|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|04-22-19||Rockets v. Jazz OVER 213||Top||91-107||Loss||-110||15 h 15 m||Show|
10* Over Rockets/Jazz (10:35 ET): On a night that James Harden missed his first 15 field goal attempts, Houston still found a way to win Game 3 (104-101 as 2-pt underdogs) and put Utah on the brink of elimination. Harden scored 14 of his 22 points in a decisive fourth quarter Saturday and you have to figure he'll shoot better tonight. At the same time, Utah has only shot 40.1% as a team in the series. They're averaging just 96.3 points per game. I'm not convinced that the Jazz can stay alive, but this game will go Over the total.
Houston is off its lowest scoring game in the series, which is primarily tied to Harden's individual effort. The Rockets average 113.9 PPG for the year and are above that number in the playoffs. With Harden a virtual lock to score more in Game 4, you can look up for the Rockets' point total to go up as well. Harden dragged down the overall shooting percentage last time out (38.4%), which was the Rockets' worst shooting game in almost a month. The last time they shot below 40% in a game, they came back and scored 112 pts the next time out.
It would appear that I had a gross misread on this series. I came in thinking Utah could compete and possibly take the series. After all, the Jazz did have the league's 4th best net efficiency rating and point differential in the regular season. But that all appears for naught now. Still, I don't anticipate the Jazz simply "rolling over" in this one. Not on their home floor, where they average a solid 112.4 PPG. Each of the first two games fell very close to the closing number, but in what very well might be the final game of the series, I'm calling for the highest scoring game of the series as well. 10* Over Rockets/Jazz
|04-21-19||Raptors v. Magic OVER 207||Top||107-85||Loss||-105||20 h 40 m||Show|
8* Over Raptors/Magic (7:05 ET): This is the other series (besides Celtics-Pacers) where there has yet to be an Over. Toronto now leads 2-1 after taking Game 3, 98-93. Unfortunately for Raptors' backers, unless they bet early, it was an ATS loss as the line closed -5.5. But the team will take it. Since losing Game 1 at home, 104-101 as 9.5-pt chalk, Toronto has held Orlando to just 175 total pts in a pair of victories. The Magic have shot pretty horribly for the series (37.8 FG%) and really need a win here or the series is all but over. Speaking of Over, that's what I'll call for Game 4 to do!
Playing the Over is a departure for me in the series as I won w/ the Under in both Games 1 and 3. In my Game 1 analysis, I wrote "an outright upset is definitely in the realm of possibility here" (due to the Raptors' poor history in Game 1's.) That's exactly what happened. I also wrote that "the Magic posted the league's top defensive efficiency rating in the second half of the regular season." Thus I thought it was a bit odd to see them come into the playoffs on a 7-game Over streak. I thought there was definitely value w/ the Under early in the series and was right.
But now the oddsmakers have been forced to adjust and we have our lowest O/U line for any game in the series. You have to figure that Orlando will start to shoot the ball better. While not a great offensive team on the road, at home the Magic average 109.6 points per game. Toronto is obviously one of the league's better offensive teams, averaging 114.0 PPG. It should be noted that this is the lowest O/U line for any Raptors game in some time. Their last game w/ a sub-210 pt total was New Year's Day vs. Utah. The Under might be 7-0 the L7 meetings here in Orlando, but the Over is 7-0 the L7 times Orlando has played on exactly one days' rest. 8* Over Raptors/Magic
|04-21-19||Celtics v. Pacers OVER 203.5||Top||110-106||Win||100||14 h 40 m||Show|
10* Over Celtics/Pacers (1:05 ET): This is one of two series yet to see an Over (Raptors-Magic is the other). The first two games in Boston were obviously really low scoring w/ the Celtics winning 84-74 and 99-91. Each of those two games saw the Pacers experience a significant scoring drought. In Game 1, it was a dreadful eight-point third quarter that turned a halftime advantage into a large deficit. Game 2, the collapse happened later w/ a 12-point fourth quarter and no field goals over the final minute. Obviously, both Games 1 and 2 stayed well Under the total.
Game 3 looked to be a little different. At least for a half it did. Indiana went into the break w/ a two-point lead, but it was how many points that had been scored in the first half that made things quite different. It was a 61-59 game and we looked to be heading towards our first Over of the series. But things came to a grinding halt after the halftime w/ the Pacers again turning in a dreadful half offensively. They scored only 12 points in the third quarter, which was the 4th time in the series they scored 17 or less in a quarter. They wound up w/ only 35 pts in the half and the results ended up being the same: Celtics win/cover & Under.
In this series, the Pacers are a stunning 12 of 40 on uncontested three-point attempts. That seems unfathomable. Whether or not they are able to stay alive to fight another day, I do see an Over Sunday afternoon. I realize that Indiana is w/o Victor Oladipo, but them averaging just 87 PPG on 39.8% shooting vs. Boston is kind of stunning. Remember they've been w/o Oladpio for awhile now and still averaged 107.3 PPG on 47.2% shooting for the regular season. Boston averages 111.8 PPG too. The first half of Game 3 showed me these teams are capable of putting together a high scoring game when facing each other. 10* Over Celtics/Pacers
|04-20-19||76ers v. Nets UNDER 233||Top||112-108||Win||100||7 h 42 m||Show|
10* Under Sixers/Nets (3:05 ET): The big story here is that Philadelphia likely will be w/o Joe Embiid. But they didn't have Embiid for Game 3 either and still won 131-115 here in Brooklyn. It was their second straight 130+ point game against the Nets, but this time they didn't shoot nearly as well as they did for Game 2 in Phillly (56.1%). That wasn't surprising, but the game still easily went Over the total. As a result, oddsmakers have been forced to up their O/U line for Game 4. I see some value here w/ the Under as Philly should start to cool off offensively.
Brooklyn attempted 39 three-pointers in Game 3, a playoff record. Problem is they made only eight. While that percentage may very well improve Saturday afternoon, the real issue for the Nets lies on the defensive end. When they pulled their Game 1 upset, they did so by holding the Sixers to just 102 points. While not necessarily noted as a defensive team, Brooklyn did at least show they are capable of defending the Sixers well once. Now there's no Embiid and at home the task should (theoretically) be easier. Despite Game 3, the Under is still on a 7-3 run when the Nets are off an ATS loss.
Philadelphia has seen the Over go 7-2 their last nine games, but this is a higher total than usual for them. The last two games have seen them shoot better than 40% from three-point range. They figure to "cool off" moving forward as they weren't exactly a great three-point shooting team in the regular season. Their scoring drops off by about 6 PPG on the road compared to at home. Following a SU win by 10 or more points, the Under is on a 6-2 run in 76ers' games. They scored at least 30 in every quarter of Game 3. That won't happen again here. 10* Under Sixers/Nets
|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
|04-19-19||Raptors v. Magic UNDER 210||Top||98-93||Win||100||27 h 0 m||Show|
8* Under Magic/Raptors (7:05 ET): I had the Under in Game 1 of this series. In my analysis, I stated that "an outright upset is definitely in the realm of possibility here" due to the Raptors' poor history in Game 1's. That's exactly what happened as the Magic won outright 104-101 as 9.5-pt dogs. Of course, I'd also noted the Magic posted the league's top defensive efficiency rating in the second half of the regular season and won 22 of their final 31 games. Given Orlando's defensive prowess, I certainly thought it odd that they came into the playoffs riding a 7-game Over streak.
Game 1 went Under and so did Game 2. I thought Toronto might underestimate their opponent for Game 1, but that was definitely not the case in Game 2 as they came out and won 111-82. The Magic didn't shoot well in either game (40% and 37%). We figure to see improvement in that department for Game 3, now that they're at home. But at the same time, Toronto is no slouch defensively itself. The Raptors have not allowed any opponent to shoot 50% since the All-Star Break. Incredibly, they've allowed only three opponents to shoot 50% or better since January 1st.
But let's go back to the fact Orlando has posted the defensive efficiency rating in the league since the Break. Toronto came into the playoffs having scored 110 or more points in nine consecutive games. I said that streak would end in Game 1 and it did. They scored 111 in Game 2, but again I'm calling for less than 110 pts here. Neither Kawhi Leonard nor Kyle Lowry should shoot as well as they did in Game 2. When Orlando is off an ATS loss, the Under has gone 24-11 this season. The Under is also 6-0 their last six times hosting Toronto. 8* Under Magic/Raptors
|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
|04-17-19||Pacers v. Celtics OVER 203||Top||91-99||Loss||-109||11 h 31 m||Show|
10* Over Pacers/Celtics (7:05 ET): My hats off to anyone who had the Under in Game 1 of this series as it was a FIFTY point winner! As a result, the O/U line has come WAY down for Game 2. The Under was a perfect 8-0 in Game 1's across the playoffs, so that was something else for the oddsmakers to consider. Monday featured a pair of high-scoring Game 2's though, showing we should be careful about putting "too much stock" into one result. Note that the previous three times the Pacers and Celtics had met, they had combined to score 214 or more points. Take the Over here as there's some serious value.
The trend stretches back awhile, but Indiana is 14-3 Over the L17 times it was held to 75 pts or less in its previous game. Despite being one of the top Under teams in the regular season, the fewest number of points they scored in a regular season game was 89, done a few times. They average 107.6 PPG. Game 1 swung entirely on a dreadful 8-point third quarter. For the game, the Pacers shot just 33.3% overall and were 6 of 27 from three-point range. They had just 29 pts in the second half. Obviously, we'll see much better shooting from them in Game 2. As for the defensive end, while they led the league in PPG allowed in the regular season, they still gave up 107.7 per game away from home.
Boston averages 112.0 PPG for the year. They shot just 36.7% from the floor in Game 1 and turned the ball over 20 times. Yet they still won comfortably, thanks to the Pacers' own ineptitude and that decisive third quarter. That many turnovers should (theoretically) lead to more points from the opponent. But Indiana converted those 20 TO's into only NINE points. That's remarkably bad. This will be the lowest total for any Pacers-Celtics matchup this season and seven points lower than the O/U line for Game 1. Can we say "value?" 10* Over Pacers/Celtics
|04-16-19||Thunder v. Blazers OVER 221||Top||94-114||Loss||-110||14 h 21 m||Show|
8* Over Thunder/Blazers (10:35 ET): It was kind of an ugly Game 1, but Portland held serve on its home court, winning 104-99 and covering as 3.5-pt chalk. In case you missed it, the Blazers are the only team w/ home court advantage in the 1st round NOT to be favored. A large part of that was due to the fact the Thunder swept the regular season series, SU and ATS. Also, Portland had lost 10 consecutive playoff games entering Saturday. They are without one of their best players too (Jusuf Nurkic), but that hardly mattered in Gm 1 w/ OKC shooting so poorly and Damian Lillard scoring 30 points.
Neither team shot the ball well in Game 1 as the Blazers were 41.9% from the field and the Thunder an even worse 39.8%. OKC really struggled from three-point range, going 5 of 33. I suspect we'll see drastic improvement in that department here on Tuesday. For the season, the Thunder are averaging 114.3 PPG on more than respectable shooting - both overall and from behind the arc. Paul George (8 of 24) really struggled from the floor in Game 1 and should be better here. Portland's starting backcourt (Lillard and McCollum) were a combined 18 of 45 and also should see collective improvement.
As of this writing (Monday afternoon). the Under has gone a perfect 8-0 in the NBA Playoffs! That's right, every Game 1 stayed Under. I expect at least one game will probably go Over Monday night (didn't play either total) and eventually that trend will start to even out. The Over remains 15-5-1 in Portland's last 20 home games where they average 117.9 PPG, a nice jump (about 3 PPG) from the overall average. Also, the Over is 20-5-1 the L26 times the Blazers have take the court on exactly one days rest. Portland is not as good defensively as they showed Saturday, but they are a top five team in offensive efficiency. 8* Over Thunder/Blazers
|04-16-19||Spurs v. Nuggets OVER 207.5||Top||105-114||Win||100||13 h 46 m||Show|
10* Over Spurs/Nuggets (9:05 ET): We cashed the Spurs in Game 1 as they turned in a truly masterful performance by holding Denver to just 96 points in what was an outright upset as 6-pt underdogs. Taking both games at the Pepsi Center isn't something many, if any, thought the Spurs could do. But now they have a chance. We do respect Denver enough to hold off on taking the points again, but don't discount what we taked about in our Game 1 analysis either. San Antonio has been "sneaky good" on offense this season, ranking fifth in efficiency and 1st in 3-pt shooting %. Take the Over for Game 2 (as the number is several points lower than it was for Game 1).
As of this writing (Monday afternoon), the Under has gone a perfect 8-0 in the NBA Playoffs! That's right, every Game 1 stayed Under. I expect at least one game will probably go Over Monday night (didn't play either total) and eventually that trend will start to even out. Now, speaking of trends, the Under has hit in all five Spurs-Nuggets matchups this season. After a March meeting (in San Antonio) peaked w/ an OU line of 230 (!), predictably we are now at the lowest number yet. The Spurs are 6-1 Under their last seven games overall as well.
But I simply can't see the Nuggets shooting the ball so poorly yet again. They finished at just 42.0% from the field in Game 1, including 6 of 24 on three-pointers. It also didn't help that they missed 8 of 24 free throw attempts. The Spurs, as usual, were pretty efficient from three-point range as they made 7 of 15 attempts. Note that it was a 30-point third quarter (17-13 in favor of Denver) that really sealed the Under Saturday night. I don't see such a quarter taking place again here. For the season, the Nuggets average 113.7 PPG at home while the Spurs give up roughly the same number on the road. With the oddsmakers having dropped the total for Game 2, I see value. 10* Over Spurs/Nuggets
|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||Magic v. Raptors UNDER 213||Top||104-101||Win||100||9 h 29 m||Show|
10* Under Magic/Raptors (5:05 ET): You shouldn't go underestimating the Magic in this series. They have won 22 of their last 31 games and since the All-Star Break the only team in the East w/ more victories is top-seeded Milwaukee. The Magic have played exceptionally well on the defensive end in the second half, posting the league's top efficiency rating since the Break! With Toronto's poor playoff history, particularly in Game 1's, an outright upset is definitely in the realm of possibility here. But I feel that the Under is the best play in Game 1 of this series.
Now the Raptors did close the regular season by scoring 110+ points in nine straight games. That's a franchise record and they've gone 7-1 SU/ATS the L8 games w/ the only loss coming by two to a desperate Charlotte team. A number of franchise records (on offense) were set in the regular season, but this is now the playoffs and we know how Toronto struggles when we get to this point. Incredibly, they are 2-12 all-time in Game 1's, which includes a 1-9 mark in the first round. That lone victory came last year against Washington. I don't think we'll see the same level of offensive prowess from the Raptors here that we did in the regular season.
Like Toronto, the Magic seemingly closed the regular season w/ an offensive barrage. Their last seven games have all gone Over the total. But that, and what Toronto did over roughly the same timeframe, set us up to go the opposite way here. On April 1st, the Raptors did beat the Magic 121-109 here at Air Canada Centre. But the season's first three matchups all went Under and saw Orlando cover (including two outright upsets). The Magic only average 104.9 PPG on the road, so Under is the way to go here. 10* Under Magic/Raptors
|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||Nets v. Pacers OVER 219||Top||108-96||Loss||-107||9 h 51 m||Show|
10* Over Nets/Pacers (5:05 ET): Brooklyn recorded perhaps its biggest win of the season yday, beating Milwaukee 133-128 on the road. The win brought them back to .500 (40-40 SU) on the year and more importantly back into a sixth place tie w/ Orlando. There are still five teams vying for the final three available spots in the Eastern Conference, but the Nets would seem to have a nice cushion given they're 1.5 games ahead of ninth place Miami (who they play in the regular season finale). But still a win here in Indiana would be huge. But the Pacers won't make it easy on 'em.
Indiana is off a bad loss to Boston, who will likely be their first round opponent in the playoffs. Right now the Pacers are 5th in the East, significantly ahead of the Nets, by 7 games. But what they are playing for right now is home court advantage in the first round against the Celtics. Losing 117-97 (here at home) Friday did the no favors as it put them a game behind Boston in the standings. So motivation won't be lacking on either side Sunday. You have to expect the Pacers will shoot a lot better here than they did vs. Boston, who held them to a 41.3 FG% for the game.
Indiana played good defense in a home and home sweep of the Pistons earlier in the week, but other than that - in the last five games - they've allowed other three opponents to all shoot above 50%. Brooklyn obviously had no difficulty scoring yday, putting up 133 pts on the team that leads the league in defensive efficiency. It was the 8th time in the last 9 games that the Nets scored at least 110 points. At the same time, they often struggle defensively, which is evident by the fact they've given up at least 115 pts in seven of those last nine games. The Over is 5-1 in their last six road games while the Over is 4-0 in Indiana's last four home games. 10* Over Nets/Pacers
|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||Heat v. Wolves OVER 217||Top||109-111||Win||100||13 h 0 m||Show|
8* Over Heat/T'wolves (8:05 ET): As badly as Miami needs this game, I'm not convinced they deserve to be favored in Minneapolis. But if they are going to win, it likely would be as a result of some poor T'wolves defense. The T'wolves did just hold Dallas to 108 pts in a two-point road win Wednesday night. However, in the four games prior, they allowed 122, 130, 118 and 132. This is a team giving up 113.9 PPG for the year and the Heat probably are set to improve (offensively) after five straight games of scoring 105 pts or less. Take the Over in this one.
The Heat just got swept in a home and home by Boston and that really has hurt them in the playoff race. Of the four teams battling for the final three spots in the Eastern Conference (all separated by one game), they are the ones on the "outside looking in" right now. They allowed 110 and 112 pts to the Celtics, which may not seem like a lot, but it's also a number Minnesota can easily reach (they average 114.8 PPG at home). Before losing to the Celtics by 10 (112-102) at home Wednesday night, the Heat had been playing good defense, holding five straight opponents below a 43.0 FG%. But they're still just 3-3 SU over the L6 games.
Bottom line is I expect Miami to both score and allow more here than what we've been seeing from them recently. The Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings vs. Minnesota, including a 113-104 LOSS back in December. Now the number is noticeably higher for the rematch. But the Over has also cashed in six of Miami's previous seven non-conference games. Conversely, the Over is 16-5 in Minnesota's last 21 non-conference games. Given those numbers, it should come as no shock to learn that BOTH teams' number of points given up AND scored rises against non-conference competition. 8* Over Heat/T'wolves
|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
|04-04-19||Cavs v. Kings UNDER 228.5||Top||104-117||Win||100||13 h 41 m||Show|
10* Under Cavs/Kings (10:05 ET): Despite these teams both being among the very worst in the league defensively (in terms of points allowed), I see this game still staying Under. Yes, Cleveland has gone Over in five straight while giving up an average of an average of 122.6 PPG and its opponents are shooting a lights-out 55.1% during that time. The Cavs are allowing 113.9 PPG for the season, which 23rd in the league, and they are dead last in efficiency. But despite everything you just read, I believe we are in store for an Under tonight in Sacramento. The number is just too high.
Sacramento is no better than Cleveland on the defensive end. Well, in terms of efficiency, they are 18th. That's not terrible. But they also give up 114.9 PPG, which is 26th. They just gave up 130 points in their last game. But that was against the Rockets and this is against Cleveland. The Cavs rank near the bottom of the league in scoring (29th) at 104.6 PPG. While the Kings play at one of the league's fastest tempos (3rd), the Cavs play slow (29th in pace of play). In spite of the bad defensive numbers from both sides, Cleveland's offense may very well be what keeps this game from going Over the total.
Kevin Love won't be playing in this game either. Such was the case when the teams first met back in December. Now that game did go Over with both teams shooting lights out. I don't see that kind of shooting being replicated here, however. Cleveland obviously averages less PPG on the road than they do at home. They can't possibly continue to allow the shooting percentages we've seen recently. The Kings were held to 105 pts here at home by Houston. They too are in line to see defensive improvement in this game. The Under is 8-1 following the Kings' previous nine double digit losses at home. 10* Under Cavs/Kings
|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
|04-01-19||Bulls v. Knicks OVER 212.5||Top||105-113||Win||100||11 h 24 m||Show|
10* Over Bulls/Knicks (7:35 ET): Two of the league's worst teams meet tonight in the Big Apple w/ nothing really on the line except draft position. Truthfully, there's very little chance the Knicks don't end up w/ the worst record in the league. They have three fewer wins than every other team and w/ only six games left, it's difficult to imagine them making up that difference. They've lost six in a row and 14 out of their last 15, but are actually favored here, which is obviously a real rarity. Despite having been held under 100 pts nine times in the last 12 games, I do expect the Knicks to score "more than usual" tonight against the Bulls.
Chicago is slightly better on both offense and defense than New York and thus has won seven more games. Really, the gap probably shouldn't be that big as the Knicks do deserve to be favored in this spot. The Bulls have lost four in a row themselves and three of those have been by 20 or more points. Strangely enough, the those three 20+ pt defeats all came at home while the one that didn't was on the road, at Toronto. The Bulls actually average slightly more PPG on the road than at home. But they continue to give up points in bunches w/ the L5 opponents averaging 117.6 PPG.
I already mentioned that the Knicks are slightly worse defensively than the Bulls. They give up 114.2 PPG on the year, which is not quite bottom five in the league, but it's close (6th worst). In terms of efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions), the Knicks are 28th. That's two spots below Chicago. So w/ two of the worst defensive teams in the league squaring off in a game that means next to nothing, plenty of points should be scored. The only prior meeting this season between these teams saw 231 total pts scored (Bulls won 116-115) and it should be something similar here. 10* Over Bulls/Knicks
|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||Purdue v. Virginia UNDER 126.5||Top||75-80||Loss||-105||13 h 20 m||Show|
8* Under Purdue/Virginia (8:49 ET): Purdue has been on fire in this Tournament, averaging 93 points its last two games while shooting almost 54.0% overall from the field. They have already made a record-setting 40 three-pointers in three games. Carsen Edwards has suddenly found his shot again, making 14 of those 40 three-pointers, and scoring 71 total pts the L2 games. But hey Purdue, to quote a very bad song, "Meet Virginia." The Hoos are #1 in the country in scoring defense and should drastically slow down this Boilermakers barrage. Take the Under here.
It hasn't just been Edwards lighting up the scoreboard for Purdue. Senior Ryan Cline turned in the best game of his career Thursday vs. Tennessee, scoring 27 points by making 7 of 10 three-point attempts. Anything close to a repeat performance should not be expected. Also, with Edwards, he had been cold coming into the Tournament. He's the 1st player since Davidson's Steph Curry to score 25+ pts in four straight NCAA Tournament games (goes back to last year), but that streak should end here. Note Virginia has allowed 70+ points only three times all year and two of those were against Duke.
Remember Purdue's 99 points against Tennessee came w/ OT. No matter who they played here, it would have been difficult to continue their torrid shooting of the last two games. But drawing Virginia all but ensures it will come to an end. Virginia held Oregon w/o a single made basket for the final 5:43 of their 53-49 Sweet 16 victory. Oregon had scored 73 points the game before that. Virginia also held an Oklahoma team that almost went for 100 in Round 1 to just 51 points. By the way, Purdue can play some defense too as was evident by them holding Old Dominion and Villanova to 26.9% and 34.5% shooting respectively in the first two games. All three Virginia tourney games have stayed Under. 8* Under Purdue/Virginia
|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||Virginia Tech v. Duke UNDER 144.5||Top||73-75||Loss||-110||32 h 57 m||Show|
10* Under Va Tech/Duke (9:39 ET): It's rare to see conference rivals meet in the NCAA Tournament (at least prior to the Final Four), but this is already the second time it's happened in this Tournament. The first was Michigan State crushing Minnesota 70-50. Duke is hoping for a similar outcome here in the Sweet 16 against Virginia Tech. These ACC foes met just once in the regular season and it was actually the Hokies pulling a 77-72 upset (as 3-pt dogs) in Blacksburg. That game just managed to sneak Over, but I'll call for a lower-scoring rematch and take the Under here.
Duke is 0-2 ATS so far in the Tournament and maybe even a little lucky to be here. They escaped by the skin of their teeth against UCF Sunday, winning by one as 13.5-pt chalk. (You may remember I had UCF). That was after failing to cover as huge 27.5-pt favorites in Rd 1 against North Dakota State (won by 23). The Blue Devils did hit 10 three-pointers against UCF, which is a high number for them. Believe it or not, Duke was one of the WORST three-point shooting teams in the entire country in the regular season, at least in terms of percentage. They shot just 30.2% from behind the arc, which was tied w/ SIU-Edwardsville for 339th (out of 354 teams) in the country.
A big difference between this game and the regular season matchup is Zion Williamson. He missed the regular season contest. Of course, so did Va Tech's best player Justin Robinson. With the respective top scorers back in the lineup, you might expect a higher scoring game. But I don't think that'll happen. Va Tech's last four games have stayed Under the total. The Under is 6-2 in Duke's last eight games and they haven't gone Over in B2B games since January. (The UCF game went Over). In fact, that was the ONLY time they went Over in B2B games all season (Under is 25-10-1 in all Duke games). Va Tech has had one of the easiest paths to the Sweet 16 of any team (St. Louis, Liberty) and still shot poorly in those games. 10* Under Va Tech/Duke
|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
|03-29-19||Auburn v. North Carolina UNDER 165||Top||97-80||Loss||-110||27 h 10 m||Show|
8* Under Auburn/North Carolina (7:29 ET): Auburn seems like a real "trendy" dog here coming off the beatdown of Kansas. I played the Tigers in that 2nd round matchup, citing that they'd been priced as a top 15 team most of the year, but were a value in that spot. Sure enough, they came through. But here I think they're priced appropriately against top seeded North Carolina. The total has moved pretty significantly though, to the point that I now see value on the Under. Everyone's expecting a shootout here and because of that we're able to exploit a high number. Take the Under.
So Auburn has now won 10 straight. Most of the wins have been close games, but the one over Kansas was not as the Tigers jumped out to a huge early lead (51-25 at half!) and coasted from there. I seriously doubt they'll be able to shoot that well again (were 52.5% for the game), especially from three-point range (were 13 of 30). For the season, Auburn shot only 43.1% away from home. North Carolina has held its last five opponents to a 40.1 FG%. That includes TWO games vs. Duke! The Tar Heels rank 11th in the country in defensive efficiency.
Of the 16 teams remaining, Auburn actually has the second lowest defensive efficiency rating (only slightly ahead of LSU). So it will be a challenge keeping UNC's offense in check. Roy Williams' team averages 86.0 PPG, third most in the country. But they too shot the ball really well, especially from behind the three-point line, in their last game. Not sure they'll be able to match those percentages, even though Washington is a superior defensive team compared to Auburn. The Under is 5-0 in North Carolina's last five NCAA Tournament games and also 5-0 the last five times they've been coming off a SU win by 20+ points. 8* Under Auburn/North Carolina
|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||Purdue v. Tennessee UNDER 146.5||Top||99-94||Loss||-109||73 h 12 m||Show|
8* Under Purdue/Tennessee (7:29 ET): While Tennessee's issues do mainly reside at the defensive end, the bottom line is their game vs. Iowa would have stayed Under if not for OT. Instead, the extra five minutes ensured the Vols' sixth straight Over, a streak which dates back to the end of the regular season. Here they are matched up against a Purdue team that has held its first two Tournament opponents to field goal percentages of 26.9 (Old Dominion) and 34.5 (Villanova). The Boilermakers probably won't shoot as well here as they did against 'Nova (though I still have them winning!), thus I'm looking Under.
Though the field goal percentage allowed against Villanova was higher than it was in the first round matchup w/ ODU, Purdue's defensive effort was probably more impressive in the second game. Villanova is a team that came in ranked 16th in the country in offensive efficiency. Yet the Wildcats could do nothing offensively against the Boilermakers as they made only 20 shots on just 58 attempts. Now Tennessee is obviously a better team than Villanova, but the Vols did just get held to only 22 points in the second half by an Iowa team that is not good defensively. Granted, that came after a big 1st half. But the Vols aren't likely to have a half that prolific again.
If there is one saving grace for Tennessee in this game, it's that Purdue is likely to have an offensive dropoff themselves from the last round. They absolutely torched Villanova to the tune of 87 points on 53.1% shooting, led by Carsen Edwards' 42 points and nine made threes. Edwards had been struggling w/ his three-point shot prior to that game, so he'll definitely have a decrease in production here (even if his teammates pick him up some). Bottom line is Purdue is going to win here, but they won't score anywhere close to as many as they did in the last game. 8* Under Purdue/Tennessee
|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
|03-26-19||Wizards v. Lakers OVER 232.5||Top||106-124||Loss||-113||15 h 20 m||Show|
8* Over Wizards/Lakers (10:35 ET): This game is on Unlike the other two games in this package, I expect plenty of points to be scored tonight in the Staples Center where the Lakers host the Wizards. Both teams are simply looking to finish up very disappointing seasons. The Wizards were a playoff team last year (finished 8th), but got off to a lousy start this season (2-9 first 11 games) and recent play has been just as ugly (lost 7 of 10). Meanwhile, no team has been more disappointing than the Lakers, who will miss the playoffs despite having LeBron James. Go w/ the Over here as defense should be optional in this matchup.
James did his best w/ what he had this year. He's averaging 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game (really good numbers!), but he missed significant time in the middle of the season (17 games w/ a groin) and the roster around him wasn't all it was cracked up to be. James did just post his 81st career triple double the other night (29-11-11) in a 111-106 victory over Sacramento. It was just the 2nd SU win for the Lakers in the last 12 games and just the 2nd ATS win in the last 15 games. No team has been worse to bet on this year as LA's YTD ATS record is now 27-44-2. However, I do expect them to score a lot tonight against a Wizards team that's allowing a putrid 119.2 PPG on the road this season.
Washington comes in off a home loss to Miami, which all but sealed their fate as a non-playoff team. They now trail the 8th place Heat by 6.5 games for the final spot. Because of the poor defense, the Wiz have been the league's top Over team this year (60.8% of games), going 45-29 overall. They've allowed 113 or more points in six straight games and four of their last five opponents have shot 50% or better from the field. The Over is 10-2 their last 12 road games. I look for this to be a wild game w/ little defense being played. 8* Over Wizards/Lakers
|03-26-19||Clippers v. Wolves UNDER 230.5||Top||122-111||Loss||-109||13 h 49 m||Show|
8* Under Clippers/T'wolves (8:05 ET): The Clippers have surged up the Western Conference standings and are now tied for fifth, thanks to a five-game win streak (longest active in the West). Tonight, they're a short favorite in Minnesota and while all signs point to victory, I think the Clips may have more of an issue scoring than the oddsmakers realize. Actually, they very well may hit their season average of 114.7 points per game, but that still likely won't be enough to send this game over what is a very high total. Take the Under.
Minnesota just turned in one of their better defensive performances in awhile, holding Memphis to 99 points on Saturday. Now that was against the league's lowest scoring team, but the Under is now 5-0 in the T'wolves previous five contests. A big part of that is also they haven't been scoring as much as per usual. They've averaged only 105.4 PPG, which is well down from their season average. One positive is that the T'wolves do consistently play better defense here at home compared to the road. They allow "just" 109.4 PPG at home as opposed to 116.8 PPG on the road. That's certainly significant as the team gets ready to play its next four games here at the Target Center.
The Clippers did just score 124 points on Sunday, but that was against the sorry Knicks. It's been a fairly favorable stretch that has seen the team win 10 of its last 11 games overall. Unfortunately, they enter this game a little short-handed as the underrated Landry Shamet is likely out due to an ankle injury suffered on Sunday. Shamet, who had started 16 games, had been averaging 11.7 PPG since coming over in a trade w/ Philadelphia. This total just screams "too high" to me as I don't see a repeat of last month's meeting (here in the Twin Cities), a 130-120 T'wolves win that saw both teams shoot better than 51%. 8* Under Clippers/T'wolves
|03-26-19||Magic v. Heat UNDER 205||Top||104-99||Win||100||12 h 15 m||Show|
8* Under Magic/Heat (7:35 ET): First off, props to Orlando for delivering me a huge win last night. They were a signature *10* Ultimate Power release and came through w/ "flying colors," defeating Philadelphia 119-98 as small home dog. Tonight's game in Miami was already set to be an important battle, but the Magic's win last night sets up a scenario where the winner here will be in the "coveted" eighth position in the Eastern Conference (i.e the difference between making the playoffs and NOT making the playoffs). I expect a hard-fought battle here and an Under.
As stated in yday's analysis, Orlando has played sensational defense as of late. They are #1 in the league in defensive efficiency since the break and further strengthened those numbers last night by holding the Sixers under 100 pts. The Magic really dominated in the 2nd half, holding Philadelphia to just 38 points and there was a 12-minute stretch where the Sixers did not make a single shot! With the exception of an overtime win against Memphis last week, Orlando has held every other opponent to 106 points or less in their last eight games. In four of the last five games, they've held the opponent under 100 points! The Under is 8-2 their last 10 games.
What's curious about Miami is they have a worse record at home than on the road. Numbers are basically identical (in terms of points scored vs. allowed), but they're only 17-20 SU here on South Beach as opposed to 19-17 SU on the road. Their last game was Saturday when they beat the Wizards 113-108, in D.C. That came on the heels of a disastrous showing the night prior in Milwaukee where they were held to only 87 points. In fact, the Heat had been held below 100 in three of five games before "breaking out" against the Wizards. Both teams shot better than 50% in their last game, something I don't see happening here. Orlando only averages 103.8 PPG on the road as their FG% is way down compared to at home. 8* Under Magic/Heat
|03-26-19||Charleston Southern v. Hampton OVER 157||Top||67-73||Loss||-109||12 h 39 m||Show|
10* Over Charleston Southern/Hampton (7:00 ET): This is an interesting matchup as the teams are conference rivals, playing in a postseason tournament. It's not a longstanding rivalry, mind you. Hampton just joined the Big South last year after leaving the MEAC. The first meeting in nearly 20 years took place back in January w/ Hampton winning 92-84 as four-point road dogs. As you can see from that final score, it was a high-scoring game, one where the Over cashed by 30 points. The total is significantly higher (by about 10 pts!) for this rematch in the CIT, but I still don't think it's nearly high enough. Take the Over.
Hampton is one of the highest scoring teams in the entire country. They play at a pretty fast place (44th in adjusted tempo) and average 81.7 points per game. They've been either right at or slightly below that season average the last three games. But expecting an increase in scoring tonight does seem logical. The Pirates' scoring average jumps to a whopping 86.4 PPG at home where they are shooting 37.3% from three-point range. They scored 81 here in their opening round game of the CIT, beating St. Francis (NY) by nine. While that game just managed to sneak Under, the Over is still 18-9 in all Hampton games this season.
Charleston Southern has seen the Under cash in seven straight games, so things are "due" to swing the other way. They shot better than 50% from the floor in a 68-66 win over Florida Atlantic in opening round CIT action while also holding the Owls to just 36.2%. Despite those disparate overall shooting percentages, the game remained close because Charleston Southern could not make a three (4 of 23) while FAU was 11 of 30 from behind the arc. Charleston Southern also hardly got to the free throw line, taking only six attempts from there the entire game! I would expect the Buccaneers three-point and free throw shooting to increase tonight. At the same time, they let Hampton shoot 55% overall and 13 of 25 from 3-pt range in the regular season matchup. So I expect their defensive numbers won't be as good as the last game either. 10* Over Charleston Southern/Hampton
|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||Coastal Carolina v. West Virginia OVER 157||Top||109-91||Win||100||10 h 13 m||Show|
8* Over Coastal Carolina/West Virginia (7:00 ET): A major difference between this year's team and past editions of Bob Huggins' basketball at WVU is on the defensive end. The Mountaineers did turn in one of the better defensive efforts of the season in the CBI opener against Grand Canyon, holding the Antelopes to just 63 points on 40% shooting. For the season, WVU is allowing 76.5 PPG. It'll be a much stiffer test in tonight's quarterfinal matchup against a Coastal Carolina team that just dropped 81 in its last game (despite less than stellar shooting!) I like the Over in this one.
Coastal Carolina beat Howard in its first CBI game, 81-72 as 11-point favorites. That was a home game for the Chanticleers and you do have to worry some about them taking their act on the road where they've gone just 6-12 SU this season. I still anticipate them scoring plenty here as they average 76.4 PPG overall. But on the defensive end, they've now given up at least 70 pts in nine straight games. That's quite a bit, especially considering they've given up at least 80 in five of those nine games. On the bright side, Coastal Carolina hasn't shot well at all its last three games (just 34.9%) and I expect that number to improve - by a lot - tonight.
Before holding Grand Canyon to just 63 points last Wednesday, West Virginia had given up 70 or more in eight straight games. Five of those games, they gave up at least 82. Now, I realize that was against Big 12 competition, but Coastal Carolina can score w/ the best of them. The Chanticleers are shooting 36% from three-point range. WVU has allowed 76.5 PPG over the course of the season, which is kind of stunning. Look for this to be a high-scoring game. 8* Over Coastal Carolina/West Virginia
|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||Pistons v. Blazers UNDER 216||Top||112-117||Loss||-110||14 h 12 m||Show|
10* Under Pistons/Blazers (10:05 ET): Things couldn't have gone much better than what I chose Detroit as my *10* Game of the Week Thursday night. They blew out the Suns by 20 points and are now in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, despite a recent dicey stretch. Much of that "diceyness" has come on the road where they've suffered defeats at the hands of Cleveland, Brooklyn and Miami. In Thursday's analysis, I said they couldn't afford another such "slip up" and they came through. But I'm not nearly as optimistic about their chances tonight here in Portland.
The Blazers are trying to lock down a top four spot in the Western Conference. They've won five of six w/ the only loss coming last Saturday night at red hot San Antonio. Since then, they've managed to beat Indiana and Dallas here at home. The Blazers are predictably a much better team at home where they've gone 27-9 SU on the season and their offensive PPG increases while defensive PPG decreases (compared to overall season average). I think it'll be more the defense that "rules the day" tonight even though the Over is 11-1-1 in Portland's last 13 home games. They are also 4-0 Under after allowing 100+ points the previous game.
It was actually defense that carried Detroit to victory in Phoenix Thurs night. They held the Suns to just 35 second half points, which was the difference in a game they actually trailed at halftime. The Pistons only shot 42.2% from the floor and remain one of the worst shooting teams in the league. As alluded to above, some recent performances on the road leave a lot to be desired. They scored only 75 in Brooklyn and 74 in Miami and for the year are shooting just 42.9% away from home. The Under is 4-1 their last five road games and 16-5 their L21 vs. the Eastern Conference. 10* Under Pistons/Blazers
|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||Florida v. Michigan OVER 123||Top||49-64||Loss||-104||10 h 32 m||Show|
10* Over Florida/Michigan (5:15 ET): These are two of the better defensive teams in the country, so it's no surprise the total opened really low. But it clearly opened too low as is evident by the fact we've seen some significant movement w/ the number. I'm following the $$$ on this one as "average games" from both sides would equal an Over. What I mean by that Florida scores 68.3 points per game and allows 63.6. Michigan scores 70.5 PPG and allows 58.5. The shooting percentages both teams allowed in Round 1 won't be matched here. Take the Over.
Michigan met a clearly inferior opponent in Round 1 as they blew out 15-seed Montana 74-55. The Wolverines' extraordinary defense was on full display in that one as they held the Golden Grizzlies to just 33.3% in a game that was never really close. The Maize and Blue jumped out to an early double digit advantage, a much different start compared to when they faced Montana in LY's Tournament. Note it was Montana's second worst shooting percentage all season. Ironically, the Wolverines did allow more points this time against Montana. After beating them 61-47 LY, they'd go on to allow 63 in the next round to Houston (a game they won at the buzzer).
Florida will be much tougher to defend compared to Montana, obviously. But similar to Michigan, the Gators won't have as easy a time stopping the Wolverines as they did vs. Nevada Thursday. The Wolf Pack were held to 34.5% shooting in a bad all-around performance by them. While Florida is 16-3 Under outside of Gainesville this season, they did recently shoot over 60% in a game (vs. Auburn), showing that they can "bring it" offensively. At the same time, Michigan will perform a lot better from three-point range than Nevada (5 of 24) did. All we need here is for both teams to score 62 pts and that really doesn't sound too difficult. 10* Over Florida/Michigan
|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||Arizona State v. St. John's OVER 152.5||Top||74-65||Loss||-110||12 h 37 m||Show|
10* Over Arizona State/St. John's (9:10 ET): I'm not entirely sure either of these teams belong in the field of 68, but that's all "water under the bridge" now. Arizona State has won six of eight w/ both losses coming to an Oregon team that's as hot as anyone in the country right now. Meanwhile, St. John's is really limping into the Big Dance as they've lost five of seven, including a rather humiliating 86-54 loss to Marquette in the Big East Tournament. Neither of these teams are exactly defensive stalwarts, so I'll be going Over in this Opening Round matchup Wednesday.
Arizona State comes in averaging a healthy 77.8 PPG and should have little difficulty here scoring against a St. John's team whose last five opponents have combined to shoot over 50% from the field. The Johnnies are allowing almost 80 PPG when away from home, which is a pretty frightening number for a NCAA Tournament team. Four of those last five Red Storm opponents have scored at least 81 pts, including Xavier twice and the Musketeers were one of the weakest offensive teams in the Big East. Overall, St. John's ranks an ugly 111th in defensive efficiency. Only 15 teams that made the field rank lower.
But ASU is exactly adept at limiting points, even though they held opponents to a 41.3 FG%. St. John's comes in averaging 77.5 PPG, so they also should "get theirs" tonight. All five of their starters are averaging double figures, led by Shamorie Ponds, who scored 25 or more points 10 times in the regular season. Ponds averages 19.5 PPG and topped 20 in nine straight games at one point. The Johnnies had seen four straight Overs before shooting just 32.8% in the loss to Marquette. But Arizona State is only 78th in defensive efficiency, so we'll see much better shooting here. 10* Over Arizona State/St. John's
|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
|03-20-19||Pelicans v. Magic UNDER 224.5||Top||96-119||Win||100||10 h 10 m||Show|
8* Under Pelicans/Magic (7:05 ET): Despite already being eliminated from playoff contention and having a worse overall record, a case can be made that New Orleans has been a better team than Orlando this year even though the Magic are very much alive for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pelicans do have a slightly better YTD point differential. But they've also had to deal w/ the ongoing Anthony Davis saga and play in the tougher conference. Nevertheless, these two teams will meet tonight in Orlando and for a variety of reasons I'm expecting this to be a low-scoring game, at least lower scoring than the oddsmakers are anticipating. Take the Under.
Each of the Magic's last four games have gone Under. Two of them saw them get held under 100 points. The other two saw them do the same to their opponents. Probably not coincidentally, the two sub-100 pt efforts (both losses) came on the road. The two times they held the opponent below the century mark (both wins) came here at home. Given where this game is being played, I expect another strong defensive effort here from the Magic. Even in those two road losses, they allowed just 105 and 100 points. In the L5 games, they're allowing an average of 98.6 PPG. Helping the cause is the fact the Pelicans are now limiting Davis to about 20 mins per game.
New Orleans' recent efforts have been at the opposite end of the spectrum. Five of their last six games have gone Over and - on average - no team's games have a higher average total PPG than the Pelicans (232.1). Their last two games were a 138-136 loss to Phoenix and a 129-125 win over Dallas. Note both were overtime games, however. The L5 games have seen NO allow a frightening 128.6 PPG. But what goes up, must come down and in the case of that average, there's only one direction it can go. 8* Under Pelicans/Magic
|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
|03-19-19||Fairleigh Dickinson v. Prairie View A&M UNDER 150||Top||82-76||Loss||-115||20 h 50 m||Show|
8* Under Farleigh Dickinson/Prairie View A&M (6:40 ET): With the exception of North Carolina Central (who plays tomorrow), these are the two worst teams in the entire field of 68. Because of what UMBC did to Virginia LY, we can no longer automatically "write off" a 16 seed's chances, however, odds are that whomever wins here won't be celebrating for long. That's because the winner draws Gonzaga. Neither team here is noted for its defense, but playing in the "big time" figures to have a somewhat drastic impact on the respective offenses. I'll take the Under.
Farleigh Dickinson is the champion of the NEC (North Eastern Conference). They tied (w/ St. Francis PA) for the regular season title, then beat St. Francis in the NEC Tournament Final. So that's how they got here. But they are 0-5 SU all-time in the NCAA Tournament, losing by an average of 14 PPG. The Knights do shoot the ball very well from three-point range, 40.3% in fact, which ranks 5th in the entire country! But they also play at a very slow tempo and typically don't throw it up early on in the shot clock. If their perimeter shooting is off here, then it figures to be quite the long night offensively for FDU.
Conversely, Prairie View A&M will want to speed this game up. The regular season and tournament champs of the SWAC enter the Big Dance on an amazing run, having won 21 of their last 22 games. The Aggies put up some real "eye-popping" numbers in the SWAC Tournament, including dropping 92 on TX Southern in the Final. They've scored at least 81 pts in five of their last six games. But this game is a whole different story against an unfamiliar foe. A&M is actually one of the WORST three-point shooting teams in the entire field, if not country, at 30.8%. But the good news is they do guard the three-point line well, which will come in handy against the jump shooters of FDU. The Aggies rank 31st in the country in 3PT FG% defense and also do a great job at forcing turnovers. My read is that this will not be a typical game - for either side - as it figures to be pretty slow by Prairie View A&M standards while FDU will not be getting off the usual number of three pointers. 8* Under Farleigh Dickinson/Prairie View A&M
|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
|03-18-19||Nuggets v. Celtics UNDER 222||Top||114-105||Win||100||12 h 35 m||Show|
10* Under Nuggets/Celtics (7:35 ET): Both of these teams would obviously like to "move up" in their respective conference's standings. Denver has been in a battle w/ Golden State all season for the top spot in the Western Conference and currently trails the Warriors (who play @ SA tonight) by one game. Boston, largely viewed as an underachiever this season, is currently 5th in the Eastern Conference. But I can see them making a late move, getting all the way up to third by the end of the regular season. Regardless of the outcome of this game, I envision it being low-scoring. Take the Under.
Denver has strictly been an Under team of late. They are 10-1 Under the L11 games and while some of that has to do w/ high totals, they've also been playing some pretty good defense as well. Over the L5 games, the Nuggets have allowed an average of just 105.4 PPG, which is below their season average. During that stretch, only Golden State has exceeded 107 against them. The last two games, both wins at home, were really low scoring. They beat Dallas 100-99 and Indiana 102-100. Of course, the Nuggets' offensive production also goes down when they leave Denver. They are averaging 107.9 PPG on the road this season, well off what they average at the Pepsi Center.
Denver is fully healthy right now, but Boston is not. Both Al Horford and Gordon Hayward sustained injuries in Saturday's 129-120 win over Atlanta. The last four Celtics games have all gone Over the total, a stark contrast to Denver, though before the four-game streak, Boston had gone Under in six straight. The Celtics have also won five of six and I expect a team that ranks in the top five in defensive efficiency to "show up" tonight. At home, Boston is allowing just 106.6 PPG. This should be a much lower-scoring game than anticipated. 10* Under Nuggets/Celtics
|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
|03-17-19||Hornets v. Heat UNDER 215||Top||75-93||Win||100||13 h 23 m||Show|
8* Under Hornets/Heat (1:05 ET): These division foes met not that long ago. It's only been 10 days, in fact, since the Heat prevailed 91-84 in Charlotte. The Hornets had won both previous matchups, but those came all the way back in October. Nevertheless, right now, these teams are locked in a tight battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Miami currently has the edge, but only by a game as they just took a horrendous loss Friday to Milwaukee. Under normal circumstances, losing to the Bucks would not be a big deal. But the Heat blew a 20-point lead at home.
Charlotte won its last game, 116-110, in Washington. The result was much needed as it stopped a five-game ATS losing skid. It was also just the third win in the last nine games (second over the Wizards). Note that since losing to Miami, the Hornets have been involved in four straight high scoring games, all of them seeing at least 223 or more total pts scored. But I think this one will shape up similar to the last game w/ the Heat where neither team shot the ball particularly well. The Hornets had a 40-point 1st quarter against the Wizards Friday, something that I don't see happening here against a much better defensive foe.
The Under is 11-5 in the L16 meetings, including 5-2 here in Miami. But that's not likely to be what's on the minds of the Heat players heading into this one. Rather, it's "how did we let that one slip away against Milwaukee?" Giving up 73 second half points certainly didn't help, but then again, the Bucks are arguably the top offensive team in the league not named the Warriors. Charlotte is probably incapable of a similar barrage. The Heat remain a top 10 team in defensive efficiency, but they wound up only shooting 40.9% against the Bucks. A division battle this late in the season has all the makings of a low-scoring game. 8* Under Hornets/Heat
|03-17-19||Auburn +4.5 v. Tennessee||Top||84-64||Win||100||13 h 18 m||Show|
10* Auburn (1:00 ET): A late rally yday led to Tennessee stunning Kentucky in one SEC semifinal. The other one saw Auburn stave off Florida after appearing to get away w/ a foul on the potential game-tying three-pointer. Pay no mind to the respective seeding of these two teams. Tennessee might be the 3-seed in the SEC, but they're very much in play for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament were they to win today. Auburn, the #5 seed in the SEC Tournament, is a top 15 team in my eyes and an opponent no one will want to face next week. Only one can win here, obviously. I'll take the points as I'm not at all surprised Auburn got here. They've underachieved somewhat this season, but are finally starting to perform up to expectations.
Looking at the stat sheet from yday, it's somewhat miraculous that Auburn beat Florida. The Gators shot 60% from the field (season-high) and finished w/ a 32-17 advantage on the boards. But the Tigers did win. They held Florida to a season-low in shot attempts (38) and also converted 19 turnovers into 20 points. Auburn had 56 shot attempts to Florida's 38 and also killed them from three-point range. They were 13 of 29 from behind the arc while the Gators were just 6 of 15. The fact Auburn attempted only five free throws (made only two!) didn't even matter. Really, it was a remarkable performance.
With just under three minutes to go, Kentucky led Tennessee by eight. As someone holding a UK ticket, I was thinking cover not an outright loss. Back when the Vols were ranked #1 in the country, I was leery of them. In some ways, I still am. This game figures to have plenty of emotion w/ former Tennessee HC Bruce Pearl now coaching Auburn. Of course, this is not the first time Pearl has taken on his former school. In fact, he just beat them 84-80 (as a 2.5-pt home dog) last week. Auburn has now won seven in a row and I give them an excellent shot at pulling the outright upset yet again. 10* Auburn
|03-16-19||Blazers v. Spurs -2||Top||103-108||Win||100||11 h 22 m||Show|
10* San Antonio (8:35 ET): Based on how this season has gone, it's probably right to assume that Golden State and Denver will finish in the top two spots in the Western Conference. But after that, it's a jumbled mess w/ the other six (likely) playoff participants jockeying for position. The Spurs are in sixth place, but have won seven in a row coming into tonight's home game vs. Portland. The Blazers are in 4th, now by their lonesome, after beating New Orleans (no Anthony Davis) last night. Both teams are in the second night of a back to back (Spurs blew out the Knicks last night), but I say that's an advantage for the team playing at home. Lay the short number.
The Pelicans choosing to sit Davis last night was obviously of great benefit to the Blazers. Still, they were down 37-30 after the 1st quarter before settling down defensively. It was the 4th straight game where Portland scored at least 121 points, which is quite the streak, but I look for that to come to an end tonight in San Antonio where the Spurs will look to slow the game down and play "their style." Note that the Blazers have been outscored on the road this season. Also, while they are a perfect 3-0 SU/ATS this season in the second night of B2B home games, they are just 1-5 SU/ATS in the second of B2B road games.
San Antonio is a perfect 12-0 ATS at home this season when seeking revenge for a loss in which it allowed 110+ points. They lost up in Portland, 127-118, right before the All-Star Break. That was the third meeting of the season and the home team has gone a perfect 3-0 SU/ATS. The Spurs have gotten back to playing defense as last night's 109-83 beatdown of the Knicks was the sixth time in the seven-game win streak that they held the opponent to 105 pts or less. (Only team that topped it was Milwaukee). Granted it was "only" the Knicks, but yday also marked SA's ninth straight win at home. Something most do not realize about the Spurs is that they rank 4th in the league in offensive efficiency due to shooting 39.8% from three-point range, which is the BEST mark in the league. 10* San Antonio
|03-16-19||Iowa State v. Kansas -1.5||Top||78-66||Loss||-107||7 h 29 m||Show|
10* Kansas (6:00 ET): Maybe they'll be having the last laugh in Lawrence after all. After having their historic 14-year streak of winning the Big 12 regular season championship snapped this year, the Jayhawks are now favored (albeit ever so slightly) to win the Big 12 Tournament Final today. The opponent is Iowa State, a team that clearly benefitied from top seed Kansas State playing without its best player yesterday. You have to wonder what would have happened had Dean Wade suited up for Kansas State Friday night. My guess is that it would have resulted in an all Sunflower State final.
Iowa State turned it over 17 times and was not strong offensively for most of the second half. Granted, Kansas State is not just the best defensive team in the Big 12, but also one of the best in the entire country. But the Cyclones blew all of a double digit lead in the 2nd half and needed to hit some critical shots down the stretch to secure the four-point victory. While they've mostly looked good each of the last two days, remember the Cyclones lost five of their final six regular season games.
Kansas also got a bit of a break in this tournament by getting to play 10th seeded West Virginia in the semifinal as opposed to Texas Tech (who WVU upset in the quarterfinals). The Jayhawks didn't have much problem w/ the Mountaineers last night, winning 88-74 as 9.5-point chalk as they shot 52.4% from the field and had a pair of 40+ pt halves. Iowa State was a tough opponent in the regular season, but they split the two meetings w/ each team winning at home. Not winning the Big 12 regular season title has Kansas highly motivated this week and they get the job done Saturday night. 10* Kansas
|03-16-19||Tennessee v. Kentucky -1||Top||82-78||Loss||-110||5 h 55 m||Show|
8* Kentucky (3:30 ET): If either of these two schools were to win the SEC Tournament, then they'd be in line for a top seed in the Big Dance. But of more immediate importance is taking this rubber match. The home team rolled in both regular season meetings as UK won 86-69 in Lexington and Tennessee won 71-52 in Knoxville. Like a lot of people, I've had my suspicions about the Vols and I simply believe UK is the better team here. The key is a top 10 ranking in defensive efficiency.
Since being humiliated in the opening game of the season by Duke (lost 118-84!), Kentucky has been beaten only four times. Three of those were by two points or less (5 pts total!), one coming in overtime (Seton Hall) and another at the buzzer (LSU). The other was to Alabama, which was avenged yday w/ a convincing 73-55 win as 12.5-pt chalk. Coach Cal cited his team's rebounding as key to the win. Now they go to avenge the only other regular season, that being what happened in Knoxville two weeks ago. The Wildcats shot miserably in that game (31.8%) and that's not going to happen again here.
Tennessee has set a school record for wins this season (28) and like Kentucky most of their losses were close games. The one exception was against the 'Cats. It was a seven-point win over Mississippi State for the Vols on Friday as they shot 51.5% from the field. I wouldn't look for a repeat of that here today. A big key here is that Tennessee gives up 77.9 PPG away from Knoxville, which is a significant increase over what they're allowing in home games. Kentucky's PPG allowed away from home is more in line w/ what they allow in Lexington, thus their higher defensive rating. I like Kentucky (a lot) to move on. 8* Kentucky
|03-16-19||Rhode Island v. St Bonaventure -1.5||Top||51-68||Win||100||4 h 6 m||Show|
8* St. Bonaventure (1:00 ET): I played St. Bonaventure yday and came away even more impressed w/ this group than I already was going into the game. They beat George Mason 68-57 as a relatively short favorite. While that result won't exactly through "shockwaves" through College Basketball, watching the game, this team appears poised to make a run. They are very good defensively and now catch a significant break in that top seed VCU is out of the A-10 Tournament. The Bonnies will face the team that upset VCU, Rhode Island, and once again appear undervalued.
Rhode Island is now on a 6-0 SU/ATS run after upsetting VCU 75-70 yday. It was the third year in a row that the Rams ousted VCU from this event. It was also a huge revenge spot for the Rhodies, who had lost 76-42 the last time they faced VCU. The coaches and players seemed particularly motivated. "They (VCU) were heckling us a lot to get us out of our game," Jeff Dowtin said. The win does come w/ a major caveat, however. VCU lost its leading scorer Marcus Evans in the second half. After he left the game is when Rhode Island made its move.
Earlier, I touched on the kind of defense that St. Bonaventure has been playing. (Also discussed in yday's analysis). Yesterday marked the 9th time in the last 11 games that the Bonnies held their opposition to 60 points or less. They essentially controlled the game throughout, holding George Mason to 35% shooting overall. While yday was a revenge spot for Rhode Island, today it's St. Bonaventure's turn as they lost up in South Kingstown, 75-63, back in January. The Rams shot 54.3% from the field in that game, something that will not happen again here. That was one of just three games the Bonnies allowed 50% shooting in conference play this year and one of just seven overall. 8* St. Bonaventure
|03-15-19||Bucks v. Heat +5||Top||113-98||Loss||-105||10 h 47 m||Show|
8* Miami (8:05 ET): I'm playing both side and total in this one. Let's start w/ the side as the Heat come in having won five of six, including an impressive performance in a crucial game vs. Detroit Wednesday night. They went on a 21-0 run to start the 2nd half in that one and ended up winning 108-74 as a short home favorite. That leaves them not only 1.5 games up on ninth place Orlando, but also just 2.5 games back of the six seed (Brooklyn). Were the playoffs to start today, Miami and Milwaukee would be a 1st round playoff series. Expect the Heat to treat this as a "playoff game."
Milwaukee has been the best team in the league this season by virtually every metric. They just dominated New Orleans their last time out, putting up 130 pts in the process. The Bucks' offense is obviously great and they also happen to rank #1 in defensive efficiency. But defense seemed to be non-existent for stretches against the Pelicans, particularly in giving up a 41-point third quarter (Bucks were fortunate to score 45 themselves in that 3Q). It was the fifth time in six games that the Bucks gave up at least 113 points. That's a problem moving forward as this team will almost always be laying points.
Meanwhile, defense has not been an issue for the Heat. There have been four times in the NBA this year that a team has held an opponent to eight points or less in a quarter. Three of those have come from Miami! The latest was that decisive 3Q vs. the Pistons Wednesday as they outscored them 33-8 in that stanza. The last time they hosted Milwaukee, they kept the Bucks in check, holding them to 87 points. That was the Bucks' second lowest point total in a game all season. They shot 9 of 43 from three-point range and Giannis Antetokounmpo was held to a season-low nine points on 3 of 12 shooting. Take the points here. 8* Miami
|03-15-19||Bucks v. Heat UNDER 220||Top||113-98||Win||100||10 h 46 m||Show|
8* Under Bucks/Heat (8:05 ET): So, if you read the writeup on the side, it should be pretty obvious that I'm also going w/ the Under in this one. Again, "there have been four times in the NBA this year that a team has held an opponent to eight points or less in a quarter. Three of those have come from Miami! The latest was that decisive 3Q vs. the Pistons Wednesday as they outscored them 33-8 in that stanza. The last time they hosted Milwaukee, they kept the Bucks in check, holding them to 87 points. That was the Bucks' second lowest point total in a game all season. They shot 9 of 43 from three-point range and Giannis Antetokounmpo was held to a season-low nine points on 3 of 12 shooting" (reprinted from writeup on side).
I do expect Milwaukee to be better defensive than they were against New Orleans. After all, like I said, this is the #1 team in the league in defensive efficiency (a very important category). The Under is 6-1 in the Bucks' last seven conference games. The Under has also cashed in both of this season's matchups against the Heat, easily so in the one here in Miami. This total is higher than either of the previous two meetings, which seems like a mistake by the oddsmakers.
Miami has held three of its last six opponents below 90 points. Will that happen again here? Probably not, though it is worth mentioning they held the Bucks below 90 when they last hosted them. The Heat are also in the top 10 in defensive efficiency for the season. The Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings overall and 16-5-1 the L22 meetings here on South Beach. 8* Under Bucks/Heat
|03-15-19||Suns +13 v. Rockets||Top||102-108||Win||100||10 h 42 m||Show|
8* Phoenix (8:05 ET): After having their nine-game win streak snapped Wednesday (by Golden State), this would seem to be a "trap game" for Houston. Not that I think they'll lose. But laying this many points is a dangerous proposition. It was a two-point loss to the Warriors, on national TV, though the Rockets trailed by as many as 13 (at home) and Golden State was playing w/o Kevin Durant. James Harden seemed to "shrug" off the loss while HC Mike D'Antoni was vocal about his team needing to learn from the mistakes it made in the game. Bottom line is I think the Rockets have a letdown tonight. Take the points.
Phoenix has actually played better of late. They'd won four of five (covered all five games!) before running into Utah two nights ago. That was a game I cashed the Under as the Suns were held to 97 points by one of the league's premier defensive teams. Houston is not a premier defensive team as they rank 12th in scoring and 21st in efficiency. The Suns have recently beaten both the Bucks and Warriors, so they won't be intimidated here. The fact they rank near the bottom of the league in both defense and rebounding is mitigated by the fact the Rockets aren't strong in either of those areas either. In fact, these are the two worst teams in rebounding rate in the entire league.
Many of the Rockets' wins during their 9-game streak were close. So that's another reason not to want to lay the points here. They're also 2-10-1 ATS the L13 games vs. teams with a losing SU record and have actually failed to cover its last four games against foes w/ a win percentage below .400. That shows they are prone to take "lesser" foes too lightly and given the spot, I think that'll be the case again here. 8* Phoenix
|03-15-19||Florida State v. Virginia -9||Top||69-59||Loss||-108||9 h 40 m||Show|
10* Virginia (7:00 ET): Despite getting off to a slow start yday vs. NC State, Virginia ended up winning by 20 (76-56) and comfortably covering as 11.5-pt chalk. Just imagine the result had the Hoos not been down at the half! Meanwhile, there was nothing easy or comfortable with Florida State's 65-63 win over Va Tech yday. That game went to overtime, putting them at a severe disadvantage today against the ACC's top seed. Virginia won the lone regular season meeting, by 13 points, in Charlottesville. It should be a similar result tonight in the first of two ACC semfinals. Lay the points.
Virginia leads the country in scoring defense, giving up only 54.6 PPG. That defensive prowess was on full display yday (particularly in the 2nd half) as they held NC State to 38.8% shooting for the game, including 3 of 20 from three-point range. It was the Cavaliers' ninth win in a row overall. This season has seen them go 8-0 ATS when on a win streak of that length. There have been plenty of wins for a team (29-2 SU overall) that I consider the best in the country right now. I feel that because of LY's historic upset at the hands of UMBC, the Hoos are going to be severely undervalued this month. Such is the case here.
Florida State shot just 34.1% from the field in the first meeting w/ Virginia and finished w/ a season-low 52 points. Virginia has a habit of doing that to its opponents. FSU got points from 10 different players yday and 33 total from its reserves. Still, it took a late three-pointer to send the game to OT where the Seminoles won on a Terrance Mann basket w/ just 1.8 seconds remaining. FSU has won 13 of its last 14 games, but the lone loss was by 18 to North Carolina. They are simply not on the same level as the other three semifinalists in the ACC. 10* Virginia
|03-15-19||George Mason v. St Bonaventure -3||Top||57-68||Win||100||6 h 38 m||Show|
8* St. Bonaventure (2:30 ET): A big key in handicapping today's card is there are a great number of rested teams facing opponents that played yday. That very situation presents itself in all four games of the Atlantic 10 Tourney where the top four seeds all got byes into the quarterfinals. Count St. Bonaventure among that group and the Bonnies are laying just a small number to George Mason Friday afternoon. George Mason was fortunate enough to draw a poor George Washington team in its opening round contest, but still only won by four points. I'll be laying the short number here.
GMU has actually been fortunate enough to play GW two straight times. (They also beat the Colonials 81-65, on the road, in the regular season finale!). But yday's tournament battle was a lot tighter as the Patriots' biggest lead was only eight points and that came early in the 1st half. They actually trailed by as many as five in the second half. Keep in mind they were nine-point favorites at the betting window. St. Bonaventure is a team they split with in the regular season as each team won by double digits on its home floor. While George Mason won the 1st meeting by 15, St. Bonaventure was more dominant w/ a 23-pt win in the rematch.
Other than GW, the only other team George Mason has defeated over the last month was Richmond, who also finished near the bottom of the A-10 regular season standings. Meanwhile, St. Bonaventure is hot, having won seven of its last eight games. The favorite has covered the spread in each of the last nine meetings between these schools and that's mainly been the Bonnies, who are 6-1 ATS the last seven matchups. Big edge to the Bonnies on defense as they rank 57th in the country in defensive efficiency while GMU is 151st. The Patriots also are allowing opponents to shoot a blistering 54.4% from two-point range, which is last in the A-10. Furthermore, GMU is now 0-6 ATS following its last six SU wins. 8* St. Bonaventure
|03-15-19||Memphis v. UCF -2||Top||79-55||Loss||-110||6 h 44 m||Show|
8* UCF (2:00 ET): The American Conference's Tournament is being played in Memphis, which obviously gives the host team some advantage. But it won't enough today for the Tigers to overcome a very underrated UCF team. While Memphis had to play yday, UCF got a bye into the quarterfinals. That, to me, is just as important as the homecourt advantage here for Memphis (if not more so). Now UCF did not fare well in their previous venture here, losing by 20 points. But that and a loss in the regular season finale (at Temple) will have them fully motivated this afternoon. Lay the short number.
Memphis really didn't need any kind of additional advantage for its 1st round matchup w/ Tulane. The Green Wave were the worst team in the American this year and quite possibly one of the worst teams in the entire country this year, excluding the smaller conferences. Tulane finished the season 0-19 SU vs. the rest of the American and 4-28 SU overall. So don't go putting much stock in the Tigers' 83-68 win yday. They totaled a season-high 52 pts in the 1st half, a number they won't come close to matching today. It was the second time they beat Tulane in the last month (both at home, no less), so the fact the Tigers have also won five of six is also slightly misleading.
UCF has had nearly a full week to "stew" over losing to Temple in the regular season finale. While that was called an "upset," Temple actually did go off as a 2.5-pt betting favorite. The loss dropped UCF out of the Top 25 and also halted an eight-game ATS win streak. Their only SU loss in those eight games was by five at Cincinnati. They later avenged that defeat and also won at Houston on 3/2, which was one of just two conference losses suffered by the Cougars all season. These teams like to play at VERY different tempos and I think it's going to be a problem for unrested Memphis here today. 8* UCF
|03-14-19||Long Beach State v. Hawaii -1.5||Top||68-66||Loss||-110||15 h 14 m||Show|
8* Hawaii (11:30 ET): The Big West is one of the few leagues that does NOT provide any advantage to the top finishers from the regular season. The conference tournament is a straight ahead format w/ the top eight teams playing four quarterfinal matchups. Now the bottom two teams from the reg season don't even get a chance to play in the tournament, but considering how bad UC Riverside and Cal Poly both were, that's of little consequence. The final quarterfinal of Thursday pits 4-seed Hawaii against 5-seed Long Beach State. The Warriors will be looking to make it a 3-0 season sweep of the 49ers after beating them twice in a week two months ago.
Long Beach State will arrive in Anaheim on a five-game win streak. But three of those wins were by five points or less and the other two were against the two teams that didn't qualify for this tournament. Before that stretch, LBSU had lost eight of nine w/ the only win coming in OT against Cal Poly (worst team in the Big West). At one point in the season, the 49ers were eight games below .500. Even w/ the strong finish, they are only 14-18 SU overall. Half of their eight league wins came against those bottom two teams. This is a team that gives up 79.5 PPG away from home.
Hawaii actually won a pair of games here on the mainland to end its regular season. They held Cal State Fullerton to 59 points in the regular season finale. Offensively, the Warriors turned in two of their better efforts of the year against LBSU. They tied a school record w/ 14 made three-pointers (on 27 attempts) in the second matchup, which was on the road. Note that Hawaii was one of only three teams in the entire Big West to finish the regular season w/ a winning SU record. They should easily move onto the semifinals to face one of the other two, top seeded UC Irvine (who is the clear class of the league). 8* Hawaii
|03-14-19||Mavs v. Nuggets OVER 220||Top||99-100||Loss||-109||14 h 19 m||Show|
10* Over Mavericks/Nuggets (10:35 ET): Denver got a much needed offensive outburst Tuesday night, scoring 133 points at the expense of the defensively challenged T'wolves. That snapped a nine-game Under streak for the Nuggets. More importantly (for them), it was a win, just their second in the last six games. Yet they are still very much alive for the top spot in the Western Conference, just one game back of the Warriors. Here, I think they should again put up a ton of points as they face a struggling Dallas team. Take the Over.
The Mavericks have lost six in a row and 11 of their last 12. Not helping is the fact rookie sensation Luka Doncic is not 100%. Tuesday against San Antonio, Doncic didn't even score until the final minute of the first half. He finished w/ only 12 points and had nine turnovers. It was clearly one of the worst games of his career. Now, the last time Dallas faced Denver, they were w/o Doncic entirely. It was only the third game Doncic missed all season and the Mavs managed only 104 points on 40.5% shooting. Obviously, Doncic's health is worth monitoring here, but this Over bet stands with or without him.
Denver didn't shoot well in that previous meeting either, finishing w/ a FG% of only 40.8. They shot 60% against Minnesota Tuesday and upped their scoring average at home to 116.5 for the year. The Mavericks' scoring average hardly drops on the road, even though their won-loss record (6-27) is far worse than it is at home (21-13). The problem lies on the defensive end as they're giving up 113.1 PPG on the road, compared to just 106.3 PPG at home. When the teams met here in Denver earlier in the year (December), the final score was 126-118, an easy Over. Similar story here. 10* Over Mavericks/Nuggets
|03-14-19||East Carolina +11 v. Wichita State||Top||57-73||Loss||-110||14 h 59 m||Show|
10* East Carolina (10:00 ET): This line would seem to be inflated even though Wichita State just drubbed East Carolina nine days ago. The Shockers won 72-55, as 14.5-point favorites, but of course that came was played in the friendly confines of Koch Arena. It was the second time beating the Pirates this year as back in February it was a 16-point win in Greenville. Wichita State certainly got hot down the stretch, winning 9 out of its last 11 games. Meanwhile, ECU has won just twice in its last 16 games and both wins were against horrendous Tulane. Despite those respective trajectories, I maintain the line is inflated and I'll take the points.
When a team comes into its conference tournament red-hot, I think there needs to be a little trepidation when they start laying big numbers. Wichita State has a track record, but this edition is not the strongest. They really did beat up on the bottom of the American, a designation which clearly applies to East Carolina, but I'm not sure we should go trusting a team that was three games below .500 on January 26th and only 2-6 SU in conference play. Of the last nine wins, two were against ECU, two were against Tulane, two were against Tulsa, two were against SMU and the other vs. UConn. That's the bottom five teams in the American. Three were by three points or less, including the regular season finale vs. Tulane, who did not win a single conference game this season.
East Carolina was clearly the American's second worst team this year w/ the only non-Tulane win being a shocker over Cincinnati. But down the stretch, they did have a few tough losses, including two in overtime. Over the last three seasons, they are 16-4 ATS following B2B games where they had five or less steals. Is anyone going to confuse the Pirates for a "good" team? No. But they deserve more credit than they are getting Thursday. Too many points for a team that shoots just 38.7% away from home (Wichita State) to lay. 10* East Carolina
|03-14-19||Connecticut v. South Florida +1.5||Top||80-73||Loss||-110||17 h 19 m||Show|
8* South Florida (1:00 ET): The American's conference tournament gets going Thursday w/ four 1st round matchups. The winner here moves on to face top seed Houston, so the odds are long for either UConn or USF going very far in this event. Neither is exactly displaying "peak form" lately either. UConn no longer resembles the program once known for coming up huge in March. The Huskies have just two wins in their last nine games. One of them was against USF, who is just 1-6 its last seven games. Something will have to give here and surprisingly, I side w/ the Bulls in this one.
There were two regular season matchups between UConn and USF and they split the pair, each winning at home. UConn was clearly overvalued as a 3.5-pt road favorite back in January, losing 76-68. They did gain a measure of revenge just 11 days ago in Storrs, but won by only two points (70-68) and thus missed out on covering (were -3!). That second meeting was an ugly shooting day for both teams. Ironically, on the day they retired Ray Allen's number, UConn didn't make a single three-pointer (0 for 15). They shot just 38.5% for the game. Fortunately for the Huskies, USF was even worse overall (32.8%) even though they made three 3-pointers (3 of 18).
Here in Memphis, the teams should shoot better. But how much good shooting did UConn "use up" in their regular season finale against East Carolina. They shot 62.5% from the field in the 82-73 win as 6.5-pt road favorites. The Huskies definitely won't be shooting that well again today. South Florida is the superior defensive side in this one, giving up just 67.0 PPG, which is a respectable number. Certainly a lot better than UConn, who gives up 77.9 PPG away from Storrs. UConn also won just two games away from home all season. That is shockingly bad. 8* South Florida
|03-13-19||Washington State v. Oregon -10.5||Top||51-84||Win||100||15 h 29 m||Show|
10* Oregon (11:30 ET): The Pac 12 was rightly maligned this season and may only end up sending one team to the Big Dance depending on how this tournament plays out. Regular season champ Washington figures to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament, but if they also emerge victorious this weekend in Las Vegas, then the rest of the league could very well be shutout. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there were two teams in the Pac 12 that turned in absolutely horrific regular seasons. Those were Washington State and Cal. I'll fade the former here as they've got no chance here.
Oregon is a team that came into 2018-19 w/ high hopes, but those mostly went "out the window" when Bol Bol went down w/ a season-ending injury. Still, the Ducks have persevered and actually finished the regular season on a 4-0 SU/ATS run. One of those wins came against Washington State, by 11, as 6.5-pt road favorites. You'll note the spread is several points higher today (neutral setting) but the Ducks also beat the Cougars by 20 as 13-point favorites in Eugene earlier in the year. They also just knocked off Washington in the regular season finale. In three of the last four games, Oregon has not given up more than 51 points.
Ironically, Wazzu was the one team to top 51 against the Ducks. But they may not do so here. The Cougars come into this game on a five-game losing streak, having failed to cover all five times as well. Defensively, they are very bad, giving up almost 80 PPG. (Oregon gives up only 63.7 PPG on the year). Having already taken two DD losses to the Ducks in the regular season, I don't see why the tournament will be any different for Wazzu. Oregon is 25-12 ATS the L3 seasons when coming off a conference win. 10* Oregon
|03-13-19||Jazz v. Suns UNDER 222.5||Top||114-97||Win||100||14 h 44 m||Show|
10* Under Jazz/Suns (10:05 ET): Utah has taken a couple of "bad" losses recently. I went against them both times: a road loss to Memphis and home loss to OKC. In each instance, the Jazz were the betting favorite. Such is the case again tonight, but at least they're playing a Phoenix team that shouldn't provide much resistance. Then again, the Suns have gone 4-1 SU and 5-0 ATS their last five games. They just upset the Warriors (as 16.5-pt dogs!) in Oakland. So maybe this ISN'T the layup Utah is hoping for. Regardless, I'm taking the Under here as the Jazz are usually good defensively and the Suns have been better (at least recently).
In those last two games, the Jazz did not shoot the ball well. They finished the Memphis game w/ a 42.7 FG% and were even worse against OKC (36.4%). Admittedly, those are two of the better defensive teams in the league. Phoenix is near the bottom of the league in both points allowed and efficiency. But aside from a 127-120 loss at Portland, the Suns have been much better on the defensive end of late. During the five-game ATS win streak, they've allowed an average of "just" 109.6 PPG. The four games besides the Portland one saw them give up no more than 111. The Under is also 4-1 in the Suns' last five home games.
The Under is also 4-1 in the last five meetings between these two. None of those five totals were as high as this one is. The only previous matchup this season saw the Jazz hold Phoenix to 88 points. Now that was in Salt Lake City and the Suns were without their top two scorers. They also went just 3 of 17 from behind the three-point line. But I still maintain this O/U is too high. Utah scored only 89 points against OKC on Monday and isn't really an offensive juggernaut to begin with. The Under is 5-0 the last five times the Jazz have been off an ATS loss and I expect this to be a pretty low-scoring affair. 10* Under Jazz/Suns
|03-13-19||Rice v. Marshall -6.5||Top||65-82||Win||100||14 h 39 m||Show|
8* Marshall (10:00 ET): Marshall is a team I've jumped on a couple of times recently and both times they easily covered. In some ways the Thundering Herd benefited from C-USA's wacky "pod" system of scheduling at the end of the regular season. After every team played 14 games, the teams were grouped 1-5, 6-10 and 11-14. You then only played the teams in your own pod. Marshall swept their pod, going 4-0 SU and ATS. Thus, they actually finished tied w/ the second best record (11-7 SU) in league play. Yet because of said "pod" system, they're still seeded 6th. So that is to their detriment as they won't even get a 1st round bye in the C-USA Tournament.
But expect the Herd to make some noise in this event. Sure, I made the point that this is a much better team at home (where they won't be playing anymore). But they're hot. Also remember that this was a NCAA Tournament team a year ago (won 25 games!) and returned four starters. It was absolutely a disappointing start to the season, but they have the horses to finish strong. Their 1st opponent in the C-USA Tournament is Rice, who has been playing all of its recent games against the lowest tier of teams in the league. Facing Marshall will be a big step up in class for the Owls.
Because Rice was in the 11-14 pod, they actually played the same team back to back in their last two regular season games. It was Charlotte, who didn't even qualify for the tournament. The Owls really had nothing to play for in their last game (though it was Senior Day) and they lost to the 49ers 78-70 as 5.5-pt favorites. Two of Rice's recent wins came against the two teams that did not make this tournament: Charlotte and UTEP. They did beat Marshall earlier in the year, 74-69, but that was at home. So revenge comes into play here and I don't think the Thundering Herd will take it easy on the Owls. 8* Marshall
|03-13-19||Arizona v. USC +1||Top||65-78||Win||100||7 h 54 m||Show|
8* USC (3:00 ET): What a tumultuous season in Tucson as the Arizona program has been clouded by the specter of this NCAA investigation. It would almost be appropriate then for the Wildcats to bow out in the first round of the Pac 12 Tourney. They did have a three-game win streak in late February, but those are the only wins for the team going all the way back to late January. Overall, the Wildcats come into the postseason tourney having dropped 9 of their last 12 games, both SU and ATS. USC hasn't been much better, but the Trojans did Arizona 80-57 in the regular season.
USC has lost and failed to cover four in a row. But they had a tough schedule at the end of the reg season, having to play the final three games on the road. You may recall that I faded them last Saturday in Colorado. It was actually my *10* Game of the Week. But the thinking there was CU was a terrible matchup for the Trojans, both in terms of rebounding and getting the game in Boulder. That wound up being true. Today's game is not in hostile territory and Arizona happens to be one of the two teams in the Pac 12 averaging fewer rebounds per game than the Trojans.
In the 80-57 blowout of the Wildcats in the regular season, USC completely dominated every facet including the boards. They held Arizona to 27.8% shooting, including 5 of 25 from three-point range. It was arguably their best game all season, certainly in conference play. An argument can be made that USC deserved a better regular season record as they were 0-3 in overtime games. The Trojans should defend better here (compared to recent efforts) and they are the better three-point shooting team. 8* USC
|03-12-19||North Dakota State v. Nebraska-Omaha -2.5||Top||73-63||Loss||-108||10 h 43 m||Show|
8* Omaha (9:00 ET): This is the Summit League Finals. The top seed in this tournament (South Dakota State) was stunned in the Opening Round, losing to a bad Western Illinois team. That result has certainly "opened the door" for #2 seed Omaha to advance to its first ever NCAA Tournament (program was not D-I until 2011-12 season). The Mavericks have played two close games so far here in Sioux Falls as have their opponents, North Dakota State. Carson Wentz's alma mater was a more direct beneficiary of South Dakota State getting knocked out early as the Bison got to play Western Illinois in the semifinals yday. But they won only 76-73.
The Bison's leading scorer Tyson Ward made just 1 of 6 field goal attempts yday, but he and the rest of the team got bailed out by a season-best 20 pt effort from Sam Griesel. NDSU did lead by as many as 15 early in the 1st Half, but could not shake the Leathernecks and actually trailed briefly w/ less than 10 minutes remaining. I can't stress enough how bad Western Illinois was during the regular season. This is a big step up in class for the Bison tonight and they've already lost twice to Omaha during the regular season. Those games were decided by a total of 21 points.
Those two regular season meetings played out very differently w/ Omaha winning 90-77 at home and 58-50 on the road. The Mavericks come in off a 1-pt victory over IUPFW last night where they were held to a season-low 24 pts in the second half. But they didn't allow a single basket over the game's final four minutes either. A quick look at the regular season standings confirms that South Dakota State and Omaha were the clear class of the Summit League this year. Again, it's a major break for the Mavericks not to have to deal w/ the top seed here (who would be playing on its home court). I look for them to move on. 8* Omaha