Dave’s Free Play, Friday 3/6/15

Let’s see how objective I can be with today’s baseball breakdown. This is the tough one for me, as it’s the Boston Red Sox. That’s my team, and naturally, I’m pretty charged up about some of the off-season additions as the Bosox try to rebound from the disastrous 2014 campaign.

I don’t think there’s much question that this has a chance to be a very good offense. Pablo Sandoval can hit anyplace, but Fenway really appears tailor made for Kung Fu Panda. Hanley Ramirez is back with his original organization, and I really like him being moved to the outfield. Ramirez is less likely to get dinged up getting away from his shortstop duties, and the fact he’s muscled up to about 225 this season should be a plus with the inviting Green Monster just a pop fly away.

David Ortiz needs to fight off any age issues, Dustin Pedroia needs to stay healthy as does Mike Napoli, Rusney Castillo needs to live up to his promise, the team needs to find a way to get Mookie Betts on the field, Xander Bogaerts needs to step forward as he slides back to his natural SS position. Then there’s what to do about Shane Victorino. He’s penciled in as the starting RF right now, but my modest proposal would be to see if he can be dealt for an arm.

The pitching is another story entirely. I am not bullish on this staff. Rick Porcello should be solid, but the rest of the rotation is ultra-dicey. Clay Buchholz is always an injury risk. Wade Miley is a good mid-rotation fit as long as he doesn’t get a case of the southpaw blues, which is always in the mix for lefties unfamiliar with the perils of Fenway. I remain convinced that Joe Kelly is better suited to pitch high leverage innings out of the pen, and Justin Masterson is a huge question mark at best.

The bullpen is actually down a notch from last season, as Andrew Miller is gone and he was simply lights out last season. No real concerns with Koji Uehara and the righty setup guys should be okay. But I don’t know if there’s a reliable situational lefty on the staff and that’s a potential hole.

The Red Sox won’t repeat the miserable ’14 campaign. That’s a virtual certainty. If the pitching is respectable they can win the division and get past the 84.5 O/U. But I have too many worries about this staff to take a strong enough stance to actually wager that way. Nevertheless, I’m going glass half full and will call for Boston to get back to serious playoff contention this season and I’ll give them a shaky endorsement to win the AL East.


Another good result on Thursday with four up and two down. I’m still trying to explain to myself why I didn’t pop St. Peter’s against a really bad Fairfield squad, but you know what they say about hindsight. In any event, 4-2 works fine and a very strong current roll continues.

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USC Upstate came within a whisker of blowing a late three point lead when they committed a mind-numbing three shot foul, but a miss on the third free throw by Florida Gulf Coast’s Bernard Thompson preserved the win and prevented a major sweat here. Let’s examine another tournament duel for today’s free play.

(855) TOWSON  vs.  (856) ELON

Take: (856) ELON +1.5

On paper, there’s not a whole lot to choose between Towson and Elon as those two schools get things rolling in the Colonial Athletic Association tourney. But current form is another story and that’s my focus here.

Elon was laboring badly with a 3-12 league record, and the very youthful Phoenix appeared to be about to wave the white flag on this season. But sometimes all it takes is one short stretch of good basketball to turn things around, and that appears to be what has taken place for Elon.

The Phoenix got out of the gate in terrible fashion in a 2/21 matchup at Delaware. But Elon fought back and managed to then put together five great minutes in OT as they got a desperately needed win over the Blue Hens.

Elon has subsequently gotten hot, and they’re now on a three-game win streak as they take the court today. They got sweet upset against Northeastern and concluded the regular season with a sharp win over a decent UNC-Wilmington entry.

Towson is going the other way right now. The Tigers have dropped four in a row and seven of their last eight. That’s not exactly the ideal form heading into the tournament, although I’m sure they’re approaching this like they’re 0-0.

Two factors worth noting here. Towson cannot shoot a lick but they’re very adept at grabbing offensive boards and getting second chances. Elon has had a big issue keeping the opposition off the glass, and they cannot give up too many extra opportunities if they want to win this game.

The other aspect that might come into play is the site for this game. It’s not a home game for Towson, but it’s definitely what ought to be home/neutral. But there also appears to have been some adjustment made for this in the number, as Towson has been made the small favorite here.

The bottom line is that I have Elon as the slightly better team and they’re in what can only be called much better present form. The Phoenix players seem genuinely confident about their chances in this tournament and I expect a good effort today. Elon as the underdog looks playable to me.


Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 3/5/15

The baseball previews continue today with a look at the 2015 Baltimore Orioles. This team has confounded many experts for two years running. When it happens once, maybe it can be chalked up as a fluke. Two years in succession, it’s time to reassess.

The Orioles are once again a team that on paper, doesn’t seem all that daunting. But there’s clearly a positive chemistry that works for this squad, and there simply aren’t many better at maximizing the talent on hand than Baltimore manager Buck Showalter.

The Orioles could well be better offensively this season. Matt Wieters will be back after losing virtually the entire 2014 season to injury. The Birds will hope to get a full year out of Manny Machado. One has to think Chris Davis will rebound to some extent, and that Jonathan Schoop will continue to improve. I’ve always liked Alejandro De Aza. JJ Hardy remains a fixture at shortstop, and Adam Jones is rock solid. I don’t know is Steve Pearce can repeat his breakout, but he’s now an asset. Aside from filling the right field spot long held by Nick Markakis, this lineup is really well set.

The pitching will remain the question mark, as the Orioles don’t have any dominating arms. Kevin Gausman has a chance to break out though, and the quartet of Chen, Tillman, Norris and Gonzalez are steady if not spectacular. The bullpen is what I’d call league average. That could change if a healthy Dylan Bundy reverts to his pre-injury status. If that happens, Bundy either joins the rotation at some point or fortifies the pen.

By the numbers, the Orioles are still not that good. But this is one case where I just can’t trust the numbers, and that’s coming from a very numbers-oriented baseball analyst. I think the Orioles will find a way to get to +.500 again and will once again contend for a playoff spot. But for wagering purposes, I will pass on playing the 81.5 O/U.


One of the heartbreaker beats of the entire season with Sacred Heart, but it was still a 3-2 winning Wednesday, so the good results continue.

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Bryant hit what can only be called a miracle three at the horn to force OT against Sacred Heart and the Pioneers bet eventually lost by the hook in two OT’s. No doubt about it, that one stung a little. I’ll try my hand at breaking down another conference tourney matchup tonight.


Take: (581) USC UPSTATE +4.5

Sure, you remember Florida Gulf Coast. One of the all-time great NCAA Cinderella stories, the Eagles are trying to make their way back to the Big Dance and they’ll try to take another step tonight as they host USC Upstate in an Atlantic Sun Tournament semi-final matchup.

This is no longer the high flying Lob City entry that stood the college hoop world on its collective ears a couple years ago. The current edition can still do some crazy athletic stuff and they’re shot blocking maniacs. But this is a defense first Florida Gulf Coast entry and point prevention is their game.

USC Upstate is also a team that I think would qualify as defense first. The Spartans force lots of turnovers and feature a pretty tough man to man defense that seems to work for this experienced entry.

I don’t think there’s a great deal to choose between these teams. The road team needs Ty Greene to have a big game. The hosts are going on rely on Brett Comer and Bernard Thompson, the two senior leaders who were such a huge part of the Sweet 16 run two season ago.

It’s definitely not easy to pull the trigger and fade this favorite at home. Florida Gulf Coast is not going to fold under the big game pressure. But I don’t believe the visitors will either. The Spartans are actually the slightly better team on the ratings set that works most reliably for me in these tournaments. I see this one having a great chance to be a one or two possession game that goes to the wire. That being the case, I feel I’m getting enough here to justify taking USC Upstate plus the points.


Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 3/4/15

Team preview time today with a look at the 2015 Atlanta Braves.

It’s rebuilding time for the Braves. This is an organization that has enjoyed success for what amounts to a generation, but they started getting away from the formula that had worked for so many years and began paying the price last season. It seems likely Atlanta will tumble further down the standings this year.

The potential strength of this team will be the pitching, but even that’s not a sure thing. Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Shelby Miller and Mike Minor are an adequate quartet and I think Wood has a shot to break out. The fifth spot figures to be an issue. Craig Kimbrel is still a monster closer, but getting to Kimbrel could be a problem.

I don’t like the attack for the Braves. Freddie Freeman might not see many strikes this year. There’s way too little sock in this lineup, both second and third base are potential big problems, and the outfield is a mess. Left field looks like a platoon, and Melvin Upton Jr is still BJ Upton in center field. Nick Markakis is an okay add but I personally think he’s a bit overrated and he’ll no longer be hitting ahead of the same lineup he was surrounded by in Baltimore. Christian Betancourt should be a plus behind the plate, but his bat is a big concern.

Basically, this is a team with two stars in Freeman and the amazing Andrelton Simmons, who is one of the best shortstops I’ve ever seen and who’s stick gets better every year. But beyond that duo, uh, yikes.

I have the Braves winning right around 72 games with what they have on their roster now, and I think that could be on the high side as it would not shock me to see Kimbrel dealt at some point. Therefore, while I have not gone to the window with this yet, I’m definitely considering Under 74.5 with Atlanta and I can’t see better than a fourth place finish in the NL East.


It’s going really well right now, with a 5-2 Tuesday, or 4-2-1 at worst depending on the Texas A&M result. That Aggies result is the grind in microcosm. When it’s not going well, there’s no chance in the world I steal a game like that, one I had absolutely no business winning. But when the flow is positive, the breaks show up and I get to commit what amounts to legal larceny. There was a mildly tough beat on Army, but copping a win with the Aggies was pure luck.

Regardless, it’s a very good roll right now and therefore likely no better time to explore the possibilities of subscribing. All packages include all the plays and the early rate for baseball is now available. If you’re looking for lots of excitement and some really big plays, I’m not the right guy for you. If you’re in this for the long haul and understand that it’s a grind, email me directly at cokin@cox.net for more information.


The free play went pretty much according to form as Mississippi eventually took control and got the win at Alabama. I’ll go the tournament route tonight with a look at an opening round NEC contest.

(795) SACRED HEART  at  (796) BRYANT

Take: (795) SACRED HEART +5.5

Bryant University is kind of an old stomping grounds for me. Located in Smithfield, Rhode Island, I spent quite a bit of time on that campus back in the 1970’s. No, I was never a student there. But I had a substantial number of, uh, clients that attended Bryant back when I was on the other side of the betting window. So Bryant was a regular Tuesday stop for me back in that time frame.

Bryant was also where I found out first hand just how hard an NFL QB can throw a football. I used to enjoy going to Patriots training camp, which was located at Bryant for about a quarter century starting sometime in the mid-70’s. I was on the sidelines this one time and a young QB named Steve Grogan was playing catch with one of his teammates. Man oh man, did this guy ever have a cannon. I’m maybe 20-30 feet away tops and every time the ball went by me, you could actually hear the whoosh as it ripped by. I have no idea how anyone actually could catch those footballs. Me, forget it, I’d have just ducked.

Anyway, enough with the reminiscing. The NEC tournament is wide open. The regular season champ, St. Francis (NY) comes in mired in a terrible shooting slump, going an astonishing 13/83 on threes over their final four games. Almost anyone can win this eight-team free for all, including the two squaring off in Smithfield this evening.

Sacred Heart won both regular season meetings, including a big comeback that produced an OT win in the second clash between the two teams. The double revenge motive is contributing to the line being higher than I believe it should be tonight. That old adage about how tough it is for one team to beat another three straight times in one season is kind of a myth. Let’s just say that if you blind bet every double revenger, I wouldn’t be planning a trip to the nearest Mercedes dealer.

Bryant does have a couple of advantages tonight. They’re at home and the crowd should be revved up for some tournament action. Plus, the visitors are just awful at the free throw line while Bryant is the best charity stripe team in the league.

Nevertheless, Sacred Heart knows they can beat this team as they’ve already done so twice this season. I also really do believe this will be a dog oriented tournament where anyone can beat anyone. My math actually favors the Pioneers on a neutral court, and while being the host warrants Bryant laying a little bit, I can’t justify the Bulldogs laying this much lumber in what looms as a close game. I’ll be looking to take my chances with Sacred Heart plus the points tonight.

Dave’s Free Play, Tuesday 3/3/15

I’ve made no secret about the fact that Brent Musburger is one of my all-time favorite broadcasters. He’s always been extremely well prepared and I have a huge preference for announcers who don’t yell and scream incessantly and just do a great job of accompanying what I can see for myself.

I’ve also been a Musburger fan because he doesn’t run away from the truth, which is that a significant percentage of his audience might have action on the game he’s covering. For years, Musburger was basically the only one who would state the betting line without doing so in a covert fashion.

To me, that’s respecting the entire audience, be they fans or wagerers. Besides, even non-bettors like to know what “Vegas” thinks, so to me he’s simply doing his job. It sure beats the crap out of the play by play guy who is calling some game an upset when the team that’s favored is the one winning the game. That drives me nuts and I have little respect for broadcasters who are ignorant on this subject.

I did not catch the sound last night as the Oklahoma/Iowa State game headed to the finish line, as I was dining out at the time and only had the video feed. Evidently, Musburger’s on-air partner, Fran Fraschilla, let the audience know that Brent perhaps had a little something riding on the outcome. Whether or not he actually did is speculation, but the exchange was hilarious.

This is courtesy of the linesmakers.sportingnews.com and writer Marcus DiNitto. With roughly half a minute remaining and the Cyclones up 74-68 an out of bounds play was ruled in favor of the Sooners.

Fraschilla: “I bet you don’t want them to review that call, do ya?”

Musburger: (laughing) “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Yes, I do and no, I don’t.”

As it turned out, the call was reviewed and reversed and Iowa State ended up covering by a whisker in the 77-70 win.

I’m sure there are going to be some stuffed shirts who will get bent out of shape regarding this not so subtle exchange. To them I say, shut up. I have no problem with a broadcaster having action on a game. His call can’t influence the outcome and in the case of a pro like Musburger it also won’t impact his description of the game. This is supposed to be fun. If the talent on the mic happens to be adding to his own enjoyment by having a few bucks on the game, that’s more than okay with me.


Iowa State was my only play on Monday evening, so I was thrilled with what can only be described as an unlikely winner, considering how pathetic the Cyclones were for the first 20 minutes.

Exhibition baseball begins on Tuesday, and while I don’t believe I’ll have any action on this opening slate, I will be getting involved if I can find a perceived advantage in these pre-season skirmishes. Advance lineup info is now available and if there’s an edge to be found, there’s no reason not to play.

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I sure didn’t have much hope of winning the Monday free play at halftime, but a big way to go to Iowa State for that huge second stanza comeback. Let’s head to the SEC for the Tuesday comp.

(533) MISSISSIPPI  at  (534) ALABAMA

Take: (533) MISSISSIPPI +2

This is what I call an easy decision game. That does not mean in any way, shape or form, that it’s an easy winner. I’ve always loathed that expression, because before the fact I don’t think there’s any such thing. Fact is, this game is by no means easy. I expect it to be close and I’m certainly not going to be stunned if it misses. But the decision part of who to play was easy for me.

Alabama has been about as consistent as it gets throughout the Anthony Grant regime. If it’s a big game, the Crimson Tide have failed far more often than not. The losses have frequently been close to be sure, but it’s tough to dispute that clutch and Alabama basketball haven’t exactly been a tandem.

We’re seeing pretty much the same old story this season with Alabama. They’ve again come up short in the most meaningful games and tonight’s clash with the Rebels falls into that category. Alabama still has a chance to put themselves in position to get to the NCAA tournament. But they really need to win the last two regular season games to get to .500 in the conference and then need a good showing in the league tournament. A loss tonight likely means the Tide will be NIT bound, and one will have to wonder whether Grant will be back for a seventh season on the Alabama sidelines.

Mississippi has had a fine season and the Rebels are in great shape to be on the upper side of the bracket come Big Dance time. But Ole Miss has two straight losses coming into this duel and the last thing head coach Andy Kennedy wants is a late season slump heading into March Madness. So I don’t see any chance the Rebels aren’t revved up for this game. There’s also little doubt the Rebels would love to deliver a knockout punch to a hated rival, particularly with the matchup taking place on Alabama’s court.

My numbers favor the visitors, I think it’s a situation where they’re going to be geared up and I simply don’t have a problem trying to beat Alabama in a game that matters. Give me Mississippi plus whatever points I can take.

Dave’s Free Play, Monday 3/2/15

Spring training is here and the exhibition games are about to begin. Tonight’s hoop slate is on the thin side to be sure, so no better time than right now to fire off my first MLB team breakdown. Leading off, because they’re first on the list alphabetically, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

There are going to be some surprise teams in baseball this season. I’ll be very surprised if the Diamondbacks are one of them. There’s a chance this team could be okay offensively if Paul Goldschmidt returns in superstar form, AJ Pollock continues his progression, Mark Trumbo bombs out 30-plus long balls, and the team gets good years from Aaron Hill and perhaps rookie Yasmany Tomas.

But there are some definite holes in this lineup. The catching is beyond shaky and I’m definitely not excited about the third base situation for the Snakes. Nevertheless, I can at least see some positive anticipation for the team offensively.

The pitching is another story entirely. This has the look of what could be a really awful staff. Jeremy Hellickson appears to be in line to be Arizona’s #1 starter. Wow, that’s not good. Neither is what’s behind Hellickson. Josh Collmenter, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Trevor Cahill. Maybe Patrick Corbin at some point, maybe Robbie Ray, maybe Vidal Nuno, maybe Chase Anderson. Top prospect Archie Bradley isn’t in the mix yet.

The bullpen isn’t much better. Addison Reed wasn’t great last season, and while he’s saying his shoulder is okay, anytime I hear “sore shoulder” it’s a giant red flag. The rest of the pen hardly inspires confidence.

I think the kindest phrasing I can come up with regarding the Diamondbacks is that they’re a team in transition. The 2015 Snakes have little chance to contend. I would say 75 wins is the ceiling for this squad. The oddsmakers did a great job of making it really tough to bet the Under, so no recommendation there. But if you’re looking to fire on a long shot to do some damage this season, my best advice would be to look elsewhere. I’ll put them ahead of Colorado in the NL West, but only because I’m convinced the Rockies will be in dump mode this summer.


1-1 Sunday and kicking myself for basically me talking me out of playing California, which was the daily free play. Marist probably should have covered its game with Rider. But on the flip side, I have LeBron James doing a Shaq impression at the foul line basically getting me a fortunate OT winner with the Rockets.

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Nice second half surge by California got the Bears past Oregon State as the Sunday free play. Very little to choose from on Monday, but here’s my best college opinion.

(717) OKLAHOMA  at  (718) IOWA STATE

Take: (718) IOWA STATE -4.5

I don’t think it’s out of line to suggest that Iowa State really needs this game. I’m not speaking from a “bubble” perspective as the Cyclones are in great shape to be dancing. But they aren’t exactly in peak form right now.

The last two games have been troubling for Iowa State as they’ve given away some comfortable leads in losses to Baylor and Kansas State. I’ll forgive the loss to the Bears as Baylor went ballistic on threes after falling down nine in the second half and sometimes there’s nothing that can be done about that.

The loss to Kansas State was worse, even though it was on the road. I thought the Cyclones got pushed around by a team I have referred to as “soft” on more than one occasion, and the Iowa State bench was horrendous on Saturday.

Oklahoma keeps winning games, but the Sooners are also not razor sharp right now. The issue here could definitely be the bench. Lon Kruger has a dynamite starting five, one of the best quintets in the country. But when he has to get the reserves involved, the quality clearly slips, and one has to wonder about whether the minutes logged by the first five are starting to take their toll.

I have a tendency to focus on who needs it more when it comes to late season duels between quality teams. In my opinion, off two straight losses where leads got away, that would be Iowa State tonight. Fred Holberg certainly doesn’t want to be heading into the post-season on a major downer.

The Cyclones haven’t lost two straight home games in quite some time. They’d definitely like to avenge a fairly lopsided loss to Oklahoma where the Cyclones gave up a 56-26 run after leading by ten at one point. I have to think the bench minutes should favor the home team here, especially off that awful showing at Manhattan. No bargain on the price to be sure, but I’ll side with Iowa State minus the points tonight.

Dave’s Free Play, Sunday 3/1/15

Okay, so I just typed in the standard headline with the new date, and then I made the mistake of actually looking at that new date. It’s already March. Damn. Are you bleeping kidding me? I blinked, and the first two months of another year are gone.

I was going to write something about how the potential seeding for the NCAA Tournament shifted with the Saturday results. But to tell the truth, I couldn’t care less about the seeding, as all that matters to me are the matchups. So to hell with that, I’m going to rant on this age thing.

This sucks. I stopped coloring the beard because I can’t even fool myself anymore. I can walk into any drug store in the country and find the antacid section without asking directions. It’s like I’m just drawn there unconsciously. Waitresses under the age of 50 now all refer to me as “honey” which means they consider me harmless. I get senior discounts without asking for them. I’m starting to have a legitimate urge to open the window and yell “get off my lawn, you rotten kids” even though there aren’t any kids around.

I had several other aspects of this disturbing process that I wanted to relate. But I forgot what they were. And don’t even think about making a joke about that.


Another big Saturday, 10-5 overall, and that closes the books on a solid enough February. March Madness is now upon us, and while my quantity will decline as I intend to be very selective in the tourneys this season, I’m confident the quality won’t slip at all. Plus, it’s baseball season as the exhibition games start this week!

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Leon Rice did a superb coaching job on Saturday as Boise State got the series sweep against San Diego State and got me a winner with the daily free play. Here’s a look at a Sunday PAC-12 clash.


Take: (820) CALIFORNIA -3

Oregon State has legitimately been one of the major surprises this season is college basketball. Wayne Tinkle has done a phenomenal job with the Beavers, a team that was widely considered to be the worst in the PAC-12 prior to the season. Instead, Oregon State is a cinch to be playing some post-season ball, with the NIT a very real possibility.

California also appears to be NIT material, and while I think it’s fair to say the Golden Bears have been a mild disappointment based on pre-season power ratings, it’s hardly what anyone would call a disaster.

Cal is not an easy team to back as even small chalk. They have trouble generating offense inside and they’re a pathetic foul shooting team. The Bears are also not in what would be called stellar form, having lost three in a row as they arrive for their home finale.

But as well as the Beavers have performed, most of their good work has been accomplished in Corvallis. Oregon State is just 1-7 on the conference road, with the lone victory coming at Washington State. That was also a case where the Beavers caught the Cougars at precisely the right moment, as Wazzu was fresh off a wild OT upset against Oregon.

The deal with Oregon State is they also have not been competitive on the league road. Those seven losses have all been pretty lopsided, with the smallest margin being ten points.

This is the only meeting between these teams this season, and with the rivalry duel against Oregon on deck for the Beavers, this is probably not the best scheduling spot for them. Oregon State always works hard but given their road woes and with Cal desperate for a win, I would have to favor the hosts here. I’ll go with California minus the reasonable number for today’s comp.





Dave’s Free Play, Saturday 2/28/15

The usual skip the editorial late night entry for Saturday’s action. This will likely be my final really deep card of the season. A significant number of my college plays are from the non-marquee leagues and with those conferences about to head to their respective tournaments, my quantity will decline.

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The Bucks played really well in the second and third quarters at Staples. Unfortunately for me, they sure didn’t in the first and fourth and the Friday free play went down. Jeremy Lin +18, huh?  Okay. Here’s my take on a really big MWC Saturday hookup.


Take: (671 BOISE STATE +7

This ought to be fun. Boise State is on the bubble and will probably still be there if they lose tonight. A win would be absolutely huge for the Broncos.

San Diego State is pretty much locked in as far as an invite to yet another Big Dance. But the Aztecs want to capture that Mountain West title. A win here basically clinched the crown. A loss, however, would very likely result in no better than a tie and SDSU would probably end up as the #2 seed via the tie breaker.

So the setup for what is a really big game for these two teams is perfect. I think it’s got a great chance to be a dynamite game that’s played with tremendous intensity.

San Diego State has a great home crowd and they will be at fever pitch tonight with the Aztecs in revenge mode from the loss at Boise State earlier. This Aztecs entry has a legit chance to peak at the right time. Malik Pope is getting more minutes and it’s easy to see why NBA scouts are very high on his potential. Dwayne Polee finally got back on the court last game, and while he looked rusty, once that wears off he could be a big asset come tournament time.

Make no mistake, trying to get the best of San Diego State at Viejas is no picnic. But if there’s a team equipped to turn the trick, I think it’s the Broncos. First off, Boise State is playing tremendous basketball. I thought they might be cooked when they lose Anthony Drmic for the season, but that clearly has not been the case. The Broncos are on an 11-1 run, with only a tough loss at Fresno State mixed in.

It’s worth noting that Boise State has not shown any intimidation whatsoever in front of the powerhouse Aztecs audience. They’ve lost all three meetings here since joining the MWC. But the margins have been minuscule, with the three defeats coming by a combined six points.

The number on this game appears to be right where it should be as far as generating two-way action is concerned. Some bettors are going to focus on the revenge factor and will take their chances laying the points. But I can see plenty of support for the underdog as well. Let’s face it, the Broncos have been making money for their backers and if you’ve been cashing Boise State tickets, it’ll be easy to stay with them getting this many points.

My take is that this is a game that has every chance to go right to the wire. There’s no doubt the Aztecs will make life difficult for the Broncos with that swarming defense. But the visitors have the more reliable offense, and as I’ve mentioned a few times recently, I’ve been giving more weight to productive offenses lately, and with positive results.

Boise State has only two losses by more than six points. One was at Wisconsin, the other was at Wyoming, and the latter was at the tail end of the one bad stretch the Broncos suffered through this season. Winning outright will be a chore to be sure, but I’m willing to grab what I think is a very fair number with Boise State to at least cover the spread.

Dave’s Free Play, Friday 2/27/15

I am fuming right now. This has nothing to do with any wager, but rather with an incident that took place at the conclusion of the Vanderbilt/Tennessee rivalry battle, won by the Commodores.

Here’s what happened. In the waning seconds of the game, Vandy freshman Wade Baldwin IV did some taunting. This is apparently not the first time it’s happened, and when one of the Tennessee assistants let Kevin Stallings know about it, the Commodores head coach took swift action.

Stallings immediately pulled Baldwin out of the handshake line and really went after him verbally, at one point yelling, “I’m going to f—ing kill you.”

Hers’s what I’m angry about. Stallings is now having to apologize for yelling at his own player and including an expletive in the process. I cannot stress how strongly I disagree with Stallings having to say he’s sorry and that he needs to learn from this incident.

As far as I’m concerned, Stallings handled the deal just right. First off, Baldwin was the one who was out of line. He displayed poor sportsmanship and again, this is evidently not the first time that’s happened. Secondly, I have zero problem with the coach really letting Baldwin have it verbally. This isn’t some little kid who might be traumatized by an authority figure yelling nasty things at him. Baldwin is nearly 19, and I can guarantee he’s heard a lot worse.

Stallings did nothing physical to Baldwin. He simply went after him verbally in no uncertain terms, and there is no question the player had it coming. Maybe this time the lesson will sink in.

I have a real big problem with this Age of Apology we now live in. It’s ridiculous. Everyone is always saying “I’m sorry” about the slightest thing when it’s not necessary, or when it’s something of substance and a mea culpa simply isn’t enough. It all therefore becomes hollow and pointless.

Personally, I’d like to see Kevin Stallings say that he’s sorry for saying he’s sorry. That’s because he had nothing to be sorry about in the first place.


3-2 on Thursday night, nothing spectacular but no complaints. I’ll likely be on just one college game on Friday evening, plus whatever I land on in the NBA.

Baseball is about to begin, and yes, I’ll be taking the occasional shot on some exhibition games. Low volume in all likelihood, but as we’re now able to get more extensive game day lineup info even on the pre-season games, there are going to be occasional opportunities to perhaps gain an advantage. My early bird rates are now in effect, and for details on that as well as how my program works, just email me at cokin@cox.net. All correspondence remains confidential, so no worries about getting hassled or ending up on endless mailing lists.


Good work by FAU as the Thursday free play. I’ll take a gander at one of tonight’s NBA games for the Friday comp.


Take: (825) MILWAUKEE BUCKS -5.5

Two straight wins for the Lakers, and I’ll give them credit for not simply tanking games in a season that’s pretty much a disaster for this proud franchise. But this is still a very weak team, and I don’t see the Lakers garnering their second 3-0 streak of the season.

The Lakers have managed to hold their own against other bad teams. But LA has only six wins all season against opponents that are currently in possession of a winning record. That doesn’t bode especially well for them this evening.

Milwaukee has been a pleasant surprise. When Jabari Parker went down for the season with a knee injury, the consensus opinion seemed to be that the Bucks would struggle and end up on the wrong side of .500 once again. That’s evidently not going to be the case as Milwaukee is still a very respectable 32-25 and in possession of the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Bucks have done a great job of handling teams at their own level or below. Milwaukee has lost just six times to teams with current losing records. That indicates they’re rock solid when it comes to taking care of business against the teams they’re supposed to defeat.

Current in-season trends certainly indicate the Bucks in this spot and the fact is this team is only five games behind the presently second seeded Raptors. Yet they’ve seemingly remained pretty much under the radar, so we’re not running headlong into situations where Milwaukee is overpriced.

I would say the number on this game is about where I figured it to be and on the math, that seems about right. But given the tendencies of Milwaukee to get good work accomplished against bad teams, couple with the Lakers general inability to step up in class, I think the road chalk has a decent chance to get it done here. I’ll go with the Bucks for the Friday free play.


Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 2/26/15

I can’t say that Josh Hamilton has played his last big league game, and that’s probably not the case. But I’d have to speculate it’s now at least a possibility.

Hamilton met with MLB officials on Wednesday regarding a “disciplinary” issue and reports are that he confessed to having suffered a relapse that might have included both cocaine and alcohol use. That information has yet to be verified as this is being written, but the sources reporting the info are definitely media insiders.

Hamilton is enormously talented, but between the injuries and the addiction problems, his game has declined badly. Bluntly stated, the Josh Hamilton we saw in the second half of the 2014 season was simply not a big league caliber player.

The timing of this story is bitterly ironic. The new edition of “Real Sports” on HBO did an in depth piece on athletes that have become addicts after getting injured and having pain killers medically prescribed. This is not to suggest that everyone who takes these pills get hooked. But we now know that some people have addictive personalities and they can become dependent, even after just one dose.

Hamilton appears to fall into that unfortunate category. His introduction to pan killers came following an auto accident. The rest is history, so to speak. He’s had some terrible luck, and that tragic incident a few years back, where Hamilton tossed a souvenir baseball to a fan who fell to his death trying to catch it…wow, that’s something at another level completely.

Whether or not Josh Hamilton ever plays another inning of baseball is almost immaterial. I’ll just be hoping he’s able to overcome his latest setback so that he can enjoy his life.


Some nights the breaks are good and on other evenings, it’s just the opposite. I’ve been running pretty hot lately, but hit a 1-3 bump in the road on Wednesday with two last shot results both going against me. But I’m expecting a rapid rebound with a fairly deep Thursday night slate.

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Tough beat on the Wednesday free play as Northern Iowa up 19 with three minutes remaining, but got outscored by eight in garbage time against Evansville. The Aces slipped inside the number on a very late three-point basket. I’m going the big ugly dog route tonight.


Take: (525) FLORIDA ATLANTIC +12

This has been a very difficult campaign for Florida Atlantic. The Owls have won just once in CUSA play and that doesn’t figure to change this evening as they try their luck at Western Kentucky.

But as bad as the bottom line is for FAU, this is not a team that’s shown any quit. Only five of the 13 league losses have been of the double digit variety. They’ve hung in for the most part, but the Owls just haven’t been able to find a way to win. The first meeting with the Hilltoppers was a good example, as FAU took the game to OT before losing by three.

Western Kentucky is not playing at a current level that justifies them as a big favorite. The Hilltoppers are on a four-game skid with the most recent defeat a real heartbreaker against rival Middle Tennessee State.

Even when the Hilltoppers were riding high in CUSA at 9-1, it wasn’t as if they were dominating the opposition. All but one of the conference wins have been by less than tonight’s line and that sole blowout was way back in the their league opener at the beginning of January.

One of the angles I prefer at the tail end of the regular season involves taking big numbers with what can only be called ugly underdogs. The actual play is against what I feel are overpriced favorites, teams with power ratings that are decidedly average or worse. Western Kentucky fits that theory and in their present form, this looks like a very heavy impost.

One can never tell when the white flag might get waved by a downtrodden dog. But based on the efforts that have been consistently turned in by the Owls, I believe they can at least compete with the heavily favored Hilltoppers tonight. I’ll take Florida Atlantic plus the points.



Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 2/25/15

I suppose it’s logical to assume that I’m somewhat jaded as a fan. That’s a sensible conclusion, as my emphasis is on the gambling aspect of most sports. I really can’t argue with that assessment, as I can no longer be classified as a passionate fan of any team, not even the Red Sox. I’ll still pull for the Sawx if I’m not involved with the opponent on a particular day. But the days of almost being obsessed with the Bosox are long gone. I think finally getting to see them win it all in 2004 was the ultimate satisfaction, and while I still hope they win, it’s not a life or death deal any more.

But I am still a huge fan of watching great athletes performing at their best, and that’s why the latest Derrick Rose injury is really troubling. It’s becoming unfortunately clear that his knees are just no good. I’m afraid we’re never going to really know just how amazing he could have been if blessed with better health.

I know I’ve made this observation before, but I think it’s worth repeating. Derrick Rose is turning into this generation’s version of Grant Hill. Hill ended up having a very solid career. But anyone who saw him play before the injuries took their toll knows what could have been. Hill was an incredible talent and we didn’t get to see the total package for nearly as long as we should have. I’m afraid the same thing will end being said about Rose.

For Bulls fans, this latest setback has to be brutal. Chicago has been on the cusp of making a major title run for a little bit now. But the team is built around Rose and if he can’t perform at his expected level, it’s unlikely the Bulls can be anything more than just a good squad that is just kind of in the conversation, but nothing more.

Obviously, I’d be thrilled to be dead wrong about Rose. Maybe he returns from the latest problem as good as new and stays that way for the next several years. Unfortunately, that’s just not something I would bet on. That’s too bad for anyone who’s a fan of seeing the best at their best.


3-0 Tuesday, and all three were sweat free as well. Central Michigan, Niagara and Utah State were pretty much rockin’ chair material. It’s good right now to be sure, but one thing you won’t see me doing is taking anything for granted. The worm can always turn in a hurry. Nevertheless, I’m feeling pretty locked in right now, and the college numbers are clearly the strongest they’ve been at any point this season.

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The Utah State game went almost exactly as anticipated. I’m looking at a chalk piece for Wednesday as well.


Take: (774) NORTHERN IOWA -12

If you’re looking for a sneaky value spot on tonight’s college slate, well, this isn’t it. Fact is, Northern Iowa is going to be a popular choice tonight for pretty clear cut “public” reasons.

It’s Senior Night for the Panthers and that means it’s the swan song for four key guys, including the brilliant Seth Tuttle. I actually am not crazy with this aspect of the matchup against Evansville, as there are sometimes mixed emotions for the host teams on these nights, and you know Evansville would love to ruin the evening.

It’s also revenge for Northern Iowa. The Panthers are literally just a couple baskets away from being 28-0 and there can’t be any doubt this team wants to avenge that earlier loss to the Purple Aces. Of course, the oddsmaker also realizes this and make no mistake, it’s in the line.

But if those are cautionary notes, here’s one that isn’t. Northern Iowa has been a killer instinct team, and that’s the type I don’t mind laying lumber with under the right conditions. I think it’s also worth mentioning that while the Aces are a capable team, they’ve had some problems when stepping up in class. Evansville has done a great job of taking care of business against the lesser lights they’re supposed to handle in the MVC. But they’ve also been exposed against the tougher competition, that first game against Northern Iowa being the exception.

I just don’t see Northern Iowa losing its focus and getting away from what they do best. This team is as fundamentally sound as any squad in the country, and they know they’ve got a shot at a very high seed if there are no missteps between now and Selection Sunday. I’m on Northern Iowa minus the points for the Wednesday free play.