Dave’s Free Play, Monday 3/24/14

  • March 24, 2014

The Sweet 16 is now set, but with the action at the Big Dance on a brief hiatus until resuming on Thursday, I’ll spend the next few days catching up on some of the 2014 MLB capsules. Today’s look is at one of the most sure fire contenders, the defending NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

It’s tough to envision October 2014 baseball not including the Cardinals. This team is once again loaded. The strengths begin with the pitching staff, and that aspect of this team should be outstanding. Adam Wainwright is one of the game’s best when he’s on the mound, and don’t diminish the impact of his role as one of the best team leaders in the game. Michael Wacha was no fluke last season, Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn are solid at the 3 and 4 spots. Joe Kelly has been named the fifth starter ahead of Carlos Martinez, which is a bit surprising. But the hope in St. Louis is that Jaime Garcia is eventually healthy enough to reclaim a starting spot. The bullpen could be down a touch from last season, but still figures to be above average.

The St. Louis position players are a very talented group. Yadier Molina is an elite catcher, Matt Holliday is still at the extreme high end as an offensive outfielder, Allan Craig is a huge run producer. Matt Carpenter probably loses a touch of value at 3B rather than the keystone. But I like Kolten Wong as the new everyday 2B, Jhonny Peralta should be fine at SS, and there’s loads of depth. Matt Adams is going to be a steady run producer and the Peter Bourjos/Jon Jay combo in center field should be okay. At some point the Cardinals will have to find a way to get hot prospect Oscar Taveras into the mix.

The fact that Taveras is going to have to start the season at AAA speaks volumes about this team. He’s starting for most major league teams today, but the Cardinals literally have no room for him presently. That’s going to change shortly, and when it does the team gets even stronger. Stephen Piscotty is another good looking player on the way, and the system is blessed with some talented young arms as well.

It would be beyond surprising to see the Cardinals out of the playoffs this season. They’re clearly the team to beat in the NL Central, and I expect them to rack up right around the projected total of 88 wins, with a very slight lean to the Over.

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Easy winner with the Sunday free play on UCLA. Size mattered in that game as the Bruins were simply too big and agile for Stephen F Austin. I wish they were all that simple to break down. Tonight’s comp is on one of the CBI hookups.

03/24 04:00 PM  CB   (629) RADFORD (630) OLD DOMINION

Take: (629) RADFORD +6.5

The CBI might not feature the best field on the planet. But with wins already under their respective belts, you can bet that both Radford and Old Dominion will be excited to still be playing tonight and I’m expecting this to be a tough game.

Mike Jones is a rising star in the coaching fraternity based on what he’s done at Radford. The Highlanders were in sorry shape when Jones took over the coaching reigns three years ago, and this team being 22-12 on the season is an impressive accomplishment.

The same can be said for the job Jeff Jones has done this season at Old Dominion. The Monarchs finished last season in complete disarray and Jones getting them back to respectability so quickly is somewhat surprising.

The two players to watch here should be Javonte Green and Aaron Bacote. They’re each the driving forces on their teams and whichever star has the bigger game tonight is likely a decent bet to move on to the next round of this tournament.

The stat profiles for the teams are very similar, with one notable exception. Radford takes much better care of the ball than do the turnover prone Monarchs. If those tendencies hold up tonight, the Highlanders could have a few extra possessions. That could be key in what looms as a close contest.

I think it’s important to note that Old Dominion has 17 wins, but the two best have been against Murray State and George Mason, and that win against the Racers was very early. The best win for either team this season is probably the most recent game for Radford, as they went cross country and stunned Oregon State.

This doesn’t qualify as a rivalry game, but with both schools being located in Virginia, it might very well have that type of atmosphere. I can see either team winning this game, and it looks to me like close to a coin flip from a straight up standpoint. Add in the fairly generous points, and there’s enough here for me to make a case for Radford plus the points tonight.