will no doubt dominate on the boards in this game but that is already factored in to the line. Kentucky is still just 3-8 against teams in my top-50 while Kansas State is 7-8 against NCAA Tournament caliber teams. I’ll lean with Kansas State plus the points and I have no opinion on the total (I project 132½ points).

Nebraska (+3½) over Baylor

The Huskers won 10 of their last 13 games and beat Ohio State, Michigan State (on the road), and Wisconsin and the reason for the sudden turnaround after a mediocre start to the season was an injury to ineffective point guard Deverll Biggs. Biggs only shot 43% from the floor and averaged 2.3 turnovers against just 1.5 assists per game. Biggs’ injury had resulted in fewer mistakes, as the Cornhuskers had a turnover margin of -1.4 per game before Biggs’ injury and they’re +1.3 in turnovers without Biggs. The defense has also improved, as Nebraska has allowed just 39.4% shooting without Biggs compared to 43.8% FG allowed with him. It might be tough to get past Baylor because the Huskers aren’t likely to take advantage of Baylor’s bad 3-point defense (280th in the nation) or keep the Bears off the offensive glass but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if they won this game straight up and Baylor’s overall defense is not that good (114th in compensated points per possession). The value is certainly with the underrated Cornhuskers and I’ll lean with Nebraska plus the points and I have no opinion on the total (my math projects 130 total points).

Creighton (-13½) over Louisiana Lafayette

Louisiana Lafayette has a really good player in Elfrid Payton, who averages 19.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game while making 51% of his shots, which is incredibly good for a point guard. Payton team with 6’9 forward Shawn Long (18.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game) to give the Ragin’ Cajuns two really good and diverse players to deal with. UL Lafayette was able to beat marginally good teams Louisiana Tech and Georgia State but they were beaten soundly by better teams – losing to Arkansas by 13 points, to Baylor by 19 points and to Louisville by 39 points. Lafayette will be able to score against Creighton but they won’t be able to stop the Bluejays #1 ranked offense from outscoring them – most likely by a comfortable margin. My ratings favor Creighton by 13 points, so the line is about right, and the Blue Jays apply to a 64-19-2 ATS first round situation while Lafayette applies to a negative 13-38-6 ATS first round letdown situation based on their upset win in their conference tournament final. I don’t want to give up any line value to make this a Best Bet but I’ll consider Creighton a Strong Opinion at -14 or less and a 2-Star Best Bet at -13 or less. I’ll also lean with the Over (154½), as my predicted total is 160 points.

North Carolina (-4) over Providence

Providence made a surprising run to win the Big East Tournament and take themselves off the bubble. The Friars actually beat Creighton twice this season as the nation’s #1 3-point shooting team (42.2%) made only 24.5% (12 for 49) from beyond the arc in the two losses to the Friars. Providence is going to need more good fortune to advance in this tournament, as they simply aren’t good enough to beat a good team without some 3-point shooting variance going their way (they were 1-5 against the other NCAA caliber teams that they faced). North Carolina struggled through the first half of the season at 11-7 and then got red hot starting in late January and ran off 12 consecutive wins before losing their final two games to Duke and Pitt. The Heels’ hot streak was largely a case of 3-point shooting variance, as UNC made 38% of their 3-point shots during their 12 game winning streak while making only 33.5% from beyond the arc for the season. North Carolina is actually a relatively bad shooting team, as they rank 208th in 3-point shooting and 122nd in 2-point shooting percentage. However, the Heels rebound a lot of their misses (18th in offensive rebound percentage) and they were actually relatively much better offensively against the better defensive teams that they faced. North Carolina’s victories against high seeded teams were against teams that aren’t particularly good defensive rebounding teams, as they were able to beat Louisville (246nd in defensive rebound percentage), Kentucky (105th), and split two games with Duke (191st) while getting crushed by Virginia, who ranks 8th in the nation in defensive rebounding. Providence is a decent defensive rebounding team, ranking 99th in the nation, and my ratings suggest that the line is fair (I get UNC by 4.2 points) but the Friars apply to a negative 13-38 ATS first round situation and I’ll lean with North Carolina at -4 points or less. I have no opinion on the total (the math projects 142 total points).

NC Central (+8½) over Iowa State

Iowa State started the season beating the crap out of bad teams then struggled against better competition at the beginning of the Big 12 season. However, the Cyclones certainly have played better recently and just won the Big 12 Tournament with wins over NCAA Tournament teams Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor. However, those wins set up Iowa State in a negative 17-52-2 ATS first round situation that has me looking at NC Central. NC Central has won 20 consecutive games and did win at NC State early in the season but they also lost to Cincinnati, Wichita State, and Maryland by an average of 13 points. The Eagles actually are a pretty good team that I rank as the 80th best team in the nation and they can beat a team that doesn’t defend particularly well because their good defense should enable them to compete if they can score near the rim (NC Central is a horrible 3-point shooting team). NC Central also depends on turnovers to win (#5 in the nation in opponent’s turnover percentage) but 1st round opponent Iowa State is #9 in the nation in lowest offensive turnover percentage and is pretty good defending the paint, which is a bad match up for the Eagles. My ratings favor Iowa State by 8½ points, so the line is fair, and the situation certainly favors the dog here. I’m not going to play this as a Best Bet but I’ll lean with NC Central at +8 points or more. My math projects 145 total points, which isn’t much of an edge.

Tulsa (+8½) over UCLA

Tulsa won their final 11 games and the Golden Hurricane really picked up their defensive intensity during their late season run and ended the season 14th in the nation in 2-point defense at 42.9% allowed on shots inside the arc. That could be trouble for a UCLA team that takes most of their shots inside the 3-point arc and the Bruins aren’t defensively good enough to completely shut down a mediocre Tulsa offense. If UCLA spends too much time basking in the glow of their Pac 12 Championship win over Arizona the Bruins could find themselves subject to a rude awakening, as my ratings based on current personnel favor UCLA by just 5½ points against at UTEP team that is 12-1 ATS in their last 13 games (and 17-3 ATS in their last 20). I’ll consider Tulsa a Strong Opinion at +8 points or more. My math projects 146 total points.

Arizona (-20) over Weber State

Weber State was the best team in a really down year for the Big Sky Conference and the Wildcats did not beat a team this season that was ranked inside my top 200. Their 4 games against teams ranked in my top 150 were not very good collectively, losing by an average of 15 points to BYU, Colorado State, Utah State and UCLA (by 23 points) and their average game rating in those 4 games was 4 points lower than their overall game rating which is not a good omen for them against #1 seeded Arizona. The Wildcats dominated mediocre teams this season, as they were relatively better offensively against worse defensive teams while sometimes struggling offensively against the better defensive teams in the Pac 12. Weber is not a good defensive, as they rank 214th in my compensated defensive ratings. Arizona will have no trouble scoring and their defense is always intense, even against weaker teams. My ratings favor Arizona by 21 points and the Wildcats apply to a 30-7-3 ATS first round situation. I’ll consider Arizona a Strong Opinion at -20 points or less and I’d take Arizona in a 2-Star Best Bet at -19 or less.

Gonzaga (+2) over Oklahoma State

Gonzaga entered last year’s tournament as #1 in the polls and with a #1 seed but were knocked out in the second round by a vastly underrated Wichita State team that made it to the Final Four and are a #1 seed this season. That was just a bad luck draw for Gonzaga and the Zags other recent early tournament exits were all to better teams. This year’s Zags aren’t getting the love that that they used to get but they’re another solid squad that could very easily find themselves in the Sweet 16 thanks to a combination of very good defense (14th in compensated points per possession allowed) and good shooting (14th in 2-point FG% and 24th in 3-point percentage). Gonzaga didn’t play any elite teams this season, so it’s tough to know who they’d do against a very good team but the Zags’ defensive efficiency is relatively much better against better offensive teams, which could lead to an upset if that trend continues.

Oklahoma State is the best of the teams with double-digit losses, as the 21-12 Cowboys have the talent of a top-10 team and started to play like it when star Marcus Smart returned from a 3 game suspension that capped off a 7 game losing streak. Six of those seven losses were to NCAA Tournament teams with 3 of them by 3 points or less or in overtime and the Cowboys won 5 of 7 games after Smart’s return to the lineup with both losses coming in overtime to good teams Iowa State and Kansas (they also beat Kansas 72-65). Oklahoma State is still just 4-8 against NCAA caliber teams with Smart in the lineup (0-3 without him) and they’ve been consistently worse on a relative basis against better teams under coach Ford. My ratings counting all games equally, with Smart playing, would favor Oklahoma State by 3 points but my NCAA Tournament ratings, which put more weight on performance against better teams and diminish the affect of blowout wins over lesser teams, favors the Cowboys by just 0.7 points (using only games with Smart playing). Oklahoma State applies to a negative 11-30 ATS first round situation that is based on their early exit from their conference tournament (not a good omen historically) and I’ll lean with Gonzaga as an underdog. I have no opinion on the total as my math projects 138 total points.

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

Dave Price

UCLA -8½

These schools enter the NCAA Tournament with different mindsets. Tulsa is just happy to be here while UCLA is looking to do some damage. The Golden Hurricane won their conference tournament to secure their first NCAA Tournament berth in over a decade. The Bruins also won their conference tournament, and a win over Arizona in the championship game has them believing they can make a Final Four run. UCLA made a quick exit in last year's NCAA Tournament as it was embarrassed by Minnesota. The harsh memory of that loss will have all the returners who suffered through it ready to go. You want to fade underdogs of 3.5 to 9.5 points that check in with four consecutive wins or more when they are seeded 13 through 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Doing so has produced a 41-15 ATS mark since 1997. It is also worth noting that UCLA is an impressive 17-7 ATS this season when laying points.

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

Jim Feist

Wizards vs. Lakers
Play: Over 219

Washington is a young team that doesn't mind running with anyone, second in the NBA in three point shooting at .386%. It'[s also the second of a back to back spot, playing at Portland last night, and the over is 9-4 in the Wizards last 13 games playing on no days rest. But this defense is a concern, 23rd in field goal shooting defense. The Wizards didn't get a four-game West Coast trip off to a good start, though, falling 117-111 in overtime to Sacramento on Tuesday. The over is 5-1 in the Wizards last 6 road games, plus 5-1 when they face a team with a winning percentage below .400. The Lakers are all about an uptempo, attacking offense, 12th in scoring, but the defense is terrible, 29th in points allowed, on a 9-3 run over the total. They come off a home loss to the Spurs, 125-109! Over is 5-1 in Lakers last 6 home games. The Lakers yielded 100 points for the 12th consecutive game and gave up 110 for the seventh straight game. Los Angeles is the Western Conference's worst defensive team. When these teams meet the over is 5-1 in the last six meetings in Los Angeles.

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Jeff Alexander

Tennessee -4

Here we have two teams headed in opposite directions. UMass limps in at 2-3 in its last five and is 0-5-1 ATS in its last 6. Tennessee is surging at 6-1 in its last 7 with the loss coming to Florida. The Volunteers are 5-1 ATS in their last 6. The Minutemen are a soft 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games versus a team with a winning percentage above .600. They are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 versus the SEC. Tennessee has had the number of UMass, winning each of the last 3 meetings SU and ATS by margins of 26, 8 and 14 points. The 14-point victory came last season on a neutral floor. Bet Tennessee.

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Teddy Covers

Tennessee -4

UMass hasn’t covered a spread in a month, a consistently overvalued commodity down the stretch. The Minutemen were remarkable overachievers back in November and December, reeling off a steady stream of upsets over quality foes.

That stretch included wins over New Mexico, Clemson , LSU, BYU, Providence and Nebraska. That’s how they earned a #6 seed, despite the fact that they were only a #6 seed in their own conference tournament.

Non-conference wins impress the tournament selection committee. But UMass hasn’t looked like that same overachieving team from November and December in months, a very mediocre 8-7 SU in their last 15 ballgames. That’s why we’ve got an #11 seed favored over a #6 seed here, a favorite’s price on the Vols that is absolutely warranted.

Tennessee is very big in the low post, dominating the glass. They’re playing suffocating defense, especially during crunch time. Hot shooting Iowa wasn’t held without a basket in overtime on Wednesday by accident. While UMass has been overvalued of late, the Vols have been undervalued; 5-1 ATS in their last six, the lone non-cover coming by a single in a competitive battle against mighty Florida. Ride the hot, fade the cold!

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Bryan Leonard

Mercer / Duke Over 140.5

Mercer has the ability to score against anyone with 4 of top 5 scorers shooting over 39% from behind the arc. Regardless of the score the Bears will continue to shoot. They permitted just 67.5 ppg this year but against tournament caliber squads they allowed 82 ppg and none of those teams had the offense of Duke.

Duke does defend the three very well but this contest isn't expected to be close, more of an open court game in our eyes. The Blue Devils played 8 games against teams from non-major conferences, in those games they averaged 91 points per contest.

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Marc Lawrence

Cal Poly SLO vs. Wichita St.
Pick: Wichita St.

It's amazing that a 34-0 team would catch as much flack as Wichita State has entering this tourney.  This much is for certain in this contest: we figure the Shockers will be anxious to erase all doubts from naysayers early on in this event and it starts tonight with the Slo pokes.  For openers, #1 seeds riding a 3-0 SUATS win streak are 10-0 SU and 8-2 ATS in first round games. Wichita will have 12 days off before their 1st-round NCAA game and remember this: over the past two years, WSU is 29-2 SU and 18-6-1 ATS versus non-conference foes, and 39-6 SU and 31-11-1 ATS versus opponents off a win. Does that get your attention?  Sure the critics will point out that the last undefeated team to win the tourney was in 1976 (Indiana Hoosiers). And that the Shockers are just the 6th mid-major #1 seed (only one of those teams won the tourney). The NCAA tournament committee did them no favors, either, as the teams in their path to the title include Duke, Michigan and Louisville - yikes! And so what if Wichita's schedule is 131st ranked in the country by KenPom.com? Louisville was ranked 80th by the NCAA. All that matters to HC Gregg Marshall here is today's play-in survivor.  We recommend a 1-unit play on Wichita State.

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Tom Grassi

Tennessee vs. Massachusetts    
Play: Massachusetts +4½

A 6-11 matchup in the Midwest Regional has the Tennessee Volunteers playing their second game in three nights, this time as a favorite despite their lower seed status. Their opponent, the #6 Massachusetts Minutemen, have been off for the last week after losing to George Washington in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

The two teams arrive on different arcs: Tennessee has covered in six of their last seven, while the Minutemen haven’t beaten the line their last six game, their only non-loss coming in a push at Duquesne two weeks ago. Each team has done well this year in non-conference matchups.

However, two factors lean in UMass’ favor: lower seeds that are underdogs have generally been the right play come Tournament time. Also, despite the fact that the Volunteers dominated the overtime against Iowa on Wednesday night, playing that extra session has usually worked against teams in their next outing.

Close to three-quarters of the early money is riding the momentum train with Tennessee, but that group doesn’t include the Sharps. That’s because, despite such strong support in favor of the Volunteers, the line has dropped a half-point in favor of the Minutemen. When that type of reverse line movement comes about, it’s best to go with those who know best, so we’ll take the points in this one.

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Rob Vinciletti

Tennessee vs. Massachusetts    
Play: Massachusetts +4½

The Minutemen are not getting much respect as a 4 point dog in this game. However when we look at the RPI Scale see they have a better ranking and a 7-4 record vs Top 50 teams,compared to Tennessee who has lost 7 of 11 vs top 50 teams. The Volunteers have also failed to cover 14 of the last 20 in the true first round of any tournament and they have failed to cover 10 of 14 on a neutral court when the total is 135 to 140. They made a nice comeback to taken Down Iowa in overtime to get here. U.Mass has rest and comes in off a tough Conference Tournament loss. The Minutemen are 4-0 with 5 or 6 days off, 13-1 vs non conference teams, 5-1 vs teams who allow less than 65 points per game, 19-3 after allowing 80 or more points and have won 14 of 21 vs winning teams. One would never guess they have the 23rd best RPI Ranking in the country. We will back them here today plus the points.


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This total gets the call as our Complimentary Total Selection of the Day for Friday as Eastern Kentucky squares off against the Jayhawks of Kansas. Eastern Kentucky shoots the ball extremely well this team makes 39 percent of their 3-point attempts and ranks third in the country in 2-point shooting percentage knocking down 56.2 percent from the field. As good as they are on offense the Colonels are terrible on the defensive end of the floor giving up 56 percent from the field and more than 36 percent from behind the arc. The Jayhawks struggle defending the arc where their opponents convert almost thirty-six percent of their three point attempts. This game should sail over the posted total. Our BTPR Index projects the total points scored with a range of 157 to 159 in this contest.

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Scott Spreitzer

UL-Lafayette vs. Creighton    
Play: Creighton -14

The Blue Jays normally excelled against teams that will attempt to play uptempo basketball. Virtually nobody is better at it than the Jays. That promises to be Louisiana's downfall on Friday. The Rajin' Cajuns average over 81 ppg, but allow over 75 ppg. They're looking to play at a break-neck pace, giving Greg McDermott's high-flying squad "just what the doctor ordered" to get to a weekend matchup. The Blue Jays closed the regular non-conference season covering five in a row, while the Cajuns have covered just 5 of their last 19 against teams with a winning SU record. I'm recommending a play on Creighton minus the points on Friday.

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Art Aronson

Boston Celtics vs. Brooklyn Nets    
Play: Brooklyn Nets -10

These teams have played three times this season and Brooklyn is 2-1. However, Boston would take the most recent in the series, a 91-84 victory as a 5-point underdog at home back on March 7th. I gave out the Spurs as a free play the other night when they were in LA, San Antonio was a sizeable road fav vs. the inept Lakers. I said then that I normally don’t play large road favs, but thought that the factors all aligned for a big Spurs blowout in that one. While it took until mid-way through the fourth quarter for it to pull away, San Antonio would indeed go on to cover the spread. I have no problems whatsoever laying some points on a favorite at home though, and especially in this situation. Brooklyn has been as solid as you could possibly ask for over the last two months and it’s won ten-straight in front of the home town crowd. Most recently the Nets pulled away for a comfortable 104-99 victory over Charlotte on Wednesday. Surging Brooklyn has now pulled within just 2.5 games of Toronto for the Atlantic-Division lead (note that Brooklyn is a rock-solid 20-14 ATS this year in revenging a loss vs. an opponent). I think this sets up as a classic “letdown” spot for the visitors. The Celtics have been as inconsistent as all get out this year and off an extremely satsifying 101-96 home win over the two-time defending champions on Wednesday, all signs definitely point to an immediate return to mediocrity (note that the C’s are a poor 6-7 ATS this year off an upset win as an underdog). And finally, when you take into account that Boston has shot just a miserable 39.9 percent from the floor during a seven-game road losing slide, I think you’d agree with me that the Nets are absolutely worth a second look in this match-up.

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River City Sharps

Oklahoma St -3

Really interesting matchup on Friday here as Oklahoma State takes on Gonzaga in a game that will be played in San Diego. About a month ago, it looked like the Cowboys might now even be playing in this tournament. But OSU got Marcus Smart back in the lineup and played very good basketball to end the season, where they lost by 7 points to Kansas in the Big 12 tournament. The Cowboys have won 5 of their last 7 games to end the year, while the Zags are winners of 5 in a row, including their WCC Championship win over BYU. Okie State has been a very good team in the first round of NCAA Tournament games, going 18-7 ATS in first round tournament games since 1997. To be honest, this game is much more of an "eye test" game than one that we look at the hard numbers. The WCC was way down this season as the Zags marched through to the title. Conversely, the Cowboys played in the Big 12, arguably the best conference in basketball, and are pretty battle tested against great competition. We think the speed and athleticism of OSU will be too much for the Zags and w think there is some value here with the short-priced favorite.

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VCU -6½ over Stephen F. AustinFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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A lot of peeps and experts are picking the Lumberjacks here for many reasons. First, we have the classic upset special of #5 versus #12 and that matchup produced two upsets yesterday. Next, the Lumberjacks won 29 games straight to close out the season and many of those were of the blowout variety. The Lumberjacks generate turnovers at a high rate and they shoot a lot of three-pointers that hit nothing but twine. That’s all good but what we really have here is an undersized squad that dominated the weak Southland Conference. That’s right, the Southland that featured such powerhouses as Texas A&M CC, Incarnate Word, Central Arkansas, Lamar, Northwestern State and the list goes on and on and on. The ‘Jacks played a schedule that ranked 325th in the country in terms of strength. Those skewed numbers on Stephen F. is a direct result of them playing every marshmallow on the planet. The ‘Jacks toughest opponent this season was Texas, a game they lost by 10 points very early in the season. They also lost to East Tennessee State by eight. Again, this is a grossly undersized team squad and we all saw what Wisconsin did to a good-shooting, undersized team yesterday that plays a very similar style to the Lumberjacks. The Badgers blew away American by 40.
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VCU plays outstanding defense. No coach in the country comes better prepared for this event than VCU’s Shaka Smart. The Rams come out of the very tough A-10 and in that conference had a very successful opening day. Dayton, which finished 6th in the A-10 knocked off Ohio State while Saint Louis knocked off N.C. State. St. Joe’s, the other A-10 team that played yesterday, were in a position to knock off UConn but eventually fell in OT. VCU finished second in that conference just behind the Billikens but we’re here to tell you that they are better than the Billikens. The Rams lost by three points to #1 Virginia early in the year and while the Lumberjacks were blowing away teams like Incarnate Word, the Rams were doing the same to teams like George Mason, Old Dominion, Dayton, George Washington, Virginia Tech, Duquesne, Richmond and Rhode Island to name a few. VCU is an A-10 power. The Rams huge edge in size, strength of schedule, defense and preparation is unlike anything the ‘Jacks have seen in the Southland. Stephen F. Austin’s 29-game win streak is nothing but foll’s gold. The oddsmakers and all the so-called experts have this one wrong. VCU easily wins by double digits.
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The A-10 Conference was so impressive yesterday that we are going to stick with them here. The Colonials are a well-balanced squad that played a large portion of their schedule without one of its best players in PG Kethan Savage. Despite his absence for most of the year, GW still went 24-8 and one has to wonder how many more there would have been if Savage were healthy. Savage is a lock-down defender and a great finisher in transition. The Colonials have multiple scoring options. Maurice Creek can fill it up from the outside, Isaiah Armwood and Kevin Larsen form one of the best frontcourt tandems in the A-10 and Joe McDonald flies under the radar at point guard. And that's before the return of second-leading scorer Savage, back from a broken toe injury. The Colonials has a lot of big wins this season and they’re as dangerous as any team in the A-10.
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Memphis comes out of the new American Conference (AAC). They are one of four teams to come out of the AAC and that’s now down to three after Cincinnati lost to Harvard. Another team from the AAC, UConn can thank their lucky stars that they advanced after a huge scare by St. Joe’s. The final team, Louisville, played yesterday also and as a 16-point favorite over Manhattan, the Cardinals won by six. That leaves the Tigers, a team that went 4-4 down the stretch and lost by 19 points to UConn in the AAC Conference tournament. The Tigers defense ranked 185th in the country and should they fall behind here, playing catchup when you can’t defend is an uphill battle. The Tigers have made three early exits from this event under Coach Josh Pastner. Pastner has one win in four tries in the NCAA tournament and is definitely feeling some heat this time around. The Tigers can score and they also work their tails off but they are more flawed than the Colonials. This one should be close but the Colonials chances of winning are just as good as the Tigers’ chances and the three points being offered is a little extra insurance. 
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Oklahoma State -3 over GonzagaFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Gonzaga is one of two teams in this event to represent the West Coast Conference West. The other team, BYU, was smoked by 19 points in the opening round yesterday by Oregon. Gonzaga finished just two games better than the Cougars and that’s something that should not be ignored. The Mountain West is the worst of the mid-major Conferences. The Zags lost to every tournament team they played this season (Dayton, K-State, Memphis and BYU) and beat up on every other cupcake they faced. Kevin Pangos is the Zags' most explosive player and lately he has lacked that explosion because he’s nursing a nagging foot injury. He’s not been aggressive and his injury is a huge setback for the Zags. The Zags have some other options but their weak schedule has produced some skewed defensive numbers. The Cowboys are by far the Zags toughest opponent of the season and OSU figures to exploit those skewed numbers.
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Every strong team faces adversity at some point during the season. If Oklahoma State goes deep into this event, it'll have faced more adversity than most. Travis Ford's Cowboys were a top-10 team for the first two months of the campaign before the bottom dropped out with seven consecutive conference losses. Many of those defeats were heartbreakers -- two in overtime and three others by six points or fewer in hotly contested games. Marcus Smart's three-game suspension made a bad situation worse, and suddenly the Cowboys were in free fall. Suddenly, nobody was betting on this team but Oklahoma State has emerged from that seven-game skid with four straight wins, including a victory over Big 12 champion Kansas followed by an OT loss to Iowa State. Smart gets the headlines, but teammates Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash are impact players as well, quite capable of carrying this squad into the third weekend of the Big Dance. The Cowboys ranked 16th in the country in points per game with 80.3 and when the Zags can’t hold the opposition to under 70 they are in big trouble. Expect the Cowboys to surpass 70 and pull away.
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PROVIDENCE VS NORTH CAROLINASERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Providence College Friars are one of the great stories this season in all of college basketball. Despite having virtually no depth and being stuck on the wrong side of the bubble, the Friars won their way into the Dance with an awesome, determined performance in the Big East tournament.
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North Carolina was supposed to be a Top 10 team in the minds of many observers. That didn’t happen, and the Tar Heels have been a flawed entry all season. They aren’t good from the outside, and they’re awful at the stripe. But this team did come on late. I don’t put much stock into what was effectively a meaningless loss to Pitt in the ACC tourney, and losing at Duke prior to that was no disgrace. UNC had won 12 straight prior to the two losses, so I consider them to be sharp enough coming in.
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There’s no doubt that if this turns into a free throw contest, Providence is the probable winner. But I don’t see this as a favorable matchup for the Friars. PC shoots a decent percentage from the outside, but that’s not really their game. They’re actually not a good shooting team inside the arc. But the Friars are a dynamo on the offensive glass, and when they can get to the line, they’re absolutely deadly.
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Unfortunately for Providence, aside from the free throws, North Carolina thrives on many of the same elements as the Friars, and that’s not a great thing for Providence. UNC can go a little deeper than the Friars, so while it’s not a wipeout on the depth chart, I see that element slightly favoring North Carolina.
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More than anything, I just don’t know what can be left in the Providence tank. Yes, they’ve had some time to recover from the enormous effort last weekend in the Big East tourney. But I have to think North Carolina is still the fresher team, and that as much as anything else is what’s pointing me in the direction of the Tar Heels.
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The number on this game is right where I thought it would be, so this is not a value assessment. For me, it’s more about the Tar Heels perhaps having more energy and also being able to take away some of what the Friars do to win games. I don’t see this easy, but North Carolina minus the points is the choice.

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This game features the 22-12 Tennessee versus the 24-8 Umass. the Vols are just 4-7 away from there home floor this season. and it has been a long push to get them to this point tonight. Really U-Mass is getting zero respect from odds makers here as they are a much better overall team then Tennessee just not hot right now in the public eye like the Vols. U-Mass has a 7-4 record vs Top 50 teams compared to Tennessee who has lost 7 of their last 11 vs top 50 teams. The Vols have also failed to cover 14 of the last 20 games ats. Public is all over Tennessee here but this line is creeping the other way telling us major sharp money going in on Umass. Take Umass plus the points but I expect a outrite win here.


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