Cubs vs. Brewers MLB Preview

Freddy Peralta #51 of the Milwaukee Brewers on April 06, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.   Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images/AFP

Freddy Peralta #51 of the Milwaukee Brewers on April 06, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images/AFP

Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Monday, April 12, 2020 – 7:40 PM ET at American Family Field

 

Probable Pitchers

  • Cubs: Adbert Alzolay (0-1, 7.20 ERA)
  • Brewers: Freddy Peralta (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

 

Stakes of the Matchup

With only nine games played amongst NL Central teams, the divisional championship picture is clear. There are two tiers in the NL Central. The bottom tier is occupied by the Pittsburgh Pirates who are the worst team in the league. The top tier is occupied by the rest of the division. All four teams in the NL Central have a plausible path to winning the division and making the playoffs.

The Cincinnati Reds are in first place with a 6-3 record. The preseason betting favorite St. Louis Cardinals are tied for second place with a 5-4 record. Also tied for second place are the Milwaukee Brewers with a 5-4 record with the Chicago Cubs are only one game behind with a 4-5 record.

The public perception of the Cubs is that they are rebuilding, but the perception is not the reality now. The Cubbies have a strong lineup, and they have a chance of winning the division. The Brewers have a decent lineup, strong fielding, and strong pitching. The odds reflect how close this matchup is by making Milwaukee slight favorites to win.

 

Pitching Matchup

The Brewers have a clear edge in starting pitching against the Cubs. The starting pitcher for Milwaukee is Freddy Peralta who quietly is one of the most exciting pitchers in baseball. In seven innings this season, Peralta has yet to allow an earned run. Last year as a reliever, Peralta pitched 29 1/3 innings and had a 3.99 ERA and a 3.23 xFIP. While Peralta’s ERA was low, when you adjusted it for stadium effects and fielding his ERA should have been lower. Even in 2019 when Peralta had a 5.29 ERA, we had a 4.15 xFIP.

Peralta was unlucky in the last two seasons, but this season it appears that he is reverting to the mean.

The larger issue for Peralta is stamina. In the past Peralta has mainly been a long reliever who in the rare game where he started, would be a short inning starter. This season in Peralta’s lone start, he pitched for only five innings despite allowing only one hit. However, Milwaukee has a strong bullpen and Peralta is a power pitcher who can get out of jams with strikeouts.

Opposing Peralta is Cubs starting pitcher Adbert Alzolay. Despite being a 26-year-old in his third MLB season, Alzolay has only 38 2/3 innings of experience and is still considered a rookie. In his lone start this year, Alzolay pitched for only five innings and allowed four earned runs, two home runs, four hits, and two walks. While Alzolay is a highly touted Cubs prospect, it is unclear if he made the rotation because he is ready or because they needed arms. Alzolay may be better suited in the bullpen and that is what makes the Cubs vulnerable in Monday night’s game.

 

Prediction

Both teams are evenly matched, but the Brewers are the slightly better team. There is merit to making the Brewers full game moneyline, but in my opinion the Brewers first five innings moneyline is the best bet.

The Cubs starting pitcher is very vulnerable and that is why the Brewers have a bigger edge at the beginning of the game than the end. Additionally, the top of the Brewers lineup including OF Cristian Yelich will receive a higher percentage of plate appearances at the beginning of the game than for the whole game.

Against a promising starting pitcher in Freddy Peralta for Milwaukee that might not pitch more than five innings, the Milwaukee first five innings moneyline is the best way to take advantage of his talents.

 

MLB Pick: Milwaukee Brewers First Five Innings Moneyline -125 at BetMGM

Baylor vs. Gonzaga NCAA Tournament Championship Game Preview

Baylor Bears vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Monday, April 05, 2021 – 09:20 PM EDT at Lucas Oil Stadium

 Teams

  • Gonzaga Bulldogs (1): 31-0
  • Baylor Bears (1): 27-2

 

Stakes of the Matchup

On Monday, the National Championship game will be played between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Baylor Bears. For the 2020-2021 season, 347 college basketball teams played and currently only two have a chance of winning the championship. Shockingly the two best teams for the whole season are the two remaining teams in the championship after going undefeated in their first five NCAA Tournament games.

Gonzaga plays in the West Coast Conference (WCC) which is rated as the 7th strongest conference in the country according to basketball analytics website KenPom. Baylor plays in the Big-12 which is rated as the 2nd strongest conference. The question that has been asked all season that will be answered in the championship game is whether a big fish in a small pond in Gonzaga can win the championship? Or will it be a blue-chip program in Baylor that plays in a major conference?

Baylor played this season in the Big 12 which has ten teams despite the misleading name. Of those ten teams, seven of them made the NCAA tournament. While playing in a difficult conference, the Bears lost only one regular season game and a conference tournament game. The million-dollar question is if Gonzaga would be undefeated if they played Baylor’s schedule. Based on how the Zags played against quality teams this season, the answer is probably yes.

How Gonzaga and Baylor Match Up

There is not a real weakness that can be attacked by either Gonzaga or Baylor. The Zags had the best offense in the country this season and the Bears had the second-best offense. On defense the Gonzaga has a slight edge as they have the 8th best adjusted defensive efficiency in the country and Baylor has the 27th best adjusted defensive efficiency this season.

What the game comes down to is how Baylor will react to Gonzaga’s up-tempo offense. The Bulldogs not only play at the 7th fastest adjusted tempo, but they play well at that tempo. Only Alabama and Arkansas this season are the other teams that have played good basketball at as fast of a tempo as Gonzaga.

Baylor while not an up-tempo team like Gonzaga, played Arkansas in the Elite 8. In that game, Baylor won 81-72 and handled themselves well. However, against the best up-tempo Big 12 team Oklahoma State, Baylor lost to them in the Big 12 conference tournament.

Prediction

A cogent argument can be made for betting on either side of this game as both teams have been the best two teams in all of college basketball. However, Gonzaga is clearly the best team and they should easily win.

DraftKings has a promo where they boost the Gonzaga +4.5 spread to +100 and that is a no brainer to bet even if the most that you can get down on that bet is only $25.

As far as the regular spread is concerned, I like Gonzaga to cover as a 4.5 point favorite. During the regular season, the Zags won each game on average by 22.5 points, the best in the country. When Gonzaga wins which it has done in every game this season, it is almost always by double digits. Saturday’s Final Four game against UCLA was an exception to the rule as Gonzaga only won off an epic OT buzzer beater. The Bulldogs should dominate the Bears and I believe that they will cover the spread.

College Basketball Pick: Gonzaga Spread -4.5 (-105) (PointsBet) and Gonzaga Spread +4.5 (+100) (DraftKings Promo)

Oregon State vs. Houston NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Preview

On Monday, there are two exciting games that make up the first half of the Elite 8. For the 2020-2021 season, 347 college basketball teams played and only 8 have a chance of winning the championship. There are many great Sweet 16 matches this weekend, and one of those intriguing games is the matchup between the Oregon State Beavers and the Houston Cougars.

Oregon State Beavers vs. Houston Cougars

at Lucas Oil Stadium

Teams

● Oregon State Beavers (12): 20-12

● Houston Cougars (2): 27-3

[Read more...]

LSU vs Michigan NCAA Tournament Second Round Picks

Hunter Dickinson #1 of the Michigan Wolverines shoots. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images/AFP

Hunter Dickinson #1 of the Michigan Wolverines shoots. Gregory Shamus/Getty Images/AFP

 

On Monday, the Round of 32 of the NCAA Basketball Tournament (aka the second round) continues with eight games that constitute half of the second-round games. For the 2020-2021 season, 347 college basketball teams played and only 24 have a chance of winning the championship. Of all the second round NCAA Tournament matchups on Monday, one of the most compelling is the matchup between Michigan and LSU.

 

LSU Tigers vs. Michigan Wolverines

Monday, March 22, 2021 – 07:10 PM EDT at Lucas Oil Stadium Unity

Teams

  • Michigan (1): 21-4
  •  LSU (8): 19-9

[Read more...]

Three Dark Horse Teams to Win the NCAA Tournament

Luka Garza #55 of the Iowa Hawkeyes on March 13, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.   Justin Casterline/Getty Images/AFP

Luka Garza #55 of the Iowa Hawkeyes on March 13, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Justin Casterline/Getty Images/AFP

The Landscape of the NCAA Tournament

For this year’s NCAA Tournament, there are 68 teams and only one of them is going to win the title. There are four clear betting favorites to win the tournament Gonzaga (+210), Baylor (+500), Illinois (+700), and Michigan (+800). Unsurprisingly, all four of those teams are the top seeds in their regions.

That is why it should be no surprise that Gonzaga, Baylor, and Michigan are among the worst bets you can make to win the tournament because despite being the best teams, they are overbet and the odds are shaded against the betting public. Only Illinois is a good bet, but they are not considered a longshot. There are several longshot’s that are worth betting on winning the big dance and my favorites are Iowa, Houston, and Virginia.

Criteria for Picking NCAA Tournament Underdogs

This year when coming up with my NCAA Tournament longshot picks, I decided to compare the best betting odds to FiveThirtyEight’s NCAA Tournament odds. While FiveThirtyEight is known for their election forecasts, many do not know that their founder Nate Silver used to be a Baseball statistician. That is why it is no surprise that they have a great record when it comes to their sports forecasting.

For this year’s March Madness tournament, I compiled a list of each team FiveThirtyEight gave a 0.1% or better chance of winning the tournament and compared them to their breakeven betting odds. Unsurprisingly, FiveThirtyEight’s model in comparison to the betting odds found an edge with only five teams for this year’s tournament in Illinois, Houston, Iowa, Ohio State, and Virginia. Additionally, the three worst teams to bet on winning the tournament were Michigan, Gonzaga, and Baylor. As a bettor you can ignore my advice at your peril, but you are betting off not betting if the choice is between betting or picking Michigan, Gonzaga, Baylor to win the tournament.

 

Iowa (+1700)

It is debatable whether Iowa can be considered a dark horse based on its record of success. Basketball analytics website KenPom ranks Iowa as the 5th best team in the country despite having a 21-8 regular season record. While Iowa at +1700 is not as much of an underdog to win the tournament as other +10000 or +5000 teams, in my opinion any team that isn’t a top seed should be considered a dark horse this year.

There are three reasons why Iowa is dangerous in this year’s tournament. During the regular season, the Hawkeyes played in the Big Ten which was the strongest conference this season. That is evidenced by half of the top-seeded teams coming from the Big Ten. When you adjust their performance based on their level of play, Iowa had the 2nd best offensive efficiency in the country this season. Part of the reason why is because of 6-11 forward Luka Garza who led the country in offensive win shares this season with five offensive win shares. Additionally, Garza led the country with 6.4 overall win shares. At +1700, Iowa is a great pick to win the tournament

NCAAB Pick: Iowa +1700 with DraftKings

Houston (+2200)

Most of the time when people pick a team to win the tournament, they are either picking a major conference team or a mid-major who went undefeated during the regular season like Gonzaga. As a result, teams from mid-majors who were not undefeated are often overlooked.

One of those teams is the Houston Cougars who had a 24-3 overall record but played only the 79th strongest schedule according to teamrankings.com. However, a strong case can be made for Houston winning the tournament when you examine their body of work.

Houston won the American Athletic Conference easily beating most of their conference opponents. In fact, the Cougars had the 2nd highest average scoring margin this season of +18 meaning that on average they won their games by 18 points. Only the betting favorite Gonzaga had a better average margin. Houston had the 8th best adjusted offensive efficiency this season and the 16th best adjusted defensive efficiency. The Cougars are dangerous this year and that is why I like them as one of my picks to win the tournament.

NCAAB Pick: Houston +2200 with Bet365

Virginia (+5000)

While I would not put my life savings on Virginia winning the NCAA Tournament (or on any team for that matter), a strong case can be made for why Virginia has a good chance of winning the tournament this year. Because of last season’s canceled tournament, Virginia is still the defending national champion as they won in 2019.

While this year’s team has a much different composition, they are still a strong team that plays at a slow tempo. In fact, the Cavaliers play at the slowest adjusted tempo out of all 357 college basketball teams. As a slow tempo team, they can catch their opponents off guard and decrease the number of possessions per game. Against a heavy favorite, Virginia can turn what might be a blowout into a one possession game that they can win in the last minute. Additionally, the Cavaliers are the highest rated 4th seed as KenPom ranks them as the 11th best team in the country.

There are two qualitative reasons why Virginia is undervalued as a +5000 pick to win the tournament. The first is that they played in a weakened ACC this season that had weak UNC, Duke, Syracuse, and Pitt teams. The other is because they had to forfeit their game against Georgia Tech in the ACC Conference championship because of a COVID outbreak. If Virginia can manage to field a roster for their first game on Saturday against Ohio, then they are a good dark horse candidate to win the tournament.

NCAAB Pick: Virginia +5000 with BetMGM