|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|08-17-19||Dodgers v. Braves +1.5||Top||3-4||Win||100||10 h 41 m||Show|
8* Run Line Atlanta (7:20 ET): Please note that this is a run line play only where I'm backing the Braves at +1.5. You might be surprised to see the home team as the underdog in this battle of division leaders, but the reputation of Hyun-Jin Ryu and the Dodgers needs little in the way of introduction. Plus, the Braves are now 0-4 vs. the Dodgers here in 2019. But while Ryu has been other-worldly at Chavez Ravine this season (11-0 TSR, 0.81 ERA, 0.798 WHIP), he's been downright "mortal" on the road by comparison. The Dodgers are also just 6-5 in Ryu's 11 road starts. Atlanta does no worse than a one-run loss tonight and I give them a great shot at pulling the upset.
Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz returned to the rotation earlier this month and has led his team to a pair of wins, even though he's not exactly been dominant himself. Going back to June though, Atlanta is a perfect 5-0 in Foltynewicz's last five starts. It should be noted Atlanta did lead 3-1 early last night before failing to score again after the second inning. But they still led 3-2 going into the eighth, which is when LA seized control of the game. A three-run HR drastically altered the trajectory of the game and the Braves could not recover as it was too little, too late.
The Braves have had their issues w/ Ryu in the past, just like every other team has this year. But the lone meeting of 2019 was at Dodger Stadium. Yes, I have a ton of respect for what Ryu and the Dodgers have accomplished individually and collectively, but I believe in the revenge angle here and Ryu simply hasn't been as dominant on the road. This is a great price on the Braves at home where they are 34-27 on the year and almost never an underdog. 8* Run Line Atlanta (+1.5)
|08-16-19||Dolphins v. Bucs -2.5||Top||14-16||Loss||-130||12 h 52 m||Show|
10* Tampa Bay (7:30 ET): I'm projecting Miami to be the worst team in the league this year. That figures to be a popular take as oddsmakers have established them having the lowest regular season win total at 4.5 (still 5.0 at some shops). I'll first point out that this is a team that went 7-9 SU last year despite being outscored by 114 points. That's a worse point differential than either 6-10 Buffalo or even the 4-12 Jets! Over the last three seasons, the Dolphins have managed to go 23-25 despite a negative 243 point differential and even make the playoffs once. Now it's time to "pay the piper" (so to speak) as the roster has been completely torn down and a new front office/coaching staff is starting from scratch.
For what it's worth, the Dolphins did win their first preseason game, 34-27 over Atlanta. They scored a late TD to get the win for Brian Flores in his coaching debut. Perhaps the most impressive takeaway is that Josh Rosen threw for 191 yards on 13 of 20 passing. He led three different scoring drives of 60+ yards. Rosen, who was the top draft choice of Arizona last year, is embroiled in a battle w/ veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting job. But keep in mind that Rosen's performance came against an Atlanta team that has now lost 11 straight preseason games. Another issue from last week is Rosen absorbed an abnormal amount of punishment (for preseason) as the Miami offensive line looks to be really bad. They were even manhandled by the Falcons' reserve D-lineman, not a good sign obviously.
If you recall from my analysis last week, I said the Bucs would improve this year. QB Jameis Winston looked good in his only drive, directing the offense on a 12-play, 81-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown. I think the Winston to Mike Evans combination is going to be a big one in Tampa this year. Tonight marks the 1st home game for coach Bruce Arians, a spot his counterpart won in last week. We've constantly harped on the added motivation a 1st year coach feels in his home debut and will use that situation to our advantage yet again here. 10* Tampa Bay
|08-15-19||BC +11 v. Winnipeg||Top||16-32||Loss||-105||21 h 20 m||Show|
8* British Columbia (8:30 ET): I successfully played on (BC) and against (Winnipeg) these teams last week and will keep those respective reads for Week 10. We all know that British Columbia has been struggling this year as last week's 35-34 loss to Hamilton dropped them to 1-7 SU on the year. But it was a game effort by the Lions as they came up just one point as big underdogs. I can see a similar story unfolding this week as Winnipeg is coming off a hard-fought 26-24 win over Calgary last week, one in which they failed to cover as 7.5-point favorites. I had the Stampeders plus the points in that one and will take the big number this week w/ B.C.
Like I just said, it was a game effort from the Leos LW. The actually outgained the Ti-Cats 437-355. The problem was being -3 in turnovers and that's why they blew a 34-19 lead. Giving up a long punt return late led to the game-winning score for Hamilton in the final minute. In the first half, they allowed a kickoff to be returned for a touchdown. Despite the tough loss, expect the Lions to come out roaring this week. QB Mike Reilly has his 4th 300+ yard game of the year against the Ti-Cats. WR Bryan Burnham had 149 yards and two touchdowns.
Burnham had 156 yards - on five catches - in the Week 1 meeting against Winnipeg. RB Andrew Harris went for 148 yds over land. The interesting thing about that opening week matchup is that the Blue Bombers closed as a pick em. They're now large favorites for the rematch, laying double digits at home. But after failing to cover three in a row and a tough division win over their nearest rival, this is a tough spot to be laying so many points. The Bombers haven't had a bye since Week 2. BC just had theirs two weeks ago and will come out desperate for a win here. 8* British Columbia
|08-10-19||Cowboys v. 49ers -4.5||Top||9-17||Win||100||28 h 36 m||Show|
8* San Francisco (9:00 ET): The degree to which they'll improve can be debated, but you should certainly expect the 49ers to be a better team in 2019. Oddsmakers are certainly "on board" w/ that line of thinking, posting an 8-win total for a team that won only 4 games a season ago. If you go back to this time last year, the Niners were actually a pretty trendy pick to improve. They were coming off a strong second half of 2017 w/ Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm. But Garoppolo was never really healthy and the team suffered badly. It also didn't help that they were a league-worst -25 in turnover differential. Trust me when I say virtually every sign is pointing "up" for San Francisco heading into this season.
Dallas had its own breakout in the second half of last season and ended up winning the NFC East and a playoff game over Seattle. They were 7-2 after acquiring WR Amari Cooper, but were also a lucky team in that they were 8-2 SU in games decided by seven points or less, six of those wins coming after getting Cooper. Also note that they only outscored opponents by 15 pts all of last season. I expect the Cowboys to regress (in terms of wins) in 2019. Whether or not you agree w/ me on that, you certainly have to agree that HC Jason Garrett has never been good in the preseason as his SU record is a lousy 12-21. That includes 0-4 last year.
While Garoppolo's health may rightly be a concern for 49ers' fans (he won't play at all here), they should rest at ease a little bit thanks to the fact that backup Nick Mullens has put up nearly identical numbers in the same number of games started. Mullens will start this game. There were some injury scares this week on the defensive side of the ball this week w/ Nick Bosa and Jason Varrett both getting hurt. Both are out for the preseason, but neither was going to play much here anyway. Look for San Francisco to make a statement at home in the preseason opener. 8* San Francisco
|08-10-19||BC +11 v. Hamilton||Top||34-35||Win||100||27 h 31 m||Show|
10* British Columbia (7:00 ET): It's been a rough start to the season in Western Canada, at least in B.C. where the beloved Lions are 1-6 and in last place. The Leos' lone victory this year came by one point, 18-17, on a last second rouge over a Toronto team that was winless all the way until last week. Five of the team's six losses have been by double digits and the last three have been by a total of 67 pts (including two 27-pt losses at home). My hope, obviously, is that the team is going to be a lot better off the bye. I think they will, so take the points against a wounded (literally & figuratively) Hamilton team.
Contrary to what's going on in B.C., Hamilton's season got off to a wonderful start. The Ti-Cats were really humming along at 5-1 after beating previously unbeaten Winnipeg, 23-15, in Week 7. But disaster struck in that game w/ QB Jeremiah Masoli getting injured. Coming into the year, Masoli was easily the best QB in the East Division and that's why I (along w/ so many others) thought that they would breeze to a first place finish. They still are in first, but things have gotten closer after LW's 24-19 loss to Saskatchewan. The Ti-Cats simply are not the same w/o Masoli, so that's why I'm preaching to be wary of this double-digit spread here.
I had the Under in LW's loss in Regina. While credit for Hamilton scoring only 19 pts could easily go to a Roughriders defense that previously held them to 17 pts in the opener, don't look past the change at QB. Dane Evans threw for just 129 yards last week, a far cry from what we're used to seeing from Masoli. Furthermore, the Hamilton offense has only managed 234.7 YPG the L3 weeks. With B.C. off its first bye of the year, I think they'll come out refreshed and easily cover this large spread. 10* British Columbia
|08-09-19||Bucs +2.5 v. Steelers||Top||28-30||Win||100||12 h 50 m||Show|
8* Tampa Bay (7:30 ET): The Bucs enter the 2019 season w/ a new head coach (Bruce Arians) and hopefully a new "lease on life." They still have some issues though, namely the same old QB (Jameis Winston) and a defense that gave up a frightening number of yards last season. But I think this team will enter the year somewhat underrated. They really weren't as bad as last year's 5-11 SU record indicates, considering they actually outgained opponents on a per play basis. What really hurt was losing six of the nine games decided by 7 pts or less and a -18 turnover margin. Arians will have them "ready to go" for this preseason opener and I'm taking the points.
Pittsburgh is also going to be better than a lot of people expect this year. Yes, they lost both RB Leveon Bell and WR Antonio Brown. But the former didn't play at all last season anyway and the latter's production can be offset by Ju Ju Smith-Schuster. Last year's nine-win season seemed like the "floor" for the Steelers, who were certainly more "unlucky" than bad. They too lost a lot of close games (5) and had a bad turnover margin (-11). I don't think they'll be as motivated as the Bucs tonight though. This is a team more focused on the regular season.
Looking at the backup QB situation, Tampa Bay has Blaine Gabbert, Nick Fitzgerald and Ryan Griffin. Not exactly a "murderer's row," but the player to watch is going to RB Ronald Jones, who is having a tremendous camp. Out of USC, Jones had a disappointing rookie season last year. But he seems like he's going to "break out" in 2019. Arians used to be the OC in Pittsburgh, so that only adds to his motivation here. He's been saying the right things all week and 1st year head coaches have treated us well so far in the preseason. Pittsburgh's backup QB rotation of Mason Rudolph, Joshua Dobbs and Devlin Hodges does not scare us. 8* Tampa Bay
|08-08-19||Chargers v. Cardinals -1||Top||13-17||Win||100||129 h 47 m||Show|
10* Arizona (10:00 ET): The Cardinals have a first year coach in Kliff Kingsbury, who certainly seemed to "fail his way up" after being fired at Texas Tech. Kingsbury will have a rookie QB in Kyler Murray (#1 overall DC), the former Heisman Trophy winner, who replaces another 1st round DC (from just last year!) in Josh Rosen (traded to Miami). Not much is expected this year from Arizona, but I believe they have the potential to be at least a little bit better than LY's disastrous 3-13 SU finish. Playing the 1st preseason game at home, with a new HC, they'll certainly be more motivated than the Chargers, so lay the short number.
Coming off a playoff appearance, the Chargers know "who they are" heading into 2019. Well, with one possible exception. RB Melvin Gordon is holding out and that could last into the regular season. Gordon was unlikely to play here anyway, same for QB Philip Rivers. Under HC Anthony Lynn, LA is 3-5 ATS in the preseason and has lost both years in Week 1. Another position of concern for the Bolts heading into the year is left tackle where anchor Russel Okung is out due to blood clots. Taking most of the snaps at QB will be the trio of Tyrod Taylor, Cardale Jones and rookie Easton Stick.
When we backed Denver in the Hall of Fame Game, it was made clear that 1st year HC's are something we target. These preseason games often come down to motivation and we saw the Broncos play down to the wire, scoring a late TD for the win. At home, Kingsbury should be especially motivated to win. Getting the fanbase on your side is a must. Murray is scheduled for 10-12 snaps hopefully while Brett Hundley (who we last saw filling in for an injured Aaron Rodgers in 2017) will play backup. 10* Arizona
|08-08-19||Calgary +9 v. Winnipeg||Top||24-26||Win||100||21 h 10 m||Show|
8* Calgary (8:30 ET): QB Bo Levi Mitchell (injured since Week 3) was eligible to return for this game, but just to illustrate how well things have gone w/ backup Nick Arbuckle in there, the Stampeders have elected to push back Mitchell's return at least one more week. Since losing in Week 1 to Ottawa (blew double digit lead), the Stamps have won five of six (only loss by 7 at Hamilton) to catch Winnipeg in the Western Division. The Blue Bombers started the season 5-0, but have subsequently dropped B2B games at a most inopportune time. Too many points here. Take Calgary as a dog.
After a 2-2 start, it seemed as if many were quick to write Calgary off. But their defense is playing as well as any in the league right now, giving up an average of just over 16 PPG during a three-game win streak. Arbuckle is doing an outstanding job here as well. Last week, he completed 19 of 28 passes for 189 yards in a 24-18 win over rival Edmonton. Honestly, that was one of Arbuckle's weaker efforts. He has two 350+ yard games under his belt. It's pretty rare to see the Stampeders as an underdog, certainly of this magnitude. Earlier this year, they pulled one outright upset on the road, beating Saskatchewan 37-10 as 5-point pups.
Much will be made of Winnipeg's motivation in this one coming off the terrible loss to Toronto last week. Plus, this is a rematch of LY's Western Final, which was won by the Stampeders 22-14 as five-point favorites. The Bombers seem to be the only team in the league that hasn't suffered an injury at QB and pivot Matt Nichols was playing like a MVP in leading the team to a 5-0 start. But he had an "off week" last week, throwing for a season-low 169 yds as the Bombers blew a 20-pt first half lead to lose by one, 28-27, in the closing seconds. The week before they lost to a Hamilton team that lost starter Jeremiah Masoli to injury. Calgary is catching Winnipeg at an opportune time and may not even need the points! 8* Calgary
|08-02-19||Mets v. Pirates +1.5||Top||4-8||Win||100||12 h 48 m||Show|
8* Pittsburgh Run Line (7:05 ET): Please note that this is a run line play only where I am backing the Pirates at +1.5. The Mets are a hot team right now and we backed them yesterday as they won for a seventh straight time, shutting out the White Sox 4-0. They'd previously swept Pittsburgh, who they're matched up again w/ this weekend. Last weekend's series was in Queens and while I've previously stated that recommendations on the Bucs will be "few and far between," I'm willing to take them at home here, with revenge and getting an additional run and a half.
This seven-game win streak has the Mets within two games of .500 and certainly viable in what's going to be a wide-open Wild Card race in the National League. But let's not go too far w/ the praise. I backed them yday because they were matched up w/ one of the very worst teams in all of baseball. Pittsburgh is probably the NL's 2nd worst team right now (Miami is definitely worse), but they're generally tougher to beat here at PNC Park. It's been an ugly stretch in the Steel City, that's for sure, as the Bucs come into this series having dropped 16 of 19 games since the Break. But five of those losses were by one run, including one to the Mets last weekend.
Admittedly, things don't look that great for the home team coming into this series. Not only have they been losing and are matched up w/ a hot team that just swept them, but they've got some suspensions to deal with as a result of the brawl w/ the Reds a few days ago. There is going to be a lot of pressure here on starter Trevor Williams, but he does have a 1.80 ERA in three previous starts vs. the Mets. He was a 3-0 loser to Steven Matz last Saturday and will oppose Matz again tonight. Matz went the distance in that game for his 1st CG shutout of 2019. But he has a 6.40 ERA and 1.654 WHIP on the road and won't be as effective this time around. 8* Pittsburgh Run Line (+1.5)
|08-01-19||Broncos -2.5 v. Falcons||Top||14-10||Win||100||27 h 48 m||Show|
10* Denver (8:00 ET): The Broncos enter the 2019 season w/ a new head coach (Vic Fangio) and new starting QB (Joe Flacco). Being that this is their first game under a new HC, I think they're more apt to take this Hall of Fame Game more seriously compared to their opponents, who largely are bringing back the same cast of characters from last year. First year head coaches are usually a target of mine in these preseason games as motivation is such a key factor in handicapping them. A new coach definitely wants to get the fanbase on his side and the best way to do that is through some wins, even if they occur in games that are rather meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Lay the points here.
Atlanta hasn't taken the preseason very seriously under Dan Quinn, at least I hope that the case because they've gone 5-11 SU in his four seasons here, including B2B 0-4 campaigns. So it's an eight-game preseason losing streak heading into this one for the Falcons. Were it a new coaching staff, I'd say they'd be motivated to end it. But with Quinn comfortable entering year five, I don't think it's a priority for him. Last year, the Falcons offense scored a grand total of 27 pts in four preseason games. QB Matt Ryan threw just two passes in Week 1 of the Preseason LY and may not play at all tonight. WR Julio Jones definitely isn't going to play.
Flacco and Ryan were both drafted in the same year (2008). Flacco has won a Super Bowl, but his best days seem to be behind him. He won't play Thursday, but the Broncos have an interesting battle going on for the backup QB role involving three rookies: Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Kevin Hogan. The hope is that Lock will win the job as he was drafted highest. But Hogan will start. This is something else to look for in the preseason, that being having motivated signal callers in the game, which ensures the offense will at least be a little more than "vanilla." History says the Broncos will be the more motivated side here. 10* Denver
|07-27-19||Saskatchewan v. BC +3||Top||45-18||Loss||-125||26 h 2 m||Show|
10* British Columbia (7:00 ET): It has not been a good start to the season for BC, who sits at 1-5 SU/ATS w/ their lone win coming on a last-second rouge over (still) winless Toronto back in Week 4. But I'll take a flier here as the Lions are a home dog in an immediate revenge spot vs. division rival Saskatchewan. Last week at Mosaic Stadium, the Roughriders prevailed 38-25 as six-point chalk. You may recall the fact I was on them. But comparing spreads, there definitely appears to be value on the home side as a dog this go around. Take the points.
A key factor in me playing Saskatchewan last week was the fact they were coming off a bye. They were certainly eager to take the field after being embarrassed two weeks prior (also at home) by Calgary, 37-10 as five-point favorites. BC has not yet had its bye (comes next week). With their next three games coming against Winnipeg and Hamilton, two on the road (yikes!), this week is absolutely the Lions best shot at a win between now and the end of August. Getting this one at home is also huge as Saskatchewan is 0-2 on the road having opened the season w/ losses at Hamilton and Ottawa. The Roughriders haven't played a road game in a little over a month.
The Lions actually outgained the Roughriders last week, 458-379, but gave up far too many "big plays" in the second half. For QB Mike Reilly, it was still a nice bounce back performance (31-40, 346 yds) after the disastrous game vs. Edmonton the week prior. Despite the 1-5 record, the Lions' offense actually leads the entire CFL in first downs w/ 130. With their season basically at stake here, I'll take them as a home dog. 10* British Columbia
|07-25-19||Toronto v. Edmonton -11||Top||0-26||Win||100||11 h 4 m||Show|
8* Edmonton (9:30 ET): The Eskimos are set to take the field just five days after they last played. That's hardly ideal, but the situation is actually worse for the visiting Argonauts, who are still winless (0-5) and playing their third road game in as many weeks. Four of the Argos' five losses have been by at least 10 points, including last week's when a sloppy second half led to a 26-16 defeat at the hands of Calgary. But the real reason the Argos are in trouble here may have nothing to do w/ them at all. Rather, it's the fact Edmonton was upset Saturday at Montreal as six-point chalk. I'm laying the points here as this could get ugly, in a hurry.
The Eskimos just played their L3 games all on the road, so they know the situation Toronto is facing all too well. It was a 20-10 defeat out in Montreal Saturday, the Esks' lowest scoring game of the season. But now they're back home where they've gone 2-0 so far this year, beating Montreal by seven and B.C. by 16. In particular, look for QB Trevor Harris to have a bounce back game tonight as the Argos' defense is giving up a league-worst 37.6 points per game. Despite a subpar game last week, Harris is still leading the league in passing yardage (1,633) w/ eight TD passes. Even w/o RB C.J. Gable and receiver DaVaris Daniels, Harris and the Edmonton offense should have no trouble moving the ball in this game.
It's not just the defense that's bad for the Argonauts. The offense is averaging a league-low 15.0 PPG and they come into this game w/o RB James Wilder Jr and slotback Armanti Edwards. Sure it was a game effort last week in Calgary, but seven turnovers doomed the Argos and they looked really bad in the second half. QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson (threw 4 INT's vs. Calgary) simply doesn't look "ready for primetime" and he'll be going against a defense that's giving up just 20.4 PPG, third fewest in the league. Going back to last year, Toronto has now lost 14 of its last 15 games. Again, lay the points here. 8* Edmonton
|07-20-19||BC v. Saskatchewan -4.5||Top||25-38||Win||100||19 h 8 m||Show|
10* Saskatchewan (7:00 ET): So I like the total in this matchup as well. But, coming off a bye, I expect the Roughriders to have little difficulty covering the spread. British Columbia is reeling right now as QB Mike Reilly had a nightmare game against his former team, Edmonton, a 33-6 loss at home. The Lions are very lucky not to be 0-4 right now as their lone win came in last second fashion, on a rouge, 18-17 over still winless Toronto. I think a pretty clear case can be made that B.C. is the West's weakest team this year and I'll lay the short number w/ the Roughriders.
As mentioned above, Saskatchewan is coming off its bye. Perhaps it came at an opportune time as they too are off an embarrassing home loss, theirs coming to Calgary, 37-10 as five-point favorites. That leaves the Riders at just 1-3 SU this year. But their first two losses came by just nine total points. They also dominated Toronto here, 32-7, something B.C. failed to do. A big key for the Riders lies at stopping the run. The first three games all saw them hold the opponent below 100 yds rushing. B.C. has really struggled to run the ball this year w/ only the Toronto game seeing them gain more than 91 yds over land. Three times they've been at 53 yards or less.
The Lions are barely averaging over 300 YPG so far. They also are barely averaging 20 PPG. I see the Roughriders having a bounce back game defensively. I realize backup Cody Fajardo struggled two weeks against Calgary, but this is a much weaker opponent he's facing this week. The Riders are 4-1 ATS off a bye and 12-5 ATS off a SU loss. 10* Saskatchewan
|07-19-19||Ottawa v. Winnipeg -10||Top||1-31||Win||100||11 h 5 m||Show|
10* Winnipeg (8:30 ET): The Blue Bombers have emerged as one of the CFL's top teams this year as they are the only unbeaten remaining at 4-0. But that's only part of the reason why they are such prohibitive favorites this week against the REDBLACKS. Thanks to an injury to starting QB Dominque Davis, Ottawa is going w/ Jonathan Jennings at the pivot this week. An offseason signing, Jennings has never started for the Redblacks previous to this. It's a tough spot and to make matters worse, the team is reeling having gone 0-3 SU/ATS the L3 games. Lay the number.
Winnipeg is off to its first 4-0 start in decades. The franchise hasn't started a year 5-0 since 1960 when they went 14-2 and won the Grey Cup. But this group looks to be something special as they've won every game by at least seven points, including 29-14 at Ottawa back in Week 4. The Bombers were actually four-point underdogs in that game, so obviously a lot has changed since then. The biggest is the Redblacks QB situation, but also it's become quite clear that the Bombers are among the league's elite teams this year. (Really, it's either them or Hamilton for #1).
Winnipeg is giving up the fewest points in the league right now (19.7 per game) while also averaging 34.5 PPG themselves. So as you can see, this really is a tough spot for Jennings to come in and make his Ottawa debut. The Redblacks have all of three passing TD's this year and all of them came in the Week 2 win over Sasktachewan. Since then, they've scored only 33 points (at a time when scoring is way up across the CFL) including last week's very disappointing 36-19 home loss to Montreal. Given how the Bombers dominated them the first time around, I can't see how this game goes any better for the Redblacks. 10* Winnipeg
|07-06-19||Calgary v. Saskatchewan -4||Top||37-10||Loss||-110||32 h 25 m||Show|
10* Saskatchewan (10:00 ET): Those well versed in CFL betting know that fading Calgary is something you didn't often do, even when the Stampeders were being asked to lay a big number. The Stamps have dominated this league the past several seasons, but a loss in LY's Grey Cup followed by a mass exodus of talent in the offseason have left them a shell of their former selves. The latest setback may be the biggest one of all as last week saw QB Bo Levi Mitchell go down w/ an "upper-body injury" that has landed him on the six-week injury list. I have no hesitation here in laying a short number to the Stamps in their first road game of 2019.
Despite the Mitchell injury, Calgary was able to come from behind and pull out a miraculous victory last week at BC. But the way they started the game probably doesn't speak well to the future. They were down 21-1 at one point (at home!) and trailed 32-21 in the fourth quarter. Mitchell's replacement, Nick Arbuckle, came in and delivered a stunning performance in relief by completing all nine pass attempts, two for touchdowns. But I wouldn't look for a repeat of that here against a stingy Roughriders defense. It's now a hostile environment for the Stampeders playing a team that smells "blood in the water."
Saskatchewan was my top side last week as well as they rolled Toronto 32-7 in the Mosiac Stadium opener. They rolled up 522 yds of total offense while allowing the Argos to gain only 314. Despite being 1-2, the Roughriders have outgained all three of their opponents this year. They have their own injury at QB (Zach Collaros out), but Cody Fajardo has come in and proved himself, leading the offense to 73 points in two starts. Expect the Roughriders' defense to do its job here as well. They face a Calgary offense that has run for just 73 yds this year, a big reason why the Stamps have been outgained in both games. Remember Saskatchewan won the season series from Calgary last year and that was a much better Stampeders team. 10* Saskatchewan
|07-05-19||Marlins +1.5 v. Braves||Top||0-1||Win||100||12 h 9 m||Show|
8* Run Line Miami (7:20 ET): Please note that this is a run line play only where I am taking the Marlins +1.5. Yet another revenge play where we'll have an additional 1.5 runs in our proverbial "back pocket." Normally I would not even consider the Marlins here, given the oddsmakers are giving them such a small shot of winning. But having the undefeated Jordan Yamamoto on the mound is definitely a "game changer." Yes, Atlanta has played well of late and they have owned the Marlins. But my view is that the road team does no worse than a one-run loss tonight.
The Braves are 22-6 vs. the Marlins since the start of last season, including 8-1 in 2019, but they've yet to face Yamamoto. Considered just a "throw in" as part of the deal that sent Christian Yelich to Milwaukee, Yamamoto has been a real "bright spot" on a last place team. He has a 4-0 TSR w/ a 2.35 ERA and 0.957 WHIP. After completely shutting down the Cardinals in two different starts (no runs allowed in 14 IP), Yamamoto moved on to face the Phillies twice and while not quite as dominant, he still allowed only five hits in 9 IP. There were some control issues in those starts, but I don't see that being a long-term issue for him.
I know Atlanta's offense has been red hot of late, but Yamamoto should "cool them off" somewhat tonight, thus opening the door for an upset. Note the last two times the Braves beat the Marlins, it was a one-run game. Here, you also have the fact that Julio Teheran has looked HORRIBLE of late. Friday's starter for Atlanta comes in w/ an 11.92 ERA and 2.736 WHIP over his L3 starts! He was a little better his last time out, but still lasted only 3 1/3 innings. We're getting the better pitcher +1.5 runs here, which is exceedingly rare and an opportunity that's simply too good to pass up. 8* Run Line Miami (+1.5)
|07-05-19||Yankees v. Rays +1.5||Top||8-4||Loss||-154||21 h 55 m||Show|
8* Run Line Tampa Bay (7:10 ET): Please note that this is a run line play only where I am taking the Rays +1.5. Fueled by the revenge angle, I took the Rays yday and it was a pretty brutal beat w/ them rallying to tie the game in the ninth, only to then lose 8-5 (in 10 innings). They're now 2-8 against the Yankees this year, which largely explains why they're looking at a 7.5 game deficit in the AL East standings heading into the final weekend before the All-Star Break. While many will disagree, I don't feel that the Yankees are substantially better than the Rays, so the head to head record seems a little misleading. With an extra 1.5 runs in their "back pocket," TB is again the play tonight.
Then again, maybe the Rays won't even need the +1.5. Ultimately, the run line would NOT have helped last night as they gave up five runs in the top of the 10th, but they held the Yankees to just three runs in nine innings. Tampa continues to pace the entire league w/ only 3.7 rpg allowed, so them getting the +1.5 here could be potentially huge. Brendon McKay gets the start tonight and it's hard to be any better than he was exactly one week ago in his big league debut where he held Texas scoreless for six innings. He retired the first 16 batters that he saw and allowed just one hit.
It'll likely be tougher for McKay this time around, facing the Yankees, but I think he's up for the challenge. While there's no way Masahiro Tanaka will be as bad as he was his last time out, hopefully the dreadful performance over in London last weekend has him shaken. In what ended up as a ridiculously high scoring series, Tanaka couldn't even make it out of the first inning as he gave up six runs to the Red Sox. That's obviously "out of character" for him, but Tanaka is only 5-5 in 17 starts this year and the team is only 2-4 in his six starts away from home. The Rays do no worse than a one-run loss here. 8* Run Line Tampa Bay (+1.5)
|07-01-19||Toronto v. Saskatchewan -10||Top||7-32||Win||100||12 h 49 m||Show|
10* Saskatchewan (7:00 ET): In my analysis for last week's Hamilton @ Toronto game, I wrote the following "I think it speaks volumes that - off a less than stellar offensive showing in Week 1 - Hamilton would be favored on the road here against a Toronto team coming off an opening week bye. That probably speaks more to the current state of the Argos than anything else. They went 4-14 SU last season (worst record in the league) after winning the Grey Cup in 2017. They enter 2019 w/ plenty of uncertainty, particularly at the QB position. I'm laying the points here."
Well, that turned out to be a sharp move as Hamilton ANNIHILATED Toronto by a score of 64-14. As a result, the Argos opened as double digit dogs this week at Saskatchewan, who is also winless on the season (0-2). But the Roughriders can at least lay claim to being competitive in both of their defeats. In fact, they outgained both Hamilton and Ottawa and that was on the road. This is the season opener at Mosaic Stadium and comes on Canada Day, so you can expect a rabid crowd. I expect the Riders to reward their fans w/ a blowout victory here tonight.
Even though they've lost both games, there is plenty of reason to believe in this Saskatchewan team here, even w/ QB Zach Collaros on the six-week injured list. The defense held Hamilton to just 23 points in Week 1, a significant achievement considering what the Ti-Cats have done subsequently. Then last week, under the direction of QB Cody Fajardo, they still scored 41 points on Ottawa. Unlike the Redblacks, Toronto is probably not capable of trading scores here as they came into the season w/ major questions at the pivot (QB) and those certainly were no closer to being answered following Week 1. The Argonauts managed just 214 total yards vs. Hamilton and the defense was shredded for 600+ yards while giving up touchdowns on each of the first six drives. Lay the points 10* Saskatchewan
|06-27-19||Edmonton v. Winnipeg -5||Top||21-28||Win||100||11 h 32 m||Show|
8* Winnipeg (8:30 ET): Winnipeg is off a bye and has only played once, a 33-23 win over B.C. where they were +3 in turnover differential. Edmonton is 2-0, but will be playing on the road for the first time this season. So the stakes are high for this early season Western Division showdown. I'm going to lay the points w/ the Blue Bombers as I feel they are going to present some more challenges offensively than what the Eskimos have seen so far this season.
Edmonton is off a spirited win over B.C., 39-23 as 2.5-pt favorites, a game where the sharp money had lined up AGAINST them. But they were able to contain former pivot Mike Reilly and the rest of the Lions offense, holding them to just 157 total yards of offense. With that performance, Edmonton is #1 in the league in yards per game allowed through two weeks. They are also #1 in yards gained on offense due to piling up over 600 in the opening week win over Montreal (32-25). But make no mistake about it, playing on the road for the first time, this is going to be the Esks toughest challenge.
These rivals have split the last eight meetings. This will be Winnipeg's first home game as well. Interesting to note that Edmonton was just 2-7 SU on the road last season en route to a last place finish. The two teams they've beaten so far are a combined 0-3. Winnipeg's Andrew Harris ran for 148 yards on 16 carries in the opener and is the player to watch here. Look for the Bombers to reign supreme Thursday night. 8* Winnipeg
|06-22-19||Hamilton -3.5 v. Toronto||Top||64-14||Win||100||47 h 6 m||Show|
10* Hamilton (7:00 ET): I think it speaks volumes that - off a less than stellar offensive showing in Week 1 - Hamilton would be favored on the road here against a Toronto team coming off an opening week bye. That probably speaks more to the current state of the Argos than anything else. They went 4-14 SU last season (worst record in the league) after winning the Grey Cup in 2017. They enter 2019 w/ plenty of uncertainty, particularly at the QB position. I'm laying the points here.
Hamilton won its season opener, 23-17 over Saskatchewan. Many were surprised the Ti-Cats didn't score more given the way their offense performed under June Jones down the stretch last season. They are the one team in the East that entered the year settled at QB as Jeremiah Masoli threw for 5,209 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. Even with wideout Luke Tasker out for this game, the Ti-Cats have a deep group of playmakers that are more than capable of moving the ball. Remember they were facing a tough Saskatchewan defense last week. Toronto's simply is not of that same caliber.
The Argos haven't had much success against their provincial rival in recent years, covering only 3 of the last 15 matchups. Hamilton took three of four last year, including both here in Toronto. While Corey Chamblin is back as the head coach of the Argos (previously served as DC here for the Grey Cup team in '17), he has his work cut out for him. I really think they're going to struggle to score points early on. QB James Franklin is a big question mark. The defense isn't as talented as the group Chamblin had two years ago. Hamilton makes a statement here that they are the team to beat in the Eastern Division. 10* Hamilton
|06-21-19||BC +4 v. Edmonton||Top||23-39||Loss||-107||28 h 16 m||Show|
8* British Columbia (9:00 ET): In Week 1, B.C. learned first-hand that Winnipeg may very well be "as good as advertised." The Lions were dealt a 33-23 loss by the Blue Bombers, at home no less, which is obviously NOT how they wanted to start the season. Meanwhile, Edmonton opened its season by downing Montreal 32-25 in a home game that was less competitive than the final score would indicate. The Eskimos outgained the Alouettes, 608-299, but needed a late score after the Als actually tied things up w/ a 4Q comeback. But let's not kid ourselves. The Als are the worst team in the CFL.
More than anything else, it was a -3 turnover differential that killed BC last week. They didn't have a balanced attack on offense (only 4 yds rushing on 4 attempts), but QB Mike Reilly had a solid debut as he completed 22 passes for 324 yards. Winnipeg was far more balanced on offense w/ 170 yards rushing and 180 passing. I expect the Leos defense to be a lot more stout this week against the Eskimos, who don't have an Andrew Harris (who led the league in rushing last year for Winnipeg). This is a big game for Reilly after he chose to leave Edmonton for B.C. in the offseason.
The pivot (QB) who replaced Reilly is Trevor Harris and he was the league's most accurate passer in Week 1. But for any Eskimos fans wanting to say "good riddance" to Reilly, they better be careful what they wish for. This will be a much more challenging game than Week 1 was for Edmonton. It's highly unlikely that they'll enjoy anything close to the massive edge in total yardage that was present vs. Montreal. Thus, I'm taking the points here. BC will run the ball more here (how could they not?) against an Eskimos' defense that permitted 134 yds on 17 carries last week. Also, the Lions have a big edge on special teams, thanks to return man Brandon Rutley, who had a 108-yard return for TD against Winnipeg. 8* British Columbia
|06-20-19||Angels v. Blue Jays +1.5||Top||5-7||Win||100||10 h 11 m||Show|
8* Run Line Toronto (7:07 ET): Please note that this is a run line play only where I am taking the Blue Jays +1.5. Toronto just can't seem to beat the Angels as last night's 11-6 loss dropped them to 0-6 head to head this season. But that's where the RL can at least help us this evening as they look to avoid what would be a pretty embarrassing four-game sweep in their own ballpark. Home teams rarely get swept in four-game series, so that & the revenge angle have me taking the Jays +1.5 here.
Now last night I did take the Angels. It was the second time in the series that they scored 10 or more runs. The middle game was a lot different as that was only a 3-1 win where they had to rally. Last night was all about Mike Trout as he had a career-high 7 RBI's, including his sixth career grand slam. The loss dropped Toronto to 12-25 at home this year as they have the lowest team batting average in all of baseball. It may not appear that tonight's starter Clayton Richard (10.21 ERA, 2.026 WHIP L3 starts) is poised to help the cause, but LA is just 11-17 in games where they face a southpaw starter.
Richard had one really bad outing, that came the last time he pitched here at home (vs. Arizona). But other than that (gave up 7 runs in 2 2/3 IP), he hasn't been all that bad. It's not as if Angels starter Jose Suarez has been "lights out" either. He's allowed a HR in each of his three starts and has a 4.50 ERA. He's also yet to go more than 5 2/3 innings in any start. To me, this simply boils down to the "just due" factor for Toronto as they are on their longest home losing streak in 15 seasons. Meanwhile, this is the first time the Angels have been above .500 since they were 8-7 on April 13th. 8* Run Line Toronto (+1.5)
|06-18-19||Angels v. Blue Jays +1.5||Top||3-1||Loss||-140||10 h 27 m||Show|
8* Toronto RUN LINE (7:07 ET): Please note that this is a run line play only where I am taking the Blue Jays at +1.5. I was set to make this very same wager last night. But Toronto made a last minute pitching change, thereby rendering the play "no action." It's a good thing too, as they lost 10-5 to the Angels. But I'll come back w/ TOR +1.5 today as we're assured of having a much more capable starter on the mound (Marcus Stroman). Though the Angels are 4-0 vs. the Blue Jays so far in 2019, I'm not convinced they are a demonstrably better ballclub in any real, tangible way.
Stroman definitely looked good his last time out, which ended up being a rare Toronto win. He allowed just two runs - only one earned - across six innings as the Blue Jays beat Baltimore. It was also the fifth time in the last six starts that Stroman allowed 3 ER or fewer. Last night's pitching was a disaster for Toronto as Edwin Jackson came in during the second inning and allowed seven runs. That's not going to happen w/ Stroman on the mound. While the Jays definitely have been struggling this year, what makes yday's defeat so disappointing is the fact they were coming off a big 12-0 win over Houston on Sunday.
With the win yday, the Angels moved within a game of .500. This isn't the first time they've had a chance to pull "even" on the season and every time previous seems to follow a predictable pattern. The last seven times LA has had a chance to move to .500, they have lost. Tyler Skaggs will start for them on Tuesday and quality starts from him have been few and far between, especially on the road where his ERA (6.11) and WHIP (1.471) are both poor. Last night's game couldn't have gotten off to a better start for the Angels, but I expect the Blue Jays to get revenge here. 8* Toronto RUN LINE (+1.5)
|06-13-19||Raptors v. Warriors -2.5||Top||114-110||Loss||-109||25 h 40 m||Show|
10* Golden State (9:05 ET): I just can't see the Warriors losing this game. Not after what happened in Game 5. I'm not referring to the Kevin Durant injury, of course, though that should not be minimized. Rather, I'm talking about how Golden State saved its season AFTER the Durant injury, "stealing" the game by a score of 106-105. Another reason I can't see the Dubs losing here is the fact Toronto won the first two games played here in Oakland. Them going 3-0 SU at Oracle Arena just seems far-fetched. I'll gladly lay the short number here as I'm concerned about the Raptors' psyche.
The loss of Durant is obviously significant. The Warriors lost three of the first four Finals games without him (though they were previously 5-0 w/o him since the initial injury). But the Game 5 comeback did not require his presence. It was the "Splash Brothers" (Curry & Thompson) combining to hit three consecutive three-pointers (after being down six) late in the fourth quarter. I've said previously that if there's one team that could overcome an injury to a player the caliber of Durant, it would be the talent-rich Warriors. They still have four former All-Stars on this roster, one of them a former league MVP himself (Curry).
Durant did have 11 pts in 12 mins in Game 5, but after the injury took place, Golden State still expanded its lead to as many as 14 points. (By the way, it should also be pointed out that Kevon Looney reaggravated his injury & is also done for the series). Now they are back at home where they don't lose often - let alone three times in a row. That's the key for me as this one seems destined to go to a Game 7. Toronto was minutes away from its first ever NBA Title and now has to go to a hostile environment instead. I admit that this is far more of a "gut" play than a technical one, something I don't do often. But it's the right call here. 10* Golden State
|06-07-19||Raptors v. Warriors -4.5||Top||105-92||Loss||-110||23 h 16 m||Show|
10* Golden State (9:05 ET): While it's the Warriors' fifth straight year in the Finals, this particular edition appears to be in no way as dominant as the previous four (three of which won at all). After taking a 123-109 loss in Game 3 (at home!), the Dubs have now trailed by double digits in each of their last six games. They've actually won four of those, but no Kevin Durant and no Klay Thompson proved too big of an obstacle to overcome Wednesday night. Thankfully, Thompson is going to be back for Game 4. Off a loss, I'm laying the short number w/ Golden State at home.
Few gave them a chance of winning this series, but the Raptors are definitely making everyone sit up and take notice. While it hasn't been quite the same stifling defense that we saw in the first three rounds (held Orlando, Philadelphia and Milwaukee under 100 PPG), Toronto has held Golden State to exactly 109 pts in all three games, which is 8.4 PPG under its season average. Offensively, the Raptors have hit on all cylinders in two of three games (should be easy to figure out which two!). Game 3 saw them shoot 52.4% overall, their highest FG% in any game this postseason. All five starters scored at least 17 points, including Danny Green going 6 of 10 from three-point range. I just can't envision a similar offensive showing from the Raptors here.
Meanwhile, Golden State should certainly improve offensively w/ Thompson back in the fold. They shot just 39.6% from the floor in Game 3, their LOWEST field goal percentage in any game this postseason. Without Durant, the Dubs had managed just fine, losing only one time (Game 1 in Toronto). Steph Curry has shown he's more than capable of picking up the scoring slack, which should be assumed considering he's a former league MVP himself. Curry just went for 47 points in Game 3, his career playoff high. You have to assume Golden State will be a lot better on both ends of the floor here. They are 8-3 ATS following a SU loss going back to the regular season. Not since X-Mas have they been off a DD loss and lost again their next time out. 10* Golden State
|06-02-19||Warriors v. Raptors -2||Top||109-104||Loss||-109||37 h 27 m||Show|
10* Toronto (8:05 ET): Purveyors of the famed "zig zag theory" (bet the ATS loser of the previous game) may be quick to hop on the Warriors here, but allow me to pump the brakes on that notion right off that. Isn't a big part of the zig zag theory anti-public perception (i.e. buy low on a team that just lost)? My read here is that most are going to expect Golden State to bounce back from the 118-109 loss in Game 1. But for all the same reasons I liked the Raptors in the series, I like them again here. They're again undervalued. They play great defense. Kevin Durant is still out. So lay the short number w/ the home team.
Golden State was off a long layoff going into Game 1 as they swept Portland in the Western Conference Finals. But that was a highly misleading sweep to say the least. In three of the four games, they trailed an inferior Blazers squad by double digits. Before that series, no team in NBA Playoff history had ever come back to win TWO straight when trailing by that many. The loss of Durant has become an underrated factor because the Warriors were able to sweep that last series (and because they closed out Houston w/o his services). I'd like to now reiterate something I said in my Game 1 analysis & that's the Dubs have been one of the WORST teams to bet on this season. Only the Lakers & Knicks had worse regular season ATS records.
Something else worth reiterating is that Toronto has played outstanding defense in the playoffs. They held the previous three opponents (Orlando, Philadelphia & Milwaukee) to 99.6 PPG on 41.7% shooting. At home is where the numbers get real impressive, especially if you take away the fact that Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals was a double overtime game (where Toronto barely trailed). Do that and the Raptors are giving up just under 96 PPG in regulation here at the Air Canada Centre. They just held the Bucks, who were the only team to average more points per game in the regular season than the Warriors, to 102 pts or less in regulation each of the last four games. Golden State was obviously held under its season average in Game 1. 10* Toronto
|05-30-19||Warriors v. Raptors -1||Top||109-118||Win||100||104 h 16 m||Show|
10* Toronto (9:05 ET): Despite being w/o Kevin Durant for (at least) Game 1, Golden State enters the NBA Finals as a prohibitive favorite for a fifth consecutive year. Of course, twice they made it here w/o Durant's services, but one of those was their only Finals loss. Unlike the previous four years, the Warriors will not be playing the Cleveland Cavaliers (no more LeBron!). Instead, it will be the Toronto Raptors. Interestingly enough, this will also be the 1st time the Dubs do NOT have home court advantage in the NBA Finals. Despite being prohibitive favorites to win this series, they have been bet to the underdog role for Gm 1 after opening as an ever-so slight favorite. I completely agree w/ the line move and will take the Raptors here as my *10* Game of the Year!
Toronto has played outstanding defense in the playoffs, holding the previous three opponents (Orlando, Philadelphia & Milwaukee) to 99.6 PPG on 41.7% shooting. At home is where the numbers get real impressive, especially if you take away the fact that Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals was a double overtime game (where Toronto barely trailed). Do that and the Raptors are giving up just under 96 PPG in regulation here at the Air Canada Centre. They just held the Bucks, who were the only team to average more points per game in the regular season than the Warriors, to 102 pts or less in regulation each of the last four games. So I do believe they are capable of limiting the Durant-less Dubs offensively here at home.
Golden State certainly has the edge in rest coming into the Finals. They last played a game on May 20th, giving them a full nine days off heading into Game 1. But that brings up the old "rest vs. rust" debate. Their turnarounds were much quicker between the last two series. Then there is the matter that the Warriors trailed by DOUBLE DIGITS in each of the last three games against Portland. No team in NBA history had ever rallied from B2B 13+ pt deficits to win in the playoffs, let alone three straight times. Toronto has Kawhi Leonard, who has been a man possessed this postseason, averaging 31.2 PPG on better than 50% shooting. Golden State had one of the worst ATS records in the league in the regular season and was 0-2 SU/ATS vs. the Raptors. 10* Toronto
|05-25-19||Bucks v. Raptors -2.5||Top||94-100||Win||100||29 h 49 m||Show|
10* Toronto (8:35 ET): The Raptors are now leading this series, three games to two, and quite frankly deserve to be up. Aside from a poor performance in Game 2 at Milwaukee, they have outplayed the Bucks. They easily could have won Game 1 (but blew the lead late). Games 3 & 4 here in Toronto were basically wire to wire victories (even though the former went to double overtime). Then in Game 5, they gave the Bucks a taste of their own medicine in rallying to steal a win. That upset was the 1st SU win by a road team in the ECF and now has Toronto knocking on the door of their first ever NBA Finals appearance. I'll lay the short number w/ them at home.
That the Raptors were able to win on the road - despite shooting only 36.9% from the floor - is a minor miracle. They came back from an early double digit deficit, led by Kawhi Leonard's 35 points, to win 105-99 as a 7.5-pt underdog. Now they're back home where they are 7-2 SU in the playoffs. But what's been most impressive of all about the Raptors has been their defense. They're allowing just 99.9 PPG in the playoffs, on 41.2% shooting. The last three games have seen them hold the Bucks, the league's top scoring team from the regular season, to 102 pts or less in regulation.
Even more impressive is that no opponent has scored more than 104 in regulation here in Toronto during the playoffs. I had the Under in Game 5 and called for the Raptors' bench to cool significantly after the hot shooting from Game 4. Well, now that they're back "North of the Border," I expect the bench to be a factor again. Admittedly, it is tough to pick the Bucks' season to end, but the Game 5 loss was a crusher. That the Raptors have shot barely above 40% in the series and have a chance to close things out is a bad sign for Milwaukee. I expect another offensive game from Toronto similar to Game 4. 10* Toronto
|05-21-19||Bucks v. Raptors +2.5||Top||102-120||Win||102||12 h 14 m||Show|
8* Toronto (8:35 ET): My condolences to anyone who may have had the Under in Game 3, which was an all-time bad beat as it took not one, but TWO overtimes to send the game Over the total. Toronto was definitely happy w/ the result, however, as the 118-112 win enabled them to "get back" in the series. Now only down 2-1 in the series (as opposed to the 3-0 "death knell"), a win here by the Raptors would reduce this Eastern Conference Finals to a best of three affair. I cashed the home dog last night in a "must-win" scenario and while they didn't win, they were covering virtually wire to wire. I'll take the points again tonight.
Had it not been for OT, Game 3 would have marked the seventh straight home game that Toronto held its opponent below 100 pts. That's a pretty remarkable accomplishment in the modern NBA. For the entire playoffs, they are holding teams to 99.8 points per game on 41.2% shooting. At home, the PPG allowed average drops to 95.3. The most pts they've allowed in regulation for any home playoff game is 104. Coming into this series, they'd allowed 100+ pts in just 3 of 12 playoff games and two of those were on the road.
The Raptors were definitely outclassed in Game 2 at Milwaukee, but led most of the way in both Games 1 and 3. Game 1 was an infamous chokejob, similar to what we saw from Portland throughout the Western Conference Finals. Toronto led that game by as many as 13 and was up seven entering the 4th quarter. Game 3 did see them outscored in each of the final three quarters, however, the Bucks led just twice in the entire game: 2-0 and then 105-103 in double overtime. I feel the Raptors should be favored in this game (as they were in Game 3). 8* Toronto
|05-20-19||Warriors v. Blazers +4||Top||119-117||Win||100||14 h 42 m||Show|
10* Portland (9:05 ET): It's all come down to this for the Blazers, who must win tonight or their season is over. Obviously, their chances of coming back to take this series currently rank somewhere between slim and none. But considering they've led each of the last two games by double digits at halftime, I won't hesitate in backing them at home. Especially now that they are an underdog, which was not the case for Game 3. Also, Portland is 12-1 ATS at home the L2 seasons when playing w/ revenge for a double digit loss (lost Game 3 by 11 points). Take the points here.
Coming into this series, no team in NBA history had ever won B2B playoff games in which it trailed by more than 13 points. That's changed now w/ the Warriors doing just that in both Games 2 and 3. Game 2 was bad enough as Portland blew an eight-point lead w/ just over four minutes to go (and they led by 15 at half). But Game 3 may have been even worse as the Blazers led that game by as many as 18 in the first half, at home, and not only didn't win, but they didn't cover either. It was a double digit loss (110-99) where they were held to a measly 33 points after halftime.
Portland averages 118 PPG at home for the year, so we should a bounce back performance offensively tonight, at least relative to the second half disaster from Saturday. They scored 66 points in the first half, so they're certainly capable of scoring against this Warriors team, which by the way remains w/o both Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. Sure, the Warriors still have three other All Stars on the roster, a luxury almost unheard of in the history of this league. But they are also 1-7 ATS their L8 games following an ATS win and also 19-42-2 ATS when off a double digit victory. 10* Portland
|05-18-19||Warriors v. Blazers -2||Top||110-99||Loss||-113||13 h 23 m||Show|
10* Portland (9:05 ET): Needless to say, the Blazers have to have this game. They blew a "golden" (pun intended!) opportunity to steal one on the road, losing Game 2 114-111 after leading almost the whole way. It was in many ways reminiscent of what happened to Toronto in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Now we know how the follow-up for the Raptors went (they were blown out), but I think it'll be different for Portland as they are at home for Game 3 and in a virtual "must-win" situation. The Blazers are 4-1 ATS following a SU loss in the playoffs, including covering Game 2. Lay the short number here.
Portland was up 15 at halftime in Game 2 and looked well on their way to pulling the outright upset. Even w/ just over four minutes to go in the game, they were up eight and that was after the Warriors came back to tie things up after three quarters. But that's when the wheels came off as Golden State ended the game on a 14-3 run. As disappointing a loss as it was, I fully expect the Blazers to play better here at home. They didn't really shoot the ball well in either of the first two games w/ Damian Lillard being the biggest offender at just 10 of 28 overall from the field. At home, the Blazers average 118.1 PPG, which is well up from the 109.9 PPG they average on the road.
When Kevin Durant was lost to injury, I said you should expect Steph Curry to pick up the scoring load for the Warriors. That's exactly what has happened w/ the former league MVP scoring 30+ points in each of the L3 games. But now that they're playing on the road, don't be surprised to see Golden State struggle a bit more to score. By the way, Portland has not lost three straight games since early December. Since that time, they are 6-0 SU off B2B losses, covering the spread five times. Lillard is going to play better here and the Blazers will win. 10* Portland
|05-17-19||Raptors +6.5 v. Bucks||Top||103-125||Loss||-100||12 h 1 m||Show|
10* Toronto (8:35 ET): Each of the last two nights in the NBA playoffs, we've seen the underdog lose (straight up) in the most painful way possible, that being giving away the lead late after losing most of the game. Portland was up by 15 at halftime last night, but at least they still ended up covering (+7.5). Toronto couldn't even do that, even after leading almost the entirety of Game 1 here in Milwaukee. The Raptors, specifically Kawhi Leonard, wilted late and didn't score a single basket over the final four minutes. The end result was them losing 108-100 as a 6.5-pt underdog.
As the final seconds of Game 1 ticked away, the announcers were not shy about "shoveling some dirt" on the Raptors' proverbial grave. "This is like losing two games," they exclaimed. Reggie Miller and Chris Webber are of course both pretty bad and I think the demise of Toronto has been greatly exaggerated here. Again, the did lead almost the entire way in Game 1. We're not necessarily asking them to win tonight, they only need to cover. Given how good they have been defensively in the playoffs (only 96.9 PPG allowed), covering the spread is more than reasonable here.
What makes the Game 1 result all the more infuriating for the Raptors is that Kyle Lowry played very well, scoring 30 points on 10 of 15 shooting (made seven three-pointers). But Leonard faded badly down the stretch (fatigue?) w/ only two points in the fourth quarter (still ended up w/ a team-high 31). Pascal Siakam (15 pts) was the only other Raptor in double figures, so it'll need to be more of a "team effort" this time around. Again, definitely possible and make note of the fact Toronto is 10-1 ATS this season when coming off 3 or more ATS losses. They have not lost B2B games SU since late March. 10* Toronto
|05-15-19||Raptors +6.5 v. Bucks||Top||100-108||Loss||-105||12 h 37 m||Show|
10* Toronto (8:35 ET): This will be just the second time this postseason that the Raptors have been underdogs. Given the kind of defense we've seen from them in the first two rounds, this would seem to be a nice value. The only previous time they were getting points in these playoffs was Game 4 of the Philadelphia series (+2), a contest they actually opened as the slight favorite and wound up winning outright, 101-96. I had them there. While I won't guarantee an outright victory this time around, taking the points is definitely the way to go in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
As stated above, the defense we're seeing from the Raptors in the playoffs has been pretty remarkable. They are giving up just 96 PPG on 41.3% shooting. Now they will be facing the top scoring team in the league now, but I think Toronto will be up to the challenge. Just twice in the last 11 games have the Raptors given up over 100 points. While both exceptions came on the road (at Philadelphia), don't think for a second that Toronto won't be able to score here as well. They average 113.1 PPG and while they hit that average only once in the Philly series, don't be surprised at a breakout offensive performance tonight.
Milwaukee had a much easier time than expected w/ Boston in Round 2. That has them as the overwhelming favorite to win this series. But, make no mistake, the Raptors are a better team than the dysfunctional Celtics. The Bucks also lost Game 1 to Boston on this court. That's their only loss of the postseason, but still. There is a question of "rest vs. rust" here w/ Milwaukee having been off for so long (last played exactly one week ago). And the Bucks' track record is not good in this spot as they are just 5-14-1 ATS the L20 times they've played on three or more days rest. 10* Toronto
|05-14-19||Blazers +8 v. Warriors||Top||94-116||Loss||-115||13 h 13 m||Show|
8* Portland (9:05 ET): Considering the Blazers were able to win twice in Denver (who had the league's best home record), there's no reason to doubt they can't win a game at Golden State. Plus the Warriors are playing without their best player Kevin Durant. Now we certainly can't discount the embarrassment of riches the Dubs enjoy, talent-wise. They still have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. But this was a team that was certainly susceptible to losing at home in the regular season and they lost twice here in the 1st round to the Clippers. They are only 18-28-1 ATS in all home games for the year. Take the points in Game 1.
Golden State won all three home games in the Houston series, but those three victories were by a total of 15 points and none by greater than six. When they went into Game 6 at Houston w/o Durant, there was a pretty clear overadjustment by the oddsmakers in terms of both the side and total. It was the most points the Warriors were getting for any playoff game under HC Steve Kerr and they took advantage by pulling an outright upset. But, here, it appears as if they (meaning the oddsmakers) have overcompensated the "other way" in that there seems as if there's been NO adjustment for Durant's absence.
Portland did win here once in the regular season, right after Christmas, 110-109 as nine-point underdogs (in OT). Overall, they split the four regular season meetings. The Warriors were at "full strength" in all four of those games as well. Both losses found Golden State coming in extra motivated. They were on a four-game losing streak (longest of the Kerr-era) heading into the season's first meeting and then it was the second game of a home and home (Portland won the first) the other time they beat the Blazers. No such additional motivation is present here. If anything, I expect Portland to be the more motivated side. 8* Portland
|05-12-19||76ers +6 v. Raptors||Top||90-92||Win||100||32 h 56 m||Show|
10* Philadelphia (7:05 ET): If you're a little surprised that I'd be taking the 76ers in this winner take all situation, well, join the club. Given how I'd played this series so far (only taking Toronto when playing the side), I wouldn't have thought I'd be on the underdog in Game 7 either. But over the course of the series, it's become pretty clear to me that these teams are more evenly matched than I thought, even though Philly was destroyed here (by 36 pts!) in Game 5. They responded by taking Game 6 (at home), 112-101. Only two of the six games so far have been decided by single digits, but I think this one will be. Take the points.
I've talked about the Raptors' defense being exceptional in previous analysis. But Philadelphia has managed to shoot well against them in two of the past four games. Granted, both were at home where they average a far higher number of points per game. But I think a big key here is going to be Joel Embiid's health. He definitely appeared over his illness in Game 6 where he scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Jimmy Butler led all Sixers' scorers w/ 25 points and also had eight rebounds and six assists.
While Toronto's Kawhi Leonard has been the best player in the series - for either team - his teammates have not always been there to support him. In Game 6, Pascal Siakam was the only other Raptor w/ more than 13 points. The starting five combined to go 7 of 28 from three-point range. While it certainly can be argued that we'll see improvement from the "supporting cast" here at home in Game 7, I don't think it'll be enough to cover the generous pointspread. Philly has its "demons" here in Toronto (lost 15 of last 16 visits), but I believe can keep this one close, if not pull the outright upset. 10* Philadelphia
|05-12-19||Hurricanes +1.5 v. Bruins||Top||2-6||Loss||-201||28 h 16 m||Show|
6* Puck Line Carolina (3:05 ET): Please note that this is a puck line play only where I am taking the Hurricanes +1.5. Carolina is a team that has been kind to me in the past in these playoffs and if there's one key indicator of their "surprising" success, it would be Corsi For %, a metric that takes into account how much time a team is possessing the puck compared to its opponent. The Hurricanes were #1 in the league in this department during the regular season. Game 1 got away from them late here in Boston. I say they'll do no worse than a one-goal loss here.
Game 1 was a 5-2 loss for the 'Canes, but note they actually led going into the third period, 2-1. The Bruins struck for four goals in the third period, a shocking output considering they allowed all of five goals total in the Islanders series (a 4-game sweep). The loss also snapped a 6-game win streak for Carolina, a streak which had seen them give up only nine goals total. After falling down 0-2 in the 1st round series to Washington, Carolina has won 8 of 10 and only once allowed more than three goals in a game before Game 1 of this series. They have gone a perfect 4-0 after the L4 times they allowed 5+ goals in a game.
Boston has now won four straight and seven of its last nine games. Note that Game 1 turned w/ the Bruins scoring on back to back power plays, just 28 seconds apart. Note the Bruins' 4th goal came on an empty net. Petr Mrazek was back in goal for Carolina and made 23 saves and I don't think showed any ill-effects from the injury suffered in Game 2 against the Islanders. The Hurricanes outshot the Bruins in Game 1, nothing new for them as they led the league in shot per game differential in the regular season. Take the +1.5. 6* Puck Line Carolina (+1.5)
|05-09-19||Raptors -2 v. 76ers||Top||101-112||Loss||-109||13 h 51 m||Show|
8* Toronto (8:05 ET): The Raptors completely annihilated the 76ers in Game 5, winning by 36 points, thus setting up a situation where they need just one more win to advance. I took Toronto in both Games 4 and 5, feeling they were pretty clearly the better team here, and will take them again here to finish off Philadelphia's season. While the Sixers are obviously a stronger team here at home, the spread is now basically a non-factor w/ Toronto being on the road. Also, the Raptors have really owned this Atlantic Division rivalry through the years, winning 24 of the last 29 meetings. Lay the short number here.
Fortunately, to make up for Philadelphia's likely large increase in offense from the last game, Toronto can score too. Especially when the ball is in Kawhi Leonard's hands. In this series, Leonard is averaging 34.6 points to go along w/ 9.8 rebounds per game. He's shooting at an incredible 58.3% clip. Keep in mind that Game 5 was the first time in the series Leonard did NOT score at least 33 points. He didn't have to though as his teammates shot 50% from the field. Remember that the Raptors are a top six team in offensive efficiency and average 113.4 PPG.
The defense Toronto has played, not just in this series, but the entire playoffs has been pretty remarkable. They are giving up just 95.0 PPG and have allowed fewer than 100 pts in all but two games. One of the two where they failed to hold the opponent under 100 was Game 3 here in Philly, their worst defensive effort of the entire postseason. But other than that one game, the highest field goal percentage allowed was 42.0! Opponents are barely shooting 40% against them in the playoffs. I thought Philly was a pretty weak 3-seed coming into the playoffs (were actually 5th in point differential in the East) and the Raptors are just better. The series ends tonight. 8* Toronto
|05-08-19||Celtics +9 v. Bucks||Top||91-116||Loss||-108||12 h 43 m||Show|
8* Boston (8:05 ET): What a disastrous three-game stretch this has been for the Celtics, particularly Kyrie Irving. Over those L3 games, Irving has shot the ball at a disastrous 31% clip (19 of 62). Those 43 misses are his most over a three-game stretch in the playoffs in Irving's entire career. Not surprisingly then, Boston has lost all three games. He's also seemingly alienating teammates in the process. I think most are of the opinion that the Celtics' season is all but over, but I'm seeing a lot of value in this pointspread. Remember that Boston won Game 1 here in Milwaukee. Take the points.
It hasn't been only Irving struggling to make shots from the Boston side. His teammates have provided little in the way in relief. Game 4 saw the Celtics shoot 37.8% overall, including 9 of 41 from three-point range. On uncontested jumpers alone, the team shot 14 of 39. I refuse to believe that this team got this bad "overnight." Granted Milwaukee led the league in scoring during the regular season and was also #1 in defensive efficiency. But Boston was able to "expose" their flaws back in the 112-90, Game 1 win. There's no reason to believe they can't keep this one close.
I have to admit that part of me was wanting to take the Celtics on the 1st Half line only. They actually led at halftime in both Games 3 and 4. All throughout the series, the 3rd quarter has been the deciding factor w/ the last three games seeing the Bucks +40 in that quarter. Maybe a road trip is what the Celtics need. They've covered six of their last seven road games. They are also a perfect 4-0 ATS the L4 times they have been off a double digit home loss. There have been only two times all season that the Celtics have dropped four straight games. Again, I think they keep this one close. 8* Boston
|05-07-19||76ers v. Raptors -6||Top||89-125||Win||100||12 h 39 m||Show|
10* Toronto (8:05 ET): The Raptors were able to seize the home court advantage back w/ a 101-96 win in Game 4, covering as a 2-point underdog. I was on them there, feeling this is the better team in the series. Obviously, I still feel that way and will now lay the points w/ them back at home. While Philadelphia did win Game 2, they had previously dropped 14 straight here "North of the Border" and are only 5-23 SU vs. Toronto since the start of the 2013-14 season. Back home, the Raptors should reassert themselves as they are 35-11 SU in all home games this season.
Toronto has done a marvelous job defensively in the playoffs, allowing an average of just 95.7 points per game on 40.5% shooting. Only once have they given up more than 104 points or allowed better than 42.0% shooting and that was Game 3 in Philadelphia. Take that away and the defensive numbers from Toronto get even more impressive. Game 4 marked the third time in the series that they held the Sixers below 100 points. Kawhi Leonard is having a series for the ages here, averaging 38 points and nine rebounds per game. He is easily the best player on either team right now.
Toronto getting back the homecourt advantage was huge. Philadelphia is just 23-22 SU on the road this year while being outscored in the process. I expect Leonard to get more "help" from his supporting cast here at home, including Kyle Lowry, who has struggled at times here in the postseason. Prior to winning Game 2, the Sixers had failed to cover five times in a row here in Toronto. They don't have the depth the Raptors do, which we saw in Game 4 w/ Joel Embiid playing sick. On the road, I expect the depth issue to be an even bigger factor. 10* Toronto
|05-06-19||Warriors +1.5 v. Rockets||Top||108-112||Loss||-107||14 h 52 m||Show|
10* Golden State (9:35 ET): All three games in this series have been decided by six points or less and Houston's 126-121 win in Game 3 went to overtime. I'm anticipating another close one tonight, but getting the Warriors off a loss and NOT having to lay points seems like quite the ideal combination. The Dubs are 8-1 ATS L9 on the road when seeking revenge. They are also 21-6 SU off a SU loss this season (4-0 ATS L4), winning by an average of 8.4 points per game. You have to figure Steph Curry will break out of his shooting slump sooner rather than later and tonight sounds like as good a time as any. Take the short number.
Curry has not been good in this series so far, shooting just 18 of 52 overall and 8 of 32 from three-point range. He was just 7 of 23 in Game 3 and had an all-time low point when he missed a breakaway dunk w/ just 19.2 seconds left in overtime. But in spite of Curry's shooting woes (not to mention Klay Thompson's as well), Golden State still leads the best of seven series 2-1. That should have Houston quite scared. Of course, when you are as talent rich as the Warriors are, a Curry slump isn't necessarily a backbreaker. Kevin Durant continues to dominate this postseason, averaging 35.6 PPG on better than 51% overall shooting.
Houston obviously has James Harden, who had 41 points in Game 3. But unlike the Warriors, I'm not sure the Rockets can reliably count on multiple scoring options. They did get 30 points in Game 3 from Eric Gordon, his career playoff high. But I wouldn't go expecting a repeat of that tonight. Chris Paul hasn't had a great series by any means as he's yet to score 20 pts in any game. I expect Curry or Thompson (possibly both?!) to have a big Game 4 and for the Warriors to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Houston is 17-37-1 ATS after scoring 125+ pts their last game. 10* Golden State
|05-05-19||Raptors +2 v. 76ers||Top||101-96||Win||102||7 h 45 m||Show|
8* Toronto (3:30 ET): Put up or shut up time here for the Raptors, who have lost two straight to the 76ers, including an embarrassing 116-95 loss here in Philly on Thursday. After allowing fewer than 100 pts in six straight games, Toronto was torched for 116 in Game 3. Not only was that the first time a Raptors' opponent shot better than 50% in these playoffs, it was the first time any opponent shot 42%! They should shore up the defensive issues here while at the same time improving their own offense rather dramatically. I'm laying the short number w/ what I still view as the better team.
The Raptors have scored only 89 and 95 pts the last two games, shooting 39% from the field. Kyle Lowry's already checkered postseason past is again coming into question as he was held to only 7 points (on 2 of 10 shooting) in Game 3. But as we've seen time after time, Lowry typically follows a poor playoff performance w/ a decent to good one. He was held to nine points in Game 1 (ironically, a Toronto win) and then scored 20 in Game 2 (ironically, a loss). So I expect Lowry to "help out" Kawhi Leonard a little more Sunday afternoon. Leonard has had a great series (37.6 PPG). So has Pascal Siakam (23.3 PPG). It's on Lowry to pull his weight too.
One would have to go back to March 22-24 to find the last time the Raptors lost B2B games. They have not been on a three-game losing streak since November and that was their lone losing streak of that length all season. Since then, they're 5-0 in this situation (off B2B losses). I felt the Raptors were the much better team in the regular season as Philly's YTD point differential (+2.9 per game) was pretty weak for a 3-seed. Toronto has a sizable edge defensively according to the numbers. You have to keep in mind that Thursday was the Raptors' 1st loss by more than seven points since March 11th. Since we flipped the calendar to 2019, they are a perfect 5-0 ATS off a DD loss. 8* Toronto
|05-03-19||Bucks v. Celtics -2||Top||123-116||Loss||-106||12 h 55 m||Show|
8* Boston (8:05 ET): After a very impressive showing in Game 1 and a good start in Game 2, the Celtics pretty much "fell apart" in the second half Tuesday night in Milwaukee. They were outscored 39-18 in the third quarter and that was the difference in the game as they lost by 21, 123-102, as 7-pt underdogs. Fortunately for them, they already did what they needed to do and that was win one in Milwaukee. Now they return to Boston where they've gone 12-1 ATS their L13 playoffs games. This includes a 2-0 mark vs. Indiana in Round 1 where they allowed just 74 and 91 points.
Game 2 was easily Boston's worst defensive effort of these playoffs as they gave up 123 points. Before that, they hadn't allowed more than 106 in any playoff game and had allowed 96 pts or less in four of the five games. It was also a bad shooting night for the Celtics as they made only 39.5% of their field goal attempts. Given how well the "zig zag theory" (play on previous game's ATS loser) has worked out so far in the NBA playoffs, one should reasonably expect the Celtics to bounce back at home Friday night.
The Bucks are just 1-6 ATS their last seven trips to Boston. That includes 0-4 in LY's 1st round playoff series where the home team won every game straight up. Don't discount the experience factor (on Boston's side) that I spoke of previously. Aside from the third quarter of Game 2, the Celtics have largely outplayed the Bucks so far. I seriously doubt we'll see a repeat here of the Bucks' three-point shooting from Game 2 where they went 20 of 47 w/ Khris Middleton's 7 of 10 leading the charge. Middleton has 44 pts so far in the series, but on the road I expect him to struggle to find his shot. Lay the points. 8* Boston
|05-02-19||Raptors -1 v. 76ers||Top||95-116||Loss||-109||20 h 1 m||Show|
10* Toronto (8:05 ET): I had the Raptors in Game 1. That was a good play. They won 108-95 as six-point chalk. I had the Over in Game 2. That was not a good play. It was a 94-89 final w/ the Sixers winning and thus "stealing" the home court advantage. I came into this series believing Toronto was decidedly the better team. But I laid off Monday (Game 2), thinking Philadelphia would be eager to rebound and end a 14-game losing streak "North of the Border." They did just that, led by Jimmy Butler's 30 points. But, off a loss, I love the Raptors in this price range. Take the visitors.
Unlike the first two games, we no longer have to really worry about "laying points" w/ Toronto. A SU win basically equals an ATS win here. I'll go back to something I said in my Game 1 analysis and that's Philly profiles as a pretty weak 3-seed. They had a regular season point differential of just +2.9 PPG. That was only fifth in the Conference. Also, despite winning Game 2, history has not been on the Sixers side vs. the Raptors. Not only are they just 1-13 their L14 visits to Canada, they are 4-22 SU against them since the start of the 2013-14 season. Their only win in four regular season meetings this year came when Toronto was w/o Kawhi Leonard.
Toronto's defense in the 1st round vs. Orlando really impressed me. They have kept it up in this series and have now allowed fewer than 100 pts in six straight games. They're giving up an average of just 92.7 PPG in the playoffs (on 39.0% shooting). There is a big gap between these teams defensively. Toronto's scoring drops very little on the road as they still average 113.2 PPG. They are 4-0 ATS off their previous four ATS losses. Look for the Raptors to regain control of this series. 10* Toronto
|05-01-19||Blazers +4 v. Nuggets||Top||97-90||Win||100||12 h 5 m||Show|
10* Portland (9:05 ET): I was a perfect 5-0 in Denver's 1st round series, but never once took the Nuggets. Now that perfect record did include three totals plays. But I also did fade the Nuggets twice, noting they didn't fit the typical profile of a #2 seed. Their regular season point differential was just 5th best in the Western Conference and their net efficiency rating was 6th. One of the teams with better numbers than them is Portland. Now, Game 1 obviously belonged to Denver, who won 121-113 as 4-point favorites. That was particularly impressive when you consider the Nuggets were 48 hrs removed from playing a Game 7. Portland had a five-day break.
The Trail Blazers actually had a better overall FG% in Game 1 (51.9 to 50.6) and Damian Lillard led all players in scoring w/ 39 pts. But it was points off turnovers that were likely the biggest determining factor and Lillard was upstaged by Denver's Nikola Jokic as the game's most impactful player. Now back to the turnovers and the points scored off them. Whereas Portland was only able to convert 12 Denver turnovers into six points, Denver converted 18 Portland TO's into 23 points. That was the difference in the ballgame.
While Denver is now 4-1 SU head to head vs. Portland in 2018-19, virtually all of the games have been close and were decided by single digits. In the regular season, they only outscored the Blazers by six points. Two of the wins were by three points or fewer. Winning close games have somewhat been the Nuggets' forte this season as they were a perfect 7-0 SU in the regular season in games decided by three points or less. Winning close games at that kind of rate is no skill, but rather good fortune. With Portland at 11-5 ATS off a SU loss and 14-6-1 ATS off an ATS loss, I'll back them to bounce back in Game 2. Take the points. 10* Portland
|04-30-19||Celtics +7.5 v. Bucks||Top||102-123||Loss||-105||12 h 54 m||Show|
10* Boston (8:05 ET): The Celtics aren't your typical 4-seed and in fact many feel they are the favorite in this series, even though the Bucks had the league's best regular season record. Game 1 certainly was a wake up call for Bucks fans, who watched their team get trounced 112-90. A team that was #1 in points per game got held to only 90 points on 34.8% shooting. Milwaukee now finds itself in almost "must win" territory heading into Game 2 tonight, but this looks to be a series that the oddsmakers have mispriced as I'm not convinced Boston isn't the better team based on its Game 1 showing or at least every bit Milwaukee's equal. Take the points.
There's no denying that Boston underachieved in the regular season. Though they finished 4th in the East, they actually had the league's 6th best point differential and 5th best net efficiency rating. So they aren't exactly an ideal second round draw for Milwaukee here in Round 2. Remember that while this same Celtics squad made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals last year (lost to LeBron James and Cleveland), Milwaukee just won its first playoff series as a group. It was the first series win for any Bucks team going back to the group that got jobbed by the officiating in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals (vs. the Iverson' 76ers)
The Celtics are a perfect 6-0 SU/ATS their last six games and they too swept their 1st round series. Only they swept Indiana. Milwaukee was not tested by a Detroit side that appeared as ill-prepared for the playoffs as any team in recent memory. The ease w/ which the Bucks won that series may have done them no favors here. Boston is a perfect 6-0 ATS its last 6 road games and 10-3 ATS its L13 visits to Milwaukee. They are playing tremendous defense right now (allowing just 91.4 PPG in the playoffs!) and that makes them a great play as the underdog for Game 2. 10* Boston
|04-27-19||76ers v. Raptors -6.5||Top||95-108||Win||100||12 h 35 m||Show|
10* Toronto (7:35 ET): The Raptors' misfortune in Game 1's is well-known. I wrote about in the opener of their 1st round series (where I won w/ the Under) and said an outright upset was a "distinct possibility." Sure enough, they did lose outright to Orlando, by a score of 104-101 (were -9.5). But then the Raptors really poured it on over the next four games, holding the Magic to an average of 89 PPG while winning all four. I do think that this Game 1 is going to be different for Toronto as I have my suspicions about Philadelphia going forward and think they're outclassed here. Lay the points.
For the record, the Raptors are 2-14 SU all-time in Game 1's. That includes a 1-10 record in Round 1. What's really head-scratching is that a lot of these losses have occurred at home. Each of the last two years, they've been swept in Round 2, but that was against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This time, there will be no King James and they do enter as the better team. There's also some positive history on their side. They've defeated Philadelphia 13 straight times here at home and are 21-3 SU against them since the start of the 2013-14 regular season. The Sixers did win one of the four matchups this year, but that was when the Raptors were w/o Kawhi Leonard.
Toronto's defense against Orlando really impressed me. Of course, they are a pretty strong offensive team as well, averaging 114.0 PPG while ranking sixth in efficiency. Philadelphia actually averages slightly more PPG (one spot behind in efficiency), but there is a gap at the defensive end. In the first round vs. Brooklyn, the Sixers followed a similar trajectory by losing Game 1, then winning four straight. But they also gave up an average of 111.4 PPG. Remember that the Sixers had a pretty week YTD point differential (+2.9 PPG) for a 3-seed. 10* Toronto
|04-25-19||Nuggets v. Spurs -3||Top||103-120||Win||100||12 h 13 m||Show|
10* San Antonio (8:05 ET): I am 3-0 in this series and have won three different ways. In Game 5, it was the Under. Game 2, it was the Over and going all the way back to Game 1, I was on the Spurs. Since pulling the outright upset in Game 1, San Antonio has lost three of four and that's too bad considering they probably should have been up three games to none going into Game 4. But they will likely end up "ruing the day" they blew a double digit 4th quarter lead in Game 2. That cost them the chance of taking the first two games in Denver and a shot at advancing here.
I still think the Spurs were clearly the better team in the first four games, however. They held a double digit lead in all four games. They were clearly NOT the better team in Game 5 though as they got blown out by the Nuggets, 108-90, in Denver. But again, that was on the road. Coming into this series, home court advantage figured to play a significant role. Denver is now 36-8 SU in all home games this season while San Antonio is 33-10 SU. Both teams have losing records on the road. In the regular season, no team had a wider split between home and road victories than these two. The Spurs were #1 w/ 16 more wins at home than on the road while the Nuggets weren't far behind (+14).
Game 6 is in San Antonio, so you can probably guess where I'm heading here. To go back to my analysis from Game 1, I think the Nuggets are a pretty shaky #2 seed. They were definitely aided by a lucky 7-0 SU mark in games decided by three points or less during the regular season. Also, their YTD point differential was just 5th best in the Western Conference. Net efficiency rating was just 6th and only slightly better than the Spurs, who won six less games. I say we're heading back to Denver for a Game 7. The Spurs are 10-1 ATS this season in home games when playing w/ revenge for a double digit loss on the road. 10* San Antonio
|04-24-19||Jazz +8 v. Rockets||Top||93-100||Win||100||13 h 36 m||Show|
|04-23-19||Nets +8.5 v. 76ers||Top||100-122||Loss||-100||12 h 34 m||Show|
8* Brooklyn (8:05 ET): Since taking Game 1, the Nets have had a tough time in this series, especially on the defensive end. Not that they were noted as a great defensive team or anything, but they have allowed 145, 131 and 112 points the L3 games and now face elimination Tuesday night in Philadelphia. The good news is that Brooklyn is an outstanding 13-1 ATS since the start of last season if they allowed 110+ points in three straight games. Despite two double digit losses in the series, the Nets have played the Sixers tougher than you might think and I'll take the points here.
The Nets led Game 4 at the half, 63-57. They were down only six at the half in Game 3 (lost by 16) and down just one in Game 2 (despite losing by 22). Of course, they won Game 1 outright here in Philly, 111-102 as eight-point dogs. So far in the series, they have averaged 62 PPG in the first half. So scoring has not been an issue for them, at least in the first half. The second half has been a somewhat different story, but the fact is they still are averaging 114.2 PPG for the series. Getting as many points as they are here, a similar scoring output should yield an easy ATS victory in Game 5.
I took Brooklyn in that Game 1 upset as I said I wasn't really sold on the 76ers. For a 3-seed, they have a weak YTD point differential (+2.9 per game). Joel Embiid is back and he led the way w/ 31 pts and 14 rebounds in Game 4. But the Sixers should feel a little fortunate to be up 3-1 in the series. Maybe they do end up closing things out Monday, but still take the points as I anticipate this game coming down to the wire and being much closer than anticipated. 8* Brooklyn
|04-19-19||Celtics v. Pacers -3||Top||104-96||Loss||-107||29 h 30 m||Show|
10* Indiana (8:35 ET): The Pacers lost a couple of low scoring games in Boston, 84-74 and 99-91. Game 1 saw them fall apart in the third quarter when they scored all of eight points. In Game 2, the collapse happened later. They were outscored 31-12 in the fourth quarter this time as Boston outscored them 10-0 over the final five minutes. Indiana desperately needs to find some offense as they've been held 100 points the last three times they've played the Celtics. Game 1 was their lowest scoring game of the year (same as the Celtics). At home, I think Indiana finds the missing offense and delivers in a virtual "must-win" spot. Lay the short number.
Boston hasn't exactly been shooting the lights out either. They shot just 36.4% in Game 1 and 47.6% in Game 2. Kyrie Irving had 37 points in Game 2, but outside of Jayson Tatum (26 pts), he didn't have much help. Only one other Celtic had more than six points. Remember that Jaylen Brown is now starting in place of the injured Marcus Smart. I expect Smart's absence to be felt more on the road. The Celtics were only mediocre on the road in the regular season, going 21-20 overall and they had a losing record as an underdog.
Meanwhile, Indiana is an outstanding 29-12 SU at home. Key for them is defense. The fact that they've held the Celtics under 100 in both games should not come as a shock considering the Pacers were #1 in the league in scoring defense. They allow just 101 PPG at home, so expect the defensive prowess to continue as they find their offensive touch. The Pacers won 24 of their 33 games as a home favorite in the regular season, outscoring opponents by almost eight points per game. Yes, there's been a big swing in the line from Games 1 & 2. However, Indiana is significantly better here and they are also a perfect 6-0 ATS when coming off a road trip of at least seven days. 10* Indiana
|04-18-19||Warriors v. Clippers +9||Top||132-105||Loss||-110||15 h 50 m||Show|
8* LA Clippers (10:35 ET): The "world" figured to be on the Warriors here after they blew a 31-point lead and lost to the Clippers in Game 2. Sure enough, that is the case and while Golden State certainly ought to be respected, they are laying far too many points in this spot. I though the lines for both Game 1 and 2 were inflated. Now it looked as if "the joke was on me" midway through the third quarter of Game 2. Having already lost Game 1 by 17 points, they were down by 31 and things were looking bleak. But that's when the greatest comeback in NBA Playoff history took place.
The Clippers are now back at home where they went 26-15 SU during the regular season. They shot 56.5% from the floor in Game 2, a number they likely will be unable to match tonight, but nevertheless this remains a prolific offensive team. They average 117.9 PPG at home and as previously noted, Golden State isn't as good defensively this season as in years' past. Obviously, it is rare to find the Clips getting this many points at home. They split two regular season home games w/ the Warriors and neither time were they getting this many points.
As critical as I'd been of DeMarcus Cousins and his adverse effect on the Warriors' offense, the team will miss him as they simply don't have much depth. Now when you're as "top heavy" talent wise as the Warriors are, depth really isn't that great of a concern. But it can be in the playoffs, especially on the road as you get deeper into a series. Remember that the Clippers are among the deepest teams in the league as they are #1 in bench scoring. Golden State simply has not been a good team to bet on this season as their ATS record was third worst in the league during the regular season. Take the points. 8* LA Clippers
|04-18-19||76ers v. Nets +3||Top||131-115||Loss||-107||28 h 55 m||Show|
10* Brooklyn (8:05 ET): This was a specific game I had targeted when they playoff seedings were first announced. Philadelphia is a pretty pedestrian road team, having gone just 20-21 SU in the regular season. Brooklyn, as they showed in Game 1 of this series, is better than you think. They took the series opener, leading almost wire to wire, 111-102 as an eight-point underdog. I had them. Sensing some potential retribution from the Philly side, I laid off Game 2. That was wise as the Sixers shot 56% from the field en route to a 145-123 win and cover. Looking at the lines for Game 1 & 2, the Sixers seems to be a bit overvalued here as the series moves to the Barclays Center. Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise considering the nature of the Game 2 victory. But my own personal power ratings have this game as a pick 'em. Take the points.
Brooklyn went 23-5 SU as a favorite in the regular season. Honestly, I thought the likelihood of them being favored in this spot was greater than them ending up as a dog. But then Game 2 happened. It's not that the Nets didn't shoot the ball well, quite the contrary. They were 47.9% from the field, including 15 of 36 from three-point range. The problem was they gave up 51 pts in the third quarter. Yes, 51 points. Philadelphia shot 18 of 25 in the quarter and was 11 for 11 from the free throw line.
That quarter was (obviously) the difference in the game. It went from a 1-pt deficit at halftime to 29 pts for the Nets. They ended up losing by 22. But note Philadelphia is just 2-6 ATS in their last eight games after scoring 125+ pts the previous time out. They are also 1-5 ATS off the L6 double digit wins. The Nets are 13-6 ATS off an ATS defeat and 9-3 ATS following a DD loss. There won't be any 51 pt quarters this time as I expect a much better effort on the defensive end from Brooklyn at home. Remember what I said about the Sixers in my Game 1 analysis. For a 3 seed, a YTD point differential of less than +3.0 per game is kind of weak. 10* Brooklyn
|04-17-19||Jazz +6.5 v. Rockets||Top||98-118||Loss||-100||13 h 1 m||Show|
8* Utah (9:35 ET): Admittedly, my play on the Jazz for Game 1 did not go well. They lost by 32 points. But that final score of 122-90 is a little misleading when you consider how things really got out of hand late. Houston outscored them 39-19 in the fourth quarter to take a game that already wasn't very competitive and turn it into a full fledged rout. But - believe it or not - as I come back with a play on Utah for Game 2, much of the rationale will stay the same. The number, which I thought was too high for Game 1, has stayed relatively unchanged here. Take the points.
Directly taken from my Game 1 analysis - "The Jazz are a better team than their seed indicates. As a matter of fact, in my own personal power rankings I have them one spot above Houston. I have them #4 overall, 2nd best among Western Conference teams (trailing only Golden State obviously). Only three teams - the Bucks, Warriors and Raptors had better net efficiency ratings and point differentials. Were it not for an "unlucky" 0-7 SU record this year in games decided by three points or less, Utah definitely would have finished higher." One bad game is not going to change my view of them.
The Jazz shot just 39 percent in Game 1 and were 7 of 27 from three-point range. That's not a winning formula and their trademark defense wasn't present either. I expect them to play much better on BOTH ends of the floor Wednesday. Coming off a SU loss, they are on a 20-6-1 ATS run this season. They did lose the meaningless regular season finale (to the Clippers), so Game 1 was a rare instance of them failing to cover in that spot. But the last time Utah lost three games in a row straight up was mid-November (note: they've never lost four in a row). I took the Clippers off a double digit loss on Monday (and won) and will do the same thing here. 8* Utah
|04-15-19||Clippers +13.5 v. Warriors||Top||135-131||Win||100||14 h 50 m||Show|
10* LA Clippers (10:35 ET): The Clippers came into this series as the biggest underdogs EVER in Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs. So no one is giving them much of a chance. On a Saturday where the other three underdogs all won outright, the Clips lost Game 1 by 17 points, but that's really not horrible considering they closed as 13.5-pt underdogs. There's been no real change in the line for Game 2 and I do see some value w/ the underdog. They are 8-1 ATS on the road, off a road loss, this season. Steph Curry probably isn't making eight three-pointers again here either. Take the points.
Despite Curry going 8 of 12 from three-point range for the game and the Clippers making only 2 of their first 10 three-point attempts, the game stayed relatively close for most of the first half. It was just a two-point game w/ slightly over two minutes to go before halftime. That's when the Warriors made a big run and never looked back (Clips never got closer than six points). Curry has killed LA all season, but containing him would go a long way. Easier said than done obviously, but the rest of the Warriors really weren't that impressive in Game 1. The Clippers were only 27 of 64 on 2-pt attempts Saturday (42%), a number which should go up substantially here.
DeMarcus Cousins only played 21 minutes in Game 1 for Golden State. That's something to keep an eye on as the Dubs are a substantially WORSE offensive team when Boogie is on the court. Obviously then, it would be wise for HC Steve Kerr to minimize his minutes, but is that really possible over the course of a series? Only six Warriors played more than 20 minutes in Game 1. They are obviously lighter on "star power," but the Clippers are a significantly "deeper" team than the Warriors and had the most bench scoring in the league. They will keep this one close! 10* LA Clippers
|04-14-19||Jazz +6.5 v. Rockets||Top||90-122||Loss||-109||78 h 56 m||Show|
10* Utah (9:35 ET): The Jazz are a better team than their seed indicates. As a matter of fact, in my own personal power rankings I have them one spot above Houston. I have them #4 overall, 2nd best among Western Conference teams (trailing only Golden State obviously). Only three teams - the Bucks, Warriors and Raptors had better net efficiency ratings and point differentials. Were it not for an "unlucky" 0-7 SU record this year in games decided by three points or less, Utah definitely would have finished higher. This is way too many points to pass up for Game 1.
Houston losing to Oklahoma City in the final game of the regular season proved costly. It was a game that they led by as many as 14 pts in the fourth quarter (lost 112-111 as 3-pt chalk). Now if "all" that did was simply end Houston's prior six-game SU/ATS win streak, it wouldn't be that big a deal. But that result, coupled w/ Portland winning on the final day of the regular season, dropped the Rockets down a spot and into this unfortunate matchup w/ the Jazz. The teams split four regular season meetings and again, by the numbers, Utah was better in the regular season.
The Rockets actually had a decent defense last year. That was how they were able to win 65 regular season games and come within an eyelash of the NBA Finals. But this year, their defensive efficiency rating dropped down to 16th in the league. The Jazz were #2 in that department. Now, Utah will be tested defensively by a Houston team that has James Harden and Chris Paul. But I think they'll be up to the task and Donovan Mitchell should hit some key shots for them on the other end. Utah did drop its final regular season game (in OT to the Clippers), but it meant nothing and it was by six points or less (6 exactly). The Jazz are 10-2 ATS this season off a loss by 6 pts or less. Houston will "rue the day" it lost its own regular season finale. 10* Utah
|04-13-19||Spurs +5.5 v. Nuggets||Top||101-96||Win||100||39 h 25 m||Show|
8* San Antonio (10:35 ET): This season has to be considered a massive success in Denver, regardless of what happens here in the playoffs. However, not to be the "bearer of bad tidings," but the Nuggets were a bit fortunate in finishing the regular season w/ a 54-28 SU record. They went an extremely fortunate 13-3 in games decided by three points or less. That was the most wins by any team in games of that nature and easily the best win percentage. The Nuggets are one of two playoff teams in the West that didn't have a winning record. First round opponent San Antonio happened to be the other, but this is too many points to lay for Game 1.
These teams essentially finished the regular season w/ matching net efficiency ratings. Denver was +3.0 while San Antonio was +2.8. This was far from Greg Popovich's best defensive team, but they did improve on that end of the floor - significantly - over the second half of the season. The Spurs did end up beating projections for this season and a major reason for that was the offensive end. They were fifth in offensive efficiency and led the league in three-point shooting percentage. With both teams ranking near the bottom of the league in pace of play, possessions will be vital here. I think it's going to be difficult for Denver to create any separation.
In the past, home court advantage has been pretty critical when these teams meet. The home team has won 10 straight meetings, including four this season. Denver had the best home record in the league (34-7 SU), but I still have my doubts about a team that lack a true "go to" superstar and is making its first foray into the postseason as a group. Meanwhile, this will be the 22nd straight year in the playoffs for San Antonio, and while the names on the back of the jerseys have changed, the coach has not. I'm not a huge "buyer" in this Nuggets team and like the points! The Spurs have gone 19-2 ATS avenging a loss this season if the opponent scored 110+ pts in the previous matchup. 8* San Antonio
|04-13-19||Clippers +13 v. Warriors||Top||104-121||Loss||-115||37 h 4 m||Show|
8* LA Clippers (8:00 ET): The Warriors weren't the Warriors this year. Sure, they won 57 games and actually posted the highest scoring average (117.7 PPG) under HC Steve Kerr. But their vaunted reputation clearly preceded itself as they were a bust at the betting window, posting a 35-46-1 ATS record, the third worst mark in the entire league. Only the disappointing Lakers and hideous Knicks were worse to bet on in the regular season. It's an old rival that Golden State draws in the opening round of the playoffs, the Clippers, and not surprisingly the line is big for Game 1. I'm taking the points.
Meanwhile, the Clippers were one of the best teams to bet on this season, going 45-36-1 ATS. That was the third BEST ATS mark in the league (only Milwaukee & Dallas were better). Doc Rivers did arguably his best coaching job this season, especially considering the front office trading away Tobias Harris was supposed to signal the end of any kind of playoff run. But it didn't. Danilo Gallinari posted career bests in points per game, field goal percentage and three-point percentage. While they might lack a "true" superstar, the Clippers are among the deepest teams in the league as they led the league in bench points (53.2 PPG) by a wide margin.
Golden State took three of the four regular season meetings, the last two both coming by convincing margins (18 and 27 pts). The Clippers did cover the first two though and were 11-5 SU/ATS in all division games. They've also covered 13 out of the last 16 division road games. The Warriors actually lost straight up 11 times in the regular season and were just 16-24-1 ATS at Oracle Arena. The spread here is larger than it was for either regular season matchup here in Oakland. The Clippers were also a top five team in scoring this year. One thing worth monitoring with the Warriors is that they were a far worse offensive team w/ DeMarcus Cousins on the court. They also slipped defensively as well. Too many points here. 8* LA Clippers
|04-13-19||Nets +8 v. 76ers||Top||111-102||Win||100||31 h 14 m||Show|
Note: this play stands regardless of Joel Embiid's status! Obviously, we'd feel even stronger about Brooklyn were Embiid not to suit up for the 76ers.
8* Brooklyn (2:30 ET): The Nets made the playoffs for the 1st time since 2014-15, but aren't really getting much of any respect as oddsmakers view them as the weakest team in the entire field. I don't necessarily agree w/ the sentiment (I think Detroit is worse) and think we can use the opinion to our benefit here in Game 1 against Philadelphia. While neither playing on the road nor the underdog role suited Brooklyn particularly well in the regular season, this is too many points to pass up given they split four matchups with the Sixers and were 3-1 ATS. Take the points.
It turns out that trusting the famed "process" in Philadelphia has paid dividends as for the second straight year the Sixers won 50+ games. Last year's team did make the second round of the playoffs, so the expectation coming into this season was for them to take "the next step." But I'm not sure that's going to happen. Part of the reason I say that has to do w/ the fact the Sixers' point differential was only fifth best in the East this year, so a third place finish should be considered a little fortuitous. Over the course of the year, the Sixers outscored teams by less than three points per game.
As I said earlier, these teams split four regular season matchups, but Brooklyn was 3-1 ATS. They covered both times at home (won by 25, lost by 2), then later pulled an upset here as 5.5-pt road underdogs. All three of those games were played before X-Mas and the Sixers did take the final game, handily, by a score of 123-110. That was just over two weeks ago and Philly shot the ball very well. Brooklyn has been in "playoff mode" for some time now (just to ensure they got here) while Philadelphia largely got to coast over the last month. That, to me, signals the favorite could get caught "flat footed" here for Game 1. 8* Brooklyn
|04-09-19||Hornets -7.5 v. Cavs||Top||124-97||Win||100||11 h 33 m||Show|
8* Charlotte (7:05 ET): With two games remaining, there's only one spot left in the Eastern Conference playoffs and it will go to one of three teams: Detroit, Miami or Charlotte. The Pistons are in "pole position" right now, one game ahead of the other two teams. Charlotte has won three straight, including a key win over Detroit on Sunday that enabled them to stay alive. The Hornets basically have to win out and tonight's game against sorry Cleveland looks to be an easy one. Overall, the Hornets are 8-2 ATS the L10 games. The Cavs have dropped nine in a row straight up and tonight is their final game of the year. Expect little effort from them. Lay the points.
Believe it or not, the Cavs may end up slightly worse this season than they did the season after LeBron James first left town (2010-11). At 19-62 SU, they may not have the worst record in the league (the Knicks do), but they have the worst point differential in the league at -9.4 per game. A loss here would mean they'd finish w/ the same record as that 2010-11 team, which was outscored by 9.0 PPG. The Cavs showed little fight on Sunday when they lost here at home to San Antonio, 112-90 as 8.5-pt dogs. There's a good chance Kevin Love won't play tonight.
The number here is obviously inflated due to Charlotte's need to win, but it's still justified in my eyes. Note the Hornets were favored by a similar number (actually more!) the first time they visited this season. Granted, they lost that game outright, but that was also back in November. The stakes are far higher now and there won't be any kind of letdown. They did beat the Cavs twice - by 32 and 11 points - at home. The Cavs' home arena (currently Quicken Loans Arena) will be renamed Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse for next season. Call it whatever you want, the team is very bad and ranks dead last in the league in defensive efficiency. 8* Charlotte
|04-08-19||Texas Tech v. Virginia -1||Top||77-85||Win||100||30 h 41 m||Show|
10* Virginia (9:20 ET): Those who follow my NCAA Tournament picks regularly know that I constantly tout the importance of defense, particularly efficiency, this time of year. If you were still on the fence about believing me, then look no further than this National Championship matchup which pits the #1 team in scoring defense (Virginia) against the #1 team in defensive efficiency (Texas Tech). For the record, Virginia is 5th in efficiency while Texas Tech is third in points allowed. Points definitely figure to be at a premium Monday night, but ultimately (pun intended!) I feel that it will be Virginia cutting down the nets. They have been the more consistent team all season and were my pick to win it all before this Tournament started.
It's not just Virginia's entire body of work that has me on them here. The Hoos have been very good in this Tournament as well. As per usual, we start w/ defense. They are giving up only 55.5 PPG for the season, 58.6 PPG in the Tournament. Remember though, they were taken to overtime by Purdue. Yes, the last three victories have all been by five points or less. But we are getting what I feel is an extremely good value here as this line would have been much higher had these teams played a couple weeks ago. Also, the Cavaliers are a perfect 11-0 ATS the L2 seasons when on the road and coming off a SU win where they did not cover. That's the situation they're in here.
Tip your cap to Texas Tech, who has been very kind to me in this Tournament. They were a *10* ULTIMATE POWER release when they upset Gonzaga in the Elite 8, then my *10* Game of the Year when they upset Michigan State. They're a perfect 5-0 ATS now in the Big Dance w/ all but one win (Gonzaga) coming by double digits. They are giving up fewer PPG (55.8) in the Tournament than Virginia. But, the irony here is that with the defensive numbers basically being a draw, it could come down to the fact Virginia is #2 in the country in offensive efficiency (Tex Tech just 28th). Virginia has been the better team all year and getting them as basically a "pick 'em" is a big deal. 10* Virginia
|04-07-19||Thunder -6.5 v. Wolves||Top||132-126||Loss||-105||7 h 21 m||Show|
8* Oklahoma City (3:30 ET): The Thunder will definitely NOT have the home court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs, but that doesn't mean there's nothing left to play for in these last three games. Mostly, it's what they are trying to AVOID. That would be finishing in eighth place and having to play Golden State in the first round. Right now, they are in seventh, but just one-half game ahead of the Spurs, who are in Cleveland today for a game against the lowly Cavaliers. So winning should be a huge priority here for OKC and I think they come through by delivering a big win on national TV Sunday. Lay the points.
Eliminated from playoff contention, Minnesota is reduced to a "spoiler role" and it's something that they have embraced. They upset Miami on Friday, winning 111-109 as three-point home dogs. That put a severe damper on the Heat's playoff hopes. The T'wolves also recently beat Golden State (as 10-pt dogs) here at home, which was a *10* Game of the Week selection for me. So I do respect them. But I don't expect motivation to be as high here as it was for Golden State or even Miami two nights ago. Yes, it's a national TV game. But let's not forget that the T'wolves have covered only 6 of their last 19 games. They are 0-3 vs. the Thunder this season.
Oklahoma City has won two straight by double digits, including a 123-110 win over Detroit on Friday. That came on the heels of a 119-103 win over the Lakers where Russell Westbrook had 20 pts, 20 rebounds and 21 assists, making him just the 2nd player in league history to have a 20-20-20 game. This is the third season in a row that Westbrook will average a triple double, which is incredible. But the Thunder are more than just Westbrook as it was Paul George leading the way w/ 30 pts vs. the Pistons. The Thunder also have a massive edge defensively in this matchup as they rank 4th in the league in efficiency while the T'wolves are 22nd. 8* Oklahoma City
|04-06-19||Texas Tech +3 v. Michigan State||Top||61-51||Win||100||104 h 15 m||Show|
10* Texas Tech (8:49 ET): The Red Raiders were a signature *10* ULTIMATE POWER release for me in the Elite 8 when they upset top seeded Gonzaga. They remain a live dog moving forward, thanks to #1 ranking in defensive efficiency. This is the key metric that I've leaned on in past tournaments and Texas Tech beating Gonzaga (who was #1 in the country in offensive efficiency) was the latest example of it working out. As soon as the Red Raiders moved on Saturday night, I knew I was going take them again here, regardless of the Duke-Michigan State winner. The fact Michigan State won I believe is a better deal for the Red Raiders as they don't have the offensive weapons that Duke does. Take the points.
Since a poor 1st half in the first round game against Bradley, Michigan State has been very good, outscoring its opponents by 50 points. They outlasted Duke 68-67, sparked by Cassius Winston's 20 points. But Sparty is not a deep team. Only seven players saw action against Duke w/ one of them (Gabe Brown) playing just three minutes. Had Xavier Tillman not gotten into early foul trouble, it's likely Brown wouldn't have even seen the floor. All other MSU starters played at least 38 minutes w/ Winston playing the whole 40. I realize the Spartans have won 14 out of their last 15 games (only loss by 1 pt!) w/ three wins over Michigan. But Texas Tech, save for Duke, will be their toughest opponent to date.
Remember that Texas Tech had no problem beating Michigan in the Sweet 16 themselves. They crushed the Wolverines, holding them to 1 of 19 shooting from three-point range, in a 63-44 final. Michigan State's three wins over Michigan were by a combined 24 points. The Red Raiders have held their four tournament opponents to an average of 57 PPG and the last three have all been against top 25 offenses. They just held the #1 offense in the country (Gonzaga) to 69 pts on 42.4% shooting. I don't see Michigan State topping those numbers, so I'm clearly siding w/ the underdog in this one. 10* Texas Tech
|04-05-19||Hawks v. Magic -8.5||Top||113-149||Win||100||12 h 1 m||Show|
10* Orlando (7:05 ET): For most NBA teams, simply making the NBA playoffs doesn't mean much. The majority of teams in this league either have championship aspirations or are deliberately tanking. But the Magic don't fit into either of those categories. Having not made the playoffs since Dwight Howard left town in 2012, an appearance of any kind (even if it meant being swept by Milwaukee) would be welcomed. Lately, Orlando has been playing very well. They've won 8 of 10 and as a result are currently tied w/ Brooklyn for 7th in the Eastern Conference w/ just three regular season games to play.
The Magic obviously can't afford any kind of slip up as Miami is breathing right down their neck. The ninth place Heat are only one-half game back. There are four teams - all separated by a game - battling for the final three spots and obviously one is going to be left out. Believe it or not, but the key numbers - whether it be point differential or net efficiency rating - say the Magic are the best team out of that quartet. Tonight is the final home game of the regular season, so expect them to be extra motivated. They are 22-16 at home for the season and have not lost here since right after the All-Star Break. They've won eight straight at home and 12 out of the last 13, including a 14-pt win over the Knicks on Wednesday.
Drawing Atlanta is obviously of great help to the Magic here as well. The Hawks came into the year as non-contenders and have certainly "lived up" to that advanced billing. While far from the worst team in the league, the Hawks are definitely in the bottom five. I say that knowing full well they've gone 5-2 SU and 6-1 ATS their last seven. They've recently upset both Philadelphia and Milwaukee, but both of those games were at home and the opponents came in disinterested. They won't be facing a disinterested opponent here on the road. The Hawks are dead last in the league in points allowed (118.8 per game) and are giving up even more than usual the L5 games. Meanwhile, the Magic have been among the best defensive teams in the league since the Break. They've also posted three double digit victories against Atlanta since the New Year. 10* Orlando
|04-03-19||Rockets v. Clippers -1||Top||135-103||Loss||-110||14 h 15 m||Show|
10* LA Clippers (10:35 ET): Houston certainly proved me wrong last night by going on the road and delivering a resounding statement in Sacramento. The Rockets won 130-105, easily covering the 5.5-pt spot. It was their 50th win of the year along w/ the third straight win and cover. As a result, they've moved into third place in the West and are only 1.5 games back of Denver (3.5 games behind Golden State). But this is a tough spot playing a Clippers team who is also looking to improve its own playoff position. The situation tremendously favors LA here, who is playing at home.
The Clippers are currently sixth in the West, one-half game back of Utah. Obviously, getting into the top four (2.5 games back) and garnering home court advantage for the first round playoff series should be the goal. The Clips are 25-13 SU at home this season, averaging 117.7 PPG. The team has done its best to shoot up the standings and had itself a tremendous March, going 13-2 SU and 10-4-1 ATS. Not only is Houston playing the second game of a back to back here, the Clippers have been off for two days. They last played Sunday and blew out Memphis 113-96 as 10-pt chalk.
The Rockets have performed poorly when playing on the road w/o rest. They've gone 2-4 SU and 1-5 ATS in the situation, including 1-4 ATS when both games took place on the road. Meanwhile, give the Clippers any rest at all (meaning they're not playing in the second game of a B2B) and their SU record is 40-24. They have already beaten Houston twice this season, once by three here at home and by 20 on the road. While Houston has the stars, the Clippers are the deeper team. 10* LA Clippers
|04-02-19||Rockets v. Kings +5||Top||130-105||Loss||-100||12 h 23 m||Show|
10* Sacramento (10:05 ET): This has the potential for an upset as the Kings are a much better team than you think. While they're going to miss the playoffs for a 13th straight year, 2018-19 has brought masssive improvement as they can still finish above .500 for the 1st time since that last playoff year (2006). At 44-32-1 ATS overall, Sacramento has been one of the best teams to bet on this season. Only the Bucks and Clippers have been more profitable at the betting window. Tonight, they can play "spoiler" against a Houston team that just beat them 119-108 over the weekend. Take the points.
The Rockets have already wrapped up a playoff spot and are probably going to have home court advantage for their first round playoff series, whomever that's against. Right now, they are tied w/ Portland for third place. Avoiding Utah in the 1st round should be a priority, but considering how congested the West is, that's not a simple thing to do. Saturday's win over the Kings saw James Harden deliver a 5th career 50+ pt triple double, leading the team for a fourth quarter rally. Sacramento actually led after three quarters, but was outscored 28-15 in the fourth.
This is not a "true" home and home for the Kings as they've played a game since losing in Houston. That was the follow night in San Antonio where they snapped an 11-game losing streak in the Alamo. Finishing .500 seems to be a goal the Kings are excited about. "We've just got to come out and be ready to play. We can't overlook and say the season's over. We have a goal, let's get that," said Buddy Hield, who led the team w/ 26 pts in SA. The Kings are a lot stronger at home (23-15 SU overall, 13-5-1 ATS L19), so the Rockets face a much tougher challenge here than what they faced Saturday. 10* Sacramento
|03-31-19||Auburn v. Kentucky -4.5||Top||77-71||Loss||-105||6 h 18 m||Show|
10* Kentucky (2:20 ET): Just as Kentucky has gotten back one of its key cogs (PJ Washington), Auburn has lost one of theirs (Chuma Okeke). This turn of events is obviously a decided edge for the already favored Wildcats and I've got no hesitation about laying the short number here. UK swept the regular season series, winning by two on the road and by 27 at home. While it is quite unlikely the beatdown will be as severe here as it was in Lexington, UK should win by more than they did down in Auburn. They scored 80+ in both previous games and are much better defensive team compared to the Tigers.
Kentucky has been outstanding defensively in this Tournament, holding all three of its opponents under 60 points. That will obviously be tested by an Auburn team that's shooting the lights out right now (53.5 FG% L2 Games). But I view the Wildcats as being up to the challenge here. They are top 10 (8th) in defensive efficiency and all three Tournament opponents have been held under 40% shooting. Obviously, Auburn is more prolific than any of UK's three previous opponents, but they were held to 32.8% shooting the last time they met. Being without their third leading scorer (Okeke) obviously hurts as well. Okeke had 20 pts last round vs. North Carolina.
Of the six teams still left standing in this Tournament, five are ranked in the top nine nationally in defensive efficiency. Auburn is the other, way off the pace at 43rd. This should end up costing them given the value of this particular metric. They can't continue to shoot above 40% from three-point range. The Tigers have given up at least 75 points in every game in the Tournament, and again, they gave up 82 and 80 points to Kentucky in the regular season. They are looking to do something incredible here - that's beating Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky in three straight Tournament games, but they ultimately fall short here. 10* Kentucky
|03-30-19||Grizzlies -1.5 v. Suns||Top||120-115||Win||100||15 h 36 m||Show|
10* Memphis (10:05 ET): Clearly, the oddsmakers made a mistake in opening Phoenix as a slight favorite here as the line quickly "jumped the fence" and the Grizzlies now find themselves in the chalk role. The Grizz are a team I've used w/ a great deal of success this month. Now, normally that's at home and as an underdog, but I'll make an exception here despite them not being in either situation tonight. These teams are "worlds apart" defensively as Memphis is #2 in the NBA in scoring (105.3 PPG allowed) while Phoenix is near the bottom (27th), giving up 116.3 PPG.
The Suns have gotten B2B 50+ point games from Devin Booker, yet lost both times, including by 33 at Utah. That game saw Booker's teammates combine to score less than he did. Wednesday night, the Suns lost here at home to the Wizards, 124-121. They've now lost five in a row and seven out of eight. Booker has scored more than 50% of his team's points the L2 games, which is not a recipe for success and you have to figure he'll struggle more than usual to find his shot, given how strong Memphis is on the defensive end. Phoenix is allowing 119 PPG its last five contests, including 125 and 124 the last two games.
This is a big drop in class for the Grizzlies, who just had to play Oklahoma City and Golden State. They've lost five of seven overall, but did beat OKC, not to mention Houston last week. But stretching things back further, the Grizz are a respectable 7-7 SU the L14 games and they also beat Portland and Utah. Now almost all of those wins came at home. But Phoenix is not a hard team to beat, even on the road. Memphis did lose here (by two) early in the season, but considering how well both Mike Conley and Jonas Valanciunas are playing right now, they get the win tonight. 10* Memphis
|03-30-19||Texas Tech +4.5 v. Gonzaga||Top||75-69||Win||100||11 h 40 m||Show|
10* Texas Tech (6:09 ET): Once again, we have an underdog w/ a better defensive efficiency rating. Actually, as long as Texas Tech stays in this Tournament, they'll be in this role. Well, provided they're the underdog. No team in the country has a better defensive efficiency rating than the Red Raiders, who have completely stifled their three tournament opponents, holding them to 57, 58 and 44 points. The performances in the last two rounds were really impressive considering they were against Michigan (LY's national runner-up) and a Buffalo team that was among the highest scoring in the country during the regular season. Right now, I wouldn't bet against this team when getting points.
This is an interesting battle as it pits the country's #1 defensive team against the #1 offensive team. Gonzaga has looked every bit the part of a #1 seed so far, winning all three of its games by double digits. But Texas Tech will easily be their stiffest test to date. In the Sweet 16, the Zags faced a Florida State team that was top 15 in the country in defensive efficiency. The Seminoles were able to hold them to 72 points on 40.3% shooting. Again, Texas Tech is #1 in the country in defensive efficiency, so I am of the belief they're going to do an even better job here. None of the Red Raiders' opponents in this Tournament have shot better than 37.1% from the field.
Texas Tech has also won all three of its games by double digits. Their average margin of victory is actually is 18 PPG w/ every win coming by at least 15 pts. What they just did to Michigan Thursday night was very impressive. They held the Wolverines to 44 pts on 32.7% shooting, making them look like a bad team. Michigan missed its first 18 three-point attempts. That came after holding Buffalo, who averaged 84.5 PPG and had just scored 91, to 58. The Red Raiders are allowing just 53.0 PPG in the Tournament and have held seven opponents under 50 this season. Remember that Gonzaga was held under 50 in the WCC Tournament Final, so it wouldn't be unprecedented. 10* Texas Tech
|03-30-19||Cavs +10 v. Clippers||Top||108-132||Loss||-109||8 h 7 m||Show|
8* Cleveland (3:35 ET): Cleveland, yes Cleveland, has been a tough out down the stretch. The Cavs once again had a disastrous beginning to a post-LeBron era, but recently they've played a lot better, going 8-4-1 ATS the L13 games. They even had San Antonio on the ropes for much of the game Thursday before letting them "off the hook" and losing 116-110. I'm not saying the result here will be as good as last night's 10* Game of the Week play on Minnesota (upset Golden State), but the Cavs should cover pretty easily. Take the points.
The eight playoff teams are pretty much set in the Western Conference and the Clippers are one of those to have already clinched. They're still jockeying for position though and currently find themselves in the six spot after losing 128-118 at Milwaukee Thursday night. That loss snapped a six-game win streak. The team is still 11-2 SU in its last 13 games overall, but I wouldn't be surprised if they came out a little "sleepy" for this early start time (12:30 local time) and that would be a problem laying this many points.
These teams just met in Cleveland last week and it was one of those games where the Cavs played hard, but ultimately fell short. They lost 110-108 as 6.5-pt dogs, even after scoring 40 pts in the 1st quarter and taking a 15-point lead. It was a similar story two nights ago vs. San Antonio, whom they led by nine at halftime. For the Clippers, this is the first game back home after a four-game trip out East and there's always the fear of a "letdown" in that first game back at home. They are not a team accustomed to being in this price range, so we'll go the other way. 8* Cleveland
|03-29-19||Warriors v. Wolves +10||Top||130-131||Win||100||10 h 59 m||Show|
10* Minnesota (8:05 ET): This is a lot of points to lay on the road, even for a team like Golden State. Then again, it's not like laying points w/ the Warriors this year has been a very good idea. The Dubs have the third worst overall ATS record in the league at 31-42-2 w/ only the Knicks and Lakers worse. Take away the small sample of games where they were an underdog and the team is cashing in just above 40% of the time for the year. After a disastrous stretch at the betting window in February, things have improved somewhat here in March, but they are still only 6-6 ATS w/ four outright losses.
One thing Golden State has not had much trouble doing the last few years is beating Minnesota. They are 28-6 SU against the T'wolves, including 13-3 here in Minnesota. They've already beaten them three times this year w/ all of those wins coming by at least eight points. The most recent was 10 days ago here at the Target Center by a score of 117-107. The spread for that game was six points, so there's been a sizable adjustment here and I'm not sure that's warranted. Minnesota might be eliminated from playoff contention, but it's not as if they're a bad team. It's been a rough stretch lately, but they're still 23-12 SU at home and have Karl Anthony Towns on the roster. Towns has averaged 23.3 points and 14.3 rebounds against the Warriors this season.
One might look at Boogie Cousins being in the lineup tonight for Golden State as a net positive. After all, the Warriors have been able to comfortably defeat the T'wolves the last two times w/o Cousins on the floor. But Cousins' presence has seemingly had a NEGATIVE effect on Golden State, particularly on offense. With Cousins on the court, the Dubs are averaging about five points less per 100 possessions. Since the All-Star Break - a stretch which has seen Golden State go just 10-7 SU - Cousins is the only one of the six key players to have a negative +/-. So Golden State might actually be in WORSE shape tonight. T'wolves get the cash. 10* Minnesota
|03-28-19||Oregon v. Virginia -8||Top||49-53||Loss||-110||76 h 17 m||Show|
10* Virginia (9:59 ET): Given the way this Tournament has gone ("the chalk has walked!"), the idea that Oregon could somehow win here seems a little far-fetched. Admittedly, the Ducks are as hot as any team in the country right as they come into the Sweet 16 on a 10-game win streak, both SU and ATS. But Virginia has been one of the best teams in the country all season. They still don't get enough credit because they lost in the first round last year to a 16-seed. But that's fueling them this year and after a bad 1st half in the 1st round, the Cavailiers have looked completely dominant. I'm laying the points here in what is my top play for the entire Sweet 16.
For the first half against Gardner-Webb, there had to be a sense of dread in Charlottesville. Virginia was down six going into the break and it looked like UMBC all over again. But this time the Hoos put together a vintage second half performance, holding Gardner-Webb to just 20 points and Virginia won comfortably (by 15). Then, in the second round, they faced an Oklahoma team that had turned in one of the Tournament's best 1st round performances (95-72 win over Ole Miss). Virginia held the Sooners to just 51 points. In terms of scoring defense, no team in the country is better than Virginia as they allow only 55.0 PPG.
Historically, the matchup of a #1 vs. #12 seed in the Sweet 16 has gone the way you'd think. Top seeds have absolutely dominated, going a perfect 19-0 SU head to head. None have been closer than seven points. Top seeds are also 9-3 ATS the previous 12 matchups with an average margin of victory of 16.8 PPG. All 12 won by at least eight points. Overall, #1 seeds are 14-1 SU, 12-2-1 ATS in the Sweet 16 since 2014. The odds are not in Oregon's favor here and I expect Virginia's defensive prowess to be on full display in this one as they roll onto the Elite 8 w/ a third straight double digit victory. 10* Virginia
|03-28-19||Purdue +1.5 v. Tennessee||Top||99-94||Win||100||73 h 12 m||Show|
8* Purdue (7:29 ET): I think Purdue is the better team here. Granted Matt Painter's team has not done well in the past vs. top three seeds in this Tournament, especially in this round. His Boilermakers are 0 for their last 7 against the spread when taking on a top three seed including losses by a combined 45 pts the L2 years in the Sweet 16. But Tennessee HC Rick Barnes is a big money burner in this event himself, going 1-9-1 ATS his L11 NCAA Tournament games, including 0-2 this year. Through the first two rounds, I don't think there's any denying that Purdue has looked better than Tennessee.
Now, for a half, the Vols looked unstoppable against Iowa. They were up as much as 25 on Sunday. But then came the second half. They blew the entire lead and needed OT just to advance. As an Iowa bettor, I was pretty grateful, as the Hawkeyes ended up losing by only six as 8.5-point dogs. It was only a seven-point win for Tennessee in the 1st round against Colgate, whom they allowed to hit 15 three-pointers. In my analysis for the Iowa game, I mentioned that defending the three-point line has been an issue all season for the Vols. Opponents are hitting 38.4% of their 3-pt attempts against them outside of Knoxville. Iowa was even below that percentage (w/ only seven makes), so in that regard Tennessee was actually a bit lucky.
There's been no luck needed for the way Purdue handled Old Dominion and Villanova in the first two rounds of this Tournament. They dominated both, winning by 13 and 26 respectively. The showing against 'Nova, the defending National Champs, was obviously the more impressive of the two. The game was never in doubt as the Boilermakers took a 43-24 lead into halftime. The shooting percentages they've allowed in two games are pretty ridiculous. ODU shot 26.9% while Nova was at 34.5%. On offense, Carsen Edwards was ridiculous w/ a 42-point game against Nova, including nine made threes. Similar three-point shooting from the Boilermakers here is what I expect. Look for them to finally clear that Sweet 16 "hurdle." 8* Purdue
|03-28-19||Florida State +7.5 v. Gonzaga||Top||58-72||Loss||-109||73 h 53 m||Show|
8* Florida State (7:09 ET): This is a matchup I'd hoped for in the Sweet 16 when the brackets were first released. Florida State has a higher defensive efficiency rating (key metric!) than Gonzaga and should easily be able to stay within this number, if not pull the outright upset. One could point to the fact the Seminoles have only had to play a 13 (Vermont) and 12 seed (Murray State) to get here, but the Zags' path of Farleigh Dickinson (16-seed playing for a second time in three days) and Baylor was hardly a "murderer's row" either. Also, Florida State beat Gonzaga in LY's Sweet 16 (as a lower seed), 75-60 as six-point underdogs.
Now I did play against the 'Noles in Round 1. But they were laying a decent number to an experienced Vermont team. For three-quarters of the game, it was neck & neck before FSU pulled away late (but still did not cover). Their Round 2 performance was much more impressive though as they destroyed Ja Morant and Murray State, 90-62 as only four-point chalk. They held the Racers to 32.8% shooting as a team and it was a blowout going into halftime. FSU has now won 16 of its last 18 games, the only two losses coming to Duke and North Carolina.
Both teams are better in 2019 than they were in 2018. Gonzaga's offensive numbers are off the charts this season, but like I said earlier - Florida State is the better team defensively here. The Seminoles have the kind of size that Gonzaga normally does not have to deal w/ in the West Coast Conference or even so far in this Tournament (Baylor is an undersized team). Yes, the 'Noles will be w/o Phil Cofer here (father passed away), but they were w/o him against Murray State as well. I think they honor their teammate w/ another strong performance here. Last year, they held the Zags to 33.9% overall shooting and 25.0% from three-point range. Under HC Leonard Hamilton, the Seminoles are 7-1 ATS w/ five outright wins as a NCAA Tournament underdog. 8* Florida State
|03-27-19||Wizards v. Suns +2||Top||124-121||Loss||-109||13 h 49 m||Show|
8* Phoenix (10:05 ET): This would be the rare instance of the Suns going into a game believing they can win. This team has been buried at the bottom of the Western Conference all season and they are on a four-game losing streak. Now 17-58 SU overall, the Suns are simply playing out the string. But that's also the case w/ Washington, who has now lost five in a row and is at the disadvantage of having played last night (lost to the Lakers, 124-106). The Wizards are an absolutely terrible road team (9-29 SU), so them being favored here makes for an easy target. Take the points.
I needed four more points from the Wizards & Lakers last night having had the Over. Unfortunately, the Wiz scored just six points over the game's final five minutes. Of course, by then, their chances of winning the game were long gone. The Lakers outscored them in every quarter and the Wiz's playoff chances are now all but dead. Their play on the road has a lot to do w/ this disappointing season as they've been outscored by about eight points per game. Going back further, they are just 16-35 ATS their L51 road games. The fact they are just 3-7 SU & ATS as a road favorite this season should be enough to make anyone not want to lay the points here, no matter how short the line is.
While Phoenix was beaten badly in its last game (lost 125-92 to Utah), don't blame Devin Booker, who went for 59 points. His teammates were not good, however, making just 12 of 42 shots (!) including 2 of 15 from three-point range. (Jimmer Fredette was atrocious.) But this is a game the Suns can win. It's the start of a five-game home stand, which has some other winnable games as well. While it's unlikely they avoid another 60+ loss season, I look for the Suns to come through here in a revenge spot for a triple OT loss in Washington back in December. 8* Phoenix
|03-27-19||Colorado +5.5 v. Texas||Top||55-68||Loss||-104||12 h 12 m||Show|
10* Colorado (9:05 ET): Both teams are obviously 2-0 here in the NIT, but while Colorado has covered both of its games (albeit barely), Texas is 0-2 ATS in theirs. The Buffs have won seven of eight overall, the only loss coming to top seed Washington in the Pac 12 Tournament. The Longhorns have now failed to cover five in a row dating back to the end of the regular season and are just 3-5 SU the L8 games. I realize this game is in Austin, but Colorado looks like the much better team and I'll gladly take the points here.
Colorado really dominated its second round NIT game against Norfolk State as they led by 20 at the half and coasted from there. They were actually pretty fortunate to cover the large spread (-14) as Norfolk State missed 11 of 21 free throws in a 16-point loss. But now the Buffaloes are back to being underdogs, a role they have actually not been in very much lately. Playing w/o rest in the Pac 12 Tournament, they did "upset" Oregon State as 2.5-point pups. Other than that, Washington is the only team they've been a dog against in the last month.
Honestly, it may be more important that Texas is a favorite than Colorado being the underdog. The Longhorns have been huge money burners as chalk this season, going 7-15 ATS in that role w/ eight outright losses. Their two wins in this Tournament have both been by six points or less and by just eight points total. They are just 18-16 SU on the season, by the way. The 1st round game against South Dakota State saw the 'Horns make 15 three-pointers (unlikely to be repeated here) and the game against Xavier went to OT. Better team is getting points. 10* Colorado
|03-25-19||Longwood v. DePaul -15||Top||89-97||Loss||-107||11 h 13 m||Show|
8* DePaul (8:00 ET): Longwood is outclassed here as they face a team from the Big East Conference. DePaul may not be Villanova, but they are certainly head and shoulders above their opponents in this one. Longwood pulled a real stunner in their first CBI game, beating Southern Miss 90-68 as 9.5-point home dogs. I'm not entirely sure how or why Longwood ended up w/ the home court advantage for that game, given Southern Miss was a 20-win team in the regular season. Longwood has a losing record (16-17 SU overall) and went just 5-11 in the Big South.
DePaul also delivered an impressive performance in 1st round CBI action by hanging 100 pts on Central Michigan. They gave up 86, but it hardly mattered as the Blue Demons couldn't miss and hit the century mark for the THIRD time this season and second in four games. We should expect them to score a ton again this evening while you probably can't say the same for Longwood. The Lancers did make 18 three-pointers and shoot 52.6% overall against Southern Miss, but they are averaging a scant 64.8 PPG away from home this season. That's a huge drop (double digits) from what they average at home.
Longwood clearly "wanted it more" than Southern Miss as they had way more energy at the start of the game. They raced out to a 25-13 lead and never looked back. A similar start is unlikely tonight. I know this seems like a lot of points to lay in a postseason tournament, but Longwood is probably the worst team still playing college basketball at this point. The Lancers had lost four in a row before beating Southern Miss in what I'll call a "gifted home game." DePaul can score w/ the best of 'em and should have no problems here. 8* DePaul
|03-25-19||76ers v. Magic +2||Top||98-119||Win||100||10 h 19 m||Show|
10* Orlando (7:05 ET): Right now, it appears as if Philadelphia is destined to be the 3-seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Indiana did win Sunday (crushing Denver!), but had been struggling prior to that, and Boston is imploding before our very eyes. The end result is a 2.5 game edge for the Sixers over the Pacers and 4.5 game edge over the Celtics entering Monday. But this doesn't mean the Sixers are immune to defeat right now. In fact, they were just upset in Atlanta over the weekend, losing 129-127 as seven-point road favorites. Tonight they're on the road again, facing an even more dangerous foe, and I'll gladly take the points here.
While Philly is comfortably in the playoffs, Orlando is busy fighting for its postseason life. The Magic have not been to the playoffs since 2012, which was Dwight Howard's final season here. Lately, they've been playing like a team that wants in, no matter the seed. It's a four-game win streak, all at home, and tonight they look to make it a perfect 5-0 homestand. While they needed OT to overcome Memphis Friday night, their three prior wins all came by double digits. Entering Monday, the Magic trail the Heat for 8th place in the Eastern Conference, so this game means a lot more to them than it does Philly.
Not only are the Sixers just 18-17 SU on the road this season, they've been outscored by roughly two full points per game. As a road favorite, they've really struggled, going 5-10 ATS w/ seven outright losses (including the one to Atlanta Saturday). Poor defense is what cost them in Atlanta as they gave up 129 points and lost in the closing seconds. Meanwhile, Orlando's defense has been outstanding of late as they're giving up an average of only 103.8 PPG since the All-Star Break, which is #1 in the league during that time. Opponents are shooting just 30.7% from three-point range since the Break, also #1 in the league. 10* Orlando
|03-25-19||Utah Valley +2.5 v. South Florida||Top||57-66||Loss||-109||10 h 13 m||Show|
8* Utah Valley State (7:00 ET): Another quarterfinal matchup in the CBI, this one featuring two teams that won, but failed to cover their first game. Utah Valley State is off a wild 92-84 win over pesky Cal State Northridge where they were 11-point favorites. Now they're the underdog against a USF team that struggled to get by Stony Brook (needed overtime) here in Tampa. The Bulls only won 82-79 (as 7.5-pt chalk), dropping to 1-7-1 ATS their last nine games. I realize UVSU has failed to cover three in a row, but I wouldn't trust South Florida as favorites moving forward. Take the points.
Utah Valley State had a solid finish to its regular season and has lost only one time in the last 10 games. That was to Grand Canyon in the WAC Tournament semifinals. The Wolverines finished second in the conference, behind only New Mexico State, who almost upset Auburn in the NCAA Tournament. Since the starting the year 1-3 (two losses to NCAA Tournament teams, the other at BYU), Utah Valley State has gone 24-6 its last 30 games w/ only one loss by more than seven points. This is a pretty good team and they're dangerous in the underdog role considering they average 77.6 PPG.
South Florida stumbled badly down the stretch, not only at the betting window, but straight up as well. The three-point win over Stony Brook was just the Bulls' second win in the last nine games. The other was by five, over a terrible Tulane team that didn't win a single conference game and just fired its head coach. In other words, I wouldn't want to be laying points w/ this group right now. The Bulls actually trailed Stony Brook by 18 (again, here at home!) at the half. The better team is getting points in this one, in my opinion. 8* Utah Valley State
|03-24-19||Ohio State +6.5 v. Houston||Top||59-74||Loss||-115||20 h 53 m||Show|
8* Ohio State (8:40 ET): Ohio State rewarded my faith in them by pulling a minor upset in Round 1, 62-59 over Iowa State as five-point pups. That was my biggest play of the Round of 64 and I came away even more impressed w/ the Buckeyes than I was going in. They do need to feed big man Kaleb Wesson more and I suspect that will happen here. Though OSU needed to stave off a potential game-winner from the Cyclones, they led virtually the whole way and only trailed briefly in the second half. Few will give the Buckeyes a chance here, but I'm taking the points.
Houston is the second round opponent for Ohio State. The regular season champs from the American Conference looked very impressive in Round 1, beating Georgia State by 29 as 12.5-point chalk. It was the third time in the last four games that the Cougars, a very good defensive team, held their opponent to 30.0% shooting or worse. But the competition hasn't been that strong as the other two times came against Memphis and UConn. UH did lose the American Tournament Final to Cincinnati, a team Ohio State has beaten this year. I get the Cougars have been beaten all of three times this season, but they're laying too many points.
I said this in the writeup for Ohio State in the last round, but the return of Wesson makes all the difference in the world w/ this team. A three-game losing streak at the end of the regular season coincided w/ Wesson being suspended, but he led the way w/ 21 points against Iowa State. The team is 3-0 ATS since he returned to the lineup, losing only once and that was to Michigan State in the Big 10 Tournament, by only seven points. Ohio State is undervalued right now, bottom line. The Big 10 is playing too well as a whole not to grab this many points. 8* Ohio State
|03-24-19||Buffalo +4 v. Texas Tech||Top||58-78||Loss||-109||17 h 10 m||Show|
10* Buffalo (6:10 ET): We're looking at a tournament almost bereft of major upsets. Entering play on Sunday, there's still a chance that every team seeded 3rd or higher could advance to the Sweet 16. That simply doesn't happen very often. Here, we have one of the few teams seeded 3rd or higher yet to make its way onto the Sweet 16, that being Texas Tech. The Red Raiders didn't have much problem w/ Northern Kentucky on Friday, winning 72-57 as 13-point chalk. They do own the nation's top defensive efficiency rating (per KenPom), but will be severely tested here by a Buffalo team that just put up 91 points in Round 1 and averages 85.1 PPG. Take the points.
Buffalo, the two-time reigning MAC Champs, are in the second round of the Tournament for a second straight year. Last year, they came in as a relative unknown and pulled an upset of Arizona as a 13-seed before running into Kentucky. This year, things are much different. They were the favorite in Round 1 and played like it, completely dominating Arizona State. They're a dog in Round 2 yet again, but this time only as a 6-seed and w/ a real legit shot of advancing to the school's first ever Sweet 16. Tip your cap to the job done here by HC Nate Oats, whose team is 32-3 SU this season. That's tied w/ Houston for the best win percentage (.914) in all of D-I.
Normally, I would side w/ a team that has the defensive efficiency Texas Tech does. But Buffalo is not often an underdog and is a legit Top 20 team in the country. This will be just the fourth time the Bulls have gotten points all season. They have scored 82 or more points in six consecutive games and were 5th in the regular season in points per game. This is also a veteran team. Their 1st round effort vs. Arizona State was as impressive as any turned in during the Round of 64. 10* Buffalo
|03-24-19||UCF +13.5 v. Duke||Top||76-77||Win||100||16 h 23 m||Show|
8* Central Florida (5:15 ET): The expectation is for top seed Duke to roll here. But we'll take advantage of that and grab an inflated number w/ a UCF team that really surprised me in dominating a good VCU team 48 hours ago. Yes, VCU's leading scorer was hampered with an injury. But the Golden Knights building up a lead as big as 21 points is still impressive. They're getting double digits here, because after all "Duke is Duke," but given the Blue Devils' slow start vs. North Dakota State, I wouldn't be rushing to the betting window to lay the points here. In fact, I'll do just the opposite.
Duke did get off to a slow start in Round 1. They trailed 16-seed North Dakota State (Carson Wentz's alma mater) early and were up only four at the break. Eventually, they did win rather easily, 85-62, but failed to cover the lofty 27.5-point spread. Coming into this year's NCAA Tournament as the prohibitive betting favorite (best odds to cut down the nets since 2015 Kentucky), the Blue Devils are definitely overvalued. They've covered only 3 of their last 12 games. UCF's defense can and is likely to keep them within the generous spread here.
The Knights give up just 64.1 PPG on the year w/ opponents shooting 39.2%. They held VCU to 31.1% shooting. UCF did turn in a poor effort in the regular season finale vs. Temple (lost 67-62) and then ran into the host team in the American Tourney, Memphis, and lost badly. But other than those two games, the Golden Knights have covered every game dating back to February 10th. That's a 9-2 ATS run entering Sunday. They're 8-3 SU in that same stretch w/ two of the losses coming by five points. They've suffered only one loss by double digits all season and that was in the conference tournament at Memphis. UCF has the tallest player in the country on its roster (the 7'6" Tacko Fall), so look out Zion Williamson! Also, their HC (Johnny Dawkins) is a former Coach K assistant, so his former boss isn't going to look to embarrass him. 8* Central Florida
|03-24-19||Iowa +8.5 v. Tennessee||Top||77-83||Win||100||11 h 12 m||Show|
8* Iowa (12:10 ET): The Big 10 has performed so admirably in this Tournament that how can you NOT consider Iowa plus the points here? The conference has only lost (straight up) twice so far and one of those was because Minnesota and Michigan State played one another (Wisconsin was the other). The Hawkeyes really impressed me in coming back from an early hole to defeat Cincinnati 79-72 as 4-pt dogs in the 1st Round. They were down 18-5 early, but from that point on, it was all Hawkeyes. In the second round, they'll be facing a Tennessee team that is NOT as strong as Cincinnati was defensively. I expect Iowa to score in this game and that makes taking the points the way to go. Also the game is in Columbus, a venue they regularly visit as Big 10 rivals of Ohio State.
Tennessee did not cover its 1st round game vs. Colgate. The Vols won 77-70 as 17.5-pt chalk as they were outscored in the 2nd half. With 14 minutes remaining, the game was actually tied as Tennessee could not protect a 14-point lead. Like I said earlier, I expect Iowa to have plenty of success offensively in this game. They shoot 36.6% from three-point range and average 78.3 PPG overall. Even though it was season-high (15) three pointers allowed by Tennessee against Colgate, defending the three-point line has been an issue all year for the Vols. They let opponents shoot 38.7% from behind the arc outside of Knoxville for the year. If Colgate was able to have that kind of success, just imagine what the Hawkeyes can do.
I'm not sure why Iowa isn't being given the respect it deserves here. Maybe it's their poor defensive efficiency rating, which normally would scare me off. But UT is no "great shakes" either defensively as they allow 77.8 PPG away from home and that's a big reason why I've never totally "bought in" on their success this season. Though still only 2-9 ATS the L11 games, Iowa is 5-1 SU/ATS at neutral sites in 2018-19 and rarely is getting this many points. 8* Iowa
|03-23-19||Auburn -2 v. Kansas||Top||89-75||Win||100||14 h 5 m||Show|
8* Auburn (9:40 ET): The lower seed is slightly favored here, which is telling. Now I understand, it's a 4 vs. 5 (seed) matchup, so the teams are rather evenly matched on paper. But I still feel we're getting some value here on Auburn due to the way their 1st round game vs. New Mexico State ended. The Tigers nearly blew all of a 13-point second half lead, holding on for a 78-77 victory thanks to some NMSU blunders in the closing minute. Ironically, I thought Auburn was a little overvalued for that 1st round matchup as they were coming off winning the SEC Tournament. But for much of the year, it's been a case of being undervalued and that is again the case tonight.
Kansas was the only high seed to cover the spread in the afternoon session on Thursday. They ran away from Northeastern in an 87-53 beatdown that saw the Jayhawks completely dominate the second half. They shot 56 percent from the floor, but it won't be that easy again tonight. Nor are they likely to hold Auburn anywhere close to the 28.1 FG% they held Northeastern to. I think most would agree that this Kansas team is NOT as strong as past editions, so I'm not surprise they check in as the underdog here. Note that the Jayhawks are just 5-11 ATS coming off a SU win including 0-4 ATS if that SU win was by more than 20 points.
Auburn is hot as they've won nine straight. A lot of those wins have been close, but they did destroy Tennessee in the SEC Tournament Final, a situation where I was on them. I've made the case multiple times this season that this is a Top 15 team and typically they are priced accordingly. The Tigers played much better than the final scored showed vs. New Mexico State and now don't have to win by any kind of significant margin. Kansas will not be able to rely on a 50-16 edge in points in the paint here like they did vs. Northeastern. Lay the short number. 8* Auburn
|03-23-19||Heat v. Wizards -2||Top||113-108||Loss||-100||11 h 12 m||Show|
8* Washington (7:05 ET): Not a good spot for Miami tonight as they are coming off a 116-87 whitewashing at the hands of Milwaukee last night. As well as the Heat had been playing before that (they'd won 8 of 10), they still are only one-half game ahead of Orlando for the 8th (and final) playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Heat may play better on the road, and they haven't lost to a team that isn't in the top two of the East since February. But Washington has been good at home this season ATS (21-13-1) and typically takes care of business as a favorite. The Wizards may be on the fringes of playoff contention, but I look for them to come up big on Saturday.
The Heat got off to a decent start last night, scoring 32 pts in the 1st quarter. But from there, they were unable to score 20 points in any other quarter. The Bucks are #1 in the league in defensive efficiency, so give some credit there. However, make no mistake about it, Miami has had some offensive troubles this season. Three times in the last five games they've been held below 100 points. I'm surprised to see the Heat are 11-3 ATS in the 2nd game of a back to back this season, but that also includes a 7-1 mark at home. Only three times this season have they had to play B2B road games. They have been outscored by 5.3 PPG in those three contests.
Washington has lost three in a row, putting a severe damper on its already dwindling playoff hopes. They are coming off a five-point loss to the Nuggets, here at home, a game that was tied going into the fourth quarter. That was the second night of a back to back for them. The good news is that the Wizards are on a 6-1 ATS run following a SU loss. They've also fared far better in division games this year (9-4 ATS) than have the Heat (4-9 ATS), at least when it comes to the betting window. The Wizards have covered 2 of 3 against the Heat already this year. I like them to make it 3 of 4 tonight. 8* Washington
|03-23-19||Maryland +2.5 v. LSU||Top||67-69||Win||100||26 h 36 m||Show|
10* Maryland (12:10 ET): The defensive efficiency metric I lean so heavily on for handicapping this Tournament clearly favors Maryland in this second round matchup. The Terrapins are 24th in the country in defensive efficiency, LSU is 58th. Taking underdogs, no matter how small, with that kind of DE advantage is something I love to do. It was the strategy used in yday's big winners on Oklahoma and Washington. Neither of these teams covered Thursday, but LSU is a team I was NOT sold on for much of the regular season as they were a clear overachiever in the regular season. They also are playing w/o HC Will Wade, who is a part of the ongoing NCAA scandal. Take the points.
Maryland spent a lot of their Round 1 game trailing Belmont. The Terps are a very young team w/ six freshman seeing time. No one in their rotation had ever won a NCAA Tourney game before Thursday. In the frontcourt are two players (Fernando, Smith) who will be in the NBA. In the backcourt is one of the Big 10's best guards, Anthony Cowan Jr, who shot just 3 of 18 against Belmont (including 1 of 10 on three-pointers). The fact the Terps still won in spite of their best player having "that kind of game" is a mark in their favor, especially w/ them falling into such an early hole (trailed by 12 in 1st half). Cowan won't shoot that poorly again here.
LSU was far more in control of their 1st round game against Yale. The Tigers led by 16 at halftime and held on for a 79-74 win (but did not cover). However, the size advantage they enjoyed against Yale won't be present here. Now you can say the same for Maryland, who used size to its advantage against Belmont. However, a discussion of the LSU coaching situation bears repeating. Not having your head coach in this tournament is obviously not ideal. LSU has enjoyed a tremendous record in close games this year (including four OT wins in SEC play). You have to wonder if that luck is set to run out. I think it will. 10* Maryland
|03-22-19||Ohio State +5.5 v. Iowa State||Top||62-59||Win||100||78 h 28 m||Show|
10* Ohio State (9:50 ET): Iowa State is riding high right now, coming off an impressive win in the Big 12 Tournament. But I also believe said run makes the Cyclones somewhat susceptible to a 1st round upset. The committee did them no favors here w/ the draw of an undervalued Ohio State team, who most will disregard simply because they finished w/ a losing conference record. The Buckeyes do come into the Tournament having lost four of five. However, key to that was they were w/o their best player (Kaleb Wesson). He's back now and OSU is a live dog here. Take the points.
The edge in defensive efficiency here goes to the Buckeyes, who rank a strong 27th in that category, which is the second highest rating for any double digit seed. Meanwhile, Iowa State is 59th in defensive efficiency, putting them right behind 13-seed UC Irvine. In terms of single digit seeds, only five have a lower defensive efficiency rating than the Cyclones and two of them are either an 8 or 9 seed. Something that must be remembered here is that Iowa State had lost six of eight going into the Big 12 Tournament. Now they're the "toast of the town."
Ohio State played two horrible games w/o Wesson, losing by double digits at Purdue and Northwestern. They shot 33.3% and 29.6% in the two losses. But then they took Wisconsin to overtime (lost by 4) and Wesson returned. With Wesson back, they beat Indiana in the Big 10 Tourney before bowing out to top seed Michigan State (only lost by 7). Wesson's return is huge and makes the Buckeyes a much better team than how they looked down the stretch. Don't fall victim to recency bias, Ohio State is the play here. 10* Ohio State
|03-22-19||Grizzlies v. Magic -9||Top||119-123||Loss||-107||9 h 46 m||Show|
10* Orlando (7:05 ET): The Magic are trying to make the playoffs, something they have not done in the post-Dwight Howard era (which goes back to 2012). Right now, they are 1.5 games behind Miami for the 8-seed and have won three in a row. All three wins have been by double digits. Now, they've hardly faced the stiffest competition during that time. Two of the wins were against Cleveland and Atlanta while the other was against New Orleans w/o Anthony Davis. But those wins show me that Orlando is "doing what it should do" and that trend should continue tonight at home against Memphis.
Now Memphis is a team that I've used somewhat regularly of late, in the underdog role. Their scoring defense (ranked #2 overall) is good enough to keep them in most games. But even though they just upset Houston (at home) Wednesday night, the Grizzlies have been giving up a lot more points than usual recently. It's an average of 130.6 PPG allowed in their L3 contests. Now they did need OT to overcome the Rockets and James Harden's 50 points. But the prior two games, both of which were on the road saw them allow 132 and 135 points to teams far worse than Orlando (Atlanta, Washington).
Maybe we should talk a little bit about Orlando's defense here. The Magic held the Pelicans to a 37.3 FG%, the fourth time in five games they've held an opponent below 42.0% from the field. In those five games, Orlando is allowing an average of just 96.6 PPG. Memphis is not a good road team (10-25 SU) and while the rank near the top of the league in scoring defense, they're also at the bottom in offense at 102.5 PPG. The Grizz are long out of playoff contention in the West, so motivation could be an issue moving forward. No so for Orlando, however, as they look to avenge an eight-point loss in Memphis from 12 days ago. The Magic are also a perfect 7-0 ATS at home this season when coming off B2B home games. 10* Orlando
|03-22-19||Washington +3 v. Utah State||Top||78-61||Win||100||76 h 32 m||Show|
8* Washington (6:50 ET): Here's yet another matchup where defensive efficiency is the key metric to lean on. Washington may have run into the buzzsaw known as "Oregon" in the Pac 12 Tournament Final, but Mike Hopkins' Huskies were regular season champs in the conference and that should mean something here. I realize that the Pac 12 was most certainly "down" this season, but the Huskies are a top 20 team in the country in defensive efficiency and that makes them a fantastic value getting points in this 1st round matchup w/ Utah State. Take the points.
Utah State was a "bubble team" entering its conference tournament (Mt West), but took itself right off the bubble by winning in Las Vegas. They caught a break though when top seed Nevada was upset in the semifinals by San Diego State. That made for an easier than anticipated final, which the Aggies won 64-57 as six-point favorites. USU has won 10 straight to get to 28-6 SU on the year, but the level of competition in the Mt West isn't what it is in the Pac 12, even in a down year for the former. Utah State ranks only 47th in defensive efficiency, so again not sure they should be favored here against the regular season champs from a bigger (and better) conference.
Washington plays a 2-3 zone as Hopkins is a Jim Boeheim disciple from Syracuse. My call is that Utah State is going to struggle to make shots against the unfamiliar defense. Also, when Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year Matisse Thybulle is on the floor, the Huskies force a turnover on 25% of their opponents possessions. Utah State actually allows a lower FG% than Washington over the course of the season, but that's also thanks to facing the dregs of the Mountain West. Save for Nevada LY, the MWC has really struggled in this event. Utah State went 17-17 SU last year and was picked to finish NINTH in the Mountain West before the season started. The spot is likely "too big" for them. 8* Washington
|03-22-19||Oregon v. Wisconsin -1.5||Top||72-54||Loss||-109||73 h 24 m||Show|
10* Wisconsin (4:30 ET): This just might be the most fascinating line of the entire 1st round. Oregon is undoubtedly hot right now as they ran through the Pac 12 Tournament, winning three of their four games by double digits en route to garnering the automatic bid (which they needed). The Ducks are a perfect 7-0 ATS in March and being priced like it as they are essentially a "pick 'em" taking on a Wisconsin team that has spent much of this season ranked in the top 25. Under normal circumstances, I might consider Oregon in this spot. But this is a horrendous draw facing a team that ranks in the top five (nationally) in defensive efficiency.
Wisconsin comes into the Tournament ranked #21 in the country at 23-10 SU overall. They've won six of their last eight games. The only two losses were by two to Indiana and to Michigan State in the Big 10 semis. There have been instances of the Badgers dropping B2B games before, but I just do not see it happening here. This is one of the top defensive teams in the country and that carries a lot of weight w/ me this time of year. They also have an efficient offense, led by Ethan Happ, who is one of the better individual players in this entire Tournament. Oregon will NOT enjoy the pace at which Wisconsin likes to play.
Oregon has actually won eight in a row going back to the final game of February, including two wins over regular season champ Washington. But the Ducks also benefited from having played all of those opponents at least one time before. Here, that won't be the case and Wisconsin certainly doesn't play like most Pac 12 teams. The irony here is Oregon is actually no slouch defensively either. They are top 20 in the country. Had they been matched up w/ any other 5-seed, I would have probably taken them. But the selection committee dealt them a bad blow with Wisconsin, who is simply the better team in every facet of the game. Remember, the Ducks lost their best player (Bol Bol) mid-season, something that isn't even being talked about anymore. A month ago, no one would have thought they'd be in the Tournament, let alone have a chance to beat a team like Wisconsin on a neutral floor. 10* Wisconsin
|03-22-19||Oklahoma +1.5 v. Ole Miss||Top||95-72||Win||100||69 h 23 m||Show|
8* Oklahoma (12:40 ET): I'm again turning to defensive efficiency as the key metric for this NCAA Tournament and why not? It's been pretty foolproof in year's past. Three years ago, few would have predicted South Carolina would get to the Final Four. But the Gamecocks were actually top three in the country in D.E. (Last year's Cinderella, Loyola Chicago, was 17th). It's not the "end all, be all," but it is instructive. In this early Friday matchup, we're looking at Ole Miss team that ranks a rather pedestrian 65th in defensive efficiency going against an Oklahoma side that's 23rd. I think that's pretty significant when the better defensive team is taking points.
Similar to last season, Oklahoma got off to a great start and then faltered a bit in the teeth of Big 12 play. The only difference is this year's team doesn't have Trae Young. But they are much better defensively (LY's squad ranked 85th in efficiency) and thus capable of winning at least one game (which the Young-led team failed to do LY). The Sooners are allowing a FG% of just 40.2 for the season, which is a very good number (2nd in the Big 12). While they did finish w/ a losing conference reccord, don't let that fool you. This is a team better designed to win in March than on a random Tuesday in January.
Ole Miss was picked to finish 14th (last!) in the SEC before the season, so tip your cap to the job done here by 1st year HC Kermit Davis. But one thing Davis will have to work on moving forward is the defense, which is particularly suspect along the three-point line. Ole Miss opponents buried over 37% of 3PA, which is a really high number and will mean trouble against an OU squad that has multiple players that can shoot from deep. Also, the Rebels are one of the very worst teams in the field at defending in transition. The last five games saw them allow a FG% of 50.0 (!), so it's no wonder they lost four of the five games. 8* Oklahoma
|03-21-19||Pistons -7 v. Suns||Top||118-98||Win||100||14 h 27 m||Show|
10* Detroit (10:05 ET): A few 'dud' performances on the road have really hurt the Pistons lately. First they were held to 75 and 74 points respectively, by Brooklyn and Miami, two teams they are in direct competition w/ for playoff spots. Then, after seemingly getting back on track w/ a couple of wins at home (over the Lakers and Toronto), they go out and lose at Cleveland to the lowly Cavs, 126-119 as 6.5-pt favorites. It's a similar class of opponent here - and a similar number - but this time I look for a much different result as the Pistons should roll the Suns tonight. Lay the points.
Phoenix also happens to be off a loss as a favorite, which is something you can't say very often. Sure, losing has certainly been common for a team that's 17-55 SU (last in the Western Conference) on the season. But being favored is not something that happens often to the Suns. The fact they lost here at home to Chicago, 116-101 on Wednesday, doesn't exactly bode well for tonight. The Suns trailed basically wire to wire. Speaking of wire to wire, they've been in the basement of the Western Conference virtually the entire season. I see no reason to expect them to play well tonight.
Detroit, on the other hand, should be highly motivated. This road trip will only get tougher w/ stops in Golden State, Portland and Denver forthcoming. They already blew a very winnable game in Cleveland, allowing the Kevin Love-less Cavs to shoot a ridiculous 58.2% from the field. They can't afford to drop another game to a bottom-feeder. Blake Griffin did sit out vs the Cavs, so his return should spark the offense. It should be easy scoring on a Phoenix team that is tied for 28th in points allowed and 29th in efficiency. Covering the spread will require a little defense too and I expect the Pistons to be a lot better here than they were vs. Cleveland. 10* Detroit
|03-21-19||St. Mary's +5.5 v. Villanova||Top||57-61||Win||100||69 h 54 m||Show|
10* St. Mary's (7:20 ET): If you recall past Tournament runs (of mine), then you know defensive efficiency is a metric I lean on heavily this time of year. It can be particularly useful when the underdog has a higher DE rating. Such is the case here w/ St. Mary's taking on Villanova. Make no mistake about, this Villanova team is nowhere close to LY's juggernaut that ended up cutting the nets down. That team ranked 11th nationally in DE. This year, the Wildcats ranked 73rd, which (in my eyes) makes them susceptible to suffering a 1st round upset. I'll take the points here.
You have to wonder whether or not St. Mary's would be in the NCAA Tournament had it not been for an upset of Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament Final. But the Gaels did win that game and thus are here as an 11-seed. They are no defensive juggernaut (55th in efficiency), but they have a higher rating than 'Nova and are also comparable on the offensive end (21st vs. 16th). I just don't see the gap between the teams that the oddsmakers seem to. St. Mary's has won a NCAA Tournament game each of the last three years. They play at a very slow pace and also crash the glass at a solid rate. If they can beat the Zags, well, they are capable of beating anyone on any given night.
Villanova entered LY's Tournament as the betting favorite. That is certainly not the case this year. While they did win both the Big East regular season title and tournament, the league was down. The Wildcats also won the last two games by just four (Xavier) and two (Seton Hall) points. Also, despite a high number of attempts from behind the three-point line, the Wildcats aren't converting at their usual rate in 2018-19. I've had this team earmarked as having the potential for suffering an outright loss in the 1st round for some time. I'm not wavering from that. 10* St. Mary's
|03-21-19||Abilene Christian +23 v. Kentucky||Top||44-79||Loss||-115||68 h 19 m||Show|
8* Abeline Christian (7:10 ET): Little is known about 15-seed Abilene Christian. But Kentucky HC John Calipari seems at least a little scared, at least when it comes to those particular Wildcats' three-point shooting. And for good reason. Abilene Christian is connecting at a somewhat ridiculous 38.6% from behind the three-point line this year. Granted, the level of competition in the Southland is nothing close to what the Wildcats will see here. But given their proficiency from behind the arc and how many points they're getting, I think the underdog is a strong call here. No one will give them a chance. I think they'll outperform expectations rather easily.
So here's the deal on Abilene Christian. They were NOT regular season champs in the Southland (finished 2nd), but did unseat New Orleans in the Tournament Final, 77-60, and were 4.5-point favorites in that game. This is their 1st ever NCAA Tournament berth, but it's an experienced group w/ three seniors and one junior among the starting five. Admittedly, it's not a team w/ a lot of height and depth took a hit when two reserves were dismissed earlier in the year. But this team's level of three-point shooting can keep them in any game.
Kentucky was really strong down the stretch and should have beaten Tennessee in the SEC Tournament. But they faltered late and lost that game. As per usual, UK has a young roster. They've got plenty of talent, but I can see the players looking past this game and onto the next round. They've only covered 1 of their last 6 games. Also, Coach Cal's team will not be able to trade threes w/ Abilene Christian. Only 23.6% of UK's points come from behind the arc. That's bottom 20 in the country. The three-point shot alone should be able to keep the underdog within the generous spread here. 8* Abeline Christian
|03-21-19||Vermont +9 v. Florida State||Top||69-76||Win||100||15 h 12 m||Show|
8* Vermont (2:00 ET): I'm seen "some" go so far as to label Florida State a "Final Four Darkhorse." Maybe that's true, but the designation has also made the Seminoles a tad bit overvalued here in Round 1. I concede that the Noles have lost only twice since January 22nd. Those losses were to North Carolina and the ACC Championship Game against Duke. They're 14-2 SU the L16 games. But this Vermont team is not to be taken lightly. The America East Champs play great defense and rebound shockingly well given their lack of height. It's also been a two-year journey back to the Tourney for the Catamounts. Take the points.
Vermont fans feel center Anthony Lamb is as good as any player in the country. He was certainly the best player in his conference. The Catamounts allow just 62.6 PPG, which is the 16th best in the entire country. In conference play, they allowed just 0.885 points per possession. The last five games saw them allow an average of just 52.6 PPG. Only three teams in the country gave up fewer offensive rebounds. Something else that's key is how often Florida State sends its opponents to the free throw line and how good Vermont is at converting when they get to the charity stripe. Unaccustomed to being an underdog, Vermont will be very motivated here. By the way, this game is being played in Hartford, which is much closer to Burlington than it is Tallahassee.
Back to the journey. Last year, Vermont was one of the top mid-majors in the country. But on their home floor, they were upset by UMBC (on a buzzer beater). We all know what happened w/ UMBC (became 1st 16-seed to win a NCAA Tourney Game). Vermont was not going to be denied this year, however. They got revenge on UMBC is this year's America East Final and here they are, a year more experienced. I think that after making a run to the ACC Final, FSU is due for a letdown. Vermont is the kind of team that pulls upsets in this Tournament. 8* Vermont
|03-20-19||Heat v. Spurs -6.5||Top||110-105||Loss||-103||11 h 18 m||Show|
10* San Antonio (8:35 ET): A month or so ago, it was no guarantee that either of these teams would make the playoffs. But both have gotten hot and now appear to be virtual locks for the postseason. Miami is still a precarious 8th in the East, but has won 8 of its last 11, including a 116-107 triumph at OKC on Monday. But San Antonio is the hottest team in the league right now w/ not only nine consecutive victories (8-1 ATS), but also six consecutive covers. They just beat the Warriors (here at home) Monday night and I see them continuing to roll here. Lay the points.
Defensive has fueled the Spurs' turnaround as they're now tied for 5th in the West (w/ OKC) at 42-29 SU overall. For awhile, this was looking like the worst defensive team HC Greg Popovich had ever coached in San Antonio. But the Spurs have been #2 in the league in defensive efficiency since Feb 26th, allowing 103.1 points per 100 possessions. This coupled w/ the fact they have been BETTER than usual at the offensive end this season (4th in efficiency), thanks primarily to leading the league in 3PT shooting % (39.8) by a comfortable margin. The win over Golden State improved the Spurs to a remarkable 16-1 ATS at home this season when playing w/ revenge for a road loss. They have revenge here as they lost down in Miami, 95-88, back in November.
The Heat have turned in some superb defensive efforts of their own recently. Notably, they've held Charlotte below 85 pts TWICE this month and Detroit to only 74. Those three wins were crucial in the playoff race. However, save for OKC, none of Miami's recent victories have come against competition the caliber of what they face tonight. It's both impressive and odd that the Heat have played better on the road this season, but I don't think that trend holds tonight as the Spurs are too hot to deny right now. 10* San Antonio
|03-19-19||Belmont v. Temple +3.5||Top||81-70||Loss||-108||22 h 25 m||Show|
10* Temple (9:10 ET): Belmont is the rare at-large NCAA Tournament entrant. The Bruins tied for the regular season title in the OVC (w/ Murray State), but fell to the Racers (who are led by the sensational Ja Morant) in the Tourney Final. I think it's nice that the Bruins got into the field of 68 (they were deserving!), but this is a much tougher draw than most realize. I reckon that Belmont will be the popular play b/c of the story here, but it's a little surprising they are favored considering Temple is the better defensive team and played a far tougher schedule in the American. I'm taking the points here.
Temple had an early exit in the American Tourney, losing to a lower seed (Wichita State) in the quarterfinals, 80-74 as 1.5-pt chalk. They limited the Shockers to 39.1% from the field, but the problem was the Owls had their own "off-shooting night." The Owls finished 3rd in the American, behind only Houston and Cincinnati. They were one of only two American teams to beat Houston in the regular season. While an extremely fortunate 4-0 in overtime games this year, the Owls were rarely blown out. Their largest loss (18 pts) was to Tulsa of all teams. The only other DD loss came to Villanova. They went 6-3-1 ATS as underdogs.
It's not that Temple is that great defensively; it's also that Belmont is pretty bad at that end of the floor. The Bruins rank an ugly 127th in defensive efficiency, which is a key metric I lean heavily on this time of year. Belmont does shoot the three extremely well (37.4%), but Temple has fared well against such teams, going 8-0 ATS the L2 years vs. teams that shoot at least 37% from behind the arc. I don't think we'll see the usual three-point sharpshooting here from Belmont. They were just 7 of 32 (21.8%) vs. Murray State in the OVC Tourney Final, a potentially bad sign. Temple has an experienced backcourt, led by the AAC's top scorer Shizz Alston Jr. They get the cash. 10* Temple
|03-19-19||76ers v. Hornets +1.5||Top||118-114||Loss||-110||11 h 55 m||Show|
10* Charlotte (7:05 ET): The mistake here is that the public sees the line an automatically gravitates towards the Sixers, who are third in the East and a "name team." But while Charlotte is currently 10th in the Eastern Conference, they're a much better team than the record shows. This has actually been the case for some time now w/ the Hornets. But the problem has been an incredibly frustrating 5-24 SU record in games decided by three points or less the L3 seasons. Their 10 such losses this year are easily the most in the league. But tonight, I've got them picking up a much needed win!
Sunday saw the Hornets turn in an absolutely dreadful showing at Miami. They put up only 75 points, which was fine by me as I had the Under (and it was a 46-point winner!) But from Charlotte's perspective, it was a very bad loss. It put them 2.5 games behind the Heat for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It was also their 8th loss in the past 11 games. But despite this, a return home should do the team some good. They're 21-14 SU at home this season, outscoring opponents by about 4.0 PPG. This is a stark contrast to the team's poor performance on the road.
The Hornets basically have their "backs against the wall" going into this one. If they don't turn things around quickly, then it's time to kiss the playoffs goodbye. The upcoming schedule is challenging. But for as poor as Sunday's performance looks on paper, note it was a close game going into the 4th quarter. But they missed 13 of their final 16 shots, including all eight three-point attempt, and finished the game w/ a season-low 31.3 FG%. They'll be much better tonight, trust me. Philly is coming off a 130-125 win over Milwaukee (in spite of 52 pts from Giannis Antetokounmpo), but prone for a letdown on the road where they're just a game over .500 for the season (and -2.1 PPG). The fact that the Sixers are 3-0 SU/ATS vs. the Hornets in 2018-19 is misleading when you consider all three games were decided by three points or less and all were played before Thanksgiving. Two were overtime games. This is Charlotte's chance to make a statement and I believe they will deliver big-time. 10* Charlotte
|03-18-19||Pacers v. Blazers -4||Top||98-106||Win||100||15 h 35 m||Show|
8* Portland (10:35 ET): The Blazers lost more than a game 48 hours ago. C.J. McCollum went down w/ a left leg injury in the team's 108-103 loss at San Antonio Saturday and he'll be out for "at least a week." The Spurs were actually my *10* Game of the Week, so I "benefited" from the injury. I feel we can do so again tonight, albeit in a much different way. Portland opened up too low here and should be favored by significantly more against an Indiana team that has been w/o its best player for two months now. The Pacers have done a nice job "treading water" w/o Victor Oladipo, but have lost six of their last 10 w/ all four wins coming at home. Lay the short number.
Indiana, like Portland, is 4th in its conference. They are coming off a last second loss at Denver Saturday night. In that game, the Pacers got off to a hot start as they were up 34-25 at the end of the first quarter and led by as many as 18 in the second. But they went 0 for 11 from three-point range after halftime. Losing 102-100 will be difficult to get over for a team that has now dropped five straight on the road. That includes a 19-point loss to Milwaukee and 17-point loss to Philadelphia. Over the L5 games, the Pacers are averaging less than 100 PPG!
Even without McCollum, Portland should be okay as long as Damian Lillard has the ball in his hands. Lillard had 34 in the losing effort vs. San Antonio Saturday. He also recently scored 51 in a game. The home court advantage is huge here for the Blazers. Not only has Indiana lost five in a row on the road, they haven't won in Portland since 2007! Portland is 8-1 SU in the L9 head to head meetings w/ Indiana, including a 103-93 road win very early on in the season. Being that they're 25-9 SU at home, I think they overcome the McCollum injury here and get the 'W.' 8* Portland
|03-17-19||Nets v. Clippers -6||Top||116-119||Loss||-109||21 h 23 m||Show|
10* LA Clippers (9:05 ET): Bad spot for Brooklyn here as they just got beat in Utah last night and now have to head further West to take on the rested Clippers. The Nets have not been a good bet in the second game of a back to back this season, going just 3-9 SU and 2-10 ATS. They also lose roughly two-thirds of the time when priced as an underdog. They were never really "in it" last night vs. the Jazz, trailing by double digits most of the way. They shot just 35 percent and were dominated on the glass. The loss dropped Brooklyn to 2-6 ATS in the month of March.
The last time we saw the Clippers, they were beating the Bulls 128-121 Friday night. This will be the fifth game of a six-game homestand, so the situation is totally in their favor tonight. The Clippers are looking like a real safe bet to make the playoffs right now as they've won six of seven games in March and have a six-game cushion over ninth place Sacramento w/ just 12 games to play. The top eight in the West have really been solidified at this point. But position is still up for grabs among the top eight and the Clips have a very realistic shot at moving up the standings. They could finish as high as as 3rd (unlikely) were everything to break right.
Brooklyn is 7th in the East, which has a far more congested race for the bottom few spots. It's a 3.5 game lead over ninth place Orlando and Charlotte, so it's not time to panic yet, but the Nets aren't playing well. They've been held under 100 pts in B2B games for just the third time all year and have really been dominated on the glass in their last two games. As touched on earlier, things have not been good in the second game of a back to back as they're being outscored by 10.4 PPG in that spot. They've also lost seven straight times on the road to the Clippers. Huge edges to the home team in this one. 10* LA Clippers
|03-17-19||Texas-Arlington v. Georgia State -3.5||Top||64-73||Win||100||7 h 33 m||Show|
8* Georgia State (2:00 ET): The Sun Belt Championship Game has wormed its way onto Selection Sunday, but this matchup between UT Arlington and Georgia State may have the most value on the board. The top two seeds benefited tremendously from the SBC Tourney format, which gave both of them a bye into the semifinals, which means they each only had to win one game to get here. Those games were played yday w/ Georgia State beating Texas State 59-46 & UT Arlington beating Georgia Southern 67-58. Georgia State won both regular season matchups against UT Arlington and thus is the top seed here. I look for them to make it 3 for 3 on Sunday. Lay the points.
You may remember Georgia State from a few years ago when they pulled a historic upset (15-seed over a 2) against Michigan State. Ron Hunter is still the coach here and the program is obviously doing well. The Panthers hold non-conference victories this year over East Tennessee State, Alabama, Georgia and a St. Bonaventure team that may end up making the Big Dance. I put a high priority on defense this time of year and Georgia State certainly turned in a strong effort on that end of the floor yday. They held Texas State to 21.8% shooting (season-low for an opponent) and only 15 first half points. It was the Panthers' seventh win in their last eight games and they are 4-0 SU/ATS L4.
The two regular seasons wins over UT Arlington both saw Georgia State play outstanding defense. They held the Mavericks to 37.5% shooting overall and just 10 of 52 from three-point range. In the home game, UT Arlington shot just 2 of 25 from behind the arc! Despite attempting far more shots, the Mavericks couldn't get the job done either game. Now they did cover in both losses. They lost by five as 6.5-pt home dogs and six as 8-pt road dogs. So this looks like a value on the favorite here. UT Arlington is on a 5-0 SU/ATS run, but that ends here. 8* Georgia State