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|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|03-23-18||Texas Tech +1.5 v. Purdue||Top||78-65||Win||100||84 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the No. 3-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders taking on the No. 2-seeded Purdue Boilermakers Friday in NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 East Regional action at the TD Garden in Boston. Texas Tech was jilted by Tubby Smith when he led the Red Raiders to the tournament and then left for Memphis. However, Smith's buyout money helped lure Chris Beard away from UNLV to Lubbock, where Beard had spent a decade as an assistant at Texas Tech. Beard's national profile skyrocketed two years ago when his Arkansas-Little Rock squad upset fifth-seeded Purdue in the opening round, 85-83 in double overtime. He signed a deal with UNLV but never coached a game, instead returning to Texas Tech. It has sure worked out for Texas Tech, as Beard has the program back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005 and as fate would have it, the 26-9 Red Raiders will play the 30-6 Boilermakers (30-6). Purdue head coach may not admit it but I'm sure he'd love to avenge that 2016 loss to Beard's Arkansas-Little Rock team.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have had some injury problems with leading scorer Keenan Evans (17.8 PPG) having to fight his way through a painful turf toe plus injury-prone center Zach Smith (6.1 & 3.8) has had trouble staying on the court for extended minutes. However, freshman guard Culver (11.5 & 4.9) and freshman SF Zhaire Smith (11.3 & 4.8) have matured as the season has progressed. The team's mid-season form (Tech was once 22-4) seemed to resurface in Dallas, as a healthier Evans scored 45 points in the two games at Dallas, while freshman Smith came up big vs. Florida in the second round, scoring 18 points. Zach Smith also was able to average 19 minutes in Tech's two NCAA wins, totaling 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds.Tech is not an outstanding offensive team (Red Raiders are averaging 74.9 PPG) but defensively, Tech holds opponents to 64.6 PPG (15th) on 40.3% shooting (14th). The active Red Raider defense was able to deliver key stops vs. Florida in a 69-66 win.
Purdue: The Boilermakers know about key injuries, as 7-2 senior center Isaac Haas (14.7 & 5.7) fractured his right elbow in Purdue's first-round victory over Cal State Fullerton on Friday. Luckily for the Boilermakers, they're one of the few programs in the country that can sub-in one agile 7-footer for another. 7-3 backup Matt Haarms performed well in the second-round victory over Butler, scoring seven points, grabbing six rebounds and making two blocks in a four-point win over the Bulldogs. Purdue averages 80.8 PPG (38th) on 49.4% shooting (13th), including making 42.1% on threes (second-best in the nation!). Guard Carsen Edwards leads a trio of guards with a team-high 18.2 PPG, joined by PG Mathias (12.3-4.1-4.0) and Thompson (7.4). The 6-8 Vince Edwards (14.7 & 7.2) will be asked to produce even more, with Haas sidelined.
The pick: Purdue would arguably be one of the top-four teams remaining, if Haas were available. His status is up to the engineers of Purdue to manufacture a brace that is NCAA-compliant (is that likely?). The Boilermakers have survived without Haas by hitting their open shots. The Boilermakers are 22-for-25 on uncontested shots in the NCAA tournament (88 percent), best among Sweet 16 teams. Will that continue, especially against an excellent Texas Tech D? Evans is averaging 21.2 PPG on better than 54 percent shooting over Tech's last five games, so Purdue's task will not be easy. However, I like the "coaching revenge angle" and will take Painter over Beard in this one. Make Purdue an 8* play.
|03-23-18||Celtics v. Blazers OVER 203||Top||105-100||Win||100||13 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics got a buzzer-beater to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers 97-96 back on Feb. 4 at home. The teams were in very different positions compared to the ones they find themselves heading into Friday's matchup in Portland. The Celtics were a mostly healthy bunch in first place in the Eastern Conference after that triumph with a 39-15 record. However, the Celtics have gone just 9-8 since that game and are currently a battered second-place squad (4 1/2 games back of Toronto) and are entering a very challenging road-heavy portion of their schedule. The Blazers were just 29-24 after that Feb. 4 loss in Boston (in sixth place in the West ) but have since gone 15-3, a surge which has them 44-27 on the season, good enough for the No. 3 seed in the West. Portland is two games up on New Orleans and OKC, plus 2 1/2 games up on San Antonio
Boston: Chief among Boston's injury concerns is the status of All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, who will not travel with the team on this four-game road trip as he seeks a second opinion on a troublesome knee. With Irving (24.4 & 5.1 APG), Jaylen Brown (14.1 & 5.2) out with a concussion and Marcus Smart (10.2-3.5-4.8) sidelined with a thumb issue, Boston has been leaning on others to carry the torch. Jayson Tatum came up big turn on Wednesday with 23 points, 11 rebounds and got an assist on Marcus Morris' decisive three-pointer with 1.2 seconds left. Tatum (13.6 & 5.1) has back-to-back 23-point games, while Morris is averaging 16.6 points in March (12.90 & 5.6 on the season ). However, Horford (12.7-7.5-4.8), who hit the game-winner to defeat Portland last month, is averaging just 5.5 points while shooting 5-of-20 over the last two games!
Portland: The Trail Blazers are looking to bounce back from a 115-111 loss to Houston that snapped their 13-game winning streak. Star guards Damian Lillard (26.6-4.4-6.5) and CJ McCollum (21.5-3.9-3.2) combined to miss all 12 of their three-point attempts and shot a collective 9-for-32 overall in the loss to the Rockets. Center Jusuf Nurkic picked up some of the slack with 21 points while recording his second straight double-double, both of which came with four blocked shots. However, as noted often here, the team's dynamic backcourt duo and Nurkic (14.2 & 8.6) are the only Blazers averaging double digits. That's a problem!
The pick: This home contest will be followed by a stretch in which Portland will play seven of its next nine games on the road. Coming off that loss to the Rockets, Portland is still on a 14-2 ATS run in its last 15 games at the Moda Center. However, Boston is a money-making 23-10 ATS away from TD Garden. I'll make the Over an 8* playt.
|03-23-18||Syracuse v. Duke OVER 133||Top||65-69||Win||100||83 h 11 m||Show|
The set-up: The Syracuse Orange may have been given the last available at-large bid but no one is dissing Syracuse theses days, surely not the Duke Blue Devils. The 11th-seeded Orange meet the second-seeded Blue Devils tonight at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha in Midwest Regional Sweet 16 action. Syracuse (now 23-13) pulled off one of the bigger upsets of the NCAA Tournament so far, knocking off third-seeded Michigan State 55-53 this past Sunday. Boeheim's famed zone defense held Michigan State to just five points over the final 5:43 of regulation, as the Spartans shot just 25.8% for the game, including 8-of-37 on threes. Duke warmed up with a win over Iona, then put together one of its best performances of the season, defeating the No. 7-seed Rhode Island Rams 87-62 this past Saturday. Duke dominated on both ends of the court, shooting 56.9% from the floor (including 10-of-21 on threes), while holding Rhode Island to just 39.7% shooting.
Syracuse. The Orange have been winning games this tourney (three, already!) by slowing down the pace and playing outstanding defense. Syracuse has scored just 60, 57 and 55 points in its three wins but has allowed just 56, 52 and 53 points in those contests. The Orange feature just three players capable of scoring. Guard Battle leads with 19.2 PPG, 6-8 freshman Brissett adds 14.9 & 8.4 plus PG Howard checks in at 14.6 PPG and 4.7 APG. No other Syracuse player averages as much as six points. Incredibly, Syracuse has won three games this tourney (only team to do so), by shooting a combined 11 of 42 (26.2%) on threes. One could add, you can't make this up! I will also add that Syracuse owns the tallest starting-five in the tourney. Guards Battle and Howard are 6-6 and 6-5, respectively, while the 6-8 Brissett is joined up front by the 7-2 Chukwu and the 6-9 Dolezaj.
Duke: All know by now that Duke features senior Gray son Allen (15.6 PPG & 4.6 APG) plus four outstanding freshman. The 6-11 Bagley (21.2 & 11.3) may be the No. 1 pick in the draft and frontcourt partner, the 6-10 Carter (13.6 & 9.2), won't be far behind. Joining Allen on the perimeter are Trent (14.4 & 4.3) and PG Duval (10.2 & 5.6). Duke averages 84.9 PPG (6th) on 49.6% shooting (10th), while playing excellent D (allows 69.3PPG on 40.2% shooting).
The pick: Duke is gunning for its third national title since 2010 under Coach K, who is behind only Kentucky's John Calipari in recruiting “one-and-dones” over the last few seasons. Coach K and Boeheim are longtime rivals but also friends and there will be no surprises in this game. The Orange are 7-1 as a double-digit seed in the NCAA tournament, the best such win percentage all time (that's SU, not ATS!).However, Blue Devils are the most talented team in the tourney, AND, they are healthy. No team has trended up more than Duke has since Feb. 8, when the Blue Devils lost on the road to North Carolina. Duke has scored at least 85 points in back-to-back NCAA games for the first time since 2004, when it lost to UConn in the Final Four. Duke won its first two tournament games by 20-plus points and the other two times that happened, the Blue Devils reached the Final Four. Syracuse won't beat Duke in a low-scoring game. I heard heard a Boehein interview in which he said he's beaten Duke in teh past by outscoring the Blue Devils. Make the Over an 8* play.
|03-23-18||Clemson v. Kansas -4.5||Top||76-80||Loss||-109||80 h 16 m||Show|
The setup: Kansas is the Midwest's top seed and can't be unhappy with the regional being played at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Ne. The Jayhawks own a five-game winning streak and have won 10 of their last 11 outings. to enter this game at 29-7. Kansas opened the Big Dance with a 76-60 win over Penn and then beat No. 8-seed Seton Hall 83-79. The Clemson Tigers (a No. 5 seed) have won five of their last seven games, managing a 79-68 victory over New Mexico State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, then followed with a big 84-53 win over No. 4 Auburn. Clemson comes in at 25-9 on the year.
Clemson:Head coach Brad Brownell took note of the other coaches in the regional (Coach K, Jim Boeheim and Bill Self) and said, "Nobody is going to know who I am. It's like coaching the ACC. I don't look down at the other end when we're coaching. That's not good for my mental health." However, Brownell has Clemson in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997, after previously coaching Wright State and UNC-Wilmington to tournament appearances. The Tigers advanced by limiting Auburn to 25.8 percent shooting and points on just 22 of 70 possessions in an 84-53 second-round mismatch. Clemson ranks 2th in points allowe (65.5 per) and 17th in defensive FG perecentage at 40.4%, The loss of guard Deonte Grantham (14.2 & 6.9) was huge but a trio of 6-3 guards have come through in Marcquise Reed (15.9 & 4.7), Gabe DeVoe (13.7 & 4.6) and Shelton Mitchell (12.2 & APG). The 6-9 Thomas (10.9 & 8.9) is really the only key frontcourt contributor. Gabe DeVoe has stepped up with back-to-back 22-point efforts in Clemson's two wins.
Kansas: The Jayhawks have outlasted Penn and Seton Hall in the first two rounds and are glad to have 7-0 center Udoka Azubuike back. He sat out the Jayhawks' championship run in the Big 12 Tournament with an MCL strain but played 22 minutes against Seton Hall and contributed 10 points and seven rebounds. Azubuike leads the nation in field goal percentage, making 77.5 percent of his attempts, while averaging 13.2 PPG and 6.9 RPG. His presence is vital, as Self's other four starters are all guards. Devonté Graham (17.4-4.0-7.5) was the Big 12's POY and is joined by Mykhailiuk (15.0 & 3.9), Newman (13.4 & 4.8) and Vick (12.1 & 4.8). Newman led the way with 28 points against Seton Hall, upping his average to 22.0 PPG in Kansas' five tourney games (Big 12 and Big Dance).
The pick: Shorthanded Auburn was clearly not the same team without the services of its top big, 6-7 soph Anfernee McLemore and Auburn missed 18 straight shots at one point against Clemson. Really think that will happen to Kansas? Kansas averages 81.4 PPG (29th) on 49.6% shooting (12th) and is now healthy with the return of Azubuike. Also, I sure expect Graham to bounce back with a difference-making offensive showing after going just 1 of 7 from the floor vs. Seton Hall. Kansas has won and covered in this round of the tourney the last two years, with comfy ATS wins over Purdue (98-66 last year) and Maryland (79-63 in 2016). Make it three straight years, as Kansas is a 10* play.
|03-23-18||Canadiens -108 v. Sabres||Top||3-0||Win||100||10 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: It's quite a disappointing season for Montreal, after the Canadiens won the Atlantic Division last year with 103 points. Montreal has dropped four games in a row and nine of its last 10 (1-7-2), to fall to 26-36-12 (64 points) on the season. The Canadiens are only six points out of the cellar in the Atlantic Division and could inch closer when they visit the last-place Buffalo Sabres on Friday night. The 23-38-12 Sabres (58 points) are coming off a 4-1 home loss to Arizona that lifted the Coyotes out of last place in the Western Conference.
Montreal: The Canadiens own the worst road record in the NHL at 9-24-4 and Wednesday's 5-3 loss at Pittsburgh marked the team's seventh consecutive defeat away from home. Goalie Carey Price returned from a month-long absence against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs (he made 34 saves) but he will sit Friday in favor of backup Antti Niemi, who has allowed two goals or fewer in five of his last six starts. Rookie Nikita Scherbak scored a short-handed goal against the Penguins, the fourth goal in the last 12 games for the 2014 first-round pick. Montreal avergaes only 2.47 GPG (29th of 31 teams) and has just one player with as many as 20 goals. That's LW Brendan Gallagher, whose 26 goals and modest 45 points are both team highs.
Buffalo: The Sabres come in having lost four of their last five games, scoring four goals in the four defeats. Wednesday's 4-1 loss to Arizona came days after another sad-sack effort in a 4-0 shutout loss to Nashville at home. The Sabres got an initial boost from the return of top center Jack Eichel last weekend, picking up a victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. However, things were back to normal against Arizona and Nashville. Eichel leads the Sabres in scoring with 54 points (22 goals, 32 assists) in 58 games. Ryan O'Reilly is second on the team with 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) in 72 games.
Montreal: Yes, the Canadiens own the NHL's worst road record but they have won all three meetings against Buffalo this season. Also note that Antti Niemi, in goal tonight for Montreal, has allowed two goals or fewer in five of his last six starts. Add to that the fact that Buffalo's "main man" (Jack Eichel) has zero goals and four assists in 11 games versus the Canadiens and it's not much of a leap to play the Canadiens in this one. In fact, make Montreal a 10* play.
|03-23-18||Nuggets +1.5 v. Wizards||Top||108-100||Win||100||10 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets are 1-2 on their current seven-game road trip as they get set to visit the Washington Wizards. The 39-33 Nuggets sit two games back of the final playoff spot in the West (T-wolves and Jazz are both 41-31) entering play on Thursday. Nuggets did take care of the lowly Chicago Bulls 135-102 on Wednesday but if they are going to make the postseason, they'll have to beat a winning team or two on the road down the stretch. The team's road trip gets considerably tougher from here on, with each of the next four games and six of the final 10 on the road against teams with winning records, starting with the Wizards. The 40-31 Washington Wizards fell into sixth place in the East with a loss at San Antonio on Wednesday but they are just one game behind the fourth-place Philadelphia 76ers and two back of the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers in the battle for homecourt advantage in the first round.
Denver: The Nuggets face an arduous trek that could very well determine whether they make the playoffs or not. Denver will be without leading scorer Gary Harris (17.7) on Friday night against the Washington Wizards, who will miss his fourth straight game with a right knee sprain/strain (he initially got hurt in the fourth quarter last Thursday in a win over Detroit, when he landed awkwardly as he was fouled on a dunk. Without Harris, the Nuggets are 1-2 on the trip. They dropped a seven-point decision at Memphis on Saturday followed by a 149-141 double-overtime loss at Miami on Monday, before beating the sad-sack Bulls. Jokic, a 6-10 center, is right behind Harris in averaging 17.5 PPG plus add a team-high 10.5 RPG. Five other Denver players are in double digits, including the versatile Barton (15.0-4.-4.9) and the now-healthy PF Millsap (14.2 & 6.3).
Washington: The Wizards lost 98-90 at San Antonio on Wednesday and are 4-6 since Feb. 27. Washington is a virtual lock to make the playoffs (is 8 1/2 games inside the playoff cut line) but which seed the team gets could determine how long Washington's playoff 'stay' will be. It's important to note that all six of Washington's recent setbacks (see above) have come against playoff-bound opponents. "It's frustrating because we were right there," All-Star guard Bradley Beal told reporters. "Every time we have a chance to move up (in the standings), we kind of take two steps back. All we can do is put it behind us and move on." Beal (23.2-4.4-4.6) is doing his part to move the Wizards up in the standings, averaging 24.7 points on 55.8 percent shooting over the last three games. Wizards SG Jodie Meeks (6.4) and PF Mike Scott (8.6 & 3.1) both missed Wednesday's game due to illness and are day-to-day, plus PG Wall (19.4 & 9.3) hasn't played since Jan. 25..
The pick: Both teams are fighting for playoff positioning (Denver for its playoff life!) but both are also mired mired in pointspread slumps.Washington is 2-6-1 ATS in March, while Denver is just 4-10 ATS since Feb. 23. However, I'm giving the edge to the road team here, as even without Harris, the Nuggets can score and Washington is really struggling on the defensive end of the court. The Wizards have allowed opponents to shoot 48.9 percent from the floor over their last 10 games, giving up 108.8 PPG. Make Denver a 10* play.
|03-22-18||Florida State +6 v. Gonzaga||Top||75-60||Win||100||59 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: Sweet 16 action in the West Regional features the No. 9 seed Florida State Seminoles and the No. 4 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Seminoles ended the season by losing six of their final 10 down the stretch but their 20-11 mark was good enough to earn them a second straight tournament appearance and a sixth overall under head coach Leonard Hamilton. FSU picked up its 21st victory of the season on Friday, getting past a shorthanded Missouri team and then the Seminoles shocked No. 1 Xavier on Sunday, closing the game with an 18-4 run to win 75-70 and give them 22 wins on the season. Gonzaga ended its regular season 30-4 and with the AP's No. 8 ranking but the Bulldogs drew only a No. 4 seed (more on that later). Gonzaga opened with a less than impressive four-point win over UNC-Greensboro but then made 53.4 percent of its shots in a 90-84 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Bulldogs are in the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season, the longest such streak in the country. If Gonzaga reaches the Final Four, it will set a Division I record for victories in a four-year span.
Florida State: The Seminoles opened the season having lost four starters off last year's 26-win team and little was expected. However, FSU began the season 9-0 before a one-point loss to Oklahoma State. FSU features a balanced scoring attack with four guards contributing. Angola (12.8 & 3.9) and Mann (12.7 & 5.5) are the highest perimeter scorers, joined by Walker (8.1) and Forrest (7.9 & 4.9-4.1). The 6-8 Cofer (13.1 & 5.0) has had a breakout senior year and works up front with the 7-4 Koumadje (6.9 & 4.6) and 6-9 freshman Kabengele (7.3 & 4.8). Angola was the Seminoles top gun against Xavier, scoring 16 points. Forrest had 13 points, five rebounds and four steals. Mann and Cofer had 10 ten points apiece plus Kabengele added nine points. Junior guard PJ Savoy (6.6) gave Florida State 11 points! The Seminoles have solid depth and can scorewith most teams, averaging 81.1 PPG (34th).
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs average 84.2 PPG (10th), on pace to be the highest scoring average in school history. The Bulldogs are outscoring opponents by 16.7 PPG this season, the second-highest scoring differential in Division I. Gonzaga has very good balance, with the 6-9 Williams (13.6 & 8.4) leading the way. He's got plenty of help up front with the 6-10 Tillie (12.9 & 5.9) and the 6-8 Hachimura (11.4 & 4.6). Freshman guard Norvell Jr.(12.7) carried the Bulldogs with 28 points and 12 rebounds against Ohio State and is joined in the backcourt by PG Perkins (12.4 & 5.3 APG) and Melson (9.3).
The pick: The Bulldogs have captured 21 of their last 22 outings, with the only loss coming in a hard-fought 74-71 home loss vs. WCC rival Saint Mary’s back in mid January. However, WCC is not the most challenging league, hence Gonzaga's No. 4 seed. In year's past. FSU could not match Gonzaga point-for-point in years past but that's not the case here in 2018. FSU owns a tall, athletic and deep bench, which has actually outscored its starters over the last four games! Note that 11 different players saw action in the first eight minutes last Sunday in the upset over Xavier and that the Seminoles have averaged 43.5 bench PPG, 12.5 more than any other team in the field. Chalk up another upset here, as FSU is an 8* play.
|03-22-18||Hawks v. Kings UNDER 212.5||Top||90-105||Win||100||14 h 47 m||Show|
Atlanta: The Hawks just may wind up with the NBA's worst record but don't tell the Utah Jazz that. Led by PG Dennis Schroder's career-high 41 points, the Hawks won 99-94 in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, snapping Utah's nine-game winning streak. Schroder leads the team in scoring (19.5) and assists (6,2) on the season but had not scored more than 18 points in any of his previous five games before Tuesday's breakout effort. Center Dewayne Dedmon recorded his 10th double-double of the season with 15 points and 15 rebounds on Tuesday but averages modest totals of 9.7 & 7.5 on the season. Atlanta ranks 22nd in scoring (104.0 PPG) and 23rd in points allowed (109.0) plus is just 6-28 SU on teh road on the season.
Sacramento: Don't talk to shooting guard Buddy Hield (13.1 PPG) about "tanking," as he scored 20 points on Monday against Detroit to reach the plateau for the fourth straight game, the longest such streak of his career. Hield is shooting 55.9 percent from the floor over the last four games and is 16-of-24 from three-point range over the last three contests. Rookie small forward Justin Jackson (6.5 PPG)is raising his level of play as well, shooting 61.1 percent from the floor over the last five after collecting 15 points on 7-of-9 from the floor in Monday's setback. Rookie Guards Bogdanovic (11.8) and Fox (11.6 & 4.3 APG), along with center Cauley-Stein (12.3 & 6.9), are giving the Kings some hope for the future.
The pick: The Kings will miss the playoffs for a 12th straight season and Sacramento won't end that dubious streak until the team can protect its home court.Sacramento is just 12-23 at the Golden 1 Center but this game vs. Atlanta and one with Dallas on March 27 (Mavs are one of three teams in the Western Conference with a worse mark than the kings), are almost "must wins" for Sacramento's confidence level. That said, I'm not sure I trust the Kings and I surely took notice of Atlanta's win in Utah. Let's make the Under a 10* play.
|03-22-18||Canucks v. Blackhawks OVER 6||Top||5-2||Win||100||12 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: This Thursday night contest features a pair teams each mired in last place in their respective divisions. Both are stumbling toward the finish line of the regular season, as the 25-39-9 Vancouver Canucks are last in the Pacific Division and the 30-35-9 Chicago Blackhawks are in last in the Central Division). The loss of leading scorer Brock Boeser has sapped the life out of Vancouver, which is 0-for-7 since the rookie was injured and the Canucks now own the worst record in the West, Meanwhile, Chicago, which topped the Western Conference with 109 points a year ago, was eliminated from postseason contention after Tuesday's 5-1 setback to Colorado (its fourth straight loss and sixth in seven games), to end a nine-year playoff run. One of the teams will finally get back into the win column when the Blackhawks host the reeling Canucks on tonight.
Vancouver: Boeser had scored 29 goals before he fractured a bone in his back on March 5 and his absence has been painfully apparent, as Vancouver has scored seven goals in the seven-game slide, including three consecutive shutouts. Center Bo Horvat has 19 goals and is looking to secure his second straight 20-goal campaign but there have been few bright spots for Vancouver these days..First-year head coach Travis Green has seen his team lose seven games in a row, getting outscored 23-7. The Canucks have failed to score on the power play in seven of eight games and had only one chance in five of them. Vancouver will turn to Jacob Markstrom or Anders Nilsson in net. Markstrom has played more frequently, posting an 18-26-6 record with a 2.80 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in 54 games but comes in having lost five straight starts. Nilsson is 7-13-3 with a 3.50 GAA and .902 save percentage in 25 games.
Chicago: Joel Quenneville has guided Chicago to three Stanley Cup titles since 2009-10 but there are questions about his future despite the fact he is having his first losing season in 21 years. Center Jonathan Toews and right winger Patrick Kane each will look to continue their recent production. Toews has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in his last 10 games and checks in with 52 points (20 goals) on the season. Kane has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) over the same span and collected an assist Tuesday to reach 70 points for the seventh time (25 goals / 45 assists). Anton Forsberg or Jean-Francois Berube will be in net for Chicago. Forsberg is 9-16-3 with a 3.08 GAA and .905 save percentage in 32 games, while Berube is 2-4-1 with a 3.70 GAA and .897 save percentage.
The pick: Chicago has scored first in 27 of its last 36 games but is only 12-12-3 in those contests. Oddly enough, while the Canucks now own the worst record in the West, they have won three in a row in the series, including both meetings this season by a combined 9-4. The Canucks are looking to sweep the regular-season series.with tonight's game in Chicago. That should motivate the Blackhawks some but I'd rather stick with a 10* on the over.
|03-22-18||Lakers +3 v. Pelicans||Top||125-128||Push||0||9 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pelicans had a make-up contest last night with the Pacers, in a game postponed back on Feb 7 because of a leaky roof in the Smoothie King Center. It marked the middle contest of three games in as many nights for New Orleans, as part of a stretch during which the Pelicans will play five times in six nights. New Orleans' 96-92 victory over Indiana gives them a chance to sweep its three games in three nights ordeal and post the team's fourth consecutive overall win when the 42-30 Pelicans host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. The 31-39 Lakers come in having dropped three straight games after enjoying a stretch in which they had won eight of 10 games. They suffered a 110-100 loss to the Pacers on Monday in the opener of a four-game road trip that includes stops in Memphis and Detroit.
LA Lakers: Rookie Kyle Kuzma had 27 points and eight rebounds in the loss to the Pacers andhe is putting together a season unlike any rookie in NBA history. Kuzma needs 78 rebounds and 15 three-pointers over the final 12 games to become the first rookie in league history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 150 3-pointers. The first-round pick out of Utah (2th overall) has exceeded all expectations by averaging 15.6 & 6.2, establishing himself as a key figure in the team's rebuilding project. That can also be said about second-year swingman Brandon Ingram (16.2-5.4-3.9) but he will miss his 10th straight game Thursday with a groin injury. PF Julius Randle (15.9 & 7.9) is also having his best-ever season plus no one can forget Lonzo Ball (10.1-6.8-7.1)
New Orleans: Anthony Davis (28.2 & 11.2) isn't looking fatigued, scoring 28 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking five blocked shots against the Pacers for his sixth double-double in the last seven games. The latest victory leaves the Pelicans three games clear of the ninth-place Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference playoff competition (also just a half-game back of the 4th-seeded Thunder) with just 10 games remaining. Combo guard Jrue Holiday (19.0-4.4-5.8) was back in the lineup versus the Pacers after battling the flu caused him to miss his first game this season. He had 10 points and five assists. Guard E'Twaun Moore (12.3) scored 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting and forward Nikola Mirotic, who missed his first seven 3-point attempts against the Pacers, hit from long range on back-to-back possessions in the final four minutes. Don't knock Mirotic, as he's averaging 13.3 & 7.9 in his 21 games with the Pelicans (team is 14-7).
The pick: The Pelicans have won four of the last five against the Lakers, including both games this year. However, this marks a third game in three nights for the Pelicans and the Lakers had been on a 20-8 ATS run before dropping their last three SU & ATS. Take the points and make LA an 8* play.
|03-22-18||Texas A&M v. Michigan -3||Top||72-99||Win||100||57 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: The West Regional from Staples Center in Los Angeles also features the No. 3 seed Michigan Wolverines and the No. 7 seed Texas A&M Aggies. Michigan played terrific basketball at the end of the regular season and surprisingly won a second straight Big Ten tourney title. However, while Michigan was able to handcuff Montana in a first round NCAA tourney win (held the Grizzlies to 47 points), the Wolverines needed a 'miracle' three-pointer by Jordan Poole to edge Houston 64-63 in the second round. Texas A&M bested a good Providence team in the first round and then shocked North Carolina (No. 2 seed) 86-65 in Charlotte, no less.
Texas A&M: The Aggies reached the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons, overcoming an 0-5 start in SEC play to finish 9-9 and tied for seventh with Mississippi State. A&M then lost on a buzzer-beater to Alabama in the team's conference tournament opener but still got a 7-seed with a 20-12 record (A&M opened the 2017-18 season at 11-1). 6-10 center Tyler Davis leads in scoring (14.6) and is second in rebounding (9.0). Guard Admon Gilder (12.4 & 4.1) and the 6-9 DJ Hogg (11.2 & 5.3) were both key members of the Texas A&M team that reached the Sweet 16 two years ago. The 6-10 Williams adds 10.3 RPG and a team-high 9.3 RPG, while guards Starks (10.1) and Wilson (9.0) and no slouches. Just ask the Tar Heels about Starks, who led A&M with 21 points on 7 of 15 shooting with a team-high five assists. The Aggies overwhelmed North Carolina, connecting on 10-of-24 three-pointers as part of an impressive 31 of 60 (51.7%) showing from the floor.
Michigan: After the team's grind-it-out 61-47 win over Montana, when Michigan allowed the third-fewest points in its NCAA Tournament history, the one-point win over Houston was a 'gift.' The 6-11 Wagner leads Michigan in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (7.1) and is joined in the starting lineup up front by the 6-7 Livers, although he contributes little with 3.7 & 2.3. Beilein starts three guards in Matthews (12.8 & 5.5), Abur-Rahkman (12.6-3.9-3.3) and Simpson (7.3 & 3.6 APG). A fourth guard, Robinson (9.5), is a major contributor to the rotation. Beilein-coached teams always play great D and this one is no different, as Michigan is allowing 63.1 PPG (8th).
The pick: A Texas A&M versus Michigan matchup in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 was not a farfetched notion back in December but it's a surprise now, as A&M didn't look like much of an NCAA tourney team, until its first two games of this year's Big Dance. Now, we've got a ballgame. The Aggies are surely oozing confidence following their romp over defending champ North Carolina. However, expect the Aggies to have trouble finding their rhythm on offense against Beilein's tough D. Sure, Michigan "got lucky": vs. Houston but the team comes in having won 11 straight, while going 9-2 ATS. This pointspread is 'doable,' as 29 of Michigan's 31 victories have come by three points or more. Make Michigan an 8* play.
|03-22-18||Loyola-Chicago +1.5 v. Nevada||Top||69-68||Win||100||56 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The 30-5 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers and the 29-7 Nevada Wolf Pack will square off at Phillips Arena (South Regional) on Thursday in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The Ramblers are one of two double-digit seeds to have advanced to the Sweet 16 this year, joining Syracuse (also an 11-seed). Many opined that they have never seen such craziness as this this year's tourney. However, three double-digit seeds have reached the Sweet 16 in 12 separate seasons, four double-digit seeds reached the Sweet in 2011 ans a record five double-digit seeds reached the Sweet 16 in 1999. Bottom line, the 2018 tourney is hardly unprecedented. Then again, this matchup features something special. It seems as if Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt (a 98-year-old nun) has helped deliver two buzzer-beating wins for Loyola, while Mariah Musselman, the precocious daughter of the Wolf Pack's exuberant coach Eric, has been Nevada's biggest cheerleader during its run to the Sweet 16, after two come-from-behind wins. Loyola-Chicago: 6-6 swingman Donte Ingram's11.5 & 6.4) buzzer-beat Miami-Fl. on Thursday and then Clayton Custer (13.3 & 4.2 APG), the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, hit the game-winner against third-seeded Tennessee on Saturday. Joining that duo in double digit scoring are SF Jackson (11.1), guard Townes (11.0) and the 6-9 Krutwig, the MVC Freshman of the Year, who checks in at 10.4 & 6.1. The Ramblers shot a blistering 50.6% as a team (3rd in the nation) but average a more modest 71.9 PPG (230th). Defensively, Loyola-Chicago is holding opponents to an average of 62.2 PPG (5th). Nevada: The Wolf Pack overcame a 14-point deficit last Friday to beat No. 10 Texas in overtime 87-83. Then on Sunday, Nevada climbed out of a 22-point hole with about 11 1/2 minutes left to beat No. 2-seed Cincinnati 75-73. The 6-7 Cody Martin led Nevada in the win over Cincinnati, scoring 25 points with six rebounds and seven assists Cody averages 13.9-6.3-4.7 on the season but his 6-7 twin, Caleb, leads the team with 18.8 PPG (5.4 RPG). The 6-7 Jordan Caroline (17.7 & 8.7) and Kendall Stephens, a Purdue transfer, adds 13.4 PPG. Nevada averages 83.0 PPG (16th) but allows 73.2. PPG (193rd).
The pick: It’s been awhile since either school has lasted this long in March. Gene Sullivan’s Loyola team 1985 was led by Alfredrick Hughes and in Nevada’s case it was a Sweet 16 run for Trent Johnson’s best team, featuring Kirk Snyder back in 2004. Some have said that this year's Ramblers remind them a little of past Utah and Saint Louis NCAA qualifiers. That's because there is a link to those past Rick Majerus teams in head coach Porter Moser, who worked as a Majerus aide with the Billikens and whose current team has taken on the best of those Majerus characteristics. Mainly, it’s a commitment to lockdown defense and a patient offense that has not lost its poise in late-game situations in its first two games. However, Nevada offers a unique challenge, with the 6-7 Martin twins and the 6-7 Caroline can create a hellish matchup for slower foes on the blocks. Then again, the Ramblers have won 12 straight and 19 out of their last 20, not to mention the team's money-making 21-9-1 ATS mark on the season. Make Loyola a 10* play.
|03-22-18||Coyotes v. Hurricanes -170||Top||5-6||Win||100||11 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: The Carolina Hurricanes have lost six of their last eight contests to fall to 31-31-11 on the season, leaving them nine points behind the New Jersey Devils (82-to-73) for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with just nine games remaining. The Hurricanes have dug themselves into a quite a hole, as they welcome the 25-37-11 Arizona Coyotes to PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.on Thursday night. Arizona is seeking its third consecutive victory as it continues a six-game road trip that began with Wednesday's 4-1 triumph in Buffalo but note that the Coyotes' points 61 points are more than only the Canucks (59) and Sabres (58).
Arizona: Clayton Keller set up a pair of goals for the Coyotes to give him 35 assists and 55 points, breaking the club records for a rookie respectively set by Max Domi in 2015-16 and Peter Mueller in 2007-08. Keller has registered two goals and five assists during his six-game point streak, while Derek Stepan (49 points) has collected a goal and six assists over his last six contests for the Coyotes, who have moved two points ahead of Vancouver to escape the basement in the Western Conference. Luke Schenn was in the lineup Wednesday for the first time since March 10 due to the absence of fellow defenseman Jason Demers, who is out for the season with an upper-body injury.
Carolina: The Hurricanes' lost 7-3 loss on Tuesday to Edmonton, the team's fourth straight setback at home. Sebastian Aho recorded his club-high 26th goal and an assist in the defeat to extend his point streak to six games and pull even for the team lead in points (59) with fellow Finn Teuvo Teravainen (22 goals / 37 assists), who also scored. Carolina's playoff chances took another hit Wednesday as the team announced Victor Rask and defenseman Brett Pesce would miss the remainder of the season due to shoulder injuries. Rask has recorded 14 goals and 17 assists in 71 games while Pesce has netted three tallies and set up 16 others in 65 contests.
The pick: The Coyotes have already been eliminated from playoff contention and while teh Hurricanes have quite met the same fate, they're trending in that direction without a major turnaround. Scott Darling (12-18-7, 3.19 GAA & .885 SP) was in the net for Tuesday night's 7-3 home loss to Edmonton and all indications are that the Hurricanes will go back to Cam Ward (19-13-4, 2.78 GAA & .904 SP) for this game with Arizona (that's good news). Carolina has been nothing special at home (16-15-6) but Arizona is just 10-17-7 on the road, allowing 3.35 GPG. Make the Hurricanes an 8* play, as they aren't 'dead' just yet.
|03-21-18||Northern Colorado v. San Diego -2||Top||86-75||Loss||-106||14 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: It's CIT college hoops play from the Jenny Craig Pavilion when the 23-12 Northern Colorado Bears visit the 20-13 San Diego Toreros. The Bears come in off an 81-72 home win versus the Drake Bulldogs that advanced them to the quarterfinals of the CIT. As for the Toreros, they've needed two games to advance this far, although both have been at home.
Northern Colorado: The Bears can score, averaging 80.5 PPG (41st) and they advanced with another good offensive effort in the win over Drake. Guard Andre Spight, the team's leading scorer on the season at 21.9 PPG, led with 21 points, connecting on 6-of-11 from three-point range. The 6-9 Tanner Morgan (6.5 & 5.8), the only non-guard among the team's top-seven scorers, added 19 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Davis, second to Spight on the season at 15.7 PPG, delivered a triple-double (12-11-10). The Bears connected of 49.1% as a team but will need to replicate that effort on the road (no easy task).
San Diego: The Toreros don't score as well as the Bears, averaging a modest 70.0 PPG but they do play some of the best defense in college basketball, holding opponents to just 66,6 PPG (33rd) on 41.2% shooting (37th). San Diego needed its defense in a tight 67-64 win over Portland State to advance to this game. The Toreros rallied from a nine-point deficit at the half. The team's top playef, the 6-7 Isaiah Pineiro (15.4 & 6.1) did not a great game, scoring 12 points and grabbing six rebounds. However, guards Carter (12.5) and Williams (9.0) each scored 16 points. The 6-7 Neubauer (6.9 & 3.5) added 13 points, including 3-of-6 from long range. PG Wright (13.1 & 5.4 APG), like Pineiro, was a modest contributor (7-6-4).
The pick: I'd agree that Northern Colorado may be the slightly better team but the Bears played their final three games of the regular season on the road, then played three tough games on a neutral site in the Big Sky tourney (lost in OT to Montana for an NCAA berth). The team then made a pit stop at home in beating Drake on Mar. 18 in the CIT but now heads back out on the road. The team has played just once at home for a month. San Diego is a strong defensive team (see above), and is also holding opponents to just 30.2% on threes (3rd-best in the nation). The Toreros advanced past Portland St. despite so-so-efforts from their top-two players (Pineiro & Wright). I'll back them here, expecting better efforts form that duo as San Diego gets a third straight home game in this tourney. By the way, San Diego stood toe-to-toe- in this venue against WCC powers Gonzaga (lost 77-72) and St Mary's (lost 65-62).. Make San Diego a 10* play.
|03-21-18||Pacers -1.5 v. Pelicans||Top||92-96||Loss||-110||11 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The 41-30 Pacers and the 41-30 Pelicans New Orleans will play tonight in New Orleans, making up a contest that was postponed back on Feb 7 because of a leaky roof in the Smoothie King Center. The make-up game interrupts what was slated to be a three-game homestand for the Pacers and leaves them with seven road contests in a 10-game span. However, don't expect the Pelicans to feel sorry for Indiana, as New Orleans has it even worse. This marks the middle contest of a string of three games in as many days and part of a stretch during which the Pelicans will play five times in six nights. Both teams find themselves in tightly contested battles for playoff positioning. The Pacers are 4th in the East, just a half-game back of the Cavs but still only 3 1/2 games ahead of the eight-seeded Bucks. Things are even tighter for the fifth-seeded Pelican in the West, as they are just one game ahead of the conference's 8th-seed.
Indiana: "We're tired, of course," Indiana PG Darren Collison told reporters. "But everybody in the NBA is tired right now. So there's really no excuse. We've got to go out there and perform." Second-year center Myles Turner (13.7 & 6.9) returned from a one-game absence due to an ankle issue to post 21 points and seven rebounds in Monday's 110-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Turner is one of six Indiana players averaging in double digits. That group is led by Oladipo (23.3-5.2-4.2) and also includes back-up center Sabonis (11.7 & 7.9), who along with Oladipo, was acquired from OKC in the George trade. However, Sabonis has been out the last few games with an ankle issue and is not expected to play in this one. Stephenson (9.5 & 5.1) and Joseph (8.10 have been valuable contributers as well, mostly coming off the bench.
New Orleans: "It's not some impossible thing," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters regarding the Pelicans' busy upcoming stretch of games. "I don't want to make a big deal out of it, and we'll be able to manage it and play and do the best we can with it." Anthony Davis (28.2 & 11.1) scored 37 points on 15-of-21 shooting in Tuesday's 115-105 win over Dallas to help the Pelicans move three games clear of ninth-place Denver in the Western Conference playoff chase. Jrue Holiday missed his first game of the season on Tuesday (illness) and the hope is that the club's second-leading scorer (19.1 points) will be able to play against Indiana. Davis has been nothing short of spectacular since the loss of Boogie Cousins (25.2 & 12.9) but he can't do it alone. Mirotic has been a huge help (acquired from the Bulls), averaging 13.2 & 6.5 in 20 games for New Orleans.
The pick: New Orleans could use a bit of a cushion as it has a tough closing slate that includes games against Houston, Portland, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Golden State and the Spurs. A date with Indiana is clearly no 'walk in the park." Yes, the Pelicans posted a 117-112 victory on Nov. 7 behind 37 points from Davis but the Pacers have won 12 of the last 15 meetings between the two clubs. Make Indiana a 10* play.
|03-21-18||Clippers v. Bucks -5||Top||127-120||Loss||-107||9 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: Behind the Rockets and Warriors, the Western Conference No. 3 and No. 10 teams are separated by just 6 1 /2 games, as eight teams are vying for six remaining playoff spots (No. 3 through No. 8). The Los Angeles Clippers are sliding in the wrong direction, as they've lost four in a row after falling 123-109 to Minnesota on Tuesday. That contest began a stretch during which LA plays six of seven on the road. The 37-33 Clippers are now 10th in the West, 2 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. The 37-33 Milwaukee Bucks play in the East and like the Clippers, as heading in the wrong direction. The Bucks have lost eight of their last 12 games, although they remain a comfortable 5 1/2 games inside the East's playoff 'cut line,' while holding down the 8th-seed. In fact, Milwaukee is closer to the third-seeded Cavs (four games back), than it is to the No. 9 team, Detroit (5 1/2 games clear).
LA Clippers: Los Angeles was on the rise with 12 victories in 16 games before suddenly losing four in a row, while allowing more than 120 points in each of its last three games. Head coach Doc Rivers was dismayed after Tuesday's loss as he didn't like the effort or desire displayed by his club, particularly factoring in the importance of the contest. DeAndre Jordan (12.1 & 15.4) produced 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting and 12 rebounds against the Timberwolves. He has now reached double digits in rebounds in 11 straight contests. However, Williams (22.9 & 5.3 APG) and Harris (19.6 & 6.7 in 20 games for the LAC) combined to shoot 9 of 27 (including 0 of 7 on threes), totaling just 25 points between them. Defensively, the Clippers were flat, allowing the T-wolves to make 52.3% of their shots.
Milwaukee: The Bucks suffered a 124-117 loss in Cleveland on Monday despite receiving big efforts from Giannis Antetokounmpo (37 points & 11 rebounds) and Khris Middleton (30 points). Backup point guard Brandon Jennings is being signed to a second 10-day contract after averaging six points, 5.5 assists and 2.8 rebounds in four games since joining the club. The 28-year-old played in China and for Milwaukee's G League franchise earlier this season and opened eyes with a stellar performance against Memphis on March 12, when he recorded 16 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds. Jennings spent four seasons with the Bucks from 2009-13, a stint that included his career-best 19.1 scoring average in 2011-12, and once was the team's top player.
The pick: Both teams are struggling but Milwaukee has gone 5-1 against Pacific Division teams this season. The Bucks have yet to face the Clippers (tonight's matchup is the first of two in a seven-day span) but won both meetings against the Clippers last season, when Griffin and Paul were in LA. Make Milwaukee an 8* play.
|03-21-18||Coyotes v. Sabres OVER 5.5||Top||4-1||Loss||-100||11 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The 24-37-11 Arizona Coyotes open a six-game road trip Wednesday night in Buffalo against the 23-37-12 Sabres. Arizona is the West's worst team (59 points) and Buffalo is "worst in the East," with 58 points. The 'race' for the No. 1 spot in the NHL Draft enters its 'home stretch' with this contest (note: Vancouver may yet have a say, as the Canucks have just 59 points, as well)..
Arizona: The Coyotes appeared to be a lock for the worst record in the league until a late-season turnaround in which they have gone 12-5-2 over their last 19 games. "We understand we are not in the playoffs, but we understand we are playing teams that are going in the playoffs," Coyotes assistant coach John MacLean said after Monday's 5-2 victory over the Flames." Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored his 100th NHL goal for the game-winning score. He became the sixth Swedish defenseman to ever reach 100 goals in the league. He also added an empty-net goal to end the game. Veteran defenseman Jason Demers, in his first season in the desert, has been dealing with an upper-body injury and on Tuesday was ruled out for the season by Arizona. That prompted the recall of center Dylan Strome, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft, and defenseman Trevor Murphy from Tucson of the American Hockey League. Strome has one goal in 11 games with the Coyotes this season, but he is the No. 2 leading scorer among AHL rookies with 50 points and has nine power-play goals among his 22 tallies. Clayton Keller has two goals and three assists during a five-game point streak and he leads the Coyotes in scoring with 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists) in 72 games.
Buffalo: The Sabres have dropped three of four (1-2-1) on their six-game homestand, following Monday's 4-0 loss to NHL-leading Nashville. The Sabres got a boost on Saturday with the return of top center Jack Eichel in a 5-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Eichel leads the Sabres in scoring with 54 points (22 goals, 32 assists) in 57 games. He has notched a team-high five shots in each of his first two games since missing five weeks with a high-ankle sprain.
The pick: These are two of the NHL's worst defensive teams (that should be no surprise), as Arizona ranks 24th in allowing 3.12 GPG and Buffalo ranks 29th in allowing 3.25. The Coyotes allow 3.42 GPG on the road, whlel the Sabres allow 3.24 GPG at home. Let's make the Over a 10* play.
|03-20-18||Hawks +13 v. Jazz||Top||99-94||Win||100||13 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The Utah Jazz have won nine in a row and at 40-30, are now dead-locked with the Pelicans for the 6th and 7th seed in the West. Utah is just a half-game back of the 5th-seed Spurs and two games back of the fourth-seeded Thunder. Utah closes a four-game homestand tonight against the woeful Atlanta Hawks, who at 20-50, own the East's worst record (Memphis and Phoenix both own just 19 wins in the West). Incredibly, the Jazz were once struggling at nine games below .500 but have now won 21 of their last 23 games. Meanwhile, Atlanta is experiencing a dreadful campaign and comes in on a six-game losing streak after falling 122-117 to the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday in the opener of the team's six-game road trip.
Atlanta: The Hawks have long ago fallen out of a playoff position, a the team's 10-year postseason run will end here in 2018 (it was the second-longest streak in the NBA, behind only the Spurs). Some positive news is that second-year small forward Taurean Prince is on a roll by scoring a career-best 38 points twice in the past four games while averaging 30.8 points during the stretch. Prince (13.5 & 4.9) has topped 20 points in each of the last four games and five times overall, while averaging 21.5 points in March. Schroder has taken over the PG duties from Teague and delivered, averaging team-bests in points (19.1) and assists (6.2). 6-10 Wake Forest rookie has also been a "breath of fresh air," averaging 10.5 & 7.1 in about 23 minutes.
Utah: The team's rise began shortly after standout center Rudy Gobert returned to full health after two different leg injuries. Head coach Quin Snyder said "It's an empirical fact" that Gobert is the most dominant defensive player in the NBA." Gobert is averaging 21 points and 13.5 rebounds while posting four straight double-doubles, as well as averaging 19.3 points on 68.5 percent shooting, 13.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks during the nine-game winning streak, to raise his season averages to14.0 & 10.7. Small forward Joe Ingles leads the NBA by making 45.0 percent of his three-point shots and inherited a larger role when Gordon Hayward left as a free agent in the off-season. He is averaging 16.8 points over the past five games, although he's averaging a more modest 11.3 PPG on the season. Be sure not to overlook rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, who leads all 'freshman' in averaging 19.9 PPG.
The pick: The Jazz are fighting for a playoff spot, while the Hawks are playing out the string. That said, the Jazz just got past the Kings the last time out, 103-97 in Utah. Don't forget that Atlanta laid a surprise 104-90 whipping on Utah the last time they faced each other back on Jan. 22 in Atlanta. I'm taking the YUGE points in this one and making the Hawks an 8* play.
|03-20-18||Clippers v. Wolves -3.5||Top||109-123||Win||100||12 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The battle in the Western Conference for playoff seeds 3 through 8 has been fierce and tight for quite some time now. The 37-22 LA Clippers will visit the Target Center tonight for a game with the 40-31 Minnesota Timberwolves. The Clippers are currently on the outside looking in of the playoff picture, as they are two games back of the No. 8 T-wolves. For its part, Minnesota is just a half-game behind the two teams holding down the 6th and 7th seeds (Jazz and Pelicans, respectively), plus sits just one game back of the 5th-seeded Spurs.
LA Clippers: The Clippers are in "worry mode" after dropping three in a row to teams ahead of them in the standings and falling two games behind the Timberwolves. LA played three games in four nights against Houston, Oklahoma City and Portland, dropping all three. After trading Blake Griffin, the Clippers didn't seem like a playoff team. However, Lou Williams has continued his big scoring (is averaging what would be career highs in both points and assists right now at 23.0 & 5.3) plus Tobias Harris, who came over for Griffin, has averaged 20.1 & 6.7 with the Clippers. Yes, Patrick Beverly, Avery Bradley and Danilo Gallinari are still out with injuries but guards Austin Rivers and Milos Teodosic have gotten healthy and we can never forget center Jordan (12.0 & 15.4 on the season, while is averaging 18.8 rebounds in nine games this month!).
Minnesota: The Timberwolves didn't do themselves any favors by losing to a pair of teams in front of them over the weekend while allowing an average of 123 points in losses to the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets. The T-wolves allowed a season-high 77 points in the first half on Sunday against Houston and didn't have quite enough left to finish off a comeback in a 129-120 loss. Center Karl-Anthony Towns is doing his part to lead the team to the postseason for the first time since 2004 and delivered 20 points and 18 rebounds on Sunday, the fourth time in the last eight games that he recorded at least 20 points and 16 boards (he's at 20.7 & 12.2 on the season). Jeff Teague (13.8 & 7.0 APG had 23 points and 11 assists vs. Houston, Andrew Wiggins (18.0 & 4.1) scored 21 plus newcomer Derrick Rose supplied a spark during the rally and finished with 14 points. However, the loss was Minnesota's fifth in seven games.
The pick: The schedule isn't letting up for the Clippers, who play six of the their next seven on the road with a pair of back-to-backs, including a date at Milwaukee tomorrow night. The T-wolves have mostly struggled in Butler’s absence and just before, going 4-11 ATS over their last 15 games. However, they have won all three previous games with the Clippers this season (including a pair at Staples Center), extending their winning streak over LA to five in a row. Make that six, so lay the points and make Minnesota a 10* play.
|03-20-18||Panthers v. Senators UNDER 6||Top||7-2||Loss||-100||11 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: The Florida Panthers haven't given up hope of making the NHL playoffs. Florida has earned points in 11 of its last 13 games (10-2-1) to reach 36-27-7 on the season. That gives them points, just three behind New Jersey for the second wild card but note that Florida has two games in hand. Florida is hoping to avenge a 5-3 home loss on March 12 to Ottawa, which comes to town after having its three-game winning streak snapped with Saturday's 2-1 defeat in Columbus. The Senators, who took the Penguins to seven full games (and into OT in Game 7) in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, find themselves out of serious playoff contention this season, at 26-34-11 for 63 points. That's 19 points back of the Devils, who own the East's final playoff spot.
Florida: Roberto Luongo made 28 saves in Monday's 2-0 win at Montreal to help the Panthers record their third shutout in six contests. Luongo's shutout was his third of the season and the 76th of his career, tying him with Tony Esposito and Ed Belfour for ninth place on the all-time list. However, Florida is unlikely to go with Luongo in back-to-back games, especially since the Senators lit him up for five goals on 20 shots a week ago. Aleksander Barkov scored his 26th goal to end his six-game drought and increase his team-leading point total to 71. Vincent Trocheck was kept off the scoresheet in Montreal, ending a six-game point streak during which he registered four goals and five assists. He leads the team with 28 goals, which is a career high and ranks second on the team with 66 points (that's also a personal best).
Ottawa: It's been quite a fall from grace this season for the Senators. Ottawa had its three-game winning streak stopped in a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday but feeel as if the team didged a bullet Ryan Dzingel (20 goals) survived taking a shot from linemate Mike Hoffman in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Columbus without suffering a concussion. However, Dzingel will not play tonight. Stone leads the team with 62 points, Karlsson is second with 56 points (just 8 goals) and Hoffman has a team-high 22 goals (51 points). Craig Anderson (21-20-6, 3.21 GAA & .902 SP) is expected to be in goal for the Senators against the Panthers.
The pick: While Anderson is not having much of a season (see above), he is 15-7-2 with a 2.24 GAA and a .930 SP in 25 career games vs. Florida. The Panthers are expected to go with backup James Reimer in goal and he's 12-5-2 lifetime against the Senators, including a 2.45 GAA an a.929 SP. Make the Under an 8* play.
|03-20-18||Oilers v. Hurricanes -148||Top||7-3||Loss||-148||11 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: The 31-30-11 Carolina Hurricanes are trying to stay in the hunt for a wild-card spot and start a run of four straight games against non-playoff position teams Tuesday night when the 31-36-5 Edmonton Oilers pay a visit. The Hurricanes will also play league-worst Arizona and Ottawa twice during the stretch. They are nine points behind New Jersey for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, after knocking off the New York Islanders 4-3 on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Oilers are in the middle of a four-game road trip, knocking off Florida on Saturday, before suffering a 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay last night. The Oilers had a 103-point season last year and reached the second round of the playoffs but are close to being officially eliminated from postseason consideration this season, with just 67 points.
Edmonton: The Oilers are one of the NHL's biggest disappointments this season but Connor McDavid still has a shot at the scoring title with 89 points, including 34 goals. McDavid was kept off the scoresheet against Tampa Bay but still boasts seven goals and 11 assists in his last 11 games to pull within four points of the NHL lead. Goalie Cam Talbot likely will be back in net after being rested Sunday and is 4-1-0 in his last five starts with a .954 save percentage in that stretch. Some bad news comes in the form of defenseman Oscar Klefbom (21 points, 66 games) flying back to Edmonton to have shoulder surgery later in the week that will end his season.
Carolina: The Hurricanes are 4-5-0 in March, after ending February with six straight losses (0-4-2) to put themselves in a hole. Teuvo Teravainen (58 points) and Sebastian Aho (57) continue to finish the season strong with two goals and four assists each during five-game point streaks. Carolina needs more from left wing Jeff Skinner, who is mired in a 12-game goal drought with four assists in that stretch (just points on the season), while veteran goalie Cam Ward has dropped four straight starts. All-Star defenseman Noah Hanifin (29 points, 71 games) suffered a concussion Saturday against Philadelphia and is out indefinitely.
The pick: It's likely both teams will miss the playoffs but at least the Hurricanes are still alive. Just about every time the Hurricanes look to be down for the count, they give themselves a chance. Carolina snapped a three-game losing streak with Sunday's 4-3 road decision over the New York Islanders and now they get a stretch of four games with non-playoff teams, beginning with Edmonton, tonight. The Hurricanes are 4-1-1 in the last six meetings between the two clubs, including a 5-3 win at Edmonton back on Oct. 17. The Oilers limp in having the fewest power-play goals in the league (convert on just 14.4 percent, to rank last as well), a situation that was magnified with an 0-of-5 performance in man advantages in Sunday's 3-1 loss at Tampa Bay. Make Carolina an 8* play.
|03-20-18||Penn State v. Marquette -2||Top||85-80||Loss||-115||10 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: Three of the NIT's four No. 1 seeds are out (only St Mary's remains), as Penn State (a No. 4 seed) will visit the Bradley Center in Milwaukee to take on Marquette (a No. 2 seed). The Nittany Lions opened this tourney with a win over Temple at home and then knocked off top-seeded Notre Dame with a 73-63 victory Saturday at South Bend. Marquette is home for a third straight NIT game, opening with a 67-60 win over Harvard and then playing a much different type of game in eliminating Oregon, 101-92! Both schools were in Madison Square Garden for their respective conference tournaments earlier this month and the winner of this game will punch a "return trip ticket," to New York for a meeting with the winner of the Louisville/Mississippi State game (also played tonight) in the NIT semifinals on March 27. The schools teams have not met since Marquette defeated Penn State 87-79 in the semifinals of the 1995 NIT at Madison Square Garden.
Penn State: Sophomore guard Tony Carr rebounded from a career low-tying two-point performance on 1-of-12 shooting against Temple to post his 15th 20-point game this season by scoring 24 points in the win at Notre Dame. Carr leads in scoring (19.5) and assists (4.7), as all five starters average in double digits. Garner (11.1) and Reaves (10.6 & 5.4) share the backcourt with Carr, while a pair of 6-9 players, Stevens (14.7 & 6.1) and Watkins (12.1 & 8.9) have been the starters up front. The problem being, that Watkins has been lost for the season with a knee injury and hasn't played since Feb. 21 (he has missed six straight games). That means more starts for 6-9 freshman John Harrar, who had six rebounds, four points and two blocked shots in 23 minutes against Notre Dame but is averaging only 1.2 & 1.2 on the season.
Marquette: After totaling a modest 67 points in a win over Harvard, the Golden Eagles scored 58 points before halftime against the Ducks en route to their best offensive showing of the season. Andrew Rowsey led the charge with 29 points and nine assists. A trio of guards lead the charge for Marquette. Howard leads in points (20.4), with Rowsey right behind him (20.2), while leading the team in assists (4.7). Hauser is a third guard (14.1 & 5.8), with that trio propelling Marquette to average 81.4 PPG (30th). SF Anim (7.7 & 3.0), the 6-7 Cain (4.5 & 3.3) and the 610 Heldt (4.1 & 4.8) patrol the frontcourt. Marquette is a highly efficient offensive team, shooting 47.6% overall (37th), including 41.7% on threes (3rd).
The pick: Penn State is off a big win in South Bend over Notre Dame and figures to be somewhat flat here, plus playing without leading rebounder Watkins has to catch up to them. Marquette has an offense to "run anybody out of the gym" (just ask Oregon) and I'll make the Golden Eagles a 10* play in this one.
|03-19-18||Pistons -2.5 v. Kings||Top||106-90||Win||100||21 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: Acquiring Blake Griffin in a blockbuster deal six weeks ago was supposed to be a difference-maker for the Pistons but instead, the Pistons have played their way out of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. Detroit has lost 14 of 21 contests with Griffin since getting him from the Los Angeles Clippers in a trade deadline deal, despite Griffin averaging 19.9 points and grabbing 6.4 rebounds per game since the deal. Detroit comes into tonight's game having lost 13 of its last 16 games (3-13 ATS), punctuated by the team's inability to win on the road. The Pistons will try to snap a 12-game road slide (1-11 ATS) when they continue a six-game trip (0-3 so far) by visiting the Sacramento Kings on Monday. The 23-48 Kings are not in a playoff race either but they are not laying down with wins in two of their last three games and four straight solid performances against playoff-bound opponents. Sacramento knocked off Miami and Golden State, before falling at Utah 103-97 on Saturday
Detroit: The Pistons are playing so poorly that the future of their head coach is anything but rosy. Stan Van Gundy was quick to assign blame to the referees for Saturday's loss. "I've been here four years," Van Gundy told reporters. "I've been many more years before that (elsewhere). I've never come in after a game -- never. Might have talked about one call. Never come in after a game and talked like this. That was embarrassing. We got absolutely screwed tonight." That sound like a man who knows his job is in jeopardy. the 100-87 defeat at Portland on Saturday marked the team's 17th loss in its in last 18 on the road (going back to Dec. 15). The only exception in that stretch was a Jan. 10 victory at Brooklyn.
Sacramento: However, while the Kings own a similar recordto the Nets, Sacramento is currently playing hard. The Kings ran out of gas in the fourth quarter on Saturday while playing the second night of a back-to-back on the road but got another solid performance off the bench from guard Buddy Hield. The second-year Oklahoma product is averaging 23 points on 56.8 percent shooting over the last three games and totaled 16 assists in that span. Hield and swingman Garrett Temple (11 points) both scored in double figures at Utah as the reserves outscored the starters 56-41. Rookie guards De'Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic also continue to build, despite the inevitable inconsistency. The two were 9-for-30 and combined for 23 points in the loss to Utah but Fox is averaging 12.4 points and 4.3 assists in 28 minutes a game since the break and Bogdanovic is averaging 12.9 points and 3.8 assists in 28 minutes over the same stretch.
The pick: The Pistons are all but officially out of the playoff hunt in the East but with no pressure, I wouldn't be surprised if Detroit plays much better the rest of the way. I'm no Griffin fan but now that his team is all but 'dead, I expect this fraud of an All Star to "be the man." Throw in the fact that the Kings are 3-12 ATS as a home dog of six points or less on the season, says make Detroit an 8* play.
|03-19-18||Panthers -143 v. Canadiens||Top||2-0||Win||100||18 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: The 27-7 35-Florida Panthers gained some ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race during a 12-game stay in the Sunshine State by going 9-2-1 but they will wrap up the month by spending most of their time on the road. Florida begins a stretch that features seven of its next eight contests away from home on Monday, when it visits the struggling Montreal Canadiens, who at 26-234-12 (64 points), will miss the postseason. The Canadiens are playing out the string of a disappointing, injury-plagued season and have recorded just one victory in their last eight games (1-5-2) after suffering a 4-0 loss at Toronto on Saturday.
Florida: The Panthers' 4-2 loss to Edmonton on Saturday stalled their playoff drive, as Florida is currently five points out of the second wild-card spot in the East However, the Panthers do own games in hand on every team ahead of them in the standings. All-Star Aleksander Barkov has a team-high 70 points but he has cooled off, with just two assists in his last four games. Vincent Trocheck takes a six-game point streak into this contest, one during which he has collected four of his team-best 28 goals and five assists to move within four points of Barkov's team lead. Defenseman Keith Yandle has registered nine assists over his last eight contests while Nick Bjugstad has notched 11 points in his past nine games.
Montreal: Alex Galchenyuk has posted four assists in his last three contests to pull even for the team lead in points (44) with Brendan Gallagher, who has scored two of his club-best 26 goals in the last four games. Jonathan Drouin has registered four of his 37 points in the last four games while defenseman Jeff Petry has continued to add to his career high in points by notching three of his 35 over the last four contests. However, Montreal is 29th in the league in scoring (2.5 goals). Yes, Montreal is 5-for-12 with the man advantage over its last five games but has also allowed 13 power-play goals over its last nine contests.
The pick: Clearly, the Panthers can't afford to take any team lightly at this time of the season. Losing to the Oilers, who are 13th in the Western Conference, is a prime example of a "missed opportunity. They same is true here, as the Canadiens are 13th in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens are coming off a 4-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, the 11th time the Canadiens have been shut out this season, setting a franchise record. Consider this. The Canadiens' injury list remains a long one. Goaltender Carey Price (concussion, injured reserve); defensemen Shea Weber (foot, out for the season), Victor Mete (finger, day to day); David Schlemko (lower body, day to day); Rinat Valiev (lower body, day to day) and forwards Ales Hemsky (upper body, injured reserve); Max Pacioretty (knee, day to day); Phillip Danault (headaches, day to day); and Andrew Shaw (head, day to day). Simply put, make Florida a 10* play.
|03-19-18||Hornets v. 76ers UNDER 223||Top||94-108||Win||100||18 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The 38-30 Philadelphia 76ers are currently the East's No. 6 seed. However, in this logjam of a race, while they are just 1 1/2 games back of the third-seeded Cavs, they are also just two games up on the eighth-seeded Heat. Philly looks to keep taking advantage of lesser opponents as it fights for playoff positioning when the 76ers host the Charlotte Hornets on Monday. The Sixers took care of business against the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, two of the five Eastern Conference teams that are at least 20 games below .500, to begin this current stretch and they also can look forward to matchups with lowly squads Memphis and Orlando after finishing up with the Hornets. Charlotte is just 30-40 and is closing toward mathematical elimination from the playoff race after falling 124-101 at the Knicks on Saturday, the team's seventh defeat in its last nine games.
Charlotte: The Hornets seemed to give up in the third quarter at New York on Saturday, when they were outscored 42-17 by a team that had dropped its previous nine games. "There are gonna be nights like that," center Dwight Howard told the media. "I didn't think it was going to be that bad, but it was a tough one for us. We are playing pretty good as of late, but tonight we just laid an egg." Howard struggled to 6-of-17 from the floor but recorded his fourth straight double-double to give him 709 for his career, one shy of Hall of Famer Charles Barkley for seventh on the NBA's list since the 1983-84 season. That said, when is Howard actually going to make one of his teams better? He was Charlotte's big FA pick up this past off-season and while he's averaging a double-double (16.4 & 12.1), the Hornets' win percentage of .429 is even worse than last year's team (.439).
Philadelphia: Joel Embiid marked his 24th birthday with 24 points and a career-high 19 rebounds in Philadelphia's 120-116 win over the Nets on Friday. Embiid (23.6 & 11.1) and rookie Ben Simmons (16.7-7.8-7.7) look like they'll be stars for a decade plus Philly's other three starters are all quality NBA players. SF Covington (12.5 & 5.5) made a clutch three-pointer in Friday's 120-116 win over the Nets, giving him double digits in scoring in four straight games, his longest such streak since December. SG Redick (16.7) and PF Saric (15.0 & 7.0) complete a very impressive Philly starting-five.
The pick: Philadelphia has scored 119 PPG and shot 54% in collecting a pair of double-digit victories at Charlotte’s expense earlier this month. This will be the third meeting in 17 days between the two teams. Philly is 21-10 SU (20-11 ATS) at home but while Charlotte is just 11-23 SU on the road, the Hornets are only being outscored by just under three points per game in their road efforts. Won't buck Philly but I do believe the Under should be a 10* play.
|03-18-18||Blazers v. Clippers -2.5||Top||122-109||Loss||-101||14 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The red-hot Portland Trail Blazers will take their 12-game winning streak into Staples Center on Sunday night, where they'll take on the LA Clippers. Portland's surge has helped solidify its playoff positioning amid a tight Western Conference race but has by no means allowed the Blazers to "run away from the field." The 43-26 Blazers do own the No. 3 seed but they are still just four games up on the No. 8 seed (NO Pelicans). The LA Clippers are 37-31, which currently leaves them on the outside looking in on the West's playoff field. However, LA is just 1 1/2 games back of the Pelicans, as well as being just two games back of the Jazz, T-wolves and Spurs (all at 40-30).
Portland: The Blazers'100-87 win over Detroit on Saturday left them two games ahead of Oklahoma City in the race for third place in the East and the team's 12 straight wins is tied for the third-longest in franchise history (four shy of a franchise record). Damian Lillard had 24 points against the Pistons, the 10th time in the past 11 games he has reached that mark. Lillard (26.8-4.5-6.6) and McCollum (21.7) give Portland a dynamic backcourt duo but only center Jusuf Nurkic (14.1 & 8.5) is a consistent scorer outside of those two. Note that Nurkic did have 14 points and 20 rebounds in a 104-96 victory at Los Angeles back on Jan. 30.
LA Clippers: The Clippers were thought to be "giving up" when they traded Blake Griffin to Detroit. However, while Griffin has done absolutely nothing to improve the Pistons, the Clippers have gone 12-7 without Griffin, despite coming into this came off back-to-back losses. Tobias Harris is averaging 20.6 points on 48.6 percent shooting (plus 6.9 RPG) in 18 games with the Clippers, after posting 18.1 on 45.1 percent in 48 games with the Pistons prior to being traded to Los Angeles last month. Veteran Lou Williams own personal-bests of 22.9 PPG and 5.4 APG, while center DeAndre Jordan averages 12.1 & 15.4. He grabbed 21 rebounds Friday night and has collected at least 18 in six consecutive contests.
The pick: Los Angeles begins a four-game road trip at Minnesota on Tuesday and then plays six of seven away from home overall, after it is finished with Portland. Speaking of Portland, the Blazers have done most of its recent 'damage' at home but eight of the next 12 contests will take place on the road, where the team is a more modest 18-15. The Clippers lost 104-96 in Portland on Jan. 20, in what was their first game without Griffin (after the trade). This time around, the Clippers catch the Blazers off a home game last night with the Pistons, while they will be playing at home, one of just two home contests in an 11-game stretch that began on Mar. 13th and runs through the end of the month. Make LA a 10* play.
|03-18-18||Devils v. Ducks -157||Top||2-4||Win||100||12 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: The 37-26-8 New Jersey Devils are jockeying for position in the Eastern Conference playoff race, as they continue a six-game road trip in Anaheim on Sunday against the Ducks. The Devils sit in the second wild-card spot in the East (own a five-point margin) plus are just one point behind Philadelphia and Columbus in battle for second and third-place in the Metropolitan Division with one game in hand. They kept pace in the race on Saturday by improving to 3-0-0 on their trek with a 3-0 triumph in Los Angeles against the Kings. As for the 36-24-4 Ducks, they are fighting for their postseason lives in the West. The Ducks are even in points with the Kings, Avs and Stars (all have 84 points) in the West but find themselves out of a playoff spot with 10 games remaining. Anaheim has posted back-to-back victories after losing three straight and is 9-1-2 in its last 12 at Honda Center as it concludes a four-game homestand during which it is 2-1-0.
New Jersey: Goalie Keith Kinkaid (19-9-2, 2,85 GAA & .910) put on quite the performance in his 100th NHL appearance on Saturday, turning aside 38 shots en route to the fourth shutout of his career. New Jersey shares the league lead with 10 short-handed goals after Michael Grabner scored for just the second time in 10 games since being acquired from the New York Rangers on Feb. 22. Taylor Hall, who leads the team with 76 points (as well as with 31 goals) and is four shy of matching his career high, has been kept off the scoresheet in three of his last four games after notching a point in 26 consecutive contests.
Anaheim: Rickard Rakell leads the club with 60 points. He is riding a 13-game point streak against Eastern Conference opponents during which he has collected 10 goals and 10 assists. Defenseman Hampus Lindholm needs two assists to reach 100 for his career and is one goal away from setting a new career high of 11. Captain Ryan Getzlaf began the season hurt but now has 52 points in 47 games.
The pick: Anaheim goes on the road for four games against Western Conference teams, after tonight's game with New Jersey. The Ducks can ill-afford a loss in this one. Anaheim has been a strong home team this season (21-10-5), including coming in on a 9-1-2 run in its last 12 games on home ice. Make the Ducks a 10* play.
|03-18-18||Florida State +6 v. Xavier||Top||75-70||Win||100||32 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The Xavier Musketeers have been an NCAA-tourney regular for quite some time now but here in 2018, earned the school's first-ever No. 1 (West Regional). Xavier (29-5) looked every bit like a No. 1 seed on Friday, setting a program record for most points in a NCAA Tournament game with its 102-83 victory over Texas Southern. The Seminoles ended the season by losing six of their final 10 down the stretch, but their 20-11 mark was good enough to earn them a second straight tournament appearance and a sixth overall under head coach Leonard Hamilton. FSU picked up its 21st victory of the season on Friday, getting 42 points from its bench and holding a shorthanded Missouri team to 32.7 percent from the floor in a 67-54 win
Florida State: The Seminoles opened the season having lost four starters off last year's 26-win team and little was expected. However, FSU began the season 9-0 before a one-point loss to Oklahoma State. FSU features a balanced scoring attack with four guards contributing. Terance Mann (12.8 & 5.6) was the team's highest perimeter scorer, joined dby Angola (12.7), Walker (8.3) and Forrest (7.7 & 4.9 APG). The 6-8 Cofer (13.1 & 5.1) has had a breakout senior year and works up front with the 7-4 Koumadje (7.1 & 4.8) and 6-9 freshman Kabengele (7.3 & 4.7). Ten players scored during the Seminoles' 42-point first half, and all three of Florida State's double-digit scorers Friday came off the bench. Kabengele (team-high 14 points and career-high tying 12 rebounds), sophomore guard Trent Forrest (10 points, six rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and three steals) and junior guard PJ Savoy (12 points) led the change from Florida State's bench. Second-leading scorer Terance Mann needed to be helped back to the locker room in the second half after aggravating a first-half groin injury and is questionable for Sunday.
Xavier: The Musketeers have three double digit scores on the season but six others contribute between 4.8 and 8.7 PPG. Xavier is averaging 84.8 PPG (7th) on 49.3% shooting (15th). The 6-6 Trevor Bluiett (19.6 & 5.6) is joined by fellow seniors JP Macura (12.7 & 4.5) and the 6-10 Kanter (10.8 & 4.5) in averaging double digits. Bluiett, who ranks second in Musketeers' history with 2,253 career points and buried three 3-pointers to run his season total to a school-record tying 104, topped the 20-point mark for the 20th time with 26 versus the Tigers. Macura moved into 19th place on the program's all-time scoring list and halted a four-game stretch where he failed to top his season scoring average Friday, going 11-of-16 from the floor to finish with a career-high 29 points. Kerem Kanter (10.8) tied his career high with 24 points despite playing only 20 minutes Friday (note: over the last 22 games, he has reached double figures in every game in which he has played more than 12 minutes!).
The pick: The Musketeers can tie their school record for wins in a season with a victory on Sunday over the Seminoles.In last year's tourney, Xavier stunned third-seeded Florida State last year in the NCAA Tournament, shooting 55.6 percent from the floor in a 91-66 rout of the Seminoles behind 29 points from Trevon Bluiett. Now, a year to the day after that upset, the Seminoles get their chance at payback. This is likely Hamilton's best offensive team, as FSU is averaging 81.3 PPG (31st) on 47.3% shooting (46th). If Mann is out or less than 100 percent, FSU will miss him. However, the Seminoles have solid depth and can score with Xavier. "All season, our identity was the quality of our depth. We knew they were a little short on the bench, so we needed to attack them … we used that to our advantage," freshman forward Mfiondu Kabengele told reporters after the win over Missouri. Revenge works when the matchups are right. Take the points and make FSU a 10* play.
|03-18-18||Maryland-Baltimore County +10.5 v. Kansas State||Top||43-50||Win||100||11 h 6 m||Show|
Maryland-Baltimore County: Graduate student guard Jairus Lyles was simply unstoppable for the Retrievers, scoring 23 of his game-high 28 while playing through leg cramps in the second frame. He tops UMBC in scoring at 20.4 PPG (adds 5.5 RPG and 3,5 APG) and is joined by three other double digit scorers. Guard Maura (11.3 & 5.2 APG) is the second-leading scorer and top assist man, while two forwards, the 6-6 Sherburne (11.0 & 3.9) and the 6-5 Lamar (10.5 & 5.9) complement the team's two guards. Lyles was the unquestioned star against UVa but it was a true team effort. Sherburne had 14 points, Arkel Lamar 12 and K.J. Maura had 10. UMBC had 16 assists on 26 made field goals while outrebounding Virginia 33-22.
Kansas Sttae: The Wildcats are awaiting the Retrievers. They've been led this season led by the 6-10 Wade (16.5 & 6.3) and guard Brown (16.0-3.2-3.4). Barry Brown led the Wildcats with 18 points and played strong defense on Marcus Foster, holding the star Bluejays guard to just five points on 2-of-11 shooting. However, Kansas State had to play without All-Big 12 First Team selection Dean Wade, who suffered a stress fracture in his left foot in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals. Without Wade's team-high 16.5 PPG, the team's defense stepped up, holding the Bluejays to a season low-tying 59 points on 33.8 percent shooting from the floor and 26.5 percent from the three-point line. Freshman guard Mike McGuirl stepped up offensively in Wade's absence, scoring a career-high 17 on 6-of-10 shooting and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.
The pick: Wade hasn't been ruled out for Sunday but he will be limited if he does play. KSU can't expect McGuirl to come through with another 17-point effort, as he's played in just nine games and averaged 3.3 PPG in less than 10 minutes per. Cinderella teams typically falter off a huge upset but UMBC is livin' large! The Retrievers finished second in the America East regular season and earned their NCAA berth berth with an incredible last-second three by Lyles in the tournament championship win at Vermont. Then the team broke an 0-for-135 drought by No. 16 seeds over a No. 1 seed, so what's the big deal here? Kansas State is a solid team but surely is nothing special and what's more, its leading scorer may not play. Throw in the fact that Kansas State is also just 2-8 ATS in its last 10 non-conference games and why not take UMBC and the points" Make UMBC an 8* play.
|03-18-18||Stars v. Jets -158||Top||2-4||Win||100||11 h 55 m||Show|
ANALYSIS SOONThe set-up: The 42-19-10 Winnipeg Jets have 94 points. They are 10 points behind the Central- Division-leading Nashville Predators (104 points) with 11 games remaining, so the focus now is on getting key elements of the lineup healthy and back on the ice. The Jets welcome the 38-26-8 Dallas Stars to town on Sunday, a team in in the middle of a crowded race for a Western Conference wild-card spot (four teams, including the Stars, all sit with 84 points). Dallas is struggling at the worst possible time, going winless in its past four games (0-2-2), following Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss at Ottawa.
Dallas: Head coach Ken Hitchcock told the media after the loss to the Senators he was still proud that his team earned a point. “To come back and get a point in this game after we almost gave it away is good,” he said. “We move on.” A troubling aspect for Dallas of late is holding late leads. The Stars gave up two third-period advantages in a shootout loss at Toronto on Wednesday and lost a lead Friday before Tyler Pitlick’s late score forced overtime. Goaltender Ben Bishop made 22 saves against the Senators in his first action in six games following a knee injury. Center Tyler Seguin set a new career high with his 38th goal to open the scoring for Dallas on Friday, and has 18 points (nine goals) in his past 12 games.
Winnipeg: The Jets are hopeful centers Mark Scheifele (51 points in 50 games) and Adam Lowry can play, as well as defenseman Toby Enstrom. Earlier this week, defenseman Jacob Trouba returned and earned two assists in a 6-2 win over Chicago. Winnipeg went winless in the final three games of a six-game road trip, but blitzed the Blackhawks for five goals in the opening period in Thursday’s victory. Forward Patrik Laine (team-high 41 goals) picked up an assist to give him points in 14 consecutive games (16 goals, 24 points) to set a new NHL mark for longest streak by a teenager. Forward Kyle Connor, who snapped an eight-game goal drought with one against Nashville on Tuesday, scored twice on Thursday to give him 25 on the season (second among NHL rookies). Blake Wheeler leads the team with 78 points. Winnipeg Ggoaltender Connor Hellebuyck entered the weekend third in the NHL in wins (36), eighth in goals against average (2.35) and tied for eighth in save percentage (.925).
The pick: Bell MTS Place has been good to Winnipeg this season, as the Jets are 25-7-2 on home ice, averaging a whopping 3.91 GPG. Winnipeg has won all three meetings with Dallas this season, outscoring the Stars 14-6 as Scheifele boasts six goals, Laine four and Wheeler owns eight assists. Meanwhile, Dallas comes in on its longest losing streak of the season, having gone 5-7-4 in its last 16 games since winning five in a row from Feb. 1-9. Make Winnipeg an 8* play.
|03-18-18||Clemson v. Auburn -1||Top||84-53||Loss||-115||11 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: A Clemson/Auburn matchup would be a really big deal in football (Tigers vs. Tigers). However, the two schools square off Sunday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16 out of the Midwest Region. Clemson hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game since a First Four victory over UAB in 2011 and it hadn’t reached the second round since making a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in 1997. However, Clemson took down New Mexico State 79-68 on Friday. Auburn is in the Big Dance for the first time since 2003, when it made a run to the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 10 seed. Auburn survived a scare in a 62-58 win over College of Charleston in its opener on Friday, setting up this Tigers vs. Tigers matchup on the hardwood, with the winner becoming a Sweet 16 team.
Clemson: Guards Shelton Mitchell scored 23 points and Gabe DeVoe added 22 in the Tigers' 79-68 first-round victory over New Mexico State. However, fellow guard Redd (15.9-4.7-3.4) leads Clemson in scoring on the season. DeVoe (13.5 & 4.6) and Mitchell (12.3-2.9-3.1) are right behind him. Clemson now relies even more on its guard paly, as the 6-8 Grantham (14.2 & 6.9) was lost for the season back in late January. The 6-9 Thomas (10.6 & 8.) is now joined in the starting frontcourt by the 6-8 Skara, who adds just 3.0 & 2.6. Clemson's D is among the best, allowing 65.9 PPG (29th) on 41.0% shooting (33rd).
Auburn: These Tigers won the SEC regular-season title but stumbled a bit down the stretch, losing three of their last five going into the conference tournament, where they fell to Alabama in their first game. Their offensive struggles continued against the Cougars, as they shot below 40 percent for the fourth straight contest. Leading scorer Mustapha Heron (16.6 & 5.5) scored 16 points and SF Desean Murray (10.4, & 6.8) recorded a characteristic 11 points along with seven rebounds. However, Bryce Brown, who checks in right behind Heron at 16.0 PPG, struggled in going 3-for-10 from three-point range. Auburn shot just 35.6 percent from the floor plus was an ugly 15-of-32 on FTs, but still advanced. Helping the cause was Auburn forcing Charleston into a season-high 21 turnovers, about double its average.
The pick: Both teams are short on size after losing starting big men to injury during the season. Clemson’s Grantham tore his ACL in January while Auburn’s Anfernee McLemore (7.4 & 5,3) broke his left leg the following month. Both have persevered with strong guard play. The win over Charleston gave Auburn eight straight NCAA opening round wins. That's tied with Syracuse for the fourth-longest streak, as only North Carolina (16), Kansas (11) and Gonzaga (10) have more. Is it time to advance a step further this time around? My vote (bet) is Y-E-S, as Auburn is averaging 82.7 PPG (18th). Party like it's 2003 and make Auburn an 8* play.
|03-18-18||Syracuse v. Michigan State UNDER 129.5||Top||55-53||Win||100||26 h 59 m||Show|
The set-up: 30-4 Michigan State is in its 21st consecutive NCAA tourney appearance but a win today vs. Syracuse would allow the Spartans to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in three seasons. The opponent will be 22-13 Syracuse, which is said to have been the last at-large team to make this year's field. Jim Boeheim's in his 42nd-year at Syracuse and is in te Big Dance for the 33rd time. The Spartans advanced with a victory over Bucknell on Friday, while the Orange won a First Four game over Arizona State and then got past TCU in their first-round game.
Syracuse: Boeheim has three 'iron-man' performers in sophomore guard Tyus Battle, 6-8 freshman Oshae Brisset and PG. Howard (15.0-7.4-5.0). Battle led all Division I players with an average of 38.5 minutes per game prior to the tourney, Howard was second at 38.3 and Brissett was sixth at 38.0. Battle leads Syracuse's offensive attack with an average of 19.3 PPG, Oshae Brissett adds 14.9 & 8.9 plus Howard checks in at 14.7 & 4.8 APG. The 7-2 Chukwu (5.4 & 6.9) and the 6-9 Dulezag (5.6 & 4.8) have contributed on and off this season. However, as has been typical for Boeheim-coached teams, the key has been Boeheim's matchup zone defense that causes teams lots of trouble. ASU led the Pac-12 with an 83.5 PPG scoring average but was held to just 56 points (on 40.4% shooting) and then TCU was held to 52 points (on 39.6 % shooting), 31 points below its season average of 83 per game!
Michigan State: The Spartans have been ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP poll this season (were No. 1 in the Coaches poll for a couple of weeks, as well) but really got a scare from Bucknell in an 82-78 win on Friday. Since the Spartans' first loss of the season to Duke in November, the question of whether or not Miles Bridges (17.3 & 7.0) is aggressive enough offensively in big games has been there for coach Tom Izzo. He has tried to find balance in his offensive game, with Michigan State's deep rotation allowing him not to have to dominate the ball, but against Bucknell, it was Bridges who closed the door by scoring 14 of his 29 points during a nine-minute spurt in the second half that pushed the Spartans' lead from six to 14. Also, expect that the play of PG Cassius Winston (12.6 & 6.9 APG) to be a key for Michigan State, as he must handle the zone and the size of Syracuse's defenders when they extend to apply pressure on the ball.
The pick: The Spartans have five double digit scorers and overall, more depth than Syracuse. However, Boeheim-coached teams know how to control the play and win at this time of year. That said, so do Izzo-coached teams, as teh Spartans are allowing just 65.2 PPG on the season (23rd), while holding opponents to an NCAA-low of 36.7% from the floor. These traditional powers haven't met in the tournament since 2000. The Spartans won in the regional semifinals 75-58 and went on to win the national championship. Deja vu? Maybe but the play is an 8* on the Under.
|03-17-18||Pistons +8.5 v. Blazers||Top||87-100||Loss||-102||14 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: The Portland Trail Blazers own an 11-game winning streak but the Blazers' 11-game surge leaves them only a modest 1 1/2 games up on the fourth-place Oklahoma City Thunder and still a mere 4 1/2 games in front of the Denver Nuggets, who are currently in ninth-place, on the outside looking in on the West's playoff picture. Portland will welcome the 30-38 Pistons to the Moda Center tonight. Acquiring Blake Griffin in a blockbuster deal six weeks ago was supposed to be a difference-maker for the Pistons but Detroit comes into tonight's game having lost 12 of its last 15 games (3-12 ATS). The Pistons are currently six games back of the East's final playoff spot.
Detroit: So much for Griffin (20.2-6.5-5.7 in 19 games) combining with Drummond (15.0 & 15.7) to make the Pistons real contenders in the East. Detroit was embarrassed 110-79 at Utah on Thursday and fell into a 26-point hole at Denver on Friday before coming back and making it close in a 120-113 setback. The Pistons are 0-2 to open their current six-game road trip and will play a back-to-back at Sacramento and Phoenix on Monday and Tuesday, before closing the trip at NBA-best Houston on Thursday. Last night's loss was Detroit's 11th straight on the road (1-10 ATS).
Portland: "Each game is a challenge," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts told reporters after a 113-105 home win over Cleveland on Thursday. "To string together the wins we have been, we've been doing good things at both ends of the floor. And tonight was an example of that as well." Eight of Portland's last 11 games have been played at the Moda Center Portland. "We're doing a good job protecting home court, taking advantage of a little stretch at home," guard CJ McCollum told reporters after the win over Cleveland. McCollum (21.8-3.9-3.2) joins Lillard (26.8-4.5-6.6) to form one of the NBA's best backcourt duos but only center Nurkic (14.1 & 8.6) is a game-in and game-out producer outside of that dynamic guard duo. However, here's the rub. Portland will play eight of its final 13 games on the road, with the remaining opponents at home including Houston, Boston and Utah.
The pick: No interest at all in taking the Pistons (see the team's current results above) but not so sure I want to be in a position of winning this by double digits in order to cover. Detroit is allowing 112.8 PPG during its 11-game road losing streak and Portland is averaging 112.1 PPG during its 11-game overall winning streak. Let's make the Over an 8* play.
|03-17-18||Houston v. Michigan -3||Top||63-64||Loss||-109||25 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: Michigan came into this tourney as a No. 3 seed, after winning a second straight Big Ten tourney title in Madison Garden. The Wolverines allowed the third-fewest points in their NCAA Tournament history in a 61-47 win over No. 14 seed Montana on Thursday to move to 29-7 on the season. They will now try to reach 30 wins for the first time since 2012-13, by putting the defensive clamps on the sixth-seed Houston Cougars in a second round game of the West Regional on Saturday in Wichita, Kn. 27-7. Houston rode Rob Gray's hot hand to a thrilling 67-65 win against 11th-seeded San Diego State on Thursday, earning the school's first NCAA Tournament victory in 34 years.
Houston: Head coach Kelvin Sampson is one of just 14 coaches to take four schools (Washington State, Oklahoma, Indiana, Houston) to the NCAA Tournament, as.Houston has produced one of its best seasons in decades. Gray exploded for a career-high 39 points against the Aztecs, including the go-ahead layup with 1.1 seconds remaining in the game. He hopes to lead the Cougars to their first Sweet 16 appearance since the days of Phi Slamma Jamma in 1983-84. Gray leads the Cougars with 19.2 points and 4.4 assists, while senior forward Devin Davis adds 10.7 points and a team-best 6.2 rebounds. Junior Corey Davis Jr. contributes 13.4 points while shooting 43.0 percent from the three-point line and sophomore Armoni Brooks - the American Athletic Conference's Sixth Man of the Year - adds 9.5 points and shoots 42.1 percent beyond the arc.
Michigan: The Wolverines are coming off a grind-it-out 61-47 win on Thursday over Montana, a game which saw the Wolverines take control after falling behind 10-0 to start. "I love the way they stayed composed during that time," Michigan head coach John Beilein said. "The first four-minute timeout, the first one, it didn't look good for Michigan at that time. I told them all we need is one basket here, and then let's win the next four minutes. And we did that. And let's win the next four minutes, and we did that. And all of a sudden we're ahead at the half." The 6-11 Wagner leads Michigan in scoring (14.3) and rebounding (7.1) and is joined in the starting lineup up front by the 6-7 Livers, although he contributes little with 3.8 & 2.3. Beilein starts three guards in Matthews (12.8 & 5.6), Abur-Rahkman (12.6-3.9-3.3) and Simpson (7.4 & 3.6 APG). A fourth guard, Robinson (9.5), is a major contributor to the rotation.
the pick: This game is a battle between not only two scorching hot teams (Michigan has won 10 straight and Houston 11 of 13), but also between two of the stiffest defensively in the country. Michigan allows 63.1 PPG (8th) and enters the game No. 3 in the country in defensive efficiency, while Houston allows 64.9 PPG (19th) and is No. 15 in defensive efficiency. Michigan's sophomore guard Zavier Simpson will be matched defensively against Houston's senior guard Rob Gray. These are two tenacious players who haven't backed down from anyone this season and the winner of this matchup could determine the game's winner. I'm pretty much sold on the Wolverines, who have gone 9-1 ATS during their 10-game winning streak and note that Beilein has led the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 in three of their previous four tournament appearances. Make that four in five. Michigan is the 8* play.
|03-17-18||Florida +2 v. Texas Tech||Top||66-69||Loss||-106||24 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up:The Florida Gators scored 25 points off 18 turnovers en route to Ta 77-62 first-round triumph over St. Bonaventure on Thursday. Florida is the East's No. 6 seed and will take its 21-12 record into Saturday's second round game against the 25-9 and third-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders. Tech was 22-4 before star guard Keenan Evans suffered a toe injury in a Feb. 17 loss to Baylor. The Red Raiders lost their final four games of February but after rallying to beat Stephen F. Austin 70-60 , Texas Tech is 25-9 (most wins since a school-record 30-2 season in 1995-96). There's not much to separate the Red Raiders and Gators, as both finished the regular season in the top-25 (Texas Tech at No. 14 and Florida at No. 23) and clawed their way near the top of their highly-rated conferences.Texas Tech tied for second in the Big 12 and Florida finished third in the SEC.
Florida: The Gators could use another strong defensive performance when they face the Red Raiders. "That's what got us going," senior guard Chris Chiozza told reporters. "We got some stops early in the second half and we got out running and got some easy baskets in transition, and we just kind of built momentum from there and was able to maintain it for most of the second half." Chiozza and junior guard KeVaughn Allen were credited for slowing the Bonnies' talented guards. A third guard, junior Jalen Hudson leads four Gators in double figures with 15.3 PPG, while graduate transfer Egor Koulechov, the fourth guard in the starting lineup, adds 13.8 PPG plus a team-high 6.5 rebounds. Chiozza (11.1 PPG and a team-high 6.2 APG) and Allen both average 11.1 PPG. The 6-9 Hayes (4.8 & 5.0) is the lone frontcourt starter, backed up by the 6-8 Stone (8.9 & 4.2).
Texas Tech: Keenan Evans led the team in scoring on the season at 17.7 PPG and has averaged 21.0 points in the Red Raiders’ four games in March. He led the team with 25 points against SF Austin and is joined by freshmen Jarrett Culver (11.5 & 4.7) and Zhaire Smith (11.1 & 4.7) in double figures on the season. Tech is an outstanding defensive team, allowing 64.6 PPG (15th) on 40.3% shooting (14th). The Red Raiders are plus-4.4 in rebound margin and have eight players averaging at least three rebounds per game. and force 15.1 turnovers.
The pick: Texas Tech is trying to reach the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2005, while Florida has won two national championships, as well as making seven trips to the Elite Eight in that span. As Evans goes, so go the Red Raiders. Tech is 12-1 this season when Evans scores at least 20 points. However, Texas Tech had its hands full getting past the Lumberjacks, who led by as many as eight points early in the second half and stayed in front or tied until Texas Tech finished the game on a 13-2 run in the final four minutes. I don't believe Tech will be so lucky in this one. Make Florida an 8* play.
|03-17-18||Wolves +4 v. Spurs||Top||101-117||Loss||-105||12 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up:The Timberwolves and Spurs meet Saturday night in a contest between a pair teams smack in the middle of the crowed Western Conference's playoff scramble. As I've noted often, the No. 3 through No. 10 seeds are separated by just five games. The 40-29 T-wolves are currenly the No. 5 seed, while the 39-30 Spurs own the No. 8 seed. Minnesota may be holding onto the No. 5 spot entering Saturday's play (just one game behind No. 4 OKC) but the T-wolves are only just one game ahead of the No. 8 seed Spurs and two games up on the No. 9 Nuggets, who are currently outside of the playoff cut line. Minnesota is trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 2004 but for San Antonio, it has not missed the playoffs since the 1996-97 campaign .
Minnesota: The T-wolves are feeling good about themselves after back-to-back wins over Golden State and Washington. Minnesota is 4-3 since losing Jimmy Butler () to knee surgery last month and has replaced him in the starting lineup with the 6-10 Nemanja Bjelica (6.8 & 3.8). "Going big" has worked well, with Bjelica averaging 13.9 & 8.3 in his seven starts. The remaining starters are familiar in Towns (20.7-12.2), Wiggins (17.9 7 4.1), Teague (13.6 & 6.9 APG) and Gibson (12.4 & 7.2).
San Antonio: The Spurs share the same record with the Jazz but would finish eighth based on the head-to-head tiebreakers with Utah. With Leonard still sidelined, only Aldridge (22.2 & 8.3) can be counted on nightly. Ten others are averaging between 4.5 and 11.1 PPG, with just two in double digits. Some good news is that the Spurs have won consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 28-30, after knocking off Orlando and New Orleans on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. After holding the Magic to 34.1 percent shooting from the floor in a 108-72 win, the Spurs held on for a 98-93 win over the Pelicans. In fact, Thursday's win over New Orleans was the first for San Antonio over a West playoff contender since knocking off Denver 106-104 back on Jan. 30, and the schedule won't let up the rest of the way. San Antonio will not face a team with a current losing record until visiting the Los Angeles Lakers on April 4.
The pick: In contrast to the Spurs' tough road ahead, the Timberwolves get two more games against winning teams with encounters against Houston and the Clippers, before playing six of their final 10 games against losing teams. A Minnesota win tonight will assure them of at least a .500 season and would be its second victory in the last 26 trips to San Antonio plus would snap an eight-game road losing streak in the series. However, Minnesota snapped a 12-game losing streak in the series with a 98-86 home win on Nov. 15, so I'll argue that the T-wolves are poised to get a "W' tonight. leonard is at best questionable for tonight's game and Aldridge was iffy with a sore knee early in the week,. Make Minnesota a 10* play.
|03-17-18||Bruins v. Lightning -150||Top||3-0||Loss||-150||11 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The 48-18-4 Tampa Bay Lightning will host the 44-17-8 Boston Bruins on Saturday night. The first-place Lightning gave up a season-high in goals on Tuesday, in a 7-4 home loss to Ottawa. Tampa Bay has 100 points and leads the second-place Bruins (96 points in the Atlantic Division by four points. "Biggest game of the year,” Tampa Bay forward J.T. Miller told reporters. “Should be an easy game to get up for. We have a point to prove after (Tuesday’s) performance. I think our guys are going to have a chip on their shoulders.” The Bruins have dropped two of their first three on a four-game road trip after a 3-0 loss at Florida on Thursday,as injuries continue to mount. Center Patrice Bergeron (foot), left wing Jake DeBrusk (upper-body), veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara (upper-body) and rookie blue liner Charlie McAvoy (knee) are not expected to play against Tampa Bay. “
Boston: Brad Marchand owns a team-best 72 points (30 goals) and speedy David Pastrnak (68 points, including 27 goals) have been doing most of the heavy lifting on offense for Boston, which had won six in a row before its road trip. Marchand boasts six goals and eight assists in his past seven contests while Pastrnak has scored five times and set up eight others in his past eight games with linemate Bergeron out. Tuukka Rask (29-11-4, 2.35 GAA & .917 SP) will be back in net after getting rested Thursday (he is 14-6-1 all time versus Tampa Bay).
Tampa Bay: Right wing Nikita Kucherov continues to pile up numbers with a goal and eight assists over the last five games and leads the league with 91 points overall (including 30 goals). Captain Steven Stamkos owns 11 of his 82 points in the last six contests and Miller joined the high-scoring duo on the top line Tuesday, registering a hat trick in the loss against Ottawa. Andrei Vasilevskiy (40-13-3, 2.52 GAA & .923 SP) needs one victory to pass Ben Bishop for the single-season franchise record, but has not had much help in front of him lately while allowing 19 goals in a four-game span.
The pick: Tampa Bay goes to Boston on March 29, then plays host to the Bruins again on April 3, with another collision in the postseason a real possibility. Miller may just be right that this is "the biggest" game of the year for these teams. Boston is a quality road team (19-10-4) but Tampa Bay is 25-7-2 on home ice, averaging 3.68 GPG. Make Tampa Bay an 8* play.
|03-17-18||Flyers v. Hurricanes UNDER 5.5||Top||4-2||Loss||-100||10 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The 32-25-11 Philadelphia Flyers and the 30-29-11 Carolina Hurricanes will meet tonight in Charlotte at PNC Arena. The Flyers are slumping at the wrong time, falling to 1-6-1 in their last eight following Thursday's 5-3 setback versus Columbus. The Flyers are clinging to third place in the Metropolitan Division via a tiebreaker and they reside one point removed from the final wild-card spot, just four points ahead of surging Florida. Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes have lost 10 of 13 (3-8-2) to fall out of favor in the Eastern Conference playoff picture (are currently nine points back of the East's final playoff spot!).
Philadelphia: "We just need to put it behind us and somehow get our confidence back," Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux said after his team fell 5-3 to Columbus. He has scored a goal in three straight contests and is riding an eight-game point streak (four goals, five assists), giving him a team-high 83 points (26 goals). Center Sean Couturier lead Philly with 29 goals. The honeymoon apparently is over for Petr Mrazek, who finished February with a 3-0-0 run before a disastrous 1-5-1 mark and 4.04 goals-against average in March has landed him on the bench. Former Yale star Alex Lyon has been confirmed to start Saturday after turning aside all 18 shots he faced in relief versus the Blue Jackets.
Carolina: The Hurricanes' recent swoon has dropped them nine points out of the final wild-card spot. Forward Lee Stempniak was quoted as saying, "We still think we are going to make the playoffs and we believe we are, but it gets harder with each loss." Justin Williams, "Mr. Game 7," began a strong seven-game stretch with two goals and an assist in the last meeting against the team (Philadelphia) that drafted him in 2000. He scored three goals and set up another in his next six outings, although his 15th tally of the season went for naught on Tuesday, as Carolina yielded five unanswered goals in the third period of a disastrous 6-4 setback to Boston. Teuvo Teravainen, who also scored in the last meeting with the Flyers, had a goal and an assist against the Bruins to increase his point total to 11 (eight goals, three assists) in as many games. Teravainen, leads the team with 56 points and Sebastian Aho in goals with 25.
The pick: Lyon (7 games with a 2.58 GAA & .912 SP) just may be up to the challenge for Philly, as he faces a Carolina team which averages just 2.64 GPG to rank 26th. Meanwhile, the Flyers just ended a five-game run of scoring no more than two goals in any contest in the team's 5-3 loss to Columbus. The Under is a 10* play.
|03-17-18||Buffalo v. Kentucky -5.5||Top||75-95||Win||100||21 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: The Kentucky Wildcats opened the season as the AP's No. 5 team but with a 10-8 SEC record, came into the conference tourney as just the fourth seed. However, the Wildcats cruised past Georgia 62-49 to notch their 11th consecutive win against the Bulldogs and then delivered an 86-63 victory over Alabama in the semifinals, their sixth victory in the last seven games (after losing four straight). Kentucky then took out Tennessee 77-72 in the championship game to win its fourth straight SEC tourney title. The Wildcats picked up their 25th win of the season (against 10 losses) in Thursday's first-round 78-73 win over a game Davidson team in 5 vs.12 matchup. Kentucky expected to meet the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats in the second round but instead will face the 13th-seeded Buffalo Bulls (out of the MAC), who shocked Arizona by winning 89-68. The Bulls have won seven in a row and come in with a record of 27-8.
Buffalo: The 13th-seeded Buffalo pulled off Thursday's biggest upset, outscoring Arizona 49-30 in the second half on its way to a 21-point win. Buffalo (27-8) shredded Arizona's defense with its quickness, getting to the lane for shots at the rim and kickouts to shooters (Buffalo connected on 54.8% of its shots). Defensively, the Bulls pressured Arizona's guards and collapsed around its big men in the lane, forcing the Wildcats to the perimeter. Arizona couldn't convert, going 2 for 18 from beyond the arc, compared to the Bulls knocking down 15 of 30. PG Clark led with 25 points and seven assists. He's one of four Buffalo players averaging 15.0-plus PPG on the season (15.0-3.6-5.4). He's joined by fellow guards Massinburg (16.9 & 7.3) and Harris (15.6 & 6.0) plus the 6-8 Perkins (16.5 & 6.1). Buffalo is averaging 84.9 PPG (6th).
Kentucky: John Calipari's team is again, packed with freshman. 6-9 freshman Kevin Knox shared the conference freshman of the year honors with Alabama's Sexton, and leads the etam at 15.9 PPG (adds 5.4 RPG). Freshman PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (14.0-4.1-5.1) is the team's second-leading scorer, followed by 6-7 freshman Washington (10.6 & 5.4) plus freshman guards Diallo (9.9) and Green (9.5). This year's team is not as high-scoring as Calipari teams of the past and beat Davidson without making a single three-point shot (can't make that up!). That snapped a streak of 1,047 games (which had been best in the nation) with a three-pointer, a mark that began way back in 1988. However, Kentucky shot 51.0% overall in the game, led by Knox's 25 points and Gilgeous-Alexander's 19. Defensively, Kentucky is allowing opponents to shoot just 30.0% on threes, 4th-best in the nation
The pick: This is a matchup of one of CBB's "blue-bloods" and a no-name MAC entry. Buffalo can play (just ask Arizona) but Calipari's team is hitting its stride, entering having won eight of its last nine. Buffalo's great win over Arizona will have to do for one of the NCAA's latest 'Cinderella' teams. Kentucky opened as the AP's No. 5 team, while Buffalo was coming off a 17-15 season. Could anyone ever had imagined back in November that these two would meet in the second round of an NCAA tourney game and that Kentucky would only be about a 'TD' favorite? Make Kentucky a 10* play.
|03-17-18||Rhode Island v. Duke -9.5||Top||62-87||Win||100||18 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The No. 7 Rhode Island Rams won one of the more exciting games on Thursday, edging No. 10 Oklahoma and freshman sensation Trae Young 83-78 in OT. E.C. Matthews led with 16 points and Jared Terrell, the team's leading scorer this season, added 13 points and five assists. Down the stretch, some clutch defense allowed the Rams to win an NCAA tourney game for the second straight season under head coach Dan Hurley. A win on Saturday would allow Rhode Island to advance to the school's first Sweet 16 berth in 20 years. However, for that to happen, the seventh-seeded Rams will need to get past the second-seeded Blue Devils who just took care of Iona 89-67. The Blue Devils outrebounded Iona 39-29 and outscored the Gaels in the paint 46-30.
Rhode Island: Freshman Fatts Russell, who is averaging just 7.0 PPG this season, came off the bench to shine opposite the Sooners' Trae Young. He finished with 15 points in 21 minutes. The 6-9 Cyril Langevine (6.2 & 5.9) posted his fifth double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds, also coming off the bench. Dan Hurley's team is well-rounded and its starting-five delivers excellent balance. Guard Jared Terrell is the leading scorer (17.0), followed by Matthews (13.2 & 4.0). PG Dowtin adds 9.6 PPG and 5.5 APG plus a fourth guard, Stanford Robinson (9.0 & 5.7) is a defensive specialist. The 6-8 Berry (8.9 & 3.9) is the fifth starter. The Rams play outstanding defense, allowing 68.2 PPG (68th).
Duke: Not many teams have been able to slow Marvin Bagley down this season and Iona was no different, as he scored 22 points. Three others scored at least 16 points, led by PG Duval's 19 (he also had eight assists). The freshman PG averages 10.2 & 5.6 APG on the season. Senior Grayson Allen (15.7-3.5-4.6) and freshman Gary Trent Jr. (14.3 & 4.2) each had 16. The 6-9 Carter, who averages 13.6 & 9.3 was held to just 9 & 8. Duke shot 53.7 percent from the floor and will test Rhode Island's defense, as the Blue Devils are averaging 84.8 PPG (7th) on 49.5% shooting (14th).
The pick: Duke has won each of the previous four meetings between the two schools, including twice in the tournament (1978 and 1988). The team's met just last year in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament, as Duke won 75-65. The Rams are a modest 5-4 SU (3-6 ATS) since losing at St. Bonny's (loss ended a school-record 16-game winning streak) , while the Blue Devils are 8-2 SU & ATS their last 10. Is beating Oklahoma (Sooners ended the season on a 4-12 SU & 3-13 ATS run) really a big deal? I think not. Make Duke a 10* play
|03-16-18||Florida State -1 v. Missouri||Top||67-54||Win||100||79 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: Despite the loss of heralded freshman Michael Porter Jr. (Blue Ribbon's Newcomer of the Year) to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 with a 20-12 overall record. The Tigers are the eighth-seed in the Wst region and will face the No. 9 seed Florida State Seminoles on Friday night a first round game played at Nashville, Tn. The Seminoles ended the season by losing six of their final 10 down the stretch, but their 20-11 mark was good enough to earn them a second straight tournament appearance and a sixth overall under head coach Leonard Hamilton.
Florida State: The Seminoles opened the season having lost four starters off last year's 26-win team and little was expected. However, FSU began the season 9-0 before a one-point loss to Oklahoma State. FSU features a balanced scoring attack with three players averaging between 13.2 and 12.9 points, a trio led by guard Terance Mann (13.2 & 5.7). The others are teh 6-8 Cofer (13.1 & 5.1) and guard Angola (19.-3.8-3.0), Three more players contribute between 7.6 and 8.5 PPG plus big men like the 7-4 Koumadje (7. 4 & 4.7) and the 6-9 Kabengele (7.1 & 4.5) add muscle up front. This is likely Hamilton's best offensive team, as FSU is averaging 81.8 PPG (29th) on 47.4% shooting (43rd).
Missouri: The 6-10 Porter is still considered an NBA lottery pick and returned from back surgery in time to appear in the SEC Tournament in last Thursday's 62-60 loss to Georgia (he scored 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting). However, Missouri will have to play without suspended 6-7 forward Jordan Barnett, the team's second-leading scorer (13.7 points per game) who was arrested for DWI on Saturday. "He's suspended as we speak. He won't play Friday," first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin told reporters Sunday before adding that Barnett could potentially return if the Tigers advance to the second round. Senior Kassius Robertson leads the team with 16.2 PPG while freshman Jontay Porter - Michael's 6-11 brother - is the top rebounder (6.8) and averaged 21 points on 69 percent shooting over his last three contests (10.1 PPG on the season).
The pick: Cuonzo Martin has done an excellent job at Missouri in his first year at the school but the Tigers last won a game in the Round of 64 game back in 2010 (Tigers are 0-4 ATS in their last four NCAA Tournament games). Barnett (also 5.9 RPG) will be missed and Michael Porter's game is far from 100 percent. Missouri is the far better defensive team (68.1 PPG allowed ranks 67th) but despite its recent troubles, I believe FSU can (and will) outscore Missouri. Make FS a 10* play.
|03-16-18||Wild v. Golden Knights -152||Top||4-2||Loss||-152||15 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: The Vegas Golden Knights are heading down the stretch of what's been a remarkable inaugural seasons. However, the team looked very much the part of an expansion club Wednesday night when they were drubbed 8-3 by the visiting New Jersey Devils. The Pacific Division-leading Golden Knights (45-20-5, 95 points) look to regain their footing on Friday when they continue their four-game homestand against the 39-24-7 Minnesota Wild, who are clinging to third place in the Central Division with 85 points. Minnesota: The Wild come in off back-to-back losses at Edmonton (4-1) last Saturday and this past Tuesday at home to Colorado (5-1). The latter was particularly costly because defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who leads the team in blocked shots (127) and is second in TOI (time on ice) at 24:37, suffered a partially torn right hamstring while sliding into the boards and is expected to miss at least four weeks. Captain Mikko Koivu (13 goals & 39 points) scored his team's lone goal in Tuesday's 5-1 loss to Colorado, boosting his point total to eight (four goals, four assists) in his last eight games. Fellow Finn Mikael Granlund would love that goal production but he's registered just one shot against the Avalanche and seven total over his last six games despite notching four assists. Granlund ranks second on the team with 57 points (19 goals) to Eric Staal, who leads in goals (37) and points (68). LW Jason Zucker, a Las Vegas native, has been held off the scoresheet in five of seven contests in March but does have 28 goals and 26 assists on the season.
Vegas: "I was angry after the game. I got home around midnight and had a baloney sandwich and that was that. Move on. Same for our players," Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant said after seeing his team dismantled by New Jersey on Wednesday. Erik Haula () did score twice versus the Devils and has three goals in his last two games overall, heading into a tilt versus his former team. Some good news for Gallant on Thursday was that both James Neal (24 goals, 40 points) and goaltender Malcolm Subban (11-3-1) participated in practice, continuing their steps toward returning to game action. Neal, who has missed eight contests, was paired with Jonathan Marchessault (22 goals & 65 points) and William Karlsson (36 goals & 62 points). As for Subban, he is bidding for his first game action since Feb. 2, with Marc-Andre Fleury being tasked to make 18 of the team's last 19 starts.
The pick: Vegas is coming off its worst home loss in franchise history and will be attempting to snap a three-game losing streak at T-Mobile Arena when it hosts Minnesota Wild on Friday night. Fleury could sure use a break (has started 18 of the last 19 games), as he was yanked early in the second period against the Devils after allowing four goals on 11 shots. He angrily slammed his stick on top of the goal after the final one. Subban owns a 2.59 GAA and a .912 SP. I realize that Minnesota has won both previous encounters with Vegas, a 4-2 victory on Nov. 30 and a 5-2 one on Feb. 2. No ignoring that the Golden Knights are 24-8-2 at home, averaging a whopping 3.62 GPG. Make Vegas an 8* play.
|03-16-18||Sharks v. Flames OVER 5.5||Top||7-4||Win||104||13 h 14 m||Show|
The 38-23-9 San Jose Sharks have won five of seven and have moved into second place in the Pacific Division with 85 points. However, the team's current run still only has them five points ahead of the fifth-place Calgary Flames, who are 35-26-10. The Sharks are hoping to strengthen their postseason grip and widen the cushion over the Flames on Friday when the clubs meet at Scotiabank Saddledome.As for teh Flames, they have wins in three of their last four following a four-game skid to put themselves within three points of the second wild-card spot.
San Jose: The team's 4-3 overtime win over the Oilers gave them a three-point edge on the Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division in the race to finish second to the Vegas Golden Knights. Captain Joe Pavelski set up a goal in Wednesday's 4-3 overtime win over Edmonton to increase his point total to 10 (three goals, seven assists) in his last seven games. Tomas Hertl capped his two-goal performance by scoring 2:40 into the extra session for the Sharks, who are fending off the other California clubs as well as Calgary.
Calgary: We need everyone contributing on the ice, off the ice, and in the room," said Calgary captain Mark Giordano, who has three goals and an assist in his last four games. Calgray is trying to fight through injuries in an attempt to stay "playoff relevant." Head coach Glen Gulutzan didn't commit to the return of spark-plug Kris Versteeg to game action versus San Jose, after the veteran forward was activated from injured reserve on Wednesday. He has been sidelined 48 games since undergoing hip surgery. Sean Monahan (undisclosed) is expected to play versus the Sharks despite missing practice on Thursday while fellow forward Matthew Tkachuk, A talented agitator, will miss his second straight game with an upper-body injury.
The pick: Both teams are coming off victories over the Edmonton Oilers but the Sharks are in a much better playoff position than their opponent. It feels like a good spot for Calgary but while the Flames are an impressive 20-10-6 on the road, they are only 15-16-4 at home, allowing 3.03 GPG. I say the Over is a 10* play.
|03-16-18||Nets +8.5 v. 76ers||Top||116-120||Win||100||11 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: The Philadelphia 76ers made it 12 wins in their last 17 games with Thursday's 118-110 comeback victory over the New York Knicks at MSG. The 76ers, who are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference at 37-30, took another step toward making the postseason for the first time since 2012 when they outscored New York 35-19 in the fourth quarter. They enter Friday's home contest against the Brooklyn Nets to begin a stretch in which six of seven games are at home. The Nets limp in having lost 18 of their last 21 games after suffering a 116-102 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. Brooklyn's 21-47 record leaves them better than only the 21-48 Magic and 20-49 Hawks among Eastern Conference teams.
Brooklyn: "We're trying to build something here," head coach Atkinson told reporters. "Us finishing the season in an upward take, upward kind of move, it's important to us. So we're kind of playing our own playoffs. Every game for us is huge for our development." PG D'Angelo Russell has put together back-to-back stellar games by averaging 29 points and going 11-of-20 from three-point range during the stretch. He's a quality player, averaging 16.1 & 4.8 APG on the season. PG Spencer Dinwiddie is just 7-of-25 shooting over the past two games but he's shown great promise, as the injury to Lin has given him a chance to show he's an NBA player. Dinwiddie did nothing for Detroit in his first two seasons but after averaging just 7.3 PPG for the Nets last season, he's averaging 13.0 & 6.9 APG in almost 30 minutes this season. The Nets also have six other regulars who are averaging 10-plus points per game. Team D has been a big problem though, as Brooklyn allowing 110.2 PPG (28th).
Philadelphia: Center Joel Embiid (23.6 & 10.9) recorded 29 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double and 35th of the season against the Knicks. He and Ben Simmons (16.2-7.8-7.7) are prime examples that Philly's "Process" is no longer a standing joke in the NBA. Simmons had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists against the Knicks for his eighth triple-double of the season, the second-most by a rookie in NBA history behind legendary Oscar Robertson (26). Simmons also joined Robertson and Magic Johnson as the only rookies in NBA history with at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. Throw in SG Redick (16.6), PF Saric (15.1 & 7.0) and SF Covington (12.6 & 5.4) and the 76ers have a 'big league" starting-five.
The pick: This is a quick turnaround from last Saturday’s meeting in Brooklyn, when Philadelphia crushed the Nets 120-97. It's true that the 76ers have won 13 of 14 SU (12-2 ATS) at the Wells Fargo Center since New Year’s Day but the Sixers have covered just 3 of 10 chances when unrested this season (like here, off a Thursday game at MSG). Meanwhile, it's true the Nets are just 9-24 SU on the road but they are 21-12 ATS, getting outscored by an average of just 5.3 PPG away from home. Take the big points and make Brooklyn an 8* play.
|03-16-18||Lipscomb v. North Carolina UNDER 160.5||Top||66-84||Win||100||71 h 26 m||Show|
The setup: North Carolina begins defense of its NCAA Tournament title (Tar Heels have been to back-to-back championship games) as the No. 2 seed in the West Region when it meets 15th-seeded Lipscomb in Friday's first round at Charlotte, N.C. The 25-10 Tar Heels are coming off a 71-63 loss to Virginia in the AAC Tournament championship game this past Saturday. North Carolina is seeking its seventh national championship after defeating Gonzaga 71-65 in 2017 (lost in the 2016 title game to Villanova 77-74 on a last-second shot). As for Lipscomb, the 23-9 Bisons earned their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance with a 108-96 victory at Florida Gulf Coast on March 4 to win the Atlantic Sun tourney title.
Lipscomb: The Bisons watched a 32-point second-half lead get trimmed to five, before holding on to get past Florida Gulf Coast. "Couldn't be happier," Lipscomb head coach Casey Alexander told reporters. "Someone asked me how I was feeling. I don't even know." Junior guard Garrison Mathews led the Atlantic Sun in scoring at 22.1 PPG (5.5 RPG) and averaged 28.3 over his last three games, after scoring 33 versus FGCU. 6-7 junior forward Rob Marberry was the team's only other double-figure scorer at 16.0 points per game while averaging 5.8 rebounds. The 6-9 Eli Pepper (7.0) averaged a team-high 7.9 rebounds, while sophomore PG Kenny Cooper (9.9 points) averaged a team-best 4.0 assists. Lipscomb comes in averaging 82.6 PPG (21st) but allows 77.5 PPG (294th).
North Carolina: The Tar Heels feature a balanced attack led by junior forward Luke Maye. He leads the team in scoring (17.2) and rebounding (10.1), joining Duke's Marvin Bagley III, as the only two ACC players to average a double-double this season. Senior guard Joel Berry (17.1) was last year's Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four. He and Maye combined for 37 points and shot 12-for-25 from the floor against Virginia, which allows the fewest points in the nation at 53.4. However, their teammates were a combined 8-for-24 from the floor. Senior guard Cameron Johnson adds 12.7 PPG, senior swingman Pinson averages 10.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG and also a team-best 4.8 APG, plus unior guard Kenny Williams (11.4 PPG) adds the balanced scoring and depth I mentioned earlier. The Tar Heels rank 26th in the nation in scoring at 82.0 PPG.
The pick: Two high-scoring teams seems like a play on the over at first blush. However, while Lipscomb aveages 82.6 PPG, that didn't come against competition like North Carolina. The Tar Heels are familiar with the NCAA scene in Charlotte, holding a 33-1 record in NCAA games in their home state. That includes an 11-0 mark in Charlotte. Sure, the Bisons opened some eyes with their resounding 108-96 victory over Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun Title game but remember, this is the Bisons first-ever invite to the Big Dance plus they haven’t played since March 4! Not convinced that extended layoff helps and let's not forget Lipscomb was manhandled by a combined 87 points in blowouts at Texas, Alabama & Purdue. Lipscomb averaged just 62.3 PPG in those losses, TWENTY points below its season average in points,. Make the Under an 8* play.
|03-16-18||Georgia State +14 v. Cincinnati||Top||53-68||Loss||-107||71 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The second-seeded 30-4 Cincinnati Bearcats enter the NCAA Tournament with seven straight wins, including a 56-55 triumph over Houston in Sunday’s AAC conference title game. Cincy enters the Big Dance with back-to-back 30-victory seasons, the first time in school history that has happened. Cincy opens NCAA tourney play with the 24-10 and 15th-seeded Georgia State Panthers. Georgia State captured its second Sun Belt Conference title in the past four seasons with Sunday's 74-61 victory over Texas-Arlington.
Georgia State: After losing four of five late in the season, the Panthers enter the Big Dance on a four-game winning streak. Sophomore guard D’Marcus Simonds, the Sun Belt player of the year, averages 21.1 PPG on the season. Senior guard Isaiah Williams, who scored 21 points in the semifinal victory over Georgia Southern as Simonds was saddled with foul trouble, is 9-of-18 from three-point range in his past four games. However, he is averaging only 7.3 PPG on the season. Fellow guard Mitchell checks in at 12.2 PPG plus two 6-5 forwards, Thomas (10.7 & 4,3) and Benlevi (9.6 & 6.5), join the 6-8 Sessions (7.7 & 6.1) up front.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats were known for their defense under Huggins and the same is true under Mick Cronin. Cincy ranks second in points allowed (57.1) and in defensive FG percentage (37.0) 6-8 senior forward Gary Clark averaged 16.3 points per game during the AAC Tournament, shooting 57.7 percent from the floor in three games and leads team with 13.0 PPG and 8.5 RPG on the season. The 6-9 Kyle Washington (11.3 & 5.4) has reached double figures in 10 of his past 13 games, averaging 12.2 points during that stretch while shooting 52.8 percent from the floor. The Bearcats feature a solid guard trio in Evans (12.9-4.6-3.2), Cumberland (10.9-3.4-2.9) and Broome (8.2).
The pick: The Bearcats have limited 23 of their opponents to less than 40 percent shooting from the floor and in 23 games, have held opponents to 60 or fewer points this season. However, Georgia State is no slouch on defense, holding opponents to 67.3 PPG (51st) on 39.3% shooting (6th). It's hard not to notice that the Bearcats were back to playing games in the 50s and 60s in the AAC tourney, content to let the defense dictate tempo. Meanwhile, the team's top-score entering the tourney, Jacob Evans, was in a shooting slump in Orlando, making just 25% from the floor in three games. Georgia State has won its NCAA opener in its past two tournament appearances, beating Wisconsin in 2001 and Baylor in 2015. Another upset here? Not likely but take the big points and make the Panthers an 8* play.
|03-16-18||Marshall v. Wichita State -11||Top||81-75||Loss||-110||70 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: 25-7 Wichita State lost to Houston 77-74 in the American Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals Saturday but begins its journey in the NCAA Tournament as a No.4 seed and will meet No. 13 Marshall on Friday in the first round of the East Region in San Diego. The Shockers are coached by former Marshall assistant Gregg Marshall, marking the first time in NCAA Tournament history that a school's name matches the opposing coach's last name. Wichita State boasts a veteran team which reached the Sweet 16 in 2015 and 2016, before losing to Kentucky in the second round in 2017. As for teh The Thundering Herd, they upset Western Kentucky 67-66 on Saturday to win the C-USA Tournament and will ride a four-game winning streak into their first NCAA Tournament since 1987 with a record of 24-10.
Marshall: Head coach Dan D’Antoni, brother of Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, told reporters. “It’s been a long time coming and Marshall basketball kind of fell off.'' PG Jon Elmore led C-USA in scoring (22.8 points) and assists (6.9). Fellow guard C.J. Burks averaged 20.5 PPG, helping the Thundering Herd average a conference-best 84.4 PPG (12th nationally). That said, no one should overlook 6-8 Ajdin Penava (15.5 & 8.6), who was named C-USA Tournament MVP after averaging 17 points and 8.3 rebounds in the three games. However, an issue for Marshall is the fact that it allows 78.8 PPG, ranking 321st of 351 Division I teams.
Wichita State: Sophomore guard Landry Shamet averages a team-best 15,0 PPG and an AAC-best 5.1 assists. 6-8 senior forward Shaquille Morris has been a force in the middle, averaging 14.0 points and 5.5 rebounds, both career highs. He comes into the Big Dance averaging 16.8 points over his last nine games. 6-9 senior forward Darral Willis Jr. (10.4 & 6.0) and senior guard Conner Frankamp (10.1 points) are also playing their final NCAA Tournaments. 6-8 junior forward Markis McDuffie is averaging 8.5 & 3.2, guard Reaves 8.3 PPG and the 6-7 Kelly, 5.7 PPG but a team-high 7.5 RPG.
The pick: Marshall can score but so can the efficient Shockers, who average 83.0 PPG (19th), on 47.8% shooting (33rd). Wichita State got shipped 1,363 miles away to San Diego but the Shockers are deep AND experienced. Marshall's first NCAA trip since 1987 ends after one game. Lay the points and make Wichita State an 8* play.
|03-16-18||Providence +3.5 v. Texas A&M||Top||69-73||Loss||-108||69 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: The Providence Friars (No. 10 seed) are in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive season and will meet No. 7 seed Texas A&M in the West Region on Friday in Charlotte, N.C. Providence finished in a three-way tie for third in the Big East (10-8), before playing in three straight overtime games in the conference tournament, including a loss to Villanova in the championship game on Saturday. The Aggies reached the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons, overcoming an 0-5 start in SEC play to finish 9-9 and tied for seventh with Mississippi State. A&M then lost on a buzzer-beater to Alabama in the team's conference tournament opener but still got a 7-seed with a 20-12 record (A&M opened the 2017-18 season at 11-1).
Providence: The 21-13 Friars feature three double digit scorers in 6-8 senior Rodney Bullock (14.0 & 5.8), 6-7 sophomore guard Alpha Diallo (13.0 & 6.6) and senior PG Kyron Cartwright (11.8 & 5.4 APG). Diallo is coming off his sixth double-double of the season, posting 22 points and 10 rebounds in the overtime loss to Villanova. He played well while the Friars went 3-3 against Villanova and Xavier this season, a positive sign considering those conference foes earned top seeds for this tournament.Providence averages 73.7 PPG but also allows 72.7.
Texas A&M; Tyler Davis, the team's 6-10 center led in scoring () and was second in rebounding this season (8.8) but he was held to single digits in the loss to Alabama on Thursday, although for just the fifth time thi season. Guard Admon Gilder (12.2 & 4.2) and the 6-9 DJ Hogg (11.3 & 5.2) were all key members of the Texas A&M team that reached the Sweet 16 two years ago. The 6-10 Williams adds 10.3 RPG and a team-high 9.0 RPG, while guard Starks chips in 9.0 PPG.
The pick: The Aggies' good size of Davis (6-10), Hogg (6-9) and Williams (6-10) could pose problems for Providence but after that 11-1 start, A&M has gone just 9-11 SU and 8-12 ATS in its last 20 games. A&M was part of an SEC-record eight teams to make the NCAA Tournament but none were seeded higher than No. 3 Tennessee in the South Region. A&M can be had and Providence sure got battle-tested with three consecutive OT games in the Big East tourney, including overcoming a 17-point deficit in knocking off No. 1 seeded Xavier, then nearly erased an 11-point deficit in a hard-fought 76-66 OT loss to Villanova in the title game. SEC favorites are only 13-18-2 ATS in the Big Dance since 2013, while Ed Cooley’s Friars team went a money-making 9-2 ATS its last 11 as a single-digit underdog! Make Providence an 8* play.
|03-15-18||Pistons v. Nuggets -7.5||Top||113-120||Loss||-109||13 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets have hurt their cause in the Western Conference playoff race with three losses in their last five games. Denver fell 112-103 at the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, falling into 10th place in the West at 37-31, although the Nuggets are just one game out of a playoff spot. The Nuggets remain a strong home team at 26-10 but they are just 11-21 on the road. So, with their longest road trip of the season on the horizon (will play) seven consecutive contests away from home, Thursday's home matchup with the reeling Detroit Pistons is practically a "must-win" scenario for the Nuggets. Acquiring Blake Griffin in a blockbuster deal six weeks ago was supposed to be a difference-maker for the Pistons but after Detroit's 110-79 loss in Utah on Tuesday, the team has lost 11 of its last 14.
Detroit: The Pistons are now 30-37 and five games out of the final playoff spot in the East. Detroit's starters combined for 43 points on 16-of-43 shooting in the loss at Utah (Griifin was 5 of 16 with points) and the defeat was Detroit's 10th straight on the road. The lopsided contest allowed rookie Luke Kennard to see a personal-high 36 minutes and he responded with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting. However, the 12th pick in last year's draft is averaging only 6.7 PPG in about 18 1/2 MPG. Griffin's numbers are solid (19.8-6.5-5.6) but he's done absolutely nothing to improve this team.
Denver: "We've just got to win games," center Mason Plumlee told reporters after the second chippy contest with the Lakers in less than a week. "We've got to go home and beat Detroit. We're done with the Lakers for the season, so you've got to move on." Denver led by 13 points with just over two minutes left in the third quarter at Los Angeles, before fading down the stretch. The loss dropped Denver to just SU on the road, which hardly inspires confidence for a team looking forward to (dreading?) an upcoming seven-game road trip. Wilson Chandler was one of the bright spots against the Lakers, scoring 26 points. However, it's been Denver's guard trio of Harris (17.8), Murray (16.2) and Barton (14.9-4.1-5.0) which has given the Nuggets consistent perimeter scoring. Center Jokic (17.1 & 10.4) and now healthy PF Millsap (14.0 & 6.3) are tasked with the heavy lifting up front.
The pick: This is clearly a "must win" for Denver and as noted, Detroit limps in on a 3-11 SU run overall (3-11 ATS too), as well as on an 0-10 SU & 1-9 ATS run on the road. Make Denver an 8* play.
|03-15-18||Avalanche v. Blues -160||Top||4-1||Loss||-160||12 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: The Colorado Avalanche have long ago put last year's nightmare season behind them. Colorado finished with league lows in wins (22) and points (48) last season but
Colorado:Nathan MacKinnon ran his point streak to nine games in Tuesday's win at Minnesota (scoring his 33rd goal), scoring eight times in that span. The Avs' center leads the team with 82 points. RW Mikko Rantanen, checks in not far behind him with 70 points (23 goals). Rookie forward J.T. Compher is coming off his first career multi-goal game in Tuesday's win by ending a 14-game point drought by scoring twice Tuesday night, his first goals in the last 17 games (he has 22 points in 56 games). Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who has appeared in 14 straight games and will be in net again as Jonathan Bernier continues to deal with a neck injury.
St. Louis: “We could have ... buried ourselves almost to the point of not really having a chance,” St. Louis head coach Mike Yeo said. “We still have got a lot of work to do, we’re still on the outside looking in, but we’re a little bit closer.” Jake Allen has been in net for the past three games and will start again Thursday, after Carter Hutton was unable to practice Wednesday when his neck issue flared up. Defenseman Joel Edmundson could be back in the lineup since fracturing his forearm against Colorado on Feb. 8 (he has missed five weeks but has been cleared to play by team doctors). Center Brayden Schenn and RW Vladimir Tarasenko are tied for teh team lead with 58 points, with Tarasenko leading with his 27 goals.,
The pick: The Avs come in on a roll but they have lost all three meetings this season against the Blues and have just one win over St. Louis in the last 10 meetings. considering the fact that Colorado has scored a total of five goals in three meetings versus St. Louis in 2017-18 and has produced more than two goals only once in the last 10 matchups against them, the Blues are an 8* play.
|03-15-18||Blackhawks v. Jets -170||Top||2-6||Win||100||12 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: The Winnipeg Jets host the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, following a six-game road trip in which they went 0-2-1 the last three games, after opening with three consecutive wins. Tuesday’s 3-1 loss at division leading Nashville leaves the Jets at 41-19-10 and while the team's 92 points have them well inside the playoff cut line, the Jets trail the Preds by eight points in the Central Division with only 12 games remaining. The Blackhawks visit Winnipeg tonight and almost certainly are going to miss the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons. Chicago has gone 6-13-1 in its past 20 games to drop to the bottom of the Central standings.
Chicago: The Blackhawks did bounce back from Saturday’s 7-4 defeat at Boston to beat the Bruins 3-1 in Chicago on Sunday but it was little more than a moral victory. Goaltender Anton Forsberg, who made 31 saves in Sunday’s victory, is expected to start Thursday. Center Jonathan Toews recorded three assists Sunday, and has nine points (three goals) in seven games this month, after recording eight in each of the season’s first five months. Toews has 49 points on the season, second on the team to Patrick Kane's 66 (Kane's 25 goals are also tops for Chicago). Despite ranking second in the league with 34.4 shots per game, Chicago is averaging a modest 2.83 GPG, which ranks 19th. A good part of the problem can be attributed to Chicago struggling on the power play, as the Blackhawks rank 28th in the league, converting just15.9 percent.
Winnipeg: Adding insult to injury in the recent loss to Nashville was center Paul Stastny getting hurt in warmups and goaltender Michael Hutchinson () being injured in the first period. Winnipeg has lost three in a row (0-2-1) but still maintains a seven-point lead on Minnesota for second place in the Central. Center Mark Scheifele (21 goals and 51 points) has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury but the Jets hope he is close to returning. Patrik Laine leads the team with 41 goals and Blake Wheeler leads with 77 points (59 assists). Connor Hellebuyck, third in the NHL with 35 wins, made 30 saves in relief of Hutchinson and will start Thursday. That's hardly bad news, as Hellebuyck is the team's No. 1 goalie (2.36 GAA & .925 SP).
The pick: Just one season after posting 50 wins, the second most in the NHL that year and second most in franchise history, Chicago will almost certainly end its nine-year run of making the playoffs. Hockey-reference.com predicts the Blackhawks have a 0.2 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason in 2018! Winninpeg is 24-7-2 on home ice this season, outscoring opponents 3.85-to-2.55 GPG. With Chicago allowing 3.40 GPG away from home, I say make the Jets an 8* play.
|03-15-18||San Diego State +4 v. Houston||Top||65-67||Win||100||70 h 6 m||Show|
|03-15-18||Stephen F Austin +11.5 v. Texas Tech||Top||60-70||Win||100||70 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: An injury to its best player cost Texas Tech a chance to win the Big 12 regular-season and/or the conference tourney tournament title but the Red Raiders did earn a favorable NCAA Tournament draw. Texas Tech earned a No. 3 seed in the East region and will get to play in Dallas on Thursday and again on Saturday, if it advances. Texas Tech enters the tourney 24-9 on the season and ranked 14th in the final regular season poll by the AP. The Red Raiders will face 14th-seeded and in-state foe Stephen F. Austin on Thursday. The Lumberjacks enter the NCAA Tournament, the school's fourth appearance in the last five years, with 10 wins in the their last 11 games, including a 59-55 upset win over top-seeded Southeast Louisiana in the Southland championship game, as the league's third-seed.
SF Austin: Forward T.J. Holyfield closed the Southland Tournament with consecutive double-doubles and has averaged 13.0 points and a team-best 6.4 rebounds per game. Guards Shannon Bogues (15.4 points) and Kevon Harris (14.6 & 5.4) also average double figures with the Harris shooting a team-best 43.2 percent from three-point range, which ranked second in the Southland. This is a good offensive team, averaging 81.1 PPG (3th) on 48.8% shooting (20th). The Lumberjacks also can play a little D, allowing 68.1 PPG (69th).
Texas Tech: Chris Beard’s Red Raiders finished second in the Big 12 behind perennial champion Kansas and beat Texas 73-69 in their Big 12 Tournament opener before falling to third-seeded West Virginia 66-63 in the semifinals. It's the school's first 20-win season in 11 years and its most wins since a school-record 30-2 season in 1995-96. It also will be the second NCAA Tournament appearance in the last decade for the Red Raiders. The Red Raiders started 14-1 and were 22-4 a little more than a month later when they climbed to No. 6 in the national polls – the high-water mark in program history. However, Keenan Evans suffered a toe injury in a Feb. 17 loss to Baylor and totaled only 12 points in the school’s final four games in February, including a Feb. 26 contest at West Virginia where he sat out entirely, contributing heavily to Texas Tech’s four-game tailspin entering March. Evans led the team in scoring on the season at 17.5 PPG and has averaged 20.3 points in the Red Raiders’ three games since. He is joined by freshmen Jarrett Culver (11.7 & 4.8) and Zhaire Smith (11.2 & 4.7) in double figures on the season. Tech is an outstanding defensive team, allowing 64.3 PPG (18th) on 40.3% shooting (15th).
The pick: I noted at the top that Tech is happy to be playing in Dallas but I must add that Stephen F Austin is actually about 200 miles closer to the Metroplex from its Nacodoches base. Texas Tech has won eight of the nine meetings over the last 21 years but the two schools haven’t met since 2011. SF Austin more than held its own in three close games at SEC venues (close losses at Miss. State & Mizzou plus a win at LSU). Throw in the fact that in two of their last three NCAA tourney appearances, the Lumberjacks have notched first-round upsets as a 13th and 12th seed, respectively, beating West Virginia (70-56 in 2016) and VCU (77-75 in 2014). SF Austin is the very definition of a 'live dog!' Take the points and make them a 10* play.
|03-15-18||Raptors v. Pacers +3.5||Top||106-99||Loss||-103||11 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The Toronto Raptors have won nine straight games (two shy of matching the franchise mark), as well as 16 of their last 17 and 18 of their last 20. Tuesday's 116-102 triumph in Brooklyn gave Toronto 50 victories for the third straight season and the Raptors' 50-17 mark has them 4 1/2 games up on Boston in the race for the East's No. 1 seed. The Raptors seek their 10th consecutive victory with a visit to the hard-charging Indiana Pacers, who earned a big 101-98 win Tuesday in Philadelphia to maintain their grip on third place in the East, a half-game ahead of Cleveland. Indiana's win was the team's 10th time in its last 13 contests, giving them a 40-28 record (who needs Paul George?).
Toronto: The All Star backcourt of DeRozan (23.6-4.0-5.1) and Lowry (16.4-5.6-6.7) were limited to a total of 26 points at Brooklyn but center Jonas Valanciunas shouldered the load with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Along with PF Ibaka (12.7 & 6.1), Valanciunas (12.3 & 8.5) has been a steady presence in Toronto's frontcourt. The Raptors tied a franchise record for consecutive 100-point games with 20 in a row in the win over the Nets (Raptors are the East's highest scoring team at 112.3 PPG) and now have set their sights on 60 wins. They would need to win 10 if their last 15 games. "It's never been done (in Toronto)," Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan told the Toronto Star. "Not many people get the opportunity to win 60-plus games. We came close a couple of years ago. That's big."
Indiana: Center Myles Turner (13.8 & 7.0) scored 25 points in the 101-98 triumph at Philly and has averaged 21.3 in his last four games. Thaddeus Young (11.6 & 6.1) added 19 points and 10 rebounds as Indiana showed its resiliency and depth in a tough road game that saw guards Victor Oladipo and Bojan Bogdanovic combine to make only 5-of-32 shots. However, Oladipo (23.6-5.3-4.3) and Sabonis (11.7 & 7.9), the two players acquired for Paul George, have been everything and more, for the Pacers. Indiana has won 21 of its last 30 games but in the tightly bunched East, the team is well aware that while it may be the No. 3 seed at the moment, the Pacers are closer to the No. 8 seed (4 1/2-game lead) than they are to the No. 2 seed (5 1/2-game deficit).
The pick: The two teams split their first two meetings this season, with the home team winning each one. Hard to buck the Raptors and it's not good news for Indian fans (bettors) that Domantas Sabonis suffered a left ankle sprain at Philadelphia and will miss Thursday's game. However, just like 'it felt" like a good spot to take the Raptors at home over tehg red-hot Rockets on , "it feels" like the right time to take the Pacers over the Raptors, here. Make Indiana a 10* play.
|03-15-18||NC State +2.5 v. Seton Hall||Top||83-94||Loss||-107||67 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: It's an 8-9 matchup in the first-round of the Midwest Region from Wichita, Kn. on Thursday, as eighth-seeded Seton Hall (21-11) takes on ninth-seeded North Carolina State (21-11). The Wolfpack and Pirates each had successful regular seasons but both are coming off early losses in their conference tournaments, with N.C. State losing to Boston College 91-87 in its first ACC tournament game and Seton Hall being upset by Butler 75-74 in its opening game at the Big East Conference tournament. Seton Hall has lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons and hasn't won a tournament game since 2004. N.C. State is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years.
NC State: the Wolpack were coming off back-to-back 16 and 15-win seasons and were picked 12th in an ACC preseason poll. However, the team figured things out in its first season under coach Kevin Keatts. Guard Allerik Freeman was a graduate transfer and was the team's leading scorer at 15.4 PPG. 7-0 center Omer Yurtseven (13.8 & 6.8) and guatrd Tori Dorin (13.8 & 6.1) check in as double digit scorers as well, while five others averaged between 5.4 and 8.8 PPG (that group includes PG Johnson, who is averaging 7.4). NC State pushes the pace, averaging 81.2 PPG (32nd) on 47.0% shooting (59th).
Seton Hall: The Pirates are a veteran team that features four senior starters, including Khadeen Carrington (14.9 & 4.5 APG) and leading scorer Desi Rodriguez who averages 17.8 points and 4.9 rebounds. And then there's senior center Angel Delgado (13.3 & 11.6), the Big East's all-time leader in rebounds and just the second player in history to lead the Big East in rebounding in three different seasons. But don't forget sophomore guard Myles Powell who was named the Big East Most Improved Player after averaging 15.4 points per game, second-most on the team.Seton Hall is a solid offensive team, as well (79.0 PPG ranks 57th).
The pick: Seton Hall's loss in the Big East quarterfinal was a heartbreaker, as Carrington converted a three-point play with 11 seconds to play, giving the Pirates a one-point lead, However, Butler's Tyler Wideman scored on a putback with four seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs the win. One wonders just how the Pirates will play here. Uptempo NC State wants an open court game and I think the Wolfpack will win a contest like that. Keatts was a high school coach just a few years ago but has led his team to the NCAA tourney, something Mark Gottfried couldn’t do with Dallas Mavericks star Dennis Smith Jr. on the roster last year. Also, the Wolfpack have notched noteworthy wins over Arizona, Duke, Clemson & North Carolina,. Make NC State an 8* play.
|03-15-18||South Dakota State +8 v. Ohio State||Top||73-81||Push||0||66 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Ohio State (No. 5 seed) against South Dakota State (No. 12 seed) meet in a first-round West Regional matchup Thursday in Boise, Idaho. Yes, Ohio State owns the higher seed and the more recognizable name but South Dakota State has more recent NCAA Tournament experience on its ledger entering this contest. The Buckeyes earned an at-large bid out of the Big Ten with their 24-8 record and will be making their 28th Big Dance appearance overall but their first since 2015 under former coach Thad Matta. Meanwhile, the 28-6 Jackrabbits captured an automatic NCAA bid by winning the Summit League tourney, afterfinishing first in the conference with a 13-1 league record during the regular season. It will be the third straight NCAA Tournament appearance for the Jackrabbits and fifth in the last seven seasons for the program which moved up to the Division I level in just 2005.
South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits are guided by second-year coach T.J. Otzelberger, won their 11th straight game with a 97-87 victory over South Dakota in the Summit League championship game. 6-9 junior forward Mike Daum is the team's best player, leading in scoring (23.8) and rebounding (10.4). Freshman guard David Jenkins Jr. (16.1) and 6-7 Reed Tellinghuisen (12.0 & 4.7) also average in double figures for South Dakota State, while a third guard King, averaged 9.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG. South Dakota State ranks sixth nationally in averaging 84.9 PPG and and shoots 40.3 percent as a team from three-point range (12th nationally).
Ohio State: The Buckeyes have had a stronger-than-expected season under new coach Chris Holtmann (via Butler), finishing in a tie for second in the Big Ten at 15-3 before getting upended by Penn State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament. That 69-68 loss March 2 in New York was the third defeat in five games for Ohio State, which boasts four double-digit scorers, led by 6-7 junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, the Big Ten’s Player of the Year, who averages 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds. SF Jae’Sean Tate (12.5 & 6.2) points), point guard C.J. Jackson (12.2-3.8-3.9) and freshman forward Kaleb Wesson (10.8 & 5.2) also average double digits.
The pick: The Ohio State roster only features seven combined games of NCAA Tournament experience and two combined starts, both by Tate. However, Holtmann guided Butler to the Big Dance in each of his three seasons as the Bulldogs’ coach. Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits are in the NCAA field for the third consecutive year and fifth time in the past seven seasons. They've won 19 of their last 20 games but are looking for their first NCAA Tournament win (South Dakota State is 0-4 all-time in NCAA Tournament play). We all know that a No. 12 seed has beaten a No. 5 seed in nine of the last 10 NCAA Tournaments and 12s have won 11 of the last 24 such first-round matchups overall. The Jackrabbits have covered as an underdog in pre-conference games away from home vs. Iowa, Buffalo, Ole Miss & Wichita State, while narrowly failing to cover as a 4 1/2-point underdog in 112-103 double OT loss at Colorado. The Jackrabbits have covered three consecutive as an underdog in the Round of 64. After suffering first-round losses to Gonzaga and Maryland as a 16th and 12th seeds, respectively, the last two seasons, "the third time may just be the charm." Take the points and make South Dakota State an 8* play.
|03-15-18||Oklahoma +2 v. Rhode Island||Top||78-83||Loss||-104||63 h 42 m||Show|
The set-up: Oklahoma was a highly-controversial selection by the NCAA Tournament, as after a great 2017 part to the current season (Sooners were 12-1 as of Jan. 3, including three wins over ranked teams), Oklahoma went 6-12 (4-11 last 15 after getting bounced from the Big 12 Tournament in the first round) the rest of the way. However, the 18-13 Sooners not only made the field but garnered a No. 10 seed. Oklahoma will meet No. 7 Rhode Island on Thursday in the Midwest Region in Pittsburgh. The 25-7 Rams were the Atlantic 10 regular-season champions (15-3) but were unable to capture a second straight Atlantic 10 Tournament title, losing 58-57 last Sunday to Davidson.
Oklahoma: Freshman Trae Young led the nation in scoring (27.4) and assists (8.8) for this Lon Kruger-coached team that averaged 85.2 PPG (4th). However, while everyone knows what Young can do, it's the rest of the team that will decide if the Sooners can advance out of the first round. Junior guard Christian James (12.1 & 4.3) had been solid with seven straight games in double figures before going scoreless in the Sooner's 71-60 loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament. 6-9 freshman Brady Manek (10.4 & 5.1) is the only other player averaging in double figures for Kruger but he has only scored more than nine points once in the past seven games.
Rhode Island: Redshirt senior E.C. Matthews recorded 20 points and eight rebounds but the Rams lost their second low-scoring game to Davidson in the last two weeks in the Atlantic 10 final. Dan Hurley's team is well-rounded and its starting-five delivers excellent balance. Guard Jared Terrell is the leading scorer (17.2), followed by Matthews (13.1). PG Dowtin adds 9.7 PPG and 5.5 APG plus a fourth guard, Stanford Robinson (9.1 & 5.7) is a defensive specialist. The 6-8 Berry (9.0 & 3.9) is the fifth starter and the 6-9 Langevine (5.9 & 5.7) makes solid contributions off the bench. Rhode Island averages almost 10 points less than Oklahoma at 76.2 PPG. However, the Rams play outstanding defense, allowing 67.9 PPG (61st).
The pick: Young certainly helped the Sooners get this berth, as they are the only team in the field, excluding First Four teams, to make it with fewer than 19 victories. Sure, Oklahoma is a controversial pick and not only did the Sooners go 4-11 SU down the stretch, they were also a money-burning 3-12 ATS in that stretch. However, let's not ignore the Ram's real struggles after the team's school-record 16-game win streak was snapped by St. Bonny on Feb. 16. Rhode Island was just 4-4 SU including that loss to the Bonnies, going 2-6 ATS. Rhode Island faltered in the final three minutes of a pair of losses to Davidson in March (by two points and one point) and that hardly bodes well here vs. an Oklahoma team which will be playing with a YUGE chip on its shoulders. Make Oklahoma an 8* play.
|03-14-18||Canucks +1.5 v. Ducks||Top||0-3||Loss||-138||14 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Anaheim Ducks have dropped outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference in the wake of a three-game losing streak. The 34-24-12 Ducks have 80 points and were on a nine-game point streak at home prior to Monday's 4-2 loss to St. Louis, which dropped them below the top eight teams in the West and behind third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division. The Ducks hope to get back on track tonight when they welcome the 25-36-9 Vancouver Canucks to the Honda Center. Vancouver limps in having lost all four games since rookie sensation Brock Boeser suffered a back injury. The Canucks have been shut out in back-to-back contests and have managed only three goals during the four-game slide since Boeser and his 29 goals were lost for at least a month.
Vancouver: The Canucks' 59 points are better than only Arizona (57) and Buffalo (56) in the entire league. Clearly, the absence of Boeser has stalled the offense and head coach Travis Green acknowledged the team's psyche has been dented by the lack of scoring. "It's going to weigh on them," Green said. Daniel Sedin is second on the team with 47 points (Boeser leads with 55) but has cooled off with one assist in the last five games. His brother Henrik has 43 points, although just two goals.
Anaheim: The Ducks are also struggling to put the puck in the net, having scored just five times during the team's three-game slide. Forward Ondrej Kase (17 goals & 31 points) is in a 'deep freeze,' having been held off the scoresheet in 10 straight contests, following a stretch in which he pumped in six goals in seven games. Center Ryan Getzlaf (10 goals & 51 points) registered an assist in the loss to St. Louis and is riding a six-game point streak, collecting a pair of goals and 11 assists in that span. The Ducks' leading goal scorer is Rickard Rakel (31 goals).
The pick: Anaheim has won its last three meetings over Vancouver by a combined 13-2 margin but entering this game, neither team is scoring. With leading scorer Brock Boeser sidelined for the rest of the season with a back injury, the Canucks lack the offensive depth to threaten playoff contenders. Anaheim is clearly a playoff contender but I'm far from confident after the team's latest efforts. Take the 1 1/2 goals and make Vancouver an 8* play.
|03-14-18||Devils v. Golden Knights OVER 5.5||Top||8-3||Win||100||14 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Vegas Golden Knights won the last three games of the team's five-game road trip (4-0-1) and return home with a 45-19-5 record (95 points). The first-place Golden Knights own a 12-point lead over San Jose in the Pacific Division with 13 games to play, as they prepare to open a four-game homestand against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night. New Jersey had lost four of five before opening a six-game road trip (lasting 14 days!) with a 3-2 shootout victory at Nashville on Saturday, snapping the Predators' 10-game winning streak. The 35-26-8 Devils are holding down the final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference with 78 points, one point behind Columbus and three ahead of the Florida Panthers.
New Jersey: The Devils are struggling to score lately, as New Jersey has scored more than two goals in regulation only twice in the past 11 games and is scraping to find offense from someone other than Taylor Hall (30 goals & 74 points), who has 31 points more than anyone else on the team. However, Hall has been held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games, after collecting at least one point in each of his previous 26 contests. Defenseman Sami Vatanen is doing his part at both ends of the ice in recent games, collecting 12 points over the past 12 games and playing at least 23 minutes 11 times in that span.
Vegas: The Golden Knights are inching closer to a Pacific Division title in their first year of existence (quite a story). Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury allowed two goals or fewer in each of the four victories on the road trip and reached a milestone by becoming the 13th goaltender in history with 400 wins in Monday's 3-2 triumph at Philadelphia. Fleury missed two months earlier in the season after suffering a concussion but has now joined Roberto Luongo and Henrik Lundqvist as the only active goaltenders to amass 400 victories.Fleury's been great (2.15 GGA & .930 SP) but the Vegas offense averages 3.36 GPG (3rd-best), led by four players with 60-plus points. Jonathan Marchessault leads with 65 points and William Karlsson has 62 points, including a team-high 36 goals.
The pick: Vegas is 24-7-2 at home, where the team averages 3.64 GPG. The Devils are struggling right now to score but I still think this games goes "over the total," as the Golden Knights wlll get theirs plus the Devils are a way better offensive team than they have shown lately (look for Hall to get on the scoresheet). Make the Over a 10* play.
|03-14-18||Arizona State v. Syracuse OVER 141.5||Top||56-60||Loss||-110||48 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: To hear the NCAA Tournament selection committee tell it, schools like Arizona State, Oklahoma and Syracuse made the 68-team field before the calendar turned to 2018. That doesn't make sense to me, nor to most people I've talked to, but here we are. Ironically. 20-11 Arizona State, just 8-10 in Pac 12 play before losing a first-round game to Colorado in the conference tourney, will face 20-13 Syracuse in the second of two, First Four games on Wednesday. The Orange were also just 8-10 in league play (the ACC) and own just one win all season against a ranked team, beating Clemson in their last home game of the regular season.
Arizona State: Not much was expected of the Sun Devils this season, coming off a 15-18 season the year before (7-11 in Pac 12 play). However, ASU beat tournament No. 1 seeds Xavier (in Nov.) and Kansas (in Dec.) and rose to No. 3 in the AP top-25 . The Sun Devils reached 12-0 and were the last undefeated team in Division I to lose, before struggling in Pac 12 play. A trio of senior guards have led ASU all season. That group includes Tra Holder (18.4-4.1-3.4), Shannon Evans II (16.6-3,2-3,5) and Kodi Justice (12.6). Freshman guard Martin (9.8) just missed averaging double digits plus the 6-10 Lake (7.3 & 5.3) and the 6-7 Mitchell (5.7 & 5.3) were the team's best frontcourt players. ASU led the Pac-12 with an 83.5 PPG scoring average, finishing 14th in the nation.
Syracuse: Jim Boeheim's in his 42nd-year at Syracuse and will lead his team into the Big Dance for the 33rd time. The Orange were tabbed by NCAA Tournament committee chair Bruce Rasmussen as the last at-large team into the field. They rolled to an 11-2 record during the non-league portion of their schedule but despite finishing in a tie for 10th in its conference, Syracuse proved itself in the eyes of the committee with a top-20 strength of schedule (14th entering Sunday) and four wins against top-50 RPI. Boeheim has three 'iron-man' performers in sophomore guard Tyus Battle (19.8), 6-6 swingman PG Howard (15.0-7.4-5.0) and 6-8 freshman Oshae Brissett (14.7 & 8.8). Battle leads Division I players with an average of 38.5 minutes per game, Howard is second at 38.3 and Brissett is sixth at 38.0. The 7-2 Chukwu (5.4 & 6.8) and the 6-9 Dulezag (5.2 & 4.8) have contributed on and off this season.
The pick: A problem for Syracuse is that the team's top-two scorers, Battle and Howard, come in struggling. Battle has failed to shoot 40 percent from the floor in seven of the last eight contests and Howard has failed to shoot over 30 percent from the floor in four of his last five outings. I favor ASU's trio of senior guards and let's not forget that the Sun Devils not only beat No. 1 seeds Xavier and Kansas but also own victories over NCAA Tournament teams, San Diego State, Kansas State and UCLA. However, how can one really trust ASU after the way it finished? As for Syracuse, Boeheim knows how to win this time of year. Then again, he may just have to beat Bobby Hurley's team at its own game. That means the Over is a 10* play.
|03-14-18||Wizards v. Celtics -1||Top||125-124||Loss||-105||12 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The Toronto Raptors easily handled the Nets 116-102 last night (the team's ninth straight win) and moved four full games ahead of the 46-21 Boston Celtics for the East's No. 1 seed. The Celtics will welcome the 38-30 Washington Wizards to the TD Garden tonight but they will be severely shorthanded. PG Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) is among the four players who will miss the contest while power forward Al Horford is questionable due to illness. Marcus Smart (thumb), Jaylen Brown (concussion) and forward Daniel Theis (knee) will also be in street clothes for a team that has dealt with injuries since losing small forward Gordon Hayward to a broken ankle in the season opener. As for the Wizards, Washington is struggling with five losses in its past seven games after losing 116-111 to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. The Wizards currently own the East's No. 5 seed, two games back of the No. 3 seed but also just two games ahead of the No. 8 seed.
Washington: Markieff Morris (11.4 & 5.8) stood out with a season-high 27 points in the loss to Minnesota, with leading scorer Beal (23.2-4.5-4.6) adding a modest 19. However, Tomas Satoransky continues to play well in place of injured All-Star John Wall (knee) and recorded 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals against the T-wolves. Wall has been out for the last six weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery. He is working out but there's still no target date for a return.
Boston: Theis was ruled out for the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee. He has been a key member of the rotation lately, with averages of 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while recording 48 blocked shots and 30 steals. The Celtics have struggled offensively most of the season (104.4 PPG ranks 20th) and know with mounting injuries, will need to rely on its excellent defense even more. Boston enters the game allowing 100.2 PPG (2nd) on 43.6% shooting (1st).
The pick: These teams engaged in a vicious seven-game playoff series last spring and have split the first two contests of their four-game season series this season, each winning on the other's court. I expect that to change here and look for Boston to win and cover in this one. The Celtics allow just 99.7 PPG at home and that's the key. Make Boston a 10* play.
|03-13-18||Nuggets v. Lakers +2||Top||103-112||Win||100||25 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets finished off a 2-1 homestand with a 130-104 rout of Sacramento on Sunday and at 37-30, remain tied with the Jazz and Spurs for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. Denver is 26-10 at home but the Nuggets will play 10 of their final 15 contests on the road, where they are just 11-20. The first of those 10 road games comes tonight at Staples Center against the LA Lakers. The Lakers may be just 30-36 but after they fell 125-116 at Denver on Friday, they bounced back to roll over the Cavs 127-113 on Sunday at home, improving to 15-7 in their last 22 games.
Denver: If the Nuggets are going to make the playoffs, they will have to perform better on the road. Nikola Jokic notched his seventh triple-double with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in the win over the Kings, as Denver led by as many as 36 points. Long overdue for a blowout like that," forward Paul Millsap told reporters after the Nuggets' most lopsided victory since Nov. 17. PF Millsap (14.4 & 6.3) just returned from a wrist injury on Feb 27 and has averaged 12.3 & 6.6 in his seven games back (Nuggets are 4-3). Jokic (17.2 & 10.4) really stepped up in his absence, as he was the only frontcourt player of note when Millsap was sidelined. However, Denver features a strong trio of guards in Harris (17.8), Murray (16.2) and Barton (15.0-5.0-4.2).
LA Lakers: Los Angeles will be beginning a back-to-back tonight, which also involves a visit to Golden State on Wednesday. Head coach Luke Walton is electing to give standout forward Brandon Ingram (16.2-5.4-3.9), who has missed five straight games with a strained groin, both games off before he is re-evaluated. Julius Randle is averaging 22.4 points with Ingram out and Brook Lopez has posted 21.2 PPG in the same stretch. Randle is now up to 15.5 & 7.7 on the season, while Thomas checks in a 15.9 PPG in his 12 games with LA and the "steal of the 2017 NBA Draft (27th pick)," Kyle Kuzma, averages 15.3 & 6.0.
The pick: The Nuggets are not only just 11-20 SU on the road this year (where they are allowing 110.2 PPG) but they are just 5-16 on the road vs. Western Conference opponents. The Lakers are 6 1/2 games behind the Nuggets, Jazz and Clippers with 16 games left, so it's highly unlikely LA will be playoff-bound this April. However, the Lakers have won seven of their last nine and since losing 106-81 to OKC back on Feb. 8, have topped 100 points in each of their last 12 games, averaging 117.7 PPG! Make LA a 10* play.
|03-13-18||Pistons +8.5 v. Jazz||Top||79-110||Loss||-110||24 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The Utah Jazz have won six straight and 18 of their last 20 games but can't seem to put any distance between themselves and the crowded Western Conference field, behind Houston and Golden State. The 37-30 Jazz are currently tied with the Nuggets and Spurs and sit just a half-game back of the No. 7 LA Clippers (37-29). The Jazz will try to win their seventh straight when they host the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday. The Pistons have been off since snapping a four-game slide with a 99-83 win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday and are sitting in the No. 9 spot in the East at 30-36. However, Detroit enters play on Tuesday five games behind the eighth-place Milwaukee Bucks, with the Pistons having just 16 games left to make up the difference.
Detroit: There was plenty of talk that Blake Griffin would "put Detroit over the top," but that surely hasn't been the case. Griffin is averaging 20.2-6.8-5.8 in his 17 games with Detroit but the Pistons enter this contest having lost 10 of their last 13. Center Drummond (14.9 & 15.8) is a double-double 'machine' but the fact that PG Jackson (14.6 & 5.5 APG) hasn't played since Dec. 26, remains a huge negative. Detroit has fallen off the pace in the postseason race and begins a six-game trip here in Utah, having gone just 9-22 SU away from home this season.
Utah: The Jazz know that they need to avoid the temptation of dwelling on what the other teams around them in the standings are doing. The key is to just concentrate on winning. "Winning feels good: You don't need another reward," Ricky Rubio told reporters. "It's a win, you go home and you feel good about yourself and feel you did a good job. That's why we're doing what we're doing." Rubio collected 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists on Sunday, his second consecutive points-rebounds double-double. Rubio's had a solid season (12.5-4.5-5.3) but the team's fortunes will rest on the shoulders of rookie guard Mitchell (team-best 19.8 PPG) and center Gobert (13.5 & 10.6). The Jazz are 19-4 since Gobert returned to the court back on Jan. 19 .
The pick: The Pistons are not only just 3-10 their last 13 but they are also just 3-10 ATS in that span. They need this game badly. Take the points and make the Pistons an 8* play.
|03-13-18||Avalanche v. Wild -165||Top||5-1||Loss||-165||23 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The 39-23-7 Minnesota Wild had a three-game winning streak snapped in a 4-1 setback at Edmonton on Saturday but they still hold a three-point edge over Dallas for third place in the Central Division (85-to-82). Minnesota is 24-5-6 at Xcel Energy Arena (that's the fewest regulation home losses of any NHL team) and will welcome the 36-24-8 Colorado Avalanche (80 points) to town on Tuesday night. The Avs have made a remarkable turnaround from last season (fewest wins with 22 and fewest points with 48) and Colorado comes in 4-0-3 over its last seven games and now trails Dallas by just two points for the top wild card.
Colorado: The Avs have thrashed the Wild twice in 2018, 7-2 on March 2 and 7-1 back on Jan. 6. However, both games were played in Denver. Nathan MacKinnon kept up his torrid pace by setting up two goals in Saturday's 5-2 win over Arizona, giving him 20 points over his last 10 games and pushing his season total to 81 (note: he has amassed eight points in the last two wins over the Wild!). Linemate Mikko Rantanen (23 goals & 69 points) is on a tear of his own with 13 points over the past seven games, including a goal and three assists in the demolition of the Wild on March 2. However, the Colorado goaltending situation is in flux. Jonathan Bernier (18-11-2, 2.81 GAA & .914 SP) made his return from a three-week absence due to a concussion on Saturday but had to leave Saturday's 5-2 win over the Coyotes when he took a puck to the head. If he cannot go in Minnesota and has to miss time, Semyon Varlamov (18-13-6, 2.85 GAA & .913 SP) should fill the gap in the crease, nicely.
Minnesota; Forward Eric Staal was held off the scoresheet in Edmonton but he has been on a goal-scoring binge, tallying 11 times over the past 10 games to boost his season total to 37 (68 points). Granlund's 57 points are second behind Staal and Zucker's 28 goals are second-best on the team. Charlie Coyle (10 goals & 31 points) followed a 12-game goal drought by scoring in back-to-back contests. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk is 19-3-5 at home with a goals-against average (2.14) that is more than one lower than on the road (3.22), with the latter mark inflated in part by the two losses at Colorado, in which he yielded 11 goals and was yanked each time.
The pick: Both teams are fighting to stay alive in the playoff picture but the edge has to go to the Wild in this one. "I think it's in the back of your mind for sure, they spanked us pretty good twice in their barn," Minnesota forward Eric Staal said regarding his team getting pounded twice this year in Denver. "The big picture, most important thing is the two points, regardless of who we're playing against. But there's a little extra in there because of how we've played the last two games against them in Colorado." The Avs are a sub-.500 team on the road (12-16-6), where they are allowing a whopping 3.53 GPG. I've already noted Dubnyk's home numbers (see above for a reminder) and will add here that the Wild have outscored opponents 3.37-to-2.14 GPG on home ice, so far. Make the Wild an 8* play.
|03-13-18||Pacers v. 76ers OVER 211||Top||101-98||Loss||-110||22 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The Indiana Pacers jumped into third place in the Eastern Conference with a win over the No. 2 Boston Celtics on Sunday but with just 3 1/2 games separating the No. 3 and No. 8 seeds in the East, the Pacers are well aware that there is no rest for the weary. The 39-28 will visit Philadelphia tonight and will try to hold off one of those five teams chasing hem, the sixth-place 76ers, who come in 36-29. The 76ers are only two games behind the Pacers and Philadelphia owns a 13-game winning streak on its homecourt and will play seven of its next nine games at the Wells Fargo Center.
Indiana: The Pacers took advantage of a Celtics team that was missing Al Horford and lost another All-Star, PG Kyrie Irving, during the game. Indiana would hold on for a 99-97 win, a contest that opened a stretch of four straight games against East playoff contenders. Center Myles Turner (13.6 & 7.0) provided the go-ahead basket on Sunday by backing his defender down and is trying to show off his post skills. "It's big. Turner has averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds in the last two games and will be trying to record three straight double-doubles for the first time this season on Tuesday. Turner is one of six Pacers averaging in double digits, led by Oladipo (23.8-5.3-4.3). Oladipo came to Indiana in the Paul George trade, as did Turner's backup, the 6-10 Sabonis. Sabonis averaged 5.9 & 3.6 in about 20 minutes for OKC last season but this year chips in 11.8 & 8.0 in about 25 minutes.
Philadelphia: The 76ers finished up a four-game road trip with a 120-97 thrashing of the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, closing the trip 2-2. "Lately, we have been kind of up and down," 76ers center Joel Embiid, who scored 21 points in 26 minutes, told reporters, "but I'm glad we got a win tonight. We're trying to go to the playoffs, and you have to be able to go on the road and win games." Philadelphia is trying to climb into the No. 3 or 4 spot in the East to ensure homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs and will play 11 of the remaining 17 regular-season games at home (remember, 76ers are on a 13-game home winning streak). The 76ers' "process" is working, as Embiid (23.4 & 10.9) and Simmons (16.3-7.6-7.6) are on their way to stardom. Fellow starters SG Redick (16.6), PF Saric (15.0 & 7.0) and SF Covington (12.6 &) give Philly a starting-five to be proud of. Also, the recent additions of Belinelli (11.5 PPG in 11 games) and Ilysova (9.izx st7 & 5.5 in six games), have also been huge.
The pick: No way I'll buck Philly at home right now but I expect the Pacers to give the 76ers all they want. Philly has averaged 110.9 PPG during its home winning streak so my play is an 8* on the Over,.
|03-13-18||Long Island +4.5 v. Radford||Top||61-71||Loss||-100||21 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The first game of the 2018 NCAA Tourney tips off Tuesday at 6:40 ET from Dayton Ohio, when 18-16 LIU-Brooklyn (NEC) squares off against 22-12 Radford, champs of the Big South. It is a meeting of programs searching for their first NCAA Tournament victory, with the winner moving on to face the East's top seed, Viillanova, Thursday at Pittsburgh.The LIU Blackbirds are on a five-game win streak that includes a 71-61 Northeast Conference championship game upset over Wagner (regular season champ) on its homecourt as a 9 1/2-point underdog. The co-16th seeded Radford Highlanders come in having won their last seven contests, including the Big South title game which they won 55-52 on a three-pointer at the buzzer .
LIU-Brooklyn:The Blackbirds are in the field for the seventh time but for the first time since making it three straight years (2011-13). The team is coached by Derek Kellogg, who is in his first season after spending nine years at UMass, where he took the Minutemen to the Big Dance once. LIU uses a four-guard lineup and all average in double digits, led by the NEC’s second-leading scorer, Joel Hernandez (20.9). He has been the team's go-to player all season and scored 32 points explosion in the championship game victory over Wagner. Senior guard Hernandez also contributes 5.9 RPG and is joined in double digits by fellow guards Clark (17.4), Agosto (11.7-4.1-4.1) and Batts (10.0 & 4.3). Junior guard Raiquan Clark also leads the team in rebounding at 7.1 per game. The 6-8 Van Sauers has been the fifth starter but he contributes only 2.0 & 2.3. However, the 6-7 Coleman adds 6.5 & 6.5 off the bench.
Radford: Freshman PG Carlik Jones drained a long three-pointer at the buzzer to beat Liberty 55-52, giving Radford its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2009. Clark (11.8 & 3.0 APG) is joined by just one other double digit scorer, the Highlanders' 6-5 small forward Ed Polite Jr, who leads the team in scoring (13.5) and rebounding (7.1). However, Polite has made just 5-for-20 from the floor over the last two games. Jones averaged 14.5 PPG in the Big South Tournament (13-5-6 in the title game), while sophomore forward Devonnte Holland contributed 11 points and seven rebounds in the championship game and sophomore guard Travis Fields Jr. averaged 11.5 PPG in the team's last two contests..
The pick: It's an interesting matchup of head coaches, Derek Kellogg of LIU (see above) and Mike Jones, in his seventh season with the Highlanders. He spent time as an assistant under Shaka Smart at VCU and was the architect of the vaunted VCU "Havoc defense" (he was on the bench when VCU made its Final Four run in 2011). Radford's defense is one of the nation's best, allowing 64.4 PPG (14th). However, LIU is embracing its long-shot Cinderella story, with Blackbirds entering the tournament with the second-most losses of any team (Texas Southern is 15-19). No doubt LIU faces a tough Radford defense but the Blackbirds have excellent scorers in Hernandez and Clark, plus those two get some pretty solid support (LIU averages 77.5 PPG). Meanwhile, the Highlanders are a workman-like team that is hardly very efficient on the offensive end, averaging only 67.4 PPG (314th) on 42.6% shooting (279th). We could have another buzzer-beater, as this matchup has all the makings for a close game. Take the points and make LIU a 10* play.
|03-12-18||Canucks v. Kings OVER 5.5||Top||0-3||Loss||-100||15 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The 37-26-5 Los Angeles Kings were pummeled 7-2 by St. Louis at home on Saturday, losing for only the second time in six games. They sit just one point out of third in the Pacific Division with points and also for the second wild card in the Western Conference. However, they begin a three-game stretch versus teams outside playoff contention with this Monday matchup against the visiting Vancouver Canucks, who are 25-35-9. The Canucks were shut out for the sixth time this season Sunday, losing 1-0 at Arizona. Vancouver's 59 points are more than just the Sabres' 56 and Coyotes' 55.
Vancouver: The Canucks come in on a three-game skid, having manged just three goals in that span. That's not too much of a surprise, as the Canucks' 2.65 GPG ranks 25th of 31 teams. Veteran forward Daniel Sedin has cooled off with one point in his last four games but does boast 15 points in the last 14 contests, leaving him with 47 points, behind only injured rookie Brock Boeser (55). Boeser’s back injury has probably taken away his chance to win the Calder Trophy, ut the talented right wing has proved he is a cornerstone of the franchise along with center Bo Horvat. Horvat was the ninth overall pick in the 2013 draft and is three short of his third straight season with 40 points and sits two goals away from equaling his career high of 20 in 2016-17. Left wing Brendan Leipsic, who was picked up from Vegas at the trade deadline, has posted two goals and four assists in his first five games with Vancouver.
LA Kings: The Kings need to rebound from one of their worst performances of the season against the Blues (see above). “I’ll be honest with you, sometimes getting pummeled may be easier than losing 2-1 or 3-2,” captain Anze Kopitar told reporters. “I don’t think a whole lot needs to be said. I’m sure each and every one of us know what we got to do and we have to play harder and with a lot more emotion.” The Kings are third in the league in goals allowed per game (2.54 per) but that was hardly the case on Saturday. Kopitar continues to put up solid offensive numbers with 10 of his team-high 74 points in the last seven games and right wing Dustin Brown is second with 46. Veteran forward Jeff Carter has posted four goals and two assists in seven games since returning from a 55-game absence because of an ankle injury.
The pick: Vancouver has lost all three games since Boeser's injury, combining for three goals but the Canucks were struggling long before Boeser's injury, posting a 4-11-3 record since Feb. 3. However, the Canucks have taken two of three meetings this season with the Kings, including a 6-2 win in the latest contest (Jan. 23 in Vancouver). Three of LA's last four games have gone over and off that 7-2 home embarrassment to the Blues, I see the Kings playing and scoring well in this one. Make the Over a 10* play.
|03-12-18||Heat v. Blazers -7.5||Top||99-115||Win||100||13 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The Western Conference race behind Houston and Golden State features eight teams vying for six playoff berths. There are just 3 1/2 games separating the No. 3 through No. 10 seeds. However, Portland has used a nine-game winning streak to put a little separation between themselves and the rest of the pack. The 40-26 Trail,Blazers currently hold down the No. 3 seed, two games clear of a trio of teams vying for the No. 4 spot and 3 1/2 ahead of three teams tied for eighth. The Blazers welcome the 36-31 Miami Heat to the Moda Center on Monday. The Heat are in a similar battle for position in the East (No. 3 thru No. 8 seeds are separated by 4 1/2 games) and are currently holding down the No. 7 spot, with the third-seeded Indiana Pacers only 3 1/2 games in front of them entering Monday. Miami comes in with two straight wins over teams above it in the standings, most recently crushing the Washington Wizards 129-102 on Saturday.
Miami: The Heat will begin a three-game road trip with this contest, one that continues Wednesday at Sacramento and Friday in Los Angeles against the Lakers. The Heat's win over the Wizards was somewhat tempered by the fact that Dwyane Wade went down with a strained hamstring and does not expect to play on Monday. Wade is averaging 15.7 points in six games this month and the team is 7-5 in 12 games since he was acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The fact that center Hassan Whiteside (14.3 & 11.8) sat out Saturday with a hip issue and is questionable for Monday, makes for more bad news for the Heat. Both players made the trip to Portland but Wade has all but declared himself out of commission for tonight's game.
Portland: The Blazers aren't taking their position as the No. 3 seed for granted, as the squad continues to stay up to date on the teams chasing them in the standings. "I think we're all very much aware of what the standings are and there's not a team in that group 3-10 that has the luxury to get too excited about anything one way or the other," Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told reporters. Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 58 points on Friday as Portland knocked off the defending champion Golden State Warriors 125-108. Lillard is averaging 26.8-4.5-6.5 and McCollum 21.8-4.0-3.2, making for one of the league's best backcourt duos. However, center Nurkic is the only other Portland player in double digits (14.0 & 8.4).
The pick: Portland has been fortunate to face opponents with key players missing this month, including Minnesota (Jimmy Butler), Oklahoma City (Carmelo Anthony) and Golden State (Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala). The Blazers good fortune may continue tonight, as Wade is almost assuredly out and Whiteside may miss as well. That said, don't think the Blazers are no more than lucky. "They're a dangerous team out west," Miamia head coach Spoelstra said. "They have some continuity from the last couple of years. They seem to be gaining confidence. They know who they are. They have a couple of guys (McCollum and Damian Lillard) who can take over in close games. And, they're very well-coached. Terry (Stotts) has done a really nice job with that team. He has developed a program that absolutely fits the strength of that team." In particular, Lillard is averaging 34.7 points and playing some of the best ball of his six-year career over the last 11 games. Portland has taken the last four in the series, including a 102-95 victory at Miami back on Dec. 13. Make the Blazers a 10* play.
|03-12-18||Blues v. Ducks -160||Top||4-2||Loss||-160||14 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The Anaheim Ducks dropped both ends of a two-game road trip, losing 4-2 at Nashville on Thursday and 2-1 at Dallas on Friday. The 34-23-12 Ducks (79 points) are third in the Pacific Division, one point behind second-place San Jose but also just one point from dropping out of playoff position in the West. They are hoping to improve their precarious perch when they host the 36-27-5 St. Louis Blues on Monday at the Honda Center. St. Louis is coming off a resounding 7-2 victory at Los Angeles on Saturday but it was only its second victory in the team's last 11 games (2-7-2). The Blues (77 points) sit three points out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with three teams to pass.
St. Louis: "I thought I was dreaming there with all that offense," goaltender Jake Allen, who suffered shutout losses in three of his previous four starts, told reporters after the game against the Kings. Head coach Mike Yeo reunited the line of center Brayden Schenn, Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz on Saturday for the first time since December and the unit combined for two goals and three assists. Tarasenko had one of each Saturday and leads the club in goals (27) and points (58), after recording three goals and two assists in his last five games. Schwartz (20 goals, 49 points in 48 contests) had a goal and two assists against Los Angeles, giving him two and five respectively in his last five games while Schenn (24 goals, 57 points) has been kept off the scoresheet in the last three contests.
Anaheim: "This time of year, we have (13) games left, every game matters, and I don't think we have any excuses anymore," Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour told reporters Friday after Anaheim let a 1-0 lead midway through the third period slip away in that 2-1 loss at Dallas on Friday. Rickard Rakell (club-high 30 goals) saw his five-game goal streak in which he scored eight times come to an end Friday but he recorded an assist to increase his team-high point total to 59. Ryan Getzlaf (50 points) scored his 10th goal of the season Friday, giving him two goals and 12 points during a five-game point streak. Gibson (25-16-6, 2.49 GAA &.926 SP) is 8-2-1, 1.79, .945 since the All-Star break.
The pick: Sure, the Blues exploded in LA vs. the Kings but how does one ignore the team's 2-7-2 slide? Or, the fact that St. Louis is 5-21-1 in its last 27 trips to Honda Center? The Ducks' Gibson is playing great since the All Star break (reminder above) and he could begin a stretch of starting 12 straight games Monday, with the Ducks' not playing final back-to-back contests until April 6-7 to close the regular season. Make Anaheim an 8* play.
|03-11-18||Stars v. Penguins -148||Top||1-3||Win||100||11 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The 38-24-6 Dallas Stars open a six-game road trip which could be crucial to their playoff chances when they visit the 39-26-4 Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday at PPG Paints Arena. The Stars hope to strengthen their hold on the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference (82 points) and remain within reach of Minnesota (85 points) for third place in the Central Division as they begin this six-game road trip. The Penguins had their three-game overall winning streak snapped in Saturday's 5-2 setback at Toronto but can reclaim first place in the Metropolitan Division with a win here. Pittsburgh has 82 points and the Caps have 83 but are idle.
Dallas: The Stars are coming off a 2-1 home victory of Anaheim in which captain Jamie Benn set up Devin Shore's power-play goal in the third period that forged a tie before scoring one of his own with 5:37 remaining. Benn has 23 goals and 60 points. Center Tyler Seguin notched a pair of assists against the Ducks for his fourth multi-point performance in five games. He leads the team with 64 points (as well as in goals with 36) and has landed on the scoresheet in seven of his last eight contests - collecting seven goals and six assists in that span. Dallas played Friday without defenseman Marc Methot (knee), Mattias Janmark (flu) and Martin Hanzal, who is slated to undergo season-ending spinal fusion surgery that will require a recovery time of six-to-seven months, but welcomed back Radek Faksa (foot) and Esa Lindell (illness).
Pittsburgh: Captain Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist (19 goals and 35 points) scored 68 seconds apart late in the third period to prevent a shutout loss for the Penguins. Bryan Rust, who has recorded a career-high 33 points this season, sat out the loss to the Maple Leafs after suffering a concussion in Wednesday's victory at Philadelphia. Josh Jooris, who was acquired from Carolina at last month's trade deadline, replaced Rust in the lineup and registered one shot in 9 minutes, 42 seconds of ice time in his first NHL game since Feb. 23. Crosby, whose goal on Saturday was his 1,101st point, is four assists shy of 700 for his career. However, he is currently third on the team with 74 points. Malkin leads in goals (38) and points (85) plus Kessel ranks second on the team with 77 points.
The pick: The two-time defending champs are making a late-season push and come in having won 13 of their last 14 at home. Pittsburgh is now 25-8-1 on home ice this season, where the Pens are averaging a healthy 3.62 GPG. The Stars will face four teams firmly entrenched in playoff positions during their stretch away from home, where they have lost three of their last four (just 14-14-3 on the road this season), with their last two defeats being 2-0 shutouts. Make Pittsburgh an 8* play.
|03-11-18||Jazz v. Pelicans +2.5||Top||116-99||Loss||-102||5 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: The 36-30 Utah Jazz are in New Orleans to take on the 38-27 Pelicans. Both teams are right in the middle of a Western Conference playoff race that features eight teams battling for the final six playoff berths. The No. 3 thru No. 10 seeds are separated by just four games, with just six of the eight being able to earn berths behind Houston and Golden State. The Pelicans are currently the No. 4 seed, while the Jazz are currently on the outside looking in on the playoff picture but sitting just a half-game back of the Clippers. who occupy the the and final Western Conference playoff berth.
Utah: The Jazz enter play on Sunday tied with Denver but just a half-game back of the 8th-seeded Clippers and for that matter, just 2 1/2 games back of the fourth-seeded Pelicans. Utah has taken the first two of its three-game trip by a total of 37 points and has won five straight and 17 of its last 19 contests. Utah picked up its 10th consecutive road win with a 95-78 triumph at Memphis on Friday in which it held the Grizzlies to 37.3 percent shooting. Utah managed to find enough offense against Memphis despite star rookie Donovan Mitchell slumping to 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting, just the third time in the last 12 games that he failed to reach 20 points. Mitchell has been a huge factor for Utah this season, averaging a team-high 19.7 PPG. The return of center Rudy Gobert (13.4 & 10.5 RPG) has also been big, as the Jazz are 18-4 since he returned to the court back Jan. 19 on .SF Jae Crowder looks like he's found a home in Salt Lake City, averaging 13.5 PPG in his 11 games with the Jazz.
New Orleans. The Pelicans' 10-game winning streak didn't provide much separation from the rest of the pack in the Western Conference and they badly missed star forward Anthony Davis while watching their winning streak come to an end on Friday. Davis suffered a sprained ankle in a 114-101 win at Sacramento on Wednesday but sat out Friday as New Orleans returned home and watched their winning streak disappear in a 116-97 loss to the Washington Wizards. Guard Jrue Holiday, who had emerged as a second scoring option behind Davis during the winning streak, was held to four points on 2-of-8 shooting without Davis around to draw the defense on Friday. Holiday (19.2-4.3-5.7 on the season), averaged 24.9 points on 52.1 percent shooting and 8.5 assists during the winning streak. The Pelicans hope to have Davis back in the lineup when they host the hard-charging Utah Jazz on Sunday.
The pick: Without Davis (28.1 & 11.2), the Pelicans will have to rely on Nikola Mirotic to fill in the gaps on the frontline against Utah. Mirotic was brought in to replace the previously injured Boogie Cousins (25.2 & 12.9) and in his 14 games with New Orleans, has averaged 15.1 & 8.2, Obviously, having Davis means a lot but I like New Orleans either way and we'll get a much better line (and a margin of error), without him. Make New Orleans a 10* play.
|03-11-18||Warriors v. Wolves UNDER 225||Top||103-109||Win||100||7 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The Golden State Warriors lost for the first time since the All-Star break in a 125-108 loss at Portland on Friday. The defending champions were playing the second night of a back-to-back against the Blazers without star Stephen Curry (26.3-5.1-6.2), who is also not making the trip to Minnesota (ankle). Meanwhile, Minnesota looked like a safe bet for the No. 3 spot in the West but when Jimmy Butler ( 22.2-5.4-5.0) went down with a knee injury that will keep him out until next month and the team's 117-109 loss to the Boston Celtics on Thursday leaves them 2-3 since he's been out of the lineup. Minnesota is currently the No. 6 seed in the West but is just 1 1/2 games ahead of the No. 9 seed (which would leave them on the outside looking in come playoff time) than it is to the No. 3 seed (2 1./2 games back).
Golden State: The 51-15 Warriors are battling the 51-14 Rockets for the top seed in the West and sit a half-game back after both teams fell on Friday. Kevin Durant (26.4-6.7-5.4) is trying to carry the team in Curry's absence and followed up a 37-point effort in a win over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday with 40 on 12-of-21 shooting in Portland on Friday. However, the Warriors aren't just missing Curry, as Andre Iguodala (wrist), David West (arm) and Jordan Bell (ankle) all sat out Friday and are all day-to-day.
Minnesota: "We have to understand how hard and physical you have to play," Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after the loss to Boston. "That's the difference right now in us being a really good team and a good team. I looked at them and the physicality with which they play, it's the difference. We can score. We score plenty. It's the defense. Until we get figured out, it's going to be tough." Minnesota isn't missing much offensively in Butler's absence thanks to the continued progression of forward Nemanja Bjelica. He scored a career-high 30 points in Thursday's setback while going 11-of-16 from the floor, including 6-of-9 from beyond the arc. Bjelica has averaged 12.9 points and 7.9 rebounds in Butler's absence. However, Minnesota misses Butler badly, as he's the team's best defender.
The pick: Both team's have plenty of offensive weapons but Tom Thibodeau’s team was struggling long before the injury to Butler, as the T-wolves come in just 2-9 ATS their last 11. No Curry (and maybe a few more Warriors, as well) plus Minnesota knowing its playoff position is far from safe with Butler out, makes the Under an 8* play in this one.
|03-11-18||Houston v. Cincinnati -4.5||Top||55-56||Loss||-105||7 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the top-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats (29-4) facing the third-seeded Houston Cougars (26-6) in the American Athletic Conference Tournament final in Orlando. The Bearcats are currently ranked No. 8 in the AP poll and the Cougars are ranked 21st. The Bearcats have defeated SMU (61-51) and Memphis (70-60) in their first two games of this event, while the Cougars knocked off UCF 84-56, before riding Rob Gray's 33 points to a 77-74 win over Wichita State (league's No. 2 seed and the AP's 11th-ranked team) on Saturday. This marks Houston's first trip to the AAC title game but the Cougars know they can beat the Bearcats, as they did it as recently as Feb. 15, when Houston Cincinnati's snapped national-best snapped winning streak at 16 games in a 67-62 home victory.
Houston: The Cougars only had seven turnovers in Saturday's win and that proved to be the difference, along with 7-of-15 combined three-point shooting by Gray and Corey Davis Jr. The other three starters for Houston combined for only 13 points, although the 6-6 Nura Zanna (just 2.8 & 3.9 on the season) did register a team-high nine rebounds off the bench. Gray has reached the 30-point plateau in two of his last three games and is averaging 24.7 points over his last six outings. He leads four double digits scorers (18.6-3.3-4.6), joined by guards Corey Davis (13.5) and Brooks (10.1) plus 6-6 forward Devin Davis (10.7 & 6.2). Houston's starting 6-8 forward Breaon Brady (4.5 & 4.4) has gone 10 straight games without attempting more than three shots.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats committed only three turnovers against Memphis, which was critical because the team shot barely above 40 percent from the floor for the second straight game. The 6-8 Gary Clark has averaged 14.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in the tourney and averages 12.8 PPG and a team-high 8.4 RPG on the season. Guard Jarron Cumberland added 18 points versus Memphis after going scoreless against SMU but is one of four Bearcats averaging double digits at 11.0. The other two are guard Evans (12.9-4.5-3.2) and the 6-9 Washington (11.3 & 5.4). Cincy's offense has been off so far in this tourney but Mick Cronin's team always brings its defense. The Bearcats are allowing 57.2 PPG (2nd to UVa) on the season, after allowing an average of 55.5 PPG in wins over SMU and Memphis.
The pick: Both Cincy and Houston are comfortably in the field of 68 (announced later today) but the Bearcats have a chance to make a final statement toward earning a No. 1 seed. Cincinnati has won six in a row since that loss at Houston (that's 22 wins in its last 24 games!) and with only four losses all season, is certainly in the mix to be on the top line when the field is announced. Cincinnati is looking not only to avenge its loss at Houston on Feb. 15 but also the one in last year's tourney final (against SMU), as the Bearcats hope to secure their first league postseason crown since winning the C-USA tournament back in 2004. Wichita State led Houston by three points with 1:45 left on Saturday, before the Cougars scored the game's final five points for the win. No such luck here for Houston. Make Cincy an 8* play.
|03-11-18||Kentucky +1 v. Tennessee||Top||77-72||Win||100||5 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The 23-10 Kentucky Wildcats opened the season as the AP's No. 5 team but with a 10-8 SEC record, came into the conference tourney as just the fourth seed. However, the Wildcats cruised past Georgia 62-49 on Friday to notch their 11th consecutive win against the Bulldogs and then on Saturday, delivered an 86-63 victory over Alabama in the semifinals, their sixth victory in the last seven games (after losing four straight). Kentucky is playing some of its best basketball of the season at the right time and looks to record a fourth consecutive SEC Tournament Championship when it takes on second-seeded 25-9 Tennessee on Sunday in St. Louis. The shots just kept falling for No. 13 Tennessee in the first half of its 84-66 semifinal rout of Arkansas on Saturday. Tennessee hit 11 of its first 12 shots and shot 76 percent overall, in racing out to a commanding 48-29 halftime lead over Arkansas, as the Volunteers won their sixth straight game. Tennessee swept two regular-season meetings with Kentucky, most recently pulling out a 61-59 victory at Rupp Arena on Feb. 6
Kentucky: John Calipari's team is again, packed with freshman. However, it was sophomore Wenyen Gabriel who drained all seven attempts from three-point range on Saturday en route to scoring a career high-matching 23 points in leading the way after the 6-9 forward arrived Saturday averaging just 6.1 PPG. Freshman PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (13.4 & 5.1 APG) is averaging 17 points and 8.5 assists in the SEC Tournament, while 6-7 freshman P.J. Washington (10.8 & 5.5) has contributed 16 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in this event. 6-9 freshman Kevin Knox, who shared the conference freshman of the year honors with Alabama's Sexton, is Kentucky's leading scorer at 15.5 PPG (adds 5.3 RPG). Diallo (10.3) and Green (9.6) are two more freshman contributors but the 6-9 Jarred Vanderbilt, yet another freshman who leads the team with 7.9 rebounds per game, has been sidelined with an ankle injury and has missed both SEC tourney games.
Tennessee: The Vols just edged Mississippi State in the quarterfinals before rolling past Arkansas, reaching their first SEC final since 2009. Tennessee features three double digit scorers on teh season, in teh 6-7 Williams (15.4 & 6.0), 6-5 SF Schofield (13.5 & 6.2) and guard Turner (10.7). The Vols have been a balanced group offensively and received big games from a pair of players outside their top four scorers in the semifinals. Sophomore guard Jordan Bone (7.1) scored 19 on 8-of-11 shooting after 10 straight games in single digits and 6-11 forward Kyle Alexander (5.6 & 5.7) scored 12 against Arkansas after totaling 13 in his previous five contests. Schofield is averaging 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in the tournament while SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams is contributing 11 and eight, respectively, but is just 5-of-17 from the floor.
The pick: This isn't one of Calipari's higher scoring teams (Wildcats average 76.7 PPG to rank 91st) but it is holding opponents to just 40.7% on FGs (24th), including only 29.7% on threes (3rd in the nation!). Kentucky has now won 11 straight games in the SEC Tournament, with the Wildcats' last lost in the tournament coming against Florida back in 2014. "They're growing up," head coach John Calipari said. "The best thing that happened to my team, not me personally, was the four losses in a row. Me, I was ready to jump off a bridge." Meanwhile, Tennessee was picked to finish 13th in the 14-team SEC by the media in the preseason but instead, the Volunteers shared the regular-season SEC title with Auburn and are now headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. Double revenge works here (note: the 59 points Kentucky scored against Tennessee in that Feb. 6 home loss were a season-low for the Wildcats), so make Kentucky a 10* play.
|03-10-18||Magic +11.5 v. Clippers||Top||105-113||Win||100||15 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: Behind the rockets and Warriors, the Western Conference playoff race is a log-jam. Only 4 1/2 games separate The No.3 and No. 10 seeds. The 35-29 Los Angeles Clippers, who have won 12 of their past 17 games, are currently the No. 8 seed (final playoff spot) but are also just 2 1/2 games back of the No. 4 seed, which would earn them a home series. LA is looking to avoid a letdown after recording an impressive 116-102 home victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, with the 20-46 Orlando Magic coming into Staples Center tonight. The Magic have lost 10 of their last 12 games after Friday's 94-88 loss to the Sacramento Kings, dropping them to 0-3 on their current five-game road swing.
Orlando. To add is insult to injury, Orlando is without its top two scorers, power forward Aaron Gordon (18.3 & 8.4) who is out with a concussion and swingman Evan Fournier (17.8), out with a sprained MCL in his left knee. The Magic used their 20th different lineup combination Friday and it didn't go well, as they scored fewer than 90 points for the second time in three games in the six-point loss. Swingman Jonathon Simmons (13.5) played the go-to scoring role and delivered 25 points and six assists to break out of a funk in which he averaged seven points over the previous four games. First-round draft pick, the 6-10 Jonathan Isaac (4.5 & 3.5), made his third start of the season and had only six points on 2-of-8 shooting but he will likely remain in a starting role until Gordon is cleared. Center Vucevic (17.3 & 9.1) is Orlando's best healthy player.
LA Clippers: Many though the Clippers were "throwing in the towel" by trading Blake Griffin to Detroit but the 'joke' looks to be on the Pistons, who have flopped. Center DeAndre Jordan (11.9 & 15.2) dominated the interior with 20 points and 23 rebounds against the Cavaliers and he has three 20-rebound efforts this month while averaging 16.5 points and 19.5 rebounds in four games. Veteran Lou Williams continues to produce career-best averages in points (23.0) and assists (5.5) plus Tobias Harris has averaged 19 & 7.1 in the 14 games since coming from Detroit in the Griffin deal (Blake, we hardly miss ya!).
The pick: The Clippers have won eight consecutive meetings with the Magic by an average margin of 14.1 PPG. However. off beating LBJ and the Cavs, I can see a less than focused LA team struggling to cover this big number. Sure, the Magic are short-handed but they have covered four straight in the 2nd of back-to-back games. Make the Magic a 10* play.
|03-10-18||Marshall v. Western Kentucky -6||Top||67-66||Loss||-110||13 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The C-USA Tourney was left wide-open after regular season champ MTSU was upset on Thursday. The 24-9 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (at 14-2 are the 3rd seed) take the floor tonight in Frisco, Texas to take on the 23-10 Marshall Thundering Herd (at 12-6 are the 4th seed) in the C-USA championship game. Western Ky. advanced with a 57-49 win versus Old Dominion on Friday and Marshall advanced to the title game by upending a stubborn Southern Miss team, 85-75 (Southern Miss had upset MTSU 71-68 in OT on Thursday).
Marshall: The Thundering Herd took a 20 point lead into the break vs. Southern Miss and won by 10. PG Jon Elmore (22.6-6.1-7.0) led Marshall with 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists against Southern Miss. 6-9 freshman Jannson Williams (5.3 & 3.1) followed with 17 points and five rebounds, while Marshall's two other double digit scorers on the season, guard CJ Burks (21.0-4.2-3.1) and the 6-9 Penava (15.5 & 8.5), added 13 and 12 points, respectively. Led by the high-scoring trio of Elmore, Burks and Penava (see above), Marshall averages 84.8 PPG (8th) but the Thundering Herd allow 79.2 PPG, which ranks 325th of 351 Division I teams.
Western Kentucky: The 6-7 Justin Johnson carried the Hilltoppers with 19 points and 13 rebounds on 7-12 shooting in the win over Old Dominion, the league's No. 2 seed. Western Ky. owns great balance, as all five starters average in double digits. Johnson leads in scoring (15.2) and rebounding (9.5), followed by guards Thompson (14.1-4.4-4.8), Hollingsworth(13.5) and Bearden (11.6 & 3.5 APG) plus the 6-9 Coleby (11.2 & 7.8). Marshall shoots very well as a team, connecting on 49.8% from the floor (9th in the nation)..
The pick: Western Kentucky routed UAB by scoring 98 points, then beat C-USA's second seed (ODU) by holding the Monarchs to 49 points on 36.5 percent shooting. During the regular sesson. Western Ky's balanced attack handled Marshall's "three-man gang," with a 112-87 win on the road and an 85-74 win at home. The neutral-site location will not change the result, here. Make Western Kentucky a 10* play.
|03-10-18||Rangers +1.5 v. Panthers||Top||3-4||Win||100||12 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The 30-32-6 NY Rangers have 66 points and find themselves last in the Metropolitan Division, 10 points out of the East's final wild card spot. Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers are 14-3-1 over their last 18 games and at 33-25-7, the team's 73 points now have them just three points shy of that final wild card spot. The Panthers will host the Rangers on Saturday, looking to record a franchise-record eighth straight home win .
NY Rangers: After earning 102 points last season, New York's fortunes have been far from very positive this season. The Rangers have made the playoffs in each of the past seven seasons but appear destined to miss out at this year. They have lost nine of their past 12 games and raised the white flag of surrender last month when they traded many of their stars in exchange for draft picks, young players and hope for the future. Among the players traded away were star defenseman Ryan McDonagh and top-six forwards J.T. Miller, Michael Grabner and Rick Nash. However, Ryan Spooner is making quite the impression as he continued his torrid stretch on Thursday with a goal and two assists. He has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in six games since being acquired from Boston on Feb. 25. Fellow forward Kevin Hayes scored and set up a goal versus the Lightning in a 5-3 Thursday loss, boosting his career-high goal total to 19 this season and his point total to 14 (eight goals, six assists) in his past 14 games.
Florida: The Panthers have sizzled since the All-Star break. Roberto Luongo turned aside all 40 shots he faced in Thursday's 5-0 romp over Montreal to improve his save percentage to .938 in his last 19 games. Evgenii Dadonov and fellow forward Vincent Trocheck each scored and set up a goal, giving the former 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in his past 13 games while the latter has 12 (eight goals, four assists) in that stretch. Frank Vatrano has been sidelined since Feb. 6 with a high-ankle sprain but is expected to make his debut with his new team on Saturday. Vatrano was acquired from the Bruins on Feb. 22 for a third-round pick. Vatrano is expected to be paired on the team's second line with Jonathan Huberdeau (career-best 21 goals) and Trocheck (team-leading 26 goals).
The pick: No doubt that the Panthers are the better (hotter) team right now but the Rangers own a 10-2-2 mark against the Panthers since the start of the 2013-14 season. Also, Henrik Lundqvist (the 2012 Vezina Trophy recipient), sports a 17-5-1 mark with two shutouts in his last 24 appearances versus Florida. Take the 1 1/2 goals and make the Rangers an 8* play.
|03-10-18||Yale v. Pennsylvania -5.5||Top||57-80||Win||100||7 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Ivy League finally "joined the party" with its first-ever conference tourney last year. "The Ancient 8" are back for round two in 2018, as the Ivy League Tournament tips off Saturday at the Palestra, in Philadelphia. 22-8 Penn tied Harvard atop the Ivy League at 12-2 during the regular season but Harvard claimed the No. 1 seed. That means the second-seeded Quakers draw the third-seeded Yale Bulldogs, who may be just 16-14 overall (9-5 in Ivy play) but they also come in having won seven of their last eight games, including an 80-79 home win over Penn on March 2.
Yale: The Bulldogs have five players (four starters and one reserve) contributing between 9.2 and 15.,5 PPG. The 6-7 Oni (15.5-6.1-3.7) is the best of the bunch, followed by fellow starters Copeland (11.4) and Phills (9.8 & 4.3) in the backcourt, plus the 6-7 Reynolds (10.7 & 5.5) up front. 6-10 freshman Atkinson comes off the bench to add 9.2 & 4.6.
Pennsylvania: The Quakers feature four double digit scorers in guards Betley (14.7 & 5.0), Foreman (10.4-4.3-3.6) and Wood (10.1) plus the 6-8 Brodeur (12.6 & 6.9). The Quakers' lone loss in their last six outings was that one point loss at Yale. Penn capped its season with a win over Brown last Saturday, as Betley scored 30 points. Penn is a solid offensive team (76.6 PPG) and a solid defensive one (allows 69.2 PPG).
The pick: Yale was the preseason favorite in the Ivy League and comes in hot. The Bulldogs have averaged 75.2 PPG on the season but have topped 80 points in each of their last four contests (all wins), averaging 84.8 PPG. However, I believe Penn has proven to be the better team this season and in this quick turnaround from a one-point loss at Yale, will use the advantage of playing on its homecourt (11-3 SU on the season, including a 59-50 win over Yale) to win, cover and advance to the championship game on Sunday. Make Penn an 8* play.
|03-10-18||Golden Knights v. Sabres OVER 5.5||Top||2-1||Loss||-110||6 h 46 m||Show|
The set-up: The Vegas Golden Knights opened their inaugural season by setting records for an expansion team and they haven't looked back. The 43-19-5 Golden Knights have 91 points and a 10-point lead in the Pacific Division with just 15 games remaining. Vegas had dropped four of five before blanking the Red Wings 4-0 in Detroit on Thursday. The Golden Knights resume their current five-game road trip (currently 2-1-0) with a matinee against the Buffalo Sabres and with a win on Saturday, would tie Anaheim for the most road wins by an expansion club (19). The Sabres are just 22-35-11 on the season (55 points are an Eastern Conference low) but Thursday's 4-3 shootout win at Ottawa was the team's fourth in its last six games. However, the Sabres own a league-low 10 wins at KeyBank Center.
Vegas: Cody Eakin (9 goals & 23 points) broke out of a lengthy offensive funk by scoring a pair of goals and setting up another in Thursday's win, which came on the heels of a 25-game stretch in which he managed just one tally and one assist. Alex Tuch (13 goals & 30 points) added two goals. Four Vegas players have 60-plus points led by center Marchessault's team-high 65 and center Karlsson's team-best 35 goals. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (23-9-3, 2.19 GAA & .928 SP) registered his third shutout of the season and 47th of his career to move within two wins of becoming the 13th netminder in history to reach 400.
Buffalo: This game marks the opener of a six-game homestand for Buffalo. However, the Sabres learned on Friday that forward Kyle Okposo (11 goals & 38 points) suffered his second concussion in less than a year when he collided with Ottawa's Bobby Ryan in Thursday's win. He will be out indefinitely. Ryan O'Reilly has points in five of his last six games and now ranks second on the team with 50 points. Jack Eichel has team-highs of 22 goals and 53 points. Sam Reinhart has four goals and nine points in his last nine games, giving him 38 points.
The pick: Buffalo's 4-3 shootout victory last night came after a dreadful 5-1 loss at home to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. The Sabres continue to surprise with their recent bounce-back efforts and are now 5-3 in their last eight games. A "typical" Vegas road contest averages 6.18 GPG plus Buffalo allows an average of 3.24 GPG on home ice. The Sabres' last three games have gone "over the total" and I say make that FOUR in a row. The Over is a 10* play.
|03-10-18||Alabama v. Kentucky -3.5||Top||63-86||Win||100||5 h 11 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-10 Kentucky Wildcats opened the season as the AP's No. 5 team but with a 10-8 SEC record, came into the conference tourney as just the fourth seed. However, the Wildcats cruised past Georgia 62-49 on Friday to notch their 11th consecutive win against the Bulldogs and stay on track for the school's fourth consecutive SEC Tournament title. Up next will be the 19-14 Alabama Crimson Tide, who erased a 10-point halftime deficit to shock top-seeded Auburn 81-63 on Friday (the Tide were a modest 8-10 in SEC play, entering the tourney as the 9th seed).
Alabama: Collin Sexton, who was named the SEC Co-Freshman of the Year earlier in the week, continued where he left off after hitting the game-winning floater to beat eighth-seeded Texas A&M on Thursday, by pouring in 31 points in the win over Auburn. Sexton (19.0-3.7-3.6) connected on six 3-pointers and grabbed seven rebounds against Auburn to become the first Crimson Tide player to score over 30 points in an SEC Tournament game since Rod Grizzard in 2002. Dazon Ingram (10.1 & 5.7) added 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists as Alabama exploded for 50 points in the second half to advance to its second conference semifinal in as many years. Donta Hall contributed 11 points and six rebounds but left with 6:41 left in the second half with a head injury. The junior forward is questionable for Saturday's clash, which is not good news for Alabama fans, as he's the team's second-leading scorer (10.9) and leading rebounder (6.8)..
Kentucky: Calipari's team is again, packed with freshman.The 6-7 P.J. Washington (10.7 & 5.4) led the way against Georgia with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor to go along with seven rebounds. PG Gilgeous-Alexander (13.2 & 5.0 APG) scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half and dished out nine assists while the 6-9 Kevin Knox, who shared the conference freshman of the year honors with Sexton and is Kentucky's leading scorer at 15.7 PPG, also added 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds. The 6-9 Jarred Vanderbilt, yet another freshman who leads the team with 7.9 rebounds per game, was sidelined with an ankle injury and is listed as day-to-day going forward.
The pick: This isn't one of Calipari's higher scoring teams (Wildcats average 76.4 PPG to rank 93rd) but it is holding opponents to just 40.8% on FGs (28th), including only 29.6% on threes (3rd in the nation!). Alabama's shocker bver the top-seeded Auburn Tigers likely cemented the Crimson Tide's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011-12. Kentucky has beaten Alabama 16 of the last 18 times (including NINE straight time) and ousted them in semifinals of this tourney last year, 79-74. With Alabama off that YUGE upset over hated Auburn plus playing its third game in three days, Kentucky's 10th straight win over Alabama and its 13th win in its last 14 SEC Tournament games, won't be as close as last year's semifinal win over the Tide. Make Kentucky an 8* play.
|03-09-18||Knicks v. Bucks UNDER 214||Top||112-120||Loss||-107||13 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The 24-41 NY Knicks are a member of "the tanking brigade" but the 34-31 Milwaukee Bucks are in a dog-fight for the East's No. 3 through No. 8 seeds, which are separated by just 4 1/2 games. Milwaukee has lost seven of its last 10 and now own the No. 8 seed but this game with the Knicks begins a stretch in which the Bucks can take advantage of a soft portion of their schedule. After the Knicks, who have lost 13 of 14 leave town, Milwaukee plays at Memphis (18-46) and Orlando (20-45) and then hosts Atlanta (20-45), giving it four straight "sad-sack" opponents!
NY Knicks: New York is just one loss away from clinching its fifth consecutive losing season. The team's 111-87 setback at Portland on Tuesday was its eighth consecutive road loss, a contest in which the Knicks scored just 35 second-half points. The Knicks seem intent on sticking with Emmanuel Mudiay as their starting PG, despite his struggles since joining the team at the trade deadline. Mudiay was 1-for-9 from the floor against Portland, making him 3-for-25 from the floor over this last three games. With Porzingis (22.7-6.6) out for the season, swingman Hardaway (17.0), center Kanter (14.3 & 10.8) and forward Beasley (12.5 & 5.3) are being counted on. It's hard to argue with Kanter's effort, as he has a double-double in 13 of his last 15 games.
Milwaukee: The Bucks do have some margin for error, as they hold onto the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, as they are five full games of the No. 9 Pistons (anyone still think Blake Griffin is a difference-maker?). "We've gotta go out there and play hard and do whatever 10.2-4.8it takes to win these four games" said All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo at Wednesday's practice when asked about the upcoming opponents. Antetokounmpo (27.210.2-4.8) led the way against Houston with 30 points in the team's most recent loss (have dropped six of seven) and he's averaging 28.3 while shooting 54.9 percent at home. He averaged 26 points, 11 rebounds and four assists as the Bucks defeated the Knicks twice in a five-day span last month.
The pick: The Bucks have too much talent not to be able to handle this upcoming stretch. Swingman Middleton (19.7-5.2-4.0) plus guards Bledsoe (17.6-3.9-4.6) and Brogdon (13.3) are now being complemented by Parker, who is averaging just under 21 minutes in his 14 games back, while averaging 11.2 & 4.2. The Knicks are 1-9 SU & ATS since Kristaps Porzingis was lost for the season with an ACL injury in a Feb. 6 loss to Milwaukee. However, while the Bucks may be 'hungry,' one can't ignore the team going just 2-8 ATS its last 10. Milwaukee has also gone under in five of its last six and without Porzingis, the Knicks will help this game stay Under the total (8* play).
|03-09-18||Rockets v. Raptors +2.5||Top||105-108||Win||100||13 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: The Houston Rockets' current play has left no doubt that this team is a legitimate threat to end Golden State's three-year reign atop the Western Conference. Houston pushed its winning streak to 17 in a row with a 110-99 win at the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday but t he team's MVP says the Rockets are not focused on the streak. "We're just out there hoopin'," James Harden told reporters. "We're not worried about wins and losses right now. We're worried about playing the right way on both ends of the floor and that's going to carry over into the postseason." No team is hotter than 51-13 Houston but the Rockets will get a real test tonight at the Air Canada Centre when they visit the 41-17 Toronto Raptors. Toronto became the first team to clinch a playoff spot and brought its own winning streak to six in a row with a 121-119 overtime triumph over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
Houston: Obviously, Harden (30.9-5.2-8.9) and Paul (18.8-5.6-8.1) are paramount to Houston's success but Gordon (18.6) completes the league's highest scoring guard trio plus when center Capela (14.3 & 11.0) is in the lineup with both Harden and Paul, Houston has has lost just once all season. Both Harden and Paul have been singing the praises of the team's supporting players. The Rockets won on Wednesday despite missing power forward Ryan Anderson (hip) and shooting guard Joe Johnson (illness).
Toronto: DeMar DeRozan scored 42 points on Wednesday but passed up the opportunity for the last shot while well defended, instead finding guard Fred VanVleet for the game-winning basket. VanVleet was 1 of 9 before hitting the game-winner! Derozan (24.0-3.9-5.2) and Lowry (16.6-5.7-6.6) are an All Star backcourt duo plus PF Ibaka (12.8 & 6.1) and center Valanciunas (12.0 & 8.3) form a strong inside tandem, as well. Toronto scores like Houston (112.0 PPG ranks 4th) and defends better, allowing 103.3 PPG (6th-best!).
The pick: The Rockets have to lose sometime, right? Many thought Milwaukee might have been the spot but it wasn't. How about right here in Toronto? Yes, Houston has won 17 straight but Toronto is 15-2 in its last 17 and comes in 27-5 SU at home. Make Toronto a 10* play.
|03-09-18||Flames v. Senators UNDER 5.5||Top||2-1||Win||105||10 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: The Flames erased an early two-goal deficit before falling in overtime at two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh on Monday, but did salvage a point in the OT loss. Calgary had dropped three straight away from home to tumble into fifth place in the Pacific Division and 11th in the Western Conference with 15 games remaining. Calgary needed to end a four-game losing streak (0-3-1) and it did just that with Wednesday's 5-1 triumph in Buffalo. The 33-25-10 Flames are involved in a tight battle for the second wild-card spot, as well as second and third place in the Pacific Division. Calgary concludes its three-game road trip Friday at the 23-31-11 Ottawa Senators. Ottawa squandered a pair of one-goal leads Thursday and went on to suffer a 4-3 loss to Buffalo in a shootout. The Senators are just two points ahead of the Sabres, who occupy the basement in the Eastern Conference but have two games in hand.
Calgary: The Flames have dropped nine of 12 since an injury to starting goaltender Mike Smith. They did get a boost on Tuesday when Smith returned to practice after missing time with a lower-body injury, although he was unable to provide a timetable for his return to the lineup. He will remain a spectator as the Flames go with the rookie tandem of David Rittich and Jon Gillies. Johnny Gaudreau notched a pair of assists on Wednesday in what was his 300th NHL game to increase his team-leading point total to 76 (20 goals). Sean Monahan was one of four members of the Flames to record a goal and an assist against the Sabres, ending his four-game point drought, and is one tally shy of matching the career high of 31 he set in 2014-15 (has 30 goals and 29 assists)..
Ottawa: The Senators were in OT in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season, before falling to the Penguins. However,this year's team is 23-32-11 and with 57 points, will be watching this year's playoffs on TV. In fact, Ottawa is just two points ahead of Buffalo, which sits last in the Eastern Conference standings. Captain Erik Karlsson (7 goals and 50 points) notched an assist in the setback, giving him eight points over his last five games, and has not gone more than one contest without a point since Feb. 3 and 4. Ryan Dzingel registered his third two-goal performance of the campaign on Thursday, leaving him one tally shy of his first career 20-goal season (19 goals and 30 points). He one goal behind team leader Mark Stone (20 goals and 42 assists), who notched an assist against the Sabres to extend his point streak to 10 games. Stone has collected two goals and 13 assists during his run and is two points away from tying the career high of 64 he set in 2014-15.
The pick: The Flames are expected to start goaltender Dave Rittich, who made 25 saves during the slump busting win in Buffalo before losing his shutout bid with 17.2 seconds left on the clock. With Ottawa playing the second of back-to-back games, Senators coach Guy Boucher will likely start Mike Condon between the pipes. The Flames are an impressive 19-10-6 on the road on the season but before getting five goals at Buffalo (Weds.), had scored just six goals in their 0-3-1 skid. Make the Under a 10* play.
|03-09-18||Texas State +11.5 v. UL-Lafayette||Top||54-80||Loss||-100||6 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: It's early afternoon college basketball action Friday from Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, when the 9th-seeded Texas State Bobcats and the top-seeded Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns square off in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Men’s Championship. The Bobcats improved to 15-17 (7-11 Sun Belt) on the season after defeating the 8th-seed Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 73-66, this past Wednesday in the 1st round of the tourney. The Ragin’ Cajuns finished their regular season with an overall record of 26-5 and earned the top-seed in the Sun Belt Tourney with a conference record of 16-2.
Texas State: The held a 32-28 lead at halftime against the Chanticleers and the, after opening a 52-36 lead, eased to a seven-point win. Texas State shot just 38.6% from the floor (including 25.9% on threes) but the Bobcats were outstanding at the charity stripe, making 22 of 26 of their free-throws. 6-5 guard Pearson led the way for the Bobcats with 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and a steal. He's the team's leading scorer on the season (15.2-6.0-2.4) for a team which averages only 66.8 PPG (318th). Five others chip in between 5.8 and 9.0 PPG, including the team's best inside player, the 6-8 King (9.0 & 6.0) and PG Nottingham (7.8 & 2.6 APG). Defensively, Texas State is holding opponents to an average of just 65.4 PPG, which ranks 25th in the nation.
UL-Lafayette: The Ragin’ Cajuns were outstanding throughout the year and picked up a nice win against Iowa at the beginning of the season. Unlike Texas State, ULL averages 84.0 PPG (14th). Guard Bartley (17.4) and the 6-8 Gant (14.7 & 6.2) lead the way for four double digit scorers, with the offense being run by PG Stroman (6.5 & 6.3 APG).
The pick: ULL won at Texas State 80-55, during a streak of 10 consecutive wins SU & ATS. However, after losing to Georgia State on Feb. 18, the Rajin' Cajuns ripped off six straight wins before falling in the team's regular season finale (at home, no less!), 72-61 in OT vs. Littlle Rock, the Sun Belt's worst team (4-14 in SBC play). Meanwhile, Texas State's win over Coastal Carolina snapped a nine-game losing streak but while the Bobcats don't score much, the team's style of play helps keep most games low scoring (remember, Texas St. allows just 65.4 PPG). I guess a bounce-back should be expected by ULL but this is a lot of points and ULL knows it must win this tourney or head off to the NIT (no at-large bids come out of the Sun Belt). ULL has bigger fish to fry and will advance but not cover vs. Texas State. Make Texas State a 10* play.
|03-08-18||Butler v. Seton Hall OVER 148.5||Top||75-74||Win||100||14 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: Both 19-12 Butler and 21-10 Seton Hall have spent time in the AP's top-25 this season but will square off Thursday in quarterfinal action in the Big East Tourney at Madison Square Garden unranked. The two teams met just six days ago (to close their respective regular seasons), as Seton Hall won 77-70 on Saturday at home to complete a sweep of the season series Butler. The Pirates are the Big East's three-seed (10-8), while the Bulldogs are the six-seed (9-9).
Butler: The 6-7 Kelan Martin (21.2 & 6.4) was one of three unanimous selections to the All-Big East first team and is a contender for Player of the Year honors. Sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin was not honored by the league despite averaging 15.0-4.9-3.2 assists, including scoring in double figures in each of the first 14 Big East games. Guard Jorgensen (10.7 ) and the 6-8 Wideman (9.4 & 5.2) are two other major contributors.
Seton Hall: The Pirates start four seniors plus a sophomore. The "core four" includes 6-6 senior Desi Rodriguez (18.1 & 5.0) and the 6-10 Delgado (13.4 & 11.6) up front, along with a pair of guards in sophomore Powell (15.6) and senior Carrington (14.8-3.1-4.5) in the backcourt. Rodriguez missed the final three regular season games with a sprained knee but is expected to suit up Thursday.
The pick: The Bulldogs did not close the regular season strong with losses in five of seven, which cost the team a top-four finish. Butler hopes it can win here, for the school's first Big East Tournament victory, after first-game losses in its first four years in the conference. A quick turnaround with Seton Hall may be just what the doctor ordered, especially with the Bulldogs playing with double-revenge. Then again, Carrington and Delgado have enjoyed great success against the Bulldogs this season and in their careers. Carrington has put up 54 points and eight assists while making 15-of-30 from the floor and 10-of-14 from the three-point line in two games this season, plus has scored in double figures in seven of eight games with the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, Delgado has five double-doubles in the series, including 49 points and 25 rebounds this season. I say make the Over an 8* play.
|03-08-18||Celtics v. Wolves OVER 214||Top||117-109||Win||100||13 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics are 5-1 since the All-Star break but will enter Thursday's action trailing first-place Toronto by 2 1/2 games in the Eastern Conference. Boston wraps up its three-game road swing tonight in Minnesota against the Timberwolves and Kyrie Irving (24.8 & 5.1 APG), who missed Monday's contest against the Bulls due to a sore left knee, was able to go through 75 percent of Wednesday's practice. Reports now are that he will play. Irving is averaging 25.1 points, 6.0 assists and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 44.1 percent from three-point range over his last nine games. The T-wolves know all about being without an All Star performer, as Jimmy Butler (22.2-5.4-5.0) underwent successful meniscus surgery on his right knee and is considered out indefinitely. Minnesota won the first two games without him but has since suffered back-to-back road losses to fellow playoff contenders Portland and Utah.
Boston: The 45-20 Celtics rolled over the Chicago Bulls 105-89 without Kyrie. Jaylen Brown (14.1 & 5.2) scored 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting against the Bulls, while Shane Larkin stepped into the starting lineup in Irving's place and went 3-for-3 from three-point range in 16 minutes. Forward Al Horford chipped in 13 points while shooting 6-of-8 from the floor after going 13-of-42 in the first five games out of the All-Star break. Horford has been Boston's "unsung hero" this season, averaging 12.8-7.5-4.9. Boston's defense has kept the team at or near the top in the East this year, despite losing prized free agent Gordon Hayward in the season's first game. Boston is allowing 100.1 PPG (2nd), while holding opponents to 43.5% shooting, as well as 33.9% on threes (both rank 1st in the NBA!).
Minnesota: Already short-handed with Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns (20.4 & 12.2) and PG Jeff Teague (13.7 & 6.9 APG) were both lost to ejections in a 116-108 road loss to the Jazz on Friday. However, Minnesota is back at home (25-7 SU on the season at the Target Center) and also gets a full five days of rest following the loss to Utah. The 38-28 Timberwolves enter play on Thursday sixth in the West, just 1 1/2 games out of third place but also just 2 1/2 up on the eighth-place LA Clippers. Minnesota is relying on its starting unit as much as ever since losing Butler, who is irreplaceable. Forward Nemanja Bjelica (6.1 & 3.5) has moved into the starting lineup and he is averaging 10.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game
The pick: The Timberwolves are 25-7 SU at home but the Celtics are 21-9 SU & ATS on the road, a record bettered by only the Rockets and Warriors. Boston's offense has averaged 114 points per 100 possessions with Irving since the All Star break plus Minnesota has gone over in nine of its last 11 games. Make the Over a 10* play.
|03-08-18||Sabres v. Senators -150||Top||4-3||Loss||-150||12 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The 23-32-10 Ottawa Senators concluded their 2-2-0 road trip with a 3-2 overtime win at Dallas on Monday. Captain Erik Karlsson recorded his third multi-point performance in four games, setting up a goal before scoring the winner 2:41 into the extra session, as the Senators tied Montreal for the fewest road wins in the conference (nine). The Senators will welcome the 21-35-11 Buffalo Sabres to town, who come off a 5-1 home loss to Calgary on Wednesday. Buffalo's 53 points leaves therm in the Eastern Conference 'basement,' three points shy of the Senators' total of 56.
Buffalo: Danny O'Regan, who was acquired from San Jose in the deadline-day deal for Evander Kane, was recalled from Rochester of the American Hockey League on Wednesday but was not in the lineup against the Flames. The 24-year-old German-born center, who notched four assists in 19 games with the Sharks this season, was a linemate of Jack Eichel (Buffalo's top scorer with 22 goals and 53 points) and Evan Rodrigues (just 16 points on 35 games) at Boston University. Kyle Criscuolo, who was recalled on Sunday to fill in for the injured Rodrigues, who will miss four-to-six weeks after suffering an upper-body injury in Monday's win over Toronto. Will O'Regan make much of a difference? Casey Nelson scored his second career goal with 18 seconds remaining in the third period to help the Sabres avoid being shut out for the sixth time this season last night. Scott Wilson notched an assist, giving him 11 points in 34 games with Buffalo after being kept off the scoresheet over 20 contests with Pittsburgh and Detroit earlier this campaign.
Ottawa: Mark Stone set up a goal on Monday, giving him two goals and 12 assists during his nine-game point streak. The 25-year-old right wing leads the team with 61 points, three shy of the career high he set in 2014-15. Marian Gaborik returned to the lineup Monday after missing two games with an undisclosed injury but saw his point drought reach seven contests after registering a goal and an assist in his team debut on Feb. 15 against Buffalo. RW Bobby Ryan (just 27 points in 45 games) has recorded five points over his last three games and is one away from 500 for his career.
The pick: The Sabres are tied with the Arizona Coyotes for the fewest points (53) in the NHL. Buffalo head coach Phil Housley said he wasn't happy with the way his team let the Flames get to the net on Wednesday night. The game was a letdown for the Sabres, who had won three of four games heading into their game against the Flames, including wins over the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs, all playoff teams in the Atlantic Division. Counting on the Sabres is a risky proposition and I'm not interested. The Senators are going nowhere this season but here's a chance for them to put some distance between themselves and the Eastern Conference basement. Remember, this team was in OT in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season, before falling to the Penguins. Make Ottawa an 8* play.
|03-08-18||Duquesne +2 v. Richmond||Top||68-81||Loss||-102||11 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: It's A-10 conference tournament second round action on Thursday from Capital One arena in Washington DC, as the 16-15 Duquesne Dukes take on the 11-19 Richmond Spiders. Duquesne had the better overall record but the Spiders went 9-9 in A-10 games (Dukes were just 7-11), so Richmond comes in as the seven-seed while Duquesne is the 10-seed. The Dukes finished their non-A10 schedule with a 9-4 mark but after opening 3-0 in A-10 play, finished by losing nine of their 11 league games. The Spiders started the year 2-10 (only wins over UAB and James Madison) but after a 1-3 start in A-10 play, won five straight and six of seven. Richmond did lose five straight in league play but finished with back-to-back wins to wind up at .500.
Duquesne: The Dukes use a four-guard lineup with all averaging in double figures. 6-5 freshman Williams leads in scoring (14.5) and rebounding (8.9), joined by Lewis (14.4), Castro-Caneddy (13.2) and Smith (12.5). The Dukes don't score all that well (72.2 PPG ranks 215th) but they do hold opponents to 69.8 PPG (108th).
Richmond: The Spiders don't score much either (71.3 PPG ranks 244th) but allow about six points more than the Dukes (75.6 PPG ranks 251st). The 6-10 Golden (16.0 & 6.60 is the etam's leading scorer but is joined by four guards who all average in double digits. That quarter includes the team's top rebounder in Buckingham (7.1 RPG) and top playmaker, Gilyard (4.1 APG).
The pick: The teams met just once during the regular season, with Richmond winning on the road, 77-73 in OT on Jan. 24th. Richmond connected on 49.1% from the floor in that win, something I don't expect will be repeated. History favors Richmond in this matchup (Spiders are 17-4 ATS the last 21 matchups) but my gut is saying Duquesne. Make the Dukes a 10* play.
|03-07-18||Pelicans v. Kings UNDER 224||Top||114-101||Win||100||23 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: The New Orleans Pelicans rode Anthony Davis' 41 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots to a 121-116 victory Tuesday night in LA vs. the Clippers. It was the team's ninth consecutive victory and New Orleans will now go for a 10th straight win tonight in Sacramento, which tie a franchise record set back in the 2010-11 season, when the team was led by Chris Paul. The Western Conference playoff race is a log-jam, as the No. 3 through No. 10 seeds are separated by just 4 1/2 games. The 37-26 Pelicans currently own the No. 4 seed but only lead the Clippers, who are currently 9th and on the outside looking in on the playoff picture, by just three games. The 20-44 Sacramento Kings are not part of the Western Conference playoff race, as they sit 15 back of the 8th-seeded Nuggets. The Kings come in having won two of their last three games and haven't played since Sunday, when they defeated the New York Knicks 102-99.
New Orleans: Anthony Davis (28.3 & 11,2) has been a dominating presence over his last 13 games, averaging 34.5 points while scoring 40 or more on six occasions and falling two points short two other times. Guard Jrue Holiday (19.4-4.4-5.7) fell one point shy of his ninth straight 20-point effort but contributed a career-best 17 assists against the Clippers and made a key late-game steal on guard Lou Williams. Holiday is averaging 25.1 points and 8.6 assists during the winning streak and has picked up some of the scoring slack after All-Star DeMarcus Cousins (25.2 & 12.9) suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Let's also not forget Mirotic's contributions, as the former Bull is averaging 14.8 & 7.8 in 12 games since the trade.
Sacramento: The Kings are off a home win over the Knicks this past Sunday but have not won consecutive home games since a three-game run in November. It's the only time Sacramento has backed up victories at the Golden 1 Center all season in a campaign that has been viewed as a start from Ground Zero for the franchise. The Kings have been mostly piling up losses while giving heavy minutes to youngsters. Second-year forward Skal Labissiere (right knee) is listed as questionable after being the hero for the first time in his NBA career during the victory over the Knicks. He ad-libbed on a play designed for Bogdan Bogdanovic or De'Aaron Fox to take the clutch shot but instead of passing the ball, he looked toward the basket and drained a three-pointer with 2.6 seconds for the first game-winning basket of his NBA career. Labissiere averages 8.4 & 4.6 in just under 20 MPG. The Kings have five double digit scorers, led by veteran PF Randolph (14.8 & 6.9). However, SG Hield (12.7), center Cauley-Stein (12.6 & 6.9) and rookie PG Fox (11.6 & 4.3) are expected to the team's future.
The pick: The Pelicans come in on a nine-game winning streak in which the team is averaging 126.2 PPG, so one understands why this over/under number is in the mid-220s. However, the Kings are the league's second-lowest scoring team (99.2 PPG) and a "typical" Sacramento home game has averaged just 208.1 PPG this season. The Kings are well-rested (haven't played since Sunday) and just may give the Pelicans some trouble. The play is a 10* on the Under.
|03-07-18||Flames -135 v. Sabres||Top||5-1||Win||100||21 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: The 32-25-10 Calgary Flames have 74 points and remain in the playoff hunt, just three points back of the West's final wild card spot. The Flames erased an early two-goal deficit before falling in overtime at two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh on Monday, but did salvage a point in the OT loss. Calgary has dropped three straight away from home to tumble into fifth place in the Pacific Division and 11th in the Western Conference with 15 games remaining. Calgary needs to end a four-game losing streak (0-3-1) tonight, when it resumes a three-game road trip at the Buffalo Sabres. The 21-34-11 Sabres are mired in last place in the East and the team's 53 points is better than only the Coyotes' 51 points, out West. However, Buffalo has won three of its last four, knocking off the top-three teams in the Atlantic Division in that span.
Calgary: The Flames have dropped nine of 11 since an injury to starting goaltender Mike Smith. They got a boost on Tuesday when Smith returned to practice after missing time with a lower-body injury, although he was unable to provide a timetable for his return to the lineup. He will remain a spectator as the Flames go with the rookie tandem of David Rittich and Jon Gillies. Johnny Gaudreau leads the Flames in scoring with 74 points (20 goals, 54 assists).
Buffalo: The Sabres had one of their better efforts of the season in a 5-3 victory over the Maple Leafs on Monday. They were in control throughout the game and received an outstanding performance from backup goalie Chad Johnson (38 saves / .927 SP). Sam Reinhart was one of four Buffalo players with a goal and an assist in Monday's win, as he continued his second-half revival. Since returning from the team's bye week in mid-January, Reinhart has amassed 23 points in 22 games after collecting 13 through the first 44 contests. Center Jack Eichel leads the team in goals (21) and points (53).
The pick: Despite Buffalo's "mini-resurgence" (see above), the Sabres remain a poor 10-18-4 on home ice, where they are allowing 3.19 GPG. In contrast, the Flames are an impressive 18-10-6 on the road on the season. Make Calgary a 10* play.
|03-07-18||Oklahoma v. Oklahoma State||Top||60-71||Loss||-103||20 h 8 m||Show|
The set-up: Oklahoma limped to the finish line in Big 12 play, losing seven of their last nine games to finish 18-12 overall, including 8-10 in league play. Amazingly, most bracketologists have the Sooners safely in the NCAA Tournament despite the late swoon. I'm not sure I get it. The Sooners will meet 18-13 Oklahoma State (also 8-10 in Big 12 play) in this first-round Big 12 Tourney but their " Bedlam rivals" surged to the finish line by winning three of their last four, including upsets of Texas Tech (79-71) and Kansas (82-64) when each of those opponents were ranked No. 6 in the AP poll at the time of those games!.
Oklahoma: Trae Young leads the nation in both scoring (27.5) and assists (8.9) but he suffered an injured left hip in a 87-64 loss at Baylor on Feb. 27. He missed most of practice last Thursday but returned to play 32 minutes in a 81-60 victory over Iowa State on Friday, finishing with 15 points on just 5-of-19 shooting and dishing off six assists to go with three steals and two turnovers. "I never want to sit out anything," Young told the Tulsa World after watching the Sooners' practice on Sunday. "It's tough sitting out today, but it's best for me and my body, and it'll be better for me for Wednesday, too." Junior guard Christian James (12.5 & 4.4) and 6-9 freshman forward Brady Manek (10.4 & 5.2) also average in double digits for the Sooners, who rank fourth nationally in scoring (86.0) and have scored 90 points in 12 contests. However, Oklahoma ranks last in the Big 12 and 337th out of 351 Division I teams in scoring defense, allowing an average of 82.0 PPG.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys celebrated Senior Night with a court-storming upset of Kansas, sweeping the regular-season series with the Big 12-champion Jayhawks and all but cementing an NCAA berth. Senior guard Kendall Smith, who began his career at UNLV and then played two years at Cal State Northridge before moving on to Stillwater, finished with 25 points. He ranks second on the team in scoring (12.9) and has totaled 21 or more points in three of the last five games. 6-6 senior swingman Jeffrey Carroll leads the team in scoring (15.1) and is second in rebounding (5.9), while six other Cowboys average between 5.4 and 10.0 PPG. That group includes the 6-8 Solomon (8.3), who also leads the team in rebounding at 6.4 per.
The pick: This marks the 236th meeting between the two schools, with Oklahoma having won eight of the last 11. Despite what the bracketologists are saying, the Sooners have to be thinking that a loss here, which would make them 2-8 their last 10, could cost them an at-large bid. Also, Young could be a man on a mission after getting snubbed by Big 12 coaches for conference-player-of-the-year honors which went to Kansas senior Devonte' Graham. Make Oklahoma an 8* play.
|03-07-18||Louisville v. Florida State||Top||82-74||Loss||-110||13 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The 19-12 Louisville Cardinals and the 20-10 Florida State Seminoles are the 9th and 8th-seed teams, respectively, in the ACC tourney. Their records were good enough to earn them a bye into the second round (Cards and Seminoles were both 9-9 in league play) and they will square off at high noon ET on Wednesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The teams split the season series this year, with each winning on the road. The winner of this contest may not stay around for long in this tourney, as up next will be the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers on Thursday.
Louisville: The Cardinals started the year 10-3 but their three losses entering conference play came against the better competition, including Kentucky, Seton Hall and Purdue. The Cards got off to a strong 5-1 start to the ACC season but fell back to earth after losing four of five, then losing four of five again to close out the regular season. 6-7 junior swingman Deng Adel was an honorable mention All-ACC selection. He is riding a streak of 22 straight double-digit scoring outings and checks in averaging . The 6-10 Ray Spalding (12.0 & 8.8) is also an honorable mention All-ACC performer. PG Quentin Snider (12.2 & 4.0 APG) is the team's third double digit scorer.
Florida State: The Seminoles got off to a strong start of their own, opening 9-0 and were 11-1 to enter conference play with a win over Florida on the road (their lone defeat coming against Oklahoma State). However, consistency was an issue for FSU, as the Seminoles never got more than one game above .500 in ACC play, despite posting a three-game winning streak in late January. Terance Mann (13.3 & 5.7) is one of three double digit scorers for FSU and earned honorable mention All-ACC honors this season. He's joined by fellow guard Angola (13.0) but note that three other backcourt palyers chip in between 7.5 and 8.7 PPG. The 6-8 Cofer (13.2 & 5.2) had a breakout senior season and is joined up front with some real size in the 7-4 Koumadje (7.5 & 4.7) and the 6-9 Kabengele (7.0 & 4.4).
The pick: This may be Leonard Hamilton's best offensive team ever in his stay at FSU, as the Seminoles have scored 80 or more points 17 times this season are averaging 82.0 PPG (29th). Louisville's No. 9 seed is the school's lowest in a conference tournament since its No. 11 seed in the 2006 Big East Tournament. The year began badly for Louisville (remember a coach named Rick Pitino?) and it ends with a thud, right here. Make FSU a 10* play.
|03-06-18||Pelicans +3 v. Clippers||Top||121-116||Win||100||15 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pelicans lost 112-103 to the Clippers in New Orleans back on Jan. 28, beginning a stretch in which they would lose five of six games. Back then, they had the look of a defeated team, having just lost DeMarcus Cousins (25.2 & 12.9) for the season. However, the Pelicans come to Los Angeles for Tuesday's rematch with the Clippers at Staples Center under very different circumstances. An eight-game winning streak (the team's longest in over seven years) has vaulted Alvin Gentry's 36-26 team into fourth place in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the 34-28 Clippers are in ninth place in the West but only two games behind New Orleans (note: The West's No. 3 through No. 10 seeds are currently separated by just four games!).
New Orleans: With Cousins out, Anthony Davis (28.01 & 11.1) has thrust himself into the MVP debate with a torrid stretch in which he owns a double-double in each of the Pelicans' eight straight wins (37.3 & 14.8). However, Jrue Holiday's improved play has also been just as important during New Orleans' surge. Holiday (19.4-4.4-5.6) is averaging 25.9 points on 55 percent shooting during the winning streak. Let's not forget Mirotic's contributions, as the former Bull is averaging 14.9 & 7.8 in 11 games since the trade. The Pelicans are averaging 126.8 PPG during their eight-game win streak.
LA Clippers: The Clippers are hardly "going quietly" after trading Blake Griffin to Detroit. In fact, LA is averaging 120.4 points over its last eight games, going 6-2 in that stretch. The team's only only defeats in that run? To the Warriors and Rockets. Austin Rivers (15.7) scored 27 points in a 123-120 win over Brooklyn on Sunday, the sixth time in the last seven games that Los Angeles has produced at least 122 points. Veteran guard Lou Williams is averaging a career high in points (23.1) and assists (5.4) this season and center Jordan (11.8 & 15.0) is a double-double machine. Then there is Tobias Harris, who is averaging 19 points on 48.3 percent shooting and 6.8 RPG in 12 games since being acquired from Detroit.
The pick: Both teams are 'lighting it up' but I'm not stepping in front of the Pelicans' 'train' (8-0 SU & 7-1 ATS run). Davis continues to be the catalyst, earning Western Conference Player of the Week honors with an average of 34 points in his last three games and 15.3 rebounds, while shooting 50.7 percent from the floor. Make New Orleans a 10* play.
|03-06-18||Rockets v. Thunder OVER 222||Top||122-112||Win||100||12 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: The 49-13 Houston Rockets are a half-game ahead of the 49-14 Warriors for the NBA's best record and will take a 15-game winning streak into their game tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City against the 37-28 Thunder. The team's 123-120 home win over Boston last Saturday tied the Rockets' current streak with two others established in both 1992-93 and 1993-94, seven shy of the franchise mark of 22 established in 2007-08. Meanwhile, the Thunder are in the middle of an eight-team battle for six spots in the West (No. 3 thru No. 10 seeds are separated by just four games) but they sunk to seventh in the conference after falling 108-100 at Portland on Saturday. They've won five of seven overall but all five wins have come against some of the worst teams in the NBA and it's hard to overlook the fact that Oklahoma City has not defeated a winning opponent since Feb. 6!
Houston: Although it was another high-scoring affair Saturday night in the 123-120 win over Boston, Houston players were proud of the defensive work they did on key possessions down the stretch. Eric Gordon (18.7) led with 29 points in 27 minutes, while Harden (31.2-5.2-8.9) collected 26 points and 10 assists. Paul (18.8-5.6-8.1) joins Harden and Gordon to give the NBA's second-highest scoring team (114.0 PPG) a devastating trio of guards. Four other players average in double figures for Houston, including center Capela (14.5 & 11.2) and the veteran Gerald Green (11.5 PPG in the games since being acquired off waivers).
Oklahoma City: The Thunder know all about "Trios," as they added Paul George (22.3 & 5.6) and Carmelo Anthony (16.9 & 6.0) in the off-season to join reigning MVP Russell Westbrook (25.7-9.7-10.2). OKC is coming off a loss to Portland in which Westbrook scored 30 points but he needed 31 shots to get there. Meanwhile, fellow All-Star Paul George missed all seven of his three-point attempts. Carmelo Anthony was given the night off and returns to the court needing only six points to pass Hall of Famer Jerry "the Logo" West (25,192) and move into 20th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
The pick: The last time the Houston Rockets visited the Oklahoma City Thunder (back on Christmas Day) the Thunder defeated the Rockets 112-107 with Houston's Chris Paul sidelined. It was the third consecutive loss for Houston in a stretch where it lost seven of nine games.In contrast, for OKC it was a fifth consecutive victory in what wound up being a six-game winning streak. However, much has changed since then. The Rockets have won 15 straight games since Jan. 28, while the Thunder have gone 8-8 since Andre Roberson's season-ending injury in late January. Houston will likely relish the role of "the revenger" and with Thunder now minus defensive ace Andre Roberson, Houston's offense will be tough to slow down. However, I expect Westbrook, George and Anthony to rise to the challenge and while I won't trust an OKC team that is on a current 4-11 ATS run, I will make the Over an 8* play.
|03-06-18||Canadiens v. Devils -160||Top||4-6||Win||100||11 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: The 33-25-8 New Jersey Devils are currently holding down the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference with 74 points but seemingly every time it appears safe to pencil the Devils into one of the East's postseason slots, the club takes a downward turn. New Jersey has managed only five goals during its three-game losing streak and tonight looks to avoid ts fourth losing streak of at least four games since the Christmas break when the Devils host the Montreal Canadiens.The 25-29-11 Canadiens have dropped off the map this season, following winning the Atlantic division last year with 103 points. The team's 61 points in 2017-18 currently leaves them 10 points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. However, the Canadiens have dominated the series with the Devils, winning five consecutive games and have earned points in six straight (5-0-1) in New Jersey.Montreal: The Canadiens are 3-0-4 over their last four learned on Monday that team captain Max Pacioretty will miss four to six weeks due to a knee injury sustained in Friday's 6-3 win versus the New York Islanders. Pacioretty (just 17 goals in 64 games TY), who had scored at least 30 goals in each of the previous four seasons and was expected to be moved at last week's trade deadline, was just the latest devastating injury for Montreal. Star goaltender Carey Price and defenseman Shea Weber are already sidelined. The Canadiens have gained a point in their last seven games and that equals their longest streak of the season. However, Montreal is in 14th place in the East and its 167 goals (2.54 per) are the third fewest in the league only behind Buffalo and Edmonton. New Jersey: The Devils limp in on a three-game losing skid despite the exploits of a red-hot Taylor Hall. He has registered points in all 25 games in which he has played in the 2018 calendar year, as he has become the eighth different player in the last 30 years to collect a point in at least 25 straight games (note: his streak is recognized as an 18-game run since he sat out three contests due to injury). Hall extended his goal-scoring streak to four in a row in Sunday's 3-2 home loss to Vegas and also assisted on a power-play tally by Sami Vatanen, giving the team a man-advantage goal in four straight games. Hall (30 goals and 72 points) has 18 goals and 18 assists in his last 25 games since being kept off the scoresheet on Dec. 30. He is the first since Sidney Crosby in 2010-11 to get a point in 25 straight appearances. If he records another point Tuesday, Hall would become the fifth to do it in 26 games, joining Mario Lemieux (46 games, 1989-90), Mats Sundin (30 games, 1992-93), Steve Yzerman (28 games, 1988-89) and Patrick Kane (26 games, 2015-16).
The pick: It's true that the Canadiens have gained a point in the last 10 meetings (8-0-2) with the Devils and are 12-2-2 in the last 16 encounters but I can't trust this team. Montreal is on a six-game road trip (1-0-1 so far) and is just 9-19-3 away from home ice on the season, allowing a whopping 3.42 GPG. New Jersey's inconsistent overall play is always a worry but Hall is 'on fire' and New Jersey is 15-5-2 when he records at least two points. I'll make the Devils an 8* play.
|03-06-18||Long Island +8 v. Wagner||Top||71-61||Win||100||11 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up; Tuesday night it's the championship game of the Northeast Conference from the Spiro Sports Center in Staten Island, N.Y. The Wagner Seahawks are the host team by virtue of their 14-4 regular season mark (tops in the NEC) and will welcome the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds, who at 10-8 were the No. 4 seed in this tourney. These teams have split the regular season series, with the home team taking each game. LIU-Brooklyn won 69-67 back on Jan. 13 and Wagner returned the favor at this venue on Feb. 17, winning 78-74.
LIU-Brooklyn: The Blackbirds are just 17-16 overall but a win tonight will earn them an automatic invitation to the Big Dance. In their last game, the Blackbirds led 71-64 with 5:30 remaining before Fairleigh Dickinson mounted an 11-0 run to lead 75-71 with 1:58 left. It was the Knights' first lead since midway through the first half. LIU's Julian Batts hit a wide-open three to tie 76-76 and set up the final minute. Missed free throws hurt Fairleigh Dickinson (19 of 27) and it which missed four of its last six. After Kaleb Bishop missed two with nine seconds remaining, Jashaun Agosto drove the length of the court and was fouled at the rim, setting up the winning free throws of a 78-77 LIU win. The Blackbirds feature a four-guard lineup and all average in double figures. Raiquan Clark scored 28 points, Joel Hernandez added 25 in the win over Fairleigh Dickinson, while Agosto made both free throws in his only trip to the line with 3.6 seconds on the clock. Hernandez (20.5 & 5.8) is the leading scorer, followed by Clark (17.3 & 7.1), Agosto (11.0-4.1-4.2) and Batts (10.1- & 4.2).
Wagner: The Seahawks have won five of their last six games and enter this game 23-8 on the season. JoJo Cooper scored 20 points with six assists, Romone Saunders added 18 points and top-seeded Wagner beat No. 7 seed Robert Morris 75-64 in Saturday's Northeast Conference semifinal. Blake Francis added 15 points with three 3-pointers for Wagner, which shot 51 percent from the floor and held the Colonials (16-17) to 39 percent. Like LIU, Wagner's top players are all guards. Francis leads the way averaging 17.4 PPG, followed by PG Cooper (14.6-5.3-6.2) and Saunders (14.4 & 6.4).
The pick: Wagner is playing at home but note that LIU lost at this venue less than a month ago, by just four points. LIU has won four in a row since that contest and the Blackbirds are making their first championship appearance since 2013. I realize that Wagner is a perfect 16-0 SU at home on the season but the pressure is always high on regular season champs from leagues like the NEC, as those teams "must win" their respective conference tourneys, or find themselves in the NIT. That is the case here and with LIU beating Wagner by two points at home and then losing to them by just four points in the rematch (at this venue), I see the Blackbirds making the Seahawks 'sweat' until the final buzzer. Take the points and make LIU a 10* play.
|03-05-18||BYU v. St. Mary's -5||Top||85-72||Loss||-105||15 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 22 Saint Mary's nearly saw it's NCAA Tournament bubble burst in Saturday's WCC tournament quarterfinals in Las Vegas. The 28-4 Gaels needed to rally from a 15-point first half deficit to edge Pepperdine, 69-66 (Waves were the WCC's 10th-seed and finished their injury-plagued season with a 6-26 record). The second-seeded Gaels now move on to a semifinal matchup Monday with third-seed BYU, who squandered a 17-point lead and was tied with San Diego with three minutes to go before surging to an 85-79 victory (Cougars are 23-9). A St. Mary's win will almost assuredly set up a championship game showdown with the WCC's No. 1 seed Gonzaga, which is currently ranked 7th in the latest AP poll.
BYU: The Cougars lost 81-50 to Saint Mary's in last year's WCC Tourney semifinals and enter tonight's matchup on a five-game losing streak to the Gaels, including a 74-64 overtime loss in Provo back on Dec. 30. "I think our guys would be excited (to play Saint Mary's again) because we played them tough both games, for the majority of the games," BYU head coach Dave Rose told the Salt Lake Tribune. "You look forward to the opportunity to change the outcome." The one-two punch of junior guard Elijah Bryant (17.9 & 6.4) and 6-8 sophomore forward Yoeli Childs (17.5 & 8.7), who combined for 49 points in the win over San Diego, lead the Cougars with sophomore point guard TJ Haws (12.0 & 4,2 APG) also averaging in double figures. However, no other Cougar averages more than 6.0 PPG.
St. Mary's: Pepperdine jumped out to a 19-4 lead on the Gaels and led 62-57 with 4:17 to go but forward Calvin Hermanson came to the rescue, sinking three consecutive three-pointers over a two-minute span. "It wasn't pretty but we will take the win," Saint Mary's head coach Randy Bennett told reporters. WCC Player of the Year, the 6-11 Jock Landale, leads the Gaels in scoring (21.3) and rebounding (10.3). The 6-6 Hermanson adds 11.0 PPG (on 44.4 percent shooting from three-point range) and PG Naar is the team's third double digit scorer (10.4) while averaging a healthy 8.0 APG to rank 2nd nationally to Oklahoma's Trae Young. Two other starters, guards Ford (9.9) and Krebs (8.0 & 4.2), just miss double digit territory.
The pick: After getting 'scared' by Pepperdine, I expect St. Mary's to bring its "A-game" to this contest. The Gaels shoot a nation's best 51.5% from the floor as a team (are 10th from three-point range at 40.8%) and defensively, have held opponents to a modest 63.8 PPG (11th). Landale presents a big problem for a many teams but he has been especially troublesome for BYU. Landale had 31 points and 13 rebounds in the overtime win in Provo and finished with 32 points and 14 rebounds in a 75-62 victory over the Cougars on Jan. 25 at home. The Gaels get their showdown with Gonzaga with an easy win over BYU. Make St. Mary's a 10* play.
|03-05-18||Blazers v. Lakers +2||Top||108-103||Loss||-107||14 h 23 m||Show|
Portland: The Blazers continue to rely on the backcourt duo of Lillard and CJ McCollum. They combined for 48 points on Saturday but contributions from further down the roster are helping fuel the winning streak. Reserve power forward Ed Davis (5.6 & 7.4) hauled in double-digit rebounds in each of the last three games and rookie center Zach Collins (4.3 & 3.4) scored 12 points off the bench on Saturday to reach double figures for the first time since Dec. 23, when he scored 11 at the Lakers. Still, after Lillard (26.4-4.5-6.5) and McCollum (21.7), only center Nurkic (14.1 & 8.3) averages in double digits.
LA Lakers: Rookie PG Lonzo Ball returned five games ago from missing 15 games with a knee injury and the Lakers are 5-0 (Ball sat out one game in a back-to-back situation). He's averaging 12.0-6.8-7.3 in his four games back and more importantly, is shooting 55.2% from the floor, including 63.6% on threes. The Lakers overcame a 17-point, second-half deficit in a 116-112 triumph at the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, which gave them a sweep of their four-game road trip. "It shows we're growing," Ball told reporters. "At the beginning of the year we might have just gave up, take the L and go home. Be happy with a 3-1 trip. We're growing up. We know we can win every game we're in." PF Randle moved into the starting lineup shortly after Portland last faced the Lakers (Dec. 23) and his scoring average has increased every month. He averaged 19.4 points in February and has scored 25 points in both victories in March to bump his season average to 15.1 PPG (he also leads the team in rebounding at 7.5 per). Second-year SF Ingram leads the team in scoring at 16.2 PPG, IT is up to 16.1 PPG in his eight games as a Laker (has come off the bench in each one) and the 'steal' of the 2017 draft, Kyle Kuzma, continues to thrive averaging 15.3 & 5.9.
The pick: With the 3 thru 10 teams in the West being separated by just four games, the Lakers can throw some chaos into the Western Conference postseason race with a win. However, Portland enters this contest on a 14-game winning streak against the Lakers, including eight straight at Staples Center. Then again, while LA's defense tends to be invisible at times (especially when IT is on the floor), "the Walton Gang" (remember that one UCLA fans?) is averaging a whopping 121.4 PPG during its winning streak. I don't want to buck the Lakers here, as Portland is just a so-so road team. Make LA a 10* play.
|03-05-18||Maple Leafs -175 v. Sabres||Top||3-5||Loss||-175||11 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: The Toronto Maple Leafs went 13-2-0 over a 15-game stretch from Jan. 24 through Feb. 24 but 0-2-1 since, after falling 5-2 against Washington in a Stadium Series contest at the Naval Academy on Saturday. Still, the 39-21-7 Maple Leafs' 85 points have them solidly in third-place in the Atlantic Division, 15 points clear of the fourth-place Florida Panthers. The Maple Leafs will take on the Buffalo Sabres, who have shown some signs of life lately with three wins in their last five contests. However, the Eastern Conference-worst Sabres are 20-34-11 and their 51 points are just one better than Arizona, which sits in the Western Conference 'basement.'
Toronto: “(The Capitals) look at us and they still think we’re kids,” Toronto head coach Mike Babcock told reporters of the team that knocked the Maple Leafs out last postseason. “And it looked like we were kids here (Saturday). I thought they smacked us around and forechecked. I didn’t think we executed at all.” Toronto likely will be without All-Star Auston Matthews (28 goals & 50 points in 53 games) for a fifth straight game as he struggles with an upper body injury. However, Matthews has been skating and could return to the lineup soon. Mitch Marner, who tops the team with 53 points, has been kept off the scoresheet in back-to-back games, after recording three goals and four assists over his previous three contests. Frederik Andersen (32-17-5, 2.74 GAA & .920 save percentage) has been one of the team’s best players but may be showing fatigue after allowing a total of 14 goals in his last four outings, including five on Saturday.
Buffalo: The Sabres knocked off NHL-best Tampa Bay last week before ending a two-game trip to the Sunshine State with a 4-1 setback at Florida on Thursday. Leading scorer Jack Eichel (22 goals & 53 points) has been out since Feb. 10 with an ankle injury but could be practicing soon. Ryan O’Reilly has notched an assist in each of his last three games and sits three points away from his fifth straight season, and sixth overall, with at least 50. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has registered four points in his last five games to push his season total to 31.
The pick: In an odd scheduling quirk, the Maple Leafs and the Sabres meet Monday night for the first of four meetings over their last 15 contests (29-day span). Backup Chad Johnson will return in net for the Sabres tonight, after a disappointing outing by Robin Lehner against the Panthers over the weekend. Johnson is 6-10-3 (3.18 GAA & .896 SP) and he's really no match for Toronto's Andersen and his 2.74 GAA & .920 SP. Make Toronto an 8* play.
|03-04-18||Nets +8 v. Clippers||Top||120-123||Win||100||13 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: Many felt as if the Clippers were "giving up" on the current season when they traded away Blake Griffin. However, after routing the Knicks 128-105 on Friday night, the 33-28 Clippers have won 10 of their last 14 game to pull within one game of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Amazingly, the Clippers are also just three games out of The West's No. 3 seed! Los Angeles welcomes another New York-based team to Staples Center tonight, as the 20-43 Brooklyn Nets come to town. The Clippers picked up a 114-101 win at Brooklyn just prior to the All-Star break, part of the Nets' current 2-14 slide. Brooklyn allowed a game-tying basket in the closing seconds of regulation and then stumbled in overtime in a 116-111 loss at Sacramento on Thursday.
Brooklyn: The Nets are just one game ahead of the Hawks, who reside in the Eastern Conference's 'basement.' Brooklyn has dropped seven straight road games overall and it is 3-11 away from home against the West, after being outscored 43-32 after the third quarter on Thursday. In an odd twist, three players, DeMarre Carroll (22 & 10), Jarrett Allen (15 & 11) and D'Angelo Russell (15 & 11 assists), all finished with double-doubles in the loss. Russell, the team's leading scorer at 15.8 PPG, tied a career high with 11 assists. The Nets have been among the worst defensive teams all season and currently rank 25th in allowing 109.7 PPG. Considering Brooklyn ranks dead-last (30th) in offensive FG percentage (43.7%), one can see why this team only has 20 wins.
LA Clippers: Lou Williams led six players in double figures with 21 points against the Knicks. The vet is having a career season, averaging 23.2 PPG and 5.4 APG, both of which would be single-season career highs. The 6-8 Montrezl Harrell (9.8 & 3.9) collected 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting and he is averaging 18.7 points on 72.7 percent shooting over his last three games. Harris has been excellent since coming over from Detroit in the Griffin deal, averaging 18.4 & 6.6 in 11 games. Of course, let's not forget Jordan, who chips in with 11.8 PPG and 15.0 RPG.
The pick: The Clippers have recorded six straight wins against the Nets here at Staples Center but LA checks in at just 15-15 ATS on its home floor on the season. In fact, LA was on a 1-5 ATS run at home before taking down the Knicks on Friday. Meanwhile, the sad-sack Nets are a moneymaking 18-12 ATS on the road, despite going only 8-22 SU. A closer look finds them at 15-8 ATS when getting four-plus points away from home. Make Brooklyn a 10* play.
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