Dave’s Free Play, Monday 10/27/15
Another college conference preview today, with the spotlight on the Big West this time. If I were to rank my top conferences to wager on, the Big West would annually rank right near the top. I’ve got good info pipelines throughout the league, and whether or not it’s a marquee conference matters nothing to me. The money spends the same regardless.
1. UC Irvine… The Anteaters made it to the NIT last season, but have a great shot to take the next step this season. This team has no discernible weaknesses aside from free throw shooting. Irvine has loads of size and depth. They should cop a second straight regular season title.
2. UC Santa Barbara… Big Sauce is back for his senior season, and that automatically stamps the Gauchos as contenders in the BW. Alan Williams is the best player in the league. Michael Bryson should flourish with the move to small forward and Zalmico Harmon excels at running the offense. I’m picking UCSB behind Irvine as far as the regular season goes, but they’re actually my choice to get this league’s automatic come conference tournament time.
3. Long Beach State… The 49ers will play the toughest non-conference slate in the league once again, but don’t be misled if their record is so-so prior to the onset of league play. The Caffey/Lamb backcourt is very solid. The frontcourt has some questions, but if transfer Eric McKnight is a fit, Long Beach becomes a dark horse to win the conference.
4. Cal State Northridge… Reggie Theus worked wonders in his first season at the helm of the Matadors, basically missing a trip to the Big Dance on a bad call. Northridge took a hit when Amir Garrett decided to give up hoops to focus full time on his baseball career. But the Matadors are deeper than they were last season and the Maxwell/Hicks combo is strong. I don’t know how long Theus will be on the scene with bigger offers likely to be coming, but this program is on the rise as long as he stays.
5. Hawaii… No questions about Isaac Fotu, who will be a tough matchup for every team he faces. Garrett Nevels improved as the season progressed and he should thrive as the primary shooter on this year’s entry. But Hawaii is shaky beyond that duo with lots of unknown quantities, so it’s tough to see them notching another 20-win season.
6. Cal Poly… Joe Callero’s Mustangs suffered through an injury riddled regular season but put together a stunning conference tourney run that didn’t end till the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Lots of depth here, and Callero’s teams are always a pain in the neck defensively. Getting offensive production could be an issue. Likely no better than middle of the Big West pack, but the Mustangs will never be easy to play.
7. UC Davis… Corey Hawkins should be a Player of the Year candidate in conference. The Aggies will get two key components that were injured last season back, and this team should put up plenty of points. Two big problems still exist, though. I’m not sure this team can guard anyone, and composure was a major issue at times last season. The Aggies had too many games where they blew their focus and gave up monstrous runs. If they shed that tendency, they could move up a step or two.
8. Cal State Fullerton… The Titans had a rough go of it last season, and more growing pains figure to be in store this year. Alex Harris figures as the go-to guy for Fullerton and second year coach Dedrique Taylor is hoping a couple of transfers can have an immediate impact. I would expect incremental improvement this season, but the Titans are still a recruiting class or two away from being any kind of a threat to contend.
9. UC Riverside… Dennis Cutts is now the full time coach at Riverside, and they have a couple of pretty good players in Taylor Johns and transfer Charles Standifer. But the main problems still exist. The Highlanders are small and therefore need to strong on the perimeter, but they can’t shoot. Riverside should compete hard and might pull a few upsets, but avoiding the Big West cellar will be tough.
Small loss on Sunday here, with -2.2 in the NFL, but +1.5 with the Giants on the runs line at the World Series. October overall is looking really good, and this will be my fifth straight profitable month. My annual goal is to produce a minimum of +52 net units of profit, and that figure is now not only within reach, but will likely be surpassed.
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The two NFL free plays split, with the Texans winning easily and the Lions getting the outright victory on a miracle rally, but missing on the spread. It’s a short card on Monday, with just a pair on the ice plus the Monday Night Football game, so I’m opting for an opening night NBA play as today’s comp.
10/28 %:05 PM NBA (501) DALLAS MAVERICKS at (502) SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Take: (501) DALLAS MAVERICKS +4.5
Raise that banner, San Antonio Spurs. The world champs certainly have earned another great ceremony after clearly establishing themselves as the best franchise in the NBA with another superb playoff run last season. While one has to think this team will start to show some cracks at some point with age being a factor, I’m not ready to bet against them boom the last men standing at season’s end yet again.
But I think the Spurs could be a bit vulnerable early. They’re a little thinner than usual starting the season with a few injury issues and let’s face it, Greg Popovich cares way more about where this team is in April than their standing in October.
San Antonio will be down one starter and possibly two if Kawhi Leonard can’t go on Tuesday. That hardly translates into the Spurs having no shot here. They’re still going to be favored and anyone putting any stock into the 2-5 pre-season ledger is crazy. But I can see the Spurs perhaps getting out of the gate a little slowly.
I like this edition of the Mavericks for the most part. Much of the optimism for this team is thanks to Rick Carlisle, who’s simply one of the best coaches in the league. I’ll submit Monta Ellis as exhibit one. Ellis never impressed me as anything more than a somewhat undisciplined shooter prior to hooking up with Carlisle. That’s not the case anymore, as Ellis was the most complete player he’s ever been last season.
Dirk Nowtizki is still Dirk Nowitzki for the most part. Chandler Parsons is a terrific addition and Tyson Chandler should be an asset as long as he stay on the court. The one big area of concern here is point guard. Jameer Nelson has loads of experience and will run the offense well enough, but he’s a liability on defense, especially against opposing point guards with size.
I like the prospects of the mild upset here. Defending champions frequently struggle in that first home game thanks to a multitude of distractions. Plus, the Spurs are a little dinged up right now, and the rivals from Dallas would love to ruin opening night. The Mavericks appear very live to me, and while they’re not getting all that many points, I see the Mavs plus the available number as the side.