Dave’s Free Play, Sunday 12/20/15
Helluva effort by UNLV at Arizona on Saturday night. They battled the Wildcats for the full 40 minutes and the final 82-70 tally was probably a bit misleading. From a pointspread perspective, in fact, this was a really tough beat for Runnin’ Rebel backers as Arizona scored the last six points and there was a missed layup by UNLV with two seconds to play.
But this isn’t about the spread result, it’s about the reaction that I saw on Twitter right after the game. Lots of props for UNLV on a terrific effort following the demoralizing loss to Arizona State the other night.
Really? Has UNLV basketball gotten to the point where pats on the back are being handed out for moral victories? If that’s the case, then it’s time to stop pretending this program has any relevance nationally. If it was the football program we were talking about, no problem. The football Rebels have about as pathetic a tradition as can be found anywhere in the FBS. So I’ll stand right in line with everyone else when UNLV football steps up and puts forth a massive effort against a superior opponent.
But it’s a different story for the hoops program here. The Rebels are finding themselves in the mix for recruits most college programs, and particularly those in the Mountain West, can only dream about pursuing. And they’re landing their fair share of these highly touted high schoolers as well.
When a program is fielding rosters with multiple players who have legitimate NBA potential, I’m sorry, but there are no moral victories. I’ll accept that there can be exceptions when it’s a tough game against a really good opponent, as was the case on Saturday night. But you only get those pats on the back when you’re winning the games against the teams you’re supposed to beat. So I’m not handing out any “way to go, guys” plaudits here. Don’t lose to Arizona State and maybe it’s a different story. But that storyline has been repeated over and over the last few years, and I’m personally weary of it.
I’ll take the moral victory stance one step further. I’m having an absolutely horrible run right now with my plays. It’s not for lack of effort, as I don’t ever just mail it in on that count. But I’m not winning, and the fact there have been some beyond ridiculous beats throughout this slump doesn’t really matter.
At some point, it simply has to be about the bottom line. The bottom line doesn’t care about good tries. It only adds up the wins and losses. Moral victories are like excuses. They ease the pain of losing, but the reality is they’re nothing more than placebos for the soul.
Not good on Saturday for me, and how the losses were arrived at is immaterial. I’d prefer to avoid writing this, but I’m not one to hide from reality. I’m in the worst slump of my betting life. While I’m confident the next bet is the one that turns it around, I am just not getting it done right now. But the grind continues, and I’ll have two NFL games today, as well as a couple of CBB selections, plus a possible NHL add if the goalie confirms are good.
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Wichita State missed as the Saturday free play. I knew Seton Hall had an athletic squad with some serious potential, but I really thought the huge big game experience edge would result in a Shockers win. Instead, it was Wichita State that came unhinged and while this was an overtime decision, the Pirates were the completely dominant team when it mattered. Note to self and everyone reading this piece is that if Wichita gets to the Dance and matches up with an athletic team, they’re in deep trouble. As for Seton Hall, that’s a really big win for their resume and their heads. Could be a turning point victory for the Pirates. Here’s one for Sunday in the NFL.
PACKERS @ RAIDERS
Take: PACKERS -3.5
When the bet percentages on ticket counts show up on Sunday morning, Green Bay will be among the most popular choices. That’s a certainty. That said, I think the “square” side has a good chance to produce a winner this time.
The Raiders could be in a tough scheduling spot here. They’re off a very satisfying win on the road against the rival Broncos. Next up is a Thursday night divisional duel with the Chargers. Even against a name opponent like the Packers, I can see this qualifying as a somewhat of a sandwich spot for Oakland.
It’s also a bigger game for the Packers. Green Bay is now in control of the NFC North. They’re one game up on the Vikings and if they beat Minnesota at Lambeau on the final Sunday of the regular season, they’re probably going to win the division. But a loss here, along with a very tough game next week at Arizona would make the task more difficult, to put it mildly. A loss here would also kill any real chance for the Packers to earn a first round bye. They’re two games in back of the Cardinals right now. A win here and another next week at Arizona and the Pack would at least have a chance to get that #2 seed. Let’s not forget that Arizona has a tough closer against Seattle, so there’s still a race on for that coveted bye advance.
I also like what I’m perceiving as positive momentum for Green Bay. They got very lucky at Detroit two weeks ago, but that seemed to trigger something, as I thought the Packers looked good last week. Yeah, I know, it was only against the undermanned Cowboys, but it was still a solid showing and Green Bay certainly wasn’t just going through the motions.
So I’m seeing this as a game the superior team is going to treat with the proper degree of importance, and while I actually think the Raiders are an okay team that’s a little better than their record, they’re still the second best team on the field today. That’s also right down the stat line as while they aren’t dominant advantages, Green Bay wins my numbers battle on offense, defense and special teams.
I’d much prefer spotting just the field goal rather than that nerve wracking -3.5. But I also don’t want to lay -130 for the privilege of laying just the three. So as it stands now, I’ll have to be satisfied with playing the less desirable number, but the bottom line is that I’m going to try the Packers in this game.