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

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

Tony George

Nebraska vs. Baylor    
Play: Baylor -3½

This line is shooting up to 4 in some spots, and even after yesterday’s wild and wacky results, which really none of them surprised me as my bracket only had 1 loss on Arizona State, I cannot see the Huskers, my alma mater as a matter of fact, pulling the mild upset here on Friday in an early game. I have seen both teams play in person this year, and last week I saw Baylor in the Big 12 Tourney in Kansas City, and man for man they are flat out better than Nebraska.

The size of Baylor is an advantage and they play big. Tim Miles was coach of the Year in the Big 10 for good reason, he was a great coach at Colorado St and has turned the football rich Huskers into a 4th place basketball team in the Big 10 with wins over Michigan St, Wisconsin and Ohio St. The problem is Baylor is a run and gun team and a bad match up for Nebraska who averages only 56 ppg on offense away from Lincoln, and allows 66 ppg. That is a bad combination against Baylor who can light it up, and played in just as tough as a conference as Nebraska did. Baylor off a loss in the Big 12 Title game but they had a hell of tourney run, they have the better offense, and while the Bears will not run away with this one, they will get the win and cover against my beloved Huskers. I always like to say in 1 game anyone can beat anyone in this tourney, just ask Oklahoma, but Baylor is flat out better and this is a manageable number.

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

Jack Jones

Providence +4

The Providence Friars (23-11) have been underrated all season. They opened 10-2 this season before losing three in a row, including two in overtime. They wound up going 1-3 on the year in overtime games, and this team was even better than its record would indicate because of it.

That all showed in the conference tournament as Providence stepped up huge in a must-win situation. Squarely on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament, the Friars beat St. John’s and Seton Hall before knocking off Creighton in the championship game. That was their second win over the Bluejays this season, which is certainly no small feat.

What I love about this team is that they are loaded with senior leadership and veteran experience. Senior point guard Bryce Cotton (21.4 ppg, 5.8 apg) is one of the best players in the country that nobody knows about. Senior forward Kadeem Batts (12.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg) combines with LaDonta Henton (13.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg) to form a dynamite duo inside. In this trio, the Friars have a steady mix of inside and outside domination.

The Tar Heels won a ton of close games this season, and their record is inflated as a result. They also relied on Marcus Paige to shoulder the scoring load too much, and I believe he meets his match in Cotton Friday. The Friars are playing on the house’s money after winning the Big East Tournament and will come in with a ton of confidence like they have nothing to lose.

North Carolina is 0-5 ATS in its last five games overall with its three outright wins during this stretch all coming by 4 points or less. The Tar Heels are 4-11 ATS in their last 15 games following an ATS loss. The Friars are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games vs. a team with a winning percentage above 60%. Providence is 7-2 ATS in its last nine games overall. Bet Providence Friday.

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

Jeff Scott

3 UNIT PLAY

Stanford/ New Mexico Under 137: Neither team plays all that fast and both teams play very good defense and that should lead to a pretty low scoring game. The Cardinal has scored less than 70 points in 5 of their last 7 games and they have averaged just 66.1 ppg in their last 6 games away from home. Now they face a New Mexico squad that has allowed just 57.9 ppg in their last 9 games, allowing more than 60 points just twice in that stretch. For the year new mexico has been tough defensively overall, allowing 66.3 ppg on 38.9% shooting. Stanford also knows how to play some defense as they have allowed just 68.6 ppg on the year, including just 64.8 ppg in their last 5 games. New Mexico has been very average offensively of late as they have averaged just 68.8 ppg in their last 9 games, so I feel that the Cardinal can keep them in the mid 60's. Both teams play defense very well and the offenses may come out a bit sluggish with the early start time, meaning Im not sure this game hits the 130's at all.

2 UNIT PLAY

Baylor/ Nebraska Under 131.5: The Baylor Bears are not the fast paced uptempo team that most think they are. They push it when they can, but not all the time and Nebraska is not a team that gives others a chance to push tempo all that much. The Huskers are a team that plays great defense as they have allowed just 64.9 ppg on 42% shooting for the year, while on offense they are very patient with a slow paced attack that averages 67 ppg on 42.7% shooting. The Bears have also played good defense this year, allowing just 68.4 ppg on 42.4% shooting. I feel that Nebraska will get the bears to play at their pace and Baylor is not all that uncomfortable playing that way. Both teams play solid defense and just 1 team can score. Look for this one to be played in the lower 120's.

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

Freddy Wills

Tulsa +8½

I like Tulsa here to give UCLA some issues on Friday night. UCLA is a young and raw team, but has plenty of talent, but facing a defensive oriented team like Tulsa could give them issues. Tulsa is ranked 13th in 2 point defense in nation 30th in adjusted defense overall. UCLA will attempt 73% of their shots from 2 point land and that's where Tulsa's strengths are. Tulsa went 17-3 in 2014 as Danny Manning really did an excellent job coaching them up. They had challenging games against Oklahoma Creighton and Wichita State earlier in the season and are 36-15-1 ATS in their last 52 games.


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

Steve Janus

Oklahoma State Cowboys -3

The Cowboys are better than the No. 9 seed they received from the committee, very similar to that of Pittsburgh and they dominated Colorado yesterday. While Gonzaga is better than the Buffaloes, there's enough of a talent gap and value laying just 3-points to back Oklahoma State.

When Marcus Smart was suspended for pushing a fan, it looked like the Cowboys were going to miss the NCAA Tournament. They had a stretch where they lost 7 straight games. Once Smart returned not only did he look like a different player, but Oklahoma State came alive. They won four straight before losing a heartbreaking in overtime at Iowa State in the regular season finale. After crushing Texas Tech in the Big 12 Tournament Opener, they lost in overtime against Kansas. This team is clearly playing their best basketball right now.

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

Brandon Shively

Oklahoma State vs. Gonzaga    
Play: Oklahoma State -155

I like Oklahoma State to win this game tonight and we will play them on the Money Line. Oklahoma State played to more of their capability down the stretch winning 5 of their last 6 with wins over Kansas, Iowa State and Kansas State. Oklahoma has a big advantage in the guard positions for this game. The guards are bigger and more physical and LeBryan Nash will be the guy that can be the 'X' factor in this game along with Phil Forte. Nash is a tough match-up at 6'7" with his length and athletic ability. The guy I really like in this game though is P. Forte who is the sharp shooter that has not seen a shot he doesn't like. Forte is shooting 45% from the 3 point line and I will count him for 4 threes today.

Looking at past history, Gonzaga is 5-0 SU vs. Oklahoma State all-time including a 69-68 win last year. I will factor in some revenge for Oklahoma State today as well and with the Cowboys playing with confidence and momentum, look for them to advance to the second round .

For Gonzaga, Kevin Pangos is nowhere nearly as effective as he has been battling a turf toe injury for the second part of the season. Pangos averaged 22 ppg the first 7 games of the season shooting 49% from the 3 point line. His last 12 games of the season we have seen him really struggle from the perimeter only shooting 32% from the 3 point line and averaging 11 ppg. Pangos will be on the court, but he is not as effective. I definitely think his turf toe his worth 3-4 points in this game. It will put more pressure on Gary Bell to put the team on his back.

When comparing these two teams, I give Oklahoma State a 6 point edge. When comparing players, Smart is 3 points better than Bell as Smart is a more rounded player that can get his teammates involved. Markel Brown is 3 points better than Pangos as Brown is a senior that can shoot the 3 at 38% and crash the glass as well. I will give Phil Forte a 3 point advantage over David Stockton as well. Forte is the best shooter in this tournament and it will be shown today. That is a +9 point advantage for Oklahoma State. Now, I will give Gonzaga's Sam Dower a 3 point advantage in the paint as he has the size advantage over Oklahoma State and can shoot free throws at 83%. That puts us back at +6 for Oklahoma State and I will call all the other players and intangibles close to even.

In closing, I like the confidence Oklahoma State will be playing with today. They have that 'chip' on their shoulder and have really been playing good their last 5 games. Looking closer, the Cowboys have only committed 9 turnovers a game while forcing 15 a game in this 5 game span. Oklahoma State has plenty of motivation as well for this game after an early exit last year in the tournament. Markus Smart could have left early last year to go to the NBA. He came back for a reason and one reason is to make a run in the NCAA tournament and to redeem himself. Look for Oklahoma State to advance to the next round


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

SPORTS WAGERSFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Nashville +108 over CALGARYFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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OT included. Can the Predators really be this bad? Here’s a team that has lost three straight to St. Louis, Edmonton and Vancouver while being outscored 11-2 over that span. Nashville has just four wins over their past 14 games and one of those occurred against the Sabres. The Preds have scored one goal or less in seven of their past 10 games. Futility would be understating just how bad the Preds have been since the beginning of February. This isn’t the way this team was built and the results actually mask the fact that they’re still playing hard. Prior to their current three-game losing streak, the Preds won three in a row over Ottawa, Buffalo and Chicago. They outshot the Canucks in their last game 30-22 but lost 2-0. In two recent games against St. Louis and Columbus they lost 1-0 and 2-1, respectively. So, while the results haven’t been there, the effort has and now the Preds are in a winnable game against a Calgary team in a vulnerable spot. 
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Give the Flames all the credit in the world for being one of the toughest outs all year. We stated numerous times prior to their outstanding run that they’re a team with one of the best work ethics in the NHL. Calgary has won 12 of their past 19 games including a 7-2 trouncing over the Ducks. They’ve also won six straight at home against teams under .500. However, the Flames played last night against Buffalo and they have a game on deck tomorrow against Edmonton. Although tomorrow’s game means nothing in the standings, it’s still a huge rivalry game that is equivalent to the Montreal/Toronto rivalry and so Calgary could easily get caught looking ahead to that game. The Preds are not going to lie down the rest of the year. Barry Trotz and the entire organization will tolerate nothing less than an all-out effort and that’s exactly what we’re likely to see again from this visitor here. We’re buying low and selling high.

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

Bob Balfe

Eastern Kentucky/Kansas Over 151

Eastern Kentucky can ball. I would not be shocked if they pushed this game to the limit and had a shot. This team hit’s a lot of three pointers, is fast and is a veteran team. The only problem is they don’t play defense and are on the smaller side. Kansas is young so they are vulnerable if a team gives them more than they can handle, but I don’t think the Jayhawks are going to have a problem scoring the basketball against this style of EKU Defense. This should be a very entertaining back and forth game. Take the Over.

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

Harry BondiFOR  FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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CREIGHTON (-13.5) over Lousiana LafayetteSERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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UL-Lafayette is a solid team that's deserving of being here in the Big Dance, but this is a horrible matchup for the Cajuns, who don't play a lot of defense and that will spell doom today. Creighton comes in extra motivated and a bit underrated after losing in the Big East Conference finals last week to upstart Providence, but you can expect the Blue Jays to get back on track here and do what they do best: Rain three-pointers. UL-Lafayette is just 5-14 ATS in its last 19 games against winning teams and already lost games this year to quality competition by big margins, falling to Arkansas by 13 points, to Baylor by 19 points and to Louisville by 39 points. Lay the big number. Blue Jays roll!

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

NHL PredictionsFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Boston Bruins -115FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Holy! 10 straight winners for the Bruins. I have been doing pretty well myself lately on a 5-1 run. The Bruins have done it with suffocating defense. During this entire stretch they have given opposing teams absolutely nothing to work with. The beauty of it all is it doesn't matter who is in net. Whether it is Tuuka Rask or Chad Johnson, the Bruins are performing at a high level defensively. They went four straight games of allowing only 1 goal, before giving up 2 goals in their 4-2 win over the Devils on the 18th. It has been a reflection of what they've been doing all season long, as they are 1st in the NHL in goals allowed at 2.12 goals per game. Boston has also been scoring at a pretty good clip, averaging 3.20 goals a game. Meanwhile, the Avs have been kind of fluctuating since experiencing immense success. I expect them to finish a tad over .500 from here to the end of the season. A good team, but lack of experience will be their down fall. They have lost two straight, including a poor loss against the Winnipeg Jets in a shootout two nights ago. Look out for the Bruins moving forward in the playoffs. Also, look out for them tonight. I like them to earn their 11th straight victory over an Avalanche team that could be regressing a bit.

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

David Glisan

La.-Lafayette / Creighton Over 155.5

This one seems almost too obvious--typically 'obviousness' scares me but not so much when it also makes so much sense.  Two teams that shoot the ball a lot, score a lot of points and don't play much defense.  Creighton shoots the three better than any team in the country.  ULL isn't a horrible three point defense team (#113) but not good enough to cause the Bluejays any trouble.  Bluejays step down in class after a greulling Big East season/tournament and while I'm not thinking they're 'overlooking' the Ragin' Cajuns they might not mind a looser, more up tempo contest--especially since that's the type of game they can win.  A couple of teams that average around 80 points a game and don't play much defense sure looks like a ticket for an 'Over'.  My score projection on this game is in the low 170's....

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

Joe Gavazzi

Creighton -13½

What a finish for the Ragin Cajuns! Saturday night, they hold on for a narrow 1 point victory vs. W. Kentucky. Then on Sunday, playing for the Sun Belt Crown and to advance to The Dance, the Cajuns trail league leader, GA State, by double digits with the clock winding inside 5 minutes. But, an offensive shift in philosophy by Panther HC Hunter turns the Panthers into the hunted, shifting the momentum to the Cajuns. Eventually, LA Lafayette ties the game winning it (82-81) in OT for consecutive 1 point victories. That leaves the question of pumped to play or, happy to be here? With Long on the interior and Payton at the point, this is a legitimate team who gelled down the stretch with 5 RS from last season. Today, however, they will run into a clearly motivated Creighton team. The Blue Jays have failed to meet either of their projected goals. Creighton lost the regular season Crown to Villanova, despite beating the Wildcats twice. Then Creighton lost the CCT Final, playing a Providence team they had just whipped by 15. As a result, plenty of hunger remains with this team. This is a Cajun defense that allows 75 PPG. As such, it could well be ripe for the Creighton offensive onslaught. The Blue Jays average 80 PPG, 50% from the field and knock down a nation-leading best 10.4 triples per game at 42%. With a 17.7/9.9 Assist/TO margin, they won’t beat themselves. Five players led by McDermott, all shoot better than 40% from the arc. No wonder, they are 10-4 ATS as a double digit favorite this year.

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

Larry Ness

North Carolina Central vs Iowa State
Pick: North Carolina Central

Iowa St owns our double-digit scorers and an unselfish style of play that produced the most assists per game in the nation (18.5). The frontcourt is not big (no player more than 6-7) but the 6-6 Ejim (18.1-8.5), the 6-7 Niang (16.5-4.4) and the 6-6 Hogue (10.7-8.6) are all excellent scorers and rebounders. Then there is 6-4 Marshall transfer Kane I to lead the backcourt, a senior who put up outstanding numbers (17.0-6.7-5.8). He’s joined by sophomore guard Long (7.0) plus freshmen Morris (6.2) and Thomas (5.8). Iowa State cruises into the NCAA tournament on a high of winning its first Big 12 tournament title since 2000 and coach Fred Hoiberg has been watching for any sign of emotional letdown going into a game in which the Cyclones will be a big favorite.

Big 12 player of the year and leading scorer Melvin Ejim suggested his coach should have no worries. "I think going in we have some momentum winning the tournament as well as experience from playing in a neutral site where it's win or go home," Ejim said. Iowa State ranks sixth in the nation in scoring (82.9 PPG) but the team’s lack of toughness defense, especially on the road, is a worrisome situation. There are no concerns regarding the quality of defense played by NC-Central, The Eagles stifled conference opponents on the defensive end, holding them to a league-low 55.9 points and forcing a league-high 16.7 turnovers.

Complete season stats show NC Central allowing 58.5 PPG (7th) on 37.2% shooting (2nd), including 29.5% on threes (9th). However, the Eagles can score some too. Senior guard Ingram (20.6 PPG) leads the way and is catching fire at the right time, as he’s averaging 25.6 points over his last nine games and made 11-of-14 three-pointers in the conference tournament. He averaged 31 points in North Carolina Central's three games against tournament teams Cincinnati, North Carolina State and Wichita State (had 37 vs Wichita St!).

6-7 swingman Parks (10.2-5.6) and PG Chapman (6.8-4.3-6.5) join Ingram on the perimeter while the 6-7 Copeland (8.1-5.9) and the 6-8 Jawara (7.2-4.8) start up front. When North Carolina Central made the move from Division II to Division I, the dream was always about making the NCAA tournament. Three years into the journey at the top level of college basketball, the school got a No. 14 seed and a meeting with No. 3 Iowa St, entering on a 20-game winning streak (last loss was back on Jan 11).

Big Dance history tells us that the last time Iowa State faced a MEAC school in the NCAA Tourney was 2001, when Larry Eustachy's heavily-favored, No. 2-seeded Cyclones were dumped by the MEAC's Hampton. Déjà vu? Maybe not but I am taking the points.

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

Bruce Marshall

Washington Wizards at Los Angeles Lakers
Pick: Washington Wizards

The Lakers have been able to slip inside of some hefty numbers in recent weeks and have been up for the occasional big effort, such as March wins over playoff-bound Blazers and Thunder. Mostly, however, L.A. might as well be suiting up Jeanie Buss to play defense while allowing triple digits in 11 straight games thru March 18, and conceding a staggering 131 or more in four of last six prior to Wednesday night vs. Spurs. Washington posted 116 in Nov. 26 win at Verizon Center (when John Wall scored 31 and team shot 53% from floor) and should at least do as much in rematch as long as nobody besides the injured Nene is sidelined. Though Wiz failed to extend margins in recent wins and non-covers at Milwaukee and Orlando, they are capable of doing enough to clear the spread hurdle against the declining Lake Show, which has dropped 11 of last 16 vs. spread at Staples Center thru March 18. Does Jack Nicholson still bother to show up at the games?

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

Jeff Scott Sports

3 UNIT PLAYS

Stanford/ New Mexico Under 137: Neither team plays all that fast and both teams play very good defense and that should lead to a pretty low scoring game. The Cardinal has scored less than 70 points in 5 of their last 7 games and they have averaged just 66.1 ppg in their last 6 games away from home. Now they face a New Mexico squad that has allowed just 57.9 ppg in their last 9 games, allowing more than 60 points just twice in that stretch. For the year new mexico has been tough defensively overall, allowing 66.3 ppg on 38.9% shooting. Stanford also knows how to play some defense as they have allowed just 68.6 ppg on the year, including just 64.8 ppg in their last 5 games. New Mexico has been very average offensively of late as they have averaged just 68.8 ppg in their last 9 games, so I feel that the Cardinal can keep them in the mid 60's. Both teams play defense very well and the offenses may come out a bit sluggish with the early start time, meaning Im not sure this game hits the 130's at all.

VCU/ Stephen F Austin Under 136: Both of these teams know how to put points on the board, but that always doesn't lead to high scoring games. VCU averages 75 ppg on the year, but the Under is 20-11 in their games and the Under is also 16-5 in their last 21 neutral site games. A big reason is the fact that they play very good defense. The Rams come in having allowed just 64.9 ppg, while they also have allowed just 63.9 ppg in their 8 neutral site games they've played this year. The Lumberjacks also know how to "D" it up as they have allowed just 63 ppg on the year, including just 63.6 pg in their last 10 games and 63.5 ppg on neutral courts this year. VCU does average 75 ppg, but they are a terrible shooting team, while the Lumberjacks have scored 75.8 ppg, but vs much weaker defenses than the one they will face today. Defense will be key here as this game is played in the 120's.

2 UNIT PLAYS

Baylor/ Nebraska Under 131.5: The Baylor Bears are not the fast paced uptempo team that most think they are. They push it when they can, but not all the time and Nebraska is not a team that gives others a chance to push tempo all that much. The Huskers are a team that plays great defense as they have allowed just 64.9 ppg on 42% shooting for the year, while on offense they are very patient with a slow paced attack that averages 67 ppg on 42.7% shooting. The Bears have also played good defense this year, allowing just 68.4 ppg on 42.4% shooting. I feel that Nebraska will get the bears to play at their pace and Baylor is not all that uncomfortable playing that way. Both teams play solid defense and just 1 team can score. Look for this one to be played in the lower 120's.

Oklahoma State/ Gonzaga Under 139: Both of these teams are very good on the offensive end of the floor, but both also play solid defense and that should Keep the scoring down in this one. The Cowboys do allow 69.1 ppg, but on just 40.7% shooting and they have allowed just 62.5 ppg (Regulation) in their last 8 games overall. The Zags come in having really clamped down at the defensive end as they have allowed just 58.6 ppg in their last 5 games, while allowing just 64.5 ppg on 39.3% shooting on the year. The Zags really play it close to the vest in these big games and I expect the Cowboys to follow suit here as well. Should be a tight one down the stretch, which should lead to both teams walking the ball up the court and provided we have no OT we should get a game played in the lower 130's at best.

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

Will Rogers

Tulsa vs. UCLA
Pick: Tulsa

Each of the last six NCAA Tournaments, at least one 13 seed has beaten a 4 seed.  Yesterday saw three of the four #4 seeds move on (with Louisville surviving a major scare).  That leaves Tulsa as the only 13 seed left to keep the streak alive.  While I'm not necessarily calling for an outright win, I'll take the points.

Here are my keys to the game:

1.  Momentum - Tulsa has won 11 straight games. Going back further, they are 12-1 ATS their last 13.  They have not allowed more than 70 points in any game during the win streak.  This is definitely a team playing with some momentum.

2. Steve Alford - Last year, Alford was the coach of New Mexico.  His Lobos were one and done in the Tournament, losing to a 14-seed, Harvard.  That dropped Alford's all-time record in the NCAA Tournament to 1-5.

3. X-Factor - UCLA is just 4-16 ATS as a neutral court favorite of -6.5 to -9.

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Bryan Power

New York vs. Philadelphia
Pick: Philadelphia

The Sixers are a team I've actually been playing quite a bit lately as they are always a big dog.  Motivation is there to end this horrible losing streak.  They covered for me Wednesday at home vs. Chicago and are now 4-2 ATS last six games....

They are getting almost the same number of points here as they were against the Bulls.  The Knicks are not nearly as tough as Chicago, although they did just beat Indiana at home.  That was the Knicks' seventh win in a row, a stretch that has seen them go 6-1 ATS. But I think this will be a letdown following the emotional performance at home in front of new team president Phil Jackson.  The Knicks have not covered the last two times they've played Philadelphia, including one outright loss.

As is the case with every team facing Philadelphia these days, this will be the most points the Knicks have had to lay in any road game this season. For what its worth, eight of the 76ers last 13 losses have come by 12 points or less.  This is Philly's final home game before a three-game road trip of games that all surely look like losses.  Therefore, I expect maximum effort.

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

Craig Davis

Your free play of the day is on the OKC Thunder over the Toronto Raptors as a small road favorite.

Toronto might be a lock for a playoff spot in the East and they obviously play better at home than they do on the road, but I also just watched them get trounced by Phoenix at home a few nights ago and I can promise you the Thunder are more talented than the Suns.

OKC comes in off a 7-point win at Cleveland last night and did it without the services of Russell Westbrook, who sat out in an attempt to rest his surgically repaired knee.

With Westbrook on the floor, it gives this team a completely different dimension, both offensively and defensively.

Not only that, but the Thunder are playing on a little revenge having lost at home to this team a few days before Christmas.

Both teams are headed to the playoffs, but OKC really wants to kick it in gear down the stretch as they'd like to secure home court advantage throughout.

Take the Thunder to win by 10 as your free play of the day.

3♦ OKLAHOMA CITY

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

Brad Wilton

The Bruins of UCLA may be a little "inflated" as far as laying the points in this encounter with Tulsa is concerned, but perhaps some of that line inflation is the fact that the Uclans will be playing in nearby San Diego for this game, so they can expect some added crowd support.

No doubt Danny Manning has his Golden Hurricane peaking - winners of 11 in a row straight up - they have also covered 12 of their last 13 games against the spread. Still, prefer backing a UCLA team that I feel can make some deep noise this month.

Steve Alford's rift with his team certainly looks like a thing of the past, as UCLA stepped up to win the Pacific 12 tournament, covering in all 3 wins, and their guard play of Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams is built for this time of the year.

Willing to lay the wood with the Westwood men, as UCLA may take a little time to get Tulsa in their rear-view mirror, but I think when it is all said and done, the Bruins take it by double-digits.

2♦ UCLA

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

Chris Jordan

My free play for Friday is on Mercer plus the points against Duke, in a game that may shock some when they see how good the Bears are.

If the Blue Devils think they're just going to come in and push this team around, they have another thing coming. The Bears, eerily, are just like Florida Gulf Coast from last season, and we all know what Dunk City did.

Mercer, coincidentally, comes out of the Atlantic Sun after beating FGCU in the league championship, and is a very dangerous double-digit seed after winning eight of its last 10 games.

This is a team that is loaded with seniors - seven to be exact - and play very confident at the offensive end of the court. They pick their spots, they share the ball well, they shoot efficiently, they're hitting 39 percent of their 3-pointers and what's most dangerous the Devils should be wary of: Mercer gets balanced scoring from six different players.

No three or four, and not the starting five - but six different players. Leading the charge is talented guard Langston Hall, who pours in 14.7 points per game. And the Bears have decent length, too, with a bevy of 6-foot-4 guards to complement 6-10 center Daniel Coursey.

Confidence shouldn't be hard to come by, either, as Mercer knocked off Seton Hall and Mississippi during the regular season, while a heart-breaking loss to Texas came by a mere three points. If the Bears get aggressive with Duke, you may end up seeing Coach K turning to his bench if the Blue Devils get into foul trouble, something that plagued them during the season.

Mercer, which as won 77 games over its last three season, has won 21 of 25 straight-up while Duke is mired in a 1-7 ATS slide right now and 3-6 ATS in the Round of 64.

4♦ DUKE


My second free play for Friday is on the Over in the Nebraska-Baylor clash.

I thought I would be telling you how this is the best matchup of the Round of 64, but after yesterday, I dion't know if I can get away with such a comment. But make no bones about it, this is a great game that will see some big firework. We have the athletic Bears against a Nebraska team that has actually become one of the better resurgent stories in college basketball.

Baylor is going to be out to redeem itself after losing to Iowa State in the Big 12 final, and comes into this one on an impressive win streak of 9-2 straight-up. The Bears boast the conference's No. 1 shooter from long-range in senior guard Brady Heslip, who also ranks 18th in the nation with 3.09 per game. He will lead an offense that is getting more than 50 points per game by the starters alone.

But speaking of redemption, how about the Cornhuskers' collapse in the Big Ten tourney to Ohio State, who is already back in Columbus pouting about yesterday's loss to Dayton. Since opening league play 0-4, the Cornhuskers won 11 of 14 to close the regular season respectably in conference action, including wins over Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin. This team can points up, and knows how to win.

I am looking for a much bigger shootout than the oddsmakers. Play this one high.

4♦ Nebraska/Baylor OVER

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