Cokin’s Corner, Wednesday 2/10/16

Gotta love that good old, never stops churning rumor mill. There’s basically not a single day that goes by without something to dig one’s teeth into. Today it involves an old face, and anyone even remotely surprised by what’s swirling simply shouldn’t be.

The individual I’m referring to is Phil Jackson. The buzz has already started with the firing of Derek Fisher as head coach of the Knicks. Fisher was Jackson’s choice for that job, and let’s just say that not everyone believes it was Jackson’s choice to can him.

That might not be the case, but the immediate aftermath is not exactly a jolt. Rumors are already in motion that Jackson will be moving west again since this season concludes, and it’s destination Lakers.

I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility. The Lakers are going to make some significant changes following this disastrous campaign. They figure to be going after Luke Walton as the next head coach, and while Walton is a cinch to have several offers, I have to think the Lakers job is his most likely landing place. Getting Phil Jackson back on board to run the organization would clinch it as far as I’m concerned.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that Phil stays put and lures Walton to the Big Apple. But I’ll suggest that Walton, being a west coast lifer, might prefer sunny California and a chance to resurrect the franchise he won a couple of championships with is pretty compelling stuff.

I obviously have nothing other than opinion to base all this speculation on. But it kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, what goes around comes around, and I think this could very well develop into a stay tuned for more details story.

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Okay Tuesday night on the college side, +1.55, although I gave back 0.6 in the NBA. I’ll take the nominal gain, and will look to add with tonight’s slate. I’m currently on four colleges, with one or two more possible adds. For info on getting all my plays, released at the same time I play them myself, send an email to cokin@cox.net for all the particulars.

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Hey, what happened? I’ve been struggling mightily in end game situations, but got one back Tuesday night with the free play winner on Toledo. The Rockets were down the entire game, but rallied at the finish line to get the win at Buffalo. Tonight, I’m giving some substantial points in what I believe could end up being a blowout.

551 MISSOURI STATE  @  552 NORTHERN IOWA

Take: 552 NORTHERN IOWA -12.5

I really cannot pinpoint the reason, other than the fact they weren’t playing good basketball. But whatever was ailing Northern Iowa for the better part of this season seems to have been remedied. The Panthers are in their best form of the campaign and I like their chances of extending the current win streak tonight.

Missouri State was an upset winner over UNI in  the earlier meeting, and that was a pretty bad game for the Panthers. They seemed to have the proceedings pretty well in hand midway through the second half. But Northern Iowa went ice cold down the stretch and Missouri State got the surprising 59-58 victory.

I’ll be very surprised if there’s anything resembling that suspense this evening. Northern Iowa is unlikely to take the Bears for granted, as they might well have done in the prior hookup. That’s bad news for the Bears, who are a gritty bunch but simply are not very talented.

Missouri State cannot shoot the basketball. The numbers are disturbingly bad. The Bears get points for adhering to Paul Lusk’s system and working hard to get higher percentage shots. But they’re just not very good at actually getting the ball to go into the basket.

That’s likely to be a problem here as Northern Iowa is starting to find its rhythm, and if the Panthers are sharp again tonight, I don’t see that there’s much chance Missouri State is going to be able to hang in.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but as it applies here, I’ll do so again. I’m an advocate of backing superior teams in same season revenge if they have positive momentum on their side. UNI qualifies on that count, as they’ve rolled to four straight wins and covers. I like the chances for the Panthers to extend that run tonight, and I’m willing to lay the points with Northern Iowa in the process.

Cokin’s Corner, Tuesday 2/9/16

It looks like George Karl is about to be let go as the head coach of the Sacramento Kings. There’s certainly nothing even remotely surprising about this news. There was speculation that Karl was done back at the very start of the season. Perhaps the only news here is that Karl lasted as long as he did with this team.

The Kings haven’t made the playoffs for what is now a ridiculous number of years, and they’ve gone through head coaches at a rate unmatched by any other franchise in the league. There’s some talent on the roster to be sure, but there are also head cases. In other words, good luck to the next coach, whether it’s apparent interim successor Corliss Williamson or someone else who gets hired at the end of the current season.

I haven’t got the slightest idea of how this broken franchise can be repaired. I’m confident on only one count. I think this team has to avoid the retread route and must take a gamble on a young up and comer. Whether that’s a current NBA assistant or a sharp college coach doesn’t matter, but there has to be a huge effort made to zero in on someone who can connect with the players.

That’s not a knock on George Karl, who didn’t suddenly forget how to coach. But I didn’t think he was a good fit with the Kings to begin with, and he wasn’t. Personally, I think Karl should head to the college ranks if he want to stay in the coaching game. It’s my belief he needs to be heading a program where he can truly be the man in charge. I don’t see that being a likelihood in what amounts to the new school NBA, as Karl is more the old school type. But I can think of more than a handful of college programs who could benefit greatly from bringing Karl on board.

Along those lines, I’ll toss UNLV into the mix. There are already several pretty big names in the Runnin’ Rebel conversation. Karl has reportedly had past interest in this program, so it might stand to reason he’s still intrigued by the possibility of coaching in Las Vegas. While he might not be my first choice, I sure wouldn’t be likely to have any complaints if Karl turned out to be the guy. It’s all merely conjecture at this point, but speculating on what might happen is always fun.

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1-3 Monday for me, although I saved some of the juice with a small 2H wager. There was, of course, the nightly melt. This time it was the Suns. Down 4 with four minutes to play. Get outscored 16-4 at the finish line and lose by 16. Down 4, getting 13, with only four minutes remaining makes me a huge favorite. But as I’ve found out on an absolutely unbelievable number of occasions all season, the final score is all that matters. Inquiries on the service are always welcome at cokin@cox.net.

By the way, this website will be undergoing a few changes over the next month or two. I’m looking to add some content while also making some cosmetic changes. So don’t be shocked when you see the site with a different look sometime in the near future.

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Bad play on the Clippers, who mailed it in for the bulk of the game against Philadelphia. As it turned out, the Clippers came dangerously close to actually covering in the overtime. They went up 8 and back rimmed a three that would have made it double digits. Then they had three straight empty possessions, so no miracle here. Regardless, it wasn’t a very smart take on my part as it was a potential dead spot and played out that way. I’ll try a college dog tonight.

729 TOLEDO  @  730 BUFFALO

Take: 729 TOLEDO +2.5

More college same season revenge here. Buffalo was a wire to wire winner in the first meeting, as the Rockets were outplayed for all 40 minutes by the Bulls. But I like Toledo’s chances of returning the favor tonight.

There are a number of parameters I look for when sizing up whether to take an avenging squad in rematches. I don’t want to reveal precisely what I look for, but one aspect that definitely comes into play for me is the power ratings. When I can find a team that’s got the better number in that regard and also has the revenge motive, I’m generally going to at least have some interest. In this case, it’s even better as I’m going to be able to grab a basket or so courtesy of the oddsmakers.

I’m happy to see that Toledo has apparently emerged from a bit of a funk that had them spiraling in the wrong direction. The Rockets had lost three in a row, with the third of those defeats absorbed against this opponent. But Toledo has rebounded sharply in its last two games. The Rockets obliterated Western Michigan, and then followed that up with a very sharp effort in a convincing win at Kent State.

Buffalo is certainly no pushover, and the Bulls are off a very nice comeback win against Eastern Michigan that extended their winning streak to four games. This team loses to play fast, and on that count, they should be able to go at the pace they enjoy against Toledo.

But for me, the bottom line here is that I’m subscribing to the old theory about it being tough for one team to defeat another twice in one season, which I do think has an element of accuracy to it when the teams are as closely matched as these two seem to be. I’m on Toledo plus the small number to salvage the season split.

Cokin’s Corner, Monday 2/8/16

Well, that was thoroughly unmemorable. Super Bowl 50 is in the archives, and while it was a wonderful way for Peyton Manning to cap off his remarkable career (assuming that’s the case) the game between the Broncos and Panthers was mostly a colossal bore.

In actuality, that’s probably exactly the way the Denver Broncos wanted this one to play out. They weren’t likely to win a shootout with Cam Newton and the Panthers. Denver needed to win this by playing stellar defense, and that’s precisely what they did. Wade Phillips, who did another phenomenal job of coordinating a defense, pushed all the right buttons yet again. There’s not much doubt that Phillips would be the easy winner of the MVC (Most Valuable Coach) if there were such an award handed out in the Super Bowl.

I’m not going to climb on the Slam Cam bandwagon for his performance, either on the field or at the post-game press conference. He clearly did not have a good game, nor did he have a good press conference. But the guy had an awesome season and he was richly deserving of all the accolades that went his way. Newton still has most of his career ahead of him, and I wouldn’t bet against him getting another shot or more at the Lombardi Trophy.

As for Peyton Manning, while it was hardly a scintillating individual performance, there just can’t be a better way for one of the all-time greats to ride off into the sunset.

My result on the game was a virtual wash. My NFC -1 ticket lost, my Broncos +6 ticket won. I was thrilled with the way the game went early on, as the Broncos getting ahead early was of paramount importance. Had Denver been forced into play from behind mode, I doubt they’d have succeeded. But Carolina never could make the big play to rally from behind and I had to settle for the split on what was a terrific middling opportunity.

Congrats to all of the Broncos and their fans. It might not go into the books as a Super Bowl to remember, but the final score is all that matters and Denver is the king of the football world tonight.

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My nothing short of amazing basketball season continued on Sunday with yet another phenomenal come from way ahead non-winner. This time, it was Hofstra doing the honors. They led 81-72 at James Madison, got outscored 10-1 at the end of regulation, and then lost by three in overtime. I don’t know how else to say it, other that you just can’t make this stuff up.

For info on how you can receive all my games, along with a guarantee (the guarantee is not that you’ll lose the last two minutes of every damn game, although it might seem that way) email me directly at cokin@cox.net.

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I’ll go the big chalk route in the NBA for the Monday free play.

505 CLIPPERS  @  506 76ERS

Take: 505 CLIPPERS -9

It’s the second off back to back road games for the Clippers, following their Sunday win at Miami. Normally, that would not make laying a bunch of points the next night against a bad team the most desirable situation. But the fact this game is against the woeful 76ers creates an entirely different dynamic.

I’m not going to pretend this is a game the Clippers are going be fired up for. But unlike some past editions of the Clippers, this team has been doing a better job of maintaining the necessary focus. That’s really all it should take to dust off the pathetic 76ers.

Philly comes into this one off a rare victory. But that’s probably not the best news for the Sixers, as they are 0-7 off a win this season, and they have zero wins against winning opponents. It’s not exactly a substantial sample, but on the two occasions this season where the 76ers were at home off a win, they got absolutely mauled each time.

This is the second meeting between these teams this year, with the Clippers annihilating Philly by 31 at Staples in early January. I’ll assume the margin will be somewhat less here, but perhaps not all that much.

Philadelphia has just one shot to compete here and that’s if the Clippers dimply dismiss them and get very lazy. That can obviously happen. Just look back at the recent visit to this building by the Warriors. The champs got up by a whole bunch, went to sleep mentally and nearly ended up getting stunned in what would have been the season’s biggest upset.

But while I certainly can grasp the concept of how the Clippers can screw this up, I just don’t envision it happening. Even if it’s not the sharpest LA team we see tonight, I’ll take my chances they can win by doubles, and if they do that, it’ll be enough. I’ll side with the Clippers minus the points.

 

Cokin’s Corner, Super Bowl Sunday 2/7/16

A break from the usual format today as all most of us will care about here is Super Bowl 50 between the Panthers and Broncos. So I’ll fire off my quick take on the big game and get set for the action to unfold.

I have two plays on the game. I played the NFC -1 a few weeks ago, and added a play on the Broncos +6. So for me, this is sit back and hope it’s close, as I sure like the idea of middling the game.

That’s all I have as far as action is concerned. I’m not a props player, although there is no question there are probably some terrific value options available. But this is a one-man operation, and the bulk of my handicapping hours are spent on college basketball at this time of year. So to just randomly fire away without having done what for me is necessary homework, that’s just not going to happen. I’m happy enough to do the ol’ fiddle in the middle and if Carolina wins close, the drinks are on me. (Actually, they’re not on me as I’m attending a party at Fleming’s Town Square and there will be plenty of tasty beverages available for all attendees.)

Okay, here’s my take on the game. I feel as though this one gets determined very early. If the Panthers come storming out of the gate as they’ve done in two very convincing wins over the Seahawks and Cardinals, Denver is in a world of trouble. Anything is possible, of course, but the Broncos are not really built to come from behind, and if at any point they go down two scores, it could be lights out quickly for the AFC champs.

On the other hand, if Denver keeps the Panthers off the scoreboard early, I think they’re in this all the way. Obviously, the Broncos would be best served to grab an early lead. But my sense is that even if they’re down a little heading to halftime, they will have an excellent chance to win the game.

The math suggests that the line is still a bit on the high side, although with the late Denver money that’s been showing this week, the optimum Broncos line has disappeared. I suspect it might tick up a bit as we get close to post time, as Carolina is still the more popular side with the bettors.

My final score is Carolina 23, Denver 20. So officially, for the purposes of record keeping on the daily free plays, the Broncos plus the points are the play.

My best advice? Treat this game as you’d treat any other NFL game. Just because it’s the biggest game doesn’t mean it warrants the biggest bet.

Cokin’s Corner, Saturday 2/6/16

The usual quick late Friday/early Saturday blog. I will have a good-sized slate today in college basketball. That’s usually the case in February as I focus quite a bit of my attention on rematches. One of those is today’s free play.

539 DAVIDSON  @  540 DUQUESNE

Take: 540 DUQUESNE -2

I can guarantee you that had you asked me prior to the season what the betting line for a February game featuring Davidson at Duquesne might be, there’s absolutely no question the Wildcats would have been the favorite.

But fast forward to right now and the roles have changed. Davidson has had all kinds of injury issues the entire season. Only three players have managed to make it to the post for all 19 games. As a result, the usual cohesiveness that’s a hallmark of Bob McKillop’s teams simply hasn’t been there. The Wildcats still take great care of the basketball, with the lowest offensive turnover rate in the country. Put Davidson on the foul line and they rarely miss. But the other elements have been problematic.

Duquesne has made some very nice strides this season, and Jim Ferry is a serious contender for A-10 Coach of the Year. The Dukes are 15-7, and prospects for their first post-season participation since 2011 look great. Duquesne still has its flaws to be sure, but there’s no denying the improvement this program has made, and the NIT is a real possibility for this team if they can stay reasonably warm. That might not seem like the loftiest goal around, but for a program that has been steeped in mediocrity for what seems like forever, it’s huge.

The key for Duquesne here is to be more diligent defending the three-ball. Davidson has a pair of sharpshooters in Jake Gibbs and Brian Sullivan. In fact, this entire team is comfortable firing up the long ball, and three-point defense has been a notable weakness for Duquesne.

I’m banking Ferry to have his team prepped properly for what they will see from the Wildcats. I really think it comes down to whether or not Davidson is given open looks in transition. The Dukes have done a better job lately in that area, although the caveat is that those results came against lower-level A-10 competition.

From a technical standpoint, I like the way the Dukes are playing at home. They’ve been earning dividends for their backers on this court this season, and Davidson has been struggling on the road. Make no mistake, I don’t expect this to be easy. But it’s a very big game for the home team, they’re on a bit of a roll and I like backing home favorites with revenge when they’re off at least back to back wins and covers. I’ll spot the basket here and will go with Duquesne.

 

Cokin’s Corner, Friday 2/5/16

No doubt about the topic this time. I just finished witnessing some of the dumbest basketball I’ve ever seen at the conclusion of the Utah/Oregon State game.

Just in case you missed it, here’s what took place. Oregon State is up 68-66 and one of the Beavers commits a three-shot foul with 2.2 seconds remaining. Utah guy steps to the stripe and knocks down all three. Utah 69-68.

Oregon State’s only shot is to get really lucky on a very long shot. Kid launches one from midcourt, and it’s no good. Game over and a really tough loss for the Beavers.

But wait! Utah guy gets whistled for a three-shot foul with .01 on the clock, and Oregon State kid goes to the line and nails all three. Absolute miracle win for the Beavers.

As an impartial observer, this was top notch entertainment. Pure slapstick comedy to be sure, but belly laughs galore. I didn’t mention the actual names of the players involved, but let’s just call them Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp, because if those aren’t their real names, they ought to be.

Here’s the downside, however. I keep on saying this, and I keep on getting validation on a far too regular basis. I’ve never seen worse basketball at the major college level than I have seen this season. I’m not speaking about the athleticism of the players, that’s outstanding. But from the neck up, it’s beyond horrible. Either the coaching is terrible, or the players just don’t pay attention, take your pick. The result is a seemingly endless display of just plain really bad basketball.

I don’t know what the solution is, but there has to be one. Regardless, assessing the on-court intelligence of the various teams is turning out to be perhaps the ultimate deciding factor as to the winners and losers. You can be sure it’s becoming a major consideration as far as any analysis is concerned.

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Very nice Thursday here, with a 6-2 finish. I’m enthused about the start to the new month, and considering the performance in December and January, it’s about damn time. Now the task is to keep it rolling in the right direction. For info on how my service works, along with rates and guarantees, email me at your leisure. My email is cokin@cox.net.

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Texas State battled Georgia State to the wire, and while the Bobcats let a nice lead get away, they stayed within the number for the Thursday free play winner. I’ll head to the NBA for the Friday comp.

885 BUCKS  @  886 JAZZ

Take: 886 JAZZ -7

I’m not what one would refer to as a history buff when it comes to sports betting. But some numbers are a  little hard to ignore. Take as an example the series results between the Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz. Talk about beyond lopsided. The Jazz have covered 21 of the last 26 against Milwaukee, including a nifty 13-3 spread ledger at home.

That doesn’t mean another ticket gets cashed on the Utah side tonight. But it’s not the worst starting point of all time. Some in-season trends add a little fuel to the fire. Milwaukee has struggled playing on the road off a loss, while the Jazz have been pretty good playing at home off a win.

But for me, the nuts and bolts here is the matchup. It looks to me like the Alec Burks injury has been some addition by subtraction for the Jazz. I’m not a big Burks guy, and some of his metrics back up that opinion. I don’t think it’s over the top to suggest this team is simply better with Burks not on the floor for meaningful minutes.

On the Bucks side, they’ve had some injury issues, and while the sidelined players are not stars, I have to believe the thinned out bench is contributing to the recent poor play by Milwaukee.

In any event, Milwaukee heads into Salt Lake City having lost six of seven. That contrasts unfavorably with Utah’s form, as the Jazz have won four straight. The recent surge by the Jazz has vaulted them into the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

In power rate the NBA with two sets of numbers, one full season and the other a fast rating based more on recent play. As a rule I put more emphasis on the latter, for what I think are fairly obvious reasons. In tonight’s game, I make Utah -11.5, so I don’t have a problem in terms of value. Add in the extras, such as that crazy series history, and I’m willing to lay the points this time with the Jazz.

 

Cokin’s Corner, Thursday 2/4/16

I can’t say for sure what Dennis Wideman’s mental state was when the Calgary defenseman cross-checked an official in a recent game. But I saw the incident as I happened to be watching the Flames game against the Nashville Predators on January 27, and what I viewed appeared to be deliberate on the part of Wideman.

The NHL ruling came down yesterday and Wideman was hit hard by the league. He’s suspended without pay for 20 games, which will cost him in excess well in excess of $500,000. The NHLPA is appealing on Wideman’s behalf, which is what the union has to do. But I’ll be very surprised if there’s any reduction coming.

I actually think Wideman got off fairly easily. While the veteran pro claims he was woozy after absorbing a hard hit just moments before he nailed linesman Don Henderson, anyone viewing the replay of what happened would likely arrive at the same conclusion I had. If it was just a collision that had taken place while Wideman was making his way toward the Calgary bench, I’d have little reason to doubt Wideman’s version of what took place. But he absolutely raised his stick prior to the bump and then laid into Henderson, who had his back turned and was completely blind-sided.

I’d like to give Wideman the benefit of the doubt, but I just can’t do it. Attacking officials is totally unacceptable and had the NHL suspended Wideman for the remainder of the season, I wouldn’t have any argument with the decision. By the way, in case anyone is thinking that it wasn’t all that bad, Henderson ended up in the hospital and had to underdog concussion testing.

Wideman has been a solid performer for years, and while he isn’t having a particularly good season,  this did seem to be way out of character for him. My hope is that at some point, he just owns up to having a really bad lapse in judgement, rather than attributing the incident to being foggy. I suppose it’s minimally possible that was the case. But the pictures certainly tell a far different story.

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Another 2-1 on Wednesday. The Warriors and Cal State Northridge cooperated, but Evansville let one get away any Northern Iowa, and the spread was decided on a foul committed with about one second remaining. The good news is that’s three straight plus nights to start the new month, which is hopefully a harbinger of things to come. For info on my personal service, feel free to email me anytime at cokin@cox.net.

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Tough luck on the Evansville free play. The Purple Aces were up one with the ball, but turned it over with about 30 ticks left. They then played some matador defense, allowing Northern Iowa to take the lead on an easy basket. Evansville then ran the clock down to just a few seconds on a very disjointed possession, got off a shot that had no chance, and naturally fouled. Ball game. I’ll try to rebound tonight with a good sized Sun Belt underdog.

737 TEXAS STATE  @  738 GEORGIA STATE

Take: 737 TEXAS STATE +8

This one doesn’t figure to be pretty. Texas State and Georgia State are a pair of teams that don’t play very fast, and neither has been very good lately at putting the ball in the basket.

Georgia State figured to be down somewhat this season following a spectacular 2014-15 campaign that saw the Panthers upset Baylor in the NCAA tournament before giving Xavier a good scare prior to finally getting sent home. But the decline has been perhaps steeper than anticipated for Georgia State and this team is really struggling right now.

The Panthers have lost four of their last five, with the only win a fortunate overtime victory over Georgia Southern. Georgia State is no doubt thrilled to be back home following a bad road trip that saw them drop three straight, but I think it’s fair to say this is not a go-with team right now.

Texas State is certainly no great shakes. The Bobcats had a rough weekend in Louisiana, getting drilled by UL Lafayette and also dropping a decision at UL Monroe. But this matchup might be more to their liking. Texas State is frequently outsized but that won’t be the case tonight, as Georgia State is not a particularly big team, nor are the Panthers physical squad.

My expectation is that we’re going to get a low-scoring duel here. Neither team figures to be in a hurry, so I wouldn’t think this will be game with a load of possessions. Georgia State is the more capable entry to be sure, but the Panthers simply aren’t in good form at all of late, and that makes the prospects of them covering a good-sized spread more than a little dicey. I’ve got a revenge motive with the road team as well, plus I like the idea of grabbing all those points against a team that’s outside the top 150 and falling. Add it up and there’s enough here for me to take the plunge with Texas State and the generous number.

Cokin’s Corner, Wednesday 2/3/16

It’s not official yet, but that’s just a technicality. Johnny Manziel’s stint with the Cleveland Browns is done, and there’s a pretty good chance the same can be said for Manziel’s NFL career.

There will be plenty of speculation about which team is willing to take a chance on Manziel, and the prevailing belief seems to be that the most likely landing would take place in Dallas. The Cowboys obviously have their starting quarterback in Tony Romo, but Manziel would be a nice fit as the backup. Of course, nice fit only applies to his physical potential.

Jerry Jones has clearly shown that if he feels a player can help his football team, he doesn’t care about any checkered pasts. But in Manziel’s case, I suspect even Jones would have trouble justifying a roster spot for Manziel. He remains complexly unproven as an NFL QB, and in this instance the risk probably isn’t worth the reward.

I’m no doctor, so consider this an uniformed opinion. But it’s pretty apparent that Manziel’s behavior is beyond just being a spoiled brat with an inflated ego. I think he’s a little nuts and needs professional help. To what extent, I sure don’t know. But this is more than just a rich kid with an outsized ego. Manziel has some significant issues from the neck up and I’d actually be surprised if he doesn’t get into some real trouble at some point. Let’s just say the predictors are in place and the guy is a ticking time bomb.

I don’t root against anyone, so I hope Manziel finds his way out of the maze he appears to be locked in presently. He’s an exciting talent and I’d like to find out what kind of an NFL quarterback he could possibly become. Unfortunately, that seems like a long shot at this point.

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3-2 on Tuesday, but I’m kind of kicking myself for passing on a couple of spots that could have made that bottom line better. Nevertheless, a couple of plus nights to start the new month, and hopefully many more to follow. For info on my personal service, simply email me directly at cokin@cox.net.

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A nice little run on the daily free plays concluded Tuesday evening as Boise State rallied to pull out the win against Utah State, but never even approached the number. I’ll heads to the Missouri Valley Conference for the Wednesday comp.

539 EVANSVILLE  @  540 NORTHERN IOWA

Take: 539 EVANSVILLE +1.5

I won’t go so far as to label Northern Iowa a flop, but it’s fair to assess the Panthers season to date as a pretty good sized disappointment. UNI has a couple of nice wins on its ledger, having defeated both North Carolina and Iowa State. But this team has never really out it together and they limp into tonight’s game with a pedestrian 12-11 record, including a somewhat shocking 4-6 in MVC play.

Evansville was supposed to be pretty solid this year, and the Purple Aches have actually been even better than that. They’re 18-5 overall, 7-3 in league play, and Evansville appears to have a pretty good shot at making a case for an NCAA at-large invite if they take care of business down the regular season stretch.

I have this circled as the biggest remaining game on the slate for Evansville. They should be favored in all their pending battles, so a win here and this team at a 26-win campaign. Even minus the so-called signature win, the Aces would have to be a strong consideration by the committee if they win out.

This looks to be a good matchup for Evansville. Northern Iowa simply hasn’t been a particularly effective team on defense this season. Unless the Panthers get it together tonight on that end of the court, the Purple Aces are likely to get some good looks at the basket, and there’s not much question about Evansville’s ability to put the ball in the basket.

Looking at the stats, Evansville wins both the offensive and defensive efficiency battles. The Purple Aces were no match for powerful Wichita State over the weekend, but unless there’s a hangover from that game, I would expect this team to get right back on track tonight. Northern Iowa is obviously capable of winning this game and if the Panthers are sharp, I might be in trouble with my play on this game. But the black and white says Evansville is simply the better team at this juncture and I’ll be happy to take my chances with the Purple Aces as small road underdogs.

 

Cokin’s Corner, Tuesday 2/2/16

There’s a really good piece in the current issue of Sports Illustrated. It’s a story on Super Bowl 100, written by the talented Steve Rushin. It’s sports science fiction to be sure,  but lots of fun to read, and I love it that Rushin has the game taking place in Las Vegas, the most popular location for Super Bowls fifty years down the road.

Rushin might be on to something here. My initial thought when the talk about the Las Vegas Raiders being a possibility was, yeah right. I simply tagged it as more of the same old story, where this city is used as leverage for franchises to get something they want in their current home. Now I’m not so sure.

As Jimmy Vaccaro, the legendary oddsmaker now calling the South Point home noted, it’s a different scenario this time around. When names like Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn are brought into the conversation, one would have to be foolish to simply dismiss it with no hesitation.

Las Vegas is still an underdog to be the new home for the Raiders. But, unlike past occasions where the buzz was strictly bull, this time there’s some substance to the talk. I think it’s fair to offer that while it might not be the Raiders, the possibility and perhaps even likelihood of a National Foothall League franchise eventually calling Las Vegas home now exists.

In any event, this all bodes well for the future of legalized sports gambling. That’s obvious just by the mere fact that the Las Vegas idea wasn’t shot down immediately by the key power people in the NFL.

Times are changing. And that’s a good thing for those of us here in the desert.

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2-1 Monday. Oakland and Quinnipiac were good on the college side, while my NBA play was a one-point loser. Good thing that one lost, as I was seriously worried that had I won a game by one point, the earth might well have spun off its axis. For info on getting my personal service plays, contact me via email at cokin@cox.net.

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Oakland went virtually wire to wire and put away Northern Kentucky down the stretch for the Monday free play winner. I’ll try some home chalk in the Mountain West tonight.

761 UTAH STATE  @  762 BOISE STATE

Take: 762 BOISE STATE -9

Turn back the clock twelve months, and there’s no chance I’d be making this play. But Stew Morrill is no longer the head basketball coach at Utah State, and the fear of laying a substantial price against the Aggies is no longer the major concern it used to be.

The current Utah State edition has some limitations. The Aggies actually posted the best non-conference record of any MWC team, but that was misleading as they faced a very soft schedule early on and their only good win came against a weary North Dakota State squad. Utah State was no match for the three quality programs they faced, and it’s therefore not a surprise that this team has struggled since league play got rolling.

The Aggies would appear to be arriving in Boise on the wrong night. The Broncos are off back to back losses. They got rolled in the second half last week here in Las Vegas, and followed that up with a home loss to New Mexico. In both instances, Boise State got burned on a regular basis defensively. I’d be very surprised if there’s not a little more focus on that aspect of the game this evening.

Boise State did pretty much what they wanted to in the first meeting with the Aggies. That will often eliminate the possibility of spotting a good sized number in the rematch as complacency become an intangible that often comes into play. But off the two losses, I have to believe we’re going to get a good level of intensity from the Broncos this evening.

That’s really what this come down to. I’ve seen enough of Utah State to have arrived at a determination that, while they’re solid when it comes to handling teams at their own level or below, they aren’t especially capable of stepping up in class and getting the same results. If Boise State is again lethargic on the defensive end, then anything can happen. But off the back to back defeats in what can only be described as less than inspired efforts, I expect a good Broncos showing tonight. If that’s the case, this should be a comfortable win for the hosts. I’ll lay it with Boise State.

 

Cokin’s Corner, Monday 2/1/16

John Scott, NHL All-Star MVP.

Prior to this weekend’s festivities in Nashville, there were lots of negative opinion being loudly expressed regarding Scott’s being voted to the All-Star team. Let’s face it, he’s definitely not an All-Star caliber hockey player, at least not at the NHL level. I  lost track of the number of stories I read about how this was bad for the game, bad for the league, an injustice to a more deserving player, and so on.

If anyone still wants to feel that way, go ahead. I liked it from the moment it dawned on me that this campaign to get Scott to Nashville as an All-Star had a real shot at happening.

All-Star games should ALWAYS be about fun, and nothing more. That’s why MLB commissioner Rob Manfred needs to repeal the stupid Bud Selig rule that actually attaches an absurdly illogical consequence to the result of a meaningless exhibition game.  The NFL has finally gotten it, and they’ve stopped pretending the Pro Bowl is anything more than a vacation in Hawaii where they sort of play a game. The NBA has always gotten it. Their event is 48 minutes of showtime and it’s almost always a great watch.

As for the NHL, they actually now have what to me is by far the coolest mid-season event. The fans love the skills competition, and this year’s was no exception. The game, or in this case games, were fun. No one took it seriously, it didn’t count for anything outside of some extra money for the winners, and it was the perfect example of why it’s called an All-Star “break”.

As for John Scott, he had the ultimate highlight as far as his career is concerned. Scott was the star of the show, and if any of the true superstar players were upset about him getting the spotlight, they sure didn’t show it in the least.

Hats off to the NHL for a thoroughly enjoyable weekend, congrats to John Scott, and now let’s get that official word that Las Vegas is the next NHL expansion location.

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Colorado was good, Arizona State wasn’t and Ohio State was a loss or a push depending on what it was bet at. I ledgered it as a loss as it was sent to my clients at +4.5, although my guess is that many of those folks were able to get away with the push. Either way, this should have been a winner, but wasn’t. Unfortunately, that’s been the rile rather than the exception for me for way longer than I could ever have imagined. I won’t camouflage this at all. I need a really good February. If you’re interested in obtaining the plays, email me at cokin@cox.net for the details.

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The Sunday free play on Colorado started off horribly, with the Buffaloes opening in a miserable 1/19 shooting slump. But basketball being that it is, the Buffs got hot, and ended up building a big lead. Which they then proceeded to let melt away. Fortunately, Colorado managed to not fall completely apart and ended up with the eight point win and cover against California. I’ll go with some road chalk for the Monday comp.

521 OAKLAND  @  522 NORTHERN KENTUCKY

Take: 521 OAKLAND -5.5

If you’re looking for consistency, avoid the Oakland Grizzlies at all costs. This team can be really good at times, as evidenced by a blowout win at Washington and a double OT just miss against Michigan State. The Grizzlies can also be horrible, as illustrated by home losses to Youngstown State and to this Northern Kentucky entry.

Oakland coach Greg Kampe was none too pleased about that loss to the Norse. He was very critical of his team’s poor perimeter defense in that game and suggested that it might be time for his team to alter its style of play. Message evidently received, as the Grizzlies have responded with three straight wins, and Oakland is off a very strong game in a wipeout win against Wright State.

Northern Kentucky has been  a mild surprise in its Horizon League debut. The Norse figured to be one of the bottom three teams in the league, but they’re doing a bit better than that. But I’m thinking that some of the Northern Kentucky success has been due to them being overlooked as a first-year entry that didn’t exactly arrive with a tradition of success. In other words, they’ve been overlooked. I doubt that will be the case tonight with Oakland in revenge mode for what they’re perceiving as an embarrassing loss.

So this all boils down to which version of the Grizzlies shows up tonight. If it’s the Oakland team we’ve seen over the last few games, I don’t see the Norse being able to stay with them for 40 minutes. I’m betting the superior team with a serious revenge motive is the way to play this one, and I’m laying the points with Oakland.