|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|03-19-17||USC +7 v. Baylor||Top||78-82||Win||100||20 h 14 m||Show|
USC; The Trojans had to win a "play-in" game Wednesday, edging Providence to advance as an 11-seed. They then edged sixth-seeded SMU 66-65 on Friday, ending the Mustangs' 16-game winning streak (SMU had been 26-1 since a 4-3 start in Nov!). The Trojans trailed most of the game against SMU until hitting a three-pointer to put them in the lead with 2:10 left. After SMU answered, another three put the Trojans ahead 66-65 with 36 seconds left, which was the final. USC owns excellent size with its top-two scorers, the 6-10 Boatwright (15.1 & 4.5) and the 6-11 Metu (14.5 & 7.9). The perimeter features five players averaging between 7.2 and 13.0 PPG, lead by McLaughlin (13.0-3.6-5.5) and Stewart (12.3 & 4.0).
SMU: The Bears opened the season 15-0 and earned the school's first-ever No. 1 ranking in the AP poll on Jan. 9th. However, on Jan. 10th, Baylor lost 89-68 at West Va. and entered the tourney just 10-7 over its final 17 games. A 91-73 win over New Mexico St. has hardly quieted the doubters, especially considering Baylor led just 40-38 at halftime. That said, Baylor is a talented team. The 6-10 Motley, a Naismith Award semifinalist and the 16th All-American in school history. He had his 14th double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) of the season against New Mexico State despite sitting out a large chunk of the first half because of foul problems. He leads the team in scoring (17.3) and the Big 12 in rebounding (9.9) and is considered a potential NBA lottery pick. Junior PG Manu Lecomte, the Big 12's Newcomer of the Year, is second in scoring (12.3) while also shooting a team best 41.7 percent from three-point range while junior guard Al Freeman (10.2) came off the bench to score a season-high 21 points in Friday's win.
The pick: USC's head coach Larry Enfield first came to our attention when he led his "Dunk City" Florida Gulf Coast team to a Sweet 16 appearance back in 2013. Now, he has a chance to take USC there in 2017. He's already led USC to 26 wins, which is a school record, surpassing the previous mark of 25 set in 2007. Baylor's win over New Mexico State got the Bears out of a first-round slump,as Baylor had lost to 12th-seeded Yale a year ago and 14th-seeded Georgia State in 2015. This year, the second round does them in. Make USC a 10* play.
|03-19-17||Michigan State +8 v. Kansas||Top||70-90||Loss||-105||18 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: This is hardly Tom Izzo's best team, as the ninth-seeded Spartans are just 20-14 after their impressive 78-58 win over Miami, Fl. on Friday. They will meet the top-seeded Jayhawks (No. 2 overall seed in the tourney) on Sunday, who are 29-4 after spanking UC-Davis 100-62. It may be a No. 9 seed vs. a No. 1 seed on paper but in reality, these are two of the most successful programs in college hoops. MSU has a chance at a 20th trip to the Sweet Sixteen and fifth in six years. As for Kansas, it can reach the Sweet Sixteen for the 30th time in school history.
|03-19-17||Mavs v. Nets +5||Top||111-104||Loss||-110||13 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The 2016-17 NBA season has been a lost cause for Brooklyn for quite some time now, as the owners of the NBA's worst record (13-55) is the only team in the Eastern Conference officially eliminated from postseason contention. The 29-39 Dallas Mavs had won six of seven from Feb. 25 to Mar. 10 to give the team hopes it could challenge for the West's final playoff spot but Dallas has lost three of four since that surge and currently finds itself 3 1/2 games back of Denver, in 10th-place in the West.
|03-18-17||Middle Tennessee +3.5 v. Butler||Top||65-74||Loss||-104||11 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: March Madness is known for its surprising upsets but that hasn't been the case in the 2017 edition, at least so far. The lowest seed remaining is 12th-seeded Middle Tennessee State, which can hardly be called a 'Cinderella.' MTSU upset the 2nd-seeded Spartans in last year's tourney and returned this year to win C-USA's regular season (17-1) and postseason titles, entering the tourney at 30-4. The win over fifth-seeded Minnesota on Thursday was hardly a surprise, as MTSU went off as the slight favorite in that game. Now, the Blue Raiders face the school which earned the title of "Ultimate NCAA underdog," when the Bulldogs made back-to-back championship game appearances in 2010 and 2011.
MTSU: Blue Raiders head coach Kermit Davis reminded all after the win over Minnesota that, "We're one of the top 15 teams in the country in assist to turnovers." He had just watched his team commit only eight turnovers while assisting on 19 of 28 baskets in the victory. Arkansas graduate transfer 6-8 forward JaCorey Williams (17.2 & 7.3 ), the C-USA Player of the Year, had 13 points and six rebounds against Minnesota. Junior guard Giddy Potts (15.8 & 5.4) has a team-high 76 three-pointers and the the 6-8 Upshaw (14.6 & 6.9) join Williams as this team's "Big Three." Potts had 15 points vs. Minnesota and Upshaw led in scoring (19) and rebounds (9). The Blue Raiders are also one tough defensive team, allowing just 63.6 PPG (23rd) while holding foes to 41.8 percent shooting (39th).
Butler: The Bulldogs claim to fame this season is that they've given No. 1 overall seed Villanova (also the defending champs), two of its three losses on the season. Now the Bulldogs want to make some noise in the Big Dance, as well. The team's best player and leading scorer, the 6-7 Martin (15.9 & 5.8), continues to come off the bench. Also note that the team-leader in assists, Lewis (6.5 & 4.0 APG), also does not start. Both came off the bench in Thursday's win, with Martin getting 10 & 8 and Lewis scoring nine points with eight assists. Guard Woodson (8.9) was the leading scorer (18) in the 76-64 win over Winthrop. 6-7 senior forward Andrew Chrabascz (11.0 & 4.6) added 12 points, four rebounds and three assists in the win.
The pick: Butler has its highest seed ever at No. 4 but note that it hasn’t advanced to the Sweet 16 since losing the national championship games in 2010 and 2011. Meanwhile, the Blue Raiders have already set a school record for wins (31) and have won 20 of their last 21 games. MTSU owns wins this season over SEC schools Ole Miss and Vanderbilt and as coach Davis said, "We think we belong on a national stage." I'm with him and will make MTSU an 8* play.
|03-18-17||Xavier v. Florida State -6||Top||91-66||Loss||-110||10 h 60 m||Show|
The set-up: The NCAA's second round begins Saturday with eight games. Third-seeded Florida State survived an upset bid from No. 14 seed Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday, winning 86-80 for the school's first NCAA Tournament win since 2012. 11th-seeded Xavier was a small underdog to No. 6 Maryland but took care of the Terps, 76-65. NCAA success is nothing new for the Musketeers, who will be trying to reach the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in 10 years!
Xavier: Some may have forgotten by now but Xavier opened the season ranked 7th in the AP's preseason poll but when PG Edmond Sumner (14.3 PPG and 4.3 APG) was lost for the season at the end of January, the Musketeers’ season beagn to unravel. The team lost six in a row from Feb. 11 through Mar. 1 but a pair of wins in the Big East tourney (one over Butler), allowed 21-13 Xavier to claim one of the last at-large berths (11-seed). Freshman Quentin Goodin (5.1 & 3.4 APG) has assumed the PG position and has averaged 5.5 APG since taking over as the starter and that includes a career-high nine in Thursday's win over Maryland. He's got an excellent pair of guards to work with on the perimeter in leading scorer Bluiett (18.2 & 5.7) and J.P. Macura (14.4). Bluiett had 21 points against Maryland (18 in the second half) for his 17th 20-point performance this season. Xavier does not own a dominant post player but has size in 6-10 O’Mara (5.9 & 2.9) and the 6-9 RaShid Gaston (7.8 & 6.3 rebounds). Gaston was great vs. Maryland, scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Florida State: The Seminoles advanced past Florida Gulf Coast despite some sloppy play (16 turnovers) and too many missed free throws (15), especially when trying to close out the game. However, FSU's new-founded offensive potential got them through. The Seminoles have always been know for their defense in the "Hamilton era" but this year's team averages 82.6 PPG (17th) on 48.5% shooting (18th). Guard Dwayne Bacon (17.1 & 4.2) is the team's leading scorer and he had 25 points against the Eagles while 6-10 freshman forward Jonathan Isaac (12.1 & 7.7) had 17 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals. The Seminoles also blocked nine shots in the game and got double-digit scoring from PG Xavier Rathan-Mayes (10.4 & 4.9 APG) and wing Terance Mann (8.6 & 4.7), as Mayes had 10-5-5 and Mann chipped in 11 points..
The pick. Xavier has much more experience at winning come this time of year and the team's win over Maryland gives them nine straight neutral-site wins in Florida, including seven in a row here in Orlando. The Musketeers are also 13-1 when holding opponents under 70 points. However, here's the rub. I noted already that this FSU scores MUCH more than recent editions and the Seminoles have failed to reach 70 points only four times in 34 games, so far. What's more, while Orlando has served as a neutral-site for Xavier, that's hardly the case here against the school from Tallahasse. I took Xavier over Maryland and wrote; "Xavier’s undoing in March will likely be its lack of a dominant post player, but that will not be the case against a small and young (outside of Trimble) Maryland team." FSU has a first round NBA draft pick in the 6-10 Isaac plus the 7-1 Ojo and the 7-4 Koumadji combined for 13 points, five rebounds and six blocks in Thursday's with. Add in a perimeter game that's the equal of Xavier and FSU is a 10* play.
|03-18-17||Blazers +3 v. Hawks||Top||113-97||Win||100||10 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The 30-37 Portland Trail Blazers are hoping to track down the Denver Nuggets for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. The Trail Blazers are currently in ninth-place but have fallen 2 1/2 games back of the Nuggets. Portland will be in Atlanta tonight to take on the 37-31 Hawks, who are the East's No. 5 seed, 2 1/2 games back of Toronto (No. 4 seed) and two games up on Indiana (No. 6 seed).
Portland: The Blazers won the opener of their five-game road trip at Phoenix on Sunday but suffered an 'ugly' 100-77 loss at New Orleans on Tuesday. However, they were able to win 110-106 the very next night at San Antonio. "Well, that had to be to be probably our best win of the year," Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told reporters. "To beat a team like San Antonio on the road, and not only that, but how we won, I thought it was one of our better games as far as staying focused throughout the game. Withstanding some of their runs, the crowd, a lot of good performances." All season long, the Blazers have been led by the backcourt duo of Lillard (26.5-4.9-5.8) and McCollum (23.3) However, if Portland is able to catch Denver, the reason will likely be the play of the 7-0 Nurkic, who Portland acquired from Denver in a swap of centers (Plumee was sent to the Nuggets). It was an "under the radar deal," but Nurkic is averaging 14.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 3.6 APG and 1.5 BPG in his 12 games (11 starts) with the Blazers.
Atlanta: The Hawks are close enough to the fourth-place Raptors to consider homecourt advantage in the first round if they can pull out of their current rut but then again, Atlanta is just 19-16 at home this year (18-15 on the road). Unlike Portland, Atlanta didn't have much luck at San Antonio (a 107-99 loss on Monday) plus then followed that with another homecourt disappointment, losing 103-91 to the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday. The Hawks had just beaten the Grizzlies by 17 points in Memphis five days earlier!
The pick: Portland is one of eight Atlanta opponents in the next nine games that has a losing record, but the Blazers are 6-2 in March. Also, while the Hawks have won five straight against the Trail Blazers, including an OT win at Portland back on Feb. 13, the Blazers now have an inside presence in Nurkic. Make Portland a 10* play.
|03-17-17||Marquette +1.5 v. South Carolina||Top||73-93||Loss||-108||79 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: Marquette's 19-12 record was just good enough to earn an at-large bid (10-seed) to the NCAA tourney. The Golden Eagles are back in the tournament after qualifying for eight straight seasons (from 2006 to 2013), before missing out the last three years. South Carolina went 12-6 in SEC play and 22-10 overall, earning an at-large bid as well (7-seed), returning to the Big Dance for the first time in 13 years! The Gamecocks hope to get some home cookin' for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004, as they face Marquette in Greenville, S.C.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles own superb balance, with seven players averaging between 8.7 and 13.2 PPG. All but one of those seven are guards, with 6-11 Fisher (11.0 & 5.9) being the team's best rebounder. However, he's got a shoulder injury and the 6-11 Heldt (2.4 & 2.9) is not much of a replacement. Howard (13.2) is the leading scorer for a team averaging 82.5 PPG (18th) and shoots 54.9% on threes, for a team first in the nation in three-point shooting (43.0%)! Rowsey (11.5 & 2.3 APG), a 5-10 guard and UNC Asheville transfer, has come on since taking over the point guard duties,scoring 18 points or more in seven of the last 11 games for Marquette.
South Carolina: Frank Martin's team got off to a strong start, winning 19 of its first 23 games but stumbled a bit down the stretch, dropping six of nine contests. The Gamecocks are led by SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell, who tops the team in scoring (21.0) and rebounding (7.2). He's joined in the backcourt by Dozier (13.6) and Notice (10.1) plus with Fisher out or playing at less than 100% for Marquette, the 6-9 Silva (9.8 & 5.7) and the 6-10 Kotsar (5.9 & 5.0) could make an impact in this contest. South Carolina doesn't score as much as Marquette, averaging 72.1 PPG (205th) plus doesn't shoot nearly as well (41.5% ranks 310th). However, the team plays excellent defense, allowing 64.5 PPG (27th) and holds opponents to 29.3% behind the arc (5th).
The pick: Frank Martin is the more seasoned coach, as this is Steve Wojciechowski's first NCAA appearance. It could come down to strength vs. strength, as Marquette's the nation's top three-point shooting team and South Carolina ranks fifth in stopping three-pointers! History tells us that South Carolina hasn't won an NCAA game since 1973, losing all six first round games, since. Marquette is playing better basketball coming in and while South Carolina owns the best player on the court in Thornwell, Marquette owns the better overall team. Marquette is a 10* play.
|03-17-17||Celtics v. Nets +9||Top||98-95||Win||100||18 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The 43-25 Boston Celtics are 1 1/2 games up on the Washington Wizards for the East's No. 2 seed. They are also just 2 1/2 games back of the top-seeded Cavs but head out on a two-game road trip tonight (first stop, Brooklyn), playing without star PG Isaiah Thomas (29.2 & 6.0 APG). Thomas will not travel with the team on the trip as he rests a right knee bone bruise, the team announced Thursday. The Nets are an NBA-worst 13-54 but continue to show some level of improvement, having won four of their last nine.
|03-17-17||Rhode Island v. Creighton -1||Top||84-72||Loss||-110||74 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: Creighton opened No. 22 in the AP's preseason poll and Rhode Island at No. 23. Creighton opened 18-1 (ranked No. 7) after beating Xavier on Jan 16 but lost star PG Maurice Watson Jr. to injury in that game. Watson was averaging 12.9 PPG and an NCAA-leading 8.5 APG. The Blue Jays finished the regular season 5-7 but then beat NCAA-bound Providence and Xavier in the big East tourney, before losing to Villanova in the title game. At 25-9, Creighton get s a No. 6 seed. Rhode Island stumbled to begin the season and was just 12-7 (4-3 in A-10) through Jan. 25. However, the Rams enter the Big Dance having won 12 of 14, including eight in a row after sweeping through (three wins) the A-10 tourney
Rhode Island: The Rams are 24-9 and a No. 11 seed, making the school's first Big Dance since 1999. Rhode Island's "Core 4" are guards Mathews (14.9 & 4.2) and Terrell (12.5) plus the 6-7 Martin (14.1 & 7.0) and the 6-9 Iverson (9.4 & 7.4). The Rams come in full of confidence and are hoping their defense can hold the Blue Jays in check. Rhode Island allows just 64.9 PPG (31st) and holds opponents to only 29.0% from three (3rd).
Creighton: The loss of Watson really hurt but wins over Providence and Xavier in the Big East tourney have allowed Creighton to regain some of its mojo. SG Foster (18.3) has been terrific plus Thomas been a nice backcourt partner, averaging 12.4 & 5.7 while also being named Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The 7-0 Patton (13.1 & 6.2) has been one of the nation's more influential freshman and the 6-8 Huff (9.2 & 3.9) has been a steady presence all season.
The pick: Both teams have played well on neutral courts, Rhode Island going 4-1 and Creighton 5-1. "We came into the tournament on a roll," Rhode Island guard Matthews told the Providence Journal. "We took care of business -- made history." I'm not sure just what "history" his team is made but the Rams' defense will be severely tested by a Creighton offense averaging 82.1 PPG (19th) on 50.8% shooting (3rd). The Bluejays are making their sixth postseason and fourth NCAA tourney appearance in Greg McDermott’s seven seasons at the helm and are my 10* play in this one.
|03-17-17||Oklahoma State +2.5 v. Michigan||Top||91-92||Win||100||70 h 38 m||Show|
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys won 10 of 11 games from Jan. 21 through Feb. 25 and despite losing their last three games (twice to Iowa St. and once to Kansas), was able to make the tourney field, after missing out in 2016, which ended a run of four straight NCAA appearances. Oklahoma State is led by PG Jawun Evans (19.0 & 6.2 APG), who was named to the All-Big 12 First Team. Yes, OSU enters on a three-game slide but don't blame Evans, as he averaged 26.7 PPG during that span. Evans' backcourt partner Forte (13.3) joins him in double digits (note: Forte leads the nation in free-throw percentage at 95.3%), as does 6-6 forward Carroll (17.4 & 6.6). Carroll has 15, 20-point games this season.
Michigan: It was quite a finishing kick by the Wolverines, one which was capped by an impressive 71-56 victory over Wisconsin in Sunday's championship game (Michigan's first conference tournament championship since 1998!). Derrick Walton Jr. was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten tournament after averaging 20.5 points and 6.3 assists in the Wolverines' four victories. PG Walton (15.2-4.7-4.7) leads the team in scoring on the season, followed by backcourt partner Irvin (12.8-4.5-3.0). Michigan has size up front in the 6-11 Wagner (12.0 & 4.2) and the 6-10 Wilson (10.6 & 5.4).
The pick: Michigan head coach John Beilein is one of the game's best and the Wolverines are 6-0 in neutral-site games this season However, as he cautioned, "We've handled prosperity thus far, but now, we have to handle it again with a difficult game Friday." The Cowboys have not won an NCAA tournament game since 2009 and unlike the seasoned Beilein, OSU has a first-year head coach in Brad Underwood. However, while I believe the Big Ten was a mediocre league this year, no one questions the quality of play in the Big 12. Note that OSU may enter on a three-game slide but remember, those losses game against just two teams, Iowa St (Big 12 tourney champ) and Kansas, winner of 13 straight Big 12 regular season tiles). Make Oklahoma St. an 8* play.
|03-16-17||Nevada v. Iowa State -5.5||Top||73-84||Win||100||55 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: Iowa State won the Big 12 tourney for the third time in four years. The Cyclones enter the Big Dance having won nine of their last 10 and at 23-10, were given a No. 5 seed. The Nevada Wolf Pack added the MWC tourney title to the school's regular season title and has won nine in a row to reach 28-6 (Nevada is a 12-seed). This marks Iowa State's sixth straight NCAA appearance while for Nevada, the Wolf Pack will be 'dancing' for the first time in 10 years!
Nevada: Head coach Eric Musselman told the Reno Gazette-Journal, "It's been our year-long goal, so obviously everybody feels great about seeing our name up there. It's great exposure for the university, and now we have to put some work in and figure out a way to compete with Iowa State." Nevada led the Mountain West in scoring at 80.0 points per game. Senior guard Marcus Marshall, a transfer from Missouri State, leads the team with 19.8 PPG (3.6 APG). The Wolf Pack are a perimeter-oriented team, starting three guards, Fenner (14.1) and PG Drew (5.9-4.8) join Marshall, along with swingman Caroline (14.8 & 9.2) plus 6-8 forward Oliver (15.8 & 8.7).
Iowa State: The Cyclones are also a guard-oriented team, led by PG Monte Morris (16.3 & 6.1 APG). He holds school career records for assists and steals. Fellow guard Naz Mitrou-Long is averaging 15.5 points and is a high-volume 3-point shooter (94 of 244, 38.5 percent). The 6-5 Deonte Burton can score from outside or above the rim and averages 14.8 PPG and leads the team in rebounding at 6.2 per. Thomas is a fourth guard in double digits (12.0 & 3.8) plus a pair of 6-8 fowards play just under 20 minutes per game, Bowie (5.8 & 4.1) and Young (5.1 & 4.1).
Th pick: Nevada can score but so can Iowa State, which averages 80.9 PPG against a tougher schedule, while shooting 40.2% on threes (13th in the nation). This game is being at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, which is less than 400 miles from Ames, as well as being the hometown of three Iowa State players. Iowa State owns a huge edge at experience on this level, especially Morris, who has played in two Sweet 16s and has seven NCAA games under his belt. Iowa State is an 8* play.
|03-16-17||Clippers v. Nuggets +1.5||Top||114-129||Win||100||11 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: The 40-28 LA Clippers figured that Chris Paul's return would spark the team but since his return, the Clippers have gone just 5-6 after last night's one-point home loss to the Bucks. Paul (17.7-5.1-9.2) had scored 30 and 33 points in his previous two games but had just six points last night, on 2 of 10 shooting. LA travels off that one-point loss to Denver, to take on the 32-25 Nuggets, who still cling to the West's eighth and final playoff spot by two games.
LA Clippers: Head coach Doc Rivers kept power forward Blake Griffin (21.3-8.5-5.1) and center DeAndre Jordan (12.5 & 13.5) home to rest with Saturday's home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers looming on the agenda, so the Clippers will be short-handed. The Clippers are now three games behind the fourth-place Utah Jazz in the West, after suffering that 97-96 home loss to the Bucks on Wednesday. The absences of Griffin and Jordan will open up playing time for nearly everyone on the roster and that might not be a bad thing in the mind of Rivers. "Young players have to be taught how to win," Rivers told reporters after the loss to the Bucks. "They know how to play. They haven't figured out how to do it and win at the same time."If you ask me, Rivers is trying to "sell something!"
Denver: The Nuggets are working hard to secure that No. 8 seed in the West and will be looking for their fourth consecutive win and eighth in the past 11 games tonight against the Clippers. Like LA, Denver will be shorthanded as well, as forwards Danilo Gallinari (knee), Wilson Chandler (groin) and Darrell Arthur (rest) will all miss the contest. Power forward Kenneth Faried (back) returned to practice Wednesday after missing the previous nine games and is listed as questionable. Gallinari is the team's leading scorer (17.7) and Chandler is tied with Jokic at 16.1 PPG. Center Nikola Jokic recorded 18 points and nine rebounds against the Lakers in Denver's 129-101 Monday win, falling one rebound shy of his seventh straight double-double. He's really come into his own this year, averaging 16.1 & 9.4.
The pick: Both teams will be missing key players but I'll side with the home team, which is playing much more consistent basketball at this time. Denver is a 10* play.
|03-16-17||Grizzlies v. Hawks -3||Top||103-91||Loss||-115||10 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: The 37-30 Memphis Grizzlies broke a five-game losing streak by winning their last two games and now sit just one-half game behind sixth-place Oklahoma City in the West. The 37-30 Atlanta Hawks are currently 5th in the East but have hopes of catching the Toronto Raptors for fourth place in the East, which would give them homecourt advantage in a potential first-round playoff series.
Memphis: Wins on the road this week over Milwaukee (113-93) and Chicago (98-91) have been sparked by a return to playing better defense. Defense has been a Memphis trademark for years but during its five-game slide, it had become a liability with the Grizzlies allowing 114.0 PPG during its slide. "We're getting there," Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale told reporters after the win. "I like the way our defense is starting to come back to us, but I'm never going to get comfortable with our group. They haven't been consistent enough to show me that I can let off the gas now." Memphis will be without forward Chandler Parsons for the rest of the season. He was diagnosed with a partial tear of his left meniscus. He was averaging 6.2 points and had started 34 games. That will likely put more pressure on 40-year-old Vince Carter to pick up the slack.Center Gasol (20.2-6.1-4.5) and PG Conley (20.0-3.6-6.2) each had 27 points against Chicago and that duo will be counted on heavily down the stretch.
Atlanta: In order for the Hawks to catch the Raptors, they will need to start taking care of business in their home arena. Atlanta is just 19-15 on its own floor as it begins a two-game homestand against the Memphis on Thursday. The Hawks are only 5-7 over their last 12 overall games, after falling 107-99 at San Antonio on Monday. The defeat was the Hawks' 16th straight in San Antonio! Millsap (18.2 & 7.8) and center Howard (13.2 & 12.9) are both having solid seasons but PG Schroder (17.9 & 6.3 APG) and backup SG Tim Hardaway Jr. (13.7) may have more to do with Atlanta catching Toronto. Schroder is looking to score more and he has finished in double digits in points in a career-best 16 consecutive games. Hardaway has taken advantage of an increased role since the trade of Kyle Korver to Cleveland by scoring in double digits in 21 of his last 22 games.
The pick:The Hawks posted a 107-90 victory over the Grizzlies just this past Saturday (their third straight win in the series). The Hawks connected on 15 of 30 three-pointers in that game, while the Grizzlies shot an abysmal 5 of 29 (17.2 percent) from beyond the arc! The door is open for the Hawks to make a run at fourth-place Toronto, as only two of Atlanta's next 10 opponents have a winning record. That's not the case with Memphis but the Grizzlies haven't won in Atlanta since Feb. 8, 2014 and are playing the second of back-to-back games here. Make Atlanta an 8* play.
|03-16-17||Xavier +2 v. Maryland||Top||76-65||Win||100||52 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: Xavier opened the season ranked 7th in the AP's preseason poll but when PG Edmond Sumner (14.3 PPG and 4.3 APG) was lost for the season at the end of January, the Musketeers’season beagn to unravel. The team lost six in a row from Feb. 11 through Mar. 1 but a pair of wins in the Big East tourney (one over Butler), allowed 21-13 Xavier to claim one of the last at-large berths (11-seed). Maryland opened the year at No. 25 but in games through Jan, was 20-2, including 8-1 in Big Ten play. However, a 4-6 finish left Maryland as a No. 6 seed.
Xavier: Sumner was a terrific complement to Trevon Bluiett (18.1 & 5.8), Xavier's best player. Fellow guard J.P. Macura (14.5 & 4.4) has picked up some of the scoring slack but Xavier misses Sumner’s ball-handling skills with freshman Quentin Goodin (4.8 & 3.2 APG) taking over the point guard spot. Xavier’s best frontcourt player is the 6-9 Gaston, who averages modest totals of 7.9 PPG and 6.4 RPG).
Maryland: The Terps are led by junior guard Trimble (17.0-3.7-3.7) but it's hard to make a case form him living up to expectations this year. He took himself out of the 2016 draft to improve his standing but he's had an inconsistent season. The rest of Maryland's main contributors are freshman. There is guard Cowan (10.5-3.9-3.7) and a pair of 6-7 players, Jackson (10.4 & 6.1) and Hueter (9.0 & 5.0).
The pick: Both teams are lucky to be here but both own historically strong programs. Two competing streaks are on the line, as Maryland has won at least one game in 12 straight NCAA Tournament appearances dating back to 1998. As for Xavier, the Musketeers have won eight straight neutral-site games in Florida, including six in a row here in Orlando. Xavier’s undoing here in March will likely be its lack of a dominant post player, but that will not be the case against a small and young (outside of Trimble) Maryland team. Xavier is a 10* play.
|03-16-17||North Carolina Wilmington +7.5 v. Virginia||Top||71-76||Win||100||46 h 55 m||Show|
The set-up: 22-10 Virginia out of the ACC is a No. 5 seed and 29-5 UNC-Wilmington, the CAA's regular season and postseason champ, comes in as a No. 12 seed. The teams square off in a first round game from Orlando, Fl. (East Region) with an early tip (12:40 ET). The Cavaliers are the nation's stingiest team, allowing just 55.6 PPG, while Seahawks average 85.2 PPG, which ranks 10th in the nation.
|03-15-17||Jazz -3.5 v. Pistons||Top||97-83||Win||100||18 h 20 m||Show|
The set-up: The 42-25 Utah Jazz open a four-game road trip in Detroit against the 33-34 Pistons. The Jazz have won five of their last six and currently own the No. 4 seed in the West, sitting two games up on the Clippers. Detroit sits seventh in the Eastern Conference and had won 12 of 18 games prior to being smoked 128-96 in Cleveland on Monday. "It was just a bad night," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters. "They were great, we were terrible. That is why you get a lopsided game."
|03-15-17||Mavs +7.5 v. Wizards||Top||112-107||Win||100||18 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The 28-38 Dallas Mavericks have been trying to climb into the No. 8 spot in the West but it hasn't much helped that they have lost their last two, including an 'ugly' 100-78 defeat at Toronto on Monday, in the opener of a four-game road trip. It surely doesn't get any easier for Dallas tonight, as the Mavs face the 41-25 Washington Wizards, who are battling the Celtics for the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference (currently trail Boston by a half-game) and also hold out hope that they can still catch the East's top-team, the 44-22 Cavs.
Dallas: Monday's setback dropped Dallas 3 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Denver Nuggets with just 16 games to play. It was the team's second straight poor shooting performance, as the Mavs shot 36.5 percent from the foor in Toronto, after only shooting 37.8 percent in a 100-98 home loss to the Suns on Saturday. The Mavs have gotten steady paly all season from Harrison Barnes (20.0 & 5.2) and Dirk (14.2 & 6.8) has gotten healthier as the season has progressed. Recently, Seth Curry and Yogi Farrell have added a spark out of the backcourt plus Nerlens Noel, acquired from Philly, averaged 9.1 & 5.6 in about 24 minutes in his first six games with Dallas. However, he has missed the last three games due to soreness in his left knee. That said, he is expected to return for Wednesday's game.
Washington: The Wizards are just back from a five-game road trip and after winning the first four, ran out of gas in Minnesota on Monday, falling 119-104. The Wizards have an excellent starting-five, led by the guard duo of Beal (23.2) and Wall (23.1-4.4-10.7) plus a trio of frontcourt starters all averaging in double digits (center Gortat averages a double-double, at 11.4 & 11.0). Washington had been missing a scoring punch off the bench but solved that problem by trading for Bojan Bogdanovic, who has averaged 15.6 PPG in his 11 games with the Wizards, connecting on 45.6% of his threes.
The pick: The Mavs beat the Wizards 113-105 in Dallas back on Jan. 3 but Washington has gone 25-7 since that contest. Scoring has been an issue for the Mavs all season (98.1 PPG ranks 30th) but note that on its recent five-game road trip, the Wizards allowed at least 113 points in each game, despite going 4-1. Take the points and make Dallas an 8* play.
|03-14-17||Kansas State +1 v. Wake Forest||Top||95-88||Win||100||11 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: Danny Manning took the Wake Forest job prior to the 2014-15 season and had two lean years in which Wake was 13-19 and 11-19, going a combined 7-29 in ACC play. However, 2016-17 has been a breakthrough season, with Wake winning 19 games and going 9-9 in ACC regular season play, good enough to earn Wake Forest its first trip to the Big Dance since 2009-10. Kansas State's Bruce Weber knows a little something about NCAA visit, starting with back-to-back appearances with Southern Illinois in 2002 and '03. Then it was on to Illinois where he went to six in nine seasons including finishing second to North Carolina in 2005 with a 37-2 record. He took Kansas St. to NCAA trips in his first two seasons ('13 & '14) but 15-17 and 17-16 seasons followed. However, the Wildcats ended a two-year NCAA Tournament drought this season despite an 8-10 mark in Big 12 play, 'sneaking' into the field of 68 largely on the strength of three top-25 victories, two over Baylor and one against West Virginia.
|03-14-17||Thunder -6 v. Nets||Top||122-104||Win||100||9 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: The 37-29 Oklahoma City Thunder are 4 1/2 games back of the Jazz in the Northwest Division and currently own the 6th-seed in the West, just a half-game ahead of the Grizzlies. They visit Barkley Center tonight (weather-permitting) to take on the NBA-worst Brooklyn Nets (12-53) but the Nets have won three of their last seven games, which matches their best seven-game stretch of the season.
Oklahoma City: The story all season in OKC has been Russell Westbrook's run at history. He passed Wilt Chamberlain for second place on the single-season list with his 32nd triple-double in Saturday's 112-104 win over the Utah Jazz and now trails only Oscar Robertson's 41 in 1961-62, when the Big O averaged a triple-double for the season. Westbrook (31.9-10.5-10.1) is on pace to match Oscar's triple-double season and it's hard to ignore that Oklahoma City is 26-6 when Westbrook notches a triple-double and 11-23 when he doesn't this season. However, the team is sure better off when Victor Oladipo (16.3 PPG) is healthy and Westbrook's backcourt partner is averaging 19.3 points on 55.3 percent shooting in three games since returning from a back injury (OKC is 2-1 SU & ATS)..
Brooklyn: The Nets snapped a 16-game home losing streak that spanned 75 days (going back to Dec. 26) when they beat the Knicks 120-112 on Sunday. As noted above, they are on a 3-4 run, which had been preceded by a 16-game losing streak, overall. Jeremy Lin is finally recovered from that hamstring injury (he's been back the last nine games) and he is averaging 16.6 points in the last five games despite playing 27 or fewer minutes in each of those contests (Nets have covered four in a row).
The pick: Yes, the Nets are playing better but with Oladipo back healthy plus the additions of Gibson and McDermott from Chicago, I don't expect the Thunder to get derailed by the league's worst defensive team (Nets allow 114.1 PPG). OKC is a 10* play.
|03-13-17||Magic v. Kings +1||Top||115-120||Win||100||14 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: The 24-43 Orlando Magic have won just eight of their last 31 games and will shortly be officially eliminated from playoff contention, as the team is nine games out with just 15 remaining. The Kings are closer in the West but having gone 1-8 since trading away All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins (note: the Kings won their first game after the trade but have now lost EIGHT in a row), Sacramento is almost surely lottery-bound as well.
Orlando: Center Nikola Vucevic (14.4 & 10.2) returned from an Achilles issue to produce 20 points and 16 rebounds in Saturday's game with the Cavs bit the Magic lost anyway, 116-104. However, the Magic are eager to see if Vucevic's return improves things (he played for the first time in five games). Before that absence, he and starters Terrence Ross, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton were outscoring opponents by 22 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break, the best mark in the NBA, according to the league's official statistics.
Sacramento: The Kings have not only lost eight in a row overall but they've lost six straight at home and are now six games behind the eighth-place Nuggets in the West. "We're still trying to figure everything out," forward Skal Labissiere told reporters. "It's been a tough stretch. It's just a matter of learning how to finish games with us." No kidding!
The pick: The Kings will take an eight-game losing streak into this matchup with the Magic and the team's next loss will clinch its 11th consecutive losing season. That "next loss" will certainly come but not here. Cauley-Stein is averaging 34 minutes, 13.3 points and 6.4 rebounds in nine games since Sacramento traded forward DeMarcus Cousins at the All-Star break and backup Skal Labissiere is averaging 15.1 minutes, 8.3 points and 5.1 rebounds. Meanwhile, the focal point of the deal was guard Buddy Hield. He is averaging 13.9 points in 26 minutes, while shooting 51.2 percent from three-point range since joining the Kings. Make the Kings an 8* play.
|03-13-17||Bulls +7 v. Hornets||Top||115-109||Win||100||11 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: The Chicago Bulls were embarrassed Sunday at Boston on ABC, losing 100-80 to the Celtics. It was the team's fifth straight loss (a season-high) and now it's on to Charlotte to take on the 29-37 Hornets, who are two games back of the Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings Chicago is 10th at 31-35 and Charlotte 11th, with both teams chasing 32-35 Miami and all three teams chasing 32-33 Milwaukee, which currently owns the final playoff spot in the East.
Chicago: It doesn't get much worse than it was for the Bulls on Sunday, as they scored nine first-quarter points and had just 26 at the half. All Star Jimmy Butler (23.4-6.2-5.1) was limited to five points on 2-of-11 shooting, as Chicago was held under 100 points for the sixth straight time. Dwyane Wade (18.7-4.6-3.9) joined Butler with a poor performance of his own Sunday, as he was held to eight points and failed to hand out an assist for the first time since Nov. 5.
Charlotte: The Hornets know all about slumps, as they lost 12 of 13 from Jan. 23-Feb. 23. However, since a six-point overtime loss in Detroit, the Hornets are 5-4. Still, by going 6-16 in their last 22 games, the Hornets has dropped to 11th, two games behind Chicago and 3 1/2 behind Milwaukee. I'm not sure what to make of the Hornets, who opened 8-3 and looked like a solid playoff team early on. Walker (23.2-4.1-5.4) is an All Star and backcourt partner Batum (15.4-6.7-5.9) has produced excellent numbers. The team has excellent depth but the whole seems less than the sum of this team's parts.
The pick: The Bulls scored nine points in the first quarter on Sunday plus missed their first 12 shots and 19 of their first 22 attempts, all in front of a national television audience. That makes five straight losses (three by double-digits) and six straight games of failing to reach 100 points. It CAN'T get worse, right? The underachieving Hornets, who are on a 7-14-2 ATS run, may be just what the doctor ordered. Make Chicago a 10* play.
|03-12-17||Bulls v. Celtics -7.5||Top||80-100||Win||100||14 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: The 41-25 Boston Celtics return home after a 2-3 road trip and have fallen behind the streaking Wizards (41-24), for the East's second-best record. They begin a favorable stretch of games Sunday, when they host the visiting Chicago Bulls, who are 31-34 on the season and currently in 10th-place in the East (one game back of the final playoff spot).
Chicago: The Bulls hung on to their best player, Jimmy Butler (23.7-6.2-5.2), at the trade deadline but moved Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott. Not that trading Butler was a good idea but I'm not sure how trading Gibson and McDermott was a plus. Dwyane Wade (18.9-4.6-3.9) returned from a thigh injury to score a team-high 21 points but his teammates combined to shoot 36.3 percent from the floor in Friday's 115-94 home loss to Houston. It marked Chicago's fourth loss in a row and the fifth consecutive game in which the Bulls have scored less than 100 points.
Boston: The Celtics suffered a dramatic at Phoenix (steal and three-pointer at buzzer by Ulis for the Suns) and an ugly 119-99 setback in Denver on Friday, just two nights after a 99-86 victory at Western Conference-leading Golden State. However, Boston will play 11 of its final 16 games at home and 12 of the last 16 against teams that entered the weekend with sub-.500 records. Thomas (29.3 & 6.1 APG) has led Boston all season but head coach Brad Stevens just indicated that Avery Bradley (16.9 & 6.3), who has been on a minutes restriction in the wake of a recent Achilles injury, is just about all the way back. The defensive stalwart has played a total of 59 minutes over the last two games. Bradley getting back to full strength is no small deal. Also, rookie forward Jaylen Brown (6.5 PPG) had 14 points off the bench in Denver and is averaging 11.6 - nearly twice his season average - while shooting 55.7 percent since returning from a hip injury in February.
The pick: The Bulls may rank 10th in the East but they are only two games out of sixth-place. Chicago's still very much alive but the team is 3-5 since moving Gibson (the team's starting power forward) and McDermott (the team's best three-point shooter). FYI...Chicago ranks last in the NBA in made three-pointers per game at 6.8. Chicago's woes continue here in Boston. Make the Celtics a 10* play.
|03-12-17||Yale +7 v. Princeton||Top||59-71||Loss||-110||10 h 8 m||Show|
The set-up: The Ivy League finally "joined in" with the rest of college basketball and held a postseason tourney in 2017, for the first time in its history. So far so good, in terms of excitement. Princeton rolled through the regular season 14-0 but needed OT to get past a sub-.500 Penn team on Saturday (note: Penn was playing on its homecourt) and then defending champion Yale edged Harvard (Ivy champs in four straight seasons in 2012, '13, '14 & '15), 73-71. The sets up this "high noon" showdown between Princeton, on an 18-game winning streak, and Yale, the defending champs.
The pick: I had Penn against Princeton on Saturday and got 'robbed' ATS, as Princeton covered in OT. This is Princeton's best team in a long time but as I noted Saturday, the last thing the Tigers needed was a conference tourney in 2017. It means that instead of having already secured an invite to the Big Dance, Princeton was forced to win two more games to get that bid. Princeton "got lucky" on Saturday and I don't believe a win will come any easier here on Sunday. Yale's won four straight and has reached 90 points in two of those games. The Bulldogs have depth and talent plus a check of the the team's ATS record book reveals Yale is 8-1 ATS in its last nine neutral-site games. Make Yale a 10* play.
|03-11-17||76ers +13 v. Clippers||Top||100-112||Win||100||7 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The 23-41 Philadelphia 76ers will be in LA to take on the 39-26 Clippers in an afternoon game at Staples Center. Injuries have again caught up with Philly (Simmons never got on the court this year and Embiid's season was limited to just 31 games) and the Sixers will again be lottery-bound. As for the Clippers, like Forrest Gump's favorite box of chocolates, "you never know what you are going to get." They look like NBA title contenders one night and a lottery team the next.
Philadelphia: Embiid was the presumptive rookie of the year before a knee injury ended his season but Dario Saric is stepping up to make his own run at the award. He had 28 points and nine rebounds in Thursday's 114-108 OT loss in Portland, his 214th straight game in double figures.However, the starting backcourt of T.J. McConnell and Nik Stauskas combined to go 0-of-14 from the floor in the loss (hard to believe Philly took the game into OT!). The loss was the third straight and sixth in seven games for the 76ers.
LA Clippers: The Clippers are two games behind the Jazz in the race for the No. 4 spot in the West and have a showdown with Utah looming Monday in Salt Lake City. Both Griffin (21.2-8.5-5.1) and Paul (17.4-5.1-9.4) have missed time this season but both are healthy now, so LA has no excuse not to make a late push. Then again, Blake Griffin had 14 points and 12 rebounds on Thursday, giving him just his first double-double in six games this month. Paul, who recently returned from a thumb injury recently, broke out with 20 points to lead the reserves on Thursday but that's after averaging 7.3 points in the previous four contests.
The pick: As noted, you are never quite sure which Clipper team will show up. Yes, the Clippers are healthy, but inconsistency has plagued them, as they are 4-5 SU & ATS since the All-Star break. Meanwhile, the 76ers are 10-3 ATS their last 13 games. Philadelphia is an 8* play.
|03-11-17||Pennsylvania +6 v. Princeton||Top||64-72||Loss||-110||12 h 41 m||Show|
The set: The famed "Ancient 8" has finally joined the rest of the college basketball world and will be holding a conference tourney for the first time ever. Just the top four teams in this eight-team league have been invited and the three games will be contested at The Palestra in Philadelphia. That's good news for the Penn Quakers, as The Palestra is the school's homecourt.
Penn: The Quakers and Tigers have been the Ivy's premier teams over the years but Penn has struggled for almost a decade now. The school had just one winning season in six years under Jerome Allen and now under Steve Donahue, the Quakers are 24-31 (11-17 Ivy) in his first two seasons. However, a hopeful note is that Penn ended the season winning six of eight to earn the fourth and final spot in this tourney at 6-8 in league play. This young team looks like it has jelled. The 6-8 Brodeur is a freshman and comes in averaging 13.9 & 6.8. Howard is a 6-4 sophomore guard averaging 12.4 & 6.8 plus 6-5 freshman guard Betley (11.5 & 4.2) has taken over down the stretch, averaging 17.7 PPG over Penn's last seven games.
Princeton: The Tigers have, like Penn, taken a backseat in the Ivy in recent years, with first Cornell, then Harvard, taking over as the loop's top dogs. However, Princeton's 22 wins last year were the school's most in five years and after a 4-6 start, the Tigers have gone on a 17-game winning streak (14-0 in Ivy League play). Two senior small forwards are the 6-5 Cook (13.8) and the 6-4 Weisz (10.6-5.5-4.1) and that duo is joined by a pair of sophomore guards in Cannady (13.7) and Stephens (11.9 & 4.3).
The pick: This is Princeton's best team in a long time and the last thing the Tigers needed was a conference tourney, meaning instead of having already secured an invite to the Big Dance, Princeton must now win two more games, extending the team's winning streak to 19! More bad news comes in that the Tigers draw long time rival Penn, which get to play on its homecourt. As noted, Penn is playing it best basketball of the year and I'm taking the points. Make Penn an 8* play.
|03-11-17||Albany NY +9.5 v. Vermont||Top||53-56||Win||100||9 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The America East championship is up for grabs when the Albany Great Danes play at the Vermont Catamounts in an early Saturday tip-off (11:00 ET).
Albany: The Greart Danes were 10-6 in league play and all season, have been led by guards Nichols (18.1-3.4-3.2) and Cremo (16.2-5.3-3.8). Albany won at home in this tourney in a blowout of Hatford (Nichols had 40 points!) and then won 63-56 at Stony Brook to advance to the title game and get a third shot this season vs. Vermont.
Vermont: The Catamounts have been the class of the league, joining Princeton (Ivy League), as the only schools to go unbeaten in conference play during the regular season. Vermont uses nine players with three reaching double digits, two forwards and a guard. The 6-6 Lamb (12.6 & 5.30 is the leading scorer with the 6-8 Henson (11.1 & 5.4) just behind him. PG Bell-Haynes (11.2 & 3.8 APG) runs an offense averaging 74.1 PPG and the team connects on 50.0 percent of its shots (6th).
The pick: Vermont's 16-0 league record has allowed them to play all games in this tourney at home and in its first two games, the Catamounts have held each opponent to 41 points, while scoring 86 and 74, themselves. Vermont is 15-1 on its homecourt this season, losig only back on Dec. 10 to Northeastern, when the Huskies shot 52.1% and the Catamounts just 40.4%! However, don't expect a blowout here. Vermont (like Princeton) is in the unenviable position of knowing a loss here leaves them out of the Big Dance, despite dominating the league all season. Albany has the two best scorers in the game in Nichols and Cremo plus is a solid defensive team, as well (66.2 PPG allowed ranks 46th). Note that Albany is 12-4 ATS in their last 16 road games. Take the points and make Albany an 8* play.
|03-10-17||Warriors -5 v. Wolves||Top||102-103||Loss||-110||13 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: The 52-12 Golden State Warriors still own the NBA's best record but the team sure looks vulnerable as it heads to Minnesota for a game with the 26-37 Timberwolves. The Warriors turned from a five-game road trip after flying cross country from Atlanta and had their lowest-scoring game of the season on Wednesday, a 99-86 home loss to the Celtics in which they were outscored 27-12 in the fourth quarter. The Warriors now hit the road for two more games, tonight at Minnesota and Saturday at San Antonio, contests which could end up determining homecourt advantage in the Western Conference playoffs. Meanwhile, the Timberwolves are just hoping to make the playoffs as an 8-seed, which would mean a series against either Golden State or San Antonio in the first round. Minnesota currently sits 2 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Denver Nuggets, although Minnesota must first pass Dallas and Portland.
Golden State: The travel-weary Warriors are coming to the end of a 13-day stretch in which they will have played eight games. Are tired legs the reason that "Splash Brothers" Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have combined to shoot just 25.4 percent from three-point range in the last six games. Head coach Steve Kerr acknowledged after Wednesday's game that his team was tired, and that the injury to Kevin Durant (knee) is causing the team to lengthen minutes of some of the other players. "We still have the No. 1 seed, but I won’t run guys ragged to get it," Kerr told reporters. "We have to manage this stretch right here and get through this week."
Minnesota: The Timberwolves are coming off an impressive 107-91 home win over the LA Clippers on Wednesday, the team's third victory in four games. Minnesota has held each of its last four opponents under 100 points, with the lone loss in that span coming in a 97-90 overtime setback at San Antonio. "I think we’re feeling like a team that’s playing with confidence," star center Karl-Anthony Towns told reporters. "I don’t know what a playoff team feels like, but my wild guess I think we right now are playing with the confidence, with the demeanor of a playoff team. We’ve got to continue to build. We can still be a playoff team." Towns (24.1 & 12.3) is having a terrific season and so is Wiggins (23.2 & 4.1). Throw in SG LaVine (18.9), power forward Dieng (10. & 8.0) and PG Rubio (9.2 & 8.7 APG), who has recorded double-digit assists in eight of the last 10 games, and most observers wonder how this team is 11 games under .500!
The pick: The Warriors had gone 146 regular season games without losing back-to-back contest when they lost at Chicago on March 2nd but now look to avoid back-to-back losses for the second time in a little more than a week. The T-wolves have won seven of their past 11 games and Tom Thibodeau's defensive approach is finally starting to take hold in his first season with the team. Minnesota has held its past four opponents -- Sacramento, Utah, San Antonio and Los Angeles -- under 100 points. That said, I'm not about to 'bury' the Warriors just yet, especially against the still-underachieving Timberwolves. Make Golden State a 10* play.
|03-10-17||TCU +4.5 v. Iowa State||Top||63-84||Loss||-110||12 h 46 m||Show|
The set-up: Iowa State beat a hot Oklahoma St team 92-83 in Thursday's first game of the Big 12 quarterfinals and expected that it would face the nation's no. 1 team (Kansas) in Friday's semifinals. However, TCU, which ended the regular season on a seven-game losing streak before beating Oklahoma 82-63 in this tourney on Wednesday, ended Thursday's game against Kansas on a 9-2 run to upset the the top-seeded Jayhawks (winners of 13 straight Big 12 regular season titles) 85-82. So, the fourth-seeded Cyclones (21-10) will now face the Horned Frogs (19-14) in this Friday semifinal contest.
TCU: Jamie Dixon left Pittsburgh behind, after a great 13-year run, to return to coach his alma mater in Fort Worth. TCU exploded out of the blocks by going 11-1 in non-conference play but the big 12 proved too tough, as TCU went 6-12 and with a loss to Auburn in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, finished just 17-14. However, after 82 and 85-point efforts here in Kansas City, the Horned Frogs are at the top of their game. The win over Kansas represented the first time in school history that the Horned Frogs had defeated a top-three ranked team in 18 tries! Vladimir Brodziansky is 6-11 and leads in scoring (13.9) but not rebounding, at 5.7. The top rebounding honor belongs to the 6-7 swingman Kenrich Williams (9.4), who chips in 10.8 PPG. Sophomore guard Robinson (11.4) and freshman guard Fisher (9.9) can each play the point, with Rbinson averaging 5.6 APG and Fisher 4.1 APG.
Iowa State: The Cyclones were ranked 23rd in last Monday's AP poll and are a virtuall lock for an at-large bid. After ISU defeated OSU, it looked like a matchup with Kansas (the two schools have won the last four Big 12 tourneys) but someone forgot to tell that to TCU. The Cyclones often play five guards at one time, making them a 'nightmare' matchup for many (most?) teams. PG Monte Morris (16.3-4.8-6.3) was the star against Oklahoma State, with 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (6.17). Fellow guard Long (15.9-4.7), Burton (14.5 & 6.3) and Thomas (12.2 & 3.9) join Morris in double digits. ISU averages 80.8 PPG (28th) and shoots 40.2% on threes (14th).
The pick: TCU was last in the Big Dance 18 years ago and last won a game in March Madness back in 1987 when now head coach Jamie Dixon led the team in assists en route to All-Southwest Conference honors. Meanwhile, Iowa State is 8-2 in the Big 12 Tournament since 2013, including back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015. However, by the somewhat modest pointspread, oddsmakers seem to believe TCU has a chance. So do I. Make TCU a 10* play.
|03-10-17||East Carolina +18 v. SMU||Top||77-81||Win||100||5 h 46 m||Show|
The set-up: The SMU Mustangs went 4-3 in November but then won 23 of their final 24 games, with their only loss coming by two points at Cincinnati. SMU won its final 13 regular season games to go 17-1 in the AAC and claim the No. 1 seed in this tourney The Mustangs get set to host 15-17 East Carolina, which was in 6-12 league play (No. 9 seed) and opened this tourney with an 80-69 victory over eighth-seeded Temple on Thursday.
East Carolina: The Pirates headed into the tournament ranked 337th in Division I in scoring (62.3 points) and 336th in field-goal shooting percentage (39.4 percent) but shot 50.9 percent against the Owls and reached 80 points for the first time this season in conference play. 6-5 small forward Kentrell Barkley is leading the team in scoring (12.8 points) and rebounding (7.7) and comes off a career high in both points (26) and rebounds (16) in the victory over Temple. 6-7 swingman Caleb White (11.6 points) is the only other Pirate averaging in double figures but guards Tyson (9.6), Sheppard (9.2 & 3.5 APG) and Hughes (7.5) are are all contributors. Then there is the interior play of 7-1 graduate student Andre Washington, (7.0-7.0 rebounds), who entered Thursday fifth in the nation in blocked shots per game (2.97) and had two more rejections against the Owls. ECU thrives on defense, allowing just 64.6 PPG (30th) on 38.6% shooting (10th).
SMU: Redshirt junior forward Semi Ojeleye (a Duke transfer) was named the AAC player of the year earlier this week, after averaging 18.5 & 6.5. Three others join him in double figures and all average 32 MPG or more. PG Milton (13.3-4.1-4.5) and SG Brown (12.8 & 6.8) plus 6-8 forward Moore (11.8 & 8.2). Guard Foster (9.9 & 5.1) is the fifth starter and just misses double digits in playing about 29 minutes. ECU plays excellent defense but has nothing on SMU, which ranks 3rd in the nation in scoring D (59.4 PPG) and 8th in opponents' FG percentage (38.5%).
The pick: SMU 'toyed' with ECU in two regular season meetings, winning by 31 and 40 points. The Mustangs have won by an average of 18.2 PPG during their current 13-game run but as the line indicates, an 18-point win may not be enough to earn the ATS win (where will the final number close?). ECU is 4-3 SU in its last seven, going 5-2 ATS. I'm taking the YUGE points and making ECU an 8* play.
|03-09-17||Clippers v. Grizzlies -3||Top||114-98||Loss||-105||13 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: The 38-26 LA Clippers own a two-game lead over the 36-28 Memphis Grizzlies in the West. The Clippers currently own the No. 5 seed and Memphis the No. 6 seed. Both teams are struggling as they get set to square off tonight in Memphis, with the Clippers having lost five of eight and the Grizzlies having lost five of seven.
LA Clippers: PG Chris Paul (17.3-5.1-9.4) returned to the court on Feb. 24 but the Clippers are just 3-4 since his return (they were 6-8 in the 14 games he missed). LA is coming off a bad loss at Minnesota, as the Clippers were out-rebounded 50-36 and outscored 62-40 in the paint, in a 107-91 loss. Paul had 10 assists but scored just seven points while being outplayed by counterpart Ricky Rubio (15 points & 12 assists). Sixth-man Jamal Crawford (12.3) had scored 44 points in his previous two games (both wins) but was 2 of 9 (0-3 on threes) with just seven points.
Memphis. The Grizzlies come in on a three-game slide, hitting 'rock bottom' the last time out in a 122-109 home loss to the Brooklyn Nets, the NBA's worst team. Memphis head coach David Fizdale shook up the starting lineup against the Nets by inserting guard Andrew Harrison and forward Brandan Wright in favor of standout defensive guard Tony Allen and forward JaMychal Green. It sure didn't work but Fizdale indicated he would give the lineup a couple of games to see how it fares because he feels the squad has been "a mediocre basketball team" since Jan. 1. "We're stale. Right now, we're 14-14 since January 1," Fizdale told reporters. Fizdale sure can't blame PG Mike Conley (20.1 & 6.2 APG), who is averaging 29 points over the last five games and has four 30-point outings in the past eight contests.
The pick: Neither team is playing well but the belief here is that Memphis almost HAS to rebound off that 'ugly' home loss to the Nets. Make Memphis a 10* play.
|03-09-17||Davidson -4.5 v. La Salle||Top||82-73||Win||100||5 h 45 m||Show|
The Davidson Wildcats and La Salle Explorers will face off in the second round of the A-10 Tourney at PPG Paints Arena Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh. Both teams are 15-14 on the season with the Explorers owning a slightly better league mark of 9-9 to the Wildcats' 8-10 mark.
Davidson: Bob McKillop arrived at Davidson for the 1988-90 season and from 1997-98 through 2012-13, took the Wildcats to seven NCAA tournaments, including that memorable Elite 8 run in 2008 with Steph Curry. Davidson moved up from the Southern Conference to the A-10 in 2014-15 and won the regular season title and despite losing to VCU in the championship game, earned an NCAA at-large bid. However, last year's team was NIT bound and finished 20-13. This year's team is "going nowhere," unless the Wildcats pull off some major upsets in this tourney. Davidson owns two terrific players in senior guard Gibbs (22.0-4.1-4.3) and 6-8 junior forward Aldridge (20.6 & 8.1), but not much else.
La Salle: The Explorers are a more balanced team with a trio of double digit scorers in the 6-7 Johnson (17.5 & 6.4) plus guards Price (15.1 & 4/3) and Powell (13.6 & 4.3). Four others contribute between 5.0 and 8.2 PPG, led by PG Stukes (8.2 & 4.3 APG).
The pick: These teams met just once during the regular season with La Salle winning at home, 91-83. However, the Explorers made 57.4% of their shots, including 7 of 15 on threes. La Salle averages just 75.6 PPG, so the team surpassed its average output by 15 points while shooting "lights out!" LaSalle shoots 45.5% on the season, including 36.1% on threes. Here on a neutral court, do not expect a repeat performance. Davidson has one of the best 1-2 combinations in the A-10 in Jack Gibbs and Peyton Aldridge and Aldridge had 33 & 9 while Gibbs posted a line of 25-4-7 in that 91-83 loss. This time around, that dynamic duo will help Davidson advance to 'fight another day.' Davidson is a 10* play.
|03-08-17||Wizards v. Nuggets -2||Top||123-113||Loss||-110||11 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: The 38-24 Washington Wizards continue their current five-game road trip tonight in Denver, after escaping with a 131-127 win last night in Phoenix, in the first game of the trip. The Nuggets beat the Kings on Monday but Nikola Jokic, who has emerged as a star in his second NBA season, missed Monday's win with an illness (he's listed as questionable here). Washington: The Wizards were the NBA's hottest team entering the All Star break, winning 18 of 21 prior to the break. Washington lost its first two games coming out of the break but after last night's win, has gone 4-1 since. The Wizards own a starting-five in which all players average in double digits. Guards Beal (22.9) and Wall (22.6-4.6-10.8) lead the way, while forwards Morris (14.5 & 6.6) and Porter (13.9& 6.6) nicely complement center Gortat (11.6 & 11.0). However, reserve scoring was a major issue and Washington addressed that in acquiring Brooklyn's Bojan Bogdanovic, who was the leading scorer at the Rio Olympics. Bogdanovic exploded for 15 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 115-114 win over the Magic and last night, matched his season high of 29 points. Bogdanovic has averaged 17.4 PPG since joining the Wizards. "I'm always happy to have another guy who can help us," John Wall said after the win over the Suns. "One thing Boogey does is he cuts to the basket and puts the ball on the floor. It gives us another weapon who can create for us, and that's big for us. He's coming in playing his role, being aggressive and making a lot of shots." Denver: Jokic posted four consecutive double-doubles — two were triple-doubles — prior to being sidelined by the illness. He made 13-of-15 shoots in a 31-point effort in Saturday's 112-102 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. The 22-year-old is averaging 15.9 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 58.3 percent from the floor on the season. Wilson Chandler () stepped up with Jokic sidelined in Monday's win, scoring a career-best 36 points, while knocking down five three-pointers. Swingman Danilo Gallinari (17.7 PPG makes him the team-leader) had 18 points, falling just short of his sixth straight 20-point outing and is averaging 21.3 points during the stretch.
The pick: The Wizards are 22-6 over their last 28 games but this marks the second game (in a back-to-back situation) of a five-game road trip, one of two tough five-game trips in March. The Nuggets are playing for their playoff 'lives' (own the 8th spot but have a modest 1 1/2 game lead) and have won 10 of their past 13 home contests against the Wizards. Make Denver an 8* play.
|03-08-17||Kings +15 v. Spurs||Top||104-114||Win||100||11 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The 25-38 Sacramento Kings visit San Antonio to face the 49-13 Spurs. What's the likelihood that the Kings will stand in the way of San Antonio reaching the 50-win plateau for the 18th consecutive season? Here's hint. It's a rhetorical question. FYI...The Spurs have had just one losing season (20-62 in 1996-97) in 28 years, while over that same 28-year span, Sacramento has had just eight winning seasons, all in an eight-year run from 1998-99 to 2005-06.Sacramento: The Kings won their first game after dealing Cousins but now the losses are beginning to pile up. "It's been tough, just trying to get used to each other," Kings PG Ty Lawson said a 108-96 loss at Denver on Monday. "This is five games we've lost in a row? We've got to get another one soon." Sacramento is close to falling out of the competition for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, as the Kings are now four games back of Denver, with three teams between them and the Nuggets. With the teams only two productive scorers gone (Cousins in a trade and Gay to an injury), Collison (13.7) is the only player averaging in double digits, not counting Evans and Hield, who are both at 13.2 PPG, but have played in just five and six games, respectively, for the Kings.
San Antonio: No team roots for an injury to its competitors but when K.D. went down (out for four weeks or maybe longer) back on Feb. 28, the Spurs had to think, "here's our chance to steal the No. 1 seed." The Spurs have won eight straight games and All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard is fueling the Spurs' hot stretch. He's averaged 33.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.3 steals over his last four. Most observers have declared that the MVP race is between James Harden and Russell Westbrook but Leonard continues to force his way into the conversation. He has solidified his reputation as the NBA's top two-way player with his increase in scoring to 26.3 PPG, as he's produced 23, 30-point games this season. He scored 39 points and made a clutch lead-protecting block on Houston's James Harden in Monday's 112-110 victory.
The pick: The Spurs win tonight but it should not go unnoticed that while the Spurs have won four straight since K.D.'s injury, those four wins have come by one and two points plus in two OT games. The Spurs haven't come close to covering! Make Sacramento an 8* play.
|03-08-17||Charlotte v. UAB -6.5||Top||73-74||Loss||-105||9 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: It's first round action Wednesday in C-USA from the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama. Charlotte comes in 13-16 (7-11 in league play) and as a 10-seed, while UAB is 16-15, with its 9-9 league mark making the Blazers a 7-seed.
Charlotte: The 49ers enter having lost seven of 10. Charlotte is a guard-oriented team with four all scoring in double figures. Davis (19.4 & 4.0 APG) is the best of the bunch, joined by Ajukwa (11.7 & 5.0, White (10.9 & 4.1) and Ojbuze (10.3). The team's best "big man" is Vanhook, a 6-4 small forward who averages 9.1 & 6.1. Defensively, the 49ers are a sieve, allowing 80.4 PPG (331st).
UAB: The Blazers have a huge edge inside, led by the 6-9 Lee (13.0 & 6.6) and the 6-8 Coakley (12.3 & 5.6). Four guards chip in between 6.2 and 10.2 PPG, led by Williams (10.2) and PG Lavender (6.2 & 3.6 APG).
The pick: This is not UAB's home arena but the tourney is in its home city. The 49ers are a money-burning 4-17 ATS their last 21 as an underdog, making UAB a 10* play.
|03-08-17||Miami-FL v. Syracuse +1.5||Top||62-57||Loss||-110||5 h 42 m||Show|
The set: ACC tourney play continues Wednesday from Barclays Center as 20-10 Miami takes on 18-13 Syracuse. Both teams wewre 10-8 in league play and both are hardly assured of hearing their names called come Selection Sunday. That said, most have the Hurricanes solidly in the 68-team NCAA field and the Orange as one of the "last teams in" but neither team wants to lose this game, especially Syracuse.
Miami: The Hurricanes advanced to the Sweet 16 last year (27 wins) but lost guards McClellan (6.3) and Rodriguez (12.6 & 4.5 APG plus the 7-0 Jekiri (7.6 & 8.6). Miami was seemingly surging a week ago, ripping off four straight wins to sneak in to the AP poll at No. 25 (first time the 'Canes had been ranked this season). However, Miami ended the regular season with losses to Va. Tech and Florida St. Veteran guards Reed (15.3 & 4.8) and Newton (13.9-3.6-3.4) are the top scorers but with Newton now coming off the bench, freshman guard Bruce Brown (11.8-5.7-3.3 assists) has taken on more of a leadership role and become the team's No. 2 scoring threat behind Reed. 6-8 senior Murphy (7.1 & 7.5)is the team's top frontcourt player. Miami wins with defense, as it allows just 63.4 PPG (22nd).
Syracuse: The Orange were one of "the last teams in" in the 2016 NCAA tourney and then surprised all by reaching the Final 4. However, like Miami, key players were lost off that team, including Gbinije (17.5-4.1-4.3), Richardson (13.4 & 4.3) and Cooney (12.9). A great help this year was the 6-7 White, a graduate transfer from Nebraska, who leads the team in scoring at 17.9 PPG. He was joined by fellow graduate transfer (from Colorado St.), PG Gillon (11.0 & 5.5 APG). That duo is joined by the 6-9 Lydon (13.4 & 8.3) plus two key freshman, guard Battle (10.8) and the 6-10 Thompson (8.9 & 3.5).
The pick: Miami has has won at least one ACC tournament game in 10 of its 12 seasons in the conference but Syracuse is the team which is in much greater need of a win. The schools met just once this year, with the Orange winning 70-55 in the Carrier Dome, when Syracuse shot 56.8% to Miami's 38.9. White had 22 & 10 and Lydon 20 & 7. This is Boeheim's time of year and it's hard to ignore Miami's poor ATS record, going 8-17 over its last 25 games! Syracuse is an 8* play.
|03-07-17||Wizards v. Suns +4||Top||131-127||Push||0||12 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The 37-24 Washington Wizards have moved four games ahead of the Hawks in the Southeast Division and currently hold down the No. 3 seed in the East, plus are actually tied in the loss column with the second-seeded Celtics (Boston has played three more games than Washington, owning 40 wins to the Wizards' 37). The Wizards are in Phoenix tonight to take on the 21-42 Suns, who unlike the Lakers, seem to be 'sprinting to the finish line,' as opposed to 'tanking,' as long as we are "telling like it is!"
Washington: The Wizards were the NBA's hottest team entering the All Star break, winning 18 of 21 prior to the break. Washington lost its first two games coming out of the break but ha gone 3-1 since. The Wizards own a starting-five in which all players average in double digits. Guards Beal (22.9) and Wall (22.6-4.6-10.8) lead the way, while forwards Morris (14.6 & 6.7) and Porter (14.1 & 6.6) nicely complement center Gortat (11.7 & 11.2). However, reserve scoring was a major issue and Washington addressed that in acquiring Brooklyn's Bojan Bogdanovic, who was the leading scorer at the Rio Olympics. Bogdanovic exploded for 15 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 115-114 win over the Magic and he's now averaging 15.5 PPG in his six games with Washington.
Phoenix: While Bogdanovic is the only real change for Washington, the changes in Phoenix have been dramatic. The Suns seemed to be "mailing it in" after trading away P.J. Tucker and benching veterans Tyson Chandler (8.4 & 11.4) and Brandon Knight (11.0) in favor of younger players. However, it's turned out that the exact opposite has come to pass. The younger players are stepping up and proving they belong. Rookie PG Tyler Ulis, whose recent uptick in playing time has come at the expense of Knight, scored a season-high 20 points on Sunday and buried the winning three-pointer at the buzzer after a steal. 6-7 power forward Alan Williams has posted a double-double in three straight and four of the last five contests (he's averaging 13.8 & 11.6 in that span). Then there is 6-11 rookie Marquese Chriss, who recorded a season-high five blocks on Sunday and has averaged 12.1 PPG his last seven.
The pick: The Wizards have an excellent backcourt but let's not dismiss the Suns' backcourt duo too quickly. Most NBA teams would love to send out guys like Bledsoe (21.2-4.9-6.4) and Booker (20.7) night-in and night-out. This game begins a brutal stretch for the Wizards, who have two five-game trips remaining. They also play five sets of back-to-backs in March, the first of which concludes tomorrow night at Denver. Meanwhile, the Suns have already beaten two Eastern clubs -- Charlotte and Boston -- on their current homestand and they are 13-9 against Eastern opponents on the season. Phoenix is an 8* play.
|03-07-17||St Francis PA +5 v. Mount Saint Mary's||Top||61-71||Loss||-105||10 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: Mount St. Mary's was the NEC's regular season champ at 14-4 and now gets set to host St. Francis (Pa) in the championship game on its homecourt, Knott Arena in Emmitsburg, Md.
St. Francis (Pa): The Red Flash have a chance for the school's second-ever NCAA bid with a win, with the school's 1991 appearance being the only other time it has gone 'dancing.' A trio of guards lead the way in Blackmn a(13.6 & 4.1), Braxton (13.5 & 8.9) and King (12.3), while the 6-8 Nebo (12.0 & 8.9) is the team's best inside player (however, note that 6-4 freshman guard Braxton also averages 8.9 RPG!).
Mt. St. Mary's: The Mountaineers can earn their fifth Division I NCAA Tournament bid and third since the 2008 season, with a win. The Mountaineers own three double-digit scoring guards in Long (15.2-5.7-4.5), Robinson (13.8) and Wiley (11.2) plus will need the 6-8 Wray (7.1 & 5.8) and the 6-9 Sallah (6.3 & 5.5) to hold their own up front with Nebo.
The pick: Mount St. Mary's won both meetings this season against the Red Flash and enters having won 10 of its last 12 home games on the year. St. Francis won 71-70 at Wagner on Saturday to reach this championship game, but needed to shoot 52.0 percent overall, including 11 of 20 from three-point range, to do so. No way the Red Flash shoot that well again. Make Mt. St. Mary's a 10* play.
|03-07-17||Pittsburgh v. Georgia Tech +1.5||Top||61-59||Loss||-107||10 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: The 15-16 Pitt Pannthers are the No. 14 seed in the ACC (4-14) and will meet the 17-14 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, the ACC's No. 11 seed (8-10), in this first round ACC tourney action from Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Pittsburgh: Jami Dixon bolted Pitt after last season to coach his alma mater (TCU), after winning 328 games in 13 seasons at Pitt (25.2 per), taking the Panthers to 13 postseason tourneys (11 NCAA appearances). Kevin Stallings has not had a good first year at Pitt, as the Panthers enter on a four-game slide and a loss here would mean a losing record. The Panthers are basically a two-man team, in forwards Young and Artis. The 6-9 Young (19.9 & 6.8) and the 6-7 Artis (18.4 & 4.8) have combined for 26 games of 20 or more points scored this season, accounting for 52.1 percent of the team's 73.5-point average. Guard Cameron Johnson (11.8 & 4.6) is the only other contributor of note and has shot 45.9 percent from three-point range over his last 10 games.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jacks were picked to be 14th in the 15-team ACC entering the season, having lost four starters plus opened with a new head coach, after firing Brian Gregory. However, Ga. Tech opens the ACC tourney with an outside shot to reach the NCAA Tournament. Josh Pastner (of Memphis fame or infamy?) was just named ACC coach-of-the-year, after a 17-win regular season that featured three upsets of ranked teams (75-63 over North Carolina, 78-56 over Florida St. and 62-60 over Notre Dame). The 6-10 Lammers (14.6 & 9.2) was named the ACC's defensive player-of-the -year and freshman guard Okogie (15.5 & 6.1) is the team's leading scorer.
The pick: the case for Pitt would be that the Panthers have played 11 games against teams in the NCAA’s RPI top-25 (the highest total in the nation) plus Pitt has the motivation that if it can win two games, the tourney shifts to the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Thursday. However, I see no reason to believe Pitt will get past Ga. Tech, which won 61-52 in the teams' lone meeting this year and noting also that Ga. Tech has covered its last five games against Pittsburgh. Make Ga. Tech an 8* play.
|03-06-17||BYU v. St. Mary's -6.5||Top||50-81||Win||100||16 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: the 22-10 BYU Cougars look to advance to the WCC championship game when they face the 27-3 St. Mary's Gaels tonight in Las Vegas. The Gaels are ranked 20th in the latest AP poll, with two of their three losses coming to Gonzaga. Speaking of the bulldogs, the Cougars are the only team to have beaten Gonzaga this season, winning 79-71 at Gonzaga in the teams' last regular season contest back on Feb. 25.
BYU: The Cougars have won six of their last seven games, including that upset victory at then-No. 1 Gonzaga. 6-10 Mika (20.4 & 9.3) stole the show in that game, scoring 29 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He's joined up front by 6-8 freshman Childs (9.4 & 8.4) plus the Cougars own a solid trio of guards in Emery (13.2), Bryant (11.7) and a second key freshman, Haws (13.9). It's the perfect time to note that Dave Rose's team is ranked No. 335 out of 351 teams in terms of experience. BYU's challenge here is a daunting one, as the Gaels swept the Cougars in the regular season, winning 81-68 in Moraga, Calif., and 70-57 in Provo, Utah.
St Mary's has likely done enough to earn an at-large bid but a win here to advance to the championship game, would seemingly 'punch' the team's 'ticket!' The Gaels have the 6-11 Landale (16.9 & 9.4) to match up with Mika plus a pair of guards who can both run the offense. Naar averages 9.4 PPG and Rahon 8.4 PPG, plus both average 5.7 APG. A key all season has been staying injury-free and Saint Mary's is second in the nation in allowing 56.1 PPG. Not surprisingly, that ranks first in the WCC. Maybe even more impressively, the Gaels rank first in the WCC in six statistical categories other than scoring defense: Free-throw percentage (.744, 46th in NCAA), rebound-margin (10.0, second in NCAA), 3-point field-goal percentage (39.3 percent, 24th), assists per game (16.8, 18th NCAA) and assist-turnover ratio (1.6, fourth NCAA).
The pick: Counting on an at-large bid out of the WCC is always a 'crap shoot' and the Gaels have worked too hard to get this far. Expect a convincing win here and then St. Mary's will get one last shot at Gonzaga. Make St. Mary's an 8* play.No ActionNo
|03-06-17||Pacers v. Hornets -3.5||Top||88-100||Win||100||13 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pacers are 32-30 after Sunday's 97-96 win at Atlanta, leaving them with the No. 6 seed in the East. They travel to Charlotte tonight, to face a Hornets team which will be playing its first home game since Feb. 13, after going 3-4 on their longest trip of the season. Charlotte enters a stretch in which it will play nine of 12 at home. The Hornets are currently three games behind Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Indiana: Paul George (21.7 & 6.1) is the Pacers' main man but the All Star forward had averaged only 14.3 PPG (on 28.6 percent shooting) in a six-game span before breaking out against the Hawks on Sunday. George was 12-for-19 from the floor, en route to 34 points, his best total since Dec. 28. PG Jeff Teague, in his return to Atlanta where he spent seven seasons, added 16 points and six assists. Teague (15.3 & 8.0 APG) and 6-11 center Center Myles Turner (15.4 & 7.1) have been Indianas top-two supporting players all season but Turner had a string of 22 straight double-digit scoring efforts snapped when he was held to a season low-tying five points in 30 minutes (also just five rebounds).
Charlotte: The Hornets' 112-102 win in Denver on Saturday, allowed them to return 3-4 (not 2-5) from their recent road trip. The win also came in the team's first game since losing red-hot center Frank Kaminsky III to a shoulder injury two nights earlier. Forward Johnny O'Bryant III stepped up with a career-high 15 points on 7-of-9 from the from, as he reportedly earned a second 10-day contract. "Johnny O'Bryant was great," head coach Steve Clifford told reporters. "It's a little bit difficult because he hasn't been here very long, but he hit a big shot and we were fairly organized when he was on the floor. He gave us a big lift."
The pick: The Hornets had lost 12 times in a span of 13 games (Jan. 23-Feb. 23), averaging only 101.7 PPG. However, in the last five games (3-2), the Hornets are averaging 108.8 PPG. Seven points per game more is nothing to sneeze about, as Indiana improved to 4-1 in games decided by three points or fewer with Sunday's win. Charlotte last won consecutive games Jan. 18-21 when it posted three straight home wins. Those wins gave the Hornets a 23-21 record, but since then Charlotte is 4-14 and returns home in 11th place and three games out of the final playoff spot. However, the Pacers are off a one-point win on Sunday, which was just the team's third in 11 games. More importantly, Indiana is only 11-20 SU on teh road this season and isn't getting nearly enough points to back them here playing on consecutive nights. Charlotte is an 8* play.
|03-06-17||Bowling Green +9.5 v. Toledo||Top||62-77||Loss||-110||12 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: MAC First round tournament action opens Monday with eight schools playing in four games at campus sites (better record gets home court). The #10 seed Bowling Green Falcons (7-11 in MAC) will play at the #7 seed Toledo Rockets (9-9). Each team won at home, Toledo 85-73 and then Bowling Green 104-104 in OT.
Bowling Green: The Falcons own a balanced team with four guards scoring between 8.0 and 12.9 PPG. That group is led by Denny (12.9), who also adds 5.1 RPG. The 6-10 Wiggins (10.0 & 8.0) is the team's top rebounder an best frontcourt player.
Toledo: The Rockets don't have the Falcons' balance but Williams (19.7) will be the game's best backcourt performer, while the 6-9 Taylor (15.6-12.5-3.8) its best frontcourt player (he leads Toledo in assists!).
The pick: Toledo is 11-4 SU at home but just a modest 7-6 ATS. I expect the Rockets to prevail but the balance of BG makes taking the points the way to go. Bowling Green is an 8* play.
|03-06-17||Albany NY v. Stony Brook +1.5||Top||63-56||Loss||-105||12 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the semifinals of the America East tourney with No. 2 seed Stony Brook (12-4) hosting Albany, which finished at 10-6. The winner most likely will have to play at No. 1 seed Vermont, which went 16-0 in league play this year.
Albany: The Great Danes have had a solid team in recent seasons and this year has been no different, with wins in six of seven after routing Hartford 100-71 in the America East quarterfinals (Albany's 20th win). That said, Albany relies heavily on guards Nichols (18.0-3.4-3.2) and Cremo (16.3-5.3-3.9), as no other player averages as much as 8.0 PPG.
Stony Brook: The Sea Wolves, like Albany, have been a solid club in recent years. They finished second to Vermont, despite losing their final two games. Stony Brook righted the ship against Binghamton, taking a 16-point lead at the half and winning, 70-60, to advance to the conference semifinals. Guard Woodhouse (14.8-3.4-5.2) is the team-leader but gets help on the perimeter from Nyama (10.8 & 4.6) and freshman Yeboah (9.4 & 4.9). The best frontcourt player is the 6-7 Sturdivant (10.8 & 5.6).
The pick: Albany has played better down the stretch but lost to Stony Brook in both regular season meetings. Revenge you say! Not at this price. Stony Brook is an 8* play.
|03-05-17||Pacers +3.5 v. Hawks||Top||97-96||Win||100||11 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up; The 31-30 Indiana Pacers have lost eight of 10 and currently own the No. 6 seed in the East but are just a half-game ahead of the Bulls and 1 1/2 up on the Pistons. They visit Atlanta this afternoon to take on the 34-27 Hawks, who have slipped to fifth in the East, three games ahead of the Pacers.
Indiana: There was talk around the trade deadline that the Pacers would move their best player, but Paul George (21.7 & 6.1) is still around. However, maybe all the distractions surrounding that talk has contributed to his slump, which has become very real. George is mired in a shooting slump that's lasted five games, as he's connecting on only 31.4 percent of his FG attempts while averaging just 13.6 points in that span, 8.1 points below his season average! Former Atlanta Hawks PG Jeff Teague will return to Philips Arena for the first time as a member of the Indiana Pacers on Sunday. The Hawks saw Teague as expendable and sent him to Indiana in a three-team deal that sent George Hill to Utah. Teague's had an very good season (15.3-4.2-8.1), joining George and the 6-11 Turner (15.5 & 7.2) as the 'heart' of this Indiana team in 2016-17.
Atlanta:The Hawks had snapped a three-game losing streak with wins over Boston and Dallas but were ripped for 135 points and an NBA single-game record 25 three-pointers in a five-point loss at home to the Cavs on Friday. The Hawks have been getting much improved play recently from Tim Hardaway Jr. (13.4) plus the pickup of veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova (9.8 & 5.0 in about 21 minutes over five games) has also been a plus. Atlanta also will probably have a new backup PG for the game. The Hawks were expected to sign veteran Jose Calderon to a free-agent deal, as he has obtained a buyout from the Lakers and has changed his mind about going to Golden State. Millsap (18.0 & 7.8) and Howard (13.4 & 12.8) have been steady all season up front and the Hawks were right about Schroder (17.4 & 6.3 APG), who has replaced Teague without missing a beat.
The pick: Atlanta has not done much at home this season, as the Hawks are is just slightly better at home (17-13) than they are on the road (17-14), something few teams can say (or want to say). It's hard to see George's shooting slump continuing much longer and I want the points. Indiana is a play.
|03-05-17||Campbell +13 v. Winthrop||Top||59-76||Loss||-110||11 h 46 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the Big South Conference championship game on Sunday afternoon, as the Campbell Fighting Camels (No. 7 seed) take on the top-seeded Winthrop Eagles, who are playing on their home court. .
Campbell: The Fighting Camels were just 7-11 in league play but have won three straight games, led by guard Chris Clemons (24.4 & 4.6), who has scored 27, 51 and 33 points in the three games! Fellow guard Whitfield (11.8 & 3.3) is the only other player averaging in double digits for the season. However, one hot player (like a hot goalie), can carry an entire team on his back, especially in the smaller conferences.
Winthrop: The Eagles have been led all sby the guard and forward duo of Keon Johnson and the 6-8 Xavier Cooks. Johnson averages 22.4 PPG and Cooks 16.2 & 9.0. Winthrop will be looking to rebound after getting a scare from Gardner-Webb in Friday's narrow 80-77 overtime win. As has been typical all year, Johnson led the team with 31 points while Cooks added 23 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks.
The pick: Winthrop won both regular season meetings, 72-63 on the road and 76-62 at home. However, Campbell has nothing to lose, while Winthrop could be a little tight, as the Eagles are well aware that they need a win to go 'dancing,' as the team's excellent reglalr season will be wasted without earning that automatic bid. No at-large bid would be waiting, if the Eagles lose. Take the points and make Campbell 10* play.
|03-04-17||Fairfield v. Siena -3.5||Top||66-78||Win||100||13 h 20 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the the second set of quarterfinal games in the MAAC tourney played in Albany on Saturday, as the 16-13 Fairfield Stags meet the 15-16 Siena Saints. The Saints won both regular season meetings, 80-73 at home and 63-54 at Fairfield.
Fairfield: The Stags own a deep backcourt led by leading scorer Nelson's 18.9 PPG. He's joined by Cobb (12.8 & 4.7), Johnson (11.5) and PG Segura (6.1 & 4.2 APG). The frontcourt could be weakened if an ankle injury keeps the 6-8 Sidibe out, as he averages 8.2 & 9.4). The other frontcourt contributors are the 6-9 Milin (7.7 & 3.9) and the 6-8 Kasibabu (6.2 & 4.8).
Siena: The Saints own three double digit scorers in the backcourt, Wright (16.5-4.1-4.9), Clareth (13.6 & 3.6) and Long (13.0 & 6.3). The 6-10 Ogunyemi (13.4 & 5.6) and the 6-8 Bisping (12.2 & 9.6) are excellent frontcourt players. Of these five double digit scorers, all start except Clareth, who is a valuable sixth-man.
The pick: With Sidibe questionable with ankle issues , I don't see Fairfield having any more luck than it did against Siena in the regular season. Third time is NOT the charm for the Stags. Siena is a 10* play.
|03-04-17||Pistons v. 76ers +5||Top||136-106||Loss||-110||10 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: The 29-32 Detroit Pistons are still holding onto the No. 8 seed in the East but they are just 1 1/2 games up on both the Heat and Bucks. They will be in Philadelphia tonight to take on the 23-38 76ers, who recently announced that Joel Embiid's season is over and that the team's top draft pick, Ben Simmons (league's overall No. 1 pick), would also be held out until next season (Simmons has not played at all this season).
Detroit: The Pistons have been on a roller coaster as of late, following a 114-108 OT win against the Hornets bu scoring just 98 points in their next game, in a loss to the Celtics. The Pistons then scored 120 points (again in OT) in beating the Trail Blazers but once again 'crapped out' by scoring 86 points in a 23-point loss at New Orleans this past Wednesday. PG Reggie Jackson's (14.7 & 5.5 APG) struggles continued in the loss to New Orleans, as he was 4-of-16 overall in an eight-point effort. Backup Ish Smith (8.3 & 5.0 APG) also had eight points but in just 19 minutes off the bench. Head coach Stan Van Gundy has indicated he may give Smith the start over Jackson. "We haven't ruled it out -- I'm still thinking," Van Gundy said. "We've got to get better energy off the start of games." Smith started the first 21 games while Jackson was recovering from tendinitis in his left knee. He moved into a reserve role when Jackson returned, but outplayed Jackson in February. The Pistons have talent, as outside of Jackson and Smith, five other Detroit players average between 11.1 and 16.2 PPG.
Philadelphia: The 76ers have not only lost Embiid (20.2 & 7.8) for the season but they've traded Nerlens Noel and Ersan Ilyasova. Stepping up has been rookie Dario Saric (11.4 & 6.2), who has averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds a game since the All-Star break. His nine double-doubles match Embiid's total for the most among first-year players.Justin Anderson, a second-year forward who was acquired from Dallas as part of a deal that cost the Sixers center/forward Nerlens Noel, made his first seven shots en route to an 8-of-12 performance against the Knicks,matching a career high with 19 points. The 105-102 home win snapped Philadelphia's three-game slide.
The pick: The Pistons are a woeful 10-20 SU (11-119 ATS) on the road and all season have underachieved considering the team's talent (Van Gundy's fault?). Anyway, just why should they be laying points at Philly, where the 76ers are a money-making 23-9 ATS on the season? Philadelphia is a 10* play.
|03-04-17||Kansas v. Oklahoma State||Top||90-85||Win||100||10 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 1 Kansas is 27-3 overall and at 15-2 in Big 12 play, has already clinched its 13th straight Big 12 regular season title. However, with a sellout crowd expected to energize Gallagher-Iba Arena on Senior Night, beating Oklahoma State will be no easy task. The Cowboys have won 10 of 12 to reach 20-9 overall and 9-8 in Big 12 play. OSU lost its first six league games but could just (should?) make the Big Dance as an at-large team due to its recent run. The last team to make the NCAA Tournament field after falling in their first six conference games was the 1985-86 Maryland Terps.
Kansas: The Jayhawks are hoping to nail down a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance and are favored to do just that. Senior PG Frank Mason III (20.3-4.0-4.9) is favored by many to be named Player-of-the-Year but Kansas' most exciting player is 6-8 freshman Josh Jackson (16.3 & 7.2). The Jayhawks do it all on the offensive end, except shoot free throws, Kansas averages 82.5 PPG (19th) on 48.6% shooting (16th), including 40.8% on threes (10th). However, the team makes only 65.7% of its free throws, ranking 307th.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys' turnaround has been a sight to behold. Sophomore guard Jawun Evans is second in the Big 12 in scoring (18.6) and assists (6.0 per game), fourth in steals (1.9) and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.1). Right behind Evans is junior wing Jeffrey Carroll, who is fourth in the league in scoring (17.0), fourth in field-goal percentage (53.8) and eighth in rebounds (6.7). He could join Georges Niang (Iowa State, 2015-16), Jordan Hamilton (Texas, 2010-11) and Kevin Durant (Texas, 2006-07) as the fourth player in league history to finish in the top 10 in each of those categories. Guard Forte (13.4) is the team's third double digit scorer and at 85.6 PPG (9th), the Cowboys are on pace to set a new school record for scoring average (83.5 in 1988-89) and on track to be the second-highest scoring squad in Big 12 history (Kansas averaged 90.9 points in 2001-02). Unlike Kansas, OSU makes its free throws, connecting on 78.4%, which ranks 4th in the nation.
The pick: OSU's play has Kansas' attention and it's hard to go against the Jayhawks in what is basically a pick-em game. Both teams can score but Kansas makes the kind of defensive stops the Cowboys haven't quite yet mastered. The Jayhawks also have proven time and time again this season that they can win the close ones. Kansas is a 10* play.
|03-04-17||Villanova -7.5 v. Georgetown||Top||81-55||Win||100||4 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: Villanova shocked Georgetown to win the national championship back in 1985, in one of college basketball's most legendary upsets (read Frank Fitzpatrick's book: The Perfect Game). The 27-3 Wildcats are defending champs (ranked No. 2 in the AP poll) and wrap their regular season at 14-16 Georgetown Saturday at high noon. There is nothing significant about this meeting, as the Wildcats will be the Big East's No.1 seed (14-3) in the conference tourney, while the 5-12 Hoyas will soon be "done for the year."
Villanova: The Wildcats clinched the regular-season league crown with a 16-point win over Creighton last Saturday and have had a full week of rest in preparation for this one. Villanova senior Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins are a pair of local products, so this marks their last "trip home" to Washington D.C. The 6-6 Hart (18.6 & 6.5) leads the team in scoring and rebounding, while the 6-7 Jenkins adds 13.2 & 4.7. PG Brunson (14.7 & 4.3 APG) and fellow guard Bridges (10.5 & 4.7) are also double digit scorers with the 6-7 Paschall (7.1 & 3.8) rounding out the starting-five.
Georgetown: The Hoyas are coming off a 62-59 loss Tuesday at Seton Hall, a game in which the team fumbled the ball in several of its last possessions. They have lost four in a row and are in real danger of ending the season with a sub-.500 record for the second straight year (Hoyas were 15-18 last season). Embattled head coach John Thompson III said in a statement to ESPN.com: "First and foremost, our fans are terrific and have been terrific. They've experienced some good times with us, and now, with the stretch we are having, I understand their frustration. There is no one more frustrated than I am. We are accustomed to winning. I know that our players and staff are working hard and playing hard. No one cares more about this program and tradition than I do." A pair of 6-5 seniors have really been the only players Georgetown has been able to count on this season. Pryor (18.0 & 5.0) is a graduate transfer from Robert Morris and Peak (16.4-4.0-3.4) will cap his best season, after a four years at the school.
The pick: Both Peak and Pryor will be honored Saturday but expecting much help from the crowd at the Verizon Center is likely 'fool's gold.' Attendance has not been good (that's being generous) and those who show up have been described as 'lifeless.' Villanova's local D.C. boys, Hart and Jenkins, may get more of a welcome. Make Villanova a 10* play.
|03-03-17||Missouri State v. Northern Iowa -1||Top||70-64||Loss||-107||13 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: The MVC tourney, better-known now as "Arch Madness," began last night, although 16-15 Missouri State and 14-15 Northern Iowa will take the court for the first time in this tourney, Friday night. Missouri State owns the slightly better overall record but was just 7-11 in MVC play, while Northern Iowa was 9-9. The teams split two regular season meetings, with the road team coming away with a win each time.
|03-03-17||Thunder v. Suns +4.5||Top||111-118||Win||100||12 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The 35-26 Oklahoma City Thunder lost 114-109 last night in Portland and now visit the 19-42 Phoenix Suns, who scored 120 points last night at home in beating the Hornets by 17 points. The Thunder are battling the Jazz for first-place in the Northwest Division (OKC currently trails by two games), while the Suns are going head-to-head with the Lakers (also 19-42), to see which team finishes with the West's worst record (will the loser actually WIN in that race?).
Oklahoma City: Russell Westbrook (31.4-10.6-10.1) just may match the Big O's triple-double season of 196-62 but his 45-point effort Thursday wasn't enough as the Thunder suffered a 114-109 road loss at Portland. He's now scored 40-plus in seven of the past 15 games. However, for OKC to seriously threaten in the postseason, the Thunder will need more than Westbrook. The team's second-leading scorer, Victor Oladipo (16.1), will sit out his fifth consecutive game tonight with a back issue, which is NOT good news. Center Kanter (14.4 & 6.9) did not miss as much time as was feared and returned four games ago. He's averaged 17.7 & 9.3 the last three, which is great news. The 'wild card' for OKC's playoff hopes could be the Chicago duo of Gibson and McDermott, which OKC recently acquired. Gibson's averaged 10.0 & 4.5 and McDermott 8.8 & 4.5 in their four games.
Phoenix: The Suns ended a three-game slide by shooting a season-high 59.7 percent from the floor in Thursday's 120-103 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Six different players scored 14 or more points in a well-balanced offensive effort that also featured a defensive charge that held the Hornets to 12 fourth-quarter points. Defense is not something we see often from the Suns, who allow 112.6 PPG, ranking 29 of 30 NBA teams. The youthful but very talented backcourt duo of Bledsoe (21.2-5.0-6.4) and Booker (20.8) remain the Suns' core but center Tyson (8.4 & 11.4) and Knight (11.0), who was the first guard off the bench for most of the season, have both been benched. Neither has played at all in the last four games and the standout recently has been the 6-7 Williams, who in just under 24 minutes per game, has averaged 15.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in these last four. Also, rookie power forward Marquese Chriss scored a team-best 17 points last night and has now reached double digits in four of the past five contests. Backup PG Tyler Ulis played 23 minutes last night, handing out a season-high eight assists wile scoring eight points.
The pick: The Suns are playing loose and while I like the additions of Gibson and McDermott, I've never been much on either Westebrook or OKC. The Thunder are a poor road team (12-18 SU), so why play them as a road favorite? Make Phoenix an 8* play.
|03-03-17||Iowa State +8 v. West Virginia||Top||76-87||Loss||-105||10 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: The 23-7 West Virginia Mountaineers are ranked 10th in the current AP poll, while the 20-9 Iowa State Cyclones are ranked 24th. However, it's Iowa State which currently owns the Big 12's No. 2 seed at 12-5, as West Va. sits a game behind, at 11-6. However, If the Mountaineers can defeat the Cyclones tonight (West Va. has already won 85-72 in Ames back on Jan. 31), they own all tiebreakers over Iowa State and Baylor for the second seed in the conference tourney which will take place at the Sprint Center in Kansas City next week.
Iowa State: The Cyclones enter on a six-game winning streak, which includes a win over then-No. 9 Baylor. The Cyclones also won 92-89 at now-No. 1 Kansas on Feb. 4th, in the game following their home loss to the Mountaineers. Monte Morris leads the team in scoring (16.1 PGG) and the Big 12 in assists (6.2 per). He just missed out on his second triple-double of the season in an 86-83 victory over Oklahoma State on Tuesday, when he finished with 12 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. Naz Mitrou-Long (15.8 & 4.7), Deonte Burton (14.3 & 6.4) and Matt Thomas (12.0 & 4.0) also are averaging double digits in points for the Cyclones. All four are guards and often, head coach Steve Prohm has five guards on the court, creating a difficult matchup for most teams. Iowa state averages 80.6 PPG (29th) and shoots 39.8 percent from three-point range (17th).
West Virginia: Bob Huggins once again has a quality team. The Mountaineers had their three-game winning streak snapped with a 71-62 loss at Baylor on Monday. "Defensively, we got real tentative," coach Huggins told reporters. "And they really just beat us to death on the glass." That was a big win for Baylor but as noted, West Va. just needs to win here at home and it will claim the No. 2 seed for the Big 12 tourney. Depth is a key for this team, as 10 players average 11-plus minutes, chipping in between 4.5 and 12.9 PPG. The best of the group is PG Carter (12.9-4.9-4.) plus the 6-8 Ahmad (11.7 & 4.1) and the 6-9 Adrian (10.1 & 6.0) could create some problems inside for a small Iowa State lineup.
The pick: West Va. is 15-2 SU in Morgantown and just needs to win (not cover) to claim that No. 2 seed. On the other side, a win by Iowa State means avoiding Oklahoma State, one of the hottest teams in conference, in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Tonight's contest also could play a big role in seeding for the NCAA Tournament. All things being equal, I want the avenging team getting the points. Make Iowa State an 8* play.
|03-03-17||Wisc-Milwaukee +1.5 v. Detroit||Top||85-60||Win||100||9 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: It's first round Horizon League tournament action on Friday evening from Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, as the #7 seed, the 8-22 Detroit Mercy Titans (6-12 in league games) will take on the #10 seed, the 8-23 Milwaukee Panthers (4-14 in league play).
Milwaukee: The Panthers come into the tourney on a nine-game losing streak (3-6 ATS), including a 81-74 home loss to these Titans. Milwaukee is a guard-oriented team, led by Stull (13.3 & 6.5), Wichmann (13.1) and PG Haas (5.3 & 3.8 APG). The team's most effective frontcourt player is the 6-7 Nze (7.0 & 5.1), who comes off the bench.
Detroit: The Titans easily own the best frontcourt player in the 6-7 Hogan (15.4 & 6.0) plus three guards score in double digits. That trio includes Allen (14.3), McFolley (14.3) and Jenkins (11.1). What holds Detroit back is the team's awful defense. The Titans allow 84.8 PPG (348th) and opponents shoot 49.8% from the floor (350th).
The pick: Two bad team here but series history favors Milwaukee, which won earlier this year at Detroit, 73-69 in OT. Milwaukee is 11-5 ATS in the last 16 meetings between these two teams and considering Detroit is 0 -5 ATS in its last five neutral site games, the Panthers are a 10* play.
|03-02-17||Thunder +1 v. Blazers||Top||109-114||Loss||-110||14 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The 35-25 OKC Thunder are trying to catch the Utah Jazz in the Northwest and just beat the Jazz 109-106 Tuesday night at home, closing to within 1 1/2 games of Utah. They head to Portland tonight to take on the 24-35 Trail Blazers, who find themselves in a virtual three-way tie with the Kings and T-wolves (both are 25-36), 2 1/2 games back of the No. 8-seeded Denver Nuggets.Oklahoma City: Russell Westbrook scored 43 points in the win over the Jazz plus added 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He now has 30 triple-doubles and can match Wilt Chamberlain (1967-68) for the second-most triple-doubles in a season (at 31) with his next one (note: The Big O had 41 in 1961-62). Westbrook (31.2-10.6-10.3) is hoping to join Oscar Robertson (1961-62) as the only players to average a triple-double for a season but one hopes, the bigger deal is improving the team's playoff position. To that end, OKC improved its bench with a trade last week that brought forwards Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott from Chicago. In three games, Gibson is averaging 8.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in 22.7 minutes off the bench. McDermott averages 8.7 points and 4.7 rebounds. If and when those guys play more, OKC will be the better for it.
Portland: Tuesday's 120-113 OT loss in Detroit gave the Blazers a 1-3 record on their road trip. They are one of five teams with a chance to catch the 8th-seeded Nuggets for the West's final playoff spot. Portland was sloppy in its loss at Detroit, committing 24 turnovers. The starting backcourt of shooting guard CJ McCollum (six) and PG Damian Lillard (four) combined for 10. Lillard (26.0-5.0-5.8) and McCollum (23.3) are a dynamic backcourt duo but the team won't go anywhere if the team plays like it did at Detroit.
The pick: There was a time when opposing teams dreaded coming to Portland but no longer. The blazers are just 14-13 SU & 12-15 ATS at home this season. OKC is a 10* play.
|03-02-17||Manhattan +6 v. Rider||Top||68-69||Win||100||13 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The 10-21 Manhattan Jaspers (5-15 in MAAC games) and the 17-14 Rider Broncs (10-10 MAAC)) meet in first round action Thursday in the MAAC tournament. Manhattan: The Jaspers are led by PG Turner (15.1 & 3.3 APG) and the 6-9 Waterman (14.5 & 7.1). They limp into this tourney having lost five of their last six, including 93-82 at Rider just recently (Feb. 22). Rider: There can't be much doubt as to which is the better team, as the Broncs enter on a three-game winning streak, averaging 98.3 PPG. The team's starting-five all averages in double figures. The backcourt is Taylor (15.7 & 5.0) and Jordan (11.5 & 5.8 APG) plus three 6-7 forwards start up front. Thomas leads that group in scoring (14.1) and rebounding (8.9), joined by Carey (11.3 & 6.9) and Lundy (10.7 & 4.1). The pick: Let me note that Manhattan did best Rider 76-73 on its home court and I don't believe it's far-fetched for the Jaspers to 'hang' in this neutral setting. After all, the Broncs are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven neutral site games and the underdog is 9-4 ATS in the last 13 meetings between the two schools. Make Manhattan an 8* play.
|03-02-17||Marist v. Canisius -7||Top||73-77||Loss||-115||11 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: The 8-23 Marist Red Foxes are the No. 10 seed (5-15) and will meet the 17-14 Canisius Golden Griffins, who are the No. 7 seed (10-10) in MAAC tourney action in Albany.
Marist: The Red Foxes lost 10 of their last 12 games to finish the season at the bottom of the standings, getting the No. 10 seed by virtue of a coin flip over Manhattan (also 5-15). Marist is a perimeter-oriented team, led by the guard trio of Hary (18.0), Parker (12.6-5.8-3.2) and Funk (12.5). However, the team does not score much, averaging a modest 69.4 PPG (268th).
Canisuis: The Golden Griffins will be looking to bounce back from a three-game losing skid with an opening-round win. Robertson (16.5), Douse (11.1 & 4.2) and Johnson (3.9 PPG but a team-leading 4.2 APG) start in a three-guard lineup with the 6-6 Crumpton (16.2 & 4.9) and the 6-7 Valenti (13.9 & 5.2) starting up front.
The pick: Canisius averages 79.2 PPG (just about 10 points more than Marist) and after crushing the Red Foxes 91-58 at home, just recently lost on the road to Marist, 76-74. Canisuis sets the record staright, here. Canisius is an 8* play.
|03-02-17||Niagara v. Quinnipiac +1.5||Top||88-69||Loss||-105||8 h 20 m||Show|
The set-up: The 9-22 Niagara Purple Eagles and the 10-20 Quinnipiac Bobcats meet Thursday in the MAAC tournament at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY..Niagara: The Purple Eagles are led by guards Scott (17.3 & 7.0) and Dukes (15.5 & 4.2 APG), the team's lone double digit scorers. That's not good news when the team allows 78.3 PPG (305th in the nation). Niagara was just 6-14 in league play and will enter on a five-game losing streak. Quinnipiac: The Bobcats were slightly better in MAAC games at 7-13 but also enter on a losing streak, one of six consecutive losses. Quinnipiac can match Niagara's backcourt duo with Dixon (16.8) and Kiss (13.3 & 5.6) plus in the 6-9 Daniels (13.1 & 6.3), will own the best big man in the game.
The pick: Both teams come in on losing streaks and the winner earns the right to get waxed in its next game by Monmouth, the league's regular season champion at 18-2 (26-5 overall). Quinnipiac won both meetings during the regular season, 81-78 at Niagara and 89-81 at home. No reason for it to be different here on a neutral floor, considering the Purple Eagles are 5-11-1 ATS in their last 17 neutral site games. Make Quinnipiac an 8* play.
|03-01-17||Utah State v. UNLV +4.5||Top||59-66||Win||100||14 h 0 m||Show|
The set-up: The MWC was once a talented league but the last few seasons, the league has been well below average. UNLV was, for a log time, the face of this league but not now, as the 10-19 Rebels get set to host 13-15 Utah State on Senior Night.
Utah State: The Aggies have won two straight to move to 7-10 in league play, as they travel to Las Vegas. The 6-9 Moore (16.6 & 5.5) and guard McEwen (14.5 & 5.0) are the team's lone double digit scorers.
UNLV: The Rebels have been downright awful, going 3-13 in league games. It's not obvious, at first glance, why UNLV has fallen so far. Mooring (12.4 & 4.0 APG) and Poyser (11.0) are a decent guard duo and a pair of 6-7 forwards, Green (11.7 & 5.2) and Jones (10.3 & 6.4), are solid players.
The pick: It's hard to make too strong of a case for UNLV but taking Utah State on the road (as a road favorite??), makes little sense. UNLV is an 8* play.
|03-01-17||Pacers +10 v. Spurs||Top||99-100||Win||100||11 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The 31-29 Indiana Pacers are in San Antonio Wednesday night to face the 45-13 Spurs. The Pacers limped into the All-Star break on a six-game losing skid but have won two of three since getting back on the court, beating the Grizzlies and Rockets. The Spurs are finally back home after the annual Rodeo Road Trip, during which they went 6-2. “It was a good trip,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. “We had one bad night out of 11 or 12 days. I thought they maintained their focus really well, especially coming back off the break and playing the last couple of games. I thought we did a good job."Indiana: Surprisingly, Paul George is averaging just 11.3 PPG (down from a season mark of 21.7) on 11-of-36 shooting in three games since the All-Star break, while the Pacers are 2-1. Maybe that's good news, as others have contributed. Indiana was down 18-2 in the opening minutes at Houston on Monday before clawing back to earn a 117-108 win. Jeff Teague (15.5 & 7.2 APG) scored 25 points to lead the Pacers against Houston, while reserve Rodney Stuckey (9.1) had 17 of the 48 points scored by Indiana's bench. San Antonio: The Spurs have had two days off since winning 119-98 in LA against the Lakers on Sunday, adjusting to the team's return to Texas. In fact, this marks San Antonio's first home game since Feb. 4. The Spurs have to be happy that Pau Gasol () got back on the court in the team's last two games, after sitting out 15 games with a fractured finger. He looked good too, averaging 16 points in the two contests.
The pick: There's an advantage to being on the road for most of February (San Antonio's annual Rodeo Road Trip), as the Spurs will play 12 of their 17 games in March at home and 16 of their final 24 regular-season games will be contested at the AT&T Center. However, the Spurs are a modest 14-11 ATS at home this season and the Pacers should expect George to break out of his current slump, anytime. How about tonight? Make the Pacers an 8* play.
|03-01-17||VCU v. Dayton -5||Top||72-79||Win||100||11 h 56 m||Show|
The set: VCU (23-6) and Dayton (23-5) have both likely done enough to earn an at-large bid to the Big Dance, even if one of them doesn't go on to earn the A-10's automatic bid by capturing the conference tourney. The Flyers are 14-2 in league play with the Rams a game behind at 13-3. VCU won the first meeting 73-68 at home, so a win by the Rams would give them the tie breaker.
|03-01-17||Knicks v. Magic -1||Top||101-90||Loss||-110||10 h 0 m||Show|
The set-up: The 24-36 Knicks are off back-to-back one-point games (a win and a loss) as they travel to Orlando to take on the 22-28 Magic. The Knicks have lost seven of nine overall, while the Magic have lost six of eight.
New York: Carmelo Anthony nailed a jumper with 0.3 seconds left in Saturday's 110-109 triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers but could not knock down an open three-pointer at the buzzer on Monday, as the Knicks dropped a 92-91 decision to the Toronto Raptors. It's been a uneasy time for Anthony (23.5 & 6.0) as of late and a season of frustration. However, but he is still playing heavy minutes (an average of 38.7 in three games since the All-Star break). The Knicks are promising they are not trying to lose and get a better draft position, something head coach Jeff Hornacek addressed before Monday's game.r New York is hoping Kristaps Porzingis (18.1 & 7.1), who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, will return soon, taking some of the scoring burden off of 'Melo.
Orlando: Like New York, Orlando is not looking ahead to a playoff berth and signaled its intention to play small by trading away power forward Serge Ibaka for athletic wing Terrence Ross before the All-Star break. Ross, who is starting for Orlando after coming off the bench in Toronto, scored a team-high 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting in the team's 105-86 Saturday home win over the Hawks.
The pick: The Magic have played more energetic basketball since the All-Star break, while the Knicks are a woeful 9-20 SU on the road this year. At this price, this is an excellent spot for the home team. Make Orlando an 8* play.
|02-28-17||Warriors -6.5 v. Wizards||Top||108-112||Loss||-105||11 h 42 m||Show|
The set-up: Washington had positioned itself for a run at Kevin Durant a few years ago, hoping he would look to "return home" as a free agent. It turns out, the Wizards never had a chance, as Durant spurned the Wizards and his former OKC coach (Scott Brooks) during his free-agency situation last July. Durant now returns to D.C. with the 50-9 Golden State Warriors to take on the 34-23 Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.
Golden State: Durant (left pinkie) returned from a one-game absence to score 27 points in Monday's 119-108 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, a game in which Steph Curry shot 0 for 11 from three-point range."I forgot to adjust to the thickness of the air," Curry joked to reporters after the contest. "It happens but you have to find other ways to impact the game." It shows just how dominant this Warriors team is, as despite Curry's misfires, Golden St. won by double digits. The Warriors come to Washington having won 19 of their last 22 games. Golden St. ranks first in scoring (118.2 PPG) and in FG percentage (48.9%) plus third in three-point percentage (38.6). The Warriors allow 105.4 PPG ( to rank 13th but rank first in both opponents' FG (43.6) nd three-point (32.5) percentage!
Washington: Th Wizards won 18 of 21 games prior to the All-Star break but are 0-2 since play resumed. They lost 120-112 at Philly on Friday and then had a streak of 23 consecutive games of 100 or more points halted by Utah, when the Jazz beat them 102-95 in Washington on Sunday. The loss to the Jazz was only the team's second in its last 21 home games. Washington owns a terrific starting-five (all five average in double figures), led by guards Wall (22.9-4.5-10.7) and Beal (22.6), but needs more production off the bench. The team is hoping the addition of Bogdanovic, who averaged 14.2 PPG in 55 games for the Nets, will add that needed bench scoring.
The pick: Bogdanovic has averaged a modest 8.5 PPG in his two games with Washington but he is a proven scorer (it will take time). However, after a great run heading into the break, all of a sudden the Wizards need to beat the NBA's best team in order to avoid their first three-game losing streak since Nov. 11-16, when they fell to 2-8. I don't like their chances, as the Warriors have won six consecutive visits to Washington and have won 10 of their last 11 overall meetings with the Wizards. What's more, the Wizards are catching Curry off that 0 for 11 three-point performance last night. The last time he shoot so poorly was when he missed all 10 three-point attempts against the LA Lakers back on Nov. 4 and then set an NBA record with 13 three-pointers against the New Orleans Pelicans in Golden State's next game. In Golden State's win at Washington last year, he had 51 points and 11 three-pointers. OUCH! Golden St. is a 10* play.
|02-28-17||Maryland v. Rutgers +5||Top||79-59||Loss||-105||10 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-7 Maryland Terps have lost three in a row (and five of seven), to fall out of the race for the Big Ten's regular season title. However, the Terrapins are tied for third place in the league standings (10-6) entering Monday's action and still remain in good shape for a double-bye in the upcoming Big Ten tournament as they visit 13-16 Rutgers, which is just 2-14 in Big Ten play, with its two wins coming by a total of just three points.Maryland: It seems like many moons ago that the Terps were 20-2, including 8-1 in league play. Maryland is picking the worst possible time to go into a slump. Melo Trimble (17.1-3.5-3.6) decided to stay in school to improve his draft stock but it's been an uneven year for the junior guard. Mark Turgeon relies on three freshman behind Trimble, the 6-7 Jackson (10.7 & 6.2) plus guards Cowan (10.4-3.8-3.7) and Huerter (8.9 & 5.0). I've said all season that Maryland was not as good as its early record and that's coming home to roost, now.
Rutgers: However, the Scarlet Knights are hardly a team one can count on, as only a one-point home win versus Nebraska and a two-point victory at Penn State have separated Rutgers from a winless Big Ten slate. Rutgers enters on a five-game slide since its win in Happy Valley and the Scarlet Knights have not scored more than 65 points in any game during that span. However, Sanders (13.1-3.5-3.3), Johnson (11.0 & 3.4) and Williams (9.8 & 5.0) are a decent guard trio plus up front, the 6-7 Freeman (10.9 & 8.1) and the 7-0 Gettys (7.7 & 5.0) are not over-matched.
|02-27-17||Georgia State v. Arkansas State||Top||67-78||Loss||-110||20 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: The 18-10 Georgia State Panthers are on the road in Sun Belt Conference action Monday night, playing at the 19-9 the Arkansas State Red Wolves. The Panthers are 11-5 in SBC play (tied with Ga. Southern), while the Red Wolves are a half-game back at 10-5. All SBC teams are looking up at 12-3 Texas-Arlington.
Georgia State: The Panthers' best player is the 6-8 Hollowell (15.4 & 5.5) and the 6- 8 Clayton (6.1 & 7.0) joins him up front, leading the team in rebounding. There is depth on the perimeter, although only Simmonds (12.8) averages in double figures. Four others average between 6.6 and 8.5 PPG but Seymour has missed the past three games while tending to a personal matter and it is unknown if he will rejoin the team for Monday's game.
Arkansas State: The Red Wolves are a perimeter-oriented group, led by Carter (16.3), Simms (13.4 & 4.9), Lindsey (10.6) and PG Thomas (8.4 & 5.7 APG). The 6-7 Bruce (7.2 & 5.10 is the team's leading rebounder.
Th pick: This will be the only meeting between the two schools this season and while ASU is 11-1 SU (7-3 ATS) at home this season, I believe Georgia State is the better team and that Hollowell will the best player on the court. Georgia St. is an 8* play.
|02-27-17||Raptors v. Knicks +3||Top||92-91||Win||100||8 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: The 35-24 Toronto Raptors opened February 2-5 but have put together three straight wins (over Charlotte, Boston and Portland) as they head to Madison Square Garden tonight, to take on the 24-35 NY Knicks. The Knicks are coming off a 110-109 win over Philadelphia on Saturday, when Anthony bailed them out with a game-winning jumper with under one second to go, after the Knicks had blown a double digit lead.
Toronto: The Raptors have won the last two of their three-game winning streak without the services of PG Kyle Lowry (22.8 & 6.9 APG), who has a sore wrist. All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan (27.7) has totaled of 76 points in those two games, while newly acquired forward Serge Ibaka has fit right in by averaging 16.5 and 8.5 rebounds in his first two contests with the team. DeRozan ws quicjk to add that there is little doubt that the defensive presence of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker is making a difference. "I think it's obvious," he said in his postgame on-court interview with Sportsnet after Sunday's 112-106 win over the Trail Blazers. "What P.J. brings and what Serge brings, it makes a big difference."
New York: 'Melo is hitting on all cylinders lately, averaging 28.4 points over his last seven games to push his season mark to 23.5 PPG (adds 6.0 RPG). However, the Knicks could be without second-leading scorer Kristaps Porzingis (18.1 & 7.1) for a second straight game, as he sat out the Philly win with an ankle injury. Despite all of New York's woes, the Knicks are still just four games out of a playoff spot. Derrick Rose, who like Anthony had trade rumors surrounding his name, has shot 53.4 percent over his last six games and is averaging 17.6 PPG and 4.4 APG on the season.
The pick: Toronto is on a five-game winning streak against the Knicks, with four of those wins coming by double digits, but it's my belief that with the trade deadline passed, the Knicks will be a 'tough out' down the stretch, especially at MSG. Make the Knicks a 10* play.
|02-27-17||West Virginia +2.5 v. Baylor||Top||62-71||Loss||-105||19 h 3 m||Show|
The set-up: Kansas has clinched a 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season crown (ho-hum!) but current No. 12 West Virginia still has a chance to nail down the Big 12's No. 2 seed in the conference tourney. As for No. 9 Baylor (note: a new poll will be released prior to teh tip of this came), after earning the first-ever No. 1 ranking in school history back in early January, the Bears have suddenly lost five of their last eight games and need to sweep their final two games to avoid potentially slipping all the way to a No. 5 seed in next week's Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City.West Virginia: The 23-6 Mountaineers are 11-5 in league play, tied with Iowa State but still must play the Cyclones in their regular-season finale on Friday night, although it's in Morgantown. The Mountaineers enter this contest having won five of their last six games, with the lone loss coming in overtime at conference champ Kansas, a contest in which West Va. led by seven points with just one minute to play! 6-8 sophomore forward Esa Ahmad, the team's second leading scorer (11.7), has not traveled to Waco because of back spasms. Junior guard Jevon Carter leads the team in scoring (12.7), assists (4.1) and a Big 12-leading 2.8 steals per game. The 6-9 Adrian is the only other player in double digits (10.4) plus leads the team in rebounding at 6.2 per. However, a trio guards in Phillip (9.3), Miles (8.7) and Myers (6.3) are all solid contributors. Baylor: The Bears (23-6 / 10-6) surprised early on with an outstanding start but have fallen back to earth very quickly. The 6-10 Motley (17.3 & 9.8) gets quality help up front from the 7-0 Lual-Acuil (9.3 & 6.8) and the 6-8 Maston (6.9 & 3.7) plus PG Lecomte (12.4 & APG) and Freeman (9.3) are a good starting guard combo. However, Lecomte has been nursing a sprained ankle that he re-injured early in the second half of Saturday's loss at Iowa State and is questionable for Monday night's contest. The Bears look pretty average these days and they haven't defeated a ranked foe since beating then-No. 25 Kansas State back on Jan. 14.
The pick: The Mountaineers are nicknamed "Press Virginia" and Baylor knows all too well about West Va.'s relentless defensive pressure. The Bears committed 29 turnovers in losing 89-68 back on Jan. 10 in Morgantown and will have to do a much better job of protecting the ball here, to get a "W." Easier said than done, as West Virginia leads the nation in turnovers forced per game (21.55) and steals per game (11.0). West Va. is 10* play.
|02-26-17||Wisconsin v. Michigan State +2||Top||74-84||Win||100||7 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-6 Wisconsin Badgers are 11-4 in Big Ten play and with Purdue losing Saturday at Michigan, have a chance to get back into a tie for first with a win Sunday at East Lansing. The Michigan State Spartans are 17-11 overall, including 9-6 in Big Ten play, as Tom Izzo looks to make it 20 straight NCAA appearances by his team with an at-large NCAA bid, that's assuming MSU doesn't surprise and win the Big Ten tourney.
Wisconsin: The Badgers enter this game losers of three of their last four but Purdue's loss last night should give them a spark. Losing Thursday at Ohio St. was obviously not good news but the silver lining was Bronson Koenig making 5 of 9 from three-point range, breaking out of a slump that had seen him go 8-of-36 from beyond the arc over his previous six games. He scored 27 points and ranks second on the team in scoring at 13.8 PPG to the 6-10 Happ (14.4 & 8.9). Happ leads the team in scoring (15.6 points), rebounding (8.3), assists (2.9), blocks (1.5) and steals (2.6) during conference play to make him the only player in the nation to top his team in all five categories in league action! The 6-8 Hayes was a preseason All-American but overall, has disappointed averaging 13.4 & 6.0.
Michigan State: The Spartans are coming off an 88-72 home win over Nebraska on Thursday, which has them within one-half game of a three-way tie for fourth in the Big Ten. Izzo lost senior guard Harris (10.7) for the season two games ago, so it's all up to a quartet of freshman to "bring it home" (meaning an NCAA bid) for the Spartans. It's quite a group, led by the 6-7 Bridges (16.3 & 8.3), who is joined by the 6-8 Ward (13.1 & 5.9), PG Winston (7.0 & 5.4 APG) and SG Langford (6.5). Langford has a season-high 17 points against Nebraska!
The pick: The Badgers seemed to be in cruise control at 21-3 but this team is struggling, while Izzos team' is in 'tournament mode.' Michigan State is an 8* play.
|02-26-17||Suns +7 v. Bucks||Top||96-100||Win||100||7 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The 18-40 Phoenix Suns come off a 128-121 OT loss Friday at Chicago and continue to own the West's worst overall record (Lakers barely edge them out at 19-30). As for the 25-31 Milwaukee Bucks, they entered the All Star break on a three-game winning streak but saw that end Friday at home against the Jazz, falling 109-95
Phoenix; The Suns allowed 108 points in regulation to Chicago (a whopping 128 for the entire game) and only the woeful Nets allow more points game in and game out than Phoenix (112.7 PPG ranks 29th). The Suns own a terrific backcourt duo in PG Bledsoe (21.5-5.0-6.3) and Booker (21.2) plus the first guard off the bench is Brandon Knight (11.0), who was once a solid starter in this league. The 20-year-old Booker scored 27 points vs. the Bulls and has now scored 20 or more in 21 of his last 23 games but Knight was held out of Friday's game to give Tyler Ulis (3.2) more minutes. Ulis is auditioning to be the team’s backup PG and had six points to go along with four assists in 13 minutes. Center Tyson Chandler (8.4 & 11.4) also sat out to give Alex Len (7.5 & 6.4) extra time but the ex-Maryland player struggled in scoring four points and and grabbing seven rebounds in 35 minutes.
Milwaukee: The Bucks took a huge hit when Jabari Parker (20.1 & 6.1) was lost for up to 12 months right before the All Star break with a torn ACL. Milwaukee is not out of the postseason discussion just yet, sitting two games back of No. 8 Detroit, although the red-hot Heat are a half-game in front of them, as well. However, Milwaukee badly needs to find some consistent scoring help from players other than Giannis Antetokounmpo (23.5-8.7-5.4), who is a true All Star. Michael Beasley (9.5 & 3.6) has come through by averaging 19.7 PPG in Milwaukee's last three contests but Greg Monroe (11.5 & 6.8) has been a season-long underachiever and Khris Middleton, last year's leading scorer at 18.2 PPG, has just returned to the court to average a modest 10.2 PPG in five games (hamstring injury had kept him all season).
The pick: With all the Suns' problems, it's hard to trust Milwaukee as any kind of a favorite when only Antetokounmpo can be counted on to produce regularly. Yes, the Bucks won easily in Phoenix earlier this season (137-112) but the Suns have won 14 of the last 21 games against Bucks. Take the points and make Phoenix a 10* play.
|02-26-17||Cincinnati -5.5 v. UCF||Top||49-53||Loss||-108||6 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: The No. 15 Cincinnati Bearcats are 25-3 overall and at 14-1 in AAC play, need a win on the road Sunday to stay in a first-place tie with red-hot SMU (winners of 11 straight and 21 of 22) atop the conference. Cincy travels to Orlando Sunday afternoon to face the UCF Knights, who check in at 18-10 overall, including 9-7 in league play.
Cincinnati: The Beracats have lost just once in their last 19 games but it was at SMU, as the two teams match win-for-win as the regular season comes to a close next weekend. Cincinnati jumped out to a 24-point first-half lead and led Memphis by 19 at the half on Thursday, only to see (allow?) the Tigers to shoot 58 percent after the break (54.4% for the game) and draw within six before holding on for an 87-74 victory. "This time of year you're just trying to continue to win and get to the next game," head coach Mick Cronin said. "We learn our lessons. We've got to obviously play a better defensive game." Defensive lapses are rare for Cincy, as the Bearcats allow just 61.4 PPG (8th) on 38.2% shooting (6th). A six-man rotation averages between 7.3 and 13.9 PPG. Up front it's the 6-9 Washington (13.9 & 7.0) and the 6-8 Clark (10.2 & 7.9) while the team's four-guard perimeter group is led by Evans (13.6 & 4.0) and PG Caupain (10.1-4.6-4.6).
UCF: Head coach Johnny Dawkins was run out at Stanford (the Cardinal wanted NCAA not NIT appearances) but landed here in Orlando and has done an excellent job. UCF had won 13,12 and 12 games the previous three years but already owns 18 wins in 2016-17 and comes into this game on a three-game winning streak, after a slump saw the Knights lose six of seven from Jan. 22 to Feb, 11. All five UCF starters scored in double figures Wednesday at Temple, as the team came back from 11 points down in the second half to pull off a 71-69 victory. Guards Taylor (16.7-4.4-3.7) and Williams (15.4 & 4.8) are the leading scorers but no one can fail to notice the 7-6 Tacko Fall (11.9 & 9.7).
The pick: The Bearcats’ 25-3 record through 28 games is the best during Cronin's 11-year tenure and it doesn't look like SMU plans on 'blinking' down the stretch, so the Bearcats need to keep pace. UCF is 12-3 SU at home but hasn’t beaten a ranked foe since a 68-63 decision over Connecticut back in November of 2011. Cincinnati leads the all-time series 8-0, with seven of those wins coming since both teams joined the AAC. Nothing changes here. Make Cincy an 8* play.
|02-25-17||Pelicans v. Mavs||Top||83-96||Loss||-110||12 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The Anthony Davis-DeMarcus Cousins era opened with a thud, as the two stars combined for 56 points and 23 rebounds in their first game together, yet the 23-35 New Orleans Pelicans lost by 30 points in Thursday's home game with the Rockets. Adding insult to injury, the Rockets toyed with the Pelicans despite James Harden scoring just 13 points on 3 of 9shooting. The Pelicans look to regroup Saturday night in Dallas, where they will take on the 22-35 Mavericks.
New Orleans: No one was predicting the Pelicans were ready to challenge the Warriors after they traded for Cousins but Thursday's result represented a cold reminder of just how much work New Orleans has in front of themselves. Cousins put it best. "For some reason, I guess people expected a championship," he told reporters afterward. "I know the reality of it. We've had one practice and a shootaround. This isn't something that is just going to happen overnight. Do we look good on paper? Yes. But being good on paper doesn't win games."
Dallas: The Mavs returned frrom the break last night and lost 97-84 at Minnesota, their third straight loss and fifth in seven games. Dallas acquired center Nerlens Noel from the Philadelphia 76ers prior to Thursday's trading deadline and the expectation is that he will be available for Saturday's contest. The Mavericks expect Noel to be the starting center in the very near future, which would allow veteran Dirk Nowitzki to move back to his natural position of power forward. We'll see. To be sure, the 22 year-old Noel adds to a young nucleus that includes Harrison Barnes (24), Seth Curry (26) and rookie sensation Yogi Ferrell (23).
The pick: New Orleans gave up three guards (Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway) in the deal for Cousins and the lack of backcourt players contributed to 20 turnovers against the Rockets. Expect things to improve greatly in this one. New Orleans won 111-104 win over the Mavericks back on Dec. 26 and I expect the first "W" of the Davis-Cousins era to come tonight. New Orleans is an 8* play.
|02-25-17||Hawks -2.5 v. Magic||Top||86-105||Loss||-110||10 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: The 32-25 Atlanta Hawks have fallen 2 1/2 games back of the surging Washington Wizards in the Southeast and currently own the No. 5 seed in the East. They lost for the third time in four games Friday, shooting just 38 percent in a 108-90 home loss to the Heat. The 21-38 Orlando Magic were quiet on trade deadline day and continued their free fall that night by coughing up a lead in Thursday’s 112-103 home loss against Portland, their sixth loss in seven games.
Atlanta: Dennis Schroder (17.5 & 6.3 APG) has replaced the traded Jeff Teague at PG without missing a beat but was suspended one game for being late in returning back from the break. He should be back in the lineup tonight, joining PF Millsap (18.0 & 7.8) and center Howard (13.4 & 12.8). Glenn Robinson Jr. (13.0) has really come on lately plus the Hawks added Ersan Ilyasova in a trade with the 76ers. He scored nine points in 16 minutes last night but has averaged 14.2 & 5.8 on the season and will help this team down the stretch.
Orlando: The Magic traded Serge Ibaka to the Toronto Raptors for Terrence Ross but that surely didn't improve a team which is going nowhere, fast. Swingman Evan Fournier leads the team ins coring at 16.8 PPG and center Nikola Vucevic (14.1 & 10.0) is a solid player but the Magic's home record speaks for itself. Orlando is 9-19 SU in Amway Arena and 7-20-1 ATS.
The pick: Schroder gets back in the lineup and the Hawks cruise past Orlando, just kike they have in two earlier meetings, winning 131-120 and 111-92. Atlanta is an 8* play.
|02-25-17||Iowa +7 v. Maryland||Top||83-69||Win||100||9 h 59 m||Show|
The set-up: The 15-13 Iowa Hawkeyes are just 7-8 in Big Ten play as they travel to College Park to take on No. 24 Maryland. The Terps are 22-6 overall and 10-5 in the Big Ten, sitting third behind Wisconsin (11-4) and Purdue (12-3).
Iowa: The Hawkeyes come in off a 96-90 overtime win over visiting Indiana, which was preceded by a three-game losing streak. I win here gets them to .500 and keeps the team's very slim at-large NCAA hopes barely alive. Senior guard Peter Jok (21.0 & 6.0) is the team-leader (shoots 92.1% on FTs) but Fran McCaffrey has a young squad overall. In fact, the team's next three best scorers are all freshman. The trio includes guard Bohannon (9.2) plus forwards Cook (11.8 & 4.9) and Persnl (9.0 & 4.1).
Maryland: The Terps need to snap a two-game slide, after losing 71-60 at Wisconsin and 89-75 at home to Minnesota. Guard Melo Trimble (17.4-3.4-3.6) has scored in double digits in 17 consecutive games and 26 overall this season but the year hasn't gone as planned for the player who returned to Maryland to improve his NBA draft stock (it's been a choppy year). Maryland also depends on freshman, as 6-7 forward Justin Jackson (10.8 & 6.2) and guard Anthony Cowan (10.4 & 3.8 APG) are the Terps' only other double digit scorers behind Trimble.
The pick: Maryland won 84-76 at Iowa back on Jan. 19, as five players scored in double figures. Maryland hasn't lost three straight since Feb. 25-March 4, 2012 but the Hawkeyes are 3-1 in rematch games this season, so I'm taking the points. Iowa is a 10* play.
|02-25-17||Florida v. Kentucky -4.5||Top||66-76||Win||100||5 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The 23-5 Florida Gators and the 23-5 Kentucky Wildcats not only own similar overall records but both teams are also 13-2 in SEC play, leaving them tied atop the league. The Gators ripped the Wildcats 88-66 in Gainesville back on Feb. 4, so if Florida could win here in Rupp Arena, it would give them a season sweep and the tie breaking advantage for the upcoming SEC tourney. If that's not enough drama we have Kentucky head coach John Calipari announcing that it will be a game-time decision as to whether his prized freshman PG, De'Aaron Fox (15.5 & 5.3 APG), will be able to play.
Florida: The win over Kentucky was the fourth contest in what has become a nine-game Florida winning streak in which the Gators have also gone 7-2 ATS. A look at the team's stat sheet shows seven palyers averaging 21-plus minutes and contributing between 6.5 and 13.6 PPG. The leading scorers are guards Allen (13.6) and Barry (12.7), with the 6-8 Robinson (11.2 & 5.8) rounding out the players in double digits. He was paired up front with the 6-11 Egbunu (7.8 & 6.6) but he was lost to a season-ending injury in mid-February. The 6-9 Hayes (6.4 & 4.1) is getting most of his minutes. The Gators are an excellent defensive team, allowing just 65.9 PPG (47th) on 40.7% shooting (34th).
Kentucky: The Wildcats counter with an offense scoring 88.2 PPG (4th) on 48.2% shooting (27th) but off course, they could be without their starting PG. Fellow freshman guard Monk (21.1) is the team's top scorer and 6-10 freshman Adebayo (13.0 & 7.4) is the team's best frontcourt player. A veteran by Kentucky standards is sophomore guard Briscoe, who adds 13.5 & 5.4.
The pick: In the teams' earlier meeting, Florida was led by guard Kasey Hill (9.7 & 4.8 APG), who scored 21 points. Devin Robinson had 16 & 9, Barry came off the bench for 14 and Allen scored 12. Egbunu had eight points and seven rebounds but as noted, is out for the season after tearing his ACL on Feb. 14. The Wildcats shot only 37.7 percent in that Feb. 4 game and here's the rub, only two opponents have reached their season average in scoring against the Gators this season, Georgia in overtime and Auburn in regulation. However, after getting 'spanked' in Gainesville by the Gators, I'm not going against the revenge-minded Wildcats who average 91.7 PPG in lined contests here at Rupp. Kentucky is a 10* play.
|02-25-17||North Carolina -8 v. Pittsburgh||Top||85-67||Win||100||3 h 55 m||Show|
The set-up: The 24-5 North Carolina Tar Heels take their No.8 AP ranking into Pittsburgh early Saturday afternoon for a game with the 15-13 Pitt Panthers. The Tar Heels sit atop the ACC at 12-3, while the Panthers are near the bottom at 4-11.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels remained unbeaten at Chapel Hill this season with Wednesday's 74-63 win over No. 7 Louisville, which also upped their ACC lead to trwo games. A regular season and ACC tourney title would likely earn North Carolina a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday. North Carolina is loaded, despite the loss of guard Williams (6.2) to a season-ending knee injury. Berry (14.6 & 4.0 APG) will get some extra backcourt help now from Britt (4.8) but the frontcourt talent is an embarrassment of riches. The Tar Heels have excellent size in the 6-10 Meeks (12.7 & 9.1) , the 6-9 Hicks (12.1 & 5.6) and the 6-10 Bradley (7.4 & 5.4). Then there are the talented swingmen like the 6-8 Jackson, the team's leading scorer at 18.7 PPG (4.7 RPG) and the 6-6 Pinson (7.7 & 4.3), who lately starts in the backcourt. More good news comes Roy Williams' way in that North Carolina has also steeped things up on the defensive end lately, allowing just 59.0 PPG on 38.9 percent shooting the last three games.
Pittsburgh: Maybe Jamie Dixon knew what he was doing when he left Pitt at the end of last year to return to his alma mater (TCU). Senior forwards Michael Young (20.4 & 7.0) and Jamel Artis (19.3-4.9-3.4) are first and third, respectively, in ACC scoring but the Panthers lost eight straight from Jan. 7 through Feb 4, ruining a 12-3 start. Pitt was headed for a fourth win in five games Wednesday but coughed up a 19-point lead in a 63-59 loss to Wake Forest. Kevin Stallings first season in Pittsburgh is turning into a 'nightmare.'
The pick: Pitt almost beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill back on Jan 31 (lost just 80-78) but that should only serve as more motivation for a team like the Tar Heels, which has a No. 1 NCAA seed in its sights. A "two-man" team can't trade points with the Tar Heels. Make North Carolina an 8* play.
|02-24-17||Celtics v. Raptors -3||Top||97-107||Win||100||12 h 10 m||Show|
incorrectly entered play....NOT a play!
|02-24-17||Wizards v. 76ers +8||Top||112-120||Win||100||11 h 11 m||Show|
The set-up: The 34-21 Washington Wizards opened the season 2-8 but slowly got things turned around. They then 'sprinted' to the All Star break on an 18-3 run, taking over the top spot in the Southeast Division and climbing to the East's No. 3 seed, just two back of the Celtics. Washington gets back on te heourt tonight in Philadelphia against the 21-35 76ers. Philly's record may not look very good but when one considers this team won just TEN times all of last season, it's been quite a turnaround for this franchise.
The pick: Of course, rookie center Joel Embiid (20.2 & 7.8) has been the key to the team's turnaround but he sat out the last 11 games with a knee injury. He made it through a full practice on Wednesday but has yet to be cleared and likely will sit out the next two contests. However, the 76ers closed the first half of the season going 3-2 SU and 5-0 ATS heading into the break, all without Embiid. Note that Saric averaged 20.6 points on 52.6 percent shooting in those last five games, giving a window into why the 76ers moved Ilyasova. Love the way Washington is playing and picking up Bogdanovic is "just what the doctor ordered" but the 76ers are a money-making 20-9 ATS at home. Philly is a 10* play.
|02-24-17||Oakland v. Green Bay||Top||85-72||Win||100||11 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Horizon League action Friday night when the 22-7 Oakland Grizzlies visit the 17-11 Green Bay Phoenix. The Grizzlies are 12-4 in the Horizon League, one game back of first-place Valpo, while the Phoenix sit in third-place at 11-5.
Oakland: The Grizzlies may be one game back of Valpo but they've beaten the Crusaders in both meetings this season, so a tie at the top would give them the league's No. 1 seed for the tourney. Oakland won its seventh straight game 101-72, this past Tuesday at home over Youngstown State, shooting an impressive 52.0% from the floor. The team knew it could never replace Kay Felder (24.4-4.3-9.3) but guards Martez Walker (17.1) and Dorsey-Walker (12.6-5.2-3.7) plus the 6-7 Hayes (15.7 & 7.9) have this year's team at 22 wins, just one shy of the 23 wins Felder led this team to last season.
Green Bay: The Phoenix upset the Grizzlies back on Jan. 27th in Oakland, 80-72. Small had 16 points, while Lowe, Kanter and Jones all had 14 points. Th team's leading scorer is Cooper (13.2 & 5.2) but he had just nine points (4 of 13 shooting) in that first meeting. He's joined in double digits by fellow guards Small (10.7 & 5.2) and Jones (10.6) plus the 6-10 Kanter (10.6 & 5.7). The 6-8 Lowe chips in 6.6 & 5.1.
The pick: Since that Jan. 27th loss to Green Bay, Oakland has ripped off seven straight wins and I say make it eight in a row, as the Grizzlies keep the pressure on Valpo to not slip up. Make Oakland a 10* play.
|02-23-17||Nuggets v. Kings +7||Top||100-116||Win||100||15 h 52 m||Show|
The set-up: The 24-33 Sacramento Kings begin life without DeMarcus Cousins when they return from the All Star break to host the 25-31 Denver Nuggets. Cousins was traded to New Orleans with the Kings getting Buddy Hield (sixth overall pick of the 2016 draft) and Tyreke Evans (played his first four NBA seasons in Sacramento), Langston Galloway and a 2017 first-round draft pick.
Denver: The Nuggets currently hold down the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot but five teams return from the break within 3 1/2 games of Denver, including the Kings and Pelicans. Injuries have left Denver shorthanded during parts of (most of?) February but the Nuggets were on an 11-8 run heading into the break and just may be getting healthy. Leading scorer Danilo Gallinari (17.2 points, groin injury), fellow forward Kenneth Faried (ankle) and point guard Emmanuel Mudiay (back) may return after missing the final four games before the break plus forward Wilson Chandler (illness) also should be back. Faried averages 9.9 & 8.0, Mudiay 11.8-3.5-4.2 and Chandler 15.6 & 6.7. 6-10 center Jokic (16.3 & 8.9) is quickly becoming the team's MVP, as he averaged 23.4 & 14.4 in the five games prior to the break. Speaking of the All Star break, second-year player Jamal Murray (8.9) scored 236points in the Rising Stars Challenge to earn MVP honors.
Sacramento: The Kings can't replace Cousins' 27.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game but they won't miss his NBA-leading 17 technical fouls. Rudy Gay (18.7) has been lost for the season so that means PG Darren Collison leads Sacramento in scoring (13.7 PPG) and center Kosta Koufos is its leading rebounder (5.4 RPG). Cauley-Stein (5.8 & 2.7 in about 13 MPG) figures to get a heavy share of the 34 minutes per game Cousins averaged and Sacramento GM Vlade Divac has always loved Buddy Hield saying, "His work ethic is exactly what we want here."
The pick: The Kings had won four straight before getting blasted 109-86 by the Warriors to close the first half and also own four straight wins over the Nuggets.The Nuggets are 10-18 SU on the road and now they come in at about a 'TD' favorite on the road?? I think not. Make Sacramento a 10* play.
|02-23-17||Gonzaga v. San Diego +22.5||Top||96-38||Loss||-110||14 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: Gonzaga stayed at No. 1 in the AP's most recent poll (released this past Monday) and is two wins away from completing a perfect 30-0 regular season. The 28-0 Bulldogs (16-0 in WCC play) will host the 12-16 San Diego Toreros Thursday night, who check in at 5-11 in league play. Tonight's winning team is hardly in doubt, with only the margin TBD!
San Diego: The Toreros posted a 60-58 double-overtime victory against Santa Clara on Saturday, halting a five-game losing streak. San Diego's starting lineup does not feature a player taller than 6-7. Forwards Brett Bailey (15.9 & 7.0) and Cameron Neubauer (11.0 & 5.4) are 6-6 and 6-7, respectively. They are joined by guard Carter (15.2) but that trio doesn't get much help.
Gonzaga: PG Nigel Williams-Goss (a Washington transfer) averages 16.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists, making him a near-lock for WCC player of the year honors. Up front, the 7-1 Karnowski (12.8 & 5.8), 7-0 freshman Collins (10.6 & 5.9) and the 6-9 Williams (9.9 & 5.8) should have their way with San Diego's small frontcourt. Gonzaga averages 85.4 PPG (10th) on 51.4% shooting (3rd).
The pick: San Diego only averages 66.0 PPG (322nd) on 41.1% shooting (318th) and in the first meeting this year, lost 79-43. Yes, Gonzaga has ripped off 20 consecutive double-digit victories but this impost is more than just a double digit one, it's more than three 'TDs!' Take the points and make San Diego a 10* play.
|02-22-17||Oregon State v. Stanford -13.5||Top||66-79||Loss||-110||15 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: The 5-23 Oregon State Beavers and the 13-13 Stanford Cardinal have each had disappointing seasons (particularly OSU) but both enter this contest off impressive wins. OSU rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to record their first league victory in Sunday's 68-67 upset of Utah. Meanwhile, Stanford played just once last week but made it count, taking down its biggest rival Cal, 73-68 at Maples Pavilion which handed a severe blow to Cal's at-large NCAA Tournament hopes.
Oregon State: The Beavers' season all but ended when 6-8 forward Tres Tinkle (20.2-8.3) broke his wrist after six games. Oregon State opened the season by going 4-9 in non-conference play but lost its first 14 Pac 12 games, before breaking through this past Sunday. Guards Thompson scored a career-high 31 points in the win over Utah and leads the team in scoring at 16.8 PPG. Fellow guard McLaughlin (11.1 &3.1 APG) plus the 6-10 Eubanks (14.7 & 8.2) are really all the significant contributors OSU has now, without Tinkle .
The pick: Johnny Dawkins was fired at Stanford after eight years, because he led the team to just one NCAA appearance. He did win two NIT titles but the Stanford faithful wanted NCAA, not NIT bids. It's ironic that in his first season as Stanford's head coach, Jerrod Haase's would love to get his team into the NIT. Stanford is 20-2 at Maples Pavilion against Oregon State since 1993 and the Beavers have yet to win on the road this year (0-11 SU getting outscored 80.8-63.0 PPG), so I'll make Stanford a 10* play.
|02-22-17||Providence v. Creighton -8||Top||68-66||Loss||-108||13 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The 16-11 Providence Friars (6-8 in Big East play) will be on the road Wednesday night to take on the 22-5 Creighton Bluejays (9-5 in Big East). The Friars are going nowhere in the Big East (tied for 6th in a 10-team league) but own home wins the last two games over Butler and Xavier. Creighton only has slim conference title hopes (Villanova is 11-2) but the team routed Georgetown on Sunday, 87-70.
The pick: Providence has won six of the eight meetings between the teams since Creighton joined the Big East prior to the start of the 2013-14 season but one of those two Creighton wins came in Providence back on Jan. 7, as the Blue Jays ended a five-game losing streak to the Friars with a 78-64 road victory. Creighton will visit No. 2 Villanova on Saturday but a loss here would take a lot of luster off that showdown. Make Creighton a 10* play.
|02-22-17||Duke -3.5 v. Syracuse||Top||75-78||Loss||-110||11 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: Coach K has returned to the bench and the 22-5 Blue Devils will take a seen-game winning streak (Coach K has been on the sidelines for the last five) into tonight's game in the Carrier Dome against 16-12 Syracuse. The 10th-ranked Blue Devils are 10-4 in ACC play and the Orange just 8-7, as two of the most successful coaches in college basketball history go head-to-head. Mike Krzyzewski holds a modest 4-3 edge against Jim BoeheimDuke: The Blue Devils have climbed to within one game of ACC-leading North Carolina but none of the team's seven straight victories have come by more than 10 points. However, Duke has finally found some consistency after being derailed by injuries early in the season. The Blue Devils have used the same lineup six times during their seven-game winning streak. Grayson Allen (15.2-4.3-4.0) has settled into the PG spot and he and 6-9 senior Amile Jefferson (11.2-8.8) both continue to play through nagging injuries. Sophomore swingman Luke Kennard (20.0-5.1) has been Duke's most consistent scorer and has made a three-pointer in 30 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the ACC. Then there is 6-8 freshman Jayson Tatum (16.4-7.1), who gets better by the game. The 6-10 Harry Giles was the more heralded freshman coming in but injuries set him back "big time" and in just 16 games, he's averaging 4.8 & 4.1, playing a modest 12 minutes, on average.
Syracuse: The Orange lost 71-65 at Georgia Tech on Sunday night, shooting 35.7% from the floor, including just 8 of 30 on threes. It was Syracuse's third straight loss and now the Orange draw Duke, one of the hottest team in college hoops. The 6-7 White (17.9-4.8) and the 6-9 Lydon (13.6-8.1) will hold their own up front but guards Gillon (10.6-5.4 APG) and Battle (9.8) figure to be over-matched on the perimeter. The pick: The two previous Duke-Syracuse games at the Carrier Dome sold out and set the NCAA on-campus record with crowds of 35,446, so expect a raucous crowd again tonight. Yes, Duke hasn't won by big margins in its winnings streak (just 6.4 points, on average), but a 6-7 points win here, gets the CA$H! Duke is an 8* play.
|02-21-17||Indiana +2.5 v. Iowa||Top||90-96||Loss||-115||20 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: The 15-12 Indiana Hoosiers take their 5-9 Big Ten record to Iowa City to face the 14-13 Iowa Hawkeyes, who are not much better in league play at 6-8. Iowa's at-large chances are almost nil and Indiana's are heading towards nil fast, after four consecutive losses and six in the last seven games!
Indiana: How the mighty have fallen. The Hoosiers opened the season as the AP's 11th-ranked team and in the Armed Forces Classic over in Honolulu back on Nov 11, took down the AP's 3rd-ranked team Kansas, 103-99 in OT. When the Hoosiers met Butler in Indianapolis on Dec 17, they were 8-1 and ranked 9th (had earlier been as high as No. 3!). However, Indiana lost to Butler and not much has gone right since, as doing the math, the Hoosiers are 7-11 since that 8-1 start.The team's recent slide has severely jeopardized its chances for an at-large bid. It's been a injury-plagued stretch but leading scorer James Blackmon Jr. (17.0 & 4.8) and 6-8 sophomore forward Juwan Morgan (7.0 & 5.3) both played well in Indiana's recent 75-74 hard-luck loss at Minnesota. Blackmon scored 22 in his third game back from a leg injury and Morgan had 14 points for his best output since returning from a foot issue last month. Junior guard Robert Johnson ranks second on the team in scoring (13.2 & 4.2) but is trending in the opposite direction while averaging 4.3 points on 4-of-24 shooting in his last three games. The 6-10 Bryant (13.1 & 7.0) is a solid contributor (although he's averaged just 8.0 PPG on 6-of-22 shooting over his last two games) but a real 'killer' was the 6-8 Anunoby (11.1 & 5.7) being lost for the season with a knee injury in mid-January.
Iowa: Senior guard Peter Jok leads the Big Ten in scoring (20.4) but overall, Fran McCaffrey's team is young. Freshman forward Tyler Cook is the only Hawkeye other than Jok scoring in double digits (11.7 & 4.5), while freshman guard Jordan Bohannon tops the team in assists (4.4) and avergages 9.2 PPG. The Hawkeyes' losing streak stands at three following a 70-66 home loss to Illinois on Saturday. "Sometimes you've got to go through it, and experience it - the good, the bad," coach Fran McCaffery told reporters. "You know, if you're out of the game, what did your teammates do right? What did they do wrong?"
The pick: Both teams score well, as Indiana ranks second in the Big Ten at 80.3 PPG and Iowa third at 79.9. Indiana misses Anunoby but is getting healthier and a late-season run is not hard to imagine. The Hoosiers have won five of the last six meetings overall with the Hawkeyes, including two straight in Iowa City. Make it three straight, as Indiana is an 8* play.
|02-21-17||Evansville v. Wichita State -19.5||Top||83-109||Win||100||19 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The 14-15 Evansville Purple Aces (5-11 in MVC play) draw a tough assignment Tuesday night when they visit Wichita to take on the 25-4 Wichita State Shockers (15-1 in MVC play). A 10-game win streak has vaulted Wichita State into the AP poll for the first time this season (at No. 25), making it the sixth straight season in which the Shockers have been ranked in the AP's top-25. It matches the school record for such a streak, first set from 1960-66.,
Evansville: The Purple Aces were on a surprising four-game winning streak heading into Saturday but it abruptly ended when they lost at Bradley 84-72, by getting outscored 43-17 to end the game (note: Bradley is just 10-19 on the season). Senior guard Jaylon Brown (20.3) leads the MVC in scoring and free-throw percentage (86.1) but only sophomore guard Ryan Taylor (14.9) joins him in averaging double-figures on the season. The drop-off after this guard duo is severe, as no other Evansville player averages as much as 7.0 PPG and the team's best big man is the 6-8 Howard, who averages modest totals of 6.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG.
Wichita State:The Shockers crushed Northern Iowa 73-44 on Saturday to reach 25 wins for the eighth straight season and shares the MVC lead with Illinois State. There are just two games to play prior to the conference tourney (Arch Madness), as Wichita St.pursues its fourth straight MVC regular-season title. The 2016-17 season was expected to be a rebuilding one with Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet (two of the greatest players school in history) gone to the NBA but that hasn't been the case. "Those guys have gotten so much better since earlier this year,'' Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall told reporters about his streaking team. "The only thing I can say to anyone who doesn't think we're an NCAA Tournament team is they don't watch enough basketball. All you have to do is watch our team." The 6-8 McDuffie leads the team in scoring (a modest 11.8 PPG) and rebounding (a modest 5.9 RPG) but that hardly tells the whole story. Wichita can score (81.5 PPG ranks 26th in the nation) and can also defend, allowing just 62.2 PPG (11th) on 37.4% shooting (3rd)!
The pick: Yes, the number is high but the Shockers have won the last eight meetings with the Purple Aces by an average of 15.5 PPG, as well as 14 of the last 15 encounters at Charles Koch Arena. Wichita State has won by an average margin of 24.2 PPG during its current 10-game winning streak, featuring a lineup in which 10 players average 13 MPG and at least 4.8 PPG. Talk about balance AND depth. Lay the points and make Wichita St. a 10* play.
|02-21-17||Rhode Island -3 v. La Salle||Top||67-56||Win||100||17 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: It's A-10 action tonight from Philly, as the 17-9 Rhode Island Rams take on the 14-11 La Salle Explorers at the Tom Gola Arena. (if you don't know Gola's name, you are way too young!). The Rams have won seven of 10 and are 9-5 in conference play (tied with Richmond), three games back of 12-2 VCU and Dayton. The Explorers are 8-6 in league games and come in having won six of their last eight home contests.
Rhode Island: More was expected out of the Rams this year, as the Blue Ribbon Yearbook listed them at No. 25 before the season. The Rams haven't ever looked like a top-25 team this year. The starting-five is guards Matthews (14.8 & 4.2), Terrell (12.6) and Dowtin (5.6), joined up front by the 6-7 Martin (13.8 & 6.1) and the 6-9 Iverson (9.4 & 7.5). Guards Garrett (7.5) and Robinson (6.1) are the top reserves.
La Salle: The Explorers top-five scorers are all listed as guards, with Robinson (18.0 & 6.3), Price (16.5 & 4.3) and Powell (13.1 & 4.2) scoring in double digits. The team gets very production from its frontcourt, as the biggest contributors are the 6-9 Henry (5.9 & 4.0) and the 6-10 Washington (5.1 & 4.1).
The pick: I noted earlier that La Salle has played well at home recently. However, the Explorers are 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 games as a home underdog, while the Rams are 7-0-1 ATS in the last 8 meetings at La Salle. That makes sense, as the road team is 13-3-1 ATS in the last 17 meetings in this series. Make Rhode Island a 10* play.
|02-20-17||Iowa State +1.5 v. Texas Tech||Top||82-80||Win||100||20 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: The 17-9 Iowa State Cyclones and the 17-10 Texas Tech Red Raiders are both considered 'bubble' teams for at-large bids to the big Dance. The Cyclones are 9-5 in the Big 12, putting them in a stronger position than the Red Raiders, who check in at just 5-9 in league play (four games left for both teams in regular season play).
Iowa State: The Cyclones won the first meeting between the two schools, 63-56 in Ames back on Dec. 30th. ISU comes in on a three-game winning streak, as well as four wins in the eteam's last five. That 4-1 run includes a resume-building 92-89 victory over Kansas in Lawrence and also includes wins over Oklahoma, Kansas State and TCU, all by at least eight points. “That’s when you want to play your best basketball – late in the season,” Cyclones senior guard Naz Mitrou-Long said in a news conference after scoring a game-high 25 points Saturday vs. TCU. “I definitely feel we’re starting to do that. We’re putting some complete games together.” Long (15.9 & 4.8) is one of four players (all listed as guards) who average in double figures. The others are PG Morris (16.0-4.5-6.0), Burton (14.3 & 6.7) and Thomas (11.6 & 4.1). The Cyclones can trdde points with most teams, averaging 80.7 PPG (34th).
Texas Tech: Chris Beard's (of Arkansas-Little Rock fame) first season at Tech has not been a smashing success, as Saturday's hard-luck OT loss at West Va. dropped Texas Tech to 1-7 SU on the road this season. However, the Red Raiders are a 'tough out' here in Lubbock, where they are 15-2 this season, which includes last Monday’s 84-78 win over Baylor. Guard Evans (15.7) is the team's leading scorer but the team's strength is up front with a trio of 6-8 players in Smith (13.0 & 7.5), Livingston (10.6 & 3.7) and Ross (8.8 & 2.8). Texas Tech has lost three of four but two of its next three games are in Lubbock,
The pick: As noted, Tech has been a strong home team but while the team owns an "inside edge" over the perimeter-oriented Cyclones, one can see by the above numbers than neither Livingston nor Ross are good rebounders. Iowa State has won six of the last eight meetings with Texas Tech and makes it SEVEN of nine, here. Iowa State is a 10* play.
|02-20-17||Boston College v. Florida State -19||Top||72-104||Win||100||18 h 57 m||Show|
The set-up: The 9-18 Boston College Eagles take their 2-12 ACC record on the road to play the 21-6 Florida State Seminoles, who are 9-5 in ACC play and currently rank 17th in the latest AP poll (new poll will be out prior to tip-off).
Boston College: Head coach Jim Christian's star shown brightly at Kent State, where he averaged 22.8 wins per season in a six-year stint (two NCAA appearances). That got him the TCU job were he flopped miserably, going 56-73 in four years. He returned to the MAC with Ohio U. and won 24 and 25 games in two seasons but then it was off to BC and the results have been 'ugly.' He was 13-19 his first season, 7-25 last year ahe future, as Robinson averages 19.1-3.9-3.1 and Bowman 14.1-4.7-2.9. However, it seems highly unlikely that Christian will be around too much longer, as BC limps into Tallahassee on a 10-game losing skid.
Florida State: The Seminoles have mostly been known for their defense in the Leonard Hamilton era but FSU has found an offense this season, averaging 83.6 PPG (16th). A trio of guards start, including leading scorer Bacon (16.8), PG Rathan-Mayes (10.3 & 4.7 APG) and Macon (9.1). Up front, 6-10 freshman Isaac (12.7 & 7.7), who figures to be a "one & done," is joined by the 7-1 Ojo (5.3 & 2.5). FSU returns home off a two-game road swing in which the team lost to Notre Dame and Pitt, falling from a tie atop the ACC with North Carolina. The fall has been dramatic, as the Seminoles enter this game alone in fifth-place in the top-heavy ACC.
The pick: It's time to 'get well' against a Boston College team which didn't play a true road game until January and is 0-6 SU on the ACC road. FSU's road struggles are real (5-6 SU) but they are 16-0 at the Donald L. Tucker Center, going 10-3-1 ATS while outscoring lined opponents 91.6-to-70.6 PPG. Florida State has won five straight meetings with Boston College, including a 22-point decision in the first round of last season's conference tournament. Another 'three-TD' win (or more), is the expected result in this one. FSU is a 10* play.
|02-19-17||East v. West -6||Top||182-192||Win||100||19 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: The NBA's All Star weekend concludes with tonight's East vs. West All Star game from New Orleans. Brad Stevens (East) and Steve Kerr (West) are the coaches but as they noted, coaching is not an integral part of this game (exhibition?). Kerr will have the unique opportunity to put four of his players on the court at the same time, PG Curry, SG Thompson plus forwards Durant and Green. However, as most likely know, the 'drama' will be not if Kerr chooses to play his four Warriors at the same time but whether Kerr will put OKC's Russell Westbrook on the court with Durant. I think all know the history.
The pick: The West won 196-173 last year and 163-158 the year before, as Westbrook walked away with MVP honors both times. In a game loaded with stars, the West stars will shine brighter again tonight and maybe Russell will once again walk away with that 'cherished' MVP trophy. The West is an 8* play.
|02-19-17||Georgetown v. Creighton -6.5||Top||70-87||Win||100||14 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The 14-12 Georgetown Hoyas play at No. 20 Creighton on Sunday afternoon. The Bluejays are 21-5 overall, including 8-5 in the Big East. It's been a tough season for Georgetown and head coach John Thompson III, as the Hoyas are only 5-8 in league play.
Georgetown: Thompson led Georgetown to 11 straight postseasons (eight NCAA and three NIT) to open his coaching career at the school made famous by his father but last year's 15-18 season has now been followed by this year's 14-12 record, so far. The Hoyas are led by a pair of 6-5 guards, Pryor (a Robert Morris transfer) and Peak. Pryor averages 18.3 PPG and 5.2 RPG, while Peak averages 16.6 PPG and 3.6 APG. Th 6-10 Govan and the 7-0 Hayes give Georgetown some wide bodies inside but these days, Hayes (4.3 & 4.4) is becoming less and less of factor. In contrast, Govan scored a season-high 23 point in an 80-62 home win over Marquette back on Feb. 11, which was the last time Georgetown played.
Creighton: The Bluejays opened 18-1 (5-1 in Big East games) but have been a sub-.500 team since, at 3-4 (all league games). Adding insult to injury, Creighton is now playing without Maurice Watson Jr. (national-best 8.5 assists per game) after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in mid-January. His loss directly coincides with the team's current 3-4 slide. However, the cupboard is hardly bare. Foster (18.0) and Thomas (12.1 & 5.6) can match up with Pryor and Peak in the backcourt plus the 7-0 Patton (13.7 & 6.3) is easily the equal of Govan and gets help from the 6-8 Huff (9.2 & 4.0).
The pick: Creighton will be playing with a chip on its shoulder after losing badly at Georgetown back on Jan. 25th, 71-51! Guards Foster and Thomas combined for just 16 points on 7-of-24 shooting in that game, while allowing Pryor and Peak to get 38 points on 15 of 30 shooting. However, 7-0 freshman center Patton dominated Govan in that game, scoring 20 points and adding seven rebounds. Creighton shot 1 of 18 on threes in that contest but remember, this is a team which comes into this game shooting 52.1 percent from the floor (2nd-best in the nation), including 41.1 (5th) on threes. No way the Bluejays shoot poorly here at home, where they average 84.2 PPG. Revenge works. Make Creighton a 10* play.
|02-19-17||Maryland v. Wisconsin -6.5||Top||60-71||Win||100||11 h 24 m||Show|
The set up: Maryland joined the Big Ten before the 2014-15 season and the Terrapins currently own the top winning percentage in the conference at .793, while Wisconsin is second at .784 during teh same time frame. Maryland, Wisconsin and Purdue all entered this weekend tied at 10-3 atop the Big Ten but Purdue moved to 11-3 with Saturday's easy 80-63 win over Michigan State. Later this afternoon, either Maryland or Wisconsin will join them, with the loser of the game falling one game behind with four games left before the conference tourney.
Maryland: The Terps are 22-4 overall, after following a two-game slide with solid wins over Ohio State and Northwestern. Melo Trimble (17.2-3.5-3.5) is coming off a career-high 32 points in Wednesday's win over Northwestern, shooting 12 of 17 from the floor. Trimble had an opportunity to declare for the NBA Draft after last season but in an effort to improve his stock, he returned to school. He's had a 'choppy' year at best, as he was a combined 16-for-52 (30.8%) from the floor over his previous four games prior to his outstanding effort against Northwestern. Maryland's only other double digit scorers this season are both freshman, the 6-7 Jackson (11.0 & 6.3) and guard Cowan (10.7-4.0-3.7).
Wisconsin: The 21-5 Badgers enter today's game off back-to-back losses, the most recent being a 64-58 defeat at Michigan on Thursday. More bad news from that game is that
The pick: Maryland owns a 6-1 record in Big Ten road games this season but I'm still not sold on the Terps. Koenig participated in shooting and drill sessions during a short practice on Friday but his status is still unclear for the Badgers against the Terps. That said, after back-to-back losses, I want no part of going against Wisconsin in this game. The Badgers are a defensive 'giant,' allowing only 60.5 PPG to ranjk 4th in the nation. They are 13-1 SU at home, holding lined opponents to just 55.8 PPG. Koenig or no Koenig, Wisconsin is a 10* play.
|02-18-17||St. Mary's -4.5 v. BYU||Top||70-57||Win||100||14 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: Saint Mary's is 23-3 (13-2 in WCC play) and ranked No. 22 in the latest AP poll. The Gaels will be in Provo tonight to take on the 19-9 (10-5 in WCC) BYU Cougars, who have lost only twice on their home court this season. The Cougars' only setback at the Marriott Center in WCC play came at the hands of Gonzaga.
St. Mary's: The Gaels expect to see Gonzaga again in the WCC championship game and remembering that last year's 27-5 record was not enough to earn an NCAA at-large bid, a loss here and against Gonzaga, would leave them with at least five losses this season (trouble?). The Gaels bounced back from a loss to No. 1 Gonzaga last Saturday by routing Loyola Marymount 81-48 on Thursday night. Junior center Jock Landale recorded his 12th double-double of the season on Thursday and leads the Gaels in scoring (17.0) and rebounding (9.5), sharing the WCC lead in rebounding with the Cougars' Eric Mika. Both Naar (9.8 & 5.3 APG) and Rahon (8.7-4.1-5.8) are comfortable playing the point plus the 6-6 Hermanson (12.5) and the 6-9 Pineau (6.5 & 6.30 help out Landale up front.
BYU: I noted 6-10 center Mika's rebounding skills earlier but he also has 16 double-doubles on the season, averaging 20.0 PPG. Childs, a 6-8 freshman, helps out averaging 9.4 & 8.6. A trio of guards all average in double digits, led by freshman PG Haws (14.3-3.0-3.3) plus Emery (13.3) and Bryant (10.1). BYU is 14-2 SU at home, losing to only Gonzaga and shockingly, to Utah Valley State.
The pick: BYU fell at St. Mary's 81-68 back on Jan. 5. The Gaels shot 55 percent from the floor, had 21 assists on 31 FGs and outrebounded the Cougars, 37-27. The Cougars are hoping to have better answers for the Gaels' offense in the rematch but I wouldn't bet on it. St Mary's is 8-1 SU (7-3 ATS) on the road, losing to only Gonzaga. A loss to anyone else this year (other than to the Bulldogs) just may doom the team's at-large hopes. One could call this a "must-win!" St. Mary's is a 10* play.
|02-18-17||Michigan State +10 v. Purdue||Top||63-80||Loss||-110||8 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: It's rare for a Tom Izzo team to be on the NCAA 'bubble' but that's the case here in 2017, as 16-10 Michigan State (8-5 in Big Ten play) visits West Lafayette to take on the 16th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers, who are 21-5 overall, including 10-3 in Big Ten play.
Michigan State: The Spartans enter having won four of five and could they be finding their groove? Tuesday's 74-66 win over Ohio State moved them into a tie for fourth place with Northwestern in the Big Ten. "We're a grinder team, and I'm proud of my guys for being that way," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said after the victory over the Buckeyes. "It's a blue-collar team and I don't mind people calling me a blue-collar coach." MSU is also a young team. The 6-7 Bridges (16.2 & 8.4) is a star plus is joined by fellow freshman forward Ward (13.2 & 5.9) and PG Winston (7.2 & 5.3 APG). Senior guard Harris (11.1) is the best veteran.
Purdue: The Boilermakers are now in a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten with Maryland and Wisconsin, which has lost back-to-back games. Meanwhile, Purdue has won four in a row and nine of its last 11. Talking about stars, 6-9 sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan (18.7 & 13.0) has recorded eight consecutive double-doubles and leads the nation with 22. The 7-2 Haas (13.2 & 5.3) doesn't start but is the team's second-leading scorer. Starting alongside Swanigan up front is the 6-8 Vince Edwards (11.7 & 5.0) with that duo joined by a three-guard lineup which includes freshman Carsen Edwards (10.9) plus juniors Mathias (9.9-3.6-3.8) and Thompson (7.3).
The pick: Purdue head coach Matt Painter, whose Boilermakers lost to Michigan State in the 2016 Big Ten tournament championship game in Indianapolis, is impressed with how the Spartans are playing in February. "They have made strides since we played them in January," Painter said. "They were coming off two road losses when we played them. When you go back and watch tape, it's always interesting to see what you did well, what you struggled at and how we could have been better." Yes, Purdue handled MSU the first time but still, has dropped eight of its past 10 against Michigan State, despite notching that victory last month. As for Painter, he's just 8-13 against Izzo and the the Spartans. Take the points and make Michigan State a 10* play.
|02-18-17||Notre Dame -5 v. NC State||Top||81-72||Win||100||4 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: Notre Dame (20-7 / 9-5 in ACC) returned to the AP top-25 this past Monday and Saturday afternoon will head to Raleigh to take on the 14-13 NC State Wolfpack, NC State is just 3-11 in ACC play and Thursday fired head coach Brian Gottfried, making the unusual choice of allowing him to finish the season coaching the team.
Notre Dame: Mike Brey, ND's head coach, expects a better effort from the Wolfpack here than the ones that have caused the Wolfpack's six-game slide. "Throw out the record of North Carolina State given the dynamics of the program right now," Brey said. "They're going to play great. We are going to have to play fabulous to win a road game." Notre Dame came off a 24-win season that ended in the Sweet 16 and this year, opened 16-2, including 5-0 in ACC play. Doing the math, that makes the Irish only 4-5 since, all in league action. However, Notre Dame has recovered from a four-game slide to enter on a three-game winning streak. Colson, a 6-5 small forward, leads in scoring (16.9) and rebounding (10.7). He's joined in double figures by the 6-8 Beachem (15.0 & 3.9) plus guards Farrell (14.7 & 5.5 APG) and Vasturia (14.1-3.8-3.4). That quartet is basically the entire team, as no other player averages more than 5.2 PPG.
NC State: Since beating Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium in late January for the first time since 1995, NC State has lost six straight, with four defeats coming by 24 points or more. The Wolfpack were picked to finish 6th in the preseason but are 14th (15-team league) and have shown zero signs of life other than freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. He averages 19.0-4.4-6.7 and is almost surely a "one-and-done" player! The Wolfpack have been a defensive sieve in their losing six-game streak, allowing 91.5 PPG.
The pick: Notre Dame should have little trouble scoring on NC State, as the Wolfpack have allowed at least 84 points in each of their last six games (all losses). No reason to think that the 'troops' will rally around Gottfried as the feeling around the school has better been described as "Good Riddance!" Make Notre Dame an 8* play.
|02-17-17||Valparaiso +1 v. Oakland||Top||71-82||Loss||-105||11 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Horizon League action Friday night as the 21-5 Valparaiso Crusaders go on the road to take on the 19-7 Oakland Golden Grizzlies. Valpo leads the conference with an 11-2 mark and Oakland sits in second place at 9-4, although the Grizzlies won the first meeting this year at Valparaiso, 78-66!
|02-16-17||Celtics +1 v. Bulls||Top||103-104||Push||0||12 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: Two All Stars square off Thursday night as Isaiah Thomas (29.9 & 6.3 APG) leads the 37-19 Boston Celtics into Chicago to take on Jimmy Butler (24.4-6.3-4.9) and the 27-29 Bulls. Boston's PG looks to record a team-record 41st consecutive 20-point performance, as last night he scored 33 points in a 116-108 home win over Philly to match John Havlicek's franchise mark of 40 set back in 1971-72. Chicago swingman Butler, who had missed four of five games, scored 19 points and matched his season best of 12 assists in Tuesday's 105-94 victory over Toronto. Adding a little more suspense to the mix, the Celtics have been linked to Butler in trade speculation.
Boston: Thomas' backcourt partner Avery Bradley (17.7 & 6.9) has been sidelined by an Achilles problem, missing 19 of Boston's last 20 games. He's out again tonight but led by Thomas' superb play, Boston has won 14 of the 19 games Bradley has missed, with the Celtics surging to a 4 1/2-game lead over Toronto in the Atlantic Division plus currently own the East's No. 2 seed, just 2 1/2 games back of the Cavs. Thomas has topped 25 points in 10 consecutive contests (averaging 33.9 PPG during that span) and has scored 35 or more on 14 occasions this season. After some early season injury issues, center Horford (14.8-6.7-5.0) and SF Crowder (14.0 & 5.7) have settled in to deliver Boston consistent efforts in support of Thomas' outstanding play.
Chicago: The Bulls shook things up after missing last year's playoffs with Rose and Noah going to the Knicks and Gasol to the Spurs. However, the "new-look" Bulls (Wade and Rondo were the big additions) are sub-.500 and while they currently own the East's 7th-seed, they are uncomfortably only 1 1/2 games inside the playoff 'cut line.' Wade has averaged 19.1-5.2-3.8 and Rondo a very disappointing 6.6-5.2-6.5. Wade's wrist has kept him out of the last two games (three of the last four) and his availability for tonight's contest will be determined after Thursday's shootaround. Forward Nikola Mirotic (9.0 & 5.1) also has missed the last two contests with a back issue and appears unlikely to play on Thursday.
The pick: The Bulls are barely hanging onto one of the last two playoff spots in the East plus find themselves surrounded by trade rumors involving not just Butler (the team's lone All Star) but power forward Taj Gibson and center Robin Lopez, as well. Meanwhile, the Celtics have won four straight and 11 of their last 12 games. Boston is a 10* play.
|02-16-17||Wisconsin v. Michigan||Top||58-64||Win||100||11 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 11 Wisconsin was shocked at home 66-59 last Sunday by Northwestern, its first loss since Jan. 8th at Purdue. The 21-4 Badgers lead the big Ten at 10-2 and look to bounce back Thursday night in Ann Arbor, when they take on 16-9 Michigan. The Wolverines are only 6-6 in Big Ten play but have won 13 of their 16 games at Crisler Center this season
Wisconsin: The Badgers own just a half-game lead over the Boilermakers in league play, so a win here is a must. Wisconsin shot just 38 percent from the floor in the loss to Northwestern, with the 6-10 Ethan Happ and guard Bronson Koenig being the biggest offenders, as they combined to go 4-of-16. Sophomore Happ is the team's leading scorer (14.2) and rebounder (9.2), while seniors Hayes (13.6 & 5.9), a 6-8 forward, and guard Koenig (13.3), are the only other double digit scorers. Wisconsin's strength has typically been its defense and this year is no different, as the Badgers allow 60.4 PPG to rank 4th in the nation.Michigan: The Wolverines beat Indiana 75-63 on Sunday, sweeping the season series with the Hoosiers for the first time since 1994-95. Throw in the team's 86-57 drubbing of Michigan State on Feb. 7, and those back-to-back wins give Michigan hope that a second straight NCAA bid is possible. Walton (14.7-4.7-3.8) and Irvin (12.6 & 4.40 are a solid backcourt duo plus Michigan has size up front to combat Happ and Hayes, in the 6-11 Wagner (11.9 & 4.0) and the 6-10 Wilson (10.5 & 5.6).
The pick: The bad news for Michigan is that Wisconsin has won seven of the last eight meetings between the two schools but the Wolverines acquitted themselves very well earlier this season, losing just 68-64 in Madison. Happ struggled against the increased defensive attention placed on him by the Wildcats in Northwestern's upset win and don't think Michigan head coach John Beilein didn't take notice. In fact, when Wisconsin beat Michigan in Madison back on Jan. 17th, Happ made just 5 of 13 shots, as Michigan easily covered as a 10 1/2-point dog.The home crowd helps Michigan to a win. make the Wolverines a 10* play.
|02-15-17||Lakers v. Suns -4||Top||101-137||Win||100||12 h 27 m||Show|
The setup: The 19-38 LA Lakers will take on the only team in the West with a worse record than themselves, when they visit the 17-39 Suns tonight in Phoenix. However, the Lakers know well that they own a 10-game losing streak in Phoenix, as the Suns' streak of success matches the franchise's longest home winning streak against the Lakers.
LA Lakers: Nineteen wins seems modest but remember, last year's 17 wins set a franchise record for futility. LA is led by its backcourt which includes starters Russell (14.0 & 4.7 APG) and Young (14.0) plus leading scorer Williams (18.5) and Clarkson (13.6) coming off the bench. Luke Walton shook up his lineup by benching starting center Timofey Mozgov (7.4 & 4.9) and forward Luol Deng (7.7 & 5.4), inserting Tarik Black (6.1 & 5.5) in the middle and rookie Brandon Ingram (8.1 & 4.1) in Deng's spot in Friday's 122-114 at Milwaukee. That was the case again last night but LA scored just 96 points in a one-point home loss to the Kings. What's the next move? Maybe Walton will check with Magic? Phoenix: The Suns have dropped 10 of their past 12 games but do own a coveted young backcourt in Bledsoe (21.5-4.9-6.1) and Booker (21.1). Bledsoe scored 37 points in Monday's 110-108 loss to New Orleans Pelicans for his 11th 30-point outing of the campaign. He has scored in double digits in a career-best 42 consecutive games, the longest streak by a Phoenix player since Amar'e Stoudemire (51) in 2009-10. His 20-year-old-backcourt partner Booker has reached 20 points in 19 of his last 21, including 16 straight from Jan. 3 through Feb, 4.
The pick: The Lakers allow 110.3 PPG to rank 27th and the Suns allow 112.6 PPG to rank 29th, so don't expect a defensive contest. However, 10 straight wins here at home over the Lakers is nothing to sneeze at and why would I want to step in front of that, considering all teh issues LA is dealing with in the front office? The Suns are a 10* play.
|02-15-17||Duke +5.5 v. Virginia||Top||65-55||Win||100||12 h 20 m||Show|
The set-up: The 20-5 Duke Blue Devils jumped from 18 to 12 in Monday's AP poll and head to Charlottesville 8-4 in ACC play where the 14th-ranked 18-6 Virginia Cavaliers await, also 8-4 in league play. The ACC race is tightening at the top and now, every game carries added importance
Duke: The Blue Devils have won five in a row, including their last two road games, at Wake Forest and Notre Dame. Coach K is back on the sidelines and Duke is beginning to look like the team that was ranked No. 1 in the preseason before a rash of injuries led to some unexpected struggles. The team owns an outstanding mix of veterans and dynamic freshmen. Sophomore Luke Kennard (20.0 & 5.1) leads the team in scoring and has hit 45.9 percent from three-point range. Junior Grayson Allen (15.9-4.4-4.0) has flourished in the primary PG role (plus has stayed out of trouble, lately) while 6-9 senior Jefferson (11.3 & 9.10 has been healthy all season. The emergence of 6-8 freshman Jayson Tatum (15.6 & 7.0) alongside Jefferson in the frontcourt has made the Blue Devils a more complete team and what happens if the 6-10 freshman Harry Giles (5.0 & 4.4 in 14 games) ever finds his game?
Virginia: The Cavaliers win with defense, leading the nation in holding opponents to 55.1 PPG. The team's grinding style of play doesn't allow for too much scoring (69.3 PPG ranks 271st), led by PG London Perrantes (12.6 & 3.9 APG) and he has upped his production to 15.7 PPG in ACC play. Fellow guards Marial Shayok (9.7) and Devon Hall (8.5 & 4.4) also have averaged double digits in points during league play. The 6-7 Isaiah Wilkins (7.6 & 6.3) leads the team in rebounds, blocks and steals.
The pick: The saying goes that a good defense beats a good offense but I'm not convinced Virginia can slow Duke enough (Blue Devils average 81.9 PPG on 48.2% shooting) or score enough themselves in this contest. Duke has beaten Virginia in three consecutive regular-season matchups and I say make it four straight, here. Duke is a 10* play.
|02-15-17||Tulane v. SMU -23||Top||75-80||Loss||-105||12 h 20 m||Show|
The set-up: SMU moved to 22-4 (12-1 in AAC play) with its 60-51 home win over Cincinnati this past Sunday. The Mustangs also jumped from 25 to 19 in Monday's latest AP poll. They now get set to host the 4-20 Tulane Green Wave (1-11 in AAC play). Talk about teams heading in opposite directions? I guess SMU just needs to avoid a let down!Tulane: The Green Wave enter on an eight-game losing streak and are a poor defensive team, allowing 78.9 PPG (313th) on 48.1% shooting (338th). A trio of guards score in double digits, led by Reynolds at 15.9. He adds 6.6 RPG and fellow guards Harris (10.3) and Frazier (10.2) just reach double digits in scoring. It's not a good thing when head coach Mike Dunleavy admitted to reporters after the team's most recent loss (91-62 at home to Houston), "We took a real step back. For the first 14 minutes we were doing what we needed to do but then we just caved."SMU: Speaking of head coaches, what a great job Tim Jankovich has done in Dallas, taking over for the controversial Larry Brown. The Mustangs went 4-3 in November but are 18-1 since, entering on an eight-game winning streak. The lone loss in that span is a two-point defeat at Cincinnati, which the team avenged this past Sunday. Junior forward Semi Ojeleye was named the AAC Player of the Week after averaging 24 points and seven rebounds in the wins against Temple (66-50) and Cincinnati. The 6-7 Ojeleye (18.2 & 6.1) has scored in double figures 25 times this season while senior guard Brown (12.0) is closing in on 1,000 career points, while averaging 7.0 RPG this season. PG Milton (13.6-4.1-4.4) and the 6-8 Moore (11.2 & 8.0) are also major contributors.
The pick: SMU wins with defense, ranking 3rd in points allowed (58.0 PPG) and seventh in opponents' FG percentage (38.4%). Tulane is over-matched here and SMU has won all 15 home games this season (9-1 ATS and has outscored lined opponents 76.1-to-55.0 PPG), extending its home winning streak to 19 in a row, Big number to cover but make SMU an 8* play.
|02-15-17||Maryland v. Northwestern -2||Top||74-64||Loss||-115||10 h 20 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 19 Maryland will take its 21-4 record (9-3 in the Big Ten) into Evanston tonight to face the 19-6 Northwestern Wilcats (8-4 in Big Ten play). Northwestern is courting history, as the Wildcats are the only Power-5 school to have not made an NCAA appearance but after upsetting Wisconsin 65-59 on the road, Northwestern is clearly set to end that drought come Selection Sunday 2017.
|02-14-17||Boise State +1.5 v. New Mexico||Top||73-78||Loss||-108||20 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The 16-7 Boise State Broncos own a half-game in lead over the CSU Rams in the MWC (9-3 to 9-4) and Tuesday will be in Albuquerque to take on the 15-10 New Mexico Lobos, who are 8-5 in league play.