Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 1/29/15

Just in case you might have missed it, something extraordinary has taken place in Las Vegas. I’m shocked and dismayed that this epic event was not covered more in depth by the national networks. They instead chose to focus on a blizzard that made life difficult for millions of people. But the really important stuff always gets covered here, so I’ll fill in those of you somehow unaware of what just happened here in Las Vegas.

We finally got a White Castle on the Las Vegas Strip.

I’ll be honest. I had no idea how huge this was. Two hour lines, and so much volume the restaurant actually had to close because they ran out of product.

Okay, enough of the sarcasm. I have another question that needs some responses. Follow me on Twitter (@davecokin) and fill in the mental chasm I have right now on this topic.

I have enjoyed White Castle burgers in the past. I like burgers, and if my recollection is correct, they serve up a pretty good burger. But waiting in line for two plus hours? It’s a bleeping hamburger, for cryin’ out loud.

I’ll admit I’m not the most patient person on the planet. If I stroll into the Dunkin’ Donuts that’s close to me, and judge I’m going to have to wait more than a few minutes, I’m gone. I really like Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. But it’s still coffee.

So again, someone will have to fill me in here. I get that it’s a brand new thing for Las Vegas and if one grew up feasting on White Castles, it’s probably pretty cool to have one in town. But it’s not like you get some kind of an award for standing in a line that goes on forever.

You don’t get to meet the owner of the company (or the franchise, as the case might be). You don’t get any celebrity autographs, as not even those Eat More Chikin cows from the Chick-fil-a commercials are on hand to protest. You get a damn hamburger, which you then have to pay for. That’s worth a two-hour wait? Please explain.

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2-2 on Wednesday, and on the wrong side of yet another late collapse. Props to Notre Dame for a terrific rally, but Duke getting outscored 22-8 at the finish was pretty stunning, at least to me.

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Free plays are in a funk right now. It’ll turn, as it always does, but between a few rough beats and some simply wrong decisions, these have not done well at all lately. I’ll go the ugly dog route tonight.

(527) ILLINOIS-CHICAGO  at  (528) WISCONSIN MILWAUKEE

Take: (527) ILLINOIS-CHICAGO +8

The later the season gets, the more reliable are the power ratings for each college basketball team. Obviously there will be some exceptions. But by and large, if you’re operating with a good set of rankings, your number and the actual betting line are going to mostly very similar.

But that doesn’t mean these numbers are of no use. I’ll share a theory I’ve used to churn out more winners than losers over the past several seasons. It’s really pretty simple. Find a team that’s outside the top 200 and is laying a bunch of points and you’ll do pretty well grabbing those points with what will be an even uglier dog.

The rationale here is pretty logical. While it might not be easy to plunk down a wager on a terrible team, it’s really not that tough to take big points against another stiff. Teams outside the top 200 are not good. The idea that they not only have to win, but also have to do so by a substantial margin is tough to swallow. I’d rather take my chances getting a batch of points with the weak dog. Also note that these are going to be the games where that ugly dog will probably feel like they have an actual chance to win, which makes the proposition even more attractive.

Case in point tonight, UIC at Milwaukee. The visiting Flames are downright terrible. Aside from being adept at knocking down free throws, there’s not much they do well. But Milwaukee is no bargain, either. The Panthers are 7-14, with a 2-5 league slate and there’s a bit of a potential bonus here as well.

Milwaukee has nothing to play for. They’re not eligible for any post-season action this season. They’ve occasionally come out focused, but there have also been several games where one can just tell the intensity isn’t there. I think this game could well fall into that latter category.

UIC is generally going to have little chance of winning in a pretty good Horizon league. They just don’t have the talent on hand to win many games. But this is a gam where they’re not physically overwhelmed and I would certainly expect the Flames to arrive here feeling they have a legit opportunity for a win. With heavily favored UIC a team that is clearly outside that top 200, I like the idea of grabbing a big number this time. I’ll side with Illinois-Chicago plus the points.

UPDATE: I will personally be playing this for one unit total, split between the first half and full game. +4/+8

 

Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 1/28/15

“I’m here so I won’t get fined.”

Marshawn Lynch probably rubs plenty of fans, not to mention media members trying to do their jobs, the wrong way. The method he’s come up with to avoid answering questions has actually struck me as being pretty funny, and his one-line response used to get through Media Day was to me pretty hilarious.

Lynch also avoided what was reportedly going to be a massive fine by showing up for the required four and one half minutes and just repeated the same thing over and over. The only deviation came during a couple of instances where he said “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”

My thoughts are simple enough. I find the entire notion of any player being fined for choosing not to speak to the media to be an outrageous and clear violation of individual rights. Sure, it would be nice if every player was accommodating. But if a guy doesn’t want to speak to the media, the fans, or anyone else, that should be his option.

We can look upon the Lynch situation as mere amusement, but the serious side of me gets pretty upset when Big Brother, in this case the NFL, starts interfering with an individual’s right to do whatever he wants off the field, as long as he’s not breaking a law. Last time I checked, Marshawn Lynch not speaking to reporters was not illegal.

I think this is something the NFLPA needs to take a stance on. I’m assuming that these fines are allowable because there’s some clause regarding cooperation with the media in the collective bargaining agreement. If that’s the case, it’s a “rule” that needs to be amended.

My bottom line is that if Marshawn Lynch wants to act like an ass in this regard, that’s okay with me and it also ought to be okay with the league. His only job is to play the game.

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The end game hijinks got me again on Tuesday, but I finally got one to swing my way with the ref-aided Boise State rally to win and cover. Just a 3-3 night overall, but it sure looked like 2-4 with two more really tough beats. The NBA continues to be exceptional, with the Bucks winning at Miami. I’m on a 21-4 run in the Association, so that has been highly enjoyable.

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Pittsburgh appeared well positioned to get the cash at Virginia Tech, but they allowed a late 9-2 run off a batch of offensive rebounds at the regulation finish and then completed the melt in the overtime. Let’s go the Big East route tonight.

(725) SETON HALL  at  (726) MARQUETTE

Take: (726) MARQUETTE -3.5

Seton Hall has established its credentials as a solid team this season. But the Pirates are in a funk right now and the assignment tonight is against a team that has absolutely owned them as they travel to Marquette.

The Eagles have won seven straight at home in this series, and 13 of the last 14 overall. I don’t see them as much more than an ordinary team that works its collective butts off. But Marquette would appear to be catching Seton Hall at the right time.

The issue for the Pirates might well be on court chemistry. They’re doing an absolutely terrible job of working for good shots right now, and there a stat that bears this thought out in somewhat dramatic fashion.

Since defeating Creighton, Seton Hall has assembled an assist to field goal ratio that is astonishingly awful. Over the last there games, the Pirates have just 23 assists on 65 made FG’s. That’s 35%, and that’s about as miserable as it gets. It’s really tough to win when teammates are not acting in unison and that is clearly the case presently with this Seton Hall entry.

The Pirates are the more talented team tonight. And they’re certainly capable of getting their act together. But they’re fade material until they get their offense in gear. Add in the completely lopsided series history and Marquette starts to look like a pretty enticing option as small home chalk tonight. I’ll play the flow and will look to back the home team tonight.

Dave’s Free Play, Tuesday 1/27/15

I’m going to speculate we’ve seen the last of the Team Carter/Team Irvin type of Pro Bowl matchups. Sunday’s event was a tight game that went right to the finish with the issue in doubt throughout. But the NFL is as bottom line as it gets, and the powers that be can’t be happy about what really mattered as far as this game was concerned.

The game was a sellout, but it sure looked like lots of spectators departed the premises long before the decision was rendered. The league can probably live with that. What they won’t handle well are the TV ratings, which were, by NFL standards, pretty awful.

The Pro Bowl has always been a tough deal for the league. It’s tough to call it an All-Star type of game when no one on the roster of the two best teams in the league is playing. That’s a big strike one. Strike two is it’s in between the conference championships and the Super Bowl. Talk about the ultimate bland sandwich. Strike three is this new format, where no one knows who to root for as it’s no longer AFC vs. NFC, but rather what amounts to a pick up game.

From a Las Vegas perspective, there was precious little business written on this game at the books. Now we all know the NFL doesn’t condone gambling (wink, wink) but they know how to read numbers. Based on the apparent lack of action on this tilt, I’m confident the league will be scrapping the new and evidently uninspiring setup.

There’s not really any good way to put this game together. A mid-season Pro Bowl won’t fly as it does in the other sports. There’s zero chance any owner would allow his players to play in a meaningless game while the regular season is taking place. Personally, I think they’re better off just going back to playing the game after the Super Bowl and putting it back in Hawaii. Don’t be shocked if that happens sooner than later.

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I played just one game on Monday and it never even sniffed the winner’s circle. Detroit was dead flat from the opening tip and got run over by Wright State. Tonight’s slate looks much more promising, and to be candid, I need a good night as the last few days haven’t been stellar.

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The aforementioned Wright State/Detroit clash was certainly a bad call on my part. I’ll head to the ACC for what will hopefully be a much more satisfactory result this evening.

(513) PITTSBURGH  at  (514) VIRGINIA TECH

Take: (513) PITTSBURGH -4

Good teams are often able to overcome tough scheduling spots. It’s more difficult for the lesser lights though, and I think a case in point exists tonight as Virginia Tech plays host to Pittsburgh.

The Hokies are in rebuilding mode this season, and the results have been pretty much what was generally expected. But Virginia Tech came up with a monster effort this weekend, throwing a huge scare into powerful Virginia and just missing what would have been a tremendous upset.

This was quite a performance by the Hokies. They were down a load early, but didn’t just rally to make it interesting. Virginia Tech put together a spectacular run at both ends of the court and ended up having the Cavaliers on the ropes in a big way.

Virginia managed to get it together and the Hokies probably got a little nervous down the stretch. But there is likely little question that this was the best Virginia Tech showing of the season.

The problem now for the Hokies is that they could be drained, both physically and mentally. Pittsburgh is a conference opponent and I’m sure Virginia Tech would love to break through and get that elusive first ACC victory. But it’s a massive potential letdown spot off the Virginia game and I don’t believe the Hokies are good enough to overcome that.

Pitt needs this game badly. The Panthers are sitting at 13-7 overall and 3-4 in league play. As it stands right now, they’re bound for the NIT. You can be sure that’s not their goal, and a loss to the lowly Hokies would be a devastating blow to whatever Big Dance hopes still exist.

Pitt got overrun by Louisville this weekend. The Panthers ran into the Cardinals on the wrong day, as the ‘Ville could not miss and this one was pretty much done shortly after halftime. That was no doubt a disappointing result for Pittsburgh, but I think it pales in comparison to the V-Tech crusher against its state rival.

The home team will still be without freshman star Justin Bibbs and the Hokies lost a valuable inside presence when Joey Van Zegeren was suspended and then left the team. Pittsburgh is usually at its best when they can muscle opponents and make the game ugly. This shapes up as the right type of opponent for the Panthers on that count.

But the main ingredient here is the scheduling setup. Off what I witnessed on Sunday I make this a really challenging turnaround for Virginia Tech and I doubt they’re up to the task. I’ll lay it with Pittsburgh tonight.

Dave’s Free Play, Monday 1/26/15

So I’m scrolling through my various bookmarked sites over dinner and arrive at Twitter to see what’s trending. And there it is right at the top of the list.

#CancelWWE Network

Apparently, the highly anticipated Royal Rumble did not go well, at least based on the vast majority of the tweets I scanned.

There are things in the world that I simply just don’t get, never have and never will. Professional wrestling is very high on that list. But whereas my failure to master woodworking has always bothered me to a small extent, I’m actually pretty pleased with myself for having tossed this silly spectacle aside when I was roughly eight years old.

Prior to attending my first (and last) live wrestling event in 1961 at the long gone Rhode Island Auditorium, I was a huge fan. I cheered in front of the TV for Bruno Sammartino, and actually did believe that Gorilla Monsoon was truly from “parts unknown”.

So it was with great anticipation that I made the short walk from my home to “The Arena” (or as we Rhode Islanders pronounced it, “The Arener”) for a big live show with the great Bruno headlining against some miserable masked sociopath known as  “The Golden Terror”.  I had the best seat in the house (courtesy of a family member who ran the box office) and settled in for a night packed with thrills.

The show did not go off as planned. The fans were unhappy with the prelims and rather than place their empty beer cups under the seats, they utilized the ring as a massive wastebasket throughout the event. It got worse when it came time for the big fight between Sammartino and the dude with the mask.

Evidently there was a woman at ringside whose dislike toward  Golden Terror was way more intense than mine. That’s because when he strayed out of the ring at one point, said woman surged forward and kicked him in a very sensitive region. And that was the end of the match. No kidding, she really nailed him and the poor guy could not continue.

Now on to the secondary stuff and how this night ended my relationship with wrestling. I practically lived at this arena, as it was a stone’s throw from my house and I was there for every home game our beloved AHL team played there. I knew every square inch of this building inside and out.

So I was mighty confused to notice that all the wrestlers, the good guys and the bad guys, were all sharing the same dressing room. That made no sense to me. I figured the good guys would have the nicer home team digs and that the bad guys would be across the rink in the visitor’s room. Not the case, and even at the age of eight, I was able to conclude that something was amiss here.

That’s the precise moment that I realized that my dad was not making things up when he’d told me the whole thing was a fake. That closed the book for me as far as wrestling was concerned.

Thus, the question. If you already know the whole deal is scripted, why watch? I wouldn’t do so for free, let alone shelling out whatever the PPV tariff was for the privilege. As for the complaints about the apparent quality of this particular show, who do you complain to, the scriptwriters?

I want to open this up for comments. Maybe someone can enlighten me as to how adults are so into this whole thing. Not that it’s going to change my mind as guys in speedos and gaudy outfits are not my deal, but I’m honestly curious what the attraction is for actual adults. I just don’t get it.

Best place to comment is on Twitter (@davecokin) or in the Pregame.com forum once this is posted there during the day.

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1-2 Sunday, and that ends a nondescript week that was mostly subpar save for a 5-1 midweek breakout that ended up salvaging the seven days. This week promises to be an improvement.

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Heckuva comeback by Duke to make Sunday’s free play a winner. Nice personnel move by Coach K in the second half to go bigger and as mentioned in the writeup yesterday, I think the lack of depth for St. John’s was a key. Tonight’s play is a second meeting between a pair of Horizon entries.

(719) WRIGHT STATE  at  (720) DETROIT

Take: (720) DETROIT -5

One of the first things I do when looking at same season rematches is to break down the first meeting to see if something peculiar played into the result. I think there’s a case to be made that this was definitely case in the initial duel between Wright State and Detroit.

Detroit is not a great two-point shooting team by any stretch. But in the first meeting with the Raiders, they outdid themselves. The Titans were an almost unbelievable 11/42 on deuces in that clash. Wright State, on the other hand, was a nifty 22/39 on its twos. And that’s about as far as one needs to go to determine why Detroit limped away on the short end of a decisive 70-57 decision.

I expect a different result tonight. Detroit was not bothered at all by the Wright State press in that game as they had only ten turnovers. Assuming they can do as well tonight, it stands to reason their shooting won’t be as wildly off target the second time around.

The visitors are also beat up. Wright State coach Billy Donlon has a very deep rotation, so the Raiders are not truly shorthanded. But the injuries are meaningful. Kendall Griffin, who had been out most of the season, has just gotten back into major minutes but he’s doubtful with a head injury tonight. Steven Davis, one of the more valuable off the bench guys for the Raiders, is on the shelf. Most importantly, JT Yoho, arguably the best player on this team is down with a knee injury. The Raiders are already 0-2 since he got injured and his presence in the paint is being missed.

I see this setting up well for the home team. They’re in at least slightly better current form, they’re a whole lot healthier, the revenge motive is in place and I just can’t see the Titans duplicating the disastrous shooting that took place in the first get together. The number is workable, so I’m taking Detroit minus the points tonight.

UPDATE: Kendall Griffin’s head injury is not severe and he is expected to play tonight for Wright State.

 

 

 

Dave’s Free Play, Sunday 1/25/15

I was on the wrong side of a brutal beat on Saturday as Davidson earned an 80-72 overtime victory over George Mason. The Wildcats went off as a six-point favorites, so obviously having the dog and missing by one in the extra session was tough.

But this one was much worse than that, and once again a coach I’ve ripped in the past gets a rant directed his way. Paul Hewitt basically blew the game for his team. Either that, or he’s got players who don’t know how to follow directions. Given the history of Hewitt, I’ll just opine that he mishandled the end of regulation about as badly as he possibly could.

George Mason was up six when Davidson knocked down a three with 12 seconds remaining. The Wildcats then fouled and the Patriots managed to miss both free throws. That meant Davidson would surely shoot a three to try and get the game to overtime.

There’s a debate as to whether the team that’s leading should foul at the end of the game in this scenario. I don’t think there’s a hard and fast right or wrong. It depends on the opponent. If it’s a team that doesn’t have good three point shooting, maybe you let them fire away. But if it’s a good outside shooting team there’s no question that the team leading should foul.

Davidson is a very good team from beyond the arc, so George Mason should have fouled. But if you think that’s it, there’s more. By my count in running down the play by play, Davidson wasn’t even in the double bonus yet. That means they don’t even get the automatic two shots, they’re still in one plus one. Fouling is an absolute must in this situation, but the Patriots didn’t do so, and the game got evened up with one second to play. The overtime result was merely a foregone conclusion for me at that point.

The irony is that in my game writeup I expressed that my only concern with backing George Mason was Hewitt. I’ve stated many times going all the way back to his MAAC days that he’s not a good game coach. Unfortunately for me, he proved that to be an accurate assessment on Saturday yet again.

(Note that a team leading by 6 with 21 seconds remaining is 98.6% to win the game. Just thought I’d throw that in.)

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Totally frustrating day here, as all my winners were clean as a whistle, but there were two bad melts, including the aforementioned George Mason fiasco, and that ruined what should have been a really good day. All that can be done is to move on to the next day and hope Lady Luck doesn’t throw another fit at my expense.

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UTEP was a terrible choice as the Saturday free play. That’s about as bad a misread as is possible, as the Miners did just the opposite of what I thought they’d do coming out of the overtime loss at Western Kentucky. I’ll look at today’s big game at the Garden for the Sunday comp.

(831) DUKE  at  (832) ST. JOHN’S

Take: (831) DUKE -6

My first impulse when I saw this line is too high. Upon further examination, I think it might not be high enough.

Duke is beatable, but it looks to me like the teams that are going to have the best chance to kayo the Blue Devils are teams that can wear them down physically. While Duke has great talent, they’re not the deepest team around. So getting them involved in a game that’s rough and tumble and results in lots of fouls looks like a potential recipe for success.

Unfortunately for St. John’s, they’re not that type of team. In fact, the Red Storm are a team that rather noticeably lacks quality depth. This ism for the most past, a six-man rotation and when they have to go further down the bench that that for meaningful minutes, it’s not a good sign for Steve Lavin’s team.

The venue is a plus for St. John’s geographically, but not necessarily in terms of actual support. This is almost a second home for the Blue Devils and I expect that with the possibility of history taking place today for Mike Krzyzewski, look for the Duke spotters to be out in force.

The Blue Devils appear to have emerged from their brief funk, but St. John’s has been struggling some lately. It could well be that the previously mentioned lack of depth on the Johnnies roster is taking its toll. As for the matchup, St. John’s is not much from the outside and I don’t see them having a great day against all that Duke interior size. I expect Jahlil Okafor to get loads of touches today and if he gets Chris Obepka into foul trouble, the Johnnies are going to be awfully small.

Duke will be a popular play today. But square or not, I like the way they line up against St. John’s and I don’t consider the Blue Devils to be a true road team today. I’m laying the points with Duke.

 

Dave’s Free Play, Saturday 1/24/15

Happy trails to one of the true baseball greats on and off the field. Ernie Banks was as universally admired as perhaps anyone who has ever played the game.

The great disappointment, not just for Cubs fans, but for virtually anyone who enjoys sports and a great storyline, will be that “Mr. Cub” won’t be on hand to enjoy what appears to be a renaissance that’s about to take place at Wrigley. I know I would have loved to be a witness to see Ernie throw out the ceremonial first pitch the next time the Cubs make the playoffs, which might not be far away. That would have been awesome.

Nevertheless, when a man lives for more than eight decades and it’s apparent that no one ever had a bad thing to say about him, that’s quite a life. I hope Ernie Banks gets to play two every day in his field of dreams.

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There’s a good news item as well a little closer to home. Bobby Hauck is now a part of the San Diego State coaching staff. The former UNLV head man joins another ex-Rebel head coach on Rocky Long’s staff, as Jeff Horton is also an Aztec coach.

Hauck is a nice score for San Diego State. He’s a top quality guy, and he left the Rebels in much better shape than they were when he arrived in Las Vegas. I exchanged a brief text Friday with Bobby and he’s looking forward to living and working in San Diego. I sure can’t blame him!

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I split two Friday plays. Easy winner with the Spurs first half play, which was a virtual auto-play following a pretty hardcore post-game rant by Greg Popovich following a very poor San Antonio effort against the Bulls. Yet one more example of why weeding through mostly innocuous coach quotes produces a gem every now and then.

This will likely be my thinnest Saturday college card of the season, but I like the quality if not the quantity. Hopefully, an NBA play or two shows as well as I’ve been nails in that league for quite some time now. And I can’t screw things up with a bad NHL call as there aren’t any games!

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A loss on the Friday free play as Green Bay escaped with the win but not the cover against Valparaiso. This was one of the most intense defensive battles you’ll see all season. I’ve already circled the rematch as one I’ll have to watch and will likely be in action with as well. Today’s comp is on some heavy road chalk but a game where I’m more than willing to give up the points.

1/24 12:00 PM   CBB   (567) UTEP  at  (568) MARSHALL

Take: (567) UTEP -12.5

The season can’t end soon enough for anyone who cheers on Marshall. This figured to be a tough campaign for the Thundering Herd, but it’s fair to say it’s been even worse than almost anyone could have imagined. Things don’t appear likely to improve today.

This actually looked like it might be a dead spot for visiting UTEP where perhaps the lowly Herd might be able to throw a scare into their superior guests. Unfortunately for Marshall, they instead are catching the Miners in what will likely be a very nasty mood after what happened to them on Thursday.

UTEP really gave one away at Western Kentucky. They should have been up 10 at the half, but committed a dumb foul on a long three and thus led by only seven. Then right at the end of regulation, the Miners were given a massive break when one of the Hilltoppers committed a terrible foul on a three and gave UTEP a chance to steal the win. But UTEP missed the last free throw, the game went to overtime and Western Kentucky ended up celebrating a big home win.

If it was just the end half and end game mistakes, UTEP might just be down in the dumps. But there was more to this loss than those two episodes. The Miners were an incredible 0/17 on threes against the Hilltoppers. They were a shabby 12/24 at the foul line. Plus, UTEP allowed its opponent to snare 13 offensive boards, which is pretty bad for a team that’s usually very adept at preventing second chance baskets.

UTEP coach Tim Floyd knew his team let a victory skip through its collective fingers and said so after the game. Western Kentucky didn’t beat the Miners. The Miners beat the Miners. That’s bad news for an outgunned Marshall squad, and it gets worse when factoring in UTEP owning an eye-popping 16-4-1 spread record following a loss. I think UTEP is arriving in Huntington in a grimly determined state of mind, and if that’s the case, laying the points with the Miners is the way to play.

Dave’s Free Play, Friday 1/23/15

I can tell we’re nearing the end of January. Even if I didn’t have any way of determining the exact date, I’d be able to state with near certainty that it’s late January simply by scanning the college basketball conference standings and results.

This is the time of the season where reality has a tendency to start setting in for teams that have been spending time in their league penthouses after lengthy stays in the conference outhouses. Sure enough, we’re starting to see the pressure of being in unusually lofty perches starting to take its toll.

Some cases in point, just from Thursday night. Eastern Illinois has been a huge surprise in the Ohio Valley Conference. But the Panthers saw their unbeaten league slate get blown up last night by Murray State in a decisive win by the Racers. In the Big West, UC-Davis was perfect in conference play as they traveled to Hawaii. The Aggies will be returning to the mainland with the winning streak concluded. UL Monroe, a doormat for quite some time that has enjoyed a very surprising surge this season in the Sun Belt, suddenly found itself in unfamiliar surroundings last night, sitting atop the standings. The Warhawks were unable to get it done as home favorites against UT Arlington.

This is one of the aspects I like to focus on as we approach the midway point of league play. It’s obviously not a hard and fast rule, but more often than not contending teams that have not been there before will often start to feel the heat and will begin tumbling.

Just a heads up when you’re doing your daily analysis. While the current form is unquestionably important, don’t forget to check out the past performance chart. If you see a team that’s come from out of nowhere and is now in the midst of a conference title chase, proceed with caution. The clock striking midnight for many of these Cinderella stories has a tendency to start tolling right about now.

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Sweet Thursday here, as I missed going 6-0 by a basket. No complaints with the 4-1 college result plus an easy NBA winner with the Bulls. I’m looking to finish the month on a big run and if you’d like to be a part of it, try my monthly special. One full month of all my plays every day and a guaranteed net profit of ten units minimum. More detailed info if you email me at cokin@cox.net or just sign up today by utilizing the “buy now” tab on this page.

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UT Arlington paid off as an outright dog winner last night. I’ll take a look at the one game that certainly appears to be the most exciting to watch on tonight’s small college slate.

1/23 6:00PM   CBB   (827) VALPARAISO  at  (828) GREEN BAY

Take: (828) GREEN BAY -5.5

It’s a three way tie at the top right now in the Horizon. Cleveland State, Green Bay and Valparaiso are each sitting pretty at 5-1. The Phoenix and the Crusaders appear to be the two actual best teams ahead of the Vikings, so that makes tonight’s duel at Resch Center one that should definitely be worth watching.

Valparaiso has continued to flourish in spite of losing Keith Carter to an injury four games back. Carter is still questionable as of now for this game, but the Crusaders have kept winning as senior transfer E. Victor Nickerson has stepped into Carter’s starting spot and done quite well.

But make no mistake, the guy who fires the engine for Valpo is Alec Peters. This kid is a handful. He’s 6’9″ with tremendous range, and that makes Peters a real matchup nightmare. The fact he’s only a sophomore is sensational news for the Crusaders as they should have little trouble building around him and staying very relevant in the Horizon in the process.

Green Bay is loaded in the backcourt with Keifer Sykes and Carrington Love, but don’t get fooled, this is a team that scores thanks to high percentage shots and terrific defense. Brian Wardle made a name for himself as a player back in days at Marquette, and he has regained his status as a rising star in the coaching ranks. You might recall that Wardle landed in some hot water a couple years ago for allegedly mistreating players and he subsequently admitted he needed to evolve some as a coach. Apparently, he’s done that and much more.

I think the edge here goes to the home team, but it’s pretty close. The keys for me are the home court advantage and perhaps a bit more versatility. The Phoenix have been overwhelming opponents as hosts this season and they’re really good at creating high percentage scoring opportunities. But there’s a flip side here as well. If Green Bay is down late, they’re not favorites to catch up via the three, plus the Phoenix are not a good foul shooting team.

My guess is that this will be a very competitive game most of the way. But aside from one very flat performance against Chicago State, no one has given the Phoenix a sweat on this court and I believe Wardle will find a way to contain Peters to at least some extent. By no means is this an easy decision, but I’ll look to side with Green Bay minus the points tonight.

Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 1/22/15

One can look at virtually any narrow defeat and come away with some positives in spite of the final result. So I could easily fill this space talking about the good things that UNLV managed to accomplish in last night’s 71-69 home loss to New Mexico.

But I can’t. That’s because all I can remember is that last basket by the Lobos that turned out to be the game winner. Sorry, but that overrides everything else I saw in this game.

In case you missed it, the final basket was a put back of a missed New Mexico shot. The Rebels failed to box out on the weak side and it was an easy board and bucket for the Lobos. This same scenario has taken place over and over this season. And it’s simply not excusable. I don’t want to hear about inexperience or any other feeble reason for this constant occurrence.

I had an email convo following the game with a friend who knows Miami coach Jim Larranaga well. One of Larranaga’s regular practice drills is focused on this simple basic. The team works on sealing off the weak side to prevent offensive rebounds. It’s not really complicated, it’s probably a bore for the players, and it also works. I have no idea how often this drill gets run at UNLV practices. But the players clearly aren’t taking that lesson into games, because this happens ALL THE BLEEPING TIME.

Meanwhile, UNLV is now 10-9, including a pathetic 1-5 in MWC play. That one win was against a woefully undermanned San Jose team. Among the ten wins are very narrow escapes at home against Morehead State, Sam Houston State and Portland. In other words, they’re that close to being 7-12.

I get arguments from some Rebel fans, though they’re rapidly dwindling in quantity, about being too hard on the team and being impatient considering how youthful they are. I admire the loyalty of these fans to the program, but I can’t buy their rationale. No one should have expected miracles from this squad. But being seriously upset about the Rebels not even being a Top 100 program four years into the current regime is a legit beef. Even more so in view of UNLV winning 127 games over Lon Kruger’s final five seasons in Las Vegas.

The cupboard was hardly left bare when LK moved on to coach Oklahoma. The Rebels were 51-19 in Dave Rice’s first two years at the helm.  They’ve attracted some bigger names in terms of recruiting over the last couple of years, but the results are heading in the wrong direction and patience in the city is wearing thin.

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My selection on the Super Bowl has been made. This will not be one of my stronger takes on the big game, but I’ve won far more than I’ve lose on this event over the years, and went with what I feel are the basics in formulating this decision. That play is of course included when you purchase any of my available packages. The best option is the monthly that comes with a stellar guarantee. Email me at cokin@cox.net for complete details, or simply click on the “buy now” tab and get subscribed right away.

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Michigan State seemed to have its way against Penn State but the Spartans just missed a number of easy shots and ended up never sniffing the number in their win. I’ll touch on one of my favorite revenge angles for tonight’s free play.

1/22 5:00PM   CBB   (539) UT ARLINGTON  at  (540) UL MONROE

Take: (539) UT ARLINGTON +4

Second meeting this season between these two entries, and I won’t be at all surprised if it’s a similar type of clash as the first game was.

Arlington seemed to be well on its way to a win against Monroe the first time around. But the Warhawks mounted a pair of big rallies, and eventually pulled out the road win in overtime. I’ll assume the visiting Mavericks won’t need to be reminded of that tough home loss, and the revenge motive should be substantial tonight.

This is the type of revenge setup I prefer. That is, road dogs who lost a very close home game to the opponent. There’s not going to be a lack of confidence as it’s a payback scenario from a close loss that could have gone either way, and it’s even better if the two teams are relatively closely matched, as it the case tonight.

I’m also curious to see how UL Monroe reacts to their very new residence atop the Sun Belt Conference. The Warhawks have been doormats for many years. They’re  a robust 12-6 this year. Not bad for a team that over the prior six campaigns racked up an aggregate 34-110 mark.

I think there’s an argument to be made that this will the biggest two-game home stand UL Monroe has played in perhaps nine years, going back to their WAC days. The Saturday game with Georgia Southern figures to be a duel for first place. That’s not to suggest the Warhawks will get caught looking ahead here, but I certainly have no problem with that being the next up battle. And I think there’s a possibility that Monroe feels a new type of pressure they’re unfamiliar with as they take the court tonight.

I don’t see a particular advantage as far as the number is concerned, as there’s no question UL Monroe has earned the role of chalk tonight. But I really don’t see them being measurably better than the visitors and  the close loss revenge angle is definitely in play here. I’ll be grabbing the points with UT Arlington this time.

 

Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 1/21/15

They’re at it again. Those dirty Patriots allegedly took some air out of the footballs in their AFC title game romp over the Indianapolis Colts. Sorry, I can’t get worked up even a little bit over this and here’s why.

In case you haven’t noticed, while the NFL business model is far and away the most sophisticated in sports history, the stuff on the field is strictly garage league level and always has been. They have part-time officials who are absolutely laughable at times. They’ve still got this inane tuck rule where a fumble isn’t a fumble even though everyone that sees the play knows it’s a fumble. They’ve got this process deal on catches where it’s not a catch even though it actually is a catch. I could list a handful more bizarre regulations, but I’ll figure you’ve gotten my point already. Beyond that, someone is cheating or at least trying to in some fashion on virtually every single play.

So now comes The Case of the Deflated Footballs. Apparently less air in the ball makes it easier to grip and throw. I guess that makes sense. And it looks as though the Patriots might have gotten caught in their latest insidious plot to steal wins away from the opposition. Shame on them.

No actually, shame on the NFL. Let me get this straight. The footballs are inspected by the league a couple hours before the game and then returned to the teams. Is that right? Who came up this brilliant idea, Gaylord Perry?

This whole thing is nuts. First of all, the officials should be in possession and control of the football at all times. Anything else is absurd. Can you imagine this taking place in baseball? Umps inspect the baseballs before the game and then give them to the teams. I can only imagine what kind of condition those baseballs would be in by the time the game got started.

Here’s another goofy NFL “rule” as it pertains to the footballs. They use different balls for kicking. Huh? That’s ridiculous. Sorry, this should be one ball fits all. I don’t see the NBA handing the player who just got fouled a different ball when he goes to shoot his free throws.

In any event, this is all mountain out of molehill stuff to me. I know some of you are all bent out of shape, and I can understand that opinion, sort of. But the view from here is a shoulder shrug. I’ve seen teams get jobbed out of wins with way worse, courtesy of some stuck on stupid rule that somehow justifies it. And since I’m not expecting that to change anytime soon, I’m just not going to give a hoot about this.

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Hot run ended with an 0-2 Tuesday. Expect better tonight with what looks to be an attractive college slate plus a couple possibilities in the NBA, where I’m enjoying a pretty big run, albeit strictly low volume on the plays.

I’m seeing some guarantees somewhat similar to mine as far as packages go. But not quite the same. Mine is +10 net units over 30 days, with almost all the plays one unit each. No +10, no further cost till that +10 is achieved regardless of duration. Sign up securely via Paypal by using the “buy now” tab on this page. Or if you’d like more detailed info, simply email me at cokin@cox.net.

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Nebraska didn’t make my card on Tuesday night, and if gets officially graded as a push as far as the free play record goes, as it was -3 when I posted it. Anyone who played it during the day probably won it. I’m going with a piece of what should be public chalk tonight.

1/21 04:00 PM   CBB   (731) PENN STATE  at  (732) MICHIGAN STATE

Take: (732) MICHIGAN STATE -12

I actually thought this number would come a shade higher, figuring the Spartans to perhaps be -14. So I’ll expect the bulk of the tickets to be written on Michigan State tonight. Nevertheless, I suspect Sparty could win this one by a bunch.

Optimism at State College for this to finally be the breakthrough season for Penn State hoops has dissipated. The Nittany Lions have now lost five in a row. The Lions are playing hard but they’re just a limited entry. At some point, I can see the team getting discouraged and I would not be at surprised if tonight’s the night.

Michigan State is in go with mode here. Simply stated, this is one of those teams that it’s not really wise to play against when they’re coming off a loss. In spite of frequently heavy imposts because that trend is not exactly a secret, the Spartans continue to pay off their investors on a regular basis in this scenario.

Penn State’s defense since conference play got underway has been awful. This might not be Tom Izzo’s most talented team, but as usual, Michigan State is very efficient offensively, and I’ll be shocked if they don’t at least get ample good scoring chances this evening. If you want to isolate one comparative stat, try assists to field goals. Michigan State is the best in the Big 10 in that department. Penn State, on the other hand, is dead last.

So steep price or not, this is a game that at least on paper, should be fairly easy for the favorite. That’s not always a good thing as far as laying substantial lumber is concerned, as the chalk can get complacent. But that’s not a frequent occurrence for the Spartans coming off a loss. I’ll side with the bully here and will choose Michigan State.

Dave’s Free Play, Tuesday 1/20/15

Max Scherzer has signed on the dotted line and the Washington Nationals are the new favorite to win it all in 2015. Considering the Nats won the NL East by a whopping 17 games last season, it would nothing less than shocking if they aren’t at the very least a playoff team.

Conventional wisdom now suggests the Nationals will be moving a starting pitcher between now and the start of the new baseball season. That makes sense, as the present rotation would have Gio Gonzalez in the #5 slot, which is an absolutely harrowing scenario for opposing lineups. Tanner Roark, off his breakout 2014, would be odd man out. So the widespread speculation is that a deal is forthcoming.

I’m not arguing against a trade taking place, but I’m not as positive as most that it will happen. First off, even though free agent to be Jordan Zimmermann is the most likely trade piece, there’s not a chance the Nationals will just give him away. With that impending free agency, the market might not be deep and obtaining proper value in return might be difficult.

Here’s another possibility. There has been some thought among more than a few analysts that six-man rotations are on the horizon. Less workload for the starters is a benefit, at least in the minds of many. Also, with the addition of the second wild card, the first and foremost idea is now simply to qualify for the playoffs. Certainly it’s beneficial to win the division and avoid the dreaded play-in game. But we just saw a World Series with two wild card entries playing for the marbles. That result might influence some teams to believe that keeping the arms healthy for the post season is more important than extending them to try and win the division.

I’m not saying this is the road the Nats will travel this season. But I think it’s a possibility. They’ve got what would be a monstrous six-man roll right off the bat. And with what they just invested in Scherzer, they might just love the idea of less annual innings in hopes of extending his peak level for an extra season or two.

This is definitely food for thought. Make no mistake, I absolutely believe the six-man rotation is on the way. It’s just a question whether or not we see it happen now with the Nationals or later with someone else. But this is the next evolutionary step in baseball, and my belief is it’s going to happen sooner than later.

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3-0 Monday with the Cavaliers, UT-Arlington and Kansas. Nice roll taking place right now, so I’ll suggest it’s not a bad time to jump on my current offer. That’s for an entire month of all my plays, with the +10 net unit gain guarantee included. Subscribe today using the “buy now” feature that’s on this page, or email me directly at cokin@cox.net for more detailed information.

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Crazy game between Oklahoma and Kansas on Monday, but all was well that ended well for the free play on the Jayhawks. Here’s another college basketball clash for Tuesday evening.

1/20 5:30PM   CBB   (525) MINNESOTA  at  (526) NEBRASKA

Take: (526) NEBRASKA -3

Early conference struggles for both Minnesota and Nebraska. But it certainly appears the Cornhuskers have found some reasonably solid footing of late while the Golden Gophers have yet to relocate their pre-conference mojo.

Minnesota did finally get that elusive first conference win last time out as they outlasted Rutgers. But it wasn’t easy as the Gophers had to withstand a couple of Rutgers charges and the defense was substandard yet again.

It’s not as though Minnesota has been perfection on offense. They have been turning it over too often and the foul shooting has been very erratic. But the real issues have been on the defensive end. The Gophers are getting chewed up on the inside and they’re also surrendering far too many offensive rebounds.

Nebraska is not going to win any awards for offensive proficiency. They really don’t seem to have a good flow and the Cornhuskers can really struggle to cash in even the open looks. But Tim Miles has his guys playing intense defense and it’s pretty clear that’s how they’re going to have to win their games this season.

My eyes tell me that Nebraska is farther along than Minnesota right now. The Huskers ended up getting their doors blown in at Wisconsin last outing, but the prior two games were good wins over Illinois and Rutgers. Neither of those teams is top tier by any stretch but they were still what I thought were solid performances in that Nebraska accomplished their game plan in terms of pace and style and got the wins.

I expect more of the same tonight. Minnesota doesn’t seem to flourish when things get physical and that’s what they’re very likely to receive in Lincoln tonight. Nebraska has complied an admirable record vs. the spread at home, while the Gophers have burned money on a regular basis when putting on the road uniforms. I don’t see the number as a big obstacle tonight, so I’ll be looking at Nebraska minus the points.