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|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|03-23-18||Texas Tech +1.5 v. Purdue||Top||78-65||Win||100||84 h 36 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the No. 3-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders taking on the No. 2-seeded Purdue Boilermakers Friday in NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 East Regional action at the TD Garden in Boston. Texas Tech was jilted by Tubby Smith when he led the Red Raiders to the tournament and then left for Memphis. However, Smith's buyout money helped lure Chris Beard away from UNLV to Lubbock, where Beard had spent a decade as an assistant at Texas Tech. Beard's national profile skyrocketed two years ago when his Arkansas-Little Rock squad upset fifth-seeded Purdue in the opening round, 85-83 in double overtime. He signed a deal with UNLV but never coached a game, instead returning to Texas Tech. It has sure worked out for Texas Tech, as Beard has the program back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005 and as fate would have it, the 26-9 Red Raiders will play the 30-6 Boilermakers (30-6). Purdue head coach may not admit it but I'm sure he'd love to avenge that 2016 loss to Beard's Arkansas-Little Rock team.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have had some injury problems with leading scorer Keenan Evans (17.8 PPG) having to fight his way through a painful turf toe plus injury-prone center Zach Smith (6.1 & 3.8) has had trouble staying on the court for extended minutes. However, freshman guard Culver (11.5 & 4.9) and freshman SF Zhaire Smith (11.3 & 4.8) have matured as the season has progressed. The team's mid-season form (Tech was once 22-4) seemed to resurface in Dallas, as a healthier Evans scored 45 points in the two games at Dallas, while freshman Smith came up big vs. Florida in the second round, scoring 18 points. Zach Smith also was able to average 19 minutes in Tech's two NCAA wins, totaling 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds.Tech is not an outstanding offensive team (Red Raiders are averaging 74.9 PPG) but defensively, Tech holds opponents to 64.6 PPG (15th) on 40.3% shooting (14th). The active Red Raider defense was able to deliver key stops vs. Florida in a 69-66 win.
Purdue: The Boilermakers know about key injuries, as 7-2 senior center Isaac Haas (14.7 & 5.7) fractured his right elbow in Purdue's first-round victory over Cal State Fullerton on Friday. Luckily for the Boilermakers, they're one of the few programs in the country that can sub-in one agile 7-footer for another. 7-3 backup Matt Haarms performed well in the second-round victory over Butler, scoring seven points, grabbing six rebounds and making two blocks in a four-point win over the Bulldogs. Purdue averages 80.8 PPG (38th) on 49.4% shooting (13th), including making 42.1% on threes (second-best in the nation!). Guard Carsen Edwards leads a trio of guards with a team-high 18.2 PPG, joined by PG Mathias (12.3-4.1-4.0) and Thompson (7.4). The 6-8 Vince Edwards (14.7 & 7.2) will be asked to produce even more, with Haas sidelined.
The pick: Purdue would arguably be one of the top-four teams remaining, if Haas were available. His status is up to the engineers of Purdue to manufacture a brace that is NCAA-compliant (is that likely?). The Boilermakers have survived without Haas by hitting their open shots. The Boilermakers are 22-for-25 on uncontested shots in the NCAA tournament (88 percent), best among Sweet 16 teams. Will that continue, especially against an excellent Texas Tech D? Evans is averaging 21.2 PPG on better than 54 percent shooting over Tech's last five games, so Purdue's task will not be easy. However, I like the "coaching revenge angle" and will take Painter over Beard in this one. Make Purdue an 8* play.
|03-23-18||Clemson v. Kansas -4.5||Top||76-80||Loss||-109||80 h 16 m||Show|
The setup: Kansas is the Midwest's top seed and can't be unhappy with the regional being played at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Ne. The Jayhawks own a five-game winning streak and have won 10 of their last 11 outings. to enter this game at 29-7. Kansas opened the Big Dance with a 76-60 win over Penn and then beat No. 8-seed Seton Hall 83-79. The Clemson Tigers (a No. 5 seed) have won five of their last seven games, managing a 79-68 victory over New Mexico State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, then followed with a big 84-53 win over No. 4 Auburn. Clemson comes in at 25-9 on the year.
Clemson:Head coach Brad Brownell took note of the other coaches in the regional (Coach K, Jim Boeheim and Bill Self) and said, "Nobody is going to know who I am. It's like coaching the ACC. I don't look down at the other end when we're coaching. That's not good for my mental health." However, Brownell has Clemson in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997, after previously coaching Wright State and UNC-Wilmington to tournament appearances. The Tigers advanced by limiting Auburn to 25.8 percent shooting and points on just 22 of 70 possessions in an 84-53 second-round mismatch. Clemson ranks 2th in points allowe (65.5 per) and 17th in defensive FG perecentage at 40.4%, The loss of guard Deonte Grantham (14.2 & 6.9) was huge but a trio of 6-3 guards have come through in Marcquise Reed (15.9 & 4.7), Gabe DeVoe (13.7 & 4.6) and Shelton Mitchell (12.2 & APG). The 6-9 Thomas (10.9 & 8.9) is really the only key frontcourt contributor. Gabe DeVoe has stepped up with back-to-back 22-point efforts in Clemson's two wins.
Kansas: The Jayhawks have outlasted Penn and Seton Hall in the first two rounds and are glad to have 7-0 center Udoka Azubuike back. He sat out the Jayhawks' championship run in the Big 12 Tournament with an MCL strain but played 22 minutes against Seton Hall and contributed 10 points and seven rebounds. Azubuike leads the nation in field goal percentage, making 77.5 percent of his attempts, while averaging 13.2 PPG and 6.9 RPG. His presence is vital, as Self's other four starters are all guards. Devonté Graham (17.4-4.0-7.5) was the Big 12's POY and is joined by Mykhailiuk (15.0 & 3.9), Newman (13.4 & 4.8) and Vick (12.1 & 4.8). Newman led the way with 28 points against Seton Hall, upping his average to 22.0 PPG in Kansas' five tourney games (Big 12 and Big Dance).
The pick: Shorthanded Auburn was clearly not the same team without the services of its top big, 6-7 soph Anfernee McLemore and Auburn missed 18 straight shots at one point against Clemson. Really think that will happen to Kansas? Kansas averages 81.4 PPG (29th) on 49.6% shooting (12th) and is now healthy with the return of Azubuike. Also, I sure expect Graham to bounce back with a difference-making offensive showing after going just 1 of 7 from the floor vs. Seton Hall. Kansas has won and covered in this round of the tourney the last two years, with comfy ATS wins over Purdue (98-66 last year) and Maryland (79-63 in 2016). Make it three straight years, as Kansas is a 10* play.
|03-23-18||Nuggets +1.5 v. Wizards||Top||108-100||Win||100||10 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets are 1-2 on their current seven-game road trip as they get set to visit the Washington Wizards. The 39-33 Nuggets sit two games back of the final playoff spot in the West (T-wolves and Jazz are both 41-31) entering play on Thursday. Nuggets did take care of the lowly Chicago Bulls 135-102 on Wednesday but if they are going to make the postseason, they'll have to beat a winning team or two on the road down the stretch. The team's road trip gets considerably tougher from here on, with each of the next four games and six of the final 10 on the road against teams with winning records, starting with the Wizards. The 40-31 Washington Wizards fell into sixth place in the East with a loss at San Antonio on Wednesday but they are just one game behind the fourth-place Philadelphia 76ers and two back of the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers in the battle for homecourt advantage in the first round.
Denver: The Nuggets face an arduous trek that could very well determine whether they make the playoffs or not. Denver will be without leading scorer Gary Harris (17.7) on Friday night against the Washington Wizards, who will miss his fourth straight game with a right knee sprain/strain (he initially got hurt in the fourth quarter last Thursday in a win over Detroit, when he landed awkwardly as he was fouled on a dunk. Without Harris, the Nuggets are 1-2 on the trip. They dropped a seven-point decision at Memphis on Saturday followed by a 149-141 double-overtime loss at Miami on Monday, before beating the sad-sack Bulls. Jokic, a 6-10 center, is right behind Harris in averaging 17.5 PPG plus add a team-high 10.5 RPG. Five other Denver players are in double digits, including the versatile Barton (15.0-4.-4.9) and the now-healthy PF Millsap (14.2 & 6.3).
Washington: The Wizards lost 98-90 at San Antonio on Wednesday and are 4-6 since Feb. 27. Washington is a virtual lock to make the playoffs (is 8 1/2 games inside the playoff cut line) but which seed the team gets could determine how long Washington's playoff 'stay' will be. It's important to note that all six of Washington's recent setbacks (see above) have come against playoff-bound opponents. "It's frustrating because we were right there," All-Star guard Bradley Beal told reporters. "Every time we have a chance to move up (in the standings), we kind of take two steps back. All we can do is put it behind us and move on." Beal (23.2-4.4-4.6) is doing his part to move the Wizards up in the standings, averaging 24.7 points on 55.8 percent shooting over the last three games. Wizards SG Jodie Meeks (6.4) and PF Mike Scott (8.6 & 3.1) both missed Wednesday's game due to illness and are day-to-day, plus PG Wall (19.4 & 9.3) hasn't played since Jan. 25..
The pick: Both teams are fighting for playoff positioning (Denver for its playoff life!) but both are also mired mired in pointspread slumps.Washington is 2-6-1 ATS in March, while Denver is just 4-10 ATS since Feb. 23. However, I'm giving the edge to the road team here, as even without Harris, the Nuggets can score and Washington is really struggling on the defensive end of the court. The Wizards have allowed opponents to shoot 48.9 percent from the floor over their last 10 games, giving up 108.8 PPG. Make Denver a 10* play.
|03-22-18||Florida State +6 v. Gonzaga||Top||75-60||Win||100||59 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: Sweet 16 action in the West Regional features the No. 9 seed Florida State Seminoles and the No. 4 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Seminoles ended the season by losing six of their final 10 down the stretch but their 20-11 mark was good enough to earn them a second straight tournament appearance and a sixth overall under head coach Leonard Hamilton. FSU picked up its 21st victory of the season on Friday, getting past a shorthanded Missouri team and then the Seminoles shocked No. 1 Xavier on Sunday, closing the game with an 18-4 run to win 75-70 and give them 22 wins on the season. Gonzaga ended its regular season 30-4 and with the AP's No. 8 ranking but the Bulldogs drew only a No. 4 seed (more on that later). Gonzaga opened with a less than impressive four-point win over UNC-Greensboro but then made 53.4 percent of its shots in a 90-84 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Bulldogs are in the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season, the longest such streak in the country. If Gonzaga reaches the Final Four, it will set a Division I record for victories in a four-year span.
Florida State: The Seminoles opened the season having lost four starters off last year's 26-win team and little was expected. However, FSU began the season 9-0 before a one-point loss to Oklahoma State. FSU features a balanced scoring attack with four guards contributing. Angola (12.8 & 3.9) and Mann (12.7 & 5.5) are the highest perimeter scorers, joined by Walker (8.1) and Forrest (7.9 & 4.9-4.1). The 6-8 Cofer (13.1 & 5.0) has had a breakout senior year and works up front with the 7-4 Koumadje (6.9 & 4.6) and 6-9 freshman Kabengele (7.3 & 4.8). Angola was the Seminoles top gun against Xavier, scoring 16 points. Forrest had 13 points, five rebounds and four steals. Mann and Cofer had 10 ten points apiece plus Kabengele added nine points. Junior guard PJ Savoy (6.6) gave Florida State 11 points! The Seminoles have solid depth and can scorewith most teams, averaging 81.1 PPG (34th).
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs average 84.2 PPG (10th), on pace to be the highest scoring average in school history. The Bulldogs are outscoring opponents by 16.7 PPG this season, the second-highest scoring differential in Division I. Gonzaga has very good balance, with the 6-9 Williams (13.6 & 8.4) leading the way. He's got plenty of help up front with the 6-10 Tillie (12.9 & 5.9) and the 6-8 Hachimura (11.4 & 4.6). Freshman guard Norvell Jr.(12.7) carried the Bulldogs with 28 points and 12 rebounds against Ohio State and is joined in the backcourt by PG Perkins (12.4 & 5.3 APG) and Melson (9.3).
The pick: The Bulldogs have captured 21 of their last 22 outings, with the only loss coming in a hard-fought 74-71 home loss vs. WCC rival Saint Mary’s back in mid January. However, WCC is not the most challenging league, hence Gonzaga's No. 4 seed. In year's past. FSU could not match Gonzaga point-for-point in years past but that's not the case here in 2018. FSU owns a tall, athletic and deep bench, which has actually outscored its starters over the last four games! Note that 11 different players saw action in the first eight minutes last Sunday in the upset over Xavier and that the Seminoles have averaged 43.5 bench PPG, 12.5 more than any other team in the field. Chalk up another upset here, as FSU is an 8* play.
|03-22-18||Lakers +3 v. Pelicans||Top||125-128||Push||0||9 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pelicans had a make-up contest last night with the Pacers, in a game postponed back on Feb 7 because of a leaky roof in the Smoothie King Center. It marked the middle contest of three games in as many nights for New Orleans, as part of a stretch during which the Pelicans will play five times in six nights. New Orleans' 96-92 victory over Indiana gives them a chance to sweep its three games in three nights ordeal and post the team's fourth consecutive overall win when the 42-30 Pelicans host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. The 31-39 Lakers come in having dropped three straight games after enjoying a stretch in which they had won eight of 10 games. They suffered a 110-100 loss to the Pacers on Monday in the opener of a four-game road trip that includes stops in Memphis and Detroit.
LA Lakers: Rookie Kyle Kuzma had 27 points and eight rebounds in the loss to the Pacers andhe is putting together a season unlike any rookie in NBA history. Kuzma needs 78 rebounds and 15 three-pointers over the final 12 games to become the first rookie in league history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 150 3-pointers. The first-round pick out of Utah (2th overall) has exceeded all expectations by averaging 15.6 & 6.2, establishing himself as a key figure in the team's rebuilding project. That can also be said about second-year swingman Brandon Ingram (16.2-5.4-3.9) but he will miss his 10th straight game Thursday with a groin injury. PF Julius Randle (15.9 & 7.9) is also having his best-ever season plus no one can forget Lonzo Ball (10.1-6.8-7.1)
New Orleans: Anthony Davis (28.2 & 11.2) isn't looking fatigued, scoring 28 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking five blocked shots against the Pacers for his sixth double-double in the last seven games. The latest victory leaves the Pelicans three games clear of the ninth-place Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference playoff competition (also just a half-game back of the 4th-seeded Thunder) with just 10 games remaining. Combo guard Jrue Holiday (19.0-4.4-5.8) was back in the lineup versus the Pacers after battling the flu caused him to miss his first game this season. He had 10 points and five assists. Guard E'Twaun Moore (12.3) scored 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting and forward Nikola Mirotic, who missed his first seven 3-point attempts against the Pacers, hit from long range on back-to-back possessions in the final four minutes. Don't knock Mirotic, as he's averaging 13.3 & 7.9 in his 21 games with the Pelicans (team is 14-7).
The pick: The Pelicans have won four of the last five against the Lakers, including both games this year. However, this marks a third game in three nights for the Pelicans and the Lakers had been on a 20-8 ATS run before dropping their last three SU & ATS. Take the points and make LA an 8* play.
|03-22-18||Texas A&M v. Michigan -3||Top||72-99||Win||100||57 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: The West Regional from Staples Center in Los Angeles also features the No. 3 seed Michigan Wolverines and the No. 7 seed Texas A&M Aggies. Michigan played terrific basketball at the end of the regular season and surprisingly won a second straight Big Ten tourney title. However, while Michigan was able to handcuff Montana in a first round NCAA tourney win (held the Grizzlies to 47 points), the Wolverines needed a 'miracle' three-pointer by Jordan Poole to edge Houston 64-63 in the second round. Texas A&M bested a good Providence team in the first round and then shocked North Carolina (No. 2 seed) 86-65 in Charlotte, no less.
Texas A&M: The Aggies reached the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons, overcoming an 0-5 start in SEC play to finish 9-9 and tied for seventh with Mississippi State. A&M then lost on a buzzer-beater to Alabama in the team's conference tournament opener but still got a 7-seed with a 20-12 record (A&M opened the 2017-18 season at 11-1). 6-10 center Tyler Davis leads in scoring (14.6) and is second in rebounding (9.0). Guard Admon Gilder (12.4 & 4.1) and the 6-9 DJ Hogg (11.2 & 5.3) were both key members of the Texas A&M team that reached the Sweet 16 two years ago. The 6-10 Williams adds 10.3 RPG and a team-high 9.3 RPG, while guards Starks (10.1) and Wilson (9.0) and no slouches. Just ask the Tar Heels about Starks, who led A&M with 21 points on 7 of 15 shooting with a team-high five assists. The Aggies overwhelmed North Carolina, connecting on 10-of-24 three-pointers as part of an impressive 31 of 60 (51.7%) showing from the floor.
Michigan: After the team's grind-it-out 61-47 win over Montana, when Michigan allowed the third-fewest points in its NCAA Tournament history, the one-point win over Houston was a 'gift.' The 6-11 Wagner leads Michigan in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (7.1) and is joined in the starting lineup up front by the 6-7 Livers, although he contributes little with 3.7 & 2.3. Beilein starts three guards in Matthews (12.8 & 5.5), Abur-Rahkman (12.6-3.9-3.3) and Simpson (7.3 & 3.6 APG). A fourth guard, Robinson (9.5), is a major contributor to the rotation. Beilein-coached teams always play great D and this one is no different, as Michigan is allowing 63.1 PPG (8th).
The pick: A Texas A&M versus Michigan matchup in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 was not a farfetched notion back in December but it's a surprise now, as A&M didn't look like much of an NCAA tourney team, until its first two games of this year's Big Dance. Now, we've got a ballgame. The Aggies are surely oozing confidence following their romp over defending champ North Carolina. However, expect the Aggies to have trouble finding their rhythm on offense against Beilein's tough D. Sure, Michigan "got lucky": vs. Houston but the team comes in having won 11 straight, while going 9-2 ATS. This pointspread is 'doable,' as 29 of Michigan's 31 victories have come by three points or more. Make Michigan an 8* play.
|03-22-18||Loyola-Chicago +1.5 v. Nevada||Top||69-68||Win||100||56 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: The 30-5 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers and the 29-7 Nevada Wolf Pack will square off at Phillips Arena (South Regional) on Thursday in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The Ramblers are one of two double-digit seeds to have advanced to the Sweet 16 this year, joining Syracuse (also an 11-seed). Many opined that they have never seen such craziness as this this year's tourney. However, three double-digit seeds have reached the Sweet 16 in 12 separate seasons, four double-digit seeds reached the Sweet in 2011 ans a record five double-digit seeds reached the Sweet 16 in 1999. Bottom line, the 2018 tourney is hardly unprecedented. Then again, this matchup features something special. It seems as if Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt (a 98-year-old nun) has helped deliver two buzzer-beating wins for Loyola, while Mariah Musselman, the precocious daughter of the Wolf Pack's exuberant coach Eric, has been Nevada's biggest cheerleader during its run to the Sweet 16, after two come-from-behind wins. Loyola-Chicago: 6-6 swingman Donte Ingram's11.5 & 6.4) buzzer-beat Miami-Fl. on Thursday and then Clayton Custer (13.3 & 4.2 APG), the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, hit the game-winner against third-seeded Tennessee on Saturday. Joining that duo in double digit scoring are SF Jackson (11.1), guard Townes (11.0) and the 6-9 Krutwig, the MVC Freshman of the Year, who checks in at 10.4 & 6.1. The Ramblers shot a blistering 50.6% as a team (3rd in the nation) but average a more modest 71.9 PPG (230th). Defensively, Loyola-Chicago is holding opponents to an average of 62.2 PPG (5th). Nevada: The Wolf Pack overcame a 14-point deficit last Friday to beat No. 10 Texas in overtime 87-83. Then on Sunday, Nevada climbed out of a 22-point hole with about 11 1/2 minutes left to beat No. 2-seed Cincinnati 75-73. The 6-7 Cody Martin led Nevada in the win over Cincinnati, scoring 25 points with six rebounds and seven assists Cody averages 13.9-6.3-4.7 on the season but his 6-7 twin, Caleb, leads the team with 18.8 PPG (5.4 RPG). The 6-7 Jordan Caroline (17.7 & 8.7) and Kendall Stephens, a Purdue transfer, adds 13.4 PPG. Nevada averages 83.0 PPG (16th) but allows 73.2. PPG (193rd).
The pick: It’s been awhile since either school has lasted this long in March. Gene Sullivan’s Loyola team 1985 was led by Alfredrick Hughes and in Nevada’s case it was a Sweet 16 run for Trent Johnson’s best team, featuring Kirk Snyder back in 2004. Some have said that this year's Ramblers remind them a little of past Utah and Saint Louis NCAA qualifiers. That's because there is a link to those past Rick Majerus teams in head coach Porter Moser, who worked as a Majerus aide with the Billikens and whose current team has taken on the best of those Majerus characteristics. Mainly, it’s a commitment to lockdown defense and a patient offense that has not lost its poise in late-game situations in its first two games. However, Nevada offers a unique challenge, with the 6-7 Martin twins and the 6-7 Caroline can create a hellish matchup for slower foes on the blocks. Then again, the Ramblers have won 12 straight and 19 out of their last 20, not to mention the team's money-making 21-9-1 ATS mark on the season. Make Loyola a 10* play.
|03-21-18||Northern Colorado v. San Diego -2||Top||86-75||Loss||-106||14 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: It's CIT college hoops play from the Jenny Craig Pavilion when the 23-12 Northern Colorado Bears visit the 20-13 San Diego Toreros. The Bears come in off an 81-72 home win versus the Drake Bulldogs that advanced them to the quarterfinals of the CIT. As for the Toreros, they've needed two games to advance this far, although both have been at home.
Northern Colorado: The Bears can score, averaging 80.5 PPG (41st) and they advanced with another good offensive effort in the win over Drake. Guard Andre Spight, the team's leading scorer on the season at 21.9 PPG, led with 21 points, connecting on 6-of-11 from three-point range. The 6-9 Tanner Morgan (6.5 & 5.8), the only non-guard among the team's top-seven scorers, added 19 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Davis, second to Spight on the season at 15.7 PPG, delivered a triple-double (12-11-10). The Bears connected of 49.1% as a team but will need to replicate that effort on the road (no easy task).
San Diego: The Toreros don't score as well as the Bears, averaging a modest 70.0 PPG but they do play some of the best defense in college basketball, holding opponents to just 66,6 PPG (33rd) on 41.2% shooting (37th). San Diego needed its defense in a tight 67-64 win over Portland State to advance to this game. The Toreros rallied from a nine-point deficit at the half. The team's top playef, the 6-7 Isaiah Pineiro (15.4 & 6.1) did not a great game, scoring 12 points and grabbing six rebounds. However, guards Carter (12.5) and Williams (9.0) each scored 16 points. The 6-7 Neubauer (6.9 & 3.5) added 13 points, including 3-of-6 from long range. PG Wright (13.1 & 5.4 APG), like Pineiro, was a modest contributor (7-6-4).
The pick: I'd agree that Northern Colorado may be the slightly better team but the Bears played their final three games of the regular season on the road, then played three tough games on a neutral site in the Big Sky tourney (lost in OT to Montana for an NCAA berth). The team then made a pit stop at home in beating Drake on Mar. 18 in the CIT but now heads back out on the road. The team has played just once at home for a month. San Diego is a strong defensive team (see above), and is also holding opponents to just 30.2% on threes (3rd-best in the nation). The Toreros advanced past Portland St. despite so-so-efforts from their top-two players (Pineiro & Wright). I'll back them here, expecting better efforts form that duo as San Diego gets a third straight home game in this tourney. By the way, San Diego stood toe-to-toe- in this venue against WCC powers Gonzaga (lost 77-72) and St Mary's (lost 65-62).. Make San Diego a 10* play.
|03-21-18||Pacers -1.5 v. Pelicans||Top||92-96||Loss||-110||11 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The 41-30 Pacers and the 41-30 Pelicans New Orleans will play tonight in New Orleans, making up a contest that was postponed back on Feb 7 because of a leaky roof in the Smoothie King Center. The make-up game interrupts what was slated to be a three-game homestand for the Pacers and leaves them with seven road contests in a 10-game span. However, don't expect the Pelicans to feel sorry for Indiana, as New Orleans has it even worse. This marks the middle contest of a string of three games in as many days and part of a stretch during which the Pelicans will play five times in six nights. Both teams find themselves in tightly contested battles for playoff positioning. The Pacers are 4th in the East, just a half-game back of the Cavs but still only 3 1/2 games ahead of the eight-seeded Bucks. Things are even tighter for the fifth-seeded Pelican in the West, as they are just one game ahead of the conference's 8th-seed.
Indiana: "We're tired, of course," Indiana PG Darren Collison told reporters. "But everybody in the NBA is tired right now. So there's really no excuse. We've got to go out there and perform." Second-year center Myles Turner (13.7 & 6.9) returned from a one-game absence due to an ankle issue to post 21 points and seven rebounds in Monday's 110-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Turner is one of six Indiana players averaging in double digits. That group is led by Oladipo (23.3-5.2-4.2) and also includes back-up center Sabonis (11.7 & 7.9), who along with Oladipo, was acquired from OKC in the George trade. However, Sabonis has been out the last few games with an ankle issue and is not expected to play in this one. Stephenson (9.5 & 5.1) and Joseph (8.10 have been valuable contributers as well, mostly coming off the bench.
New Orleans: "It's not some impossible thing," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters regarding the Pelicans' busy upcoming stretch of games. "I don't want to make a big deal out of it, and we'll be able to manage it and play and do the best we can with it." Anthony Davis (28.2 & 11.1) scored 37 points on 15-of-21 shooting in Tuesday's 115-105 win over Dallas to help the Pelicans move three games clear of ninth-place Denver in the Western Conference playoff chase. Jrue Holiday missed his first game of the season on Tuesday (illness) and the hope is that the club's second-leading scorer (19.1 points) will be able to play against Indiana. Davis has been nothing short of spectacular since the loss of Boogie Cousins (25.2 & 12.9) but he can't do it alone. Mirotic has been a huge help (acquired from the Bulls), averaging 13.2 & 6.5 in 20 games for New Orleans.
The pick: New Orleans could use a bit of a cushion as it has a tough closing slate that includes games against Houston, Portland, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, Golden State and the Spurs. A date with Indiana is clearly no 'walk in the park." Yes, the Pelicans posted a 117-112 victory on Nov. 7 behind 37 points from Davis but the Pacers have won 12 of the last 15 meetings between the two clubs. Make Indiana a 10* play.
|03-21-18||Clippers v. Bucks -5||Top||127-120||Loss||-107||9 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: Behind the Rockets and Warriors, the Western Conference No. 3 and No. 10 teams are separated by just 6 1 /2 games, as eight teams are vying for six remaining playoff spots (No. 3 through No. 8). The Los Angeles Clippers are sliding in the wrong direction, as they've lost four in a row after falling 123-109 to Minnesota on Tuesday. That contest began a stretch during which LA plays six of seven on the road. The 37-33 Clippers are now 10th in the West, 2 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. The 37-33 Milwaukee Bucks play in the East and like the Clippers, as heading in the wrong direction. The Bucks have lost eight of their last 12 games, although they remain a comfortable 5 1/2 games inside the East's playoff 'cut line,' while holding down the 8th-seed. In fact, Milwaukee is closer to the third-seeded Cavs (four games back), than it is to the No. 9 team, Detroit (5 1/2 games clear).
LA Clippers: Los Angeles was on the rise with 12 victories in 16 games before suddenly losing four in a row, while allowing more than 120 points in each of its last three games. Head coach Doc Rivers was dismayed after Tuesday's loss as he didn't like the effort or desire displayed by his club, particularly factoring in the importance of the contest. DeAndre Jordan (12.1 & 15.4) produced 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting and 12 rebounds against the Timberwolves. He has now reached double digits in rebounds in 11 straight contests. However, Williams (22.9 & 5.3 APG) and Harris (19.6 & 6.7 in 20 games for the LAC) combined to shoot 9 of 27 (including 0 of 7 on threes), totaling just 25 points between them. Defensively, the Clippers were flat, allowing the T-wolves to make 52.3% of their shots.
Milwaukee: The Bucks suffered a 124-117 loss in Cleveland on Monday despite receiving big efforts from Giannis Antetokounmpo (37 points & 11 rebounds) and Khris Middleton (30 points). Backup point guard Brandon Jennings is being signed to a second 10-day contract after averaging six points, 5.5 assists and 2.8 rebounds in four games since joining the club. The 28-year-old played in China and for Milwaukee's G League franchise earlier this season and opened eyes with a stellar performance against Memphis on March 12, when he recorded 16 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds. Jennings spent four seasons with the Bucks from 2009-13, a stint that included his career-best 19.1 scoring average in 2011-12, and once was the team's top player.
The pick: Both teams are struggling but Milwaukee has gone 5-1 against Pacific Division teams this season. The Bucks have yet to face the Clippers (tonight's matchup is the first of two in a seven-day span) but won both meetings against the Clippers last season, when Griffin and Paul were in LA. Make Milwaukee an 8* play.
|03-20-18||Hawks +13 v. Jazz||Top||99-94||Win||100||13 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The Utah Jazz have won nine in a row and at 40-30, are now dead-locked with the Pelicans for the 6th and 7th seed in the West. Utah is just a half-game back of the 5th-seed Spurs and two games back of the fourth-seeded Thunder. Utah closes a four-game homestand tonight against the woeful Atlanta Hawks, who at 20-50, own the East's worst record (Memphis and Phoenix both own just 19 wins in the West). Incredibly, the Jazz were once struggling at nine games below .500 but have now won 21 of their last 23 games. Meanwhile, Atlanta is experiencing a dreadful campaign and comes in on a six-game losing streak after falling 122-117 to the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday in the opener of the team's six-game road trip.
Atlanta: The Hawks have long ago fallen out of a playoff position, a the team's 10-year postseason run will end here in 2018 (it was the second-longest streak in the NBA, behind only the Spurs). Some positive news is that second-year small forward Taurean Prince is on a roll by scoring a career-best 38 points twice in the past four games while averaging 30.8 points during the stretch. Prince (13.5 & 4.9) has topped 20 points in each of the last four games and five times overall, while averaging 21.5 points in March. Schroder has taken over the PG duties from Teague and delivered, averaging team-bests in points (19.1) and assists (6.2). 6-10 Wake Forest rookie has also been a "breath of fresh air," averaging 10.5 & 7.1 in about 23 minutes.
Utah: The team's rise began shortly after standout center Rudy Gobert returned to full health after two different leg injuries. Head coach Quin Snyder said "It's an empirical fact" that Gobert is the most dominant defensive player in the NBA." Gobert is averaging 21 points and 13.5 rebounds while posting four straight double-doubles, as well as averaging 19.3 points on 68.5 percent shooting, 13.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks during the nine-game winning streak, to raise his season averages to14.0 & 10.7. Small forward Joe Ingles leads the NBA by making 45.0 percent of his three-point shots and inherited a larger role when Gordon Hayward left as a free agent in the off-season. He is averaging 16.8 points over the past five games, although he's averaging a more modest 11.3 PPG on the season. Be sure not to overlook rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, who leads all 'freshman' in averaging 19.9 PPG.
The pick: The Jazz are fighting for a playoff spot, while the Hawks are playing out the string. That said, the Jazz just got past the Kings the last time out, 103-97 in Utah. Don't forget that Atlanta laid a surprise 104-90 whipping on Utah the last time they faced each other back on Jan. 22 in Atlanta. I'm taking the YUGE points in this one and making the Hawks an 8* play.
|03-20-18||Clippers v. Wolves -3.5||Top||109-123||Win||100||12 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The battle in the Western Conference for playoff seeds 3 through 8 has been fierce and tight for quite some time now. The 37-22 LA Clippers will visit the Target Center tonight for a game with the 40-31 Minnesota Timberwolves. The Clippers are currently on the outside looking in of the playoff picture, as they are two games back of the No. 8 T-wolves. For its part, Minnesota is just a half-game behind the two teams holding down the 6th and 7th seeds (Jazz and Pelicans, respectively), plus sits just one game back of the 5th-seeded Spurs.
LA Clippers: The Clippers are in "worry mode" after dropping three in a row to teams ahead of them in the standings and falling two games behind the Timberwolves. LA played three games in four nights against Houston, Oklahoma City and Portland, dropping all three. After trading Blake Griffin, the Clippers didn't seem like a playoff team. However, Lou Williams has continued his big scoring (is averaging what would be career highs in both points and assists right now at 23.0 & 5.3) plus Tobias Harris, who came over for Griffin, has averaged 20.1 & 6.7 with the Clippers. Yes, Patrick Beverly, Avery Bradley and Danilo Gallinari are still out with injuries but guards Austin Rivers and Milos Teodosic have gotten healthy and we can never forget center Jordan (12.0 & 15.4 on the season, while is averaging 18.8 rebounds in nine games this month!).
Minnesota: The Timberwolves didn't do themselves any favors by losing to a pair of teams in front of them over the weekend while allowing an average of 123 points in losses to the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets. The T-wolves allowed a season-high 77 points in the first half on Sunday against Houston and didn't have quite enough left to finish off a comeback in a 129-120 loss. Center Karl-Anthony Towns is doing his part to lead the team to the postseason for the first time since 2004 and delivered 20 points and 18 rebounds on Sunday, the fourth time in the last eight games that he recorded at least 20 points and 16 boards (he's at 20.7 & 12.2 on the season). Jeff Teague (13.8 & 7.0 APG had 23 points and 11 assists vs. Houston, Andrew Wiggins (18.0 & 4.1) scored 21 plus newcomer Derrick Rose supplied a spark during the rally and finished with 14 points. However, the loss was Minnesota's fifth in seven games.
The pick: The schedule isn't letting up for the Clippers, who play six of the their next seven on the road with a pair of back-to-backs, including a date at Milwaukee tomorrow night. The T-wolves have mostly struggled in Butler’s absence and just before, going 4-11 ATS over their last 15 games. However, they have won all three previous games with the Clippers this season (including a pair at Staples Center), extending their winning streak over LA to five in a row. Make that six, so lay the points and make Minnesota a 10* play.
|03-20-18||Penn State v. Marquette -2||Top||85-80||Loss||-115||10 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: Three of the NIT's four No. 1 seeds are out (only St Mary's remains), as Penn State (a No. 4 seed) will visit the Bradley Center in Milwaukee to take on Marquette (a No. 2 seed). The Nittany Lions opened this tourney with a win over Temple at home and then knocked off top-seeded Notre Dame with a 73-63 victory Saturday at South Bend. Marquette is home for a third straight NIT game, opening with a 67-60 win over Harvard and then playing a much different type of game in eliminating Oregon, 101-92! Both schools were in Madison Square Garden for their respective conference tournaments earlier this month and the winner of this game will punch a "return trip ticket," to New York for a meeting with the winner of the Louisville/Mississippi State game (also played tonight) in the NIT semifinals on March 27. The schools teams have not met since Marquette defeated Penn State 87-79 in the semifinals of the 1995 NIT at Madison Square Garden.
Penn State: Sophomore guard Tony Carr rebounded from a career low-tying two-point performance on 1-of-12 shooting against Temple to post his 15th 20-point game this season by scoring 24 points in the win at Notre Dame. Carr leads in scoring (19.5) and assists (4.7), as all five starters average in double digits. Garner (11.1) and Reaves (10.6 & 5.4) share the backcourt with Carr, while a pair of 6-9 players, Stevens (14.7 & 6.1) and Watkins (12.1 & 8.9) have been the starters up front. The problem being, that Watkins has been lost for the season with a knee injury and hasn't played since Feb. 21 (he has missed six straight games). That means more starts for 6-9 freshman John Harrar, who had six rebounds, four points and two blocked shots in 23 minutes against Notre Dame but is averaging only 1.2 & 1.2 on the season.
Marquette: After totaling a modest 67 points in a win over Harvard, the Golden Eagles scored 58 points before halftime against the Ducks en route to their best offensive showing of the season. Andrew Rowsey led the charge with 29 points and nine assists. A trio of guards lead the charge for Marquette. Howard leads in points (20.4), with Rowsey right behind him (20.2), while leading the team in assists (4.7). Hauser is a third guard (14.1 & 5.8), with that trio propelling Marquette to average 81.4 PPG (30th). SF Anim (7.7 & 3.0), the 6-7 Cain (4.5 & 3.3) and the 610 Heldt (4.1 & 4.8) patrol the frontcourt. Marquette is a highly efficient offensive team, shooting 47.6% overall (37th), including 41.7% on threes (3rd).
The pick: Penn State is off a big win in South Bend over Notre Dame and figures to be somewhat flat here, plus playing without leading rebounder Watkins has to catch up to them. Marquette has an offense to "run anybody out of the gym" (just ask Oregon) and I'll make the Golden Eagles a 10* play in this one.
|03-19-18||Pistons -2.5 v. Kings||Top||106-90||Win||100||21 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: Acquiring Blake Griffin in a blockbuster deal six weeks ago was supposed to be a difference-maker for the Pistons but instead, the Pistons have played their way out of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. Detroit has lost 14 of 21 contests with Griffin since getting him from the Los Angeles Clippers in a trade deadline deal, despite Griffin averaging 19.9 points and grabbing 6.4 rebounds per game since the deal. Detroit comes into tonight's game having lost 13 of its last 16 games (3-13 ATS), punctuated by the team's inability to win on the road. The Pistons will try to snap a 12-game road slide (1-11 ATS) when they continue a six-game trip (0-3 so far) by visiting the Sacramento Kings on Monday. The 23-48 Kings are not in a playoff race either but they are not laying down with wins in two of their last three games and four straight solid performances against playoff-bound opponents. Sacramento knocked off Miami and Golden State, before falling at Utah 103-97 on Saturday
Detroit: The Pistons are playing so poorly that the future of their head coach is anything but rosy. Stan Van Gundy was quick to assign blame to the referees for Saturday's loss. "I've been here four years," Van Gundy told reporters. "I've been many more years before that (elsewhere). I've never come in after a game -- never. Might have talked about one call. Never come in after a game and talked like this. That was embarrassing. We got absolutely screwed tonight." That sound like a man who knows his job is in jeopardy. the 100-87 defeat at Portland on Saturday marked the team's 17th loss in its in last 18 on the road (going back to Dec. 15). The only exception in that stretch was a Jan. 10 victory at Brooklyn.
Sacramento: However, while the Kings own a similar recordto the Nets, Sacramento is currently playing hard. The Kings ran out of gas in the fourth quarter on Saturday while playing the second night of a back-to-back on the road but got another solid performance off the bench from guard Buddy Hield. The second-year Oklahoma product is averaging 23 points on 56.8 percent shooting over the last three games and totaled 16 assists in that span. Hield and swingman Garrett Temple (11 points) both scored in double figures at Utah as the reserves outscored the starters 56-41. Rookie guards De'Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic also continue to build, despite the inevitable inconsistency. The two were 9-for-30 and combined for 23 points in the loss to Utah but Fox is averaging 12.4 points and 4.3 assists in 28 minutes a game since the break and Bogdanovic is averaging 12.9 points and 3.8 assists in 28 minutes over the same stretch.
The pick: The Pistons are all but officially out of the playoff hunt in the East but with no pressure, I wouldn't be surprised if Detroit plays much better the rest of the way. I'm no Griffin fan but now that his team is all but 'dead, I expect this fraud of an All Star to "be the man." Throw in the fact that the Kings are 3-12 ATS as a home dog of six points or less on the season, says make Detroit an 8* play.
|03-18-18||Blazers v. Clippers -2.5||Top||122-109||Loss||-101||14 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: The red-hot Portland Trail Blazers will take their 12-game winning streak into Staples Center on Sunday night, where they'll take on the LA Clippers. Portland's surge has helped solidify its playoff positioning amid a tight Western Conference race but has by no means allowed the Blazers to "run away from the field." The 43-26 Blazers do own the No. 3 seed but they are still just four games up on the No. 8 seed (NO Pelicans). The LA Clippers are 37-31, which currently leaves them on the outside looking in on the West's playoff field. However, LA is just 1 1/2 games back of the Pelicans, as well as being just two games back of the Jazz, T-wolves and Spurs (all at 40-30).
Portland: The Blazers'100-87 win over Detroit on Saturday left them two games ahead of Oklahoma City in the race for third place in the East and the team's 12 straight wins is tied for the third-longest in franchise history (four shy of a franchise record). Damian Lillard had 24 points against the Pistons, the 10th time in the past 11 games he has reached that mark. Lillard (26.8-4.5-6.6) and McCollum (21.7) give Portland a dynamic backcourt duo but only center Jusuf Nurkic (14.1 & 8.5) is a consistent scorer outside of those two. Note that Nurkic did have 14 points and 20 rebounds in a 104-96 victory at Los Angeles back on Jan. 30.
LA Clippers: The Clippers were thought to be "giving up" when they traded Blake Griffin to Detroit. However, while Griffin has done absolutely nothing to improve the Pistons, the Clippers have gone 12-7 without Griffin, despite coming into this came off back-to-back losses. Tobias Harris is averaging 20.6 points on 48.6 percent shooting (plus 6.9 RPG) in 18 games with the Clippers, after posting 18.1 on 45.1 percent in 48 games with the Pistons prior to being traded to Los Angeles last month. Veteran Lou Williams own personal-bests of 22.9 PPG and 5.4 APG, while center DeAndre Jordan averages 12.1 & 15.4. He grabbed 21 rebounds Friday night and has collected at least 18 in six consecutive contests.
The pick: Los Angeles begins a four-game road trip at Minnesota on Tuesday and then plays six of seven away from home overall, after it is finished with Portland. Speaking of Portland, the Blazers have done most of its recent 'damage' at home but eight of the next 12 contests will take place on the road, where the team is a more modest 18-15. The Clippers lost 104-96 in Portland on Jan. 20, in what was their first game without Griffin (after the trade). This time around, the Clippers catch the Blazers off a home game last night with the Pistons, while they will be playing at home, one of just two home contests in an 11-game stretch that began on Mar. 13th and runs through the end of the month. Make LA a 10* play.
|03-18-18||Florida State +6 v. Xavier||Top||75-70||Win||100||32 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The Xavier Musketeers have been an NCAA-tourney regular for quite some time now but here in 2018, earned the school's first-ever No. 1 (West Regional). Xavier (29-5) looked every bit like a No. 1 seed on Friday, setting a program record for most points in a NCAA Tournament game with its 102-83 victory over Texas Southern. The Seminoles ended the season by losing six of their final 10 down the stretch, but their 20-11 mark was good enough to earn them a second straight tournament appearance and a sixth overall under head coach Leonard Hamilton. FSU picked up its 21st victory of the season on Friday, getting 42 points from its bench and holding a shorthanded Missouri team to 32.7 percent from the floor in a 67-54 win
Florida State: The Seminoles opened the season having lost four starters off last year's 26-win team and little was expected. However, FSU began the season 9-0 before a one-point loss to Oklahoma State. FSU features a balanced scoring attack with four guards contributing. Terance Mann (12.8 & 5.6) was the team's highest perimeter scorer, joined dby Angola (12.7), Walker (8.3) and Forrest (7.7 & 4.9 APG). The 6-8 Cofer (13.1 & 5.1) has had a breakout senior year and works up front with the 7-4 Koumadje (7.1 & 4.8) and 6-9 freshman Kabengele (7.3 & 4.7). Ten players scored during the Seminoles' 42-point first half, and all three of Florida State's double-digit scorers Friday came off the bench. Kabengele (team-high 14 points and career-high tying 12 rebounds), sophomore guard Trent Forrest (10 points, six rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and three steals) and junior guard PJ Savoy (12 points) led the change from Florida State's bench. Second-leading scorer Terance Mann needed to be helped back to the locker room in the second half after aggravating a first-half groin injury and is questionable for Sunday.
Xavier: The Musketeers have three double digit scores on the season but six others contribute between 4.8 and 8.7 PPG. Xavier is averaging 84.8 PPG (7th) on 49.3% shooting (15th). The 6-6 Trevor Bluiett (19.6 & 5.6) is joined by fellow seniors JP Macura (12.7 & 4.5) and the 6-10 Kanter (10.8 & 4.5) in averaging double digits. Bluiett, who ranks second in Musketeers' history with 2,253 career points and buried three 3-pointers to run his season total to a school-record tying 104, topped the 20-point mark for the 20th time with 26 versus the Tigers. Macura moved into 19th place on the program's all-time scoring list and halted a four-game stretch where he failed to top his season scoring average Friday, going 11-of-16 from the floor to finish with a career-high 29 points. Kerem Kanter (10.8) tied his career high with 24 points despite playing only 20 minutes Friday (note: over the last 22 games, he has reached double figures in every game in which he has played more than 12 minutes!).
The pick: The Musketeers can tie their school record for wins in a season with a victory on Sunday over the Seminoles.In last year's tourney, Xavier stunned third-seeded Florida State last year in the NCAA Tournament, shooting 55.6 percent from the floor in a 91-66 rout of the Seminoles behind 29 points from Trevon Bluiett. Now, a year to the day after that upset, the Seminoles get their chance at payback. This is likely Hamilton's best offensive team, as FSU is averaging 81.3 PPG (31st) on 47.3% shooting (46th). If Mann is out or less than 100 percent, FSU will miss him. However, the Seminoles have solid depth and can score with Xavier. "All season, our identity was the quality of our depth. We knew they were a little short on the bench, so we needed to attack them … we used that to our advantage," freshman forward Mfiondu Kabengele told reporters after the win over Missouri. Revenge works when the matchups are right. Take the points and make FSU a 10* play.
|03-18-18||Maryland-Baltimore County +10.5 v. Kansas State||Top||43-50||Win||100||11 h 6 m||Show|
Maryland-Baltimore County: Graduate student guard Jairus Lyles was simply unstoppable for the Retrievers, scoring 23 of his game-high 28 while playing through leg cramps in the second frame. He tops UMBC in scoring at 20.4 PPG (adds 5.5 RPG and 3,5 APG) and is joined by three other double digit scorers. Guard Maura (11.3 & 5.2 APG) is the second-leading scorer and top assist man, while two forwards, the 6-6 Sherburne (11.0 & 3.9) and the 6-5 Lamar (10.5 & 5.9) complement the team's two guards. Lyles was the unquestioned star against UVa but it was a true team effort. Sherburne had 14 points, Arkel Lamar 12 and K.J. Maura had 10. UMBC had 16 assists on 26 made field goals while outrebounding Virginia 33-22.
Kansas Sttae: The Wildcats are awaiting the Retrievers. They've been led this season led by the 6-10 Wade (16.5 & 6.3) and guard Brown (16.0-3.2-3.4). Barry Brown led the Wildcats with 18 points and played strong defense on Marcus Foster, holding the star Bluejays guard to just five points on 2-of-11 shooting. However, Kansas State had to play without All-Big 12 First Team selection Dean Wade, who suffered a stress fracture in his left foot in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals. Without Wade's team-high 16.5 PPG, the team's defense stepped up, holding the Bluejays to a season low-tying 59 points on 33.8 percent shooting from the floor and 26.5 percent from the three-point line. Freshman guard Mike McGuirl stepped up offensively in Wade's absence, scoring a career-high 17 on 6-of-10 shooting and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc.
The pick: Wade hasn't been ruled out for Sunday but he will be limited if he does play. KSU can't expect McGuirl to come through with another 17-point effort, as he's played in just nine games and averaged 3.3 PPG in less than 10 minutes per. Cinderella teams typically falter off a huge upset but UMBC is livin' large! The Retrievers finished second in the America East regular season and earned their NCAA berth berth with an incredible last-second three by Lyles in the tournament championship win at Vermont. Then the team broke an 0-for-135 drought by No. 16 seeds over a No. 1 seed, so what's the big deal here? Kansas State is a solid team but surely is nothing special and what's more, its leading scorer may not play. Throw in the fact that Kansas State is also just 2-8 ATS in its last 10 non-conference games and why not take UMBC and the points" Make UMBC an 8* play.
|03-18-18||Clemson v. Auburn -1||Top||84-53||Loss||-115||11 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: A Clemson/Auburn matchup would be a really big deal in football (Tigers vs. Tigers). However, the two schools square off Sunday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16 out of the Midwest Region. Clemson hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game since a First Four victory over UAB in 2011 and it hadn’t reached the second round since making a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in 1997. However, Clemson took down New Mexico State 79-68 on Friday. Auburn is in the Big Dance for the first time since 2003, when it made a run to the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 10 seed. Auburn survived a scare in a 62-58 win over College of Charleston in its opener on Friday, setting up this Tigers vs. Tigers matchup on the hardwood, with the winner becoming a Sweet 16 team.
Clemson: Guards Shelton Mitchell scored 23 points and Gabe DeVoe added 22 in the Tigers' 79-68 first-round victory over New Mexico State. However, fellow guard Redd (15.9-4.7-3.4) leads Clemson in scoring on the season. DeVoe (13.5 & 4.6) and Mitchell (12.3-2.9-3.1) are right behind him. Clemson now relies even more on its guard paly, as the 6-8 Grantham (14.2 & 6.9) was lost for the season back in late January. The 6-9 Thomas (10.6 & 8.) is now joined in the starting frontcourt by the 6-8 Skara, who adds just 3.0 & 2.6. Clemson's D is among the best, allowing 65.9 PPG (29th) on 41.0% shooting (33rd).
Auburn: These Tigers won the SEC regular-season title but stumbled a bit down the stretch, losing three of their last five going into the conference tournament, where they fell to Alabama in their first game. Their offensive struggles continued against the Cougars, as they shot below 40 percent for the fourth straight contest. Leading scorer Mustapha Heron (16.6 & 5.5) scored 16 points and SF Desean Murray (10.4, & 6.8) recorded a characteristic 11 points along with seven rebounds. However, Bryce Brown, who checks in right behind Heron at 16.0 PPG, struggled in going 3-for-10 from three-point range. Auburn shot just 35.6 percent from the floor plus was an ugly 15-of-32 on FTs, but still advanced. Helping the cause was Auburn forcing Charleston into a season-high 21 turnovers, about double its average.
The pick: Both teams are short on size after losing starting big men to injury during the season. Clemson’s Grantham tore his ACL in January while Auburn’s Anfernee McLemore (7.4 & 5,3) broke his left leg the following month. Both have persevered with strong guard play. The win over Charleston gave Auburn eight straight NCAA opening round wins. That's tied with Syracuse for the fourth-longest streak, as only North Carolina (16), Kansas (11) and Gonzaga (10) have more. Is it time to advance a step further this time around? My vote (bet) is Y-E-S, as Auburn is averaging 82.7 PPG (18th). Party like it's 2003 and make Auburn an 8* play.
|03-17-18||Pistons +8.5 v. Blazers||Top||87-100||Loss||-102||14 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: The Portland Trail Blazers own an 11-game winning streak but the Blazers' 11-game surge leaves them only a modest 1 1/2 games up on the fourth-place Oklahoma City Thunder and still a mere 4 1/2 games in front of the Denver Nuggets, who are currently in ninth-place, on the outside looking in on the West's playoff picture. Portland will welcome the 30-38 Pistons to the Moda Center tonight. Acquiring Blake Griffin in a blockbuster deal six weeks ago was supposed to be a difference-maker for the Pistons but Detroit comes into tonight's game having lost 12 of its last 15 games (3-12 ATS). The Pistons are currently six games back of the East's final playoff spot.
Detroit: So much for Griffin (20.2-6.5-5.7 in 19 games) combining with Drummond (15.0 & 15.7) to make the Pistons real contenders in the East. Detroit was embarrassed 110-79 at Utah on Thursday and fell into a 26-point hole at Denver on Friday before coming back and making it close in a 120-113 setback. The Pistons are 0-2 to open their current six-game road trip and will play a back-to-back at Sacramento and Phoenix on Monday and Tuesday, before closing the trip at NBA-best Houston on Thursday. Last night's loss was Detroit's 11th straight on the road (1-10 ATS).
Portland: "Each game is a challenge," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts told reporters after a 113-105 home win over Cleveland on Thursday. "To string together the wins we have been, we've been doing good things at both ends of the floor. And tonight was an example of that as well." Eight of Portland's last 11 games have been played at the Moda Center Portland. "We're doing a good job protecting home court, taking advantage of a little stretch at home," guard CJ McCollum told reporters after the win over Cleveland. McCollum (21.8-3.9-3.2) joins Lillard (26.8-4.5-6.6) to form one of the NBA's best backcourt duos but only center Nurkic (14.1 & 8.6) is a game-in and game-out producer outside of that dynamic guard duo. However, here's the rub. Portland will play eight of its final 13 games on the road, with the remaining opponents at home including Houston, Boston and Utah.
The pick: No interest at all in taking the Pistons (see the team's current results above) but not so sure I want to be in a position of winning this by double digits in order to cover. Detroit is allowing 112.8 PPG during its 11-game road losing streak and Portland is averaging 112.1 PPG during its 11-game overall winning streak. Let's make the Over an 8* play.
|03-17-18||Houston v. Michigan -3||Top||63-64||Loss||-109||25 h 13 m||Show|
The set-up: Michigan came into this tourney as a No. 3 seed, after winning a second straight Big Ten tourney title in Madison Garden. The Wolverines allowed the third-fewest points in their NCAA Tournament history in a 61-47 win over No. 14 seed Montana on Thursday to move to 29-7 on the season. They will now try to reach 30 wins for the first time since 2012-13, by putting the defensive clamps on the sixth-seed Houston Cougars in a second round game of the West Regional on Saturday in Wichita, Kn. 27-7. Houston rode Rob Gray's hot hand to a thrilling 67-65 win against 11th-seeded San Diego State on Thursday, earning the school's first NCAA Tournament victory in 34 years.
Houston: Head coach Kelvin Sampson is one of just 14 coaches to take four schools (Washington State, Oklahoma, Indiana, Houston) to the NCAA Tournament, as.Houston has produced one of its best seasons in decades. Gray exploded for a career-high 39 points against the Aztecs, including the go-ahead layup with 1.1 seconds remaining in the game. He hopes to lead the Cougars to their first Sweet 16 appearance since the days of Phi Slamma Jamma in 1983-84. Gray leads the Cougars with 19.2 points and 4.4 assists, while senior forward Devin Davis adds 10.7 points and a team-best 6.2 rebounds. Junior Corey Davis Jr. contributes 13.4 points while shooting 43.0 percent from the three-point line and sophomore Armoni Brooks - the American Athletic Conference's Sixth Man of the Year - adds 9.5 points and shoots 42.1 percent beyond the arc.
Michigan: The Wolverines are coming off a grind-it-out 61-47 win on Thursday over Montana, a game which saw the Wolverines take control after falling behind 10-0 to start. "I love the way they stayed composed during that time," Michigan head coach John Beilein said. "The first four-minute timeout, the first one, it didn't look good for Michigan at that time. I told them all we need is one basket here, and then let's win the next four minutes. And we did that. And let's win the next four minutes, and we did that. And all of a sudden we're ahead at the half." The 6-11 Wagner leads Michigan in scoring (14.3) and rebounding (7.1) and is joined in the starting lineup up front by the 6-7 Livers, although he contributes little with 3.8 & 2.3. Beilein starts three guards in Matthews (12.8 & 5.6), Abur-Rahkman (12.6-3.9-3.3) and Simpson (7.4 & 3.6 APG). A fourth guard, Robinson (9.5), is a major contributor to the rotation.
the pick: This game is a battle between not only two scorching hot teams (Michigan has won 10 straight and Houston 11 of 13), but also between two of the stiffest defensively in the country. Michigan allows 63.1 PPG (8th) and enters the game No. 3 in the country in defensive efficiency, while Houston allows 64.9 PPG (19th) and is No. 15 in defensive efficiency. Michigan's sophomore guard Zavier Simpson will be matched defensively against Houston's senior guard Rob Gray. These are two tenacious players who haven't backed down from anyone this season and the winner of this matchup could determine the game's winner. I'm pretty much sold on the Wolverines, who have gone 9-1 ATS during their 10-game winning streak and note that Beilein has led the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 in three of their previous four tournament appearances. Make that four in five. Michigan is the 8* play.
|03-17-18||Florida +2 v. Texas Tech||Top||66-69||Loss||-106||24 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up:The Florida Gators scored 25 points off 18 turnovers en route to Ta 77-62 first-round triumph over St. Bonaventure on Thursday. Florida is the East's No. 6 seed and will take its 21-12 record into Saturday's second round game against the 25-9 and third-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders. Tech was 22-4 before star guard Keenan Evans suffered a toe injury in a Feb. 17 loss to Baylor. The Red Raiders lost their final four games of February but after rallying to beat Stephen F. Austin 70-60 , Texas Tech is 25-9 (most wins since a school-record 30-2 season in 1995-96). There's not much to separate the Red Raiders and Gators, as both finished the regular season in the top-25 (Texas Tech at No. 14 and Florida at No. 23) and clawed their way near the top of their highly-rated conferences.Texas Tech tied for second in the Big 12 and Florida finished third in the SEC.
Florida: The Gators could use another strong defensive performance when they face the Red Raiders. "That's what got us going," senior guard Chris Chiozza told reporters. "We got some stops early in the second half and we got out running and got some easy baskets in transition, and we just kind of built momentum from there and was able to maintain it for most of the second half." Chiozza and junior guard KeVaughn Allen were credited for slowing the Bonnies' talented guards. A third guard, junior Jalen Hudson leads four Gators in double figures with 15.3 PPG, while graduate transfer Egor Koulechov, the fourth guard in the starting lineup, adds 13.8 PPG plus a team-high 6.5 rebounds. Chiozza (11.1 PPG and a team-high 6.2 APG) and Allen both average 11.1 PPG. The 6-9 Hayes (4.8 & 5.0) is the lone frontcourt starter, backed up by the 6-8 Stone (8.9 & 4.2).
Texas Tech: Keenan Evans led the team in scoring on the season at 17.7 PPG and has averaged 21.0 points in the Red Raiders’ four games in March. He led the team with 25 points against SF Austin and is joined by freshmen Jarrett Culver (11.5 & 4.7) and Zhaire Smith (11.1 & 4.7) in double figures on the season. Tech is an outstanding defensive team, allowing 64.6 PPG (15th) on 40.3% shooting (14th). The Red Raiders are plus-4.4 in rebound margin and have eight players averaging at least three rebounds per game. and force 15.1 turnovers.
The pick: Texas Tech is trying to reach the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2005, while Florida has won two national championships, as well as making seven trips to the Elite Eight in that span. As Evans goes, so go the Red Raiders. Tech is 12-1 this season when Evans scores at least 20 points. However, Texas Tech had its hands full getting past the Lumberjacks, who led by as many as eight points early in the second half and stayed in front or tied until Texas Tech finished the game on a 13-2 run in the final four minutes. I don't believe Tech will be so lucky in this one. Make Florida an 8* play.
|03-17-18||Wolves +4 v. Spurs||Top||101-117||Loss||-105||12 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up:The Timberwolves and Spurs meet Saturday night in a contest between a pair teams smack in the middle of the crowed Western Conference's playoff scramble. As I've noted often, the No. 3 through No. 10 seeds are separated by just five games. The 40-29 T-wolves are currenly the No. 5 seed, while the 39-30 Spurs own the No. 8 seed. Minnesota may be holding onto the No. 5 spot entering Saturday's play (just one game behind No. 4 OKC) but the T-wolves are only just one game ahead of the No. 8 seed Spurs and two games up on the No. 9 Nuggets, who are currently outside of the playoff cut line. Minnesota is trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 2004 but for San Antonio, it has not missed the playoffs since the 1996-97 campaign .
Minnesota: The T-wolves are feeling good about themselves after back-to-back wins over Golden State and Washington. Minnesota is 4-3 since losing Jimmy Butler () to knee surgery last month and has replaced him in the starting lineup with the 6-10 Nemanja Bjelica (6.8 & 3.8). "Going big" has worked well, with Bjelica averaging 13.9 & 8.3 in his seven starts. The remaining starters are familiar in Towns (20.7-12.2), Wiggins (17.9 7 4.1), Teague (13.6 & 6.9 APG) and Gibson (12.4 & 7.2).
San Antonio: The Spurs share the same record with the Jazz but would finish eighth based on the head-to-head tiebreakers with Utah. With Leonard still sidelined, only Aldridge (22.2 & 8.3) can be counted on nightly. Ten others are averaging between 4.5 and 11.1 PPG, with just two in double digits. Some good news is that the Spurs have won consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 28-30, after knocking off Orlando and New Orleans on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. After holding the Magic to 34.1 percent shooting from the floor in a 108-72 win, the Spurs held on for a 98-93 win over the Pelicans. In fact, Thursday's win over New Orleans was the first for San Antonio over a West playoff contender since knocking off Denver 106-104 back on Jan. 30, and the schedule won't let up the rest of the way. San Antonio will not face a team with a current losing record until visiting the Los Angeles Lakers on April 4.
The pick: In contrast to the Spurs' tough road ahead, the Timberwolves get two more games against winning teams with encounters against Houston and the Clippers, before playing six of their final 10 games against losing teams. A Minnesota win tonight will assure them of at least a .500 season and would be its second victory in the last 26 trips to San Antonio plus would snap an eight-game road losing streak in the series. However, Minnesota snapped a 12-game losing streak in the series with a 98-86 home win on Nov. 15, so I'll argue that the T-wolves are poised to get a "W' tonight. leonard is at best questionable for tonight's game and Aldridge was iffy with a sore knee early in the week,. Make Minnesota a 10* play.
|03-17-18||Buffalo v. Kentucky -5.5||Top||75-95||Win||100||21 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: The Kentucky Wildcats opened the season as the AP's No. 5 team but with a 10-8 SEC record, came into the conference tourney as just the fourth seed. However, the Wildcats cruised past Georgia 62-49 to notch their 11th consecutive win against the Bulldogs and then delivered an 86-63 victory over Alabama in the semifinals, their sixth victory in the last seven games (after losing four straight). Kentucky then took out Tennessee 77-72 in the championship game to win its fourth straight SEC tourney title. The Wildcats picked up their 25th win of the season (against 10 losses) in Thursday's first-round 78-73 win over a game Davidson team in 5 vs.12 matchup. Kentucky expected to meet the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats in the second round but instead will face the 13th-seeded Buffalo Bulls (out of the MAC), who shocked Arizona by winning 89-68. The Bulls have won seven in a row and come in with a record of 27-8.
Buffalo: The 13th-seeded Buffalo pulled off Thursday's biggest upset, outscoring Arizona 49-30 in the second half on its way to a 21-point win. Buffalo (27-8) shredded Arizona's defense with its quickness, getting to the lane for shots at the rim and kickouts to shooters (Buffalo connected on 54.8% of its shots). Defensively, the Bulls pressured Arizona's guards and collapsed around its big men in the lane, forcing the Wildcats to the perimeter. Arizona couldn't convert, going 2 for 18 from beyond the arc, compared to the Bulls knocking down 15 of 30. PG Clark led with 25 points and seven assists. He's one of four Buffalo players averaging 15.0-plus PPG on the season (15.0-3.6-5.4). He's joined by fellow guards Massinburg (16.9 & 7.3) and Harris (15.6 & 6.0) plus the 6-8 Perkins (16.5 & 6.1). Buffalo is averaging 84.9 PPG (6th).
Kentucky: John Calipari's team is again, packed with freshman. 6-9 freshman Kevin Knox shared the conference freshman of the year honors with Alabama's Sexton, and leads the etam at 15.9 PPG (adds 5.4 RPG). Freshman PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (14.0-4.1-5.1) is the team's second-leading scorer, followed by 6-7 freshman Washington (10.6 & 5.4) plus freshman guards Diallo (9.9) and Green (9.5). This year's team is not as high-scoring as Calipari teams of the past and beat Davidson without making a single three-point shot (can't make that up!). That snapped a streak of 1,047 games (which had been best in the nation) with a three-pointer, a mark that began way back in 1988. However, Kentucky shot 51.0% overall in the game, led by Knox's 25 points and Gilgeous-Alexander's 19. Defensively, Kentucky is allowing opponents to shoot just 30.0% on threes, 4th-best in the nation
The pick: This is a matchup of one of CBB's "blue-bloods" and a no-name MAC entry. Buffalo can play (just ask Arizona) but Calipari's team is hitting its stride, entering having won eight of its last nine. Buffalo's great win over Arizona will have to do for one of the NCAA's latest 'Cinderella' teams. Kentucky opened as the AP's No. 5 team, while Buffalo was coming off a 17-15 season. Could anyone ever had imagined back in November that these two would meet in the second round of an NCAA tourney game and that Kentucky would only be about a 'TD' favorite? Make Kentucky a 10* play.
|03-17-18||Rhode Island v. Duke -9.5||Top||62-87||Win||100||18 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The No. 7 Rhode Island Rams won one of the more exciting games on Thursday, edging No. 10 Oklahoma and freshman sensation Trae Young 83-78 in OT. E.C. Matthews led with 16 points and Jared Terrell, the team's leading scorer this season, added 13 points and five assists. Down the stretch, some clutch defense allowed the Rams to win an NCAA tourney game for the second straight season under head coach Dan Hurley. A win on Saturday would allow Rhode Island to advance to the school's first Sweet 16 berth in 20 years. However, for that to happen, the seventh-seeded Rams will need to get past the second-seeded Blue Devils who just took care of Iona 89-67. The Blue Devils outrebounded Iona 39-29 and outscored the Gaels in the paint 46-30.
Rhode Island: Freshman Fatts Russell, who is averaging just 7.0 PPG this season, came off the bench to shine opposite the Sooners' Trae Young. He finished with 15 points in 21 minutes. The 6-9 Cyril Langevine (6.2 & 5.9) posted his fifth double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds, also coming off the bench. Dan Hurley's team is well-rounded and its starting-five delivers excellent balance. Guard Jared Terrell is the leading scorer (17.0), followed by Matthews (13.2 & 4.0). PG Dowtin adds 9.6 PPG and 5.5 APG plus a fourth guard, Stanford Robinson (9.0 & 5.7) is a defensive specialist. The 6-8 Berry (8.9 & 3.9) is the fifth starter. The Rams play outstanding defense, allowing 68.2 PPG (68th).
Duke: Not many teams have been able to slow Marvin Bagley down this season and Iona was no different, as he scored 22 points. Three others scored at least 16 points, led by PG Duval's 19 (he also had eight assists). The freshman PG averages 10.2 & 5.6 APG on the season. Senior Grayson Allen (15.7-3.5-4.6) and freshman Gary Trent Jr. (14.3 & 4.2) each had 16. The 6-9 Carter, who averages 13.6 & 9.3 was held to just 9 & 8. Duke shot 53.7 percent from the floor and will test Rhode Island's defense, as the Blue Devils are averaging 84.8 PPG (7th) on 49.5% shooting (14th).
The pick: Duke has won each of the previous four meetings between the two schools, including twice in the tournament (1978 and 1988). The team's met just last year in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament, as Duke won 75-65. The Rams are a modest 5-4 SU (3-6 ATS) since losing at St. Bonny's (loss ended a school-record 16-game winning streak) , while the Blue Devils are 8-2 SU & ATS their last 10. Is beating Oklahoma (Sooners ended the season on a 4-12 SU & 3-13 ATS run) really a big deal? I think not. Make Duke a 10* play
|03-16-18||Florida State -1 v. Missouri||Top||67-54||Win||100||79 h 10 m||Show|
The set-up: Despite the loss of heralded freshman Michael Porter Jr. (Blue Ribbon's Newcomer of the Year) to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 with a 20-12 overall record. The Tigers are the eighth-seed in the Wst region and will face the No. 9 seed Florida State Seminoles on Friday night a first round game played at Nashville, Tn. The Seminoles ended the season by losing six of their final 10 down the stretch, but their 20-11 mark was good enough to earn them a second straight tournament appearance and a sixth overall under head coach Leonard Hamilton.
Florida State: The Seminoles opened the season having lost four starters off last year's 26-win team and little was expected. However, FSU began the season 9-0 before a one-point loss to Oklahoma State. FSU features a balanced scoring attack with three players averaging between 13.2 and 12.9 points, a trio led by guard Terance Mann (13.2 & 5.7). The others are teh 6-8 Cofer (13.1 & 5.1) and guard Angola (19.-3.8-3.0), Three more players contribute between 7.6 and 8.5 PPG plus big men like the 7-4 Koumadje (7. 4 & 4.7) and the 6-9 Kabengele (7.1 & 4.5) add muscle up front. This is likely Hamilton's best offensive team, as FSU is averaging 81.8 PPG (29th) on 47.4% shooting (43rd).
Missouri: The 6-10 Porter is still considered an NBA lottery pick and returned from back surgery in time to appear in the SEC Tournament in last Thursday's 62-60 loss to Georgia (he scored 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting). However, Missouri will have to play without suspended 6-7 forward Jordan Barnett, the team's second-leading scorer (13.7 points per game) who was arrested for DWI on Saturday. "He's suspended as we speak. He won't play Friday," first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin told reporters Sunday before adding that Barnett could potentially return if the Tigers advance to the second round. Senior Kassius Robertson leads the team with 16.2 PPG while freshman Jontay Porter - Michael's 6-11 brother - is the top rebounder (6.8) and averaged 21 points on 69 percent shooting over his last three contests (10.1 PPG on the season).
The pick: Cuonzo Martin has done an excellent job at Missouri in his first year at the school but the Tigers last won a game in the Round of 64 game back in 2010 (Tigers are 0-4 ATS in their last four NCAA Tournament games). Barnett (also 5.9 RPG) will be missed and Michael Porter's game is far from 100 percent. Missouri is the far better defensive team (68.1 PPG allowed ranks 67th) but despite its recent troubles, I believe FSU can (and will) outscore Missouri. Make FS a 10* play.
|03-16-18||Nets +8.5 v. 76ers||Top||116-120||Win||100||11 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: The Philadelphia 76ers made it 12 wins in their last 17 games with Thursday's 118-110 comeback victory over the New York Knicks at MSG. The 76ers, who are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference at 37-30, took another step toward making the postseason for the first time since 2012 when they outscored New York 35-19 in the fourth quarter. They enter Friday's home contest against the Brooklyn Nets to begin a stretch in which six of seven games are at home. The Nets limp in having lost 18 of their last 21 games after suffering a 116-102 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. Brooklyn's 21-47 record leaves them better than only the 21-48 Magic and 20-49 Hawks among Eastern Conference teams.
Brooklyn: "We're trying to build something here," head coach Atkinson told reporters. "Us finishing the season in an upward take, upward kind of move, it's important to us. So we're kind of playing our own playoffs. Every game for us is huge for our development." PG D'Angelo Russell has put together back-to-back stellar games by averaging 29 points and going 11-of-20 from three-point range during the stretch. He's a quality player, averaging 16.1 & 4.8 APG on the season. PG Spencer Dinwiddie is just 7-of-25 shooting over the past two games but he's shown great promise, as the injury to Lin has given him a chance to show he's an NBA player. Dinwiddie did nothing for Detroit in his first two seasons but after averaging just 7.3 PPG for the Nets last season, he's averaging 13.0 & 6.9 APG in almost 30 minutes this season. The Nets also have six other regulars who are averaging 10-plus points per game. Team D has been a big problem though, as Brooklyn allowing 110.2 PPG (28th).
Philadelphia: Center Joel Embiid (23.6 & 10.9) recorded 29 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double and 35th of the season against the Knicks. He and Ben Simmons (16.2-7.8-7.7) are prime examples that Philly's "Process" is no longer a standing joke in the NBA. Simmons had 13 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists against the Knicks for his eighth triple-double of the season, the second-most by a rookie in NBA history behind legendary Oscar Robertson (26). Simmons also joined Robertson and Magic Johnson as the only rookies in NBA history with at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. Throw in SG Redick (16.6), PF Saric (15.1 & 7.0) and SF Covington (12.6 & 5.4) and the 76ers have a 'big league" starting-five.
The pick: This is a quick turnaround from last Saturday’s meeting in Brooklyn, when Philadelphia crushed the Nets 120-97. It's true that the 76ers have won 13 of 14 SU (12-2 ATS) at the Wells Fargo Center since New Year’s Day but the Sixers have covered just 3 of 10 chances when unrested this season (like here, off a Thursday game at MSG). Meanwhile, it's true the Nets are just 9-24 SU on the road but they are 21-12 ATS, getting outscored by an average of just 5.3 PPG away from home. Take the big points and make Brooklyn an 8* play.
|03-16-18||Georgia State +14 v. Cincinnati||Top||53-68||Loss||-107||71 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The second-seeded 30-4 Cincinnati Bearcats enter the NCAA Tournament with seven straight wins, including a 56-55 triumph over Houston in Sunday’s AAC conference title game. Cincy enters the Big Dance with back-to-back 30-victory seasons, the first time in school history that has happened. Cincy opens NCAA tourney play with the 24-10 and 15th-seeded Georgia State Panthers. Georgia State captured its second Sun Belt Conference title in the past four seasons with Sunday's 74-61 victory over Texas-Arlington.
Georgia State: After losing four of five late in the season, the Panthers enter the Big Dance on a four-game winning streak. Sophomore guard D’Marcus Simonds, the Sun Belt player of the year, averages 21.1 PPG on the season. Senior guard Isaiah Williams, who scored 21 points in the semifinal victory over Georgia Southern as Simonds was saddled with foul trouble, is 9-of-18 from three-point range in his past four games. However, he is averaging only 7.3 PPG on the season. Fellow guard Mitchell checks in at 12.2 PPG plus two 6-5 forwards, Thomas (10.7 & 4,3) and Benlevi (9.6 & 6.5), join the 6-8 Sessions (7.7 & 6.1) up front.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats were known for their defense under Huggins and the same is true under Mick Cronin. Cincy ranks second in points allowed (57.1) and in defensive FG percentage (37.0) 6-8 senior forward Gary Clark averaged 16.3 points per game during the AAC Tournament, shooting 57.7 percent from the floor in three games and leads team with 13.0 PPG and 8.5 RPG on the season. The 6-9 Kyle Washington (11.3 & 5.4) has reached double figures in 10 of his past 13 games, averaging 12.2 points during that stretch while shooting 52.8 percent from the floor. The Bearcats feature a solid guard trio in Evans (12.9-4.6-3.2), Cumberland (10.9-3.4-2.9) and Broome (8.2).
The pick: The Bearcats have limited 23 of their opponents to less than 40 percent shooting from the floor and in 23 games, have held opponents to 60 or fewer points this season. However, Georgia State is no slouch on defense, holding opponents to 67.3 PPG (51st) on 39.3% shooting (6th). It's hard not to notice that the Bearcats were back to playing games in the 50s and 60s in the AAC tourney, content to let the defense dictate tempo. Meanwhile, the team's top-score entering the tourney, Jacob Evans, was in a shooting slump in Orlando, making just 25% from the floor in three games. Georgia State has won its NCAA opener in its past two tournament appearances, beating Wisconsin in 2001 and Baylor in 2015. Another upset here? Not likely but take the big points and make the Panthers an 8* play.
|03-16-18||Marshall v. Wichita State -11||Top||81-75||Loss||-110||70 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: 25-7 Wichita State lost to Houston 77-74 in the American Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals Saturday but begins its journey in the NCAA Tournament as a No.4 seed and will meet No. 13 Marshall on Friday in the first round of the East Region in San Diego. The Shockers are coached by former Marshall assistant Gregg Marshall, marking the first time in NCAA Tournament history that a school's name matches the opposing coach's last name. Wichita State boasts a veteran team which reached the Sweet 16 in 2015 and 2016, before losing to Kentucky in the second round in 2017. As for teh The Thundering Herd, they upset Western Kentucky 67-66 on Saturday to win the C-USA Tournament and will ride a four-game winning streak into their first NCAA Tournament since 1987 with a record of 24-10.
Marshall: Head coach Dan D’Antoni, brother of Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, told reporters. “It’s been a long time coming and Marshall basketball kind of fell off.'' PG Jon Elmore led C-USA in scoring (22.8 points) and assists (6.9). Fellow guard C.J. Burks averaged 20.5 PPG, helping the Thundering Herd average a conference-best 84.4 PPG (12th nationally). That said, no one should overlook 6-8 Ajdin Penava (15.5 & 8.6), who was named C-USA Tournament MVP after averaging 17 points and 8.3 rebounds in the three games. However, an issue for Marshall is the fact that it allows 78.8 PPG, ranking 321st of 351 Division I teams.
Wichita State: Sophomore guard Landry Shamet averages a team-best 15,0 PPG and an AAC-best 5.1 assists. 6-8 senior forward Shaquille Morris has been a force in the middle, averaging 14.0 points and 5.5 rebounds, both career highs. He comes into the Big Dance averaging 16.8 points over his last nine games. 6-9 senior forward Darral Willis Jr. (10.4 & 6.0) and senior guard Conner Frankamp (10.1 points) are also playing their final NCAA Tournaments. 6-8 junior forward Markis McDuffie is averaging 8.5 & 3.2, guard Reaves 8.3 PPG and the 6-7 Kelly, 5.7 PPG but a team-high 7.5 RPG.
The pick: Marshall can score but so can the efficient Shockers, who average 83.0 PPG (19th), on 47.8% shooting (33rd). Wichita State got shipped 1,363 miles away to San Diego but the Shockers are deep AND experienced. Marshall's first NCAA trip since 1987 ends after one game. Lay the points and make Wichita State an 8* play.
|03-16-18||Providence +3.5 v. Texas A&M||Top||69-73||Loss||-108||69 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: The Providence Friars (No. 10 seed) are in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive season and will meet No. 7 seed Texas A&M in the West Region on Friday in Charlotte, N.C. Providence finished in a three-way tie for third in the Big East (10-8), before playing in three straight overtime games in the conference tournament, including a loss to Villanova in the championship game on Saturday. The Aggies reached the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons, overcoming an 0-5 start in SEC play to finish 9-9 and tied for seventh with Mississippi State. A&M then lost on a buzzer-beater to Alabama in the team's conference tournament opener but still got a 7-seed with a 20-12 record (A&M opened the 2017-18 season at 11-1).
Providence: The 21-13 Friars feature three double digit scorers in 6-8 senior Rodney Bullock (14.0 & 5.8), 6-7 sophomore guard Alpha Diallo (13.0 & 6.6) and senior PG Kyron Cartwright (11.8 & 5.4 APG). Diallo is coming off his sixth double-double of the season, posting 22 points and 10 rebounds in the overtime loss to Villanova. He played well while the Friars went 3-3 against Villanova and Xavier this season, a positive sign considering those conference foes earned top seeds for this tournament.Providence averages 73.7 PPG but also allows 72.7.
Texas A&M; Tyler Davis, the team's 6-10 center led in scoring () and was second in rebounding this season (8.8) but he was held to single digits in the loss to Alabama on Thursday, although for just the fifth time thi season. Guard Admon Gilder (12.2 & 4.2) and the 6-9 DJ Hogg (11.3 & 5.2) were all key members of the Texas A&M team that reached the Sweet 16 two years ago. The 6-10 Williams adds 10.3 RPG and a team-high 9.0 RPG, while guard Starks chips in 9.0 PPG.
The pick: The Aggies' good size of Davis (6-10), Hogg (6-9) and Williams (6-10) could pose problems for Providence but after that 11-1 start, A&M has gone just 9-11 SU and 8-12 ATS in its last 20 games. A&M was part of an SEC-record eight teams to make the NCAA Tournament but none were seeded higher than No. 3 Tennessee in the South Region. A&M can be had and Providence sure got battle-tested with three consecutive OT games in the Big East tourney, including overcoming a 17-point deficit in knocking off No. 1 seeded Xavier, then nearly erased an 11-point deficit in a hard-fought 76-66 OT loss to Villanova in the title game. SEC favorites are only 13-18-2 ATS in the Big Dance since 2013, while Ed Cooley’s Friars team went a money-making 9-2 ATS its last 11 as a single-digit underdog! Make Providence an 8* play.
|03-15-18||Pistons v. Nuggets -7.5||Top||113-120||Loss||-109||13 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets have hurt their cause in the Western Conference playoff race with three losses in their last five games. Denver fell 112-103 at the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, falling into 10th place in the West at 37-31, although the Nuggets are just one game out of a playoff spot. The Nuggets remain a strong home team at 26-10 but they are just 11-21 on the road. So, with their longest road trip of the season on the horizon (will play) seven consecutive contests away from home, Thursday's home matchup with the reeling Detroit Pistons is practically a "must-win" scenario for the Nuggets. Acquiring Blake Griffin in a blockbuster deal six weeks ago was supposed to be a difference-maker for the Pistons but after Detroit's 110-79 loss in Utah on Tuesday, the team has lost 11 of its last 14.
Detroit: The Pistons are now 30-37 and five games out of the final playoff spot in the East. Detroit's starters combined for 43 points on 16-of-43 shooting in the loss at Utah (Griifin was 5 of 16 with points) and the defeat was Detroit's 10th straight on the road. The lopsided contest allowed rookie Luke Kennard to see a personal-high 36 minutes and he responded with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting. However, the 12th pick in last year's draft is averaging only 6.7 PPG in about 18 1/2 MPG. Griffin's numbers are solid (19.8-6.5-5.6) but he's done absolutely nothing to improve this team.
Denver: "We've just got to win games," center Mason Plumlee told reporters after the second chippy contest with the Lakers in less than a week. "We've got to go home and beat Detroit. We're done with the Lakers for the season, so you've got to move on." Denver led by 13 points with just over two minutes left in the third quarter at Los Angeles, before fading down the stretch. The loss dropped Denver to just SU on the road, which hardly inspires confidence for a team looking forward to (dreading?) an upcoming seven-game road trip. Wilson Chandler was one of the bright spots against the Lakers, scoring 26 points. However, it's been Denver's guard trio of Harris (17.8), Murray (16.2) and Barton (14.9-4.1-5.0) which has given the Nuggets consistent perimeter scoring. Center Jokic (17.1 & 10.4) and now healthy PF Millsap (14.0 & 6.3) are tasked with the heavy lifting up front.
The pick: This is clearly a "must win" for Denver and as noted, Detroit limps in on a 3-11 SU run overall (3-11 ATS too), as well as on an 0-10 SU & 1-9 ATS run on the road. Make Denver an 8* play.
|03-15-18||San Diego State +4 v. Houston||Top||65-67||Win||100||70 h 6 m||Show|
|03-15-18||Stephen F Austin +11.5 v. Texas Tech||Top||60-70||Win||100||70 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: An injury to its best player cost Texas Tech a chance to win the Big 12 regular-season and/or the conference tourney tournament title but the Red Raiders did earn a favorable NCAA Tournament draw. Texas Tech earned a No. 3 seed in the East region and will get to play in Dallas on Thursday and again on Saturday, if it advances. Texas Tech enters the tourney 24-9 on the season and ranked 14th in the final regular season poll by the AP. The Red Raiders will face 14th-seeded and in-state foe Stephen F. Austin on Thursday. The Lumberjacks enter the NCAA Tournament, the school's fourth appearance in the last five years, with 10 wins in the their last 11 games, including a 59-55 upset win over top-seeded Southeast Louisiana in the Southland championship game, as the league's third-seed.
SF Austin: Forward T.J. Holyfield closed the Southland Tournament with consecutive double-doubles and has averaged 13.0 points and a team-best 6.4 rebounds per game. Guards Shannon Bogues (15.4 points) and Kevon Harris (14.6 & 5.4) also average double figures with the Harris shooting a team-best 43.2 percent from three-point range, which ranked second in the Southland. This is a good offensive team, averaging 81.1 PPG (3th) on 48.8% shooting (20th). The Lumberjacks also can play a little D, allowing 68.1 PPG (69th).
Texas Tech: Chris Beard’s Red Raiders finished second in the Big 12 behind perennial champion Kansas and beat Texas 73-69 in their Big 12 Tournament opener before falling to third-seeded West Virginia 66-63 in the semifinals. It's the school's first 20-win season in 11 years and its most wins since a school-record 30-2 season in 1995-96. It also will be the second NCAA Tournament appearance in the last decade for the Red Raiders. The Red Raiders started 14-1 and were 22-4 a little more than a month later when they climbed to No. 6 in the national polls – the high-water mark in program history. However, Keenan Evans suffered a toe injury in a Feb. 17 loss to Baylor and totaled only 12 points in the school’s final four games in February, including a Feb. 26 contest at West Virginia where he sat out entirely, contributing heavily to Texas Tech’s four-game tailspin entering March. Evans led the team in scoring on the season at 17.5 PPG and has averaged 20.3 points in the Red Raiders’ three games since. He is joined by freshmen Jarrett Culver (11.7 & 4.8) and Zhaire Smith (11.2 & 4.7) in double figures on the season. Tech is an outstanding defensive team, allowing 64.3 PPG (18th) on 40.3% shooting (15th).
The pick: I noted at the top that Tech is happy to be playing in Dallas but I must add that Stephen F Austin is actually about 200 miles closer to the Metroplex from its Nacodoches base. Texas Tech has won eight of the nine meetings over the last 21 years but the two schools haven’t met since 2011. SF Austin more than held its own in three close games at SEC venues (close losses at Miss. State & Mizzou plus a win at LSU). Throw in the fact that in two of their last three NCAA tourney appearances, the Lumberjacks have notched first-round upsets as a 13th and 12th seed, respectively, beating West Virginia (70-56 in 2016) and VCU (77-75 in 2014). SF Austin is the very definition of a 'live dog!' Take the points and make them a 10* play.
|03-15-18||Raptors v. Pacers +3.5||Top||106-99||Loss||-103||11 h 5 m||Show|
The set-up: The Toronto Raptors have won nine straight games (two shy of matching the franchise mark), as well as 16 of their last 17 and 18 of their last 20. Tuesday's 116-102 triumph in Brooklyn gave Toronto 50 victories for the third straight season and the Raptors' 50-17 mark has them 4 1/2 games up on Boston in the race for the East's No. 1 seed. The Raptors seek their 10th consecutive victory with a visit to the hard-charging Indiana Pacers, who earned a big 101-98 win Tuesday in Philadelphia to maintain their grip on third place in the East, a half-game ahead of Cleveland. Indiana's win was the team's 10th time in its last 13 contests, giving them a 40-28 record (who needs Paul George?).
Toronto: The All Star backcourt of DeRozan (23.6-4.0-5.1) and Lowry (16.4-5.6-6.7) were limited to a total of 26 points at Brooklyn but center Jonas Valanciunas shouldered the load with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Along with PF Ibaka (12.7 & 6.1), Valanciunas (12.3 & 8.5) has been a steady presence in Toronto's frontcourt. The Raptors tied a franchise record for consecutive 100-point games with 20 in a row in the win over the Nets (Raptors are the East's highest scoring team at 112.3 PPG) and now have set their sights on 60 wins. They would need to win 10 if their last 15 games. "It's never been done (in Toronto)," Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan told the Toronto Star. "Not many people get the opportunity to win 60-plus games. We came close a couple of years ago. That's big."
Indiana: Center Myles Turner (13.8 & 7.0) scored 25 points in the 101-98 triumph at Philly and has averaged 21.3 in his last four games. Thaddeus Young (11.6 & 6.1) added 19 points and 10 rebounds as Indiana showed its resiliency and depth in a tough road game that saw guards Victor Oladipo and Bojan Bogdanovic combine to make only 5-of-32 shots. However, Oladipo (23.6-5.3-4.3) and Sabonis (11.7 & 7.9), the two players acquired for Paul George, have been everything and more, for the Pacers. Indiana has won 21 of its last 30 games but in the tightly bunched East, the team is well aware that while it may be the No. 3 seed at the moment, the Pacers are closer to the No. 8 seed (4 1/2-game lead) than they are to the No. 2 seed (5 1/2-game deficit).
The pick: The two teams split their first two meetings this season, with the home team winning each one. Hard to buck the Raptors and it's not good news for Indian fans (bettors) that Domantas Sabonis suffered a left ankle sprain at Philadelphia and will miss Thursday's game. However, just like 'it felt" like a good spot to take the Raptors at home over tehg red-hot Rockets on , "it feels" like the right time to take the Pacers over the Raptors, here. Make Indiana a 10* play.
|03-15-18||NC State +2.5 v. Seton Hall||Top||83-94||Loss||-107||67 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: It's an 8-9 matchup in the first-round of the Midwest Region from Wichita, Kn. on Thursday, as eighth-seeded Seton Hall (21-11) takes on ninth-seeded North Carolina State (21-11). The Wolfpack and Pirates each had successful regular seasons but both are coming off early losses in their conference tournaments, with N.C. State losing to Boston College 91-87 in its first ACC tournament game and Seton Hall being upset by Butler 75-74 in its opening game at the Big East Conference tournament. Seton Hall has lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons and hasn't won a tournament game since 2004. N.C. State is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years.
NC State: the Wolpack were coming off back-to-back 16 and 15-win seasons and were picked 12th in an ACC preseason poll. However, the team figured things out in its first season under coach Kevin Keatts. Guard Allerik Freeman was a graduate transfer and was the team's leading scorer at 15.4 PPG. 7-0 center Omer Yurtseven (13.8 & 6.8) and guatrd Tori Dorin (13.8 & 6.1) check in as double digit scorers as well, while five others averaged between 5.4 and 8.8 PPG (that group includes PG Johnson, who is averaging 7.4). NC State pushes the pace, averaging 81.2 PPG (32nd) on 47.0% shooting (59th).
Seton Hall: The Pirates are a veteran team that features four senior starters, including Khadeen Carrington (14.9 & 4.5 APG) and leading scorer Desi Rodriguez who averages 17.8 points and 4.9 rebounds. And then there's senior center Angel Delgado (13.3 & 11.6), the Big East's all-time leader in rebounds and just the second player in history to lead the Big East in rebounding in three different seasons. But don't forget sophomore guard Myles Powell who was named the Big East Most Improved Player after averaging 15.4 points per game, second-most on the team.Seton Hall is a solid offensive team, as well (79.0 PPG ranks 57th).
The pick: Seton Hall's loss in the Big East quarterfinal was a heartbreaker, as Carrington converted a three-point play with 11 seconds to play, giving the Pirates a one-point lead, However, Butler's Tyler Wideman scored on a putback with four seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs the win. One wonders just how the Pirates will play here. Uptempo NC State wants an open court game and I think the Wolfpack will win a contest like that. Keatts was a high school coach just a few years ago but has led his team to the NCAA tourney, something Mark Gottfried couldn’t do with Dallas Mavericks star Dennis Smith Jr. on the roster last year. Also, the Wolfpack have notched noteworthy wins over Arizona, Duke, Clemson & North Carolina,. Make NC State an 8* play.
|03-15-18||South Dakota State +8 v. Ohio State||Top||73-81||Push||0||66 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Ohio State (No. 5 seed) against South Dakota State (No. 12 seed) meet in a first-round West Regional matchup Thursday in Boise, Idaho. Yes, Ohio State owns the higher seed and the more recognizable name but South Dakota State has more recent NCAA Tournament experience on its ledger entering this contest. The Buckeyes earned an at-large bid out of the Big Ten with their 24-8 record and will be making their 28th Big Dance appearance overall but their first since 2015 under former coach Thad Matta. Meanwhile, the 28-6 Jackrabbits captured an automatic NCAA bid by winning the Summit League tourney, afterfinishing first in the conference with a 13-1 league record during the regular season. It will be the third straight NCAA Tournament appearance for the Jackrabbits and fifth in the last seven seasons for the program which moved up to the Division I level in just 2005.
South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits are guided by second-year coach T.J. Otzelberger, won their 11th straight game with a 97-87 victory over South Dakota in the Summit League championship game. 6-9 junior forward Mike Daum is the team's best player, leading in scoring (23.8) and rebounding (10.4). Freshman guard David Jenkins Jr. (16.1) and 6-7 Reed Tellinghuisen (12.0 & 4.7) also average in double figures for South Dakota State, while a third guard King, averaged 9.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG. South Dakota State ranks sixth nationally in averaging 84.9 PPG and and shoots 40.3 percent as a team from three-point range (12th nationally).
Ohio State: The Buckeyes have had a stronger-than-expected season under new coach Chris Holtmann (via Butler), finishing in a tie for second in the Big Ten at 15-3 before getting upended by Penn State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament. That 69-68 loss March 2 in New York was the third defeat in five games for Ohio State, which boasts four double-digit scorers, led by 6-7 junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, the Big Ten’s Player of the Year, who averages 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds. SF Jae’Sean Tate (12.5 & 6.2) points), point guard C.J. Jackson (12.2-3.8-3.9) and freshman forward Kaleb Wesson (10.8 & 5.2) also average double digits.
The pick: The Ohio State roster only features seven combined games of NCAA Tournament experience and two combined starts, both by Tate. However, Holtmann guided Butler to the Big Dance in each of his three seasons as the Bulldogs’ coach. Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits are in the NCAA field for the third consecutive year and fifth time in the past seven seasons. They've won 19 of their last 20 games but are looking for their first NCAA Tournament win (South Dakota State is 0-4 all-time in NCAA Tournament play). We all know that a No. 12 seed has beaten a No. 5 seed in nine of the last 10 NCAA Tournaments and 12s have won 11 of the last 24 such first-round matchups overall. The Jackrabbits have covered as an underdog in pre-conference games away from home vs. Iowa, Buffalo, Ole Miss & Wichita State, while narrowly failing to cover as a 4 1/2-point underdog in 112-103 double OT loss at Colorado. The Jackrabbits have covered three consecutive as an underdog in the Round of 64. After suffering first-round losses to Gonzaga and Maryland as a 16th and 12th seeds, respectively, the last two seasons, "the third time may just be the charm." Take the points and make South Dakota State an 8* play.
|03-15-18||Oklahoma +2 v. Rhode Island||Top||78-83||Loss||-104||63 h 42 m||Show|
The set-up: Oklahoma was a highly-controversial selection by the NCAA Tournament, as after a great 2017 part to the current season (Sooners were 12-1 as of Jan. 3, including three wins over ranked teams), Oklahoma went 6-12 (4-11 last 15 after getting bounced from the Big 12 Tournament in the first round) the rest of the way. However, the 18-13 Sooners not only made the field but garnered a No. 10 seed. Oklahoma will meet No. 7 Rhode Island on Thursday in the Midwest Region in Pittsburgh. The 25-7 Rams were the Atlantic 10 regular-season champions (15-3) but were unable to capture a second straight Atlantic 10 Tournament title, losing 58-57 last Sunday to Davidson.
Oklahoma: Freshman Trae Young led the nation in scoring (27.4) and assists (8.8) for this Lon Kruger-coached team that averaged 85.2 PPG (4th). However, while everyone knows what Young can do, it's the rest of the team that will decide if the Sooners can advance out of the first round. Junior guard Christian James (12.1 & 4.3) had been solid with seven straight games in double figures before going scoreless in the Sooner's 71-60 loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament. 6-9 freshman Brady Manek (10.4 & 5.1) is the only other player averaging in double figures for Kruger but he has only scored more than nine points once in the past seven games.
Rhode Island: Redshirt senior E.C. Matthews recorded 20 points and eight rebounds but the Rams lost their second low-scoring game to Davidson in the last two weeks in the Atlantic 10 final. Dan Hurley's team is well-rounded and its starting-five delivers excellent balance. Guard Jared Terrell is the leading scorer (17.2), followed by Matthews (13.1). PG Dowtin adds 9.7 PPG and 5.5 APG plus a fourth guard, Stanford Robinson (9.1 & 5.7) is a defensive specialist. The 6-8 Berry (9.0 & 3.9) is the fifth starter and the 6-9 Langevine (5.9 & 5.7) makes solid contributions off the bench. Rhode Island averages almost 10 points less than Oklahoma at 76.2 PPG. However, the Rams play outstanding defense, allowing 67.9 PPG (61st).
The pick: Young certainly helped the Sooners get this berth, as they are the only team in the field, excluding First Four teams, to make it with fewer than 19 victories. Sure, Oklahoma is a controversial pick and not only did the Sooners go 4-11 SU down the stretch, they were also a money-burning 3-12 ATS in that stretch. However, let's not ignore the Ram's real struggles after the team's school-record 16-game win streak was snapped by St. Bonny on Feb. 16. Rhode Island was just 4-4 SU including that loss to the Bonnies, going 2-6 ATS. Rhode Island faltered in the final three minutes of a pair of losses to Davidson in March (by two points and one point) and that hardly bodes well here vs. an Oklahoma team which will be playing with a YUGE chip on its shoulders. Make Oklahoma an 8* play.
|03-14-18||Wizards v. Celtics -1||Top||125-124||Loss||-105||12 h 17 m||Show|
The set-up: The Toronto Raptors easily handled the Nets 116-102 last night (the team's ninth straight win) and moved four full games ahead of the 46-21 Boston Celtics for the East's No. 1 seed. The Celtics will welcome the 38-30 Washington Wizards to the TD Garden tonight but they will be severely shorthanded. PG Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) is among the four players who will miss the contest while power forward Al Horford is questionable due to illness. Marcus Smart (thumb), Jaylen Brown (concussion) and forward Daniel Theis (knee) will also be in street clothes for a team that has dealt with injuries since losing small forward Gordon Hayward to a broken ankle in the season opener. As for the Wizards, Washington is struggling with five losses in its past seven games after losing 116-111 to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. The Wizards currently own the East's No. 5 seed, two games back of the No. 3 seed but also just two games ahead of the No. 8 seed.
Washington: Markieff Morris (11.4 & 5.8) stood out with a season-high 27 points in the loss to Minnesota, with leading scorer Beal (23.2-4.5-4.6) adding a modest 19. However, Tomas Satoransky continues to play well in place of injured All-Star John Wall (knee) and recorded 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals against the T-wolves. Wall has been out for the last six weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery. He is working out but there's still no target date for a return.
Boston: Theis was ruled out for the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee. He has been a key member of the rotation lately, with averages of 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while recording 48 blocked shots and 30 steals. The Celtics have struggled offensively most of the season (104.4 PPG ranks 20th) and know with mounting injuries, will need to rely on its excellent defense even more. Boston enters the game allowing 100.2 PPG (2nd) on 43.6% shooting (1st).
The pick: These teams engaged in a vicious seven-game playoff series last spring and have split the first two contests of their four-game season series this season, each winning on the other's court. I expect that to change here and look for Boston to win and cover in this one. The Celtics allow just 99.7 PPG at home and that's the key. Make Boston a 10* play.
|03-13-18||Nuggets v. Lakers +2||Top||103-112||Win||100||25 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The Denver Nuggets finished off a 2-1 homestand with a 130-104 rout of Sacramento on Sunday and at 37-30, remain tied with the Jazz and Spurs for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. Denver is 26-10 at home but the Nuggets will play 10 of their final 15 contests on the road, where they are just 11-20. The first of those 10 road games comes tonight at Staples Center against the LA Lakers. The Lakers may be just 30-36 but after they fell 125-116 at Denver on Friday, they bounced back to roll over the Cavs 127-113 on Sunday at home, improving to 15-7 in their last 22 games.
Denver: If the Nuggets are going to make the playoffs, they will have to perform better on the road. Nikola Jokic notched his seventh triple-double with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in the win over the Kings, as Denver led by as many as 36 points. Long overdue for a blowout like that," forward Paul Millsap told reporters after the Nuggets' most lopsided victory since Nov. 17. PF Millsap (14.4 & 6.3) just returned from a wrist injury on Feb 27 and has averaged 12.3 & 6.6 in his seven games back (Nuggets are 4-3). Jokic (17.2 & 10.4) really stepped up in his absence, as he was the only frontcourt player of note when Millsap was sidelined. However, Denver features a strong trio of guards in Harris (17.8), Murray (16.2) and Barton (15.0-5.0-4.2).
LA Lakers: Los Angeles will be beginning a back-to-back tonight, which also involves a visit to Golden State on Wednesday. Head coach Luke Walton is electing to give standout forward Brandon Ingram (16.2-5.4-3.9), who has missed five straight games with a strained groin, both games off before he is re-evaluated. Julius Randle is averaging 22.4 points with Ingram out and Brook Lopez has posted 21.2 PPG in the same stretch. Randle is now up to 15.5 & 7.7 on the season, while Thomas checks in a 15.9 PPG in his 12 games with LA and the "steal of the 2017 NBA Draft (27th pick)," Kyle Kuzma, averages 15.3 & 6.0.
The pick: The Nuggets are not only just 11-20 SU on the road this year (where they are allowing 110.2 PPG) but they are just 5-16 on the road vs. Western Conference opponents. The Lakers are 6 1/2 games behind the Nuggets, Jazz and Clippers with 16 games left, so it's highly unlikely LA will be playoff-bound this April. However, the Lakers have won seven of their last nine and since losing 106-81 to OKC back on Feb. 8, have topped 100 points in each of their last 12 games, averaging 117.7 PPG! Make LA a 10* play.
|03-13-18||Pistons +8.5 v. Jazz||Top||79-110||Loss||-110||24 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The Utah Jazz have won six straight and 18 of their last 20 games but can't seem to put any distance between themselves and the crowded Western Conference field, behind Houston and Golden State. The 37-30 Jazz are currently tied with the Nuggets and Spurs and sit just a half-game back of the No. 7 LA Clippers (37-29). The Jazz will try to win their seventh straight when they host the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday. The Pistons have been off since snapping a four-game slide with a 99-83 win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday and are sitting in the No. 9 spot in the East at 30-36. However, Detroit enters play on Tuesday five games behind the eighth-place Milwaukee Bucks, with the Pistons having just 16 games left to make up the difference.
Detroit: There was plenty of talk that Blake Griffin would "put Detroit over the top," but that surely hasn't been the case. Griffin is averaging 20.2-6.8-5.8 in his 17 games with Detroit but the Pistons enter this contest having lost 10 of their last 13. Center Drummond (14.9 & 15.8) is a double-double 'machine' but the fact that PG Jackson (14.6 & 5.5 APG) hasn't played since Dec. 26, remains a huge negative. Detroit has fallen off the pace in the postseason race and begins a six-game trip here in Utah, having gone just 9-22 SU away from home this season.
Utah: The Jazz know that they need to avoid the temptation of dwelling on what the other teams around them in the standings are doing. The key is to just concentrate on winning. "Winning feels good: You don't need another reward," Ricky Rubio told reporters. "It's a win, you go home and you feel good about yourself and feel you did a good job. That's why we're doing what we're doing." Rubio collected 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists on Sunday, his second consecutive points-rebounds double-double. Rubio's had a solid season (12.5-4.5-5.3) but the team's fortunes will rest on the shoulders of rookie guard Mitchell (team-best 19.8 PPG) and center Gobert (13.5 & 10.6). The Jazz are 19-4 since Gobert returned to the court back on Jan. 19 .
The pick: The Pistons are not only just 3-10 their last 13 but they are also just 3-10 ATS in that span. They need this game badly. Take the points and make the Pistons an 8* play.
|03-13-18||Long Island +4.5 v. Radford||Top||61-71||Loss||-100||21 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The first game of the 2018 NCAA Tourney tips off Tuesday at 6:40 ET from Dayton Ohio, when 18-16 LIU-Brooklyn (NEC) squares off against 22-12 Radford, champs of the Big South. It is a meeting of programs searching for their first NCAA Tournament victory, with the winner moving on to face the East's top seed, Viillanova, Thursday at Pittsburgh.The LIU Blackbirds are on a five-game win streak that includes a 71-61 Northeast Conference championship game upset over Wagner (regular season champ) on its homecourt as a 9 1/2-point underdog. The co-16th seeded Radford Highlanders come in having won their last seven contests, including the Big South title game which they won 55-52 on a three-pointer at the buzzer .
LIU-Brooklyn:The Blackbirds are in the field for the seventh time but for the first time since making it three straight years (2011-13). The team is coached by Derek Kellogg, who is in his first season after spending nine years at UMass, where he took the Minutemen to the Big Dance once. LIU uses a four-guard lineup and all average in double digits, led by the NEC’s second-leading scorer, Joel Hernandez (20.9). He has been the team's go-to player all season and scored 32 points explosion in the championship game victory over Wagner. Senior guard Hernandez also contributes 5.9 RPG and is joined in double digits by fellow guards Clark (17.4), Agosto (11.7-4.1-4.1) and Batts (10.0 & 4.3). Junior guard Raiquan Clark also leads the team in rebounding at 7.1 per game. The 6-8 Van Sauers has been the fifth starter but he contributes only 2.0 & 2.3. However, the 6-7 Coleman adds 6.5 & 6.5 off the bench.
Radford: Freshman PG Carlik Jones drained a long three-pointer at the buzzer to beat Liberty 55-52, giving Radford its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2009. Clark (11.8 & 3.0 APG) is joined by just one other double digit scorer, the Highlanders' 6-5 small forward Ed Polite Jr, who leads the team in scoring (13.5) and rebounding (7.1). However, Polite has made just 5-for-20 from the floor over the last two games. Jones averaged 14.5 PPG in the Big South Tournament (13-5-6 in the title game), while sophomore forward Devonnte Holland contributed 11 points and seven rebounds in the championship game and sophomore guard Travis Fields Jr. averaged 11.5 PPG in the team's last two contests..
The pick: It's an interesting matchup of head coaches, Derek Kellogg of LIU (see above) and Mike Jones, in his seventh season with the Highlanders. He spent time as an assistant under Shaka Smart at VCU and was the architect of the vaunted VCU "Havoc defense" (he was on the bench when VCU made its Final Four run in 2011). Radford's defense is one of the nation's best, allowing 64.4 PPG (14th). However, LIU is embracing its long-shot Cinderella story, with Blackbirds entering the tournament with the second-most losses of any team (Texas Southern is 15-19). No doubt LIU faces a tough Radford defense but the Blackbirds have excellent scorers in Hernandez and Clark, plus those two get some pretty solid support (LIU averages 77.5 PPG). Meanwhile, the Highlanders are a workman-like team that is hardly very efficient on the offensive end, averaging only 67.4 PPG (314th) on 42.6% shooting (279th). We could have another buzzer-beater, as this matchup has all the makings for a close game. Take the points and make LIU a 10* play.
|03-12-18||Heat v. Blazers -7.5||Top||99-115||Win||100||13 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The Western Conference race behind Houston and Golden State features eight teams vying for six playoff berths. There are just 3 1/2 games separating the No. 3 through No. 10 seeds. However, Portland has used a nine-game winning streak to put a little separation between themselves and the rest of the pack. The 40-26 Trail,Blazers currently hold down the No. 3 seed, two games clear of a trio of teams vying for the No. 4 spot and 3 1/2 ahead of three teams tied for eighth. The Blazers welcome the 36-31 Miami Heat to the Moda Center on Monday. The Heat are in a similar battle for position in the East (No. 3 thru No. 8 seeds are separated by 4 1/2 games) and are currently holding down the No. 7 spot, with the third-seeded Indiana Pacers only 3 1/2 games in front of them entering Monday. Miami comes in with two straight wins over teams above it in the standings, most recently crushing the Washington Wizards 129-102 on Saturday.
Miami: The Heat will begin a three-game road trip with this contest, one that continues Wednesday at Sacramento and Friday in Los Angeles against the Lakers. The Heat's win over the Wizards was somewhat tempered by the fact that Dwyane Wade went down with a strained hamstring and does not expect to play on Monday. Wade is averaging 15.7 points in six games this month and the team is 7-5 in 12 games since he was acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The fact that center Hassan Whiteside (14.3 & 11.8) sat out Saturday with a hip issue and is questionable for Monday, makes for more bad news for the Heat. Both players made the trip to Portland but Wade has all but declared himself out of commission for tonight's game.
Portland: The Blazers aren't taking their position as the No. 3 seed for granted, as the squad continues to stay up to date on the teams chasing them in the standings. "I think we're all very much aware of what the standings are and there's not a team in that group 3-10 that has the luxury to get too excited about anything one way or the other," Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told reporters. Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 58 points on Friday as Portland knocked off the defending champion Golden State Warriors 125-108. Lillard is averaging 26.8-4.5-6.5 and McCollum 21.8-4.0-3.2, making for one of the league's best backcourt duos. However, center Nurkic is the only other Portland player in double digits (14.0 & 8.4).
The pick: Portland has been fortunate to face opponents with key players missing this month, including Minnesota (Jimmy Butler), Oklahoma City (Carmelo Anthony) and Golden State (Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala). The Blazers good fortune may continue tonight, as Wade is almost assuredly out and Whiteside may miss as well. That said, don't think the Blazers are no more than lucky. "They're a dangerous team out west," Miamia head coach Spoelstra said. "They have some continuity from the last couple of years. They seem to be gaining confidence. They know who they are. They have a couple of guys (McCollum and Damian Lillard) who can take over in close games. And, they're very well-coached. Terry (Stotts) has done a really nice job with that team. He has developed a program that absolutely fits the strength of that team." In particular, Lillard is averaging 34.7 points and playing some of the best ball of his six-year career over the last 11 games. Portland has taken the last four in the series, including a 102-95 victory at Miami back on Dec. 13. Make the Blazers a 10* play.
|03-11-18||Jazz v. Pelicans +2.5||Top||116-99||Loss||-102||5 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: The 36-30 Utah Jazz are in New Orleans to take on the 38-27 Pelicans. Both teams are right in the middle of a Western Conference playoff race that features eight teams battling for the final six playoff berths. The No. 3 thru No. 10 seeds are separated by just four games, with just six of the eight being able to earn berths behind Houston and Golden State. The Pelicans are currently the No. 4 seed, while the Jazz are currently on the outside looking in on the playoff picture but sitting just a half-game back of the Clippers. who occupy the the and final Western Conference playoff berth.
Utah: The Jazz enter play on Sunday tied with Denver but just a half-game back of the 8th-seeded Clippers and for that matter, just 2 1/2 games back of the fourth-seeded Pelicans. Utah has taken the first two of its three-game trip by a total of 37 points and has won five straight and 17 of its last 19 contests. Utah picked up its 10th consecutive road win with a 95-78 triumph at Memphis on Friday in which it held the Grizzlies to 37.3 percent shooting. Utah managed to find enough offense against Memphis despite star rookie Donovan Mitchell slumping to 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting, just the third time in the last 12 games that he failed to reach 20 points. Mitchell has been a huge factor for Utah this season, averaging a team-high 19.7 PPG. The return of center Rudy Gobert (13.4 & 10.5 RPG) has also been big, as the Jazz are 18-4 since he returned to the court back Jan. 19 on .SF Jae Crowder looks like he's found a home in Salt Lake City, averaging 13.5 PPG in his 11 games with the Jazz.
New Orleans. The Pelicans' 10-game winning streak didn't provide much separation from the rest of the pack in the Western Conference and they badly missed star forward Anthony Davis while watching their winning streak come to an end on Friday. Davis suffered a sprained ankle in a 114-101 win at Sacramento on Wednesday but sat out Friday as New Orleans returned home and watched their winning streak disappear in a 116-97 loss to the Washington Wizards. Guard Jrue Holiday, who had emerged as a second scoring option behind Davis during the winning streak, was held to four points on 2-of-8 shooting without Davis around to draw the defense on Friday. Holiday (19.2-4.3-5.7 on the season), averaged 24.9 points on 52.1 percent shooting and 8.5 assists during the winning streak. The Pelicans hope to have Davis back in the lineup when they host the hard-charging Utah Jazz on Sunday.
The pick: Without Davis (28.1 & 11.2), the Pelicans will have to rely on Nikola Mirotic to fill in the gaps on the frontline against Utah. Mirotic was brought in to replace the previously injured Boogie Cousins (25.2 & 12.9) and in his 14 games with New Orleans, has averaged 15.1 & 8.2, Obviously, having Davis means a lot but I like New Orleans either way and we'll get a much better line (and a margin of error), without him. Make New Orleans a 10* play.
|03-11-18||Houston v. Cincinnati -4.5||Top||55-56||Loss||-105||7 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the top-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats (29-4) facing the third-seeded Houston Cougars (26-6) in the American Athletic Conference Tournament final in Orlando. The Bearcats are currently ranked No. 8 in the AP poll and the Cougars are ranked 21st. The Bearcats have defeated SMU (61-51) and Memphis (70-60) in their first two games of this event, while the Cougars knocked off UCF 84-56, before riding Rob Gray's 33 points to a 77-74 win over Wichita State (league's No. 2 seed and the AP's 11th-ranked team) on Saturday. This marks Houston's first trip to the AAC title game but the Cougars know they can beat the Bearcats, as they did it as recently as Feb. 15, when Houston Cincinnati's snapped national-best snapped winning streak at 16 games in a 67-62 home victory.
Houston: The Cougars only had seven turnovers in Saturday's win and that proved to be the difference, along with 7-of-15 combined three-point shooting by Gray and Corey Davis Jr. The other three starters for Houston combined for only 13 points, although the 6-6 Nura Zanna (just 2.8 & 3.9 on the season) did register a team-high nine rebounds off the bench. Gray has reached the 30-point plateau in two of his last three games and is averaging 24.7 points over his last six outings. He leads four double digits scorers (18.6-3.3-4.6), joined by guards Corey Davis (13.5) and Brooks (10.1) plus 6-6 forward Devin Davis (10.7 & 6.2). Houston's starting 6-8 forward Breaon Brady (4.5 & 4.4) has gone 10 straight games without attempting more than three shots.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats committed only three turnovers against Memphis, which was critical because the team shot barely above 40 percent from the floor for the second straight game. The 6-8 Gary Clark has averaged 14.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in the tourney and averages 12.8 PPG and a team-high 8.4 RPG on the season. Guard Jarron Cumberland added 18 points versus Memphis after going scoreless against SMU but is one of four Bearcats averaging double digits at 11.0. The other two are guard Evans (12.9-4.5-3.2) and the 6-9 Washington (11.3 & 5.4). Cincy's offense has been off so far in this tourney but Mick Cronin's team always brings its defense. The Bearcats are allowing 57.2 PPG (2nd to UVa) on the season, after allowing an average of 55.5 PPG in wins over SMU and Memphis.
The pick: Both Cincy and Houston are comfortably in the field of 68 (announced later today) but the Bearcats have a chance to make a final statement toward earning a No. 1 seed. Cincinnati has won six in a row since that loss at Houston (that's 22 wins in its last 24 games!) and with only four losses all season, is certainly in the mix to be on the top line when the field is announced. Cincinnati is looking not only to avenge its loss at Houston on Feb. 15 but also the one in last year's tourney final (against SMU), as the Bearcats hope to secure their first league postseason crown since winning the C-USA tournament back in 2004. Wichita State led Houston by three points with 1:45 left on Saturday, before the Cougars scored the game's final five points for the win. No such luck here for Houston. Make Cincy an 8* play.
|03-11-18||Kentucky +1 v. Tennessee||Top||77-72||Win||100||5 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The 23-10 Kentucky Wildcats opened the season as the AP's No. 5 team but with a 10-8 SEC record, came into the conference tourney as just the fourth seed. However, the Wildcats cruised past Georgia 62-49 on Friday to notch their 11th consecutive win against the Bulldogs and then on Saturday, delivered an 86-63 victory over Alabama in the semifinals, their sixth victory in the last seven games (after losing four straight). Kentucky is playing some of its best basketball of the season at the right time and looks to record a fourth consecutive SEC Tournament Championship when it takes on second-seeded 25-9 Tennessee on Sunday in St. Louis. The shots just kept falling for No. 13 Tennessee in the first half of its 84-66 semifinal rout of Arkansas on Saturday. Tennessee hit 11 of its first 12 shots and shot 76 percent overall, in racing out to a commanding 48-29 halftime lead over Arkansas, as the Volunteers won their sixth straight game. Tennessee swept two regular-season meetings with Kentucky, most recently pulling out a 61-59 victory at Rupp Arena on Feb. 6
Kentucky: John Calipari's team is again, packed with freshman. However, it was sophomore Wenyen Gabriel who drained all seven attempts from three-point range on Saturday en route to scoring a career high-matching 23 points in leading the way after the 6-9 forward arrived Saturday averaging just 6.1 PPG. Freshman PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (13.4 & 5.1 APG) is averaging 17 points and 8.5 assists in the SEC Tournament, while 6-7 freshman P.J. Washington (10.8 & 5.5) has contributed 16 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in this event. 6-9 freshman Kevin Knox, who shared the conference freshman of the year honors with Alabama's Sexton, is Kentucky's leading scorer at 15.5 PPG (adds 5.3 RPG). Diallo (10.3) and Green (9.6) are two more freshman contributors but the 6-9 Jarred Vanderbilt, yet another freshman who leads the team with 7.9 rebounds per game, has been sidelined with an ankle injury and has missed both SEC tourney games.
Tennessee: The Vols just edged Mississippi State in the quarterfinals before rolling past Arkansas, reaching their first SEC final since 2009. Tennessee features three double digit scorers on teh season, in teh 6-7 Williams (15.4 & 6.0), 6-5 SF Schofield (13.5 & 6.2) and guard Turner (10.7). The Vols have been a balanced group offensively and received big games from a pair of players outside their top four scorers in the semifinals. Sophomore guard Jordan Bone (7.1) scored 19 on 8-of-11 shooting after 10 straight games in single digits and 6-11 forward Kyle Alexander (5.6 & 5.7) scored 12 against Arkansas after totaling 13 in his previous five contests. Schofield is averaging 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in the tournament while SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams is contributing 11 and eight, respectively, but is just 5-of-17 from the floor.
The pick: This isn't one of Calipari's higher scoring teams (Wildcats average 76.7 PPG to rank 91st) but it is holding opponents to just 40.7% on FGs (24th), including only 29.7% on threes (3rd in the nation!). Kentucky has now won 11 straight games in the SEC Tournament, with the Wildcats' last lost in the tournament coming against Florida back in 2014. "They're growing up," head coach John Calipari said. "The best thing that happened to my team, not me personally, was the four losses in a row. Me, I was ready to jump off a bridge." Meanwhile, Tennessee was picked to finish 13th in the 14-team SEC by the media in the preseason but instead, the Volunteers shared the regular-season SEC title with Auburn and are now headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. Double revenge works here (note: the 59 points Kentucky scored against Tennessee in that Feb. 6 home loss were a season-low for the Wildcats), so make Kentucky a 10* play.
|03-10-18||Magic +11.5 v. Clippers||Top||105-113||Win||100||15 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: Behind the rockets and Warriors, the Western Conference playoff race is a log-jam. Only 4 1/2 games separate The No.3 and No. 10 seeds. The 35-29 Los Angeles Clippers, who have won 12 of their past 17 games, are currently the No. 8 seed (final playoff spot) but are also just 2 1/2 games back of the No. 4 seed, which would earn them a home series. LA is looking to avoid a letdown after recording an impressive 116-102 home victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, with the 20-46 Orlando Magic coming into Staples Center tonight. The Magic have lost 10 of their last 12 games after Friday's 94-88 loss to the Sacramento Kings, dropping them to 0-3 on their current five-game road swing.
Orlando. To add is insult to injury, Orlando is without its top two scorers, power forward Aaron Gordon (18.3 & 8.4) who is out with a concussion and swingman Evan Fournier (17.8), out with a sprained MCL in his left knee. The Magic used their 20th different lineup combination Friday and it didn't go well, as they scored fewer than 90 points for the second time in three games in the six-point loss. Swingman Jonathon Simmons (13.5) played the go-to scoring role and delivered 25 points and six assists to break out of a funk in which he averaged seven points over the previous four games. First-round draft pick, the 6-10 Jonathan Isaac (4.5 & 3.5), made his third start of the season and had only six points on 2-of-8 shooting but he will likely remain in a starting role until Gordon is cleared. Center Vucevic (17.3 & 9.1) is Orlando's best healthy player.
LA Clippers: Many though the Clippers were "throwing in the towel" by trading Blake Griffin to Detroit but the 'joke' looks to be on the Pistons, who have flopped. Center DeAndre Jordan (11.9 & 15.2) dominated the interior with 20 points and 23 rebounds against the Cavaliers and he has three 20-rebound efforts this month while averaging 16.5 points and 19.5 rebounds in four games. Veteran Lou Williams continues to produce career-best averages in points (23.0) and assists (5.5) plus Tobias Harris has averaged 19 & 7.1 in the 14 games since coming from Detroit in the Griffin deal (Blake, we hardly miss ya!).
The pick: The Clippers have won eight consecutive meetings with the Magic by an average margin of 14.1 PPG. However. off beating LBJ and the Cavs, I can see a less than focused LA team struggling to cover this big number. Sure, the Magic are short-handed but they have covered four straight in the 2nd of back-to-back games. Make the Magic a 10* play.
|03-10-18||Marshall v. Western Kentucky -6||Top||67-66||Loss||-110||13 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The C-USA Tourney was left wide-open after regular season champ MTSU was upset on Thursday. The 24-9 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (at 14-2 are the 3rd seed) take the floor tonight in Frisco, Texas to take on the 23-10 Marshall Thundering Herd (at 12-6 are the 4th seed) in the C-USA championship game. Western Ky. advanced with a 57-49 win versus Old Dominion on Friday and Marshall advanced to the title game by upending a stubborn Southern Miss team, 85-75 (Southern Miss had upset MTSU 71-68 in OT on Thursday).
Marshall: The Thundering Herd took a 20 point lead into the break vs. Southern Miss and won by 10. PG Jon Elmore (22.6-6.1-7.0) led Marshall with 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists against Southern Miss. 6-9 freshman Jannson Williams (5.3 & 3.1) followed with 17 points and five rebounds, while Marshall's two other double digit scorers on the season, guard CJ Burks (21.0-4.2-3.1) and the 6-9 Penava (15.5 & 8.5), added 13 and 12 points, respectively. Led by the high-scoring trio of Elmore, Burks and Penava (see above), Marshall averages 84.8 PPG (8th) but the Thundering Herd allow 79.2 PPG, which ranks 325th of 351 Division I teams.
Western Kentucky: The 6-7 Justin Johnson carried the Hilltoppers with 19 points and 13 rebounds on 7-12 shooting in the win over Old Dominion, the league's No. 2 seed. Western Ky. owns great balance, as all five starters average in double digits. Johnson leads in scoring (15.2) and rebounding (9.5), followed by guards Thompson (14.1-4.4-4.8), Hollingsworth(13.5) and Bearden (11.6 & 3.5 APG) plus the 6-9 Coleby (11.2 & 7.8). Marshall shoots very well as a team, connecting on 49.8% from the floor (9th in the nation)..
The pick: Western Kentucky routed UAB by scoring 98 points, then beat C-USA's second seed (ODU) by holding the Monarchs to 49 points on 36.5 percent shooting. During the regular sesson. Western Ky's balanced attack handled Marshall's "three-man gang," with a 112-87 win on the road and an 85-74 win at home. The neutral-site location will not change the result, here. Make Western Kentucky a 10* play.
|03-10-18||Yale v. Pennsylvania -5.5||Top||57-80||Win||100||7 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Ivy League finally "joined the party" with its first-ever conference tourney last year. "The Ancient 8" are back for round two in 2018, as the Ivy League Tournament tips off Saturday at the Palestra, in Philadelphia. 22-8 Penn tied Harvard atop the Ivy League at 12-2 during the regular season but Harvard claimed the No. 1 seed. That means the second-seeded Quakers draw the third-seeded Yale Bulldogs, who may be just 16-14 overall (9-5 in Ivy play) but they also come in having won seven of their last eight games, including an 80-79 home win over Penn on March 2.
Yale: The Bulldogs have five players (four starters and one reserve) contributing between 9.2 and 15.,5 PPG. The 6-7 Oni (15.5-6.1-3.7) is the best of the bunch, followed by fellow starters Copeland (11.4) and Phills (9.8 & 4.3) in the backcourt, plus the 6-7 Reynolds (10.7 & 5.5) up front. 6-10 freshman Atkinson comes off the bench to add 9.2 & 4.6.
Pennsylvania: The Quakers feature four double digit scorers in guards Betley (14.7 & 5.0), Foreman (10.4-4.3-3.6) and Wood (10.1) plus the 6-8 Brodeur (12.6 & 6.9). The Quakers' lone loss in their last six outings was that one point loss at Yale. Penn capped its season with a win over Brown last Saturday, as Betley scored 30 points. Penn is a solid offensive team (76.6 PPG) and a solid defensive one (allows 69.2 PPG).
The pick: Yale was the preseason favorite in the Ivy League and comes in hot. The Bulldogs have averaged 75.2 PPG on the season but have topped 80 points in each of their last four contests (all wins), averaging 84.8 PPG. However, I believe Penn has proven to be the better team this season and in this quick turnaround from a one-point loss at Yale, will use the advantage of playing on its homecourt (11-3 SU on the season, including a 59-50 win over Yale) to win, cover and advance to the championship game on Sunday. Make Penn an 8* play.
|03-10-18||Alabama v. Kentucky -3.5||Top||63-86||Win||100||5 h 11 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-10 Kentucky Wildcats opened the season as the AP's No. 5 team but with a 10-8 SEC record, came into the conference tourney as just the fourth seed. However, the Wildcats cruised past Georgia 62-49 on Friday to notch their 11th consecutive win against the Bulldogs and stay on track for the school's fourth consecutive SEC Tournament title. Up next will be the 19-14 Alabama Crimson Tide, who erased a 10-point halftime deficit to shock top-seeded Auburn 81-63 on Friday (the Tide were a modest 8-10 in SEC play, entering the tourney as the 9th seed).
Alabama: Collin Sexton, who was named the SEC Co-Freshman of the Year earlier in the week, continued where he left off after hitting the game-winning floater to beat eighth-seeded Texas A&M on Thursday, by pouring in 31 points in the win over Auburn. Sexton (19.0-3.7-3.6) connected on six 3-pointers and grabbed seven rebounds against Auburn to become the first Crimson Tide player to score over 30 points in an SEC Tournament game since Rod Grizzard in 2002. Dazon Ingram (10.1 & 5.7) added 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists as Alabama exploded for 50 points in the second half to advance to its second conference semifinal in as many years. Donta Hall contributed 11 points and six rebounds but left with 6:41 left in the second half with a head injury. The junior forward is questionable for Saturday's clash, which is not good news for Alabama fans, as he's the team's second-leading scorer (10.9) and leading rebounder (6.8)..
Kentucky: Calipari's team is again, packed with freshman.The 6-7 P.J. Washington (10.7 & 5.4) led the way against Georgia with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor to go along with seven rebounds. PG Gilgeous-Alexander (13.2 & 5.0 APG) scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half and dished out nine assists while the 6-9 Kevin Knox, who shared the conference freshman of the year honors with Sexton and is Kentucky's leading scorer at 15.7 PPG, also added 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds. The 6-9 Jarred Vanderbilt, yet another freshman who leads the team with 7.9 rebounds per game, was sidelined with an ankle injury and is listed as day-to-day going forward.
The pick: This isn't one of Calipari's higher scoring teams (Wildcats average 76.4 PPG to rank 93rd) but it is holding opponents to just 40.8% on FGs (28th), including only 29.6% on threes (3rd in the nation!). Alabama's shocker bver the top-seeded Auburn Tigers likely cemented the Crimson Tide's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011-12. Kentucky has beaten Alabama 16 of the last 18 times (including NINE straight time) and ousted them in semifinals of this tourney last year, 79-74. With Alabama off that YUGE upset over hated Auburn plus playing its third game in three days, Kentucky's 10th straight win over Alabama and its 13th win in its last 14 SEC Tournament games, won't be as close as last year's semifinal win over the Tide. Make Kentucky an 8* play.
|03-09-18||Rockets v. Raptors +2.5||Top||105-108||Win||100||13 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: The Houston Rockets' current play has left no doubt that this team is a legitimate threat to end Golden State's three-year reign atop the Western Conference. Houston pushed its winning streak to 17 in a row with a 110-99 win at the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday but t he team's MVP says the Rockets are not focused on the streak. "We're just out there hoopin'," James Harden told reporters. "We're not worried about wins and losses right now. We're worried about playing the right way on both ends of the floor and that's going to carry over into the postseason." No team is hotter than 51-13 Houston but the Rockets will get a real test tonight at the Air Canada Centre when they visit the 41-17 Toronto Raptors. Toronto became the first team to clinch a playoff spot and brought its own winning streak to six in a row with a 121-119 overtime triumph over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
Houston: Obviously, Harden (30.9-5.2-8.9) and Paul (18.8-5.6-8.1) are paramount to Houston's success but Gordon (18.6) completes the league's highest scoring guard trio plus when center Capela (14.3 & 11.0) is in the lineup with both Harden and Paul, Houston has has lost just once all season. Both Harden and Paul have been singing the praises of the team's supporting players. The Rockets won on Wednesday despite missing power forward Ryan Anderson (hip) and shooting guard Joe Johnson (illness).
Toronto: DeMar DeRozan scored 42 points on Wednesday but passed up the opportunity for the last shot while well defended, instead finding guard Fred VanVleet for the game-winning basket. VanVleet was 1 of 9 before hitting the game-winner! Derozan (24.0-3.9-5.2) and Lowry (16.6-5.7-6.6) are an All Star backcourt duo plus PF Ibaka (12.8 & 6.1) and center Valanciunas (12.0 & 8.3) form a strong inside tandem, as well. Toronto scores like Houston (112.0 PPG ranks 4th) and defends better, allowing 103.3 PPG (6th-best!).
The pick: The Rockets have to lose sometime, right? Many thought Milwaukee might have been the spot but it wasn't. How about right here in Toronto? Yes, Houston has won 17 straight but Toronto is 15-2 in its last 17 and comes in 27-5 SU at home. Make Toronto a 10* play.
|03-09-18||Texas State +11.5 v. UL-Lafayette||Top||54-80||Loss||-100||6 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: It's early afternoon college basketball action Friday from Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, when the 9th-seeded Texas State Bobcats and the top-seeded Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns square off in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Men’s Championship. The Bobcats improved to 15-17 (7-11 Sun Belt) on the season after defeating the 8th-seed Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 73-66, this past Wednesday in the 1st round of the tourney. The Ragin’ Cajuns finished their regular season with an overall record of 26-5 and earned the top-seed in the Sun Belt Tourney with a conference record of 16-2.
Texas State: The held a 32-28 lead at halftime against the Chanticleers and the, after opening a 52-36 lead, eased to a seven-point win. Texas State shot just 38.6% from the floor (including 25.9% on threes) but the Bobcats were outstanding at the charity stripe, making 22 of 26 of their free-throws. 6-5 guard Pearson led the way for the Bobcats with 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and a steal. He's the team's leading scorer on the season (15.2-6.0-2.4) for a team which averages only 66.8 PPG (318th). Five others chip in between 5.8 and 9.0 PPG, including the team's best inside player, the 6-8 King (9.0 & 6.0) and PG Nottingham (7.8 & 2.6 APG). Defensively, Texas State is holding opponents to an average of just 65.4 PPG, which ranks 25th in the nation.
UL-Lafayette: The Ragin’ Cajuns were outstanding throughout the year and picked up a nice win against Iowa at the beginning of the season. Unlike Texas State, ULL averages 84.0 PPG (14th). Guard Bartley (17.4) and the 6-8 Gant (14.7 & 6.2) lead the way for four double digit scorers, with the offense being run by PG Stroman (6.5 & 6.3 APG).
The pick: ULL won at Texas State 80-55, during a streak of 10 consecutive wins SU & ATS. However, after losing to Georgia State on Feb. 18, the Rajin' Cajuns ripped off six straight wins before falling in the team's regular season finale (at home, no less!), 72-61 in OT vs. Littlle Rock, the Sun Belt's worst team (4-14 in SBC play). Meanwhile, Texas State's win over Coastal Carolina snapped a nine-game losing streak but while the Bobcats don't score much, the team's style of play helps keep most games low scoring (remember, Texas St. allows just 65.4 PPG). I guess a bounce-back should be expected by ULL but this is a lot of points and ULL knows it must win this tourney or head off to the NIT (no at-large bids come out of the Sun Belt). ULL has bigger fish to fry and will advance but not cover vs. Texas State. Make Texas State a 10* play.
|03-08-18||Duquesne +2 v. Richmond||Top||68-81||Loss||-102||11 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: It's A-10 conference tournament second round action on Thursday from Capital One arena in Washington DC, as the 16-15 Duquesne Dukes take on the 11-19 Richmond Spiders. Duquesne had the better overall record but the Spiders went 9-9 in A-10 games (Dukes were just 7-11), so Richmond comes in as the seven-seed while Duquesne is the 10-seed. The Dukes finished their non-A10 schedule with a 9-4 mark but after opening 3-0 in A-10 play, finished by losing nine of their 11 league games. The Spiders started the year 2-10 (only wins over UAB and James Madison) but after a 1-3 start in A-10 play, won five straight and six of seven. Richmond did lose five straight in league play but finished with back-to-back wins to wind up at .500.
Duquesne: The Dukes use a four-guard lineup with all averaging in double figures. 6-5 freshman Williams leads in scoring (14.5) and rebounding (8.9), joined by Lewis (14.4), Castro-Caneddy (13.2) and Smith (12.5). The Dukes don't score all that well (72.2 PPG ranks 215th) but they do hold opponents to 69.8 PPG (108th).
Richmond: The Spiders don't score much either (71.3 PPG ranks 244th) but allow about six points more than the Dukes (75.6 PPG ranks 251st). The 6-10 Golden (16.0 & 6.60 is the etam's leading scorer but is joined by four guards who all average in double digits. That quarter includes the team's top rebounder in Buckingham (7.1 RPG) and top playmaker, Gilyard (4.1 APG).
The pick: The teams met just once during the regular season, with Richmond winning on the road, 77-73 in OT on Jan. 24th. Richmond connected on 49.1% from the floor in that win, something I don't expect will be repeated. History favors Richmond in this matchup (Spiders are 17-4 ATS the last 21 matchups) but my gut is saying Duquesne. Make the Dukes a 10* play.
|03-07-18||Oklahoma v. Oklahoma State||Top||60-71||Loss||-103||20 h 8 m||Show|
The set-up: Oklahoma limped to the finish line in Big 12 play, losing seven of their last nine games to finish 18-12 overall, including 8-10 in league play. Amazingly, most bracketologists have the Sooners safely in the NCAA Tournament despite the late swoon. I'm not sure I get it. The Sooners will meet 18-13 Oklahoma State (also 8-10 in Big 12 play) in this first-round Big 12 Tourney but their " Bedlam rivals" surged to the finish line by winning three of their last four, including upsets of Texas Tech (79-71) and Kansas (82-64) when each of those opponents were ranked No. 6 in the AP poll at the time of those games!.
Oklahoma: Trae Young leads the nation in both scoring (27.5) and assists (8.9) but he suffered an injured left hip in a 87-64 loss at Baylor on Feb. 27. He missed most of practice last Thursday but returned to play 32 minutes in a 81-60 victory over Iowa State on Friday, finishing with 15 points on just 5-of-19 shooting and dishing off six assists to go with three steals and two turnovers. "I never want to sit out anything," Young told the Tulsa World after watching the Sooners' practice on Sunday. "It's tough sitting out today, but it's best for me and my body, and it'll be better for me for Wednesday, too." Junior guard Christian James (12.5 & 4.4) and 6-9 freshman forward Brady Manek (10.4 & 5.2) also average in double digits for the Sooners, who rank fourth nationally in scoring (86.0) and have scored 90 points in 12 contests. However, Oklahoma ranks last in the Big 12 and 337th out of 351 Division I teams in scoring defense, allowing an average of 82.0 PPG.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys celebrated Senior Night with a court-storming upset of Kansas, sweeping the regular-season series with the Big 12-champion Jayhawks and all but cementing an NCAA berth. Senior guard Kendall Smith, who began his career at UNLV and then played two years at Cal State Northridge before moving on to Stillwater, finished with 25 points. He ranks second on the team in scoring (12.9) and has totaled 21 or more points in three of the last five games. 6-6 senior swingman Jeffrey Carroll leads the team in scoring (15.1) and is second in rebounding (5.9), while six other Cowboys average between 5.4 and 10.0 PPG. That group includes the 6-8 Solomon (8.3), who also leads the team in rebounding at 6.4 per.
The pick: This marks the 236th meeting between the two schools, with Oklahoma having won eight of the last 11. Despite what the bracketologists are saying, the Sooners have to be thinking that a loss here, which would make them 2-8 their last 10, could cost them an at-large bid. Also, Young could be a man on a mission after getting snubbed by Big 12 coaches for conference-player-of-the-year honors which went to Kansas senior Devonte' Graham. Make Oklahoma an 8* play.
|03-07-18||Louisville v. Florida State||Top||82-74||Loss||-110||13 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The 19-12 Louisville Cardinals and the 20-10 Florida State Seminoles are the 9th and 8th-seed teams, respectively, in the ACC tourney. Their records were good enough to earn them a bye into the second round (Cards and Seminoles were both 9-9 in league play) and they will square off at high noon ET on Wednesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The teams split the season series this year, with each winning on the road. The winner of this contest may not stay around for long in this tourney, as up next will be the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers on Thursday.
Louisville: The Cardinals started the year 10-3 but their three losses entering conference play came against the better competition, including Kentucky, Seton Hall and Purdue. The Cards got off to a strong 5-1 start to the ACC season but fell back to earth after losing four of five, then losing four of five again to close out the regular season. 6-7 junior swingman Deng Adel was an honorable mention All-ACC selection. He is riding a streak of 22 straight double-digit scoring outings and checks in averaging . The 6-10 Ray Spalding (12.0 & 8.8) is also an honorable mention All-ACC performer. PG Quentin Snider (12.2 & 4.0 APG) is the team's third double digit scorer.
Florida State: The Seminoles got off to a strong start of their own, opening 9-0 and were 11-1 to enter conference play with a win over Florida on the road (their lone defeat coming against Oklahoma State). However, consistency was an issue for FSU, as the Seminoles never got more than one game above .500 in ACC play, despite posting a three-game winning streak in late January. Terance Mann (13.3 & 5.7) is one of three double digit scorers for FSU and earned honorable mention All-ACC honors this season. He's joined by fellow guard Angola (13.0) but note that three other backcourt palyers chip in between 7.5 and 8.7 PPG. The 6-8 Cofer (13.2 & 5.2) had a breakout senior season and is joined up front with some real size in the 7-4 Koumadje (7.5 & 4.7) and the 6-9 Kabengele (7.0 & 4.4).
The pick: This may be Leonard Hamilton's best offensive team ever in his stay at FSU, as the Seminoles have scored 80 or more points 17 times this season are averaging 82.0 PPG (29th). Louisville's No. 9 seed is the school's lowest in a conference tournament since its No. 11 seed in the 2006 Big East Tournament. The year began badly for Louisville (remember a coach named Rick Pitino?) and it ends with a thud, right here. Make FSU a 10* play.
|03-06-18||Pelicans +3 v. Clippers||Top||121-116||Win||100||15 h 45 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pelicans lost 112-103 to the Clippers in New Orleans back on Jan. 28, beginning a stretch in which they would lose five of six games. Back then, they had the look of a defeated team, having just lost DeMarcus Cousins (25.2 & 12.9) for the season. However, the Pelicans come to Los Angeles for Tuesday's rematch with the Clippers at Staples Center under very different circumstances. An eight-game winning streak (the team's longest in over seven years) has vaulted Alvin Gentry's 36-26 team into fourth place in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the 34-28 Clippers are in ninth place in the West but only two games behind New Orleans (note: The West's No. 3 through No. 10 seeds are currently separated by just four games!).
New Orleans: With Cousins out, Anthony Davis (28.01 & 11.1) has thrust himself into the MVP debate with a torrid stretch in which he owns a double-double in each of the Pelicans' eight straight wins (37.3 & 14.8). However, Jrue Holiday's improved play has also been just as important during New Orleans' surge. Holiday (19.4-4.4-5.6) is averaging 25.9 points on 55 percent shooting during the winning streak. Let's not forget Mirotic's contributions, as the former Bull is averaging 14.9 & 7.8 in 11 games since the trade. The Pelicans are averaging 126.8 PPG during their eight-game win streak.
LA Clippers: The Clippers are hardly "going quietly" after trading Blake Griffin to Detroit. In fact, LA is averaging 120.4 points over its last eight games, going 6-2 in that stretch. The team's only only defeats in that run? To the Warriors and Rockets. Austin Rivers (15.7) scored 27 points in a 123-120 win over Brooklyn on Sunday, the sixth time in the last seven games that Los Angeles has produced at least 122 points. Veteran guard Lou Williams is averaging a career high in points (23.1) and assists (5.4) this season and center Jordan (11.8 & 15.0) is a double-double machine. Then there is Tobias Harris, who is averaging 19 points on 48.3 percent shooting and 6.8 RPG in 12 games since being acquired from Detroit.
The pick: Both teams are 'lighting it up' but I'm not stepping in front of the Pelicans' 'train' (8-0 SU & 7-1 ATS run). Davis continues to be the catalyst, earning Western Conference Player of the Week honors with an average of 34 points in his last three games and 15.3 rebounds, while shooting 50.7 percent from the floor. Make New Orleans a 10* play.
|03-06-18||Long Island +8 v. Wagner||Top||71-61||Win||100||11 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up; Tuesday night it's the championship game of the Northeast Conference from the Spiro Sports Center in Staten Island, N.Y. The Wagner Seahawks are the host team by virtue of their 14-4 regular season mark (tops in the NEC) and will welcome the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds, who at 10-8 were the No. 4 seed in this tourney. These teams have split the regular season series, with the home team taking each game. LIU-Brooklyn won 69-67 back on Jan. 13 and Wagner returned the favor at this venue on Feb. 17, winning 78-74.
LIU-Brooklyn: The Blackbirds are just 17-16 overall but a win tonight will earn them an automatic invitation to the Big Dance. In their last game, the Blackbirds led 71-64 with 5:30 remaining before Fairleigh Dickinson mounted an 11-0 run to lead 75-71 with 1:58 left. It was the Knights' first lead since midway through the first half. LIU's Julian Batts hit a wide-open three to tie 76-76 and set up the final minute. Missed free throws hurt Fairleigh Dickinson (19 of 27) and it which missed four of its last six. After Kaleb Bishop missed two with nine seconds remaining, Jashaun Agosto drove the length of the court and was fouled at the rim, setting up the winning free throws of a 78-77 LIU win. The Blackbirds feature a four-guard lineup and all average in double figures. Raiquan Clark scored 28 points, Joel Hernandez added 25 in the win over Fairleigh Dickinson, while Agosto made both free throws in his only trip to the line with 3.6 seconds on the clock. Hernandez (20.5 & 5.8) is the leading scorer, followed by Clark (17.3 & 7.1), Agosto (11.0-4.1-4.2) and Batts (10.1- & 4.2).
Wagner: The Seahawks have won five of their last six games and enter this game 23-8 on the season. JoJo Cooper scored 20 points with six assists, Romone Saunders added 18 points and top-seeded Wagner beat No. 7 seed Robert Morris 75-64 in Saturday's Northeast Conference semifinal. Blake Francis added 15 points with three 3-pointers for Wagner, which shot 51 percent from the floor and held the Colonials (16-17) to 39 percent. Like LIU, Wagner's top players are all guards. Francis leads the way averaging 17.4 PPG, followed by PG Cooper (14.6-5.3-6.2) and Saunders (14.4 & 6.4).
The pick: Wagner is playing at home but note that LIU lost at this venue less than a month ago, by just four points. LIU has won four in a row since that contest and the Blackbirds are making their first championship appearance since 2013. I realize that Wagner is a perfect 16-0 SU at home on the season but the pressure is always high on regular season champs from leagues like the NEC, as those teams "must win" their respective conference tourneys, or find themselves in the NIT. That is the case here and with LIU beating Wagner by two points at home and then losing to them by just four points in the rematch (at this venue), I see the Blackbirds making the Seahawks 'sweat' until the final buzzer. Take the points and make LIU a 10* play.
|03-05-18||BYU v. St. Mary's -5||Top||85-72||Loss||-105||15 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 22 Saint Mary's nearly saw it's NCAA Tournament bubble burst in Saturday's WCC tournament quarterfinals in Las Vegas. The 28-4 Gaels needed to rally from a 15-point first half deficit to edge Pepperdine, 69-66 (Waves were the WCC's 10th-seed and finished their injury-plagued season with a 6-26 record). The second-seeded Gaels now move on to a semifinal matchup Monday with third-seed BYU, who squandered a 17-point lead and was tied with San Diego with three minutes to go before surging to an 85-79 victory (Cougars are 23-9). A St. Mary's win will almost assuredly set up a championship game showdown with the WCC's No. 1 seed Gonzaga, which is currently ranked 7th in the latest AP poll.
BYU: The Cougars lost 81-50 to Saint Mary's in last year's WCC Tourney semifinals and enter tonight's matchup on a five-game losing streak to the Gaels, including a 74-64 overtime loss in Provo back on Dec. 30. "I think our guys would be excited (to play Saint Mary's again) because we played them tough both games, for the majority of the games," BYU head coach Dave Rose told the Salt Lake Tribune. "You look forward to the opportunity to change the outcome." The one-two punch of junior guard Elijah Bryant (17.9 & 6.4) and 6-8 sophomore forward Yoeli Childs (17.5 & 8.7), who combined for 49 points in the win over San Diego, lead the Cougars with sophomore point guard TJ Haws (12.0 & 4,2 APG) also averaging in double figures. However, no other Cougar averages more than 6.0 PPG.
St. Mary's: Pepperdine jumped out to a 19-4 lead on the Gaels and led 62-57 with 4:17 to go but forward Calvin Hermanson came to the rescue, sinking three consecutive three-pointers over a two-minute span. "It wasn't pretty but we will take the win," Saint Mary's head coach Randy Bennett told reporters. WCC Player of the Year, the 6-11 Jock Landale, leads the Gaels in scoring (21.3) and rebounding (10.3). The 6-6 Hermanson adds 11.0 PPG (on 44.4 percent shooting from three-point range) and PG Naar is the team's third double digit scorer (10.4) while averaging a healthy 8.0 APG to rank 2nd nationally to Oklahoma's Trae Young. Two other starters, guards Ford (9.9) and Krebs (8.0 & 4.2), just miss double digit territory.
The pick: After getting 'scared' by Pepperdine, I expect St. Mary's to bring its "A-game" to this contest. The Gaels shoot a nation's best 51.5% from the floor as a team (are 10th from three-point range at 40.8%) and defensively, have held opponents to a modest 63.8 PPG (11th). Landale presents a big problem for a many teams but he has been especially troublesome for BYU. Landale had 31 points and 13 rebounds in the overtime win in Provo and finished with 32 points and 14 rebounds in a 75-62 victory over the Cougars on Jan. 25 at home. The Gaels get their showdown with Gonzaga with an easy win over BYU. Make St. Mary's a 10* play.
|03-05-18||Blazers v. Lakers +2||Top||108-103||Loss||-107||14 h 23 m||Show|
Portland: The Blazers continue to rely on the backcourt duo of Lillard and CJ McCollum. They combined for 48 points on Saturday but contributions from further down the roster are helping fuel the winning streak. Reserve power forward Ed Davis (5.6 & 7.4) hauled in double-digit rebounds in each of the last three games and rookie center Zach Collins (4.3 & 3.4) scored 12 points off the bench on Saturday to reach double figures for the first time since Dec. 23, when he scored 11 at the Lakers. Still, after Lillard (26.4-4.5-6.5) and McCollum (21.7), only center Nurkic (14.1 & 8.3) averages in double digits.
LA Lakers: Rookie PG Lonzo Ball returned five games ago from missing 15 games with a knee injury and the Lakers are 5-0 (Ball sat out one game in a back-to-back situation). He's averaging 12.0-6.8-7.3 in his four games back and more importantly, is shooting 55.2% from the floor, including 63.6% on threes. The Lakers overcame a 17-point, second-half deficit in a 116-112 triumph at the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, which gave them a sweep of their four-game road trip. "It shows we're growing," Ball told reporters. "At the beginning of the year we might have just gave up, take the L and go home. Be happy with a 3-1 trip. We're growing up. We know we can win every game we're in." PF Randle moved into the starting lineup shortly after Portland last faced the Lakers (Dec. 23) and his scoring average has increased every month. He averaged 19.4 points in February and has scored 25 points in both victories in March to bump his season average to 15.1 PPG (he also leads the team in rebounding at 7.5 per). Second-year SF Ingram leads the team in scoring at 16.2 PPG, IT is up to 16.1 PPG in his eight games as a Laker (has come off the bench in each one) and the 'steal' of the 2017 draft, Kyle Kuzma, continues to thrive averaging 15.3 & 5.9.
The pick: With the 3 thru 10 teams in the West being separated by just four games, the Lakers can throw some chaos into the Western Conference postseason race with a win. However, Portland enters this contest on a 14-game winning streak against the Lakers, including eight straight at Staples Center. Then again, while LA's defense tends to be invisible at times (especially when IT is on the floor), "the Walton Gang" (remember that one UCLA fans?) is averaging a whopping 121.4 PPG during its winning streak. I don't want to buck the Lakers here, as Portland is just a so-so road team. Make LA a 10* play.
|03-04-18||Nets +8 v. Clippers||Top||120-123||Win||100||13 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: Many felt as if the Clippers were "giving up" on the current season when they traded away Blake Griffin. However, after routing the Knicks 128-105 on Friday night, the 33-28 Clippers have won 10 of their last 14 game to pull within one game of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Amazingly, the Clippers are also just three games out of The West's No. 3 seed! Los Angeles welcomes another New York-based team to Staples Center tonight, as the 20-43 Brooklyn Nets come to town. The Clippers picked up a 114-101 win at Brooklyn just prior to the All-Star break, part of the Nets' current 2-14 slide. Brooklyn allowed a game-tying basket in the closing seconds of regulation and then stumbled in overtime in a 116-111 loss at Sacramento on Thursday.
Brooklyn: The Nets are just one game ahead of the Hawks, who reside in the Eastern Conference's 'basement.' Brooklyn has dropped seven straight road games overall and it is 3-11 away from home against the West, after being outscored 43-32 after the third quarter on Thursday. In an odd twist, three players, DeMarre Carroll (22 & 10), Jarrett Allen (15 & 11) and D'Angelo Russell (15 & 11 assists), all finished with double-doubles in the loss. Russell, the team's leading scorer at 15.8 PPG, tied a career high with 11 assists. The Nets have been among the worst defensive teams all season and currently rank 25th in allowing 109.7 PPG. Considering Brooklyn ranks dead-last (30th) in offensive FG percentage (43.7%), one can see why this team only has 20 wins.
LA Clippers: Lou Williams led six players in double figures with 21 points against the Knicks. The vet is having a career season, averaging 23.2 PPG and 5.4 APG, both of which would be single-season career highs. The 6-8 Montrezl Harrell (9.8 & 3.9) collected 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting and he is averaging 18.7 points on 72.7 percent shooting over his last three games. Harris has been excellent since coming over from Detroit in the Griffin deal, averaging 18.4 & 6.6 in 11 games. Of course, let's not forget Jordan, who chips in with 11.8 PPG and 15.0 RPG.
The pick: The Clippers have recorded six straight wins against the Nets here at Staples Center but LA checks in at just 15-15 ATS on its home floor on the season. In fact, LA was on a 1-5 ATS run at home before taking down the Knicks on Friday. Meanwhile, the sad-sack Nets are a moneymaking 18-12 ATS on the road, despite going only 8-22 SU. A closer look finds them at 15-8 ATS when getting four-plus points away from home. Make Brooklyn a 10* play.
|03-04-18||Cincinnati v. Wichita State -2.5||Top||62-61||Loss||-105||4 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 10 Cincinnati (26-4 / 15-2 AAC) will travel to No. 11 Wichita State (24-5 / 14-3) on Sunday and this showdown between the Bearcats and Shockers at Charles Koch Arena with the American Athletic Conference regular-season title at stake, is being billed as The Game of the Year in the American Athletic Conference! Cincinnati sits in first place in the AAC, one game ahead of Wichita State, but the Shockers can earn a share of the league title in its first year since coming over from the Missouri Valley Conference with a win. What's more, after winning the first matchup 76-72 last month, the Shockers also can earn the No. 1 seed in the AAC tournament if they can top the Bearcats on Sunday. Cincinnati had won a national-best 39 straight home games before Wichita State notched its key road victory back on Feb. 18th.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats have won three in a row since the loss to Wichita State, including Thursday's 78-49 rout at Tulane. Cincy ranks second in the nation in points allowed (57.2 PPG) and in opponents FG percentage (36.9%), something which was on display as Tulane was held under 50 points on 31.4 percent shooting (including going 3 of 14 from three-point range). The 6-9 Kyle Washington led the way with 16 points but at 11.2 & 5.3, he's Cincy's third-leading scorer. PG Evans (13.3-4.4-3.4) and the 6-8 Clark (12.8 & 8.3) are the top-two. Guard Cumberland (11.1) is thete's fourth double digit scorer. With a defense allowing under 60 PPG, Cincy's 76.1 PPG on offense (102nd), has been more than enough.
Wichita State: The Shockers got off to a hot start to their first year in the conference, winning their first five AAC games. They then managed to bounce back from an up-and-down stretch midway through the season that saw them lose three of five games, as they've since won seven in a row, including a hard-fought 75-71 overtime win at Central Florida on Thursday. Wichita State a middle-of-the-pack defensive team (71.7 PPG allowed ranks 143rd) but the team averages 83.9 PPG (15th), after having scored at least 75 points in 10 straight games. PG Landry Shamet (14.5 & 5.2 APG) leads four players averaging between 10 and 15 points on the season, while nine of the team's top 10 scorers average at least one assist per game. The 6-8 Shaquille Morris averages 14.2 & 5,4 but has scored at least 19 points in seven of his last 10 games. The 6-9 Willis (10.7 & 6.0) and guard Frankamp (10.40 round out the team's top-four scorers.
The pick: Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall said beating Cincinnati for a second time and earning a share of the AAC regular-season title would be a well-deserved reward for his senior-laden team. "It would mean that this two and a half months we proved to be one of the best, if not the best team in the league," he said. "That's good, especially like I said, that we moved up a couple of weight classes and these guys met the challenge." The "revenge angle" is on Cincy' side but Wichita State was able to shoot 52.9 percent in its road win at Cincy (when does that happen?) and now get the Bearcats on their home floor, where the Shockers average 90.0 PPG. Revenge DOES NOT work here. Make Wichita State a 10* play.
|03-03-18||North Carolina +7 v. Duke||Top||64-74||Loss||-105||21 h 18 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 5 Duke (24-6 / 12-5 in ACC) will host No. 9 North Carolina (22-8 / 11-6 in ACC) at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the two long-time rivals' annual regular season finale. Virginia has run away with the ACC's regular season title but these two legendary Tobacco Road rivals will meet Saturday night (it marks the 246th meeting between the two schools) with the second seed in next week’s ACC tournament on the line. Duke saw its five-game winning streak come to an end with a 64-63 loss at Virginia Tech on Monday and the Tar Heels had won six straight contests before Miami (Fla.) beat them at the buzzer, 91-88 on Tuesday.
North Carolina: This game is of even more importance to the Heels, as they can finish as low as the sixth-seed with a loss. Carolina knocked off the Blue Devils 82-78 back on Feb. 8 at home with just two turnovers overall and Duke held North Carolina to just 39 percent shooting in that contest, then followed up that effort up with five more wins while allowing just 55.6 PPG before Virginia Tech forced 18 turnovers to help it rally from a six-point halftime deficit for the 91-88 victory. Berry matched his career high with 31 points in the loss to Miami and took over the team lead at 18.2 PPG. Senior swingman Theo Pinson (9.9 & 6.0) leads the team in assists (4.8) and has played a big role in the Tar Heels’ recent success by averaging 17.5 points over the last four games. 6-8 junior forward Luke Maye (17.9 PPG & team-high 10.2 RPG) has cooled off of late, averaging 12.5 and 8.5 respectively in four games since scoring a career-high 33 with 17 boards against North Carolina State. The 6-8 Johnson (13.1 & 4.0) and guard Williams (11.2) round out the defending champs' double digit scorers.
Duke: Coach K starts four freshman along with senior Grayson Allen. Allen (15.4 & 4.5 APG) has scored at least 20 points in four of the last six games but freshman backcourt mate Gary Trent Jr. (14.3 & 4.1) is just 9-for-36 from the floor over his past four contests. 6-11 freshman standout Marvin Bagley III has connected on 13-of-18 from the floor and averaged 15.5 points in two outings since returning from a four-game absence with a knee injury. He averages 20.7 & 11.1 on the season and is joined by 6-10 freshman Wendell Carter Jr., who averages 14.3 & 9.5. Duke's fourth freshman is PG Duval (10.5 & 5.3 APG).
The pick: Yes, Duke is in "revenge mode" but as noted, this game has more meaning (consequences) for the Tar Heels. I will also note that Duke is 79-56 under Krzyzewski in games with both teams ranked in the top-10. That said, this is a big pointspread in a game with so much on the line for North Carolina. Take the points and make the Tar Heels an 8* play.
|03-03-18||California +20.5 v. Arizona||Top||54-66||Win||100||19 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: What a difference a few hours can make. Arizona fans were unsure of what the future held for the 19th-ranked Wildcats and the program moving forward on Thursday morning. Head coach Sean Miller had not been with the team since a report broke late last week alleging the ninth-year Arizona coach was recorded by FBI wiretaps discussing a $100,000 payment to star freshman Deandre Ayton with an employee of a sports agency, Christian Dawkins. However, Miller read a statement on Thursday afternoon in front of the local media refuting the claims made in the report and announced he would be returning to coach his team against Stanford that evening as it looked to secure a share of the Pac-12 Conference regular-season title. The 75-67 win over Stanford as the 23-7 Wildcats (13-4 in Pac 12) secured a share of the Pac-12 title and the top seed in next week’s conference tournament. They will welcome the Cal Golden Bears to the McKale Center on Saturday, a team that has lost six straight to fall to 8-22 overall, including a Pac 12-worst 2-15.
California: The no-so Golden Bears own the league’s worst offense (68.5 PPG) and defense (78.0 PPG). Other than that, things are going well for Cal. The Bears lost 84-53 at Arizona State on Thursday, in a truly ugly effort. Cal committed 17 turnovers and missed all of it 18 shots from three-point range. Junior guard Don Coleman had 16 points in the loss and averages 14.9 PPG to lead the Bears, who have set the school’s all-time record with 22 losses. That said, the Bears do have several building blocks in place for next season, with eight freshman on this team. 6-7 forward Justice Sueing being the most prominent. He is averaging and has scored in double figures in 22 games this season, while averaging a team-high 15.7 PPG in Pac 12 games.
Arizona: With its head coach back on the bench and its second-leading scorer (Trier at 19.5 PPG) back in the lineup, No. 19 Arizona suddenly looks like a national title contender again. Trier returned after missing three games and scored 18 points against Stanford, helping Arizona exhale following a rough few days. “I think we can flip the story,” center Dusan Ristic told reporters. “Two days ago, everybody was against us, the whole nation. And I think we’re gonna use that as motivation. From this point on, the whole thing made us stronger, much tougher as a team and I think we’re going to try to do something special now.” The 7-0 Ristic (12.1 & 6.9) scored a team-high 21 points on 10-for-15 shooting in the win over Stanford and is averaging 14.8 points and 7.2 rebounds over his last 13 games. The senior has proven to be a perfect complement to 7-1 freshman Deandre Ayton. Ayton is a leading contender for Pac-12 player of the year averaging 19.7 points and 11.1 rebounds with 59 blocks.
|03-03-18||Louisville v. NC State -3||Top||69-76||Win||100||19 h 59 m||Show|
The set-up: Louisville is 19-11 (9-8 ACC) and NC State is 20-10 (10-7 in ACC) when the two schools meet tonight in Raleigh. Both are coming off losses but Louisville will almost assuredly have the tougher time bouncing back. The Cardinals had possession and a one-point lead over No. 1 Virginia with 0.9 seconds remaining on Thursday but turned the ball over on an inbound play (Deng Adel moved his feet and was called for traveling while inbounding the ball on the baseline) and then watched as Virginia's De'Andre Hunter drained a 30-footer off the backboard for a 67-66 UVa victory. Interim head coach David Padgett called it the "toughest loss I've ever had." NC State is coming off a 78-75 loss at Georgia Tech, where the Wolfpack were perhaps guilty of looking past a Yellow Jackets team that didn't win a game in February.
Louisville: The Cardinals led the No. 1 Cavs by as many as 13 points but despite the loss, did wind up scoring more points (66) against Virginia's top-ranked defense than any other ACC team this season. Two missed free throws in the final minute and the late turnover led to the loss. Adel, who had that fateful turnover, did have a team-high 18 points plus added six rebounds and four assists. Ray Spalding had 16 points and nine rebounds, while Quentin Snider added 13 points. The 6-7 Adel (15.4 & 5.3) leads the team in scoring, the 6-10 Spalding (12.0 & 8.9) leads in rebounding and PG Snider(12.2 & 3.9 APG) leads in assists.
NC State: The Wolfpack led the Yellow Jackets by seven points at the half but Georgia Tech's Ben Lammers scored eight straight points late for Ga. Tech while Braxton Beverley (.9 & 4.1 APG) missed a pair of game-tying threes in the dying seconds as the Wolfpack saw their four-game win streak come to an end. Allerik Freeman (15.2 & 4.0) led NC State with 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting, 6-5 guard Torin Dorn (13.7 & 6.2) added 18 and 7-0 center Omer Yurtseven (13.7 & 6.9) had 17 points and nine rebounds. PG Markell Johnson (8.7 PPG), who leads the ACC and is third in the nation with 7.6 assists per game, had an uncharacteristically poor game with five turnovers in only 18 minutes.
The pick: Louisville has lost six of its last nine games as it travels to PNC Arena for its regular season finale. NC State's first-year head coach Kevin Keatts, after getting UNCW to the NCAAs the past two seasons, has "worked wonders' with the Wolfpack this season (NC St was coming off a 15-17 / 4-14 ACC mark) and his four-guard lineup will be a tough matchup for the bigger but slower Cards. Note that NC State is 15-3 at home this season with wins against Duke and Clemson (has outscored opponents, 87.6-to-72.1 PPG). Make NC State an 8* play.
|03-03-18||Boston College v. Florida State -7.5||Top||76-85||Win||100||15 h 59 m||Show|
|03-03-18||Kentucky +4 v. Florida||Top||67-80||Loss||-110||13 h 60 m||Show|
The set-up: A double-bye to the quarterfinals in the SEC Tournament is on the line Saturday when No. 23 Kentucky (21-9) heads to Gainesville for a rematch with 19-11 Florida in the regular-season finale for both teams. Owners of a double bye in the 14-team SEC field need only win three games in three days to claim the tournament title and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. League leaders Auburn and Tennessee have already secured double byes, leaving Kentucky, Florida and Arkansas to fight it out for the two remaining spots. Those three teams are in a three-way tie for third place at 10-7. The winner between Kentucky and Florida gets a double bye, although the Wildcats could still secure one should Missouri beat Arkansas on Saturday because the Wildcats beat the Razorbacks earlier this season.
Kentucky: The Wildcats find themselves in the rare position of not being able to win the SEC title in this regular season finale. After all, Kentucky began the year as the AP's No. 5 ranked team. Kentucky has sure had its ups and downs but the Wildcats have regrouped and are clicking at the right time heading into the SEC Tournament. They have won four straight with a 16-point average margin of victory, as the Wildcats have topped 80 points in each game, with their high-water mark in SEC play coming Wednesday in a 96-78 romp past Ole Miss in their final home game of the season. Five Wildcats have scored in double figures in each of the four games of the winning streak, led by freshman forward Kevin Knox, who had a game-high 22 points against Ole Miss for his third straight 20-point outing. Freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander came close to a triple-double against the Rebels with 17 points, a career-high 10 assists and a career-high-tying seven rebounds. The 6-7 Knox (15.8 & 5.4) leads the team in scoring and PG Gilgeous-Alexander (13.0 & 4.9 APG) has run the show. Guard Diallo (10.7 & 3.7) and the 6-7 Washington (10.2 & 5.3) round out the double digit scorers. Calipari teams are typically known for their three-point shooting but this year's squad thrived on stopping opponents form behind the arc, allowing opponents to make just 29.3% of their threes (3rd-best in the nation).
Florida: The Gators come in off back-to-back victories over No. 14 Auburn and Alabama, putting themselves solidly back in the NCAA Tournament picture. Florida's defense surrendering just 18 first-half points to the Crimson Tide in its 73-52 win on Tuesday. Guard Chris Chiozza figures to celebrate Senior Day with a school record as he needs one more assist to become Florida’s all-time leader, snapping the tie with Erving Walker for the UF record (547). Grad transfer Egor Koulechov scored 15 points in the win over Alabama and junior guard Jalen Hudson came up big against Alabama by scoring 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting for his first 20-point game since Jan. 17. However, he still leads the team in s scoring at 15.4 PPG. PG Chiozza leads the team in assists (6.1) and adds 11.1 PPG. Koulechov averages 13.7 & 6.6 and Allen 11.3, giving Florida four double digit scorers but all play on the perimeter. Despite its lack in size, Florida's played solid defense, allowing 69.2 PPG (94th).
The pick: The loss of the 6-11 John Egbunu to a torn ACL has hurt Florida and it is not yet known if he plans to petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. Often, the word revenge is overused in handicapping but I believe it applies here. Florida does not have the inside presence to stop Kentucky's frontcourt players in this one plus the Wildcats will be looking to avenge their 66-64 loss to the Gators back on Jan. 20, one that ended the team's 30-game home winning streak against SEC opponents! Make Kentucky a 10* play.
|03-02-18||Ball State v. Northern Illinois +3.5||Top||65-66||Win||100||12 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: It's the final game of the regular season for MAC teams Ball State and Northern Illinois. The Cardinals will look to rebound from back-to-back losses, including a 75-51 road loss to Central Michigan in their last outing. However, Ball State is 19-11 overall, including 10-7 in league play, good enough for 2nd-place tie in the MAC West standing s with Eastern Michigan. Meanwhile, the Huskies limp in having lost 12 of their last 16 games following a 97-67 loss to Toledo (the Mac West's top team at 13-4) in their last outing. Northern Illinois is 12-18 overall, including a 5-12 league mark which leaves them in last-place in the MAC West.
Ball State: PG Persons (14.6-3.3-4.3) leads in scoring and assists plus two "big men," the 6-8 Teague (11.8 & 7.4) and teh 6-9 Moses (11.5 & 8.4) give Ball State a solid inside presence. The 6-7 Mallers (9.8 & 4.7) and guard Sellers (9.6 & 4.7) round out a starting-five in which all have played in every game this season for Ball State. The Cardinals average a respectable 75.7 PPG (125th) but allow 74.0 PPG, which ranks 217th.
Northern Illinois: The Huskies are a guard-oriented team, with Eugene German (20.7) leading the way. Levi Bradley (14.3 & 5.1) and Dante Thorpe (10.8) round out the team's double digit scorers. Similar to Ball State, Northern Illinois scores 73.1 PPG and allows 76.0 PPG.
The pick: Ball State could find itself in one of the lesser postseason tourneys but the MAC doesn't get much respect, so even a 20-plus win season could leave them at home after the MAC tourney. The Cardinals have not had much success against the Huskies in recent years, going just 2-7-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings between these two schools. As for NIU, it lost 97-67 at home to Toledo in its last outing but note that not only are the Huskies still 10-4 SU at home this season but they are also capable of bouncing back off a humbling loss. Note that NIU is 7-2 ATS in its last nine following a loss of 20 or more points . Make Northern Illinois a 10* play.
|03-02-18||Pistons v. Magic +2.5||Top||106-115||Win||100||11 h 20 m||Show|
The set-up: It's starting took as if more than a few people "jumped the gun" in their praise that the addition of Blake Griffin was going to help the Detroit Pistons secure an Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Pistons obtained Griffin from the LA Clippers on Jan. 30. They had lost eight straight but beat Cleveland shortly after the deal was completed. Griffin's arrival occurred in the second game of what would become a five-game winning streak that pushed Detroit one game above .500 on Feb. 7 after beating the Brooklyn Nets. However, Detroit then lost six of its next seven, with five of those defeats coming by double digits.The 29-32 Pistons are currently sitting in the No. 9 spot in the Eastern Conference, 2 1/2 games outside of the playoff 'cut line.' Detroit will be in Orlando tonight to face the 18-43 Magic, as they open a three-game road trip. Orlando owns the worst record in the Eastern Conference and the Magic are coming off a 117-104 home loss to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, the team's seventh straight loss. It marks the team's fourth losing streak of at least seven games this season.
Detroit: The Pistons did earn an impressive win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday (110-87) and will try to make it two in a row in tonight's game. Detroit snapped a three-game slide with Wednesday's win and a big difference was the play of the second unit, led by Johnson. He has been moved from the starting lineup to the bench and delivered 19 points, six rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes. "We've got, what? Twenty-one games left?" Pistons small forward Stanley Johnson asked reporters after Wednesday's win. "And we're back what? Three games (entering play on Thursday)? We've got to get on it. There's no sugar coating that. Everyone in the gym knows it. We know it. Y'all know it. It's our job to do our job." Griffin scored 24 points in his Detroit debut back on Feb. 1 in a 104-102 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. The Pistons are 6-6 in the 12 games Griffin has played with him averaging 18.3-6.8-5.5. Center Drummond is a double-double 'machine' (15.1 & 15.8) but the Pistons really need PG Jackson (14.6 & 5.5 APG) to get back on the court. Head coach Stan Van Gundy said he's hopeful Jackson (ankle) can return to practice at some point prior to the team's West Coast road trip on Mar. 13.
Orlando: The Magic Orlando allowed the Raptors to shoot 54.2 percent from the floor on Wednesday and is near the bottom in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense (.47.5% ranks ). "We kind of lose the same way every night," Magic swingman Evan Fournier told reporters. "We start well, we're playing good, and in the third quarter or fourth or whatever we let them get on a run and we never recover from it. They get too comfortable and once the lead is up to seven or eight, the lead keeps growing and we're just never able to come back." The loss repeated the pattern from Monday's five-point loss at Oklahoma City on Monday. The Magic shot 56 percent and scored 62 points by halftime against the Thunder, but those totals dropped to 42 percent and 43 points in the final two quarters. "It's been an issue for us all year long," Magic center Nikola Vucevic told reporters. "We have to figure out how to do a better job defensively, follow the game plan, compete and make the extra effort out there. We don't (make) enough of those plays consistently." PF Gordon (18.0 & 8.2), SG Fournier (18.0) and center Vucevic (17.2 & 9.0) are all quality players but the Magic continue to struggle.
The pick: Detroit bounced back nicely by dominating the paint and the boards in a 110-87 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday but how much does that really mean? Detroit hasn’t covered two straight in a 21game spanand is 2-11 SU in its last 13 road games. Friday begins a stretch with nine of 12 games outside of Detroit and the Pistons haven't won on the road since Jan. 10 at Brooklyn (are 9-19 SU away from home on the season). Sure, Orlando has won just 18 games all season but the Magic have won five straight here in Orlando vs. the Pistons. Take the home dog and make Orlando a 10* play.
|03-01-18||Western Kentucky v. Middle Tennessee -4||Top||64-82||Win||100||12 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 24 Middle Tennessee State entered the AP's top-25 two weeks ago, for the first time in school history. The 23-5 (15-1 in C-USA) Blue Raiders can clinch their second straight Conference USA regular-season title when they host second-place Western Kentucky (22-7, including 14-2 in C-USA play) Thursday night in Murfreesboro. The Blue Raiders have vaulted into the national rankings on the strength of a 10-game winning streak that began with a 66-62 raod win over the Hilltoppers back on Jan. 20. Western Kentucky comes in having won six in a row while averaging 87.7 PPG and trails Middle Tennessee by one game with two to play.
Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers capped their home slate with an 88-66 triumph over Old Dominion on Saturday behind 20 points from Taveion Hollingsworth, as head coach Rick Stansbury's team has shot at least 55 percent from the floor in five straight games (it's the program's longest such stretch since 1979!). The 6-7 Justin Johnson had 19 points and 11 rebounds in the win over the Monarchs, his 10th double-double of the season. He is tied for the team lead in scoring at 14.8 PPG (also a team-high 9.4 RPG) with fellow senior, PG Darius Thompson (4.7 RPG & 4.9 APG). Hollingsworth (13.6), a freshman guard, has hit the 20-point mark in four of his last seven games and is shooting 50 percent for the season after going 8-for-13 on Saturday. The 6-9 Dwight Coleby (11.9 & 8.1) ranks second on the team to Johnson with nine double-doubles.
Middle Tennessee State: "We're proud of our ranking, proud of it for our fans and most proud for our players," chead oach Kermit Davis told reporters after Saturday's 79-54 win over UAB. "We talked about it on Monday that with more success comes more motivation and it drives you. I think it drives our team. We looked like a Top 25 team tonight and that was good to see." The 6-7 Nick King (21.5 & 8.3) led the way on Saturday with 22 points and he ranks second in the conference in scoring (21.5), including 24.8 over the last four games. Guard Giddy Potts (13.1 & 4.3) buried 5-of-9 from three-point range in the win and is posting an average of 16.2 points over a five-game stretch. Guard Antwain Johnson (10.2) is 19-for-30 from long range over a span of seven contests after going 17-for-57 to start the season. The 6-10 Walters (10.1 & 5.1) is the team's fourth double digit scorer.
The pick: MTSU has won 31 of its last 33 in C-USA play and is now generating legitimate Big Dance at-large talk. That said, the Blue Raiders would be well-advised to win the conference tourney. Kermit Davis’ bunch won first showdown by four on road at WKU (back on Jan. 20) but will need a little bigger margin here, to "get the cash." Considering MTSU is 10-1 SU at home, outscoring opponents 77.4-to-60.8 PPG, I'll lay the modest points and make MTSU an 8* play.
|03-01-18||Tulsa v. East Carolina +9||Top||72-58||Loss||-107||11 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: The East Carolina Pirates are 10-17 overall and just 4-12 in American Athletic Conference. They get set to welcome the 17-11 Golden Hurricane (10-6 in AAC) to Greenville for the team's home finale on Thursday. The Pirates enter having lost three in a row and most recently absorbed a 109-58 pummeling at the hands of No. 25 Houston. Tulsa looks to bounce back after its six-game winning streak was ended with an 82-74 loss this past Sunday at No. 10 Cincinnati.
|03-01-18||Northwestern +5.5 v. Penn State||Top||57-65||Loss||-106||11 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The second round of the Big Ten tournament will take place Thursday at Madison Square Garden. Seventh-seeded Penn State (19-12 / Big Ten) will take on No. 10 Northwestern (15-16 / Big Ten). The Nittany Lions wrapped up the regular season with three consecutive losses to fall out of the NCAA Tournament picture and now hope to make a deep run in this tourney, as that is their only path to play their way back into contention for an at-large bid. Of course, Penn State could just win the tourney, which would give them an automatic bid. Penn State's opponent is Northwestern, who enter the tourney having dropped six consecutive games. The Wildcats' only chance at making the Big Dance would be to win this tourney, meaning the Wildcats have no chance at all of 'dancing' in 2018.
Northwestern: The Wildcats returned most of their core players from the team that earned the first NCAA Tournament berth in program history last year but they have struggled under the weight of expectations. Their goal in this tourney would be to avoid their first losing season since 2014-15 but that would take at least two wins. "Our confidence is low right now," Northwestern head coach Chris Collins told reporters. "Let's play tough, let's play together and try to see if we can find a way to win a game on Thursday." Senior guard Scottie Lindsey matched a program record with nine three-pointers en route to a career-high 32 points in the Sunday's 77-70 loss to Iowa. Lindsey leads the team in scoring at 15.3 PPG but the 6-7 Vic Law, who is averaging 12.0 & 5.8, will miss the Big Ten Tournament with a toe problem. Senior PG Bryant McIntosh (12.0 & 5.1 APG) will play through a shoulder injury, which caused him to miss two games in February, plus the team's fourth double digit scorer is the 6-8 Dererk Pardon (11.2 & 7.1) and he earned All-Big Ten honorable mentions from the media.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions eased past the Wildcats 78-63 in the first meeting of the season before suffering a 70-61 setback on Jan. 20. Penn State expects (hopes?) to advance to the quarterfinals of this tourney for the first time since 2015. 6-5 sophomore guard Tony Carr (19.9-4.5-4.8) was a consensus All-Big Ten first team selection after leading the conference with 20.1 points to go along with 4.9 assists per game. Head coach Pat Chambers uses an "Iron-5," with all getting 26-plus minutes of playing time and all averaging in double digits. The 6-8 Lamar Stevens has scored 43 points in the two meetings with Northwestern this season, including a career-high 30 in the win over the Wildcats on Jan. 5. He averages 15.2 & 6.3 and is joined by the 6-9 Watkins (12.1 & 8.9) up front, while Garner (10.3) and Reaves (10.3-4.8-3.3) join Carr on the perimeter.
The pick: One could reasonably argue that Northwestern enters the tournament in the worst form in the conference (six straight losses coming in) but Penn State comes in off three straight losses, as well. Just don't see Penn State being favored by this much, as Northwestern still has a nucleus of guys left over from last year's magical season. Take the points and make Northwestern an 8* play.
|02-28-18||Butler v. St. John's +3||Top||68-75||Win||100||13 h 14 m||Show|
The set set-up: The 19-10 Butler Bulldogs (9-7 in Big East) will visit the Carnesecca Arena in Queens to take on the host 14-15 St. John's Red Storm (3-13 in Big East). Butler knocked off Providence on Feb. 17 and then routed No. 24 Creighton 93-70 three days later, which may have all but clinched an NCAA at-large berth for the Bulldogs. St John's is 11-2 in non-conference play (which includes an upset of Duke) but the team's 3-13 conference mark has done in the Red Storm.
Butler: Butler shoots (47.8% ranks 40th) and scores (80.3 PPG ranks 50th) well. Senior forward Kelan Martin (20.9 & 6.4) is finishing his career on a high note while averaging 26.2 points over the last six contests to push his Big East-leading mark to 23.3 in league games. Junior guard Paul Jorgensen (10.8) played a big part in the last two wins for the Bulldogs, averaging 14.5 points and draining 12-of-18 from the floor. Sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin (15.4 & 5,4) is the team's second-leading scorer but is coming off a 3-for-11 shooting performance.
St. John's: The Red Storm opened Big East play 0-11 but have been a much better team the last month with shocking wins over Duke and Villanova. Still, they sit at the bottom of the league standings after losing their last two contests to Marquette and Seton Hall. Sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds leads the Big East in scoring overall (21.6) and has been especially productive during the Red Storm’s revival, averaging 29.1 points over the last seven contests. He adds 5.1 RPG and 4.9 APG, similar to his backcourt partner, Simon (11.5-7.1-5.0), who also rebounds and 'dishes' with authority. The 6-7 Clark (11.9 & 4.7) is the team's best frontcourt player. Justin Simon is shooting better than 50 percent from the floor the last four games, while Clark is scoring 18.3 PPG over the last three while connecting on 21-of-40 from the floor.
The pick: Butler destroyed St. John's 70-45 at home back on Jan. 27 and has won six of the last seven matchups between the two schools. However, Butler has lost four of its last six road games. Meanwhile, the Red Storm have played Creighton and Xavier close at home, upset Duke (at MSG) and won at Villanova by four points as a 16 1/2-point dog. Make St. John's an 8* play against a Butler team which is likely looking more towards the Big East tourney and an expected NCAA bid.
|02-28-18||Thunder -5 v. Mavs||Top||111-110||Loss||-100||13 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: With all sorts of "tanking" stories surrounding them, the Dallas Mavericks beat the Pacers 109-103 on Monday. The 19-42 Mavs remain at home for Wednesday's game against another playoff-hopeful opponents, the 35-27 Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder bounced back from a 112-80 Saturday loss at Golden State by beating the Orlando Magic 112-105 on Monday. Oklahoma City is among a group of teams clustered between No. 5 and No. 9 in the West (currently own the No. 7 seed) and can't afford a loss to a team at the bottom of the standings.
Oklahoma City: OKC got 48 points from its reserves in Monday's win and is hoping that contributions from players other than Russell Westbrook (24.8-9.6-10.4), Paul George (22.3 & 5.5) and Carmelo Anthony (17.0 & 5.9) is something that will continue on a regular basis. "This is the way we have to perform for the rest of the year and throughout the postseason," reserve guard Raymond Felton told reporters. Felton (7.1) led four reserves in double figures with 13 points against the Magic. However, other than starting center Adams (14.0 & 9.1), no other OKC player is averaging even 8.0 PPG.
Dallas: Owner Mark Cuban was fined $600,000 by the NBA last week for suggesting on a podcast that it might be best for the franchise if the team continued to lose this season in order to improve its draft prospects but the players are refuted that position. The Mavs don't score much (102.0 PPG ranks 27th) but six players average in double digits, led by Barnes, the team's leading scorer (18.2) and rebounder (6.5) plus rookie PG Dennis Smith Jr. (14.6-3.9-4.8). Dallas is capable of getting plenty of support of its bench. J.J. Barea scored 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting in 26 minutes on Monday and the Mavericks added to the bench at the trade deadline with Doug McDermott, who is averaging 9.8 PPG in his six games with Dallas, while shooting 51.2% from the floor, including 54.5% on threes.
The pick: Surprisingly, the Mavs have taken two of the first three meetings this season, including a 116-113 win at Oklahoma City in the latest matchup back on Dec. 31. The Mavs also beat the Thunder 97-81 earlier this season here at American Airlines Center. However, it should be noted that OKC is a very dangerous (although volatile) team. The Thunder were one of four teams (Golden State, Houston, Toronto were the others) to enter the All Star break ranked in the top-10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Will OKC ever get its act together? That's TBD but in this one, OKC takes care of business. Make the Thunder a 10* play.
|02-28-18||Temple v. Connecticut +2.5||Top||66-72||Win||100||11 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: It's AAC college hoops from Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Ct. when the 16-12 Temple Owls (8-8 in AAC) visit the 13-16 UConn Huskies (6-10 in AAC). Temple has won eight of its last 11 games and still has an outside shot of playing its way into the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, UConn has lost seven of nine and is closing in on finishing with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in 31 years.
Temple: The Owls rolled to an easy 75-56 win over Central Florida on Sunday but a crushing 21-point home loss to Houston on Feb. 18 will put added emphasis on the American Athletic Conference tourney for Temple. Freshman guard Nate Pierre-Louis (8.0) has endured plenty of highs and lows in his first season, but Temple's sixth man supplied 11 points off the bench Sunday to reach double figures for the sixth time in eight games. 6-8 guard Rose (15.0 & 4.4) leads the team in scoring with fellow guard Alston (13.2) and the 6-10 Enechionyia (10.9 & 6.1) joining him in double figures.The Owls are not a high scoring team, averaging only 70.1 PPG (263rd) on 42.8% shooting (282nd).
UConn: The Huskies fell into a 23-point hole midway through the second half of Sunday's 83-79 loss to Memphis, before making a late run behind Jalen Adams, who scored 21 of his 25 points after the break. When these teams met back in Philly last month, the Owls demolished the Huskies in a 28-point romp that marked the start of a UConn tailspin which has seen them lose seven of nine. Adams (18.1-4.2-4.5) was limited to just seven points last month versus Temple. Joining Adams in double digits are fellow guard Vital (15.0 & 5.2) and the 6-8 Larrier (13.8 & 4.5).
The pick: Temple is the better team and just could be getting hot at the right time but the Owls are just 4-7 SU on the road and UConn is still capable of 'barking quite loudly' as a home dog against a Temple team which averages a modest 67.1 PPG on the road. Make UConn a 10* play.
|02-27-18||Boise State +3 v. San Diego State||Top||64-72||Loss||-106||15 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-6 Boise State Broncos are 12-4 in the MWC and will finish second in the league to 14-2 Nevada. The Broncos will play their second-to-last regular season game tonight at Viejas Arena against the host San Diego State Aztecs who are 17-10, including 9-7 in MWC play. Boise State comes in off back-to-back wins, after losing at Utah State and home to Nevada in its prevuious two. As for SDSU, the Aztecs have won their last four games.
Boise State: The Broncos took out Colorado State last Wednesday, led by 6-7 guard Chandler Hutchison's 27 points. Hutchinson leads the etam in scoring (19.9), rebounding (7.60 and assists (3.5). He's joined in double digits by guard Jessup (11.6 & 4.9)a nd the 6-9 Sengfelder (11.5 & 6.5). Boise averages 78.4 PPG (69th) and allows 67.7 PPG (62nd).
San Diego State: The Aztecs score 77.5 PPG (81st) and allow 68.0 PPG (65th). They have no player like Hutchinson, a legitimate POY candidate in the MWC, but do have seven players averaging between 7.7 and 12.7 PPG. That group is led by the 6-10 Pope (12.7 & 7.1) and PG Watson (12.5 & 3.9 APG).
The pick: San Diego State has been playing pretty well lately and is 11-2 SU & 9-2 A TS at home. Note that Boise just edged SDSU 83-80 back in Boise, so this is by no means an easy "W." However, the Broncos are currently on Joe Lundardi’s "Next Four Out List" and have no margin of error down the stretch if they hope to earn an at-large bid (assuming Nevada wins MWC tourney). After consecutive shaky outings, Boise has allowed just 106 points in back-to-back wins, scoring at least 76 in both games. Make Boise State an 8* play.
|02-27-18||76ers -1 v. Heat||Top||101-102||Loss||-100||12 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The 32-26 Philadelphia 76ers are the East's No. 7 seed and the 31-29 Miami Heat are the conference's No. 8 seed. The teams meet tonight in Miami and while Philly leads Miami by just two games, the Sixers have been on quite a roll with the Heat seemingly headed in the opposite direction. Philly lost at Washington on Sunday but that defeat snapped a seven-game winning streak (club's longest since 2009). As for Miami, the Heat beat the sad-sack Grizzlies 115-89 but entered that game having had dropped eight of their previous nine
Philadelphia: Sunday's loss marked the start of a stretch of seven of eight on the road for Philadelphia, which is gunning for homecourt advantage in the playoffs (Sixers are just . two games back of Washington, which owns the No. 4 seed). Joel Embiid (23.9 & 11.2) only recently started playing in back-to-back games and came through a stretch of three games in four nights coming out of the break without a problem. He averaged 27.6 points on 55.6 percent shooting and 12.3 rebounds, serving up three consecutive double-doubles. Embiid and 6-foot-10 rookie PG Ben Simmons (16.7-7.7-7.4), veteran shooting guard JJ Redick (16.6), plus forwards Dario Saric(14.5 & 6.9) and Robert Covington (12.6 & 5.5) comprise a strong starting-five. Philadelphia's bench is now led by SG Marco Belinelli (11.8 PPG in his four games with the team), who is the team's highest scoring reserve and is similar to Redick in that both have more than a decade of NBA experience.
Miami: "It's kind of a relief a little bit," said PG Goran Dragic (17.4-4.1-4.9) after the win over the Grizz. "The last 17 games have been close games. Finally, we put together a great game where we were up 20 points. We've started the homestand well. Hopefully we'll continue that Tuesday." Shooting guard Tyler Johnson (11.8) went nine straight games without hitting at least half of his shots before going 4-of-7 in the loss at Philadelphia on Feb. 14. Johnson carried that shooting over the break and is 12-of-22 from the floor in the last two games. Hassan Whiteside (14.2 & 11.9) is a consistent double-double 'machine' but Wade has added little since returning to Miami, averaging 8.6 & 5.0 in five games (team is 2-3).
The pick: Beating the Grizzlies is hardly cause for celebration (Memphis is currently on a 10-game slide) and these teams met right before the break when Philly pulled out a 104-102 win at Wells Fargo Center on Valentine’s Day. Miami was just 7-16-3 ATS line as host before break and I do not assume much will change down the stretch, even with the return of Wade. While Miami has slipped from the No. 4 seed to the East's' No. 8 seed, Philly's been "movin' on up" and can 'smell' a possible Game 1 contest at home in the opening round. Make Philly a 10* play.
|02-27-18||Florida +2.5 v. Alabama||Top||73-52||Win||100||11 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide meet Tuesday night in SEC action at the Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa. Both schools come in having lost six of their last 10, with the Gators checking in at 18-11 (9-7 in SEC) and the Tide at 17-12 (8-8 in SEC). Setting the conference standings, Florida is in a four-way tie for third place, while Alabama is a game behind that group, tied with Missouri for seventh.
Florida: The Gators' days of being in the top-25 have long ago disappeared but beating first-place Auburn 72-66 on Saturday boosted their postseason resume, as well as their chances of securing a top-four seed and a double-bye in the upcoming SEC tournament. The Gators had lost three straight before besting the Tigers behind. Florida has heavily relied on its three-point shooting, as the team's top four scorers are all guards who like to shoot from the outside. Jalen Hudson (15.0 & 4.0) and Egor Koulechov (13.7 & 6.7) have been the team’s most consistent scorers and most prolific three-point shooters. PG Chris Chiozza (11.3-4.4-6.2) is the catalyst and leads the team with 54 steals. The Gators
Alabama: Many still have the Crimson Tide in the "Big Dance" (I'm not convinced) but they are one of the SEC’s top defensive teams and own one of the nation’s best freshmen in guard Collin Sexton (18.2-3.6-3.5). Fellow freshman John Petty (10.8) and sophomore Dazon Ingram (10.0 & 5.6) give Alabama a trio of talented guards who can match up well with Florida’s strong backcourt. The 6-9 Donta Hall (11.1 & 7.1) works hard inside and feasts on easy baskets in the paint, shooting 74.2 percent.
The pick: The Crimson Tide easily handled the Gators in the first meeting of the season, posting a 68-50 road victory back on Feb. 3. However, while Alabama has won two of the last three meetings, Florida has captured 12 of the last 14 and hasn’t lost two straight in the all-time series since 1998. Revenge works. Make Florida a 10* play.
|02-26-18||Lakers -1.5 v. Hawks||Top||123-104||Win||100||14 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The Atlanta Hawks have played just once since the break, losing badly at Indiana by the score of 116-93. It was Atlanta's third consecutive loss and fifth in six games. Atlanta's 18-42 record currently leaves the Hawks last in the Eastern Conference and with a record better than only the 18-43 Suns in the entire NBA. The Hawks will host the Lakers for the only time this season at Philips Arena and will be looking to split the season series after Los Angeles won 132-113 back on Jan. 7 at the Staples Center. The 25-34 Lakers are surely not playoff-bound but this young team has shown improvement this month. The Lakers are undefeated in two games since the All-Star break and check in at 6-3 since Feb. 1.
LA Lakers: The game will be a homecoming for Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who played at the University of Georgia. He coming off his best performance of the year, a season-high 34-point effort that included a career-high eight three-point baskets in a 113-108 win over the Sacramento Kings. Caldwell-Pope (13.5 & 5.0) has scored in double figures in 39 games and had nine 20-plus point performances. Los Angeles is bringing rookie PG Lonzo Ball back slowly from a knee injury and continues to bring Isaiah Thomas off the bench, leaving PF Julius Randle and fellow forward Brandon Ingram to handle the playmaking responsibilities with the first unit. Randle (14.7 & 7.5) ripped off a triple-double in a 124-102 win over Dallas on Friday while Ingram (16.1-5.3-3.8) paced the team with eight assists in a triumph at Sacramento on Saturday.Atlanta: The Hawks never led in Friday's loss to Indiana, committing 13 turnovers in the first half (22 on the game). The bright spot was Isaiah Taylor (he avergags just 4.9 PPG), who scored a career-high 17 points and added six assists and two steals. The Hawks may be without veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova (10.9 & 5.5), as the club is working on a buyout, which would allow him to re-sign with the Philadelphia 76ers. Dennis Schroder was on a roll before the break and had averaged 22 points on 53.2 percent shooting in his last three games but looked rusty on Friday, when he was held to nine points on 3-of-12 from the floor. Still, he's been Atlanta's best player all season, averaging 19.3 PPG and 6.2 APG. The pick: It's a revenge spot for Atlanta but this team has little to play for except the No. 1 position in the draft. The Lakers are a poor defensive team (110.0 PPG allowed ranks 27th) but LA has scored in triple digits for 14 straight games and has averaged 118.5 PPG in going 2-0 since the break. The Hawks do not have the firepower to match LA right now, ranking 23rd in the league in both scoring (103.5 PPG) and FG percentage (45.0%). Make LA a 10* play.
|02-25-18||76ers v. Wizards -2||Top||94-109||Win||100||13 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: No one is making fun of "The Process," these days. Philly's 116-105 victory over Orlando on Saturday at home gave the 76ers seven straight wins, matching the franchise's longest run since a nine-gamer late in the 2002-03 season. Larry Brown was coaching Allen Iverson on that team, one which was just two years removed from an NBA Finals appearance. These Sixers are 32-25 and while they are the East's No. 7 seed at the moment, they are just 2 1/2 games back of the third-seeded Cavs. Philly will be in Washington tonight to face the 34-25 Wizards, who are 8-3 since losing PG John Wall (19.4 & 9.3) to a knee injury. The Wizards are the No. 4 seed and while they are just one game back of the Cavs (No. 3), they are also just 1 1/2 games ahead of the 76ers (No. 7).
Philadelphia: Joel Embiid (23.9 & 11.2) scored 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Saturday's win as Philadelphia recorded at least 112 points for the fourth time during the winning streak. Rookie Ben Simmons (16.7-7.7-7.4) chipped in 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting and he has made 65.4 percent from the floor over a four-game stretch. Veteran shooting guard Marco Bellinelli has produced at least 15 points in two of three games since being acquired by Philadelphia (he's averaging 12.8 PPG). Joining Embiid and Simmons in the starting lineup are SG Redick (16.8), PF Saric (14.6 & 6.9) and SF Covington (12.7 & 5.5). Philly is for real.
Washington: The Wizards returned from the break and won 110-103 at Cleveland on Thursday but then flat on their faces the very next night, losing 122-105 at home to the Hornets, a team which is seven games under .500. "We just didn't have energy, focus, no fight back, no nothing," All-Star guard Bradley Beal told reporters after the loss to Charlotte. "They flat out whooped us." Beal scored 33 points in the loss and he has made 9-of-18 from three-point range over his last three games. He leads the team in scoring (23.7) plus Washington also has five others averaging between 8.7 and 14.5 PPG, excluding Wall.
The set-up: Dropping that game against the Hornets represented Washington's 10th loss against a team with a losing record. With Philly playing so well and off that ugly (and embarrassing loss), I can't imagine Washington being 'flat' for this one. The home team has won the last six meetings between these two and the Wizards have won seven straight meetings at home over the Sixers. Make Washington a 10* play.
|02-25-18||Florida State +3 v. NC State||Top||72-92||Loss||-107||11 h 41 m||Show|
The set-up: Florida State and North Carolina State each have just three games left before the ACC tourney, as they prepare to clash on Sunday in Raleigh. The 19-8 Seminoles (8-7 in ACC) come in rested with a full week off since beating Pittsburgh 88-75 to extend their winning streak to two and with a No. 25 ranking in the latest AP poll. Meanwhile, the unranked but surprising Wolfpack won their third in a row Tuesday, defeating Boston College 82-66. NC State is 19-9 and at 9-6, one game better than FSU in league play.
Florida State: The Seminoles are a strong offensive team (83.0 PPG ranks 23rd) and that's been on display in back-to-back wins over No. 15 Clemson and Pitt. FSU connected on a combined 52.7 percent from the floor and averaged 84.5 points in those two wins. Guard Terance Mann is one of only four players in the ACC leading his team in both scoring (career-high 14.0) and rebounding (5.8) but he only had four points and two rebounds in the win over Pittsburgh after sitting out the entire first half for what Hamilton called a "small indiscretion." PJ Savoy (18 points, 5-for-7 on three-pointers) and MJ Walker (14) combined for 32 points in rare starting roles against Pitt with Mann and Braian Angola (12.7 & 4.0) on the bench. The 6-8 Cofer (13.4 & 5.4) has been the team's most productive frontcourt player but both the 7-4 Koumadje (8.0 & 4.9) and the Kabengele (7.1 & 4.8) are solid contributors.
NC State: Guard Allerik Freeman (14.8 & 4.2) has emerged as the go-to guy for the Wolfpack, leading the team in scoring in each game during the current winning streak, including a 20-point outing the last time out against Boston College. Freshman Braxton Beverly (10.0 & 3.9 APG) is a threat from long range and in the last six games has hit 17-of-28 from three-point land while failing to register even a single turnover in 97 minutes the last three contests. The 7-0 Yurtsen (13.6 & 6.8) is the team's best big man and PG Johnson (8.8 & 7.8 APG) is the floor leader.
The pick: This is the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season and it's a big one for both. NC State is 7-1 when it has less turnovers than its opponents but the Seminoles have been protecting the ball during the win streak, averaging just three second-half turnovers and a total of three points off of turnovers in the second halves of its last two games. Florida State needs one more victory to record its third straight season with at least 20 and has won its last three meetings with NC State. Make it four in row in the series and four straight 20-win seasons for the Seminoles. Make FSU a 10* play.
|02-25-18||Colorado State +17.5 v. Nevada||Top||83-92||Win||100||9 h 51 m||Show|
The set-up: The Colorado State Rams are 11-18 overall and just 4-12 in MWC play, as they head to Reno, Nv. to take on the Nevada Wolf Pack. Nevada is 24-5 (13-2 in MWC play) and is ranked No. 20 in the AP poll. The Wolf Pack are clearly the class of the conference and with a win at home on Sunday, can clinch at least a share of the school's second consecutive Mountain West regular-season championship and also would claim the No. 1 seed for the upcoming conference tournament.
Colorado State: The Rams are locked into the No. 10 spot for the Mountain West Tournament and will play the seventh place finisher, which could be any of five teams, in the first round on March 7 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Rams will be without head coach Larry Eustachy (administrative leave) for the sixth straight game and enter having won just one of their last 10 games. The school is reportedly trying to work out an exit strategy for Eustachy and will be playing for their second interim head coach (Jase Herl). Junior guard Prentiss Nixon leads the team in scoring (15.3) but had just nine points in the team's 87-54 home loss to Boise State. Nixon is just 1-of-18 from the floor over the last two games, including 0-of-8 from three-point range,
Nevada: The Wolf Pack will be honoring three seniors before the contest in the final home game of the season. Head coach Eric Musselman said there's another reason it could be a special day. "You don't get to cut down nets in your own building very often," Musselman told the Reno Gazette Journal. A victory over the Rams would give Nevada a two-game advantage in the loss column over second-place Boise State (22-6, 12-4) with two games to go, and the Wolf Pack own the tiebreaker by virtue of a regular-season sweep of the Broncos. That said, all is not right with Nevada. The Wolf Pack are down to seven scholarship players after starting PG Larry Drew (8.1 & 4.3 APG) was lost for the season with a torn Achilles last week. Senior guard Kendall Stephens (13.8 PPG and a 45.2 percent shooter from three-point range) had a career-high 30 points, including seven three-pointers, in Wednesday's 80-67 win over San Jose State but injured his shooting thumb late in the game. Word is, he will play with a splint the rest of the year." Three other players are averaging double figures including Mountain West Player of the Year candidate Caleb Martin (19.2 & 5.1), reigning MW tourney MVP Jordan Caroline (17.0 & 8.7) and Cody Martin (13.5 & 6.4), twin brother of Caleb.
The pick: The Rams may be banged up more mentally than physically and the 87-54 loss to Boise was the team's worst in nine years! Sure, Nevada can clinch the MWC's No. 1 seed with a win here but is there really any reason to blow out the sad-sack Rams? Take the YUGE points and make CSU an 8* play.
|02-24-18||Celtics -4.5 v. Knicks||Top||121-112||Win||100||12 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics limped into the All-Star break off an 0-3 homestand while falling out of first place in the Eastern Conference (Toronto held a two-game lead at the break). However, they emerged from the break looking more like the team that led the Eastern Conference for the bulk of the first half of the season. Boston snapped its three-game skid with a 110-98 victory over the Pistons on Thursday, pulling within a game of first-place Toronto in the East. The Knicks had dropped eight straight games before the break but snapped the team's slide with a 120-113 victory at Orlando on Thursday. Trey Burke came off the bench to post a season-high 26 points to go along with six assists as New York tied its season high for scoring, first accomplished against Phoenix in the eighth game of the season.
Boston: Rookie Daniel Theis (averaging a modest 5.2 PPG on the season) paced a balanced attack with a career-high 19 points in Thursday's win. Kyrie Irving (24.6 & 5.1 APG) produced 18 points and Jayson Tatum (13.5 & 5.1) added 15. Boston's bench outscored Detroit's by a whopping 65-21 margin, as Theis was one of four reserves to score at least 11 points, including Marcus Smart (12 points) in his return from a hand laceration. The break allowed Smart to heal a bit more and the PG, who cut his hand punching a framed picture in January, provides some much-needed defense, as well as being capable of scoring in double digits (10.1).
NY Knicks: Burke, who is averaging just 8.7 PPG in 14 games for the Knicks, was 12-for-22 from the floor in 30 minutes, displaying an aggressive approach that could yield some positive results for a team playing the stretch run without leading scorer Kristaps Porzingis (22.7 & 6.6). Another positive came in the play of Tim Hardaway Jr. (16.9 & 4.1), who broke out of a long slump with 37 points in the final game before the break before chipping in 23 against the Magic. Hardaway is now 23-for-43 (53.5%) from the floor in his two-game surge, after going 24-for-93 (25.8%) over his previous seven contests.
The pick: New York was just 1-7 ATS during its eight-game slide (no one better say "tank," these days) and I'm not sure a win over the equally hapless Magic means much of anything. Meanwhile, the Celtics are fully engaged in an effort to earn back the East's top record and Boston's19-8 SU & 18-9 ATS road record makes them a 10* play in this one.
|02-24-18||Appalachian State v. Arkansas-Little Rock +2||Top||69-67||Push||0||11 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: I'm zeroing in on a meaningless game in the Sun Belt Conference on Saturday, as the 12-17 Appalachian State Mountaineers (7-9 in SBC play) play the 6-22 Little Rock Trojans (3-12 in SBC) tonight at the Jack Stephens Center.
Appalachian State: The Mountaineers fought back from a 56-45 deficit with 8:45 left to force overtime, this past Thursday but fell 82-79 in OT to the Arkansas State Red Wolves. The Mountaineers average a so-so 76.3 PPG (100th) but shoot poorly, converting on just 43.5% from the floor (239th). A pair of guards are the team's lone double digit scorers, featuring junior Shabazz (19.2) and freshman Forrest (13.3). The 6-8 Johnson is the team's leading rebounder at 8.5 RPG (adds 7.2 pPG).
Little Rock: The Trojans are in the SBC basement and are coming off 65-60 Thursday loss to the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Little Rock never held the lead at any time in the game, although the Trojans did fight back some in the second half. Sophomore guard Andre Jones (12.3) is the team's lone double digit scorer, as no other player averages more than 7.5 PPG. That means it should be no surprise that the Trojans' average of 64.0 PPG ranks 341st in the nation.
The pick: So why Little Rock? Appalachian State has nothing much to play for either and how can one lay ANY amount of points with a team that is just 3-11 SU on the road. The first time around (in Boone, N.C.), the Trojans played the Mountaineers tough, losing just 72-67 in OT. This time around (at home), the Trojans walk off with a rare "W." Make Little Rock a 10* play.
|02-24-18||Kansas +2 v. Texas Tech||Top||74-72||Win||100||9 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: For the better part of the last month, Texas Tech has stood atop the Big 12, arguably the deepest conference in the nation, only to have an ill-timed toe injury to the team's leading scorer and playmaker Keenan Evans have the Red Raiders on the verge of giving up control of the Big 12 to Kansas. Evans is unlikely to be anywhere close to 100 percent on Saturday, when No. 6 Texas Tech hosts No. 8 Kansas in Lubbock. The 22-6 Jayhawks (11-4 in Big 12) have won 13 straight Big 12 regular-season championships, which makes big games in late February nothing new. Meanwhile, Texas Tech finds itself in uncharted territory. The 22-6 Red Raiders (10-5) in Big 12) have never won a Big 12 title in men's basketball and they're just three seasons removed from a 3-15 mark in conference play.
Kansas: Devonte' Graham's (17.6 & 7.2 APG) 10-game streak in which he played every minute of every game came to an end Monday but not before he lifted his scoring average in conference action to 19 points per game - second in the Big 12) with 23 points in 35 minutes of action. The 7-0 Udoka Azubuike (14.0 & 7.1) leads the country in field-goal percentage (77.1), but was limited to 18 minutes due to foul trouble. However, he went 5-for-6 from the floor to improve to 25-for-28 (89.3%) over his last four outings. Kansas is averaging 82.2 PPG (38th) on 47.4% shooting (46th).
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders fell a full game back in Wednesday's 79-71 defeat at Oklahoma State, as Evans scored only two points and one of the nation's top defenses (63.1 PPG ranks 8th) gave up its second-highest scoring output of the season, along with a season-high 52.2-percent mark from the floor. With Evans (17.6) limited in each of the last two contests, Zhaire Smith (11.1) has stepped up his play, leading the team in scoring each time while averaging 16.5 points on 66.7 percent shooting. Fellow freshman guard Jarrett Culver (10.9) snapped out of a three-game shooting slump during which he went 8-for-34 from the floor, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting and six rebounds. Senior guard Justin Gray (5.3), who is the only Red Raider to start all 28 games this season, has also filled some of the offensive void left behind by Evans over the last two games, providing 23 points while also corralling 13 rebounds.
The pick: Kansas and UCLA are the only two programs to win 13 straight conference championships in NCAA Division I men's basketball history but with a win on Saturday, the Jayhawks will clinch at least a share of the school's 14th straight conference title and set an NCAA record. Texas Tech has won 17 straight at home and defeated Kansas 85-73 in Lawrence on Jan. 2. However, Kansas once again finds itself in familiar territory, on teh verge of clinching yet another Big 12 title. With "revenge" also on its side, Kansas is an 8* play.
|02-24-18||Notre Dame v. Wake Forest||Top||76-71||Win||100||8 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: It's ACC hoops from Winston-Salem as the 16-12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (6-9 in the ACC) visit the 11-17 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-12 in ACC). Notre Dame has alternated wins and losses in each of its last four games, following a crushing 77-74 home loss to Miami in its last outing. Trailing by seven at the break, the Fighting Irish used an early second-half surge to give them a 62-57 lead, but Miami used a 13-0 run late in the game, delivering a severe blow to ND's already slim tournament chances. It has been a struggle for most of the season for Wake Forest (see record above) but the Demon Deacons have won two of three, after Wednesday's 63-57 victory over Pittsburgh.
Notre Dame: A promising season for Notre Dame has been derailed by injuries as the team has lost 28 combined man games from three of its top six players; ACC Preseason Player of the Year Bonzie Colson (14), senior guard Matt Farrell (5) and freshman forward D.J. Harvey (9). The Irish were also without starter Rex Pflueger in the Miami game after he injured his back Feb. 17 but the junior guard is expected to return the lineup against Wake Forest. Sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs (15.8 PPG & 5.5 APG) has had a breakout season in wake of all the injuries and has hit double-digits in scoring in 16 straight games, while Farrell has been red-hot since returning to the lineup Feb. 3, averaging 20.8 points per game in six contests (is averaging 17.0 PPG & 5.5 APG on the season).
Wake Forest: Guards Crawford (16.9 & 5.0 APG) and Woods (12.6) plus the 7-1 Moore (11.7 & 9.5) are Wake's lone three double digit scorers. Crawford's 14-point performance in the win over Pitt marked the 27th time in 28 games that he has reached double-digits. Junior center Doral Moore stuffed the stat sheet against the Panthers with 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, narrowly missing his fifth straight double-double and having his double-digit rebounding streak snapped at 10 games. The Demon Deacons played some of their best defense of the year Wednesday as Pitt's 57 points were the lowest for a Wake opponent in conference play this season.
The pick: Notre Dame's NCAA hopes are likely all but 'dead,' but Wake Forest is 3-11 ATS in its last 14 games overall, while Notre Dame is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings between these two schools. Make Notre Dame an 8* play.
|02-24-18||Marquette -3.5 v. DePaul||Top||62-70||Loss||-105||5 h 44 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Big East college hoops from WinTrust Arena in Chicago as the 16-11 Marquette Golden Eagles (7-8 in Big East) take on the host 10-17 DePaul Blue Demons (3-12 in Big East). Marquette is off an 85-73 win over St. John's in its last outing, giving the team three wins in its last four. DePaul suffered a 93-62 loss to Villanova in its last outing, falling for the sixth time in its last seven games (remain in the Big East basement). Marquette knocked off DePaul 70-52 last month in Milwaukee.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles rely on a three-headed scoring attack from the backcourt, as guards Markus Howard (21.3), Andrew Rowsey (19.5 & 4.5 APG) and Sam Hauser (14.6 & 5.9 combine for more than 55 points per game. The problem here could be, Howard injured his hip against Creighton and missed the St. John's game. The sophomore guard could also sit out Saturday's contest, which would put more pressure on Rowsey, who is averaging 22.3 points and 7.3 assists over his last four games, and Hauser, who is 14-of-21 from three-point range over that span.
DePaul: The Blue Demons are just playing out the string (again!), The team's 31-point loss to Villanova made it three straight losses and six of seven. A seemingly disinterested (or incapable) DePaul squad attempted only one foul shot and turned it over 20 times. 6-6 guard. Max Strus (17.0 & 5.5) scored 21 points and 6-11 center Marin Maric (14.0 & 6.3) chipped in 12 but the bench didn't give the Blue Demons much help, combining for eight points on 4-of-16 shooting.
The pick: Some feel as if Marquette still has a shot at earning an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament but the team would need to win out in the regular season and then make some noise in the Big East tourney for that to happen. That means a win here is a MUST! The Golden Eagles are quietly one of the most consistent offensive teams in the nation, having scored at least 70 points in every game since Dec. 2. Marquette averages 82,2 PPG (38th) on 47.4% shooting (46th) and teh Blue Demons s don't have the talent or will to compete. Make Marquette an 8* play
|02-23-18||Mavs v. Lakers -3.5||Top||102-124||Win||100||15 h 7 m||Show|
The set-up: Who would have expected that the Dallas Mavericks, who at 18-40 (14th place in the Western Conference), would be the league's biggest attention-grabber coming out of the All Star break. And, for all the wrong reasons. Sports Illustrated published a report on a culture of misogyny within the Dallas organization on Tuesday night and then owner Mark Cuban was fined $600,000 for publicly endorsing tanking on the "House Call with Dr. J" podcast. The Mavericks return to the court Friday night and get focused on basketball when they visit Staples Center to face the 23-34 LA Lakers. The Lakers could have been accused of tanking last season but are surely trying to win this season while developing the younger players on the roster the rest of the way, looking forward to this summer's free agent class. They are expected get rookie PG Lonzo Ball back from a knee injury on Friday but one wonders if that is good or bad news.
Dallas: "Players never play to lose," 20-year veteran Dirk Nowitzki told reporters. "It might happen, but you don't play for it. I still love to compete. That's one big reason why I'm still out there. I'll never stand for losing on purpose. It's just not who I am." Losing has been a way of life for the Mavs this season. They started by dropping nine of their first 10 games and 14 of 16 before showing some improvement with an 8-8 record in December, including a season-high four-game win streak from Dec. 26 to Dec. 31. However, the Mavericks began another free fall in January and they're 5-15 in 2018. Only the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns have worst records of 18-41. The bright spots have been leading scorer (18.3) and rebounder (6.6) Harrison Barnes and rookie PG Dennis Smith Jr. (14.8-3.9-4.9).
LA Lakers: The offense is humming right along but Los Angeles broke down at the defensive end while integrating PG Isaiah Thomas, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Cleveland, into the rotation. LA is 0-3 with Thomas, scoring 117.0 PPG but allowing 129.3 PPG! Getting Thomas and Ball on the floor together will be a challenge for the coaching staff. Ball is averaging 10.2-7.1-7.1 (how many rookies have put up that kind of a line?) but his shooting is off-the-charts, ugly (35.6% overall, including 30.3% on threes). Ingram (16.2 & 5.2) is now the team's leading scorer, rookie Kuzma (15.7 & 5.9) is arguably the 'steal' of the 2017 draft and Randle (14.7 & 7.4) has begun to look like a solid game-in and game-out performer (he's averaging 21.4 points on 62 percent shooting over the last five games).
|02-23-18||Clippers v. Suns +4.5||Top||128-117||Loss||-105||14 h 37 m||Show|
The set-up: The LA Clippers returned from the All Star break and lost 130-127 at Golden State, as Steph Curry scored 44 points in leading the Warriors to win in which the Clippers allowed Golden State to shoot 62.7 percent from the floor. The 30-27 Clippers now sit 9th in the West, one game out of the final playoff spot. The Clippers travel off last night's loss to Phoenix, where they'll take on the 18-41 Suns, who are tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the league's worst record, having dropped seven straight games and 15 of their last 17.
LA Clippers: The Clippers not only allowed the Warriors to shoot over 60 percent for the game but also allowed more than 30 points in every quarter. The good news is, Los Angeles has played excellent defense against the Suns this year, allowing an average of 91.5 PPG in two victories by margins of 42 and 13 points. Tobias Harris, who was acquired from the Detroit Pistons as part of the Blake Griffin deal, is fitting in nicely with the Los Angeles attack. Harris scored 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting against the Warriors for his third 20-point outing in seven games with the team (17.9 & 6.7 with LA). Standout guard Lou Williams had 21 points and tied his career high of 12 assists against the Warriors and he has recorded 10 or more assists four times this season after reaching that figure once over his first 12 NBA campaigns. Williams is averaging career-highs in both scoring (23.1) and assists (5.4).
Phoenix: The Suns' next loss will clinch their fourth straight losing campaign. Devin Booker dazzled while winning the NBA three-point shooting contest last weekend,and he also enters the post-break portion of the season with a streak of 60 make free throws. Booker is averaging 24.2 PPG, while connecting on 38.3% of his threes and 89% of his FTs. Something to be closely observed down the stretch is how well recently acquired PG Elfrid Payton (from Orlando) meshes with Booker, as the club has experienced issues at the position since dealing Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks in early November. It should be noted that Payton had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in the Suns' 107-97 loss at Utah before the break, his third game with the Suns and first with Booker at off guard. It was his first triple-double of the season and ninth of his career. Payton is averaging 20.3-8.3-8.7 in three games with Phoenix.
The pick: The Clippers have won 15 of the last 17 meetings with the Suns, including the last seven in a row. Sure, Phoenix has nothing to play for over the final 23 games but Devin Booker doesn't see the stretch as a lost cause. "Build on for next year, trying to get some momentum that will carry over to the summer, that will carry over to the next season," Booker told reporters. I like the Booker and Payton backcourt combo for the Suns and I'm not even a little convinced that the Clippers will do much down the stretch. On the second of a back-to-back, I'll go against the Clipps and 'bark' with the home dog. Make Phoenix a 10* play.
|02-23-18||Wright State -5.5 v. IUPU-Indianapolis||Top||56-66||Loss||-118||4 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: After a rare down season in 2014-15 when the Raiders won just 11 games, Wright Stare checks in at 21-8 so far in 2017-18, following seasons of 22 and 20 wins. The Raiders have won 14 of their last 17 games, after a 72-65 home win over Cleveland State on Monday. Wright State is 13-3 in Horizon play ((tied for first with Northern Kentucky) and will finish its regular season with road games at IUPUI tonight and then at UIC on Sunday. The Jaguars have won three of their last four but are just 10-17 overall (7-9 in Horizon play).
Wright State: Grant Benzinger had 20 points in Monday's win and leads the team in scoring at 14.5 PPG. Love, a 6-9 freshman, adds 12.6 PPG and a team-high 9.6 RPG plus five others get regular minutes while averaging between 5.1 and 10.1 PPG. Head coach Scott Nagy is in his second season and Wright State plays very solid defense, allowing 65.7 PPG (29th) while holding opponents to 41.6% shooting (53rd).
IUPUI: The Jaguars beat Oakland on Monday but as noted above, are going nowhere this season. Brennan is a 6-6 forward who leads the team in scoring at 12.8 PPG and a pair of guards join him in double digits, They are Patterson (10.9) and Henderson (11.7). Offense is not a strength for this team, which averages 69.3 PPG (283rd).
The pick: The Jaguars will have their work cut out for them scoring much against Wright State. In the season's first meeting, the Raiders took an eight-point decision, holding the Jaguars to 52 points on 35.3 % shooting. Wright State is 6-2 ATS in its last six road games and moves one game closer to capturing the Horixzon's regular season title with a comfortable win in this one. Make Wright State an 8* play.
|02-22-18||Arizona State v. Oregon -3||Top||68-75||Win||100||16 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: The Arizona State Sun Devils will look to rebound after having their three-game winning streak was snapped in a 77-70 loss at home to Arizona in their last outing. ASU opened the season unranked but rose as high as No. 3 in the AP poll after beginning the season 12-0 in non-conference play. However, the Sun Devils lost their Pac 12 opener Dec. 30 at Arizona and currently check in at 19-7, including 7-7 in Pac 12 games (team is no longer ranked). ASU travels to Eugene, Oregon Thursday night for a contest with the 17-10 Oregon Ducks (also 7-7 in Pac 12 play), who will also be looking to bounce back from back-to-back losses, including an 86-78 setback at the hands of UCLA in their last outing.
Arizona State: Tra Holder led ASU with 20 points in the loss to Arizona, something he's done all season. He leads the etam in scoring at 19.3 PPG. Fellow guards Evans (16.8) and Justice (12.4) are also in double digits but Arizona State has gone without meaningful offensive support from its forwards most of this season. The exception has been 6-8 freshman White (11.6 & 7.40. Head coach Bobby Hurley has moved 6-9 freshman Vitaliy Shibel into the starting lineup in place of 6-7 sophomore Mickey Mitchell since the team last faced Oregon but Shibel has been even less effective, combining for two points in 46 minutes over the past five games.
Oregon: The Ducks lost four starters off last year's 33-win team which made it all the way to the Final 4. PG Payton Pritchard is the lone returning starter and he's been getting better as the season winds down. He is averaging 17.8 points over the past four games to inch his scoring average up to a team-high 14.9 PPG (also lead the team with 4.9 APG). Then there is 6-7 senior forward MiKyle McIntosh (10.6 & 6.3), who just had his best week of the season, combining for 42 points on 17-for-28 shooting in the losses to USC and UCLA. 6-7 freshman Troy Brown averages 11.9 & 6.9 and guard Elijah Brown, 12.8 PPG.
The pick: Arizona State is sinking since league play began. The Sun Devils are 3-10-2 ATS in their last 15 conference matchups, while the Ducks are 27-13 ATS in their last 40 conference games. Oregon comes in off four straight comfortable wins and covers at home and it's putting it mildly to say Oregon is a good home team. The Ducks are 123-16 at Matthew Knight Arena since its home court opened in 2011. With Oregon off back-to-back losses USC and UCLA, let me note that the Ducks haven't lost three in a row since dropping five straight in January 2014. Make Oregon a 10* play.
|02-22-18||Southern Miss v. Texas-San Antonio -5.5||Top||56-64||Win||100||12 h 20 m||Show|
We have some C-USA action Thursday night as the Southern Miss Golden Eagles take on the UTSA Roadrunners at the Convocation Center in San Antonio, Texas. The Golden Eagles limp in having after lost five of their last seven after an 87-69 loss to UAB in their last outing. That leaves Southern Miss 13-15 overall, including 6-9 in C-USA play. As for UTSA, the Roadrunners have won five of their last six following a 97-89 overtime win over Charlotte the last time out. UTSA now sits 15-12 overall, including 8-6 in C-USA play.
Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles own an excellent guard duo in leading-scorer Edwards (15.8 & 6.1) and PG Griffin (15.0-4.1-6.0). A third guard is Magee (12.2) is also in double digits plus he also leads the team in rebounding (6.1 per). That's because Southern Miss gets no real frontcourt help, as no "big man" averages as much as 5.5 PPG. The not so-Golden Eagles average 71.9 PPG and allow 72.4 PPG, which indicates why the team is two games under .500.
UTSA: The Roadrunners average 80.1 PPG (2nd) and own some fairly decent balance. Guard Jackson (19.2) leads the team in scoring and reserves Wallace (11.4) and Lyle (10.1) come off the bench in the backcourt to provide some scoring punch. The 6-8 Allen (8.4 & 5.1) and the 6-6 Frohnen (7.0 & 6.,8) are solid frontcourt players.
The pick: The home team is 7-0-1 ATS in the last eight meetings between these two teams and Southern Miss is averaging only 62.5 PPG on the road. The home team is an 8* play in this one.
|02-22-18||Nets +7.5 v. Hornets||Top||96-111||Loss||-100||11 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The NBA All Star break is over and Thursday serves up a six-game schedule. The 19-40 Brooklyn Nets will be in Charlotte to take on the 23-33 Hornets, which is not exactly a marquee matchup. Brooklyn limped into the break with losses in seven straight and is just one game ahead of the last-place Atlanta Hawks in the East. Meanwhile, Charlotte is 5 1/2 games out of the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference with 25 games left in the regular season. The Hornets will play 21 of their last 25 games against East teams and get three of their first four out of the break at home, where they own a modest 15-15 record. The teams have yet to meet this season.
Brooklyn: Head coach Kenny Atkinson has told reporters that his team need to return to play with a chip on its shoulder but one wonders, what makes him think that is going to happen. With just 23 games left until 'vacation time,' it's unlikely we'll see anything different from the Nets in this final stretch. Brooklyn did not have an All-Star but made its mark on the weekend when PG Spencer Dinwiddie won the Skills Challenge. Dinwiddie (13.6 & 6.7 APG) is a breakout player in an otherwise down season for the Nets and is logging big minutes due to Jeremy Lin's season-ending knee injury and D'Angelo Russell's knee troubles. Speaking of Russell,the team's leading scorer at 15.7 PPG, he is expected to make his first start for the Nets since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in November. He has played 13 games as a reserve under a minutes restriction since returning from his two-month absence. He averaged 18.3 points in 28.7 minutes in his last three games before the break. That, coupled with the additional week off, has gotten him deemed ready to resume the starting role he had to begin the season.
Charlotte: The Hornets went into the break healthy and got an extended rest for everyone but point guard Kemba Walker, who was a member of the winning Team LeBron in Los Angeles on Sunday. Walker came into the season as the undisputed floor leader in Charlotte and fought through trade rumors while putting together another All-Star campaign. He's averaging 22.9 points and 5.8 assists. Walker plays two solid SGs in the backcourt, Lamb (13.5 & 4.4) and Batum (12.0-4.3-4.7). There is also center Dwight Howard (15.8 & 12.6) but in what has become the norm, this big man rarely makes his team better,
The pick: Eleven of the Hornets' next 18 games are against teams with losing records, but the club went into the break with four losses in its last five games, not exactly a momentum-builder. What's more, while the Hornets won last year's season series 3-1, all four games featured tight finishes. The total margin of victory in the four games was 17 points. Sure, the Hornets have beaten the Nets in seven of t last eight meetings but the Nets have covered SIX in a row and eight of the last nine in this series. Maybe surprisingly to some, Brooklyn is 14-7 ATS a road dog of four-plus points. Make the Nets a 10* play.
|02-21-18||Michigan +3 v. Penn State||Top||72-63||Win||100||12 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: 22-7 Michigan (11-5 in Big Ten) will visit Happy Valley tonight to take on 19-10 Penn State (9-7 in Big Ten). Michigan is No. 17 in the latest AP poll and hopes to overtake Nebraska (12-5) in the race for fourth place to earn a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Penn State has played itself into at least being in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament berth because of a strong second half and has an opportunity to earn what would assuredly be a resume-boosting win here at home:
Penn State: The Nittany Lions' four-game winning streak came to an end as they dropped a 76-73 decision to Purdue on Sunday. The Nittany Lions were doomed by some late misses from the free-throw line in their search for another signature win to add to their NCAA Tournament resume. Sophomore guard Tony Carr was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time in his collegiate career after averaging 24.5 points, five rebounds and four assists against Ohio State and Purdue. Carr (19.6 & 4.6) led the way with 19 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists in the loss to the Boilermakers while fellow guard Shep Garner (10.6) buried five 3-pointers en route to 17 points to finish in double figures for the 13th time this season. The 6-8 Stevens (15.1 & 6.2), the 6-9 Watkins (12.5 & 9.2) and guard Reaves (10.7 & 4.7) give Penn State five double digit scorers.
The pick: Penn State has morphed into one of the Big Ten's better teams in the second half of the season and returns home here, where they have won four straight games. The Nittany Lions hope to move on the right side of the bubble by knocking off Michigan but the Wolverines have won the last six meetings with the Nittany Lions (Penn State's last win over Michigan came back on Feb. 27, 2013), as well as 11 of the last 12. Michigan can still catch Nebraska for the No. 4 seed plus it also wants to enhance its RPI in order to get an even better seed for the NCAA Tournament. Make Michigan a 10* play.
|02-20-18||St. Louis v. Dayton -5||Top||50-53||Loss||-105||14 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: Archie Miller led Dayton to four straight NCAA appearances, winning 102 games in that span (never less than 24 in any season). However, he left for the Indiana job. The Flyers brought in former alum Anthony Grant (played under Don Donoher), who has had success of his own on the bench, coaching VCU and Alabama (he was also an assistant under Billy Donovan at Florida and most recently in the NBA with OKC). However, the loss of four starters has taken its toll, as Dayton is just 12-14 (6-8 in A-10). The Flyers will welcome the 15-12 Saint Louis Billikens (8-6 in A-10) Tuesday nigh to the UD Arena. St. Louis hadn't won more than 12 games in any of the previous three seasons (win totals of 11, 11 and 12, respectively) but led by four returning starters in Travis Ford's second season at the school, the Billikens have a chance to secure a top-four finish in the Atlantic-10 for the postseason tourney.
St. Louis: The Billikens are making run at just that (currently alone in fourth-place), having won four of their last five games. St. Louis is not a good offensive team, averaging just 66.8 PPG (315th) on 42.2% shooting (302nd). A trio of guards score in double digits, Bess (13.1 & 7.4), Goodwin (11.5-7.5-4.0) and Roby (11.1). The best frontcourt player is teh 6-7 French (8.8 & 6.9) but note the rebounding numbers for guards Bess and Goodwin, who also leads the team in assists. The Billkens' deliberate style of play leads to them also allowing a modest 65.6 PPG (30th).
Dayton: The Flyers have lost four of five following an 85-67 defeat at George Mason and the team's lone role down the stretch (and in the A-10 tourney) will be that of spoiler. The duo of 6-7 forward Cunningham (16.4 & 8.6) plus guard Darrell Davis (16.2 & 4.3) provide Dayton with a solid 1-2 punch. Those two are supported by a trio of guards chipping in between 8.3 and 10.5 PPG. Dayton averages 73.9 PPG and allows 73.8 PPG, so it's not difficult to see why the Flyers are a 12-14 team on the season.
The pick: The Billikens won the first meeting 76-65 back at St. Louis in late January but winning on the road here won't come easily, even against a struggling Dayton team. The Flyers have always been a "tough out" at home and even in a season in which the team is two games under .500, Dayton is 10-4 SU at home, owning four wins in its last five league home games (only loss to powerhouse Rhode Island). St. Louis is no Rhode Island. Spoiler alert! Make Dayton a 10* play.
|02-20-18||The Citadel +20.5 v. East Tennessee State||Top||84-82||Win||100||12 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: It's Southern Conference action tonight from Johnson City, Tn. when the East Tennessee State Buccaneers host The Citadel Bulldogs. ETSU won the SoCon's regular season and postseason titles last year, then lost to Florida in the NCAAs, finishing with 27 wins. The Buccaneers are 23-5 this season, including 14-1 in league play, giving them a two-game cushion. The Bulldogs were just 12-21 last season (4-14 in SoCon) and check in this season at 9-18, including 4-11 in league play.
The Citadel: The Bulldogs enter on a four-game slide, after a 75-71 loss to VMI. The 6-7 Najdawi kept the The Citadel close with 23 & 14. He leads the team in scoring at 15.2 PPG. Guard Frierson (13.8) added 20 points. Despite shooting 42.0% as a team (307th), The Citadel is averaging 84.2 PPG (16th). The problem is, the Bulldogs are allowing 89.6 PPG (350th) on 48.7% shooting (337th).
East Tennessee State: The Buccaneers are the SoCon's dominant team and bounced back from their first conference loss (at UNC-Greensboro) to down Western Carolina 72-61. This team hasn't much missed a beat, despite losing four starters from last year's team. The lone returning starter is guard Desonta Bradford, who leads the team in scoring (15.2), rebounding (5.9) and assists (3.5). The only other double digit scorer is fellow guard McCloud (11.7). Defense has been the key for ETSU, holding opponents to 65.4 PPG (26th) on 39.9% shooting (12th).
The pick:This is a game between the league's best team and one of its "have-nots." However, the road team is 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings and The Citadel is 6-2 ATS in the last eight meetings between the schools. Take the big points and make The Citadel an 8* play.
|02-18-18||Stanford v. California +6.5||Top||77-73||Win||100||13 h 55 m||Show|
The set-up: Johnny Dawkins led Stanford to two NIT titles in his tenure at the school but he was not hired to win NIT championships. He was let go after the 2015-16 season and replaced by Jerod Haase. The Cardinal would have welcomed an NIT invite in Haase's first year at Stanford (2016-17 season), as the Cardinal finished just 14-17 (6-12 in Pac 12). Stanford is just 13-13 on the season so far this year but despite losing five of its past seven, Stanford remains just one game out of second place in the Pac-12 standings at 7-6 The Cardinal take to the road to tonight for a game at Haas Pavilion against the 8-18 Cal Bears, who are just 2-11 in Pac 12 play. Cal has a first-year head coach in Wyking Jones and the team's 23 and 21-win seasons of the past two year seem 'light years' ago!
Stanford: The Cardinal have lost two straight, the most recent being a 64-56 loss at Colorado where a 20 point first half set the tone. Guard Dorian Pickens (14.1) paced the Stanford attack with 18 points. PG Daejon Davis (10.6-4.3-4.8) gave the Cardinal 12 points and four pulls on 5-16 while leading scorer and rebounder, the 6-8 Reid Travis (19.0 & 7.7) added 10 points and six rebounds. The 6-9 Humphrey (10.4 & 7.40 is the team's fourth double digit scorer.
California: The Golden Bears have been struggling on both ends of the floor and that trend continued in a 77-43 loss at Utah as a 13- point road dog. Cal never found their offense and the defense didn’t help with the team getting out-shot 54.9%-30.2%. Guard Darius McNeill (11.7) was the only Cal player to reach double digits (just barely with exactly 10 points!) at Utah. However, three other Golden Bears are averaging in double digits on the season. Guard Coleman (15.6) is the team's top scorer, joined by the 6-7 Sueing (13.5 & 5.3) and the 6-11 Lee (12.2 & 7.6) in teh frontcourt. Overall though, Cal doesn't score enough (69.3 PPG ranks 284th) and allows too many points (78.2 PPG ranks 307th).
The pick: Oddly enough, one of Cal's two Pac 12 wins came in a 77-74 win up in Maples Pavilion. However, not much has gone right for Golden Bears since, who’ve subsequently won SU just once (at Haas Pavilion vs. Oregon State). Sure, Stanford is the better team and Cal is the Pac 12's worst team, but Stanford has lost its last two games at Haas Pavilion by an average of 13.5 points.Take the home dog, as I believe Cal just may get its first regular-season sweep of Stanford since 2009-10. Make Cal a 10* play.
|02-18-18||Duke -2 v. Clemson||Top||66-57||Win||100||6 h 55 m||Show|
The set-up: Virginia has led the way this season in the ACC and the Cavs currently own a conference mark. However, early this afternoon at Littlejohn Coliseum, No. 12 Duke (21-5) and No. 11 Clemson (20-5) will square off with second-place in the ACC on the line (both are 9-4). This is the first and only scheduled meeting of the season between teh two schools Duke and Clemson but with plenty of teams chasing them in the league standings, this becomes a critical matchup for seeding in next month's ACC Tournament. Duke has won two in a row following an uncharacteristic 1-3 stretch while Clemson had won five in a row before falling to Florida State on Wednesday, when the Tigers blew an 18-point lead before losing in overtime.
Duke: The Blue Devils have won twice without league scoring and rebounding leader Marcus Bagley III (21.2 & 11.4), as the 6-11 freshman has sat out the team's last two as a precaution with a mild knee strain. His status for this game is uncertain. Senior Grayson Allen picked up the slack against Virginia Tech with 25 points (made 7 of 15 three-pointers), while 6-10 freshman Wendell Carter Jr. registered 13 points and 13 rebounds for his seventh double-double in the last 10 games. Yet another freshman, Gary Trent Jr, went 5-of-9 from the arc against the Hokies and is shooting over 60 percent from three-point range over the last five games. Trent averages 15.2 & 4.6, Allen 15.0-3.5-4.6, Carter 14.4 & 9.5 and PG Duval (another freshman) 11.0 & 5.6 APG for the nation's highest scoring team (88.2 PPG).
Clemson: The Tigers can't match Duke's firepower (Clemson averages 75.2 PPG) and not only are the Tigers already without the 6-8 Donte Grantham (14.2 & 6.9), who was lost to an ACL tear, the team likely will likely be without PG Shelton Mitchell (11.8 & 3.8 APG) on Sunday, who suffered a head injury. Marcquise Reed (15.7-4.6-3.4 registered 23 points against Florida State in a strong bounce-back effort after totaling four points in the previous game. Gabe DeVoe (13.4 & 4.6) has been on a tear from 3-point range, draining 25-of-40 (62.5 percent) over the last five games. The Tigers are a quality defensive team, allowing 65.8 PPG (32nd), while holding opponents to 41.6% shooting (53rd).
The pick: It's true that Clemson is 13-0 at home this season but no Grantham and likely no Mitchell will make it tough to win here. Sure Clemson owns an excellent D (see above) but Duke not only averages just under 90 PPG, it shoots a blistering 50.4% as a team (9th-best). A game of this magnitude is "nothing new" for Duke, while the same can't be said for Clemson. The Tigers lose again, falling in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Make Duke an 8* play
|02-17-18||Marquette +7.5 v. Creighton||Top||90-86||Win||100||24 h 40 m||Show|
The set-up: It's a Big East game from CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska, as the 19-7 Creighton Bluejays (8-5 in Big East) host the 14-11 Marquette Golden Eagles (5-8 in Big East). Marquette comes in looking for a big road win but has lost five of its last six overall, after falling 86-78 loss to St. John’s in its last outing. Meanwhile, the Bluejays are looking to gain a measure of consistent play after alternating wins and losses in each of their last five games, including a 94-46 win over subdivision Bemidji State in their most recent outing. However, I should note that Creighton can lock down its third straight 20-win season with a victory in tonight's game.
Marquette: Guard Andrew Rowsey (19.4 & 4.2 APG) led Marquette with 34 points on 11 of 26 shooting plus added team-highs of seven rebounds and six assists in the loss to St. John's. Fellow guards Markus Howard (team-high 21.9 PPG) and Sam Hauser (14.2 & 6.0) each added 18 points. That trio is really the core of Marquette's team, certainly on the offensive end. While the Golden Eagles average 81.8 PPG (33rd), no player outside of the three aforementioned guards score more than 7.0 PPG. Marquette shoots 40.2% from the three-point line (16th) and a nation-best 80.0% from the free-throw line.
Creighton: Head coach Greg McDermott has won 20 or more games in six of his first seven seasons with the Bluejays (making it seven of eight is a lock!) and he gave his bench a lot of minutes against Bemidji State, resulting in Marcus Foster's streak of seven straight 20-point games coming to an end. Foster is one of five players averaging better than 20 points in Big East games along with Butler's Kelan Martin. Foster leads the team at 20.3 PPG and while Creighton averages 85.4 PPG (7th), the Blue Jays feature just two other double digit scorers. They are reigning Big East Defensive Player of The Year Khyri Thomas (14.5) and the 6-9 Martin Krampelj (11.9 & 8.1).
The pick: Creighton has been a solid team at home this season (typical) but the Bluejays have been struggling as of late, going 0-4 ATS prior to their non-lined game with Bemidji State. Marquette is a 'live dog,' as the Golden Eagles can score, shoot well from three (see above) and are the nation's best free-throw shooting team. Watch out for the "backdoor cover!" Make Marquette an 8* play.
|02-17-18||Texas Tech v. Baylor +1||Top||57-59||Win||100||21 h 55 m||Show|
The set-up: The Texas Tech Red Raiders have responded to Chris Beard in his second season at Lubbock. After an 18-14 season last year, Texas Tech is 22-4 (10-3 in Big 12) and ranked No. 7 in the latest AP poll. The Red Raiders have won their past four games by a combined 59 points and their seven-game winning streak has vaulted them to the top of the conference standings. Meanwhile, the Baylor Bears have won four straight to move into a fifth-place tie in the Big 12 (at 6-7), while improving to 16-10 on the season.. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have used a solid offense (76.7 PPG ranks 101st on 47.0% shooting, which ranks 61st) and the Big 12's best defense (62.7 PPG ranks 8th nationally) to get to where they currently are (Red Raiders are holding opponents to 39.4% shooting, which ranks 8th). Senior guard Keenan Evans leads the Red Raiders with 18.7 PPG. Texas Tech gets a combined 21.5 PPG from freshmen guards Jarrett Culver and Zhaire Smith. 6-9 center Orense Odiase adds just 4.5 PPG but also a team-high 5.0 RPG. He has come on strong in big games, recording 12 points and eight rebounds in an upset of Kansas and a season-high 14 points in Tuesday's win over Oklahoma.
Baylor: The Bears' 4-0 run has also been fueled by defense, holding its opponents to an average of 26 first-half points during the win streak after allowing 44.5 before halftime until that point this season. Senior guard Manu Lecomte leads the Bears with 16.8 points and 3.7 APG but has had more freedom to move without the ball since junior Jake Lindsey (5.1 & 3.3 APG) joined the starting lineup five games ago. The lineup change gives the Bears a strong bench, led by senior forward Terry Maston's 10.0 & 5.8. It has outscored opponents' benches 153-49 in the past five games. 7-0 senior Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. (11 double-doubles) adds 14.5 PPG, a team-best 9.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.
|02-17-18||Auburn v. South Carolina +6||Top||75-84||Win||100||17 h 56 m||Show|
The set-up: Bruce Pearl has always been considered an excellent head coach but he's also had his fair share of controversies (if unfamiliar, try Google). After winning just 15 and 11 games in his first two season at Auburn, he led the Tigers to an 18-win season last year and all five starters were back for this season. Many felt Auburn could win 20 games in 2017-18 but few (if any) could have predicted that the Tigers would be 23-3 (11-2 in the SEC) and ranked 10th in the AP poll come mid-Feb. Auburn is off a 76-66 home victory over Kentucky, and will visit Columbia, S.C. on Saturday afternoon to take on the slumping 13-13 Gamecocks, who are 4-9 in SEC play. South Carolina nearly knocked off Tennessee on the road this past Tuesday, erasing a 14-point deficit before falling 70-67 (its sixth consecutive loss).
Auburn: The Gamecocks have won two straight meetings with Auburn and three of the last four. Bruce Pearl is aware and told reporters. “We can’t afford to not (get up) or we won’t win. It’s real simple. If you’re big enough, talented enough, deep enough, you can show up sometimes and win.” Pearl is making his guard-oriented lineup work. Bryce Brown leads with 16.6 PPG, plus backcourt mates Mustapha Heron (16.1 & 5.3 rebounds) and Jared Harper (13.5 & 6.0 APG) help push the pace, can score and are pesky at the defensive end. The undersized Desean Murray (10.9 & 7.0) plays much bigger than his 6-3 frame,and fellow forwards, the 6-7 Anfernee McLemore (7.7 & 5.3) and the 6-8 Horace Spencer (4.2 & 4.7) are tough post defenders.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have one of the SEC’s best big men in the 6-9 Chris Silva (14.2 & 7.6) but their guard play leaves much to be desired (they sure miss Thornwell and Dozier from LY's Final 4 team). Reserve guard Frank Booker (11.6 points), a graduate transfer from FAU, has averaged 14.2 points over his last five games but the rest of the members of the backcourt rotation have been inconsistent. Coach Frank Martin’s teams typically are known for tough defense (allow 68.0 PPG to rank 6th) but South Carolina has allowed five straight opponents to shoot at least 46 percent (not good).
The pick: It's true that Auburn's Bruce Pearl is a leading candidate for National Coach of the Year but are the Tigers really as good as their record? The team's win over Kentucky was a real 'high' and a letdown seems more than possible. Note that South Carolina is 12-1 when scoring at least 70 points and while the Gamecocks haven’t hit that mark in their last four games, they do average 70.2 PPG at home and Auburn is allowing 72.2 PPG on the season. Take the home dog and make South Carolina an 8* play.
|02-17-18||Texas v. Oklahoma -6.5||Top||77-66||Loss||-105||13 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: Part 1 of the Red River Rivalry (basketball edition) took place back on Feb. 3 in Austin and although the Sooners controlled most of the game (held a nine-point lead with less than eight minutes remaining), the Longhorns went on a 14-0 run en route to a 79-74 victory. No. 23 Oklahoma was still very much in the thick of the Big 12 race when it last faced Texas but the Sooners now find themselves 16-9 and just 6-7 in Big 12 play. Texas will travel to the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman with a 15-11 overall mark, including only 5-8 in Big 12 play. Both teams could badly use a win but in the case of Texas, it's a matter of getting back into NCAA Tournament contention.
Texas: Nothing has gone right for Texas since it beat Oklahoma back on Feb 3, as the Longhorns have sandwiching a pair of one-possession defeats around a blowout loss avergae about two 'TDs' less than Oklahoma (72.4 PPG) but Shaka Smart's team does play defense, allowing 68.3 PPG (66th) on 41.7% shooting (63rd). Texas is awful from three-point range, converting on just a conference-worst 32.1 percent (ranks 329th nationally). The Longhorns have a terrific one-two inside duo in 6-11 freshman Bamba (13.7-10.8-4.1 BPG) and 6-9 junior Osekowski (13.6 & 7.1). Bamba leads the conference with 13 double-doubles. However, the loss of guard Jones (13.5) for the season (after just 10 games), has been a huge blow.
Oklahoma: That Feb. 23 loss in Austin began a four-game slide for the Sooners. Freshman Trae Young continues to lead the country in scoring (29.1 points) and assists (9.3), but he's shooting only 35.4 percent (17.1 percent beyond the arc) in Oklahoma losing skid (he is coming off a game in which he failed to hit a three-pointer for the first time in his career, going 0-for-9!). Junior guard James (12.4 & 4.9) and 6-9 freshman Manek (11.2 & 5.6) are OU's only two double digit scorers outside of Young. James has delivered his first two 20-point performances over the last two contests, averaging 22.5 points on 16-of-30 shooting. The Sooners are the nation's top-scoring team at 88.4 PPG but they also allow 82. PPG, ranking 338th.
The pick: Texas just played in its sixth overtime game last Saturday (matching a school record for the most in a season) and could be wearing down. Sure, Oklahoma has clearly struggled as of late (1-9 ATS run started on Jan. 13) but the Sooners have won five straight home games against the Longhorns and are 11-1 in Norman this season, where they are averaging 95.5 PPG (Texas is averaging 66.0 PPG on the road). Make Oklahoma an 8* play.
|02-17-18||SMU v. UCF -3||Top||37-52||Win||100||12 h 26 m||Show|
The set-up: The SMU Mustangs continue to play short-handed and their 70-67 home loss to Memphis this past Wednesday was the team's fourth straight. SMU's once-promising season has slipped away, as the Mustangs are 15-11 (5-8 in AAC). UCF has won two in a row following a 2-5 stretch that included losing massive 7-6 center Tacko Fall for the season due to a shoulder injury. The Knights will welcome the Mustangs to CFE Arena in Orlando early on Saturday, checking in at 16-9 (7-6 in AAC).
SMU: When the calendar turned to 2018, SMU stood at 12-3 but the Mustangs are just 3-8 since. The team's best player, PG Shake Milton (18.7-4.7-4.4), is currently listed as “out indefinitely” after missing SMU’s last 4 games (Mustangs are 0-4) and the Mustangs will also be without 6-6 Jarrey Foster, who is out for the season due to a knee injury. Foster was lost seven games ago and was averaging 13.2 PPG and a team-high 5.9 RPG. Guard Jahmal McMurray did everything he could Wednesday against Memphis, knocking down nine three-pointers en route to a career-high 33 points but it still wasn't enough. He has taken on a larger role for the injury-plagued Mustangs and checks in averaging 13.9 PPG. SMU's defense remains its strength, allowing just 63.5 PPG (11th).
UCF: Fall averaged 11.3 & 7.3 in his 16 games and his loss leaves two double digit scorers for the Knights. Guard Taylor leads with 14.8 PPG and forward AJ Davis adds 11.4 & 8.0). Those two Knights carried the bulk of the scoring load the last time out against USF, as Davis registered 26 points and Taylor chipped in 21. Meanwhile, the other three starters totaled four points on 1-of-6 shooting. Even without Fall's presence, UCF has remained one of the nation's elite defensive teams, allowing 61.2 PPG (3rd) on 38.9% shooting (4th).
The pick: SMU beat UCF 56-51 in Dallas back on Dec. 27. However, Milton and Foster played in that one, combining for 28 points & 15 rebounds. That duo will be 'MIA' for this one and also note that in that late-Dec. loss, the Knights were missing the irreplaceable B.J. Taylor due to a serious foot injury. Shorthanded SMU comes in just 3-7-1 ATS since Jan. 1, while UCF is 12-4 ATS over its last 16 home games.Make UCF an 8* play.
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