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Tar Heels & Cavaliers Accent Big Saturday College Hoops Slate


The term 'madness' should really apply to Saturday college basketball schedules instead of the NCAA Tournament. The entire first week of this year's big tourney will feature about 50 games spread over five days, or roughly one-third of this Saturday's 144-game card.

Seventeen of the upcoming games will feature ranked teams, including four that pit top 25 squads against one another. You could pick just about any of the 144 contests and find something crucial about the matchup, from crews fighting for a win to catch the selection committee's eye to seeding for upcoming conference tournaments.
Here are three on a maddening Saturday involving teams that should all be part of the madness in March.
No. 19 Virginia at No. 5 North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC – 1:00 p.m. (ET) ESPN3
This game would be intriguing enough from the standpoint of Virginia's strong defense meeting UNC's prolific offense. What makes it crucial, however, is the loser could eventually miss out on a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament. North Carolina starts the weekend in a three-way tie with Duke and Florida State for the conference lead, each at 7-2, while Virginia is just a game behind at 6-3 in fourth alongside North Carolina State.
Adding to the game's allure is the mystery of just how the Tar Heels will bounce back from Wednesday's defeat to archrival Duke. North Carolina rebounded very nicely a few weeks ago after being manhandled 90-57 by Florida State, but the loss to the Blue Devils was a different animal. The rout by FSU came on the road and the Heels were prepared for that loss well before the final second ticked off; dropping one at the buzzer on their home court to the hated Blue Devils might take longer to get past.
The outright loss was also North Carolina's fourth consecutive spread defeat. The Tar Heels are just 2-3 against the spread at home on the ACC schedule.
Virginia, meanwhile, comes in with a 3-1 mark both straight up and ATS in its last four games, and is a perfect 4-0 ATS in conference road tilts. The Cavaliers have also kept all four away games on the league schedule 'under' the closing totals.
You can't find a game on Saturday with a bigger disparity in styles and tempos between the teams. Tony Bennett and the Cavs are allowing just 52.1 points per game on the ACC slate, fewest in the conference, and will look to slow the game to a crawl. Roy Williams and the Tar Heels are averaging 77.4 PPG in league play, most in the ACC, and will speed things up at every opportunity.
Virginia dictated the tempo at home last season in the only meeting between the two, just covering the 6½-point spread in North Carolina's 62-56 victory. The Cavaliers grabbed the outright win and upset a season before that in their last trip to Chapel Hill, 75-60. This is the first of two meetings between the two in this campaign, the second coming about two weeks from now when UNC visits the Cavaliers on Feb. 25.
No. 6 Baylor at No. 4 Missouri
Columbia, MO – 1:30 p.m. (ET) ESPN3
Scott Drew has already led the Baylor program back from oblivion; now he faces bringing this season's squad back from a second poor performance against Kansas in an attempt to at least regain some measure of respect before the Big 12 Tournament.
The Bears know this is their last real chance to prove they aren't just the third wheel in the Big 12 behind KU and Mizzou. Doing so will mean handing the Tigers their first loss at home this season and regaining the level of play that Baylor exhibited in running out to an 18-0 mark on the campaign. Since that point, the Bears have been solid fade material with just one cover in their last seven games.
Missouri just barely escaped a trip to Oklahoma on Monday, pulling off a 71-68 win that the Sooner could've easily won if they hadn't shot so poorly from the free-throw line (9-of-23). That was a prime letdown spot for the Tigers following last Saturday's big victory here in Columbia over Kansas.
The Tigers were 4-point underdogs in Waco when they met the Bears on Jan. 21, and a 22-9 scoring advantage at the charity stripe played a key role in Mizzou coming away with the 89-88 triumph. Baylor was simply outhustled in that loss, and has to win the rebound battle to gain revenge in this matchup.
Wichita State at No. 17 Creighton
Omaha, NE – 5:00 p.m. (ET) ESPN2
The Bluejays appeared to be cruising towards the Missouri Valley regular season title a week ago. That was before the offense went cold in a couple of road setbacks and Creighton now needs a win to just regain a share of the lead with the Shockers who have a revenge angle for this contest.
Creighton is averaging 80 PPG on the season, but could muster just 62 and 57 in defeats at Northern Iowa and Evansville. A Doug McDermott layup with 5:25 left in the loss to Evansville was the Bluejays' last bucket in that game, their only other point coming from the free-throw line the rest of the way. The 'Jays were 45-for-109 from the field in the two defeats, and just 9-for-38 from 3-point range.
Wichita State enters with 11 wins in 12 trips to the floor since dropping a 68-61 decision at Creighton on New Year's Eve. The Shockers' only loss in that span was a triple-overtime setback at Drake, and they have outscored everyone in MVC action with a 76.7 PPG average (Creighton second at 75.2). Seven of their last eight contests have skipped 'over' the total.
The Shockers were laying seven at home when the Bluejays pulled off the upset. Wichita State was limited to just 22 points in the second half of that game after taking an 8-point lead to the locker room, and shot a season low 33.3 percent from the field (19-of-57).
 

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Underrated Indiana Pacers Host Denver Nuggets

The Indiana Pacers may be the most underrated team in the NBA. They host the Denver Nuggets at 7:00 p.m. (ET) on NBA-TV, with all eight Saturday games coming at night.

Indiana (17-8 straight up) has the fifth-best record in the league, but isn’t being given much consideration as an NBA title contender. As you can see from the updated future odds below, there are eight squads with a better chance to win the championship, including Saturday’s visitor in the Nuggets.


TEAM NBA TITLE ODDS
Miami +145
Chicago +250
Oklahoma City +335

LA Clippers +1000

San Antonio +1000

LA Lakers +1100

Dallas +1200

Denver +1500

Indiana +3000



Miami and Chicago are the two favorites and both from the Eastern Conference. It is widely assumed that one of them will make the Finals, which is why Indiana and other good East teams like Philadelphia (18-8), Atlanta (17-9) and Orlando (16-10) are afterthoughts.

The Pacers have all five starters scoring in double digits, but lack a true superstar with Danny Granger (18.3 PPG) the leader. He was left off the All-Star team, although center Roy Hibbert (13.6 PPG, 9.9 RPG) did get picked. Indiana has hit a bit of a speed bump lately, 1-2 SU and 0-3 against the spread, last losing at Atlanta (97-87) on Wednesday.

Guard George Hill has missed the last five games with an ankle injury and is out indefinitely. He averages almost 25 minutes per game as a combo guard and his modest 9.3 PPG is missed as bench scoring was already at a premium.

Indiana is at Memphis on Friday (result pending) before returning home to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The home record is 7-2 SU, but just 4-5 ATS after failing to cover the last four there.

Denver (15-12 SU and ATS) was one of the league’s darlings before a current 5-game losing streak (0-5 ATS). Four of those were at home and leading scorer Danilo Gallinari (ankle), starting center Timofey Mozgov (ankle) and reserve Corey Brewer (personal) have all missed games. Gallinari (17.0 PPG) is out Saturday, Mozgov is doubtful, while Brewer should return.

The Nuggets are like Indiana in that they rely on a balanced offense attack, with six players in double digits. They still lead the NBA in scoring (103.6 PPG), but that number has plummeted to 94.4 PPG the last five. The ‘under’ is just 3-2 over that span as points allowed are a big 104.6 PPG.

Denver is a very respectable 8-5 SU and 9-4 ATS away this year. However, the makeup of this once deep team is very different with the injuries and the Saturday pointspread will reflect that.

Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings
10:00 p.m. (ET) on NBA-TV

Phoenix (11-15 SU & ATS) had a disappointing 96-89 home loss to Houston on Thursday as 4-point favorites. The bench got outscored 57-13 while snapping a 3-game winning streak. The ‘under’ is 4-1 in the Suns’ last five overall despite their 94.2 PPG scored, and 95.8 PPG allowed, being close to their season averages.

The Kings (10-16 SU, 13-13 ATS) are a bettor’s dream right now, covering seven straight. They’ve won four of their last five SU, coinciding with the return of guard Marcus Thornton (17.2 PPG) from injury. He forms a nice scoring trio with Tyreke Evans (17.4 PPG) and big man DeMarcus Cousins (15.4 PPG). They’re 3-0 SU and ATS the last three at home, including Thursday’s 106-101 win over powerful Oklahoma City as 6 ½-point ‘dogs.

This is the first meeting between Sacramento and Phoenix this year. The Kings have won the last three, all as underdogs, with two coming at home.

Saturday injury and other notes

The Knicks (11-15 SU and ATS) should be without their two leading scorers, Carmelo Anthony (groin) and Amare Stoudemire (personal), when they visit Minnesota (13-13 SU, 15-11 ATS). The Knicks could be dragging after hosting the L.A. Lakers on Friday. Minnesota welcomed Dallas on Friday and got back Kevin Love from his 2-game suspension.

Orlando (16-10 SU, 14-12 ATS) has gotten hot in February at 4-1 SU (3-2 ATS), with the only loss coming in OT to the Clippers. Dwight Howard doesn’t seem worried about his impending free agency at 25.4 PPG and 16.0 RPG over that span. He should have a field day at Milwaukee (11-14 SU, 12-13 ATS), with Drew Gooden filling in at center for the injured Andrew Bogut. Both teams had games on Friday night, Milwaukee in Cleveland and Orlando hosting Atlanta.

San Antonio (18-9 SU, 16-11 ATS) has won six in a row, both SU and ATS. Three of those were on the road after starting the season 2-8 SU and 3-7 ATS away. The Spurs will have had two days rest before meeting New Jersey (8-19 SU, 12-15 ATS) on Saturday. The Nets have several players injured and have lost 4-straight (1-3 ATS) pending Friday’s result in Detroit.
 

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Rangers And Flyers Face Off In Philadelphia

The NHL betting schedule for Saturday sees 24 of the league's 30 teams in action, and there are a plethora of games on the ice that are going to once again impact the playoff chases in both conferences.

If the playoff were to start right now, the New York Rangers would be the top seed in the Eastern Conference. They lead the conference in wins with 34, and their 73 points leaves them four points clear of the rest of the conference with fewer games played than most of the other top teams.

Henrik Lundqvist continues to be hot. He has three shutouts in his last seven starts, and has only allowed more than two goals in one of those seven games. At 24-11-4, he has a tremendous record, and his 1.75 GAA and .939 save percentage are both second in the NHL.

Just six days ago, Lundqvist picked up the win in a 5-2 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers. The win extended New York's lead in the Atlantic Division, and it could do the same again by picking up two points on Saturday afternoon against these same Flyers.

The Rangers put their 17-7-3 road mark on the line in the City of Brotherly Love in a 1:00 (ET) skate on Saturday afternoon.

Also at 1:00 (ET), the Boston Bruins are going to be in action at TD Garden vs. the Nashville Predators. They have the best goal differential in the league at +63, yet their lead in the Northeast Division is nowhere near safe at this point.

The Bruins were trumped 6-0 in one of their worst showings of the year on Wednesday night by the Buffalo Sabres, and they are going to be eager to get back on the ice to put that defeat behind them. Nashville has lost a pair of one-goal games in a row though, and the Preds are going to want to prove that they are good enough to go on the road and win in one of the toughest venues in the league.

You can catch this one on FOX Sports Tennessee and NESN.

Elsewhere during the afternoon, the Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils drop the puck at 1:00 (ET), while clashes pitting the Edmonton Oilers against the Ottawa Senators and the Winnipeg Jets against the Pittsburgh Penguins start at 2:00 (ET).

Six more games are on tap for Saturday evening, the showcase game of which pits the Vancouver Canucks against the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome.

Vancouver's 73 points leaves it in second place in the Western Conference. The team is actually playing better on the road than at home, as its 19 wins away from home is the most for any team in the league.

The Flames are one of five teams within four points of each other trying to snare the last two playoff spots in the Western Conference. They have been helped out by claiming at least one point in their last four games.

The Canucks have gone a whopping 44-14 in their last 58 games in division, but the Flames stopped a five-game slide against Vancouver when these teams last met on December 23.

The puck drops in Calgary at 10:00 (ET), and this Saturday night Canadian clash can be seen on CBC in the Great White North.

The Chicago Blackhawks have lost six games in a row heading into their Friday contest at San Jose, the longest losing streak in the league. They'll be up against it on Saturday night on the road at the Phoenix Coyotes, who have the longest winning streak in the league at four games coming into the weekend. This 8:30 p.m. (ET) skate can be seen on FOX Sports Arizona and WGN.

There are two games that get started at 7:00 (ET) on Saturday night. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres square off in a battle of Eastern Conference cellar dwellers, while the Toronto Maple Leafs will continue their rivalry against the Montreal Canadiens.

At 8:00 (ET), the Colorado Avalanche take on the scorching St. Louis Blues, who will be looking to improve their solid 22-3-4 record at Scottrade Arena this year. The lowly Columbus Blue Jackets also take on the Minnesota Wild at 8:00 (ET).
 

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Kentucky at Vanderbilt

February 10, 2012

At long last, John Calipari might have the team to win him his first national title.

Maybe.

As we all know, in a one-game scenario in March, anybody can go down on a given night. But in my opinion, UK made it clear that it is the team to beat when it trounced Florida by a 78-58 count Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.

The oddsmakers concur, as Bovada.com has the Wildcats listed as the 7/2 ‘chalk (+350) to cut down the nets in New Orleans.

Coming off Tuesday’s statement-like performance against the Gators, UK has another chance to prove its legitimacy Saturday night when it travels to Memorial Gymnasium to take on Vandy at one of the nation’s most unique and difficult venues.

BetOnline.com opened Kentucky (24-1 straight up, 9-14-1 against the spread) as a 4 ½-point favorite with a total of 135

Vanderbilt (17-7 SU, 10-10 ATS) lost back-to-back games at Arkansas and at Florida last week, but the Commodores responded by beating up on LSU 76-61 in Nashville on Wednesday night. They took the cash as 11-point home favorites.

Festus Ezeli made 8-of-10 shots en route to scoring a game-high 21 points. Jeffery Taylor chipped in with 19 points and six rebounds, while John Jenkins finished with 20 points.

Thanks to the physical presences of Ezeli and senior power forward Steve Tchiengang, Vandy is probably the SEC’s most formidable matchup for Kentucky. (Translation: UK is a horrible matchup for UF because the Gators’ only weakness is their lack of depth and muscle in the lane.)

Kevin Stallings’ team has had some uncharacteristic hiccups at home this year, losing outright four times in 15 games while posting a mediocre 4-7 spread record. But we should note that Vandy has beaten UK in five of the last six head-to-head meetings at Memorial Gymnasium in Music City.

After going through an atrocious 0-13-1 ATS slide that saw Kentucky fail to cover for two months, it has righted the ship for our purposes. The ‘Cats have taken the money in five straight games and six of their last seven. They have won their last four games by margins of 20, 34, 25 and 24 points.

Freshman center Anthony Davis has been the catalyst. He’s long and lean with incredible explosiveness. His presence in the paint defensively shows up in the box score in that he leads the nation in blocked shots, but that doesn’t even accurately explain the impact he has. He changes many shots and some players don’t even think about going inside to try him.

In the win over UF, Davis produced 16 points, six rebounds, four blocked shots and two steals. Doron Lamb added 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Marquis Teague finished with 12 points and 10 assists.

Kentucky has only been a single-digit favorite five times, going 2-3 ATS. The ‘Cats have been single-digit home ‘chalk’ just twice, failing to cover in a one-point win over North Carolina. They covered the spread in the aforementioned win over UF as nine-point favorites.

Vandy has been an underdog four times, compiling a 3-1 spread record with a pair of outright wins at Alabama and at Marquette. This is the first home ‘dog spot for the ‘Dores.

The ‘under’ is 11-9 overall for Vandy, 6-5 in its home games. However, the ‘over’ has hit in six of the Commdores’ last eight games. Meanwhile, the ‘under’ has cashed at a lucrative 15-8-1 overall clip for UK.

ESPN will have the telecast at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--As of Thursday night, Bovada had Ohio St. with the second-shortest future odds at 9/2 (+450). The Buckeyes are followed by North Carolina (11/2, +550), Syracuse (6/1), Duke (10/1), Kansas (10/1) and Missouri (12/1).

--Cecil Hurt, who has covered Alabama sports for decades, tweeted Friday that Crimson Tide junior forward Tony Mitchell will remain suspended for Saturday’s game at LSU. ‘Bama destroyed Auburn on The Plains earlier this week less than 24 hours after Mitchell was suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team. As of early Friday evening, most books had the Tide as a two-point road favorite.

--Gary Parrish of CBS Sports has predicted that Vandy will upset Kentucky on Saturday night and then the ‘Cats will win out and capture the national title.

--After rallying to win at UNC on a buzzer beater by Austin Rivers on Wednesday, Duke is in a classic letdown spot Saturday when it hosts Maryland at 4:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. As of early Friday night, most spots had the Blue Devils installed as 15 ½-point favorites. The Terrapins have covered the number in four consecutive games.

--The ‘over’ is 16-8 overall for Duke, 9-3 in its home games. The total for Maryland-Duke is 152 ½.

--Most books have Missouri as a six-point home favorite vs. Baylor. This game will come off the board at 1:45 p.m. Eastern.

--UNC will try to bounce back from Wednesday’s gut-wrenching defeat when it hosts Virginia at 1:00 p.m. Eastern on The ACC Network. Most spots had the Heels favored by 10 as of early Friday night.

--Florida will be in revenge and bounce-back mode Saturday at home vs. Tennessee. The Gators are off a blowout loss at Kentucky and they also got beat in Knoxville earlier this year. UF is a 12 ½-point home favorite vs. the Volunteers, who covered the spread in Wednesday’s home win over South Carolina.
 

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Preview: Magic (16-11) at Bucks (12-14)

Date: February 11, 2012 9:00 PM EDT

Dwight Howard is the Orlando Magic's lone All-Star this season, and the Milwaukee Bucks know all about the center's exploits.

Orlando is hoping they can begin capitalizing on his production again.

Howard looks to help the Magic rebound from another overtime defeat Saturday night when they try to continue their success against the Bucks.

Howard is averaging 20.9 points and an NBA-leading 15.4 rebounds, so it's not surprising that he'll represent the Magic (16-11) when they host the All-Star game later this month.

Orlando, though, hasn't been able to capitalize on his strong play recently, losing twice on a three-game homestand with both defeats coming in overtime.

Howard is averaging 25.3 points and 18.7 boards in that stretch, including 18 and 18, respectively, in Friday's 89-87 overtime defeat to Atlanta.

"We just didn't play very well, that's the bottom line," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We didn't play very well, but we stuck in there ... We just didn't get it done in the end."

Howard's presence in the paint has made a dramatic difference for the Magic when they face the Bucks (12-14).

The Magic have won 10 of the last 12 meetings with Milwaukee, and Howard is averaging 23.6 points and 13.6 rebounds in those victories. He was out for the two defeats due to an injury and an illness.

Howard continued that dominant trend last season with 25.7 points and 17.0 rebounds during a three-game winning streak after Orlando lost the first matchup without him.

The Bucks are on the brink of tying their season-high three-game winning streak, but could use another strong performance from Brandon Jennings.

The point guard had 24 points and eight assists in a 113-112 overtime win at Cleveland on Friday, a night after he was miffed about not being named a reserve for the All-Star game.

Jennings is trying to temper the firestorm created when he stated that he's already "doing my homework" on big-market teams in an interview with ESPN.com. He's under contract through next season.

"It kind of got blown out of proportion a little bit. I never said I was leaving. I'm not looking to be in any big market or anything like that. I'm keeping my options open. After being in this a couple years, I understand the business of basketball.

"I'm still going to be here playing hard every night and my focus is to get into the playoffs."

Jennings was criticized for not doing that in Milwaukee's last home game Tuesday, scoring a season-low three points and only putting up four shots in 28-plus minutes in a 107-105 loss to Phoenix.

``I just got in and talked to him,' coach Scott Skiles said after the loss. ``He looked a bit disconnected. I'm not sure why.'

That certainly wasn't the case in the Magic's last visit on March 16, when Jennings scored 23 points and handed out eight assists in a 93-89 overtime loss.

Drew Gooden is providing Jennings with some offensive help, averaging 22.0 points over the last four games - nearly 10 higher than his season production.

The forward-center averages 15.5 points in 17 career meetings with the Magic, scoring 18 in a 78-72 loss at Orlando on April 5.

The Bucks and Magic will face each other four times over the next three weeks.
 

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Preview: Trail Blazers (15-12) at Mavericks (16-11)

Date: February 11, 2012 8:30 PM EDT

After improving their road record, the Dallas Mavericks will next try to change their recent fortunes at home.

A visit from the Portland Trail Blazers might help.

As they get set to begin a three-game stay at the American Airlines Center, the Mavericks will attempt to avoid their longest losing streak there in three seasons by taking advantage of the Blazers' struggles away from home Saturday night.

Dallas (16-11) started 2-5 on the road but recorded its fifth win in six games there Friday, 104-97 over Minnesota. Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 33 points and the Mavericks forced 28 turnovers - their most in a game in nearly eight years - while finishing 2-1 on their three-game trip.

Jason Kidd also nearly had his first double-double of the season (eight points, 10 assists) after missing seven games because of a strained right calf.

"He's a big part of our heart and soul. When we're without him, we can win some games but we're not the same team,' coach Rick Carlisle said.

Dallas, though, hasn't fared as well lately at home, losing three of five since a seven-game win streak. The Mavericks, though, are out to avoid a three-game skid at American Airlines as Portland (15-12) tries to shake its road funk.

The Blazers are 4-9 on the road, with two of those wins coming against New Orleans, which is a league-worst 2-14 in its building. Jamal Crawford had a season-best 31 points and eight assists against the Hornets on Friday to help his team avoid a season high-tying third straight defeat with a 94-86 victory.

Raymond Felton added 18 points, including four free throws in the final minute.

"Sometimes it's not about how you win but the fact that you win," coach Nate McMillan said. "We did the things we needed to do down the stretch."

While it's succeeded in New Orleans, Portland has dropped 20 of its last 25 games in Dallas in the regular season and playoffs. The Blazers lost all three games there during a 4-2 defeat in last year's Western Conference quarterfinals and have dropped five in a row overall.

The Blazers could use some help from Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge. The forward has cooled off a little since averaging 27.7 points over a six-game stretch, having scored a combined 27 over the past two games.

Aldridge, though, has usually shined against the Mavericks - his 20.4-point average in the regular season is his best against any Western Conference foe. He's also scored 25.2 points per game during his last five visits to his hometown, including the playoffs.

Nowitzki led the way for the Mavericks during last year's series win with 27.3 points per game. A sore right knee caused him to miss an 84-81 home victory Jan. 4, 2011.

During a rare start, Jason Terry made the clinching basket with 12 seconds remaining and finished with 18 points.

Nowitzki's presence should help in this game as he's averaging 28.0 points on 60.6 percent shooting over the last four contests. The forward has also averaged 25.8 points over his last five regular-season home games against Portland.

Dallas hasn't dropped three straight at home since a four-game skid to open the 2008-09 season.
 

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Preview: Knicks (12-15) at Timberwolves (13-14)

Date: February 11, 2012 8:00 PM EDT

Jeremy Lin's dizzying rise to NBA prominence continues.

Now, he'll try to lead the New York Knicks to their longest winning streak of the season.

Fresh off his most impressive performance yet, Lin takes the floor again for the Knicks on Saturday night when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves in the only meeting between the clubs this season.

Previously seldom-used, Lin is averaging an improbable 28.5 points and 8.0 assists during New York's four-game winning streak. His 114 total points in that stretch are six more than he collected in his first 38 career games with Golden State and the Knicks (12-15) after going undrafted out of Harvard in 2010.

Lin's 89 points since entering the starting lineup three games ago are the most for any NBA player in his first three career starts over the last 20 years.

He certainly didn't look like a flash in the pan Friday, scoring a career-high 38 points and adding seven assists in a 92-85 home win over the Los Angeles Lakers. He outscored Kobe Bryant by four points.

"I didn't try to see this game as any different," Lin said. "I just try to make sure that when I get there on the floor, I play as hard as I can and try to do everything I can to help the team win.

"I'm not too worried about proving anything to anybody. As a team we're growing and trying to build on the momentum."

Without worrying about it, Lin has proven plenty to Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni.

"What he's doing is amazing," D'Antoni said. "He answered a lot of questions (Friday). Can he make an outside shot? Can he pull the trigger in a big moment? He hit two 3s that just broke the game open. There's so much stuff that he's doing."

Lin has helped the Knicks surge despite the absences of stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. Anthony is out with a strained right groin, while Stoudemire isn't expected back from grieving the death of his brother until Tuesday at Toronto.

Improbably, New York is on the brink of its longest winning streak since a seven-game run March 28-April 10, when Lin was wallowing on the Warriors' bench.

The Knicks split two meetings with the Timberwolves (13-14) last season, falling 112-103 at Minnesota on Nov. 12, 2010, their sixth loss in their last seven visits to the Target Center.

The Timberwolves must continue that success against New York in order to avoid their first three-game slide since starting the season 0-3. They fell 104-97 at home to Dallas on Friday, committing 28 turnovers - one shy of the team record set last season.

"We threw passes away when we worked hard defensively and got the ball back. We just threw it away like there was no value to the ball," coach Rick Adelman said, lamenting what he called a lack of concentration.

Kevin Love turned the ball over five times, but also finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds. The All-Star is averaging 29.7 points and 19.0 boards over his last three games versus the Knicks, including a 31-point, 31-rebound effort in last season's home win.
 

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Preview: Spurs (18-9) at Nets (8-20)

Date: February 11, 2012 8:00 PM EDT

The San Antonio Spurs were starting to play some of their best basketball of the season despite having one of their star players sidelined.

They figure to become all the more formidable with Manu Ginobili's much-anticipated return from injury.

Looking to extend its season-best winning streak to seven, San Antonio continues its nine-game road trip seeking a 17th win in 18 meetings with the New Jersey Nets on Saturday night.

The Spurs (18-9) seem to have hit their stride, winning six in a row while holding opponents to an average of 85.8 points. While San Antonio's recent defensive efforts have left little to be desired, Tony Parker has paced the offense with 28.4 points per game over his last five.

He had 37 points and eight assists in leading the Spurs to a 100-90 victory at Philadelphia on Wednesday, and San Antonio's bench accounted for 40 points as Gary Neal had 18 and Tiago Splitter 15.

Tim Duncan has also come up big late, averaging 17.7 points and 10.8 rebounds during the winning streak.

With Parker and Duncan leading the way, the Spurs have gone 15-7 without Ginobili. Having arguably its most potent offensive threat back on the court, however, makes the team more dangerous.

"I think the group has exceeded our expectations and mostly because Timmy's been so steady, Tony's played so well and the young kids, the bench guys, have outdone themselves," coach Greg Popovich said.

"When Manu's ready, you bring him back, so that made it easy. He's Manu and when he's ready to go, you don't care if you're winning, losing, it doesn't matter. He's coming back."

Ginobili scored at least 23 points in three of his first four games before fracturing the fifth metacarpal on his shooting hand during a 106-96 defeat at Minnesota on Jan. 2. It's unknown if Ginobili will immediately rejoin the starting lineup or come off the bench and ease his way back into the swing of things.

"I don't have great expectations for the first few games. I just want to contribute, help a little bit, don't change anything of what the team's doing, just try to fit in again," Ginobili said.

"I think at the beginning I'm not going to play 30 minutes (but) come back slowly. I mean I wasn't in great shape even before the surgery, so not going to be now."

San Antonio may not need a huge effort from Ginobili in order to keep things going versus the slumping Nets (8-20).

The Spurs have outscored New Jersey by an average of 12.1 points during their current dominance in this series. Their only loss during that stretch came 90-84 at the Prudential Center on March 29, 2010, when Ginobili was unavailable due to back spasms.

New Jersey is coming off its fifth straight loss, getting swept in a home-and-home series with Detroit after a 109-92 defeat Friday. Coach Avery Johnson's team was outrebounded 47-31 and allowed the Pistons to shoot a season-best 54.4 percent.

"We got off to a good start - we were up 7-0 - but they took control," Johnson said. "They were hitting on every cylinder, and we didn't execute on either end."

While not much as gone right for the Nets of late, rookie sensation MarShon Brooks returned from a six-game absence due to a broken toe Friday. Brooks, second on the team with 14.4 points per game, scored seven on 2-of-7 shooting.

Getting outscored by an average of 11.0 points during its current skid, New Jersey last lost six straight Dec. 27-Jan. 4.
 

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Preview: 76ers (18-9) at Cavaliers (10-15)

Date: February 11, 2012 7:30 PM EDT

The Philadelphia 76ers stumbled to end a rough stretch of their schedule.

The first two stops on their upcoming trip could help them get back on their feet.

Philadelphia looks to avoid a third straight defeat Saturday night when it faces a Cleveland Cavaliers team that will be without rookie point guard Kyrie Irving for a third consecutive game.

The Atlantic Division-leading 76ers (18-9) are coming off a 4-3 stretch that included matchups with four of the Eastern Conference's top six teams, two West division leaders and the Los Angeles Lakers. That challenging portion of the schedule ended Friday with a 78-77 loss to the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Clippers.

Andre Iguodala, named to his first All-Star team Thursday, couldn't stop Clippers All-Star guard Chris Paul, who hit a game-winning 17-foot jumper with 3.2 seconds left.

The 76ers, who fell 100-90 to San Antonio on Wednesday, have dropped two in a row for the first time in 2011-12.

"It's disappointing to lose two straight at home,' Elton Brand said Friday after posting his second consecutive double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. "We've got to regroup, go on the road and keep growing.'

Philadelphia's last three-game skid was from April 2-6.

The 76ers, who play seven of eight on the road, will try to get back on track as they open a three-game trip that also makes stops at league-worst Charlotte and Orlando before returning home.

The last time the 76ers visited Cleveland (10-15), they won their season-best fourth in a row, 95-91 on Feb. 27, to move above .500 for the first time all season.

It was Philadelphia's second straight victory in this series after losing 14 of 17 to Cleveland. Much of the Cavaliers' success during that stretch can be attributed to LeBron James, but Irving is establishing himself as the new cornerstone of the franchise since James' departure to Miami in the summer of 2010.

Irving has made an immediate impact as the top overall pick, totaling 18.0 points and 5.1 assists per game. However, the former Duke standout has been out the last two games with a concussion, and he won't play Saturday when the Cavs continue their nine-game homestand.

The Cavaliers are hoping center Anderson Varejao does after he left in the third quarter of Friday's 113-112 overtime loss to Milwaukee with a sprained right wrist. If Varejao can't go, Cleveland will need to replace his 10.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.

Much of that could fall on the shoulders of Antawn Jamison, who had a season-high 34 points with 11 boards on Friday. Jamison, though, missed a pair of free throws with 3.7 seconds left in regulation with the game tied.

"That's tough,' coach Byron Scott said of Jamison, who is averaging 28.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in the last three contests. "But if `Twan doesn't play the way he played, we don't even have a chance.'

Jamison totaled 26 points and 10 boards as these teams split two games in Cleveland last season.

Jrue Holiday had team highs with 17.3 points per game and 8.5 assists as Philadelphia went 3-1 in this matchup in 2010-11.

Ramon Sessions led the Cavaliers with 20 points and 10 assists in the 76ers' last game at Quicken Loans Arena. He has 36 points and 29 assists starting the last two games in place of Irving.
 

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Preview: Clippers (16-8) at Bobcats (3-23)

Date: February 11, 2012 7:00 PM EDT

The Los Angeles Clippers suffered a major setback earlier this week when veteran guard Chauncey Billups suffered a season-ending injury.

They can still give the ball to Chris Paul.

After leading the Clippers to their first win without Billups, the former Wake Forest star leads his new team into Charlotte on Saturday night when the league-worst Bobcats try to avoid losing a franchise-record 14th consecutive game.

With Billups gone for the season after suffering a torn left Achilles' tendon Monday in Orlando, more of the backcourt burden falls on Paul, named an All-Star for the fifth straight year last week.

After missing 11 of 16 shots and scoring 16 points in Wednesday's 99-92 loss at Cleveland, Paul converted 10 of 20 from the field in Friday's 78-77 victory over Philadelphia. The first-year Clipper finished with 24 points - none bigger than his 17-footer over All-Star Andre Iguodala with 3.2 seconds remaining.

The Clippers (16-8) improved to 3-1 on their six-game road trip and 1-1 without Billups.

"That's our first win without 'Big Shot,'" Paul said. "It gives us so much confidence."

They almost certainly have more confidence right now than the Bobcats (3-23), who haven't won since Jan. 14 against Golden State.

Charlotte skid continued Friday with an ugly 95-64 loss to Eastern Conference-leading Chicago. The Bobcats shot 32.9 percent and committed 16 turnovers en route to their lowest scoring output of the season.

"We just threw the ball away with no real focus, you know, no concentration,' said coach Paul Silas, whose team matched the longest skid in club history set Jan. 11-Feb. 1, 2006. "It's really hard to explain. I really can't explain why because we go through our offense daily.'

Their offense will face another stiff challenge against the Clippers, who allowed their fewest points of the season Friday and improved to 12-0 when giving up fewer than 95.

The Bobcats have scored as many as 95 points just once during their skid. They could be hard-pressed to reach that mark with leading scorer Gerald Henderson out two to four weeks with a strained hamstring and point guard D.J. Augustin expected to miss a 10th consecutive game with an injured toe.

That means rookie Kemba Walker will likely draw the assignment of guarding Paul.

The Bobcats' frontcourt of Boris Diaw and Tyrus Thomas could have their hands full with All-Star forward Blake Griffin, who is averaging 20.0 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists on the Clippers' trip.

Griffin scored 17 points and grabbed 15 boards in Los Angeles' last trip to Charlotte, a 92-87 victory last March 7. The Bobcats had won the previous three times the Clippers were in town.

While playing for New Orleans, Paul averaged 20.0 points and 7.6 assists in five career games in Charlotte.
 

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Preview: Nuggets (15-12) at Pacers (17-9)

Date: February 11, 2012 7:00 PM EDT

After jumping out to a great start to the season, the injury-plagued Denver Nuggets suddenly find themselves on the verge of matching their longest losing streak in more than seven years.

The Indiana Pacers are also looking to regroup from a rough patch of their own.

The Nuggets try to avoid a sixth consecutive defeat Saturday night against a Pacers team coming off back-to-back losses for the first time.

Denver (15-12), which won 14 of its first 19, has since dropped seven of eight - including five straight by an average of 10.2 points. One night after losing 105-95 to Dallas, the Nuggets were dealt a 109-101 defeat at the hands of Golden State on Thursday.

"The last two home losses we've had, teams have just hit incredible shots," said Arron Afflalo, who scored a season-high 26 points. "That's a credit to them a little bit, but our defensive intensity, including myself, needs to pick up."

Denver has been held to 94.4 points per game during its skid - significantly lower than its NBA-best mark of 103.6. While playing without leading scorer Danilo Gallinari (chip fracture in left foot) for the last two games certainly hasn't helped, coach George Karl believes it's simply a matter of bringing a more inspired effort going forward.

"If you don't have energy, maybe we'll have to go somewhere else," Karl told the team's official website. "It has nothing to do with your skills right now. We need energy to play with tempo and pace and not play like we're in mud or the old guys at the rec center.

"We've got to run up and down the court. That's what we committed to and that's what got us a lot of our wins this year. I don't think I'm going to back off of it."

The Pacers (17-9) enter this matchup losers of three of four after getting swept on a two-game road swing. Indiana suffered a 97-87 loss at Atlanta on Wednesday before falling 98-92 at Memphis on Friday.

While they held a 48-37 rebounding advantage, the Pacers were outscored 12-6 over the final 4:29.

"The biggest different was the willingness to win. They had a little bit more will than us," Darren Collison told NBA.com. "They wanted it more and that's something that we just can't have. Road or at home, we've got to try and find a way to win games and tonight was that case."

David West posted season highs of 22 points and 13 rebounds versus the Grizzlies, and Danny Granger scored 19 points despite being limited by early foul trouble.

The Pacers have to like their chances of getting back on track at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana has held opponents to just 88.8 points per game in going 7-2 on its own court - with both losses coming against Orlando.

The Pacers have dropped 11 of 14 meetings in this series, though they made things quite rough on Denver during its last visit to Indiana. The Pacers scored a franchise-record 54 points in the third quarter of a 144-113 rout Nov. 9, 2010.

Indiana is 9-2 when Granger, who leads the team with an average of 18.3 points, scores at least 21. He is averaging just 16.4 points over five career home meetings with the Nuggets.

Denver hasn't lost six consecutive games since Dec. 17-27, 2004.

Averaging 17.0 points, Gallinari is expected to miss around a month. Timofey Mozgov (ankle) likely won't be available in this one either. Corey Brewer's status, meanwhile, remains unknown as he continues to mourn the death of his father.
 

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Preview: Suns (11-15) at Kings (10-16)

Date: February 11, 2012 10:00 PM EDT

After a win over the Western Conference leaders in their last game, the Sacramento Kings are feeling positive about the direction their young team is headed.

The Kings look to win their fourth straight at home Saturday night when they take on the Phoenix Suns.

Sacramento is in the midst of its best stretch of the season, winning four of five, and is coming off a 106-101 victory over West-leading Oklahoma City on Thursday.

Tyreke Evans scored 22 points while DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and nine rebounds.

The Kings (10-16) scored 28 points off 23 turnovers and had 17 offensive rebounds. It was the third time in four games they topped 100 points after reaching that mark just twice in the previous 22 games.

"We've improved as a team, we're on the right path now," Cousins said. "We're a lot better than our record shows. We've grown so much from the team we used to be."

Cousins and Evans have both taken steps forward under coach Keith Smart. Cousins, who clashed with Paul Westphal before he was fired Jan. 5, is averaging 19.5 points and 14.8 rebounds over the last four games. Evans has averaged 21.4 points in the last seven games after putting up 15.9 per game to start the season.

"We're trying to build. These two guys are the stones right now," Smart said. "Now they're young and they get excited, but ... if they can keep this process up, we're going to get there."

Sacramento, which improved to 7-4 at home with Thursday's win, has won three consecutive home games for the first time since a four-game run Nov. 25-Dec. 2, 2009.

The Kings have yet to face Phoenix this season but have won three straight meetings after losing 17 of the previous 19.

While Sacramento is feeling confident about its direction, the Suns (11-15) may have come away from their last game feeling like they took a step back.

After winning three straight while averaging 100.3 points, Phoenix lost 96-89 at home to Houston on Thursday. The Suns were held to 13 points in the fourth quarter and were outrebounded 44-31.

"Such a winnable game for us," said Steve Nash, who had 13 assists and averages a league-best 10.1. "We didn't convert in so many areas, so it makes it a really disappointing loss. You're going to have cold patches but you've got to find other ways to stay in the game."

The loss spoiled an otherwise good day for Nash, who was named to the All-Star team for the eighth time and became just the fourth player at age 38 or older to make it.

Sacramento has certainly been witness to Nash's consistency over the years. In the last 10 games between the teams, he's averaged 23.9 points and 12.6 assists.

While the Suns have struggled at home, they are playing better on the road, winning two straight and three of four. Phoenix will play its next three on the road.

"We're going to continue to work hard, go on this road trip and do the best we can," said Channing Frye, who had a season-high 21 points and 10 rebounds Thursday.

Frye has made nine 3-pointers over the past three games after an eight-game stretch during which he went 4 for 23 from beyond the arc.
 

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Totals Report

February 9, 2012

Earlier this year we did an article on scoring in the NBA and the effect of the condensed schedule. We talked about how teams were scoring less points per game this season compared to last and the correlation to Totals. To date, the 'unders' in the NBA have cashed at a solid 55% rate thus far. According to our data the average points scored per game this season is 189.2 ppg which is down from the 198 average last season. It's not due to pace of play by teams either considering the average possessions per game in 2012 is 95 per game which is the exact average for all of last season. One of the big reasons for the lower scoring games is the shooting percentages. Last year, teams averaged just under 46% for the season and this year that number is hovering around just 44%. Teams are also averaging less free throws made per game this year compared to last along with field goal attempts per game. All in all, it leads to lower scoring games this season and less points being scored by guys being paid millions of dollars to put a ball through a hoop.

In sorting through our database, we've found some interesting numbers we would like to make you aware of. Again, the average points scored in NBA games this year is 189.2. In direct relation, the average line or total that the oddsmakers have put on NBA games is 187.75. Of 365 games played to date 183 have resulted with 187 or MORE points and 182 have resulted with 187 or LESS points. That's about as close to even as it gets. Now if we look at some specific numbers we find some advantages for the Sports Bettors which we'll share with you forthcoming. Of the first 365 games played at this point only 101 have ended with 200 or more points being scored. That's less than one-third. When Vegas has posted a total on a game of 200 or more points the UNDER has cashed 29 of 37 games or 78% of the time. Looking at the other end of the spectrum, games with a posted total of 181 or less have an OVER record of 26-8 (76%)so far this season. Now we would never recommend that you blindly bet 'over' or 'under' on games based on the above statistics but it's not a bad starting point when considering your wagers.

The following are the teams that have been strong 'under' bets this season, staying below the Total in 60% or better in all of their games to date.

Knicks: 7-19 69%
Suns: 8-17 68%
Kings: 9-15-1 62.5%
Raptors: 10-16-1 61%
Rockets: 10-16 61%
Mavericks: 10-16 61%
Grizzlies: 10-16 60%
Celtics: 9-14-1 60.9%
Lakers: 10-15 60%

It's a short list of teams that are averaging 60% or greater on 'overs' this season:

Bucks: 15-9-1 62.5%

As we suggested in our earlier article the oddsmakers will continue to adjust their numbers so we will maintain our adjustments in an effort to stay ahead of the curve.

Best of luck with all your wagers!
 

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No. 1 Kentucky heads to Vandy Saturday

KENTUCKY WILDCATS (24-1)

at VANDERBILT COMMODORES (17-7)


Tip-off: Saturday, 9:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Kentucky -5½, Total: 138

The Kentucky Wildcats will put their No. 1 ranking on the line as road favorites when they travel to take on SEC rival Vanderbilt in Nashville at Memorial Gym Saturday evening.

The Commodores won both contests ATS against Kentucky last year and are 5-1 SU in their past six home meetings with the Wildcats. Vanderbilt is 4-1 ATS as an underdog this season, while the Wildcats have proven to be mediocre (3-3 ATS) as a road favorite. However, Kentucky has won five straight games ATS, destroying these opponents by an average of 23.2 PPG. Can Kentucky cover this big number on the road? For the answer, check out the College Basketball Weekday 6-Pack for picks covering all the big games in college basketball each week. Last weekend, the 6-Pack finished with a 4-1-1 ATS record.

Kentucky is perhaps the most talented team in the nation with six strong scoring options. Anthony Davis (14.0 PPG, 66% FG, 10.0 RPG) leads that crew and is the nation’s best shot blocker with 4.8 BPG. Over the team’s past three games, all ATS wins, he is averaging 18.7 PPG and 6.3 BPG. Doron Lamb (13.6 PPG), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (12.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG) and Terrence Jones (12.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG) are also strong scorers who could potentially light up the scoreboard with more opportunities, since the trio shoots 48%, 48% and 49% FG, respectively. Darius Miller (9.9 PPG) also shoots 48% FG, and backcourt mate Marquis Teague (9.7 PPG, 4.6 APG) runs the point. This three-star FoxSheets coaching trend also sides with the Wildcats.

Kevin Stallings is 8-23 ATS (25.8%, -17.3 Units) versus very good shooting teams - making >=48% of their shots after 15+ games as the coach of VANDERBILT. The average score was VANDERBILT 66.0, OPPONENT 75.0 - (Rating = 3*).

Vanderbilt was predicted to be one of the top teams in the country this year, drawing a No. 7 ranking in the AP Preseason Poll, but has yet to find its identity. But, that potential still exists with John Jenkins (19.7 PPG), who has hit the most three-pointers in college basketball this year with 89 on a healthy 44.3% clip. Jeffery Taylor (17.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG) is also an elite shooter from deep (1.8 threes per game, 47.8% 3-pt FG) and has scored 17+ points in seven straight games (19.7 PPG). A key member of Vandy’s team, 6-foot-11 center Festus Ezeli (10.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.0 BPG) has also shown signs of life lately with a 21-point performance against LSU on Wednesday. He is averaging 16.8 PPG in his past four contests, but is doing a poor job on the boards for a near 7-footer (3.3 RPG). However, he has the type of body to match up with Davis in the paint, which should keep the Commodores competitive. Lance Goulbourne (9.3 PPG, 7.0 RPG) is Vanderbilt’s best rebounder, although he is averaging just 5.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG in the team’s past three contests. This FoxSheets trend also sides with the Commodores.

KENTUCKY is 1-8 ATS (11.1%, -7.8 Units) after allowing 65 points or less 5 straight games this season. The average score was KENTUCKY 76.6, OPPONENT 62.0 - (Rating = 2*).
 

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No. 11 MSU visits No. 3 OSU on Saturday

MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (19-5)

at OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (21-3)


Tip-off: Saturday, 6:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Ohio State -9, Total: 128

No. 11 Michigan State will look to give No. 3 Ohio State its third conference loss and move into a tie atop the Big Ten when the two conference powerhouses take the floor in Columbus on Saturday night.

Michigan State has been a stellar bet this year (14-7 ATS), with an even better 8-3 ATS mark in the Big Ten. The Spartans don’t fear Value City Arena like other clubs, going 7-1 ATS (5-3 SU) in their past eight trips to Columbus. But this Buckeyes team is just crushing teams at home, going 17-0 (9-3 ATS) and outscoring these visitors by an average of 20.3 PPG (76.9 to 56.6). Can Ohio State retain its dominance at home? For the answer, check out the College Basketball Weekday 6-Pack for picks covering all the big games in college basketball each week. Last weekend, the 6-Pack finished with a 4-1-1 ATS record.

Michigan State’s defense has evolved recently, allowing just 52.6 PPG in the past five games (4-1 SU and ATS). The team’s offense is led by the crafty Draymond Green (15.2 PPG, 10.6 PPG) who is a force in the paint despite his 6-foot-7 frame. Green showed no ill effects from his knee injury suffered against the Illini, totaling 37 points, 28 boards and nine assists in the past two victories. Beyond Green though, Keith Appling (11.8 PPG, 3.9 APG) is the only other Spartans player to average double-digit points. He has struggled as of late though, with just 8.2 PPG in his past five contests. Swingman Branden Dawson (8.9 PPG) has stepped up recently in his place. The 6-foot-6 freshman has registered double-figure points in all of those five games, averaging 12.8 PPG. On the season, he is shooting a remarkable 58% FG, as he thrives getting close to the basket. Look for him to continue his success in this one. This three-star FoxSheets trend also sides with the Spartans.

MICHIGAN STATE is 7-0 ATS (+7.0 Units) versus good rebounding teams - outrebounding opponents by 4+ per game this season. The average score was MICHIGAN STATE 70.0, OPPONENT 55.9 - (Rating = 3*).

The Buckeyes have three impressive scoring threats in Sullinger, William Buford and Deshaun Thomas. Sullinger (17.4 PPG) is one of the premier post players in the nation and has 21.0 PPG in the team’s past two contests. But Sullinger (9.0 RPG) had just two rebounds in 27 minutes in last year’s meeting. Buford (15.5 PPG) is also coming off an extremely impressive performance in which he registered a season-high 29 points in Ohio State’s three-point win over Purdue on Tuesday. Thomas (14.6 PPG), a sophomore forward, has progressed greatly in his second year with a 54% FG and over seven more PPG than last season. Fellow second-year Aaron Craft (4.8 APG, 2.2 SPG) is also important for the Buckeyes as the engine of their offense, but he needs to bring more to the table offensively, with double-digit points just twice in the team’s past six games. This three-star FoxSheets trend also backs the Buckeyes. OHIO STATE is 18-4 ATS (81.8%, +13.6 Units) after a combined score of 165 points or more since 1997. The average score was OHIO STATE 74.7, OPPONENT 65.7 - (Rating = 3*).
 

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Suns visit sizzling-hot Kings on Saturday

PHOENIX SUNS (11-15)

at SACRAMENTO KINGS (10-16)


Tip-off: Saturday, 10:05 p.m. ET
Line: Sacramento -2½, Total: 196

The red-hot Kings look for a fourth straight home win when they host the Suns on Saturday night.

In addition to its home win streak, Sacramento has seven straight ATS victories. This run includes SU wins over the Blazers and Thunder. The Kings are 7-4 (SU and ATS) at home and beat the Suns in three straight meetings (SU and ATS) last season, destroying them on the boards, 211 to 149 in the three games. But Phoenix has played very well on the road lately, going 3-1 (SU and ATS) in its past four away from the desert. Can Sacramento extend the home win streak? To find out, connect to the NBA Weekend 6-Pack for ATS picks covering all the marquee NBA games this weekend.

Phoenix had won three straight games (100.3 PPG) before stalling in a 96-89 home loss to Houston on Thursday. The Suns were dominated on the boards (44-31) and scored a mere 13 points in the final quarter. All-Star PG Steve Nash (15.0 PPG) continues to be the engine of this team with a league-high 10.1 APG. He dished out 13 assists in the loss to the Rockets. Nash has enjoyed great success against the Kings over the years. He’s averaging 23.9 PPG and 12.6 APG in the past 10 meetings, and was a big reason the Suns are 17-5 in their past 22 games versus Sacramento. PF Channing Frye (8.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG) has come on strong in the past three games, averaging 18.0 PPG and 8.0 RPG. He poured in a season-high 21 points and grabbed 10 boards in Thursday’s defeat. C Martin Gortat leads the team in points (15.2 PPG), rebounds (10.1 RPG) and blocks (1.6 BPG). The FoxSheets show this trend backing the Suns:

PHOENIX is 13-3 ATS (81.3%, +9.7 Units) in road games in February games over the last 3 seasons. The average score was PHOENIX 105.1, OPPONENT 99.4 - (Rating = 1*).

Sacramento has won four of five games, none more impressive than its 106-101 victory over the West-leading Thunder on Thursday. PG Tyreke Evans (17.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.1 APG) led the way with 22 points, five assists and four steals against Oklahoma City. Evans continues his year-long struggle of shooting the basketball though (41.5% FG), as he has made 50% of his shots just once in the past 10 games. Sacramento ranks tied for fifth in the NBA in rebounds (43.8 RPG), thanks to PF DeMarcus Cousins, who ranks fifth in the league with 11.4 boards per game. Cousins has been tremendous in the past four games, averaging 19.5 PPG and 14.8 RPG. He had 19 points and nine rebounds in Thursday’s win. SG Marcus Thornton (17.2 PPG) is the other big scorer for Sacramento, pumping in 19.4 PPG during the team’s 4-1 stretch. Like Evans, he has also struggled shooting the basketball this season (39% FG). This two-star FoxSheets trend thinks the Kings will win and cover:

Play Against - Any team (PHOENIX) - vs. division opponents, off an upset loss as a home favorite. (151-94 over the last 5 seasons.) (61.6%, +47.6 units. Rating = 2*).
 

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Suns visit sizzling-hot Kings on Saturday

PHOENIX SUNS (11-15)

at SACRAMENTO KINGS (10-16)


Tip-off: Saturday, 10:05 p.m. ET
Line: Sacramento -2½, Total: 196

The red-hot Kings look for a fourth straight home win when they host the Suns on Saturday night.

In addition to its home win streak, Sacramento has seven straight ATS victories. This run includes SU wins over the Blazers and Thunder. The Kings are 7-4 (SU and ATS) at home and beat the Suns in three straight meetings (SU and ATS) last season, destroying them on the boards, 211 to 149 in the three games. But Phoenix has played very well on the road lately, going 3-1 (SU and ATS) in its past four away from the desert. Can Sacramento extend the home win streak? To find out, connect to the NBA Weekend 6-Pack for ATS picks covering all the marquee NBA games this weekend.

Phoenix had won three straight games (100.3 PPG) before stalling in a 96-89 home loss to Houston on Thursday. The Suns were dominated on the boards (44-31) and scored a mere 13 points in the final quarter. All-Star PG Steve Nash (15.0 PPG) continues to be the engine of this team with a league-high 10.1 APG. He dished out 13 assists in the loss to the Rockets. Nash has enjoyed great success against the Kings over the years. He’s averaging 23.9 PPG and 12.6 APG in the past 10 meetings, and was a big reason the Suns are 17-5 in their past 22 games versus Sacramento. PF Channing Frye (8.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG) has come on strong in the past three games, averaging 18.0 PPG and 8.0 RPG. He poured in a season-high 21 points and grabbed 10 boards in Thursday’s defeat. C Martin Gortat leads the team in points (15.2 PPG), rebounds (10.1 RPG) and blocks (1.6 BPG). The FoxSheets show this trend backing the Suns:

PHOENIX is 13-3 ATS (81.3%, +9.7 Units) in road games in February games over the last 3 seasons. The average score was PHOENIX 105.1, OPPONENT 99.4 - (Rating = 1*).

Sacramento has won four of five games, none more impressive than its 106-101 victory over the West-leading Thunder on Thursday. PG Tyreke Evans (17.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.1 APG) led the way with 22 points, five assists and four steals against Oklahoma City. Evans continues his year-long struggle of shooting the basketball though (41.5% FG), as he has made 50% of his shots just once in the past 10 games. Sacramento ranks tied for fifth in the NBA in rebounds (43.8 RPG), thanks to PF DeMarcus Cousins, who ranks fifth in the league with 11.4 boards per game. Cousins has been tremendous in the past four games, averaging 19.5 PPG and 14.8 RPG. He had 19 points and nine rebounds in Thursday’s win. SG Marcus Thornton (17.2 PPG) is the other big scorer for Sacramento, pumping in 19.4 PPG during the team’s 4-1 stretch. Like Evans, he has also struggled shooting the basketball this season (39% FG). This two-star FoxSheets trend thinks the Kings will win and cover:

Play Against - Any team (PHOENIX) - vs. division opponents, off an upset loss as a home favorite. (151-94 over the last 5 seasons.) (61.6%, +47.6 units. Rating = 2*).
 

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No. 10 Duke looks to keep momentum hosting Maryland

MARYLAND TERRAPINS (14-9)

at DUKE BLUE DEVILS (20-4)


Tip-off: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Duke- 16, Total: 152½

Coming off a thrilling buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Austin Rivers against archrival North Carolina, No. 10 Duke returns to Cameron Indoor Stadium to play host to the Maryland Terrapins.

Despite its last minute heroics on Wednesday, Duke has been a mediocre bet as of late, going 4-8 ATS in the past 12 games. The Blue Devils have also lost SU their last two ACC games in Cameron, both to double-digit underdogs (Florida State +10, Miami +12). The Terrapins, on the other hand, have won four consecutive games ATS. The Blue Devils have also struggled mightily as heavy favorites, going just 5-10 ATS when they are laying 10+ points. But when these two teams met earlier in the year, Duke won 74-61, covering a 10.5-point spread. The Blue Devils are now 10-1 SU (7-4 ATS) in the past 11 meetings between these ACC foes. Can Duke cover the monster spread at home on Saturday? For the answer, check out the College Basketball Weekday 6-Pack for picks covering all the big games in college basketball each week. Last weekend, the 6-Pack finished with a 4-1-1 ATS record.

Maryland averages just 69.3 PPG, but they have an elite scorer in Terrell Stoglin (22.0 PPG). He averages 2.7 threes per game and their entire offense runs through him. Stoglin has four consecutive games of 20+ points, averaging 27.0 PPG in that span. He scored 16 in the earlier matchup against Duke, but will need more help from his teammates in this one. Pe’Shon Howard (6.5 PPG, 3.7 APG) registered 10 points in that contest but has simmered down since with just 5.5 PPG since that game. The key may be strong performances from Sean Mosley (10.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG) and 7-footer Alex Len (7.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG) who will need to do a good job battling Plumlee in the post in this game. The FoxSheets show this four-star trend siding with the Terps:

DUKE is 0-9 ATS (-9.9 Units) in a home game where the total is 150 to 159.5 over the last 2 seasons. The average score was DUKE 82.1, OPPONENT 69.7 - (Rating = 4*).

A sizzling-hot Rivers carried Duke over the Tar Heels with a career-high 29 points on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc, where he shoots a 40.4% this season. The Blue Devils feature a plethora of scoring options, however, with guard Seth Curry and forward Ryan Kelly both averaging 12.7 PPG. Curry and Kelly both scored 15 against North Carolina, with Curry coming off a strong 22-point performance against Miami in the previous game. In the post, Mason Plumlee (11.5 PPG, 9.9 RPG) is an elite rebounder, but has yet to consistently find himself on the offensive end, with just 7.0 PPG over the Blue Devils’ past two contests. Andre Dawkins (9.6 PPG) is also a threat from deep but can also fall off the map at points. The FoxSheets show this coaching trend showing the Blue Devils have the ability to cover monster spreads:

Mike Krzyzewski is 97-64 ATS (60.2%, +26.6 Units) as a home favorite of 12.5 or more points as the coach of DUKE. The average score was DUKE 86.8, OPPONENT 62.4 - (Rating = 2*).
 

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No. 10 Duke looks to keep momentum hosting Maryland

MARYLAND TERRAPINS (14-9)

at DUKE BLUE DEVILS (20-4)


Tip-off: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Duke- 16, Total: 152½

Coming off a thrilling buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Austin Rivers against archrival North Carolina, No. 10 Duke returns to Cameron Indoor Stadium to play host to the Maryland Terrapins.

Despite its last minute heroics on Wednesday, Duke has been a mediocre bet as of late, going 4-8 ATS in the past 12 games. The Blue Devils have also lost SU their last two ACC games in Cameron, both to double-digit underdogs (Florida State +10, Miami +12). The Terrapins, on the other hand, have won four consecutive games ATS. The Blue Devils have also struggled mightily as heavy favorites, going just 5-10 ATS when they are laying 10+ points. But when these two teams met earlier in the year, Duke won 74-61, covering a 10.5-point spread. The Blue Devils are now 10-1 SU (7-4 ATS) in the past 11 meetings between these ACC foes. Can Duke cover the monster spread at home on Saturday? For the answer, check out the College Basketball Weekday 6-Pack for picks covering all the big games in college basketball each week. Last weekend, the 6-Pack finished with a 4-1-1 ATS record.

Maryland averages just 69.3 PPG, but they have an elite scorer in Terrell Stoglin (22.0 PPG). He averages 2.7 threes per game and their entire offense runs through him. Stoglin has four consecutive games of 20+ points, averaging 27.0 PPG in that span. He scored 16 in the earlier matchup against Duke, but will need more help from his teammates in this one. Pe’Shon Howard (6.5 PPG, 3.7 APG) registered 10 points in that contest but has simmered down since with just 5.5 PPG since that game. The key may be strong performances from Sean Mosley (10.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG) and 7-footer Alex Len (7.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG) who will need to do a good job battling Plumlee in the post in this game. The FoxSheets show this four-star trend siding with the Terps:

DUKE is 0-9 ATS (-9.9 Units) in a home game where the total is 150 to 159.5 over the last 2 seasons. The average score was DUKE 82.1, OPPONENT 69.7 - (Rating = 4*).

A sizzling-hot Rivers carried Duke over the Tar Heels with a career-high 29 points on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc, where he shoots a 40.4% this season. The Blue Devils feature a plethora of scoring options, however, with guard Seth Curry and forward Ryan Kelly both averaging 12.7 PPG. Curry and Kelly both scored 15 against North Carolina, with Curry coming off a strong 22-point performance against Miami in the previous game. In the post, Mason Plumlee (11.5 PPG, 9.9 RPG) is an elite rebounder, but has yet to consistently find himself on the offensive end, with just 7.0 PPG over the Blue Devils’ past two contests. Andre Dawkins (9.6 PPG) is also a threat from deep but can also fall off the map at points. The FoxSheets show this coaching trend showing the Blue Devils have the ability to cover monster spreads:

Mike Krzyzewski is 97-64 ATS (60.2%, +26.6 Units) as a home favorite of 12.5 or more points as the coach of DUKE. The average score was DUKE 86.8, OPPONENT 62.4 - (Rating = 2*).
 

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Check back later for updates and Nba Best Bets.

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