|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|01-28-17||Duke -4.5 v. Wake Forest||Top||85-83||Loss||-110||7 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: Coach K has been relegated to watching Duke from afar since having back surgery early this month and can't possibly have liked what he's seen. He has reportedly has banned players from the locker room and from wearing team apparel “until they start living up to the standards of the Duke program.” No. 17 Duke (15-5, 3-4 in ACC play) will be in Winston-Salem this afternoon to take on Wake Forest, which is 12-8 overall, 3-5 in ACC play.Duke: The Blue Devils lost 84-82 at home to North Carolina State this past Tuesday, dropped them to below .500 in ACC play. Duke has lost three of its last four and is 2-3 under acting coach Jeff Capel. The Blue Devils have yet to win a true road game this season, losing at Virginia Tech, Florida State and Louisville by an average of 13 points. The team's struggles are hard to isolate, considering Duke has five double digit scorers and a wealth of talent. The backcourt consists of Kennard (19.8 & 5.5), Allen (15.1 & 4.4), Jackson (10.8) and Jones (8.6). Up front, the 6-8 Tatum (16.5 & 6.8) is a freshman and the 6-9 Jefferson (12.7 & 9.9) a senior. Then there is teh 6-10 Giles, the super-frosh who is rounding into shape after an early injury. He's played in just nine games, averaging 5.4 & 5.0 getting about 13 minutes of playing time. Wake Forest: Danny Manning's tenure at Wake has not gotten off to a robust start, as Wake won 13 times in his first season and 11 times last year (7-29 combined, in ACC play). I guess the team's 12-8 record so far this season (3-5 in ACC play) has to be considered a move in the right direction. For sure, the Demon Deacons are an excellent offensive team, averaging 81.4 PPG (32nd) and that includes them scoring 87.9 PPG on 50 percent shooting at home. A pair of 6-10 players are the keys up front, Collins (17.0 & 9.0) and Mitoglou (10.2 & 6.4) plus guards Crawford (14.6 & 5.9 APG) and Woods (12.9 & 4.4) are a quality backcourt duo.
The pick: Wake's improving but catch Duke off that home loss to NC State and the Blue Devils will be none too happy. It hardly inspires confidence for Wake Forest that the Demon Deacons have lost nine straight home games against ranked opponents since posting an 82-72 victory over No. 5 Duke back on March 5, 2014. Make Duke a 10* play.
|01-28-17||Florida State -3 v. Syracuse||Top||72-82||Loss||-105||4 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: The Florida State Seminoles were coming off seasons of 17 and 20 wins and were un-ranked in either preseason poll, although The Blue Ribbon Yearbook had them at No. 20. The No. 6 Seminoles have been a big surprise at 18-3 (6-2 in ACC play) but are coming off their worst performance of the season, a shocking 78-56 loss at un-ranked Georgia Tech. Speaking of things not going right, 12-9 (4-4 in ACC play) Syracuse is off to its worst start in coach Jim Boeheim's 41-year tenure!
Syracuse: The Orange may be off to the worst start to a season in Boieheim's 41-year career but one couldn't tell it by the team's play here at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse is 0-7 in games away from the Dome this season (outscored by an average of 13.3 points) but in 14 home games, the Orange are 12-2 while outscoring opponents by 18.1 PPG. The Orange improved to 4-0 at home in conference play after rallying from an eight-point deficit midway through the second half to defeat Wake Forest 81-76 on Tuesday. The 6-7 Andrew White scored a game-high 27 points against the Demon Deacons and the graduate transfer leads the team at 16.3 PPG. He's joined on the perimeter by Battle (10.2) and PG Gillon (8.3 & 4.9 APG). The 6-9 Lydon (14.2 & 7.8) is Syracuse's best frontcourt player.
|01-27-17||Dayton +4 v. VCU||Top||68-73||Loss||-107||13 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: Friday night features a quality A-10 matchup with the 15-4 Dayton Flyers (6-1 in A-10 play) visiting the 15-5 VCU Rams (5-2 in A-10 play). Both schools are off 25-win seasons last year, as well as appearing in the Big Dance.Dayton: The Flyers made it three straight wins with a 67-46 blowout win of Saint Louis in their last game. PG Scoochie Smith led the way with 19 points, making six of nine shots, including five threes. Smith averages 13.9 PPG and 3.6 APG and pairs with the team's leading scorer, Charles Cooke (17.8 & 5.4), to give Dayton an impressive backcourt. Cooke had 15 points to go along with game-high totals ofnine rebounds and six assists in the win over St. Louis. The 6-6 Kendall Pollard (12.0 & 8.8) chipped in nine points and three blocks. VCU: The Rams ended a two-game slide with an easy 90-52 win over La Salle in their last outing. The 6-7 Justin Tillman (11.6 & 7.6) led the team with 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting from the floor, while falling just one rebound shy of the double-double. Guard JeQuan Lewis had 15 points and leads the team with an average of 14.8 PPG on the season., A trio of guards join him on the perimeter in Williams (8.8), Doughty (8.7) and Brooks (6.0). The 6-7 Alie-Cox (9.8 & 4.1) joins Tillman up front but the Rams miss last year's leading scorer Melvin Johnson (17.7), as well as fellow guard Billbury (11.1).
The pick: The Rams have built quite a program, as the school has won 24-plus games for 10 consecutive seasons, which spans three head coaches. However, this hardly looks like a vintage VCU team and the Rams have so far avoided the top-echelon of A-10 teams. That's not the case here. Make Dayton a 10* play.
|01-27-17||Kings v. Pacers -4||Top||111-115||Push||0||11 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The 18-27 Sacramento Kings continue an eight-game road trip Friday night when they take on the 23-22 Indiana Pacers. The Kings stumbled badly by going 1-6 during their recent seven-game homestand but are 2-2 so far on their current trip, having won back-to-back games after the team's stunning 116-112 overtime win against the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. Indiana's standout SF Paul George was selected to his fourth All-Star game and then celebrated with a 32-point outing last night, as the Pacers picked up a 109-103 road victory at Minnesota last night, snapping a three-game losing streak. Sacramento: DeMarcus Cousins (28.2 & 10.2) was named to his third straight All-Star contest Thursday and his career-best 28.2 PPG average ranks fifth in the NBA. Cousins has notched 10 consecutive double-doubles and has 25 on the season. However, the team's second-leading scorer, Rudy Gay (18.7), has been lost for the season, leaving the Kings with just one other double digit scorer in Collison (12.6). Sacramento has been a model of inconsistency this season, with the team's back-to-back wins following a stretch when the Kings had lost eight of nine.
Indiana: The Pacers know what inconsistency is all about as well, after snapping their three-game slide last night, which followed the team having won seven of eight. George carried the Pacers to a much-needed victory last night and head coach Nate McMillan added, "As Paul goes, it seems like the team goes. Not only did he do a solid job on the defensive end of the floor, I thought offensively he got a good rhythm and was knocking down some big shots for us." Joining George as solid contributors this season are 6-11 second-year PF Myles Turner (15.9 & 7.5) and PG Jeff Teague (15.6-4.2-8.1), who the Pacers acquired in an off-season trade from Atlanta.
The pick: Indiana is 23-22 on the season but one thing which has been fairly consistent has been the team's play here at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. While the Pacers are 7-16 SU on the road, they are 16-6 SU at home. Yes, it's a back-to-back situation for Indiana but they catch the inconsistent Kings off their Wednesday upset of the Cavs. The Pacers just won in Sacramento (106-100 on Jan 18) and this time around a win should come more easily. Make Indiana at 10* play.
|01-27-17||Harvard -6 v. Cornell||Top||77-71||Push||0||10 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Ivy League action tonight from Ithaca, N.Y. when Harvard (10-5 / 2-0 Ivy) visits Cornell (5-12 / 1-1 Ivy). Harvard dominated the Ivy League from 2010-11 through 2014-15, winning five Ivy titles with four NCAA appearances while averaging 23.6 wins per season. It was in that 2010-11 season that Bill Courtney took over at Cornell for Steve Donahue. All Donahue had done the previous three seasons was go 72-21 (28-4 in Ivy League play), win three Ivy titles and lead the Big Red to three NCAA touneys, including a Sweet 16 appearance. Courtney's timing was not good and after six seasons (60-113 / 27-57 in Ivy), his contarc was not renewed after last season.
Harvard: The Crimson fell off last year, going just 14-16 (6-8 Ivy) but have rebounded this season. Freshman guard Aiken (13.3) has joined PG Chambers (8.9 & APG) in the backcourt, as Chambers is back after missing all of last season with an ACL injury. The 6-7 Towns (11.7 & 6.) is Harvard's best frontcourt player. Harvard comes in off four straight wins and nine in its last 10.
Cornell: Taking over as head coach is Brian Earl, a former player and assistant coach at Princeton. The Big Red return all five starters from last season's 10-18 (3-11 Ivy) team. Morgan (18.3 & 5.0) and Hatter (12.4) form an excellent backcourt while the 6-9 Getting (12.4 & 5.8) is the team's top frontcourt performer.
The pick: It looks as if Harvard will contend for the Ivy title this year while Cornell will be an also-ran. I noted earlier that Harvard comes in having won nine of 10 but let me add that the tam is 6-0 ATS in that run. Cornell lost its lone home game in league play to Columbia and can't be expected to do any better here against a superior Harvard team. Make Harvard a 10* play.
|01-26-17||UTEP +9 v. Western Kentucky||Top||62-65||Win||100||8 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The 9-11 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will host the 5-13 UTEP Miners on Thursday action. Despite UTEP's poor overall record, the Miners are 3-3 in league play, while the Hilltoppers check in at 3-4.UTEP: The Miners come in on a three-game winning streak (all in league games). Guard Omega Harris leads Miners averaging 17.5 PPG and is joined in teh backcourt by Dominic Artis, who is averaging 14.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. The 7-1 Matt Willms adds 10.0 & 5.3 and the Paul Thomas, 7.1 & 6.1. UTEP's three-game winning streak has come at home, winning back-to-back one-point OT games, before routing UTSA 59-39, as the Roadrunners shot 24.1 percent, including 2 of 22 on threes. Good defense or just poor shooting? Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers are led by Johnson & Johnson (not related). Guard Que Johnson leads the Hilltoppers averaging 14.7 PPG (adds 5.1 RPG), while the 6-7 Justin Johnson is averaging 13.4 PPG and a team-best 8.1 RPG. Guard Pancake Thomas is the team's third double digit scorer at 13.0 PPG. Western Kentucky is 6-1 at home but that 3-4 C-USA record is troubling.
The pick: Yes, UTEP is 0-5 SU on the road but note that Western Ky is 0-4 ATS as a home favorite this year. UTEP's Tim Floyd is a proven coach and his Miners have won an average of 21.3 games the last three seasons. The team is starting to get its act together and against this quality of opponent, UTEP plus the points is the play (8*).
|01-26-17||Nebraska +8.5 v. Northwestern||Top||61-73||Loss||-110||8 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: Is this finally the year that Northwestern goes 'dancing?' It's the only school from a Power-5 conference to have never appeared in the NCAA tourney. However, the NCAA Tournament buzz is building, as the Wildcats have won four ina row to reach 16-4, including 5-2 in Big Ten play. Northwesterm will host 9-10 (3-4 in Big Ten play) Thursday night. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers knew they would lose swingman and leading scorer Shields (16.8) this year but when Andrew White (16.6) decide to play his final season at Syracuse, as a graduate transfer, Tim Miles’ team took a big hit. Miles got Nebraska to the NCAA tourney in his second season at the school but these last two years, Nebraska has won just 13 and 16 games. Four-year starter. 6-4 combo guard Tai Webster (18.1-4.9-3.9) is the team's best player. Fellow guard Glynn Watson Jr. ranks second on the team in scoring (14.6) but the only other player in double digits is the 6-7 Morrow (10.1 & 7.9) but he's missed the last three games witha foot injury. Nebraska scores 71.5 PPG and allows 70.9, making its 9-10 record seem just about right. Northwestern: The Wildcats are on their first four-game run in Big Ten play in two years and a victory here would give them their first five-game run since 1965-66. "This team, history doesn't define us," guard Scottie Lindsey (16.0 & 4.3) told reporters after scoring 21 points against the Buckeyes on Sunday, the school's first victory at Ohio State in 40 years! "The past things that have happened with this program, it doesn't really matter to this team. We push through that type of stuff." PG Bryant McIntosh (12.6 & APG) chipped in 17 points at Ohio State. Swingman Sanjay Lumpkin (6.4 & 7.0) hauled in 11 rebounds and is averaging seven a game while the team's top player on the glass - center Dererk Pardon (7.5) - grabbed eight along with handing out a career-high four assists. 6-7 Forward Vic Law (14.0 & 5.8) had 15 points in the win over Nebraska and has reached double digits in eight consecutive contests.
The pick: Northwestern can say all it wants that the past is in the past but I expect this team to have its problems down the stretch, at least when favored by as many points as the Wildcats are here. Remember, Nebraska won SU at Indiana as a two-TD underdog and its four-game losing streak has come by a combined 16 points. Take the points and make Nebraska a 10* play.
|01-25-17||Washington +3.5 v. Arizona State||Top||75-86||Loss||-109||14 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: Two sub-.500 teams square off tonight in Pac-12 play, as the 9-10 Washington Huskies (2-5 in the Pac-12) are in Tempe to take on the 9-11 Arizona State Sun Devils, who are also 2-5 in conference action. Washington: The Huskies lost their top-three players from last year's 19-15 team. Guard Andrews (20.9-5.7-4.9) graduated plus freshman guard Murray (16.1-6.0-4.6) and fellow freshman, the 6-10 Chriss (13.7 & 5.4), were both NBA 1st-round picks! It may say something about Romar's coaching that Washington didn't do better last season with those three players? Freshman guard Markelle Fultz figures to be a top-five pick in the next NBA Draft, as he's averaging a league-high 23.4 PPG and 6.1 APG while shooting 49.2 percent. He's averaged 33.7 points over his last three games but the dynamic point guard hasn’t been able to stop his team's descent into the bottom of the Pac-12 standings, receiving very little support from his teammates during conference play The Huskies have lost three of their last four games. Guard Crisp (13.9) and the 6-8 Dickerson (10.7 & 8.1) join Fultz in double figures but teh 6-9 Dime (5.5 & 5.9) has been a disappointment and is expected to miss four-to-five weeks of action as he suffered a broken right pinkie finger. Arizona State: The Sun Devils head into this game seeking to end a four-game losing streak, as Bobby Hurley's second season at ASU (team was 15-17 last year), isn't going any better than his first. Guard Torian Graham averages a team-high 18.8 PPG. 6-8 forward Obinna Oleka continued to be a double-double machine with 17 points and 14 rebounds in the team's recent loss to the Trojans and averages 13.6 & 10.6 on the season. Promising freshmen forwards Ramon Vila and Jethro Tshisumpa have seen a bump in playing time during league play, plus guards Holder (17.0) and Evans (15.0 & 4.5 APG) give ASU four double digit scorers.
The pick: ASU can score (81.4 PPG) but the Sun Devils allow 83.8 PPG (342nd) on 48.7% shooting (340th). I don't think much of Romar's coaching ability (not alone in that regard) but he does own a 23-6 career record against Arizona State. Make Washington a 10* play.
|01-25-17||Knicks v. Mavs -2.5||Top||95-103||Win||100||11 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The 20-26 New York Knicks are in Dallas on Wednesday night to face the 15-29 Mavericks. The Mavericks just routed the Lakers by 49 points last Sunday, simultaneously setting a Dallas franchise record for the largest margin of victory and worst loss ever by the Lakers. The Mavs haven't played since while the Knicks come in after almost blowing another late lead Monday at Indiana. New York had lost three games by a total of six points in the previous week and squandered a 17-point lead against the Pacers, before Carmelo Anthony knocked down a go-ahead jumper and the defense held in the final seconds of a 109-103 triumph over the Pacers.NY Knicks: "It's a great feeling," Anthony told reporters after the game. "We should be proud of ourselves the way we were able to bounce back, come on the road and get a big win like this. Be up 17 and let them come back, but we sustained that lead, and to pull this one out on the road was big for us." However, New York is only 4-13 over its last 17 games and eight of those losses have come by seven or fewer points. "This a tough stretch for us with these close losses," Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters. "We were three over .500 at one point, and then we hit this stretch. Got some bad breaks, but you have to make your own breaks sometimes." Anthony (22.6 & 6.0), Porzingis (18.9 & 7.1) and Rose (18.1-4.0-4.5) can be counted on for New York but there's not much to speak of after that trio.
Dallas: The Mavericks have won of four of their last six games and are coming off their best performance of the season in crushing the Lakers. "You know, that was a good feeling," Dallas shooting guard Wesley Matthews told reporters. "We came out and we played with the right mentality, the right demeanor, and shots were falling. And most importantly, we were playing good defense. Everybody contributed, and that was good to see." Dallas had seven players in double figures in the 122-73 blowout and ironically, the team's leading scorer Harrison Barnes (20.1) was the only first starter who failed to reach at least 10 points.
The pick: The Mavericks are just 15-29 but they are 9-9 over their last 18. split their last 18 games overall. "Right now we are in a spot where we have to dig ourselves out a hole that we dug ourselves in earlier in the season," PG Deron Williams said. "We have to be more aggressive on both sides of the floor and get some more wins." They are hoping momentum from Sunday carries over into the finale of a three-game homestand in this one and I'm 'biting.' Make Dallas a 10* play
|01-25-17||SMU v. UCF +4.5||Top||65-60||Loss||-110||9 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: SMU is 17-4 (7-1 in AAC play) after winning 13 of its last 14 games. The Mustangs look to keep their hot streak going when they take to the road in a league game at 14-5 UCF (5-2 in AAC play). SMU: Cincinnati is unbeaten in AAC play, leaving the Mustangs a game behind. Tim Jankovich has taken over for Larry Brown in Dallas and will send out a starting a lineup of players between 6-6 and 6-8. All three guards are 6-6, led by PG Milton (13.2-4.2-4.3), joined by backcourt partners Brown (11.3 & 6.8) and Foster (9.6 & 5.1). The 6-7 Ojeleye (17.8 & 7.0) and the 6-8 Moore (11.8 & 7.8) start up front. The Mustangs have held their last 14 opponents to 66 points or less and now rank 4th in the nation, allowing an averaage of 59.4 PPG.
UCF: While the Mustangs have excellent size overall, they own no player like UCF's 7-6 sophomore center Tacko Fall, the league’s top rebounder at 10.5 per game. Fall has been outstanding this season, shooting a league-best 78.5 percent while scoring 13.3 PPG. Johnny Dawkins was shown the door after eight seasons as Stanford's head coach. The former Duke star led Stanford to two NIT titles but just two short-lived NCAA appearances. After going 15-15 (8-10 in the Pac 12) last season, the Cardinal faithful said "enough." Dawkins was quickly hired at UCF and a team which was just 12-18 last season, is 14-5. Joining Fall are a trio of guards are led Taylor (16.0), Williams (15.9 & 5.1) and Efianayi (10.8 & 5.2) Redshirt junior forward A.J. Davis (6-8), who led the Knights in scoring last season (just 12.0 PPG), has averaged 10.3 points in the last three games after struggling with his shot since returning from a preseason hand injury. He's up to 7.5 PPG and 7.7 RPG. Defense has been the team's "calling card," allowing 59.2 PPG (3rd) on 34.5% shooting (1st in the nation!).
The pick: SMU ranks third in the nation in rebounding margin (plus-11.7) but UCF is second, at plus-12.3. SMU allows 59.4 PPG but UCF tops that as well, allowing 59.2 per (plus ranks 1st in defensive FG percentage!). SMU is on quite a roll but UCF is 10-1 SU at home, where its allowing only 55.8 PPG. Make the home dog an 8* play.
|01-24-17||Utah State v. New Mexico -8.5||Top||61-74||Win||100||14 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The 8-10 Utah State Aggies visit "The Pit" in Albuquerque for a game against the 12-8 New Mexico Lobos. Utah State is 2-5 in MWC (tied with two other schools for the league's worst record), while the Lobos check in at 5-3, just a half-game back of 5-2 Nevada and Boise State.
Utah State: The Aggies come into this game having lost three in a row after a 64-56 loss to visiting Colorado on Saturday, as a 3 1/2-point favorite. 6-9 Guard Jalen Moore was top scorer for the Aggies with 14 points, which is nothing new. Nor was freshman guard McEwen's 13 points. Moore (17.1 & 4.8) and McEwen (14.5 & 4.8) are the team's lone double digit scorers. Utah State scores 72.7 PPG and allows 71.9, so its 8-10 record seems about right.
New Mexico: Craig Neal is in his fourth season as New Mexico's head coach and the Lobos have a long history of good teams. He took over when Steve Alford bolted for UCLA and won 27 games his first season, as he inherited four starters. The going has been tougherr since, winning 15 and 17 games the last two seasons. The Lobos returned their top-two players from last year and guard Brown (18.2 & 4.8) and the 6-8 Williams (18.1 & 7.2) have pretty much duplicated their numbers from last season. The Lobos have won three in a row, so maybe thet are beginning to find themselves.
The pick: New Mexico is 8-2 SU at home but just 1-6 ATS. That said, the Aggies are only 2-10 ATS in their last 12 games, overall. Make New Mexico a 10* play.
|01-24-17||Wolves +1.5 v. Suns||Top||112-111||Win||100||12 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The 16-28 Minnesota Timberwolves will be in Phoenix on Tuesday at Talking Stick Resort Arena, looking to complete their first season sweep of the 15-29 Suns in 13 years. Minnesota: Almost all expected the T-wolves to show marked improvement this season but that hasn't been the case. However, the Timberwolves were just 11-22 on New Year's Day, and have looked better lately, going 5-6 since. In fact, they will take a two-game winning streak into tonight's contest, looking to duplicate a three-game run they recorded earlier this month. Minnesota got a boost from an unlikely source in Sunday's 111-108 home win over Denver, when rookie guard Kris Dunn got a rare start and scored a season-high-tying 10 points, nine assists and also grabbed a season-best eight rebounds. Dunn, the No. 5 pick of the 2016 draft, was starting in place of Ricky Rubio (7.7 & 7.9 APG), who left the club over the weekend following the death of his grandmother. The veteran point guard is expected to return for Tuesday's game. Center Karl-Anthony Towns led the way against the Nuggets with a game-high 32 points which is no surprise, as he leads the team in scoring (22.5) and rebounding (12.0). Wiggins (21.8 & 4.2) and LaVine (19.4) join Towns to give Minnesota a trio of young stars, the envy of most teams. Phoenix: Speaking of young stars, the Suns' 20-year-old Devin Booker has shown brightly recently with nine straight games of 20-plus points (27.4 PPG), including back-to-back 39 point efforts in games in Mexico City (one against the Spurs!). He's averaging 20.5 PPG on the season, paired in the starting backcourt with Bledose (20.9-5.1-6.2) to form quite the dynamic duo (Bledsoe is averaging 24.2 points and 8.3 assists over the last nine games, coinciding with Booker's heroics). Center Tyson Chandler broke a 48-year-old franchise record in Saturday's 107-105 win at New York, recording his seventh consecutive game with 15 or more rebounds. He had only nine rebounds in Sunday's 115-103 win at Toronto but scored 16 points (he averages a modest 8.5 PPG on the season).
The pick: The Suns are on a 5-4 run, a big deal for a team that's 14 games under .500 but the Timberwolves beat the Suns 98-85 in Phoenix in November and repeated the result in a 115-108 victory in Minneapolis on Dec. 19th. I'm not ready to give up on Minnesota's playoff chances just yet, as the T-wolves are just 2 1/2 games back of the eighth spot with just less than a half-season remaining. For Minnesota to catch Denver (or any of the handful of teams slightly ahead of them at the moment), winning on the road against a team like the Suns is a must. Make Minnesota a 10* play.
|01-23-17||Thunder +6 v. Jazz||Top||97-95||Win||100||14 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: the 25-19 OKC Thunder find themselves trailing the Utah Jazz by 3 1/2 games in the Northwest Division and also own just the West's No. 6 seed, tied with Memphis. The Thunder have a chance to make up some ground Monday night when they travel to Salt Lake City to face the 29-16 Utah Jazz.
|01-23-17||Troy State +3.5 v. Arkansas-Little Rock||Top||78-69||Win||100||12 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the Troy Trojans and Little Rock Trojans squaring off Monday night in Sun Belt action. Troy is 10-10 (2-4 in Sun Belt play) and Little Rock 12-7 (3-3). Troy: The Trojans can score, averaging 80.6 PPG (43rd). The 6-6 Varnado (15.3 & 6.7) is the team's best player, helped out up front by the 6-8 Davis (8.4 & 4.8) and the 6-6 Walker (7.8 & 6.6). The team also owns a solid perimeter group, led by Person (14.2), Hollimon (11.5) and PG Baker (9.2 & 3.2 APG). Little Rock: Chris Beard led Little Rock to a 30-win season last year, including an upset of Purdue in the NCAA's first round. However, he was a "one and done" coach, fleeing for Texas Tech. These Trojans could really use a win, after losing five of their last eight games. Guard Marcus Johnson Jr. leads the team with 14.3 PPG but the team's strength is a frontcourt led by the 6-6 Jackson (10.6 & 4.7), the 6-11 Shoshi (10.3 & 7.8) and SF Hill (9.5 & 5.2).
The pick: Little Rock may be 7-3 SU at home while Troy is just 2-8 on the road but since winning 65-63 at Hawaii back on Nov. 25, Troy has covered all seven of its true road games plus won neutral-site games in Las Vegas just before Christmas. Take the points and make Troy a 10* play.
|01-22-17||UCF +6 v. Memphis||Top||65-70||Win||100||8 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: UCF will take a 14-4 record (5-1 in AAC play) into its Sunday game at Memphis. The Tigers are 14-5, including 4-2 in conference play. UCF: Johnny Dawkins was shown the door after eight seasons as Stanford's head coach. The former Duke star led Stanford to two NIT titles but just two short-lived NCAA appearances. After going 15-15 (8-10 in the Pac 12) last season, the Cardinal faithful said "enough." Dawkins was quickly hired at UCF and a team which was just 12-18 last season, is 14-4. A trio of guards are led by Williams (16.3 & 5.1), who has just taken over the scoring lead from Taylor (16.0), after exploding for 38 points in his last game. Efianayi (10.9 & 5.3) is the 'third wheel' plus no one can ignore the 7-6 Fall, averaging 13.1 & 10.3 (43 blocks)! Also, there is redshirt junior forward A.J. Davis (6-8), who led the Knights in scoring last season (just 12.0 PPG). He has averaged 12.5 points in the last two games after struggling with his shot since returning from a preseason hand injury. He's up to 7.6 PPG and 7.8 RPG. Defense has been the team's "calling card," allowing 58.6 PPG (3rd) on 34.1% shooting (1st in the nation!). Memphis: The Tigers have a new coach as well but an 'old' name, in Tubby Smith. Smith's coaching chops cannot be challenged and he has a unique lineup, led by a set of Magic Johnson-like twins. Dedric Lawson is 6-9 (20.1-10.5-3.8) and his brother K.J. is 6-7 while averaging 12.9-8.3-3.3. Two more typical guards are Crawford (15.4 & 5.2) and Martin, who plays the point (9.6 & 4.5 APG, along with a team-high 39 steals). The Tigers rank No. 20 in Division I in assists per game (17.3) and are the highest-scoring team in the AAC at 78.4 PPG.
The pick: Memphis swept last season's series between the teams by a combined 38 points but that was then and this is now. Dealing with UCF's huge front line will be an issue for Memphis and trying to cover a number at home, against a team allowing less than 60 PPG is asking a lot (too much?). UCF is a 10* play.
|01-22-17||Siena v. Manhattan +1.5||Top||81-68||Loss||-110||6 h 13 m||Show|
The set up: The 8-12 Siena Saints will travel to Draddy Gymnasium to take on the 7-13 Manhattan Jaspers this Sunday afternoon MAAC play. Siena is one of five schools with a 5-4 conference record, while the Jaspers are 2-7, last in an 11-team league.Siena: The Saints saw their four-game winning streak snapped in a 77-65 loss this past Thursday at St. Peter's. Siena played without its leading scorer Marquis Wright (14.5-4.1-4.3), who was suspended for the game due to an altercation during the team's previous game, a 78-68 home win over Rider. Siena fell behind St Peter's at the half by 11 and couldn't get back in it. However, Wright is eligible to play here and with him back, Siena features four double digit scorers. Wright is joined by fellow guard Long (12.0) plus big men Ogunyemi (13.2 & 5.9 and Bisping (12.4 & 9.2). Guard Clareth (12.4) would give them five double digit scorers but he's out for "personal reasons." Manhattan: The Jaspers took a 34-33 halftime lead in their last game with Monmouth but never recovered from 10-0 Hawks which left them down, 43-34. It was second straight loss for a team (five of its last seven) mired in last-place in the MAAC at 2-7. The duo of guard Turner (16.8 & 3.4 APG) and forward Waterman (14.1 & 6.8) are Manhattan's lone double digit scorers.
The pick: Siena was expected to be one of the MAAC favorties coming into this season but the Saints have underachieved. They currently rank 241st in scoring (71.1 PPG) and 214th in points allowed (73.2). That's hardly the resume for a road favorite. Take the home dog and make Manhattan a 10* play.
|01-21-17||LSU v. Arkansas -13||Top||86-99||Push||0||12 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: LSU is 9-8 to open the season but just 1-5 in SEC play, as it visits Arkansas to take on the 14-4 Razorbacks, who are a modest 3-3 in SEC play. LSU: The Tigers lost not just Ben Simmons (19.2-11.8-4.8) from last year's team but also quality guards Hornsby (13.1) and Quarteman (11.2). Blakeney (16.8) is the team's best plaer and fellow guard Sampson is averaging 10.6 PPG. The 6-10 Reath (13.6 & 6.1) is having a solid sophomore season but LSU allows 78.4 PPG, which ranks 300th in the nation. Arkansas: Poor defensive play is not good when facing the Razorbacks, who average 81.1 PPG (37th). The Razorbacks also rank second in the SEC and 20th in the nation in free-throw percentage (76.0). Five guards see significant time, led by Macon (14.0) and Hannahs (13.9). Three others average between 6.1 and 10.0 PPG, with the 6-10 Kingsley (11.7 & 8.1) providing an inside presence.
The pick: The Razorbacks pulled out a 62-60 road win over Texas A&M on Tuesday to improve to 4-0 this season in games decided by four points or fewer. "We were fortunate to come out with a win," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson told reporters afterward. "We know wins on the road are few and far between." Expect more of a margin here against LSU, which limps in on a four-game slide.It's not good news for LSU that Blakeney is playing through an ankle injury in the loss to Auburn. LSU has allowed 86.5 PPG in its six SEC games and that makes the high-scoring Razorbacks a 10* play.
|01-21-17||Bucks v. Heat -1.5||Top||97-109||Win||100||11 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The Milwaukee Bucks were routed 112-96 in Orlando last night and limp into Miami on a four-game slide and an overall record of 20-22. However, the Heat are suffering through one of the worst seasons in franchise history at 13-30.
Milwaukee: Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 22-year-old 6-11 multi-positional athlete known as "The Greek Freak." He was named an All-Star on Thursday, Milwaukees' first in 31 years and he joins only five other Bucks All-Star starters in franchise history: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bobby Dandridge, Brian Winters, Sidney Moncrief and Marques Johnson. He modest totals (for him) of 17 points, 14 rebounds and five assists, as the Bucks fell for the fourth straight time. Atetokounmpo (23.5-8.8-5.6) got a well-deserved starting spot for the All Star game but the Bucks' trouble has been that other than Jabari Parker (20.5 & 5.9), Antetokounmpo has had little help. Center Monroe (10.6 & 6.8) is doing a disappearing act so far this season and the team really misses Khris Middleton, who had surgery to repair a torn hamstring and is not expected to make his season debut until the middle of February (he led Milwaukee in scoring last year at 18.4 PPG). Miami: The Heat's poor record hurts the All Star candidacy of their two best players. PG Goran Dragic averages 19.4 PPG and 6.3 APG plus center Hassan Whiteside is having a career year, averaging 17.3 PPG and leading the league in rebounds (14.2). He is also averaging 2.1 blocks, which is tied for fifth in the league. Miami actually has six other players averaging in double figures, although Winslow was recently lost for the season with a shoulder injury.
The pick: "We just have to find our way out of this slump," Parker said after Milwaukee's loss on Friday. "We'll find our way out of it. We need more enthusiasm. After the first quarter, we didn't have any momentum. We need to move on and win the next game." That sounds good but the Bucks are struggling. Meanwhile, Miami has shown some signs of life this week by beating the Houston Rockets 109-103 and the Dallas Mavericks 99-95 here at home. Let's also note that in two games against Miami this season, Antetokounmpo is averaging just 16.0 points. In 12 career games against Miami, his numbers are even more modest at 14.2 PPG. Miami is a 10* play.
|01-21-17||Syracuse +8.5 v. Notre Dame||Top||66-84||Loss||-110||4 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: The 11-8 (3-3 in ACC) Syracuse Orange will be in South Bend to take on the 16-3 (5-1 ACC) Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who are ranked 15th in the nation. Notre Dame is off its first ACC loss of the season, losing 83-80 Wednesday at No. 12 Florida State, which ended a seven-game overall winning streak. Meanwhile, the Orange remained win-less in six games away from home this season, losing 85-68 on Monday at No. 9 North Carolina. Syracuse: The Orange were a surprise Final Four team last season (actually, most were surprised the Orange even made the NCAA field!) but it seems unlikely Syracuse will get an at-large bid this season. We are almost 20 games into the current season and Syracuse is still looking for its first win away from home this season. Syracuse's loss at North Carolina makes them 0-6 in road or neutral-court games this season, The 6-7 White, a Nebraska transfer, leads the team in scoring at 15.8 PPG and 6-9 sophomore Lydon is the team's top rebounder at 7.6 per game. Lydon is also the team's only other double digit scorer, averaging 13.7 PPG. However, freshman guard Tyus Battle (9.9) appears to be hitting his stride. He has scored at least 13 in each of the past for games games, including a career-high 21 against Boston College last Saturday, after reaching double digits in points in just three of the first 15 games. He has seven steals against only two turnovers the past two games. Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have to be thrilled to be back home, after a three-game ACC road swing that included five charter flights and nearly 4,000 air miles over nine days. Notre Dame plays at home for the first time in two weeks.The Irish won 24 games last year, before losing in the Elite 8 and has a starting-five that includes two seniors and three juniors. PG Jackson (15.8 & 4.7 APG) and center Auguste (14.0 & 10.7) are missed from last year's team but four of five starters this year average 13.9 PPG or more. SF Colson leads in scoring (15.5) and rebounding (10.7) and is joined up front by the 6-8 Beachem (13.9 & 3.9) and the 6-10 Geben (4.2 & 4.7). SG Vasturia (15.2) and PG Farrell (14.2 & 5.5 APG) make up a terrific backcourt. The Irish are one of the nation's most efficient offensive teams, scoring 81.1 PPG on 47.0 percent shooting (including on 40.9% threes which ranks 11th) and 82.4% from the FT line to rank 1st.
The pick: Notre Dame lost at FSU, despite making 15 of 21 threes. According to College Basketball Reference, Notre Dame is the 19th team since 2010-11 to make 15 or more 3-pointers while shooting over 70 percent from the field — and the first to lose. The problem against FSU was turnovers, as Notre Dame committed a season-high 18! The Fighting Irish had entered the game averaging the second-fewest in the nation at 9.4 per game. Now here's the rub. Notre Dame seniors V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia have seen and done a lot in their collegiate careers but they've yet to beat Syracuse and are 0-3 against the Orange, who have won seven of the last eight in the series. Notre Dame is averaging 81.1 PPG but hasn't reached 80 against Syracuse since getting 87 in a seven-point loss way back in 2008. Boeheim's zone has caused nightmares for Notre Dame, as Syracuse has won the past four meetings. Upset alert? Take the points and Syracuse an 8* play.
|01-20-17||Bucks v. Magic +3.5||Top||96-112||Win||100||10 h 59 m||Show|
The set-up: The 20-21 Milwaukee Bucks are in Orlando tonight to take on the 17-27 Magic. The Bucks are celebrating the fact that Giannis Antetokounmpo was just named an Eastern Conference All-Star starter, while the Magic have lost nine of their past 11 games, as a season that started out with promise has quickly fallen apart.
Milwaukee: Antetokounmpo got a well-deserved starting spot for the All Star game. He scored 32 points with 11 rebounds, making 13 of 20 field goals, in the Bucks' 111-92 loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. He's averaging 23.6 PPG (on 53.8 percent shooting) with 8.7 RPG and 5.6 APG (leads Milwaukee in all four categories). The Bucks' trouble has been that other than Jabari Parker (20.4 & 5.9), Antetokounmpo has had little help. Center Monroe (10.7 & 6.8) is doing a disappearing act so far this season and the team really misses Khris Middleton, who had surgery to repair a torn hamstring and is not expected to make his season debut until the middle of February (he led Milwaukee in scoring last yera at 18.4 PPG).
Orlando: The Magic now sit at 17-27 and are beginning to lose contact with the 'playoff pack.' First-year Orlando coach Frank Vogel preaches discipline on the defensive end and ball movement on the offensive end, but the players are not buying 100 percent into the system. "We don't play the right way," center Nikola Vucevic told the Orlando Sentinel after the Magic's 118-98 loss at New Orleans. "We can play as hard as we want -- as long as we keep playing like this, this is how it's going to be. It's hard for certain guys to keep giving effort when you don't do the right things out there. We take bad shots. We play selfish. It's embarrassing. We've been losing to everybody by 20. It's bad, man." Three of the last six games have fit the description from Vucevic, lifeless efforts where the Magic were blown out and beaten pretty handily. The pick: Orlando was 1-5 on its just-completed six-game road trip, while allowing an average of 113.7 PPG but hopes a return home will help. The Magic open a three-game homestand on Friday against Milwaukee, who comes in on a three-game slide of its own. The Bucks have taken the first two meetings this season, including a 104-96 victory at Orlando on Nov. 27, but I expect a strong bounce-back from the Magic in this one. Orlando is an 8* play.
|01-20-17||Oakland -1.5 v. Northern Kentucky||Top||79-70||Win||100||10 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: The 14-5 (4-2 in Horizon League) Oakland Golden Grizzlies are coming off a 76-65 home loss to Cleveland State this past Monday, the team's second in a row, both at home. The 12-7 (3-3 in Horizon League) Northern Kentucky Norse also lost a second straight game in their last outing, 68-58 back on Jan. 12 at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The two meet tonight at BB&T Arena in Highland Heights, Ky.
Oakland: Oakland won 23 games last year before losing in the championship game of the first-ever Vegas 16 postseason tourney. The Grizzlies knew replacing PG Felder (24.4-4.3-9.3) would be impossible plus the team also lost 6-9 center Gibson (11.3 & 6.2). However, Oakland was cruising at 14-3 before two straight losses. The guard tandem of Walker (17.0) and Dorsey-Walker (1.1-4.8-3.6) has been very good plus the 6-7 Hayes (15.1 & 6.9) has played well up front. Northern Kentucky: The Norse won just nine games last season (5-13 in Horizon play), so the team's 12-7 start has been nice. The 6-7 McDonald leads in scoring (16.9) and rebounding (8.2) and is joined by three other double digit scorers. Guards Holland (14.3 & 3.8 APG) and Murray (10.3) plus SF Williams (10.8 & 6.1). The pick: Oakland is coming off surprising back to back home loses to Detroit and Cleveland State. Yes, Northern Kentucky is a solid team that has played well at home this season but Oakland is better than it has shown these last two games and I expect them to bounce back here. Make Oakland a 10* play.
|01-19-17||Wolves v. Clippers -2||Top||104-101||Loss||-110||15 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: The underachieving 14-28 Minnesota Timberwolves will visit Staples Center Thursday night (second half of ESPN doubleheader) to take on the 29-14 LA Clippers, who currently won the NBA's longest active winning streak, at seven. However, the major story-line will be that the PG Chris Paul has now joined Blake Griffin on the sidelines due to injury (more later).
Minnesota: As for the Timberwolves, it seems as if this year's team just isn't going to jell under Tom Thibodeau, the former Chicago head coach. The Timberwolves were expected to be one of the up-and-coming clubs this season with their array of young talent and the addition of the defensive-minded Thibodeau but instead, the team has struggled playing .333 basketball! This, despite the presence of Towns (22.0 & 12.0), Wiggins (21.6 & 4.3) and LaVine (20.1). Inconsistency has plagued them, as they are tied with the Lakers (21st) in turnovers.
LA Clippers: The Clippers lost Blake Griffin 41.2-8.8-4.7) after their Dec. 18 loss at Washington to right knee surgery and after winning two straight, lost six in a row. However, LA has since won seven in a row (), averaging 109.4 PPG. However, PG Chris Paul (17.5-5.3-9.7-2.3 SPG) is expected to miss six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb suffered while trying to defend Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook in a 120-98 win over the Thunder on Monday. Head coach Doc Rivers, in typical coach-speak, said other players must step up. "We still have new guys -- Alan (Anderson) is new and Raymond (Felton) is new and Mo (Speights) and Brandon (Bass) -- this is a good opportunity for them to learn how to execute together," Rivers told the Los Angeles Times. "When everyone is back, when you get Chris and Blake back, if this group can execute, and then you put those two guys back on the floor, I think it makes us better in the long run. This is not the way you want to do it, but this is the way it's been presented."
The pick: It seems hard to believe that the Clippers will be able to "maintain" with both Griffin and Paul (Clippers went 2-5 without Paul during his last absence) on the sidelines but in this first game without both, I expect emotion to carry them over a Minnesota team which just can't seem to "get it right!' The T-wolves own just five road wins In 20 games), allowing 106.9 PPG and with the pointspread 'deflated,' LA is a 10* play.
|01-19-17||Pepperdine +19 v. BYU||Top||70-99||Loss||-110||13 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The 13-6 BYU Cougars will host the 5-13 Pepperdine Waves in WCC action tonight in college hoops. The Cougars are coming off an 88-75 loss at San Diego and are 4-2 in conference play, while the Waves come in on a three-game slide, falling to 1-5 in conference play. Pepperdine: The Waves can't match BYU's size up front and are led by the backcourt duo of Murray (20.1 & 5.6) and Major (11.2 & 4.1 APG), teaming with the 6-7 Reyes (15.0 & 7.7) in the frontcourt. However, with this pointspread, the Waves don't need to win to grab the cash. BYU: The Cougars have a deep backcourt with Emery (15.1), Haws (13.5) and PG Rose (5.9-5.2-5.3) plus even with the loss of the 6-8 Davis (8.8 & 4.0) for the season up front, still have the 6-10 Mika (20.5 & 9.5) and the 6-8 Childs (8.5 & 7.5).
The pick: Again, this is not about which team earns the win, it's about the margin of victory for BYU. The Cougars have no reason to feel threatened by the Waves and note that the underdog has covered in each of the last seven meetings in this series. Make it EIGHT in a row for the 'dog, as Pepperdine is a 10* play.
|01-18-17||Miami (Fla) v. Wake Forest -1||Top||79-96||Win||100||11 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: The Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes are 12-4 (2-2 in ACC) and hope to earn a second consecutive ACC road win at Wake Forest, over the 10-7 Demon Deacons (1-4 in ACC play). The Hurricanes are coming off a dominating 72-46 triumph at Pittsburgh while the Demon Deacons lost 93-87 to No. 9 North Carolina in their most recent game but they showed some positive signs by rallying from a 19-point deficit to get within one before the Tar Heels escaped with the victory.Miami: Led by guards McClellan (16.3) and Rodriguez (12.6 & 4.2 APG), Miami won 27 games last year, reaching the Sweet 16. That duo is gone but a trio of guards are scoring in double digits this season, Newton (15.2 & 4.0 APG), Reed (14.7 & 4.2) and Brown (11.0), who also averages 7.3 RPG, The team's best frontcourt player is the 6-8 Murphy (6.9 & 7.9). The Hurricanes saw their 21-game home winning streak snapped by Notre Dame back on Jan. 12 but rebounded well at Pittsburgh. Miami's aggressive defense limited the ACC's top two scorers, Pitt's Jamel Artis and Michael Young (who were averaging a combined 44.8 points), to only 17 combined points. Miami enters this game allowing 59.3 PPG, ranking 4th-best in the nation
Wake Forest: This is Danny Manning's third season as Wake's head coach. He was just 13-19 and 11-19 his first two seasons, so the team's 10-7 mark is a noticeable improvement. However, Wake is just 1-4 in ACC play, after going 7-29 the last two seasons. 6-10 sophomore John Collins (15.8 & 8.9) has emerged as one of the ACC's top big men after averaging only 7.3 points and 3.9 rebounds as a freshman. Joining him up front are the 6-10 Konstantinos Mitoglou (10.8 & 6.4) the 6-6 Arians (8.4) and the 7-1 Doral Moore (21 blocks), to give the Demon Deacons the size to match up with Miami's tall and athletic front line. There is no shortage of outside shooting options for Manning, with five of his players having made 20 or more three-point shots. Guards Keyshawn Woods (12.6) and Mitchell Wilbekin (7.2) plus the Austin Arians (8.4) are all shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc. Then there is PG Crawford, who is second in scoring at 14.8 PPG and averaginga a team-high 5.8 APG.
The pick: Miami is the better team but Jim Larranaga has yet to win at Wake Forest, since becoming Miami's head coach back at the start of the 2011-12 season (0-2). However, more importantly, Miami is only 1-8 overall in Winston-Salem since joing the ACC. The home tis aeam is an 8* play.
|01-18-17||TCU +4.5 v. Texas Tech||Top||69-75||Loss||-103||11 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: The 14-3 (3-2 in Big 12) TCU Horned Frogs are looking for the school's first three-game conference winning streak in eight years when they travel to take on the 13-4 (2-3 in Big 12) Texas Tech Red Raiders in a Big 12 mathcup.
TCU: Jamie Dixon left Pittsburgh after 13 years, which included 12, 20-win seasons and 11 NCAA appearances. He returned to his alma mater and TCU has matched the best start to a season in school history. The Horned Frogs are averaging 77.5 PPG, led by 6-11 sophomore Vladimir Brodziansky (12.6 & 5.8) and PG Alex Robinson (10.8 & 5.4 APG), a Texas A&M transfer. Six others contribute between 5.9 and 9.9 PPG and TCU plays solid defense, allowing 66.0 PPG.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders feature four double-figure scorers, paced by guard Keenan Evans' 14.0 PPG. The others are a trio of 6-8 players up front, Smith's (12.9 & 7.8), Livingston (12.1 & 4.2 ) and Ross (11.0 & 3.1). Tech averages 78.0 PPG and allows 64.1 PPG. Like TCU, Tech has a new coach this year in Chris Beard, who last yerar led Arkansas-Little Rock to a 30-win season, including an upset of Purdue in the NCAAs.
The pick: There is not too much difference between these two teams but Tech comes in having lost three of their last five (the two wins were by one point!) and has been sloppy so far in Big 12 play, averaging almost 13 turnover per game. TCU is an 8* play.
|01-18-17||Raptors -5 v. 76ers||Top||89-94||Loss||-115||11 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: The 28-13 Toronto Raptors own the East's second-best record and will play tonight in Philadelphia against the 76ers, who check in with a record almost the reverse of the Raptors, at 13-26. Toronto: The Raptors won 119-109 last night (Nets' 11th straight loss) behind 36 points from DeMar DeRozan (28.2-5.5-3.8) and a career-high 33 from Corey Joseph, who started alongside DeRozan in the backcourt while the Raptors rested Kyle Lowry, their starting point PG. Lowry (22.2-5.0-7.2), a Philadelphia native and Villanova product was held out due to an assortment of bumps and bruises, but is expected to be ready (and fresh) for his latest visit to his hometown. DeRozan also contributed 11 rebounds and six assists. Joseph (9.4 PPG) typically serves as Lowry's backup but enjoyed the best game of his career, connecting on 15-of-22 shots. Philadelphia: Thirteen wins may not seem like much but when one considers that Phily has had just 19, 18 and 10 wins over an entire season the last three years, 13 wins in the team's first 39 games is quite an improvement. No player has been more important to Philly's cause than rookie center Joel Embiid, who has almost single-handedly transformed the 76ers from a league laughingstock to a team that may have to be reckoned with in the next few years. Embiid heads into tonight's game leading all rookies inn scoring (19.7), rebounding (7.7) and blocked shots (2.4), all of which are also team highs. He has put up those numbers despite averaging only 25.3 MPG, as the 76ers are limiting Embiid, the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, to no more than 28 minutes after he missed two seasons while recovering from a pair of foot surgeries.
The pick: It's hard to argue with Embiid's contributions or Philly's improvement but the fact is, the 76ers have not matched up well against Toronto's 'firepower.' Toronto ranks 3rd in scoring (111.5 PPG) on 47.2% shooting (4th), 39.0% on threes (2nd) and 81.4% from the FT line (3rd). Philly has lost and failed to cover the last six meetings between te theo teams going back to last season, including losing both games this season while allowing 122 and 123 points! Toronto's 123-114 win back on Dec. 14 was its seventh straight in Philadelphia. Make the Raptors a 10* play.
|01-17-17||Wichita State -11 v. Evansville||Top||82-65||Win||100||13 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The 15-4 Wichita State Shockers have opened 5-1 in MVC play but that loss came in the team's last game, a 76-62 defeat at Illinois State as a three point favorite on Saturday. They travel to Evansville Tuesday night to take on the Purple Aces, who are 10-9 overall but just 1-5 in league play, after they lost their fourth in a row, a 73-61 defeat at the hands of visiting Southern Illinois as a four point favorite on Saturday.
Wichita State: In what was good news for the rest of the MVC, Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet are finally gone, after the four-year players helped lead the Shockers to 30, 35, 30 and 26 wins the past four seasons. However, Wichita State may still be the league's best team, although Illinois State has opend 14-4, including 6-0 in MVC play. The Shockers own amazing depth. They have triple digit scorers up front in the 6-8 McDuffie (12.5 & 5.1) and the 6-9 Willis (12.1 & 6.2) plus a center duo of Morris and Nurger combining for 12.3 PPG and 6.4 RPG. Shamet (10.6) is the top scorer in the backcourt but three fellow guards combine to average 18.8 PPG.
Evansville: The Purple Aces were extremely dangerous the past few years but with D.J. Baltine (20.8 PPG) and the 6-11 Mockevicius (15.7 & 13.9) having graduated, this year's team is "a few bricks shy of a load." The guard duo of Jaylon Brown (20.8) and Ryan Taylor (15.7) give the Purple Aces arguably the MVC's best backcourt but it's hard to win with a two-man offense, especially with little help up front.
The pick: The Shockers are 39-16 ATS in their last 55 road games and 44-22-1 ATS in their last 67 conference matchups. Take the road favorite, making Wichita State a 10* play.
|01-17-17||Wolves +11 v. Spurs||Top||114-122||Win||100||12 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The 14-27 Minnesota Timberwolves had put together a three-game winning streak before suffering a 98-87 road loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday but head to San Antonio to take on the 31-9 Spurs, a team they haven't beaten in San Antonio since April 17, 2013. Minnesota: The T-wolves own the enviable trio of Wiggins (21.9 & 4.3), Towns (21.8 & 11.9) and LaVine (20.1). Shooting guard LaVine (hip) struggled in his return from a two-game injury absence and had just 11 points in 34 minutes in Sunday's loss to the Mavericks. LaVine admitted to feeling "a little tired, a little gassed" in the opening minutes but said the poor effort was due to his sub-par shooting and not rust. Center Karl-Anthony Towns had just 18 points and nine rebounds against Dallas, snapping a streak of 10 consecutive double-doubles. Most observers believed teh T-wolves would show marked improvement this season under new head coach Tom Thibodeau but the team's record says, that hasn't been the case. San Antonio: The Spurs are looking to bounce back from a rare loss, as Kawhi Leonard's (24.6 & 5.7) career-high 38-point performance in Mexico City was wasted Saturday against the Suns, when the Spurs let an 11-point third-quarter lead get away in a 108-105 loss. "I'm always trying to come down with a win. That's what matters to me and my squad. It was definitely disappointing to come out with a loss," Leonard said after that game. Aldridge (17.5 & 7.1) joins Leonard as San Antonio's new "Big 2" but that San Antonio depth is alive and well, as the Spurs have seven players contributing between 6.2 and 11.9 PPG.
The pick: The Spurs have only lost back-to-back contests just once this season and are 7-1 in games after a loss, winning those seven games by an average of 19.7 PPG. Yes, Minnesota is just 5-14 SU on the road this year but it is only being outscored by an average of 5.1 PPG. "We're still not there," Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after Sunday's loss to Dallas. "We went into camp with that idea of locking into daily improvement. Studying the team closely in the off-season, I knew there were a lot of areas we were short in. ... I like the direction we're moving in." I agree and will take the big points and make Minnesota a 10* play.
|01-16-17||Kansas v. Iowa State +2.5||Top||76-72||Loss||-110||13 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 2 Kansas has ripped off 16 straight wins (16-1 on the season, including 5-0 in the Big 12) and could be ranked No. 1 when the new AP poll comes out Monday afternoon, before the Jayhawks take the court against the 11-5 (3-2 in Big 12 play) Iowa State Cyclones.Kansas: Head coach Bill Self is a little concerned with Kansas' recent uneven efforts. The Jayhawks had to rally from a halftime deficit for the second straight game on Saturday at home versus Oklahoma State. Kansas trailed by nine at the half in last Tuesday’s 11-point road win at Oklahoma and was down 40-36 at the break to Oklahoma State before taking the lead with 14 minutes left en route to an 87-80 home triumph. "We did not play that well, but we are not going to apologize for this. It was a good win against a good team, " Self said.“I don’t know if we’ll be No. 1 or Villanova will jump us or whatever. It’s really not a big deal.” Self's got quite a perimeter group, led by PG Mason III (20.5-4.4-5.5), who joined by freshman swingman Jackson (15.6 & 6.7), Graham (13.5), junior swingman Mykhailiuk(10.8) and Vick (8.1). With the 7-0 Azubuike (5.0 & 4.40 out for the season, the 6-10 Lucas (8.1 & 7.6) starts and the 6-10 Bragg (5.9 & 5.2) comes off the bench. Kansas averages 86.4 PPG (12th) on 50.1% shooting (12th). Iowa State: The Cyclones can run and score with most teams, averaging 81.6 PPG (36th), including averaging 86.4 PPG in going 7-1 SU at home. Iowa State can match Kansas on the perimeter with guards Long (15.7 & 4.8), Morris (15.5-5.0-5.8) , Burton (12.4 & 6.9) and Thomas (11.3 & 4.8) but may have trouble up front with only the 6-8 Bowie (8.2 & 5.4) making any real contributions.
The pick: Iowa State has won two straight at home in the series vs. Kansas and seven of the last 11 meetings overall. The Cyclones rarely lose at home in the Hilton Coliseum. It's an arena described as possessing “Hilton Magic” by the Des Moines Register back in 1989. The 14,384-seat arena includes seats just a few feet from the court and players from opposing teams, and also the home team, have said that the floor has shaken because of the noisy crowd. That all sounds good but Cincinnati won here back on Dec. 1 and the Jayhawks are a far superior team to the Bearcats. Make Kansas an 8* play.
|01-16-17||Syracuse v. North Carolina -14||Top||68-85||Win||100||11 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: North Carolina ended FSU's 12-game winning streak with a 96-83 win over the Seminoles on Saturday. North Carolina is now 16-3 (4-1 in ACC play) and is expected to move into the AP's top-10 (currently at No. 11) in Monday's new poll. Syracuse comes to Chapel Hill 11-7 (3-2 in ACC play) for a rematch of last year's national semifinal game, in which the Tar Heels beat the Orange 83-66. Syracuse: The Orange were a surprise Final Four team last season (actually, most were surprised the Orange even made the NCAA field!) but it seems unlikely Syracuse will get an at-large bid this season. We are almost 20 games into the current season and Syracuse is still looking for its first win away from home this season. The 6-7 White, a Nebraska transfer, leads the team in scoring at 15.8 PPG and 6-9 sophomore Lydon is the team's top rebounder at 7.6 per game. Lydon is also the team's only other double digit scorer, averaging 13.0 PPG. However, freshman guard Tyus Battle (9.7) appears to be hitting his stride. He has scored at least 13 in each of the past three games, including a career-high 21 against Boston College on Saturday, after reaching double digits in points in just three of the first 15 games.Syracuse averages 76.3 PPG (13th) and will have a difficult time trading points with the high-scoring Tar Heels. North Carolina: The Tar Heels' offense rarely takes a backseat to any team, as North Carolina is averaging 89.6 PPG (4th) and has scored at least 90 points 11 times this season, after scoring 93 in Saturday's 12-point win over FSU. 6-10 freshman Tony Bradley (8.1 & 5.9) suffered a concussion Wednesday and did not play on Saturday. He may be out again here and is a loss but a frontcourt of Jackson (17.9 & 4.8), Hicks (12.7 & 5.3) and Meeks (12.5 & 9.5) plus a backcourt of Berry (16.2 & 4.4 APG) and Williams (7.1) should be just fine. Help was received Saturday from versatile 6-6 junior swingman Theo Pinson, who gave the Tar Heels a big boost off the bench with 12 points and 10 rebounds against Florida State in his first major contribution since returning from October foot surgery.
The pick: Syracuse has lost all five of its road or neutral-court games this season, including its only contest against a ranked team, a 77-60 defeat at No. 17 Wisconsin on Nov. 29. That margin seems about right in this one. Make North Carolina a 10* play.
|01-15-17||Thunder -1.5 v. Kings||Top||122-118||Win||100||12 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The 24-17 OKC Thunder will be in Sacramento tonight to take on the 16-23 Kings. Sacramento seemed to catch the Thunder off guard when they went with a small line-up back on Nov. 23., beating OKC 116-101. However, there was nothing small about DeMarcus Cousins' 36 points and 13 rebounds!
Oklahoma City: The Thunder saw their three-game winning streak end in a 96-86 loss Friday at Minnesota. OKC shot 38.8 percent as a team (including a woeful 3 of 20 on threes!) and it took most (all?) of the luster off Westbrook's 19th triple-double of the season (21-11-12). Those 19 match his total from 80 games last season. No player has surpassed that mark since the NBA absorbed four teams after the ABA collapsed in 1976. Magic had 18 in 1982-83, a record that stood for 32 seasons until Westbrook broke it last year in his 80th game. Wilt had 31 for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1967-68 before the NBA-ABA merger. Westbrook is averaging a triple-double for the season (30.8-10.7-10.5)
Sacramento: Kings had nine TOs Friday in the first quarter and 21 overall, in losing 120-108 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Kings lost for the fifth time in their past six home games, falling to 1-4 on their current seven-game homestand and to 2-6 since a season-best four-game winning streak last month. Clearly, the Kings are not making the most of a seven-game homestand and against playoff contenders like the Clippers, Warriors and Cavs, they've lost by a combined 31 points.
The pick: The Thunder are a playoff contender (although hardly a real threat to win the NBA title with Durant in Oakland) and should take care of the Kings without too much trouble. Make OKC a 10* play.
|01-15-17||USC +3 v. Colorado||Top||71-68||Win||100||12 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: USC surprised all by opening 14-0 but never climbed any higher than the very bottom of the top-25. Now, after three losses in their last four games, the 15-3 Trojans (2-3 in Pac 12 play) will likely drop out of the AP's new top-25 poll come Monday, win or lose tonight at Colorado. The Buffaloes are 10-7 overall but still searching for their first conference win after getting routed on their home court by No. 4 UCLA on Thursday night. Colorado is off to its first 0-4 conference start since 2008-09, when the Buffs lost their first four Big 12 contests en route to a 1-15 finish.
USC: The Trojans are playing their second straight game at high altitude, after a 22-point loss at Utah on Thursday. They did the same thing two years ago and suffered two blowout losses in those games. "You just try to get adjusted quickly," USC coach Andy Enfield told The Los Angeles Daily News. "It's a big advantage for Utah and Colorado." The Trojans averaged 83.2 PPG in compiling a 13-0 non-conference mark but have averaged a mere 68.0 PPG in Pac-12 play. USC owns great depth on the perimeter led by McLaughlin (14.2 & 4.9 APG) and Stewart (13.1 & 5.3). Melton (10.0 & 5.3), Aaron (9.3) and Mathews (7.2) are also solid contributors. Up front, the 6-11 Metu (13.6 & 7.9) could sure use the return of the 6-10 Boatright (10.8 & 4.0 in five games), who may be back by the end of the month.
|01-14-17||Baylor v. Kansas State -2.5||Top||77-68||Loss||-110||9 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: Baylor began the season unranked but a 15-0 start led to the school's first-ever No. 1 ranking, this past Monday. However, the Bears got to enjoy their first-ever No. 1 ranking for just ONE day, before getting hammered 89-68 Tuesday at No. 10 West Virginia. Now the Bears will try to avoid their first losing streak of the season when they visit Kansas State on Saturday afternoon and the 13-3 (2-2 in Big 12 play) Wildcats will not be in a good mood, as they lost 66-65 at Texas Tech on Tuesday, after sneaking into the top-25 last Monday (at No. 25), for the first time since the 2013-14 season.Baylor: The Bears were picked fifth in the league's preseason poll after losing NBA first-round pick Taurean Prince and top rebounder Rico Gathers but ascended to No. 1 in the AP Monday. However, Baylor had a season-high 29 turnovers in the loss at Morgantown but despite its No. 1 ranking it really wasn't a big upset considering the Mountaineers actually went into the contest as 5 1/2-point favorites. After allowing almost 90 points to West Va, Baylor fell to No. 9 overall in points allowed (60.2 PPG) and also rank 9th in opponents' FG percentage at 38.1 (pretty good stuff). The 6-10 Motley (15.3 & 9.1), the 7-0 Lual-Acuil (10.8 & 7.4) and the 6-8 Maston (8.3 & 4.7) make for a formidable frontcourt, teaming with guards Lecomte (11.8 & 4.7 APG), a Miami transfer, and Freeman (11.5). Kansas State: With Baylor's great start, it's been easy to overlook Kansas State's surprising start. The Wildcats were projected to finish ninth in the 10-team Big 12 Conference but Kansas State is 13-3. All five starters are scoring in double digits, with the 6-7 Iwundu (12.5-5.3-3.3) leading the way, joined by guards Brown (12.1) and Stokes (11.4 & 4.6 APG) plus up front it's the 6-9 Johnson (11.5 & 6.4) and the 6-10 Wade (10.6 & 5.4). Add in 6-5 freshman Sneed (8.9 PPG) and Bruce Weber's got quite a team.The Wildcats are playing excellent defense as well, allowing 61.5 PPG to rank 11th.
The pick: While Baylor got thumped on Tuesday, Kansas State's loss was more heart-breaking. The Wildcats held the lead for most of the game before giving it up in the final minute. KSU had a chance to retake the lead with eight seconds remaining but Barry Brown drove to the basket and missed a layup. Niem Stevenson rebounded and was fouled. The Wildcats fell to Texas Tech 66-65. Head coach Bruce Weber noted during this week's radio show that his team is four points away from being undefeated. "There's such a thin margin of victory in this league," he said. "You've got great balance and great depth in this league." Kansas State is 9-0 SU at home this year, holding opponetst to just 58.4 PPG. Baylor loses for a second straight time. Make KSU an 8* play.
|01-14-17||Florida State +7.5 v. North Carolina||Top||83-96||Loss||-110||6 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: Florida State is 16-1 (4-0 in ACC play) and will take its No. 9 ranking in the AP poll into Chapel Hill on Saturday afternoon to take on the 15-3 (3-1 in ACC Play) North Carolina Tar Heels, who are currently ranked 11th in the AP's latest poll. It seems strange, doesn't it, that FSU is the higher ranked team? More on that later.Florida State: The Seminoles' only loss came back on Nov. 24, 89-86 to temple in the NIT Season Tip-Off at MSG. Tweleve wins in a row have followed, including three straight over ranked teams (at No.12 Va, then home against No. 21 Va. Tech & No. 7 Duke). Now ist at No. 11 North Carolina, with home games against No. 20 Notre Dame and No. 14 Louisville to follow! "We are just trying to take it one game at a time and not get ourselves caught up in anything other than what is going on in the moment,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton told reporters after Tuesday’s 88-72 win over Duke. “That is how we try to approach it and I think our guys have matured with that philosophy.” The Seminoles are scoring 86.7 PPG (13th) on 50.8% shooting (6th), led by a very deep perimeter group.Bacon (17.8 & 4.1) is the etam's leading scorer but he has plenty help on teh perimeter from guards Rathan-Mayes (11.1-3.4-4.6), Mann (9.4-4.9), Savoy (7.7), Walker (6.5) and Forrest (6.2). The team's best big man is the 6-10 Isaac (12.1 & 7.2) but note that four players have at least 16 blocks, led by 7-4 Christ Koumadje with 24. North Carolina: The Tar Heels' offense rarely takes a backseat to any team, as North Carolina’s high-powered team is averaging 89.3 PPG (6th) and has scored at least 90 points 10 times this season. All five starters scored in double figures in Wednesday's win over Wake Forest but the Tar Heels received only 10 points from their bench. 6-10 freshman Tony Bradley (8.1 & 5.9) is out for this one after suffering a concussion Wednesday and he'll be missed but a frontcourt of Jackson (17.7 & 4.9), Meeks (12.9 & 9.7) and Hicks (12.2 & 5.2) plus a backcourt of Berry (15.6 & 4.6 APG) and Williams (7.2) should be just fine.
The pick: FSU carries a school-record 12-game winning streak into this contest but the Tar Heels are 8-0 at home, outscoring lined opponents 91.9-to-61.4 PPG. This is only the 10th time in 61 all-time meetings that both teams are ranked when they meet. However, this is the first time that the Seminoles take the court as the higher ranked team in the only regular-season clash between the teams. With Roy Williams as the coach, this is the 17th time when an opponent will show up at the Smith Center with a higher ranking than the Tar Heels. However, Bradley's absence leaves a void in the lane for the No. 11 Tar Heels against FSU's size inside. Then there's FSU' depth on the perimeter. Take the points and make FSU an 8* play.
|01-14-17||Minnesota v. Penn State -1||Top||50-52||Win||100||4 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: The Minnesota Golden Gophers entered the AP's top-25 poll last Monday at No.24 (1st ranking since the 2012-13 season) but were handled very easily on the road by Michigan State on Wednesday, 65-47. The 15-3 (3-2 in Big Ten) Gophers will try to re-group this afternoon in State College, when they take on the 10-7 (2-2 in Big Ten) Penn State Nittany Lions, who beat that very same Michigan State team 72-63 last Saturday at The Palestra.
Minnesota: Richard Pitino won the NIT back in 2013-14 (his first year at Minnesota) but then came an 18-15 (6-12 in the Big Ten) season and then last year's 'nightmare' of 8-23 (2-16 in the Big Ten). Despite Wednesday's loss, it's clear last year's performance is well behind this year's team. Pitino features a four-guard rotation, with Mason (14.3-3.4-5.4) as the team's leading scorer, along with Coffey (12.2), McBrayer (12.1) and Springs (8.8). The 6-6 Murphy (10.3 & 8.3) is the team's leading rebounder joined up front by 6-10 center Lynch (8.2 & 5.8) and the 6-9 Curry (6.6 & 5.8). The Gophers are the Big Ten's best rebounding team in the defensive end (29.2), lead the conference in blocked shots (118) and don't give up easy baskets, as opponents are making just 38 percent of their field goals, ranking Minnesota 1st in that category.
Penn State: Head coach Patrick Chambers is in his sixth season with the Nittany Lions and that win over the Spartans was his first over Michigan State in his tenure. Rebounding for a win against the Spartans following a disastrous loss to Michigan last week where the Nittany Lions let a 14-point lead slip away with 12:41 left, has done wonders for the team's confidence. "We're on a little bit of roller coaster but we've played three really good games so I'm hoping for that consistency as we approach this weekend," Chambers said. "I didn't give them 'I told you so' yet. But I think what I see in practice is a team that's not relaxed. A team that's not content or complacent thinking, 'oh we won a big game, we finally arrived or figured it out." Sophomore guard Josh Reaves (8.3 & 4.5) has helped inject attitude in the lineup. Along with upperclassmen, guard Shep Garner (12.8) and forward Payton Banks (12.0), Reaves was especially competitive in Monday's practice that had Chambers feeling good about his team heading into the weekend. Garner and Banks are joined in double digits by the 6-7 Stevens (12.7 & 6.0) and guard Carr (11.5 & 5.5), who are both freshman, plus the 6-10 Watkins (10.0 & 8.2).
The pick: Minnesota is greatly improved from last season but I still don't much trust them on the road. I was on Michigan State Wednesday and will back Penn State in this one. The Nittany Lions are a 10* play.
|01-13-17||Pistons v. Jazz -10||Top||77-110||Win||100||11 h 11 m||Show|
The set-up: The 18-23 Detroit Pistons will continue their five-game road trip by playing tonight in Salt Lake City, up against the 24-16 Utah Jazz. The Pistons lost 127-107 last night in Oakland to the Warriors and limp into this contest having lost 10 of their last 14. Meanwhile, the Jazz come off a "statement win" Tuesday night, when they outplayed and outworked the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in a 100-92 victory. The Jazz are tied with the Thunder atop the Northwest Division and with a win tonight, can move a season-best nine games over .500.
Detroit: The Pistons won their first game of the trip 125-124 in double-OT at Portland (the team's second straight one-point victory) but squandered an 18-point lead in a 100-94 setback at Sacramento on Tuesday. Last night, they were drubbed 127-107 by th Warriors. "We made too many defensive game-plan mistakes where we weren't doing what we were supposed to be doing and we didn't get back in transition and get matched up and we turned the ball over," Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters. "When you don't do those three things against a team like that, you have no chance." A check of the league stats say Detroit ranks 5th in points allowed (100.9) but since the calendar has turned to 2017, the Pistons have allowed 117.2 PPG in starting January 3-3. Utah: When playing Utah, one better hold down the Jazz, as Utah ranks first in both points allowed (94.9 PPG) and opponents' FG percentage (36.9%). Six players scored in double figures against teh Cavs, including all five starters. PG Hill was one of them with 13 points and seven assists. The Jazz are a much better offensive team when's he's in the lineup. He's been back for three straight games now and when healthy (he's played just 12 games), contributes 18.2 PPG and 4.4 APG. SF Gordon Hayward and center Rudy Gobert are both playing like All Stars. Hayward is averaging a career-best 22.2 PPG, while Gobert is also averaging career highs in points (12.3), rebounds (12.3) and blocks (2.5). He's grabbed 10-plus rebounds in 25 straight games and has notched 27 double-doubles this season!
The pick: I played against the Pistons last night with the Warriors and will go to the well against them tonight as well. Make Utah an 8* play.
|01-13-17||Yale +1.5 v. Pennsylvania||Top||68-60||Win||100||13 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: Yale has won six of its last seven and will open Ivy League play tonight at Penn. The Quakers are 6-6 on the season but have a game under their belt in Ivy League play, although the result was a 61-52 loss at Princeton last Saturday. Yale: The Bulldogs are coming off a remarkable 2015-16 season, that saw the Bulldogs end a 54-year NCAA drought (won Ivy League at 13-1) and tehe win the school's first-ever NCAA game by upsetting Baylor in the first round. The team ended the season 23 wins, the most since the 1906-07 season! Yale lost two excellent frontcourt palyers from that team, in Sears (15.7 & 7.5), a two-time Ivy player-of-the-year, and Sherrod (12.7 & 7.0). However, after making himself available for the NBA draft, guard Makai Mason (16.0 & 3.8 APG) decided to stay in school. Tragically, he suffered a foot injury which will keep him out all season. Still, the Bulldogs have five players averaging in double digits, with PG Dallier just missing (9.2 PPG and 4.2 APG). Penn: The Quakers are led by the 6-8 AJ Brodeur (14.8 & 6.6) while guard Matt Howard is averaging 12.5 points & 6.5 RPG. However, they are the team's only two double digit scorers and Penn has nowhere near Yale's depth or overall talent level. Penn has won seven of its last 11 home games.
The pick: Yale won at Washington and played Temple to within six points right here in The Palestra. The Bulldogs were 9-3-1 ATS against Ivy League foes last season (13-1 SU), have proven they can win on the road and have won the last eight matchups against Penn! Yale is a 10* play.
|01-12-17||Pistons v. Warriors -13||Top||107-127||Win||100||14 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: The 18-22 Detroit Pistons continue their five-game road trip tonight in Oakland, taking on the league-best 33-6 Golden State Warriors. The Pistons won their first game of the trip 125-124 in double-OT at Portland (the team's second straight one-point victory) but squandered an 18-point lead in a 100-94 setback at Sacramento on Tuesday . "I could not find anything to get us out of it," Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters. The Warriors allowed Miami's Hassan Whiteside to score 28 points and grab 20 rebounds on Tuesday but playing on their home court, were able to prevail in a 107-95 win.
Detroit: Center Andre Drummond had 14 poitst and 21 rebounds when the Pistons hosted the Warriors back on Dec. 23, in a 119-113 Golden State win. It was his fifth career double-double in seven matchups with Golden State. The rematch is tonight with Detroit's third game on a five-city trip. The Pistons have six players in double digtst (Ish Smith comes in at 8.3 PPG) but the team ranks 24th with just 100.1 PPG. Finding an offensive flow continues to be an issue, as for Detroit ranks in the bottom third of the league with an average of 21.1 assists (had only 14 in Tuesday's loss). "We gave them 13 threes and then our ball movement was just ridiculous in the second half," Van Gundy told reporters. "We would not pass. In the second half, they had 13 assists on 18 buckets and we had four assists on 16 buckets. We were playing everything one-on-one. We would not pass the ball. That is why we ended up where we are and we've got to learn from it."
Golden State: The Warriors beat the Heat with Klay Thompson, as head coach Steve Kerr elected to rest Thompson, who had been battling an illness. Expect him back in the lineup tonight. Unlike Detroit, Golden State doesn't have any problems with ball movement and leads the league with an average of 31 assists while ranking No. 1 in PPG at 117.3 (also ranks No. 1 with a 49.8% FG percentage). PG Stephen Curry handed out nine assists on Tuesday and continued a trend of being more aggressive in looking for his offense with 24 points on 21 shots. Curry, who got off to a relatively slow start for a reigning two-time MVP while stepping back to help integrate Durant into the system, was named Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday and is averaging 30.2 points and 6.2 assists in the last five contests. The "Core Four" of Durant (26.0-8.7-4.6), Curry (24.7-4.4-5.9), Thompson (21.3) and Green (10.9-8.8-7.5) is just fine, thank you.
The pick: Detroit handed the Warriors one of their nine regular-season losses in 2015-16 and while Golden State took the first meeting this season 119-113 on Dec. 23, it was a battle. It took 32 points by Kevin Durant, 25 by Stephen Curry and a 12-assist, 10-rebound double-double by Draymond Green for Golden State to scratch out the win. However, Golden State turned the ball over a season-high 23 times in that contest. Don't expect that to happen again and with Detroit struggling offensively, let em add that teh Warriors rank 2nd in defensive FG percentag (43.3%), including 32.6% on threes, which ranks 1st! Make Golden State a 10* play.
|01-12-17||Notre Dame v. Miami (Fla) -3.5||Top||67-62||Loss||-115||10 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: Notre Dame attempts to start 4-0 in conference play for the first time in program history when the No. 20 Fighting Irish (14-2, 3-0 in ACC play) visit 11-3, 1-1 in ACC play) Miami on Thursday night. Notre Dame, which is coming off a home victory against Clemson, is 3-0 for the second time as a member of the ACC but never started with four straight league wins in the ACC or during their time in the Big East. Notre Dame: The Irish won 24 games last year, before losing in the Elite 8 and has a starting-five that includes two seniors and three juniors. PG Jackson (15.8 & 4.7 APG) and center Auguste (14.0 & 10.7) are missed from last year's team but four of five starters this year average 14 PPG or more. SF Colson leads in scoring (16.4) and rebounding (10.8) and is joined up front by the 6-8 Beachem (14.6 & 3.9) and the 6-10 Geben (4.3 & 5.1). SG Vasturia (15.0) and PG Farrell (14.0 & 5.4 APG) make up a terrific backcourt. The Irish are one of the nation's most efficient offensive teams, ranking No. 1 in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.89) and free-throw shooting (84 percent) and No. 17 in three-point field-goal percentage (40.2) percent while averaging 82.3 PPG. Miami: The Hurricanes are back on the court for the first time in eight days and probably can't wait to get at it. The team's last contest was a struggle on both ends of the floor in a 70-55 loss at Syracuse that ended a seven-game winning streak. The Hurricanes shot 38.9 percent from the floor and made 2-of-10 foul shots while the Orange hit a sizzling 56.8 percent against a Miami team that ranks No. 14 in Division I in FG percentage defense (38.4). Led by guards McClellan (16.3) and Rodriguez (12.6 & 4.2 APG), Miami won 27 games last year, reaching the Sweet 16. That duo is gone but a trio of guards are scoring in double digits this season, Newton (15.2), Reed (14.) and Brown (10.9), who also averages 7.3 RPG, The team's best frontcourt player is the 6-8 Murphy (7.2 & 7.6). Miami ranks 6th in points allowed at 59.7 PPG.
The pick: Notre Dame comes in red-hot but Miami is 8-0 SU at home this season, allowing just 57.8 PPG in lined contests. The Hurricanes also take 21-game home winning streak into a this contest against Notre Dane, a team they beat by nine and 18 points last season. Revenge for Notre Dame.? I say no way and will make Miami a 10* play.
|01-11-17||Wizards v. Celtics -5.5||Top||108-117||Win||100||10 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The 19-18 Washington Wizards will head to TD Bank Center tonight for a game with the 23-15 Boston Celtics. Washington won its 10th straight home game Tuesday night (101-99 over the Bulls) and climbed above the .500 mark for the first time since it was 6-5 back on Nov. 24, 2015. Meanwhile, Boston's four-game winning streak was snapped Tuesday night in Toronto (Raptors won 114-106), as the Celtics missed a chance to inch past the Raptors into second place (via tiebreaker) in the East. Washington: Moving above the break-even point was a big deal for Washington,considering the Wizards opened the season 7-13 under new head coach Scott Brooks. Winning 12 of the team's last 17 games has Washington headed in the right direction. "It was a real big win to be over .500," forward Markieff Morris, acquired from Phoenix last February, told reporters. "We haven't been over .500 since I got here actually, so it just feels good." PG John Wall recorded the last two of his 26 points with 5.9 seconds left as the Wizards rallied from 18 points down against a short-handed Bulls team. Wall is averaging 23.2-4.4-10.3 on the season and SG Bradley Beal (22.1) scored 19 points to end a streak of four consecutive 20-point efforts and is averaging 23.8 during that span. That's quite a guard combo plus the team's entire starting frontcourt also averages in double digits. Forwards Porter (14.1 & 6.5) and Morris (13.2 & 5.9( surround center Gortat (11.5 & 11.9), who has posted eight consecutive double-digit rebounding efforts and is averaging 13.1 boards during that span. Boston: The Celtics have been led also season by their backcourt duo, as well. PG Isaiah Thomas (27.9 & 6.1 APG) scored 27 points against Toronto last night (his 22nd straight 20-point game!) but the Celtics gave up 68 points in the second half, blew a 16-point third quarter lead and lost, 114-106. SG Avery Bradley (18.0 & 7.0) could return after a two-game absence fighting an Achilles issue but center Tyler Zeller (4.1 & 2.9) is expected to sit out his sixth straight contest with a sinus infection. That will mean more time for Olynyk (7.9 & 4.0), who backs up FA center Horford (15.3-6.8-4.9).
The pick: Boston's loss to Toronto means the Celtics still haven't beaten a team with a better record yet this season but the Wizards don't own a better record than Boston in this one. The Celtics will be playing with revenge from a loss back in Washington on Nov. 9, when the Wizards spurted to a 26-point first quarter lead and Otto Porter's career night of 34 points and 14 rebounds led the Wizards to an easy 118-93 win. However, the Celtics played without the injured Al Horford and Jae Crowder that night. Of even more relevance, bothe teams playing the second of back-to-back games and while the Celtics are 5-3, winning five of their last six back ends of back-to-backs, the Wizards are just 1-6. Make Boston a 10* play.
|01-11-17||Tulane +5.5 v. South Florida||Top||82-67||Win||100||11 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: Tulane is just 3-12 to open its season and while South Florida is 6-8, both teams are still looking for their first American Athletic Conference win of the season (Green Wave and the Bulls have each opened 0-3 in AAC play).
Tulane: The Green Wave took a five-point lead over Memphis late in the first half in their last game but ran out of gas in an 80-59 defeat that dropped them to 5-28 in their last 33 games against conference foes dating back to the 2014-15 season. Defense has been a major concern early in AAC play for Tulane, which has allowed all three opponents to reach the 80-point plateau (an average of 85.7 PPG) and enters this contest allowing 79.5 PPG on the season (320th) on 48.2% shooting (337th). Junior guard Cameron Reynolds leads the team in scoring (15.5 PPG), ranks second in rebounding (6.2) and is third in three-point shooting (40.4 percent) but finds himself in the midst of a cold spell (2-of-10 from long range over his last three games). Backcourt partner Kain Harris (11.1) provides nice scoring balance and is averaging 16.7 points over his previous three contests. Guard Melvin Frazier (10.6) is the other Tulane player averaging in double figures and ranks third in the AAC in steals per game (1.7). USF: Things aren't going much better for the Bulls, who dismissed head coach Orlando Antigua on Jan. 3 and promoted assistant Murry Bartow to the head role. South Florida is coming off an 84-65 loss to SMU and has just one win in its last eight games against AAC opponents. The Bulls also have three players in double digits, guards Thorpe (13.6-3.9-4.0) and Hol;sston (11.5) plus 6-7 freshman Tulio Da Silva i(10.7 & 8.2).
The pick: Neither team scores all that well and while USF is the better defensive etam (69.8 PPG), the bulls are also teh favorite and sport an 18-40-1 ATS record in their last 59 home games. Tulane is the 8* play.
|01-11-17||Minnesota v. Michigan State -4||Top||47-65||Win||100||11 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: Tom Izzo's Michigan State team opened the season ranked 12th in the AP's preseason poll but is just 11-6 (3-1 in Big Ten play). MSU's best player, 6-7 freshman Miles Bridges, has returned after missing seven games with a foot injury but isn't yet in top form. Richard Pitino won the NIT back in 2013-14 (his first year at Minnesota) but then came an 18-15 (6-12 in the Big Ten) season and then last year's 'nightmare' of 8-23 (2-16 in the Big Ten). However, the Gophers are 15-2 (3-1 in Big Ten play) and Monday entered the AP's top-25 at No. 24, the school's first ranking since the 2012-13 season.
Minnesota: Pitino features a four-guard rotation, with Mason (14.4-3.3-5.7) as the team's leading scorer, along with Coffey (12.8), McBrayer (12.1) and Springs (9.1). The 6-6 Murphy (10.6 & 8.5) is the team's leading rebounder joined up front by 6-10 center Lynch (8.6 & 6.0) and the 6-9 Curry (5.9 & 5.8). The 34-year-old son of Louisville coach Rick Pitino says he's more concerned about getting an NCAA Tournament bid and winning championships tahn the team's AP ranking. "Rankings are for the fans," he said. "That's not our goal." Minnesota is tied atop the Big Ten standings with the Spartans and two other teams and carries a three-game winning streak into East Lansing, which includes a 78-68 home victory over Ohio State on Sunday. Minnesota lost at home to Michigan State (75-74 in overtime at Williams Arena on Dec. 27) but then won at Purdue and Northwester, to open Big Ten play.Michigan State: 6-8 freshman center Nick Ward (13.8 & 6.6) led the Spartans in that win over the Gophers with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Izzo is starting four freshmen, partly because of injuries to some veteran players prior to the season. The Spartans come into this game after suffering their first conference loss on Saturday, falling to unranked Penn State 72-63 at The Palestra in Philadelphia. Izzo is searching for some consistency and once Bridges returns to form, the Spartans should develop the consistency that Izzo is seeking. The prized freshman forward remains the team's leading scorer (14.3) and rebounder (8.2) even though that ankle injury cost him seven games. Bridges is averaging 5.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 22.0 minutes since returning to action two games ago.
The pick: The Golden Gophers have won two straight conference road games for the first time since 2011-12 but winning three in a row seems like a stretch. They couldn't beat MSU at home, even when the Spartans were without Bridges. Make Michigan State an 8* play.
|01-11-17||Nebraska-Omaha +5 v. IUPU-Indianapolis||Top||79-71||Win||100||11 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: The 8-9 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks play the 7-10 IUPUI Jaguars Wednesday in Summit League action from the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Nebraska-Omaha: The Mavericks could use a big road victory to get back to a .500 record but are just 1-3 to open Summit League action. Omaha is averaging 81.8 PPG but allowing 85,4 PPG (344th) on 45.7 percent shooting (279th). Guard Tyus is averaging 15.1 PPG to lead the team with the 6-7 Thurman averaging 13.4 PPG and a team-best 8.1 RPG. The backcourt also features two other double digit scorers in Jackson (11.6 & 5.1) plus PG Holins (10.9), who is also handing out 6.3 APG. IUPUI: The Jaguars are averaging 78.7 PPG but allowing 76.7 PPG. Darell Combs is averaging 18.1 PPG and is joined on the perimeter by Patterson and Thomas, who each average 8.5 PPG. The 6-8 O'Leary is averaging 14.8 points and 6.6 rebounds.
The pick: IUPUI is 5-0 SU at home but there is very little difference between the two teams. I'll take the points and make Omaha an 8* play.
|01-10-17||Kansas State v. Texas Tech -5||Top||65-66||Loss||-115||12 h 3 m||Show|
The set-up: The 12-3 Texas Tech Red Raiders will host the 13-2 Kansas State Wildcats on Tuesday night, a day after the Wildcats squeezed into the AP's latest top-25 in a tie for 25th with USC. Kansas State (2-1 in Big 12 play) achieved its top-25 ranking despite having no victories over top-25 opponents so far this season. The Wildcats played rival No. 2 Kansas to a controversial two-point loss in Lawrence, Kan., and hammered struggling Oklahoma in Manhattan, Kansas last week. Meanwhile, Texas Tech (1-2 in Big 12 play) posted its first victory over a top-25 opponent this season when the Red Raiders edged then-No. 7 West Virginia (now No. 10) by a point in overtime in Lubbock, Texas. Kansas State: With Baylor now at No. 1 after opening the season unranked, it's easy to overlook Kansas State's surprising start. The Wildcats were projected to finish ninth in the 10-team Big 12 Conference but Kansas State comes to Lubbock in hopes of a ninth victory in its last 10 outings. The Wildcats rebounded nicely off the team's hard-fought last-second loss to the Jayhawks as they never trailed en route to Saturday's 75-64 victory over Oklahoma. All Five starters scored in double digits against the Sooners and all five are averaging double digits on the season. The 6-7 Iwundu (12.5-5.3-3.3) leads the way, joined by guards Brown (12.3) and Stokes (11.0 & 4.5 APG) plus up front it's the 6-9 Johnson (11.5 & 6.4) and the 6-10 Wade (10.5 & 5.7). Add in 6-5 freshman Sneed (9.2 PPG) and Bruce Weber's got quite a team.The Wildcats are playing excellent defense as well, allowing 61.2 PPG to rank 14th. Texas Tech: Truth be told, the Red Raiders' resume this year looks a lot like the Wildcats'. Texas Tech began conference play with a road trip to Iowa State (loss), then the home game against the Mountaineers (win in OT) and the trip to Kansas (loss). "(Kansas) Coach (Bill) Self asked me right after the game, 'Who do you play next?' and I said, 'I think Golden State Warriors,'" Texas Tech coach Chris Beard joked after the loss to the Jayhawks. "It's an 18-round fight and you want to give yourself a chance every night. We intend to be a part of the fight." In his first year as head coach, Beard led Little Rock to a 30-win season (including a win over Purdue in the Big Dance) and then came to Lubbock when Tubby Smith left for Memphis. The Red Raiders have four double digit scorers, led by guards Evans (13.6 & 3.5 APG), plus three 6-8 players, Livingston (12.5 & 4.3), Smith (12.4 & 7.9) and Ross (11.4 & 3.4). Four others contribute 4.9 to 9.1 PPG. Tech scores a little more than the Wildcats (79.0 to 76.3 PPG but shoots better at 50.9 % which ranks 7th) plus defends as well, allowing 62.7 PPG (21st) to KSU's 61.2.
The pick: Kansas State owns 12 double digit wins and its only two losses have come in heartbreaking fashion; the first on a go-ahead layup with less than 10 seconds remaining in a 69-68 setback against Maryland on Nov. 26 and then that controversila 90-88 loss at Kansas, on a tiebreaking layup as time expired when it appeared Kansas' Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk took as many as four steps without dribbling on the game-winner. That said, Texas Tech ranks seventh in the country in FG percentage (50.7), 10th in rebounding margin (plus-9.3), 16th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.46), 21st in scoring defense (62.7) and 24th in three-point field-goal percentage (39.8). Texas Tech is 10-0 SU at home (outscoring opponents 84.2-to-60.3 PPG in lined games) and has beaten the Wildcats at home in each of the last two years. Make Texas Tech a 10* play.
|01-10-17||Baylor +7 v. West Virginia||Top||68-89||Loss||-110||10 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: Baylor opened the season unranked but on Monday, found itself atop the AP poll for the first time in school history (59th different school to be ranked No. 1, since the AP poll began back in the 1948-49 season). However, it's no rest for the weary for the 15-0 (3-0 in Big 12 play) Bears, who visit Morgantown to take on the No. 10 Mountaineers, who are 13-2 (2-1 in Big 12 play).
Baylor:The Bears were picked fifth in the league's preseason poll after losing NBA first-round pick Taurean Prince and top rebounder Rico Gathers but ascended to No. 1 in the AP Monday. "Not many people get a chance to be ranked No. 1, and that's a great honor," Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. "Baylor Nation deserves it, because they helped us get here. We're glad to make them proud and happy and give them something to be excited about. Big picture, though, we know no one is going to remember who is ranked No. 1 the first week of January." In fact, top-ranked Kansas came to Morgantown last January and lost 74-63. The Bears rank No. 4 in scoring defense (58.3 PPG), sixth in FG defense (37.3%) and 13th in blocks, most of those by the 7-0 Lual-Acuil and 6-10 Motley. Motley (15.8 & 9.4), Lual-Acuil (10.7 & 7.1) and the 6-8 Maston (8.2 & 4.9) make for a formidable frontcourt, teaming with guards Lecomte (11.8 & 4.9 APG), a Miami transfer, and Freeman (11.10. West Virginia: The Mountaineers have won nine of their last 10 games with the only loss by one point, 77-76 in OT, at Texas Tech last week. Sophomore Esa Ahmad (12.9 & 4.9) is a 6-8 forward and leads a well-balanced attack that features eight players averaging 6.9 points or more. He's joined in double digits by guards Daxter Miles Jr. (11.1), who is shooting 45.2 percent from three-point range, and Jevon Carter (10.5), who averages a team best 4.7 assists plus ranks fourth nationally with an average of 3.1 steals per game. West Virginia leads the nation in turnovers forced (24.3), steals (12.8), turnover margin (plus-13.7) and scoring margin (plus-28.7), averaging 90.1 PPG (5th) while allowing 61.4 PPG (16th).
The pick: This contest comes just two days shy of the one-year anniversary of the last time a No. 1-ranked team visited Morgantown. West Virginia knocked off then top-rated Kansas, 74-63, last January and veteran head coach Bob Huggins knows a "repeat performance like last year's Kansas upset, will be tough sledding. "You can't simulate their length," Huggins said. "When you can pretty much touch hands across the floor, you're going to cover some ground. They can make mistakes and compensate for it with their length. You don't get anything easy or unchallenged around the rim." Yes, West Va. is 9-0 SU at home this season, after going 25-5 SU at home the last two years, but giving Baylor this many points makes little sense. Make the Bears an 8* play.
|01-09-17||Arkansas-Little Rock +2 v. Coastal Carolina||Top||63-66||Loss||-103||11 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The 11-5 Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans visit the HTC Center in Conway, South Carolina to take on the 7-9 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Both teams have opened 2-1 in Sun Belt play.
Little Rock: The Trojans come into this game with five players averaging in double figures. The group includes guards Johnson (13.7) and Osse (10.2), as well as forwards Jackson (10.4 & 4.4), Shosi (10.3 & 7.9) and Hill (10.1 & 5.4). Both Johnson and Jackson are doing so while coming off the bench.Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers' two starting guards, SG Wilson (14.8) and PG Shaw (13.8 & 4.4 APG) are the only players in double digits so far this year. The 6-8 Beck is the team's top rebounder at 8.1 per game and leads a group of seven players averaging between 4.5 and 9.1 PPG (his average).
The pick: Josh Hagins (13.2-4.2-4.7) is missed from Little Rock's 30-win team from last year (one which upset Purdue in the NCAA's first round) but as noted, the Trojans have five double digit scorers and are simply just a better team than the Chanticleers and they are getting points. Make Little Rock a 10* play.
|01-08-17||Niagara +7.5 v. Rider||Top||78-89||Loss||-110||8 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The 5-10 Niagara Purple Eagles are 2-2 in MAAC play and will visit the 10-5 Rider Broncs (3-1 in MAAC play) in a Sunday afternoon game at Lawrenceville, New Jersey.
Niagara: The Purple Eagles are hoping to get things together in league play, after knocking off Siena 71-66 as a five point home favorite on Wednesday. Niagara's got a high-scoring backcourt duo in Scott (16.6 & 6.9) and Dukes (16.1) and they scored 22 points each and combined for 12 rebounds in the win. The 6-8 Dominic Robb (9.2 & 6.7) and the Alioune Tew (1.9 & 2.2) combined for 18 points and nine boards but the 6-7 Prochet (8.1 & 5.7) has also been a regular contributor. However, Niagara must tighten its defense, allowing 77.5 PPG on the season, including 82.4 PPG on the road where the team is just 1-7.
Rider: The Broncs have been impressive thus far in going 3-1 in conference play, following Friday’s 73-62 victory at Marist as a three point favorite behind a strong second half that broke open a two point contest. The 6-7 Kahill Thomas led all scorers with 19 points and 12 rebounds with PG Stevie Jordan adding 17 points and the 6-7 Xavier Lundy adding 15 points and eight boards All five starters are averaging in double figures, led by Thomas (13.5 & 9.7). He's joined up front by two other 6-7 players, Lundy (11.7 & 6.6) and Carey (10.1 & 6.9). The starting guards are Taylor (13.5 & 4.3) and Jordan (11.9-3.7-5.7).
The pick: Is this the year the Rider Broncs break through in the MAAC? it could be but this number is pretty high and recent series history reveals that the underdog is 11-4 ATS in the last 15 meetings. Niagara is an 8* play.
|01-08-17||Wichita State -10 v. Northern Iowa||Top||80-66||Win||100||7 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: Missouri Valley Conference action late Sunday afternoon features the 13-3 Wichita State Shockers visiting the 5-9 Northern Iowa Panthers at Cedar Falls, Iowa. Wichita State: In what was good news for the rest of the MVC, Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet are finally gone, after the four-year players helped lead the Shockers to 30, 35, 30 and 26 wins the past four seasons. However, Wichita State is still the league's best team and comes to Cedar Falls looking to build on a 4-game winning streak by earning a 9th win in 10 games. The Shockers improved to 3-0 in MVC play with a 90-65 beat-down of Drake. Center Shaquille Morris (7.7 & 3.5) and guard Daishon Smith (6.9) tied to the team lead with 13 points apiece in the win. That fact shows Wichita's depth, as four players have higher seasonal averages than Morris and Smith. A trio of forwards led by Willis (12.5 & 6.3) plus McDuffie (12.0 & 5.5) and Brown (9.2 & 3.9 ), as well as guard Shamet (9.9). Northern Iowa: The Panthers are off 31- and 23-win seasons, last year upsetting Texas in a first round NCAA game. However, three key players are gone from that squad, a perimeter trio consisting of Washpun (14.2-4.1-5.3), Bohannon (11.5 & 4.1) and Jesperson (10.8 & 4.0). So far this season, senior guard Morgan (16.7 & 6.9) has carried the load, with four players averaging between 7.3 and 8.7 PPG. The Panthers just haven't scored much, averaging 63.8 PPG (335th) on 39.9 percent shooting (324th).
The pick: This is just a bad matchup for UNI. Wichita Sttae pays excellent defense, holding opponets to 63.6 PPG (28th) on 37.5% shooting (7th) plus can also score, averaging 83.4 PPG (29th). The Shockers are 38-15 ATS in their last 53 road games and 43-20-1 ATS in their last 64 conference matchups while Northern Iowa is 0-9 ATS in their last 9 games against a team with a winning record and 1-10 ATS in their last 11 games overall. Make Wichita State a 10* play.
|01-08-17||76ers v. Nets -2||Top||105-95||Loss||-110||4 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: The 9-25 Philadelphia 76ers have inched ahead of the 8-27 Brooklyn Nets in the standings, as the Nets have dropped their last five games and 10 of their last 11. Meanwhile, the 76ers began this season with 18 losses in their first 22 games but after snapping an eight-game losing streak with an 11-point win over the Pelicans back Dec. 8., Philly has five wins during a stretch of 13 games. Philadelphia: One of those five wins was a 108-107 home win over the Nets back on Dec. 18, led by Joel Embiid's career-high 33-point performance. After sitting out two years due to foot injuries, Embiid is averaging 19.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 2.38 BPG. Through 34 games, the 76ers have six more wins than last season (team finished 10-72) and four more than 2014-15, which ended with 18 wins. Embiid is a significant reason for Philadelphia's improvement this season plus credit must also be given to Ersan Ilyasova, averaging 15.1 & 6.4, who was acquired Nov.1 by the 76ers in a trade with the Thunder. Brooklyn: The Nets are near the bottom of several offensive categories such as assists (20.8), FG percentage (44.0 percent), turnovers (17.2) and three-point percentage (33.7 percent) and combined with the league's worst scoring defense (114.3 PPG), have resulted in a 4-22 slide since Nov. 12, 10 of 11 losses since Dec. 14 and a current five-game losing streak. The Nets played their fifth game without PG Jeremy Lin (13.9 & 5.8 APG in 12 games, nine starts) in Friday's 116-108 home loss to the Cavs, who is rehabbing his second left hamstring injury. The Nets are 5-18 when Lin does not play and his absences have resulted in 14 different starting lineups with five different point guards, including Spencer Dinwiddie, who scored seven points in 17 minutes Friday.Center Brook Lopez (19.9 & 5.2) scored 17 points Friday, marking the season-high fourth straight game he was held under 20. The Nets are 1-13 when Lopez does not hit 20 and he is shooting 19 of 49 percent, including 4 of 18 from 3-point range in his last four games.
The pick: Sure, the Nets are a mess but Brooklyn found some positives off the bench on Friday, when guards Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead combined for 29 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. "Caris and Isaiah coming in and playing really important minutes against the world champions is really positive," Atkinson told reporters. "We don’t back down, especially at home." The 76ers are just 3-11 SU on the road this season and with this pointspread, almost have to win to cover. I won't say this very often the rest of 2017 but make the Nets an 8* play.
|01-07-17||Tennessee +12 v. Florida||Top||70-83||Loss||-110||9 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: The Tennessee Volunteers (8-6, 1-1 SEC) will visit the Florida Gators (11-3, 2-0 SEC), who are ranked 24th in the latest AP poll. Tennessee: The Vols are just 8-6 but Florida head coach Mike White says the Volunteers are much better than their record indicates. "They'll be very well prepared, typical of a Rick Barnes-coached team," White told reporters this week. "I like their team speed and depth." As for Barnes, he knows his team will need a much better effort than it gave in a loss to Arkansas on Tuesday. "I thought we took a step backwards the other night (against Arkansas)," Barnes told reporters. "I didn't just feel like we completed the way we have to. What people might think on the outside, that we're playing hard, but there's a different level that we expect and that we know we have to do every night." Twelve Volunteers are averaging more than 10 minutes per game. Senior guard Robert Hubbs III leads Tennessee in scoring at 15.2 points per game and is second in rebounding at 4.9 boards per game. 6-5 freshman forward Grant Williams leads the team in rebounding at 5.9 RPG and is second in scoring at 10.8. Junior guard Detrick Mostella is the Vols' best weapon off the bench and at 10.6 & 4.1, is the only other double digit scorer for the Vols.
Florida: Sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen leads Florida's balanced attack by averaging 14.1PPG. He is one of three Gators averaging in double figures, along with 6-6 junior forward Devin Robinson is averaging (12.6 & 5.5) and senior guard Canyon Berry (11.6), a graduate transfer from Charleston. Barry is coming off his best performance of the season, scoring 20 points in Florida's 70-63 win over Ole Miss. Florida didn't play a complete game against the Rebels, as they let a 20-point lead midway through the second half slip away and were forced to hold on down the stretch.
|01-06-17||Oakland v. Valparaiso -3.5||Top||78-66||Loss||-105||13 h 46 m||Show|
The set-up: The Horizon League’s top-two teams meet tonight, as 12-3 Oakland visits 11-3 Valparaiso.The Grizzlies have opened 2-0 in conference play and the home-standing Crusaders are 1-0. Oakland: The Grizzlies won 23 games last year and lost in the championship game of the Vegas 16 tourney. However, the 5-9 Felder decided to forego his senior season, after averaging 24.4-4.3-9.3. He really can’t be replaced and also gone is center Gibson (11.3 & 6.2). Still, Oakland comes in on a three-game winning streak, including that 2-0 start in Horizon play. Guard Martez Walker (17.7) leads the team in scoring and is paired with Sherron Dorsey-Walker (12.4) in the backcourt. The 6-7 Hayes is back and he’s the team's best frontcourt player, averaging 13.5 & 6.4. Oakland averages 80.2 PPG Valparaiso: The Crusaders won the Horizon regular season title but was KO’d in the conference tourney, then got snubbed for the NCAA. Valpo almost got its revenge in the NIT but lost in the championship game to GW, ending the season with 30 wins. Head coach Bryce Drew accepted the job at Vandy with his assistant, Matt Lottich, taking over. Returning for his senior year is the 6-9 Peters, who averages 25.0 & 10.4. Hammink (15.1 & 4.4) and Tevonn Walker (12.0 & 4.9) make for a veteran and solid backcourt duo. The pick: Oakland has covered seven of its last eight against Valpo (including its last four visits) but Valpo has gone 4-1 SU the last five overall (losing in OT) and this pointspread is low enough for me to make the Crusaders a 10* play.
|01-06-17||Wolves v. Wizards -5||Top||105-112||Win||100||11 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: The Washington Wizards had won nine of 12 games to reach .500 but lost 101-91 at Houston on Monday and then 113-105 to a 10-win Mavericks team the next night in Dallas, to enter tonight’s home game vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves at 16-18. The Timberwolves lost 93-91 at the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night, falling to 11-24. Only the 11-25 Mavericks own a worse record in the West. Minnesota: The T-wolves’ latest setback came in the closing moments at Philly, as Robert Covington's jumper off an inbounds pass with 0.2 seconds remaining gave the 76ers the win. "We wanted the ball to go away from the basket. That didn't happen," Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We needed some help on the curl, and we didn't get it." Thibodeau's defensive sermons have yet to sink in on this youthful but VERY talented team. What team doesn’t covert the trio of Wiggins (21.7 & 4.0), Towns (21.6 & 11.6) and LaVine (21.1)? Or for that matter, the 6-11 Gorgui Dieng, who in just his fourth season is averaging 10.4 & 7.9. However, Minnesota limps into Washington having lost five of seven, after falling behind by 26 points at Philadelphia, before coming all the way back to tie it with 1.6 seconds left but losing on a buzzer-beater 93-91. "That has been our biggest challenge, to be a 48-minute team," Thibodeau told reporters, "and we’re nowhere near that." He’s right about that! Washington: The Wizards’ starters play more minutes than any team in the league other than tonight’s opponent, the Timberwolves. Wall (23.5-4.5-10.0) and Beal (22.1) form a dynamic backcourt plus forwards Porter (14.1 & 6.6) and Morris (28.8 & 5.8) surround center Gortat (11.5 & 12.0), up front. However, like Minnesota, Washington is in the bottom third of the league in scoring defense (106.2 PPG ranks 23rd), while allowing opponents to shoot 46.9%, including 37.6% on threes (rank 26th in both categories). In fact, the Wizards allowed the lowly Mavericks to bury 17 three-pointers on Tuesday. "We got outworked. I haven’t said that a lot about this team, but we got outworked," Wizards coach Scott Brooks told reporters. "They were moving the ball, and we were hoping that they would miss and not doing a very good job of making them miss." The pick: The Timberwolves look great in spurts but struggle to put together 48 minutes representative of the talent level of the players. Meanwhile, the Wizards should be well-focused and not let their little “Texas two-step (or miss-step)” derail them. After all, Washington will take an eight-game home winning streak (also 8-0 ATS!) into this contest against a Minnesota team which has allowed at least 112 points in five of their last nine road games. Washington has reached triple digits in scoring during 17 of its last 21 games. Washington is an 8* play.
|01-05-17||Montana v. Idaho +1||Top||70-57||Loss||-110||13 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The 6-9 Montana Grizzlies face off with the 5-7 Idaho Vandals on Thursday in Big Sky college basketball play. Montana is 1-1 in Big Sky games so far, while Idaho will be looking for its first conference win, after a 69-62 home loss to Eastern Washington. Montana: The Grizzlies are coming an 84-81 home loss in OT to Weber State, which ended the team's three-game winning streak. Montana is a guard-oriented team, led by Rorie (16.5), Wright (11.6), Pridgett (8.6) and Oguine (8.2 & 5.2). Montana best frontcourt player is the 6-8 Krslovic, averaging 6.3 & 7.5. Idaho: The Vandals come in having lost four of their last five games. Guard Sanders leads the way at 18.5 PPG and with fellow guard Callandret sidelined for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury (he played just two games TY after averaging 14.0 PPG last season), he’ll be relied on even more heavily. The team’s only other double digit scorer is the 6-7 Blake (10.2 & 7.1), who is a JUCO transfer . The pick: Idaho lost its last game, 69-62 at home to Eastern Washington. However, a team rarely wins when it shoots 30.5% from the floor, including 4 of 14 on threes. However, note that Eastern Washington shot 50.0% for the game, including making 11 of 22 three-pointers, yet won by just SEVEN points! The home team has covered in seven of the last 10 meetings between these schools and I’ll make Idaho an 8* play in this one.
|01-05-17||Thunder v. Rockets -9||Top||116-118||Loss||-105||11 h 59 m||Show|
The set-up: James Harden was a former teammate of Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City but now with Harden on the Rockets and Westbrook still on the Thunder (sans Durant), the two guards have established themselves as the early front-runners for league MVP honors. Westbrook leads the league with 16 triple-doubles and is averaging 30.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.5 assists per game. Harden has nine triple-doubles, after closing the month of December with a historic 53-point, 16-rebound and 17-assist performance against the New York Knicks on New Year's Eve. He comes in averaging 28.4 points and career highs in rebounds (8.2) and assists (11.9). Oklahoma City: Westbrook had 33 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists last night in a 123-112 loss at Charlotte, making just 10 of 31 shots. Also, he received a technical foul for throwing the ball in the direction of Tre Maddox in the first quarter and conking the referee in the side of the head (he said it was an accident and there’s little reason not to believe him). OKC’s problem is, that the Thunder get scoring from Oladipo (16.2) and the team's two-headed center (Adams and Kanter combine to average 25.8 & 13.9) but not much else. Defense has also been an issue, especially on the road where the Thunder are allowing 108.1 PPG. The loss in Charlotte was OKC’s third straight on the road, falling to 8-9 on the season. Houston: Harden was named Western Conference Player of the Month earlier this week, after leading the Rockets to a 15-2 record in December. Houston opened 2017 with a 101-91 home win over the Wizards on Monday and are now 27-9 (only the Warriors, Spurs and Cavs have better records in the entire NBA) plus also own the NBA’s best ATS record at 24-12. Harden is the prime reason why the Rockets have won five straight games and 16 of their last 18 but don’t forget about his backcourt partner, Patrick Beverley. He missed the season’s first 11 games but since he’s returned to the court, Houston has gone 18-4 over the last 25 games (Beverley has missed three games in that span but is expected back here). He’s the team's best perimeter defender and next to Harden, he’s the team MVP. However, Houston also has excellent balance (unlike OKC), with four others in double digits (note: center Capela is out until late-Jan. with a leg injury). The pick: These teams have met twice already this season, both times in OKC, with each team owning a three-point win. The Rockets get the Thunder in Houston tonight and while they haven’t played since Monday, the Thunder are playing back-to-back games and for the third time in the last four days. Houston is an 8* play.
|01-05-17||Purdue -3 v. Ohio State||Top||76-75||Loss||-105||10 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: the 12-3 Purdue Boilermakers are in Columbus tonight to take on the 10-4 Ohio State Buckeyes. Purdue opened Big Ten play with a 89-67 home rout of Iowa but on New Year’s Day, lost 91-82 in overtime to visiting Minnesota (Boilermakers, are 25-3 at Mackey Arena over the last two seasons). Purdue plays its first conference road game tonight at Columbus, as the Buckeyes look to bounce back from losing their Big Ten opener 75-70 at Illinois on Sunday. Purdue: Gone from last year’s 26–win team is the 7-0 A.J. Hammons, who led Purdue in scoring at 15.0 PPG (also added 8.2 RPG). However, Purdue has a strong frontcourt in the 7-2 Haas (13.9 & 5.2) surrounded by 6-9 power forward Swanigan (18.5 & 13.0) and 6-8 SF Edwards (12.1 & 5.4). Freshman guard Carsen Edwards (10.7) leads a group of solid perimeter players, including Mathias (9.7), Thompson (7.8) and Cline (7.1). Purdue is an excellent offensive team (84.5 PPG ranks 22nd) and a good defensive team, allowing 65.4 PPG (52nd). Ohio State: Thad Matta is in his 13th season with the Buckeyes and has never failed to win at least 20 games, going to the postseason every year except in his first, when the school was ineligible (nine NCAAs and two NITs, winning the NIT in 2008). He entered this season with a 320-108 (.748) record at Ohio State and this year’s team features six players averaging between 9.7 and 13.9 PPG, led by 6-4 junior forward Jae'Sean Tate, who is also second in rebounding (6.9). Trevor Thompson, a 6-11 junior center, is averaging 10.4 points and a team-best 8.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game but will have his work cut out for him against Purdue’s big frontcourt. The pick: The Buckeyes have dominated Purdue here in Columbus, winning 13 of the last 14 meetings plus Matta is 11-1 in Big Ten home openers. However, I’m not sure the 6-8 Loving (11.6 & 4.8) and the 6-7 Bastes-Diop (9.7- & 5.2), along with Thompson, can match up with Swanigan and Co. The 6-9 sophomore is being mentioned as a candidate for the Naismith Award, already owning a remarkable four games this season with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds! Purdue is a 10* play.
|01-04-17||Grizzlies v. Clippers +1||Top||106-115||Win||100||11 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The Los Angeles Clippers won 109-98 on Monday, snapping their season-high six-game losing streak. The 23-14 Clippers now get set to host the 22-15 Memphis Grizzlies, who had won four of their last six before their humbling 116-102 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. Memphis: However, there was some good news on Tuesday for Memphis. Center Marc Gasol, who had tweaked his left ankle in Saturday's victory over the Sacramento Kings, returned and collected a team-high 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds against the Lakers. Then again, Gasol isn't a sure thing to play against the Clippers. "I expect to be out there," Gasol said. "We'll see how the ankle reacts after the game (Tuesday). Obviously, it feels a little weak. I'm not as explosive by any means." Gasol leads the team in scoring at 19.6 PPG (also adds 6.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists) but most feel as if PG Conley (18.4 & 5.4 APG) is the team’s most important player. However, how do those people explain the fact that Memphis was 7-2 when Conley missed nine straight games from Nov. 30 through Dec. 14 or that since he’s been back, the Grizzlies are just 3-5 in the eight games he’s played over the team’s last 10? LA Clippers: LA has been playing without PG Chris Paul (sore left hamstring) and PF Blake Griffin (right knee surgery). Paul (17.7-5.3-9.5) is listed as doubtful with the left hamstring injury that has caused him to miss six of the past seven games, while Griffin (21.2-8.8-4.7) has missed nine straight contests and isn't expected back for at least another 2-to-4 weeks. Without them, the Clippers have endured their worst stretch this year. Yes, they beat the suns but before that, the Clippers were pounded 114-88 by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday and 140-116 by the Houston Rockets on Friday. The pick: The Clippers were the best defensive team in the league in November but have since struggled and now rank ninth in scoring defense at 102.9 PPG. "I don't know what's been wrong," shooting guard J.J. Redick told reporters. "The frustrating part to me is that we were a top-five defense last year and have proven this year that we can be a top defense, and we've just been awful on that side of the ball." However, Gasol may not play here for Memphis in a back-to-back situation plus SF Chandler Parsons continues to struggle since getting back in the lineup after a long absence. He is averaging just 2.8 PPG on 8-of-32 over the past six games, after having two points on 1-of-6 shooting against the Lakers. I believe the worst is behind the Clippers and will make them a 10* play in this one.
|01-04-17||LSU +1 v. Missouri||Top||88-77||Win||100||12 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: LSU is 8-4 as it heads to Missouri looking for its first SEC win (opened with a los to Vandy). The 5-7 Missouri Tigers will be playing their SEC opener and will be in search of some offense. LSU: The Tigers not only lost Ben Simmons (19.2-11.8-4.8) from last year’s team but also guards Hornsby (13.1) and Quarterman (11.2-4.6-3.6). Head coach Johnny Jones has come under pressure, as he’s only taken the Tigers to one NCAA tourney in his first four years at the school and that wasn’t last year, when Simmons was considered the best player in the nation (was taken overall No. 1 by the 76ers in the draft). LSU is coming off one of its best offensive efforts of the season, as it shot 57.4 percent, including 17-of-28 from three-point range, but lost 96-89 to Vanderbilt last Thursday. Craig Victor II (10.5 & 7.6 rebounds) has been dismissed for violating team rules, leaving guards Blakeley (17.0 & 5.0) and Sampson (12.1) plus the 6-10 Reath (14.2 & 5.8) as its top players. Missouri: These Tigers are struggling, as they get set to open SEC play. Missouri was 10-21 (3-15 in SEC games) last season and the Tigers may not be too much better this season. 6-7 sophomore forward Kevin Puryear (12.5 & 6.6) has been the most consistent scorer, while freshman guard Frankie Hughes (11.8) is the only other Missouri player in double digits. Missouri is shooting just 39.7% from the floor (326th) and only 27.2% on threes (347th). The pick: Missouri won 74-67 in overtime against LSU to open league play last year but that won’t be the case, here. Make LSU an 8* play.
|01-04-17||IUPU Ft Wayne -4 v. Nebraska-Omaha||Top||80-78||Loss||-105||11 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: IPW is 11-4 to start the season and will play a Summit League contest tonight at 8-6 Nebraska-Omaha. IPFW has opened 1-1 in league paly while Nebraska-Omaha is 0-2. IPFW: The Mastodons are a high-scroing team (89.8 PPG ranks 6th), which shoots 43.1% from three-point range (tops in the nation). A quartet of guards scor in double digits, led by PG Eavnas (18.4 & 5.7 APG). He’s not alone though as Scoot avergaes 16.9 & 5.6, Konchar (14.5 & 8.4) and Harrell (11.1). Nebraska-Omaha: The Mavericks are led by the 6-7 Thurman (13.5 & 7.( plus own a trio of guards scoring in double digits, as well. Tyus (13.2_ leads the waym folwoed by Jackson (12.9 & 5.3) and Hollins (11.1). The pick: The high point of IPFW’s season was an upset of Indian nback in late November and the Mastodons did bounce back from a disappointing loss to Western Illinois in their Summit League opener to down Oral Roberts 102-91 last Saturday (as a seven point favorite) in their typical track meet style. The Nebraska Omaha Mavericks are hoping to break out of a recent funk that has seen them drop three in a row (0-2 in Summit League palky) but tyhis is not the time or palce. IPFW is an 8* play.
|01-04-17||VCU v. Duquesne +9||Top||94-87||Win||100||10 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The 11-3 VCU Rams and the 8-6 Duquesne Dukes meet Wednesday in college basketball action at the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh. Both schools have opened 1-0 in A-10 play, although Duquesne’s best win so far came back on Dec.2 over cross-city rival Pittsburgh, 64-55 as nearly a two-TD underdog. VCU lost back-to-back games to Illinois and Ga. Tech in early December but enters on a five-game winning streak. Virginia Commonwealt: The Rams are well-known quantity to most basketball fans and come off a 25-win season and yet another NCAA appearance. The Rams have won 24 or more games for 10 consecutive seasons, a period which spans three head coaches. Will Wade is in his second year and why won’t this team win 24-plus games again in 2016-17? The team's top-player is gone (Melvin Johnson averaged 17.4 PPG) but PG Lewis (16.1 & 4.1 APG) and the 6-7 Alie-Cox (10.1 & 4.1) lead a well-balanced group which is holding opponents to 65.1 PPG (51st). Duquesne:The Dukes have upset Pitt and have a nice group of players. Guards Lewis (12.1). Smith (10.9) and Blackman(10.7) all average in double figures plus the 6-8 Mike (10.1 & 5.7) and the 6-8 Sanders (5.6 & 6.2) are the team's starting frontcourt players. The pick: Duquesne has won seven of their last 10 home games but are just 2-8 ATS. Meanwhile, the Rams are 16-5 ATS in their last 21 road games. VCU is an 8* play.
|01-03-17||Wizards v. Mavs +1||Top||105-113||Win||100||10 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The Dallas Mavericks are getting healthier and enter 2017 with hopes of a turnaround. The Mavs opened the season 6-20 but after splitting their last eight games, are just 4 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the West (note: the bad news is, five teams sit between them and the 8th-place Kings). The 16-17 Washington Wizards come to Dallas tonight, just percentage points out of the East’s final playoff spot (Pacers and Bulls are 17-18). Washington: The Wizards saw their three-game winning streak snapped Monday night with a 101-91 loss at Houston and failed to move above .500 for the first time this season. However, Bradley Beal did return after missing one game with a sprained ankle to score a team-high 27. John Wall added 18 points and 12 assists, after averaging 24.3 points, an NBA-leading 13 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals in three games last week. Wall (23.4-4.5-10.1) and Beal (22.0) make a great backcourt duo when healthy. Throw in a starting frontcourt of forwards Porter (14.1 & 6.7) and Morris (12.8 & 5.9) plus center Gortat (11.5 & 11.8) and the Wizards should not be below .500! Dallas: "I felt like the last couple of weeks we've been playing .500 ball, which is OK," Dirk Nowitzki said about the team's recent 4-4 run. "It's a lot better than what we started off, and now we'll get more healthy and hopefully take another step. We've got to let it rip. We're all competitors, and Coach obviously is pushing us every day. The return of Nowitzki to the lineup is another reason for optimism. The league's sixth-leading career scorer has missed the majority of the season battling Achilles soreness, but Nowitzki has made the best of his limited court time lately. He has logged 70 minutes over his last four games and scored 45 points on 16-of-41 shooting (he’s at 11.8 & 5.1 on the season in nine games). Dallas is considering moving veteran center Andrew Bogut (3.5 & 9.9) to the bench but any move is predicated on power forward Dirk Nowitzki being able to stay healthy. Barnes (20.4 & 5.5) has turned out to be an excellent addition and Matthews is having abetter second season (15.8 PPG) for Dallas, after leaving Portland. The pick: The Wizards are a poor road team (3-11 SU & 5-9 ATS) and Dallas has beaten Washington in 11 of the past 12 meetings. Make Dallas an 8* play.
|01-03-17||Wisconsin v. Indiana -1||Top||75-68||Loss||-103||10 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: Indiana began its season with an OT win over preseason No. 3 Kansas at Pearl Harbor and not too long ago, the Hoosiers were burying opponents with a barrage of three-pointers and ascending to a No. 3 ranking, themselves. However, head coach Tom Crean's team is teetering on the brink of being unranked (came in No. 25 in Monday’s AP poll), after back-to-back losses, including a 77-62 ‘spanking’ delivered by Louisville in Saturday's Countdown Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Wisconsin was ranked 9th in the preseason poll (Hoosiers were 11th) and have pretty much played according to form, entering this game 10-2 and ranked 13th in Monday’s poll. Wisconsin: The Badgers will take eight-game winning streak into Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Badgers have always been known for their defense and it’s no different this season, as Wisconsin comes in allowing 58.8 PPG, 8th-best in the nation. Two seniors are leading the way for Wisky, guard Bronson Koenig averages 14.1 PPG and 6-7 forward Nigel Hayes is at 14.0 PPG and 5.8 RPG. 6-10 sophomore Ethan Haps has averaged 12.7 & 9.6, giving Wisconsin a potent trio of players. Badgers head coach Greg Guard assumed control of the Badgers when Bo Ryan quit early last season and this is his first full season on the job but so far, Wisconsin hasn’t missed a beat. The Badgers opened conference play with a 72-52 home win over Rutgers. Indiana: In stark contrast, the Hoosiers opened Big Ten play with an 87-84 home setback to Nebraska, as a 14-point favorite. Indiana followed that game by getting thumped by Louisville (see above). 6-5 guard Blackmon (17.3 & 5.8) leads the Hoosiers and junior guard Robert Johnson checks in averaging 13.8 & 4.1. However, after being the team's hottest shooter a week ago, he went 1-of-13 in the game against the Cardinals. Up front, it’s the 6-8 Anunoby (12.2 & 6.2) and 6-10 center Bryant (12.1 & 7.6.0). The pick: This will be offense (Indiana averages 86.5 PPG to rank 13th on 49.8% shooting, which ranks 15th), against that tough Wisconsin D. The Hoosiers can’t afford another home loss after that shocker to Nebraska, which ended the school's 26-game home winning streak. Indiana is 9-1 SU at home this season and averaging 90.0 PPG, so I expect a bounce back. Both of Wisconsin’s losses this year have come against ranked opponents (at Creighton and in Maui against North Carolina) and I expect a third loss to a ranked opponent, here. Make Indiana a 10* play.
|01-02-17||Hornets v. Bulls||Top||111-118||Loss||-110||18 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: The 19-15 Charlotte Hornets are in Chicago to take on the 16-18 Bulls. The Hornets have won the last three in this series and after seeing his team drop eight of 11, Chicago head coach Fred Hoiberg may be sitting on the 'hottest' coaching seat in the NBA. Charlotte: The Hornets are at their when playing strong team defense but that wasn't the case in Saturday's 121-109 home loss to the Cavs. Cleveland made 50.6 percent from the floor and and had 71 first-half points. PG Kemba Walker (22.7-4.0-5.4) had 37 points on Saturday but it wasn't enough. However, Charlotte had won five of six prior to Saturday's setback, including a 103-91 home win over the Bulls back on Dec.23rd in which Walker scored 20 points and backcourt mate Nicolas Batum (14.7-7.6-5.9) recorded a triple-double. Six other Hornets are scoring between 9.0 and 11.0 PPG on the season. Chicago: Hoiberg tried to shake up the Bulls in the last two games by sitting veteran PG Rajon Rondo in favor of Michael Carter-Williams, beginning in the second half of Friday's 111-101 loss at Indiana and continuing throughout Saturday's 116-96 setback against the Milwaukee Bucks at home. Rondo (7.2-6.5-7.1) has been a huge under-achiever but since Williams has gotten back on the floor for the last four games, he has made just six of 27 shots! Butler's (24.6-6.6-4.3) an All Star but Wade (18.8-4.1-3.7) looks old and the "new-look" Bulls seem worse than last year's non-playoff team. The pick:The Bulls lack chemistry and are just a poor offensive team, scoring 100.5 PPG (23rd), while shooting 43.4% from the floor (28th), including 30.7% on threes (30th). Meanwhile, the Hornets are win-less in six games against the Eastern Conference's three top teams (after dropping a 121-115 loss to defending champion Cleveland on Saturday) but that leaves them 19-9 against the rest of the league. Charlotte is a 10* play.
|01-02-17||Quinnipiac +4.5 v. Niagara||Top||81-78||Win||100||17 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The 4-8 Quinnipiac Bobcats visit the 4-9 Niagara Purple Aces in a MAAC contest Monday night. Quinnipiac is off a 9-21 season and Niagara was just 7-25 last year (not exactly a marquee matchup). Quinnipiac: Two freshman guards are leading the way for the Bobcats, Dixon (14.6) and Kiss (10.3), joined up front by the 6-9 Daniels (11.8 & 5.9). Four others contribute between 6.2 and 9.1 PPG but the Bobcats' biggest problem is defense, as the team allows 80.2 PPG to rank 322nd. Niagara:The Purple Aces lost their top scorer from last year in Blackman (15.8) but Scott has stepped up big time, averaging 16.8 & 6.8. He's joined in thebackcourt by USC transfer Dukes, who is averaging 15.8 PPG. Like Quinnipiac, Delaware has trouble on the defensive end of the court, allowing 78.7 PPG. The pick: Niagara comes in having lost eight of its last 12 games and going back a little, is 3-6 SU and ATS in its last nine home games. Meanwhile, after an 0-4 starts, the Bobcats have split their last eight games and are looking to establish some consistency. Not much defense expected in this one and I'll take any available points, making Quinnipiac an 8* play.
|01-02-17||College of Charleston v. Delaware +7.5||Top||65-56||Loss||-110||16 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The 10-4 Charleston Cougars will visit Delaware to take on the 7-7 Blue Hens in CAA play on Monday, The Cougars have opened 1-0 in CAA play while Delaware is 0-1.Charleston: The Cougars won 17 games last season despite losing leading scorer Canyon Barry (19.1 PPG) at the beginning of CAA play. He graduated and transferred to Florida but the Cougars have a veteran team back (all five starters, as Barry came off the bench). The team is led by a trio of guards in Chealey (14.2), Riller (10.9) and Johnson (7.6), who is down this year after averaging 12.3 PPG last season. The 6-7 Brantley (13.5 & 7.9) and the 6-10 Harris (5.2 & 6,9) are the team's best inside players. Delaware: The Blue Hens are just 7-7 but taht already matches last year's win total, as Delaware went just 7-23. Two key players are gone from that team in guard Holder (17.7 & 4.7 APG) and the 6-7 King-Davis (14.8 & 9.2). Freshman guard Daly (12.6 & 7.6) has been this year's best performer so far with fellow guard Mosley (11.5) being the team's only other double digit scorer. However, five others score between 5.1 and 9.1 PPG. The pick: Charleston has won seven of its last eight and is one of the best defensive teams in the country, allowing 59.5 PPG to rank 11th. However, Delaware has looked good in its last two games as the Blue Hens beat a good Iona team and lost a close one 56-54 to Hofstra in its CAA opener. Delaware has been very competitive at home this season in going 5-1 SU and in this low-scoring game, I'm making the home dog (Delaware) a 10* play.
|01-01-17||Northern Iowa v. Evansville -2||Top||58-70||Win||100||9 h 33 m||Show|
NOTE: THIS PLAY IS ON NORTHERN IOWA!
The set-up: Northern Iowa is just 5-7 overall (0-1 in MVC play with a 68-64 home loss to Missouri St.) as it opens 2017 with a road game in league play at 9-5 Evansville, which also began its conference play with a loss, 62-50 at Illinois State Northern Iowa: The Panthers are off 31- and 23-win seasons, last year upsetting Texas in a first round NCAA game. However, three key players are gone from that squad, a perimeter trio consisting of Washpun (14.2-4.1-5.3), Bohannon (11.5 & 4.1) and Jesperson (10.8 & 4.0). So far this season, senior guard Morgan (17.6 & 7.3) has carried the load, with four players averaging between 7.0 and 9.5 PPG. The Panthers just haven't scored much, averaging 64.1 PPG (336th) on 40.1 percent shooting (321st). Evansville: Purple Aces won 25 games last season but gone are D.J. Balintine (20.5 PPG) and tyhe 6-10 Mockevicius (15.7 & 14.0), both who may just be MVC hall-of-famers. However, Evansville has looked strong in the early going with a solid 9-5 record, although a 62-50 loss at Illinois State in their conference opener snapped a seven game winning streak. Guards Brown (21.2 & 4.4) and Taylor (15.6) lead the way but the team could really use the 6-7 Wiley (8.7 & 4.6), who is sidelined now with a groin injury. Evansville, despite a much better record, doesn't much better than Northern Iowa, at 69.7 PPG. The pick: Evansville is 8-0 SU at home but I tend to always be a believer in the Northern Iowa Panthers and despite the slow start, I'll stick with them here. Northern Iowa is 10-4 ATS in its last 14 road games and I'll make Northern Iowa a 10* play on Jan. 1.
|12-31-16||San Francisco v. Santa Clara||Top||58-72||Win||100||9 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: The 11-3 San Francisco Dons are off to a fast start (just 15-15 last year), despite losing four starters from last year's team. The Dons resume WCC play with this game tonight at the Santa Clara Broncos, who have opened just 6-8, despite returning all five starters from last year's 11-20 team (maybe that's the problem?).
San Francisco: The Dons sem to be making a case for cracking the top half of the West Coast Conference with their strong 11-3 start. They kicked off the conference schedule the right way with an 80-74 victory against visiting San Diego, althoiugh they didn't cover as an 11-point favorite. San Francisco opened a 23-point lead at the half but had to hold on for the six point win. Guards Boyce (15.5 & 4.6) and Mineland (12.0) are joined in double figures by 6-5 SF Foster (11.5), while a pair of sophomores, the 6-9 McCarthy (7.4 & 5.50 and the 6-7 Renfro (6.2 & 4.4) add some size in the frontcourt. Santa Clara: The Broncos had high hopes of making some noise in the West Coast with all five starters back from last year but they played poorly at BYU in an 89-59 loss in the team's WCC opener (had gone 6-7 in non-conference play). Santa Clara will have to tighten its defense, after BYU connected on 53.3% of its shots.Brownridge (18.4-3.6-3.1) and pG hauser (10.9 & 5.5 APG) are an excellent guard duo plus the 6-8 Kratch (10.3 & 6.2) is the team's top frontcourt player.cell
The pick: The Dons have played much better so far but under new head coach Herb Sendek (of NC State & Arizona St. fame), the Broncos may just be the better team. Santa Clara is an 8* play.
|12-31-16||NC-Wilmington v. Towson +2.5||Top||76-67||Loss||-110||3 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: The 11-2 UNC-Wilmington Seahawks. will visit the 8-5 Towson Tigers as both teams open their respective CAA seasons. The Seahawks tied for the league's regulation title last year, tehen won the conference tourney before losing their first NCAA game to finish 25-8. The Tigers won 20 games last season and lost in their first game of the Vegas 16 Tourney. UNC-Wilmington: The Seahawks saw their eight-game win streak snapped in an 87-73 defeat at the Clemson Tigers on Dec. 28. However, it's been a strong start (11-2) to the 2016-17 season for Wilmington. The Seahawks lost 5th-year senior Parker (11.4) from last yerr's team but four starters returned. Guard Bryce (18.1 & 4.5) leads in scoring, joined on the perimeter by Flemmings (16.8 & 5.8) and PG Ingram (13.5 &. 5.7 APG). The 6-7 Cacok (13.2 & 9.0) is the team's top frontcourt performer.The Seahawks have been an excellent offensive team so far, averaging 87.7 PPG (14th) on 49.5 percent shooting (19th). Towson: The Tigers could be considered an under the radar school but head coach Pat Skerry has really made a difference at this school. The Tigers' 42 CAA wins the last four seasons are tied with Northeastern for the most by any school and when one considers that in the previous 10 seasons (including Skerry's first with Towson), the Tigers had won a total of just 42 leagues games, one should get the picture! Four of five starters return from last year, led by guard Morsell (17.6 & 4.2). There are three other double digit scorers so far this season, the 6-6 Adela Moto (12.8 & 6.1), guard Morman (10.9) and SF Davis, who typically comes off the bench but averages 10.8 PPG and a team-leading 7.0 RPG. The pick: While it's hard to find too many flaws in UNC-Wilmington's resume so far, the underdog has covered the spread in 14 of the last 16 meetings between these two schools. That means I'll make the home dog (Towson) an 8* play.
|12-30-16||Arizona v. California||Top||67-62||Loss||-110||15 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: The 18th-ranked Arizona Wildcats open Pac-12 play with a visit to Berkeley on Friday night to take on the 9-3 California Golden Bears. The Wildcats have played only one game on their opponent's home court this season (won 79-60 at Missouri) and the Bears had their 27-game home winning streak snapped by 12th-ranked Virginia in a 56-52 loss in Cal's last non-conference contest on Dec. 21. Arizona: It hasn't been smooth sailing for Arizona so far, as the team's top returning scorer (Allonzo Trier at 14.8 PPG) has not played all season because of an unspecified eligibility issue plus starting PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright (8.0 & 5.3 APG) has missed the past four weeks with a high ankle sprain. There is a chance Jackson-Cartwright will return for the Cal game. but head coach Sean Miller said, "We really don't know. He tried to practice Monday for the first time in a month. Whether he plays this weekend remains to be seen." Arizona has remained in the top-25 thanks to the contributions of three freshmen, the 7-0 Lauri Markkanen (16.1 & 7.3) plus gaurds Rawle Alkins (12.4 & 5.4) and Kobi Simmon (12.2). They are the team's top three scorers. California: The Bears lost Wallace (15.3-5.4-4.4) and Brown (14.6 & 5.4) to graduation from last year plus Mathews (13.5) was a graduate transfer and now plays at Gonzaga. Freshman PG Charlie Moore has started all 12 games and averages a team-best 16.1 PPG (also 3.3 APG) with the top-two returning players being the 6-10 Rabb (14.6 & 9.2) and 6-5 senior wing Jabari Bird. Bird's been an underachiever up until now and missed six games following the season opener due to back spasms but appears fully healthy at this time, averaging 15.7 PPG and 5.7 RPG.
The pick: Cal beat Arizona 74-73 in Berkeley last season when the Wildcats were ranked No. 12 and as head coach Cuonzo Martin says, "Anytime you play at home, it gives you a level of confidence. But Arizona, they've been in hostile atmospheres and tough environments. I don't think they'll be fazed by the stage." However, as noted, this will be only Arizona's second true road game this season, while Cal is 8-1 at home, outscoring opponents 73.9-to-58.2 PPG. Make Cal a 10* play.
|12-30-16||76ers +11.5 v. Nuggets||Top||124-122||Win||100||13 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: The 7-24 Philadelphia 76ers are coming off a 100-83 loss at Utah on Thursday (Embiid was held out) and will conclude their four-game road trip (0-3 so far) in Denver against the 14-18 Nuggets, who are 5-2 since suffering a 20-point loss in Dallas back on Dec. 12.
Philadelphia: Embiid is showing why he was the No. 3 overall pick in 2014 out of Kansas (after sitting out his first two seasons), leading the team with 18.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 2.38 BPG (that ranks fourth in the league). However, he is still working on his stamina and sat out Thursday's game against the Jazz to rest his sore right foot. That gave third-string center Nerlens Noel a chance to play extended minutes and he delivered 14 points in 22 minutes. Ersan Ilyasova led the way for Philadelphia with 16 points in Thursday’s loss and Dario Saric matched Noel with 14. Philly is one of teh NBA's least productive offensive teams, averaging 98.2 PPG (27th) on 43.6 percent shooting (28th).
Denver: A return to full health and a lineup change has been two keys to Denver's recent turnaround. Guard Gary Harris missed 16 games with a foot injury but his insertion into the starting lineup is making a difference (he's scored in double digits in six of Denver's last seven games) and so has the 6-10 Nikola Jokic. In fact, Jokic may be the biggest reason for Denver resurgence, as he's shooting 67 percent since returning from a left wrist sprain Dec. 7 and he has been the Nuggets' do-everything player. Denver is averaging 113.9 points over its last seven games and boasts six players averaging double figures in scoring, including power forward Nikola Jokic (12.0), who owns six double-doubles in his past 11 contests. SFs Gallinari (16.9) and Chandler (16.4 & 7.0) are the team's best scorers, with guard Barton (14.2) close behind.
The pick: The Nuggets seem to be jelling but this is a pretty 'hefty' pointspread. The 76ers don't often win on te hed (or anywhere for that matter) but in their last visit to Denver (March 23rd of last season), they led the Nuggets by two before Emmanuel Mudiay hit an improbable shot near half-court at the buzzer, as the Nuggets walked off the floor with a 104-103 victory. I'm taking the big points and making Philly a 10* play.
|12-30-16||Norfolk State v. Bowling Green -10||Top||77-86||Loss||-105||6 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The 3-10 Norfolk State Spartans and the 5-7 Bowling Green Falcons meet Friday afternoon in a non-conference matchup at the Stroh Center. Both schools will begin league play after the 1st of the new year.
Norfolk State: The Spartans likely can't wait to begin MEAC play, after going 12-4 last season. The team has won 73 percent of its league games in head coach Robert Jones' first three seasons, continuing the team's winning tradition. The Spartans have gone .500 or better for 18 consecutive seasons in MEAC action (8th-longest streak in the nation) and last year's team played in a postseason tourney for the fifth straight time. However, Norfolk has had to replace a trio of guards who all scored in double digits and accounted for 54 percent of the team's points, while making 170 of the team's 242 three-pointers. Wade is pretty much a "one-man show" this year, averaging 19.5 PPG and 5.8 RPG., although four others score between 7.0 and 9.9 PPG. Putting points on the board has been a chore in non-conference play, as the Spartans average just 65.3 PPG (322nd) on 40.5 percent shooting (317th).
Bowling Green: Louis Orr's seven-year run at the school ended in 2014-15 season and then Chris Jans' tenure ended abruptly (after a 21-win season) due to some off-court misbehavior. The Falcons were 16-18 in Michael Huger's first season and he believes this year's team will compete much better. The Falcons did lose their top player from last year in Parker (14.0 & 5.1) plus PG Joseph but returned a trio of senior guards in Alcegaire (13.1), Denny (12.4 & 5.7) and Ali (6.4 & 5.6 APG). BG will also own the best big man in today's game, the 6-10 Wiggins (8.9 & 7.2).
The pick: Bowling Green plays its best ball at home and has played decent defense at home so far, allowing just 40.1 percent shooting on its home court. The should match up well against the Spartans, who just can't seem to get anything going offensively this season. Norfolk St. is 0-7 in true road games so far and will enter this contest on a 10-game road losing streak. Make it 11 in a row and lay the points with the Falcons, as Bowling Green is an 8* play.
|12-29-16||Southern Illinois +2 v. Bradley||Top||51-60||Loss||-110||12 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the MVC opener for both 7-6 Southern Illinois and 5-9 Bradley tonight in Peoria. Bradley is coming off an 'ugly' first season under head coach Brian Wardle (5-27, 3-15 in MVC play) while the Salukis were 22-10, including 11-7 in league play. Southern Illinois: SIU lost leading scorer Beane (19.3 PPG) from last year but sophomore guard Fletcher has stepped up nicely, leading the team with 14.5 PPG. P Senior PG Rodriguez (13.8 & 5.2) runs the show with fellow senior Vincent (9.2 PPG) a solid player in the backcourt. Up front, it's the 6-7 O.Brien (11.0 & 7.6) joined by 6-8 JUCO transfer Bol (9.5 & 6.6). The Salukis are looking for some more consistent play but all in all, this team isn't bad at all.
Bradley: The Braves were one of just three teams last ye warith 10 freshman and no one player averaged in double digits. Ironically, it's freshman guard Brown, who is this year's lone double digit scorer at a modest 11.6 PPG. The pick: Bradley is a mess, coming in having lost three in a row while scoring only 51, 49 and 42 points, respectively. As noted, while SIU is nothing special, the Salukis are a solid team and won't miss this chance to open league play with a win. SIU is a 10* play.
|12-29-16||Long Beach State +6.5 v. Eastern Michigan||Top||72-98||Loss||-105||3 h 60 m||Show|
The set-up: Long Beach State is back out on the road and will visit 7-5 Eastern Michigan in a Thursday afternoon contest. As per usual, Don Monson had his 49ers play one of the nation's toughest non-conference slates and Long Beach is 5-10, as it plays its final non-conference game, here.
|12-28-16||Bucks +4 v. Pistons||Top||119-94||Win||100||11 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: The Milwaukee Bucks began a four-game road trip Monday in Washington and gave away a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead to the Wizards in a 107-102 loss, dropping them to 14-15. The road trip continues tonight in Detroit plus also includes stops at Minnesota and Chicago. The Pistons snapped a five-game losing streak on Monday, never trailing in a 105-90 win over the LBJ-less Cavaliers. Detroit returns home at 15-18 to host the Bucks, a team it has beaten four in a row.
Milwaukee: "We're going to learn and we're going to get better from this. It's not easy to win on the road. We put ourselves in a position to win. We just didn't close the door" said Bucks head coach Jason Kidd of the late meltdown against the Wizards.The Bucks were missing three players on Monday, forward Mirza Teletovic (concussion protocol), swingman Rashad Vaughn (sprained ankle) and guard Steve Novak (illness). However, teh bigger isue for Milwaukee has been getting production outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo (23.4-9.1-5.8) and Jabari Parker (19.9 & 5.7), as no other player is scoring in double figures. Detroit: The Pistons have played the NBA's two-best teams their last two games and Stan Van Gundy made a lineup change. Power forward Jon Leuer entered the starting-five and Tobias Harris became the sixth man. The Pistons were tied with the Golden State Warriors with under two minutes remaining before falling 119-113 on Friday and then came Monday's rout of the Cavs, albeit without LBJ. Harris (16.1) has thrived in his sixth-man role, averaging 23.5 PPG in the last two games plus the defense held Cleveland to 90 points, after allowing an avergae of 111.4 PPG during its five-game skid. Harris leads six double-digit Detroit scorers, with backup PG Ish Smith just missing out (9.2 PPG). The pick: The Pistons have won four in a row in this series but I don't want to make too much of an easy win over Cleveland, which played without LBJ. Detroit's defense has "lost its way" and I want no part of them as any kind of a favorite. Milwaukee is a 10* play.
|12-28-16||Nebraska +17 v. Indiana||Top||87-83||Win||100||10 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: The 16th-ranked Indiana Hoosiers were 10-2 in non-conference play and begin defense of their Big Ten regular-season championship on Wednesday when 6-6 Nebraska visits Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers have breezed through their non-conference home schedule unblemished with nine victories by an average of 30.8 PPG and the school's 26-game home winning streak represents the fifth-longest streak in program history and fourth best among active streaks in the country.Meanwhile, the Cornhuskers have lost both of their road games, 89-72 at No. 3 Kansas and 60-58 at Clemson. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers knew they would lose swingman and leading scorer Shields (16.8) this year but when Andrew White (16.6) decide to play his final season at Syracuse, as a graduate transfer, Tim Miles’ team took a big hit. Miles got Nebraska to the NCAA tourney in his second season at the school but these last two years, Nebraska has won just 13 and 16 games. Four-year starter. 6-4 combo guard Tai Webster (17.0-5,1-4.0) is the team's best player. Glynn Watson Jr. ranks second on the team in scoring (12.6) and the only other playe in double digits is the 6-7 Morrow (10.3 & 8.4). Nebraska will have to find a way to slow down the Hoosiers, who average 88.8 PPG (10th) on 51.9% shooting (5th), as the Cornhuskers don't score much (PPG). Indiana: The Hoosiers are again one of the nation's most explosive offenses, starting three guards, led by Blackmon 18.5 & 5.4), who is joined by Johnson (13.8) and PG Newkirk (7.8 & 3.8 APG). Up front, it's the 6-8 Anunoby (12.0 & 6.3) and 6-10 center Bryant (12.0 & 7.8). The Hoosiers are shooting .401 from 3-point range (117 of 292), making an average of 9.75 3-pointers per game. Indiana is also a strong defensive club, holding opponents to 66.0 PPG. The pick: The Hoosiers swept the Cornhuskers last season with a pair of double-digit victories but the play here is to take the points with Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are a 10* play.
|12-28-16||Houston +1.5 v. Connecticut||Top||62-46||Win||100||6 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: The Huskies were ranked 18th in the AP’s preseason poll but as the calendar gets set to turn to 2017, the 5-6 Huskies have six losses before the turn of the new year for the first time since the 1971-72 season. UConn looks for a fresh start with the beginning of conference play, when the Huskies host the 9-3 Houston Cougars in the American Athletic Conference opener for both teams late Wednesday afternoon in Hartford, Conn.
Houston: The Cougars are a veteran team, coming off a 22-win season. They are led in scoring by junior guard Rob Gray (20.1 PPG), while senior Damyean Dotson is second in scoring at 14.8 and is also the team's leading rebounder at 7.2 PPG. 6-7 forward Davis averages 11.1 & 6.5 but he's missed the last four games with finger and foot injuries and is questionable here. The team's fourth double digit scorer is the 6-10 Knowles, averaging 10.9 & 4.0. Houston averages 80.5 PPG (57th) but also leads the AAC and is ranked third nationally by hitting 42.9 percent of its three-point shots.
UConn: The Huskies are down to eight scholarship players because of season-ending injuries to freshman PG Alterique Gilbert (shoulder), freshman forward Mamadou Diarra (knee) and sophomore swingman Terry Larrier (knee). Larrier was averaging 13.5 PPG and Gilbert 10.3 PPG. Sophomore guard Adams (16.6-4.5-5.5) has made big strides from last year (7.3 PPG) and Rodney Purvis (12.8 & 4.8) has proven to be a reliable double digit scorer, now in his third season after transferring from NC State. UConn keeps hoping 7-0 center Amida Brimah will have a breakout season but it’s his senior year and his current 6.9 & 5.3 numbers say, it’s just more of the same. The pick: The Huskies are coming off a 70-67 overtime loss to Auburn when they played the majority of the second half and overtime without star guard Jalen Adams, who suffered a gash on his head and a concussion. Adams is expected to play against the Cougars. "When we come back (from the holiday) we've got to make sure we execute the game plan," Ollie told reporters. "Shoot a little bit better, also hit the rebounds and feed our big guys. That starts with me as a coach, demanding that." That all sounds good but this UConn team looks to be in big trouble. Houston is a 10* play.
|12-27-16||Michigan State +5.5 v. Minnesota||Top||75-74||Win||100||14 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: Tom Izzo's Michigan State team opened the season ranked 12th in the AP's preseason poll but gets set to open Big Ten play tonight in Minnesota just 8-5 and minus its best player, 6-7 freshman guard Miles Bridges. Michigan State was hoping Bridges, the team's leading scorer (16.6 points) and rebounder (8.8), could be back for this game after missing the last five games with a foot injury, but Izzo terms it "very doubtful." Meanwhile, coming off an 8-23 season last year (including 2-16 in Big Ten games), Richard Pitino's Gophers are a surprising 12-1! Michigan State: The Spartans were expected to be a top-25 team all season long, but injuries and youth have made it difficult for coach Tom Izzo's team to be consistent. In Bridges' absence, fellow freshmen, the 6-8 Nick Ward (13.2 & 6.4) and PG Cassius Winston (7.5 & 6.0 APG), have stepped forward into more prominent roles. Guard Harris (13.4 PPG) is the top scoring backcourt player with Bridges out but Izzo does have depth on the perimeter, as including Winston, six guards other than Harris combine to average right around 31 PPG. Minnesota: Pitino won the NIT back in 2013-14 (his first year at Minnesota) but then came an 18-15 (6-12 in the Big Ten) season and then last year's 'nightmare.' Pitino features a four-guard rotation, with Mason (13.2) as the team's leading scorer, along with McBrayer (12.6), Coffey (11.9) and Springs (9.3). The 6-6 Murphy (10.5 & 7.1) is the team's leading rebounder joined up front by 6-10 center Lynch (8.5 & 6.2) and the 6-9 Curry (6.7 & 6.2).
The pick: The Gophers lost by eight points on this floor in last season’s Big Ten opener, when Michigan State was ranked No. 1 and Minnesota was on its way to losing its first 13 Big Ten games. The shoe seems to be on the other foot now, with Minnesota 12-1 and MSU unranked at just 8-5 plus without its best player. However, Izzo continues to tinker with his team's lineup and he may continue to do so until Bridges returns and beyond. Izzo has used 10 different players in his starting lineup in the first 13 games as he continues to try to find the right combination to get the Spartans playing their best. Based on "past history," he seems to find a way. Izzo plus points against "little Ricky?" Make Michigan State a 10* play.
|12-26-16||Pacers +1.5 v. Bulls||Top||85-90||Loss||-110||10 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pacers and Bulls meet for the third time this season on Monday night with the series even at one win apiece. The Pacers are 15-16 and the Bulls 14-16, with the Pacers currently holding down the East's eighth and final playoff spot and the Bulls sitting just a half-game back on Indiana. Indiana: The Pacers expect to welcome back veteran guard Rodney Stuckey, who has missed the past five games because of a sore left hamstring. Stuckey participated fully in practice Friday and Saturday. He is averaging 9.5 points a game and provides coach Nate McMillan with a dependable option off the bench. However, guard Monta Ellis will likely will remain sidelined because of soreness in his groin. He has averaged 9.7 points in 24 games (23 starts) this season. This is Paul George's (21.7-7.0-3.2) team but Jeff Teague (acquired from a trade with the Hawks) has played well at PG with 15.3 PPG and 7.3 APG plus the 6-11 Turner (15.9 & 7.3) has made excellent strides in his second season.The Pacers are below average in both scoring (104.5 PPG ranks 17th) and in defending, allowing 106.3 PPG (20th). Chicago: The "new-look" Bulls have not shown any consistency in the first half of the season, as they enter off three straight losses and losses in six of their past seven to drop to a season-worst two games below .500. Guard Michael Carter-Williams could return to the court for his fourth game of the season tonight. He has been out since injuring his left wrist and left knee Oct. 31 against Brooklyn. Carter-Williams averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 assists per game with the Milwaukee Bucks alst season and averaged 16.7 points as a rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2013-14 and would boost the Bulls' backcourt depth behind Wade (19.2) and Rondo (7.8-6.5-7.2. Butler's (24.3-6.6-4.2) having an All Star season but this year's team is not better without Rose and Noah (both in New York) or Gasol (in San Antonio).
The pick: The Pacers are just 4-11 SU & ATS on the road but this Chicago team is in a funk, going 1-7 its last eight ATS. No reason to lay any amount of points with the Bulls these days. Indiana is an 8* play.
|12-26-16||Cavs v. Pistons -6||Top||90-106||Win||100||9 h 2 m||Show|
incorrectly entered pick
|12-25-16||Wolves v. Thunder -5||Top||100-112||Win||100||12 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: The 9-20 Minnesota Timberwolves will be in OKC Christmas night to take on the 18-12 Thunder. The fact that the T-wolves landed a spot on the Christmas slate coming off a 29-53 record last year is a testament to the level the Timberwolves were expected to reach this season. However, Minnesota has struggled to reach its projected potential through its first 29 games. With Durant in Oakland, the Thunder are about where they were expected to be, so far. Minnesota: The Timberwolves have young talent that has been playing well individually in Anthony Towns (22.1 & 11.4), Wiggins (21.7 & 4.2) and LaVine (21.4) but head coach Tom Thibodeau is trying to teach his team to win consistently in the NBA. "There's stretches where we play well defensively. And you have to play well on both ends," Thibodeau said. "It's too hard to win in this league. Until we understand that, it's going to be up and down. We got to correct that." Minnesota missed out on a chance to post its first three-game winning streak of the season on Friday but despite Zach LaVine's career-best 40 points, the Timberwolves crumbled in the fourth quarter of a 109-105 home loss to Sacramento. Minnesota brought in Thibodeau to mold its young roster and he is trying hard to get them to understand that consistent effort on defense is the key to winning games.However, the effort against the Kings (Sacramento 52.5 percent from the floor and made 15 three-pointers), is happening too frequently. Oklahoma City: Westbrook used to share closing duties with Kevin Durant but this season he has been doing it on his own for the most part. That was the case Friday when the Thunder held on to beat the Boston Celtics 117-112 on the road behind 46 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists from Westbrook. It was his 14th triple double of the season and third straight game scoring more than 40 points. Westbrook leads the NBA in scoring (31.8) and is second in assists (10.8), plus averages 10.5 RPG. Of his 51 career triple doubles, six have come when he has poured in at least 40 points. Only Oscar Robertson (22) and Wilt Chamberlain (7) have more. The two-headed center duo of Kanter (12.8 & 6.1) and Adama (11.5 & 7.6) is effective but OKC needs Oladipo (16.1 & 4.5) to get back on the court (he's out indefinitely with a wrist injury and has now missed six games).
The pick: Thibodeau is a proven and has that wonderful young trio but something just isn't right. Lay the points and make OKC a 10* play.
|12-25-16||Illinois State v. Tulsa +5.5||Top||68-56||Loss||-110||10 h 2 m||Show|
The set: Tulsa and Illinois State will meet for the second time in 19 days when they play for third place Sunday at the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. Tulsa hosted the Redbirds back on Dec. 7 and trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half before the Golden Hurricane closed the game with a 13-3 run to take the 70-68 victory. Tulsa is just 6-5 to open the new season and Illinois St. checks in at 7-4. Illinois State: The Redbirds have strong frontcourt, led by th 6-8 Hawkins (15.0 & 7.1), who is joined by the 6-7 McIntosh (13.6 & 6.7) and the 6-9 Fayne (10.5 & 6.1). PG Lee (14.4 & 6.5 APG) is the the team's fourth double digit scorer. Hawkins had his worst game of the season in that game at Tulsa, going 3-for-15 from the floor while scoring just 10 points. He wasn't much better in Friday's loss to San Francisco, connecting on 5-for-17 and scoring 12 points. McIntosh had double-double in the semifinals (20 & 12) but he's also struggled with his accuracy on the island, making just 9-for-27 in the two games. Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane haven't received consistent performances from their top players in Hawaii, as after an easy win over SF Austin, they got blitzed by San Diego State, 82-63. Tulsa has a four-man guard rotation in Hawkins (12.8 & 5.7), Birt (9.3), Taplin (7.9) and Henderson (7.0). The 6-7 Etou (11.1 & 6.5) is the team's best frontcourt player with Magnay providing size at 6-10 but not much production (6.7 & 4.0). Wheeler has only attempted 14 shots in the two games, while second-leading scorer Etou scored 18 against San Diego State but was held to two points in the Diamond Head opener against Stephen F. Austin.
The pick: Neither team played well in the first meeting but Tulsa was able to earn the comeback win despite Wheeler shooting 3 of 9 and Birt, 1 of 10. In the rematch, expect Tulsa to win much more easily plus we're getting points! Tulsa is a 10* play.
|12-25-16||Celtics -2.5 v. Knicks||Top||119-114||Win||100||4 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: The 17-13 and 16-13 NY Knicks open the NBA's 5-game Christmas Day 'marathon' with a 12;05 ET tip-off at Madison Square Garden. These teams met in Boston back on Nov. 11 withe the Celtics rolling over the Knicks, 115-87. The Knicks are 22-28 on Christmas and the Celtics are 12-17. In seven Christmas Day meeting s between teh two teams, the Celtics are 4-3 against the Knicks.
Boston: The Celtics are 13-9 since Isaiah Thomas (27.0 & 6.3 APG) scored 29 points in the win over New York back on Nov. 11. However, Boston had a four-game winning streak stopped in a 117-112 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. Thomas scored 15 points in a span of 4:33 in the fourth quarter as the Celtics eliminated a nine-point deficit. Boston held a four-point lead with 3:37 remaining but Thomas had one basket and the Celtics were outscored 17-6 the rest of the game.Thomas' backcourt partner Bradley is the team's second-leading scorer at 17.8 PPG and its leading rebounder at 7.3 per game. Center Horford (15.7-7.0-5.0) and SF Crowder (12.9 & 5.1) have been back on the court for awhile now, getting over early-season injury issues. NY Knicks: The Knicks are off a 106-95 home win over the Orlando Magic last Thursday, when six players scored in double figures. Anthony (22.5 & 6.0) and the 7-3 Porzingis (19.9 & 7.6) are New York's best players, with newcomers like Rose (16.8-4.0-4.7), Lee (10.0) and Noah (4.7 & 7.9) providing inconsistent levels of production. One of Porzingis' worst games this season occurred last month in Boston, when he shot 5-of-15 in a that 115-87 loss on Nov. 11. Carmelo Anthony was also ejected from that game and six technical fouls were whistled against the Knicks, who are eager for better results against their longtime rival. "It's going to be like a redemption game for us," Porzingis said. "We didn't play well (last month) and all the other stuff wasn't going our way, it was just a tough game for us. We want it. We want it especially at home. We want to redeem ourselves."
The pick: The Knicks will be primed to win here and they are 11-4 SU & ATS at home this year. However, Celtics are a money-making 12-5-1 ATS on the road and have matched up well in this series lately, have won seven of the last eight meetings and three of the past four in Madison Square Garden. Make Boston an 8* play.
|12-23-16||Raptors -1.5 v. Jazz||Top||104-98||Win||100||13 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The 20-8 Toronto Raptors own the third-best road winning percentage (.750) in the NBA, behind San Antonio and Golden State. The Raptors have won five consecutive games outside of Canada by an average margin of 13.0 PPG and will visit Salt Lake City Friday night to take on the 18-12 Jazz, who after establishing themselves as contenders in the Western Conference with wins in 11 of 13 games, have suffered back-to-back losses, 104-74 at Golden St. and 94-93 at home to the Kings. Toronto: DeMar DeRozan (27.9-5.1-4.1) had a string of four straight games scoring 30 or more points come to an end when he was held to 15 on 6-of-20 shooting against Brooklyn on Tuesday but the Raptors still cruised to a 116-104 triumph. Toronto is displaying scoring options beyond DeRozan and point guard Kyle Lowry (21.2-4.6-7.4), who is averaging 22.8 points on 55.2 percent shooting, including 56 percent from beyond the arc in December. Ross (10.7), Patterson (7.6 & 5.8), Cory Joseph (8.9) and Powell (7.0) give the Raptors one of the best reserve units in the NBA plus let’s not forget starting center Valanciunas, averaging 12.3 & 9.8. The Raptors have scored at least 100 points in 15 consecutive games and ranks third in scoring (112.3 PPG) and second in FG percentage (47.9%). Utah: The Jazz were beaten at their own game when the Warriors showed off their defense in a 104-74 drubbing on Tuesday. They then squandered a 20-point lead and fell at home 94-93 to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. "We should have never been in that situation," Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward told reporters. "I think we've done this, what, four or five times now this season? This one finally came back to bite us. You can't keep blowing 20-point leads and win every single time. This one stings for sure." Utah is piecing together the backcourt due to various injuries and was without starting point guard George Hill (toe), starting shooting guard Rodney Hood (illness) and backup point guard Dante Exum (knee) on Tuesday. The Jazz are hoping to get Exum and Hood back quickly while Hill, who is averaging 20 points and 4.2 assists but missed the last 11 games, is back practicing and could be cleared to return on Friday. Defense has been the one constant, as Utah ranks first in points allowed (94.9 per) and opponents’ FG percentage (42.6%). The pick: Now here’s the rub. The Raptors have won 12 of their last 14 games and look for a sixth straight road win here. Toronto is 9-3 SU and 10-2 ATS on the road this season and is 6-1 against the NBA's top-10 defensive teams this season, averaging 111.4 points in those games. Make Toronto an 8* play.
|12-23-16||Florida AandM v. Wisconsin -37.5||Top||37-90||Win||100||13 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: A 2-10 Florida A&M team travels to Madison, Wi. to take on the 14th-ranked Badgers, who are 10-2 on the season and enter on a six-game winning streak. Florida A&M: The Rattlers are one of the worst defensive teams in the nation, allowing 84.3 PPG (341st) on 47.9 percent overall shooting and 40.8 percent from three-point range. A&M owns a solid frontcourt player in the 6-6 Desmond Williams (16.3 & 5.1), a junior college transfer from Alabama Southern Community College, but they don’t play anyone who stands over 6-8. Guard guard Marcus Barham (11.8 PPG), another JC transfer, is the only other active player averaging double digits in points. The Rattlers are currently without the services of junior guard Craig Bowman, a two-year starter at point guard, who received an indefinite suspension, with no details from the coach or program. Bowman was averaging 13.2 points through five games. Wisconsin: The Badgers opened the year ranked 9th in the AP’s preseason poll and the team's lone losses have come at then-No.2 Creighton (the Bluejays are now No. 9 and unbeaten) and in Maui to then-No.4 North Carolina (now No. 8). Senior guard Koenig (15.2) and 6-8 senior forward Hayes (14.2 & 5.8) are performing as expected but 6-10 sophomore Happ is exceeding expectations, averaging 13.3 & 9.6. The Badgers are always known for their defense and this year is no different, as they allow opponents just 61.2 PPG (20th in the nation). The pick: Florida A&M hasn’t beaten an NCAA team this season and won’t win here at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin is 7-0 at home this season, outscoring opponents 80.1-to-54.4 PPG. The Badgers have won their last six overall games by an average margin of 23.2 points, including five double-digit victories and will keep it rolling against the Rattlers, even though they haven’t played since a 73-58 win against Green Bay back on Dec. 14. Florida A&M’s 83-63 loss at Samford a week ago Thursday marked its ninth straight defeat and the Rattlers won’t stop the bleeding here (A&M is 0-5 on the road, getting outscored 88.8-to-65.8 PPG!). The Badgers have won 13 straight at home, where they are 15-2 since coach Greg Gard took over last December, and Wisconsin is 13-0 against current MEAC teams, including two wins over the Rattlers by a combined 92 points. Lay it and make Wisconsin an 8* play.
|12-23-16||Warriors -6.5 v. Pistons||Top||119-113||Loss||-105||11 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: The Warriors played in Brooklyn last night without forward Draymond Green, who returned to the Bay Area for the birth of his son. Golden State won 117-101 and heads to Detroit as owners of the NBA’s best record at 26-4. The Pistons lost 98-86 at home to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, the team's fourth straight loss, and host the league’s “super team” at 14-17 overall with head coach Stan Van Gundy considering some lineup changes (how can that be good?). Golden State: The Warriors didn’t Green against the hapless Nets, moving to 14-2 on the road but they are a much more modest 7-8-1 ATS. That said, Thursday night’s game was no cake walk, as the Warriors trailed by 16 points at halftime before outscoring the Nets 68-36 in the second half. All are familiar with the Golden State’s cast of characters, with the Warriors leading the NBA in both scoring (117.4 PPG) and shooting percentage (49.4%). Green's status for the Pistons' game is uncertain though coach Steve Kerr opined that it is possible Green will decide to travel since games in Detroit are viewed as home games by the Michigan native (injury report has him listed as probable). However, everybody expects the highly competitive Green to be back with the team in time for the Christmas Day showdown with the Cavaliers. Detroit: The Pistons actually viewed the team’s 98-86 loss to the Grizzlies as a sign of progress. the reason for that is, the team had allowed an aveggae of 113.3 PPG in its previous three losses. The defensive effort was better but the Pistons shot 36.1 percent from the floor and 26.1 percent from three-point range. "Our guys are just getting so frustrated offensively," Van Gundy said. "We definitely competed hard. There is no question about that. We just couldn't score." Van Gundy planned to make a lineup switch on Wednesday but a car accident postponed that move. Power forward Jon Leuer missed the morning shootaround after being involved in a 45-mile-per-hour collision in which his airbags deployed. Leuer suffered minor injuries but was able to play effectively that night, contributing 18 points and six rebounds in 30 minutes. He will likely replace either Marcus Morris or Tobias Harris in the lineup on Friday. Harris scored just seven points against the Grizzlies, the eighth consecutive game he has produced 15 points or less. Morris has shot 22.9 percent from the field over the last four games, including a 1-for-11 outing against the Grizzlies. The pick: Yes, it’s a back-to-back game situation for the Warriors but the Pistons are a mess right now. PG Jackson briefly departed the game against Memphis when his left knee developed soreness and that raised concerns for everyone as that same knee caused Jackson to miss the season's first 21 games. "I thought I felt something in there, so I wanted to make sure everything was good, then I got back out there," Jackson told reporters. The Pistons are now just 3-7 since PG Jackson's return to the lineup, something that was expected to be a plus. These Warriors lost just nine regular season games last season and one of those was a 113-95 victory by these Pistons over the Warriors last Jan. 16. here in Detroit. However, that win ended a nine-game losing streak in the series. Lay the points with the warriors and make them an 8* play.
|12-22-16||Missouri State v. USC -9||Top||75-83||Loss||-115||14 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: Missouri State is off to an 8-3 start and will match up with a nationally ranked team for the first time this season on Thursday when the Bears face undefeated No. 23 USC in the semifinals of the Las Vegas Classic at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. "We're excited to go on the road," said Jarrid Rhodes, who recently moved into the starting lineup for Missouri State. "This is a great opportunity for us, going to play a top-25 team. I think we still have some things to work on, but I feel like, overall, we'll be ready." Missouri State: The Bears return four of five starters, losing only the 6-6 Boone (12.2 & 6.5). Guards Rousseau (13.2) and Miller (11.3 & 4.0 APG) both score in double digits, as does the 6-9 Johnson (12.5 & 9.0). Rousseau and Johnson are both JUCO transfers and have made quite an early impression. Guard Austin Ruder missed all but the first five games last season because of a hip injury and averages 6.9 PPG, scoring mostly from beyond the three-point arc. As mentioned at the top, guard Rhodes (5.5 & 3.5) has recently moved into the starting lineup. Missouri St. is a solid defensive team (63.5 PPG ranks 36th) but will be tested by the 11-0 Trojans, who average 82.3 PPG (41st). USC: Last year’s 21-win team was quite a step up from a program which had won just six, 14, 11 and 12 games in the previous four seasons. Last season marked head coach Andy Enfield's third year at USC and many will remember him as the man who led Florida Gulf Coast on a Sweet 16 run a few years back. USC’s 11-0 start is its best start since going 16-0 to begin the 1970-71 season (that team went on to finish 24-2). Guards Stewart (15.9 & 5.9), McLaughlin (13.6-3.2-5.2) and Aaron (11.7 & 4.0) lead the Trojans offensively and make up quite trio in the backcourt. 6-11 sophomore Chimezie Metu averages 13.3 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds and is joined by the 6-11 Rakocevic (6.1 & 4.5) in the starting lineup, as the 6-10 Boatwright (10.8 & 4.0) got hurt after just five games (expected back in mid-January). Freshman guard Melton comes off the bench to score 9.0 PPG and grab 5.5 RPG. The pick: The pressure is starting to build around the Bears’ head coach Paul Lusk (79-93 in his sixth season), as he has not led Missouri State to the type of success it enjoyed under his predecessors Cuonzo Martin, Barry Hinson and Steve Alford, who were a combined 308-206 from 1995 to 2011. This is a chance to earn a “marquee win” but don’t look for that to happen. USC is shooting 49.9 percent from the floor over the last eight games, including 40.2 percent from three-point range and have too much ‘firepower’ for the Bears in this one. Lay the points and make USC a 10* play.
|12-22-16||Spurs v. Clippers +1.5||Top||101-106||Win||100||13 h 15 m||Show|
NOT A PLAY....ENTERED ACCIDENTALLY!
|12-22-16||NC-Greensboro v. Georgetown -12.5||Top||56-78||Win||100||9 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: UNC-Greensboro is off to a 9-3 start, giving the Spartans their second best-start since becoming a Division I program 25 years ago. The Spartans travel to Washington D.C. tonight to take on Georgetown, who after a poor 1-4 start (the lone win came over Oregon, though), has won five in a row to reach 7-4. UNC-Greensboro: The Spartans were just 15-19 last season but four of five starters returned, losing only SF Locke, although he averaged 12.6 PPG and 5.4 RPG. The Spartans have used a balanced attack on offense and solid defense to get off to their 9-3 start. Four players score in double digits, guards Alonzo (12.6) and Baldwin (11.8-3.8-4.), as well as the 6-6 Smith (11.8 & 4.8) and the 6-9 White (10.8 & 5.2). As for that defense, UNCG allows a modest 62.2 PPG to rank 28th. Georgetown: The Hoyas were 15-18 last year but lost just one starter, albeit Smith-Rivera (16.2-3.6-4.5) was the team's best player. 6-5 guards Pryor (20.5 & 4.9), who is a Robert Morris transfer, and Peak (16.8-4.4-3.4) dominate the headlines and play better than 30 minutes per game but the remainder of head coach Thompson’s roster is a mixed bag with no real standouts. He is having a difficult time settling on a center as the 6-10 Jessie Govan (9.9 & 5.2) and the 7-0 Bradley Hayes (6.0 & 6.1) have each gotten a chance to play extended minutes this season. Hayes was the man in late November, averaging 8.3 points and 7.5 rebounds but Govan reemerged after a solid start to the season with three straight games in double figures, including 12 points and 10 rebounds against Syracuse. The pick: Georgetown's’ 78-71 win over former Big East rival Syracuse on the road was a big boost and the Hoyas take a five-game winning streak into this game. Remember though, even in Georgetown’s rough 1-4 start, that lone win came over Oregon, which was No. 5 in the AP’s preseason poll and currently ranks 20th at 10-2. The Hoyas have talent and although they are 0-4 ATS at home this year, they are averaging 85.0 PPG on their home floor, while allowing just 67.3 PPG. Make Georgetown an 8* play.
|12-22-16||Stephen F Austin +4 v. Tulsa||Top||51-74||Loss||-108||7 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: the Diamond Head Classic from Honolulu, Hawaii opens Thursday with four first round games. The first of the four will be the 4-5 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks taking on the 5-4 Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks have won the last three Southland Conference titles, advancing to the Big Dance each year under head coach Brad Underwood. Twice, the Lumberjacks won their first-round game in the NCAAs, including last year’s upset of third-seeded West Va. Underwood was an amazing 89-14 these last three seasons and used that resume to get the job at Oklahoma State, which fired Travis Ford. Taking over is Kyle Keller, who has just wrapped up his fifth season as an assistant coach on head coach Billy Kennedy’s staff at Texas A&M, bringing his grand total of coaching experience to an even 25 years at locations also including Kansas, Oklahoma State, Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio. It’s been tough going so far this season (4-5 start), as all three double digit scorers from last year’s team are gone, led by Walkup, who averaged 18.1 PPG and 6.9 RPG. Five players are averaging between 9.2 and 13.8 PPG this season, led by guard Canete (13.8) plus forwards Holyfield (12.6 & 7.7) and Gilmore (10.8 & 6.6). Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane won 20 games last year and lost in the NCAA’s First Four. However, four of five starters are gone, including the team's two best players, starting guards Woodard (15.4 & 5.3) and Harrison (15.1-5.5-4.1). Guard Birt is the lone returning starter but after averaging 12.0 PPG last season, he’s scoring a more modest 8.7 PPG to open this season. Guard Wheeler is a JUCO transfer and leads the team with 13.4 PPG and another newcomer, Etou (a 6-7 Rutgers transfer), is averaging 11.3 & 7.0. The pick: Both of these schools made the Big dance last season and in the early going, each is trying to find their identity. No reason not to take the points in this one, as Stephen F. Austin has the more balanced lineup and one gets the feeling that Tulsa is lacking overall direction early on. Stephen F. Austin is an 8* play.
|12-21-16||Rockets -6 v. Suns||Top||125-111||Win||100||11 h 12 m||Show|
The set-up: Houston found the going tough last night at home vs. San Antonio, as the Spurs held them to 100 points in a two-point San Antonio win, dropping the Rockets to 21-8. The Rockets head to Phoenix tonight to take on the 8-20 Suns, who own the Western Conference’s second-worst record, while ranking 28th in points allowed (113.1 PPG). Houston: The Rockets are shooting threes at a record-setting pace this season, having already attempted 1,128. They've made 423, which already is approaching some teams' season total from last year. As noted above, the Rockets got a lot more resistance in their 102-100 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night. The Rockets had made at least 10 three-pointers in 27 consecutive games before getting harassed into 6-for-38 shooting from beyond the arc by the Spurs. However, Houston will get a chance to pad its already gaudy three-point-shooting numbers Wednesday night when they run into the suns, one of the league's weakest defensive teams in the NBA. The Rockets saw their 10-game winning streak come to an end.last night, as James Harden shot 1-for-11 from beyond the arc and Eric Gordon went 1-for-8. Phoenix: The Suns have dropped three straight contests (and four of their last five), after a 115-108 loss at Minnesota on Monday. Eric Bledsoe (20.0-5.3-5.3) continued his a strong season Monday, as his 27-point performance against Minnesota marked his ninth effort of 25 or more points this season. The backcourt foursome of Bledsoe, Brandon Knight (21 points), Devin Booker (18) and Leandro Barbosa (10 in 14 minutes) combined for 76 points against the Timberwolves in what proved to be a disappointing effort by the frontcourt. "One thing we know we need to get better at is our toughness," coach Earl Watson told reporters. "That's not a stat. We have to become more feisty because we are small on the perimeter." Booker (18.8) and Knight (12.9) j join Bledsoe in double figures but the only frontcourt player in double digits is SF Warren (15.5 & 3.9). The pick: The Rockets have won each of their last five visits to Phoenix. including 111-105 and 116-100 wins last season. Houston 12-4 ATS on the road this season and after a tough home loss to the Spurs last night, bounces back with a an easy win over the sad-sack Suns in this one. Houston is a 10* play.
|12-21-16||Towson +5 v. Nevada||Top||72-81||Loss||-105||7 h 28 m||Show|
analysis posted shortly
|12-20-16||Jazz v. Warriors -11||Top||74-104||Win||100||27 h 39 m||Show|
full analysis by 12 pm et Tuesday
|12-20-16||Marist v. Delaware -5||Top||56-59||Loss||-110||23 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: The Marist Red Foxes have lost three in a row to fall to 4-7 on the season and will now travel to the Bob Carpenter Center this Tuesday night to take on the 5-5 Delaware Blue Hens, who are 3-0 SU at home. Marist: The Red Foxes struggled on both ends of the court in the second half of their last game at home with Jacksonville (led 35-33 at the break), allowing the Dolphins to pull away for an 84-65 victory. Jacksonville went on a 16-3 to take a 53-38 lead, as the Dolphins would shoot 51.6% from the floor, including 11-24 from beyond the arc. Defense has been a problem for Marist, as the Red Foxes allow 80.4 PPG (310th) on 46.6 percent shooting (296th). Marist averages a modest 69.6 PPG on 43.2% shooting from the floor. A trio of guards are the lone double digit scorers on the team, with Hart averaging 17.8 PPG, Funk 13.3 PPG and Parker 13.0 PPG. The drop-off from those three is significant, as SF Lamb scores just 5.4 PPG and 6-8 center Brooks only 5.3 PPG. Neither of those frontcourt players rebound well either, as Lamb pulls down a modest 3.1 RPG and Brooks just 3.8 per game. Delaware: The Blue Hens come in off back-to-back losses to fall to 5-5, after being defeated by the Seton Hall Pirates, 81-68, this past Saturday. Leading the way for the Blue Hens was Anthony Mosley who had 21 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and a steal. Like Marist, Delaware has a trio of guards averaging in double figures, although no one matches Hart. Mosley leads the way at 11.5 PPG but note that both Daly (11.0 & 6.0) and Hayes (11.0 & 4.9) are solid rebounders. So are 6-7 forward Corbett (9.3 & 4.6) and the 6-9 Carter (7.0 & 7.7). Delaware doesn’t score much (67.0 PPG) but is strong on the defense end, allowing 65.7 PPG. The pick: Kevin Hart arguably the best player in the MAAC but Delaware is the much better defensive and rebounding team. In three home games so far, the Blue Hems have outscore opponents 64.0-to-49.0 PPG. Make Delaware an 8* play.
|12-20-16||Youngstown State v. Ohio State -20||Top||40-77||Win||100||23 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: Youngstown State snapped a two game losing streak by defeating Niagara 101-97 in overtime last Wednesday night, evening its record at 6-6. The Penguins travel to Columbus tonight to take on the 8-3 Ohio State Buckeyes, who are 7-1 SU at home, and whose only home loss was a shocking 79-77 overtime setback to Florida Atlantic back on Dec. 6. Youngstown State: Four of five starters scored in double figures for Youngstown in the win a over Niagara, led by 27 from guard Cameron Morse, who is the team’s leading scorer at 23.8 PPG. Point guard Santiago (13.4-4.5-5.1) is the team’s second-leading scorer, while the two best frontcourt performers are 6-7 forward Donlan (11.8 & 4.7) and 7-1 center Kaufman (7.4 & 7.2). Youngstown State can score (79.8 PPG) but has trouble stopping people on the defensive end, allowing 81.2 PPG (317th). Ohio State: Speaking of defense, the Buckeyes held No. 2 UCLA to 10 points under its season average, but it still wasn’t enough in an 86-73 loss Saturday out in Las Vegas. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta was pleased with a defensive effort that limited the Bruins to their third-lowest scoring output and their second-worst shooting game (48.4 percent) of the season. “I felt that for stretches there we did a really good job defensively on a great offensive team,” Matta told reporters. “The thing that they do is if you make a mistake, they’re going to make you pay for it. We had a couple mistakes, which was probably the difference in the game.” Marc Loving, Jae’Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop combined for 47 points on 20-of-36 shooting against UCLA while the rest of the Buckeyes went 9-of-26 from the floor. Forwards Tate (14.0 & 6.8) and Loving (12.2 & 5.2) are the team’s top-two scorers, followed by starting guards Lyle (11.0 & 5.5 APG) and Williams (10.6). 7-0 center Thompson (10.4 & 8.5) comes off the bench, as does the 6-7 Bates-Diop, who just got on the court on Nov 11 and has averaged 9.8 & 4.7 in six games. The pick: Two of the Buckeyes three losses have come to ranked opponents with the other being the exception, that disappointing home loss to Florida Atlantic. the Buckeyes are 7-1 SU at home, outscoring opponents by 15.1 PPG. That’s good enough to make the Buckeyes a 10* play in this one.
|12-19-16||Pistons +3 v. Bulls||Top||82-113||Loss||-115||10 h 21 m||Show|
The 14-14 Detroit Pistons are in Chicago to take on the 13-13 Bulls. The visiting Pistons are off back-to-back blowout losses by a combined 29 points, while the Bulls have lost three consecutive games and six of the past eight. Detroit: Pistons lead the Eastern Conference in scoring defense, allowing an average of 96.9 PPG (3rd-best in the NBA) but they surrendered 113.5 PPG in the last two losses. "We are not playing defense," PG Reggie Jackson told reporters. "That is what it comes down to. We have been a pretty good defensive team throughout the season. We just haven’t been good as of late. We got to figure it out and find a way to string together stops and compete for 48 minutes; understand that there are ups and downs in games and find a way to get wins." Jackson (14.2 & 4.8 APG) was one of the bright spots on Saturday with 19 points and 10 assists in his first double-double since returning to the lineup on Dec. 4. Jackson is one of seven players averaging in double figures, led by SF Harris (16.1 & 4.9) plus center Drummond (14.2 & 14.8). Backup PPG Ish Smith averages 9.4 & 5.9 APG. Chicago: The Bulls’ recent lethargy has prompted critics to ask whether players have tuned out second-year coach Fred Hoiberg. However, Bulls forward Taj Gibson said he and his teammates -- not Hoiberg -- deserved blame for the recent skid. "We're definitely buying into what Fred is telling us, but at the same time Fred isn't on the court," Gibson told the Chicago Sun-Times. "People want to forget that sometimes. We have to do a better job. He's coaching his tail off, and it's hard when you're trying everything possible. You've got to look at the roster. We've got a lot of young guys, man, and not that much experience." Butler (24.8-6.7-4.2) is a bonafide All-Star but Wade (19.5-4.2-3.6) is showing his age and Rondo (8.0-6.4-6.9) is no longer a dominant player. The set-up: The bottom line is these “new-look” Bulls, minus Rose, Gasol and Noah, are NOT a better team than last year. This game marks the second of four meetings between the teams. On Dec. 6 in Auburn Hills, Mich, the Pistons pulled away for a 102-91 win over the Bulls thanks to a team-high 22 points from forward Tobias Harris. The Pistons have fared better during the past few weeks away from home, winning five of their past seven road games.Take the points and make Detroit a 10* play.
|12-19-16||College of Charleston v. LSU -4||Top||65-75||Win||100||10 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The College of Charleston has opened 8-3 and visits Baton Rogue to take on the 7-2 LSU Tigers on Monday night. Charleston: The Cougars returned all five starters from last year’s 17-win team but there have been some changes in the early going this season. The 6-5 do-everything Hulsey (5.6-5.7-3.3 last year) has played just five games and remains out with a toe injury. Guard Johnson led in scoring last season at 12.3 PPG but has avenged just 8.0 PPG so far this season. Pointer, another double digit scorer from last year at 11.2 PPG, is down to 5.2 PPG this season. Returning guards Chealey (13.5) and Riller (10.3) are averaging in double digits though, plus the 6-7 Brantley (12.9 & 8.76) is easily the team’ best frontcourt player. LSU: Not only was Ben Simmons (19.2-11.8-4.8) a one-and-done player but LSU also lost guards Hornsby (13.1) and Quarterman (11.2-4.6-3.6) from last year’s underachieving group. Head coach Johnny Jones is under some pressure to get LSU into the Big Dance this season and he told reporters after LSU’s last game, "At the end of the day we have to make sure we continue to improve. I'm not sure we took big steps (on Saturday) but I'd much rather be preparing our team for our next outing after a victory rather than a defeat." Blakeney (16.9 & 4.3) and Sampson (11.7) are the team's best backcourt players with the 6-10 Reath (14.4 & 6.2) and the 6-9 Victor (8.7 & 7.0) performing best up front. The pick: Charleston extended its winning streak to five games by beating East Carolina 53-35 last Thursday, surrendering the least amount of points in a single Division I game in program history. The Cougars will rely on teri defense (58.6 PPG ranks 8th) in trying to hand LSU its first home loss of this season. LSU blew a double-digit halftime lead before rallying to beat Texas Southern the last time out, and has won its last three games overall since dropping two of three contests at the Battle 4 Atlantis in late November. Saturday’s home win over Texas Southern makes LSU 21-1 in non-conference games in Baton Rouge since the start of the 2014-15 season. Throw in the revenge motive of a shocking 70-58 setback to the Cougars on Nov. 30, 2015 and LSU is an 8* play.
|12-19-16||Belmont -6.5 v. Wisc-Milwaukee||Top||62-56||Loss||-105||10 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: The Belmont Bruins look for a big road victory to get a game above the .500 mark, as they head to Wisconsin a modest 4-4 on the season. Wisconsin-Milwaukee is just 4-8, after after losing five of its last seven games. Belmont: Head coach Rick Byrd won 20 games again last year for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons. He led the Bruins to an NCAA berth in seven of those years. Just one starter was lost from last year but PG Bradshaw (16.4 & 3.2 APG) has been tough to replace. The 6-7 Bradds is back and averaging 21.3 & 10.0 but he’s the lone double digit scorer. However, the Bruins own nice balance, with five players contributing 6.0 to 9.9 PPG. Wisconsin-Milwaukee: The Panthers won 20 games last season but all five starters are gone from that team plus Milwaukee has a new head coach in LaVall Jordan, a former John Beilein (Michigan) assistant getting his first head-coaching gig. The only starter bigger than 6-5 in the 6-7 Nyze (5.7 & 4.4),as guards Wichmann (12.3) and Stull (10.3 & 6.6) are the lone double digit scorers. The pick: The Panthers have had a good recent history but this team and its new head coach needs time to grow. The Panthers could use a win here, entering on a three-game slide, but Belmont will NOT play the perfect foil. There’s a reason the Bruins are a road favorite in this one. Make Belmont a 10* play.
|12-18-16||Georgia State v. Old Dominion -6||Top||46-58||Win||100||7 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up The 6-3 Georgia State Panthers are in Norfolk, Va, to take on the 5-4 Old Dominion Monarchs. The Panthers look to stay hot, having won five of six, while ODU is hoping to snap a mini two-game losing skid. Georgia State: The Panthers made the Big Dance two years ago and upset Baylor but last year’s team won just 16 games. This year’s team is starting to come around but there are just two double digit scorers, the 6-8 Holloway (14.2 & 5.7) and guard Simonds (10.2). Georgia State is scoring 78.4 PPG on 47.9% shooting from the floor. Old Dominion: The Monarchs won the Vegas 16 championship last March and finished with 25 wins. However, gone are leading scorer Freeman (22.1) and guard Bacote (13.1). Returning was the 6-7 Talley but he’s been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. The 6-7 Brandan Stith was the leading returning starter and he’s leads in scoring this year, averaging 13.0 PPG and is also the team’s leading rebounder at 8.1 RPG. A trio of guards round out the biggest contributors in Caver (11.6), Baker (8.6) and B.J. Stith (7.4). ODU is allowing just 58.7 PPG (7th) but doesn’t score, averaging only 59.2 PPG. The pick: Georgia State has yet to win on the road (0-3), allowing 76.3 PPG in those true road games (albeit, against tougher competition than ODU). However, Old Dominion is a solid home team, going 9-3 ATS over its last 12 home games. Make Old Dominion a 10* play.
|12-17-16||Blazers v. Warriors -13.5||Top||90-135||Win||100||20 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The 13-15 Portland Trial Blazers haven’t had much recent luck at Oracle Arena but will give it “the old college try” again tonight, when they face the 23-4 Golden State Warriors. Portland: The Blazers’ backcourt duo of Lillard (27.7-4.6-6.0) and McCollum (22.4) is the league’s second-highest scoring duo next to Golden St.’s Durant and Curry and Lillard comes in on a bit of a roll. He'd already had three, 30-point games this month before exploding for 40, two off his season high, in Thursday's loss at Denver. The loss at the Nuggets dropped the Blazers to 5-11 on the road with games still to come against the Warriors and Sacramento Kings on this current road trip. Portland averages 110.1 PPG (4th) but allows 112.2 PPG (28th). Golden State: The Warriors will obviously test that poor Portland defense, as Golden State leads the NBA in both scoring (11.7.3 PPG) and FG percentage (49.4%). Duarnt (25.5-8.4-4.7), Curry (24.9-4.4-5.9), Thompson (21.7) and the do-everything Green (10.8-8.6-7.1) form the NBA’s best quartet, as the Warriors “play together,” as well as any team in the league (better than any team?). Golden State leads the NBA in assists average (31.4 per game) and has handed out at least 30 in 19 different games, going 18-1 in those contests. The Warriors became the first team this season to record assists on over 90 percent of its field goals when they finished with 41 on 45 field goals Thursday. "No one really holds the ball on this team," shooting guard Klay Thompson told reporters. "It’s nice because the ball's always moving. ... That’s the beauty of our team. No one cares about the numbers." The pick: The Warriors are struggling against the number as of late, going 9-2 in their last 11 games SU but just 3-8 ATS. However, Golden State has had Portland’s number here at home recently, having averaged a 16.8-point margin of victory in its four-game regular-season home run over Portland. Golden State has won the last three regular season meetings between the two teams, averaging 130.3 PPG. Lay it and make Golden State a 10* play.
|12-17-16||Indiana State v. Valparaiso -8||Top||71-89||Win||100||18 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: The 5-5 Indiana State Sycamores take on 8-2 Valparaiso on Saturday night. The Sycamores appeared to be heating up with three straight wins but struggled at both ends of the floor in a 77-59 defeat to Western Kentucky this past Sunday. The Crusaders have been a Horizon power for awhile now and most believe that trend will continue. The Crusaders have won five of six on their way to an 8-2 record, capped off by an 84-81 victory at Missouri State in their last outing. Indiana State: The Sycamores were 15-17 last year and lost leading scorer Brown (15.5 & 4.9) along with the 6-6 Smith (10.0 & 5.2) from last year’s team. Brown’s backcourt partner Scott returns and is the team's lone double digit scorer in the early going, upping his average from 14.6 PPG last season to 19.5 PPG, while adding 5.5 RPG. The team's leading rebounder last year was 6-1 guard Clemons but he’s just behind Scott so far this year at 5.3 RPG plus his 5.3 APG leads the team (Clemons averages 8.0 PPG). Valparaiso: The Crusaders won 30 games last year and the team’s top-three scorers all return. However, head coach Bryce Drew left for Vandy, although the school acted quickly and hired from within, promoting assistant Matt Lottich. The key returnee is the 6-9 Alec Peters, who is off to a great start in his senior season, averaging 25.3 & 9.2. A veteran guard duo complements him well, with senior Hammick (14.6 & 4.8) and junior Walker (10.9 & 5.4). Indiana State is not in Valpo’s class and the Crusader should win, handily Make Valpo a 10* play.
|12-17-16||East Tennessee State v. Morehead State +6||Top||78-68||Loss||-110||12 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: East Tennessee State will takes its 8-2 record to Morehead, Kentucky to take on the struggling Morehead State Eagles (just 2-7) for a Saturday afternoon tip. ETSU won 24 games last year and Morehead State won 23, making it all the way to the CBI finals, a best-of three event, losing in Game 3 at Nevada, 85-82 in OT. East Tennessee State: The Buccaneers are led by guard T.J. Cromer (16.9 PPG) with seven others chipping in between 6.3 and 9.5 PPG. PG Bradford (9.5-3.9-4.4) is a nice complement to Cromer in the backcourt and ETSU’s frontcourt has been bolstered this year by two transfers. There is the 6-9 Mosquera (8.6 & 5.5) from Indiana and the 6-8 Glass (6.7 & 5.6) from Wichita State. Morehead State: The Eagles are not only off to a rough start with a 2-7 record but head coach Sean Woods has recently resigned following an investigation into alleged physical abuse of his players. The team lost its top-two scorers from last year, although Collins (11.0) and Arrington (10.2) didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard. Through this year’s turmoil, an eight-player rotation sees guys averaging between 5.1 and 12.9 PPG. Guard Moon (12.9) is the top scorer and the 6-6 Marrero (10.3 & 8.0) is the best frontcourt player. The pick: It would be easy to pick against the Eagles right now, as they’ve lost SEVEN in a row but this is much better than its record and expect this home dog to bark loudly in this one. Morehead state is a 10* play.