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|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|01-15-18||Kansas +5 v. West Virginia||Top||71-66||Win||100||23 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up:The Jayhawks and Mountaineers are both 4-1 in Big 12 play, leaving them as half of the four teams atop the conference standings (Texas Tech and Oklahoma are the other two). Kansas is 14-3 overall and currently ranked No. 12 in the AP poll, while West Virginia is 15-2 and currently ranked second. However, Texas Tech ended West Va's 15-game winning streak with a 72-71 home win over the Mountaineers, so West Va. will not be No. 2 when the AP's new poll is announced on Monday afternoon. Kansas has taken a slightly different route to its share of the Big 12 lead, losing its second conference contest (85-73 to Texas Tech) but then reeling off three straight wins, with the latest being Saturday’s 73-72 victory over visiting Kansas State.
Kansas: The Jayhawks may have won three straight league games but each have been hard-fought, nip-and-tuck affairs, with the three wins coming by a combined total of just 10 points. Senior guard Devonte’ Graham scored a game-high 23 points vs. the Wildcats (his ninth straight in double figures) and continues to pace the team at 18.4 PPG and by handing out 7.4 APG. Three other guards also average in double figures, Saviatoslav Mykhailiuk (16.5), Lagerald Vick (14.9 & 6.0) and Malik Newman (10.7 & 4.5). Center Udoka Azubuike averages 14.8 PPG and a team-high 7.7 rebounds. However, no other Jayhawk averages as much as four points per game. Kansas leads the Big 12 in field-goal (51.0) and three-point (41.5) percentage. Those figures rank 9th and 8th in the nation, respectively. Kansas also ranks 17th nationally by averaging 85.8 PPG.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers saw an 11-point lead slip away in the final 13 minutes of Saturday’s 72-71 road loss to Texas Tech. Guard Javon Carter scored a game-high 28 points and junior forward Esa Ahmad, playing his first game of the season since returning from an academic suspension, added 18 points and six rebounds off the bench. However, it wasn’t enough to keep Bob Huggins’ team alone atop the conference standings. “We just had guys (who) were really out of character,” Huggins said in his post-game news conference. “We’ve got our center shooting whatever that was, a three-pointer from the top of the key. We just did a lot of things out of character from what we normally do.” What is in character for West Va, is a excellent offense (82.1 PPG ranks 39th) and a formidable defense (65.4 PPG allowed ranks 34th). Carter’s 28 points Saturday were just one off his career high. He is averaging 16.8 points and a team-high 6.5 assists and is joined in double figures by guard Daxter Miles Jr. (13.2) and forward Lamont West (12.2 & 5.5). The 6-8 Konate averages 8.9 PPG and a team-high 7.6 RPG and of course, the 6-8 Ahmad is now the 'wild card,' after his 18-point season debut.
The pick: Kansas has won seven of the 11 meetings since West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012 but the Mountaineers are 4-1 in Morgantown, including an 85-69 win last season. Will Kansas suffer a fifth straight loss in Morgantown, something the program hasn't experienced since losing at Oklahoma from 1987 to 1991? My bet say N-O! Make Kansas a 10* play.
|01-15-18||Youngstown State +13 v. Wright State||Top||67-77||Win||100||18 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: It's a late-afternoon Monday game in the Horizon League, as the Youngstown State Penguins visit the Wright State Raiders at Nutter Center in Dayton. The Penguins have lost their last two games versus Oakland and Detroit Mercy, to fall to 5-13 overall, ruining a 3-0 start in Horizon play. Meanwhile, the 13-5 Raiders welcome the Penguins to Nutter Center with a perfect 5-0 start in Horizon play. Youngstown State is off a 13-21 season (5-13 in Horizon) and Wright State off a 20-12 season (11-7 in Horizon) but did not play in a postseason tourney.
Youngstown State: Veteran guards Morse (15.2 & 4.6) and Hartfield (14.2) are the team's lone double digit scorers and 6-6 freshman forward Bohannon (6.2 & 7.2) is the team's top rebounder. However, scoring hasn't been Youngstown State's Achilles Heel, but rather it's been the team's inability to stop opponents from scoring that has hurt them. The Penguins are allowing 83.5 PPG, ranking 339th in the nation.
Wright State: Senior guards Benzinger (15.6 & 4.6) and Mitchell (11.1 & 7.1) are tge etam's top-two scorers but two freshman have made huge impacts. There is the 6-9 love (10.8 & 9.1) plus guard Hall (8.3). Unlike Youngstown State, Wright State plays very solid defense, allowing 66.5 PPG (54th).
The pick: Youngstown State may have lost its last two Hotizon games (after opening 3-0) but the Penguins covered them both and head to Wright State a perfect 5-0 ATS in Horizon play this season. Wright State is the better team and the more disciplined one under second-year head coach Scott Nagy, who won big at South Dakota State in this previous stop, but I won't ignore the Penguins' 5-0 ATS record in league play. Also, Mitchell will miss due to personal reasons and his 11.7 PPG and 7.1 RPG will be missed. Make Youngstown State an 8* play.
|01-14-18||Pacers v. Suns +4.5||Top||120-97||Loss||-110||22 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The Indiana Pacers overcame a 22-point deficit to knock off the Cleveland Cavaliers 97-95 on Friday, handing the Cavs their third straight loss. As for the Pacers, they have now won three of four since Victor Oladipo returned to the lineup The 22-20 Pacers will venture to Phoenix Sunday night to open a five-game road trip against the 16-27 Suns. Phoenix has lost three of its last four, after falling 112-95 at home to Houston on Friday, despite holding the Rockets to just 41.5 percent shooting (note: Houston shoots 46.1% on the season).
Indiana: The Pacers have received strong contributions from Oladipo and Sabonis, the players it received from Oklahoma City for free-agent-to-be Paul George over the summer. Oladipo is averaging 24.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists, and second-year player Sabonis has broken out, averaging 12.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. Sabonis is one of seven players behind Oladipo to contribute between 7.7 and 13.9 PPG. Myles Turner (13.9 & 6.5) owns second-highest scoring average on the team but has missed the last two contests with an elbow issue and is day-to-day. Swingman Lance Stephenson collected 16 points and 11 rebounds on Friday, but it was his willingness to guard and irritate Cleveland star LeBron James that may have been the difference in the game.
Phoenix: The Pacers have Oladipo and the Suns have Devin Booker, who averages 24.9-4.4-4.4. However, the only other regular double digit scorer Phoenix has is small forward T.J.. Warren (19.7 & 5.5). Center Monroe averages 11.5 & 8.4 but has played in just two of the team's last 13 games and only 14 for the entire season. PG Canaan was picked up in mid-December and he's averaged 10.0 PPG and 4.9 APG but has played only 10 games, while missing the last three.
The pick: The Pacers had dropped seven of their previous nine games ATS prior to Friday's upset of the Cavs and they must now travel west to play in Phoenix tonight and Utah tomorrow. A let down seems likely off that Cleveland win and don't expect another 16 & 11 effort from Lance Stephenson, without LBJ as motivation. The Pacers have covered only two of their last 13 games against the Suns, so make Phoenix a 10* play.
|01-14-18||NC State +15 v. Virginia||Top||51-68||Loss||-110||19 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: The Virginia Cavaliers were unranked and projected by most to be a middle-of-the pack squad in the ACC by pundits in the preseason, while under first-year coach Kevin Keatts, the N.C. State Wolfpack were picked to finish among the bottom teams of this brutally tough conference. However, Virginia welcomes NC State to Charlottesville for this Sunday matchup at 15-1 (lone loss 68-61 at WVa) and ranked No.3 in the latest AP poll. That's no small feat, as the Cavaliers are the fifth team in ACC history to move from unranked in preseason to inside the top-three, joining Miami (2012-13), Georgia Tech (2003-04), Wake Forest (1980-81) and North Carolina (1972-73). The Wolfpack were just 10-5 on the season (including 0-2 with two blowout losses to open ACC play), before upsetting Duke (then-No. 2) last Saturday and just this past Thursday, knocking off No. 19 Clemson. It marked the school's heir first consecutive wins against ranked teams since 2007.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack committed just four turnovers against Clemson (their fewest in nearly six years), while converting 17 Clemson miscues into 23 points. Grad transfer Allerik Freeman, averaging a team-high 15.2 PPG (along with 4.7 rebounds, & 3.0 assists) added 14 points and also tied his career high in assists for the second straight game with five. The Wolfpack boast five double-digit scorers, which is to be expected in first-year coach Keatts’ up-tempo style. Right behind Freeman are Torin Dorn (13.1 & 7.2), the 7-0 Omer Yurtseven (12.7 & 6.8), the 6-8 Lennard Freeman (11.3 & 5.4). and freshman guard Braxton Beverly (10.2 & 4.5 APG). The Wolfpack are averaging 83.1 PPG, which ranks 31st in the nation.
Virginia: Sophomore guard Kyle Guy (15.4) led the Cavaliers with 22 points in the team's last outing, becoming the first player in coach Tony Bennett’s tenure at the school (since 2009-10) to play 40 minutes. Senior guard Devon Hall (11.9-4.2-3.4) added 13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Those two are the only players averaging in double figures for UVa but a third guard, Ty Jerome, just misses at 9.8 PPG. All three are deadly three-point shooters, with Hall connecting on 44.6%, Guy 44.2% and Jerome at 43.7%. The Cavs don't score like NC State (70.7 PPG ranks 271st) but few teams play better defense. Virginia ranks first in points allowed (53.0 per) and second in FG percentage (36.1%).
The pick: The Cavaliers are 44-4 SU at home in ACC games over the past six seasons and Virginia is 10-0 against N.C. State in its last 10 regular-season matchups. In fact, the Wolfpack haven't beaten the Cavaliers in their last seven tries at John Paul Jones Arena and Virginia has held the Wolfpack to 55 points or fewer in their last five meetings. All signs point to another Virginia triumph over N.C. State in this one but the Wolfpack have proven to be giant killers this season. A win over Virginia would give N.C. State its third consecutive victory over a top-25 opponent and fourth this season (beat then-No. 2 Arizona back on Nov. 22). PG Markell Johnson (8.7 PPG & 6.6 APG) is expected to return to the floor for NC State against Virginia on Sunday, after missing the last seven contests due to a suspension stemming from a legal issue. He should provide a big boost and first-year coach Kevin Keatts will remember that Virginia defeated his former team, UNC Wilmington, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season. Take the points and make NC State a 10* play.
|01-13-18||Pistons +1 v. Bulls||Top||105-107||Loss||-105||20 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-18 Detroit Pistons are currently the East's No. 6 seed but the team's playoff position can change quickly, as there are just 2 1/2 games separating the No. 4 seed and the No. 8 seed. Detroit ended its five-game road losing streak in emphatic fashion on Wednesday, routing the Nets 114-80 in Brooklyn and tonight will try to make it back-to-back road wins when the Pistons wrap up a three-game trip by visiting the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. The Bulls also claimed a win in New York on Wednesday, edging the Knicks 122-119 in double-OT at MSG. However, that victory was just the second in the last seven games for the 15-27 Bulls.
Detroit: The Pistons limited the Nets to 36.5 percent from the floor, forced 20 turnovers and allowed just 26 points in the paint on Wednesday. "I thought our defense was outstanding tonight and everybody was involved," Detroit head coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters. "We got everybody doing their job. I thought (centers) Andre (Drummond) and Eric (Moreland) on pick-and-roll defense put a lot of pressure on the guards and made it really tough. Our perimeters did a good job pulling in and taking the roll and for the most part getting back out to the shooters." Drummond (14.4 & 15.0) collected 22 points and 20 rebounds in Wednesday's win, but it was his defense that stood out the most. Small forward Tobias Harris is averaging 24.7 points over the last three games while going 8-of-15 from three-point range. He leads four Detroit players in double digits with 18.5 PPG and 5.2 RPG, joining Drummond plus guards Bradley (15.4) and Jackson (14.6 & 5.5 APG). However, the Pistons are playing without starting PG Reggie Jackson, who has been out since Dec. 26 with a severely sprained right ankle.
Chicago: Nikola Mirotic's (17.4 & 7.0) Dec. 8 return sparked the Bulls at first, as they ripped off seven consecutive wins (also 7-0 ATS). Chicago was 10-2 in his first 12 games back but the Bulls then lost four of their next five. Mirotic has missed the last two games with a stomach illness (1-1) but will play Saturday against Detroit. Chicago is also about to get another weapon back on the offensive end on Saturday, with Zach LaVine (acquired from Minnesota in the Butler trade) slated to make his team and season debut after recovering from ACL surgery. LaVine will be joining an offense thriving behind rookie forward Lauri Markkanen (15.4 & 7.6), who scored a season-high 33 points in the win at New York while knocking down eight 3-pointers and adding 10 rebounds.
The pick: However, the Bulls have really been struggling on the defensive end, allowing an average of 120.9 points over their last seven contests. It seems that Mirotic's 'magic' has somewhat 'cooled' and he's rumored to be on the trading block (Pistons are reportedly interested). Chicago's defensive woes could be "just what the doctor ordered" for a Detroit team coming off a 34-point win in Brooklyn. Make the Pistons a 10* play.
|01-13-18||Michigan +9.5 v. Michigan State||Top||82-72||Win||100||12 h 8 m||Show|
The set-up: The Michigan State Spartans lost their No. 1 ranking last Sunday by getting blown out 80-64 by at unranked Ohio State (the defeat ended a 14-game winning streak) and then barely survived at home against unheralded Rutgers on Wednesday, before pulling out a 76-72 overtime victory. Now ranked No. 4, Michigan State (16-2 , 4-1 in Big Ten play) will host in-state rival Michigan on Saturday in conference action at the Breslin Center. The 14-4 Wolverines (3-2 in Big Ten play) also played this past Wednesday when they saw their seven-game winning streak snapped as they lost 70-69 at home to No.5 Purdue. Michigan leads the all-time series between the rivals 98-81, although Michigan State has won 25 of the last 35 meetings. This marks the rivals' only regular-season matchup this season.
Michigan: "We thought we had them," said guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman. "We just didn't make some plays down the stretch." The Wolverines now face their second top-5 opponent in a row, this time on the road..John Beilein has a perimeter-based team, as the 6-11 Wagner (13.9 & 7.1) is the lone frontcourt player averaging more than 5.0 points. Guard Charles Matthews (15.6 & 5.1) leads Michigan in scoring (followed by Wagner) and is joined on the perimeter by Abdur-Rahkman (10.8-4.4-3.30, Robinson (9.9), Poole (5.9) and Simpson (5.7 & 3.4 APG). Beilein teams always play excellent defense and Michigan is allowing 62.1 pPG (12th), while asos ranking 17th in turnover margin at plus-4.2. Abdur-Rahkman ranks second nationally with an assist-to-turnover ratio of six-to-one.
Michigan State: Despite its recent "mini-slump," many feel that this could be Izzo's most talented team. All five starters average in double digits, led by 6-7 swingman Bridges (16.5 & 7.5). The 6-8 Ward (14.8 & 7.1) and 6-11 freshman Jackson (11.1 & 6.4) start up front, joined by the backcourt duo of Winston (12.8 & 7.1 APG) and Langford (13.8). MSU knows a lot about playing good defense too, holding opponents to 63.0 PPG (19th). However, this team scores better than almost all Izzo teams of the past, averaging 85.9 PPG (10th) on 52.0% shooting (2nd).
The pick: Bridges is the only player in the country averaging at least 16.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, three assists and one block per game, but the Spartans' two losses, as well as in Wednesday's close call against Rutgers, Bridges' unselfishness became a liability. Izzo wants Bridges to stop deferring so much to his teammates. Bridges went scoreless in the first half against the Scarlet Knights and finished with just 11 points. He has scored fewer than 20 points the last six games. The Wolverines are coming off that agonizing 70-69 home loss to No. 5 Purdue on Tuesday., when the 6-11 Moritz Wagner was called for a foul with four seconds left and Boilermakers center Isaac Haas sank one of two free throws to give his team the lead. Charles Matthews' desperation half-court heave at the buzzer bounced off the rim. Michigan is getting significant points in this one and in its only game against Michigan State last season, the Wolverines snapped a five-game losing streak in the series with an 86-57 victory at Crisler Center. Michigan will be seeking its first win at the Breslin Center since 2014 and while the Wolverines may not accomplish that feat, I'm taking the points. Make Michigan a 10* play.
|01-12-18||Idaho +2 v. Eastern Washington||Top||58-51||Win||100||16 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Big Sky college hoops Friday night from Cheney, Washington as the 10-6 Idaho Vandals visit the 8-9 Eastern Washington Eagles. The Vandals are trying to gather up some consistency after alternating wins and losses in each of their last six games and come off a 73-72 home loss to Portland State in their last outing. Meanwhile, the Eagles will look to stay hot, having won three in a row and five of six after an 82-67 home victory over Sacramento State in their last outing to climb within a game of .500 on the season.
Idaho: The Vandals are coming off a 19-win season plus returned all five starters. Guard Victor Sanders led the team with 28 points on 10 of 18 shooting in the one-point loss to Portland State and checks in averaging a team-high 19.6 PPG. He's joined in the backcourt by PG Callandret (9.9 & 3.3 APG) plus the Vandals feature a nice tandem of forwards in the 6-7 Blake (13.9 & 9.6) and the 6-8 Sherwood (10.2 & 5.2). Idaho averages 72.8 points PPG but relies more on a defense holding opponents to 65.2 PPG (34th) on 39.4% shooting (26th).
Eastern Washington. The Eagles won 22 games last season but despite some recent good fortune, remain a game below .500. Eastern Washington's Cody Benzel led the team with 25 points in the win over Sacramento State, while Benas Griciunas chipped in 16, Jack Perry added 14 points and six assists, Mason Peatling added 12 points in 13 minutes, plus Sir Washington added 10 points. However, none of those players average in double digits on the season. 6-6 guard Bogdan Bliznyuk scored just two points the last time out but averages 18.5 PPG and is the lone player scoring in double digits on the season. He also leads the team in assists (3.6) and is the second-best rebounder (6.3) behind only the 6-7 Hunt (9.1 & 6.6). Eastern Washington averages 75.8 PPG but allows 73.9 PPG (220th) on 44.1% shooting (205th).
The pick: Eastern Washington is the hotter team right now (see above) and checks in at 5-0 SU at home. However, Idaho is a veteran team (all five starers are back) and is significantly more balanced that the Eagles, who are more of a "one-man team" in Bliznyuk. Idaho is also the better defensive team and that's why I'm making them a 10* play.
|01-12-18||Jazz v. Hornets -4||Top||88-99||Win||100||12 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up:The Utah Jazz put together a six-game winning streak to reach 13-11 at the end of play on Dec. 4 but have since won just four 17 games to fall to 17-24. However, the Jazz won their first road game in nearly a month at Washington this past Wednesday and tonight in Charlotte will try to make it back-to-back triumphs for the first time since bridging November and December with that six-game streak. The 15-24 Charlotte Hornets returned from a 3-1 trip on a west coast road trip, including a win at Golden State, but promptly lost their first game back home 1115-111 on Wednesday to the Dallas Mavericks (Mavs are just 15-28).
Charlotte: The Hornets lost on Wednesday despite Kemba Walker (21.8 & 5.8 APG) going off for 41 points. Charlotte is just 2-8 in its last 10 home games, to drop to 10-11 overall in its own building on the season. Walker's scoring is not translating into wins of late, with Charlotte dropping its last eight games in which Walker scored 20 or more points but winning four straight when he scored 19 or fewer. Walker could use some help from his starting backcourt partner Nicolas Batum, who is 4-of-18 from the floor in the last two games. Batum had an excellent season last year (15.1-6.2-5.9) but he's been limitred to 25 games this season due to injury and his numbers are down across the board (10.1-4.2-4.8).The Hornets' biggest problem against the Mavericks was Dwight Howard's free throw shooting. He missed 13 of 18, almost single-handedly sabotaging Kemba Walker's 41-point night. One could look at Howard's numbers (15.6 & 12.1) and say "good job" but when is the last time this big man has really improved the team he's played for?
The pick: The Hornets are, to say the least, a poor home team (2-8 SU & ATS run) but anyone think Utah's Edoh and O'Neale (6.5 PPG combined on the season) will combine for 26 points again, here? The Jazz are a woeful 4-17 SU on the road, allowing 107.1 PPG. The Jazz haven't won back-to-back games since that six-game winning streak and have not won back-to-back road games all season. Charlotte can win (and over) in this one. Make the Hornets a 10* play.
|01-11-18||Clemson -4 v. NC State||Top||77-78||Loss||-105||13 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The Clemson Tigers entered the current season off 16, 17 and 17-win seasons and little was expected of them. However, Clemson has opened 14-1 (3-0 in ACC play) and comes into this contest on a 10-game winning streak. Clemson has won three straight against the Wolfpack, including a 78-62 home win on Dec. 30 to open conference play. The Wolfpack hardly looked ready for prime time in losing their first two ACC games, averaging just 60.0 PPG in losing to Clemson and Notre Dame, while allowing 83.0 PPG. However, N.C. State rebounded for a 96-85 home win over the then-No. 2 Duke Blue Devils last Saturday. The Wolfpack welcome Clemson to PNC Arena standing at 11-5, including 1-2 in ACC play.
Clemson: Head coach Brad Brownell’s teams typically are known for their stingy defense and that's true again this season, as the Tigers are allowing 63.5 PPG (22nd) on 40.2 shooting (45th). However, all five of the Tigers’ starters average double-digits in scoring. Guard Marcquise Reed (15.9 & 4.6) and 6-8 forward Grantham (14.6 & 7.3) lead a balanced attack that averages 77.9 PPG on 48.2% shooting (47th). PG Mitchell (12.4 & 4.2 APG), fellow guard DeVoe (11.6 & 4.5) and the 6-9 Thomas (11.6 & 8.3) round out the group.
N.C. State:The Wolfpack also boast five double-digit scorers, which is to be expected in first-year coach Kevin Keatts’ up-tempo style. Guards Allerik Freeman (15.3 & 4.8 ) and Torin Dorn (13.4 & 7.3) lead the way but but freshman guard Braxton Beverly (10.4) has increased his output to 12.3 PPG during ACC play. The frontcourt consists of the Lennard 6-8 Freeman 11.7 & 5.3) and the 7-0 Omer Yurtseven (11.7 & 6.9). The Wolfpack average 83.4 PPG (34th) but allow 72.6 PPG (190th) on 43.9% shooting (200th).
The pick: The victory over Duke was the second major upset of the season for N.C. State, which also beat then-No. 2 Arizona back on Nov. 22. However, the inconsistent Wolfpack also had a head-scratching 81-76 home loss to UNC Greensboro on Dec. 16. Fresh off another major upset, North Carolina State looks to take down a second consecutive ranked opponent when it hosts No. 19 Clemson. The Tigers are riding a 10-game winning streak and have won their first three ACC games for the first time since 2006-07, and only the sixth time in history. Clemson Big man Elijah Thomas posted a double-double (10 & 10) and recorded a career-high six blocks in the first meeting, while Donte Grantham was one rebound shy of a double-double ( 13 & 9), as the Tigers dominated inside. Only two opponents have exceeded 70 points against Clemson and the Tigers have the ACC's second-best defensive rebounding percentage at 75.4 percent of opponents' misses. Can N.C. State handle Clemson's frontcourt any better this time around? Probably not plus the recent suspension of soph gaurd Markell Johnson (8.7 PPG and a team-high 6.6 APG) sure doesn't help. Make Clemson a 10* play.
|01-11-18||Celtics -1.5 v. 76ers||Top||114-103||Win||100||8 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics roared out to a 22-4 start but then had an 11-game stretch where the team was just 5-6. However, since its Christmas home loss to Washington, Boston has ripped off six straight wins (4-2 ATS) and continues to owns the East's best record at 33-10. That's three games better than the Raptors and 5 1/2 games clear of the Cavs. The Philadelphia 76ers are streaking in the right direction again and have won their last four games while averaging 114.0 PPG. Philly has also won five of six and sits at 19-19, which puts them on pace for a 41-win season, quite an improvement after consecutive seasons of 28, 10, 18 and 19 (that starts from last season and goes backwards). Boston and Philly will meet tonight in London's O2 Arena.Boston: The Celtics' sixth straight win came when they edged the Nets 87-85 last Saturday in Brooklyn. Boston stopped five shots in the final 7.5 seconds of that triumph and leads the NBA in scoring defense at an average of 97.6 PPG allowed, as well as in defensive field-goal percentage (42.9%). Rookie forward Jayson Tatum is going through a bit of a shooting slump at 16-of-43 from the floor over the last four games but he's had a strong 'freshman' season (13.9 & 5.5). 'Sophomore' Brown (14.1 & 5.7) ranks second in scoring to PG Kyrie Irving (24.1 & 5.0) while the unsung hero of the team remains veteran center/forward Al Horford (13.4-7.9-5.3). Guards Smart (9.9) and Rozier (9.3) have been key contributors throughout the season. Philadelphia: The 76ers are coming off their most impressive victory of the season with a 114-78 rout of the Detroit Pistons on Friday. "We're getting healthier, and we're starting to find ourselves again," 76ers center Joel Embiid told reporters. "It's good to see, but I think we still got a lot to work on defensively. I think we've been taking care of the ball better. We just got to keep playing together." Embiid (23.8 & 10.9) has played in 29 games this season (team is 17-12) and since Philly hasn't played since that Friday win, he'll be ready to go here. PG Ben Simmons never got on the court last season but the wait has been worth it, as he averages 16.9-8.4-7.5. The team's starting-five is quite good with Embiid and Simmons being joined by SG Redick (17.3), SF Covington (13.9 & 6.0) and PF Saric (13.6 & 6.9).
The pick: The Sixers have the league’s toughest January schedule (in regard to opponent strength) and traveling 'across the pond' to play the league's best defensive team, is among the team's "tough games." ,Boston's Horford (calf) sat out Saturday's win but is expected to play Thursday. The Celtics have beaten the Sixers twice this season, 102-92 on Oct. 20 in Philly and 108-97 on Nov. 30 in Boston. Why won't they complete the 'hat trick' by winning here in London? Make Boston an 8* play.
|01-10-18||Pelicans -1 v. Grizzlies||Top||102-105||Loss||-105||20 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies opened the 2017-18 season at FedExForum, with Mike Conley leading the Grizzlies to a 103-91 win with 27 points. The two teams reunite in the same venue Wednesday night but both teams look very different from when they last squared off back on Oct. 18. Memphis, which has made the playoffs each of the past seven years, opened the season 7-4, but the Grizzlies lost Conley (17.1 & 4.1 APG) to an Achilles injury two games later and have since plummeted to near the bottom of the Western Conference at 12-27. Meanwhile, the Pelicans, who have reached the postseason just once in the last six seasons, struggled offensively early on, scoring 100 or more points just four times in their first 10 games. However, they have the Cousins (25.8 & 12.5) and Davis (25.8 & 10.3) duo for an entire season this year and when veteran PG Rajon Rondo made his season debut on Nov. 13, New Orleans' offense has come together and the Pelicans currently sit at 20-19, which would give them the West's final playoff spot (No. 8 seed) if the playoffs would begin tomorrow.
New Orleans: The Pelicans are used to dealing with injury scares related to Anthony Davis and they are likely to be without him tonight. Davis left Monday's 112-109 win over the Detroit Pistons with an ankle injury and is considered doubtful. Davis missed five of the first 39 games with various injuries and watched his team go 3-2 without him. However, his latest injury doesn't appear to be something that will keep him out an extended period. "We've done it, and we've won games without him," New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters of Davis, who had x-rays come back negative. "That gives the team confidence right there. Obviously, we would rather have him in the game, but if he goes out, I think it's great that our guys can maintain what we were trying to do, and even lose a lead, execute at the end of the game and be able to win a close game." New Orleans is confident it can win without Davis because it has another double-double machine on the inside in DeMarcus Cousins, who scored 16 of his 20 points after Davis' injury on Monday and added 10 rebounds for his sixth consecutive double-double. That improved offense I was talking about earlier is "for real." The Pelicans are averaging 110.8 PPG (4th) on 49.0% shooting (2nd).
Memphis: The Grizzlies sure aren't about to feel sorry for any team going through injury problems after their season went off the rails when Conley, went down nearly two months ago with an Achilles issue. Memphis is 5-22 without Conley in the lineup and has been off since Friday, after dropping the opener of the two-game homestand 102-100 to the Washington Wizards. Memphis has its own star big man in center Marc Gasol (18.3 & 8.5) but he is carrying a much heavier load with Conley out. He says he likes the challenge but the bottom line is, he just doesn't have much help. The exception is swingman Tyreke Evans, who is averaging 25.3 points over the last eight games. That surge has him taking over the team lead in scoring at 19.7 PPG, while adding 5.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists.That said, no other player scores in double digits and the team averages only 98.9 PPG (29th) on 44.5% shooting (26th).
The pick: Memphis has beaten New Orleans in eight of its last 10 meetings but this Memphis team now owns the West's worst record and only the 11-30 Hawks own a worse record in the entire NBA than the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are long gone from the playoff discussion in the West, looking ahead instead to the draft lottery, as Conley has no timetable for a return. Meanwhile, when New Orleans PG Rajon Rondo is on the court, the Pelicans offense is 4.6 points per 100 possessions better. Make New Orleans a 10* play.
|01-10-18||Northern Iowa +1.5 v. Indiana State||Top||67-69||Loss||-101||19 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The 8-8 Northern Iowa Panthers will travel to the Hulman Center in Terre Haute to take on the 7-9 Indiana State Sycamores this Wednesday night in MVC action. For UNI, back-to-back second round NCAA appearances (in 2015 and 2016) seem 'light years' away right now, after the Panthers went 14-16 last season and have opened the current season 8-8. As for Indiana State, the Sycamores came into the current season off 15, 15 and 11-win win seasons, so this yerars 7-9 start (2-2 in MVC play), is "business as usual."
Northern Iowa: Making the Panthers' 8-8 record much worse than .500 is the fact that they have lost six in a row, including opening MVC play at 0-4. Northern Iowa held a 48-45 lead late in the 2nd half in its most recent game against Loyola-Chicago but struggled offensively down the stretch and allowed the Ramblers to come away with a 56-50 victory last Saturday, after the Panthers scored just two points over the final 4:30 of regulation. Leading the way for the Panthers was 6-10 senior Bennett Koch who had 17 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. Koch (13.9 & 6.8) is the lone UNI player averaging in double digits and the team averages only 64.6 PPG (336th) on 41.8% shooting (301st).
Indiana State: The Sycamores lost 75-72 this past Saturday against Drake. Indiana State struggled offensively in the first half and although the Sycamores fought back, they couldn’t overcome the 39-29 lead Drake entered halftime with. Indiana State allowed Drake to shoot 53.1% from the floor, which is unacceptable. Leading the way for the Sycamores was guard Brenton Scott who had 25 points and seven steals. This is a guard-oriented team, with the team's top-four scorers all playing on the perimeter. PG Barnes leads in scoring (16.5) and assists (4.3), followed by Scott (14.8 & 5.2), Davis (10.4 & 5.2) and Key (8.2). Murphy is an undersized 6-7 center (7.9 & 4.2) and the best frontcourt contributor. Indiana State averages 74.1 PPG but also allows 73.5 points.
The pick: Not used to seeing Northern Iowa on a six-game slide and note that despite its woes, the Panthers are an excellent defensive team, holding opponents to 60.8 PPG (7th) on 38.2% shooting (13th). Take Northern Iowa and the points as a 10* play.
|01-09-18||Tennessee -2 v. Vanderbilt||Top||92-84||Win||100||12 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The Tennessee Vols are 10-4 on the season. They dropped their first two SEC games but a 76-65 home win over Kentucky kept them in the AP's latest poll at No. 24. The Vols travel to Nashville on Tuesday to face the 6-9 Vanderbilt Commodores, who have also dropped two of their first three league contests, after falling 71-60 Saturday at South Carolina. Vanderbilt knocked off Alabama with strong three-point shooting last Tuesday,but finished just 8-for-29 from three-point range and were hindered by turnovers and charging fouls in the defeat to the Gamecocks. “If we erase four of those charges and kick it out for 3’s, it could have been a much different ending to the game, a lot tighter,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew told the media afterward.
Tennessee: Rick Barnes had publicly challenged his team last week regarding its lack of "toughness" but the Vols rallied from eight points down at halftime to beat Kentucky by double digits. “We showed toughness,” 6-5 Tennessee forward Admiral Schofield (12.9 & 5.6) told reporters after scoring 20 points with nine rebounds against Kentucky. “It’s time to get that back. I think we are the hardest-playing team in the country, and we’ve just got to go out and show it.” 6-7 forward Grant Williams (15.8 & 6.8) provided a huge boost against the Wildcats, scoring 16 of his 18 points after halftime and finishing with eight rebounds. Guards Bowden (10.5), Turner (9.9), Bone (9.0 & 3.4 APG) and Daniel (6.9 & 3.7 APG) plus the 6-11 Alexander (5.6), join top scorers Williams and Schofield in getting 20 minutes-plus per game. Tennessee leads the SEC and ranks 18th nationally in assists per game (17.9), finishing Saturday with 23 assists on 25 made field goals.
Vanderbilt; The 6-6 Roberson (14.5 & 8.1) is the 'Dores best player, supported by a trio of guards including the 6-5 Fisher-Davis (12.3 & 5.3), LaChance (10.9) and freshman Lee (10.5), who scored a team-high 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the floor against South Carolina and is averaging 17.7 points through three SEC games. However, the Commodores are last in the SEC in shooting from the floor (40.9 percent) and scoring (71.0 points per game).
The pick: These in-state rivals meet Tuesday night in Memorial Gymnasium. Tennessee leads the series 118-75 and the Vols have had their share of success in Memorial\ Gym. Starting with Vandy's 72-69 win in 2007-08 over then then-top-ranked Tennessee, the teams have alternated wins each season at Vanderbilt, including Tennessee's 87-75 upset last year. The Vols' strength is in their balance. Seven players average 20 minutes or more, and five average nine points or more (see above). Why not take teh road team here? Vanderbilt is 3-13 ATS in their last 16 games overall and 0-7 ATS in their last seven home games. Make Tennessee a 10* play.
|01-09-18||Heat v. Raptors -5||Top||90-89||Loss||-108||9 h 24 m||Show|
|01-08-18||Rockets -5 v. Bulls||Top||116-107||Win||100||21 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: The Chicago Bulls went a perfect 7-0 SU & ATS when Nikola Mirotic returned to the court and won 10 of the first 12 games in which he played. However, the Bulls have dropped four of their last five games, although only Saturday's 125-86 loss at Indiana was non-competitive. The Bulls will try to put that ugly loss behind them when they welcome the Houston Rockets to the United Center on Monday. Things have not gone well for the Rockets lately, as their Saturday 108-101 loss at Detroit in the opener of a two-game trip was the team's seventh time in its last nine games. Houston was once 25-4 but now checks in at 27-11. In contrast, after opening 3-20, the Bulls are now 14-26.
Houston: "I don't know if we're a tired team or what, but even starting the game our offense flowed," Houston head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters. "But, you're only up six and I didn't think the intensity on defense was there and sometimes that caused some tired legs or whatever. So, we've got to regroup and get ready for the next game." The Rockets owned the NBA's best record before their recent slump and shot just 42.2 percent from the floor in Saturday's loss. "We just couldn't get in the flow of knocking down shots," shooting guard Eric Gordon told reporters. "I thought we battled pretty hard, but when you're not knocking down shots, it's kind of tough." Making it harder to knock down shots and loosen up opposing defenses is the absence of James Harden (32.3-5.0-9.1), who sat out the last two games and reportedly could miss up to six weeks due to a hamstring strain. Gordon (19.5), Chris Paul (17.2-5.4-9.3) and the recently signed Gerald Green (16.5 in six games) will need to make up the slack. Can they?
Chicago: With Mirotic back and leading the team in scoring at 17.4 PPG in his 17 games), Chicago averaged 111.3 points in 16 games prior to Saturday, when it shot 37.5 percent from the floor and was out of the game after totaling 37 points in the first half. Second-year point guard Kris Dunn is trying to become a consistent scoring threat but followed up a career-high 32-point outburst in Friday's win at Dallas with eight points on 4-of-10 shooting in 28 minutes against the Pacers. Still, Dunn (13.7-4.7-6.2) looks like he's going to be a good player and 7-0 rookie Laurie Markkanen (14.9 & 7.5) just may be the league's best 'freshman.'
The pick: Is Chicago falling back to earth after its recent surge? We also need to find out just how well the Rockets can function with Chris Paul running the offense. However, Houston's recent slide has more to do with its struggles, defensively. Houston was allowing 110.9 points per 100 possessions,(26th in the league) in the last 10 games thru Jan. 3). All the above noted, Houston is still a significantly better team than the Bulls and Green has done all (and more) than Houston good have expected, shooting 50.8% from the floor, including 51.0% from three-point range. Center Capela is a double-double man now (14.2 & 11.) and I'll lay the short price with Houston. Make the Rockets a 10* play.
|01-07-18||Jazz v. Heat -4.5||Top||102-103||Loss||-105||14 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The Miami Heat opened 11-30 last season and despite a 30-11 mark the remainder of the way to finish 41-41, the Heat missed the postseason field by losing a tie-breaker to the 41-41 Bulls. Miami matched its longest winning streak of the season by beating the New York Knicks in overtime for a third consecutive triumph on Friday, giving Miami a 21-17 record which puts them in much better position as the current season nears its mid-point. The Heat will try to keep rolling on Sunday when they host the slumping Utah Jazz, who have lost 12 of their last 15 games to fall to 16-23, leaving them in 10th-place in the West, 3 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot.
Utah: The Jazz got off to a promising start but the team has unraveled, quickly. It hasn't helped that 7-foot center Rudy Gobert )11.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks) has been out with a left knee injury since Dec. 15. He should return later this month but without Gobert, 6-10, 265-pound power forward Derrick Favors has slid to the center spot and Utah is diminished on the boards and in terms of shot-blocking. Favors is averaging 12.6 & 6.8 but just 0.9 blocks. Backup center Ekpe Udoh doesn't get much playing time, averaging 2.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. The bright spot continues to be rookie guard Donovan Mitchell (18.2-3.3-3.4), who is averaging 22.6 points since the beginning of December.
Miami: The Heat have opened up their offense in the team's current winning streak, averaging 111.7 PPG (season average is 100.8 PPG, which ranks 28th). Shooting guard Wayne Ellington hoisted up a franchise-record 16 3-point attempts (made six) on Friday and finished with a team-high 24 points. Ellington averages 10.5 PPG and is shooting 41.5 percent from beyond the arc on the season. The Heat have finally settled into a groove and currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. "We're definitely heading in the right direction," Heat power forward Kelly Olynyk (10.5 & 6.0) said. "We're getting bodies back (from the injured list). We're playing together and playing hard. You can see the chemistry is starting to come together."
The pick: Olynyk's remark about injured players is true, as center Hassan Whiteside (14.0 & 11.6 in 20 games) recently returned to the lineup. Reserve forward James Johnson (10.7-5.0-4.0) is also back, and point guard Goran Dragic (16.7-4.1-4.8) is getting better from a nagging elbow injury. Utah opened is four-game road trip with a 99-91 loss at Denver on Friday, as the the defense fell apart during a third quarter in which it was outscored 38-16. The Jazz are now 3-16 SU (6-13 ATS) on the road and it doesn't figure to get any better, here. Make Miami a 10* play.
|01-07-18||Davidson -4 v. George Mason||Top||86-59||Win||100||11 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: Bob McKillop has had some career at Davidson. He's currently in his 29th season and has led the Wildcats to eight NCAA berths, including the school's memorable 2008 run to the Elite 8 (ever heard of Steph Curry?). However, last year's team was a disappointing 17-15, coming off five 20-win seasons, including three NCAA berths. However, Davidson lost only one starter from last season, so this year's 6-7 start is a big disappointment. The Wildcats will visit EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Va. on Sunday to take on the George Mason Patriots, who also check in under .500 at 7-8.
Davidson: The Wildcats have won two of their last three and will square off against GMU with pretty much a "three-man team." The 6-7 Ekwu hasn't played this season and the 6-10 Kovacevic went down with an injury in early Dec. The 6-7 Aldridge (21.1 & 6.9) has been excellent, as has freshman guard Grady (15.7). However, the only other player averaging more than 6.2 PPG is sophomore guard Jon Axel Gudmundson (13.7-6.1-5.0).
George Mason: The Patriots' glory days are long gone, although GMU did go 20-14 last year, after winning 11, nine and 11 games the previous three seasons. The Patriots' five starters all play about 27-plus minutes with four in double figures. Guard Livingston (15.5 & 4.4 APG) leads the way, joined on the perimeter by Grayer (13.9 & 7.5) and Kier (11.9 & 4.5). The 6-7 Mar (11.9 & 4.4) joins that trio in double digits.
The pick: Both teams have been disappointments but I'll take Davidson's "pedigree." GMU has been a poor pointspread team for awhile, going just 19-42-2 ATS in the team's last 63 games following an ATS win. GMU is just 1-5 ATS in the team's last six games overall and 1-6 ATS in its last seven home games. Make Davidson a 10* play.
|01-06-18||Nuggets -4.5 v. Kings||Top||98-106||Loss||-108||13 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The 21-17 Denver Nuggets are gaining confidence by winning five of their last seven games. Sure it's too early to be looking at one's playoff positioning "too hard," but the Nuggets do currently own the West's No. 6 seed and find themselves 3 1/2 games clear of the West's playoff 'cut line.' Again, it may be too early to write any team off, but the Kings have dropped five of their last six games and allowed a season worst for points in Tuesday's 131-111 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Sacramento enters this contest 12-25 and the team is already seven games out of the West's final playoff berth with four teams in between them and that final spot (that means five teams to climb over!).
Denver: The Nuggets have rarely been known for their defense but the team's current 5-2 run began with them allowing an average of 83 points during a three-game winning streak that included an epic effort while holding the potent Golden State Warriors to just 81. Denver's defense was also at its best in the third quarter of Friday's game when the club outscored the Jazz 38-16 to take a 19-point lead into the final quarter. Third-year forward Trey Lyles scored a career-best 26 points against his former teammates on Friday and has suddenly scored in double digits in 12 of the past 13 games. Lyles (10.2 & 4.8) was given a larger role after All-Star power forward Paul Millsap suffered a wrist injury and his latest performance included four 3-pointers as well as seven rebounds. Guards Harris (16.5) and Murray (16.0) are the team's top scorers but the team's most important player, especially with Millsap sidelined, is 6-10 center Jokic (15.9 & 10.2). Jokic had a rare off night Friday, scoring just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting, to end a string of nine straight double-digit efforts.
Sacramento: About the only good news in Friday's 20-point loss to the Hornets was that rookie PG De'Aaron Fox (quadriceps) returned from a six-game absence to score 17 points. PF Zach Randolph (15.4 & 6.9) has been the Kings' best player this season and he recorded 24 points and 10 rebounds versus Charlotte, but it was his first double-double since Dec. 10. Buddy Hield was the key piece in Sacramento's trade of Cousins to the Pelicans but while he's connecting on 45.5% from three-point range, the Kings must have been expecting him to score more than the 10.6 PPG he's averaged so far. Getting back to rookie PG Fox, he's averaging a modest 9.7 PPG (in about 25 minutes per) but more troubling is his 40.3 FG percentage, including 28.6 from three-point range (remind you of Lonzo Ball?).
The pick: The Nuggets have won this season's first two meetings by an average of 16.5 PPG, extendng their winning streak over the Kings to four in a row. Sacramento's defense was horrid in the loss to Charlotte as it allowed the Hornets to shoot 57.3 percent from the floor, including 15-of-32 from three-point range. "It has me speechless, there's nothing to say," guard Garrett Temple told reporters. "We have to guard. We have to man up and play defense, defend guys. ... I don't care how young we are, we have to defend." The Kings are allowing an average of 118.7 PPG over the past three games (all losses) and I see no reason for them to get things turned around here vs. a Denver team which seems to be jelling (10-2 ATS run!). Make Denver a 10* play.
|01-06-18||Duke -11 v. NC State||Top||85-96||Loss||-110||21 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: The No. 2 Blue Devils (13-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have played just twice since their Dec. 9 loss at Boston College. They've won each of those home games, first against Evansville and then 100-93 vs. No. 24 Florida State last Saturday. "That was an amazing game, because both teams played great,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters after his team survived allowing 15 makes from three-point range by FSU and missing 11 of its own 25 free throws. “We couldn’t stop each other. And the will to win and will to score was evidence by both teams. For us to win that game, is sensational for our group of four freshmen.” Duke travels to play the 10-5 Wolfpack at PNC Arena, where N.C. State will be making its ACC home debut under first-year coach Kevin Keatts. The Wolfpack opened with two ACC road games for the first time in a decade, falling to Clemson and Notre Dame in lopsided results.
Duke: Marvin Bagley III continues his outstanding freshman season as the 6-11 forward is making 63.0 percent of his FG attempts with 11 double-doubles while averaging 21.9 points and 11.6 rebounds. Senior guard Grayson Allen scored 22 against Florida State and has connected on 41 of 94 attempts from three-point range overall (43.6%), averaging 17.4 points and dishing out 4.4 assists per contest. Freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. (6-10) is shooting 61 percent from the floor overall and averaging 13.7 points (16.5 over the last four contests) along with 8.9 rebounds. Rounding out Coach K's "Fab 4 Freshmen" are Gary Trent Jr. (13.0 & 4.5) and Trevon Duval (12.0 & 6.6 APG). Duke is the nation's second-highest scoring team (94.5 PPG) and is shooting 51.3% as a team (9th).
N.C. State: The Wolfpack hardly looked ready for prime time in losing their first two ACC games. They averaged just 60.0 PPG in losing to Clemson and Notre Dame, while allowing 83.0 PPG. “I just try to tell my team to not keep their heads down,” senior forward Abdul-Malik Abu told the Raleigh News & Observer. “There are a lot more coming. There are a lot more teams. This is not the end of the world, but it’s not a good feeling at the same time.”Senior guard Allerik Freeman leads a normally productive offense (82.5 PPG ranks 43rd) while averaging 15.3 points and junior backcourt mate Torin Dorn is second on the team in scoring with 13.2 PPG plus a team-high 7.6 RPG. The 6-8 Lennard Freeman (11.6 & 5.3) plus 7-0 center Omer Yurtseven (11.4 & 8.7) are both in double digits, as is guard Beverly (10.2). PG Johnson chips in 8.7 PPG and a team-leading 6.6 APG.
The pick: Duke has been off since beating FSU last Saturday and the week off will help with four games in the next 10 days, including trips to Pittsburgh and Miami (Fla.. The Blue Devils' offense was hitting on all cylinders vs. FSU and "The Pack" will have Coach K’s full attention after the Wolfpack's 84-82 upset win at Cameron Indoor last season. N.C. State seems doomed to be a doormat in the 'loaded' ACC this season. Lay the points and make Duke a 10* play.
|01-05-18||Raptors v. Bucks +1||Top||129-110||Loss||-108||12 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: The Bucks have won three of four and at 20-16, currently own the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. The team's lone loss in that aforementioned span came just this past Monday, when Milwaukee lost 131-127 in OT at Toronto. The Raptors visit the Bradley Center in Milwaukee tonight on a three-game winning streak which leaves them 26-10 on the season, good enough for the East's No. 2 seed (Toronto is 2 1/2 games back of the Celtics and two games up on the Cavs).
Toronto: The Bucks could not figure out how to contain Toronto star DeMar DeRozan in Monday's loss, as the shooting guard scored a Raptors franchise-record 52 points. The backcourt duo of DeRozan (25.2-4.3-5.0) and Lowry (16.2-5.1-6.9) is top-notch plus PF Ibaka (13.8 & 6.1) and center Valanciunas (10.6 & 7.60 are quality players. DeRozan has been especially hot since the calendar flipped to 2018, averaging 48.5 points in Toronto's last two contests. While DeRozan, Lowry, Ibaka and Valanciunas have been the driving force this season, Delon Wright (8.8) set a career high against Chicago in Toronto's most recent game with 25 points and 13 rebounds, plus Fred VanVleet (6.3) added 13 on 5-of-7 shooting, marking his ninth double-digit scoring game of the season. The Raptors are the NBA's third-highest scoring team at 111.6 PPG.
Milwaukee: The Bucks are creeping up the standings in the Eastern Conference and quickly bounced back from their Jan. 1 loss in Toronto by cruising past the Indiana Pacers 122-101 on Wednesday. The rout allowed Giannis Antetokounmpo to sit out the entire fourth quarter. "We would all like to have a game like this where you can keep them under 30 minutes, but unfortunately that hasn't happened a lot this year," Bucks head coach Jason Kidd told reporters. "So, this is a good win, especially having that game in Toronto (on Monday)." Milwaukee shot 58.7 percent from the floor and handed out 33 assists on Wednesday, with Matthew Dellavedova (nine), Malcolm Brogdon (five) and Eric Bledsoe (five) joining Antetokounmpo (five) in getting the whole team involved. Antetokounmpo (29.1-10.4-4.3) is a superstar but SF Middleton (20.6 & 5.7) and guard Bledsoe (18.2-4.1-4.5) are players any team would want.
The pick: I realize that Toronto has won 15 of 18 but this is a quick "re-hook" for these two teams from a New Year’s Day contest. I feel confident in saying that DeRozan won't get 52 points again and remember, even with his record output, the Raptors needed OT (at Home!) to edge the Bucks.by just four points. The Bradley Center setting gives Milwaukee the edge in this quick turnaround. Make the Bucks a 10* play
|01-05-18||NC-Wilmington v. Towson -11||Top||71-89||Win||100||11 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up: The NC-Wilmington Seahawks will travel to SECU Arena to take on the Towson Tigers this Friday night in Colonial Athletic Association action. The Seahawks improved to 4-10 (1-1 CAA) on the season after defeating Drexel,107-87 this past Tuesday. As for the Tigers, they opened the season with a conference loss at Old Dominion (how rare is that!), before running off 10 consecutive wins. However, Towson comes into this contest having lost four straight games to fall to 10-5. Tuesday's 75-72 defeat at the hands of Elon, also leaves the Tigers 0-2 in CAA play.
NC-Wilimington: The Seahawks had little trouble putting up points against the Drexel defense and had a double-digit lead throughout the second half after taking a 57-40 halftime lead. UNC-Wilmington shot 58.7% from the floor. However, that effort is the exception, not the rule, so far this season. The Seahawks have two excellent players in the 6-7 Cacok (18.1 & 13.4) and PG Talley (16.4 & 5.1 APG) but while the team can score (81.3 PPG), it's defense is a sieve. NC-Wilmington is allowing 85.0 PPG (343rd) on 47.8% shooting (318th).
Towson: The Tigers returned four starters from last year's team and their current skid is surprising. Guards Martin (18.7) and Morsell (12.1) are supported by six players all getting 15-plus MPG, while chipping in between 3.1 and 8.5 PPG. SF Keith (7.8 & 5.4) and the 6-7 Gorham (7.2 & 5.5) are the team's best frontcourt players. Towson (74.3 PPG) can't quite score with Wilmington but the Tigers play solid defense, allowing a modest 65.8 PPG (51st), while holding opponents to just 39.6% shooting from thge floor (34th).
The pick: The Seahawks won and covered their last game but prior to that, had b 0-9een ATS in lined games this season, including 0-4 SU & ATS in lined true road games. Towson's four-game skid has all come in road contests and the Tigers are a perfect 5-0 SU at home this season (5-1-1 ATS run at home, going back into last season). Make Towson a 10* play.
|01-04-18||Thunder -1 v. Clippers||Top||127-117||Win||100||15 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: The OKC Thunder will play a second consecutive game in Staples Center, having defeated the LA Lakers 133-96 on Wednesday. The Thunder righted themselves from a two-game skid that had followed a six-game winning streak. The Clippers have won four straight games and six of their last seven. Five of those six victories have come at Staples Center, as the Clippers are in the midst of one of their longest home stretches of the season. Tonight's game will be the Clippers' fifth consecutive at Staples Center (one game was as the visiting team against the Lakers) and they will run that streak to seven consecutive when they host the Warriors on Saturday and the Hawks on Monday.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder "took no prisoners" in last night's win over the Lakers, the team's seventh in its last nine games. OKC (20-17) shot a season-best 60.2 percent from the floor plus established a season best for points scored in Wednesday's 133-96 rout. Reigning MVP Russell Westbrook had 20 points and 12 assists to run his streak of consecutive 20-point outings to 11, while reaching double digits in assists for the sixth time in seven games. Westbrook's numbers are down from last year but the team seems to be finally finding "a balance" between its three superstars. OKC is 13-5 since Dec. 1 suggesting that head coach Billy Donovan has finally figured out how to fit Paul George (20.7 & 5.4) and Carmelo Anthony (17.6 & 6.0) around Russell Westbrook (24.7-9.5-10.1).
LA Clippers: Blake Griffin (23.5-7.7-5.3) has been back for the last three games (all wins), after missing 14 straight. However, the team's most explosive player over the last seven games has been veteran guard Lou Williams (13th year). Williams (21.7 PPG and 4.8 APG would both be career single-season bests) is on a scoring spree and it is equating to victories. He'll look to score 30-plus points for the fifth time in the past seven games tonight against OKC, as the Clippers go for their seventh win in the last eight contests. Los Angeles (17-19) has won six consecutive home games and nine of its last 13 overall contests as it closes in on the .500 mark after getting off to a poor start.
Thge pick: If a team has to play back-to-back games on the road, it can't ask for more than this situation, as OKC players didn't even have to check out of the hotel after beating the Lakers right here at Staples Center last night. Griffin may be back for LA and as noted, Williams has been great but Beverley (12.2) is out for the year, Gallinari (13.4 & 4.4) won't be back for awhile and Rivers (15.8) is listed as questionable after sitting out the past two games (Achilles). I've already noted that the offense is beginning to "find a groove" but OKC's defense is allowing just 100.4 PPG on the season, third-best in the NBA. Plus, how about this? George and Westbrook are first and second in the league in steals, collecting 2.45 and 2.00 respectively. Make OKC a 10* play.
|01-04-18||USC v. California +7||Top||80-62||Loss||-115||23 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: USC returned all five starters from last year's 26-win team and after a 3-0 start was ranked No. 10 in the AP poll. The Trojans were still No. 14 after suffering their first loss of the season (at home to A&M), dropping them to 4-1. However, two more losses followed and at 4-3, USC was out of the top-25. The Trojans are currently 10-5 (have wons six of eight since that three-game skid), including going 1-1 in Pac 12 play after opening with a home loss to Washington last Friday, but then beating Washington State on Sunday. Cal came into this season off seasons of 23 and 21 wins but also with a first-year heads coach in Wyking Jones, who would have just one starter coming back. Cal checks in 7-7 but most of its wins have come against some mediocre-to-bad teams, including a 77-74 victory over Stanford in the team's Pac 12 opener. The Bears had to crawl back from 17 points down against Stanford, a 6-8 team which has lost to Eastern Washington (6-9), Portland St. and Long Beach St. (6-10).
USC: The Trojans feature an excellent starting-five, led by the 6-11 Metu (17.8 & 7.6) and the 6-10 Boatwright (16.8 & 7.0). Rounding out the group are guards McLaughlin (12.9-4.0-8.0), Stewart (12.5) and Mathews (9.4). The team's sixth-man is the 6-11 Rakocevic (6.5 & 5.2). Metu is considered a potential NBA lottery pick but was ejected late in the first half against Washington State after he ran by Washington St. guard Carter Skaggs, who was shooting a three-pointer in front of the Trojans' bench, and punched him in the groin. USC coach Andy Enfield said Metu will sit out the first half against the Bears, surrender his captaincy and sent a letter of apology to Skaggs,
Cal: The Bears have a mix of veterans and freshman in both the backcourt and frontcourt. Junior guard Coleman (20.1) is the team's leading scorer and his backcourt partner is freshman McNeill (13.4). Up front, 6-11 senior Lee (12.6 & 7.8) is paired with 6-7 freshman Sueing (12.0 & 5.7). Cal sputtered out of the gate with a 3-6 start that included head-scratching losses to UC Riverside (74-66), Central Arkansas (96-69) and Division II Chaminade (96-72) but the Bears have been better since. Cal does own a nice win at Mountain West heavyweight San Diego State (63-62) and while Stanford is going nowhere in the Pac 12 this season, when a team can come back from 17 points down to win, it deserves some props.
The pick: USC won't have Metu and while Haas Pavilion may not be the most intimidating venue in the Pac 12 these days, Cal is still 37-8 straight up its previous 45 home games. Take the points and make Cal a 10* play!
|01-03-18||Raptors -5 v. Bulls||Top||124-115||Win||100||12 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: The 25-10 Toronto Raptors have quietly moved into second-place among all Eastern Conference teams, one game better than the Cleveland Cavaliers and 2 1/2 games behind the Boston Celtics, who hold down the East's top spot. Toronto (25-10) went 11-3 in December and will head to 13-24 Chicago Wednesday night having won eight of its last 10 games. Chicago won 10 of 12 games following Nikola Mirotic's return from facial fractures but has dropped the its last two games two at Washington and home against Portland. The two defeats have come by a total of just eight points and the Bulls have squandered leads late in each of the setbacks.
Toronto: DeMar DeRozan set a Toronto franchise record with 52 points in a 131-127 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday (the previous team record of 51 points shared by Vince Carter and Terrence Ross) . "He was playing with a lot of juice, oomph," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey told reporters of DeRozan. "You could see the bounce in his step in the first quarter, the force he was playing with coming off pick-and-rolls, bouncing up, and he maintained that throughout the whole game, which was huge for him." DeRozan (24.9-4.3-4.9) made17-of-29 from the floor and was 13-of-13 from the line (he also handed out a team-high eight assists). PG Lowry (16.2-6.1-7.0) joins DeRozan to give Toronto one of the NBA's best backcourt while PF Ibaka (13.7 & 6.1) and center Valanciunas (10.9 & 7.6) are the team's frontcourt stalwarts. Toronto is the NBA's third-highest scoring team at 111.2 PPG and do a decent job on the defensive end as well, allowing 103.5 PPG (10th).
Chicago: Mirotic is averaging a team-high 18.3 PPG in his 14 games, while adding 7.3 PPG. However, while his return has been the spark that led to Chicago's recent run of strong play, it wasn't the only factor. Second-year PGKris Dunn is averaging 15.8 points and 8.1 assists over his last 13 games and scored 22 points in Monday's 124-120 overtime loss to the Trail Blazers. "We're clicking right now," Dunn told reporters. "We're playing good basketball. These two losses, they definitely hurt. When they're down the stretch, and you feel like you can win the games, it's hard to swallow. But we're playing good basketball, and I like what we're doing so far." Let's not forget to mention rookie Markkanen, who is easily been one of the league's best 'freshman' so far, averaging 14.7 & 7.4.
The pick: The Raptors have taken each of the first two meetings this season with the Bulls, although both games were in Toronto. The Bulls are a money-making 13-2 ATS their last 15 but are entering a stretch in which most of their games will be against teams with winning records.Chicago has begun to have some trouble closing out tight games. The Bulls will enter Wednesday's game attempting to overcome a pair of losses in which they couldn't finish games when it mattered most. After a four-point loss Sunday against Washington when the Wizards scored the final seven points, Chicago again lost by four against Portland and again blew a lead in the final minute with the Trail Blazers playing without leading scorer Damian Lillard. I see that happening here. Make Toronto a 10* play.
|01-03-18||St. John's v. Creighton -12||Top||71-78||Loss||-105||12 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Big East action tonight from CenturyLink Center in Omaha, as the St. John’s Red Storm visit the Creighton Bluejays. The Red Storm went 10-2 in non-conference play but have opened Big East action 0-2, losing to Providence and Seton Hall. St John's is 10-4 (0-2 Big East) as it takes the court against 11-3 Creighton, which has split its first two league games, losing to Seton Hall back on Dec. 28 but bouncing back to beat Providence in its most recent outing.
St. John's: This is Chris Mullins third season coaching at his alma mater and after seasons of six and 14 wins, he has to be happy about his team's 10 wins before Jan. 1. The Red Storm have five players scoring in double digits,, led by PG Ponds (20.1-6.2-4.8) and fellow guard LoVett (14.9). The problem is that Ponds is questionable with a knee injury and LoVett is out with an ankle injury (he's missed the last seven games). A pair of 6-7 forwards in Ahmed (11.7 & 4.7) and Clark (11.5 & 4.2) plus 6-5 guard Simon (10.6-7.9-4.8) will be asked to do more. Mullins will also hope that the 6-11 Tariq Owens (7.7 & 6.3) can repeat his season highs of 19 points and 14 boards (vs. Seton Hall), here. However, even at 100 percent, St. John's averages a modest 73.8 PPG (214th), although the defense has done well, allowing 65.9 PPG (52nd) on 39.0 percent shooting (29th).
Creighton: The Bluejays have been one of the nation’s most productive offensive teams, averaging 91.1 PPG (4th) on 51.4% shooting (8th). Guards Foster (19.0) and Thomas (14.8) lead the way with the team's best frontcourt player being the 6-9 Krampelj, who is chipping in 12.6 & 7.0. The Slovenian has averaged 18 points and nine rebounds in the first two Big East games. The Bluejays also have excellent depth, contributing to the team's offensive success.
The pick: We knpw LoVett will miss and Ponds may, so it seems highly unlikely the Red Storm have the firepower to 'hang' vs. the Bluejays, who have won the last four meetings between the two schools, scoring at least 80 in all four contests. Make Creighton a 10* play.
|01-02-18||Grizzlies v. Clippers -5||Top||105-113||Win||100||15 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: Blake Griffin has made a faster return than expected from a sprained knee and has averaged 24.5 PPG in his two games back on the court. The Clipps have won both of them but had begun a turnaround before he got back on the floor, as they'll go for a sixth victory in their last seven games. The now 16-19 Clippers will welcome the Memphis Grizzlies to Staples Center on Tuesday, a team which has also had a sudden surge, winning three of its last five.
Memphis: In fairness, the Grizzlies have (had) nowhere to go but up. PG Mike Conley (17.1 & 4.1 APG) has been shelved since last playing on Nov.13 to deal with his Achilles. Memphis would lose 17 of its next 19 before little 3-2 "mini-run." Swingman Tyreke Evans has been excellent (19.6-5.1-4.6) and center Marc Gasol (18.5 & 8.5) is an established All Star but no other player is averaging in double digits on the season. To put it mildly, the Grizzlies have struggled offensively for most of the season (98.7 PPG ranks 29th) but are suddenly averaging 112.6 points while winning three of their last five contests. "I think if you take a look at our past five games, our scoring is up, our shooting percentages are up, our assists are up and our turnovers are down," interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters. "So that's the growth that we've been looking for in our offense." Memphis is a stellar 29-of-51 from three-point range over the past two games, going a torrid 15-of-21 in a loss to the Golden State Warriors and following up with a 14-of-30 effort in Sunday's 114-96 road win against the Sacramento Kings Evans had 26 points versus the Kings for his eighth 20-point outing in the past nine contests. "He's had that edge all year," Memphis center Marc Gasol told reporters after Evans torched his former team. "He's had that same mentality, so don't take it like he came in here and did something he hasn't done every game. He's come with that aggressiveness."
LA Clippers: Griffin missed14 games due to his knee injury (Clippers were 6-8).but he contributed 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists as Los Angeles recorded a 106-98 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday (he had 24 points in his return in Friday's win over the Lakers). Guard Lou Williams (in his 13th season) has found teh 'fountain of youth,' pouring in 40 points and contributed eight assists in Sunday's 106-98 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. He made six 3-pointers in the contest and has made 24 threes over the past five games while averaging 30.4 points. "I always feel like I can get it going, but to see it early, it puts me in a different mindset, in an attack mode," Williams said afterward. "Once I get two or three early, that way I can just get everybody else involved." Williams checks in averaging a career-high 21.4 PPG (also 4.8 APG would be a career-high, as well).
The pick: Surprisingly, the Grizzlies are 2-0 against the Clippers this season, including a 115-112 victory on Dec. 23 despite a career-best 38 points from LA's Austin Rivers (15.8 PPG). However, .Rivers (Achilles) is questionable after sitting out Sunday. Still, the Clippers have centere Jordan (11.0 & 15.3) to match up with Gasol and I expect the Clippers to exact some revenge here. LA's lone loss in winning five of its last six is that Dec 23 loss in Memphis. Lay the points and make LA a 10* play.
|01-02-18||Georgetown +4.5 v. DePaul||Top||90-81||Win||100||14 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Big East basketball tonight from Chicago at WinTrust Arena, as the Georgetown Hoyas take on the DePaul Blue Demons. Both schools check in at 0-2 in Conference play, so the victor will earn its first conference win. The Hoyas opened 8-0 under first time head coach Patrick Ewing before losing to former Big Est rival Syracuse. After reaching 10-1, Georgetown lost its Big East opener 91-89 at home to Butler and then lost 74-65 at Marquette. The challenge will be easier here vs. 7-7 DePaul, which is coming off back-to-back nine-win seasons in the return of head coach Dave Leitao (Blue Demons have gone 5-31 in Big Est play under Leitao the last two seasons).
Georgetown: The Hoyas are led by the 6-10 Govan (18.4 & 12.2), who has nine double-doubles in 13 games. Guards Derrickson (14.6 & 7.5) and Johnson (10.8 & 5.0) also average in double figures. Patrick Ewing's team has had trouble with ball control during its non-conference schedule but it has been downright atrocious in the Big East. The starting lineup racked up 19 giveaways, including five from point guard Jonathan Mulmore, as the Hoyas finished with more than 20 for the second straight game. The Hoyas have also shot less than 44 percent in their first two league games. An argument could be made that Georgetown’s lightweight schedule is starting to catch up with the Hoyas and their early strong start was no more than a product of weak opposition.
DePaul: Yes. DePaul is also 0-2 in Big East play but those losses came against Big East and national 'heavyweights' Villanova and Xavier. Max Strus led the team with 33 points on 10 of 18 shooting while Justin Roberts added 16 points to join Strus as the only Blue Demons to score in double digits in the 77-72 loss to Xavier, last time out. Strus (18.6 & 4.6) is the team's leading scored but Roberts is a freshman who is averaging just 4.9 PPG. Joining Strus in double digits are the 6-11 Maric (12.7 & 5.8), PG Cain (11.5-4.2-3.7) and the 6-7 McCallum (11.0 & 6.0).
The pick: DePaul’s two losses came to the best in the conference and could be a positive sign of turning the corner in the Big East. However, I'm not 'biting.' This team has been a league laughing stock for quite some time now (Leitao's return hasn't change anything) and prior to a win in the second meeting last season, DePaul had been on an 0-15 run against Georgetown in Big East games. Make the Hoyas a 10* play.
|01-01-18||Magic +2 v. Nets||Top||95-98||Loss||-105||12 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: The Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets met twice during the first week of the season with the Nets claiming the first meeting on Oct. 20 in Brooklyn 126-121, while the Magic rebounded four days later for a 125-121 win in Orlando. The Magic opened the current season 8-4 but they've dropped 21 of 25 games since that hot start, including Saturday's 117-111 home loss to Miami in which they squandered an 18-point lead. As for the Nets, Brooklyn hasn't been above .500 since it was 3-2 after a upsetting the Cavs at home back on Oct. 25th, a victory that left them 3-2. The teams meet Monday night at Barclays Center for the third time this season and both are fighting to keep themselves out of the basement in the Eastern Conference. The Nets check in at 13-23 and the Magic at 12-25.
Orlando:The Magic still aren't winning but they may finally be getting Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier going at the same time after injuries hindered each player. Gordon scored 39 points on 14-of-22 shooting against the Heat while Fournier contributed 23 on 9-of-17, their best totals since coming back from calf and ankle injuries, respectively. PF Gordon leads the team in scoring at 18.9 PPG plus adds 7.9 RPG. Swingman Fournier is right behind him averaging 18.3 PPG. Orlando needs those two healthy with center Nikola Vucevic (17.4 & 9.3) lost to a broken hand. Bismack Biyombo has recorded two straight double-doubles and is averaging 11.7 rebounds over the course of three straight starts since Vucevic went down.
Brooklyn: The Nets know all about losing key players to injury, as Jeremy Lin was lost for the season in the team's season opener and DeAngelo Russell (20.9 & 5.7 APG) went down with a knee injury after just 12 games (he's expected back later this month). Currently, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (15.1 & 6.5) is carrying Brooklyn through its rocky stretch, scoring 22 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in Saturday's loss while helping make a tight game of what looked like a blowout early on. "We stayed poised to make a comeback," Hollis-Jefferson told reporters. "That's basketball. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn't. But for us, now we're definitely competing. It starts with the starting unit, we've got to come out that way. And I feel like the effort's there." He is averaging 17.2 points and 8.2 rebounds over his last five games, leading six active Net players in double digits on teh season.
The pick: The last time the Brooklyn Nets played a home game, they produced their best showing of the season, delivering a resounding 119-84 win over the Washington Wizards on Dec. 22. The Nets will get several chances in the upcoming weeks to produce more home victories starting tonight, as they play eight of their next 10 games at home. Yes, Orlando has lost six straight on the road but the Magic have also won seven of the last nine meetings with the Nets. Make Orlando a 10* play.
|01-01-18||Texas -3 v. Iowa State||Top||74-70||Win||100||11 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The Longhorns are coming off an awful 11-22 season, so the team's 9-3 start was a welcome sight. Texas easily handled Alabama 66-50 on Dec 22 in the Vulcan Classic at Birmingham, Al. but Kansas was a little too much for the Longhorns in their Big 12 opener, as they fell 92-86 at home to the Jayhawks on Friday. Texas (9-4 / 0-1 Big 12) will visit Hilton Coliseum on Monday to take on the 9-3 Iowa State Cyclones. Iowa State also lost its Big 12 opener, falling on Friday as well, 91-75 at home against Kansas State.
Texas: The 6-9 Osetkowski (14.8 & 7.8) is the team's leading scorer and guard Andrew Jones is second on the team with 14.1 PPG. Jones sat out four games with a broken wrist but returned against Kansas but was only able to play nine minutes. Jones' status means more will be expected of guards Roach (11.2) and Coleman (8.0 & 4.2 APG). Coleman sure stepped up vs. Kansas, scoring 17 points with five assists plus matched a season high with six boards. Freshman Mohamed Bamba is 6-11 and regarded as one of the top incoming freshmen in the country this season. He set career highs of 22 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks vs. Kansas. He enters averaging 11.8 & 10.2 as well as 4.5 blocks per game.
Iowa State The Cyclones had a nine-game winning streak going before falling to Kansas State in their last outing. Iowa State had to be disappointed by the home loss but freshman Lindell Wigginton (16.2 & 4.2) wasn’t intimidated in his first Big 12 game, scoring 23 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He's one of four starters in double digits, joined by fellow guards Jackson (15.0) and Weller-Baab (12.6-7.4-7.1) plus the 6-9 Lard (10.3 & 6.1), who comes off the bench.
The pick: Texas coach Shaka Smart got an unexpected surprise last June when the 6-11 Mohamed Bamba chose the Longhorns over expected destinations of Kentucky or Duke, as he's transformed Texas into an NCAA Tournament-caliber team. He, plus the 6-9 Osetkowski will make for tough match ups for Iowa State. The 6-8 Solomon Young (6.8 & 5.7) is the Cyclones' tallest starter and 6-9 Cameron Lard, the team's tallest reserve. Hilton Coliseum is a tough venue but Kansas State didn't have much trouble. Texas has lost fout times but all have all come seven points or less and all have come against quality opponents (Duke, Gonzaga, Michigan and Kansas). Make Texas a 10* play.
|12-31-17||Savannah State +39 v. Michigan State||Top||52-108||Loss||-105||14 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The No. 2 Michigan State Spartans will play their final non-conference game on New Year's Eve day, welcoming the Savannah State Tigers to teh Breslin Center..No. 1 Villanova lost for the first time this season yesterday at Butler, so Michigan State (BTW...No. 3 and unbeaten Arizona St. also lost Saturday) will almost certainly open the 2018 as the AP's new No. 1 team. The 13-1 Spartans come into this contest having won 12 straight and have reached triple digits in their last three wins. Meanwhile, the Tigers come in off five straight losses, falling to 3-11 on the season.
Savannah State: The Tigers really struggled to shoot the ball during a stretch of four road games over 10 days in mid-December, creating some frustration for head coach Harold Broadnax, Savannah State missed its first nine shots in a 31-point loss to Virginia last time out on Dec. 19, a sign of the fatigue the team was feeling. A pair of 6-5 guards, McClanahan (13.6) and Fenner (10.7) are the only two players averaging in double digits for a team averaging a respectable 79.6 PPG (80th) but on just on 37.8% shooting (347th). Defensively, the Tigers have been in over their heads playing "up in class," and check in allowing 96.8 PPG (351st) on 50.2% shooting (346th)
Michigan State; Tom Izzo (and previous MSU squads) have had good offensive teams before but this year's team is very likely the most-balanced stating-five a MSU team has been. Surely in the Izzo era, as all five starters are scoring in double figures plus izzo is able to go to his bench without seeing too much of a fall-off in point production. 6-7 swingman Bridges (16.8 & 6.8)( is one of the nation's best players and is joined in the starting lineup by guards Langford (14.3) and Winston (12.9 & 6.7 APG) plus big men like the 6-8 Ward (15.0 & 7.3) and the 6-11 Jackson (10.5 & 7.5) Bench players are guard McQuaid (7.2) plus forwards Schilling (3.5 & 3.9) and Tillman (3.4 & 23.8) both are solid interior players who can score in the paint. Michigan State is averaging 86.3 PPG (20th) on 52.3% shooting (2nd) plus as always, Izzo teams play defense.The Spartans are allowing 62.1 PPG (15th) on 33.4% shooting, which ranks first in the nation!
The pick: It's a 12 noon ET start and both teams would likely rather be elsewhere on this day. Is there any reason for Michigan State to "pour it on?" Sure, Izzo is a pro and demands his team play hard but the good news for the Tigers is that the team has finally had a break (last played Dec. 19th) and fresh legs will help the team's shooting and it's effort on defense. Take the HUGE points and make Savannah State an 8* play.
|12-30-17||Texas A&M v. Alabama||Top||57-79||Loss||-110||10 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up:Texas A&M is off a 16-15 season last year but will open SEC play Saturday in Alabama, off an impressive non-conference run of 11-1 which has teh Aggies ranked 5th in the latest AP poll. A&M's lone loss came back on Dec. 5 at Phoenix, when the Aggies feel 67-64 to Arizona. A&M won four straight since losing to the Wildcats and is coming off an 89-73 win over Buffalo on Dec. 21. The 8-4 Crimson Tide are looking to bounce back from their worst offensive performance of the season, 66-50 loss to Texas on Dec. 22, which marked their fourth loss in seven games. The good news for Alabama fans is, Alabama leads the all-time series 10-5, including a 5-1 mark at home against the Aggies and has won three of the past four meetings.
Texas A&M: The Aggies will be short-handed for this one, as the 6-9 DJ Hogg (14.5 points) serves the second contest of a three-game suspension for violation of school policy and guard Admon Gilder (12.7) is out with a knee injury. A&M is scoring 81.6 PPG (59th) but really shines on the defensive end of the court, holding opponents to 64.4 PPG (31st) on just 36.2% shooting (4th). The Aggies are also an excellent rebounding team thanks to 6-10 center Tyler Davis (13.9 & 8.4) and the 6-10 Robert Williams (7.3 & 10.1). Also, freshman swingman Savion Flagg (8.3 & 5.1 rebounds) has stepped up in Hogg and Gilder’s absence. He was named SEC Freshman of the Week after averaging 16.5 points and nine rebounds in two wins. Also, PG Duane Wilson (12.3 & 4.6 APG) has averaged 19.5 points and seven assists in two games last week.
Alabama:The Crimson Tide have gone 4-2 in contests decided by five points or fewer but that's "living on the edge," especially since the team's top-two scorers are freshman. Guards Collin Sexton (20.5 7 3.5 APG) and John Petty (12.9) lead the way, although Alabama has also gotten good production from 6-9 forward Donta Hall (11.1 & 7.5) and 6-5 swingman Dazon Ingram (10.9 & 6.7). Alabama scores less (76.9 PPG) than A&M and allows more (71.8 PPG).
The pick: I;m not sure the fact that Alabama leads the all-time series 10-5, including a 5-1 mark at home, means all that much.A&M is playing with great confidence and I'll ride them here in making the Aggies a 10* play.
|12-30-17||Tennessee +6 v. Arkansas||Top||93-95||Win||100||5 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Tennessee Volunteers and Arkansas Razorbacks open their SEC schedules with this afternoon tip from Bud Walton Arena. The Vols are coming off a 16-16 season and were picked 13th in the preseason SEC media poll. Howecver, Tennessee's 9-2 start has them ranked 19th in the latest AP poll. The Vols' SEC opener will be a tough one in Fayetteville, as the Razorbacks are 10-2, are the SEC's highest scoring team at 90.0 PPG (8th in the nation) and check in at 13th in the latest RPI rankings (the Vols are 8th).
Tennessee: The Vols look like a potential cSEC title contender, as their only losses have come against top-10 teams Villanova (85-76) and North Carolina (78-73). Tennessee's list of 'victims' includes nationally-ranked Purdue (78-75 in OT) plus three ACC schools, N.C. State (67-58), Georgia Tech (77-70) and Wake Forest (79-60). Forward Grant Williams is pacing the squad in scoring (15.4 points) and rebounding (6.6) while guard Jordan Bowden (12.0) and small forward Admiral Schofield (11.9 & 5.2) also are averaging double figures. Guards James Daniel (3.6 assists) and Jordan Bone (3.5) are setting the table for the offense, which has recorded assists on 66.9 percent of its made field goals, a rate which ranks only behind SMU (67.8) and Michigan State (67.3) nationally. The Vols can't match Arkansas on the offensive end of the court (Tennessee is averaging 77.5 PPG) but Tennessee is holding opponents to 65.8 PPG (51st) on 39.0% shooting (30th).
Arkansas: Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks are off a 26-win season that ended with a second round loss in the NCAAs. The team enters on a five-game winning streak and checks in at 7-0 SU & 6-1 ATS at home, where Arkansas has outscored opponents 95.0-to-69.4 PPG. Guard Jaylen Barford leads five double-figure scorers with 18.6 points and is shooting a team-best 46.4 percent from three-point range. Guards Daryl Macon (15.3 points), Anton Beard (12.1) and C.J. Jones (10.5) plus forward Daniel Gafford (11.7) also average double digits for the Razorbacks who rank 21st nationally in field-goal percentage (50.3).
The pick: The series is tied at 19 wins apiece but Arkansas has won five straight and six of the last eight, including four straight in Fayetteville. Does that mean the play is on the Razorbacks? Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said in a post-practice news conference Thursday regarding the Razorbacks, “Arkansas is a great transition team which can really explode on you.” The Razorbacks can score in bunches and are a multiple defensive team with a lot of depth. It should be a game that’s really an up-and-down game.” However, Barnes' team ranks ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency and matches up well. Make Tennessee an 8* play.
|12-29-17||Kansas -2.5 v. Texas||Top||92-86||Win||100||13 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Kansas Jaywhawks opened the year as the AP's -ranked team in it preseason poll. Kansas completed its non-conference schedule 10-2 (ias currently ranked 11th), losing only to Washington and Arizona State in back-to-back games (note: ASU remains unbeaten) .The Jayhawks last played on Dec. 21, routing Stanford 75-54 in Palo Alto. They now open Big 12 play by traveling to Austin to take on the 9-3 Texas Longhorns. The The Longhorns are coming off an awful 11-22 season, so the team's 9-3 start is a welcome sight. Texas last played on Dec 22, beating Alabama 66-50 in the Vulcan Classic at Birmingham, Al.
Kansas:The Jayhawks own quite a starting-five, with all scoring in double digits. Vick (17.1) leads the way, joined in the backcourt by PG Graham (16.8 & 7.6 APG) and Newman (10.4 & 4.8). Up front, it's the 6-8 Mykhailiuk (16.3) and the 7-0 Azubuike (15.5 & 8.0). The Jayhawks average 20 assists per game, which ranks tied for third nationally, and Devonte' Graham (7.6 per game) has an assist-to-turnover ratio approaching 3-to-1. Kansas is averaging 87.5 PPG (13th) on 52.3% shooting (4th). That goes nicely with the team's excellent defensive play, as the Jayhawks are holding opponents to 65.7 PPG (50th) on 38.6% shooting (28th).
Texas: Freshman Mohamed Bamba is 6-11 and he registered 17 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in the win over Alabama. He's regarded as one of the top incoming freshmen in the country this season but has been somewhat of an enigma to this point. His per game stats (10.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.3 blocks) are solid but he has not made his teammates better (four assists in 310 minutes) and is shooting poorly from behind the three-point line (3-of-19) and the foul line (61 percent). Returning guards Jones (15.3) and Roach (10.9) are off too good starts, as is the 6-9 Osetkowski (14.6 & 7.8), although he is coming off perhaps his worst game of the season vs. Alabama, an eight-point clunker in which he shot 3-of-11 from the floor and had five turnovers.Texas can't match Kansas on the offensive end (72.2 PPG ranks 233rd and the team's 45.4% shooting ranks166th) but Texas can defend with the best of them. The Longhorns are holding opponents to 60.4 PPG (8th) on 37.4% shooting (10th).
The pick:Texas' three losses have all come seven points or less and all have come against quality opponents (Duke, Gonzaga, Michigan). The Longhorns won't be pushovers but Kansas has won 12 of its last 13 meetings with Texas and just has too much "O" for the Longhorns to keep it close enough. Make Kansas a 10* play.
|12-29-17||Mavs v. Pelicans -6.5||Top||128-120||Loss||-108||13 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The New Orleans Pelicans traded for DeMarcus Cousins around last year's All Star break, banking that he and fellow former Kentucky Wildcat Anthony Davis would form a 'Twin Towers' duo that would make the Pelicans relevant in the Western Conference. It's likely true that the Pelicans will only go as far as Davis and Cousins can take them but the hope is also that PG Rajon Rondo is capable of pushing the two big men to even greater heights. Rondo became the seventh player in NBA history, the first since 1996 and the first in franchise history to hand out 25 assists in a game when he hit that mark in a 128-113 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday. "The number one thing is we got the win," Rondo told reporters. "And then me personally, I love passing the ball. When everyone touches the ball, it gives you energy and life on defense. That's what I'm a big believer in, giving everyone touches and energy on both ends of the floor." The 18-16 Pelicans will welcome the t11-25 Dallas Mavericks to teh Soothie King Center on Friday, looking for a fourth consecutive win. The Mavericks still own the worst record in the Western Conference but just finished holding a pair of high-powered offenses in check in wins over Toronto and Indiana. Wednesday's 98-94 triumph at the Pacers snapped an eight-game road losing streak for Dallas, which comes to New Olreans with a 3-14 SU road record on the season.
Dallas:Toronto averages 110.6 points but was held to 93 by Dallas on Tuesday before Indiana, which averages 107.5 points, was held under 95 on Wednesday. “We stuck with it,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told reporters after beating Indiana. Offensively, 39-year-old forward Dirk Nowitzki showed little wear on the back-to-back and scored a combined 33 points on 15-of-23 shooting in the two wins. However, getting back to reality, Nowitzki is averaging only 12.1 & 5.5 on the season and Dallas struggles on offense, averaging only 99.9 PPG, which ranks 27th of 30 teams.
New Orleans: Even 24 hours later, all anyone associated with the New Orleans Pelicans could talk about after practice on Wednesday was the dazzling passing display from point guard Rajon Rondo, who set career and franchise records with 25 assists in a 128-113 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night. "We call him 'Coach' Rondo," said Pelicans guard E'Twaun Moore, who benefited from Rondo's passing prowess by going 8 of 11 from the floor and scoring 20 points in the victory over Brooklyn. "He's always orchestrating and putting people in the right places." However, let me again offer a reality check. Injuries have limited Rondo to just 20 games this season and he averages 6.8-4.0-8.3, so he's not exactly Russell Westbrook. The Cousins (25.9 & 12.1) and Davis (25.6 & 10.4) duo is backed by guard Holiday (18.1-4.3-5.3), who is quite the complete player. New Orleans has no trouble scoring, averaging 111.1 PPG (3rd) on 49.1% shooting (2nd). However, the team's defense leaves a lot to be desired, allowing 110.9 PPG (29th).
The pick: It's difficult to ignore Dallas' 3-14 SU road record plus the Pelicans come in with a 6-2 ATS record their last eight. Three Pelicans are averaging 20-plus points this month, Cousins (27.3), Davis (25.1) and Holiday (22.2) plus Rondo's return has solidified the backcourt, as he's averaging 8.3-5.1-9.8 in December. Lay it with New Orleans, making the Pelicans a 10* play.
|12-28-17||Wolves v. Bucks -2.5||Top||96-102||Win||100||19 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: The Minnesota Timberwolves are "making a move" with a five-game winning streak as they go for a sixth consecutive win Thursday night in Milwaukee.The Timberwolves are 22-13, which gives them the West's fourth-best record, a heady place for a franchise which last made the playoffs back in the 2003-04 season. The 17-15 Milwaukee Bucks will try to slow down the T-wolves, as well as halt a stretch during which they have lost five of their last seven games. Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) is expected to play, though the club is closely monitoring the injury that caused him to miss Saturday 's game.
Minnesota:The Timberwolves made more than a few moves in the off-season but none was bigger than the acquisition of three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler. He has helped spur the team's improvement, this season and he scored a season-high 39 points in Wednesday's 128-125 overtime win over Denver. Butler is a big reason why a club that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004 is nine games above .500 at the 35-game mark. "He's got an unbelievable will to win, and that's what makes him so special," Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters of Butler. "When his best is needed, he's always at his best. Always been that way, and that's not going to change." Butler (21.2-5.5-4.8) is now leading the team in scoring but he's hardly the only newcomer contributing. PG Jeff Teague (13.4 & 7.3 APG), PF Gibson (11.8 & 8.1) and reserve gauard Crawford (10.0) are all making solid contributions. Then there are the etam's two standout holdovers, Anthony -Towns (20.3. & 11.7) and Wiggins (17.6 & 4.0).
Milwaukee: Antetokounmpo (29.5-10.4-4.6) played through the pain on Tuesday and scored 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting to mark his 22nd consecutive 20-point effort. Coach Jason Kidd said the club will remain proactive in its observation of the 23-year-old star, who ranks second in the NBA with an average of 29.5 points. Kidd was less than thrilled with the club's rebounding in Tuesday's 115-106 loss to Chicago, saying, "That's just who we are, we can't rebound the ball. We just hope and pray that someone gets it. When that happens, we're going to get killed, and we got killed again." Milwaukee swingman Khris Middleton () was just 5-for-18 in the loss (16 points), after averaging 29.5 over the previous two contests.
The pick: Thee could be bad news for Minnesota, as PG Teague (left knee) departed Wednesday's game in the fourth quarter and will undergo an MRI exam on Thursday. I like Minnesota but have become leery (and weary) of trusting them. Many expected the Bucks to emerge as a rising power in the Eastern Conference but instead, they have been something of an enigma; capable of dominant performances against the league's better squads while looking flat-out overwhelmed against some of its' worst. The Bucks have won five of the last six meetings with the T-wolves and I'm expecting Milwaukee's "A-game" in this one. Make the Bucks a 10* play.
|12-28-17||Valparaiso +1 v. Indiana State||Top||64-73||Loss||-110||18 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The 9-4 Valparaiso Crusaders are off a 73-60 loss at UC-Riverside on Dec. 20 and will look to get back on the winning track Thursday night at the Hulman Center when they take on the 5-7 Indiana State Sycamores, who lost their second straight game 73-68 this past Friday at Elon. Valpo has won 28, 30 and 24 games the previous three seasons but first-year head coach Matt Lottich lost four starters off last year's team, including the irreplaceable Alec Peters. Indiana State is off an 11-20 season and had won just 15 games each in the previous two seasons.
Valparaiso: This year's team has been led by returning guard Tevonn Walker (16.4 & 5.8) plus Joe Burton, a 6-10 trdansfer from Oklahoma Sttae, who sat out last year. Burton is averaging 11.5 PPG and 3.4 RPG but is currently suspended. Walker has missed some games with mono but is expected back here and is joined in the backcourt by PG Evelyn (10.4 & 3.6 APG). Valpo hasn't scored like in recent years but the team is allowing a modest 65.8 PPG (56th).
Indiana State:The Sycamores are a perimeter-oriented team, with guards Jordan Barnes (17.1 & 4.3 APG), Brenton Scott (13.8 & 5.7) Qiydar Davis (10.9 & 5.4) checking in with double digtts, while Tyreke Key (9.2 & 3.8 rpg) just misses. However, this team is the very definition of average, scoring 74.9 PPG (185th) and allowing 74.7 PPG (229th).
The pick: The return of Walker is important for Valpo and this middle-of-the-pack MVC team won't put up much of a fight, even at home. Make the Crusaders a 10* play.
|12-27-17||Cavs -9.5 v. Kings||Top||95-109||Loss||-110||15 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cavs lost the opener of their three-game road swing on Christmas Day in Oakland 99-92 against the Curry-less Warriors. It was just the team's third loss in its last 22 games. It's not hard to believe that the Cavs would have loved to get the best of the Warriors in Monday's game, a rematch of teams that have met in each of the past three NBA Finals. However, Cleveland's 31.8 percent shooting percentage was the lowest of the season by a Warriors' opponent and star LBJ had a sub-par performance (7-of-18 shooting for 20 points). The Cavaliers hope to bounce back here against a Sacramento team that was awful in last night's 122-95 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. The 11-22 Kings are opening a six-game homestand but are only 5-8 at the Golden 1 Center.
Cleveland: LeBron has scored at least 20 points in 17 consecutive games but Monday's outing marked just the third time all season that he shot less than 40 percent from the floor. However, while LBJ (28.1-8.1-9.1) was off his game, Kevin Love (20.1 & 10.4) was outstanding with 31 points and a season-high 18 rebounds for his third 30-point performance of the season.The bigger problem vs. the Warriors was Cleveland's reserves. Normally, Cleveland's reserves average about 40 points per game on 45 percent shooting but against Golden State they struggled to contribute only 21 points on 6-of-26 shooting. As for Cleveland's defense, or lack of it, the Cavs will have to improve on it if the team hopes to challenge the Warriors. Cleveland is allowing 107.3 PPG (23rd) on 46.8% shooting (25th).
Sacramento: The Kings allowed 71 first-half points against the Clippers and coach Dave Joerger was disappointed in his young club's effort. "The level of focus, and being ready to go and being experienced in preparation and taking it out (onto the court), a lot of these guys are learning these things on the fly," Kings coach Dave Joerger told reporters. "We've been making a lot of strides but (we) took a step back." Sacramento misses rookie PG De'Aaron Fox (9.4-2.8-3.7) will miss approximately two more weeks with a quadriceps issue. FA, veteran PF Zach Randolph, leads the Kings in scoring (15.5) and rebounding (6.9). It's a good sign that center Willie-Cauley Stein is averaging 17.3 points (on 23-of-37 shooting) and nine rebounds over the past three games but on the season, those totals are a modest 11.0 PPG and 6.1 RPG. Buddy Hield, the key piece in the Cousins trade with the Pelicans, is connecting on 45.3 percent of his threes but the Kings expect more (and need more) out of him than is average of 12.6 PPG.
The pick: Coming off the loss at Golden State, one would think that Cleveland would be focused, even against the Kings. It likely helps that on Dec. 6, Cleveland almost got caught napping, edging the Kings 101-95 as a 12 1/2-point favorite at home. The Cavs haven't lost back-to-back games since that four-game slide during the season's first month, so the Kings are likely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Make Cleveland a 10* play.
|12-27-17||Eastern Michigan v. Syracuse -12||Top||47-62||Win||100||11 h 12 m||Show|
The set-up: The Eastern Michigan Eagles play in the MAC and will visit the Carrier Dome on Wednesday to take on the Syracuse Orange of the ACC. EMU is 8-3 and this marks the team's second-to-last non-conference game before the Eagles open MAC play Jan. 2 at Ball State. For the 10-2 Orange, this marks the team's final 'tune up,' as ACC play will begin Dec. 31 at home vs. Virginia tech.
Eastern Michigan: The Eagles are coming off a 16-17 season (7-11 in MAC play) and have to be happy with their 8-3 start. However, the Eagles do come in off a loss, as the team's three-game winning streak was snapped Dec. 22 when they lost 86-81 at Oakland (had beaten Oakland 95-89 at home on Dec. 6). EMU has three quality scorers in the 6-9 Minnie (18.0 & 6.8) and the 6-10 Thompson (17.7 & 12.4), as well as PG Jackson (17.0 & 4.8 APG). The Eagles shot nearly 50 percent from the floor against Oakland but were doomed by 5-of-16 three-point shooting and the inability to get stops on the other end. The Eagles could use more help from their bench, which totaled four points on 2-of-10 shooting last time out, but on the bright side, Paul Jackson continues to elevate his game after transferring from Eastern Kentucky. The 6-2 junior recorded a season-high 25 against Oakland and has scored in double figures every game since the season opener.
Syracuse: The team's offense revolves around guards Battle (19.9) and Howard (15.5 & 6.1 APG) plus 6-8 freshman Brissett (15.6 & 9.8). However, those three shot a combined 12-of-47 against St. Bonaventure, so it's not hard to see how Syracuse lost. Even with that poor effort, the Orange took the game into OT on Friday., before losing 60-57. Syracuse only made 18 FGs in 45 minutes and misfired on 16 of its 19 attempts from three-point range. "It's hard to win when you shoot 30 percent from the floor and 15 percent from the three-point line, but this team fights as hard as they possibly can," Boeheim told reporters. Boeheim's right about that, St Bonny only reached 60 points in OT. On the season, Syracuse is holding opponents to just 64.0 PPG (30th) on 38.5% shooting (29th).
The pick: James Thompson IV is a quality big man for EMU but freshman Brissett is off to a great start and should match up just fine. Expect the Orange to bounce back off that home loss to St. Bonny's, with ACC play beginning on New Year's Eve. Make Syracuse a 10* play.
|12-26-17||Jazz v. Nuggets -6||Top||83-107||Win||100||14 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets have had excellent success at the Pepsi Center this season (11-3) but are a modest 7-12 on the road. However, one could not tell that by the team's shocking 96-81 win Saturday night in Oakland, over the Warriors. Sure, Golden State is less than 100 percent but the Nuggets were 8 1/2-point road dogs and the victory ended the Warriors' 11-game winning streak. After a brief (but successful) 2-0 road trip, 18-15 Denver will host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, beginning s a stretch of four home games in a five-game stretch. Utah has won the first two meetings this season with Denver but the struggling Jazz come into this contest at 15-19, having followed up a six-game winning streak (Nov.22 thru Dec. 4) by losing eight of their last 10. Not coincidently, some of those losses have come since center Rudy Gobert (11.6 & 9.5) went down with a left knee injury that is expected to sideline him for two to three more weeks.
Utah: Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell returned from a toe sprain that robbed him of two games to score 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting in the team's most recent loss, 103-89 to Oklahoma City. Mitchell leads the team in scoring at 18.0 (also 3.1 RPG & 3.3 APG) and fellow guard Hood (17.7) is right behind him. The duo is among seven players averaging in double digits (including the currently sidelined Gobert) but the Jazz are averaging a modest 101.7 PPG (23rd). While the Jazz rank 7th in three-point percentage (38.1), the etam's triples have been hard to come by of late. Utah made just 6-of-26 long-range attempts in Saturday's loss to Oklahoma City. The defense remains good, allowing 100.7.5 PPG (5th).
Denver: The Nuggets' perimeter defense held the Warriors to a 3-for-27 shooting from beyond the arc. "I can't remember seeing many teams hold that team to 3-of-27 from the three-point line," Denver coach Michael Malone told reporters. "So it's a hell of a win for us and it's going to make Christmas obviously that much merrier." Center Nikola Jokic averaged 22.5 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the two wins and he has shot 50 percent or better in four straight games. Jokic has sure found a home in Denver, averaging 16.1 & 10.3. His inside presence is desperately needed with PF Millsap (15.3 & 6.2) sidelined for most if not all of the season. Guards Harris (16.2), Murray (15.0) and Barton (14.8) are consitsent contributors and another guard, Mudiay (9.6), is expected to return Tuesday from an ankle injury of his own after missing the previous four games.
The pick: The Jazz own a pair of wins (and double-digit covers) in the first two meetings this season but when one looks at Denver's 11-3 home nmark and Utah's 3-13 road record, it's tough to make a case for the Jazz. That's especially true with Gobert still sidelined. Make Denver a 10* play.
|12-25-17||Rockets v. Thunder +4||Top||107-112||Win||100||34 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: James Harden became the first player since Kobe Bryant in 2007 to reach 50 points in back-to-back games when he went for 51 against the Lakers on Wednesday and then hit that exact number again against the Clippers on Friday. However, the Rockets' loss to the Lakers ended the team's 14-game winning streak and when they lost again to the Clippers (despite Harden's 51 points), Harden joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to reach 50 points in consecutive losses! The 25-6 Rockets will visit OKC on Christmas evening to face the 18-15 Thunder, who are finally beginning to get their act together. OKC has won four straight games, as the roles of their three star player are becoming more clearly defined.
Houston: ""We lost," Harden (32.5-5.1-9.0) told reporters when asked about his historic scoring binge. "It doesn't matter." Maybe more notably, the last two Houston games were finished without PG Chris Paul (17.1-5.4-9.0), who left in the fourth quarter on Wednesday with a left adductor strain and sat out Friday. The All-Star is day-to-day and remains questionable for Monday's marquee matchup. "Our aura is not right," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters after Friday's setback. "These guys are a little tired. We've got to get guys back. This is an episode, a couple of episodes. The last two games, we just didn't play well enough and without the spirit and all that. Guys are kind of a little dead. Whether it's tiredness or whether they're into themselves a little too much, I don't know. We'll work on it, but obviously it's not good enough." As well as Paul's injury woes, it also can't be dismissed that cebnter Clint Capela (14.0 & 11.3), who leads the NBA with a field-goal percentage of .69.4%, sat out the last two games with a heel issue and remains day-to-day.
Oklahoma City: "We're playing well," forward Paul George (19.9 & 5.6) told reporters after a 103-89 win at the Utah Jazz on Saturday. "We're playing for one another. Our defense is holding up and offensively we're starting to get a little flow." Carmelo Anthony (17.5 & 6.2) is adjusting to his role playing off the ball and Paul George is turning into a defensive stopper for Oklahoma City. However, Russell Westbrook is still "the big dog" and is running the show. Westbrook (23.6-9.5-9.9) is averaging 29.8 points on 59.8 percent shooting with 9.0 rebounds and 9.5 assists during the four-game winning streak. He collected his fifth triple-double of the month in Saturday's win. George showed off his defensive prowess with six steals against the Jazz and has multiple thefts in each of the last seven contests.
The pick: With Paul and Capela both likely out, this is a tough spot for Houston, as the Thunder come in the winner of four consecutive games and six of seven. Houston took three of the four meetings last season with the Thunder, despite Westbrook averaging 36.3 points in the four games. Houston then KO'd them in the playoffs in five games. OKC has been waiting for this game in much the same way they were waiting for the Warriors to come to town back on Nov. 22, when the Thunder won 108-91. Second verse, same as the first. Make OKC a 10* play.
|12-25-17||76ers +1 v. Knicks||Top||105-98||Win||100||26 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: The 14-18 Philadelphia 76ers were 13-9 through games played Dec. 2 but as they take the court early this afternoon at Madison Square Garden for the first game of the NBA's 5-Game Christmas Day Extravaganza, they are looking to snap a five-game slide , as well as breaking a downward spiral that has seen them lose nine of their last 10 games (1-8-1 ATS)! As for the 17-15 Knicks, following this Christmas Day game, New York plays 16 of its next 20 on the road, where its woes continued with a 104-101 setback at Detroit on Friday. The Knicks are just 2-10 on the road this season, compared to 15-5 at home, where they are also 15-5 ATS.
Philadelphia: The 76ers Philadelphia hope to have Joel Embiid (23.7 & 10.9) ready for a complete effort on Christmas (team is just 1-7 when he doesn't play). He was still bothered by a sore lower back in Saturday's 16-point loss at Toronto and he picked up a technical foul as frustrations began to bubble up. Rookie Ben Simmons was held to 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting in the loss, his first outing during the losing streak in which he shot below 50 percent. However, Simmons is having quite a first season, after missing all of last year, by averaging 17.1-8.8-7.7. SG Redick is averaging 16.5 PPG, SF Covington 14.8 & 6,2 and PF Saric 12.7 & 7.1
New York: Kristaps Porzingis (24.7 & 6.7) took 28 shots in his last outing and scored 29-points in Friday's loss. However, it was a positive step for the 7-3 star, who missed two games due to a groin injury before going 0-for-11 from the floor in a win over the Boston Celtics on Thursday. Four other Knicks are in double digits, Hardaway (17.8 & 4.2), Kanter (13.5 & 10.0), Lee (13.1) and the rejuvenated Beasley (10.9 & 4.1).
The pick: Philly's Redick has missed the last two games with right hamstring tightness and it is unclear if he will play Monday against the Knicks. However, Embiid should play and look for Simmons to bounce back from a rare off night. Also, note that Saric has scored in double figures in 12 straight games, after finishing in single digits in 10 of his first 19 contests. The Knicks were 16-13 before last season's Christmas Day game but a loss on the holiday to the Celtics kicked off a 1-10 swoon. Deja vu? I'm making the 76ers an 8* play.
|12-23-17||Clippers v. Grizzlies -4.5||Top||112-115||Loss||-110||13 h 36 m||Show|
]The set-up:The Clippers opened the season 4-0 and were 5-2 on Nov. 4 when they hosted the Grizzlies. Memphis won that game 113-104 and the defeat began a nine-game losing streak for Los Angeles. Shortly after improving to 6-3 with their early November win at the Staples Center, the Grizzlies went on an 11-game slide that contributed to the firing of coach David Fizdale. As the Clippers and Grizzlies get set to meet again here in Memphis, Los Angeles is just 13-18 (10th among the West's 15 teams) and Memphis is even worse, checking in at 9-23 (14th).
LA Clippers:The team opened the season minus Chris Paul, JJ Redick and Jamal Crawford (among others) plus are currently playing without Blake Griffin (23.6-7.9-5.1) and Danilo Gallinari (13.4 & 4.4). LA had slumped to 11-18 (6-16 since that 5-2 start) but after beating Phoenix at Staples on Wednesday, won in Houston last night! Lou Williams (20.20 and Austin Rivers (15.4) are both enjoying career years and the duo combined for 68 points (on 13-of-26 shooting beyond the arc) in Friday's upset. Rivers exploded for a career-high 36 points and Williams poured in 32 off the bench. Williams topped the 30-point mark for the third time in December and has posted a NBA-best five such performances from a reserve. Starting point guard Milos Teodosic (8.3 points, 4.6 assists) was rested Friday but will return Saturday; the 30-year has scored more than eight points only twice in five outings since returning from a 22-game absence due to a foot injury.
Memphis: The Grizzlies lost for the eighth time in nine games this past Thursday, falling 97-95 at Phoenix. It's been a long season for Memphis. Zach Randolph bolted in free agency and Mike Conley (17.1 & 4.1 APG) hasn't played since Nov. 13, due to an injury. The loss at Phoenix dropped the Grizzlies to 2-17 since Conley was given time off to deal with his injury. Memphis has had just two ":go-to" scorers without Conley, center Marc Gasol and swingman Tyreke Evans. Gasol has been terrific (18.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.4 blocks), making him one of two players in the league (along with the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo) to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and blocks. Evans checks in at 18.4-5.0-4.1. No other Memphis player is averaging in double digits. However, Gasol is listed as doubtful for Saturday with a left hip injury.
The pick: Clearly, Gasol playing means a lot but I'm still going with Memphis, regardless. The Clippers played "way over their heads" last night in winning at Houston, scoring 128 points while shooting 47.3 percent from the floor (42.9% on threes). LA a is averaging 104.3 PPG on the season (including just 101.2 on the road), on 44.8% shooting, including 35.3% on threes. Look for a huge letdown here and Make Memphis a 10*!
|12-23-17||Tennessee -1 v. Wake Forest||Top||79-60||Win||100||5 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: The 21st-ranked Tennessee Vols wrap up their non-conference schedule Saturday afternoon in Winston Salem against the 7-4 Wake Forest Demon Deacons of the ACC. The Volunteers have already played three ACC opponents this season, defeating North Carolina State and Georgia Tech, before losing to North Carolina last weekend. Wake Forest got off to a shaky start but the Demon Deacons have won six in a row while scoring at least 80 points in each of those contests, fighting back from a 1-4 start to enter this contest against the nationally ranked Vols at 7-4. Tennessee has won eight of 10 all-time meetings with Wake Forest, though the teams haven't faced off in a non-tournament setting since 1970.
Tennessee: Rick Barnes in in his third season at Knoxville and after seasons of 15 and 16 wins (31-35, overall), he seemingly has this year's team headed towards a 20-win season. Tennessee recovered from that loss to North Carolina by defeating Furman 66-61 on Wednesday, although it was hardly a confidence-boosting win, as the Volunteers were tied with the Paladins until the final minute. The Volunteers shot only 37.1 percent against Furman, while missing 15 of their 20 attempts from three-point range. Then we have the team's 15-of-24 (62.5%) which surely wasn't anything to brag about. The 6-7 Williams (15.8 & 7.0) is the team's leading scorer and has recorded double-digit points in eight straight outings. However, he has turned the ball over 14 times in the last five games, compared to seven turnovers in the first five games. Joining ihim in double digits are guards Schofield (11.7 & 5.1) and Bowden (11.5 & 3.6). Bowden had a team-high 21 points against Furman, while Schofield had 12 points and 13 rebounds, his first double-double of the season (just the second of his career). The Vols are average offensively (77.4 PPG ranks 122nd) but pretty good on the defensive end, allowing 66.4 PPG (69th) on 39.1% shooting (37th).
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons' six-game winning streak has their seasonal average up to 80.4 PPG (77th) Guards Crawford (16.4 & 4.9 APG) and Woods (15.8) are joined on the perimeter by three more guards, averaging between 7.7 and 9.5 PPG. The 7-1 Moore (11.1 & 7.9) gets some help up front from the 6-7 Thompson (4.6 & 4.9). Danny Manning surprisingly took Wake to the NCAAs last season (19-14 record), after winning 13 and 11 games in his first two seasons at the school. Replacing big man John Collins (19.2 & 9.8) has not been easy but team's six-game win streak is promising.
The pick: However, while this game will be played at Lawrence-Joel Coliseum (Wake's home court), school is out and the Demon Deacons won't have their usual rooting section. Wake Forest officials have made efforts to try to draw a big pre-holiday crowd. Faculty and staff will be admitted at no charge, while a promotion at an area mall involved $5 tickets. Yes, Wake Forest has shot above 50 percent in each outing during the team's six-game winning streak but as the head coach noted,"We're not a finished product," said Manning. The Demon Deacons are 1-4 in non-league games against ranked opponents and that doesn't bode well for this meeting with the Vols. Make Tennessee a 10* play.
|12-22-17||Montana v. Washington -5.5||Top||63-66||Loss||-105||16 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: The Montana Grizzlies are coming off a 16-16 season. They were picked third in the Big Sky's coaches' and media polls but served noticed they'll be in the title hunt with an 83-78 overtime victory at Pitt on Nov. 13, teh school's first win over a Power Five conference school since knocking off Oregon State in 2010. Montana (7-4) opens league play Dec. 28th, so this trip to Seattle will be the team's last non-conference game. The Washington Huskies 'fell of a cliff' last year with just nine wins (22 losses) but Mike Hopkins, who spent 22 years coaching under Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, has this year's team at 9-3 entering this contest. Sure, Fultz (23.2) was the NBA's first pick in the 2017 Draft but he's the only starter not back.
Montana: The Grizzlies 86-68 win over UC Irvine on Tuesday gives Montana three wins in its last four and a 7-4 overall mark.Three players average in double digits, guards Rorie (17.8-4.0-3.7) and Oguine (15.3 & 5.4) plus the 6-8 Akoh (11.1 & 6.4). Rorie was a second team All-Big Sky pick last season, Oguine just had a career-high 29 points in the win over UC-Irvine and Akoh is a transfer from Cal State Fullerton. Montana is averaging 73.7 PPG (211th), while allowing 69.5 PPG (125th).
Washington: Montana's defense will be tested by a Washington team averaging 81.8 PPG (56th) on 47.9% shooting (68th). The Huskies have looked good in their non-conference slate and have won three of four after dismantling the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 106-55 on Tuesday night with a monster 63-19 second half run. The Huskies are the only team in the NCAA to record 16 steals and 15 blocks in the same game this season, after doing it in the win over Bethune-Cookman. Freshman guard Jaylen Nowell leads the team in scoring (17.3) and has lessened the loss of Fultz. Joining the freshman in double digits are the 6-8 Dickerson (16.0 & 8.0) plus guards Crisp (13.2 and Thybulle (11.2). Crisp leads the team in assists (43) and also has made a team leading 26 three-pointers. Thybulle has 42 steals this season and ranks third in the NCAA in that category with an average of 3.5 per game
The pick: Again, let me remind all that he Huskies have already matched their win total for the entire 2016-17 season when they finished 9-22 and all but one of the team's wins this year have come at home where Washington has gone 8-1. Lay it and make Washington a 10* play.
|12-22-17||Wizards -5 v. Nets||Top||84-119||Loss||-115||12 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: The Washington Wizards seem to think that they are an elite team but their 17-14 record hardly matches the team's bravado. The Wizards head to Brooklyn for the second time in less than two weeks on Friday, hoping for a better result than their last visit. With PG John Wall, still not back from a knee injury, the Wizards lost 103-98 at Brooklyn on Dec. 12 Wall returned the next night when Washington began a 3-1 homestand that was capped by Tuesday's 116-106 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. As for the Nets, that Dec. 12 victory over Washington was their last win, as Brooklyn has lost four straight since beating Wizards. Three of the four defeats have come at home, including a 104-99 setback against Sacramento on Wednesday.
Washington:Wall seems to be completely past the recent knee issues (he missed nine games) but he is shooting just 35.4 percent since returning from the knee injury. "Basically, them telling me to go out there and be aggressive and don't worry about minutes and go play," Wall (19.3-3.8-8.3) told reporters after an 18-point, 10-assist effort versus the Pelicans. "Coach has been telling me since the last game. I went out there without thinking about when I was coming out of the game or when I'm going back in, just trying to play and make the right reads." Bradley Beal (23.8-4.3-3.5) leads the team in scoring on the season but the club's hottest player right now is reserve forward Mike Scott. Scott's 24 points against New Orleans was a season high and he was 11-for-15 from the floor to leave the former Virginia Cavalier at 53-for-72 over an eight-game stretch (that's 73.6%!).
Brooklyn: When Allen Crabbe hit the game-winning three-pointer with 44 seconds left 10 days ago, the Nets had won for the fifth time in eight games. However, the now 11-19 Nets have regressed, during their skid (the team's second four-game losing streak of the season) by averaging 96.8 points on 41.8 percent shooting, including 32.9 percent from three-point range. The Nets are also allowing 111.0 PPG on 51.7 percent from the floor. The Nets have fallen behind by double-digits in each game and during this streak, they are getting outscored 244-190 in the first half and 126-95 in the opening quarters. Brooklyn's losing streak continued with a poor start in a 104-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. The Nets allowed 64 points in the first half, fell behind by 21 points and saw a comeback attempt fall short. The Nets fell behind 36-20 after one quarter against Kings on Wednesday, as they continued a recent trend of poor starts. Brooklyn has trailed by at least 11 points at halftime in every game of its current four-game slide. losing streak. "Giving up 36 points in the first quarter — you can't get in a hole like that. It is disappointment in our defense and our defensive mentality to start the game," head coach Kenny Atkinson told the media. The recently acquired Jahlil Okafor (from Philly) has not seen any action in the last two games, as Atkinson gives him more time to get in shape and integrated into the system.
The pick: Wall did not play in Washington's Dec. 12 loss at Brooklyn plus Beal made just 11 of 33 shots, going 3 of 15 in the second half. Wall is healthy here and no way Beal repeats that kind of shooting effort. After all, the Wizards had a seven-game winning streak snapped in the series in their last visit to Brooklyn but even with that defeat, Washington is 12-3 in its last 15 meetings. with Brooklyn. Make the Wizards a 10* play.
|12-21-17||Bulls v. Cavs -10.5||Top||112-115||Loss||-110||11 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers lost a thriller their last time out, falling 119-116 at Milwaukee to the Bucks. It was just the team's second loss in its last 20 games. The Cavs return home on Thursday night and will put an 11-game home winning streak on the line against the Chicago Bulls. The Cavs crushed the Bulls 112-91 in Chicago back on Dec. 4 but the Bulls are a very different team this time around. The Bulls opened the season 3-20 with forward Nikola Mirotic recovering from a facial fracture due to a fight with teammate Bobby Portis. However, he made his season debut against the Hornets.back on Dec. 8th, with the Bulls winning 119-111 in OT. His return has jump-started the Bulls, who have gone 7-0 SU & ATS since Mirotic's return. Mirotic had 15 points and 10 rebounds in last night's 112-94 home win over the Magic and after easing his way back in his season debut (just six points), has averaged 21.8 & 8.5 rebounds in his last six games.
Chicago: It's also worth noting that fellow forward Bobby Portis, the man who gave Mirotic the facial fractures in their preseason fight, has also stepped up his game and is averaging 14 points and 7.1 rebounds in 21.6 minutes this month. Chicago's bench came up big in the win over the Magic, as seven reserves combined for 54 points. No Bulls player logged more than 29 minutes last night, so the team should be relatively fresh despite playing on the second night of back to back games. "Our chemistry is great," Denzel Valentine told the Chicago Tribune. Valentine led the Bulls with 16 points. "We have to keep it up." 7-0 rookie Lauri Markkanen (14.3 & 7.9) leads five more Bulls averaging in double digits on the season (excluding Mirotic).
Cleveland: LeBron James (28.2-8.3-9.2) was his usual dominant self with 39 points and seven assists in the loss to the Bucks. Yes, the Cavs lost, but the team felt good about a fourth-quarter comeback that made it tight in the end. "A couple things didn't go our way but we did a good job being resilient and coming back," guard Dwyane Wade told reporters.Wade made 4-of-6 from 3-point range en route to 14 points off the bench, returning after . "Obviously, tonight (Wade) showed what he's capable of still doing," James told the media. Kevin Love Love has seven double-doubles in his last 10 games and checks in averaging 19.5 & 10.2 on the season.
The pick: For the first time in awhile,the Cavaliers will not be the hottest team on the court. The Cavs, as usual, did not practice on Wednesday. According to cleveland.com the Cavs have held just three practices since this current stretch of 18 wins in 20 games started on Nov. 11. "Guys are in here on off days every single time we have an off day," James said. "When we don't practice, guys are in here working on their game and (coach Tyronn Lue) just trusts us that we're going to be ready to go in the games, because we don't have much practice time. The Cavs may be rested but it's sure not helping the team's defense. which is allowing 107.4 PPG (23rd) on 46.9% shooting (20th). The Bulls come in averaging 111.1 PPG during thiri seven-game winning streak, so I'm making the Over a 10* play.
|12-21-17||Iona v. Rhode Island -12||Top||74-80||Loss||-110||11 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The Iona Gaels play out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and have done so with pretty good success over the years The Gaels finished T-3rd in the league last season but won the conference tourney to earn an NCAA bid (lost their first game). After a dreadful start, Iona has won five of its last six and will travel to Providence with a 6-5 record to face the Rhode Island Rams of the Atlantic-10. The Rams are off a 25-10 season in which they won the A-10 tourney and advanced to the NCAA;'s second round. Rhode Island is 6-3 so far this season.Iona: Tim Cluess has led the Gaels to 20 wins or more in each of his first seven seasons at Iona, getting them into the NCAAs four times. This year's team lost just one starter from last year's group and Cluess is using a seven-man rotation. PG McGill (13.0-4.0-5.4) leads a perimeter group, along with Much (11.4 & 4.2), Lewis (10.4) and Casimir (6.8). In the frontcourt, it's the 6-6 Crawford (12.2 & 3.0), the 6-8 Edoji (9.5 & 7.4) and the 6-7 Griffin (7.2 & 4.7). Will Iona be able to build off its recent hot streak? That's yet to be determined.Rhode Island. Preaseason All-Atlantic-10 guard E.C. Mathews (14.9 PPG last season), hurt his wrist earlier in the season and just got back on the court in the team's last game (he's averaging 10.7 PPG in three outings). Terrell (17.2) is leading the team in scoring and a deep guard group which now adds Matthews to Robinson (10.0 & 5.6), PG Dowtin (7.9 & 4.0 APG), Russell (9.0) and Garrett (8.6). The 6-8 Berry (8.8 & 4.00 could use more help form the 6-8 Langevine (4.8 & 4.2), who scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Rams' 68-62 recent victory over Charleston.
The pick: Iona is just 1-5 ATS in its last six games against A-10 opponents and Rhode Island is 5-0 SU at home, outscoring opponents 89.2-to-63.6 PPG. Lay it and make the Rams a 10* play.
|12-20-17||Albany NY v. Louisville -13.5||Top||68-70||Loss||-118||13 h 26 m||Show|
The set;up: Louisville was ranked in the AP's preseason poll but are currently just outside the top-25 in Monday's latest poll, although the Cardinals are 8-2, losing to only Purdue (currently 16th) and Seton Hall (23rd). The KFC Yum! Center in Louisville be the site of tonight's game with the Albany Great Danes, who are hoping for a 'signature" win to add to the team's resume. The Greta Danes come in an impressive 11-2 but this is clearly the team's toughest test of its non-conference schedule.
Albany: Head coach Will Brown is entering his 16th full season as the Great Danes' head coach and has led them to 20-win seasons or more in four of the last five years (heading towards another one this season!). He's also taken the scholo to five NCAA berths. The team won 21 games last year (no NCAA appearnace) and four starters have returned. Guards Cremo (17.8-4.2-3.3) and Nichols (15.7-4.2-3.5) plus 6-6 foreward Charles (14.9 & 5.5) are the nucleus of a team averaging 78.9 PPG (101st) on 48.2% shooting (62nd)
Louisville: All must be aware of the school's off-the-court issues that cost head coach Rick Pitino his job. All things considered, the Cards have played well, as losing to Purdue and Seton Hall is nothing to be ashamed of. Five of the team's top-six scorers are frontcourt players, led by the 6-7 Adel (16.0 & 3.7) and the 6-10 Spalding (10.1 & 9.5), who is having a breakout season. PG Snider (11.6-3.5-3.8) runs the show for a team averaging 80.1 PPG (88th). Pitino's teams always played tough defesne and this "carry-over" team under head coach David Padgett, is no different. Louisville is allowing just 65.1 PPG (49th) on 37.5% shooting (14th).
The pick: The Cardinals are proving that they still have enough talent to be a serious ACC contender, despite a change in coaching. Albany is no pushover and it should be noted that the Great Danes have out-rebounded all 13 of their opponents, so far. However, Louisville is a big step up in class and I'll make teh Cardinals a 10* play.
|12-20-17||Pacers v. Hawks +4.5||Top||105-95||Loss||-107||12 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: One has to wonder how the Pacers will fare here, after Monday's 'crazy' loss to the Celtics. Indiana battled back from an 18-point first-quarter deficit to take a five-point lead with 31.3 seconds remaining, only to be outscored 10-4 in a 112-111 loss! The Pacers have now dropped three of four as they visit Atlanta to take on the Hawks, who won for just the seventh time this season by beating Miami 110-104 on Monday. However, the Hawks' 7-23 record makes them owners of the worst record in the NBA.
Indiana: “It’s a tough loss,” Indiana guard Victor Oladipo told reporters after his team fell for the third time in four games against the Celtics. “We dug ourselves the deepest hole you can imagine and again, fought our way back like clockwork, but we come up short again.” Oladipo scored 12 of his 38 points Monday in the final two minutes and is 10th in the NBA in scoring at 24.9 PPG (he has scored 20-plus points in 22 of 30 games). The Pacers are seventh in the NBA in scoring at 108.3 PPG but also allow 106.9 PPG to rank 21st.
Atlanta: Forward Taurean Prince (132. & 5.3) led the way with 24 points in Monday's win and is shooting 49.5 percent from the floor in December, while averaging 14.7 points in nine games this month. “We’re wanting him to shoot a lot,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer told the media afterward. “Catch and shoot, shoot whenever he’s got daylight, driving and finishing.” The Hawks have revamped their roster (not for the better), with PG Schroder (19.8 & 6.6 APG) assuming the role as team-leader. The Hawks do have solid balance behind Schroder (seven players average between 7.1 & 13.2 PPG) but no stars. However, keep an eye on rookie John Collins from Wake Forest, who is averaging 11.2 PPG (on 59.7% shooting) and 7.0 RPG.
The pick: Indiana is off a brutal loss (see above) and while Atlanta has not been winning many games outright, the Hawks check in 8-2 ATS since Nov. 30. The Pacers won two of three games against Atlanta last season, including the final two meetings of the year. However, until last season, the Pacers had not won in Atlanta since the 2013-14 campaign. The home dog barks here. Make Atlanta an 8* play.
|12-19-17||Kings +8.5 v. 76ers||Top||101-95||Win||100||12 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Philadelphia 76ers have shown plenty of promise this season but after back-to-back two-point losses, Philly finds itself having lost six of its last seven to fall under .500 at 14-15.The most recent two-point loss was 117-115 at Chicago last night (the Bulls have all of a sudden won straight) with Joel Embiid sitting out the opener of the back-to-back set to help manage his workload. The 76ers are back on the court tonight to welcome the 9-20 Sacramento Kings to Wells Fargo Center, who have dropped five of their last seven contests. That includes two in a row by a combined 38 points to start the team's four-game road trip.
Sacramento: The Kings are last in the league in scoring (96.1 PPG), with only veteran forward Zach Randolph (15.3 & 7.0) averaging more than 12.3 PPG. Buddy Hield, the key player in last year's trade with the Hornets for Cousins, checks in at 12.3 PPG, which is disappointing. Also, while so many have heard about Lonzo Ball's rookie struggles, let me note that PG De'Aaron Fox, another expected rookie star, is not exactly 'lighting thingd up." Fox is averaging just 9.7 PPG (on 25 1/2 minutes), while shooting 40.4%, including 28.9% on threes. Adding insult to injury, Fox is questionable tonight due to a quadriceps injury.Veteran PG George Hill has raised his production level over the last three games, averaging 16.7 PPG but on the season has been another disappointment (9.8 PPG and just 2.6 APG!).
Philadelphia: Embiid is averaging 24.1 & 11.0 on the season and has scored at least 25 points in four of the five games he has played this month, while shooting 47.8 percent in December. Rookie Ben. Simmons (17.4-9.0-7.9) had a huge game on Monday (19-11-9), despite missing a late chance to tie the game. Dario Saric poured in 20 of his season-high 27 points in the second half of the loss to Chicago and checks in averaging 12.5 & 6.9 on the season.
The pick: Philly is averaging 109.2 PPG at home but is also allowing 107.0. That hardly makes them a reliable favorite (especially in this range!) and note that the 76ers 'limp' into this game 2-8-1 ATS their last 11. The Kings beat the 76ers 109-108 in Sacramento the first time around and should 'hang' with them here, as well/. Make Sacramento a 10* play.
|12-19-17||Marshall v. Xavier -22||Top||77-81||Loss||-110||11 h 17 m||Show|
Marshall: The Thundering Herd are one of only 10 Division I schools averaging in excess of 90 points per game, checking in at 90.2 PPG (9th). However, Marshall doesn't much spread its scoring around, as Jon Elmore leads all of Conference USA in scoring at 24.3 PPG while fellow guard C.J. Burks adds 19.6 PPG and the 6-9 Ajdin Penava contributes 19.1 PPG to rank third and fourth, respectively (Penava also leads the team in rebounding at 9.8 per game and the conference in FG percentage at 65.2%). Marshall's group represents the highest scoring trio in the nation at 63 points per game and it needs to, as Marshall is allowing 83.9 PPG to rank 334th (of 351 Division I schools)!
Xavier: The Musketeers have just one true "big-time" scorer and that's Trevon Bluiett (21.4 PPG plus 5.1 RPG). J.P. Macura (10.7) is the only only double digit scorer but six other Xavier players chip in between 6.9 and 9.7 PPG. That balance has Xavier averaging just a few points less than Marshall, at 88.4 (15th). Let's also note that Xavier's 52.8 percent FG percentage ranks second in the nation. The huge difference between the two schools comes on the defensive end of the court, as Xavier is allowing just 69.5 PPG. That's more than three 'TDs' less than Marshall!
The pick: Xavier staged the largest comeback in Cintas Center history the last time out, capped by Trevon Bluiett's game-winner with seven seconds left. "We have to learn from it," head coach Chris Mack said. "Every game isn't going to be a 15-nothing run to start the game. We have to gut some out." Marshall leads the all-time series 13-11 but the schools have played only twice since 1958. Xavier has won the last two meetings, including the most recent one, 69-46 at Cintas Center on Dec. 30, 2004. Marshall can score but so can Xavier, plus while teh Thundering Herd can't slow down any team, the Musketeers can do just that, Lay it and make Xavier an 8* play.
|12-18-17||Celtics -2 v. Pacers||Top||112-111||Loss||-110||20 h 50 m||Show|
Boston: "We just stayed composed and went out and executed," Boston forward Al Horford (14.3-7.9-5.4) told reporters of the strong finish. "We got some stops on defense. On the offensive end, we moved the ball pretty well. I think that was the difference. We opened up the game after that." Kyrie Irving (24.2 & 4.9 APG) led Boston with 20 points but the play of rookie forward Jayson Tatum (13.8 & 5.7) has been a key lately for Boston. Tatum had 19 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals at Memphis. He leads the NBA with a 51 percent mark from three-point range and is averaging 15 points while shooting 58.6 percent overall in the team's last three wins but just 5.5 PPG on 2-of-13 shooting in the two losses.
Indiana: Victor Oladipo's breakout season continued on Sunday as he scored 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting with seven rebounds. He's averaging 24.4-5.5-4.0 on the year. Myles Turner scored 16 points against the Nets and is averaging 14.7 & 7.2. His backup, rookie Domantas Sabonis (12.1 & 8.4) registered 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocks at Brooklyn. The young big men combined for 36 points and 13 rebounds in the loss to Boston last month in a game Oladipo missed due to a bruised knee. Since missing against Boston, Oladipo is averaging 30.2 points, seven rebounds and 4.8 assists over his last five games!
The pick: The Pacers did not get much time to enjoy their latest win. Shortly after finishing off a 12-point victory over the Nets in Brooklyn on Sunday, they were taking a flight back home to face the Celtics. When Boston beat the Pacers for the fourth straight time, its record was 18-3. Since then, the Celtics are 7-4 in their past 11 games, and they have alternated wins and losses over the past six games. The Celtics turned in two of their worst displays of the season last week in a 108-85 Monday loss at Chicago and a 107-95 Friday home loss to the Utah Jazz. Those games were part of a stretch that has seen the Celtics allow 102.5 points since their last meeting against Indiana. However, Boston rebounded nicely from the Friday loss with a 102-93 win at Memphis on Saturday. The Celtics are 12-4 SU & ATS on the road this season, as Irving averages 25.6 points while shooting 44.7 percent from three-point range on the road, compared to 22.8 and 34.1 percent at home. Boston allows the fewest points in the league (98.1 per), while holding opponents to 43.9% (2nd-best). Meanwhile, the Pacers are allowing 106.8 PPG, to rank 21st. Defense wins and make Boston a 10* play.
|12-18-17||Houston Baptist v. Michigan State -33||Top||62-107||Win||100||19 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: The 10-1 Michigan State Spartans have just that lone 88-81 loss to Duke on their resume and should remain No. 2 in Monday' afternoon's new AP poll. The Spartans welcome Houston Baptist to East Lansing on Monday night to begin a five-game homestand. The Spartans will undoubtedly extend their winning streak to 10 in a row, with the margin of victory being only question mark. Houston Baptist comes in just 4-7 and will be at an even greater disadvantage with the ankle injury to the 6-11 Ibara (16.0 & 10.0).
Houston Baptist: The Huskies can score (83.5 PPG ranks 39th) plus have been one of the top rebounding teams in the country this season, ranking 14th in rebounds per game (42.1) and third in offensive boards (15.8). With Ibara out, the 6-10 Edward Hardt (3.2 & 2.0) is the only starter above 6-6. Head coach Ron Cottrell has his team competing on the glass every night because everyone concentrates on getting to the boards. Four different players average at least 5.1 rebounds, including point guard Braxton Bonds (9.0-5.1-5.4 RPG). 6-6 freshman forward David Carahe averages 15.2 & 6.7 plus freshman guard Ian DuBose 11.4 & 5.1. The problem is a defense allowing 82.4 PPG, which ranks 329th out of 351 Division I teams.
Michigan State: Trying to stop MSU's balanced starting-five seems like a 'bridge too far.' Swingman Bridges leads the way (15.1 & 6,4), teamed with an excellent guard duo of Langford (13.3) and PG Winston (13.3 & 6.4 APG). The 6-8 Ward (13.8 & 6.9) and the 6-11 Jackson (10.7 & 7.3) round out a starting-five which leads the way for an offense averaging 80.7 PPG. That's more than enough when MSU features a defense which allows a modest 62.4 PPG (20th), along with the nation's top defensive FG percentage (just 33.4%).
The pick: Sure, Houston Baptist averages 83.5 PPG but Michigan State has allowed just three opponents to record more than 60 points this season. MSU's next four opponents, Houston Baptist, Long Beach State, Cleveland State and Savannah State, own a combined 15-30 record. Boredom is the team's lone concern. However, with Tom Izzo at the helm, I'm not concerned about that. Lay it and make the Spartans a 10* play.
|12-17-17||UC-Santa Barbara v. USC -13.5||Top||87-98||Loss||-110||12 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, struggled through an injury and academic issue-plagued 2016-17 season to finish just 6-22. However, they will take the court tonight against USC at the Galen Center.on a seven-game winning streak which has them sitting at 8-2. The USC Trojans are off a 26-win season and returned all five starters to begin the 2017-18 season ranked 10th in the AP's preseason poll. However, after opening 4-0, the Trojans dropped three consecutive games before an 82-59 victory over Santa Clara on Thursday "stopped the bleeding." USC leads the series 13-1 and won the last meeting, 96-72, at the Galen Center on Nov, 27, 2016.
UC-Santa Barbara: Sophomore guard Max Heidegger leads four players in double figures with a 23.4 average and has connected on 31-of-71 3-pointers (43.7 percent). Senior forward Leland King II, a 6-7 transfer from Nevada, is averaging a double-double (19.2 & 10.0) while shooting 46.7 percent from three-point range. Junior forward Jalen Canty (11.3 & 8.2) and junior guard Gabe Vincent (10.9 & 3.7 APG) complete the etam's double digit scorers.
USC: The Trojans have a pair of 'twin towers' in the 6-11 Matu (16.1 & 8.5) and the 6-10 Boatwright (15.4 & 8.2) plus a excellent guard trio in McLaughlin (13.8 & 6.8 APHG), Stewart (10.5) and Matthews (8.4).
The pick: USC played just seven games in the first 34 days of the season but now finds itself in a stretch where it will play six games over a 12-day period, a stretch that began with the win over Santa Clara. The Trojans could use a "feel good win" here and maybe the busy schedule will jump start this very talented team which so far, has underachieved. Note that USC didn't lose to any slouches, as the losses came against A&M (9-1), SMU (8-3) and Oklahoma (8-1). Lay the points and make USC a 10* play.
|12-16-17||Bucks +10.5 v. Rockets||Top||111-115||Win||100||13 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: Is there any stopping the Houston Rockets? The 23-4 Rockets easily handled the SA Spurs 124-109 last night (Rockets led by as many as 28 points), the team's 12th consecutive win and 10th by double-digits during this impressive stretch of victories. "We have so many talented guys on this team that anyone can come in and have an impact on the game," James Harden said in a post-game television interview. "We just take it one night at a time. ... We just want it to be at a high level and play for each other." The 15-12 Milwaukee Bucks come to Houston scoring 100 points or more in 11 consecutive games (the franchise's best streak since a 12-game run during the 1990-91 campaign) but also having allowed 115 points in each of their last two games, losses to the New Orleans Pelicans (Wed)) and the Chicago Bulls (Friday).
Milwaukee:The Bucks offense has jelled since the acquisition of guard Eric Bledsoe (17.4-3.8-4.4) to go with star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.9-10.5-4.5) and solid swingman Khris Middleton (20.2-5.3-4.6). "You've got three guys playing at a high level with Bled, Khris and Giannis," coach Jason Kidd told reporters. "Sharing the ball is the key, and being able to make your free throws. Just making a play for a teammate and finding the open guy. Guys are moving the ball. Right now, the ball is going in for us." Antetokounmpo and Middleton each scored 29 points in Friday's 115-109 loss to the Bulls, although Bledsoe was limited to 12 points.
Houston: PG Chris Paul was brilliant against San Antonio with 28 points, eight assists and a season-best seven steals, as Houston improved to 13-0 with the nine-time All-Star in the lineup. Paul is averaging 26.3 points, eight assists and 3.5 steals over the past four games and has made a season-high five 3-pointers in each of the past two contests. Harden put up 28 points despite 6-of-18 shooting and has scored 20 or more in every game this season. Harden is averaging 31.5-5.1-9.3 and Paul 17.1-5.1-9.5. Add to that duo guard Gordon (18.7) plus center Capela (13.7-11.0) and the Rockets have a team the Warriors just may be concerned about by year's end.
The pick: The Bucks had won six of seven games before their back-to-back losses but there is little doubt that they are struggling defensively. Milwaukee has allowed at least 100 points in seven consecutive games and ranks 28th in the NBA with a 110.5 defensive rating in December.I realize the Rockets are clearly on a roll but the Bucks have just dropped consecutive games for the first time since losing to the Mavericks and Wizards in late November. Expect at least a little let down from the Rockets off that beatdown of the Spurs and grab the big points with Milwaukee and the spectacular Antetokounmpo, who averaged 31.5 points, nine rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.5 blocks as the teams split last season's two meetings. Make Milwaukee a 10* play.
|12-16-17||Clemson v. Florida -4.5||Top||71-69||Loss||-122||9 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 22 Florida faces a tough test in the second game of the Orange Bowl Classic, as the 6-3 Gators will take on 8-1 Clemson. Florida had dropped games against Duke and Florida State before suffering a surprising loss to Loyola Chicago but then knocked off Cincinnati 66-60 last Saturday in Newark, N.J, snapping a demoralizing three-game losing streak. "We just focused on ourselves, what we can do better, and especially our mental toughness,” Florida’s senior guard Egor Koulechov told reporters. “I thought we were really soft (during the losing streak). We took a step forward (last Saturday) with a win over a tough team.” Clemson is off to its best start since 2008-09, when the Tigers won their first 16 games, Clemson has won four games by 20 or more points and suffered their only loss of the season to Temple back on Nov. 17.
Clemson: Head coach Brad Brownell goes after his 300th career win with a team averaging 79.8 PPG (97th), featuring five players averaging in double figures. Senior 6-8 forward Donte Grantham tops the team at 16.0 PPG and adds 6.2 RPG. Fellow 6-9 big man Thomas leads in rebounding at 8.8 per game and adds 12.1 PPG. Three guards join them in double digits, Reed (13.8), Mitchell (12.8 & 5.0 APG) and DeVoe (10.9). Clemson always plays good defense and this year's team is allowing just 63.9 PPG (36th).
Florida: Senior guard Chris Chiozza stepped up to score the game’s final six points to finish with 15 against Cincinnati and is dishing out a team-best 6.1 assists per contest in the early going. “I wasn’t looking to take the game over,” Chiozza, who is averaging 11.8 PPG and has made 12-of-23 from three-point range overall, told reporters. “I was just trying to make good plays for my team and a couple fell into my hands.” Junior guard Jalen Hudson tops the team in scoring (19.1) and is hitting 52.7 percent from the floor, while Koulechov (16.1) is second. Both rebound well for guards, especially Koulechov, who leads the team at 6.2 RPG. Allen (11.8) makes it four double digit scorers, all guards. The two biggest contributors in the frontcourt are the 6-8 Stone (5.9 & 2.8) and the 6-9 Hayes (4.4 & 4.6). Florida can score (87.9 PPG ranks 19th) but it needs to with a defense allowing 76.9 PPG (275th!).
The pick: The Gators were ranked among the nation's best after finishing off November by beating No. 17 Gonzaga in double overtime and leading top-ranked Duke in the final minutes before losing by three points in the PK80 Invitational in Portland, Or. However, that loss to the Blue Devils sent the Gators into a tailspin that saw them start December by losing to Florida State by 17 points and 65-59 to Loyola Chicago , both at home. The win over the Bearcats has to be a confidence-builder and while Sunrise, Fl is not exactly a home game, it's close (just outside of Fort Lauderdale). In fact, Florida has won seven straight in the Orange Bowl Classic. Make that eight straight, as the Gators are an 8* play.
|12-16-17||Oklahoma State v. Florida State -5.5||Top||71-70||Loss||-115||7 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the first game of Saturday's Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Fla., as unranked Oklahoma State (7-2) takes on No. 19 Florida State, with the schools meeting for only the second time in their histories (1964 was the first!). Florida State is one of only six undefeated teams in the nation entering Friday, having climbed into the rankings at No. 19 after extending its season-opening start to 9-0 with a 72-53 victory over Tulane on Sunday. The Seminoles now take aim at tying the school record for the best start to a season (10-0 in 2003-04). Oklahoma State has had success of its own this season but its two losses came against ranked opponents. The Cowboys lost 72-55 to No. 10 Texas A&M in November and 78-66 to No. 3 Wichita State on Sunday.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys fell to the Shockers despite career-high performances from Tavarius Shine (20 points) and Mitchell Solomon (17). Shine (11.0 & 4.2) is one of three guards averaging double digits, with Carroll (12.7 & 5.1) and Smith (10.2) being the other two. The 6-9 Solomon (8.2 & 6.2) and the 6-7 McGriff (8.2 & 5.6) are the team's best frontcourt players for a team in which the top-five scorers play on the perimeter. OSU averages a modest 78.8 PPG (113th) but remains competitive by relying on a tenacious defense that produces turnovers. The team has recorded at least 19 in each of its last three outings and the Cowboys are averaging 18.3 points off those turnovers per game. Oklahoma State allows its opponents 64.0 PPG (38th) on 40.2% shooting (65th).
Florida State: The Seminoles did not have a strong shooting effort against Tulane (44.8 percent shooting from the floor, including 34.4 percent in the first half) but Leonard Hamilton's young Seminoles are solid all around. FSU ranks 23rd with 87.1 PPG and 28th in FG percentage at 50.0%. The defense allows 67.0 PPG (just 81st) but the team's defensive FG percentage ranks 16th at 37.5%. The team's margin of victory checks in at 21.0 PPG. The lone returning starter is junior guard Terance Mann and he leads in scoring with a career-high 15.6 PPG and a shooting percentage of 64.5 percent. Senior forward Phil Cofer, who has been a "no-show" the last two years, leads the team in rebounds (5.8) and adds 12.3 PPG. Joining those two in double digits are guards Angola (12.7 & 3.6 APG) and C.J. Walker (11.2).
The set-up: The Seminoles have made it into the top-25 after a big week with victories over No. 22 Florida, Loyola (Md.) and Tulane, but the trick is remaining there. "We're making progress, but we're not a finished product," Hamilton told reporters. "We have 10 guys who are freshmen or sophomores. We're still growing and maturing." That said, FSU is perfect 7-0 ATS and as noted, OSU has lost to both previous ranked opponents, by 17 and 12 points. What I didn't mention earlier is that 1st-year OSU head coach Mike Boyton recently dismissed two contributing players, 6-5 junior wing Davon Dillard and highly-regarded 6-3 freshman Zack Dawson, which leaves the depth-shy Cowboys in even 'deeper' trouble. Lay it and make Florida State a 10* play.
|12-15-17||Denver v. Stanford -11||Top||62-75||Win||100||15 h 32 m||Show|
The setup: The Denver Pioneers won 16 games last season (lost 14) and have averaged a modest 15 wins per season the last four, since last winning 20-plus games. The 5-6 Pioneers will visit Maples Pavilion Friday night to take on Struggling Stanford, which comes in just 4-6. The Cardinal 'booted' Johnny Dawkins two yeas ago but after Jerod Hasse led Stanford to just a 14-17 record last season, the team's 4-6 start this season has many wondering if the Cardinal made the right move.
Denver: The Pioneers will be looking for a bounce-back effort after committing 18 turnovers and trailing by as many as 28 in Wednesday’s 83-63 loss to Northern Colorado. The Pioneers do return four starters from last season and the lone bright spot in Wednesday's loss was the play of junior guard Joe Rosga, who registered 14 points and seven rebounds, becoming the 35th member of the school’s 1,000-point club. The frontcourt is led by 6-10 senior center Daniel Amigo, who averages 16.0 PPG and 4.8 RPG. Denver averages 70.5 PPG (267th) and allows 71.5 PPG (170th).
Stanford: The Cardinal are back from a much-needed break for final exams, hoping a "re-boot' will be able to remedy the team's sluggish start. Stanford enters having lost five of its last six, hardly what was expected in non-conference play. Junior forward Reid Travis was a preseason All-American and leads the team in scoring (21.7) and rebounding (7.8). Dorian Pickens (12.6 PPG last year) and Marcus Sheffield (6.7 PPG) are both injured, in the team's last game (a 76-68 at Long Beach State on Dec. 3.), leaving Stanford with just even scholarship players. The shorthanded Cardinal hope to have Pickens and Sheffield back from their foot injuries in time for the Pac-12 opener against California on Dec. 30, but Haase wasn’t able to say when freshman Kezie Okpala might be cleared academically to return.
The pick: The last time out, Stanford lost to Long Beach State, for the first time in school history. A two-week break should have them highly motivated to "stop the bleeding" against a Denver team that is 0-3 in true road games, getting outscored 83.7-to-65.3 PPG. Make Stanford a 10* play.
|12-15-17||Spurs +7.5 v. Rockets||Top||109-124||Loss||-110||14 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: More than a few teams made major off-season moves in an effort to compete at a level equal to that of the Warriors but so far, only the Boston Celtics (even with the loss of Hayward) and the Houston Rockets, have seemed to "have gotten it right." Houston owns the NBA's best record at 22-4 (.) and will welcome the SA Spurs to the Toyota Center looking for a 12th straiight win (longest active winning streak). The 19-9 Spurs come to Houston having more than 'survived' without their best player, Kawhi Leonard, who is certainly ranked somewhere among the top-five players in the NBA, as the Spurs own the third-best record in the Western Conference. The teams are meeting for the first time since the San Antonio knocked off Houston in six games in the Western Conference semifinals last spring.
San Antonio:Leonard sat out the first 27 games while recovering from quad tendinopathy and scored 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting over 16 minutes in his debut on Tuesday, a shocking 95-89 loss at Dallas. "I thought he was wonderful," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich told reporters of Leonard. "He's trying to get some of the rust off and that kind of thing. Obviously, he's confident. He's a heck of a player, and it was really frustrating for him to just start getting loose and have to come off the court." Leonard's return did not get the San Antonio Spurs into the win column, but both he and the organization are looking at the bigger picture. The Spurs have struggled offensively without Leonard (25.5 PPG last season), averaging only 101.1 PPG (25th). In fact, Leonard's 13 points in 16 minutes on Tuesday is more points than any Spur has averaged per game this season, save for PF Aldridge, who has been the team's lone "go-to" scoring option this season I(22.7 PPG). The surprising stat is that without Leonard, considered the NBA's top defensive player alongside of Draymond Green, the Spurs come in leading the NBA in points allowed, at 97.5 per game.
Houston: The Rockets have yet to lose since Chris Paul returned from a knee injury. Paul was injured in the team' season-opener (a Houston win at Golden St.) and are now 11-0 since his return. The future Hall of Famer scored 31 points and had 11 assists in Houston's 108-96 win over Charlotte on Wednesday and comes in averaging 16.2-5.2-9.6 on the season. . "It's all about building," Paul told reporters. "You can win however many games you want in a row. It means nothing if you're not playing the right way, but we're playing the right way and still trying to get better." Harden is averaging 31.6-5.1-9.4, Gordon (18.9) is an excellent "third scoring option" and center Capela is averaging a double-double (13.5 & 11.0) on the season. Only the Golden State Warriors average more points than Houston's 114.8 per game.
The pick: I doubt in will take teh Spurs long to integrate Leonard into the flow of things and a visit to Houston, the NBA's hottest team right now, should be all the motivation Pop and his veteran team needs. Take the points and make the Spurs a 10*
|12-14-17||Mavs v. Warriors -11.5||Top||97-112||Win||100||15 h 60 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-6 Golden State Warriors trail the 22-4 Houston Rockets in the West and also find themselves right behind the 24-6 Boston Celtics. However, there are 50-plus games remaining in the regular season,m plenty of time for Golden State to secure the home court edge come mid-April. Stephen Curry (26.3-5.1-6.6) has been out the last three games and is expected to be out the rest of this week (at least) while nursing an ankle injury and Draymond Green (10.1-7.2-7.3) remains day-to-day, after sitting out two of the last three with a shoulder injury, Despite all that, the Warriors won all six games of their recent road trip and will welcome the 8-20 Dallas Mavericks to Oracle Arena on a seven-game winning run. The Mavericks are tied for the West's worst record (with Memphis) but head to Golden State with a positive outlook after earning a 95-89 win over the San Antonio Spurs at home on Tuesday.
Dallas: Dallas suffered single-digit losses at Boston, Milwaukee and Minnesota before coming home and putting it all together against the Spurs. The Mavericks saw guards Wes Matthews, Yogi Ferrell and J.J. Barea score 16 points apiece while holding San Antonio's backcourt trio of Tony Parker, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili to a combined 14 points.
Golden State: Offense is never a problem for Golden State, regardless of which players are in or out of the lineup. The Warriors rank first in scoring (117.0 PPG), FG percentage (51.3%) and three-point percentage (40.0%). Kevin Durant (25.7-6.9-5.3) is averaging 33 points, 10 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.3 blocks in the last three games (with Curry out), to keep Golden State in the win column. "Our focus level is just on another level because of the injuries that we have on our team," Durant told reporters. "We have to be locked in on every single play; and that's hard to do in this league, and that's hard to do in December, especially after winning a championship."Klay Thompson (20.7) is scoring 23.3 PPG the last three and with that duo carrying the scoring load with Curry out, Golden State is also getting solid performances from role players like Jordan Bell, David West and Omri Casspi. Those three all scored in double figures in Monday's 111-104 win over the Portland Trail Blazers while going a combined 14-of-18 from the floor. "These night are really powerful for a team where guys are able to get out there who aren't usually in the lineup," Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters. "It makes them feel good, it makes us feel good and it just strengthens the depth."
The pick: The Mavericks stunned the San Antonio Spurs 95-89 in Kawhi Leonard's season debut on Tuesday night but now head to the 'lion's den' to face the Warriors. This Thursday game is the Warriors' second in a stretch of 10 in which they never leave the state of California. They play only once on the road, Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers, between now and a trip to Dallas on Jan. 3. The Mavs are 2-10 SU on the road, where they average only 97.2 PPG. Meanwhile, the Warriors are averaging 116.8 PPG at home and have now been back home a few days off that six-game road trip. Look out below! Lay the points and make Golden State a 10* play.
|12-14-17||South Dakota v. Northern Arizona +11.5||Top||90-77||Loss||-105||14 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: The South Dakota Coyotes are 9-3 and will take their act on the road Thursday night to J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, Arizona to face the struggling Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, who fell to 2-8 on the season after being defeated by the San Diego Toreros, 79-51, this past Saturday night. It;'s been a dramatic fall from grace for the Lumberjacks, who won 23 games back in the 2014-15 season (lost in the CIT championship game at Evansville), before winning just five and nine games, these last two season. The Coyotes were just 18-17 last season but had won 24 and 26 the previous two, so the school's fast start has them on pace for at least, another 20-win season.
South Dakota State: The Coyotes won their second straight game after edging the Eastern Washington Eagles, 75-73, this past Sunday. South Dakota State shot 54.9% from the floor and 81.0% (17-21) from the FT-Line in the win. The team typically shoots well, as the Coyotes enter making 49.5% from the floor on the season (ranks 35th). Leading the way for the Coyotes in the win was guard Matt Mooney. who had 19 points. Mooney (16.5-3.3-3.7) is the team's top scorer, followed by the 6-10 Tyler Hagedorn (13.1 & 5.1), guard Triston Simpson (8.8) and 6-6 forward Trey Burch-Manning (8.6 & 7.5). Defensively, South Dakota St. is holding opponents to an average of 67.2 PPG (86th) on on 40.4% shooting (70th).
Northern Arizona: The lumberjacks were terrible on offensive end in the loss against San Diego and couldn’t fight back after falling behind by a 47-18 margin with 16:46 left in regulation. Northern Arizona shot just 26.7% from the floor, including 20.0% (3-15) from beyond the arc. Northern Arizona is averaging only 64.1 PPG (334th) on 38.4% shooting (341st). Jojo Anderson (10.4 PPG) is the team's lone double digit scorer, although Chris Bowling (9.7) and Torry Johnson (9.2) just miss. Defensively, the Lumberjacks allow 80.3 PPG (311th) on 49.7% shooting (340th). Just a reminder, there ar 351 Division I schools!
The pick: It looks as if South Dakota Sate will be one of the better teams in the Summit League this season, while it's already been a long season for Northern Arizona (see above). However, this is a 'heavy' number for the Coyotes to lay on teh road and I'm calling for the home dog to 'bark loudly' Make Northern Arizona a 10* play.
|12-13-17||Villanova -8.5 v. Temple||Top||87-67||Win||100||11 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: Villanova jumped from No. 4 in the AP poll the previous week to the poll's new No. 1 this past Monday. No. 1 Duke and No. 2 Kansas lost (falling back) and the Wildcats leapfrogged then-No.3 Michigan State to grab the top spot. It marks the third consecutive year in which Villanova has held the No. 1 ranking for at least once during those respective seasons (the Wildcats were No. 1 for three weeks two years ago and for seven weeks LY). The Wildcats wrap up their Philadelphia series round-robin (Big 5) against a 6-2 Temple Owls team that has won three of its last four.
Villanova: The Wildcats moved up in the rankings but head coach Jay Wright knows that his team can improve, particularly after a sub-par performance its last time out. “It’s always an honor to be ranked No.1,” Wright said. “It’s great for the ‘Nova Nation and we appreciate the respect of the writers and coaches. We know it’s early, though, and we need to get a lot better.” Villanova trailed at halftime against La Salle on Sunday before rallying for a 77-68 victory. 'Nova has a sweet six-man rotation, led by guards Bridges (18.1 & 6.4), Brunson (17.2 & 4.8 APG), Booth (12.7) and DiVencenzo (11.8 & 4.5). Up front, 6-9 junior Paschall (9.0 & 4.8) and 6-9 freshman (9.0 & 7.5) are the main contributors. Villanova ranks 27th with 85.6% and 34th by allowing 63.3%.
Temple: The Owls can't come close to matching the Wildcats' depth, although the Owls have two quality scorers in guards Alston (17.3 & 4.1) and Rose (17.3 & 6.1). They also have a good big man in the 6-10 Enechionyia, who averages 12.6 & 6.0. Temple has played one of the toughest schedules in the country and it's reflected in their RPI. 'Nova's Wright acknowledged that when saying, "This is an outstanding team and it's Temple-Villanova at their place. We know how big a challenge this is." The Owls are averaging 74.6 PPG (196th) and allowing 68.8 PPG (111th).
The pick: Villanova’s re-emergence into nation’s elite status has not made Jay Wright forget about taking care of business at home in these Big 5 rivalries. In fact, 'Nova has won 21 straight over local Big Five foes. Sure, Temple is the last team to defeat the Wildcats in Big 5 action but that was a 76-61 victory back on Dec. 5, 2012. Temple is just 2-17 all-time against the top-ranked team in the country (which 'Nova currently is) and Jay Wright has saved some of his team's better recent efforts for Temple, which was ripped by 21 points last season and has lost by double digit margins the past six times, not coming closer than 15 points in any of those six. Make Villanova a 10* play.
|12-12-17||Lakers +3.5 v. Knicks||Top||109-113||Loss||-110||19 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: Is the bigger story LaVar Ball bringing his traveling circus to the Big Apple with a Big Baller Brand pop-up shop in Manhattan or son Lonzo Ball making his NBA debut at Madison Square Garden, when the Lakers take on the Knicks? The Lakers had lost five straight games when they began a four-game road trip with a win at Philadelphia and then picked up another "W" at Charlotte on Saturday. They will take a 10-15 record into tonight's game. The Knicks are 13-13 on the season but are a "tough out" at Madison Square Garden. In fact, New York is tied for the Eastern Conference lead with 12 home wins after Sunday's 111-107 victory over Atlanta (12-5 at MSG, so far).
LA Lakers: "This is a sign of growth for sure," coach Like Walton told reporte.2 PPG, so I'm taking the points with an LA team that's rs after the 110-99 victory over the Hornets. "And even Philly was a sign of growth because even though we blew a 16-point lead, what would've happened in the past was once we blew that lead we would've just completely melted down. ... We've been able to win some of those games at home, but on the road we haven't been able to find a way once that crowd gets into it to get the defensive stops you need to win games. We (won) in Philly and we did that again tonight." Ball is the most divisive NBA rookie in decades (thanks to his idiot father) and comes in averaging 8.6-6.8-7.1. His horrific shooting (32.1%, including 24.6% on threes) draws most of the criticism and it's not unusual for Walton to sit him down at crucial times. Kyle Kuzma (Utah) was drafted 25 spots below No. 2 pick Ball but is averaging 16.0 points and 6.7 rebounds off the bench (he started while Nance was sidelined). He has double-doubles in three of the team's last four games, his best stretch of the season in that regard.
NY Knicks: New York is getting inspired play in recent weeks from its first-round pick, Frank Ntilikina. The PG is averaging 8.4 points in December after averaging 4.7 points in October and November combined. The Knicks are also seeing a development in second-year guard Ron Baker, who played 31 minutes Sunday in New York's 111-107 win over the Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks are getting some quality minutes from their youngsters. However, no New York player gets talked about more than Kristaps Porzingis, who is still just 22 and two years younger than Baker, despite being in the third month of his third NBA season (Porzingis is averaging 25.5 & 6.6).
The pick: Yes, the Knicks have been very good at home but the Lakers come in confident and with surprising depth and balance for a 10-15 team. Eight players are averaging between Ball's 8.6 PPG and leading scorer Ingram's 16.2 PPG, so I'm taking the points with an LA team that's a single point away from being 6-3 ATS its last nine games. Make LA an 8* play.
|12-12-17||Mississippi State v. Cincinnati -11||Top||50-65||Win||100||19 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: The Bearcats opened 7-0 but lost at crosstown rival Xavier on and then fell short 66-60 for their second straight loss against then-No. 5 Florida in the Never Forget Tribute Classic in Newark, N.J., on Saturday, However, Cincy did manage to remain in the AP poll, grabbing the 25th and final spot in Monday's poll. The Mississippi State Bulldogs ran their season-opening winning streak to eight games with a 95-62 rout of Division II North Georgia in their latest outing and despite being one of just seven Division I unbeatens, the Bulldogs remain unranked (Georgetown is the only other unbeaten to also not be ranked).
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs aren't ranked because the strength of its schedule to date leaves much to be desired. In fact, even with more than a few cupcakes on that schedule, the team is fortunate to be unbeaten, as they are committing an average of 15.3 turnovers per game, which is tied with Idaho State for 279th among 351 Division I schools. However, the team shoots well (49.6% ranks 34th in the nation) and defends well (61.9 PPG ranks 21st and its defensive FG percentage of 37.5 ranks 17th). Tyson Carter leads five players in double figures at 14.0 PPG, joined by a pair of Weatherspoon brothers, Quinndary (13.2-5.6-4.6) and Nick (10.9), plus the 6-10 Holman (11.0 & 7.2).
Cincinnati: The Bearcats were in the thick of it against Florida but committed a whopping 21 turnovers. "We've got good players turning the ball over, which is a big, big problem," Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said after the game. "It's hard to win when you turn the ball over, nearly impossible to win. If we had won this game somehow with the turnover line it would have been a modern miracle." Six players are part of the main rotation, averaging from 6.9 to 13.2 PPG. The 6-8 Clark leads the way (13.2 & 8.6) with PG Evans (13.1-3.6-3.5) right behind him. Cincy teams always play defense and this year's team is allowing just 61.8 PPG (20th) on 36.8% shooting (11th).
The pick: Mississippi St. is 8-0 but Cincy comes in as a double digit favorite. There IS a reason for that. The Bulldogs are off to their best start since the 2003-04 season but a closer look reveals that their strength of schedule ranks 349th out of 351 Division I teams. This visit to Cincinnati also marks their first true road game of the season so far and will be the team's only road game in its first 14 (some schedule-maker!). The Bearcats' only two losses have come to city rival Xavier (now ranked 10th) on Dec. 2 and on Saturday to then-No. 5 Florida. Cronin clearly wasn't happy with his team's effort in losses to nationally-ranked Xavier and Florida, suggesting that winning made his team "soft" and adding that "it makes you arrogant and it makes your players content." I believe "his kids" got the message. Miss. St. is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Make Cincy a 10* play.
|12-11-17||Celtics -7.5 v. Bulls||Top||85-108||Loss||-103||19 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The 23-5 Boston Celtics own the most wins in the NBA but the 20-4 Houston Rockets have caught them for the league's highest winning percentage, .833 to .821. The Celtics opened a quick three-game road trip with a 105-102 loss at San Antonio (on Manu's three-pointer!) but then the Celtics shut down the Pistons in a 91-81 victory at Detroit on Sunday. Boston ends it trip in Chicago tonight, facing a Bulls team which owns the NBA's worst record at 5-20 but one that is also coming off back-to-back victories,.
Boston: Al Horford rebounded from a season-worst two-point performance against the Spurs to lead his team with 18 points at Detroit, while chipping in nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks and zero turnovers. Horford (14.0-8.1-5.3) has been an unsung hero for the Celtics, overshadowed by the play of Kyrie Irving. Boston's new PG added 16 points at Detroit but has been every bit an MVP candidate averaging 23.7 PPG and 4.8 APG .Playing on a short turnaround, Boston will again be without forward Marcus Morris (12.1 & 5.5), who didn't play on Sunday and who has already been ruled out for Monday due to a left knee injury. Rookie forward Jayson Tatum was 3-for-5 from 3-point range Sunday to improve his NBA-leading percentage from long distance to 52.3%, while averaging 14.8 PPG on 51.2% shooting overall. Last year's No. 1 choice, Jaylen Brown (14.7 & 5.8), is proving in his second season just why he was Boston's top choice last year.
Chicago: The Bulls had lost 10 in a row but then won 1119-11 (OT) in Charlotte on Friday, They then followed with a 104-102 win at home the next night over the Knicks. Has Nikola Mirotic's return to the lineup been the difference? Mirotic missed the first 23 games due to facial fractures and a concussion resulting from a preseason fight with teammate Bobby Portis. He scored just six points vs. the Hornets on Friday but had 19 points in 20 minutes versus the Knicks. Portis has played 16 games since his suspension from the fight and has averaged 11.7 & 6.6 off the bench. Mirotic's big effort Saturday night was part of a solid showing for Chicago's five reserves, who combined for 54 points on 21-of-37 shooting with 14 assists and two turnovers. PG Kris Dunn (12.8-4.9-5.1) led the starters with 17 points and nine assists and he is averaging 17.5 points, eight assists and 6.3 rebounds during a four-game stretch. Lauri Markkanen, the 7-footer from Arizona, has been as good as any rookie this season, leading the team in scoring (14.7) and rebounding (8.1).
The pick: Chicago has won four straight regular-season meetings with Boston at home but this is a very different Chicago team and very different Boston team. The Bulls are just 3-8 SU at home and on the season, are averaging a modest 103.2 PPG, to rank 27th. The Celtics come in with the NBA's best road record at 11-3 and are also a money-making 11-3 ATS as well. Boston is the league's top defensive team, allowing 96.1 PPG on 43.5% shooting, which ranks second-best. Take the road favorite and make Boston a 10* play.
|12-11-17||Drake v. Minnesota -19||Top||67-68||Loss||-110||19 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: Minnesota returned all five starters from a 24-win team last year and opened the new season 7-0. However, the "not-so" Golden Gophers have lost three of their last four games, including back-to-back double-digit losses at Nebraska and Arkansas. The team's current AP ranking may be No. 14 but that's only until Monday's new poll is released (bye-bye top-25!). The Drake Bulldogs visit Williams Arena tonight and have defeated Wake Forest earlier this season and more recently, snapped a three-game losing streak Saturday with a 19-point win over Omaha. Drake checks in 5-4 on the season but that's pretty good news for a team which hasn't had as many as 10 wins the last three seasons (9, 7, & 7).
Drake: Senior guard Reed Timmer scored 27 points to pace Drake in its win over Omaha. He enters averaging 22.1 PPG (4.1 RPG), while shooting 49.5% (56.1% on threes) and 91.9% from the line. Fellow guards McMurray (11.6) and Woodward (11.4) join him in double figures, as does the 6-8 McGlynn (11.0 & 6.0). However, Drake's defense leaves much to be desired, allowing 78.6 PPG (293rd) on 47.4% shooting (300th).
Minnesota: Head coach Richard Pitino is not in panic mode, at least not yet. "Certainly we have our deficiencies we have to fix, but the sky's not falling," Pitino told reporters after the Gophers allowed the Razorbacks to shoot 57.4 percent from the floor and 43.5 percent from beyond the arc. The 6-6 Jordan Murphy leads the team in scoring (19.9) and rebounding (12.5), posting a double-double in all 11 games. The 6-10 Lynch (11.0 & 8.1 plus 4.2 blocks per game) joins Murphy up front plus the Gophers have a sweet trio of guards in Mason (15.8-4.0-4.5), Coffey (14.2 & 4.6 and McBrayer (8.5). Coffey has scored at least 10 points in six straight games.
The pick: This is a huge number but Drake is 0-3 on the road, while allowing 88.5 PPG. This is a the wrong place and wrong time to visit Minnesota, reeling from back-to-back road losses. Minnesota averages a whopping 93.5 PPG at home and the play is to lay the points. Make Minnesota 10* selection.
|12-10-17||76ers v. Pelicans -4.5||Top||124-131||Win||100||12 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: The 13-13 New Orleans Pelicans are hoping to cap a short four-game homestand at 2-2 when they host the 13-12 Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. The Pelicans are none too happy after blowing a nine-point lead with only 3 1/2 minutes left, then losing in overtime to struggling Sacramento on Friday night. The 76ers visit New Orleans on a three-game slide, after losing 105-98 at Cleveland last night, while star center Joel Embiid was rested.
Philadelphia Embiid is expected back for this one after sitting out the first game of a back-to-back (for the third time this season) last night. However, forward Robert Covington (15.3 & 6.2) left the loss with a back injury after tumbling into the stands. Covington was 5-for-7 from 3-point range and recorded 19 points before his injury,and JJ Redick (16.1) matched him in the scoring column in the loss to Cleveland. Head coach Brett Brown did not have an immediate update after the game on Covington. Embiid scored 33 points and had seven rebounds, six assists and five blocks in a career-high 36 minutes. in his last game. He has scored at least 20 points in five straight games and is averaging 23.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.0 blocks in 30.2 minutes per game. Ben Simmons is a (the?) leading candidate for rookie of the year, averaging 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.2 steals. He played his only year of college basketball at LSU, 80 miles from New Orleans, has had a spectacular season after missing his entire rookie campaign. The 6-10 point forward recorded three triple-doubles in his first 23 games. The only other players in NBA history to do that were Oscar Robertson (seven) and Magic Johnson (three).
New Orleans: Anthony Davis returned from a groin injury to provide 18 points in the overtime loss to the Kings on Friday, and head coach Alvin Gentry is well aware his team can't lose games like this (to teams like the Kings), if it is serious about contending for Western Conference playoff spot."You can't give Knute Rockne speeches every night," Gentry told reporters. "You know, as an athlete, it's your job. And it's our job as coaches (to get them ready). We have to have the energy to go out and play against a team like that and make sure we are getting the job done." Davis was expected to play about 25 minutes Friday but was able to give his team 31, and the 24-year-old reported no issues with the groin. New Orleans will hope for Davis to provide a little more support for fellow big man DeMarcus Cousins, who scored 38 points against Sacramento and is averaging 39 in 40.5 minutes over the last two games. The Cousins (26.3 & 12.6)/Davis (24.9 & 10.7) duo is formidable plus guards Holiday (16.6-4.3-5.5) and Moore (12.4) join them in double digits. PG Rajon Rondo was rested on Friday but he's coming around nicely, averaging 11.5 points on 58.8 percent shooting and 9.8 assists over the first four contests in December.
The pick: Cousins joins Embiid as the only NBA players averaging at least 23 points and 11 rebounds per game this season and with Davis back (and Rondo as well), I expect the Pelicans to grab the win here after "giving one away" against the Kings. The 'price is right' to make the Pelicans a 10* play.
|12-10-17||Tulane v. Florida State -13||Top||53-72||Win||100||5 h 30 m||Show|
Tulane" The Green Wave were every bit of a six-win team last season (they earned those 25 losses) but it's been quite a turnaround in the early going of this season. 6-6 guard Melvin Frazier has improved in just about every statistical category over last season and, with a line of 18.8-7.4-2.8, has helped to carry the Green Wave to seven wins and a chance at their first winning season since 2012-13. Fellow guard Reynolds is right behind him (16.9 & 5.4) plus the 6-9 Sehic (12.4 & 7.4) is the team's best frontcourt player. Two more guards, Cornish (10.4 & 4.0 APG) and Ona Embo (9.6) round out the major contributors. Tulane averages 80.2 PPG (86th) on 47.6% shooting (77th).
Florida State: The Seminoles won 26 games before losing the second round of the NCAAs last season. However, four starters are gone from that team, including guards Bacon (17.2), and Rathan-Mayes (10.6 & 4.8 APG) plus the "one & done" 6-10 Isaac (12.0 & 7.8). Mann was the lone returning starter and the 6-6 junior guard leads the team in scoring (16.0), while adding 5.8 RPG. Three more guards, CJ Walker (12.2), Angola (12.0) and MJ Walker (8.6) give FSU an excellent perimeter game. The surprise has been the 6-8 Phil Cofer. After a freshman season in which he averaged 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds, Cofer appeared on his way to becoming a mainstay for the Seminoles but that hasn't been the case until this season. He averaged fewer than 13 minutes and four points over the last two seasons but he's averaging 13.4 PPG and 5.5 RPG, joining the 6-9 Kabengele (9.0 & 5,1) in the frontcourt. That group helps FSU to an average of 89.0 PPG (15th) on 50.6% shooting (21st). The D on a Leonard Hamilton-coached team is always good and this year's team is allowing 68.8 PPG (103rd).
The pick: Florida State is one of eight unbeaten teams in Division I (number is falling fast, just ask Duke!) and will look to remain among that select company when it plays Tulane Sunday in Tampa, Fla. The Seminoles earned their seventh victory by 15 or more points Wednesday against Loyola Maryland and their 8-0 start is the best for Florida State since opening 10-0 in 2003-04. I'm laying the points here and making FSU a 10* play.
|12-09-17||Portland State v. Santa Clara -4||Top||87-84||Loss||-105||22 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The Portland State Vikings won their third straight game and improved to 7-2 on the season after defeating the Loyola Marymount Lions 94-85 this past Wednesday. The Vikings will travel to the Leavey Center on Saturday night to face the 3-5 Santa Clara Broncos. Santa Clara opened 1-5 but has won back-to-back homes games, 89-57 over Northern Arizona and 72-57 over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Portland State: The Vikings have a new head coach in Barret Perry and the team's 7-2 start is confidence-building, after the team has won 15, 13 and 15 games the last three seasons, respectively. Portland State was able to pull away from the Lions this past Wednesday, helped by Marymount committing an incredible 33 turnovers! Bryce Canda had a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead the way. This guard-oriented lineup features four double digits scorers on the perimeter. North is tops with 17.9 PPG, followed by Canda (17.7), who also leads in rebounding at 7.4 per. Mayhew (10.8) and Woods (10.2) round out the quartet, As a team, Portland averages 91.6 PPG, which ranks 6th in the nation.
Santa Clara: After routing Northern Arizona, the Broncos did much the same to Pine Bluff (see above). Leading the way was Matt Hauser (10.1) who had 21 points. He's joined by two other scorers in the backcourt, Feagin (18.2) and Caruso (11.00, who also leads the team in rebounding at 7.1 per. The 6-8 Vrankic (11.0 & 4.4) is the team's best frontcourt player.
The pick: Santa Clara averages more than 20 PPG less than Portland State at 74.3 per but note the Broncos have held back-to-back opponents to 57 points here at the Leavey Center. It's not as if Santa Clara can keep Portland State under 60 points (lowest point total was 69 vs Butler) but the Broncos should at least slow them down. It says something here that Santa Clara is favored over a team averaging almost 92 PPG and whose only losses this season have come against Butler and Duke at the Phil Knight Invitational Tournament. Lay it and make Santa Clara an 8* play.
|12-09-17||Magic +2 v. Hawks||Top||110-117||Loss||-110||11 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The Magic just beat the Hawks 110-106 Wednesday in Orlando but it took overtime and they did not cover as a 6 1/2-point favorite. The Hawks haven't played since, while the Magic are coming off a 103-89 home loss last night to the Nuggets. Evan Fournier, the Magic's second-leading scorer at 18.3 PPG ,scored 27 points in Orlandos home overtime victory over the Hawks on Wednesday but he won't be available for Saturday's rematch after he sprained his right ankle at the start of overtime. More bad news comes in that Orlando's leading scorer Aaron Gordon (18.7 PPG) will also be out of the lineup. He was injured when he collided with Denver guard Gary Harris in Friday's loss and won't play again until he clears the NBA's concussion protocol.The good news for the 11-16 Magic is that the Hawks are a brutal 5-19 on the season, including just 2-9 at home
Orlando: Losing Fournier and now Gordon is just the latest injury blow for the Magic, who started the season 8-3 before going into a slide. The Magic are also without Terrence Ross (9.0) and rookie defensive standout Jonathan Isaac (6.1 & 4.4). Ross has missed the past five games with a knee injury and Isaac the last 15 with a sprained ankle. Gordon has been a real bright spot admitted head coach Frank Vogel. "Yeah, it's tough, but everybody in the league has injuries," Vogel said after the game. "You know we can't feel sorry for ourselves now. We have to go get a win (Saturday) night."
Atlanta: The Hawks have lost four of their last five games and have injury woes of their own. Center Dewayne Dedmon (11.1 & 7.8) is expected to miss his fifth straight game due to a leg injury.and rookie forward John Collins (11.5 & 7.1) will miss his fourth straight contest with a shoulder injury and is expected to miss another week to 10 days. PG Dennis Schroder has emerged as the club's top scorer (20.5 PPG plus 6.5 APG) and is averaging 24 points over the past four games. Schroder scored 26 points in Wednesday's loss to Orlando for his 13th 20-point outing of the campaign. Second-year forward Taurean Prince is averaging 12.5 points and scored 19 on 6-of-8 shooting against the Magic after being just 11-of-34 shooting over the previous three games.
The pick: The Hawks have won 11 of the last 14 home matchups with the Magic but let's remember, that was with a much different team. The Hawks have been to 10 straight postseasons (only the Spurs own a longer consecutive streak) but this year's team is a playoff imposter and is on pace for a 17-win season. Expect the Magic to win this quick turnaround re-match, as well. Make Orlando a 10* play.
|12-09-17||Minnesota v. Arkansas -3.5||Top||79-95||Win||100||19 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The Minnesota Golden Gophers opened 7-0 but they have not been very 'golden' lately, entering this game 8-2 (ranked No. 14) but losers of two of their last three. The team's first loss was 86-81 to Miami at home in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Nov. 29 ('Canes are currently ranked 10th) and then this past Tuesday at Nebraska. Minnesota shot just 32.4 percent from the floor in that 78-68 loss to the Cornhuskers (Nebraska is 7-3). The Gophers travel to Fayetteville and Bud Walton Arena on Saturday evening to take on 6-2 Arkansas. The Razorbacks bounced back from a 26-point loss at Houston on Dec. 2 with a resounding 92-66 victory over Colorado State on Tuesday.
Minnesota: "They just played better than we did and when we needed to get stops, we couldn't," Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino told reporters after the Nebraska loss. "Offensively, obviously, we didn't have it going. If you don't have it going offensively, you've got to get stops and get out on the break. We did not do that. Credit to them."Minnesota has all five starters back from last year's 24-win team and is being led by 6-6 junior forward Jordan Murphy (19.9 & 12.8). Senior PG checks in at Nate Mason (15.7-4.0-4.4, after averaging 20.3 points over his last four games. Reggie Lynch is a 6-10 senior center and averages 11.6 & 8.6 plus leads the nation with 4.5 blocks per game. 6-8 forward Coffey (13.8 & 4.5) and SG McBrayer (8.8 & 3.4 APG) round out the starting-five.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks won 26 games last season, losing in the NCAAs second round. Three starters are gone from that team, including leading scorer Hannahs (14.4) and the 6-10 Kingsley (12.0 & 7.7). Arkansas has solid balance this year, although four of the team's five double digit scorers are all guards. Barford leads the way with 19.6 PPG (4.1 RPG & 3.4 APG), followed by Macon (14.6), Beard (11.9) and Jones (10.8). The 'outsider' is 6-11 freshman Gafford, who averages 12.0 & 5.8. The Razorbacks average 87.2 PPG (25th) with Barford (46.2 percent), Macon (43.9) and Jones (40.5) coming into this contest as one of two trios in the nation shooting over 40 percent from three-point range with at least 35 attempts.
The pick: The Golden Gophers average 87.3 PPG (23rd) but come in struggling on the offensive the last few games. That not good news when playing at Arkansas, which is famous for its defensive pressure. The Razorbacks forced 19 turnovers, raising its season average to 16.4 per in their win over Colorado State and held the Rams to 36.5 percent shooting. Murphy will face extra defensive attention from Arkansas’s deep, athletic forecourt plus center Reggie Lynch will be challenged by Arkansas’s prized, five-star 6-11 freshman Daniel Gafford, who has lived up to teh hype. The Razorbacks' first eight opponents were a combined 42-25 through Wednesday's games and Arkansas is 4-0 at home, outscoring opponents 92.8-to-62.5 PPG. Make Arkansas a 10* play.
|12-08-17||Oklahoma +1.5 v. USC||Top||85-83||Win||100||24 h 3 m||Show|
The set-up: The 6-1 Oklahoma Sooners will visit Los Angeles to take on the 4-2 USC Trojans on Friday night in the Basketball Hall of Fame's Hoophall L.A. Classic played at Staples Center. The Sooners have the better current record, although it's USC which comes in ranked at No. 25 in the latest AP poll. However, after opening 4-0, the Trojans have lost at home to then No. 16 Texas A&M (75-59) and followed with a 72-55 loss at SMU. USC is now looking to avoid a third straight loss against an Oklahoma team that has lost just once (92-83 to Arkansas in the PK80 Invitational) and is knocking on the top-25 'door' with a four-game win streak that includes a 90-80 neutral-floor win over 2017 Final Four participant Oregon in that same PK80 Invitational in Portland,.
Oklahoma: 6-2 freshman Trae Young scored a season-high 43 points to go along with a game-high seven assists and two steals in not only leads Oklahoma in scoring but his 28.7 PPG also leads the nation! Young, who also averages 8.7 APG, can't wait to play on the same court of former Oklahoma star Blake Griffin of the Clippers, not to mention the Lakers of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. "I've been able to play in the (Chicago) Bulls arena, the Brooklyn Nets arena, obviously Portland and now L.A.," Young said. "It's going to be fun. That's a legendary place to play. ... I can't wait for it." The Sooners ranks second in the nation at 94.4 PPG and shoot 50.5 percent as a team (24th). Junior guard Christian James (11.9 & 4.0) and 6-9 senior forward Khadeem Lattin (11.1 & 9.1) are also are averaging in double figures.
USC; Last year's team set a school-record with 26 victories and made a surprising run to NCAA's Sweet 16 and with all five starters returning, were considered a 'sleeper pick' to make it to the school's first Final Four since 1954. However, after that 4-0 start, USC has been humbled in back-to-back games (see above). The team's current five starters average between 9.0 and 16.0 PPG, led by the 'Twin Tower' duo of the 6-11 Metu (16.0 & 7.7) and the 6-10 Boatwright (15.7 & 7.7). PG McLaughlin also scores in double digits at 13.5 PPG, while leading the team with 5.8 APG.
The pick: USC's loss to A&M is not much of a concern (Aggies are currently ranked 7th) but the Trojans led 30-27 at halftime at SMU last Saturday, before getting outscored 45-25 in the second half by the Mustangs. It was deja vu all over again, as six days earlier Texas A&M used a late 19-3 run to pull away for a 16-point victory at the Galen Center. USC is already without G De'Antthony Melton, who is being withheld because of eligibility issues stemming from the FBI investigation of assistant coach Tony Bland plus will also be without PG Derryck Thornton, a Duke transfer who is expected to miss three-to-four weeks after dislocating his right shoulder Nov. 28. Back-to-back lopsided loss is a concern for Andy Enfield's team, whose offense is not functioning well with USC making just 12 of 44 three-point attempts (27.3 percent) in those contests. Even in the "friendly confines" of Staples Center (just up the 110 Freeway from USC's on-campus Galen Center), a see a third straight loss coming for the Trojans. Make Oklahoma a 10* play.
|12-08-17||Raptors -5.5 v. Grizzlies||Top||116-107||Win||100||22 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Toronto Raptors have been dominant at home so far, as after their 126-113 win over Phoenix on Tuesday, the Raptors checked in with a 9-1 mark at Air Canada Centre. In contrast, the team is just 6-6 on the road and tonight's game at Memphis vs. the Grizzlies will kick off a four-game road trip. The Grizzlies did snap their 11-game losing streak Monday against Minnesota but then fell right back in a "losing mode" dropping a 99-88 decision at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday to fall to 8-16 on the season.
Toronto:.Toronto's backcourt of DeMar DeRozan (23.3-4.5-4.9) and Kyle Lowry (16.6-6.3-7.1) led the way in the win over the Suns, combining for 40 points and 18 of Toronto's 30 assists. "When you’re making shots, it's good, and the confidence we all have in each other to take shots and to give the opportunity to shoot the ball and we don’t care, it's always good," Lowry told reporters. Toronto is averaging 111.5 PPG (3rd-best in the NBA and topes in the East) an 48.7 percent shooting (2nd-best). The Raptors have upped that to 121 points during their four-game winning streak while making an average of 13 three-pointers per game and handing out 28.5 assists. "Everybody gets a chance to touch the ball, you don't necessarily got to work so hard," DeRozan told reporters. "Everybody gets a feel for the ball, everybody gets to make the next decision for your teammate, and with that, we still miss a lot of shots, but it's something we're still learning and something we're still trying to get better at every time we practice, every time we play."
Memphis: Center Marc Gasol scored 17 points in Wednesday's loss in New York while his fellow starters combined for just 23, on 7-of-24 shooting. He's the team's leading scorer (18.9) and rebounder (8.8) plus played through a knee issue. "I don't know exactly what happened. It just locked up," he told reporters. "Couldn't really extend it. I never had any knee issues. So it was a new feeling for me." While Gasol's fellow starters 'laid an egg,' the bench provided some positives in the loss. In particular, forward Chandler Parsons, who had missed three of the previous four games with knee and ankle injuries, had 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 22 minutes.
The pick: Memphis was 7-6 and had topped 100 points six times before deciding to shelve Conley (17.1 & 4.1 APG) on Nov. 14 in hopes of relieving the pain in his Achilles. The result has been the Grizzlies having gone 1-10 SU & 2-8-1 ATS since, being held to 98 or fewer points on all but two of the occasions. Toronto has faced only one team (Indiana, twice) with a winning record among its last six contests,and won't see another above-.500 club until meeting the Philadelphia 76ers on Dec. 21, which is eight games from now. The lesser competition has allowed the Raptors to focus on spreading the offensive wealth rather than relying on guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Seven players scored in double figures Wednesday and the club's 30 assists were one shy of their season best. Chalk up another 'victim' here. Make Toronto a 10* play.
|12-07-17||Eastern Washington v. San Francisco -7||Top||71-81||Win||100||14 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Eastern Washington Eagles dropped their second straight game 84-65 this past Sunday to the Seattle Redhawks, falling to 3-5 on the season. They will travel to War Memorial Gymnasium in San Francisco on Thursday to take on the San Francisco Dons, who snapped their two-game losing streak and improved to 4-3 on the season after defeating the Central Arkansas Bears 78-76 this past Monday night.
Eastern Washington: The Eagles allowed Seattle to shoot 50.9% from the floor, including 52.9% (9-17) from beyond the arc in Sunday's loss. Clearly, that kind of defense won't cut it for a team which is averaging only 70.1 PPG (273rd) on some very poor shooting (39.7% ranks 324th!). Eastern Washington's leading score is Bogdan Bliznyuk (14.1-4.5- 2.4), a 6-6 guard, plus a trio of guards add 6.9-to-9.0 PPG to the mix. The 6-7 Hunt (6.6 & 5.8) and the 7-0 Gruciunas (6.4 & 5.1) are the best big men.
San Francisco: The Dons held off a late Central Arkansas run to pick up the two-point victory in their last game. San Francisco shot just 38.1% from the floor but did out-rebound the Bears by a 43-30 margin in the victory. San Francisco doesn't score any better than Eastern Washington, averaging 71.4 PPG (246th) and shoots poorly as well, connecting on 39.1 percent (336th). Jordan Ratinho had 17 points in the win and leads the Dons on the season with 12.7 PPG (also 4.3 RPG). 6-5 SF Chase Foster adds 11.3 PPG and a team-high 6.0 RPG.
The pick: Eastern Washington has had a tough early schedule and it is taking a toll. The Eagles limp in just 1-6 ATS in their last seven road games and while San Francisco is "more in their class," the Dons are 6-0 ATS in their last six games vs. a team with a winning percentage below .400. Make San Francisco a 10* play.
|12-07-17||Wizards v. Suns +7.5||Top||109-99||Loss||-110||13 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The Phoenix Suns opened the season 0-3 with two losses of 40 points or more. That prompted the firing of head coach Earl Watson, who was replaced by Jay Triano. The Suns have been more competitive since that horrific start (nowhere to go but up!), going 9-14 SU but also 12-10-1 ATS. The team just completed a 2-4 road trip but SG Devin Booker went down with a strained left adductor in Tuesday's 126-113 setback at Toronto. However, the Suns hope to have Booker available when they host Washington Wizards on Thursday. The 13-11 Wizards opened their five-game road trip with a 116-69 loss at Utah on Monday but quickly bounced back the next night in Portland, winning 106-92.
Washington: SG Bradley Beal posted a career-high 51 points in Tuesday's win, as with Washington operating without All-Star PGJohn Wall (knee), he's being asked to take on more responsibility. Beal, as well as the entire team, laid an egg in Utah but all was right in Portland, especially with Beal who was 21-of-37 from the floor in his career-best effort. "I was really upset with the way we played, especially with myself individually," Beal told reporters in reference to the Utah debacle. "I just came in (to Portland) with the mindset that I was going to be aggressive, not thinking about anything else but trying to get a win and playing my game." Beal leads with 23.3 PPG with Wall (he has missed six games and remains sidelined because of left knee inflammation) second on the Wizards in scoring at 20.3 PPG (leads in assists with 9.2 per game). The Wizards are 3-3 with Tim Frazier starting in Wall's place.
Phoenix: Booker (24.3-4.5-4.1) had to be helped off the court on Tuesday after scoring 19 points in 39 minutes and will undergo further testing to determine the severity of the injury. Booker had missed the first game of the road trip but was on fire over the rest of the trip, averaging 31.6 points on 50.5 percent shooting, including a 46-point outburst in a 115-101 win at Philadelphia on Monday. The Suns saw eight players score in double figures in the loss at Toronto and will ask even more of players like T.J. Warren (18.4 & 5.7) (9.2 & 3.5) and rookie Josh Jackson if Booker is unable to go.
The pick: John Wall played (scored 21 points) and Bradley Beal scored 40, points back on Nov. 1 in Washington, yet the Wizards were still outscored by the Suns, 122-116 (as an 11-pont underdog). Warren exploded for a career-high 40 points on 16-of-22 shooting while adding 10 rebounds in that one, as Phoenix overcame a 22-point deficit to secure the victory. Center Greg Monroe collected 11 points and 10 rebounds on Tuesday to mark his third double-double in nine games with the team and enters doing a nice job since the trade (10.8 & 7.4). Revenge for Washington? I'm not buying it, as the Wizards are the only team in the Southeast Division with a winning record. The home dog barks loudly in this one. Make Phoenix a 10* play.
|12-06-17||Nuggets v. Pelicans -4.5||Top||114-123||Win||100||23 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: New Orleans Pelicans squandered a 20-point halftime lead on Monday at home against the defending champs, eventually falling 125-115. Frustration seemed to boil over in the final minutes as a slew of technical fouls were handed out and DeMarcus Cousins was ejected (shocking!). The 12-12 Pelicans will try to re-group tonight, when the welcome the 13-10 Denver Nuggets to the Smoothie King Center. Denver opened its six-game trip with a 122-105 loss at Western Conference-worst Dallas on Monday, falling to 3-8 on the road, compared to the team's 10-2 home mark. Both teams are missing key performers, as Anthony Davis (25.2 & 11.0) is sidelined with a groin injury and Nikola Jokic (15.5 & 10.6) with an ankle injury.
Denver: The Mavs rank among the lowest-scoring teams in the league but shot 57 percent from the floor against Denver on Monday. "They get their 3s from dribble penetration," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters of the Mavericks. "When you can't guard their guards and they live in the paint for scores and they live in the paint for kick-out 3s, they got everything tonight. You're not going to beat anybody when you're giving up that kind of productivity in the paint and behind the arc." Is Malone serious? If the Mavs are "tough to guard" for his team, where are the Nuggets headed? The Nuggets fell behind by 25 points in the first half and could not recover despite 22 points from Murray and 21 from Harris. Murray is averaging 14.4 PPG, joining fellow guards Barton (15.8), Harris (14.4) and Mudiay (10.0) in double digits. With Jokic sidelined for at least a few games and PF Millsap (15.7 & 6.2) also out until late-February with a wrist injury, Denver will need help from forwards Chandler and Faried, as well as center Plumlee. Not sure that will happen, though.
New Orleans: "I keep telling our guys, as bad as this loss is, what we keep proving is that we have the ability to play extended minutes with the world champs," Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters after the 125-115 loss. "We have to now find a way to not do it for 32 or 36 minutes, but for 48." New Orleans is operating without Davis, who had an MRI on his groin reveal no major damage and is now considered day-to-day with a left adductor strain. New Orleans is making up for the loss of production by asking more of its backcourt, and Jrue Holiday (34) and E'Twaun Moore (27) combined for 61 points on Monday. Holiday (16.3-4.4-5.5) is playing off the point with Rajon Rondo (6.6 & 7.3 APG) running the offense and has seen his scoring tick up to an average of 22.6 points in the last five games, with Rondo averaging nine assists in that span. Moore averages 12.6 PPG on the season, the only other player in double digits other than Cousins (25.3 & 12.2).
The pick: Talk about a revenge motive! Denver shot 62.9 percent from the floor in a 146-114 home win over New Orleans back on Nov. 17! It was the team's best shooting percentage since 2012, and the Nuggets made 18 of 35 attempts from long range. They also recorded a season-high 37 assists and their starting five combined for 101 points. Davis played only 21 minutes in the first game against Denver but still led the Pelicans with 17 points. He is listed as day-to-day for Wednesday but he said Monday he was still experiencing sharp pain in his left groin area when making lateral cuts. No reason to expect Davis to play here but let's remember the Nuggets are now 3-8 SU and 3-9 ATS on the road (are allowing 10.9 PPG) and as head coach Malone noted, had no answers for the pathetic Mavs' offense. Lay it and make the Pelicans a 10* play.
|12-06-17||Loyola-Chicago v. Florida -15||Top||65-59||Loss||-110||23 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: The Florida Gators opened 5-0, including a 111-105 win over Gonzaga. However, Florida then allowed Duke to come back from a 17-point deficit with 10 minutes left to beat the Gators 87-84 for the Motion Bracket championship at the Phil Knight Invitational tournament. Things went from bad-to-worse in Florida's next game, as the Gators were humbled 83-66 in a home loss to the unranked Seminoles on Monday. Mike White's team looks to bounce back tonight against the 8-1 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, who are off to the school's best start since also winning eight of their first nine contests back in 1965-66.
Loyola-Chicago: The Ramblers are 13-2 in their last 15 games versus non-Missouri Valley Conference opponents but of course in No. 5 Florida, it's a bit of a 'horse of a different color.' The team opened the season with seven straight victories before splitting its last two, an 87-53 loss at Boise State and then Saturday's 24-point win over Illinois-Chicago. Senior forward Aundre Jackson spearheaded the attack, hitting 10-of-11 shots for a game-high 23 points, his second-highest total of the season and the second time he has topped 20 points in the last four games. Freshman Lucas Williamson chipped in with a career-high 14 points. Loyola-Chicago averages 79.1 PPG (110th) but shoots 52.2% from the floor, which ranks 8th! Four players are averaging in double figures led by senior forward Jackson (13.8 & 4.2) plus guards Townes (13.4 & 5.2), Custer (13.4 & 4.3 APG) and Ingram (12.3 & 6.9).
Florida: "They (Florida State) threw the first three or four punches and continued throwing most of them and connected on most of them until the final buzzer. Very disappointing effort," coach White told reporters afterward. "… I thought they played harder than us; I thought they were tougher than us for 40 minutes." Like Loyola, four players are averaging in double figures, led by junior guard Jalen Hudson (20.9 &4.4). Joining him are fellow guards Koulechov (16.7 & 6.6), Allen (13.7 & 3.4) and Chiozza (11.7-5.6-6.4). However, the Gators offense couldn't get anything going against Florida State, scoring 33.5 points fewer than its season average coming into the game (99.5). They wound up shooting a dismal 36.2 percent from the floor and hitting just 6-of-25 from three-point range (both their second-worst showings of the young season).
The pick: No reason to think the Gators won't bounce back here, as Mike White's team is 3-1 in Gainesville with a 29.7 point average margin of victory in the three wins. As for Loyola, the Ramblers will be going for their first victory over a team ranked in the top-five since 1984 and in fact, they have not beaten ANY ranked team in nearly nine years. The Gators hope to responded to consecutive losses to Duke and Florida State in early December games last year, ripping off seven straight victories. Same story here, at least for one night (note Loyola's 83-57 loss at Boise State). Make Florida a 10* play.
|12-05-17||Vermont v. Marquette -3||Top||81-91||Win||100||21 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: The Vermont Catamounts lost their season-opener at Kentucky but only 73-69 as 12-point underdogs. They then won six straight before falling this past Saturday 81-77 at Bucknell. Vermont will visit BMO Harris Bradley Center on Tuesday evening when they face the host the Marquette Golden Eagles. Marquette is 5-3, after seeing its three-game winnings streak snapped in 73-66 home loss to Georgia.
Vermont: The Catamounts are led by 6-6 forward Lamb (14.9 & 6.5), who is joined by three other double digit scorers. They are guards Bell-Haynes (12.2 & 5.0 APG) and Duncan (11.9) plus the 6-8 Henson (11.5 & 5.8). Vermont did not look good for most of that Bucknell game and except for a run in the final minutes, the final score would have been a little more lopsided. Vermont will need a much better effort here.
Marquette: Leading scorer Andrew Rowsey (22.6 & 4.2 APG) was held to 15 points in the loss to Georgia but his high-scoring backcourt partner Markus Howard (21.0) scored 29 points. Another guard, Hauser, averages 12.4 PPG and 6.0 RPG, but the scoring drops off from there, as no other player scores more than 6.4 PPG.
The pick: The Golden Eagles won the only prior meeting between the teams but that was some time ago, 89-58 back on Dec. 22, 1995. Marquette has struggled to pick up resume-building wins against ranked teams and major conference opponents early in the season, falling to Purdue, Wichita State and Georgia, The Golden Eagles will be tested by Vermont, a mid-major with past success but this is a game the home team need badly and I'll back them. Make Marquette a 10* play.
|12-04-17||Missouri State -1.5 v. North Dakota State||Top||71-58||Win||100||19 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Missouri State Bears will travel to the Scheels Center in Fargo on a five-game winning streak and with an overall record of 7-2. Awaiting the Bears will be the North Dakota State Bison, who come off back-to-back losses leaving them at 43-4 to open the new season.The Bison are off a 19-win season, after four straights years of 20-plus wins, and return eight players. Missouri State has known success in the past (remember Steve Alford?) but last year's 17-win season came after winning just 11 and 13 games the previous two years. However, four starters returned this year and maybe this year's 7-2 start means the Bears are looking at getting back to 20 wins.
Missouri State: Seven players are averaging 21-plus minutes per game with the 6-9 Johnson leading the team in scoring (13.7) and rebounding (10.3). Guard Miller (10.2 & 4.1) is the only other double digit scorer but SF Scurry just misses (9.7), despite averaging only about 15 minutes of playing time. Defense has been the key for Missouri State, which is holding opponents to an average of 62.4 PPG (33rd) on 36.8% shooting (14th).
North Dakota State: The Bison were a little out of their league in losing 83-59 at Mississippi State this past Thursday. North Dakota State had no answers for the Bulldogs and Tyson Carter (35 points), as the Bison couldn’t fight back after falling behind by a 63-38 margin with 11:13 left in regulation. North Dakota State shot just 28.6% (10-35) from beyond the arc ant-d was out-rebounded by the Bulldogs by a 41-28 margin. Leading the way for the Bison was Paul Miller who had 19 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Miller tops a guard-oriented team in averaging 14.7 & 6.6, with three other guards following. They are Ward (11.6), Hunter (10.1) and Jacobson (9.1).
The pick: Missouri State is not quite Miss. State (7-0) but the Bears have looked awfully good in their five-game winning streak. North Dakota State has struggled on the offensive end this season (67.3 PPG ranks 306th) and that's not good news against an excellent Missouri State defense Make the Bears a 10* play.
|12-04-17||Suns +10.5 v. 76ers||Top||115-101||Win||100||19 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The 76ers are finally starting to give some positive signs that "The Process" is beginning to come together. Philly welcomes the Phoenix Suns to ton sporting an overall 13-9 record. The 76ers are 5-1 in their last six games and 7-3 in their last 10, losing only to the Warriors, Cavaliers and Celtics. This just in...Those three teams are pretty good. As for the Suns, Phoenix finds itself 8-16 on the season. The Suns fell to 1-3 on their six-game road trip with a 116-111 loss at Boston on Saturday and have surrendered an average of 122 points in the three losses on the trip.
Phoenix: The Suns rank 30th (last) in the NBA in points allowed at 115.9 per game and after allowing the Celtics to shoot 52.5 percent from the floor on Saturday, rank 26th in defensive FG percentage at 47.1%. The Suns nearly erased a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter at Boston but in the end, it was just another loss. "We competed well, we've just got to not make mistakes and compete for more possessions than we did tonight," interim coach Jay Triano told reporters after the game. "It's just understanding the game and what's available and not making mistakes down the stretch. Our discipline has to be better." Shooting guard Devin Booker poured in 39 points on 16-of-29 shooting in Boston and is averaging 31 points on 55 percent shooting over the last three games. He leads the team at PPG 23.6 PPG, with small forward T.J. Warren adding 18.4 & 5.8 RPG.
Philadelphia: The 76ers are already "thinking playoffs." They rode 25 points and 10 rebounds from center Joel Embiid (23.1 & 11.3) to a 108-103 win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, pulling it out in the fourth quarter after squandering a lead in the third. "That's a good win for us," Embiid told reporters. "Getting those wins against what could be (a playoff team) is always good, learning the style of play." Rookie PG Ben Simmons scored just five points on Saturday (his first game scoring in single digits) but on the year is averaging 17.9-9.4-7.1. SG Redick (15.6), SF Covington (15.6) and PF Saric (11.5-6.4) are also in double digits.
The pick: Yes, the 76ers are 7-4 SU (8-3 ATS) at home but laying double digits? To say the least, the 76ers don’t have much of a track record as a double-digit favorite these last four-plus seasons. How about they are 0-0 when laying nine points or more. Take the points and make the Suns (6-3-1 ATS last 10 as a road dog) a 10* play.
|12-03-17||Dayton +9.5 v. Mississippi State||Top||59-61||Win||100||20 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: The Dayton Flyers are coming off a 24-win season and lost four starters from last year's team. Dayton is hoping to find some consistency in the early part of its season but so far has alternated wins and losses through each of its first six games, falling 3-3 on the season after being defeated 73-60 at home by the Auburn Tigers on Wednesday. The Flyers will travel to Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville to take on the 6-0 Mississippi State Bulldogs Sunday night in college hoops action.
Dayton: The Flyers sure know about winning (26, 27, 25 and 24 wins the last four years) but Dayton not only lost four senior starters off last year's team, it also saw head coach Archie Miller leave to take the Indiana job. Miller's loss is mitigated somewhat by Anthony Grant taking over. He was an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida and then at OKC in the NBA) plus led VCU and Alabama to NCAA tourney wins as a head coach. The lone returning starter is guard Darrell Davis, who has averaged 19.7 PPG. The 6-7 Cunningham, who missed most of LY with an injury, looks healthy while averaging 14.3 & 10.3 plus the 6-8 Williams (8.8 & 5.2) adds size to the frontcourt. Five others are seeing "PT," averaging from 5.0-to-7.2 PPG.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs stayed perfect on the season by defeating the North Dakota State Bison 83-59 this past Thursday. Leading the way for the Bulldogs was Tyson Carter who had 35 points, Carter is a guard who leads the team in scoringat 15.0 PPG, with three fellow guards chippng in 12.0--to-12.3 PPG. That includes PG Quinndary Weatherspoon, whose line reads 12.2-5.5-4.8. Up front, the 6-10 Holman (11.5 & 7.3) and the 6-11 Ado (8.4 & 7.0) add size and are the best producers. Quinndary's brother Nick, is averaging 12.0 PPG. The Weatherspoon brothers are the only players to start every game for the Bulldogs this season and they are one of 29 sets of brothers nationally who are teammates.
The pick: Dayton may be in for somewhat of a rebuilding year but don't sell this program or head coach Grant, short (see above for a reminder). Former UCLA head coach Ben Howland owns a veteran squad and as always, he preaches defense (62.3 PPG allowed ranks 26th). However, while Dayton saw its 16-game home win streak snapped in that 73-60 setback Auburn last Wednesday, the Flyers are 15-4 in their last 19 games versus the SEC, including victories at Alabama 77-72 and versus Vanderbilt 68-63 last season. Take the points and make Dayton a 10* play.
|12-02-17||Pistons v. 76ers -5||Top||103-108||Push||0||19 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Philadelphia 76ers are 12-9 but have have been shut down this past week by two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, losing 113-91 at home to Cleveland on Monday and then 108-97 at Boston on Thursday. Philly now gets set to host the Pistons, who are no slouch themselves. Detroit has missed the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons but has every intent to change that dynamic here in the 2017-18 season, opening 14-7. That leaves them tied with Toronto, a half-game back of the Cavs, with all three teams chasing the 19-4 Celtics.
Detroit: The Pistons are coming off a 109-91 loss at Washington on Friday, as Andre Drummond's 15th double-double (14 points & 17 rebounds) was not nearly enough. The Pistons led by six at halftime but were outscored 35-15 in the third quarter, as their three-game winning streak came to an end. "We got killed on the glass," head coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters. "They played so much harder. ... We did nothing. We did nothing. I really don't have an explanation." Four of five starters average in double figures, led by Harris (18.9 & 5.3). Guards Bradley (16.6) and Jackson (15.6 & 5.8 APG) join Harris, as does center Drimmond (14.3 & 15.2). Five others add exclellent deoth, contributing between 6.2 and 9.6 PPG.
Phildelphia. The 76ers had won five of six before 'hitting a wall' against Cleveland and Boston. The Sixers rested center Joel Embiid on Thursday night in Boston, as it was their second game in as many nights and he has not yet been cleared to play in a back-to-back situations after undergoing surgery on his left knee in March. However, Embiid will play here and he's averaging 22.9 & 11.3. Ben Simmons (18.6-9.4-7.2) reminds some of Magic Johnson plus SG Redick (15.4), SF Covington (14.7 & 6.1) and PF Saric (11.2 & 6.4) are all playing well. T.J. McConnell (7.0 & 5.4 APG) missed the Boston game with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder but Bayless (9.7) is an able replacement at PG.
The pick: Tough back-to-back situation here for Detroit, as the team plays its second contest in a four-game road trip. Philadelphia claimed the first meeting between the teams with a 97-86 win in Detroit (Oct. 23), as Ben Simmons recorded his first career triple-double with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists and the 76ers limited the Pistons to 38.8 percent from the floor. Oh by the way, Embiid had 30 points in that first meeting in Detroit, as Drummond couldn't stop him. Nothing different expected here, Make Philly a HUGE 10* play.
|12-02-17||Cincinnati v. Xavier -2||Top||76-89||Win||100||11 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 21 Xavier (6-1) will host No. 11 Cincinnati (6-0) before a raucous, standing-room only crowd at Cintas Center at :high noon!' The time start is appropriate, as over the past 90 years these two Queen City schools have exchanged memorable performances, thrilling finishes, and even a few fists. Since Xavier's program has gained national prominence, the rivalry has drawn wider appeal as well. Cincinnati has steamrolled the competition to date, coming into Friday with an average margin of victory of 30.6 PPG, second-highest in all of Division I. However, the level of competition Cincinnati has encountered can be generously described as "not elite." Meanwhile, Xavier has already faced a pair of top-25 teams, losing a 102-86 decision to Arizona State before breaking out to an early 21-8 lead and winning 76-63 over Baylor.
Xavier: The Musketeers are led by preseason All-Amercian Trevon Bluiett, who averages 19.7 & 6.1. PG Macura (14.6-5.1-3.3) is an excellent backcourt mate plus the 6-8 Gates (11.7 & 4.6) and the 6-9 Jones (9.1 & 6.9) are the team's two best big men. Five others chip in between 5.4 and 8.6 PPG. Bluiett will be looking to get back on track after being held to 21 total points against Arizona State and Baylor but was picked by Macura, who had 42 points in those two games. On the season, Macura is shooting a red-hot 59.3 percent from the floor. Xavier can score with Cincy (89.0 PPG ranks 21st) but can't defend nearly as well (69.0 PPG ranks 116th).
The pick: This is a bitter rivalry In 1994, Xavier head coach Pete Gillen and Cincinnati head coach Bob Huggins refused to shake hands after an 82-76 Musketeers' victory in overtime, an incident they reportedly made amends for years later. In 1996, Xavier guard Lenny Brown's lane jumper at the buzzer lifted the Musketeers to a shocking 71-69 upset of No. 1-ranked Cincinnati in their gym. On December 10, 2011, in the closing moments of a 76-53 Xavier win at Cintas Center, an ugly bench-clearing brawl erupted, resulting in the game being played at a neutral site for two seasons. That vitriol has calmed in recent years, but there's certainly no love lost between the Bearcats and Musketeers. The schools are separated by less than three miles, and the teams and fan bases are united in their hatred of each other.
This is Cincy's first real test of the young season and it is also the Bearcats' first true road game. Cincy won last year's game at home (86-78) but Xavier has largely dominated the series over the past two decades, winning three of the past four meetings, seven of 10, and 14 of the previous 21. Xavier is shooting 55.0 percent from the floor as a team, with only Virginia Tech (56.1) shooting better. The Musketeers are 4-0 SU & ATS at home, outscoring opponents 93.5-to-61.8 PPG. Make Xavier an 8* play.
|12-01-17||Duquesne +7 v. Pittsburgh||Top||64-76||Loss||-110||12 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up:: Duquesne and Pittsburgh (both Pittsburgh-area schools) meet annually in non-conference play and this year's matchup will be contested at PPG Paints Arena, the home of the two-time defending Penguins. Duquesne enters 2-2 and Pittsburgh 3-4. The Panthers lead the series 52-32 but Duquesne won 64-55 last season, as 15 1/2-point underdogs.Dusquesne: The Dukes are off a 10-22 season but made a great off-season hire by bringing in Keith Dambrot as their head coach. He coached LBJ in high school and recently, led Akron to three NCAA berths and five more in the NIT in his 13 seasons at Akron. Duquesne opened 2-0 but lost its second straight game 78-71 to Cornell on Monday. The Dukes led at the half 35-32 but a 15-3 Cornell run gave the Big Red a 65-53 lead with just 6:02 left in regulation and the Dukes never recovered. Duquesne shot just 34.9 from the floor, while allowing Cornell to shoot 56.4%. Shooting poorly has been a problem so far for e thDukes, as they are connecting on just 37.9 percent on the season (ranks 340th!). Four guards lead the way, all scoring in double digits. Castro (20.8 & 3.8) is tops, followed by Williams (13.5), who leads in rebounding at 9.8 plus Smith (12.8 & 4.2) and Lewis (12.0).
Pittsburgh: Kevin Stallings begins his second season at Pitt, coming off a 16-17 season. All five starters are gone from that team and maybe that's a good thing. The Panthers come in off two straight wins and can climb back to .500 after a 1-4 start with a win. Senior forward Ryan Luther scored 15 points and led Pitt with eight rebounds plus added a career-high five assists in Tuesday's 71-63 victory over High Point. Luther (13.4 & 9.1) has cracked double figures in scoring in six of Pitt's first seven games. Luther is Pitt's lone big man of note, as JC transfer Jared Wilson-Frame, a 6-5 wing player, paces the team in scoring at 14.0 PPG. Guards Carr (10.0), Stevenson (9.90)and Milligan (8.7) have been the other notable contributors, so far.
|11-30-17||Cavs -7.5 v. Hawks||Top||121-114||Loss||-110||23 h 0 m||Show|
The set-up: Clearly, reports of Cleveland's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Despite LBJ's first-ever ejection Tuesday vs. the Heat, the Cavs' victory was the team's ninth in a row. As for the Hawks, the last thing they need to see tonight at home is a well-motivated James or a red-hot Cleveland squad after suffering the worst loss of an already down season with a 112-78 home setback to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. "Our defense was just - they were shooting 64, 68 percent at the half," Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters. "They'd hit enough 3's to make you worry about that and they'd just kick it into drive. I feel like our defense, not just in the paint but everywhere, was just not good enough for an NBA game." The Hawks have made 10 straight playoff appearances (only the Spurs own a longer active streak) but welcome the Cavs to Phillips Arena just 4-16 on the season (only the 3-16 Bulls own a worse record)..
Cleveland: LBJ had 21 points (on 10-of-16 shooting) while adding 12 rebounds, six assists and five steals in 28 minutes against the Miami Heat on Tuesday but his ejection overshadowed a dominant performance from Kevin Love (18.7 & 10.0), who scored a season-high 38 points while going 10-of-16 from the floor and 14-of-17 from the free-throw line. The All-Star came up one rebound shy of his sixth double-double during the nine-game winning streak. The Cavs are now scoring 110.8 PPG (up to 3rd-best) but still have trouble on the opposite end of the court, allowing 108.5 PPG (25th).
Atlanta: The Hawks haven't played since that Saturday's 'embarrassment' vs. Toronto but will the extra practice time help much vs. the Cavs? PG Dennis Schroder (19.7 & 6.8 APG) scored a team-high 14 points in the loss to Toronto and has reached double figures in scoring in seven straight games after bottoming out with seven points on 2-of-16 shooting in a loss at Washington on Nov. 11. Schroder's been pretty much a lone bright spot for the Hawks this season, although five others are contributing between 11.0 and 12,7 PPG (none stand out, though!). The Hawks rank near the bottom in both points scored (102.2 ranks 23rd) and points allowed (108.2 ranks 24th), so it's easy to see why they are struggling.
The pick: It doesn't help Atlanta's chance here that one of the Cavaliers' most unexplainable losses during their disappointing 5-7 start to the current season came at home back on Nov. 5, when an injury-depleted Atlanta team that was riding an eight-game losing streak, won 117-115. Schroder matched a season high with 28 points and added nine assists in that Hawks' win but he'll need plenty of help here, if Atlanta is to "stay close." As noted above, Love is coming off a terrific outing and will now get a chance to wipe away the memory of his worst performance of the season, when he managed four points on 1-of-6 shooting in that home loss to the Hawks. My guess is that LBJ (28.2-8.3-8.3) will be focused off that ejection and I expect the Cavs to extend their winning streak to 10 in a row with plenty of room to spare. The Cavs are both 7-3 SU & ATS on the road this season, Make Cleveland an 8* play.
|11-30-17||Texas Tech v. Seton Hall +1.5||Top||79-89||Win||100||22 h 53 m||Show|
The set-up: A pair of quality teams square off tonight in the Under Armour Reunion at Madison Square Garden. Seton Halll lost last week 75-74 to Rhode Island at Barclay Center, before rebounding with a 72-59 win over Vandy the next night. The Pirates were No. 20 in the AP but dropped out in Monday's latest poll. Meanwhile, 6-0 Texas Tech made its first appearance in the AP's top-25, checking in at No. 22
Seton Hall: "The Hall" is off a 21-win season, appearing in the Big Dance for a second straight year (won 25 games, two years ago). Four starters are back this season. Up front, it's the 6-6 Rodriguez (17.8 & 4.0) and the 6-10 Delagdo (14.0 & 9.3) plus guards Powell (14.0 & 3.2) and Carrington (10.2 & 4.3 APG) man the perimeter. 6-8 senior Ismael Sanogo doesn't score many points (3.2) but that doesn't mean he isn't important. Sanogo's oot his first start of the season in last week's win over Vanderbilt and responded with season highs of eight rebounds and four blocked shots. His defensive prowess was critical in the Pirates avoiding a second straight defeat ahead of their meeting with the undefeated Red Raiders in New York City. "Ish sets the tone on defense," Desi Rodriguez told the media. "It takes the weight off our shoulders. That's why we consider Ish to be the best defender in the country."
Texas Tech: Sanogo and the rest of the Pirates will have their hands full with a Texas Tech squad that has shot 50.4 percent as a team during its resurgence under coach Chris Beard. Tech starts starts five seniors and uses a 10-man rotation, with those players averaging between 5.3 and 15.0 PPG. .Keenan Evans (15.0 & 3.5 APG) leads the Red Raiders in scoring despite being held scoreless in the most recent win over Savannah State. Culver, a 6-5 freshman guard, is the only other player averaging in double digits (11.0). Great balance on offense has been 'swet' but defense has been ;king' for the team from Lubbock. Tech allows just 55,3 PPG (3rd) on 33.5% shooting (1st).
The pick: The Red Raiders have won their six games by an average margin of 28 points, including a 36-point victory over a ranked Northwestern team. Texas Tech has held three of its first six opponents to 50 points or fewer and the 49 points against then-No. 20 Northwestern were the fewest that Texas Tech allowed to a ranked team since a 67- 47 victory over No. 11 Oklahoma on Jan. 19, 2004. Also note that Texas Tech has started their five seniors during its six-game winning streak, joining Mercer are the only two schools to start five seniors in a game this season. No knock on Tech but Seton Hall is playing in the familiar surroundings of MSG and since Willard became head coach in 2010-11, the Pirates have posted 13 wins against ranked teams, including seven in their last 11 opportunities. Make Seton Hall a 10* play.
|11-29-17||Auburn v. Dayton +3.5||Top||73-60||Loss||-110||24 h 46 m||Show|
The set-up: Bruce Pearl hasn't had much success at Auburn (entered this season 44-54 in three years at the school) but all five starters are back from last year's 18-14 team. The Tigers come to Dayton looking to build off back-to-back wins that have the team sitting at 4-1 this season. Meanwhile, the Dayton Flyers, who are coming off a 24-win season, lost four starters from last year's team. Dayton is hoping to find some consistency in the early part of its season but so far has alternated wins and losses through each of its first 5 games (3-2).
Auburn: The Tigers crushed Winthrop in its last outing, with Mustapha Heron leading the team with 31 points on 11 of 17 shooting, while adding 10 rebounds for the double-double. Bryce Brown had 21 points on 7 of 12 shooting with six 3-pointers. Malik Dunbar added 13 points, DeSean Murray added 12 points and 8 rebounds plus Chuma Okeke added 11 points to give Auburn five players in double figures. PG Jared Harper had seven points and seven assists. Brown is the team’s leading scorer this season with 18.8 PPG and Murray is the etam's leading rebounder a 8.8 per. Heron adds 16.4 & 5.2, Murray 12.2 PPG and PG Harper averages 10.6 & 5.2 APG. Auburn is sure putting points on the board, averaging 93.4 PPG to rank 9th in the nation.
Dayton; The Flyers sure know about winning (26, 27, 25 and 24 wins the last four years) but Dayton not only lost four senior starters off last year's team, it also saw head coach Archie Miller leave to take the Indiana job. Miller's loss is mitigated somewhat by Anthony Grant taking over. He was an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida and then at OKC in the NBA) plus led VCU and Alabama to NCAA tourney wins as a head coach. The lone returning starter is guard Darrell Davis, has come out averaging 20.0 PPG. The 6-7 Cunningham, who missed most of LY with an injury, looks healthy while averaging 16.0 & 10.2 plus the 6-8 Williams (8.8 & 5.2) adds size to a formidable frontcourt. Six others are seeing "PT," averaging from 3.6-to-7.4 PPG. Dayton scores nowhere near like Auburn but is a solid defensive team, allowing 69.8 PPG (137th).
The pick: Dayton has "stepped up" to the challenge when playing SEC teams, going 12-4 ATS in its last 16 games against the Power-5 conference. In fact, Dayton has won all four all-time meetings between the schools, most recently 73-63 in the 2012 Charleston Classic. Make Dayton a 10* play.
|11-28-17||Suns v. Bulls||Top||104-99||Win||100||10 h 60 m||Show|
The set-up: The "new look" Chicago Bulls are into a full-blown rebuilding process and after dropping five straight, as well as 10 of its last 11 games, stand at an NBA-worst 3-15. Chicago welcomes the 7-14 Phoenix Suns to the United Center on Tuesday, a team which has lost three in a row and 10 of their last 13 games, overall. This contest is a quick turnaround from a Nov. 19 game at the Talking Stick Arena, when Suns won 113-105.Phoenix: Star guard Devin Booker(22.5-4.2-4.2) suffered the injury during Friday's loss to the New Orleans Pelicans before sitting out Sunday's setback against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He hopes (big toe) hopes to return from a one-game absence but struggled with just 15 points on 5-of-15 shooting during that Nov. 19 home win over the Bulls .Booker's absence against the T-wolves led to increased playing time for rookie guard Mike James (11.4), who responded with a career-high 26 points in 30 minutes. "I think it's a little bit skewed because obviously Booker didn't play," James told reporters while downplaying his solid effort. "Most of the shots I took were more his shots." First-round pick Josh Jackson moved into the starting lineup with Booker out and he struggled to five points on 2-of-10 shooting to mark his eighth single-digit outing in 11 games. Jackson has so far been a disappointment, averaging 8.2 & 3.8. A bright spot (besides Booker) has been TJ Warren (18.6 & 5.6), who has scored in double digits in 12 straight games, reaching 20 points six times during that stretch. Chicago: The Bulls' Sunday loss emphasizes many of the problems the team has. Chicago held the Heat to seven first-period points but then allowed 38 in the second! "Nobody on our team wants to learn from losing," second-year forward Denzel Valentine (10.6 & 5.2) told reporters. "Everyone wants to learn by winning. But at the same time, all you can do is go out and compete." Jerian Grant (9.3 & 5.1 APG) lost his starting PG spot to Kris Dunn (10.6-4.7-3.9) but responded with outings of 21 points against the Golden State Warriors and a career-best 24 against the Heat. "I feel like when I'm out there with the second unit guys, I have that opportunity more," Grant told reporters about being able to look to score. "Coming off the bench I have to be aggressive and I feel like that helps our team. Being out there with that lineup, it's the punch I can give them." Dunn is averaging four points on 2-of-17 shooting in those same two games but coach Fred Hoiberg reiterated that he will remain the starter. Another example of a team with no sense of direction. The pick: Chicago currently owns the better first-round draft pick, as Lauri Markkanen (14.4 & 8.3) has looked 'light-years' better than Jackson (see above). In fact, Markkanen scored a career-best 26 points and collected 13 rebounds in the recent matchup with the Suns. Then again, the Bulls lost. Second verse, same as the first. Make the Suns a 10* play.
|11-28-17||Louisville +7.5 v. Purdue||Top||57-66||Loss||-110||13 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 17 Louisville has opened 4-0 and will travel to West Lafayette for Tuesday's ACC/Big Ten Challenge to face the 5-2 Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena. The Cardinals really haven't been tested yet, opening the season with wins over George Mason, Omaha, Southern Illinois and St. Francis (Pa.). However, in Friday's win over St. Francis, when junior Ray Spalding left in the second half with an ankle injury, a 22-point lead was whittled to eight in the 84-72 triumph. Purdue rolled to victories in its first four games by a combined 157 points while averaging 102 points but lost 78-75 (OT) to Tennessee 78-75 in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Boilermakers then got upset 77-73 by Western Kentucky in the next round. However, Purdue recovered nicely against Arizona, shooting 57 percent and draining 11-of-22 shots beyond the arc in the 89-64 victory.
Louisville: The Cardinals have had NCAA-related problems this fall, including the FBI investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball, a mess that cost veteran coach Rick Pitino his job, replaced by former Cardinal player David Padgett on an interim basis. The 6-10 Spalding (12.0 & 9.3) matched his career high with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting and set a new personal best with 13 rebounds and five blocks in just 26 minutes against the Red Flash before getting hurt (he is questionable for Purdue). This will be Louisville's first road contest and interim coach David Padgett told reporters, “It's going to be an eye-opening experience for the young guys just because they've never done it before, “It’s going to be welcome to the jungle a little bit because there are not many places in college basketball that are tougher to play in than Purdue.” Senior guard Quentin Snider (8.3 & 4.0 APG) and 7-0 senior Anas Mahmoud (7.5 & 7.8) plus 6-7 junior Deng Adel (team-high 17.5 points plus 5.5 RPG ) will be counted on heavily, especially if Spaulding can't go.
Purdue: The win over then No.2 Arizona was Purdue's second-largest margin of victory against a ranked foe in school history. "It's good that they were resilient and they bounced back and they won a game," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "But I don't think it answers what happened in the other two games. The other two games, we didn't make shots. You have to be able to win versus good people when the ball doesn't go in." Also of note is that the Purdue beat an Arizona team which went 0-3 in the Bahamas, becoming the first team ranked No. 2 to fall out of the top-25 in one week's time since the the 1986-87 season (ironically, that team was Louisville!). The Boilermakers return four starters from their 2016 Big Ten championship team, making them as experienced as any team in the country. Sure, Caleb Swanigan (18.5 & 12.5) is a huge loss but 6-8 senior forward Vince Edwards (12.6 & 4.9 LY) is the only active player in the nation with at least 1,000 pints, 500 rebounds and 300 assists. Guards Edwards (18.0 & 4.4) and Mathias (16.1-4.7-4.7) lead in scoring from the perimeter with Edwards (14.0 & 9.0) and the 7-2 Haas (14.4 & 5.3) taking care of business inside. Then there is the 7-3 Matt Harms (6.3 & 4.1), who has blocked 21 shots in just 125 minutes this season.
The pick: Purdue leads the all-time series 11-6 but Louisville won last year’s matchup 71-64 at home, ending Purdue's seven-game winning streak in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Will Purdue start another winning streak here? I think not, as the Boilermakers have done quite a bit of traveling and this Louisville team is rested plus is playing with a chip on its shoulder from all the "off-the-court" issues. Make Louisville a 10* play.
|11-27-17||Lakers +4.5 v. Clippers||Top||115-120||Loss||-105||24 h 11 m||Show|
The setup: The Los Angeles Clippers opened the season 0-4 but the team quickly unraveled. A nine-game losing streak from Nov. 4-20 left them at 5-11 but the team's 116-103 win in Atlanta (11/22) finally stopped the bleeding. A 97-95 win at Sacramento followed, so now the 7-11 Clippers are looking to make it three in a row when they take on their Staples Center co-tenants, the LA Lakers. Those Lakers missed out on their own chance at a three-game winning streak with a 113-102 loss at Sacramento on Wednesday and have been off, since. The Lakers enter this game with an 8-11 mark, which is not bad at all for a team which has won 27, 21, 17 and 26 games the last four seasons, respectively.
Lakers: Having some extra time off has given the Lakers time to work PF Larry Nance Jr. back into shape in practice after he missed 11 games with a fractured hand. “It was good to have him back out there,” Lakers coach Luke Walton told reporters. “I think he’ll be good to go by Monday. ... If he’s good to go and cleared and ready, I don’t see any reason to not put him back in the starting lineup." Nance's return could push rookie PF Kyle Kuzma back into a reserve role despite his strong play this month. The rookie from Utah is averaging 18.1 points and 7.5 rebounds in 11 games as a starter and 15 points and 4.8 boards in eight games as a reserve. Fellow rookie Lonzo Ball (you may have head of him and his family?) has recorded at least a double-double in each of the last three games and went 4-of-8 from the floor in Wednesday's loss at Sacramento, marking the second time in his brief career that he shot at least 50 percent from the field in a game. Ball is averaging 9.0-7.4-7.1 but as alluded to, makes just 31.5% on FG attempts, including 21.5% on threes. Kuzma's 16.8 PPG leads seven double digit scorers.
Clippers: Blake Griffin (23.4-7.7-5.0) is the team-leader and five others average in double digits, including center Jordan (10.1 & 13.9), who shoots 65.5% from the floor plus anchors the defense. Jordan's contributions are subtler than Griffin but are no less impactful to the win column. He capped off a 16-rebound effort on Saturday agiants the Kings by using his length to alter a shot in the final seconds by Sacramento's Buddy Hield. Backing up, those "other five averaging in double digits" is now down to four, after First Team All-NBA defender Patrick Beverley was lost to a season-ending knee surgery.
The pick: The Clippers have won 15 of the last 16 in the series but "The Times They Are A-Changin!" For the first time quite a few years, "the Lake Show" may just be the equal of "Lob City!" Take the points and make the Lakers an 8* play.
|11-27-17||Yale -2.5 v. Delaware||Top||76-66||Win||100||21 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The Yale Bulldogs won a school-record 23 games in the 2015-16 season. It led to the school's first NCAA appearance in 54 years and culminated in the first NCAA win in the school's 121-year history! All things considered, an 18-11 record last year, which ended with a loss in the Ivy League championship game (the league's first-ever conference tourney), wasn't half-bad! Yale (3-4) will travel to Newark, De. to take on the 4-2 Delaware Blue Hens Monday night at the Bob Carpenter Center. Delaware is off a 13-20 season (had won seven and 10 games the previous two seasons) but has four starters back.
Yale: The Bulldogs lost Makai Mason (transferred to Baylor) but the 6-7 Oni (15.8-5.8-3.7) is a terrific all-around player. Balance abounds, with six others averaging between 8.0 and 10.4 PPG, topped by returning PG Copeland (10.4 & 3.4 APG).
Delaware: Guard Ryan Daly (15.8 & 5.30 is th team's leading scorer with three other guards scoring in double digits. The frontcourt is patrolled by the 6-9 Carter (12.8 & 9.0) and the 6-8 Woods (7.8 & 4.7).
The pick. the bottom line here is that Yale is the much better team and its record would be better if the Bulldogs hadn't opened the season with road games at Creighton and Wisconsin. Delaware's easy-season schedule has been quite easy with games against Wesley, North Carolina Wesleyan and Longwood (among three of the team's four wins) and even so, the team has still struggled to space the floor offensively, averaging only 73.5 PPG. Yale has better depth and has a history of winning on the road. Yale won last year's meeting 81-63 and while this game is at Delaware, I'll still make Yale a 10* play.
|11-26-17||Oklahoma v. Oregon +2||Top||90-80||Loss||-105||6 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The 3-1 Oklahoma Sooners and the 5-1 Oregon Ducks square off on Sunday in a fifth-place game as part of the PK80 tournament from Portland, Oregon. The Sooners rode Buddy Hields' scoring to a Final Four appearance two seasons ago but the Sooners "fell off the map" in the 2016-17 season, going 11-20 (had won 29 games the season before). Meanwhile, Oregon made it ll the way to the Final Four last season, before finishing 33-6. However, four starters are gone from that team, so the team's 5-1 start has been a mild surprise.
Oklahoma: Freshman Trae Young was still in high school when Buddy Hield propelled Oklahoma past Oregon and into the Final Four two years ago. Young exploded for 33 points against the Pilots during a win, becoming the first freshman in the Lon Kruger era (2011-present) to score 30 points. His performance marked the highest-scoring game by a Sooner freshman since Tommy Mason-Griffin tallied 38 points on Jan. 27, 2010. Young leads the way ins coring (24.5) and assists (9.0) plus 6-9 forward Khadeem Lattin (14.7 & 10.3) is the lone senior on the team. The Sooners are averaging 98.0 PPG (3rd-best) but are giving up too points, allowing 80.2 PPG (298th).
Oregon: The Ducks needed OT to earn an 89-79 win over DePaul, upping the Ducks to 5-1 this season. Guard Payton Pritchard, the lone returning starter, led the team with 29 points on 9 of 16 shooting. Elijah Brown (12.0) added 19 points on 6 of 13 shooting. 6-7 Freshman Troy Brown had 11 points along with nine rebounds and leads the team at 7.0 RPG (is scoring 11.0 per). Like Oklahoma, Oregon can light up the scoreboard (88.5 PPG) but unlike Oklahoma, Oregon is allowing 66.3 PPG.
The pick: I believe Oklahoma can put up points on most teams, but Oregon has enough offensive 'punch' to match the Sooners' point-for-point. Make Oregon a 10* play.
|11-25-17||Loyola Marymount v. Boise State -11||Top||48-68||Win||100||20 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The Loyola Marymount Lions will travel to Boise, Idaho to take on the Boise State Broncos in a non-conference college basketball matchup on Saturday night. The Lions opened the season with a loss at UT-Arlington but a 91-87 win over Incarnate Word the last time out gives them three straight victories and a 3-1 record to open the season. In contrast, the Broncos opened 4-0 Broncos but will be looking to bounce back from their first loss of the campaign, a 75-64 loss to Iowa State back on Nov. 19th in South Carolina (Puerto Rico Tip-Off).
Loyola-Marymount: It's been awhile since Marymount has put a competitive team on the court and head coach Mike Dunlap opened his fourth season as the school's head coach with just a 37-55 record. Just two starters are back from last year's 15-15 team and Dunlap needs to replace seven of his top-eight scorers. The leading returning scorer from last year is the 6-6 Haney (9.4) and he's scoring 11.7 PPG. However, three newcomers are the key to this year's success (or lack thereof). JC transfer guards Batemon (19.0-5.0-3.8) and Allen (11.0) are already making an impact, as is 6-5 freshman Scott, who is averaging 16.2 PPG and a team-high 8.8 RPG. The Lions are averaging 84.8 PPG (54th) but will need to tighten a defense which allows 80.5 PPG on 47.5% shooting (both rank 29th!).
Boise State: Head coach Leon Rice has been at Boise for seven years and has won 20-plus games in all but his second season. His 2013 and 2015 teams made NCAA appearances. Two starters are gone from last year's 20-win team but the 6-7 guard Chandler Hutchison entered the season as arguably the MWC's best player. However, he's gotten off to a modest start (12.0-8.2-3.6) plus missed the Iowa St game (questionable here). The Broncos have shown excellent balance with fellow guards Hobbs (14.0-3.2-3.4) and Jessup (12.0 & 7.0) off to very good starts plus 6-9 graduate transfer (from Rice), Christian Sengfelder (13.4 & 4.6) has been an excellent addition.
The pick: If Hutchison can’t go again it's not great news but here at home, the Broncos can put plenty of points on the board against a Marymount defense allowing some "big numbers" against so-so competition so far. Lay the points and make Boise State an 8* play.
|11-24-17||Heat v. Wolves -4||Top||109-97||Loss||-105||20 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: The 11-7 Minnesota Timberwolves will welcome the 8-9 Miami Heat to the Target Center of Friday night, as all NBA teams were able to enjoy a Thanksgivings Day "off night." The Heat just knocked off the Celtics 104-98 Wednesday night, ending the NBA's longest winning streak at 16. However, Miami (at just 8-9), will have no time to rest on its laurels, as the Heat open a four-game road trip tonight in Minnesota. The Timberwolves won 124-118 win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, after back-to-back losses. However, it was hardly smooth sailing, as they squandered a 26-point lead in the fourth quarter. "We have to work at it," Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters of fourth-quarter woes. "You have to be tough-minded."
Miami: Head coach Erik Spoelstra put his team through a pair of tough practices leading into the matchup with the Celtics, after getting blown out 120-95 at home by Indiana on Sunday. The strategy seemed to pay off. "I don't even care about the result," Spoelstra told reporters after Wednesday's 104-98 triumph. "Right now, it's all behavior and habits." PG Goran Dragic has led the team in scoring all season (18.8 & 4.6 APG) but entered the Boston game having totaled 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting in his two previous games, before breaking out for 27 points in the win over the Celtics. The 31-year-old did not attempt a free throw in the previous three games but got back to attacking the basket against Boston and went 9-of-10 from the line. SG Dion Waiters (15.9) wasn't far behind, as he scored 26 points on Wednesday, after going scoreless on 0-of-10 shooting in Sunday's loss. Center Whiteside has been bothered by a thumb issue and had a modest with eight points and 10 rebounds but continues to be a double-double machine, averaging 15.5 & 13.2 on the season.
Minnesota: The T-wolves had held six of eight games opponents under 100 points (won all six of those games) but let up some on the defensive end over the last three contests, dropping two in a row before pulling out Wednesday's 124-118 win. "My concern is what we're doing defensively," Thibodeau told reporters. "If we're going to go anywhere, we have to correct that." The Timberwolves make up for some of those defensive issues on the other end of the floor vs. Orlando, as Jimmy Butler matched a season high on Wednesday with 26 points, Three others, Taj Gibson (24), Jeff Teague (22) and Andrew Wiggins (20) all reached the 20-point plateau as well. All five starters are averaging in double digits for the T-wolves, led by center Towns (20.4 & 11.5). He's followed by Wiggins (18.8 & 4.1) plus newcomers Butler (16.9-5.5-4.2), Teague (14.0 & 7.5 APG) and Gibson (10.4 & 7.8). However, Thibodeau has always emphasized strong defensive play and Minnesota is falling woefully short of that goal, allowing 108.2 PPG (25th) on 48.6 percent shooting (30th).
The pick: The Heat are looking to turn the tables on a Minnesota team that beat them 125-122 in overtime on Oct. 30 at AmericanAirlines Arena but even with a Thanksgiving Day 'holiday' in between, I expect there to be a letdown off that win over Boston. The T-wolves were on a 7-2-1 ATS run before failing to cover three in a row but this seems like just the "wrong place at the wrong time" for Miami. Make Minnesota a 10* play.
|11-24-17||Gardner-Webb v. Wright State -4||Top||47-67||Win||100||18 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: The Wright State Raiders are the host team for the Wright State Tournament (who could have guessed?). Gardner-Webb will play Wright State in the nightcap of Friday's doubleheader and the Raiders will again play the second game on Saturday (against Jacksonville), win or lose tonight. Nutter Center is the site, which is naturally, the Raiders' home court. The Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs come in 2-3 and the Wright State Raiders check in at 1-3.
Garner-Webb: The Runnin' Bulldogs Gardner-Webb started out the year with three straight losses to Miami, Florida and UCF, but then beat Warren Wilson and Brevard College in their last two. Gardner-Webb plays in the Big South (is off a 19-14 season) and head coach Tim Craft is currently in his fifth season (76-63, including this year's start). The transfer of guard LaQuincy Rideau (14.2-5.7-5.2) was no small deal but David Efanayi has played well early on, averaging 18.4 PPG. The graduation of All-Big South forward Tyrell Nelson (12.9 & 7.0) was also a blow but the 6-6 DJ Laster has been terrific so far, averaging 16.8 & 10.0. However, Craft's team doesn't have much depth.
Wright State: 20-win seasons are not exactly news for Wright State fans and the Blue Raiders went 20-12 last season but didn't play in a postseason tourney, after losing in the Horizon quarterfinals. Three starters are gone from last year's team, with three freshman leading the way so far this season. 6-6 forward Winchester (13.0 & 5.3) is the leading scorer and the 6-9 Love (9.5 & 7.0) leads in rebounding. A third frosh, guard Mitchell, checks in with 10.7 & 6.7. Senior guard Benzinger (12.5) and junior guard Hughes (10.0) give the Raiders a solid core. PPG).
The pick: Wright St. head coach Scott Nagy is in just his second season and his team should have few problems getting to .500 (3-3) on the season, against this level of competition the next two nights. First things first. Lay the points Friday and make Wright St. a 10* play.
|11-23-17||Butler +2 v. Texas||Top||48-61||Loss||-110||19 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The Butler Bulldogs won 25 games last year and made it to the Sweet 16. However, head coach Chris Holtmann (Stevens' replacement) jumped at the Ohio St. job when Matta was suddenly let go, with Milwaukee's LaVall Jordan stepping in. Butler has opened 3-1 with its lone loss coming 79-65 at Maryland, as the team travels to Portland for the Phil Knight Invitational and a meeting with 3-0 Texas.Shaka Smart is off an 'ugly' 11-22 season last year but his team has racked up thee victories by double figures with the defense yet to allow more then 60 points to open the current season.
Butler: Jordan will miss the versatile Chrabascz (11.4-4.6-3.7) from last year's team but a solid nucleus returns, led by the 6-7 Martin (15.0 & 8.3). Baldwin (13.8) is a sophomore guard building on his solid freshman season and the 6-8 Wideman (12.3 & 4.0) is an All-Big East talent. McDermott (12.0), GW transfer Jorgensen (9.8) and Thompson (7.0 & 4.3) round out the main contributors.
Texas: The Longhorns lost their top-two scorers from last season in Mack (14.8 & 4.8) and Allen (13.4 & 8.4) but guards Jones (13.0) and Roach (12.7) plus big men Bamba (14.0 & 9.0) and Ostekowski (11.3 & 9.) have looked very good early. Bamba is a 6-11 freshman center who few thought Smart could lure to Austin, while Ostekowski is a 6-9 junior.Mo Bamba missed the team's second win with a concussion but was back the last time out, chipping in 13 & 10. Texas has been winning with defense as it's held its opponents to 60 points or fewer in every game (58.7 PPG to rank 21st) on 32.8 percent shooting (5th-best).
The pick: The Longhorns needed a strong start after last year's disaster but look closer and you'll see wins over Northwestern State, New Hampshire and Lipscomb. That trio has nothing in common with a Butler team (remember, 25 wins and a Sweet 16 trip LY!) or program which has gone 39-11-2 ATS in its last 52 neutral-site games. Make Butler an 8* play.
|11-22-17||Clippers -3.5 v. Hawks||Top||116-103||Win||100||13 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: The LA Clippers were riding high at 4-0 SU & ATS, after Blake Griffin hit a game-winning three-pointer to edge Portland back on Oct. 26 . However, the "new look" Clippers have been in a free-fall ever since, going 1-11 SU. That includes bringing a nine-game losing streak (1-8 ATS) to Atlanta and this game with the Hawks, after Monday’s 107-85 defeat in New York. the Knicks. Not sure many are aware that the Hawks own the second-longest active postseason streak (second only to the Spurs) but there have not been many positives this season for Atlanta Hawks, who enter this game just 3-11 SU and 7-9 ATS. The 2018 postseason seems like nothing but a pipe dream at the moment.
LA Clippers: “Bottom line, we just can’t sustain anything,” Los Angeles head coach Doc Rivers told the media after Monday's loss. “Right now, we get it going a little bit and one thing happens and it just implodes.” The Clippers’ guard play was not strong Monday, as Austin Rivers, Lou Williams and Jawun Evans combined to shoot 5-for-25 from the floor. Griffin is averaging 22.7-7.8-4.7 and is joined by five other double digit scorers, including center Jordan at 10.1 & 13.7 (one of 12 NBA players currently averaging a double-double). However, LA is just about "average or below" in scoring 104.9 PPG (16th) and allowing 106.6 PPG (19th)..
Atlanta: Similar to LA, the Hawks have six players averaging in double digits, led by new starting PG Dennis Schroder (19.7 & 7.1 APG). However, the Hawks rank even lower than the Clippers in both scoring (102.8 PPG which is 22nd) and points allowed (107.8 ranks 24th). The Hawks have been competitive against some of the better teams in the NBA, including an 11-point loss at San Antonio on Monday. Rookie John Collins (11.6 & 7.4) grabbed attention in that one by scoring 21 points and collecting nine rebounds off the bench.
The pick: Atlanta’s last four games have featured a one-point loss, a franchise-record 46-point victory plus close calls against Boston and San Antonio.The Hawks are surely playing better than the Clipps but if LA can't win here, one wonders just how far this team will fall. I'm in on the Clippers and will make them a 10* play.
|11-22-17||Celtics -3.5 v. Heat||Top||98-104||Loss||-110||13 h 34 m||Show|
The set-up: It seems as if no deficit is too large for the Celtics to overcome. Boston has rallied from double-digit deficits for victories in each of its last three contests to keep the team's now 16-game winning streak alive (4th-longest in franchise history). The Celtics trailed by 13 with less than eight minutes to go Monday before storming back for a 110-102 overtime victory at Dallas, as Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 47 points. 16-2 Boston can tie the third-longest streak (1959-60) in franchise history with a win here at AmericanAirlines Arena and hope for a similar effort to the one on Oct. 28 when the Celtics took care of the Heat 96-90 in Miami. The 7-9 Heat have dropped three of their last four after getting crushed 120-95 at home against Indiana on Sunday, a game in which they allowed 60 percent shooting from the floor.
Boston: Irving's been everything and more for Boston, averaging 22.5 & 5.3 APG plus taking over as team-leader. “He’s got every move imaginable, but on top of that he’s one of the best shooters in the league,” head coach Brad Stevens told the Boston Herald. “Everybody gets caught up in the moves and dribbling and everything he can do the ball, but his touch is beautiful with both hands.” Nearing the quarter-pole of the regular season, Irving is making his case as league MVP. Stevens knows a little something about "moves," as he's quickly risen to the top-tier of the NBA coaching ranks. Jaylen Brown is averaging 23.7 points over the last three games to push his season mark to 16.2 PPG, while making 10-of-20 from three-point range. He's showing just why he was drafted 3rd overall in 2016 by Boston.
Miami: The Heat's leading scorer is also the team's PG, Goran Dragic. He's averaging 18.3 & 4.7 APG on the season but just seven points over his past two games, while missing 13 of 19 shots from the floor. Meanwhile backcourt partner Dion Waiters (2nd-best scorer at 15.1 PPG) is coming off an 0-for-10 shooting performance in Sunday's game. To state the obvious, that's bad news when getting set to host Boston. Center Hassan Whiteside continues to put up big numbers (16.2 &13.5) and forward James Johnson is the fourth player averaging in double figures (12.3).
The pick: The Celtics have trailed by double digits in five of their 16 wins, making a habit of playing well "in the clutch.".In stark contrast, Miami has faded down the stretch. The Heat are the worst second-half team in the league so far this season. Miami's first-half FG percentage (51.1) is sixth-best in the league but the Heat's second-half shooting percentage (39.6) is last. Boston is 9-1 SU & ATS on the road, while the Heat are 2-6 SU and 0-6-2 ATS at home. Not a tough call. Make Boston an 8* play.
|11-22-17||Troy State +4 v. East Tenn State||Top||73-65||Win||100||12 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: It's an interesting matchup tonight in Johnson City, Tn, as Troy takes on East Tennessee St. Troy won the Sun Belt tourney last season and made the NCAAs, while East Tennessee St. won the Southern Conference and went 'dancing' as well. Troy enters 2-3 and East Tennessee St. at 2-2.
Troy: Head coach Phil Cunningham made quite a splash in his fourth season, as after winning just 11, 10 and 9 games, led the team to 22 wins and an NCAA berth in 2016-17. He returns four starters, including two of the Sun Belt's best players, the 6-6 Jordan Varnado (18.6 & 7.8) plus Wes Person Jr, a guard averaging 17.0 PPG. The team did lose some quality contributors but the one-two punch of Varnado and Person is a good one.
East Tennessee State: Steve Forbes led the Buccaneers to 'the promised land' in just his second season as the team's head coach but unlike Cunningham's Troy team, he lost four starers from last year's team. Four guards average between 7.0 and 12,5 PPG, led by Payne (12.5) and Bradford (11.8-5.8-3.8), who is the lone returning starter. The 7-0 Jurkin (10.0 & 6.7) gives East Tenn. St. the game's best big man.
The pick: East Tennessee St. is the home team but it's my belief that Troy is the better team and proves it here. Make Troy a 10* play.
|11-21-17||Alabama A&M +37.5 v. Minnesota||Top||57-100||Loss||-110||13 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: The latest AP poll came out Tuesday and the 4-0 Minnesota Golden Gophers were ranked No. 14. The Golden Gophers passed a big road test last week at Providence and followed that up by knocking off two opponents at home. Tuesday night, the Gophers welcome Alabama A&M (0-3) to Williams Arena. The Bulldogs are a member of the SWAC and after going 2-27 last season, are expecting no more than a 'pay day' out of this contest.
Alabama A&M: Head coach Donnie Martin is in his first season at Huntsville and surely has nowhere to go but up, taking over a team which had just two wins last season (both in league play). The Bulldogs have averaged just 62.7 PPG (323rd) on 39.2 percent shooting (312th) in opening 0-3. Junior guard Arthur Johnson leads the team in scoring (14.7) and rebounding (6.3), while making 6-of-11 from three-point range. Sophomore guard De’Ederick Petty has chipped in 13.0 PPG and while.freshman guard Amari Goulbourne did not score in his first two collegiate games, he broke out with 17 points and four assists in 36 minutes against Alabama (that's the promise Ala A&M needs). Defensively, the team allows 84.0 PPG (305th) on 50.0 percent shooting (323rd).
Minnesota: When the Big Ten announced its 10-player preseason all-conference team, senior PG Nate Mason and sophomore swingman Amir Coffey represented Minnesota. However, heading into Tuesday's game against Alabama A&M, 6-6 forward Jordan Murphy might have a line on the conference's player of the year award based on his early performances. Murphy averaged 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds last season but is averaging 24.8 & 12.8 this season. That's not to say Mason and Coffey are not contributing. Mason is averaging 14.0-6.2-4.5 and Coffey 14.0 & 4.2. Each of Minny's other two starters are also in double digits, the 6-10 Lynch (12.8 & 8.8 plus 22 blocks!) and guard McBrayer (11.0).
The pick: Pitino's 'ride' at Minnesota has been of the roller coaster variety. A 25-win season in his first year (won NIT!), 18 wins in his second but then just EIGHT in his third. Minnesota bounced back with 25 wins last year (lost in the 1st round of the Big Dance) and now owns a 4-0 start and a top-25 ranking early in this season. It's safe to say that regardless how the Gophers' season plays out, the 2017-18 season will have gone much better for Richard Pitino, than for his dad, Rick. Minnesota is averaging 94.2 PPG and allowing 74.0. Sure, Alabama A&M is here for the 'paycheck' and has just one starter listed over 6-7 but just look at the size of this pointspread. Make Alabama A&M an 8* play.
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