Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 7

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 7

SPORTS WAGERS

Kentucky -2½ -110 over UConn

Give the Huskies nothing but credit for making one of the best runs to the final in this tournament’s history. Thing is, UConn’s run has been fueled by one thing and one thing only, that being outstanding defense and we’re not convinced that it’s going to hold up against Kentucky. The Huskies backcourt duo of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright have played well and have hit some big baskets but the Huskies were held in the low 60s by both Michigan State and Florida. Since escaping St. Joe's in the tournament opener and allowing 81 points, the Huskies have held their past four opponents, all strong offensive teams, to under 40 percent from the floor. So yeah, UConn’s defense has been absolutely amazing in the postseason but we see it more as the opposition having off games than UConn’s defense putting up a wall. Villanova missed open after open shot. Iowa State missed its most versatile offensive player. Both Michigan State and Florida both played their worst games of the tournament against the Huskies. Again, you have to give UConn credit for rattling those college powers but was it really a case of UConn’s defense stifling them or more a case of some good teams going very cold? We’re suggesting the latter.

Playing great defense will not shut down Kentucky. Aside from playing great “D”, UConn will also have to rebound at a level that they’re simply not capable of to shut down the Wildcats. You see, the Wildcats have been truly remarkable hitting the offensive glass, snaring 58 offensive rebounds in their first five tourney games. At times, Kentucky's best offense has been to chuck the ball up at the rim and then pound the offensive boards for easy put-backs. Furthermore, no other team in this event plays NBA-style basketball for long stretches like the Wildcats do. John Calipari has relied on his extraordinary talent level to take advantage of one-on-one matchups to get high percentage looks in the paint and while UConn may hang around for a while, we just can’t envision them sticking around the entire game when you consider the challenges they face in this one.

Pass NHL

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 7

Bruce Marshall

Ducks at Canucks
Pick: Over

The Ducks are apparently slumping and in the process of perhaps blowing the Pacific Division title and almost certainly any chance at the President's Trophy for the league's best record and home ice edge throughout the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs. Anaheim has taken a step back with consecutive losses to non-playoff teams. The Ducks suffered a 5-2 setback to visiting Nashville on Friday before falling 4-2 at West-worst Edmonton on Sunday. Anaheim is "over" in 5 of its last 7 also because GK Jonas Hiller has struggled. Meanwhile, Vancouver has captain Henrik Sedin back to active duty after he missed four games due to a leg injury. That could be significant since he has 16 assists over his last 12 home games against the Ducks.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 7

DAVE COKIN

OAKLAND A’S VS  MINNESOTA TWINS
PLAY: OAKLAND A’S -140

When the A’s managed to convince Scott Kazmir to make the move west from Cleveland, it looked like a nice addition to what already figured to be a pretty good staff. Then, the injury bug came calling and suddenly, the acquisition of Kazmir took on a  whole new meaning for the A’s. Rather than filling out a good staff, Kazmir moved right toward to very front of the rotation. So far, so good as the veteran southpaw is off a very sharp 2014 debut and will look to keep it rolling today at Minnesota.

Kazmir is a great story, in that he was basically done with baseball at the big league level, or so almost everyone thought. But the lefty has come all the way back from some really significant injury issues, and in fact might well be the best he’s ever been right now. Kazmir doesn’t profile as a power pitcher anymore, but he’s certainly a smarter hurler than he used to be, and the results have been pretty remarkable all things considered. Kazmir threw only one four-seam fastball in his win over the Indians on Wednesday. He’s now two-seam dominant, and his command has improved dramatically since his early days.

Kevin Correia goes for the Twins here, and his chart from last week’s start was interesting. Correia has never been a flamethrower. But his velocity was a career low in his start against the White Sox. The results were actually very positive, so I’m not going to read much into this. But it’s worth keeping an eye on moving forward. Correia is strictly back of the rotation fodder regardless, and his model is more of a keep the team in the game type as opposed to a pitcher who will dominate.

One of the things you’ll probably pick up on reading these write-ups throughout the season is that I like grabbing the favorites in games pitting a #1-2 starter against a #4-5 if I can catch a reasonable price. I think that’s the case here with Kazmir facing Correia. The rest fits as well, as Oakland has the better overall bullpen and they can outhit the Twins as well. I won’t call 7/5 odds a bargain price by any means, but it’s actually a little cheaper than I think it ought to be. I’ll side with the A’s to get the win this time.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 7

Harry Bondi

BOSTON (-165) over Texas

We wrapped up our 5th straight winning week of FREE WINNERS with a nice win on the underdog Yankees yesterday and tonight we lay some wood for the first time this season but do it with a Red Sox team struggling to find it's offense against a Texas pitcher that should help them hit. Rangers right hander Tanner Scheppers is a rookie who got rocked in his first start allowing seven runs on eight hits in four innings of work versus Philadelphia. The 27 year old has kicked around the minor leagues for years and is one of several pitchers pressed into action because of the rash of injuries that has weakened the Texas staff. Fenway Park against the team that led the league in runs last year is not the place to try and find yourself. Sox slam Scheppers and the Rangers tonight.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 7

Bob Balfe

UConn/Kentucky Under 135

This is a very tough game to breakdown tonight. You can make valid arguments for each team. Kentucky is the 8 seed, but this team was picked to win it all before the season started and now here they are. This is a young team, but these athletes are decades ahead of their time. This team is built to go one and done right to the NBA. UConn should have lost to St. Joes. This team is still not getting respect which is amazing because they disrupted the Florida Gators who were by far the best team in the nation. UConn can block shots and play solid defense. Kentucky is in for a surprise if they think they are going to drive into the paint and just make layups all night like they did against Florida and Michigan. What concerns me for Kentucky is they have not needed to shoot the mid-range shot for a week weeks now. UConn likes to slow the game down and I don’t see them getting too many second point chances like they did against the Gators. This Kentucky team is going to get the rebounds. This game is being played on the elevated court and for some reason scoring tends to be down on these surfaces. I think both teams are going to really value their possessions. If in the first couple minutes both teams show jitters and feel each other out the pace can really favor a low scoring game. Remember UConn/Butler a few years ago in the title game? Let’s hope we get a game like that. I do want to be entertained, but I would rather win money. Take the Under.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 7

PREDICTION MACHINE

Kentucky vs. UConn Preview

Kentucky -2.5 vs. UConn (Covers 54%)
ATS Play Type: Light
O/U Play Type: Light

The Vitals:

SU Pick and Win%: Kentucky wins 62%
ATS Pick and Win%: Kentucky -2.5 covers 54%
ATS Wager for $50 player: $15
OU Pick and Win%: UNDER 134.5 covers 52.4%
OU Wager for $50 player: $1

The Breakdown: It’s not a very likely national championship matchup – each of these teams was just 2.1% likely to make it this far before the tournament started, making this title game 1-in-2,268 likely – but this game between two now battle-tested teams looks fairly straight-forward. It is oft-discussed in the sports culture that “styles make fights” and there is no better way to analyze such a phenomenon than through a simulation that takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of every player that could be on the court in competition. In Monday night’s game, one team has one very clear matchup advantage that should lead to victory.

Kentucky has succeeded this season, particularly during the impressive tournament run, by getting easy second-chance points on offensive rebounds. The Wildcats rank first in the nation in offensive rebounding, securing 42.3% of all of their missed shots. UConn has succeeded this season, particularly during its impressive tournament run, by dominating at the free throw line. Connecticut ranks fourth in the country in free throw percentage at 77.4% and has made just under 85% of its free throws in NCAA Tournament games. Kentucky has a much clearer path to continuing its area of dominance, which should ultimately lead to the difference in the game. UConn is a terrible defensive rebounding team (the Huskies are also a terrible offensive rebounding team), ranking 247th in the country by rebounding just 67.1% of opponents’ misses. Meanwhile, Kentucky is actually significantly better than UConn at getting to the line, ranking 12th nationally in free throw rate. Whereas Kentucky’s dominance on the boards may actually be amplified in this matchup, UConn does not figure to be able to the same at the free throw line.

By the numbers, Kentucky and UConn also “run” at a slow tempo with neither team topping 65 possessions a game on the season. UConn, led by strong Most Outstanding Player candidate Shabazz Napier, is more perimeter-oriented, making 39% of its threes on the season and getting almost 35% of its points from three. Despite Aaron Harrison’s late-game heroics as of late, Kentucky, is best in the paint. The Wildcats only hit 33% from three and get just 27% of their points from outside. Though Kentucky ranks above average in every relevant facet of the game, the Wildcats are only well above average/elite in offensive rebounding and free throw rate offensively. UConn is elite at the line and with on-ball, effective field goal defense. The Huskies have more glaring weaknesses on the glass and much higher turnover rate than one would expect given how often Napier and Ryan Boatright are handling the ball.

Neither pick is strong in this game, especially with just a $1 play (for a normal $50 player) recommended on the UNDER 134.5, but there is some value in this contest, namely from a team in Kentucky that should dominate on the inside.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 7

Antony Dinero

UConn / Kentucky 135.5

The Huskies got here because they've been playing the best defense of anyone in this tournament, being able to rely on that and the decision-making and control Shabazz Napier beings to the table. Florida fell despite being much bigger. Ditto with Michigan State. This Kentucky game is going to be a similar endeavor, especially if they can find a way to neutralize Julius Randle, either through constantly taking the ball out of his hands or attempting to neutralize him via foul trouble by isolating and attacking. Back UConn. For the in-game parlay, ride the under.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Monday, April 7

Dave Essler

Rays / Royals Under 8

First, the weather. Shouldn't be too cold, but showers in the area most of the morning mean wet, and reasonable cross-wind tonight. Vargas shut down the Tigers in Detroit with only five hits and one run in seven innings, which is obviously very good. He gave up more flyball outs than I'd like, but that was the Tigers. He has pitched well against most of the Rays (especially Longoria) so if he's careful with the likes of Loney and Zobrist we'll be fine. It's the Rays first road game, and after traveling yesterday. The Royals haven't been tearing the cover off he ball like they did in the Spring, and Moore is not the answer for that. Kansas City just doesn't usually hit LHP well (see our play on Sale yesterday) and believe it or not Moore was far better on the road last season. Both bullpens have been very good, and I trust them (more than others, at least). Only one of the Royals first five games has eclipsed eight runs, so why should they start now? And three of the four games in the Trop against the Rangers went over, so it's clearly time for the Rays to regress, IMO. Especially on the road. More this PM on this and other games.

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OC Dooley

Rangers at Red Sox Over 9

This is a high percentage wager as Boston is a dazzling 12-2 OVER/HOME the past two years when facing an opponent from the American League West division.  In addition this Rangers/Red Sox series is 5-2 OVER in the most recent seven clashes inside venerable Fenway Park.  The Red Sox so far this campaign are 5-1 “below” the spot which is a bit shocking since during an 0-3 weekend in front of their own fans the team’s pitching allowed a grand total of 17 runs to cross the plate against an opponent (Milwaukee) who entered the set with one of the worst statistical offenses in the majors.  While John Lackey traditionally has struggled when facing the Rangers lineup, the debut of Tanner Scheppers back on opening day in Texas yielded a wild 14-10 final verdict

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