|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|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.
|02-16-18||Yale -2 v. Dartmouth||Top||77-65||Win||100||12 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: If it's a Friday in February, then the Ivy League is always near center stage in college hoops. Tonight, from the Edward Leede Arena in Hanover, New Hampshire, the Dartmouth Big Green will host the Yale Bulldogs. Yale comes in 11-13 overall (including 4-4 in Ivy play), after downing Cornell 74-65 last Saturday. As for Dartmouth, it's been a season-long struggle that's carried over into conference play. The Big Green just ended a 10-game losing streak with a 72-56 rout of Princeton but that leaves them just 5-16 overall, including 1-7 in Ivy games.
Yale: The Bulldogs have six players averaging 20-plus minutes per game, contributing 7.8-to-15.1 PPG. Oni, a 6-7 guard, leads the etam in scoring at 15.1 PPG (adds 5.5 RPG) and is joined by guard Copeland (12.2) and forward Reynolds (10.1 & 5.5) in double digits. Yale shoots a decent percentage (46.9% ranks 567th) but the Bulldogs average a modest 74.6 PPG (161st).
Dartmouth: The Big Green went just 7-20 last season, so this year's 5-16 record is no major surprise. Dartmouth is off an impressive rout of Princeton (see above), as Taylor Johnson led all scorers with 21 points. Johnson is a senior guard checking in with a team-high 12.6 PPG (3.9 RPG & 3.1 APG). Three more players contribute double digits in fellow senior guard Wright (12.0 & 4.5),sophomore PG Barry (10.5 & 4.1 APG) and freshman forward Knight (10.4).
The pick: Yale won all both matchups against Dartmouth last season and won this season's first matchup by 10 points. A change of venue from New Haven to Hanover shouldn't alter the margin of victory by too much. Make Yale a 10* play!
|02-15-18||Lakers +10.5 v. Wolves||Top||111-119||Win||100||13 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: All-in-all, the Minnesota Timberwolves have made significant improvements as the NBA's All Star Weekend looms. However, Minnesota was 31-18 just 3 1/2 weeks ago, before hitting a slight skid lately in which the team has gone 4-7. In the team's final game before the break, Minnesota welcomes the 23-33 LA Lakers to the Target Center. The Lakers enter having had won 12 of 16 games (including eight of their last 10), before experiencing defensive issues on the first two stops their three-game trip. After allowing 130 points in Saturday's loss at Dallas, the Lakers got hammered 139-117 at New Orleans four nights later.
LA Lakers: "We’ve got to get our mojo back. We somehow lost it quickly,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton told reporters of the back-to-back setbacks. Lonzo Ball will miss his 15th consecutive game due to a sprained left knee but the rookie PG said he will be ready to get back on the floor when Los Angeles returns from the All-Star break on Feb. 23 against Dallas. Is that good or bad news? LA's roster has changed since the trade deadline but pretty much all season, the Lakers have struggled defensively, allowing 110.1 PPG (28th).
Minnesota; The Timberwolves saw their 13-game home winning streak end in Tuesday's 126-108 loss to the Rockets. All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns (20.4 & 9.7) leads the NBA with 50 double-doubles, including a performance against the Rockets in which he recorded 35 points on 12-of-16 shooting and 12 rebounds. Minnesota is considering whether or not to sign PG Derrick Rose, who currently is a free agent, as he was released by Utah two days after being acquired from Cleveland. Rose played for Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago and was teammates with All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler and power forward Taj Gibson. Butler's been everything Minnesota could have hoped for, averaging 22.4-5.5-5.0, and Gibson (12.1 & 7.3) has been a solid starter at PF.
The pick: Minnesota is tied for second in the league in home wins at 23-6 but has lost three of four games overall. The lone win in that span came against the Kings and just barely (111-106 as a 13-point favorite). Tom Thibodeau has been known as a defensive coach but this Minnesota team, while greatly improved and on its way to the postseason after a long drought, is allowing opponents to shoot 47.8%, which is a league-worst! That's why Minnesota is a sub-.500 team ATS (28-30-2). Take the big points and make LA a 10* play.
|02-15-18||Oregon +5 v. USC||Top||70-72||Win||100||13 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: The Oregon Ducks have won five of their last six games to reach 17-8, including 7-5 in Pac 12 play. They will visit the Galen Center tonight in Los Angeles, where they will take on the USC Trojans, who after three straight losses, are 17-9, including 8-5 in Pac 12 games. Oregon enters playing better basketball at the moment but Trojans have already beaten Oregon 75-70 in Eugene earlier this season.
Oregon: Sophomore PG Payton Pritchard helped Oregon bounce back from a 35-point loss to Stanford by averaging 15.5 points on 52.2 percent shooting in home wins over Washington (65-40) and Washington State (84-57). Pritchard is averaging 14.4 points and 4.9 assists, while backcourt mate Elijah Brown is averaging 12.8 points. A trio of frontcourt players include the 6-7 Brown (12.2 & 6.6), the 6-7 McIntosh (9.7 & 6.3) and the 6-9 White (9.6 & 3.3). Troy Brown is a freshman and averaged 18.5 points and 7.5 rebounds with seven steals in last week’s sweep of the Washington schools. Head coach Dana Altman had four freshmen on the court at one point of last Saturday’s win over Washington State, including 6-9 forward Kenny Wooten, who averages 7.2 points and 4.5 boards and leads the Pac-12 with 73 blocks.
USC: Head coach Andy Enfield remained optimistic even after last Saturday’s 81-67 loss to Arizona, which outrebounded the Trojans by 18 and shot 56.1 percent for the game. Sophomore guard Derryck Thornton, a transfer from Duke, made his first career start for USC and had seven points in place of junior Shaqquan Aaron, who was unavailable due to a coach’s decision. USC has two excellent big men in the 6-11 Metu (15.7 & 7.4) and the 6-10 Boatwright (14.2 & 6.4) plus the 6-11 Rakocevic (7.9 & 5.4), Then there is team's guard trio of McLaughlin (12.7 & 7.5 APG), Stewart (10.9) and Mathews (9.0)
USC: Boatwright has been slow to recover from a foot injury for USC and his recent efforts have been underwhelming. Meanwhile, Dana Altman’s Ducks are making progress in recent weeks and are playing their most consistent ball of the season right now (have outscored teams by nearly eight PPG in their last five contests). That's not really new, as under Altman, Oregon is 48-18 during the second half of Pac-12 play. The Ducks are 3-0 ATS as an underdog (2-1 SU) since Dec 1. Take the points and make Oregon a 10* play.
|02-15-18||Purdue v. Wisconsin +10.5||Top||53-57||Win||100||11 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Purdue Boilermakers entered their Feb. 7th game with Ohio State on a 19-game winning streak and as the No. 3 team in the AP poll. However, the Buckeyes edged the Boilermakers 64-63 to snap the the team's school-record 19-game streak. Purdue then dropped a 68-65 decision at top-ranked Michigan State to fall out of first place in the Big Ten standings and drop to No. 6 in the latest AP poll. Purdue looks to bounce back Thursday at Madison (and avoid its longest losing streak in over four years!), when it takes on the 11-16 Wisconsin Badgers (4-11). Talk about a fall from grace! Wisconsin opened the season having gone to 19 consecutive NCAA tournaments and with 13 NCAA wins over the previous four season, ranked second in that category to only North Carolina's 14. So much for that. Wisconsin trailed by as many as 25 points before making a late run in the 83-72 loss to No. 21 Michigan on Sunday, defeat all but ensured it will finish the regular season with a losing record for the first time since 1997-98.
Purdue: The Boilermakers are 23-4, including 12-2 in the Big Ten, just one game back of 13-1 Ohio State (Michigan State is 13-2). The 7-2 Isaac Haas (15.0 & 5.3) scored a team-high 25 points in the loss to Michigan State to finish with at least 18 points for the fifth time in his last six games. Guard Carsen Edwards (16.9) added 14 points against the Spartans while the 6-8 Vincent Edwards (15.1 & 7.8) was held to eight on 3-of-11 shooting from the floor. "There's a fine line between winning and losing," Purdue coach Matt Painter told reporters. "You've got to learn from it, that's the main thing as you can be better because of it down the road in March." Back-to-back losses don't diminish what this team has accomplished. Purdue averages 82.5 PPG (30th) on 49.6% shooting (16th), while allowing just 64.3 pPG (18th) on 40.1% shooting (20th).
Wisconsin: The Badgers have dropped six of their last seven games, including three straight at home but hope to salvage some pride by knocking off the Boilermakers for the first time since Jan. 7, 2015. "That's two games in a row that we came out flat and haven't been as prepared as we should have," Wisconsin guard Brad Davison told reporters. "That's definitely been an issue for us and something that we'll have to keep working on." The 6-10 Ethan Happ (18.2 & 8.7) led the way with a season-high 29 points to go along with seven rebounds, but it wasn't enough as the Badgers allowed Michigan to shoot 56 percent from the floor. Happ and Davison (11.3) are the only players in double digits. Brevin Pritzl (8.7) added 13 points and is 7-of-11 from the floor in his last two games after going 0-for-13 in his previous two outings. Wisconsin has trouble scoring (67.6 PPG ranks 307th) but allows only 67.1 PPG (53rd).
The pick: Purdue had scored 70 or more points in 17 straight games before its two-game skid but hopes to rediscover its shooting touch against the Badgers. However, I'm not so sure about that. I realize that the Badgers are 0-7 against ranked teams this season but this is a prideful program (see history above) and Wisconsin is set to honor Frank Kaminsky, who led the Badgers to back-to-back Final Four appearances in 2014 and 2015, by retiring his No. 44 jersey during a ceremony on Thursday. Home dog rises to the moment. Make Wisconsin an 8* play.
|02-14-18||NC State +5.5 v. Syracuse||Top||74-70||Win||100||13 h 58 m||Show|
The set-up: The NC State Wolfpack are 16-9 (6-6 in ACC) and the Syracuse Orange 17-8 (6-6 in ACC) as they get set to meet Wednesday at the Carrier Dome. Their records are similar and so are their recent performances. The Wolfpack have split their last 12, after losing back-to-back games prior to winning three in a row. Meanwhile, the Orange followed a pair of losses with back-to-back wins and have now split their last 14 games.
North Carolina State: The Wolfpack have given up 181 total points in back-to-back losses, after a 96-89 loss to North Carolina. N .C. State shot 54.7 percent and had six players reach double digits in scoring but it couldn't find an answer for North Carolina's Luke Maye, who scored a career-high 33 points. PG Markell Johnson pushes the pace for N.C. State's uptempo offense and is averaging 11 assists per game over his last six (averages 7.8 APG on the season). Guard Allerik Freeman (14.1 & 4.) is the etam's leading scorer and 6-5 junior guard Torin Dorn (13.6 & 6.4) is coming off one of his best games of the season in which he dropped a team-high 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting while adding three steals. The 7-0 Yurtseven (13.8 & 6.9) is the team's best frontcourt player. The Wolfpack check in averaging 80.9 PPG (40th).
Syracuse: The Orange rely on three players offensively, as no other team member averages as much as six point per game. Guards Battle (20.3) and Howard (15.0 & 5.1 APG) are the team's top-two scorers, with 6-9 freshman Brissett (14.2 & 9.0) leading the way in the frontcourt. Jim Boeheim always coaches defense-first and it's no different this season. Syracuse holds opponents to 63.4 PPG (12th) on 38.6% shooting (4th).
The pick: The Wolfpack have been a poor road team (especially ATS) but Syracuse is in a bad situational spot here, having gone 2-10 ATS in their last 12 games following a ATS win (won and covered its last game over Wake forest). The Wolfpack are 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings in Syracuse and the road team is 7-2 ATS in the last nine meetings of this series. Make NC State an 8* play..
|02-14-18||Clippers v. Celtics -4.5||Top||129-119||Loss||-105||12 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics have been 'Kings of the East' since the start on the current NBA season but the 40-18 Celtics now trail the 40-16 Toronto Raptors by two games in the loss column for the conference's best record. Maybe of even greater concern is that the "new-look" Cavs are showing definitive signs that their Eastern Conference reign is not about to end. "As we go forward I think that we can consistently learn from not only a game like tonight but the last few games with playing the high intense teams of the Eastern Conference, where we’ve been tested," All-Star Kyrie Irving told reporters after Boston's 121-99 home loss to the Cavs Sunday. The Celtics, losers of three of their last four, will host the 29-26 LA Clippers on Wednesday. LA is probably not looking forward to the All Star break, as the Clippers won six of their last eight and 18 of 26 overall.
LA Clippers: Head coach Doc Rivers was in Boston (Sunday) to participate in Paul Pierce's ceremony and then guided Los Angeles to a 114-101 win at Brooklyn on Monday, behind a balanced attack. Seven players scored in double figures against the Nets, led by Lou Williams' 23rd 20-point effort (points) in the last 25 games. Austin Rivers added 17 points in his best output since returning from a heel injury. Overall, the team shot 56.5 percent from the floor. Williams is averaging career highs in points (23.2) and assists (5.3 , while Rivers (15.7) has settled in to become a solid regular. Harris is averaging 16.4 & 6.6 in his six games (was part of the Griffin trade) plus there is still center Jordan and his seasonal double-double (11.4 & 15.1).
Boston: An issue in Boston's recent slump has been the downturn of rookie Jayson Tatum (13.6 & 5.1), who has seen his three-point percentage fall in every month this season, from 50 percent in October to 33.3 percent in February. He is averaging 9.8 points (nearly four below his average) on 37.5 percent from the floor during the Celtics' current 1-3 stretch. Jaylen Brown (14.1 & 5.4) joined Tatum in single digits with five points on 2-of-9 shooting in the loss to Cleveland and Brown had just nine points on 2-of-10 shooting in a win at Los Angeles last month. Kyrie (24.6 & 5.0 APG) is the unquestioned leader but the veteran Horford (13.2-7.7-5.2) remains the unsung hero. In the end, Brad Stevens' team relies on a defense allowing 99.1 PPG (2nd-best) on a league-low 43.3% shooting.
|02-14-18||Clemson v. Florida State -4.5||Top||79-81||Loss||-105||11 h 59 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 11 Clemson aims for its fifth consecutive victory when it visits Florida State on Wednesday. The Tigers, coming off a 17-16 season (6-12 in ACC), sit 20-4 overall and 9-3 in ACC play. In fact, Clemson is just one win shy of tying the program record for ACC victories in a single season. The 17-8 Florida State Seminoles (6-7 in ACC) have lost two straight and three of their last four. The Seminoles lost 84-69 at Notre Dame on Saturday, just three days after pushing now top-ranked Virginia to the brink in a 59-55 defeat.
Clemson: The Tigers are coming off a 72-48 rout of Pittsburgh on Thursday that clinched their third 20-win season under coach Brad Brownell. Clemson has adjusted well to the loss of 6-8 power forward Donte Grantham (14.2 & 6.9) to a season-ending knee injury, relying more on its backcourt for scoring. Guards Marcquise Reed (15.4 & 4.7), Gabe DeVoe (13.5 & 4.6), and Shelton Mitchell (12.0 & 3.9 APG) all are capable scorers. DeVoe drained seven three-pointers in a 25-point performance against Pittsburgh, and the Tigers have made 10 or more from beyond the arc in four straight games for the first time since 1983. With Grantham out, the frontcourt 'load' falls on the 6-9 Thomas (10.3 & 7.5),
Florida State: Like Clemson, FSU relies on its backcourt. The duo of Terance Mann (14.5 & 5.9) and Braian Angola (13.4 & 4.2) are the team's top-two scorers plus both present matchup problems at 6-6. The Seminoles match up much better with the Tigers now that Grantham is out of the picture with the 6-8 Cofer (13.2 & 5.4), 7-4 center Christ Koumadje (8.6 & 5.4) and the 6-9 Kabaengele (7.1 & 4.8) giving Thomas likely more than he can handle up front.
The pick: Clemson is heading to the final stretch of its regular season and is a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, FSU (which opened 11-1) is now a "bubble team" and could sure use a win here. FSU averages 82.9 PPG (27th) on the season and is 10-2 SU at home, where it averages 88.2 PPG. Clemson has lost three straight games to FSU and is just 5-11 under head coach Brad Brownell against Florida State, including 2-5 in games played in Tallahassee. Make Florida State a 10* play.
|02-13-18||Michigan State v. Minnesota +10.5||Top||87-57||Loss||-106||13 h 29 m||Show|
The set-up: The Spartans edged Purdue on Saturday for their eighth straight victory, pulling them into a second-place tie with the Boilermakers in the Big Ten at 12-2 (Ohio State leads at 13-1). Michigan State is 24-3 overall and Monday captured the top spot in the Coaches' Poll, while ranking second in teh AP poll to No. 1 Virginia. The Spartans will travel to Williams Arena to taking on the 14-13 Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Gophers have been far from 'golden' these days, as they limp in on a seven-game slide, after suffering an 80-56 blowout loss at Indiana on Friday.
Michigan State: The Spartans own a dynamic starting-five, led by 6-7 swingman Bridges (17.8 & 7.1) He's joined up front by the 6-8 Ward (13.1 & 7.4) and 6-11 freshman Jackson (11.0 & 6.1) plus in the backcourt by 6-5 guard Langford (12.7) and PG Winston (12.1 & 7.1 APG). That said, Izzo has been quick to sit his starters when they've been in early foul trouble this season and the Spartans' depth has been instrumental in rewarding him to stick with that strategy. With freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. having a hard time with fouls against Purdue, senior forward Gavin Schilling showed why the Michigan State bench is considered one of the best in the country, not only for his 3-for-3 shooting but more for his seven rebounds and defense of Boilermakers center Isaac Haas down the stretch. The defense of Schilling, Tum Tum Nairn and Matt McQuaid off the bench gives the Spartans another dimension when Izzo goes to his reserves, and all have shown the ability to come through on both ends of the floor in crunch time. This unit is one of Izzo's best-ever offensive teams, averaging 83.1 PPG (25th) on 51.6% shooting (2nd)..
Minnesota: Injuries have been devastating to the Golden Gophers this season, as Amir Coffey (14.0 & 5.1) and Dupree McBrayer (9.5) are currently out. Then there is the indefinite suspension of center Reggie Lynch (10.1 & 8.1), with the Gophers going 1-10 in the games he's missed. Pitino has been to go with freshman guard Isaiah Washington, 6-8 senior Davonte Fitzgerald and 6-7 sophomore Michael Hurt in the starting lineup, with that trio averaging only 14.6 points combined. Forward Jordan Murphy (17.4 & 11.6) has been the most consistent player for Minnesota, while guard Nate Mason is also dangerous, averaging 16.5-3.9-4.2.
The pick: Michigan State is on a roll but reaching No. 1 (at least in the Coaches' poll), could set-up a letdown situation, especially with the Spartans coming off their hard fought win over Purdue over the weekend. The home dog barks in this one. Make Minnesota 10* play.
|02-13-18||Heat +7.5 v. Raptors||Top||112-115||Win||100||12 h 44 m||Show|
|02-13-18||Texas A&M +1.5 v. Missouri||Top||58-62||Loss||-110||12 h 39 m||Show|
The set-up: Texas A&M posted two wins over ranked opponents last week, winning at Auburn (81-80) and then beat Kentucky, 85-74. The Aggies are now 17-8 (6-6 SEC) and are ranked 21st in Monday's latest AP poll. The Missouri Tigers survived a wild one against visiting Mississippi State on Saturday, registering an 89-85 overtime win after letting a double-digit lead slip away in the final two minutes of regulation. The Tigers’ four-game streak is their longest in conference play since reeling off seven straight Big 12 wins during the 2011-12 season. The run has 17-8 Missouri tied for fourth in the SEC standings (7-5), one game ahead of the Aggies.
Texas A&M: The Aggies own one of the SEC’s top frontcourts with the 6-10 Tyler Davis (14.3 & 8.8) and 6-10 Robert Williams (10.8 & 9.6) dominating inside, while 6-9 swingman D.J. Hogg (11.7 & 5.5) creates matchup problems on the wing. Guard Admon Gilder (11.8 & 4.2) is a solid scorer and an excellent defender but the Aggies will be without PG Duane Wilson (9.0 & 4.0 APG) for the remainder of the season, after he aggravated a nagging knee injury in the win over Kentucky. However, reigning SEC Freshman of the Week T.J. Starks (7.9) has averaged 15.2 points in five games since assuming Wilson’s starting role.
Missouri: Guard Kassius Robertson (16.6 PPG) has emerged as the Tigers’ clear leader and the graduate transfer from Canisius has earned SEC Player of the Week honors in consecutive weeks. Robertson poured in a season-high 27 points at Ole Miss on Tuesday and followed up with 22 against Mississippi State. However, the 6-7 Jordan Barnett (13.6 points, six rebounds) is the team’s only other double-digit scorer. That said,6-7 senior Kevin Puryear (9.2) plus a pair of 6-11 freshman, Jontay Porter (8.8 & 6.5) and Jeremiah Tilmon (8.1 & 4.0), give the Tigers a deep and talented frontcourt.
The pick: Missouri has recorded nine more victories than it had all last season, the third-largest improvement in the nation behind North Carolina A&T (12) and UC Santa Barbara (13). However, A&M will be a severe test. After a month and a half absence from the AP top-25, Texas A&M jumped back into the rankings this week at No. 21 on the strength of a four-game win streak. The fact is, the Tigers will be seeking to snap a seven-game Texas A&M winning streak in the series and to avenge a 60-49 loss to the Aggies in College Station on Jan. 20. Not happening. Make Texas A&M an 8* play.
|02-12-18||Clippers v. Nets +4.5||Top||114-101||Loss||-105||21 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: The Los Angeles Clippers won their "trade-revenge" game at Detroit on Friday in Detroit (emotional win over former teammate Blake Griffin) but then tired down the stretch on Saturday in the second night of a back-to-back. LA's three-game winning streak ended with a 112-98 loss at the Philadelphia 76ers, after the Clippers had pulled within 95-93 in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles (28-26) currently sits one-half game behind New Orleans. The Clippers remain slightly out of eighth place because while New Orleans overcame blowing a 28-point lead to get a 139-129 double-overtime win at Brooklyn Saturday, they lost at Philadelphia on Saturday. As for those Nets, the losses are starting to pile up for Brooklyn. Since earning a 116-108 home win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 31, the Nets have gone winless with losses to the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons and Saturday's wild loss to the Pelicans. At 19-38, teh Nets are only one game up on the Eastern Conference-worst Atlanta Hawks.
LA Clippers: Tobias Harris (18.0 & 6.3) and Avery Bradley (8.5 & 5,3 plus excellent perimeter defense) are providing a spark to their new team (over four games) but the return of small forward Danilo Gallinari is another key reason the team is staying in the playoff hunt despite trading Griffin. Gallinari (15.8 & 4.8) played in just two games between Nov. 5 and Jan. 28 while dealing with a glute tear but isn't having any trouble adjusting in five games since returning to the lineup. He is averaging 21 points on 52.2 percent shooting (43.3 percent from beyond the arc) and proved himself in game shape by scoring 22 points while logging 40 minutes on Saturday. Let's also not forget center DeAndre Jordan (11.3 & 15.0), who is averaging 17.5 rebounds over the last six games (including 21 at Philadelphia) or teh career season Low Williams is having (23.3 & 5.3 APG).
Brooklyn: The Nets are losers of five in a row and nine of 10, after Saturday's double overtime home loss. Brooklyn was down 28 points to the Pelicans on Saturday before coming back to force overtime. "It's just too many times that we've gotten in a big hole," Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters. "I loved the comeback, I loved our spirit in the second half, how competitive we are. I'm just mystified how the first half was completely different. We've talked about this before. You just can't get in a hole down 28 against a very good team." The Nets have played 15 games where they faced a deficit of at least 20 points this season. Five of those instances have occurred in this 10-game stretch. In those five games where the Nets have fallen behind by 20 or more, they have been outscored by a 163-92 margin in the first quarter. Saturday was another instance as the Nets were outscored 34-22 in the opening 12 minutes, trailed by 28 before making a furious comeback. Brooklyn is allowing 112.7 points during its five-game losing streak on 49.0 percent shooting and 41.3 percent from three-point range
The pick: It seems clear that LA owner Steve Ballmer isn’t in all-out tank mode just yet. He didn't move DeAndre Jordan and gave a nice contract extension to Lou Williams. Yes, the Nets are going nowhere but LA is just 12-14 SU on the road (not good news when being installed as a road favorite) plus the Nets are 15-13 ATS at home and since right after Christmas, are 14-9 (61%) ATS in all games. Home dog barks here. Make Brooklyn a 10* play.
|02-12-18||Notre Dame +9.5 v. North Carolina||Top||66-83||Loss||-105||20 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: It's hardly been a "walk in the park" for the North Carolina Tar Heels, the defending national champs. The 21st-ranked Tar Heels (19-7 / 8-5 ACC) will play their third game in five days, after knocking off No. 9 Duke on Thursday and following that up with a furious 96-89 triumph at North Carolina State on Saturday. North Carolina will try to complete the trifecta when Notre Dame visits the Smith Center on Monday night. 15-10 Notre Dame (5-7 ACC) has rebounded from a seven-game losing streak with back-to-back home wins over Boston College and Florida State.
Notre Dame: The return of senior PG Matt Farrell from an ankle injury for the past three games has been a big boost for the Fighting Irish. Farrell poured in a career-best 28 points Saturday and enters averaging a team-high 16.5 PPG (as well as a team high 5.2 APG), with preseason All-American Bonzie Colson (21.4 & 10.4) still sidelined (missed last 11 games). Junior guard Rex Pflueger (9.1-4.3-3.2) and also had a career-high total with 19. Senior guard Gibbs (16.3) also added 19 points in the win over FSU. Farrell is averaging 21 points and has drained 15-of-31 from three-point range in three games since a stretch in which he missed five of seven contests with an ankle injury. “We take our lead from (Farrell) - he’s been the warrior for us,” Irish head coach Mike Brey told reporters after his team shot almost 50 percent from the floor against Florida State and drained 10 shots from behind the arc. Sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs has also played a big role for Notre Dame while averaging 21.3 points over the last six contests.
North Carolina: The 6-8 Maye (18.7 & 10.5) leads in scoring and rebounding, with a trio of guards chipping in double figures. Berry (17.4-3.6-3.1) tops that trio, followed by Johnson (13.1 & 4.8) and Williams (11.5). The Tar Heels shot 78.1 percent from the floor in the second half Saturday at North Carolina State, marking the highest rate in a half with Williams as the coach. Maye had quite a bit to do with it by racking up a career-high 33 points (27 in the second half) and adding 17 rebounds. Maye is averaging 24.7 points over the last three games, after scoring a season-low four against Clemson. Senior swingman Theo Pinson (8.7-6.0-4.5) told reporters after Maye’s effort Saturday: “I mean, that was a performance.” Pinson also came through in Saturday’s win with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting with seven assists after connecting on 3-of-13 from the field in his previous three outings. Berry has averaged 19 points over the last four games.
The pick: This is North Carolina's third game in five days, a grueling stretch that has included victories against two huge neighboring rivals. "Got to be ready," coach Roy Williams said, figuring there was no use bemoaning the assigned schedule. However, it's difficult to ignore that this is the first time North Carolina has had three ACC regular-season games scheduled in a five-day period since 1980 (note: the Tar Heels are the only ACC team with such a setup on the schedule this season). My bet says that the Irish give the Tar Heels "all they want" in this brutal scheduling spot for the defending champs. Make Notre Dame a 10* play.
|02-11-18||Cincinnati v. SMU +8||Top||76-51||Loss||-109||9 h 38 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 6 Cincinnati has won 15 straight, opening 11-0 in the AAC and standing at 22-2, overall. With just seven games to go in league play, Cincinnati is well on its way to winning its first outright AAC regular season championship (the Bearcats, who shared the 2014 crown with Louisville), as Cincy's two closest challengers are 9-3 Wichita State and 8-3 Hosuton. Sunday, it's a road game at injury-ravaged SMU, which is 15-9 overall, including 5-6 in the AAC. The Mustangs are down to seven available scholarship players with junior guard Jarrey Foster (knee), who is second in scoring (13.2 points per game), and freshman forward Everett Ray (foot) both sidelined with season-ending injuries. Junior guard Shake Milton, the preseason AAC player of the year who is averaging 18.0-4.7-4.4 this season, is questionable with a left-hand injury that has forced him to miss the last two games.
Cincinnati: After this game, the Bearcats will play the two teams right behind them, at Houston and home vs. Wichita State, next Thursday and Sunday. Few teams play better defense nationally year-in and year-out than the Bearcats who rank second in scoring defense (56.1 PPG) and first field-goal percentage defense (36.3%) here in the 2017-18 season. They have held three of their last five opponents to 48 points or fewer. With that kind of D, the team's 76.8 PPG on offense is more than enough. Four players average in double figures, led by junior swingman Jacob Evans (13.7), who is shooting 41.1 percent from 3-point range, and 6-8 senior forward Gary Clark (12.9), who also leads the team in rebounding (8.9). Versatile senior forward Kyle Washington (11.3 & 5.5) and reigning AAC co-Sixth Man of the Year Jarron Cumberland (10.7), round out the players in double figures.
SMU: Milton is one of 13 players nationally averaging 18 points, four rebounds and four assists per games, so his loss would be a big one for the Mustangs. "It really is day-to-day, but it could be a week and a half," head coach Tim Jankovich told 247Sports.com. "He's slowly getting better, but I don't know when it's going to be good, where he's good to play and be effective." With Milton and Foster out, junior guard Jahmal McMurray, who is third in scoring (12.1) and shooting 43.2 percent from three-point range, has stepped up to average 19.7 points over the last three games while three other Mustangs, guard Ben Emelogu II (10.7 & 5.0), the 6-9 Ethan Chargois (10.3 & 4.7) and guard Jimmy Whitt (10.3 & 5.2), average in double figures.
The pick: "No matter if Shake Milton plays or not, they've still been an unbelievable home team in the last four or five years," Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin told Cincinnati.com. "We've got to be ready to take their best shot, ready for a hostile environment." He knows of what he speaks. SMU is 13-1 at Moody Coliseum this season and 81-5 there since the 2013-14 season. Note that Cincy comes into this contest a fairly modest 12-8-1 ATS. We've already seen Purdue's 19-game win streak end this week with TWO straight losses, then St Mary's 19-game winning streak ended abruptly last night in a 78-65 home loss to Gonzaga while earlier on Saturday, Virginia's 15-game winning streak came to an end with a one-point OT loss to Va. Tech. Is Cincy's 15-game streak next? I say make SMU a 10* play.
|02-11-18||Pistons -3.5 v. Hawks||Top||115-118||Loss||-105||8 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: Blake Griffin scored 19 points in Friday’s 108-95 home defeat against the Los Angeles Clippers, ending Detroit’s five-game winning streak, the final four of those victories coming after the Pistons had acquired Griffin from Los Angeles in a six-player deal Jan. 29. “I didn’t play the way I wanted to,” Griffin told reporters after shooting 7-for-19 from the floor and then leaving the court at game’s end without shaking hands with any of his former teammates. “We had a good five-game run and we get back to work tomorrow.” Detroit's and Griffin's "work" begins with a visit to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday afternoon. While the 27-27 Pistons enter Sunday just 1 1/2 games out of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, the 17-39 Hawks own the NBA’s worst record. Think it's safe to say that Atlanta's run of 10 consecutive playoff appearances (second-longest active NBA streak to only the Spurs) will end in this season?
Detroit: Griffin has averaged 21 points and 7.8 rebounds since joining Detroit and his line for the season is an imprerssive22.4-7.9-5.5. Center Andre Drummond leads the NBA in rebounding at 15.6 per contest (adds 15.0 PPG) and has raised his production of late, averaging 18.1 points with 18.4 rebounds over his past nine games. The Pistons have forced 10 or more turnovers in 53 of their 54 games, including 41 consecutive contests, which is the longest streak in the NBA this season. The Pistons are also on pace to make 877 three-pointers this season, which would surpass the franchise record of 740 set in 2015-16.
Atlanta: The Hawks pushed the Cavs for 2 1/2 quarters Friday at home before succumbing 123-107, falling to 3-7 in their past 10 games. PG Dennis Schroder leads the team in scoring (19.5) and assists (6.3) but behind him, the wealth is spread around, as six players contribute between 9.8 and 13.0 PPG (note: Marco Belinelli, who has averaged 11.4 points and shot 92.7 percent from the free-throw line in 52 games, agreed to a contract buyout Friday). Tyler Dorsey (a rookie from Oregon), continues producing as his role expands. He is averaging only 4.7 PPG on the season but he's scored in double figures for three consecutive games for the first time in his career, averaging 11.7 points and 3.7 assists in that span. The Hawks are tied for first in the NBA in forcing turnovers, as opponents average 15.3 miscues per contest, but that hasn't translated into very many wins.
The pick: The Pistons are 9-16 away from Detroit and have won just one of their past nine road games. However, Griffin is expected to change that dynamic. Playing at Atlanta is hardly a daunting task this season, as the Hawks are just 12-17 SU at home. Atlanta was 11-1 at Philips Arena against Detroit over a seven-season stretch before the teams split two games in Atlanta each of the past two years. The Pistons have had a day to shake off that "trade-revenge" loss against the Clippers and they have won four of the last five against the Hawks, including the first two games of the season series against this year (111-104 & 105-91). They have gotten 14 points and 19.5 rebounds per game from Drummond in those two wins and now the Pistons have added Griffin. Make Detroit a 10* play.
|02-10-18||USC v. Arizona -5.5||Top||67-81||Win||100||23 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: The 13th-ranked Arizona Wildcats are 19-6, including 9-3 in Pac 12 play to lead the conference. They welcome USC to the McKale Center Saturday night, with the Trojans coming in 17-8 overall and 8-4 in league play (USC is tied with UCLA for second-place). Washington ended the Wildcats’ seven-game winning streak with a buzzer-beating victory last Saturday and then Arizona had few answers for UCLA's offense in Thursday’s 82-74 loss (that's two losses in a row!). While UCLA was taking care of Arizona on Thursday, USC missed an opportunity to move into a first-place tie with an 80-78 loss at Arizona State.
USC: The Trojans have four players averaging in double figures, led by the 6-11 Chimezie Metu at 15.7 PPG. He adds a team-high 7.4 RPG and has 41 blocks. The 6-10 Bennie Boatwright (14.6 & 6.5) had been limited by a foot infection over the past two weeks but scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench against the Sun Devils. The team’s strong interior also includes the 6-11 Nick Rakocevic (7.8 & 5.3), who has averaged 16.5 points on 76.4 percent shooting over his last two games. Guards McLaughlin (12.1 & 7.6 APG) and Stewart (11.1) round out the double digit scorers with fellow guard Mathews (9.4) just missing.
Arizona; Junior guard Allonzo Trier had 17 points against the Bruins, while 7-1 freshman Deandre Ayton added 16 points and 12 rebounds. Trier leads in scoring a 19.8 PPG and Ayton is second (19.5), while leading in rebounding at 10.8. Guard Rawle Alkins (13.2) is considered the glue of the Wildcats but the sophomore has gone 4-of-20 from the floor in his last two games, including 1-of-8 from three-point range.
The pick: After back-to-back losses, I expect Arizona to rebound strongly in this one. USC's two-point loss at Arizona State should come as no surprise, as the Trojans have been swept in their last five trips to face the Arizona schools (note: Arizona is 39-10 all-time in Tucson against USC). Make that their last six trips. Lay the points and make Arizona an 8* play.
|02-10-18||Tennessee -2.5 v. Alabama||Top||50-78||Loss||-103||19 h 1 m||Show|
The set-up: The No. 15 Tennessee Volunteers are 18-5 (8-3 SEC) on the season and will head to Tuscaloosa on a six-game winning streak to take on the 15-9 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-5 SEC). Tuesday's 61-59 win at Kentucky vaulted the Vols into second-place in the SEC, while the Crimson Tide are badly in need of a confidence boost after dropping three of their past five contests, the latest a 67-63 setback Tuesday at Mississippi State (Alabama is in a four-way tie for 4th, meaning a loss or two would see them drop dramatically).
Tennessee: Lamonte Turner continues to make the most of his minutes off the bench, as he made the go-ahead three-pointer Tuesday at Kentucky. He finished with a game-high 16 points and despite not having started a single game, is the team’s third-leading scorer at 11.4 PPG. 6-7 sophomore forward Grant Williams leads Tennessee in scoring at 15.9 PPG (also adds 6.1 RPG) and 6-5 small forwards adds 12.5 PPG plus a team-high 6.3 RPG.
Alabama: Freshman guard Collin Sexton enters the weekend third in the SEC in scoring at 18.6 PPG. Three others join him in double digits, 6-9 forward Hall (10.8 & 7.) plus giards Petty (10.7) and Ingram (10.3 & 6.0). Defense has kept Alabama in the SEC hunt, as the the Crimson Tide have allowed 65.7 points PPG while holding opponents to 39.8 percent shooting from the floor in league games (No. 1 in the conference in both categories).
The pick: Speaking of defense, Tennessee has allowed just 58.5 PPG during its five-game SEC winning streak (last six opponents overall, have all been held to 63 points or fewer). For the season, the Volunteers are averaging 77.0 PPG, the school’s highest mark since scoring 78.4 points per game in 2008-09. That's a sweet combo for Rick Barnes' team. The Vols are for real and put Alabama in its place in this one. Make Tennessee an 8* play.
|02-10-18||Miami-FL -3 v. Boston College||Top||70-72||Loss||-106||15 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: No. 25 Miami is 18-5 on the season (7-4 in ACC) and heads to Boston College having won three straight ACC victories for the first time all season, after an 87-81 triumph over Wake Forest on Wednesday. Making its recent surge more impressive is that Miami's Bruce Brown Jr. (11.4 & 4.0 APG) has missed the last three games due to foot surgery. Boston College (14-10 / 4-7 ACC) has lost four of its last five.
Miami: The Hurricanes have rallied around the injury to Brown, with different players stepping up each night to fill the void, as Brown is the team's third-leading scorer, its top assist man and its best defender. The 6-11 Huell (12.8 & 6.9) and freshman guard Walker (11.5) are Miami's only other double digit scorers but four others contribute between 8.0 and 9.5 PPG. Case is point, the Hurricanes had five or more players score at least 10 points for the sixth time this season against Wake Forest. Senior guard Newton (8.6) finally seems to be rounding into form with 16 points, his second straight double-digit scoring game.
Boston College: The Eagles' 96-85 Wednesday loss to Notre Dame pushed them further away from the NCAA Tournament picture, although guard Jerome Robinson 20.1-3.6-3.3() had a performance to remember with 46 points. It was the highest total by an ACC player since another Eagle, Tyrese Rice, matched that total on March 1, 2008. The Eagles have featured the same starting lineup for all 11 of their ACC games and Robinson has been a monster as the top scoring guard (25.2 in ACC action) in the conference, scoring in double figures in 21 straight games, with 20 or more points 11 times following his 46-point explosion. Sophomore guard Ky Bowman (16.6-7.0-5.0) and fellow guard Chatman (13.1) are the only others joining Robinson in double digits, after senior forward Hawkins (12.4 & 9.1) was lost for the season after just eight games.
The pick: Boston College's four ACC wins are two more than it recorded last season and four more than the winless year before that. BC owns a one-game advantage over Miami overall in the all-time series (24-23) but that hardly seems relevant considering the Hurricanes have won the last 12 meetings! Miami did not commit a turnover in the final 15:20 of its win over Wake Forest and it's that kind of play that will "win the day" in this contest. Make Miami a 10* play.
|02-10-18||Marquette v. St. John's||Top||78-86||Loss||-106||13 h 2 m||Show|
The set-up: The 14-10 Marquette Golden Eagles have lost six of their last nine games and visit Carnesecca Arena in Queens at just 5-7 in Big East play. The host St. John's Red Storm are looking to get back to .500 with a win, as they are 12-13 overall and a pathetic 1-11 in the Big East. However, that lone conference win came just this past Wednesday when the Red Storm shocked No. 1 Villanova 79-75, as a 16 1/2-point dog. That major upset came just four days after the Red Storm upset then-No. 4 Duke (at plus-10.5) last Saturday, 81-77. As Vince Lombardi famously once said, "What the hell is going on out there?"
Marquette: The Golden Eagles are a high-scoring squad averaging 81.9 PPG (33rd) on 47.2 percent shooting (56th) but the team allows 77.8 PPG (302nd) on 47.5% shooting (317th). A trio of guards are the core of Marquette's team, Markus Howard (22.0), Andrew Rowsey (18.8 & 4.2 APG) and Sam Hauser (14.1 & 5.9). Marquette had dropped four in a row before knocking off Seton Hall 88-85 on the road this past Wednesday. The Pirates will play four of their remaining six regular-season games on the road. "We have a group that really wants to win," Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski told reporters. "What we're trying to learn and develop is doing what it takes to win. And that's all of us together. I thought (against Seton Hall) we did the things that it took to win a game against an outstanding team on their home floor."
St. John's: There are not many schools in the nation who are 1-11 in conference play and have as much talent as the Red Storm. Before back-to-back major upsets of Duke and Villanova, the Red Storm took now-No. 5 Xavier right to the wire in a 73-68 loss. After that game, Xavier head coach Chris Mack told reporters. "That might be the best 0-11 team I've ever seen anywhere in a conference. Period." As noted, St. John's had dropped 11 straight games to open Big East play before stepping out of conference last Saturday and stunning Duke. The Red Storm then proved that was no fluke four days later, when they came back into conference play with a trip to No. 1 Villanova and came away with a second straight four-point win. St John's doesn't score like Marquette (72.9 PPG) but also allows a six-plus PPG fewer (71.3 per). Despite losing guard LoVett (14.9) after just seven games, the Red Storm still own a perimeter group to match up with the Golden Eagles. The trio of Ponds (20.5-5.2-4.7), Simon (11.2-7.3-5.0) and Ahmed (11.8 & 4.6) is quite formidable. Just ask Duke and 'Nova.
The pick: St. John's is better than its record but off wins over Duke and Villanova, I just can't play them here. After all, before winning last Saturday against Duke in Madison Square Garden (considered a home game for the Red Storm), St John's had lost six consecutive home contests. Make Marquette an 8* play.
|02-09-18||Princeton v. Harvard -1.5||Top||51-66||Win||100||22 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Princeton Tigers have won six of their last nine games to inch over .500 at 11-10 on the season. Princeton will visit Harvard on Friday night, which would need a win over the Tigers to level its record at .500, as the the Crimson are 10-11, after winning four of their last five. However, while Princeton is 3-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard is 5-1, one game back of 6-0 Penn.
Princeton: The Tigers have a guard trio leading the way in both scoring and rebounding. Devin Cannady is averaging 18 points and 5.1 rebounds, Myles Stephens is averaging 14.5 & 6.1 and Amir Bell checks in at 10.5 & 5.4. Princeton averages 73.3 PPG and allows about the same at 70.3.
Harvard: The Crimson also have a trio of double digit scorers, all of whom are sophomores. Bryce Aiken(14.1) is thetetam's top backcourt player but the other two top performers play in the frontcourt. The 6-7 Towns (15.6 & 5.2) is the team's leading scorer and the 6-9 Lewis (11.7 & 5.3) barely edges Towns as the top rebounder. Harvard scores less than Princeton at 65.6 PPG but also allows fewer points at 67.2.
The pick: Some (most?) view Princeton as the better team but as Bill Parcells once said, "You are who your record says you are." Harvard is 5-1 in Ivy play and Princeton just 3-3. At this near pick-em price on Harvrad's home floor (the Lavietes Pavilion), I'll make Harvard the 10* play.
|02-08-18||Hornets v. Blazers -4||Top||103-109||Win||100||14 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Portland Trail Blazers went 0-3 on a recent three-game road trip that featured stops in Toronto, Boston and Detroit. The Blazers now limp home to the Moda Center at 29-25, tied with the Nuggets' for the West's No. 6 seed (note: both teams are just one game ahead of the Clippers, who are currently the 9th-seed and outside of the playoff cut line). Portland will play three of its next four at home, beginning with tonight's game against Eastern Conference foe, the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets will look to bounce back after watching a three-game winning streak come to an end with a 121-104 setback in Denver on Monday. Charlotte is 23-30 on the season, leaving them four games back of the East's No. 8 seed (76ers).
Charlotte: The Hornets allowed the Nuggets to shoot 56.8 percent from the floor and drain make 18 three-pointers on Monday. PG Kemba Walker () again leads the team in scoring and overall, Charlotte does a nice job offensively on the perimeter. Shooting guards Lamb (13.6 & 4.5) and Batum (12.2-4.5-4.7) have lately seen second-year shooting guard Treveon Graham (5.2) emerge as a scoring option, while earning extra playing time over the last four games. Graham scored in double figures in three of the last four contests, matching his total of double-digit scoring outbursts from his first 36 games. Center Dwight Howard (16.0 & 12.6) averages a double-double but once again the question looms, is he making his latest team any better?
Portland: The Blazers had scored at least 100 points in 17 straight games before missing the mark against Boston and Detroit to close out the trip. CJ McCollum, who scored 50 points on 18-of-25 shooting in the last home game on Jan. 31, slumped to 14 points on 6-of-15 in Monday's setback while All-Star point guard Damian Lillard went 6-of-21 from three-point range on the trip. Portland can't afford its guard duo to play like that, as Lillard (25.1-4.7-6.6) and McCollum (21.8-3.9-3.2) are the 'heart' of this team. Only center Nurkic (14.2 & 8.2) can be counted on besides that duo to contribute on a regular basis.
The pick: The Blazers have been in trade talks over the past couple of weeks but as of Wednesday hadn't pulled the trigger on any deals. The team's two stars, Lillard and McCollum, have said they hope general manager Neil Olshey will stand pat. We'll see. The good news is that Portland takes the court tonight on an eight-game home winning streak (7-1 ATS) and while the Blazers are only 12-20 against teams that are .500 or better, they are 17-5 against teams without a winning record. The Hornets are a sub-.500 team (23-30), including an 8-16 road record. Lay the points and make Portland a 10* play.
|02-08-18||Celtics +2 v. Wizards||Top||110-104||Win||100||12 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics finish off a quick two-game road trip at the Washington Wizards on Thursday. The first stop on the trip didn't go well, as the Celtics lost 111-91 at Toronto on Tuesday and saw their lead in the Eastern Conference shrink to one game over the Raptors. Kyrie Irving returned from a quad injury to score 17 points in 22 minutes for Boston but the Celtics' 37-point first half did them in. As for the Wizards, they surprisingly won five straight after losing All-Star PG John Wall () to a knee injury, before falling flat in Philadelphia on Tuesday in a 115-102 loss. Bradley Beal scored 30 points in the loss but is averaging 23.4 points (on 50 percent shooting) and 6.2 assists over his last five games.
Boston: The 39-16 Celtics saw Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown combine to shoot 10-of-17 from the floor at Toronto but the team's three other starters , Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Aron Baynes, scored only a combined 12 points, while connecting on just 6-of-22 shots (27.3%). "We looked slow, we looked like we weren't ready to react to their speed or their physicality," head coach Brad Stevens told reporters. "I think that was probably the case the whole night." Terry Rozier scored 18 points off the bench and is averaging 19.3 over a four-game span.
Washington: The 31-23 Wizards (31-23) have moved into the No. 4 seed position in the East (just a half-game back of the Cavs), due to their recent surge. After the Wizards had 30 assists and eight players scored in double figures against the Raptors, Beal explained the contagious ball movement as "everybody eats." Center Marcin Gortat later tweeted out "Unbelievable win tonight! Great team victory!" Many interpreted those statements as a shot against Wall, charges Beal and Gortat denied. Thursday afternoon's NBA trade deadline is looming with the primary buzz involving Washington centers plus the lingering narrative about the team's improved play without Wall. He is averaging 19.3 points and 9.3 assists and expects to be out six to eight weeks following left knee surgery on Jan. 31.
The pick: These teams had a pretty tough East semifinal last spring that Boston won in seven. Washington is 10-7 without Wall this season but his play helped lead the Wizards to a 111-103 at Boston on Christmas Day, getting a small piece of revenge. Beal scored 25 points, Wall had 21 and 14 assists plus Otto Porter finished with 20 points. However, Boston is an Eastern Conference best 18-8 SU on the road and this time around, they are the ones seeking revenge (from that Christmas Day loss), not to mention looking to "make up" from the team's poor effort in Toronto on Tuesday. Make Boston an 8* play.
|02-07-18||Wolves v. Cavs +4||Top||138-140||Win||100||12 h 21 m||Show|
|02-07-18||Virginia -3 v. Florida State||Top||59-55||Win||100||11 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: The No. 2 ranked Virginia Cavaliers are a perfect 11-0 in ACC play and have won 14 in a row overall to reach 22-1, thanks to beating teams by an average of 16.4 PPG. Meanwhile, 17-6 Florida State is stuck in the middle of the ACC pack with a 6-5 mark heading into the final weeks of the regular season. Florida State welcomes the 2nd-ranked Cavs to the Donald L. Tucker Center looking to make a bold statement with a marquee victory. Virginia's defense was "on its game in winning 59-44 at Syracuse on Saturday and FSU comes into this matchup with some confidence of its own, after an 80-76 victory at Louisville avenged a Jan. 10 loss to the Cardinals that halted the Seminoles' 28-game home winning streak.
Virginia: The Cavaliers are allowing just 52.3 PPG, fewest in the nation and the second-best mark in in school history. They have held 11 opponents to fewer than 50 points. Virginia's slow, deliberate style creates turnovers as the Cavs leas the nation with 9.2 takeaways per game and six opponents have committed more giveaways than successful baskets. Defense has the key, so the Cavaliers haven't needed an explosive offense. UVa averages a modest 68.7 PPG, with guards Guy (15.5) and Hall (12.1 & 4.2) being the team's lone double digit scorers. The team uses an eight-man rotation and the biggest contributors among the other six have been guard Jerome (9.6) and the 6-7 Wilkins (6.0 & 6.7).
Florida State: The Seminoles are the anti-Cavaliers, as they like to push the ball up the court with a fast-break offense (84.7 PPG ranks ) led by guard Terance Mann, the team's leading scorer (15.5). Fellow guard Angola checks in at 14.1 & 4.4 and the 6-8 Cofer has come into his own this season, averaging 13.4 & 5.5. Five other players contribute between 6.1 and 9.3 PPG, including the 7-4 Koumadje (8.9 & 5.5)
The pick: The Cavs have to "slip up" sometime and somewhere, right? I realize that no team has scored more than 68 points against the Cavaliers this season but the Seminoles are 10-1 at home where they have averaged 91.2 PPG. One of these days, the Cavs lack of offense ( (ranks 290th in scoring) will come back to 'bite' them. How about right here, where the Seminoles have won 32 of their last 33 games? Make FSU a 10* play.
|02-06-18||Nebraska +1.5 v. Minnesota||Top||91-85||Win||100||13 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Nebraska Cornhuskers have rebounded nicely this season after winning 13, 16 and 12 games the last three seasons. The Cornhuskers have won six of their last eight and will travel to Williams Arena in Minneapolis at 17-8 (8-4 in Big Ten). Waiting for them are the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who have not been so golden these days in losing eight of their last nine. Minnesota was 8-1 and ranked 14th when it met Nebraska for the first time this season (Cornhuskers won 79-68 in Lincoln) and after a win over Illinois, stood at 13-3. Those days are long gone now, as Minnesota is 14-11, including only 3-9 in the Big Ten.
Nebraska: Three players are averaging in double figures for Nebraska, James Palmer Jr. (17.6 & 4.4), the 6-9 Isaac Copeland (13.2 & 6.4) and Glynn Watson Jr. (11.0 & 3.5). Nebraska's three-game winning streak has come against Big Ten bottom-feeders, most recently an 11-point win against Wisconsin. "You could just see our guys growing in confidence," said coach Tim Miles. The Cornhuskers trailed Wisconsin at halftime, shot just 4-of-19 from three-point range for the game and had two of their starters go scoreless but still rallied for a 74-63 win. James Palmer Jr. registered 28 points and has matched or exceeded that total in three of the last four outings. Isaac Copeland added 17 points and is averaging 21 points over his last three games while committing only one turnover in 100 minutes over that stretch.
Minnesota: The Gophers put in a good effort at Michigan their last time out but it still resulted in a loss. "I'm proud of our guys for their effort," Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino said after the three-point loss in overtime. "To play in front of a sold-out crowd when you're down two of your top six (players), no team in college basketball can sustain that. We're not feeling sorry for ourselves. We're not making excuses. We've got to play as close to perfect as we possibly can in order to win. We were close. We know we can play with anybody if we play the right way."Minnesota's demise began when the 6-10 Reggie Lynch (10.1 & 8.0) was sidelined due to sexual assault investigation. Amir Coffey, the team's third-leading scorer at 14.0 PPG has a shoulder injury and has missed the last two (he's missed seven game sin all, this season). Forward Jason Murphy is having a superb year (17.5 & 11.3) and guard Mason (15.7-3.9-4.3) has been the team's best guard. Freshman guard Isaiah Washington delivered the best performance of his rookie season with 26 points off the bench against Michigan but checks in averaging a modest 7.7 PPG on the season.
The pick: Minnesota is no slouch at home (10-4 SU and averaging 80.7 PPG) but without the shot-blocking Lynch (4.1 per game), the Golden Gophers have lost their last three at home. Without a healthy Coffey as well, this team is VERY vulnerable and looking like an NIT-bound squad. Meanwhile, the Cornhuskers are now on the radar of the NCAA Tourney Selection Committee. The committee doesn't consider ATS records but we sure do and will note that Nebraska is on a highly-profitable 12-1-1 ATS run. Let's not forget that Nebraska handled this team at home when Minnesota had "all hands on deck,' plus it's a bonus that 6-11 center Jordy Tshimanga has recently been reinstated (20 combined points and 12 rebounds over his last two games). Make Nebraska a 10* play.
|02-06-18||Grizzlies +2.5 v. Hawks||Top||82-108||Loss||-115||12 h 11 m||Show|
The set-up: The Memphis decided to sideline PG Mike Conley (17.1 & 4.1 APG) after a game on Jan 13, so he could rest his Achilles. More recently, the team announced Conley would not return this season. Memphis was 7-6 when Conley was sidelined but has gone 11-28 since, leaving them 9 1/2 games out of the West's final playoff spot at 18-34, overall. The Grizzlies will visit Philips Arena Tuesday night to take on the 16-37 Hawks, whose 10-year playoff run will come to an end this season. The Hawks are just trying to stay clear of the East 'basement,' edging the New York Knicks 99-96 on Sunday to earn their second win in four games (the Hawks are a half-game worse than the Magic, leaving them 15th of 15 teams in the East).
Memphis: The Grizzlies are trying to find their way while surrounding center Marc Gasol (18.0 & 18.6) with a plethora of young players. Swingman Tyreke Evans (19.5-5.0-5.0) was picked up for 'a song' and has been Memphis' best player but he's on the trading block and has been absent from the first three games in Memphis' four-game trip pending a potential deal prior to the Thursday deadline.The 6-8 JaMychal Green (10.1 & 7.4) is the only other Memphis player in double digits.
Atlanta: The Hawks surrendered an average of 121 points in losses to Charlotte and Boston before turning things around on the defensive end and limiting the Knicks to 5-of-23 from three-point rang in Sunday's three-point win. That victory was just the Hawks' third road win against the East, snapping an eight-game conference losing streak. PG Dennis Schroder (19.3 & 6.4 APG) is the team's lone "go-to" scorer, although six others are averaging between 10.0 and 13.2 PPG. That group includes 6-10 rookie John Collins (Wake Forest), who is averaging 10.4 & 6.9 in about 22 minutes.
The pick: The Grizzlies are just 5-29 on the road and 3-15 outside of the Western Conference but playing at Philips Arena hasn't been a home court advantage for the Atlanta, as the Hawks are just 11-16 SU. I'll take depth-shy Grizzlies, making Memphis an 8* play.
|02-05-18||Blazers v. Pistons -2||Top||91-111||Win||100||12 h 4 m||Show|
The set-up: The Pistons opened the new year 2-11 and had lost eight games in a row before trading for the Clippers' Blake Griffin. This just in, the "Blake Griffin era" is off to a rousing start. The Pistons ended their eight-game slide by taking down the Cavs 125-114 the game before Griffin joined the team and then added two more wins with Griffin averaging 20.0-9.5-6.0. "Just a little more tired today - the adrenaline wore off a little bit, just the toll of the week," Griffin told reporters on Saturday. "It's amazing to see all these guys step up and play so well." Detroit gets set to host the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday. The Trail Blazers arrive in Detroit looking to recover from blowing a 16-point halftime lead at Boston on Sunday, losing 97-96 when Al Horford beat the buzzer with a 15-footer!
Portland: CJ McCollum led the way with 21 points for Portland, but after scoring at least 100 points in 17 straight games, Portland's streak came to an end in Boston. Portland,, which shoots 45.4% from the floor on the season, shot just 39.6 percent with Damian Lillard being one of the main culprits with a 6-for-19 effort (his worst single-game shooting percentage since Nov. 13. Maurice Harkless (5.4) helped to pick up some of the slack by making a career-high five three-pointers in as many attempts and scoring 19 points, eclipsing his total from the previous eight games combined. Lillard (25.2-4.7-6.7) and McCollum (21.9-4.0-3.2) are an excellent guard tandem but only center Nurkic (14.3 & 8.2) joins them in double digits.
Detroit: All-Star center Andre Drummond (15.0 & 15.3) has welcomed Griffin with open arms, and the tandem has shown flashes of dominance underneath, outrebounding Miami on their own by a 29-26 margin. Drummond grabbed 20 of those boards to go along with 23 points, four blocks and four steals, and the big man has registered six straight double-doubles. " Ish Smith scored a season-high 25 points against the Heat and is shooting 60.7 percent over his last five games. He's taken over for the injured Jackson at PG and is up to 10.6 PPG and 4.4 APG on the season.
The pick: Griffin has re-energized the Detroit franchise. The Pistons have won the first three games of a six-game homestand since acquiring Griffin from the Los Angeles Clippers and at 25-26, can get back to the .500 mark if they continue their streak against Portland on Monday night (note: the Pistons are now a half-game behind Philadelphia for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference). The early returns on the power pairing of Griffin and All-Star center Andre Drummond have been promising and note that D rummond averaged 23.5 points and 14.5 rebounds as Detroit went 2-0 against Portland last season. One wonders just how Portland recovers thsi quickly after Sunday's brutal loss in Boston? Make Detroit a 10* play.
|02-05-18||Indiana -2 v. Rutgers||Top||65-43||Win||100||12 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: Both Indiana (12-12) and Rutgers (12-13) are basically .500 teams on the season but while the Hoosiers are 5-7 in Ben Ten play, the Scarlet Knights are a woeful 2-10. Indiana travels to New Brunswick Monday night and comes in off losing five of its last six games, including a current four-game slide. Rutgers welcomes Indiana to the Louis Brown Athletic Center., where the Scarlet Knights have lost five of their last seven home games.
Indiana: The Hoosiers fell short in their upset bid of fourth-ranked Michigan State on Saturday, dropping a 63-60 decision to the Spartans on Saturday. "We're coming down the home stretch and we're trying to fight and claw for every win that we can," Indiana head coach Archie Miller told reporters. "It's all about Rutgers right now and we've got to get ready to go." The 6-8 Juwan Morgan (16.5 & 7.2) led the way with 23 points and 11 rebounds against Michigan State, registering his seventh double-double of the season. Freddie McSwain Jr. (3.8 & 4.3) added eight points and set a career high with 16 rebounds, including nine offensive boards. Guard Devonte Green (7.3) contributed eight points and dished out a career-high six assists, but Indiana was undone by a 28.8 percent performance from the floor in the three-point loss. Other than Morgan, guard Johnson (13.2 & 4.6) is the only other double digit scorer.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights made a valiant effort last Saturday, losing just 78-76 to No. 3 Purdue (team's fifth straight loss). That effort came despite playing without key players Mike Williams (9.2 & 4.2) do to an ankle problem and Eugene Omoruyi (7.6 & 4.7) out with a knee issue. "We can play with anybody when we play like that and follow the game plan and execute," Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell told reporters. "When building a program you have to go through a lot of stuff." Guard Corey Sanders (14.2-4.4-3.2) poured in a season-high 31 points and pulled down seven rebounds in the loss to Purdue to move into 22nd place on the program's all-time scoring list. The 6-7 Deshawn Freeman (11.3 & 7.5) narrowly missed a double-double as he scored 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds, to finish in double figures for the 20th time in 25 games this season. Freshman guard Geo Baker (11.6) went 3-of-4 from the three-point line en route to 14 points.
The pick: The Indiana Hoosiers aren't winning many games, but they are playing better basketball recently (see Michigan St. game). The Scarlet Knights are connecting on just 38.0% of their shots in their five-game slide and they hope to avoid a seventh consecutive loss to the Hoosiers. Not happening, off that all-out try against Purdue. Make Indiana a 10* play.
|02-04-18||Hornets v. Suns +6||Top||115-110||Win||100||8 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: The Suns began a three-game homestand with a 102-88 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday but that defense did not carry over to Friday, as Phoenix was trounced 129-97 by the Utah Jazz and the Suns have now lost six of their last seven to fall to 18-35 (1 1/2 games out of the Western Conference 'basement'). Phoenix completes its three-game homestand by hosting the 22-29 Charlotte Honets on Super Bowl Sunday. The Hornets have lit up the scoreboard in back-to-back wins over in Atlanta on Wednesday (123-110), followed by a 133-126 home win over Indiana on Friday.
Charlotte: PG Kemba Walker (22.9 & 5.9 APG) scored 41 points in the win over the Pacers, after getting 38 at Atlanta. "Offensively, we are playing great," Walker told reporters. "We were moving the basketball and making the extra pass and knocking it down when we needed to. Defensively, I think we can be a lot better, but I think we have been doing a great job, especially when we really need it. We are getting some big-time stops." SG Nicolas Batum is finally rounding into form as well, and followed up a triple-double at Atlanta with 31 points and nine rebounds against Indiana. Batum is now averaging 11.9-4.5-4.7, not quite at the level of production he had last season but he's heading in the right direct. Center Dwight Howard averages a double-double (15.9 & 12.7) but once again the question arises, is he really making his team better?
Phoenix: About the only positive coming out of Friday's ugly 32-point loss was the continued strong play of rookie small forward Josh Jackson. He scored 20 points to reach that mark for the third straight game, the best stretch of his young career. Jackson is averaging10.5 & 3.8 on the season but another young Phoenix player is not having such a strong run. 20-year-old power forward Marquese Chriss (7.0 & 5.0) is expected to serve a team-imposed one-game suspension on Sunday for reportedly getting into a verbal confrontation with an assistant coach. Devin Booker broke the franchise record for consecutive made free throws in a season when he reached 60 on Friday, surpassing the previous mark of 57 shared by Kevin Johnson and Mike Bratz. Booker (24.3) is the team's lone "All Star caliber" player, although one can't discount T.J. Warren's (19.5 & 5.2) consistent production. However, when a team ranks dead-last in points allowed at 112.1 PPG, most games are an up hill battle.
The pick: This Super Bowl Sunday matchup sets up as a showdown between a pair of two perceived all-star snubs, Kemba Walker and Devin Booker. The Hornets begin a four-game road trip with this one and with trips to Denver, Portland and Utah on the schedule, this is easily the team's best chance to pick up a win on this Western swing. However, it's difficult for me to view Charlotte, a team with a 7-15 SU record on the road, being a road favorite. Let me note that the home team has taken each of the last four in this series, with the Suns earning a 120-103 triumph back on March 2 in the Hornets' most recent visit to Phoenix. Make the Suns a 10* play.
|02-04-18||Temple -2.5 v. Tulane||Top||83-76||Win||100||7 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: Both the Temple Owls (12-10 / 4-6 AAC) and the Tulane Green Wave (13-8 / 4-5 in AAC) are in the bottom half of the American Athletic Conference standings The two schools meet on Super Bowl Sunday in New Orleans, with the Owls looking to build off wins in four of their last five games, including an an 81-79 overtime win over No. 16 Wichita State on Friday. Meanwhile, the Green Wave are looking to turn their momentum around after losing four of their last six, although they did take a step in the right direction with a 71-69 overtime win over East Carolina in their last outing.
Temple: Guard Quinton Rose led Temple with 19 points against the Shockers, while fellow Josh Brown (8.3-3.5-3.5) added 15 points along with three assists and three steals. Rose is the etam's leading scorer at 14.4 PPG (also adds 4.4 RPG) and the team's second-leading scorer is guard Shizz Alston Jr. (13.0 & 3.4), who added 12 points but shot a miserable 5 of 22 from the floor. The The 6-10 Obi Enechionyia (11.3 & 6.6) andfreshman guard Nate Pierre-Louis (7.3), each added 11 points. Temple's 81-point outburst is not typical, as the Owls average 68.1 PPG (299th) on 41.7% shooting from the floor (310th), including just 33.8% from behind the arc (239th and 68.1% from the foul line (279th).
Tulane: Melvin Frazier led Tulane with 22 points, while adding eight rebounds and a team-high four assists in the team's OT win against East Carolina. Frazier (17.3 & 5.7) is the team's leading scorer, joined in double digits this season by the 6-8 Reynolds (15.8 & 6.3), PG Embo (10.1-3.2-3.4) and the 6-9 Sehic (10.0 & 5.4). Tulane can score slightly better than Temple, averaging 75.1 PPG.
The pick: Temple’s win over Wichita State was huge, perhaps the school's biggest win since joining this conference in 2013. Does that mean this contest against Tulane has "letdown written all over it?" Not in my opinion. Temple preceded its upset of Wichita State with a well-played 85-67 romp over UConn, making me believe the Owls are more of a "play on" team at the moment. Revenge should work here, after Temple lost at home to Tulane 85-75 in its AAC opener back on Dec. 28th. Temple was a 9 1/2-point choice in that one but shot a season-worst 4 of 21 from three-point range in that 10-point loss. Obi Enechionyia was a season-worst 1 of 9 from the floor in the first meeting and surely will play better, plus Temple can't possibly shoot worse from beyond the arc, right?. Make the Owls a 10* play.
|02-03-18||Arizona v. Washington +6||Top||75-78||Win||100||15 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: Arizona lost all three games in the Battle for Atlantis tourney but has recovered to win 16 of 17 and at 19-4 (9-1 in Pac 12), is ranked 9th in the latest AP poll and sits atop the Pac 12 standings, one game better than 8-2 USC. The Wildcats have reeled off seven straight wins after a 100-72 blowout victory over host Washington State in their last game. Arizona travels to Seattle tonight to take on the surprising Washington Huskies, who are 16-6 overall, including 6-3 in Pac 12 play. Washington has third place in the Pac-12 to itself (2 1/2 games back of Arizona), after being picked 10th in the preseason.
Arizona: The Wildcats' lone loss in their 16-1 run came 80-77 at Colorado back on Jan. 6). Junior guard Alonzo Trier (19.9) and 7-1 freshman Deandre Ayton (19.7) rank 1-2 atop the list of Pac-12 scoring leaders and Ayton leads the conference in rebounding (10.7) plus ranks second in field-goal percentage (63.2). Guard Rawle Alkins (14.7 points), who has missed three of the last five games while dealing with a sore foot, and the 7-0 Ristic (11.3 & 6.7) also are averaging double figures while PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright is averaging 7.4 points and a team-best 5.0 assists. Arizona is averaging 82.5 PPG (30th) on 51.4% shooting (3rd).
Washington: The Huskies have made the most of a three-game homestand so far, routing Washington State (80-62) on Sunday and out-dueling 23rd-ranked Arizona State (68-64) on Thursday night. 6-8 forward Noah Dickerson had 21 points and 16 rebounds – his second double-double in the last three games – to bump up his season averages to 14.5 points and a team-leading 8.1 RPG. Guards Jaylen Nowell (16.6), David Crisp (11.8) and Matisse Thybulle (11.3) also are averaging double digits for the Huskies, who lead the conference in steals (8.7) and turnovers forced (15.6).
The pick: Arizona has won the last eight meetings in the series but Washington seems like a very different team this season under after 76-68 (road) and 77-66 (home) victories a season ago. Saturday’s game will be their only regular-season meeting this year under first-year head coach and former Boeheim assistant, Mike Hopkins. It’ll be strength-vs.-strength from the three-point arc as Arizona is shooting a Pac-12-best 40.0 percent from long range while the Huskies own the conference’s top three-point defense, limiting the opposition to a 32.9-percent success rate. The cry out of Seattle these days is, "Who needs Markelle Fultz!" The One and Done former Huskie was the NBA's No. 1 pick and while he struggles with an injury and shooting woes (doing NOTHING for the 76ers), Washington is thriving with four of last year's five starters back. Upset alert. Make Washington an 8* play.
|02-03-18||Georgetown +14.5 v. Xavier||Top||91-96||Win||100||10 h 24 m||Show|
The set-up: The Xavier Musketeers are ranked No. 6 in the latest AP poll and are now 20-3 (8-2 in Big East) after squeaking by St, John's 73-68. "We're fortunate to come away with a win," head coach Chris Mack told reporters. "That might be the best 0-11 team I've ever seen anywhere in a conference. Period."Xavier will be at home on Saturday to host the 13-8 Georgetown Hoyas, who benefited from a weak early-season slate to open 8-0. However, the Hoyas are just 5-8 since, including 3-7 in Big East play.
Georgetown: The 6-10 Jessie Govan has been the heart and soul of the Hoyas attack, leading the team in points (16.2) and rebounds (10.3) but the junior center is mired in a lengthy slump, having averaged just 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds over his previous five outings. 6-7 forward Marcus Derrickson (15.6 & 7.3) has picked up the scoring slack during Govan's cold snap, averaging better than 22 points over his past three games, including a season-best 27 points in a thrilling double-overtime win over St. John's on Jan. 20. That duo comprises the team's lone double digit scorers, although the Hoyas average a respectable 78.0 PPG (79yth).
Xavier: The Musketeers boast one of the most well-balanced offenses in the nation, ranking 19th in scoring (84.2 points per game), 15th in assists (17.5), 16th in field-goal success rate (49.9 percent) and and 27th in free-throw percentage (76.8). Xavier's scoring leader is the 6-6 Trevon Bluiett (18.7 & 5.7) but he has been in a minor scoring funk, averaging 14 points over his previous three games while shooting 6-for-20 from three-point range. J.P. Macura (13.0 & 4.3) broke out for 27 points in a Jan. 20 win over Seton Hall but has scored just 18 points in two games since, shooting a combined 5-of-16 from the floor. The 6-10 Kanter (10.2 & 5.4) is the team's only other double digit scorer and will be tasked with slowing Govan.
The pick: Foul shooting has helped the Hoyas remain competitive in the majority of their Big East games so far as Georgetown ranks second in the conference and fifth in the country in free-throw percentage (78.6). Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing took solace in the way his team battled back against Creighton in a tough environment. After trailing 46-33 at halftime, the Hoyas rallied to cut the Bluejays' lead to 71-70 with less than four minutes remaining, before falling 85-77. "We didn't start the game out with the intensity and with the right frame of mind that I would have liked," Ewing said. "In the second half, we came with a lot more intensity, a lot more effort, a lot more focus." The Hoyas are 5-1 as a rod dog in Big East play and this is a lot of points. Make Georgetown an 8* play.
|02-03-18||Kentucky +2 v. Missouri||Top||60-69||Loss||-109||7 h 35 m||Show|
The set-up: The Kentucky Wildcats opened the season No. 5 in the AP's preseason poll and was at No. 18 when it lost back-to-back games on Jan. 16th & 20th. The Wildcats fell out of the AP's Jan 22nd poll, ending a run of 68 straight weeks of being in the top-25. However, with Kentucky's big comeback win over then-No. 7 West Va. last Saturday (trailed West Virginia by 15 at halftime, before outscoring the Mountaineers 50-28 after intermission), the Wildcats were back in the top-25 at No. 21 this past Monday. The Wildcats overcame another slow start this past Wednesday (trailed by 14 points in the second half against Vanderbilt), before coming back to win 83-81 in overtime. Kentucky is 17-5 (6-3 in SEC) as it visits 14-8 Missouri (4-5 in SEC) on Saturday afternoon in Columbia, Mo. at Mizzou Arena. The Tigers snapped a three-game skid with a 69-60 win at Alabama on Wednesday.
Kentucky: Freshmen account for 86.6 percent of the Wildcats’ scoring (Kentucky averages 77.6 PPG, which ranks 91st), as four of their five starters, as well as their top six scorers, are first-year players. The 6-9 Kevin Knox (15.6 & 5.8) picked up National Player of the Week honors last week after averaging 26.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in wins over Mississippi State and West Virginia, while PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (12.6 & 4.3 APG) has upped his production to 15.7 points and 4.4 assists in six games since moving into the starting lineup. Guard Hamidou Diallo (12.2 & 4.4) and 6-7 reserve forward P.J. Washington (10.6 & 5.0) also average double digits in points.
Missouri: This is Cuonzo Martin's first season at Missouri but the coach spent three years at Tennessee from 2012 to 2014. The Tigers are thin in the backcourt, as reserve point guard Terrence Phillips has been suspended indefinitely in the midst of a Title IX investigation .while freshman point guard Blake Harris transferred earlier in the season. Missouri is led by Robertson, a graduate transfer, at 16.0 PPG. He has topped 20 points the last three games. Two 6-7 forwards follow, Jordan Barnett (14.0 & 5.9) and Kevin Puryear (9.0 & 4.7). The Tigers also count on two big freshmen in key roles, the 6-10 Jeremiah Tilmon (8.3 & 4.2) and Jontay Porter (8.1 & 6.5 rebounds). Both had big games against Alabama (Porter had 13 points and Tillman 12) and can make a major impact at both ends of the floor when they aren’t in foul trouble.
The pick: Kentucky assistant Tony Barbee is filling in for coach John Calipari, who has been ill. He said about Missouri, "They're one of the most talented teams in this league. Don't let their record fool you. They've had some great wins. Going to Alabama and winning. Beating Tennessee, beating Georgia, beating South Carolina. I mean, this team is as good top to bottom as any team in this league and they present a lot of difference challenges for us." Forewarned is forearmed and the Wildcats can't keep falling behind their opponents. A "very focused' Kentucky team is the 10* play in this one.
|02-03-18||Cincinnati v. Connecticut +13||Top||65-57||Win||100||4 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: The No. 9 Cincinnati Bearcats have won 13 straight games (9-0 in AAC) with an 80-70 home victory over Houston their last time out. They visit the the 11-11 (4-5 AAC) UConn Huskies at Gampel Pavilion for a 12 noon ET tip-off on Saturday. While the Bearcats are off a stirring 18-point comeback win against the Cougars on Wednesday, the Huskies have lost four of their last five after a particularly humbling 70-61 loss to a Central Florida team that had dropped 11 of the previous 12 meetings between the schools.Cincinnati: The question I've had for this team all year is when the time comes, when the moment of truth comes, will we be able to take our game to another level," coach Mick Cronin told "reporters after the game. "I thought that's what we did." The Bearcats own the nation's second-best defense (56.8 PPG) and after allowing 40 points in the first half against Houston, held the Cougars to 30 second-half points while limiting the AAC's second-leading scorer Rob Gray to nine points on 4-of-15 shooting. The 6-8 Gary Clark (13.3 & 9.2) has been Cincinnati's most consistent option of late, reaching double figures in 10 consecutive games while averaging 11.3 rebounds over his previous six contests. PG Jacob Evans (13.9-4.2-3.4) is the team's leading scorer and has reached double figures in nine straight contests and had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists versus Houston. The 6-9 Washington (11.1 & 5.40 and guard Cumberland (10.9) round out the double digit scorers.
UConn: The Huskies' latest slump has seen a growing call by fans to fire former national champion-coach Kevin Ollie.UConn is a team 'stuck ion neutral' and the team's paltry 9.9 APG ranks ahead of only four other Division I teams. Junior guard Jalen Adams leads the team in scoring at 17.6 PPG but has been held to just 18 in his previous two games combined. Backcourt mate Christian Vitale (14.0 & 4.7) scored just nine points in the loss to UCF and is shooting a dismal 36.6 percent from the floor on the season. On the bright side, the Huskies got Terry Larrier back in the lineup against UCF, who wore a mask to protect his face after suffering a fractured sinus wall that required surgery after he took a shot to the face Jan. 10 and was in and out of the lineup with severe headaches. Larrier scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds in his return against UCF. However, UConn has already PG Alterique Gilbert to shoulder surgery for a second straight season (he has played just nine games in his two years at UConn). The pick: Cincinnati is one of two teams in the country with a scoring margin north of 20 (plus-20.2). So is it the Bearcats? Not so fast. The Cougars almost beat the Bearcats in BB&T Arena on Wednesday, where Cincy has won 38 in a row. Sure, the 'wolves are howling' in Storrs but with Larrier back, expect the home dog to 'bark' in this one. Make UConn an 8* play.
|02-02-18||Jazz v. Suns +5.5||Top||129-97||Loss||-105||14 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22-28 Utah Jazz head to Phoenix on Friday night to open a four-game road trip, having won three in a row and four of five. The 18-34 Suns welcome the Jazz to Phoenix having snapped a five-game losing streak with a 102-88 home victory over Dallas on Wednesday. Utah's recent uptick has them within 'shouting distance' of a playoff berth (Jazz sit 10th in the West, four games back of the final playoff spot), while the Suns are already nine games out of a playoff berth, just two games better than the West's worst team (Mavs).
Utah: The NBA season is a grind but the Jazz can't help but be feeling somewhat giddy after they shot a season-high 58.7 percent against Golden State in Tuesday's 129-99 home win. "Shooting is an equalizer," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder told reporters afterward. Small forward Joe Ingles (10.0 & 4.2) had 20 points and a career-high six three-pointers, while Ricky Rubio (11.4 & 5.0 APG) had a double-double with 23 points and a season-high-tying 11 assists. Rookie Donovan Mitchell, the team's leading scorer at 19.2 PPG, had 20 points against the Warriors. Mitchell is making a strong case for NBA Rookie of the Year consideration, after averaging 22.2 points in 11 January games, with season highs of 34 and 35 points. He was named the Western Conference rookie of the month for January.
Phoenix: Devin Booker had 15 points and Marquese Chriss had his second double-double of the season with 15 points and 12 rebounds when both returned to the lineup against Dallas after missing a game. NBA folowers know all about Booker (24.4 PPG) but with a third-quarter steal Wednesday, third-year forward Chriss became the fourth player in league history to record 100 steals, 100 blocks and 100 3-pointers before his 21st birthday. LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant are the others. "I think it is pretty dope," said Chriss, averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 rebounds a game. "I like to block shots. I like to shoot. So I think that's me."
The pick: The Jazz know they need to avoid a letdown off that Golden State win, as they prepare for a trip that will take them through San Antonio, New Orleans and Memphis after leaving Phoenix. "You want to move on from it in the sense that there's some sense of accomplishment: It's over," Quin Snyder told reporters. "But how you got the win, and how you played and what you're doing -- we need to understand the things that we did that we want to do again. It becomes a question of repeating it. The more you do it, the more it becomes who you are. Games like that can give you some confidence." There is no doubt that the return of center Rudy Gobert has made a difference for Utah (14.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG and 2.7 BPG in his six games back) but the Jazz are just 7-19 SU on the road and a let down off that Golden State win seems almost inevitable. Make Phoenix an 8* play.
|02-02-18||Knicks v. Bucks -2.5||Top||90-92||Loss||-110||10 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: Jabari Parker takes the court for the first time in nearly 12 months when the 27-23 Milwaukee Bucks host the New York Knicks on Friday. Parker has been recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee. It was supposed to mark the first time Milwaukee put its core of Parker, Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Bledsoe on the floor in the same game. However, Antetokounmpo, who has been battling a knee issue this season, suffered an ankle injury late in a 108-89 loss at Minnesota on Thursday night. Making matters worse for Milwaukee, point guard Malcom Brogdon was also injured Thursday night. The team tentatively announced that Brogdon suffered a strained left calf but will undergo further testing Friday night and isn't expected to play tonight when the 23-29 NY Knicks visit . the Bradley Center.
NY Knicks: Facing a short-handed Bucks squad would be good news for the Knicks, after the team saw its a two-game winning streak snapped with a horrific 103-73 loss to Boston on Wednesday, the team's largest margin of defeat this season. The Knicks may come into the game six games under .500 and 10th in the Eastern Conference but they are still within striking distance of the playoffs, trailing No. 8 Philadelphia by three games and No. 7 Milwaukee by five. Porzingis (23.1 & 6.6) remains the "go-to" guy on offense but although the Knicks shoot well as team (46.8% ranks 7th), they average a modest 104.5 PPG (20th). Defensively, they are middle-of-the-pack a in allowing 105.9 PPG (16th).
Milwaukee: Parker had posted career-best averages of 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds in 51 games last season prior to his latest ACL tear. Parker was informed that he will play about 15 minutes in his return and the club will certainly monitor him closely due to the fact that he's had two ACL tears in the same knee in a 26-month span). Brodgon's (13.3) injury came in the second quarter but Antetokounmpo's (28.2-10.4-4.8) came in the fourth with the Bucks trailing by as many as 17. Interim head coach Joe Prunty defended his decision to keep his star player on the floor late in a blowout loss on the first night of a back-to-back. "That's the whole thing, (the deficit) was right around 15 and that's what we were talking about, was, 'Can we make a push here'?" Prunty said. Milwaukee shoots well like the Knicks (47.9% ranks 4th) but similarly, does not score well enough (104.8 PPG ranks 19th).
The pick: The Bucks are 6-3 when unrested this year (played last night) but the injuries to Antetokounmpo and Brogdon could cause concern. Then again, the Knicks are just 7-20 SU and 11-16 ATS on the road. I'll make Milwaukee a 10* play.
|02-02-18||Rhode Island -3.5 v. VCU||Top||81-68||Win||100||12 h 48 m||Show|
The set-up: The 18-3 Rhode Island Rams take their 13-game winning streak and a No. 22 ranking in the latest AP poll to the Siegel Center in Richmond, Va. to take on the 14-8 Virginia Commonwealth Rams in Atlantic 10 action on Friday. Rhode Island is 10-0 in league play, while VCU is 6-3. Rhode Island trailed by as many as 13 points against UMass on Tuesday night, before prevailing 85-83, and is in the midst of its longest winning streak since 1939-40. VCU has won its last three games and is 10-3 at home on the season.
Rhode Island: Senior guard Jared Terrell is the leading scorer for Rhode Island on the season, averaging 18.0 PPG, However, after going out with an injury after the season's first two games, 6-5 senior EC Matthews (13.7 PPG in 15 games) returned on Dec. 16, which was the beginning of Rhode Island's 13-game winning streak. Joining that guard duo in double digits are the 6-8 Andre Berry (10.0 & 4.1) and another senior guard, Stanford Robinson (10.0 & 5.6).
Virginia Commonwealth: The 6-8 Justin Tillman leads in scoring (18.2) and rebounding (9.7) with guard De’Riante Jenkins (13.1 & 4.0) and PG Jonathan Williams (10.2 & 5.8). Registering double-doubles is commonplace for Tillman, who has had 18 in his last 30 conference games, but Khris Lane got into the act for the first time this season during Saturday's win over George Mason. The 6-7 senior forward, who had six double-doubles last season while averaging 17.1 points and 7.3 rebounds at Longwood, had 25 points and 12 rebounds, both season highs, against George Mason. However, he is averaging just 8.0 & 3.7 on the season.
The set-up; Rhode Island has not only won 13 straight overall, it enters this contest on an 18-game conference winning streak, with 10 of those wins coming on the road. The 18-game league win streak for Rhode Island is tied with George Washington for the fourth-longest in A-10 history behind Saint Joseph's (21) and Temple (25, 27). The streak will end sometime (somewhere), but NOT here. Make Rhode Island a 10* play.
|02-01-18||Oregon State v. Stanford -4.5||Top||71-80||Win||100||15 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: Two middle-of-the-road Pac 12 teams meet tonight at Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, Ca, as the 11-9 (3-5 in Pac 12) Oregon State Beavers take on the 11-11 (5-4 in Pac 12) Stanford Cardinal. The Beavers could sure use a win here after losing five of their last seven games, while a Cardinal victory gets Stanford one game over .500.
Oregon State: The 6-8 Tres Tinkle is the coach's son and leads in scoring (17.9), rebounding (7.2) and assists (3.4). Guard Stephen Thompson Jr. is right behind him at 16.3 & 3.3 plus the 6-10 Drew Eubanks is the third double-digit scorer (12.3 & 6.6). The Beavers shot just 3-of-17 from three-point range in last Saturday’s 66-57 loss to rival Oregon. Stephen Thompson Jr. led the Beavers against the Ducks with 16 points and has scored in double figures in nine straight games. However, head coach Wayne Tinkle sure needs more production from forward Drew Eubanks, who has scored a total of eight points in his last two games. OSU averages a modest 72.5 PPG (221st).
Stanford: The Cardinal are averaging 75.0 PPG and allowing 75.4, so it's no surprise they are 11-11. The 6-8 Reid Travis leads in scoring at 19.4 and adds 7.6 RPG. Three other players are averaging in double digits. Guard Pickens, back from missing seven weeks due to a foot injury, is at 13.4 PPG (in 12 games), the 6-10 Humphrey averages 11.4 PPG and leads in rebounding (7.9) plus PG Davis checks in at 10.4-4.1-4.6.
Oregon State: The Beavers haven't won a road game in over a year and a half (since March of 2016), while Stanford is providing plenty of spread value since the first of the year, covering seven in a row before losing at UCLA on Jan. 27. Stanford has won 21 of its last 23 games against Oregon State at Maples Pavilion, so I'm laying the points and making the Cardinal an 8* play.
|02-01-18||Wichita State -6 v. Temple||Top||79-81||Loss||-107||11 h 14 m||Show|
The set-up: After 72 years in the MVC, Wichita State is "trying the AAC on for size" in the 2017-18. So far, so good. The Shockers are 17-4 (7-2 in AAC) as they head to Philly tonight to take on the 11-10 Temple Owls (3-6 in AAC). Wichita State has bounced back from a two-game losing streak with back-to-back 19-point victories, including 90-71 over Tulsa on Sunday. Meanwhile, Temple's 85-57 win over Connecticut on Sunday, its largest margin of victory this season, gives the Owls three wins in their last four to creep one game over .500, overall.
Wichita State: The team's leading scorer is sophomore guard Landry Shamet (14.6 & 5.2 APG) but he's just 5-for-27 from the floor (18.5%) in his last three games, including a horrific 1-for-18 from three-point range. Senior forward Shaquille Morris (12.8 & 4.6) is 20 points shy of becoming the 46th player in school history to reach 1,000 after totaling 39 in his last two games. Sophomore guard Austin Reaves (7.0 points) set a school record for three-pointers in a half with seven Sunday en route to a career-high 23 points. Senior forward Rashard Kelly (team-high 7.7 rebounds) will try to become the first Shocker in more than 21 years to record four straight double-figure rebounding games after grabbing 31 in his last three contests. Wichita State is an excellent offensive team, averaging 83.4 PPG (25th) on 48.2% shooting (30th).
Temple: The Owls' largest margin of victory this season (see above) came right after the team's 75-42 setback at No. 8 Cincinnati on Jan. 24, its most-lopsided loss of the season. Sophomore guard Quinton Rose averages a team-high 14.2 points after scoring 17 versus Connecticut but had only 12 in his previous two games combined. Junior guard Shizz Alston Jr. Alston averages 13.1 PPG and the only other Owl in double figures is 6-10 Senior Obi Enechionyia (11.3 & 6.9). The Owls can't come close to matching the Shockers' firepower, averaging a modest 67.5 PPG (309th) on 41.7% shooting (311th).
The pick: Having just switched leagues, Wichita State has not seen much of Temple and will be looking for its first-ever win over the Owls (0-3 in previous meetings). However, this is a classy Wichita State group, one which ranks fourth nationally in rebounding margin (plus-10.5) and third in the country in assists at 19.1 per game. That bodes well against an offensively-challenged and erratic-shooting (see above) Temple team. The Shockers lead the nation in road wins (71) and road winning percentage (.826) since the start of the 2010-11 season and while Temple has defeated a top-25 team in each of the last 10 seasons, it is 0-3 in such games this campaign and won't get a win here. Make Wichita State a 10* play.
|01-31-18||Heat v. Cavs -1.5||Top||89-91||Win||100||10 h 42 m||Show|
The set-up: Cleveland's 99-92 loss at Golden State on Christmas Day sent the team into a 4-10 tailspin, before back-to-back home wins over the Pacers (Fri) and Pistons (Sun) gave a glimpse of a 'light at the end of the tunnel.' However, in last night's quick turnaround matchup with the Pistons (this time in Detroit), the Cavs not only lost 125-114 to the depth-shy Pistons (due to the team's trade with the Clippers), but All-Star power forward Kevin Love (17.9 & 9.4) was removed from the game with 7:19 left in the first quarter and did not return. An X-ray showed a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal on his left hand, according to the team, and his status would be updated Wednesday. Reports have already surfaced saying that Love will likely miss six-to-eight weeks. Cleveland welcomes the Miami Heat to Quicken Loans Arena tonight, a team which has won 11 of its last 15 contests to reach 29-21, leaving them just one-half game behind the third-place 29-20 Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Miami: The Heat posted a 95-88 win at Dallas on Monday, when they limited the Mavericks to 38.4 percent shooting while holding a fourth straight opponent below 100 points. Center Hassan Whiteside had 25 points (on 10-of-15 shooting) and 14 rebounds against the Mavericks, a performance that occurred one day after an hour-long conversation with coach Erik Spoelstra. Whiteside had averaged just seven points on 6-of-17 shooting over the previous two games but whatever Spoelstra said it worked, as Whiteside (14.6 & 11.9) posted his 18th double-double of the campaign. Dragic (17.0-4.1-4.8) leads the team in scoring but with SG Waiters (14.3) out for the season, Miami is sure glad to get
Cleveland: "When it rains, it pours," downcast Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters after the setback. "Kevin has been great for us all year. To lose an All-Star in the midst of what we are going through is tough. But next man up, we've got to be ready to play. But I feel sorry for Kevin." Cleveland has dropped 11 of its last 16 contests and now will be adjusting to not having Love, although he has been involved in team friction lately, most notably with guard Isaiah Thomas. Veteran forward Channing Frye picked up some of the scoring slack last night with season bests of 20 points and four three-pointers, and figures to be one of the players asked to step up his production.
The pick: The Cavs' ATS record has been dreadful (especially at home where it's 5-18-1) but getting right back on the court after the loss to the Pistons (and the loss of Love), may just be a rallying point for this team. The pointspread has been adjusted down and I'm not convinced that Love's absence is all that big of a deal. Make the Cavs a 10* play.
|01-31-18||Pittsburgh +16.5 v. Miami-FL||Top||57-69||Win||100||11 h 16 m||Show|
The set-up: The Miami Hurricanes opened 10-0 and 13-2 but then suffered back-to-back losses to Clemson and Duke. things began looking up for Miami following wins over North Carolina State and Louisville but the Hurricanes fell 103-94 in OT on Saturday at rival Florida State. The 'Canes hope to put that dismal defensive performance behind them and earn a season sweep of Pittsburgh, which began ACC play with a 67-53 loss to Miami on Dec. 30 and a month later is still looking for its first conference win (0-9) after a hard-fought 60-55 loss to Syracuse.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers attempted a season-high 65 field goals in the loss to Syracuse but they connected on a season-low 27.7 percent (18-of-65) from the floor. Pitt now hopes to avoid losing 10 consecutive games for just the third time in school history. Pittsburgh has started three or more freshmen in a game 14 times this season, including each of the last 12 contests, with four – Marcus Carr, Khameron Davis, Parker Stewart and Terrell Brown – starting in the first meeting with Miami. PG Carr (10.4 & 4.1 APG) is the only freshman averaging in double digits, as junior guard Wilson-Frame (12.8) and 6-9 senior Luther (12.7 & 10.1) are the team's top scorers.
Miami: A tough week for Miami got even tougher on Tuesday with the news that versatile sophomore guard Bruce Brown (11.4-7.1-4.0) hurt his foot in practice and will undergo surgery that will keep him out at least six weeks. The Hurricanes will now need to make their push for the NCAA Tournament without their top rebounder and second-leading scorer. Miami will need to lean more on The Huell (13.5 & 6.9), the team's leading scorer, and heralded freshmen Lonnie Walker IV (10.8), the ACC's Co-Rookie of the Week after putting up 25 points against Louisville and 23 versus Florida State.
The pick: The Panthers have used 15 different starting lineups (the most in the NCAA) and are still looking for their first victory since December 22. However, while Miami's defense was a strength early on, that hasn't been the case with the team splitting its last 10 games. In fact, Miami couldn't contain the Seminoles, who became the first team to shoot 60 percent in a game against Miami since Villanova shot 62.7 percent on March 24, 2016.Pittsburgh hasn't won a road game since February 8 of last year but Miami, especially with the loss of Brown, should not be laying this many points. Make Pittsburgh a 10* play.
|01-30-18||Vanderbilt v. Kentucky -10||Top||81-83||Loss||-102||13 h 22 m||Show|
The set-up; The Kentucky Wildcats opened the season No. 5 in the AP's preseason poll and was at No. 18 when it lost back-to-back games on Jan. 16th & 20th. The Wildcats fell out of the AP's Jan 22nd poll, ending a run of 68 straight weeks of being in the top-25. However, with Kentucky's big comeback win over then-No. 7 West Va. last Saturday (trailed West Virginia by 15 at halftime, before outscoring the Mountaineers 50-28 after intermission), the 16-5 Wildcats (5-3 in SEC) are back in the top-25 at No. 21. The Wildcats will host an 8-13 Vanderbilt team coming off a quality win of its own in Tuesday's SEC action. Vanderbilt edged 15-6 TCU 81-78 on Saturday, as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
Vanderbilt: Riley LaChance led the 'Dores with 24 points and Jeff Roberson added 20 points. The 6-6 Roberson (15.6 & 7.0) has scored between 17-21 points in nine of his last 11 games and said after the win, "More than anything, it's just a big confidence builder going forward." LaChance (12.7) is one of three guards averaging in double digits for Vandy, joined by senior Fisher-Davis (11.9 & 5.1) and freshman Lee (10.1). However, the Commodores are tied for last place in the SEC standings plus they are 0-4 on the road in league play.
Kentucky: The 6-9 Kevin Knox (15.5 & 5.7) had a career-high 34 points in the win over West Va. but Calipari can't be happy that his team had only one other double-digit scorer against the Mountaineers, with guard Hamidou Diallo (12.7 & 4.6) recording 13 points, his second-highest total in the last nine outings. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11.8-3.8-4.4) continues to do a little bit of everything for Kentucky, registering six points, five assists, five rebounds and two blocks versus West Virginia. The 6-7 PJ Washington (10.8 & 5.0) notched a career-high 22 points against Mississippi State last week but followed up that effort by scoring only two points in 11 minutes against the Mountaineers.
The pick: It would be hard to argue that this is a vintage Coach Cal edition but the comeback win in Morgantown was impressive. Plus, let's not forget Vandy's 0-4 SEC road mark, where the 'Dores have scored just 60, 62 and 62 points in three straight SEC road losses. Make Kentucky a 10* play.
|01-30-18||Thunder v. Wizards +3.5||Top||96-102||Win||100||11 h 28 m||Show|
The set-up: Russell Westbrook has elevated his game to MVP-levels once again during Oklahoma City's eight-game winning streak (longest active in the NBA) and the 27-22 Washington Wizards will now take on Westbrook and the 30-20 Thunder for the second time in less than a week. Westbrook scored a season-high 46 points in a 121-112 win over Washington at home on Thursday and the Wizards, who lave lost four of their last six, could be without All-Star point PG John Wall (knee) for a second straight game.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder are averaging 122.5 points over its last six games and with Westbrook (25.7-9.5-10.1) coming off a 37-point, 14-assist effort in Sunday's intense victory over Philadelphia, he's averaging 33.8 points and 11.8 assists over his last five games. "I play the same way," Westbrook told reporters following the 122-112 triumph. "I can't really give you another answer because I do the same thing every night, regardless of what's going on." Sunday's game was the first since the team lost defensive stalwart Andre Roberson for the season due to a ruptured patella tendon and there may have been some greater incentive to keep the streak alive while figuring out new rotations. Paul George scored 31 points and is averaging 27.8 over a five-game span. George is up to on21.2 & 5.4 the season and 'Melo is at 17.6 & 5.9.
Washington: Wall's absence didn't matter much in Saturday's 129-104 win at Atlanta, as Washington shot 57.6 percent from the from and 56.3 percent from 3-point range, as six players scored in double digits. Head coach Scott Brooks said that Wall (19.4 & 9.3 APG), who missed eight games earlier this season with a sore knee, wanted to play against Atlanta but the team exercised caution ahead of a challenging stretch of five games in eight days, the last three on the road. Markieff Morris (13.6 & 6.9) tied his season high with 23 points and Tim Frazier fell one assist shy of matching his career high when he handed out 14 in the win. Beal (23.9-4.4-3.8) joins Wall in an All-Star backcourt plus six others contribute between 6.2 and 13.6 PPG.
The pick: Wizards could not slow down Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road last week but even if Wall sits, I see this game turning out much differently. Bradley Beal scored 41 points in the earlier loss to the Thunder and note that the Wizards won 120-98 in the last meeting between these two in Washington back on Feb. 13, 2017. Yes, OKC has won eight straight (6-2 ATS) but right before the team's winning streak began, the Thunder had been on a 2-5 SU & ATS run. Westbrook "stared down" Embiid on Sunday and is a "world class" talent but has anyone reminded him he wasn't "won anything" in his career? Or for that matter, neither has George nor 'Melo. Make Washington a 10* play.
|01-29-18||Celtics +1.5 v. Nuggets||Top||111-110||Win||100||13 h 12 m||Show|
The set-up: The Boston Celtics lost 109-105 in Oakland to Golden State this past Saturday but the 35-15 Celtics still own the East's best record. However, the Raptors have closed within one game of Boston after it has lost five of its last six games. The Celtics will be looking to go 2-2 on their four-game road trip with a win tonight in Denver against the 26-23 Nuggets. However, the Nuggets are looking to wrap of their five-game homestand with a fourth win and Denver is an impressive 19-6 at the Pepsi Center on the season.
Boston: The Celtics led most of the game at the defending champion Warriors on Saturday, before falling just short in a 109-105 loss. Irving was brilliant in Saturday's setback, scoring 37 points on 13-of-18 shooting while going 5-of-6 from three-point range. However, Stephen Curry "one-upped" him with 49 points! Boston's recent slump is just the latest indicator that Brad Stevens needs a tune-up for the Boston engine, as Celtics rank last in NBA offensive efficiency since mid-December. With Hayward out, Boston has falled to 23rd in scoring (102.9 PPG) and ranks 24th by making 44.7% of its shots. However, great defense has kept Boston atop the East, as the Celtics rank first in FG percentage (43.3) and second in points allowed (98.5 per).
Denver: The Nuggets followed up a 130-118 Thursday win over the Knicks by edging the Mavs 91-89 on Saturday. Being able to win a high-scoring game and a grind-it-out game is a good sign for the team. "To be a good team in the NBA, you have to be able to win (playing) different styles," head coach Michael Malone told reporters. "... It shows that late in the game, you have to be able execute on offense. And at the end of the game, you gotta be able to get timely stops." The Nuggets aren't worrying about the finals but they are focused on making the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. They occupy the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference after winning three in a row and are just 1 1/2 games behind the New Orleans Pelicans for the sixth seed (note: New Orleans just lost DeMarcus Cousins for teh season).
The pick: I realize Denver owns an impressive home record (see above) but the Nuggets have lost two home games in January to the sad-sack Atlanta Hawks and equally inept Phoenix Suns, plus nearly let one slip away against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night. Boston has an excellent 16-7 SU record on the road and is a remarkable 9-1 ATS as a dog, Make Boston a 10* play.
|01-29-18||Kansas -2 v. Kansas State||Top||70-56||Win||100||13 h 12 m||Show|
The set-up: The 17-4 Kansas Jayhawks (6-2 in Big 12) are currently ranked No. 5 in the latest AP poll (a new poll will be released Monday afternoon), as thy head to Manhattan Kansas to take on in-state and Big 12 rival Kansas State. The Wildcats are 16-5 (5-3 in Big 12) and are looking to avenge a one-point loss suffered in Lawrence just two weeks ago (Jan. 13). Kansas leads the overall series with Kansas State, 194-93, including having won 55 of the last 60 meetings dating to Feb. 12, 1994.
Kansas: Devonte Graham scored 23 points and Malik Newman hit two go-ahead free throws with 15 seconds left to provide Kansas that 73-72 win in the first meeting. Kansas features a four-guard lineup in which Graham ( leads in scoring (17.3) and assists (7.3). The remaining three starting guards are Mykhailiuk (16.8 & 4.0), Vick (13.4 & 5.5) and Newman (11.9 & 4.9). The 7-0 Azubuike (13.9 & 7.6) is the fifth starter. No other player scores as much as 5.0 PPG. Mykhailiuk scored 24 points and Newman added 15 and a team-high seven rebounds in the Jayhawks’ 79-68 victory over Texas A&M on Saturday but the Jayhawks lost last Tuesday 85-80 at Oklahoma. The Sooners fouled center Udoka Azubuike repeatedly in the second half to come from behind, as Azubuike missed all but one of his eight free throws. Kansas coach Bill Self blamed himself for not taking Azubuike out in crunch time, and said he expects other teams to do the same thing if he leaves in his big man, who is shooting 37.5 percent from the line. "Bad decision," Self said after Tuesday's game. "It was on me, for this game. I did not do our team any favors
Kansas State: The 6-8 Dean Wade has taken center stage for Kansas State over the last two weeks. He kicked off a streak of five consecutive 20-point outings with 22 in that 73-72 loss to the Jayhawks back on Jan. 13 and capped it with 20 points and eight rebounds as the Wildcats pushed their winning streak to four games in a 56-51 win over Georgia on Saturday. The winning run has corresponded with the insertion into the lineup of backup PG Cartier Diarra. Starting guard Kamau Stokes (13.4 & 4.6 APG) is sidelined with a broken bone in his foot (happened against against Texas Tech on ). Diarra (6.9) has averaged 13.2 points per game in his six starts. Guard Barry Brown also has picked up the slack. He's averaging 22.0 points in those games, compared with his team-leading 17.3 on the season. Getting back to Wade, he's averaging 16.2 & 6.5, while guard Sneed (11.0 & 4.4) also adds double digits.
The pick: Kansas State coach Bruce Weber has his team playing very well. KSU has not trailed in a conference game since a brief one-point deficit in the first half against Oklahoma back on Jan. 16. The Wildcats defeated the Sooners 87-69 with a second-half eruption, then led wire-to-wire at home against TCU and at Baylor. In their most recent game, they overcame a second-half deficit to defeat Georgia 56-51 Saturday in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. However, as note already, this series is lopsided in Kansas' favor. Then again, not as much as it was a decade ago. Kansas won 25 straight games between 1983 and 2007 on the Wildcats' home floor but Kansas-State has won four of the last 10 games in Manhattan. Kansas' Bill Self, in his 15th season, has won all but one conference championship in his time there. He relies on strong guard play, a dependable big man, at least away from the free-throw line (see above), and a solid defense. The Wildcats may be 11-1 at home this season but these are the type of games Kansas has been winning against Kansas State (and the rest of the Big 12, as well), for years. Make the Jayhawks a 10* play.
|01-28-18||Bucks -2 v. Bulls||Top||110-96||Win||100||8 h 3 m||Show|
The set-up: The Milwaukee Bucks are 2-0 since dismissing head coach Jason Kidd but both games were played at home against lower-rung teams like Phoenix (17-32) and Brooklyn (18-32). The 25-22 Bucks will be on the road on Sunday against the Bulls but while Chicago is just 18-31 overall, one has to note that after a 3-20 start, the Bulls have gone a playoff-worthy 15-11 in their last 26 games. That's despite coming into this contest on a three-game slide.
Milwaukee: All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (28.5-10.2-4.6) returned from a two-game absence on Friday and looked refreshed while collecting 41 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in 33 minutes. Shooting guard Khris Middleton, one of teh NBA's more underrated players who is averaging 20.4-5.2-4.2, pointed to joy as one of the reasons for the easy win. "That's what we're getting back to, just having fun," Middleton told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We're playing for one another. When we're having fun and relaxed, but we play hard we're one of the best teams, I feel like. The last two nights we showed it. Granted, it wasn't against some of the best teams, but we feel like we can do that every night." The Bucks remain inside the Eastern Conference's playoff picture after winning back-to-back games under interim coach Joe Prunty, as they visit the United Center as the No. 8 seed but with a 3 1/2-game gap between them and the 9th-seeded Pistons.
Chicago: The Bulls are having some trouble finding a rhythm with starting PG Kris Dunn (13.7-4.6-6.4) out with a concussion and Zach LaVine working his way into the rotation off a severe knee injury. "Kris (is) obviously our best push guard and getting the ball down in a hurry and is our best player in our flow offense," Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters. "We're still adjusting without Kris, who obviously has been a big part of what we are doing here. We are trying to get Zach reintegrated into what we are doing as well. Some if it is moving parts, understanding where guys are on the floor." LaVine went 3-of-17 from the floor in Friday's loss and is shooting 38.2 percent through seven games, averaging 13.6 & 4.6. Big man Lauri Markkanen (1715.3 & 7.7) has been one of the league's best rookies and the return of Nikola Mirotic (17.1 & 6.4 in 24 games), has made the Bulls a competitive team.
The pick: Chicago has won the two previous games this season (both at Milwaukee in Dec.) by similar scores, 115-109 and 115-106. However, Chicago has struggled mightily without guard Kris Dunn, who remains out with concussion symptoms. The Bulls have lost three of four without Dunn and Milwaukee's Antetokounmpo, after missing the previous two games with right knee soreness, finished Friday's victory with 41 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks. He got an extended eight-game break by missing those two game and it seemingly provided him with the rest he needed, if results mean anything! Make Milwaukee an 8* play.
|01-28-18||Purdue v. Indiana +11||Top||74-67||Win||100||8 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: The Purdue Boilermakers were pushed for 40 minutes for one of the few times in Big Ten play this past Thursday versus No. 25 Michigan, eventually coming away with their 11th consecutive conference win,. Purdue is 20-2 overall this season (including 9-0 in Big Ten play) and riding a 16-game winning streak. The Boilermakers may be ranked "only" No. 3 in the latest AP poll but the way the team is shooting from long-range and playing defense (see below), the Boilermakers can make a claim they have the best team in the country. Purdue will venture into Assembly Hall in Bloomington, In. on Sunday, to take on the 12-9 Indiana Hoosiers (5-4 in Big Ten play). The Hoosiers are perhaps the conference's most Jekyll-and-Hyde team when it comes to playing at home versus on the road, going 4-0 at Assembly Hall during league action but just 1-4 away from Bloomington.
Purdue: The Boilermakers enjoy a size advantage in just about every game with 7-2 Isaac Haas (14.1 & 5.30 and 7-3 Matt Haarms (5.8 & 3.8) patrolling the paint. Sophomore guard Carsen Edwards (17.0-3.8-3.1) leads the team in scoring, followed by 6-8 senior forward Vincent Edwards (15.6 & 7.3), who is scored a career-high 30 points against Michigan. Purdue averages 85.1 PPG (15th), while shooting 50.8% as team (11th). That includes the nation's second-best three-point percentage of 44.2. Purdue is holding opponents to 38.7% shooting (38.7), while allowing just 63.4 PPG (16th).
Indiana: The Hoosiers are coming off maybe their most disheartening road loss of the season, as despite shooting 56.8 percent, they committed 18 turnovers to allow Illinois to get its first conference win (1-8) in a 73-71 decision on Wednesday. The 6-8 Juwan Morgan, who is one of only two Big Ten players who rank inside the top-10 in the conference in scoring (16.0), rebounding (7.1) and field-goal percentage (59.8), is averaging 26.5 points on 22-of-32 shooting over his last two games. The second-leading scorer (and the only other Indiana player in double digits) is Robert Johnson (13.6) but he was held to eight points in Wednesday's loss, after averaging 16.4 PPG over his previous 10 outings.
The pick: Purdue and Virginia are the only Power-5 schools that remain undefeated in conference play. Could Purdue fall victim here to Indiana, which is a perfect 4-0 vs. Big Ten foes at home? Hoosiers head coach Archie Miller could sure use a 'marquee win" and this would sure qualify. All good things must come to an end. "Upset alert" today in Bloomington. Make Indiana a 10* play.
|01-27-18||Virginia Tech v. Notre Dame -3||Top||80-75||Loss||-104||22 h 42 m||Show|
The set-up: Both Virginia Tech (14-6, 3-4 ACC) and Notre Dame ( (13-7, 3-4 ACC) have been in the top-25 at one point this season but that's not the case now, as the teams square off at the Joyce Center in South Bend. The Hokies had lost two straight games but beat No. 10 North Carolina on Monday, 80-69. As for Notre Dame, the Irish have lost their last four games, after a 67-58 loss at Clemson in their last outing.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies have a nice six-man rotation, with five players scoring in double digits The 6-6 Clarke just misses, but is a valuable contributor at 8.7 PPG & a team-high 6.9 RPG. Guard Hill (14.9) is the leading scorer and joined in double digits by PG Robinson (12.5 & 5.5 APG). The 6-10 Blackshear (13.5 & 6.5) is the team's best frontcourt player. Va. Tech shoots well, ranking third in the nation in field-goal percentage (51.8), second in the ACC in points per game at 85.4) (15th in the nation) and first in the ACC in three-point percentage at 39.7 (25th in the nation).
Notre Dame: Injuries continue to hurt Notre Dame, as guard Matt Farrell (15.7 & 5.3 APG) will join fellow starters Bonzie Colson (21.4 & 10.4) and D.J. Harvey (5.8) on the sidelines Saturday with an ankle bone bruise. The Fighting Irish continue to struggle offensively in wake of all the injuries, averaging just 61.6 PPG over their last five. The Irish will lean heavily on senior forward Martinas Geben (10.0 & 8.1) and sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs (14.9) to put up points on Saturday. Geben is one of five players averaging a double-double in ACC action (12.6 points, 10.9 rebounds), while Gibbs is sixth in the conference in three-point percentage (40.7) and seventh in assist/turnover ratio (2.21).
The pick: Virginia Tech may shoot well (see above) but the Hokies have turned the ball over 10 or more times in 15 of their 19 games this season (note: have 41 TOs in their last three games). Injuries have crippled Notre Dame but the Fighting Irish are still playing smart basketball, committing the fewest fouls in the NCAA at 13.2 per game. Make Notre Dame a 10* play.
|01-27-18||Tennessee -3 v. Iowa State||Top||68-45||Win||100||18 h 47 m||Show|
The set-up: The 22nd-ranked Tennessee Volunteers (14-5) look to record a sixth win in seven games when they visit Hilton Coliseum on Saturday to take on the 11-8 Iowa State Cyclones as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Tennessee raced out to a 17-point halftime lead and then held on for a 67-62 home win against Vanderbilt in its last game. As for Iowa State, the Cyclones fell behind early and never recovered in a 73-57 loss at Texas on Monday.
Tennessee: Jordan Bowden broke out of a shooting slump Tuesday just in time to beat Vanderbilt. He scored 19 points and tied a career high with five three-pointers, after entering the night shooting 25 percent in conference games. Bowden (10.3) is one of four guards averaging between 6.3 and 10.3 PPG. However, the team's top-two producers are the 6-7 Williams (16.5 & 6.2) and 6-5 small forward Schofield (12.8 & 5.8). Tennessee leads the SEC in assists per game (14.6), ranks second in field-goal percentage (45.6) and third in scoring offense (76.5), scoring margin (plus-3.5) and free-throw percentage (77.3).
Iowa State: Nick Weiler-Babb and Lindell Wigginton finished with 15 points each, while Cameron Lard added a double-double (12 & 12) to go along with three blocks, in the Cyclones' loss vs. Texas. Wigginton a two-time Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honoree, is averaging 20.2 points and 3.6 three-pointers in the last five outings, as well as a team-leading 16.2 PPG on the season. Meanwhile, fellow freshman, the 6-9 Lard, is averaging 13.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in six career starts (12.1 & 7.3 on the season). Iowa State is one of four programs in the six major conferences to have two freshmen averaging at least 12 points (minimum 10 games played), joining California, Duke and Kentucky. Veteran guards Jackson (15.5) and Weiler-Babb (12.2-7.2-7.2) are also big-time contributors.
The pick: The Big 12/SEC Challenge features 11 games on Saturday between two of the top conferences in the nation. Data analyst Ken Pomeroy has the Big 12 ranked No. 1, and the SEC No. 4. It's hard to ignore that Iowa State has won its last five games against top-25 non-conference teams at Hilton Coliseum but the Cyclones have lost seven seniors from last year's team that reached the Sweet 16. Tennessee is worth an 8* play.
|01-27-18||Georgia +7.5 v. Kansas State||Top||51-56||Win||100||16 h 42 m||Show|
|01-27-18||Texas Tech v. South Carolina +3||Top||70-63||Loss||-110||14 h 43 m||Show|
The set-up: It's a day filled with games from the Big 12/SEC Challenge and it starts at 12 noon ET when the 16-4 and 14th-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders visit Columbia, South Carolina to take on the 13-7 South Carolina Gamecocks. The Big 12 and SEC split their annual matchup last season, 5-5. That snapped the Big 12's three-year streak of winning the challenge. Oddly enough, the Big 12/SEC Challenge does not feature a top-25 matchup on the card (note: Kentucky at West Virginia is slotted in prime time but the Wildcats fell out of the top-25 on Monday after being ranked for 68 straight weeks. However, Trae Young and Oklahoma at Alabama and/or the Red Raiders versus the Gamecocks could steal the show before the Wildcats and Mountaineers tip off.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders fell at Oklahoma on Jan. 9, then dropped back-to-back road games to unranked Texas and Iowa State last week, before pulling out of the slide with a 75-70 home victory over Oklahoma State on Tuesday. Senior guard Keenan Evans was a combined 5-of-20 from the floor in the losses at Texas and Iowa State but he found his shooting stroke on Tuesday and scored 26 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Evans leads the Red Raiders in scoring at 17.1 PPG ((3.1 RPG & 3.4 APG). Joining him in double figures are a pair of 6-5 freshman guards, Jarrett Culver (10.9 & 4.2) and Zhaire Smith (10.1 & 4.6). Tech relies on its top-notch defense, holding opponents to 62.0 PPG (7th) on 39.3% shooting (16th).
South Carolina; The Gamecocks are fresh off a 77-72 victory on the road against No. 20 Florida and can add another "quality win" to their NCAA Tournament credentials. The South Carolina duo of 6-9 forward Chris Silva and guard Wesley Myers combined for 40 points in the win over Florida. The Gamecocks also nailed 11 of 21 three-pointers. Silva leads the team in scoring (14.7) and rebounding (8.0) with only guard Booker (11.1 & 3.2) joining him in double digits. All Frank Martin teams must play defense and this year's edition is no exception, allowing 65.8 PPG (38th).
The set-up: The Gamecocks will be facing their fourth consecutive ranked opponent and are looking to move to 3-1 in that span. South Carolina sandwiched wins over Kentucky and Florida around a home loss to Tennessee but note that the victory over the Gators on Wednesday gave the program its first road win over a ranked opponent in nearly two years. FAU senior transfer guard Frank Bookeis r now scoring in double digits most nights, taking some of the pressure off Silva. Meanwhile, Chris Beard's Texas Tech team has been slugging it out in the tough Big 12 and is beginning to show some wear and tear. This trip to Colonial Life Arena is likely an unwelcome one at this time of the season. Make South Carolina an 8* play.
|01-26-18||Pacers v. Cavs -5||Top||108-115||Win||100||12 h 8 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers have never recovered from their 99-92 loss at Golden State on Christmas Day, entering tonight's game just 3-10 to fall to 27-19. The Cavs are now 6 1/2 games back of the top-seeded Celtics, five game back of the second-seeded Raptors and incredibly, only 3 1/2 games up on the eighth-seed 76ers (chew on that for awhile!). A team meeting and an airing of grievances hardly seems to have helped and the Cavs will welcome the 26-22 Indiana Pacers to Quicken Loans Arena looking to avenge three previous losses this season to the Pacers. Indiana has won seven of its last 10 after building a 38-point lead in the third quarter and cruising past the Phoenix Suns 116-101 on Wednesday.
Indiana: The Pacers added to Cleveland's misery by overcoming a 22-point deficit to down the Cavaliers 97-95 on Jan. 12, after winning the first two meetings, 124-107 at Cleveland and 106-102 at Indiana. Victor Oladipo was named to his first All-Star Game on Tuesday and celebrated with 21 points and nine assists in 33 minutes against the Suns. Oladipo is averaging 24.1-5.2-4.0 and scored 19 points in the Jan. 12 win while Lance Stephenson (8.6-5.6-3.0) collected 16 points and 11 rebounds in that one plus also played strong defense against Cleveland superstar LeBron James. The Pacers shoot very well (47.9% as team ranks 4th) but would surely like to get a little better point production, as they average 106.4 PPG (12th).
Cleveland: The Cavs held a team meeting on Monday that included coach Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman and reportedly it got quite heated. However, nothing changed on the court as the team dropped a 114-102 decision at San Antonio on Tuesday. "When it gets tough, we've just got to stay together," Lue told reporters. "Some guys are frustrated because they missed shots. Some guys are frustrated because they can't get their rhythm. Some guys are frustrated when they get scored on. So, I think it's a combination of a lot of things. But for the most part, (we've) just got to stay together and continue to play the game." Lue signaled after Tuesday's loss that there would be changes coming to the lineup but LBJ (26.8-7.9-8.6) will naturally be expected to carry the load. The Cavs have struggled tremendously to make virtually anything work with Isaiah Thomas on the court, as in his eight games, he may be averaging 15.9 PPG but he's shooting just 39.1%, including 28.0% on threes. Lue plans to start Tristan Thompson (5.3 & 5.7) at center and slide Kevin Love (18.4 & 9.4) back to power forward, which means Jae Crowder (8.7 & 3.3) goes to the bench. Either way, the Cavs HAVE to find a way to improve a defense that is the league's second-worst, including THE worst over the team's last 15 past games.
The pick: The Cavs are a mind-numbing 12-33-1 ATS, which includes an unfathomable 3-18-1 at home.That said, in a 'TRIPLE-REVENGE" situation, I have to be on the Cavs. Make Cleveland a 10* play.
|01-26-18||Detroit +12.5 v. Wright State||Top||55-87||Loss||-105||11 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: The Detroit Mercy Titans are just 6-15 on the season (2-6 in Horizon League play) and will travel to the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio to take on the 15-6 Wright State Raiders, who are tied atop the Horizon League standings at 7-1 with Northern Kentucky.
Wright State: The Raiders score a more modest 71.4 PPG (250th) but play solid defense, allowing 66.5 PPG (48th). Wright State also has a nice trio of guards in Benzinger (14.8 & 4.8), Mitchell (11.1 & 7.1) and Hughes (9.6 & 3.2 APG) plus also has the 6-9 Love in the frontcourt, who is almost averaging a double-double on the season at 11.4 & 9.1. The Raiders had their eight-game winning streak snapped last Saturday, falling 66-61 at the Milwaukee Panthers. Wright State fell behind by 37-30 margin at halftime and although they took a 59-58 lead with less than five minutes to play, the Raiders couldn’t stay perfect in conference play after Milwaukee held Wright State scoreless for the final 3:18 of regulation.
The set-up; There can be doubt about which the better team is but the Raiders don't have the offensive 'punch' needed to be a dependable favorite. Wright State may be 9-1 at home and holding opponents to 57.6 PPG but the Raiders are also averaging only 64.8 PPG in their home games on the offensive end. Detroit has been held under 66 points just twice in its 21 games this season. Take the big points and make Detroit a 10* play.
|01-25-18||Kings +10.5 v. Heat||Top||89-88||Win||100||12 h 7 m||Show|
|01-25-18||Michigan +11.5 v. Purdue||Top||88-92||Win||100||12 h 32 m||Show|
The set-up: Third-ranked Purdue (19-2 / 8-0 Big Ten) puts its ranking and 15-game winning streak on the line when it hosts 17-5 Michigan (6-3 Big Ten), which is currently 25th in the latest AP poll. A win would move Purdue to 9-0 in the Big Ten for the first time in program history and give the Boilermakers a sweep of the season series with the Wolverines, following a 70-69 triumph in Ann Arbor on Jan. 9. The Wolverines just finished a stretch of eight games in 22 days with six wins but have reached the 70-point mark just once in their last five contests and will now face a Purdue squad that has held three straight opponents to 50 or fewer points.
Michigan: The Wolverines beat Rutgers 62-47 on Sunday, rebounding from a 72-52 loss at Nebraska. The 6-11 Moritz Wagner (14.3 & 7.1) led the way with 16 points to go along with six rebounds in the win against Rutgers, after being held to a season-low two points in the loss to the Cornhuskers. Two big guards, Matthews (14.6 & 5.2) and Abdur-Rahkman (10.5-4.0-3.2) join Moritz in double digits on the season. Abdur-Rahkman is ranked second nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (5.38). John Beilein teams always play excellent defense an this one is no different, Michigan ranks third in the Big Ten and 11th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 62.5 PPG.
Purdue: Speaking of defense, Purdue holds opponents to 62.2 PPG (9th) on 37.7% shooting (4th). That goes nicely with an offense averaging 84.8 PPG (19th) on 50.3% shooting (10th).The Edwards' boys (not related), Carsen and Vince, lead the way for Purdue. Guard Carsen averages 17.2-4.0-3.1 and the 6-8 Vince adds 14.9 & 7.8. The 7-2 Haas (13.1 & 5.2) and PG Mathias (12.7-4.0-4.6) round out the double digit scorers.
The pick: Purdue has won 10 consecutive Big Ten regular-season games dating back to last year and hopes to extend its home winning streak to 13 (9-0 this season) with a win here. However, Purdue has not beaten Michigan twice in one season since 2008 and narrowly edged Michigan 70-69 back on Jan. 9 in Ann Arbor, after taking the lead on free throw by Isaac Haas with four seconds remaining. The last three times Michigan has played as an underdog this season, the Wolverines won 59-52 at Texas (+ 5 1/2), lost 70-69 at home to Purdue (+ 1 1/2) and won 82-72 at Michigan St. (+ 9 1/2). This is too many points. Make Michigan a 10* play.
|01-25-18||College of Charleston v. Delaware +5.5||Top||62-54||Loss||-110||12 h 31 m||Show|
The set-up: The College of Charleston Cougars won their second straight game and improved to 14-6 (5-3 CAA) on the season after defeating the Hofstra Pride, this past Saturday, 76-70. The Cougars will travel to the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, De, to take on the Delaware Blue Hens this Thursday night in CAA play. The Blue Hens lost their second consecutive game this past Saturday 76-64 to Northeastern, falling to 11-10 (4-4 CAA) on the season.
College of Charleston: The Cougars fell behind by as many as 18 points in the first half against Hofstra, but tied the game at 54-all midway through the second half, before pulling ahead and winning by six points. Joe Chealey led the way for the Cougars with 33 points. He leads the team in scoring (18.4-4.6-3.2) and is joined by two other excellent scorers. They are fellow guard Grant Riller (16.3) and the 6-7 Jarrell Brantley (16.1 & 5.9). The Cougars are a solid defensive team, holding opponents to 66.6 PPG (52nd).
Delaware: The Blue Hens took a 31-28 halftime lead against the Huskies but struggled to stop Northeastern in the second half, as the Huskies took a 60-49 lead with 6:31 left in regulation. Delaware is a perimeter-oriented team, led by guards Daly (17.1 & 5.9), Allen (14.1), Anderson (13.7 & 4.9) and Mosley (10.8-4.6-3.2). However, Anderson has been lost for the season to a knee injury. Delaware's lone frontcourt player of note is the 6-9 Carter (9.9 & 8.7) but he's scored exactly two points each, in the team's back-to-back losses.
|01-24-18||Auburn v. Missouri -2||Top||91-73||Loss||-105||14 h 23 m||Show|
The set-up: Bruce Pearl entered his fourth season at Auburn off an 18-14 year, following season of just 15 and 11 wins, However, the Tigers did return all five starters. Still, no one predicted Auburn to be 17-2 (5-1 SEC) as the month of January nears its end. Missouri entered the current season off an 8-24 year (2-16 in SEC), after winning just nine and 10 games the previous two season. However, new head coach Cuonzo Martin had four starters returning plus boasted five-star recruits like the 6-10 Michael Porter Jr. and his 6-11 brother, Jontay Porter. However, Michael Porter's season ended after one game with a season-ending back injury. Still, Missouri is 13-6 (3-3 in SEC), giving the team more wins than in any of the past three season.
Auburn: The Tigers had their 14-game win streak snapped with a 76-71 loss at Alabama a week ago Wednesday but rebounded for a 79-65 home win over Georgia on Saturday. Auburn likes to push the pace with its trio of talented guards, Bryce Brown (16.4), Mustapha Heron (15.0 & 5.1) and Jared Harper (12.5 & 5.2 APG). Getting out in transition likely will be key against Missouri’s height advantage, as Auburn doesn’t start anyone taller than 6-7 and 6-3 SF Desean Murray (10.8 & 7.3) is the team’s top rebounder. However, despite an undersized frontcourt which features the 6-7 McLemore (7.9 & 5.8) and the 6-8 Okeke (7.5 & 5.7) coming off the bench, Auburn has outrebounded 14 of its 19 opponents. As for scoring points, the Tigers are averaging a healthy 85.3 PPG (15th).
Missouri: Without Michael Porter, Missouri has been balanced at the offensive end, with six player chipping in between 7.4 and 15.2 PPG. Graduate transfer guard Kassius Robertson (15.2) and 6-7 senior forward Jordan Barnett (14.5 & 6.2) are the only ones averaging in double digits. However, the Tigers have excellent frontcourt depth with 6-10 freshmen Jeremiah Tilmon (8.7 & 4.4) and 6-11 Jontay Porter (8.2 & 6.7) making an impact at both ends of the floor. Their emergence has pushed the 6-7 Kevin Puryear (9.4 & 4.8) to a reserve role. However, he could be a major factor having averaged 16.8 points and 8.9 rebounds in four career meetings with Auburn.
The pick: Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl is a little worried, as Auburn is 145th in the nation in three-point field goal defense and Missouri features three players -- Jordan Barnett, Kassius Robertson and Jordan Geist -- who all shoot better than 40 percent from behind the arc. Missouri is allowing 65.6 PPG (36th) and has held nine straight opponents under their season scoring average, while keeping its six SEC opponents an average of 14.8 points below their season averages. The Tigers are 9-1 SU at home, with their lone loss coming 77-75 to Florida in a game decided at the buzzer. Make Missouri a 10* play.
|01-24-18||Raptors -6 v. Hawks||Top||108-93||Win||100||13 h 60 m||Show|
The set-up: The Toronto Raptors begin a stretch in which they will play 10 of 13 in Air Canada Centre on Friday against Utah. The Raptors are 17-3 at home and 31-14 overall, just 1 1/2 games back of the Celtics for the East's best record. They hope to head back to Toronto on a winning note, as they visit Philips Arena to take on the 14-32 Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. However, the Raptors are off a 115-109 loss at Minnesota on Saturday, the team's fourth loss in seven games following having won 17 of 20. The Hawks' 14 wins are tied with the Magic and Kings for the fewest in the NBA but Atlanta is on its best run of the season with four victories in its last six games.
Toronto: Saturday's loss at Minnesota wasted a phenomenal effort fby Kyle Lowry, who posted a season-high 40 points in 34 turnover-free minutes, as the team as a whole faded in the second night of a back-to-back. "We've got to come out with a little bit more energy on the back-to-back, but it's no excuse," Lowry told reporters. However, Lowry's effort was great news for Toronto, in his fourth game back after sitting out three games with a back injury. The backcourt duo of Lowry (17.0-6.0-6.7) and DeRozan (25.0-4.2-5.0) 'drive the show' for Toronto, complemented by the frontcourt duo of PF Ibaka (13.6 & 6.0) and center Valanciunas (11.1 & 8.1).
Atlanta: Taurean Prince (12.4 & 5.2) had 17 points, as 12 different Atlanta players got into the scoring column in the win over the Jazz. The victory gives the Hawks a 7-7 mark after a 7-25 start. "We've got to keep it going," Prince told reporters after matching his scoring total from the previous four games combined. PG Schroder is averaging 22.2 points and seven assists through the first five games of the homestand (Atlanta is 3-2) and 20.0 PPG on teh season, along with a team-leading 6.6 APG. 6-10 Wake Forest rookie John Collins looks to be "a keeper," averaging 10.6 & 6.9 in about 22 minutes per game.
The pick: Toronto has won its first two games against Atlanta this season by an average of 23.5 points and has had three days off since losing at Minnesota (Sat.) in a back-to-back situation. Atlanta is just 4-10 at home against Eastern Conference opponents and I don't see them having much luck staying with the Raptors, who rank third in the NBA in averaging 111.3 PPG, trailing only the Warriors and Rockets. Make Toronto a 10* play!
|01-23-18||Creighton -3.5 v. St. John's||Top||68-63||Win||100||13 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: The Bluejays are 15-5 (5-3 in Big East) but are hoping history doesn't repeat itself. Just about a year ago, Creighton was 18-1 but struggled to maintain a .500 record the rest of the way when it lost Maurice Watson Jr. for the season due to a mid-season ACL tear. Creighton just found out that the 6-9 Martin Krampelj (11.9 & 8.1) has suffered a similar fate to Watson. Watson's torn ACL contributed to its 7-9 finish in 2016-17. The Bluejays visit St. John's while adjusting to life without Krampelj to play the Red Storm. St. John's is 10-10 on the season but 0-8 in Big East play.
Creighton: “Obviously, we’re adjusting to life without Martin. We had some lineups out there that we haven’t had out there all year long. It’s going to take a little time for us to adjust to that," Bluejays head coach Greg McDermott told the Omaha World-Herald. Guards Foster (19.3) and Thomas (14.0 & 4.0 lead one of the nation's top-scoring teams, as Creighton averages 81,4 PPG (6th) on 50.4% shooting (10th). With Krampelj out, McDermott will rely more heavily on a group of five players contributing between 5.4 and 9.4 PPG. Leading that group are the 6-10 Hegner (9.4 & 2.8) plus 6-7 gaurd Harrell (8.0), who is now the team's top rebounder at 7.0 RPG with Krampelj done for the season.
St. John's: Chris Mullins' third season back at his alma mater is not going well considering the team's 0-8 start in league play. Yes, the Red Storm are the only Big East team winless in league play but each of their last four losses - and six of their eight setbacks in league play - have been by seven points or fewer. One of those defeats came on Jan. 3, when the Bluejays overcame a 10-point second-half deficit to edge St. John's 78-71 in Omaha. PG Shamorie Ponds (20.7-5.4-4.9) is coming off 33 points, six rebounds, eight assists and three steals Saturday versus Georgetown for his second 30-point effort in three games. Fellow sophomore guard Justin Simon managed only eight points against the Hoyas after scoring a career-high 28 three days earlier versus Xavier, but he is still averaging 11.6 & 7.4 on the season. A pair of 6-7 players, Ahmed (11.7 & 4.7) and Clark (11.6 & 4.0) round out the team's double digit scorers, as guard LoVett (14.9) was lost to a season-ending knee injury after just seven games.
The pick:The Red Storm play a lot of tight games but they still can't 'buy' a win.There are not enough points here to take, as I expect St. John's to fall short yet again, against a good-shooting and high-scoring Creighton team (see above) that also ranks third in Division I in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.68) and second in defensive rebounds per game (30.6). Make Creighton a 10* play.
|01-23-18||Cavs +1.5 v. Spurs||Top||102-114||Loss||-110||12 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers season has been spiraling in the wrong direction ever since the team's 99-92 Christmas Day loss in Oakland to the Warriors. That defeat was the beginning of a 3-9 run in which the latest loss came this past Saturday in a 148-124 home loss to OKC. Cleveland has lost by margins of 34, 28 and 24 over the past six games and the defensive effort against Oklahoma City was just atrocious, as the Thunder scored at least 33 points in every quarter. The 27-18 Cavs (now six games back of the Celtics and only four games ahead of the No. 8-seeded 76ers) will travel to San Antonio in an attempt to "right the ship" but the problem is that the 30-18 Spurs own the best home record in the NBA at 19-3, despite dropping a 94-86 decision to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday;
Cleveland "It's embarrassing. It's not acceptable," PG Isaiah Thomas told reporters after the loss to OKC. "We can only go up from here, that's the only positive about that. We've got to really look in the mirror, look at ourselves and get some pride."LBJ (26.8-7.8-8.7) continues to post superlative numbers but he is more interested in figuring out his team's porous play. Speculation regarding the status of coach Tyronn Lue has arisen and that deeply concerns James, who doesn't see Lue as the problem but stopped short of giving his coach an endorsement. "I don't know what's going to happen with our team," James told reporters. "I have no idea what conversations have been going on." Kevin Love (18.6 & 9.4) played just three minutes due to an undisclosed illness in the OKC and while he's is expected to play here, he's also been the center of some recent controversy.
San Antonio: Sunday's loss to the Pacers snapped a 14-game home winning streak for the Spurs, as they committed 20 turnovers. "It happens a little too much with our team," center Pau Gasol told reporters afterward. "We get a little bit out of whack. We don't execute, we're a little sloppy at times and we pay the price." The Spurs have not played up to their reputation this season, as Kawhi Leonard has played in just nine games due to a quadriceps injury that is reportedly causing issues between Leonard and the organization. Coach Gregg Popovich decided to shake things up on Sunday by moving veteran point guard Tony Parker (12 points and five assists in 20 minutes on Sunday) to the bench and starting Dejounte Murray, who had eight points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes.
The pick: In recent seasons, a game between the Cavs and Spurs would have been one of the marquee contests of the NBA calendar but the 2017-18 season is different. Both teams are in third place in their respective conferences and because of injuries for San Antonio and a dead-legged and greying roster for Cleveland, the Cavs and Spurs are not currently in the discussion as teams that can win the league championship. The Cavs are a mess and while the Spurs won both of last season's meetings, including a 103-74 home romp, the team's Sunday home loss to the Pacers shows that these are not your father's Spurs. How low can the Cavs go? I say they snap out of it right here against a team also struggling with distractions. Make Cleveland a 10* play.
|01-23-18||Kansas +1.5 v. Oklahoma||Top||80-85||Loss||-107||11 h 21 m||Show|
The set-up: The Kansas Jayhawks are back up to No. 5 in the latest AP poll and will travel to the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma with a 16-3 overall record, including 6-1 in the Big 12 (no other school is better than 5-3). The Oklahoma Sooners went from a Final 4 team in the 2015-16 season (29 wins) to 11-20 last season but with four starters back this year plus the addition of standout freshman Trae Young, Lon Kruger has the Sooners back on the national stage. The Sooners are currently 14-4 (4-3 in Big 12) and ranked 12th but that's after being ranked 4th in the nation before losing twice this past week.
Kansas: The Jayhawks have won 13 straight regular season Big 12 titles and are two games up in the loss column as the end of January nears. Bill Self may have lost the recruiting battle over Young to Kruger but the Jayhawks come in with an offense averaging 84.2 PPG (23rd) on 50.2% shooting (13th). PG Graham (18.1-3.6-7.3) leads a perimeter-oriented starting-five which consists of four guards and center 7-0 Udoka Azubuike (14.5 & 7.7). Joining Graham are Mykhailiuk (16.8 & 3.8), Vick (14.1) and Newman (11.3). Graham makes the Jayhawks go offensively, both in scoring himself and creating for his teammates, but he's also Kansas' best defender and figures to draw the assignment of slowing Young most of the game
Oklahoma: Young averages 30.5 PPG but also 9.7 APG, leading Oklahmoa to an average of 91.6 PPG (2nd). Only two other Sooners reach double digits, guard James (11.9) and the 6-9 Manek (11.1 & 5.1) but the real problem for Oklahoma is a defense allowing 81.6 PPG, which ranks 335th. The Sooners raced to a 12-1 start but are coming off back-to-back losses, the most recent being an overtime loss at Oklahoma State, despite Young scoring 48 points.
The pick: Yes, the Sooners are unbeaten at home this season and own a 13-game home winning streak but this team just doesn't play much defense, makes way too many turnovers (Young has 12 himself in a loss to Kansas St.) and the team often falls in love with attempting too many threes, often taking bad shots. Kansas' "pedigree" wins the day here, just like at West Va. on Jan. 15. Make the Jayhawks an 8* play.
|01-22-18||Wizards -1.5 v. Mavs||Top||75-98||Loss||-110||13 h 15 m||Show|
The set-up: The 26-20 Washington Wizards will visit Dallas and it's the midpoint of a five-game road trip for the Wizards. Washington dropped a 133-109 decision at Charlotte to begin the trip and was similarly terrible on defense while falling behind 29-19 after the first quarter in Detroit on Friday, before earning a 122-112 win that snapped a two-game skid The Wizards currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Mavericks endured a slow start in their last game as well but didn't have enough to overcome the deficit after falling behind 33-20 in the first quarter at Portland. Dallas was down by as many of 18 points in the first half at Portland, before getting within five in the second of a 117-108 loss. The Mavericks just didn't have enough down the stretch. "The first half, I thought it was bad," head coach Rick Carlisle said. "I thought the second half was very good. But you've got to play both halves, so we've got to get a better start."
Washington: The Wizards' turnaround was sparked by reserve forward Kelly Oubre Jr. who not only played his customary strong defense in the win but continued a recent scoring binge by pouring in 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting in 31 minutes. Oubre is averaging 19.5 points over the last four games and is 14-of-23 from three-point range in that span. He's now averaging 12.2 PPG, third-highest on the team. Washington scored 45 in the third period at Detroit, with 26 points coming from Bradley Beal and John Wall, to take a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter. SG Beal (23.8-4.3-3.7) leads Washington in scoring and PG Wall (19.5-3.6-9.3) is second.
Dallas: In losses to the LA Lakers, Denver and, most recently, at Portland on Saturday, the Mavs have found themselves down big early, only to fight back in the second half. The final scores have been relatively close, which only leads to extra frustration. "We're coming out too sluggish, too lackadaisical and too nonchalant," point guard Dennis Smith Jr. told reporters after the 117-108 setback. "Whatever word you want to use, we don't have the right disposition to start games out." Smith (14.7-3.9-4.5) is one of the NBA's top rookies this season, while Harrison Barnes (18.5 PPG) is again leading the Mavs in scoring and this season, he's also the team's top rebounder at 6.7 per game. However, Dallas does not score on a consistent basis (102.2 PPG ranks 23rd) and that's reflected in the team's 15-31 record (only the 13-32 Kings are worse in the West).
The pick: Oddly enough, Dallas has pretty much owned Washington as of late. The Mavericks swept the season series in 2016-17, the sixth sweep in seven years. The Mavs will go for another season sweep here, as Dallas earned a 113-99 win at Washington back on Nov. 7, behind 31 points from Harrison Barnes. That said, the Wizards are the significantly better team in this game and with this pointspread, a win almost guarantees a cover. Mavs are just 9-15 SU at home and I'll make Washington a 10* play.
|01-22-18||Maryland -1.5 v. Indiana||Top||68-71||Loss||-106||11 h 30 m||Show|
The set-up: Maryland is 15-6 on the season but just 4-4 in Big Ten play as the Terps get set to visit Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana to take on the 11-8 Indiana Hoosiers (4-3 in Big Ten). The Terrapins had lost three of four games before beating Minnesota 77-66 at home in their last outing. As for the Hoosiers, they saw their three-game winning streak come to end Friday night, losing 85-57 at No. 9 Michigan State.
Maryland: The Terps are led by the guard duo of Cowan (16.3-4.7-4.9) and Huerter (14.1-5.3-3.5). They are the only two double digit scorers on a Maryland team averaging 76.7 PPG (112th). A 'killer' was the loss of 6-7 sophomore Jackson for the season, after he was averaging 9.8 & 8.1 through 11 games. Huerter’s 19 points led the way vs. Minnesota, as four of the five Terrapin starters scored at least 13 points. Cowan added a career-high of 10 assists. 6-10 forward Bruno Fernando (9.8 & 6.0) and Huerter (5.3 RPG) have taken charge as the team’s rebounding leaders, after Justin Jackson suffered that season-ending shoulder injury in early December.
Indiana: The Hoosiers shot just 33.9 percent from the floor in Friday's loss at Michigan State plus got outrebounded 45-27 by the host Spartans in suffering its most lopsided loss of the season. Understandably, head coach Archie Miller wants his team looking ahead, not back. “We have an opportunity (though) on Monday at home,” Indiana coach Miller said in his post-game radio interview. “That’s what our guys have to be locked in on.” like Maryland, Indiana has just two dopuble digit scorers, the 6-7 Morgan (14.8 & 7.2) and guard Johnson (14.0 & 4.4).
The pick: Indiana is riding a four-game home win streak and is 9-3 SU overall this season in Bloomington, while the Terrapins are 1-4 in true road games and have dropped three straight. However, Maryland has won three of the five meetings with Indiana, including a 75-72 home win a season ago, since joining the Big Ten. Indiana has scored just 66 and 57 points in its last two games and I'm making Maryland a 10* play.
|01-21-18||Pacers v. Spurs -6||Top||94-86||Loss||-110||21 h 33 m||Show|
The 30-17 San Antonio Spurs will welcome the road-weary Indiana Pacers (24-22) to the AT&T Center on Sunday night. The Spurs come into the game on the heels of an 86-83 loss at Toronto on Friday that gave them a 5-6 record in their past 11 games. Nine of those games came on the road and the Spurs went 3-6 away from home during that stretch.
Indiana: Indiana was just brutal in going 2-of-25 from beyond the arc in Friday's loss at LA, after going 7-of-26 from three-point range at Portland on Thursday. Leading scorer Victor Oladipo was a combined 2-of-14 in the last two losses, after connecting on 7-of-12 from beyond the arc in the first two stops (both wins) on the trip. The Pacers are shooting percent from the floor on the season (47.8% which ranks 4th) and have shot less than 40 percent from the floor only four times this season, but that includes the last two games. Oladipo led the Pacers with 25 points against the Lakers and Domantas Sabonis finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Oladipo (24.3-5.3-4.0) and Sabonis (12.4 & 8.5) were the two players acquired from OKC in the Paul George trade and they've been terrific. Forward Myles Turner (13.9 & 6.5) missed his sixth straight game with a shoulder injury and forward Lance Stephenson didn't suit up against the Lakers because he was sick. It remains to be seen whether either will play Sunday. Sephenson (8.6 & 5.5) isn't having much luck on the road trip and is averaging four points so far, after going 1-of-18 from the floor over the last two contests, so maybe it's better if he doesn't play.
San Antonio: The Spurs know all about players sitting out due to injury. The team announced Saturday evening that forwards Rudy Gay (right heel bursitis) and Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management) are out for the game against Indiana and that reserve guard Manu Ginobili (right thigh contusion) is questionable. San Antonio has been asking power forward LaMarcus Aldridge to carry the load but he struggled to 6-of-25 from the floor in Friday's 86-83 loss to the Raptors. Aldridge is averaging 22.6 points on 48.9 percent shooting for the season and still led the Spurs in scoring with 17 points at Toronto. Aldridge notched his 19th double-double of the season with his 17 points and 14 rebounds (8.6 RPG on the season), as the game marked the 36th time Aldridge has led the team in points, the most games a player has led his squad in points in the league.
The pick: San Antonio is 19-2 at home (15-5-1 ATS), the best record in the NBA. The Spurs have won 14 straight home games, also a league-leading mark this season. The Spurs are averaging 107 points on 48.2 percent shooting in 21 home games but watch those numbers drop to 96 points and 43.3 percent shooting on the road. So, the fact that the Spurs will now play seven of their next eight games at home, has to be good news. As for the Pacers, the news is "not so good!" Make the Spurs a 10* play..
|01-21-18||Boston College +10 v. Louisville||Top||69-77||Win||100||13 h 27 m||Show|
The set-up: With Rick Pitino being forced out before the season began (I'm assuming all know the story), the Cardinals' 14-4 (4-1 in ACC) record has to be considered pretty good. Louisville will welcome the surprising 13-6 Boston College Eagles (3-3 in ACC) to the KFC Yum!. BC entered this season having won less than 10 games in three of its previous four seasons (9-23 last year and a high of 13 wins in that span), so one can see why I called the Eagles "surprising."
Boston College: Even with an up-and-coming backcourt of Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman, little was expected this season from a Boston College, a team which had won a total of two conference games in two years and no more than four in any of the previous four seasons. Boston College was chosen to finish 14th in the 15-team ACC in the preseason. However, with junior Robinson leading the way with 18.2 PPG and 6-1 sophomore Bowman averaging 16.4 PPG plus 7.1 RPG and a team-leading 5.1 APG, the duo is changing the perception of the Eagles.: Robinson has been a roll since the start of conference action, scoring a league-best 23.3 points per game while shooting 55.6 percent from the floor (fourth in the ACC) and 52.6 percent from 3-point range (second). Meanwhile, Bowman is the only player in the country to rank among the top-10 in scoring and assists plus the top-15 in rebounding.BC has kept it going despite losing the 6-8 Hawkins (12.4 & 9.1) to a season-ending knee injurie after just eight games. 6-8 forward Steffon Mitchell (7.2 & 7.9) has emerged as an inside force over the last four games, averaging 12.8 points and 8.5 boards, and he is poised to become the sixth freshman to lead the team in rebounding since 1972-73. Then there is the 6-11 Popovic, who has delivered a solid season at 9.4 & 5.9.
Louisville: The Cardinals were projected to finish fifth in the ACC in the preseason poll as Rick Pitino was fired in October, with relatively raw assistant David Padgett tnamed as interim head coach. Louisville enters this contest having won three in a row after outlasting Notre Dame on the road 82-78 in double overtime on Tuesday. Quentin Snider (13.1 & 4.2 APG) is coming off one of the finest games of his career, as he matched a personal best with 22 points and dished out a season-high seven assists. 6-10 junior forward Ray Spalding (11.7 & 9.2) posted his fourth double-double in the last seven games on Tuesday, finishing with a career-high 23 points and 12 rebounds. The team's leading-scorer is the 6-7 Deng Adel (15.7 & 4.6), who has reached double figures in 20 of his last 21 outings dating back to last season (he scored nine in the one game he came up short in).
The pick: BC is clearly on an upward surge but the Eagles are still looking to find a way to earn a conference win away from Conte Forum, which they have not done in 19 tries since defeating Virginia Tech on March 2, 2015. Also, I can't ignore that only four of the Eagles' defeats during their road conference losing streak have been decided by single digits. However, BC is 8-3 SU since the beginning of December, going 6-3 ATS, In that stretch, BC has beaten Duke as a 15-point home dog, lost at UVa as a 15 1/2-point dog, covered a as a home dog vs. Clemson and in its last outing, beat FSU as a a 3 1/2-point home dog. Upset alert! Make the Eagles an 8* play.
|01-20-18||Arizona State v. California +12.5||Top||81-73||Win||100||15 h 19 m||Show|
The set-up: The Arizona State Sun Devils were the last undefeated team in NCAA Division I, when the team stood at 12-0 in games played through Dec. 29. However, ASU's Pac 12 opener was at in-state rival Arizona on Dec. 30th and the Wildcats beat them, 84-78. Now, six games into conference play, ASU is 2-4 in the Pac 12 and 14-4, overall. Once ranked as high as No. 3 in the country just last month, the now 16th-ranked Sun Devils suddenly find themselves just battling to keep pace in the Pac-12 race, where they are tied for 9th with Oregon. Is it good news that ASU will travel to Berkeley Saturday night to face 7-12 Cal (1-5 in Pac 12), as the Bears have dropped five straight games by a combined 97 points?
Arizona State: Senior guard Tra Holder was a key part of the team’s 12-0 start but his recent slump continued Wednesday when he missed 10 of his first 11 shots and finished with nine points in an 86-77 loss at Stanford. Holder still leads the team in scoring at 19.3 PPG but he's shot 23.9 percent and averaged 9.5 points over his last four contests. The Sun Devils allowed 46 points in the paint against Stanford and will need an improved effort against Cal big men Marcus Lee and Kingsley Okoroh.6-8 freshman forward Romello White (12.5 & 7.8) ended a mini-slump against the Cardinal, finishing with a team-high 19 points but the Sun Devils again struggled from three-point range after thriving from there during non-conference play. Holder is surrounded by two seniors, Evans (17.1-3.7-4.3) and Justice (14.1) on the perimeter, plus freshman guard Martin (10.0) has also contributed regularly. However, as noted, ASU has had trouble guarding players inside since league play began.
Cal: The Bears are a young and rebuilding team. They were over-matched Thursday against No. 17 Arizona, which cruised to a 79-58 victory behind 20 points and 11 rebounds from star freshman Deandre Ayton. Cal boasts a promising freshman of its own in 6-7 forward Justice Sueing (13.9 & 5.9), who is averaging 19.2 points in Pac-12 play and registered 19 points and nine rebounds against the Wildcats. First-year coach Wyking Jones is also bullish on freshman guard Darius McNeill, who ranks fourth on the team in scoring at 11.8 PPG and teams with the veteran Coleman (17.2 PPG) in the backcourt. As noted in the ASU paragraph, the duo of 6-11 Lee (11.8 & 7.5) and the 7-1 Okoroh (5.9 & 5.0) are more than capable of exploiting ASU's "inside woes."
The pick: California won three of its last four non-conference games and opened league play by overcoming a 17-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to beat Stanford 77-74. However, the Bears have since lost five straight contests by an average of 19.4 PPG. In fact, the Bears have had their three lowest-scoring games of the season in their last three outings. That sounds bad (an it is) but ASU has also somewhat unraveled and Cal has won four in a row against Arizona State. Make the Bears an 8* play.
|01-20-18||Mavs v. Blazers -5||Top||108-117||Win||100||15 h 6 m||Show|
The set-up: The Portland Trail Blazers are looking to make it a clean sweep of a three-game homestand when they host Dallas Mavericks on Saturday. In fact, 24-21 Portland will be going for its sixth straight home victory against the 15-30 Mavs, who are battling to stay out of the Western Conference 'basement,' currently occupied by the 13-32 Sacramento Kings.
Dallas: The Mavs enter having lost five of seven but are still getting big performances from rookie PG Dennis Smith Jr., who led the way with 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting and five assists on Tuesday in the team's 105-102 loss at Denver. It marked the third time in the last four games that the NC State product scored 20 or more points, raising his season scoring average to 14.5 (3.1 RPG and 3.9 APG). Fellow young PG Yogi Ferrell (10.2-3.5-2.4) is enjoying a hot stretch as well, averaging 15.3 points on 53.5 percent shooting over the last four contests. SF Harrison Barnes leads the team in scoring (18.7) and rebounding (6.7) and while Nowitzki (12.2 & 5.5) is no longer an All Star, he's a dependable player.
Portland: The Blazers watched a 20-point lead evaporate, before holding on for a 118-111 triumph over Phoenix on Tuesday. They then had a much better showing late on Thursday, holding the Indiana Pacers to 12 points in the fourth quarter to earn a 100-86 victory. "We just made plays when we needed to in the fourth quarter," Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told reporters. "In the fourth quarter, it was good to see just the lead kind of expand without having very many mistakes." Portland will challenge Smith and Ferrell with its star guard tandem of Damian Lillard (25.0-4.8-6.5) and CJ McCollum (21.5-4.0-3.3). However, Portland is at its best when center Jusuf Nurkic (14.5 & 8.0) is producing. Nurkic delivered 19 points and 17 rebounds in Thursday's win and averages 15.2 points and 8.7 boards in wins while posting 13.7 and 7.3 in losses.
The pick: The road team won each of the four meetings last season, with Dallas winning the two in Portland by a total of five points. However, Dallas is just 6-15 SU on the road this season while Portland's current five-game home winning streak is its longest of the season. This "more than reasonable" pointspread makes the Blazers a 10* play.
|01-20-18||Texas +9 v. West Virginia||Top||51-86||Loss||-105||7 h 59 m||Show|
The set-up: The West Virginia Mountaineers lost their season-opener 88-65 to Texas&M but then ripped off 15 straight wins, rising to No. 2 in the AP poll (highest since the Jerry West era). However, the Mountaineers have lost their edge by giving away two late-game leads in losses at Texas Tech (732-71) and home to Kansas (71-66). "We probably weren't comfortable being No. 2 in the country," head coach Bob Huggins said. "Our preparation wasn't what it needed to be." Now 15-3 (4-2 in Big 12) and ranked No. 6, West Virginia will welcome 12-6 Texas (3-3 Big 12) to Morgantown on Saturday afternoon. The Longhorns are coming off a 67-58 upset of No. 8 Texas Tech this past Wednesday but represent the only unranked opponent in a five-game stretch for West Virginia.
Texas: The Longhorns feature a one-and-done prospect in the 6-11 Mohamed Bamba. He protects the rim with a 7-foot-9 wingspan that would rank as the longest in the NBA right now. He is second in the nation at 4.53 blocks per game and is also the only Big 12 player averaging a double-double at 11.9 points and 10.5 rebounds. He has four double-doubles in six conference games, after going for 15 and 11 Wednesday night during the upset of Texas Tech. That game saw the return of guard Kerwin Roach from a broken hand, who was cleared right before tip-off. Roach (10.8) had missed two games but scored 20 points after not having practiced for a week. The 6-9 Dylan Osetkowski leads the Longhorns with 14.9 points and 7.7 rebounds and junior Eric Davis Jr. (8.8) has been key for the Longhorns off the bench, averaging 13.8 points in 30.0 minutes in league play.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers will look to snap a two-game skid, one which is even more frustrating because it's coincided with 6-8 junior Esa Ahmad returning from an academic suspension. He's averaged 16.5 PPG and 5.5 RPG in his two games back, BOTH West Va. losses. He's joins a talented group led by PG Carter (16.7-5.2-6.3), who also averages 3.4 steals per game. Fellow guard Miles (13.0-3.2-3.7) is another double digit score plus the 6-8 West (11.9 & 5.5) and the 6-8 Konate (9.3 & 7.8) will welcome the help up front that Ahmad will provide. Carter is the only player in the country averaging more than 16 points, six assists and three steals, helping the Mountaineers to lead the the Big 12 in turnover margin (plus-7.3).
The pick: West Virginia won all three meetings last year, including in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament (63-53) but as noted often, the pointspread is the "great equalizer." Texas head coach Shaka Smart has covered five straight in this series, including all three meetings a year ago. Take the points and make Texas a 10* play.
|01-20-18||Wichita State -3 v. Houston||Top||59-73||Loss||-115||5 h 50 m||Show|
The set-up: After 72 years in the MVC, Wichita State upgraded to the AAC (American Athletic Conference) this season and Saturday afternoon will take on conference rival Houston. The Shockers are 15-3 (5-1 AAC) and the Cougars 14-4 (4-2 in AAC), with Wichita Sttae already owning a win over the Cougars this season, 81-63 on Jan. 4 in Wichita. The No. 7 Shockers saw their seven-game winning snapped with an 83-78 loss to SMU, a defeat that also snapped the school's 27-game home winning streak at Koch Arena.
Wichita State: Sophomore guard Landry Shamet leads the AAC with 5.3 assists per game and owns the AAC's top assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.63 plus scores a team-high 16.1 PPG, having recorded his first two career double-doubles in his last three games (he had 18 points in the Shockers' 18-point home win over the Cougars). He also shoots 54.6 percent from the floor (including 52 percent from three-point range), in leading a team which averages 84.6 PPG (21st) on 49.4% shooting (22nd). The 6-8 Morris (12.1 & 4,4) joins guard Frankamp (11.8) and the 6-9 Willis (11.2 & 6.4) in double figures. The Shockers own depth galore, with junior forward Markis McDuffie (8.0 & 4.3) now slowly rounding into form after missing the first 11 games of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot. He's one of six players adding between 5.0 and 8.0 PPG, a group which includes the team's leading rebounder, the 6-7 Kelly (5.1 & 7.2).
Houston. Gray is an excellent floor leader, who also averages 3.0 RPG and 4.0 APG. Fellow guard Corey Davis (12.0) and 6-6 forward Devin Davis (10.7 & 6.3) join him in double digits while reserve guards Brooks (9.4) and Van Beck (8.4) add scoring punch off the bench. Houston is the only team to out-rebound the Shockers this season but the Cougars still lost by 18 points, as Gray was held to just 13 points with the Cougars scoring a season-low 63 points. Like the Shockers, the Cougars found themselves in a close game against a hot opponent their last time out. Houston took a late three-point lead against Tulane this past Wednesday in New Orleans but couldn't hold on and dropped an 81-72 conference game.
The pick: Wichita State trails Cincinnati by one game in the AAC standings, while Houston and Memphis are one game back of the Shockers. Wichita State responded to its last loss, 91-83 to Oklahoma on Dec. 16, by winning its next seven games and hasn't dropped consecutive conference games since 2012-13 (note: those were MVC contests). McDuffie's return is good news (he led last year's 31-win team in scoring at 11.5 PPG and rebounding at 5.7 RPG) and I hardly expect another four-point effort from him here (like vs. SMU). Wichita State had little trouble Housotn in early January (led 53-32 at the half) and I'll lay the small number here. Make Wichita State an 8* play.
|01-19-18||Knicks v. Jazz -4||Top||117-115||Loss||-115||26 h 9 m||Show|
The set-up: The Utah Jazz put together a six-game winning streak to reach 13-11 at the end of play on Dec. 4 but have since won just five of 20 games to fall to 18-26. However, after Wednesday's 120-105 win at Sacramento, the Jazz have a chance for consecutive wins for the first time in over a month when they host the New York Knicks on Friday. The Kicks are coming off a 105-99 loss at Memphis on Wednesday that dropped them to 5-16 on the road for the season and to 20-25 overall, after losing 11 of their last 14 games.
NY Knicks: New York rallied from an 18-point deficit in the third quarter at Memphis to make it interesting but the Grizzlies held on, despite playing without three starters. New York head coach Jeff Hornacek indicated he wants more from his first five. "We're all frustrated," Porzingis told reporters. "We all want to win. We just need to understand in our minds what are the things we need to do throughout the game to be able to be in position to win late in the game. Not have all that pressure late in the game, and that's when we start playing and we turn it up. We need to have that early on and then we'll be fine." Porzingis (23.6 & 6.9) has at least 21 points in five of his last six games and is averaging 3.3 blocks and 2.5 steals over the last four outings. PG Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks' top choice in last year's draft, has gone scoreless in three of his last five games, shooting a combined 0-for-11 in those three contests (he's averaging just P5.4 PG and 3.6 APG). Porous defense has been a major obstacle for New York in turning things around. The Knicks have held just two opponents under 100 points over their last 14 games (winning just three) and they rank 20th among NBA teams with a 108.2 defensive rating in January.
Utah: Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell was 14-for-19 in a 34-point performance in teh win over teh Kings and is averaging over 25 points over an eight-game stretch (19.7 PPG on the season). Mitchell has shot 50 percent or better in each of the last three contests and is adding a highlight-reel play or two seemingly every night. Mitchell is an electrifying talent but has some work to do on the defensive end before he can be included with the league's elite players. "He played very well tonight," coach Quin Snyder told the media Wednesday. "There were a number of things on the defensive end that he's going to hear about. He's gotta keep getting better in every aspect of the game. That's what he wants to do." Rodney Hood (2nd-leading scorer at 16.7 PPG), who had 30 points in a loss at New York earlier this season, added 25 points while shooting 9-for-16 in the win over the Kings.
The pick: The Knicks were talking playoff at 17-14 but they are just 3-11 since. Their road woes are well-documented (see above) and while te heazz are also just 5-15 their last 20, they are getting some good news. Center Rudy Gobert (11.6 & 9.6), who sustained a sprained PCL in his left knee and bone bruise in his tibia while missing 15 games (Jazz are 4-11), is expected to return to action against the Knicks on Friday! Make Utah a 10* play.
|01-19-18||Illinois v. Wisconsin -4||Top||50-75||Win||100||25 h 33 m||Show|
The set-up: The 10-9 Illinois Fighting Illini will take on the 9-10 Wisconsin Badgers Friday night at the Kohl Center in Madison. Illinois could use a win here to snap a four-game losing streak and also pick up the team's first conference win, after opening Big Ten play at 0-6. Illinois' poor start is rather surprising, considering the fact that Brad Underwood led the Fighting Illini to a 20-15 season last year, his first at Champaign (the Illini had won just 15 games the season before). Meanwhile, the Badgers' sub-.500 start is 'earth shaking' for Madison fans, as is the team's 2-4 Big Ten record. Wisconsin entered this season having played in 17 straight NCAA tournaments (tied for the fourth-longest active streak with Gonzaga) and its 13 NCAA tourney wins were tied for 2nd-most (with Kentucky), over the last four seasons.
Illinois; Freshman guard Trent Frazier (11.0 & 2.6 APG) has scored 46 total in his last two outings and is averaging 16.8 points while shooting 44.9 percent from behind the arc over the last nine games. Despite not playing more than 23 minutes in any of his last four contests due to foul trouble, 6-7 forward Leron Black has not seen any kind of decline in his team-high scoring (14.4 points) and rebounding (5.7) averages. Guard Aaron Jordan (9.8 PPG) has not been as fortunate, as he was held scoreless for the second time in three games Monday and reached double figures only once in his last seven outings The 6-10 Finke (10.6 & 5.6) is now Illinois' only other double digit scorer.
Wisconsin: The Badgers lost four starters from last year's Sweet 16 team (27 wins) but the 6-10 Ethan Happ was a Preseason All-American. Despite feeling the pressure of carrying the injury-plagued Badgers on offense, he is the only major-conference player averaging at least 16 points (16.7), eight rebounds (8.4) and three assists (3.6) this season.
The pick: It's become obvious that Wisconsin's NCAA streak will end here in 2018 but remember that Wisconsin has won 11 straight meetings against Illinois, including six in a row at teh Kohl Center. It's been quite some time since Wisconsin was this small of a home favorite over Illinois (the schools met just once last season and Wisconsin was a 7 1/2-point favorite at Illinois), so lay it. Make Wisconsin a 10* play.
|01-18-18||Loyola Marymount v. BYU -16||Top||67-82||Loss||-105||16 h 49 m||Show|
The set-up: The 6-11 Loyola Marymount Lions will travel to Provo, Utah to take on the 15-4 BYU Cougars at the Marriott Center. The Lions come in having lost nine of their last 11 and have opened 1-5 in WCC play. BYU enters on a roll, having won 10 of its last 12, with both losses coming in league play (74-64 in OT to St. Mary's and 67-66 at Pacific), where the Cougars are 4-2.
Loyola-Marymount: The Lions went 15-15 last season, following years of 11, 13, 8 and 14 wins the previous four years. Reaching 15 wins again this season may be a stretch, as the team's 74.0 PPG average is not enough when the Lions are allowing 77.5 PPG (290th) on 48.5% shooting (334th). PG Batemon (17.4-4.5-5.1) is a quality player and is surrounded by two solid small forwards, freshman Eli Scott (13.1 & 7.1) and senior Steven Haney (12.6).
BYU. Dave Rose took over as BYU's head coach for the 2005-06 season and began his 13th season on the bench having led the Cougars to 12 straight 20-plus win seasons, while taking BYU to either the NCAA (eight) or NIT (four) tourney each year. At 15-4, his streak of 20-win seasons and a postseason tourney is all but a 'lock.' The 6-8 Childs (17.9 & 9.10 will be the best big man on the court plus guards Bryant (17.7 & 6.3) and Haws (11.1-3.1-3.9) are a quality combo. The Cougars have typically been known as a high-scoring team but while BYU is shooting 49.1% (29th) from the floor, the Cougars are averaging a modest (for them), 75.6 PPG (144th).
The pick: However, as noted above, Marymount is a really poor defensive team and BYU has topped 80 points in each of the last nine meetings between the two schools, including scoring 81, 85 and 89 in sweeping all three meetings last season. Lay it and make BYU an 8* play.
|01-18-18||Magic +11 v. Cavs||Top||103-104||Win||100||12 h 54 m||Show|
The set-up: The Cleveland Cavaliers lost 99-92 on Christmas Day in Oakland to the Warriors and it sparked a downward spiral. The Cavs lost again to the Warriors this past Monday (MLK Day) 118-108 and are now losers of four straight and eight of their last 10 games to fall seven games behind the East's No. 1 seed (Boston) and even four games back of Toronto for the No. 2 seed. Trade rumors are already beginning, as the Cavaliers try to put their internal squabbles behind and snap their slide when they host the Orlando Magic on Thursday. Cleveland's last win came at Orlando came back on Jan. 6, 131-127 and was part of a seven-game slide for the Magic that ended with a 108-102 win over Minnesota just this past Tuesday. The 13-31 Magic are tied with the Sacramento Kings for the NBA's worst record.
Orlando: The Magic were able to snap their losing streak on Tuesday thanks to a career-high 32 points from Evan Fournier (18.0) and a strong effort in the middle from Bismack Biyombo (5.5 & 5.9) and Khem Birch (2.5 & 1.9), who combined for 22 points and 26 rebounds. Birch was playing in just his eighth career NBA game, "We have good players and when you look at the roster, you don't (think), 'Oh, they should only have 13 wins," Fournier told reporters. "The reality (of the record) is different, but when we play like this -- we play hard, with enthusiasm and with a purpose, it makes a huge difference. We have to keep playing like this. We have about 40 games left, and we have to try and fight. Just try and compete." That sounds good but the Magic have lost 27 of their last 32 games and even in a rare moment of glory for the Magic, reserve guard Arron Afflalo threw a punch at Minnesota's Nemanja Bjelica and is facing likely discipline from the NBA.
Cleveland: That said, the Cavs are a mess, considering their DNA and string of three consecutive Finals trips. Anonymous leaks to the media have several players on the team doubting that the roster as currently constructed can solve some of the issues that plague Cleveland, especially on the defensive end. The Cavaliers are 28th in the NBA in defensive rating entering play on Wednesday and allowed at least 118 points in four of their last five games while trying to work 5-9 point guard Isaiah Thomas into the scheme. Thomas is struggling at both ends of the floor through his first five games with his new team and is shooting 36.1 percent from the floor, including 23.3 percent from three-point range. Thomas played a season-high 32 minutes in Monday's 118-108 loss to the Golden State Warriors but needed 21 shots to reach 19 points. Cleveland ranks 25th in both points allowed (108.7 per) and shooting percentage (47.2%). "This is a difficult year for our team," said LeBron James, who scored 33 points with 10 rebounds and nine assists in the last game against the Magic. "Seems like I say that every year, but this one has been even more challenging. But with everybody who has been out and coming back in and the rotations and things of that nature, it's been very challenging on our team. But we have to figure it out."
The pick: Sure, the Magic own the worst record in the NBA and have lost 18 of their last 19 to the Cavs. However, the one win was this season, when Orlando came to Cleveland and rolled to a 114-93 triumph on Oct. 21. When the Cavs came to Amway Center in Orlando on Jan. 6, the Magic pushed the Cavs all the way, scoring 40 points in fourth quarter, almost erasing an 18-point deficit before Cleveland held on to win by just four. The Cavs' 3-16-1 ATS home record speaks for itself. Make Orlando a 10* play.
|01-17-18||Knicks v. Grizzlies -1.5||Top||99-105||Win||100||12 h 25 m||Show|
The set-up: Either the NY Knicks or the Memphis Grizzlies will walk away from tonight's game off back-to-back wins. That's a bigger deal than it sounds, as both teams have endured lengthy stretches this season without consecutive wins. The Knicks haven't had a winning streak since a four-gamer from Dec. 10-16, while the Grizzlies are without a winning streak since October. The Knicks have been awful on the road this season at 5-15, although they are 3-3 in its last six road games after a 2-13 start away from home. For Memphis, the loss of PG Conley has been a huge blow but they have been more competitive lately, recovering from a 2-19 stretch (from Nov. 11-Dec. 21) to win five of their last nine games.
NY Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis (23.7 & 6.9) had 26 points and nine rebounds, while Michael Beasley (12.5 & 5.1) finished with 23 and 10, as the Knicks won 119-104 Monday in Brooklyn against the Nets. Beasley paced a group of reserves that combined for 70 points while shooting 54.5 percent in the win. Running the show for that group was rookie guard Frank Ntilikina, who recorded his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 assists while chipping in seven rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal. "Frank's an amazing player," Beasley told reporters. "He has to learn what pace he wants to go. But as soon as he figures it out, Frank will be an easy triple-double guy. Easy triple-double." Maybe Beasley knows what he's talking about but a check of the stat sheet reveals that Ntilikina is averaging 5.6-2.4-3.5, which is not quite Russell Westbrook-like!
Memphis: The Grizzlies recorded 24 assists and had their second-best scoring total in Monday's 123-114 win over the Lakers, as they eight different players scoring in double figures. "We shared the ball. We moved it," center Marc Gasol told reporters. "We were moving our bodies. The ball was moving faster. We have been working on that in practice. Obviously, in the fourth quarter, we got a little more static. We had a lead and our defense was pretty good throughout three quarters so we were able to mess up a little bit in the fourth." However, on a regular basis (since the loss of Conley), only Gasol (18.4-8.6-4.0) and swingman Evans (19.6-5.1-4.8) have produced regularly for Memphis, which is averaging just 99.1 PPG (29th of 30 teams). JaMychal Green (10.0 & 6.8) is the only other Memphis player in double figures (just barely) and he's been limited to 27 games due to injuries.
The pick: The Grizzlies have rebounded from one of the worst stretches in franchise history (losing 19 of 21) with five wins in their last 10 games. However, they have followed their last nine wins with losses. Can (will?) that change here? I see the Knicks playing the perfect foil.They are 5-15 on the road and since winning at Cleveland in October, their only road success has come at Brooklyn twice, and at New Orleans and Dallas. Memphis should be confident, as the Knicks haven't won at Memphis since March of 2011, with the Grizzlies six straight home wins over the Knicks in that span coming by an average of 11.5 PPG. Make Memphis an 8* play.