Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

DUNKEL INDEX

NBA

Washington at Portland
The Wizards head to Portland tonight with an 0-4 ATS record in their last 4 road games. Portland is the pick (-4 1/2) according to Dunkel, which has the Blazers favored by 6 1/2. Dunkel Pick: Portland (-4 1/2)

Game 701-702: Oklahoma City at Cleveland (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Oklahoma City 121.209; Cleveland 117.751
Dunkel Line & Total: Oklahoma City by 3 1/2; 193
Vegas Line & Total: Oklahoma City by 9 1/2; 200 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Cleveland (+9 1/2); Under

Game 703-704: Minnesota at Houston (8:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Minnesota 116.113; Houston 126.446
Dunkel Line & Total: Houston by 10 1/2; 210
Vegas Line & Total: Houston by 8; 213 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Houston (-8); Under

Game 705-706: Washington at Portland (10:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Washington 116.099; Portland 122.673
Dunkel Line & Total: Portland by 6 1/2; 202
Vegas Line & Total: Portland by 4 1/2; 206
Dunkel Pick: Portland (-4 1/2); Under

Game 707-708: Milwaukee at Golden State (10:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Milwaukee 110.692; Golden State 121.314
Dunkel Line & Total: Golden State by 10 1/2; 214
Vegas Line & Total: Golden State by 14; 204 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Milwaukee (+14); Over

NHL

Washington at Los Angeles
The Capitals head to Los Angeles tonight to face a Kings team that is 3-7 in its last 10 games versus Eastern Conference opponents. Washington is the pick (+160) according to Dunkel, which has the Capitals favored by 1. Dunkel Pick: Washington (+160)

Game 1-2: Dallas at Philadelphia (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Dallas 12.078; Philadelphia 11.214
Dunkel Line & Total: Dallas by 1; 5
Vegas Line & Total: Philadelphia (-160); 5 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Dallas (+140); Under

Game 3-4: Minnesota at New Jersey (7:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Minnesota 10.134; New Jersey 11.675
Dunkel Line & Total: New Jersey by 1 1/2; 6
Vegas Line & Total: New Jersey (-130); 5
Dunkel Pick: New Jersey (-130); Over

Game 5-6: Columbus at Montreal (7:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Columbus 11.810; Montreal 10.761
Dunkel Line & Total: Columbus by 1; 5
Vegas Line & Total: Montreal (-140); 5 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Columbus (+120); Under

Game 7-8: Tampa Bay at Ottawa (7:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Tampa Bay 10.666; Ottawa 11.785
Dunkel Line & Total: Ottawa by 1; 6 1/2
Vegas Line & Total: Ottawa (-110); 5 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Ottawa (-110); Over

Game 9-10: Pittsburgh at Detroit (7:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Pittsburgh 12.762; Detroit 11.366
Dunkel Line & Total: Pittsburgh by 1 1/2; 5
Vegas Line & Total: Pittsburgh (-135); 5 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Pittsburgh (-135); Under

Game 11-12: Buffalo at Edmonton (9:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Buffalo 11.184; Edmonton 10.221
Dunkel Line & Total: Buffalo by 1; 6
Vegas Line & Total: Edmonton (-200); 5
Dunkel Pick: Buffalo (+170); Over

Game 13-14: Florida at Phoenix (10:00 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Florida 10.382; Phoenix 11.779
Dunkel Line & Total: Phoenix by 1 1/2; 4 1/2
Vegas Line & Total: Phoenix (-200); 5 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Phoenix (-200); Under

Game 15-16: Washington at Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Washington 11.785; Los Angeles 10.660
Dunkel Line & Total: Washington by 1; 6
Vegas Line & Total: Los Angeles (-180); 5
Dunkel Pick: Washington (+160); Over

Game 17-18: Anaheim at San Jose (10:30 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Anaheim 12.625; San Jose 11.553
Dunkel Line & Total: Anaheim by 1; 6 1/2
Vegas Line & Total: San Jose (-145); 5 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Anaheim (+125); Over

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

DUNKEL INDEX

NCAAB

North Dakota State vs. Oklahoma
The No. 12 seeded Bison come into their game against No. 5 seed Oklahoma with a 10-3 ATS record in their last 13 neutral site games. North Dakota State is the pick (+4) according to Dunkel, which has the Sooners favored by only 1 1/2. Dunkel Pick: North Dakota State (+4)

Game 709-710: Dayton vs. Ohio State (12:15 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Dayton 63.934; Ohio State 67.658
Dunkel Line: Ohio State by 3 1/2; 137
Vegas Line: Ohio State by 6; 131 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Dayton (+6); Over

Game 711-712: Western Michigan vs. Syracuse (2:45 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Western Michigan 55.991; Syracuse 70.805
Dunkel Line: Syracuse by 15; 121
Vegas Line: Syracuse by 12 1/2; 128
Dunkel Pick: Syracuse (-12 1/2); Under

Game 713-714: St. Joseph's vs. Connecticut (6:55 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: St. Joseph's 65.307; Connecticut 66.702
Dunkel Line: Connecticut by 1 1/2; 125
Vegas Line: Connecticut by 4 1/2; 130
Dunkel Pick: St. Joseph's (+4 1/2); Under

Game 715-716: WI-Milwaukee vs. Villanova (9:25 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: WI-Milwaukee 50.016; Villanova 73.492
Dunkel Line: Villanova by 23 1/2; 144
Vegas Line: Villanova by 16; 140 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Villanova (-16); Over

Game 719-720: Pittsburgh vs. Colorado (1:40 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Pittsburgh 69.871; Colorado 61.781
Dunkel Line: Pittsburgh by 8; 133
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh by 5 1/2; 128 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Pittsburgh (-5 1/2); Over

Game 723-724: Manhattan vs. Louisville (9:50 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Manhattan 63.468; Louisville 76.569
Dunkel Line: Louisville by 13; 139
Vegas Line: Louisville by 16; 143
Dunkel Pick: Manhattan (+16); Under

Game 725-726: BYU vs. Oregon (3:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: BYU 63.606; Oregon 71.611
Dunkel Line: Oregon by 8; 162
Vegas Line: Oregon by 5; 158 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Oregon (-5); Over

Game 727-728: American vs. Wisconsin (12:40 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: American 52.300; Wisconsin 72.799
Dunkel Line: Wisconsin by 20 1/2; 128
Vegas Line: Wisconsin by 13; 122 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Wisconsin (-13); Over

Game 729-730: Arizona State vs. Texas (9:40 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Arizona State 67.413; Texas 64.675
Dunkel Line: Arizona State by 3; 147
Vegas Line: Texas by 2; 141 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Arizona State (+2); Over

Game 731-732: Wofford vs. Michigan (7:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Wofford 54.631; Michigan 68.193
Dunkel Line: Michigan by 13 1/2; 119
Vegas Line: Michigan by 16; 126
Dunkel Pick: Wofford (+16); Under

Game 733-734: Harvard vs. Cincinnati (2:10 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Harvard 65.925; Cincinnati 66.883
Dunkel Line: Cincinnati by 1; 117
Vegas Line: Cincinnati by 3; 122 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Harvard (+3); Under

Game 735-736: Delaware vs. Michigan State (4:40 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: Delaware 56.733; Michigan State 68.342
Dunkel Line: Michigan State by 11 1/2; 142
Vegas Line: Michigan State by 14; 149 1/2
Dunkel Pick: Delaware (+14); Under

Game 737-738: North Dakota State vs. Oklahoma (7:27 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: North Dakota State 66.353; Oklahoma 67.846
Dunkel Line: Oklahoma by 1 1/2; 153
Vegas Line: Oklahoma by 4; 150
Dunkel Pick: North Dakota State (+4); Over

Game 739-740: New Mexico State vs. San Diego State (9:57 p.m. EST)
Dunkel Ratings: New Mexico State 61.174; San Diego State 65.509
Dunkel Line: San Diego State by 4 1/2; 134
Vegas Line: San Diego State by 7 1/2; 128
Dunkel Pick: New Mexico State (+7 1/2); Over

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Jimmy Boyd

Kentucky -5

I don't feel like Kansas State is worthy of a tournament appearance. The Wildcats gained a huge benefit from playing at home, but they never managed to do anything when playing on the road or a neutral court. Kansas State finished the year with a 5-10 record away from home. The Wildcats also suffered six double-digit losses this season. Kentucky is a very good team with a lot of scoring potential and I expect them to make easy work of K-State in this matchup.

Kansas State did not fair well against the spread when playing good shooting teams. In fact, over the last two seasons the Wildcats are 5-13 ATS in road or neutral court games when facing a team that makes 45 percent or more of their shot attempts. The Wildcats are also 10-24 ATS over the last three seasons when facing a team that is outrebounding opponents by four or more per game. Kentucky is +10 in rebounding margin this year which ranks second in the country.

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Bryan PowerFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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North Dakota State vs. OklahomaFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Pick: North Dakota StateFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This has become a very trendy pick in upset circles & for good reason. Not only is it the dreaded 5-12 matchup, but the underdog matches up pretty well...
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The Bison of North Dakota State rolled through the Summit League, going 12-2 in the regular season.  They only needed to win twice in the conference tourney to get here, but while the Final was close, the bottom line is that this is a team that hasn't lost since a four-point loss to Denver on February 1st. That's nine straight wins if you're counting at home and 14 of the last 15 for the top shooting team in the country that brings plenty of experience into the NCAA Tournament.
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Oklahoma is overseeded, plain and simple.  They were one and done in the Big 12 Tournament, losing to Baylor and it's telling they were only one-point favorites when the line closed.  The fact they allow 75.9 PPG does them no favors here against an opponent that ranks in the Top 25 in offensive efficiency.  The Sooners force a turnover on only 17.7 percent of opponents' possessions and aren't particularly good at defending the three either.
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The player to keep an eye on for NDSU is Taylor Braun, who leads the team in scoring at 18 PPG and went over 20 points ten times. The Bison have more than 500 starts among the current roster and have balance. Look for another 12-5 upset.

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Sports WatchFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Ohio State -6FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Dayton’s leading scorer Jordan Sibert is actually an Ohio State transfer, and the Flyer’s head coach Archie Miller was once a Buckeye assistant. The key to this game will be the senior leadership and will to win from Buckeyes guard Aaron Craft. When he is on and providing some sort of a scoring threat, the Buckeyes are tough. When Craft scores in double figures, the Buckeyes are 14-2. When he doesn’t they are a pedestrian 11-7. It seems unlikely that Craft’s grittiness will not manufacture at least one Buckeye win in this year’s Dance- TAKE OHIO STATE AND LAY THE POINTS.
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Western Michigan +12.5FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Two teams that have issues putting the ball in the basket meet in this second round matchup. Syracuse was cruising at 25-0 but have come back down to Earth the past three weeks and have failed to shoot at least 40 percent from the field in seven of their last eight games. CJ Fair and guard Trevor Cooney are both struggling, and need to again find their shooting touch for the Orange to avoid a first round upset. The Broncos will rely on more of a post game from their center Shayne Whittington, which will be even more difficult against Syracuse’s matchup zone. Western Michigan is not a great shooting team from the perimeter, which is a recipe for disaster against the Syracuse defense. Expect a grind it out type of game, with Syracuse squeaking by.- TAKE WESTERN MICHIGAN AND THE POINTS.
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St.Joseph’s +4.5FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This has the potential to be an offensive shootout. For Connecticut, it’s all about guard Shabazz Napier. He does everything for the Huskies but sell the popcorn and programs. He’s one of the best guards in the country, and if he is on, UConn can beat anyone, as evidenced by their victory over Florida this year. Unfortunately, Connecticut has a tendency to stand around and watch Napier operate, and when that happens, the offense gets stagnant. Stanford neutralized Napier in the second half of their game against Connecticut, and subsequently left with a road victory because no one else stepped up to take on the offensive load. If that happens on Thursday, the Huskies will be going home early. St. Joseph’s is much more offensively balanced, and the emergence of another scoring threat in Halil Kanacevic could be the difference.- TAKE ST.JOSEPH’S AND THE POINTS.
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Villanova -16FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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When Villanova eclipses 70 points the last two years, they are 24-1. Thus the task for the Panthers will be to shut down the Wildcat’s offensive juggernaut. This will be easier said than done. Villanova has played just one game in two weeks, and could be a bit rusty against the Panthers, who won four games in four days last week to capture the Horizon conference tournament crown. The Wildcats have distinctive athletic and talent advantage, and will run away with this game in the second half. TAKE VILLANOVA AND LAY THE POINTS.
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Pittsburgh -5.5FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Buffaloes made school history by making their third consecutive tournament, but the absence of Spencer Dinwiddie is going to be more glaring this next two weeks than at any time during the year. With him, the Buffs are a legitimate Sweet 16 team. Without him, they seemed destined for an early exit. They draw a first round matchup against Pitt, who have a balanced offense highlighted by a lethal frontcourt duo in Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. That frontcourt combination will overpower Colorado and keep the Panthers playing into the weekend. TAKE PITTSBURGH AND LAY THE POINTS.
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Louisville -16.5FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Cardinals are on a roll.  They blew out their three opponents in the conference  tournament by a total of 70 points. They play outstanding basketball on both ends of the court as they shoot 47.4% from the field and give up just 39.4% from the field. They are vastly under-seeded and have the talent of a legitimate #1 seed. Expect this to be one of the bigger blowouts on Thursday. TAKE LOUISVILLE AND LAY THE POINTS.
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Oregon -5.5FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Ducks can do some damage this year. They have an incredible set of guards, and Mike Moser is a beast. When they are running on all cylinders, they are tough to beat, as evidenced by their recent eight game winning streak. They face a BYU team that will be without one of their leading scorers in Kyle Collinsworth. Both teams average over 80 points a game, so expect a track meet, with the Ducks athleticism, guard play and free throw shooting winning out in the end. TAKE THE DUCKS AND LAY THE POINTS.
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American +13FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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As a reward for their high seed, the Badgers get to play a virtual home game against American Thursday in nearby Milwaukee. The game pits a very stingy American defense against a balanced Badger offensive attack that lives and dies by the three. That could pose to be an issue against the Eagle’s stifling 1-3-1 defense that is geared towards negating a team’s long range game. Expect a close game in the first half, with the Badgers eventually getting by. TAKE AMERICAN AND THE POINTS.
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Texas -1.5FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Guard Jahii Carson leads the Sun Devils into their first NCAA Tournament appearance in five years against the Texas Longhorns. This matchup is a contrast of styles.  The Longhorns don’t shoot the ball really well but are a strong rebounding team. Conversely, Arizona State is a very solid three point shooting team, but is a brutal rebounding squad. The Devils limp into this tournament after losing three straight, and have been abysmal away from Tempe. Unless the Sun Devils have an answer for Jonathan Holmes, it will be a long night. TAKE TEXAS AND LAY THE POINTS.
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Wofford +16FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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One of the best offensive teams in the Wolverines take on an underrated defensive squad in Wofford. The Terriers also are very efficient from three point land, and if they can hit their shots from beyond the arc, they can keep this game close. The Wolverines, led by Nic Stauskas, have a huge talent advantage and should pull away in the second half. Look for a 12-14 point win for Michigan. TAKE WOFFORD AND THE POINTS.
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Cincinnati -2.5FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Crimson come in eyeing their second consecutive upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament while the Bearcats have lost four of their last eight games. Both teams play hard-nosed defense, and this will come down to the best player on the floor being able to take the game into his hands. That player is Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, who will do just enough to push the Bearcats into the third round on Saturday. TAKE CINCINNATI AND LAY THE POINTS.
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Michigan State -14FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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In order to keep this game close,  Delaware is going to need to make this game an all out track meet,  because they won’t be able to score efficiently against Michigan State’s halfcourt defense. Every player who has every played for coach Tom Izzo  has made at least one Final Four, as long as they stayed four years. Current seniors Adreian Payne and Keith Appling have not made one, and this is their last chance. Izzo’s teams are always tough come March, and the Spartans will roll comfortably in their opening game on Thursday. TAKE MICHIGAN STATE AND LAY THE POINTS.
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North Dakota State +3.5FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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This one could get interesting. North Dakota State is a senior laden team littered with inside and outside scoring options. They are very tough to defend being so multi-faceted, and also defend fairly well. The Sooners are young, talented and rely heavily on jump shots. Something has to give. The X Factor is North Dakota State’s Taylor Braun. He is Mr. All-Everything for the Bison, and by Thursday night, after this 5-12 upset, all of America will know his name. TAKE NORTH DAKOTA STATE AND  THE POINTS.
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San Diego State -7.5FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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The Aztecs have one of the better defensive units in the nation, and it will be on display Thursday night against a pesky Aggies team that won the WAC Conference Tournament Saturday night. Mountain West Player of the Year Xavier Thames got into foul trouble and never hit a groove in the loss to New Mexico. The Aggies will struggle to muster 50 points against San Diego State. TAKE SAN DIEGO STATE AND LAY THE POINTS.

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American +14.5FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Wisconsin plays good defense and a slow methodical style. The snails pace that American likes to play at makes the Badgers look like Paul Westhead's Loyola Marymount teams. Actually, snails resent being called as slow as American's preferred tempo. A slow game with every possession milking the clock makes the points a premium by itself but there's considerable upside with American. They're coached by Mike Brennan who has a nice pedigree as an assistant (AU, Georgetown, Princeton) and has installed a Princeton style offense. He brought some assistants up Wisconsin Avenue from Georgetown and the result is a well coached, defensively solid team that doesn't beat itself. They shoot well from the field and the infamous Princeton back door cuts could be the antidote for a Wisconsin defensive set based on sound perimeter protection. Wisconsin dropped four of their last five against the spread which could suggest that they're somewhat overvalued heading into NCAA play. A slow tempo, a tough tactical matchup and a ton of points has me on the AU Eagles.

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Tony KarpinskiFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Manhattan vs. LouisvilleFOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
Play: Louisville -16FOR FREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Manhattan has had some issues at times getting defensive boards, they will need to play big to avoid 2nd chance opportunities for Louisville. Louisville coming in off some great wins lately, they have been playing on all 4 cylinders. And as keyed in, Louisville is great getting 2nd chance opportunities, with great hands around the offensive glass. This is a team that is up for the task. They match-up hard vs whoever they play, and I expect Louisville, with a chip on their shoulder to blow it open fast. Louisville by 22

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Tony George

NC State +3

The play in game showed that NC State is not taking their inclusion to the big dance lightly. NC State is a capable team who are battle tested in the stacked ACC Conference and they are a catching a well-rested, but in my opinion wounded in spirit, St Louis team who got beat in their conference tourney by St Bonnies of all people. As a matter of fact the last 3 good teams SLU played they got beat, 2 of them tourney teams in VCU and Dayton.

NC State has the best player on the floor in TJ Warren and he can light it up. St Louis has fallen from grace, losing 4 out of their last 5 games SU and ATS, and they have only covered 1 game in their last 10 against the number. A difference in strength of schedule, conference strength and depth in talent all favor the Wolfpack who just dismantled Xavier by 15 points in their play ion game while St Louis has no momentum and have been sitting around a week wondering what happened to the dream season. NC State shoots the ball better than SLU, and hit 3 pointers better, and also have been deadly as a team their last 5 games from the free throw line hitting almost 80%, which is crucial in March Madness. Wrong team favored in my opinion.

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Carlo Campanella

Dayton vs. Ohio State    
Play: Dayton +6

Ohio State has been one of the most over-rated teams in College Basketball for the latter part of this season due to the public's perception that they're a top-level school in all major sports, mainly to their play on the football field. This forced the Oddsmakers to inflate the line on their basketball games, which can be seen as 25-9 SU Ohio State also owns a money burning 15-18 ATS record, including an 0-6 ATS losing skid during the Big Ten Conference Tourney. On Thursday they face the lesser known instate college of Dayton, who quietly enters March Madness at 23-10 SU. They'll play on a neutral court in Buffalo, New York with Ohio State favored. MUST TAKE the points here knowing that OSU is a horrible 3-7 ATS as Favorites away from their home court this season. With Dayton winning 10 of their last 12 games, expect them to keep their first Tourney game close as they're 9-2 ATS on the road against Non-Conference opponents since last year.

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Dr Bob

Pittsburgh (-6) over Colorado

Neither of these teams was as good in the second half of the season, as Pitt struggled after 6th man Durand Johnson was lost for the season after 16 games and Colorado really fell off after star Spencer Dinwiddie was lost for the season to injury early in their January 12th game at Washington. The Buffs were 14-2 and deserving of being highly ranked at the time but they’re just 9-9 since with their best win coming against Stanford. Most of Colorado’s wins without Dinwiddie were against teams that failed to make the NCAA Tournament and the Buffs really struggled against superior teams without Dinwiddie – losing by an average of 18 points in 5 games against UCLA and Arizona. Pitt is not quite UCLA and Arizona but the Panthers are better than the rest of the teams in Pac-12 and my ratings favor Pitt by 6.7 points in this game (with a total of 124½ points). The line value isn’t that significant but I like the match up of Pitt’s good interior defense against a Colorado team that can’t make outside shots (just 30.8% on 3-pointers as a team without Dinwiddie’s 41%). I also like that Pitt applies to a 63-16 ATS first round situation and the Panthers generally beat the teams that they’re supposed to beat. In fact, the Panthers are just 1-8 against teams that are ranked in my top 40 and 24-1 straight against everyone else. If the win straight up they are likely to cover too and I’ll take Pittsburgh in a 3-Star Best Bet at -6 points or less and for

Florida (-21½) over Albany

Albany earned the right to get destroyed by Florida with their Tuesday night win over Mount St. Mary’s but the Great Danes will be overwhelmed by Florida’s defense. Albany is a pretty solid defensive team (they rank in the top half of the nation in compensated points per possession allowed) but the Great Danes are horrible offensively (228th in compensated offensive efficiency) and were relatively worse offensively against the better defensive teams that they faced. Albany is simply too careless with the basketball (273rd in offensive turnover percentage) to function against the Gators, who rank 14th in defensive turnovers forced percentage. Albany didn’t face a team nearly as good defensive as Florida but their games against better than average defensive teams Pitt and Vermont, who they faced 3 times, were mostly ugly offensive efforts, as the Danes combined for just 35.2% shooting in those 4 games. Albany managed to stay within 12 points of Pitt because the Panthers had a bad shooting night (1 for 10 from 3-point range and 56% from the free throw line) but my ratings favor Florida by 22 ½ points in this game (with a total of 115 ½ points), even with the slow expected pace factored in, and the Gators apply to a very good 60-18-1 ATS NCAA Tournament situation. Also, #1 seeds coming off a conference tournament win are 16-5 ATS in round 1 when favored by 24 points or less. The fact that the Gators almost blew their lead against Kentucky should give coach Donovan something to motivate his team with and playing in nearby Orlando should ensure that there will be plenty of Gators’ fans spurring their team on (Florida is 6-1 ATS under Donovan when playing an NCAA game in the state of Florida). I also like that Florida has a history of beating the crap out of bad teams in the opening round, as the Gators are 4-0 ATS under Donovan in first round games when favored by more than 12 points, winning those by margins of 30 points, 43 points, 28 points, and 32 points. I’ll take Florida in a 2-Star Best Bet at -23 points or less and as 3-Star Best Bet at -21 or less. I will also lean Under, as my ratings project only 115½ total points.

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 7½ 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).

Ohio State (-6) vs Dayton

This comes down to a battle of Dayton’s efficient offense against Ohio State’s stifling defense, which ranks 4th in the nation in compensated points per possession. Dayton was relatively better against better offensively against better defensive teams and the Buckeyes’ relative strength defensively is 3-point defense while they are good, but not great, defending inside the arc (45.7% allowed on 2-point shots). Dayton doesn’t depend on 3-point shots, as they take a bit less than an average team, so the Flyers should perform relatively better offensively than expected. On the other side of the court Ohio State’s mediocre offense is going up against an equally mediocre defense and I don’t see any advantage to either side. Overall I assign a match up edge of 0.4 points to the Flyers my ratings favor Ohio State by 5.2 points (with a total of 129 ½ points). The line opened at 5½ points and has gone up but there isn’t enough value to recommend even a lean on the Flyers and Ohio State was close to qualifying in a pretty good round 1 situation. I’ll pass.

Syracuse (-13) over Western Michigan

Syracuse hasn’t been playing well lately, going just 1-7 ATS in their last 8 games, while Western Michigan is a pretty confident team after winning 12 of their last 13 games and pulling off two upset wins in the MAC tournament to get here. Western Michigan fits into the just happy to be here mold and the Broncos apply to a negative 2-28-2 ATS subset of a 17-52-2 ATS NCAA Tournament first round letdown situation. Syracuse, meanwhile, is likely to be more focused than normal given their recent struggles and the matchup is favorable given how much trouble the Broncos have had against really good defensive teams this season. Western Michigan has played 6 games against teams that rank in the top-50 in compensated defensive points per possession (Northwestern, Bowling Green, 2 games against Eastern Michigan and 2 games against Northern Illinois). In those 6 games the Broncos’ compensated offensive efficiency was 0.076 points per possession lower, so they were much worse on a relative basis against good defensive teams. Syracuse has a bit of an edge playing in their home state but adding that in with the match up advantage gives me a fair line of 12.3 points (and 124.5 total points). The line opened at 12½ and has gone up a bit but I’ll lean with Syracuse minus the points and I’ll lean Under the 128 point total.

Connecticut (-4½) vs St. Joseph’s

Connecticut is one of the nation’s best defensive teams (11th in compensated defensive efficiency) but St. Joseph’s has a well-rounded offense and has an advantage of the Huskies’ defense from beyond the arc. Connecticut actually has a bigger advantage over the Hawks defense from 3-point range but the Huskies rank 203rd in the nation in 2-point shooting. This game will come down to which team is knocking down their 3-point shots and my ratings favor U Conn by just 3 points, so the line value favors the Hawks. However, The Huskies apply to a 43-11-1 ATS first round situation. With the line value favoring St. Joe’s and the situation favoring U Conn I am going to pass on this game at this number but I’d lean with Connecticut at -4 points or less. My math only projects 128.1 total points and Connecticut has gone Under the total in 9 straight and 13 of their last 14 games, so I’ll lean Under 130 points or higher.

Villanova (-16½) over Milwaukee

Villanova mostly beat up on lesser teams this season, recording a very good 14-2 ATS record as a favorite of 9 points or more. The only one of those games the Wildcats lost straight up was against Seton Hall in their opening Big East Tournament game and I expect that slap in the face to wake up Nova and have them ready for this first round match up against a very mediocre Milwaukee team. Milwaukee is actually a bit better than their overall rating, as top scorer Jordan Aaron was injured during a late season 5 game stretch, in which he missed 4 games and played hurt in the other. The result was a 1-4 record but the Aaron returned from the final regular season game and played well in 3 subsequent conference tournament victories to get them to this point. Milwaukee beat #1 seeded Green Bay twice but the only really good team that Panthers faced was Wisconsin and the result was a 26 point loss. Milwaukee’s recent good play sets them up in a negative 2-28-2 ATS subset of a 17-52-2 ATS first round letdown situation and Villanova’s loss to Seton Hall should have them focused for this game. Milwaukee actually has a slight matchup advantage because Villanova is ranked in the top 10 in most 3-point shots taken while Milwaukee is much better defending the 3-point arc (49th in the nation) than they are defending inside the arc (232nd in 2-point defense). Milwaukee also takes a lot of 3-point shots and Villanova is 233rd in 3-point defense (35.4% allowed) while being very good against 2-point shots (43.4% allowed, which is 19th in the nation). Villanova’s great 2-point defensive is relatively less valuable against a team that takes a lot of 3-point shots but I’ve included the matchup advantage into my ratings and I still get Nova by 16 points. The situation is certainly favorable and Nova generally beats up on bad teams, so I’ll consider Villanova a Strong Opinion at -17 points or less and I’ll lean slightly with the Under (The total is 140 points and I get 138.5).

St. Louis (-3) over NC State

NC State has been playing well lately and the Wolfpack have the best player on the floor in ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren. The Billikens, meanwhile, have been slumping lately, losing 4 of their last 5 games. But, while being grossly over-seeded St. Louis is still better than NC State if both teams play their normal game. However, this matchup works in NC State’s favor, as the strength of a very good St. Louis defense (8th in the nation in compensated points per possession) is their 3rd ranked 3-point defense (29.1% allowed). That’s not going to bother NC State that much since the Wolfpack don’t take many 3-pointers, as they rank 331st out of 351 teams in percentage of shots taken that are 3-point shots. So, St. Louis’s defense, while still very good, will not be relatively as good against NC State’s offense. My ratings, with the matchup adjustment included, favor St. Louis by 2 points (with a total of 133½ points), so there isn’t much value in this game. I’d lean with NC State at +3½ or more.

Manhattan (+16½) over Louisville

Manhattan doesn’t necessarily match up well with Louisville offensively, as the Jaspers are worse than average when it comes to turning the ball over and the Cardinals thrive on causing miscues (#2 in the nation in defensive turnovers). However, Louisville was relatively worse against better defensive teams and Manhattan ranks 22nd in the nation in compensated points per possession allowed when their top two defensive players (and top two scorers) George Beamon and Michael Alvarado are both playing. Manhattan plays a physical style of defense that leads to a lot of fouls and a lot of free throws taken by their opponents (their opponents attempted more free throws than field goals this season). That’s actually a good thing against a Louisville team that ranks 304th in the nation in free throw shooting at 65.9%. Overall the matchups are about even and my ratings favor Louisville by just 15 points (with a total of 145 points). The line opened at 15 ½ and has gone up and Louisville applies to a negative 26-53-2 ATS first round letdown based on winning their conference tournament. Manhattan won their conference tournament too and both teams enter this tournament after winning and covering all 3 games in their respective conference tournament. That favors Manhattan historically too, as NCAA Tournament dogs of 8 points or more are 12-1 ATS if both teams have covered the spread in 3 or more consecutive games. The thing holding me back is Louisville’s 15-7 ATS mark this season as favorite of 12 points or more. I’ll still lean with Manhattan plus the points and I’ll consider the Jaspers a Strong Opinion at +17 or more.

BYU (+5½) vs Oregon

BYU and Oregon played earlier this in a 100-96 Ducks’ overtime win in Eugene and this should be another fun game to watch. My ratings only favor Oregon by 3½ points and the question is how much is the loss of BYU’s #2 scorer Kyle Collinsworth going to cost them? Collinsworth’s scoring efficiency is actually a negative compared to the rest of the team because of his horrible free throw shooting (57.6%) and he also leads the team in turnovers with 2.6 per game. On the positive side of Collinsworth’s stat line is his 4.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game, which will be tough to replace. Overall I value Collinsworth at 1 point and I favor Oregon by 4 ½ points in this game. As far as the total is concerned the math projects 166 ½ total points and these teams combined for 168 points in regulation in their first meeting despite combining for just 33.3% 3-point shooting. BYU is historically bad as an underdog (just 23-39-2 ATS under coach Dave Rose) and the Cougars are 0-10 straight up against teams seeded #9 or better in NCAA Tournament play. I have no opinion on the side but I’ll lean Over the total, which has gone down to 158 points.

Wisconsin (-13½) vs American

American is the best of the 15 seeds in this tournament and they’re a very good shooting team when they are able to get off a shot before turning the ball over. You see, the Eagles rank very highly in field goal percentage at 49.4% but they are 342nd out of 351 Division 1 teams in offensive turnover percentage. Their first round match up with Wisconsin is actually perfect since the Badgers don’t use defensive pressure and rank 322nd in defensive turnover percentage while not being particularly good in field goal defense (43.2% is good but not great). If American doesn’t commit unforced turnovers and they knock down a good percentage of their 3-point shots (they shoot 38.2% from long range and Wisconsin is just average in 3-point defense) then the Eagles could soar to an upset win. However, Wisconsin applies to a 90-37-4 ATS first round situation that certainly had me interested in siding with them despite the good match up for American. However, my ratings only favor the Badgers by 12 ½ points (and 123 total points) so the line value also favors the Eagles. While the match up and line value favor American the situation favors Wisconsin, which makes this a good game to pass on unless the line comes down. But, I’ll lean with Wisconsin at -13½ or less.

Texas (-2) vs Arizona State

Texas is perhaps the worst shooting team of any at large entry into this tournament, as the Longhorns have made just 43.1% of their shots and only 32.4% from 3-point range this season. Fortunately, the Longhorns rebound 39.4% of their missed shots, which ranks 6th in the nation. Aside from offensive rebounding the Longhorns excel in defending the rim, as they rank 7th in blocked shot percentage and 15th in defending 2-point shots. However, having a great interior defense is relatively less important against a good 3-point shooting team like Arizona State, who knocks down 38.6% from beyond the arc. ASU, however, is not a good rebounding team, so the Longhorns should control the glass and the Sun Devils were relatively worse this season against better teams. That has been taken into account, however, as my tournament ratings, which put more weight on games against better teams and diminish the affect of blowouts against lesser teams, favors Texas by only 1 point (with 144½ total points). There are a few conflicting situations that apply to this game that slightly favor the Longhorns so this game is best left alone, although I will lean towards the Over 142 points or less.

Michigan (-16) vs Wofford

The Southern Conference is a horrible, as only regular season champion Davidson ranks in the top half of my Division 1 rankings. Wofford hasn’t beaten a team ranked in the top 200 in the nation and they lost their 5 games to teams ranked in the top 100 by an average of 18.4 points. Wofford is actually a decent defensive team but their compensated offensive efficiency is horrible and they’ll have to make a lot of 3-pointers (they shoot a better than average 35.9% from beyond the arc) to stay close. However, facing another slow tempo team like Michigan will help keep this game close because there will be fewer possessions for the Wolverines to stretch out the lead. In this case, the difference in tempo from an average game is worth 1.7 points but my ratings still favor Michigan by 16 points in this game (with a total of 126 points). The Wolverines apply to a 30-7-3 ATS first round situation and I’ll consider Michigan a Strong Opinion at -16 or less and a lean at -16½.

Harvard (+3) over Cincinnati

Harvard upset #3 seeded New Mexico in the first round last season as a 14th seed and this year’s Crimson are ranked a bit higher in my ratings. Harvard is a well balanced team that is good on both sides of the ball. Last year the Crimson had a perfect draw against a New Mexico team that ranked 215th in the nation in 3-point defense. Cincinnati defends well all over the court and their 31.9% 3-point defense should keep Harvard from going nuts from the outside. However, Harvard is a good defensive team (30th in compensated points per possession allowed) and Cincinnati can struggle offensively because of their bad shooting (243rd in effective field goal percentage). I think Harvard is a bit underrated and my ratings favor the Bearcats by just ½ a point. I’ll lean with Harvard at +2 points or higher and I have no opinion on the total (I project 123½ points, which is too close to the actual line).

Delaware (+14) over Michigan State

Delaware is no pushover, as the Blue Hens have a guard oriented team that doesn’t make mistakes (4th in the nation in fewest offensive turnovers per possession) and have 3 players averaging 18 points per game or more (all guards). Delaware has faced two NCAA caliber teams in Villanova and Ohio State and they lost those two games on the road by an average of just 8 points, so don’t be surprised if the Hens are competitive against the Spartans. Delaware struggled a bit near the end of their conference season but that was partially due to the absence of point guard Jarvis Threatt (18.1 points, 5.6 assists, and 2.6 steals per game) and big man Marvin King-Davis (first big man off the bench), who were both suspended for 9 games. Delaware has won 12 games in a row with Threatt running the show, so they’re a bit underrated. Michigan State had some key injuries this season too (4 starters missed a total of 23 games) and the Spartans were 12-5 when at least one of the starters was out and 14-3 in games with all 5 starters playing (losses to North Carolina, Illinois and Ohio State). Michigan State’s rating in those 17 games with all 5 starters playing is a couple of points better than their overall rating and would put them at #6 in my ratings. The adjustment seems to have been made for each team’s current form, as my ratings favor Michigan State by 13.7 points (with a total of 158 points) even after taking into account the high number of possessions that are likely in this game. The reason I like Delaware is a 41-105-3 ATS NCAA Tournament situation that applies to Michigan State and it certainly would be reasonable for the Spartans to relax against a lesser opponent after sweeping through the Big 10 tournament and beating rival Michigan to win the Championship. Delaware has proven that they can be competitive against very good teams but I’m still hesitant to pull the trigger on this game as a Best Bet. However, I’ll consider Delaware a Strong Opinion at +13 or more and I’ll lean with the Over.

North Dakota State (+3½) over Oklahoma

North Dakota State is a pretty good team with a future NBA player in Taylor Braun, a well-rounded player that shoots well (49% overall and 44% from 3-point range) and led his team in not only scoring (18.2 ppg) but rebounding, assists and steals. The offensively efficient Bison (20th in the nation in compensated offensive points per possession and 4th in the nation in 2-point shooting percentage) should be able to score the basketball but they’ll have trouble defending a good offensive team the Oklahoma, whose habit of taking and making 3-point shots (37.9%) works well against a Bison squad that ranks 309th in the nation defending the 3-point arc (37.5% allowed). North Dakota State’s most impressive win was at Notre Dame, which really isn’t that impressive, and the Bison were 0-3 against teams better than the Irish – losing by 13 at St. Mary’s and at home to Southern Miss (two teams that didn’t make the NCAA Tournament) while losing by 17 at Ohio State, the only NCAA Tournament caliber team that they faced. My ratings favor Oklahoma by 4.2 points (with a total of 153 points) and the favorable matchup for Oklahoma is more than negated by a 43-11-1 ATS situation that favors NDSU and an 11-30 ATS situation that applies to Oklahoma that is based on their early exit from the Big 12 tournament (a loss to Baylor in their first tournament game. I’ll lean with North Dakota State plus the points and I’ll lean Over the 150½ point total.

San Diego State (-7) vs New Mexico State

I was hoping the line on this game would be lower because I have a lot of good first round situations that favor San Diego State. The Aztecs apply to a 61-17-2 ATS situation and a 40-11-2 ATS situation and the record is 6-1 ATS when both angles apply to the same game. Unfortunately, I think the line is too high. The match up really doesn’t favor either team in the half court, as both teams rely heavily on their inside game and both teams defend the interior very well. New Mexico State did win by 6 points on the road against a New Mexico team with very similar characteristics to the Aztecs but they also lost by 9 at home to the Lobos while losing by 12 at Gonzaga and by 26 points at Arizona. San Diego State also lost to New Mexico. In fact, two of the Aztecs’ 4 losses were to New Mexico, whose great interior defense (4th in the nation in 2-point percentage allowed) matches up well against San Diego State. New Mexico State defends the rim well too with the tallest team in the nation. The Aggies have 7’5 Sim Bhullar swatting 3.4 shots per game and the Aggies have two 6’10 players that also defend well. Bhullare missed a stretch of games in the middle of the season and the Aggies weren’t as good without him, so they’re a bit underrated. My ratings only favor the Aztecs by 5.7 points (with a total of 127 ½ points) the situations favoring San Diego State are so good that I’ll lean with San Diego State at -7 or less.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Sean Higgs

Arizona State vs. Texas    
Play: Arizona State +2

I like the guard play of the Sun Devils here. They are going to hoist up a bunch of 3s, and I think they are making more than they miss (38% on the year). I also like their big 7 footer in the middle. ASU will have to crash the boards a little more on defense so Texas doesn't get too many easy second looks. Not selling the PAC 12 short here. Taking ARIZONA STATE as a small dog and Be A Winner.

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Freddy Wills

North Dakota State vs. Oklahoma    
Play: North Dakota State +3

There is not much to know about North Dakota State, but it is odd to see them as only 3 point under dogs against Oklahoma. The thing is North Dakota will have arguably the best player on the court in future NBA player Taylor Braun who leads his team in ppg, steals, rebounds and assists. ND State can score with Oklahoma and Oklahoma's 2 point defense should have some serious issues as they rank 175th while ND State rank 4th in 2point % at 56%. Oklahoma is also a team that defers to their shooting from beyond the arch which is always a huge risk after some time off. Oklahoma has had some bad losses this year and I think North Dakota State can win this game as they are 20-9 ATS in their last 29 non conference games.


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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Jim Feist

Bucks vs. Warriors    
Play: Under 204

Milwaukee is a long way from home with a bad offense, 28th in the NBA in points scored. Milwaukee was on a 4-1 run under the total until the last game, an OT loss at Portland. The under is 13-5-2 in the Bucks last 20 games vs. a team with a winning percentage above .600. Golden State is also off a game with plenty of points, but the under is 35-15-1 in the Warriors last 51 after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game. Golden State is a strong defensive team, 8th in the NBA in points allowed, third in the league in field goal shooting defense allowing .434% (only the Pacers and Bulls are better). Golden State is 12-3-2 under the total against the Eastern Conference, plus the under is 5-1-1 in the Warriors last 7 home games. Golden State has been a defensive-first team for a while, on a 19-7-2 run under the total, and when these teams meet the under is 5-2 in the last 7 meetings.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Dave Price

NC State +3

Saint Louis is struggling. The Billikens are 1-4 in their last five games, including 0-3 SU and ATS during this stretch as a favorite. They won and covered against New Mexico State in the round of 64 last season, but they also entered the tournament on a 15-1 run. While Saint Louis is cold, NC State has won five of its last six with a win at Pitt and neutral floor wins over Syracuse and Xavier during this span. The Wolfpack wasn't able to advance past the round of 64 last season so it will be incredibly motivated to do so this time around. The Wolfpack are 6-0 ATS in their last six games while the Billikens are 1-8 ATS in their last nine. NC State is 13-6 ATS as an underdog this season while Saint Louis is 8-17 ATS as a favorite this season. The Wolfpack are also on a 16-4 ATS run in neutral court games while the Billikens are 0-4 ATS in their last four neutral site games. NC State is 11-2 ATS as a neutral court underdog or pickem over the last three seasons, winning these games by an average score of 69.2 to 67.2. Take the points.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Tom Grassi

Western Michigan vs. Syracuse    
Play: Under 128

The #14 seeded MAC Tournament Champions Western Michigan go to Buffalo to take on #4 seeded Syracuse in a first round matchup in First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. The game goes at 2:45 pm with coverage being provided by CBS Sports.

The oddsmakers look for Syracuse to score an easy win as they have the Orangemen as 13-point betting favorites with a total of 128 points. The winner of this contest will move on to the second round to take on the winner of the Ohio State versus Dayton winner.

The Broncos cashed their ticket to the Big Dance with a convincing 98-77 win over Toledo in the MAC Championship final. It was a bit of a surprise as the Broncos were 3-point betting underdogs. That was their second straight tourney underdog winner beating Akron in their MAC Tournament opener 64-60 as 2-point puppies.

Syracuse comes into the tournament struggling having won only twice in their past seven games. Those five losses are their only five of the season as the ‘Cuse won their first 27 in a row. Syracuse has also killed their backers posting a 1-7 ATS record over their last eight games.

Western will be facing their toughest test of the season. Their schedule has been very suspect as they have played only two teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament. In their opener they played New Mexico State and they won 70-64 on a neutral court, covering the betting line as 7-point dogs. They also took on N. Dakota State at home and lost 83-74 as 5-point home dogs.

Everyone knows that Syracuse has a ton of quality wins over NCAA Tournament teams. Maybe Behead was playing possum in the ACC Tournament losing their first game to NC State 66-63 and failing to cover the betting line as 9-point betting favorites.

Syracuse is one of the most overlooked teams in this tournament. In mid-February when they were 27-0 they looked like a lock for the top seed in the East Region. The streak was snapped when they lost at home to Boston College 62-59 as 14-point home favorites.

At that time most thought it was a “good” loss for the Orangeman as they didn’t want to go into the NCAA Tournament undefeated. However, it all came apart in there next contest at Duke with coach Boeheim lost it and the ‘Cuse lost the game. They haven’t been the same since.

However, Boeheim knows how to get this team ready for a tournament run and I wouldn’t count them out. We believe they will win this game and should get past Ohio State, setting up a big showdown against Kansas, if they make it, in a South Region Sweet 16 matchup. Don’t forget Syracuse made it to the Final Four last year.

A couple of interesting betting trends in this game tells us that Western Michigan is 14-5 against the betting line in all tournament games over the last three seasons. However, they are only 19-37 against the betting line when playing as an underdog of 10 or more points.

For Syracuse they normally play well with rest posting an 8-2 ATS record when playing only their second game in eight days this season. Over / Under players might like to take a look at the under as Syracuse is 7-1 Under this season when favored by 10 or more points.

Our free play in this contest is to play the Western Michigan and Syracuse game under the 128 point total. Despite the Broncos scoring 98 points in the MAC Championship, the Sportsbooks have this game at a very low total.

Why? Because they, like most teams will have trouble scoring against the vaunted Syracuse defense. Syracuse only surrenders 59.5 points per game and we look for them to control the tempo. We look for the final score in this contest to be Syracuse 68 and Western Michigan 54

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Rob Vinciletti

North Dakota State vs. Oklahoma    
Play: North Dakota State +3

This may very well be your yearly #12 take down of a 5 seed. North Dakota St is a senior laden team with a tremendous front line that will cause matchup problems for Oklahoma in this game. They have covered 4 of 5 when the total is 150 to 150 and 14 of 18 after scoring 60 or less points last out. In Non conference games they have covered 31 of the last 44. The Sooners have lost the last 2 in the first round and 3 of 4 when the total is 150 to 155. These two are very close in the RPI scale at 26 and 35. For our system we want to play on dogs who won their conference championship but failed to cover as they have been solid spread winners historically in opening round action. Take the points with North Dakota St.


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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

River City Sharps

Oklahoma -3

This is going to be another high-scoring game as the Bison, champions of the Summit League, take on Oklahoma (23-9) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. North Dakota St are the top shooting team in NCAA Division I and will be facing Lon Kruger's Sooner team that ranks 7th in points per game. This is only the second NCAA appearance for North Dakota St., while the Sooners have not won an NCAA game since 2009. The statistics look pretty gaudy for the Bison, who defeated IPFW in the Summit finals, but we are drilling down a little bit deeper when finding a winner here. Basically, we are siding with the Sooners here because Kruger has much more NCAA experience and will know the buttons to push to get the Sooners ready. More importantly, you want teams that are motivated and battle-tested, and we think you are geting both of those with the Sooners. They haven't won an NCAA Tourney game in five years and have played a much, much more difficult schedule than the Bison, so they are used to the big lights and pressure. We think the Sooners take care of business in this one!

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

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American +13½ over WisconsinFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Many people believe the Badgers can make a deep run this season and that could certainly come to pass. However, the Badgers are not built to blow out teams and that makes the Eagles very worthy of play taking back these points. Wisconsin doesn’t like to gamble. They much prefer to get back on defense instead of going after missed shots on the offensive glass. The Badgers ranked 285th in offensive rebounding and generate turnovers just 15.6 percent of the time, which ranked 322nd in the country. This is not new for the Badgers either, as it’s the way they have played for years. They are a great defensive team but they allow the opposition just as many shots as they take and usually more. That’s a risky game to play this time of year.
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The Eagles take a lot of three-point shots and hit them at a 38.2% rate. They are not a run and gun team either and that, too, will work in their favor because the Badgers don’t pressure the offense. American’s slow pace means they will limit the number of chances Wisconsin has to separate itself and their strong defense has a great chance to keep them within striking distance the entire game. Wisconsin is probably the weakest #2 seed in the tournament and although their chances of winning remain very strong, this 2-15 matchup is not as big a mismatch as the number would have you believe. American lost by 11 points to a similar styled Ohio State team very early in the year but has had an entire season to fine tune their game since then. An upset is unlikely but staying well within this margin is not.     
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North Dakota State +3½ over OklahomaFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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When a well-known 5-seed is just a 3½-point choice over an unknown 12-seed it’s telling us to be extremely leery of playing the favorite. That prompted us to dig a little deeper into this contest. The Sooners of Oklahoma are over-seeded. They should probably be an 8 or 9 seed because they didn’t have a strong conference run the entire season and only dominated play in their out-of-conference schedule. The Sooners closed the year with a modest 6-5 record and the fact is they don’t do many things well. Oklahoma can score points but they are weak on the boards, both offensively and defensively and they don’t defend well either. The Sooners are a power-conference program that is ripe for a first round upset and the Bison match up well here.
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North Dakota State ranked #1 in the country in FG% at .509. Of course they had a much easier schedule than the Sooners and they were built to dominate the Summit League and get to this event, which they did. What we like about the Bison is that they are a methodically sound team. They’ll slow the pace right down, they’ll look for the perfect shot and they’ll hit it more times than not. The Bison seldom turn the ball over and when the Sooners miss a shot, they’ll be five guys looking to grab the rebound. North Dakota State has Taylor Braun, a versatile scorer who gets to the foul line. They’ll be some upsets and some close calls in the first round and with North Dakota State’s veteran roster, this one has as good a chance as any of being one of them. 
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NOTE: we are going to wait until later in the day to pull the trigger on this one because we are almost positive that there will be some +4's or 4½'s by game time. Will update later in day.
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N.C. State +136 over Saint LouisFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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At one point this season the Billikens were 27-2 and were ranked #10 in the country. That was on February 27 when they went into Duquesne and lost by seven. The Billikens then proceeded to lose three of their last four regular season games, followed by a first round exit to the Bonnies in the A-10 conference tournament. The Billikens résumé is one of the weakest in the country for a team from one of the mid-majors. Saint Louis’ best win this year came against VCU by two points. The Billikens late-season performance really isn't that different from what we saw from this team earlier in the season. It's just that Jim Crews' team was winning close games without losing any of them, up until two weeks ago. The Billikens defense is still very good but their offense simply lacks everything.  SLU also commits turnovers at a healthy rate and it’s certainly not beneficial for a poor shooting team to be off for six days.
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We love that the Wolfpack needed to win a game to get to this “second round”. Their tournament started on Tuesday when they knocked off the always well-prepped Musketeers by 15 points. The Wolfpack are now on a run of five wins in their past six games with only loss down the stretch occurring against Duke in the ACC Conference tournament. N.C. State defeated both Syracuse and Pittsburgh down the stretch, they played the Dukies very tough and they now take a big step down in class against the very beatable Billikens. The Wolfpacks offense is a very efficient outfit that only turns the ball over on 15% of their possessions, which ranks them 34th in the country. The Billikens are an extremely flawed #5 seed while the Wolfpack are an undervalued 12-seed. In a game in which we trust that the dog has a better chance to advance than the favorite, we’ll gladly step in and play it that way.   
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Arizona State +112 over TexasFREE SERVlCE PLAYS VlSlT THESPREAD.COM
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Both these teams breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing their names called on selection Sunday because both labored down the stretch and both were on the bubble. The Longhorns come from the tougher conference but that doesn’t mean a whole lot when you end the season by losing six of your last 12 games. When the Longhorns were running better early in conference play it was more a case of the opposition playing poorly than it was of them playing good. Frankly, the ‘Horns are just not that good. Texas hits a low percentage of their shots, both from 2-point range and 3-point range. To defeat Texas you simply limit its possessions by not turning the ball over. End of story.
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The Sun Devils didn’t exactly set the world on fire either but there is much more to like about them than there is to like about Texas. For one, ASU defeated Arizona and that shows what this team is capable of. Only 27 teams are better with their deep shooting than Arizona State. Jonathan Gilling can be deadly, especially in transition. Jermaine Marshall has become a glue guy in his one season at ASU. Marshall has evolved into a big-game player who has made some key shots (29 points in the upset of Arizona) and does plenty of the little things like drawing charges, defensive rebounding and getting to loose balls. Jahii Carson, the Sun Devils best player, is a scoring point guard who is as good at finding teammates as he is at finding his own shot. Arizona’s biggest problem this season has been a lack of focus or desire for whatever reason. When focused, the Sun Devils are the most dangerous 10-seed in this event. It’s also worth noting that ASU is 25-10 straight up in the past 7 years when having at least 5 days in between games and they’re 5-0 this year under the same circumstances. They’ve been off seven days coming into this one. Any team good enough to topple Arizona is good enough to win its first game in the NCAA tournament. This tournament should bring out the focus and energy that contributed to that upset.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Kyle Hunter

Arizona State vs. Texas
Play: Texas -2

The Arizona State Sun Devils rely so heavily on Jahii Carson, and that worries me about their team. Carson is certainly a very good player, but winning games away from home without a good second and third option is tough. Texas has played better away from home than Arizona State has so far this year. The Sun Devils backed into the tournament, and I'm not convinced they can flip a switch and get it going again right away. Arizona State is 5-16 ATS in their last 21 games on a neutral floor. Texas is 5-2 ATS in their last 7 neutral site games. The Longhorns played in a very good Big 12 Conference, and they are battle tested. Take Texas.


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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Thursday, March 20

Brandon Shively

Western Michigan vs. Syracuse
Play: Western Michigan +13

Western Michigan comes into this game 12-1 SU their last 13 games and are 9-3-1 ATS in these games. Western Michigan is led by two 5th year seniors in David Brown and Shayne Whittington. Brown is averaging 19 ppg and has scored 20+ in 5 of his last 10 games. The guy is experienced and he can score , bottom line. Whittington is a big 6'11" 250 lb. senior that is averaging 16 ppg/ 9 rpg and there will be NBA scouts at this game not only checking out Syracuse's players, but Whittington also. He plays defense and can score at the rim and can also hit the jumper.What I like about Western Michigan is they are a team that loves to share the basketball. They are not selfish at all and that is what it takes to beat this Syracuse zone. They are more disciplined and don't commit many fouls. On the season the Broncos are shooting 47% from the floor and play defense limiting opponents to 41% from the floor. Looking at Syracuse, they only are shooting 43.7% on the season and the only stat that the Orangemen are slightly better at is their assist: turnover ratio. Looking at stats over the last 5 games, Syracuse is only shooting 39% from the floor, which includes 27.8% from the 3 Pt line. This is entirely too many points to be laying today for a Syracuse team that has fallen down the stretch. Syracuse went 2-4 down the stretch and 1-4-1 ATS. They are also 0-3 ATS their last 3 games when laying double digits. I expect Western Michigan to keep this game within single digits and give Syracuse a tough game. With this line currently at +13, this is a valuable double digit dog that is playing its best ball of the season vs. a Syracuse team that has been regressing.


Delaware vs. Michigan State
Play: Over 154

It sounds like everybody is predicting Michigan State to make it to the Final Four this year now that they are healthy. Why they should beat this Delaware team, the 14 point is too rich for my blood. I will instead look at the OVER in this game. Now that the Spartans are fully healthy with Dawson back in the lineup, that is more offense down low and second chance points with Dawson's rebounding ability. When Dawson and Payne were injured earlier this season, other Spartans got some experience . Kaminski and Costello are two guys that can come off the bench and give the Spartans some more points and hustle as well as they understand the offense. For Delaware, they have three legit scorers in Saddler, Usher, and Threatt. These three guys are all averaging 18 ppg or better. All 5 starters for Delaware are averaging double figures as well. The Blue Hens are scoring 79 points a game this season with a 4 guard rotation and this will be a fast paced game. Sure the Spartans are bigger, stronger, and deeper, but I don't see the Blue Hens giving up. Look for a final in the 91-73 range today for an EASY OVER.


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