World Cup: Can England Solve Sweden’s Stalwart Defense?

England vs. Sweden, 10 a.m. ET, Fox

  • England -112
  • Sweden +390
  • Draw +225

Bet to Watch:

England To Win By 1 Goal +246 

After England won only their second of eight major tournament penalty shootouts, and first at a World Cup, the English media are starting to believe that anything is possible. “Football’s coming home” as far as fans of the Three Lions  are concerned, but if their team is to lift the trophy for the first time in more than 50 years, there are a few roadblocks still to overcome.

Sweden are, without question, a favorable quarterfinal opponent, but that’s not to say Saturday’s match in Samara will be plain sailing for Gareth Southgate’s men. It never is as far as England are concerned, nor is it when they come to blows with this weekend’s challengers.

England have, after all, won just one of their last eight competitive meetings with the Swedes, who have developed a liking for what has become a familiar underdog status under coach Janne Andersson. Indeed, since exiting Euro 2016 and waving goodbye to their greatest-ever player in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, there has been a realization that without a star name to call upon, the players have needed to accept their limitations and, in a roundabout way, turn that into a strength.

The Scandinavians have shown this summer and well beforehand just how difficult they are to break down, simply by sticking to their rigid positions when out of possession and sitting deep. In the past 18 months, they’ve beaten Portugal, France and Italy, so they aren’t to be underestimated, keeping five clean sheets in their last six matches.

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It’s relatively clear how the pattern of this match will play out, with Sweden having had a lower possession share (36%) at this World Cup than any of the remaining teams. Plus, they’re well-aware that England are struggling to create meaningful chances from open play.

England have the tournament’s top scorer in their ranks, and Harry Kane will know that if he can add to his six-goal tally, he may well wrap up the Golden Boot. While there are those who will point to his duties as the penalty-kick taker as the main reason for his success this summer, he’s taken the chances that have come his way. Plus, his performance against Colombia was arguably the Tottenham star’s best all-around display of the tournament.

Sweden may have conceded only twice, but they have allowed their opponents the most shots on goal (61) of the quarterfinalists, and Kane doesn’t need a second invitation to shoot or indeed score. With odds over evens on the striker to do so at any time, that’s a bet that’s well worth considering, but I like the winning margin odds for England in this one.

It’s never straightforward when they are involved, after all, and Southgate’s charges are the only side remaining that are yet to keep a clean sheet. While their quality should win out, you can bank on a tight result, so England to win by exactly one goal would be my tip.

Arnold Palmer Invitational Round 3 Buys & Fades: Finding Value Using Strokes Gained

We saw another ball striking display put on by Corey Conners, as he came back out Friday morning wave and moved the target score out to 9 under par.

His second-round 69 would prove to be one of the better rounds of the day, allowing for him to take a solo lead into the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

First-round co-leader Rory McIlroy played a solid second round, but just couldn’t string anything together as he got stymied a couple of times on tee shots. He would still finish under par, and position himself in a tie for third alongside Viktor Hovland.

In addition to Conners, those two will be chasing a surprise contender in Martin Laird, who posted the second-best round with a 5-under 67. He will join Conners in Saturday’s final pairing, as he seeks his second win of the season.

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Bay Hill played about a half stroke easier on the field in Round 2, but it was still a challenge for players who were missing their spots. As we head into the weekend, it will become an even more difficult test as rain and more importantly, the wind will be a factor.

I expect the weather to shake up the leaderboard throughout the weekend, putting the best ball strikers in position to succeed, but also testing players throughout their bag. This could create a lot of opportunity further down the leaderboard than normal, as some players will be able to handle the elements better than others.

Let’s take a look at the strokes gained data from Friday to see who stands out for our buys and fades heading into the weekend.

Strokes Gained Explanation

Strokes Gained can give golf bettors, DFS players and fans way more detail on how a golfer is truly playing by measuring each shot in relation to the rest of the field.

Using the millions of data points it collects, the TOUR calculates how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. If a player beats those averages, he’s gaining strokes on the field.

Every situation in golf is different — Strokes Gained measures how players perform relative to the situation.

In this piece, we’ll touch on a variety of Strokes Gained metrics…

  • Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
  • Strokes Gained: Approach
  • Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
  • Strokes Gained: Putting
  • Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (which is Off-the-Tee + Approach)
  • Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (which is Ball-Striking + Around-the-Green)

In general, ball-striking and tee-to-green are the most stable long term, while putting is more prone to volatility.

You can often find live-betting advantages by identifying golfers who are hitting the ball well, but just not getting putts to drop. Likewise, players with high SG: Putting numbers may regress moving forward.

3 Golfers to Buy in Round 3

I’ll start this by saying that I still like where my three buys from Thursday are currently, especially Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth. They played just like I hoped they would in the second round and have positioned themselves to be in contention all weekend. The numbers a shorter now, but they’re still pretty good if you haven’t jumped on board yet.

Instead of going back to them, I’ll focus on a few others. There are so many big names up top it’s really difficult to narrow in on just a couple of buys, as they are all playing similarly well tee to green. I think with that being the case, I’d still extend out for the value.

The first player that sticks out to me is Paul Casey at +1600 on DraftKings. Casey has always been known for his ball striking, and he showed it off Friday. He ranked third is strokes gained approach in the second round, picking up more than three strokes on the field. He did everything else just about at field average, but was able to lean on his irons to allow him to climb into a tie for seventh place.

I’ve usually been one to think of Casey as a nice play to finish in the top 5, but in recent years he has shown a bit more winning upside, and he’s already won on the European Tour this year. I’ll be happy to jump in at a nice number for a guy with solid ball striking that I know can hold up in any conditions.

I’ll take a shot at another Englishman that I liked coming into this week in Tommy Fleetwood. He came in a bit under the radar after a 44th-place finish in a short field at The Concession last week for the WGC Workday.

The aspect I liked for him from those four rounds is he still showed the ball striking we expect from his game. He gained 1.8 strokes on the field, but lost more than six on the greens.

This week, Fleetwood seems to have brought the ball striking with him again, but also has cleaned things up a bit with his short game. He gained strokes in all metrics Friday, including 1.13 strokes on approach, as he shot a 2-under 70 to move into a tie for 11th place.

Fleetwood has now gained three-and-a-half strokes on the field in two rounds with his irons, which will bode well for him.

I expect the weather to really shake things up this weekend, which I think can still keep the players like Fleetwood at 4 under in play. You can still grab him on DraftKings at the +4000 he was posted at pre-tournament, along with some decent finishing position odds for top 5 and top 10, which could prove to be great value.

Another player at 4 under I’m going to take a shot on is Christiaan Buzeidenhout, who closed last season on the European Tour with two victories. He now has himself positioned for his best career finish on the PGA Tour, as he seeks his first result inside the Top 20.

Bezuidenhout is known for his short game prowess, and he really flashed it Thursday in a 2-under round where he lost strokes tee to green, including 1.56 strokes lost to the field with his irons. He would turn that around Friday, as he gained more than a stroke on the field ball striking on his was to another 2-under 70 round.

I love the fact that I have a shot at a proven winner still at long odds despite being in position to make a move on the weekend. He’s +5500 to win on DraftKings, and even if that is a stretch, +700 to top 5 or +275 to hold a top 10, both hold some really good value.

3 Golfers to Fade in Round 3

I thought it was tough to pick the buys at the top of the leaderboard, but finding the fades has proven even more difficult. I’m not going to cop out, so I’ll go big and put an uncomfortable fade in on Hovland.

It might just be that I know Hovland’s game a little too well, and with that in mind, I have trouble trusting that he can continue to gain nearly three strokes per round on and around the greens.

Ever since the Norwegian came on TOUR his short game has been his biggest weakness, highlighted by ranking 168th in strokes gained around the green and 115th putting. He’s improved this season to 92nd and 110th respectively, but it is still far and away his biggest areas of weakness.

The thing with Hovland is he doesn’t have to be elite in those areas to win at this level because his ball striking is so phenomenal. However, the fact he has been merely field average on approach through two rounds this week, and he’s leaning so heavily on the short game, puts him in the fade category for me into Saturday. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Sungjae Im fits my next fade and I’ll be honest, I’ve been fading him from the start. I have concerns as to why Sungjae can’t seem to find his irons, and he hasn’t shown much improvement there to start the week.

The South Korean has gained strokes on the field on approach in each of his rounds this week, but it has just been marginal. He has leaned on his game off the tee, and on Friday his putter to get him into a position in the Top 10. The big issue for Im is that with the wind picking up, and his inconsistencies on approach, I think there are too many other players around him that will be ready to capitalize.

My final fade into the weekend is a bit more comfortable, which probably means he will go low in the third round. Richy Werenski is another surprise name in that tie for 11th place, as he hasn’t had a Top-20 finish since July. He put himself in position to buck that trend with Friday’s strong 3-under round.

The biggest concern for Werenski outside of being in a position he hasn’t put himself in for quite some time, is that he lost nearly a full stroke on approach in the second round. He was completely off his game with his irons, but managed to make up for it by gaining more than four strokes on and around the greens.

The putter is certainly the strength of his overall game, but it’s not something that can carry him all the way through in this field at Bay Hill. I’ve got my fade in on the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket as I think his ball striking issues will have him tumbling down the leaderboard this weekend.

Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 2

Maple Leafs vs. Canucks NHL Odds & Pick: Bets On Rematch Revenge for Toronto (March 6)

Maple Leafs vs. Canucks Odds


Maple Leafs Odds -175
Canucks Odds +140
Over/Under 6.5
Time | TV Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday night and via BetMGM.

“You can throw out the record books when these teams meet,” is a phrase you hear all the time when two rivals go head-to-head. For whatever reason, usually familiarity, the teams always  match up to play competitive games.

The Senators seem to always play the Canadiens well. Back when you could cross the border, it didn’t matter the current state of the Leafs and Sabres, they would always be a tough game. It was the same thing for the Canucks and Blackhawks for a long time. 

The Maple Leafs and Canucks were not that. Until this season, Toronto and Vancouver only played twice a year, and in just about every case, the team that was on the better side of their current form took care of business.

The Canucks at their peak went 10 years almost never losing to the Leafs. Now that the Leafs are in a good cycle, they’ve won more matchups. When it comes to Saturday, I’ll be throwing out the RATINGS when looking to bet this game. 

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Toronto Maple Leafs

In this space, and in our collective ‘Best Bets’ column on Thursday night, I wrote about the terrible schedule spot the Leafs were facing moving from Edmonton to Vancouver in the span of 24 hours. It didn’t seem to bother them in the first period as they were able to take the play to the Canucks in the first period and keep the game tied at one, after an early Canucks’ goal.

Perhaps tired legs caught up to the Leafs as they weren’t able to muster much in the way of a 3rd-period push after falling down 2-1. No one could have blamed the Leafs for phoning one in, but that’s hardly what happened in their 3-1 loss. 

As we shift from Thursday’s game to Saturday’s feature presentation on Hockey Night In Canada, there’s several reasons to like the Leafs in the rematch. Firstly, there’s a couple of lineup shifts that are going to benefit Toronto. 

  1. The Return of Freddy: The Leafs’ number one goaltender returned for the last of the three-game set with the Oilers, but given the back-to-back nature of Thursday’s game, Frederik Andersen was appropriately sidelined in favour of third-string goaltender Michael Hutchinson. Andersen will be back between the pipes Saturday. 
  2.  Back to Braden: While the Leafs’ are expected to start their best option in net, the Canucks have a tendency to rotate their goaltenders more freely, which means there’s a chance that we see veteran Braden Holtby in net Saturday. This is less certain, but brings the possibility of the Leafs getting an upgrade and the Canucks downgrading in goal. 
  3. Auston’s Powers: The Leafs super-sniper, Auston Matthews, returned from a couple games’ absence against the Oilers on Wednesday, and he may not have been fully in rhythm on Thursday. He had a couple great chances that he seems less likely to have missed when he was at his finest a couple weeks ago. 

For the fourth lineup issue that’s benefiting the Leafs, we have to turn our attention to the Canucks. 

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Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.


Vancouver Canucks

For those of us backing the Canucks on Thursday, the worst news possible came down shortly before puck drop. Star offensive creator, Elias Petterson was ruled out with a mysterious and surprising upper body injury. Even given the spot favouring the Canucks, there’s no way I would have gotten involved in this game if I had known he wasn’t going to play. As of this writing, Petterson remains questionable for Saturday. If the Canucks plan to rely on a pair of goals from Jake Virtanen again, that seems like a foolish plot. 

There are plenty of reasons to deem the Canucks a valuable bet going into the first game with the Leafs, including their underrated play at home this season, with a 56% Expected Goal Share in their previous 10 games. It was disappointing that even without Petterson, the Canucks had 1.42 Expected Goals at even-strength while the Leafs were good for 1.87. 

The Canucks struggled on their trip to Toronto a couple weeks back, getting swept over the course of three games, with the first two games not being particularly close.

There’s no reason to think that the Leafs couldn’t put together a really good performance after the loss. That’s what the Leafs have been doing all season, taking the Expected Goal Share and the High-Danger Chance Share at even strength at a 59% rate. On the flip side, in the games after their six wins against teams not named the Ottawa Senators, the Canucks have won the Expected Goal Share just once. They lost that game to Winnipeg.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

While the situation for the underdog was too much to pass up on Thursday, I’m quite comfortable with passing on it on Saturday. My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model has the Leafs’ up to 5% above average at even-strength and the Canucks down to 9% below average, which only translates to just a 55% chance to get the win on the road. 

The situation here favours the Leafs, given that all the potential variables point in their direction from a lineup standpoint. Add on the tendencies of each team after a win for the Canucks and the loss for the Leafs, then we’re veering closer to making the Leafs a viable bet. 

With a projected opening moneyline price of TOR -170, there’s never going to be “value” in the traditional sense, and we’d prefer a price closer to -150, but as long as this number doesn’t creep up and over -180, I could sign off on risking a big number on rematch revenge for Toronto. 

Pick: Maple Leafs (-175 or better)

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UFC 259 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling: Value on the Challenger in Bantamweight Title Fight (Saturday, March 6)

Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling Odds

Yan odds
-110
Sterling odds
-110
Over/Under
2.5 (-174 / +136)
Venue
UFC APEX, Las Vegas
Time
Approx. 11 p.m. ET
Channel
ESPN PPV
Odds as of Thursday and via FanDuel

UFC 259 features three title fights, and the most anticipated bout on the card is the bantamweight title matchup between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling.

Not only is the fight close to a pick’em in the odds market, but these two highly-technical bantamweights create a perfect stylistic matchup that should lead to some beautiful violence on Saturday night.

Below, I break down the data, odds, and my analysis of “The People’s Main Event” between Yan and Sterling, which will occur before Amanda Nunes’ featherweight title defense and Israel Adesanya’s pursuit of “Double Champ” status in the light heavyweight division.

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Tale of the Tape

Yan Sterling
Record 15-1 19-3
Avg. Fight Time 13:14 11:54
Height 5’7″ 5’7″
Weight (pounds) 135 lbs. 135 lbs.
Reach (inches) 67″ 71″
Stance Switch Orthodox
Date of birth 2/11/93 7/31/89
Sig Strikes Per Min 6.32 4.82
SS Accuracy 50% 50%
SS Absorbed Per Min 3.25 1.94
SS Defense 63% 66%
Take Down Avg 1.46 1.89
TD Acc 52% 29%
TD Def 88% 51%
Submission Avg 0.2 1.0

In terms of style base, Sterling is a wrestler and Yan is a pressure boxer, but we know much more about the development of Sterling’s striking than we do Yan’s grappling. As a result, Sterling is the man with more upside in this fight, relative to what we have seen to date in the UFC.

Since his knockout loss to Marlon Moraes in 2017, Sterling has won all 12 rounds that he’s fought against extremely high-level competition, and he has arguably faced a better slate of opponents than Yan has lined up against to date.

“Aljo” outpaced both Pedro Munhoz (172-102) and Jimmie Rivera (77-17) from a distance by fairly wide margins, and my real concern on his side — beyond him getting knocked out again, of course — is his cardio, since this is his first five-round fight in the UFC.

Yan proved that he could manage his gas for five rounds against Jose Aldo, but he did sacrifice Round 2 of that fight (lost 24-16 on strikes and lost the round on all three scorecards) while eating a bunch of leg kicks to conserve his energy for later in the bout.

Sterling attempted an insane 349 significant strikes in that Munhoz fight while emptying the tank in Round 3 (137 attempts). If he’s able to manage that output for five rounds while mixing in his wrestling against Yan, he could be well on his way to securing bantamweight gold on the scorecards, at worst.

The smaller cage at APEX should help the champion, though. Sterling will have less room to constantly maneuver and chip away from the outside than he would inside a 30-foot-cage. His 4-inch reach advantage should still be useful, and his jab should help keep Yan away from constantly digging at his body.

Sterling does keep his lead leg extended, within range to get chewed up by calf and low kicks, but Yan has preferred to throw punch combinations to the head and body rather than firing those kicks in volume.

If you see Yan firing at that calf early and often and landing, you may want to consider jumping in on the champion live. Those attacks will cut off Sterling’s mobility pretty quickly and dramatically increase his chances of getting caught with some power shots in later exchanges.

But those kicks would represent a different game plan for Yan, who relies more on his boxing. Despite possessing the higher output on paper (+1.5 strikes landed per minute), I would give his opponent a better chance of winning the majority of minutes in this fight.

If Sterling can get Yan to the mat, his top control and body triangles are complicated to escape, and if Yan gives up his back, it could be game over. Sterling isn’t a lethal submission artist, but his ability to turn himself into a backpack on his opponents is uncanny.

Yan vs. Sterling Pick

The challenger initially opened as a +125 underdog (implied 44.4%), but he has been bet down to a -110 pick’em (implied 52.4%) as of writing, and I agree with the line movement.

I projected Sterling as a 54% favorite and am willing to bank upon his likely advantages in output and his potential to dominate some grappling exchanges.

Yan may have the bigger moments in this fight and is far more likely to finish this matchup on the feet (Sterling hasn’t recorded a knockdown in his UFC career), but this really looks like a tossup that may come down to the judges. Sterling’s volume, in addition to a couple of takedowns, could put him over the top.

I have this fight ending inside the distance 55% of the time (implied odds of -123), so there is no value on the total relative to listed odds.

And while I wouldn’t bet the moneyline where it currently sits, I’m still expecting to see a potential surge of Yan money come in closer to fight time, so if the Sterling side goes back to even money, I’ll take a shot on his moneyline.

For now, I prefer Sterling’s decision prop at +350 (implied 22.2%) at a 4.3% edge relative to my projection of +278 (implied 26.5%). You can bet down that down +326 at a 3% edge.

The Pick: Aljamain Sterling to win by decision (+350)

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UFC 259 Odds, Pick & Prediction for Jan Blachowicz vs. Israel Adesanya: Anticipate Early Finish in Main Event (Saturday, March 6)

ufc-259-jan-blachowicz-vs-israel-adesanya-march-6

Blachowicz vs. Adesanya Odds

Blachowicz odds
+180
Adesanya odds
-230
Over/Under
3.5 (+102 / -130)
Venue
UFC APEX, Las Vegas
Time
Approx. 11:55 p.m. ET
Channel
ESPN PPV
Odds as of Friday afternoon and via PointsBet

Israel Adesanya will attempt to become the fifth “Champ-Champ” in UFC history on Saturday and the first man to simultaneously hold the middleweight and light heavyweight belts against Jan Blachowicz, an unlikely champion who has been the underdog in nine of his last 10 fights.

The juxtaposition between Adesanya’s speed and precision and Blachowicz’s power should be stark in this matchup. But while this is “The Last Stylebender’s” first foray into the UFC’s light heavyweight division, he isn’t unfamiliar against larger foes, compiling a 75-5 record as a professional kickboxer, including multiple wins against cruiserweight and heavyweight competition.

Below I preview the matchup and odds for the main event of the evening. For more analysis on the rest of the card, you can check out my projections for the entire slate here.

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Tale of the Tape

Blachowicz Adesanya
Record 27-8 20-0
Avg. Fight Time 11:51 15:07
Height 6’2″ 6’4″
Weight (pounds) 205 lbs. 200.5 lbs.
Reach (inches) 78″ 80″
Stance Orthodox Switch
Date of birth 2/24/83 7/22/89
Sig Strikes Per Min 3.49 4.10
SS Accuracy 48% 50%
SS Absorbed Per Min 2.74 2.33
SS Defense 54% 65%
Take Down Avg 1.10 0.00
TD Acc 52% 0%
TD Def 65% 86%
Submission Avg 0.2 0.3

On fight night, Blachowicz generally weighs about 235 pounds, rehydrating roughly 15% of his body weight after Friday’s weigh-ins conclude.

Adesanya, who doesn’t always hit the middleweight limit, came in at 200.5 pounds on Friday — 4.5 pounds below the championship limit — and it’s safe to assume he didn’t cut anything.

As a result, there should be a massive weight and strength differential between the two men in the Octagon, which is a clear edge for Blachowicz in any clinch or grappling exchanges. I don’t care how good of a fighter you are, when someone 35-pounds heavier than you gains top position, it will be tough to escape from underneath them.

Additionally, this fight will occur in the 25-foot cage at UFC APEX — Adesanya’s first time in the smaller octagon. He has less room to maneuver outside and use his length (plus-2 inches of reach) and speed to pick away at his opponent.

The speed differential in the middle of the cage should be massive, however, and relatively similar to what we saw in last week’s main event between Ciryl Gane and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Adesanya, who is perhaps the most technically sound striker in the UFC, should be able to touch Blachowicz up wherever he wants. The key is to avoid the big shots coming back the other way and to avoid getting taken down when he lets his front and roundhouse kicks fly.

Adesanya is far from a perfect fighter. In fact, he’s come close to losing multiple times on his championship run. He fought to a split decision against a strong grappler in Marvin Vettori on his way up, was clipped and hurt by Kelvin Gastelum, who is more of a true welterweight in size, and was tied 2-2 on rounds before pulling away in the late moments of their interim title fight, and he engaged in a staring contest with Yoel Romero in his first undisputed title defense, a fight in which the majority of fans scored the bout for the Cuban challenger.

Adesanya is an incredible counter-puncher whose movement patterns and unorthodox striking are nearly impossible to prepare for. And I don’t expect Blachowicz to give up his belt in a low-volume, range kickboxing affair. That’s not a game he wants to play for 25 minutes and is very unlikely to win against a much faster and more highly technical fighter.

Blachowicz has never landed more than 100 significant strikes in a UFC fight and figures to lose on volume if this bout goes all 25 minutes.

Blachowicz will inevitably come forward, apply pressure, and hope to either catch Adesanya with some big shots, slow him down with kicks to the body, or grind him out in close quarters using that strength advantage.

If he can slow down Adesanya with those body shots and the pace of the fight entirely with the threat of his power, Blachowicz could find a way to retain his belt and cash more underdog tickets for his loyal backers.

But Adesanya is the favorite here for a reason. If he can deny the takedowns (career 86% defense), that almost eliminates the BJJ game and forces him to knock out a man who has only been stopped once in nearly 100 professional fights.

After opening at odds of +210 (implied 32.2%), the betting market has sided with Blachowicz thus far, pushing him closer to +185 (implied 35%) at most books, as of publishing.

Adesanya joked earlier this week that he would weigh in closer to 195 pounds, which may have scared some potential backers off betting “The Last Stylebender” until seeing Friday’s weigh-ins.

Now that he cleared 200 pounds on the scale, I expect the steam to move Adesany’s line eventually. The betting market has aggressively steamed his side for each of his past three fights and moved against Blachowicz in five of his past six bouts.

I projected Adesanya to win this bout 72% of the time (implied odds of -257). Still, I wouldn’t be interested in betting Adesanya unless that number drops to -220, at just more than a 3% edge relative to my projection. At this point, it seems unlikely.

For now, I would prefer to bet the fight to end inside the distance, which I projected closer to 70%, at implied odds of -231. You could bet that prop up to -200, at a similar three-percent edge.

I think Blachowicz will be forced to rush forward multiple times, where he either catches Izzy big with that Polish power or gets intercepted by one of the best counter-strikers on the planet, in a similar fashion to his 2019 loss to Thiago Santos:

Blachowicz is incredibly durable, but it’s not impossible to put him away, though I do think it’s more likely to happen in the championship rounds than in the early stages of the fight.

The Pick: Fight Ends Inside the Distance (-189 at PointsBet)

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Panthers vs. Predators NHL Odds & Pick: Low-Scoring Game Favors Nashville (March 6)

nashville-predators-florida-panthers-nhl-bets-pick-march-6

Panthers vs. Predators Odds


Panthers Odds -140
Predators Odds +120
Over/Under 5.5
Time | TV Saturday, 2 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday night and via BetMGM.

Going back to the well must have been brutal. First off, water is heavier than you think it is. Secondly, if a colloquial term like, “Going back to the well” has survived this much longer than actual  wells, then the act of marching back to the well, getting the water and hauling it back, was probably really rough. 

When it comes to betting on the NHL in 2021, while thankfully we don’t have to use well-water for creating the ice to play on, we do have to “go back to the well” metaphorically, over and over again. The prominence of back-to-back games on the schedule makes this a regular occurrence and is something I’m going to be doing when it comes to the Panthers-Predators rematch on Saturday afternoon. 

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Florida Panthers

The Panthers took the first game on Thursday, in a surprisingly loose affair where the teams combined for nine goals. The 5-4 victory was another in a string of close victories for Florida’s “Cardiac Cats.”

While that’s a fun nickname, heart-stopping monikers often get assigned to teams who are just scraping by. That’s definitely the case here, as my “Let’s Do This Hockey” model as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast rates them as a shade shy of 1% above average at even-strength. They’ve gone back and forth as to who their best option in net is and have had more than a few late-game comebacks after being outplayed. 

In Thursday’s first game in Nashville, the Panthers didn’t need a comeback,  taking an early lead. They did, however, need to hang on by their claws after a 3-0 lead became 5-4, as Sergei Bobrovsky gave up four goals in the final 28 minutes of play. The Panthers will likely turn to their backup, Chris Driedger in the rematch. He’s been the better of the two, posting a 6.02 Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) to Bobrovsky’s -3.61 GSAA. 


Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.


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Nashville Predators

The Predators aren’t without their own confusion in net, as they’ve see-sawed back and forth from Juuse Saros to Pekka Rinne. Due to an injury suffered on Monday, Saros has left Rinne on the see-saw, and it’s Rinne’s job again for the next little while. The 38-year old faced 38 shots in Thursday’s surprisingly high-octane matchup. 

When these two teams met in Florida early in the season, they each created just 15 even-strength High-Danger Chances over the course of two games, despite the first meeting ending up as a 6-5 Predators win.

On Thursday, the Predators out High-Danger-Chanced the Panthers 12-10 in their comeback attempt. Six of the 10 HDC that the Panthers created came in the first period, as the Predators were uncharacteristically poor defensively. 

My model makes the Predators less than a percentage point below the Panthers, despite their discrepancy in the standings. As such, the game’s venue in Music City makes the Preds a small favourite, instead of the short underdog that the market made them on Thursday. 


Betting Analysis & Pick

Back in Florida, these two teams followed up that 11-goal game with a more stable 2-1 Panthers win, as Rinne and Driedger both started after not getting the nod in the first game. The Panthers came into the game on Thursday having allowed six or fewer High-Danger Chances at even-strength in six of their last seven games. Meanwhile, per their reputation, the Preds had suffocated the opponent in 11 of 12 games, giving up 10 HDC just once. 

The Predators are used to the matinee starts, having gone back-to-back at home with Columbus in the afternoon last weekend. Each game was 2-1 before the goaltender was pulled late for the Blue Jackets.

With the offensive explosion out of both teams’ systems, I’ll go back to the well in looking to play Preds unders, with a team that will take part in a lower-scoring affair the second time around. The projected +120 price is too good to pass up here if that becomes widely available, as I expect a low-scoring game that’s a true toss-up. 

Pick: Predators (+120 or better) | Under 5.5 (-115 or better)

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Butler vs. Creighton College Basketball Odds & Pick: Bet the Bulldogs Over Bluejays

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Butler vs. Creighton Odds


Butler Odds +13
Creighton Odds -13
Moneyline N/A
Over/Under 134
Time | TV Saturday, 5 p.m. ET | FOX
Odds as of Friday night and via PointsBet.

The Butler Bulldogs look to hop on a three-game win streak for the first time this season as they travel to challenge the Creighton Bluejays.

On Thursday night, Creighton suspended head coach Greg McDermott from all team activities after he made racially charged comments to his locker room. McDermott has owned up to those comments in a tweet saying, “I made a mistake and I own it. Mistakes come with consequences, and I accept and agree with the suspension.”

The Bluejays have dropped their last two games to Xavier and Villanova and are locked into the 2-seed in the Big East tournament regardless of the result in this game. 

Butler, meanwhile, is a team that no one wants to face early in the conference tournament. It comes into this game having beaten Seton Hall and Big East leader Villanova last time out.

The 73-61 win over Villanova was the best game that the Bulldogs have played all year. Butler reversed the roles in that game by hitting 10-of-24 shots from behind the arc. More impressively, it held Villanova to just 2-of-27 from 3 for 7.4%.

The Bulldogs are beginning to show some bite and are a threat to upset anyone in the Big East Tournament next week.

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When Creighton has the Ball

It will be senior night for Creighton in its final home game of the season, when it’s gone 10-3 this season. The Bluejays start two juniors and three seniors who will be recognized before the game.

Creighton returned five of its top six scorers from last season and has looked to lean on that experience heading toward tournament time. 

Creighton is a well-rounded bunch that has five players who average in the double digits.

The leader of this team is point guard Marcus Zegarowski, who has averaged 14.7 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per contest. He was an All-American last year and has kept this team on top of the Big East for the majority of the year.

The Jays’ offense is one of the most efficient in the conference, scoring 108.7 points per every 100 possessions, according to KenPom. They shoot 55.8% from inside the paint, which is best in the Big East, but it grabs fewer offensive rebounds than any other team. 

The Bluejays didn’t shoot the ball great last time out, connecting on just 38.7% of their field goal attempts and hitting 10-33 from behind the arc. Villanova went wire-to-wire with Creighton, winning 72-60 even after losing its leading scorer in Collin Gillespie.

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When Georgetown has the Ball

It’s been a disappointing season thus far for coach LaVall Jordan, who has his Bulldogs team at 9-13 on the season.

They have begun to show some spark in the last few games and are looking to carry that momentum into the season finale against Creighton.

Butler has been relying on its defense this season, allowing just 66.4 points per game in conference play, good for second in the Big East. Over the last four games, it’s held opponents to just 15-of-91 (16.5%) from behind the arc. It completely locked down one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country in Villanova by holding it to just 2-of-27 shooting from 3-point range. 

Chuck Harris was phenomenal in his last game, scoring 20 points and adding five rebounds and 4 assists while hitting 4-of-9 from 3-point range. That performance was enough to earn him the Big East Freshman of the Week. Seniors Jair Bolden and Bryce Nze join Harris in averaging double figures this season. 

Butler already defeated Creighton earlier in the year, pulling out a 70-66 overtime victory. The Bulldogs led by seven at halftime before Creighton caught fire and went on a 26-3 run to begin the second half.

The Bulldogs showed some grit and ended the game on a 17-3 run in order to send the game to overtime and secure the victory.

The games on Saturday will have some implications for where Butler will be seeded in the postseason conference tournament. The Bulldogs can enter the Big East Tournament anywhere from a 7-10 seed but are looking to enter the tournament with their third win over a top-10 team this season.


Betting Analysis & Pick

Creighton seems to be heading in the wrong direction at the wrong time as we approach conference tournaments. McDermott’s distractions have not helped this program, and it seems to be trending in the wrong direction after dropping its last two games. 

Butler is a feisty team that has a lot of heart and wants to keep its win streak alive heading into tournament play. The Bulldogs believe they can compete with anyone in the country as they’ve beaten both Creighton and Villanova this season. 

With Creighton missing its coach among all the distractions and it being locked into the 2-seed, I see it coming out flat in this game. I’m backing the Bulldogs and hope they have a little more bark left in them.

Pick: Butler +13 (down to +12).

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Oklahoma State vs. West Virginia College Basketball Odds & Pick: Bet Mountaineers Over Shorthanded Cowboys

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-pick-oklahoma state-west virginia-march 6

Oklahoma State vs. West Virginia Odds


Oklahoma State Odds
+7
West Virginia Odds
-7
Moneyline
N/A
Over/Under
148.5
Time | TV
Saturday, 2 p.m. ET | ESPN2
Odds as of Friday night and via PointsBet.

There are few college basketball players who have been as exciting as Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham.

The 6-foot-8 freshman has delivered multiple elite performances in guiding the Cowboys to a 17-7 overall record, including 10-7 in Big 12 play. Oklahoma State just ended a five-game winning streak with a close loss at Baylor, and the Cowboys are an incredible 4-0 in overtime games. 

West Virginia has enjoyed an even more impressive season, sitting at 18-7 overall, including 11-5 in the conference. Head coach Bob Huggins’ team is in sole possession of second place in the Big 12 and has won seven of its past nine games. 

Who should bettors back in this fantastic meeting of two top-20 teams in Morgantown?

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The Matchup

The main concern for Oklahoma State in this game is health.

The Cowboys have played without lead point guard Isaac Likekele for most of February. Likekele has been dealing with a foot injury but did play the majority of the Cowboys’ 74-69 OT win over Texas Tech last Monday. He was very limited, with just one field goal attempt and two points in 33 minutes. 

Even more of a concern is the ankle injury suffered by Cunningham at the end of the Pokes’ recent loss to Baylor. Cunningham is questionable for Saturday’s game, per Stadium’s Jeff Goodman. 

Those injuries are crucial for an Oklahoma State team that plays at the fastest pace in the Big 12. The Cowboys are also 285th in offensive turnover percentage, which is already a huge concern against West Virginia’s pressure defense. 

The Mountaineers are near the top of the conference in defensive turnover percentage and have forced an average of 15.3 turnovers in their past three home games.

West Virginia features a cadre of guards who can all play defense and shoot 3-pointers with high efficiency.

Sophomore Miles McBride (15.4 PPG, 42.6% 3P) has raised his game considerably and is the Mountaineers’ scorer in late-game situations. Taz Sherman (13.1 PPG, 35% 3P), Sean McNeil (12.1 PPG, 39.2% 3P), and senior Gabe Osabuohien (4.5 RPG, 1.4 SPG) all contribute to the up-tempo style that is so effective for Huggins’ crew. 

In their first meeting, the Cowboys actually controlled the majority of the game behind Cunningham’s 25 points, nine rebounds, and three assists. But the Mountaineers made a frenetic comeback on the back of 37.5% (9-of-24) shooting from 3-point range and a mind-blowing 22 offensive rebounds. 

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Oklahoma State struggled to contain West Virginia big man Derek Culver, who finished with 22 points, 19 rebounds (seven offensive), and two blocks. The Cowboys will need to limit the Mountaineers on the backboards, despite ranking just 227th in defensive rebounding percentage. 

Oklahoma State has been an impressive 14-9-1 ATS, including an impressive 7-3-1 on the road. It has covered five straight games, including at Baylor on Thursday night. 

However, it would be a completely different team without both Likekele and Cunningham, and I don’t see the motivation for the Cowboys to play either in a game that has minimal impact on the upcoming Big 12 Tournament. 

West Virginia will have its Senior Day for both Sherman and Osabuohien, providing them with more motivation for a strong effort. 


Betting Analysis & Pick

This pick is based solely on Cunningham missing this game or playing with limited effectiveness. The ankle injury was less than 48 hours prior to this tip-off, and the opening line of West Virginia -7 seems high. 

I grabbed the Mountaineers -7 on the basis of a limited Cowboys roster that is likely without Cunningham. If he is indeed out, I would bet this line up to West Virginia -9.5. If Cunningham plays, I would only back West Virginia up to -7.5.

Pick: West Virginia -7 (up to  -7.5 if Cunningham plays).

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Florida State vs. Notre Dame College Basketball Odds & Pick: Eye First-Half Spread for Inconsistent Irish (March 6)

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Florida State vs. Notre Dame Odds


Florida State Odds -6.5 (-115)
Notre Dame Odds +6.5 (-115)
Moneyline -303/+225
Over/Under 151.5 (-110)
Time | TV Saturday, 12 p.m. ET | ESPN2
Odds as of Friday Night and via PointsBet.

Notre Dame and Florida State wrap up their regular seasons with a matchup in Purcell Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.

The Irish are limping into Senior Day, losers of four straight. An up-and-down team all season, the Irish showed signs of life in early February before blowing a 20-point lead at Syracuse on Feb. 20. They haven’t won since, with the latest loss coming in a home defeat to NC State on Wednesday. The Irish are now just 6-11 in conference play and will have to play in Tuesday’s opening round of the ACC tournament next week.

The Seminoles (15-4, 11-3 ACC) will lock up the regular season title and No. 1 seed in the conference tournament with a win. Leonard Hamilton has done a brilliant job with this group, putting the Noles in position to win back-to-back regular season ACC titles despite losing two lottery picks from last season.

However, even in a down year, the Irish are tough to beat on their home floor. Mike Brey’s club would love nothing more than to play spoiler to the Seminoles on Saturday.

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Irish Inconsistency

The Irish have struggled with consistency all season long. It’s not just a game-by-game thing, but often the swings in play appear on a half-by-half basis.

Notre Dame has blown sizable halftime leads on multiple occasions this season. The most recent example was the loss at Syracuse, where the Irish lit it up for 46 points in the first half, before the offense went M.I.A. in the second half. Notre Dame scored just 21 second-half points on 32% shooting and saw its 20-point lead rapidly evaporate.

The Irish haven’t recovered from that loss, dropping their next three. The defense has been an issue all season and was where they particularly struggled in the Boston College and NC State losses. On the season, Notre Dame ranks 185th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom. The shooting defense has been dreadful, with the Irish ranking 205th in opponent effective field goal percentage according to teamrankings.com.

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Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Trey Wertz.

The offense isn’t typically part of the problem, as the Irish have been very efficient on that end. They rank 16th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and are third in the ACC in effective field goal percentage.

The parts are all there for the Irish to have a great offense. Nate Laszewski and Prentiss Hubb are reliable scorers, and there’s plenty of balance behind them. Six of Notre Dame’s seven rotation players can shoot the 3, and all of them do so at at least a 34% clip. Laszewski has been remarkably efficient, ranking second in the conference in 3-point percentage (46.8%), and third in field goal percentage (60.5%).

While the Irish offense is typically good for at least one strong half, they failed to get going all game against NC State on Wednesday. Notre Dame shot just 37.5% from the floor, and neither Laszewski or any of the guards were able to find their rhythm.

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Florida State — Vulnerable on the Road?

In a down year for the ACC overall, the Seminoles have remained a model of consistency. They sit atop the ACC standings and have the best KenPom (9th) and NCAA Net ranking (13th) of any team in the conference.

This group is winning with the same formula for every successful Hamilton-coached team. They’re efficient at both ends, ranking eighth in offensive efficiency and 51st in defensive efficiency. They’re very balanced, with five players averaging between 9.0 and 13.1 points per game. It’s a deep bunch, with nine players averaging double-digit minutes and no one averaging 30 or more.

If there’s one potential flaw with this Florida State team, it would be its performance on the road. Due to a light non-conference schedule and several ACC postponement, the Seminoles have only played six games away from the Donald L. Tucker Center. It’s a small sample size, but the Seminoles are just 3-3 on the road this season and 2-3-1 ATS. This isn’t a good sign for a top-10 team, and at minimum, is a cause for concern heading into the ACC and NCAA tournaments.

The Seminoles are shooting the ball at a notably worse clip in road games. Per teamrankings.com, they have a 56.6% effective field goal percentage in home games, which drops to 50.7% on the road. The difference in 3-point percentage is very significant, with the Noles connecting on 42.6% from deep at home compared to just 31.7% on the road.

Brey has played some 2-3 zone on several occasions this season, and I expect a heavy dose of that against the bigger, more athletic Seminoles. MJ Walker (ACC best 47% from 3) leads a host of strong Florida State shooters that could potentially bust the zone, and it’ll be important they get hot and buck the Noles’ current road shooting trends.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

It’s hard to stomach backing the Irish given its recent performance, but I think there’s some value in taking them to cover the first half.

Notre Dame just couldn’t buy a bucket on Wednesday against NC State, but that was a fluke shooting performance when you look at their season numbers. If the Irish come out shooting to the level they’re capable of on Saturday, they should be able to hang with Florida State for the opening half.

Another reason I think the Irish can keep it close is due to their guard play. The Irish have a talented quartet of backcourt players in Hubb, Dane Goodwin, Cormac Ryan and Trey Wertz. I don’t think there’s a huge gap in talent between the Irish and Seminole backcourts.

This group takes care of the ball as well and doesn’t beat itself. Notre Dame ranks 23rd in turnover rate, which will come in handy against Florida State’s constant pressure.

Notre Dame’s propensity to fall apart in the second half, coupled with Florida State’s ability to wear them down with its depth, has me only comfortable taking the first half number.  I like the Irish to come out of the gates playing inspired ball and have a good start to its Senior Day.

Pick: Notre Dame 1H +3 or better |

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USC vs. UCLA College Basketball Odds & Pick: Back Trojans to Dominate the Paint in Pac-12 Rivalry (March 6)

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USC vs. UCLA Odds


USC Odds
-1.5
UCLA Odds
+1.5
Moneyline
-125/-100
Over/Under
135
Time | TV
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET | CBS
Odds as of Friday night and via PointsBet.

The Pac-12 regular season title is on the line Saturday when intra-city rivals meet at Pauley Pavilion.

USC completely blew out Stanford on Thursday to end the Trojans’ two-game losing streak. The Trojans are in the middle of one of the program’s best seasons in the past decade and are tied atop the Pac-12 standings with Oregon, meaning Saturday’s game against UCLA will be for the regular season conference title. USC destroyed UCLA 66-48 in the first meeting, so it will be looking for a similar performance on Saturday.

UCLA is also potentially playing for a Pac-12 regular season title, as they are a half game behind USC and Oregon in the standings. The Bruins fell apart late against Oregon on Thursday, so they need to put that behind them if they want to hang with their rivals and keep their undefeated record at Pauley Pavilion this season in tact.

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When USC has the ball

The Trojans destroy their opponents in the paint.  USC is the tallest team in the country, and it has one the best big men in the country in the form of five-star freshman Evan Mobley. Mobley himself has carried the Trojans in the scoring department, averaging 16.2 points per game. The Trojans shoot over 51% from inside the arc and over 61% on shot attempts at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.

USC also grabs offensive rebounds better than anybody in the conference and destroyed Stanford on the boards Thursday, grabbing 12 offensive rebounds. The way to beat Mick Cronin’s defense is not inside, however, it’s from behind the arc.

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John McCoy/Getty Images. Pictured: Evan Mobley.

UCLA’s defense has been average during conference play allowing 1.03 points per possession, but where they’re really struggling is guarding the perimeter,  allowing over 39% from three-point range. USC hits 35% of their three pointers, so it’s quite possible that they shoot UCLA right out of this game.

Another problem for UCLA is it will be once against without 6-10 center Jalen Hill. That’s going to be a major problem, since they only have two other guys that stands above 6-6, which is not something you want to deal with when you’re facing the tallest team in the nation.

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When UCLA has the ball

Typically, you don’t think of Mick Cronin coached teams as being offensive juggernauts, but that’s exactly what UCLA has been this season. The Bruins rank 19th in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and are averaging a solid 1.08 points per possession during Pac-12 play.

Where the Bruins hurt opponents the most is from behind the arc,  shooting a Pac-12 best 38.5% from three-point range. However, they only shoot threes on 31% of their field goal attempts, so most of their attempts come inside, which is a recipe for disaster against this USC defense.

The Trojans allow only 43% from two-point range and 51.6% on shots at the rim. With their size, its not surprising opponents are having difficulty inside, and it’s also not surprising that they also have the highest block rate in the Pac-12.

USC is the No. 1 defense in the Pac-12, allowing only 0.95 points per possession and held UCLA to  0.73 points per possession in the first meeting. Unless UCLA can get hot from three-point range, I have a hard time seeing how they’re going to beat USC.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

I think USC is going to dominate this matchup inside. Their performance on Thursday is a snapshot of how talented this Trojan team is and how difficult they are to break down on defense. I don’t think UCLA has the size to matchup with the Trojans, so I really like USC in this matchup.

I have USC projected as -5.34 favorites on the road, so I think there is a ton of value on the Trojans at -1.5 (FanDuel).

Pick: USC -1.5 | Play up to -3.5

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Saturday Premier League Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Aston Villa vs. Wolves (March 6)

Aston Villa vs. Wolves Odds

Aston Villa Odds +143
Wolves Odds +215
Draw +210
Over/Under 2.5 (+114 / -141) 
Day | Time Saturday | 12:30 p.m. ET
TV NBCSN
Odds as of Friday evening via DraftKings.

While Sunday’s Manchester Derby is taking up all the headlines this Premier League weekend, Aston Villa and Wolves meet Saturday in the fierce West Midlands Derby.

Both teams are safely in mid-table at this point, with Aston Villa fighting for a chance at a Europa League berth. However, the Villans will — once again — be without star attacking midfielder Jack Grealish and face the tough task of breaking down this possession-averse visiting side.

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Aston Villa

The Villans have seen some defensive regression in my numbers since reaching as high as sixth in my league power ratings. They appeared as potential top-four challengers earlier this season as well.

Still, Aston Villa’s expected-goals numbers are impressive. The Villans rank sixth best in overall xG difference, seventh in attack and seventh in defense. Aston Villa is the better team in this matchup, with it likely controlling the possession and flow against Wolves.

However, the absence of Grealish cannot be ignored. He leads England’s top flight in progressive carries, plus he’s second in expected assists and the perfect player to lead the Aston Villa counterattacking style.

The club has been most vulnerable against teams with excellent ball-progressing central midfielders who can easily play through their midfield, which is the weakest part of this Aston Villa team. It’s why the Villans tactically try to bypass it in the attack and get the ball to Grealish. Wolves are not the team to exploit them that way, though.

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Wolves

The visitors’ defensive numbers have slipped this season, hence their fall down the table, but their style has not changed much.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s men will sit back and let their opponents have the ball before looking to break out and counter quickly. The problem all campaign with this is that Wolves lost Raul Jimenez on their attack. Now, they mostly have a bunch of ball progressers and wide forwards with no one to get into the box to be on the end of crosses.

Wolves have tried young, new signing Fabio Silva and loanee William José, but neither have really improved the their attacking output.

Wolves’ defense completely shut off the Villa ball progression into the final third in the reverse fixture. There were plenty of shots from both sides, but no clear scoring chances, because both defenses are built to allow plenty of shots, but not many major opportunities.

Betting Analysis & Picks

Like Aston Villa, Wolves are in the bottom half of possession percentage on average. Neither team will love to have the ball in this match, and both teams’ defensive weakness is not easily exploitable by the opposing attack.

When these sides last played, there were zero big scoring chances created from open play and the Villans won on a stoppage-time penalty.

This is likely to be a game with few top scoring opportunities. For this reason, I’ll play the under on the alternative total of 2.25 goals at -110 or better, but 2.5 is also playable at -140 or better as well.

Pick: Total Under 2.25 Goals (-110 or better)

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Saturday Serie A Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Juventus vs. Lazio (March 6)

Juventus vs. Lazio Odds

Juventus Odds -115
Lazio Odds +310
Draw +265
Over/Under 2.5 (-148 / +118) 
Day | Time Saturday | 2:45 p.m. ET
How To Watch ESPN+
Odds as of Friday evening via DraftKings.

The Serie A game of the weekend arrives Sunday when seventh-place Lazio visits Turin to take on fourth-place Juventus.

Six points separate these two sides in the table, but in this case the standings are lying about the true difference in quality between these clubs. Lazio’s recent good, yet misleading, run of form creates betting value on the hosts to take all three points from this match.

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Juventus

Based on expected goals, the Black and Whites’ form in 2020-21 is actually better than the last two seasons. The results just aren’t following along this campaign, with Inter Milan likely to win the league title because it’s getting both the performances and results.

However, Juventus’ underlying numbers don’t fit the current narrative of a team that’s about to not win the Serie A title for the first time since 2011.

Juventus’ +1.04 xGD per 90 is second best in the league, a few ticks behind Inter. Andrea Pirlo’s side has dramatically improved defensively, as it’s mid-table in shots allowed, but yields the lowest xG per shot in the league.

Because they don’t allow big scoring chances, the Black and Whites force opponents to come up with excellent finishing to convert chances and score goals on them. Juventus’ opponents have the longest attempted shot distance in the league, plus it’s also allowing the fewest shots on target in the division.

Add in above average goalkeeper play and Juventus has been very hard to break down. Given Lazio’s attacking metrics, it will be very difficult for the visitors to get in behind and create big chances.

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Lazio

My numbers and the market consistently disagree on how good Lazio really is, and I consistently end up betting against the club because of this reason.

The White and Sky Blues had won six league matches in a row before a 3-1 setback against Inter Milan on Valentine’s Day. Lazio then lost to Bayern Munich in Champions League action, plus it suffered a 2-0 defeat to Bologna last weekend. The White and Sky Blues’ six-match winning run was always a bit fortunate based on expected goals, and it’s no surprise to see them regress again.

Lazio’s attacking numbers are very mediocre, and not great to get at this Juventus team. It’s shot distance and xG per shot are in the bottom half of the league. In the reverse fixture earlier in the season, Lazio trailed for 75 minutes and still only created 0.9 xG before Felipe Caciedo found an equalizer in the 95th minute.

Lazio ran hot on penalties last season and mounted a weak title challenge to Juventus, but its xGD per 90 numbers this year are tied for seventh at +0.14, which is a significant dropoff between the league’s top six clubs.

Betting Analysis & Picks

My number for this match is Juventus on the moneyline at -175, and I show a ton of value on the host to move into third place with a win to push closer to Inter Milan for the title.

While these teams are six points apart in the standings, the Understat expected-points table suggests they should be more like 17 points apart.

Pick: Juventus ML (-115)

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European Soccer Betting Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s Top Underdogs to Bet This Weekend (March 6-7)

Our group of Action Network soccer analysts had a rough showing last weekend, with just a single underdog coming through with a victory after a stellar 4-2 performance two weeks ago.

Handicapper Jeremy Pond delivered the lone winner, cashing with Ligue 1 side Metz (+215) in its 2-1 triumph over Bordeaux in the French top flight. Pond will go for three in a row, targeting an intriguing match in the Championship.

The flavor of the weekend comes via Sheffield United, the Premier League’s last-place side. BJ Cunningham and Matt Trebby are all over the Blades in their affair with struggling Southampton at Bramall Lane.

If you’re new to this preview, our experts search for live underdogs at +200 odds or longer playing on the weekend in Europe. Whether it’s a match in La Liga, Serie A or the Eredivisie, the goal is simple: Find a team that could deliver a winner. That said, let’s take a look at the picks.

GAME PICK | ODDS DAY | TIME
Bristol City vs. QPR Bristol City | +210 Saturday | 10 a.m. ET
Sheffield United vs. Southampton Sheffield | +270 Saturday | 10 a.m. ET
Newcastle vs. West Brom Newcastle | +205 Sunday | 7 a.m. ET
Fulham vs. Liverpool Fulham | +750 Sunday | 9 a.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao vs. Granada Granada | +525 Sunday | 3 p.m. ET

Odds as of Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET via DraftKings.


Jeremy Pond: Bristol City (+210) vs. Queens Park Rangers

  • Odds available at DraftKings
  • Day | Time: Saturday | 10 a.m. ET

Searching for winners in Ligue 1 seems to be the right avenue for success, with both underdogs (Montpellier and Metz) I chose chalking up victories.

However, a small league card is on deck this weekend, so I am turning my attention to the Championship and team I see as a very live play.

Bristol City welcomes struggling Queens Park Rangers for Saturday’s match at Ashton Fate Stadium. The southwest England side nearly pulled off a huge upset last time out, suffering a disappointing 2-1 defeat at the hands of Bournemouth in a midweek contest.

The Robins, who are sitting in 12th in the table and tied with Stoke City on 45 points, jumped out to a 1-0 lead before conceding two unanswered goals to the Cherries in the home fixture.

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On the other side, QPR has lost back-to-back league games after winning four on the bounce. Defeats against lowly Birmingham City (2-1) and Barnsley, which came following a scoreless draw with Preston North End, have the visitors reeling at the moment.

Now, QPR has to face a team it hasn’t beaten in nine consecutive meetings in the middle of a bad run of form.

Nigel Pearson, the new Bristol City manager, has a stellar resume when it comes to managing clubs facing the Hoops. Pearson’s teams have gone 5-1-2 (W-L-D) in eight games against QPR, which has to have the club feeling optimistic about their chances.

These sides met back earlier this season, with Bristol City claiming a 2-1 road victory on Dec. 1 at Loftus Road Stadium in London. The Hoops held a 64%-36% edge in possession, but the Robins still left with all three points.

With so much workin in the host’s favor,  I am backing Bristol City to bag all three points at ripe odds. The Robins are in simply better form at the moment. Throw in the fact they’ve won four home matches in a row and the last six overall against the Hoops, and you have to like your chances with this play.

[Bet Bristol City at DraftKings and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]

BJ Cunningham & Matt Trebby:  Sheffield United (+270) vs. Southampton

  • Odds available at DraftKings
  • Day | Time: Sunday | 7 a.m. ET

Cunningham: Outside of Brighton, Sheffield United is the most underrated team in the Premier League this season.

In fact, based on Understat‘s expected-points metric, the Blades should have 10.25 more points to their name, which would put them in 18th place and on the cusp of survival. The reason for the large discrepancy is because they’ve had terrible luck in front of net.

The Blades have scored only 16 goals in 27 matches, but created 26.09 expected goals in those fixtures, so they’re due for some positive regression in their final 10 matches.

Ever since its 1-0 upset win over Liverpool in early January, Southampton has picked up only a single point and has been outscored by a 25-5 margin in the process. The Saints have only been able to average 1.00 xGF per match, so a lot of their issues have come on the offensive side of things.

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A lot of that has to do with the 4-4-2 formation Southampton utilizes, which is one of the more defensive setups. Manager Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side likes to press high up the field and have morphed at times into a 4-2-2-2 formation.

However, the high press might run into some trouble when it faces Sheffield United’s 3-5-2 lineup. The reason being is if your formation presses high and adjusts into a 4-2-2-2, then that’s going to leave space out for the Blades’ wing backs to push up the field and exploit the Saints on the outside.

So, I find it hard to believe that a team that hasn’t won a league game in more than two months is favored over anybody, let alone on the road. Give me the Blades at +260 to win back-to-back matches.

Trebby: This is more a fade on Southampton than a buy of Sheffield United, although the Blades are finally getting some results in this year.

Since Jan. 15, the Saints have been the worst team in England’s top flight, taking just one point from their last nine with a -20 goal difference that includes a 9-0 drubbing against Manchester United that saw them down to nine men at the end.

Since Danny Ings went down with an injury, Southampton have been chasing goals. The Saints have scored just four goals in their last seven games, and two of those came against Newcastle United in a match they lost.

Sheffield United has had a tough run of fixtures here, playing Champions League hopefuls Chelsea, West Ham United, Liverpool and Aston Villa in its last five matches, actually beating the Villains on Wednesday at Bramall Lane.

While the Blades have won just four times in 11 fixtures in 2021, they’re organized enough to frustrate a Saints team that isn’t scoring of late. At a number this big, the Blades are definitely the team with the value.

[Bet Sheffield United at DraftKings and get $250 FREE.]

Anthony Dabbundo: West Bromwich Albion vs. Newcastle United (+205)

  • Odds available at DraftKings
  • Day | Time: Sunday | 7 a.m. ET

My power ratings make Newcastle and West Brom two of the worst four teams in the Premier League, but the gap between them is significant. The Magpies are bad, but the Baggies are far worse.

Even without striker Callum Wilson, Newcastle shouldn’t be this significant of a road underdog against one of the worst Premier League teams in years. West Brom is a full half xG per 90 minutes worse than Newcastle’s number, according to FBref.com, and 0.67 goals worse in my ratings.

The Magpies come into this game on extra rest, having not played during the middle of the week, while the Baggies played Thursday and lost 1-0 to Everton.

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This line is inflated because West Brom’s recent form in attack has improved, but its defense has still allowed 3.5 more expected goals and 12 actual goals more than every other team in the league.

Newcastle’s own attack has improved since the return of Allan Saint-Maximin, averaging 1.18 xG in its last six games since his return. For the year, the Magpies are under one xG per 90 minutes.

My own ratings make Newcastle at +158 odds away from home and I will fade the league’s worst team at +205 here.

[Bet Newcastle now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

Michael Leboff: Liverpool vs. Fulham (+750)

  • Odds available at DraftKings
  • Day | Time: Sunday | 9 a.m. ET

It isn’t everyday that you get close to 8/1 odds to fade a team that’s in disarray. However, that’s what we’re dealing with Sunday, as scuffling Liverpool hosts in-form Fulham at Anfield. 

With its loss to Chelsea on Thursday, Liverpool have now dropped five of its last six matches and are 3-1-6 (W-D-L) since the first of the year. During that span, the Reds have seen their 68-match unbeaten run at home end; they lost to their biggest rival for the first time in a decade (and first time at home in 22 years); and, dropped all the way to seventh place. 

A lot of their struggles can be chalked up to injuries and fatigue, but bettors aren’t here to take pity. We’re here to find advantages, and I think Liverpool’s struggling defense gives Fulham a chance to pull off the shocker. On the season, the Reds rank mid-table with a 1.31 expected goals allowed per 90 minutes.

Over their recent six-game slide, that number has ticked up to 1.8 xG/90 minutes. When you’re on your 20th center-back pairing, your defensive numbers will suffer and put a strain on the rest of the team. We’re used to seeing Liverpool’s offense run rampant, but it hasn’t scored more than a goal once in its last six games and has been shutout in two of its last three matches.

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Hosting a team in a relegation spot should spell some relief for Liverpool, but this isn’t a great time to be taking on Fulham. The Cottagers have only lost four of their last 12 matches — albeit with six draws — and have made a significant improvement on defense.

Fulham has conceded four goals in its last seven matches and it’s not like the club is just getting lucky, as it’s surrendering just 0.97 xG per 90 in that span.

Liverpool’s defense is leaky enough at the moment that even an offensively-challenged team like Fulham can give it troubles and I have faith that the visitor’s defense can hold up its end of the bargain to make a game of this.

The listed odds imply that Fulham have a tiny chance of winning this match. I think that is pretty low, considering the current form and motivation of these clubs. I’d play the underdog down to +750 odds.

[Bet Fulham now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

Kieran Darcy: Athletic Bilbao vs. Granada (+525)

  • Odds available at DraftKings
  • Day | Time: Sunday | 3 p.m. ET

Why is eighth-place Granada such a heavy underdog against 10th-place Athletic Bilbao? Well, the underlying numbers paint a rather different picture. Granada is 15th in La Liga in terms of xG differential at -9.5, according to FBref.com, and the host is seventh at +6.8 on the numbers.

However, there are some circumstances here that make me think Granada is worth a shot this week. Athletic Bilbao had to play a Copa del Rey semifinal at Levante on Thursday, while Granada had the week off. And even though the host won, it needed to play 30 extra minutes to do so. Now, Athletic Bilbao faces a pretty short turnaround.

On the flip side, there’s a chance Granada manager Diego Martinez will be looking ahead to next week’s Europa League match with Molde. However, I’m hoping he’ll send out a strong Starting XI on Sunday, given his team has had the week off.

Granada is coming off a 2-1 win over Elche; it just eliminated Napoli in the Europa League’s Round of 32; and, it defeated Athletic Bilbao, 2-0, in their first league meeting of the season back in September.

Granada at better than 5-1 odds? Not a bad play in my opinion.

[Bet Granada now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

Georgetown vs. UConn College Basketball Odds & Pick: Hoyas Will Keep Things Close Against Huskies (March 6)

connecticut-georgetown-college-basketball-bets-pick-march-6

Georgetown vs. UConn Odds


Georgetown Odds +10
UConn Odds -10
Moneyline +400/-667
Over/Under 137
Time | TV Saturday, 12 p.m. ET | CBS
Odds as of Friday night and via PointsBet.

The Georgetown Hoyas travel to face off against Connecticut in what will be the Huskie’s senior night and final game of the season.

Dan Hurley’s squad is 12-6 on the year and in prime position to make the NCAA Tournament after winning five of their last six games. Connecticut owns a top-30 adjusted efficiency margin and has been a different team since James Bouknight returned from his injury. With him in the lineup the Huskies appear to be a serious contender come the Big East tournament and NCAA Tournament. 

Patrick Ewing’s Hoyas had a rough start to the season winning just three of their first 11  contests, including a 1-5 record in Big East play. Since then, they’ve gone 6-3 with wins over Creighton, Seton Hall, Xavier and Providence.

One of those three losses came from the hands of the Huskies who won 70-57. That first matchup was tied through 30 minutes of play, before Connecticut outscored the Hoyas 26-13 in the final 10 minutes. Slowing down the Connecticut guards is going to be the key focus for Georgetown in this game as both Bouknight and R.J. Cole were fantastic in the first meeting.

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When UConn has the ball

There may be no individual player more important to its team than James Bouknight is to Connecticut. When he is in the lineup, the Huskies are 9-2 and outscore opponents by an average margin of 10.5 points. When he missed eight games with an elbow injury, Connecticut went just .500 as shown in the graphic below.

In the first meeting with Georgetown, Bouknight had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while R.J. Cole filled the stat sheet with 17 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 6 steals. Those two, along with Tyrese Martin, have contributed 49.3% of Connecticut’s total points this season in addition to 48.5% of their total assists.

Connecticut plays at one of the slower tempos in the country which leads to some closer games. They hold the No. 1 ranked defense in the Big East, allowing just 97.5 points per every 100 possessions according to Kenpom.

One knock against the Huskies is that they foul more than nearly any other team, sending teams to the line on 37.0% of their field goal attempts. Connecticut struggled to put away Georgetown until late in the first matchup, and I anticipate a similar game flow in this one.

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When Georgetown has the Ball

The vibe around the Georgetown locker room is to enter the Big East tournament with as much positive momentum as possible. The Hoyas have won four of their last five games and are getting it done on the defensive end, holding teams to just 66.8 points in that span.

The 3-point shot is going to be a huge storyline for this game. Georgetown has hit 37.2% of its 3-point attempts this season in Big East play, which ranks first in the conference. That wasn’t the case the first time these two teams met when the Hoyas hit just 21.1% of their 19 attempts. In the Hoyas’ four recent wins, they have hit 37-of-80 attempts from behind the arc, good for an astounding 46.3%.

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-pick-georgetown-syracuse-january 9
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Patrick Ewing (left) and Dante Harris (right).

Javon Blair and Jamorko Pickett are the only two seniors on the roster who came to Georgetown in Patrick Ewing’s first year. Both of them have eclipsed the 1,000-point mark during this season and are the team’s two leading scorers.

Blair is averaging 15.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists while Pickett is scoring 12.9 points and grabbing 8.0 rebounds. The Hoyas have two other players who average double-digits.


Betting Analysis & Pick

UConn has now clinched the 3-seed in the Big East tournament and doesn’t have too much to play for in this game. Georgetown is a scrappy team that hung with the Huskies for the majority of the first meeting before going cold from outside to end the game. 

This should be another slower-paced game similar to the first matchup. UConn may not match the intensity that Patrick Ewing’s squad is going to bring. I’m backing Georgetown as a double-digit underdog in a game that I anticipate being close down to the wire. 

Pick: Georgetown +10 (Play down to +9)

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College Basketball Odds & Picks: Best Bets for MVC, OVC, Sun Belt, SoCon & WCC Tournament Games (Friday, March 5)

college basketball-conference tournaments-betting-march 5-mvc-socon-sun belt-ovc

This evening’s college basketball slate features conference tournament action from the SoCon, Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley, Sun Belt, Atlantic Sun, Ohio Valley and West Coast conferences. So, in order help cut through all the noise, we’ve compiled our favorite bets and angles for five of tonight’s active conference tournaments.

Tonight’s top picks span from 5:30 p.m. ET until 10:30 p.m. ET. So if you’re looking to build a card for tonight’s action, then rest assured: You’re in the right place.


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College Basketball Odds & Picks

Click on a game to skip ahead
SoCon: Opening Round
5:30 p.m. ET
San Francisco vs. Loyola Marymount
9 p.m. ET
Valparaiso vs. Missouri State
9 p.m. ET
Troy vs. UT-Arlington
9 p.m. ET
Eastern Kentucky vs. Morehead State
10:30 p.m. ET

Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing.

Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.


SoCon Tournament: Opening Round

No. 9 Western Carolina vs. No. 8 The Citadel
&
No. 10 Samford vs. No. 7 Mercer

By Stuckey

Matchup
Time
TV
(9) Western Carolina vs. (8) The Citadel
5:30 p.m. ET
ESPN+
(10 Samford vs. (7) Mercer
8 p.m. ET
ESPN+

Both matchups have plenty of uncertainty.

The Citadel hasn’t played since Feb. 24, with its season finale canceled due to COVID-19 issues at Samford, which last saw action more than two weeks ago on Feb. 17.

If you’re not familiar, those two teams each play extremely unique, fast-paced styles.

Samford has its “Bucky Ball” under first-year head coach Bucky McMillan, who has also used a zone defense on 25% of possessions and pressed at the second-highest rate in D-I, per Synergy. And The Citadel has its fun-n-gun, 3-and-run style under long-time SoCon coach Duggar Baucom. Neither are known for their defense.

Mercer has a dangerous offense full of shooters and did sweep the regular-season series against Samford, but both came in overtime. Samford also had a two-week hiatus before that series, so Mercer will be catching Samford again in that same scenario.

After picking up four non-conference wins in overtime, Western Carolina really struggled during league play.

The Catamounts do have an excellent player in senior guard Mason Faulkner, who returned for their final two games after a three-game absence. After starting 2-13 in conference play — with two home victories by a combined three points over VMI and The Citadel — WCU did finish the season with two impressive wins with Faulkner back in the lineup:

A road win at top-seed UNC Greensboro (which it would face in the second-round)

25-point home win over Mercer

The upward-trending Catamounts split their season series with The Citadel, picking up a one-point win at home and suffering an 11-point defeat on the road. Both offenses have major advantages here and both want to play fast, hence the total in the high 150s.

Ultimately, this is a watch-and-learn day for me in the SoCon. There’s way too much uncertainty to get involved with Samford coming off of a COVID-19 break and The Citadel having not played since Feb. 24.

No reason to force anything in games that I think are lined pretty fair.


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West Coast Conference Tournament: Second Round

No. 8 San Francisco vs. No. 5 Loyola Marymount

By Mike Randle

Pick
San Francisco -1
Sportsbook
Tipoff
9 p.m. ET
TV
STADIUM

I’m staying with the Dons, who provided the “no-sweat” cover last night against San Diego.

The old adage of “it’s hard to beat a team three times,” is often overused. However, in this case, I think it’s relevant.

Loyola Marymount has played hard for first-year coach Stan Johnson, finishing 5-2 over the past seven games. That included a 68-63 win at San Francisco, sweeping the season series. However, in that game, the Lions survived despite 22 turnovers, a repetitive issue for them all season.

The Dons have a familiarity advantage, having already played at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas against the Toreros.

The guard duo of Jamaree Bouyea (17.5 PPG, 37.7% 3P) and Khalil Shabazz (15.3 PPG, 33.1% 3P) will challenge a Loyola Marymount defense that ranks below average in WCC play in effective field goal percentage, defensive turnover percentage, and 2-point percentage allowed.

The Lions are also 240th in 3-point percentage allowed, and San Francisco generates 40.7% of its points from beyond the arc in conference play (1st among all WCC teams).

Julian Rishwain (36.5% 3P on 85 attempts), Dzmitry Ryuny (34.5% on 142 attempts), and Josh Kunen (36.8% 3P on 57 attempts) will all spread the floor against the Lions. In their two losses to LMU, the Dons shot just 27% (16-of-59) from 3, a number I expect will experience positive regression.

It’s always attractive to back a great head coach such as USF’s Todd Golden, and after a convincing win last night, I will lay the small number in this neutral site WCC battle.

Pick: San Francisco -1


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Missouri Valley “Arch Madness” Tournament: Quarterfinals

No. 6 Valparaiso vs. No. 3 Missouri State

By Michael Calabrese

Pick
Missouri State -7.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
9 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN+

This is a great draw for the Bears.

Both of Missouri State’s meetings with Valpo came on the road, and the Bears had little trouble dispatching the Crusaders in either game.

The pair of double-digit victories featured back-to-back 29-point performances from Isiaih Mobley. The sophomore wing is one of the best scorers in all of college basketball and is lethal from anywhere on the floor or from the line. He is the main reason the Bears are the nation’s 13th-best shooting team from inside the arc.

What I also love about the Bears in this spot is that they’ve been covering against the bottom of the MVC for nearly a month. The Bears are 7-1 against the spread in their last eight, besting the closing number by an average of five points per contest.

Valpo enters this one leaking oil. Losers of four of its last six, Valparaiso has been downright uncompetitive at times in the last five weeks. The Crusaders have four losses by 14 points or more since Jan. 31 and have slid all the way into the 300s in the offensive efficiency rankings. For perspective, Missouri State checks in at 56th nationally.

The Bears are hot at the right time, and this won’t be the only time I play them during what I suspect will be an exciting Arch Madness run.

Pick: Missouri State -7.5


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Sun Belt Conference Tournament: First Round

No. 6 Troy vs. No. 3 UT-Arlington

By Ky McKeon

Pick
UT-Arlington -5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
9 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN+

There’s an ancient adage in college basketball that goes: “It’s hard to win basketball games without your best player.”

UT Arlington knows that better than most teams, as its star wing, David Azore, has missed a whopping 14 games this season due to a leg injury and has been limited in a handful more.

The Mavs were just 3-10 against the spread without Azore in the lineup (one of those games he missed was against a D-II opponent) on the heels of an impressive showing in the non-conference portion of the schedule.

UTA covered its first four games of the season with Azore in tow, even competing with power teams like Oklahoma State and Arkansas.

Azore returned to the Mav lineup in full form on Feb. 22, and of course UTA wasted no time getting back to its covering ways. In the three games since Azore has returned, UTA is 2-1 straight up and against the spread.

Azore led the Mavs in scoring and assists last season in addition to being one of the stronger rebounders on the squad. To say that he is massively important would be an understatement.

But his absence perhaps wasn’t all bad. It paved the way for the emergence of junior guard Shahada Wells, a surefire first-team All-Sun Belt selection, and Sam Griffin, a promising sophomore shooting over 40% from 3 in conference play.

With Azore back in the lineup, the Mavs now have an extremely potent three-pronged offensive attack. They should have no trouble scoring on the lowly Troy Trojans, and Troy simply has no interest putting the ball in the basket on the other end of the floor, as evidenced by its league-worst offensive efficiency.

Tonight, bet on an undervalued short favorite, who at full strength is arguably one of the three best teams in the Sun Belt.

Pick: UT-Arlington -5


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Ohio Valley Conference Tournament: Semifinals

No. 3 Eastern Kentucky vs. No. 2 Morehead State

By Stuckey

Pick
Morehead State -1
Sportsbook
Tipoff
10:30 p.m. ET
TV
ESPNU

The top two seeds from the OVC advanced on Wednesday, which means both Belmont and Morehead State have a preparation and rest advantage over Jacksonville State (which won in overtime last night) and Eastern Kentucky (which played past midnight last night).

Let’s take a closer look at EKU vs. Morehead State — two teams led by fantastic freshmen and known for their defense.

EKU survived yesterday thanks to a horrendous shooting night from Austin Peay. The Colonels remain a high shooting regression candidate. Led by outstanding freshman guard Wendell Green, they like to play fast (2nd in Adjusted Tempo) and are known for their full-court press and heavy pressure defense, which forces turnovers at the sixth-highest rate nationally. That could spell trouble for a Morehead State team that has major turnover issues (333rd in the country).

These teams split the first two meetings with Morehead turning it over a staggering 47 times. Even with those giveaway problems, Morehead won at home with ease and blew a big lead in the rematch.

Morehead is also known for its defense — but more specifically its defense in the half court, where it ranks in the 93rd percentile nationally, per Synergy. The Eagles are absolutely suffocating and have an elite rim protector in 6-foot-10 freshman Johni Broome, who can also guard multiple positions. I’m not really sure how EKU will score efficiently in the half court unless bad shots are falling from Green and company.

EKU is arguably the streakiest team in the country. Just look at the first meeting between these two when EKU jumped out to a 9-0 lead, then fell behind 42-25 before rallying late to win 71-68. The Colonels go on huge runs and suffer through endless droughts, so they are an ideal live trading team.

I lean Morehead State here at -1 and may bet them but also might just wait to grab them live or for the 2H if trailing. I also could make the case for betting EKU live in the 2H if it gets down big and needs to really ramp up the pressure against a Morehead team that will cough it up and also struggles at the free throw line.

Take a look at our staff best bets file today for my thoughts on the other OVC game in action today: Jacksonville State vs. Belmont.

Betting Leans: Morehead State -1 | Possible Live Bet on EKU 2H


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Ducks vs. Avalanche NHL Odds & Pick: How to Back Colorado as Large Favorite (March 5)

Ducks vs. Avalanche Odds

Ducks Odds +200
Avalanche Odds -250
Over/Under 5.5
Time 9 p.m. ET
TV NHL.tv
Odds as of Thursday night and via BetMGM

It’ll be a tale of two teams in Colorado on Friday when the Avalanche play host to the Anaheim Ducks. Colorado has been unspectacular and somewhat disappointing to begin the season, but they’re still considered to be a Stanley Cup favorite by most. On the other hand, the Anaheim Ducks are amongst the worst teams in the league. 

The line reflects the fact that this is a mismatch, with the Avs being substantial favorites. Do we dare bet the underdog Ducks? Or is there a more cost-effective way to bet the favorite?

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Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks enter this game in last place in the NHL’s West Division, posting a record of 6-12-5 through their first 23 games. Anaheim has lost eight straight games as their season has spiraled. At this point, it’s safe to say the damage is irreparable. 

The Ducks have dealt with two main problems to begin this year: a lack of talent and poor goaltending. 

The metrics say the Ducks are a middle-of-the-pack team offensively. Anaheim’s expected goals per hour ranks 18th. They’re also middle of the pack when it comes to high danger chances and shot attempts at 5-on-5. Despite this, the Ducks rank 31st, or dead last, in goals per game, scoring just over two goals a night. 

The main issue is a lack of talent. Max Comtois has been impressive for Anaheim, as the youngster has nine goals and 15 points on the season. However, outside of Comtois, no Ducks player has more than five goals. Ryan Getzlaf, Jakob Silfverberg, and Adam Henrique look to be past their prime, while younger players like Trevor Zegras are not yet performing at a high level. 

Anaheim’s most talented player is their goaltender, John Gibson. However, the American born goaltender has struggled mightily. Gibson has given up at least three goals in seven straight games. He’s barely stopping 90% of the shots he’s facing. His goals saved above expectation is -2.8. 

The Ducks are not good defensively, but Gibson usually bails them out and covers that wart. He hasn’t done that this year. Couple that with their offensive woes, and it’s no surprise to see Anaheim struggling to win games. 

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Colorado Avalanche

It might sound crazy to say a team with a 12-7-1 record that sits in a playoff spot has been a disappointment, but it’s hard to argue the Colorado Avalanche haven’t been. Pegged by many, including oddsmakers, as the favorites to win the Stanley Cup in the pre-season, the Avs have been solid but far from dominant.

The underlying metrics paint a slightly brighter picture for Colorado. They rank first in the league in shot attempt rate while clocking in at third in expected-goal rate. It’s been a team effort too, as the Avs rank sixth in both expected goals scored and expected goals against. 

Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Nathan MacKinnon

Despite that balance, it’s actually been the Avalanche’s ability to keep the puck out of their net that has sparked their winning. When you look at the talent up front for Colorado, the defense isn’t what you’d expect to lead the team. However, Colorado ranks fifth in the league, allowing under 2.5 goals a night. Unfortunately, they are dealing with some injuries on the back end. Cale Makar will be out for this game, along with Erik Johnson and perhaps Bowen Byram. Even if the defense falters, goaltender Philipp Grubauer has been solid. He ranks top ten in the league in goals saved above expectation. 

Colorado’s offense ranks 14th in terms of goals per game, so it’s hard to be too mad about a team that ranks towards the middle of the league. With that being said, the expectations were for a top-five offense, and that hasn’t been the case. It’s only a matter of time until players like Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, Gabriel Landeskog and Andre Burakovsky start putting up crooked numbers. 

Ducks vs. Avalanche Best Bet

It’s no surprise to see the Avalanche as huge favorites in this game. They are a very good team that has even higher expectations. Anaheim is one of the worst teams in the league. Colorado is home. It all makes sense. 

It should come as no surprise that we’re avoiding the moneyline in this game. You don’t bet -250 favorites in hockey as there’s too much variance in the game. I would lean towards betting the Ducks at this price if Gibson was his usual self. However, with him struggling, the avenues to an Anaheim victory get harder to find. If I had a higher tolerance for pain, I’d play the Ducks, but I don’t want to begin my weekend that way.

The mismatch between these two teams is wide enough where it makes sense to look towards the puck-line. It’s worth noting that the Ducks are on an eight-game losing streak but Anaheim has lost five straight games by one goal. They aren’t getting blown out. 

However, I think that changes here. Anaheim will struggle to score against this defensive unit. Grubauer has been very good to begin the year. The Ducks rank last in goals per game, and the Avs aren’t the team to play if you want to fix that. The Avs offense should be able to score a few on Gibson.

I think Colorado wins this game handily. 

Pick: Colorado -1.5 (+115)

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Cal State Fullerton vs. UC San Diego College Basketball Odds & Picks: The Friday Matchup Sharps Are Quietly Betting

college-basketball-odds-picks-betting-cal-state-fullerton-vs-uc-san-diego-friday-march-5

Cal State Fullerton vs. UC San Diego Odds

Cal State Fullerton Odds +3
UC San Diego Odds -3
Over/Under 150.5
Time | Channel  8 p.m. ET | ESPN3

Friday’s college basketball schedule is certainly an interesting one.

On one hand, it’s 51 games deep, meaning there are plenty of matchups for college hoops fans and bettors to enjoy.

However, of the 102 teams in action, just one — No. 20 Loyola Chicago — is ranked in the top 25, leaving Friday’s slate devoid of big-name, blue blood programs.

Thankfully, bettors don’t necessarily need to know everything about each team in action on Friday — our College Basketball PRO Report does all the work required.

And if you’re scanning the board for today’s smartest betting picks, look no further than Cal State Fullerton vs. UC San Diego.

Cal State Fullerton vs. UC San Diego Pick

Sharp Action


UC San Diego is a short home favorite tonight against Cal State Fullerton, and pro bettors are happily laying the number.

Action Labs’ Bet Signals — which track and report sharp betting action in real-time — have triggered two smart money moves on the Tritons, citing multiple instances in which wagers from respected bettors have impacted the market.

Based on this, oddsmakers have pushed the Cal State Fullerton vs. UC San Diego spread up to -3 at most sportsbooks (find real-time college basketball odds here).

Big Money

With sharp action we often see big bets, and that’s exactly what’s coming down on UC San Diego in this game.

The Tritons have landed just 31% of the tickets, but those bets represent 93% of the money.

Based on our PRO Report, it’s easy to conclude that large wagers from respected bettors have hit UC San Diego so far this morning.

PRO Projections Pick: UC San Diego -3

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The Spartans and Wolverines face each other for the second time this week as we creep closer to March Madness.

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Illinois vs. Ohio State College Basketball Odds & Pick: Offenses Will Shine in Columbus With or Without Dosunmu (March 6)

Illinois vs. Ohio State Odds


Illinois Odds
+2
Ohio State Odds
-2
Moneyline
+110/-139
Over/Under
150.5
Time | TV
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET | ESPN
Odds as of Friday night and via PointsBet.

Illinois heads to Columbus looking for their third straight road win over a ranked opponent.

The Illini had maybe the most impressive win of the season on Tuesday, blowing out Michigan 76-53, without their best player Ayo Dosunmu. Illinois is locked into the two seed for the Big Ten tournament, but another win versus a top-10 team could lock up a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. It’s unclear if Dosunmu will return for Saturday’s contest, but Illinois has showed that they are just fine without him.

Ohio State is limping to the finish line, as they’ve lost three straight Big Ten games, including a 57-point performance at home against Iowa last Sunday. The Buckeyes are currently the five seed in the Big Ten but are only a half game behind Purdue for fourth place, which would give them a first round bye in the Big Ten tournament next week.

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When Illinois has the ball

I’ll be honest, I thought Illinois was screwed when Dosnumu was ruled out for their last two games against Wisconsin and Michigan. However, the complete opposite effect has happened, as some of the Illini’s role players have stepped up in his absence. Trent Frazier and Andre Curbelo have carried Illinois’ backcourt, combining for 62 points in their last two games. The real reason Illinois hasn’t missed a beat is because of their big man Kofi Cockburn.

Cockburn has been an absolute monster down low all season long, averaging 17.5 points and 9.8 rebounds. He went 7-of-7 from the field in the last meeting against Ohio State, and the Buckeyes don’t have the size to match up with him, as their tallest guy is 6-8. Even if Dosunmu is ruled out again, I expect Illinois to feed him early and often.

Ohio State defensively has struggled to defend the paint all season long, allowing over 50% from two-point range and over 61% on shot attempts at the rim. I have a hard time seeing how they are going to stop Cockburn and the rest of Illinois supporting cast inside.

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When Ohio State has the ball

The Buckeyes have one of the best offenses in the country, ranking fourth in terms of efficiency, per KenPom. The reason they are so efficient is because the Buckeyes do every thing well. Ohio State ranks inside the top three in the conference in two-point and three-point percentage, so they can beat their opponents from anywhere. Their offense torched Illinois in the first meeting, averaging 1.23 points per possession and shooting over 50% from three-point range.

Ohio State attempts 3-pointers on over 40% of its field goal attempts converting almost 37% of them. The good news for the Buckeyes is that’s how you beat this Illinois defense. The Illini are 10th in the Big Ten in three-point percentage allowed, so if the Buckeyes can hit a high percentage from deep, they have a good chance at beating the Illini.

Illinois is one of the best defenses in the Big Ten, allowing 0.96 points per possession and are almost impossible to score on in the paint. Michigan saw that first hand on Wednesday, shooting only 36% from inside the arc. With a presence like Cockburn in the lane, the Illini allow 44.7% from 2-point range and 58.7% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math. Ohio State is going to have to do most of their damage from behind the arc.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

The Illini and Buckeyes both match up well with their opposing defenses, so I think this is going to be an offensive showcase even if Ayo Dosunmu is on the sidelines. Additionally, Illinois plays a really fast tempo, so I expect them to try and force Ohio State out of their comfort zone and turn this into a track meet. Therefore, I am going to back Over 150.5 points (PointsBet) and would play it up to 151.5.

Pick: Over 150.5 | Play up to 151.5

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Rutgers vs. Minnesota College Basketball Odds & Pick: Don’t Expect Many Points Between Scarlet Knights and Golden Gophers (March 6)

minnesota-rutgers-college-basketball-bets-pick-march-6

Rutgers vs. Minnesota Odds


Rutgers Odds -3
Minnesota Odds +3
Over/Under 140
Time | TV Saturday, 12 p.m. ET | FOX
Odds as of Friday night and via BetMGM.

As recently as mid-February, this meeting between Rutgers and Minnesota looked like a huge game in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights and Golden Gophers were jostling in the middle of the pack in the conference standings, with the NCAA Tournament in their future. Since then, trouble has come for both programs.

Rutgers has lost four of six, only winning home games against fading Indiana and a struggling Northwestern team. A blowout loss at Nebraska, the last-placed team in the conference, moved Rutgers from a certain NCAA Tournament team to a bubble dweller.

Minnesota has receded even further. In mid-January, the Gophers were 11-4 with wins over Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan. Minnesota has now lost nine of its last 11 games, including six in a row. The Gophers’ last three losses came at the hands of the only teams behind Minnesota in the Big Ten standings — Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State. The word “freefall” fails to properly condone just how dismal things have gotten in Minneapolis.

Despite all of those issues, Minnesota hosts Rutgers in the Big Ten finale for both teams, and one of these two will have a chance to stop the bleeding.

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Rutgers offensive struggles

The Scarlet Knights are coming off a monumental egg-laying their last time out. On the road against Big Ten cellar-dweller Nebraska, Rutgers trailed by as many as 30 points and looked completely outclassed.

Rutgers scored just 0.76 points per possession in that game, with more than twice as many turnovers as assists. No Rutgers starter attempted a free throw, and the Knights shot 3-23 as a team from outside the 3-point line.

Rutgers and its fans can hope this performance was a fluke, with shooting regression in the future. Over the course of Rutgers’ last nine games, the Scarlet Knights are shooting just 25.5 percent from outside the arc, on 21 attempts per game. That’s enough to hamper any offense, yet there’s not a ton of indication that Rutgers is due to snap out of the cold shooting funk.

Rutgers has made just 31 percent of its outside shots this season, 11th best in the Big Ten. None of the five Rutgers players attempting more than two 3s per game is making better than 37 percent from long range.

rutgers vs. maryland-odds-picks-betting-predictions-college basketball-sunday-february 22
Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Ron Harper Jr.

Ron Harper Jr. has proven to be one of the nation’s streakiest shooters. During Rutgers first 12 games, he made 42 percent from long distance. In his last ten games, Harper has made just six of 43 shots from beyond the 3-point line, a dreadful 14 percent, while still trying more than four per game.

Not to be outdone, Harper’s teammate Geo Baker’s shooting has fluctuated from game to game. Ask an Indiana fan, and they’ll tell you Baker can’t miss from long range – he’s 10-20 in two games against the Hoosiers. An Ohio State fan would disagree – Baker is 2-11 against the Buckeyes this season.

When Harper and Baker are both on, Rutgers’ offense opens up and looks sharp. When both are off, Rutgers looks sluggish and broken.

Minnesota’s offense is even worse

The Golden Gophers would kill for streaky shooting. Minnesota’s outside production has been nonexistent. No power conference team has made a lower percentage of its 3-point attempts, with Minnesota’s 28.8 percent ranking 335th in the nation.

During the Gophers’ six-game skid, Minnesota has made 26.6 percent of its 3-point tries, with more than 23 attempts per game. With injuries throughout the roster, Minnesota’s offense is being entirely propped up by Marcus Carr.

The Pitt transfer outscored his teammates in the loss to Nebraska, 41-33, and is shooting from everywhere. In Minnesota’s last two games, Carr has played every minute of both games, taken 40 field goal attempts and went to the free throw line 31 times. Forcing Carr into harmful shot selection, without committing bail-out fouls, will be the top item on Rutgers’ game plan.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

This is a scary game for bettors. Neither of these teams is trending in a good direction, and neither has inspired much confidence. Early in Minnesota’s downturn, conventional wisdom suggested the Gophers were troublesome on the road but played much better at home at The Barn. That’s no longer the case after a 29-point pounding from Illinois and a loss to Northwestern at The Barn in Minnesota’s rearview mirror.

It’s impossible to advise betting on this Minnesota team, given the way the Gophers are limping in to end the season. Conversely, Rutgers came out so flat in its last outing, the Scarlet Knights aren’t a sure thing to take care of business in this must-win match-up for their tournament hopes.

The safest bet here is to assume both teams continue to miss the mark offensively and stay short of an total number that Rutgers hasn’t cleared in any of its last five games.

Pick: Under 140, down to 137.5

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Villanova vs. Providence College Basketball Odds & Pick: Back Friars Over Collin Gillespie-less Wildcats (March 6)

providence-villanova-college-basketball-march-6-bets-pick

Villanova vs. Providence Odds


Team Odds -4 (-116)
Team Odds +4 (-107)
Moneyline -189/+145
Over/Under 137.5
Time | TV Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET | FOX
Odds as of Friday night and via BetMGM.

Earlier this week, Villanova’s trip to Providence looked mundane on the Big East calendar. The soon-to-be regular season conference champions were to face a minor hurdle from a Friar team very unlikely to reach the NCAA Tournament.

That’s no longer the case, after Villanova’s season hit a major snag Wednesday. Senior point guard Collin Gillespie tore his MCL and will no longer play in this game, or for that matter, the rest of the season. This will be our first complete look at Villanova without its senior leader and second-leading scorer. For bettors, this game took on entirely new connotations and could be instructive for Villanova’s path moving forward.

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Villanova begins life without Collin Gillespie

There are probably less than 15 players in college basketball with more of a direct effect on the chase to win the national title than Villanova’s Collin Gillespie. His MCL tear in Wednesday’s win over Creighton sent shockwaves through the Villanova program and the chase for high seeds in this month’s NCAA Tournament.

Gillespie was the point guard of a team pegged as a 3-seed by Bracket Matrix, while averaging 14.0 points, 4.6 assists and a usage rate over 22 percent. He will not be easily replaced in this Villanova lineup. Gillespie was playing 33.4 minutes per game. Jay Wright has been reticent to take his floor general off the court, with Gillespie topping 35 minutes in 10 Villanova games this season and all but one of the seven Wildcat games decided by single-digits.

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-clemson-villanova-san diego state-new orleans-uconn-abilene Christian-st. john's-march 3
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images. Pictured: Collin Gillespie.

This has been Wright’s template with most of his rotation this season. Villanova ranks 329th in the nation in minutes played by bench players. Wright’s rotation stayed tight with only seven players consistently seeing action and a few others seeing the court in short spurts or in blowouts.

There is also no logical backup point guard to slide into Gillespie’s role. In the immediate aftermath during the game against Creighton, Villanova settled on a point-guard-by-committee approach, with a variety of players handling the ball, including 6-9 power forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. We’ll certainly see more of junior guard Brandon Slater, who is a better defender than Gillespie but brings little to the table offensively.

There’s a chance that Wright turns to Bryan Antoine, a former five-star recruit who has struggled with injuries and the speed of the Division I game. Antoine has played just 24 minutes in two seasons at Villanova and, although he’s talented, has never looked ready for the spotlight.

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Providence’s response to new-look Nova

In some ways, Villanova is lucky to see Providence in its first game without Gillespie in the lineup. The Friars force turnovers at the second-lowest rate in the Big East. The first time these teams met, Villanova won the turnover battle in a massive way, committing half as many turnovers as the Friars. While no road game in Big East play will come without defensive intensity, Gillespie’s role as pressure-releasing ball-handler should not be missed as heavily as it might against a more pressure focused opponent.

Instead, his role in creating offense, for himself and others, will be where Villanova needs other players to step up. Providence allows the lowest 3-point rate and 3-point percentage in the Big East, prioritizing close-outs and forcing teams into the mid-range.

This is an area where Gillespie thrives. In the first meeting between these teams, he found 14 field goal attempts for himself, but more importantly, dished six assists. Providence will force more passive Villanova players to become creators off the dribble. The man-to-man match-up between Friar guard David Duke and Villlanova’s Justin Moore will be crucial to determining the Wildcats’ offensive success.

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The Friars on offense

Even if Providence’s defense can stymie a short-handed Villanova offense, the Friars will need to improve offensively. In Providence’s last four games, the Friars have topped 1.00 points per possession just once. Ed Cooley’s offense has sputtered in large part due to a dip in production from his team’s two leaders.

David Duke in that stretch has struggled to finish, managing only 30.6 percent on attempts inside the arc. He’s also averaging four turnovers per game over that period, failing to live up to his billing as Providence’s go-to guy.

The Friars’ second leading scorer, senior big man Nate Watson, has also had issues of late. He’s managed just 11 points per game in Providence’s last four, down from his 16.7 per game this season. Watson has developed problems at the free throw line. The senior is making under 45 percent from the stripe in February and has made just two of his last 10 foul shots.


Betting Analysis & Pick

Gillespie’s absence is clearly baked into the line in this game, but there’s value if a bettor can determine its true impact. At face value, he’s a massive piece of Villanova’s success, and the Wildcats don’t have the depth to properly replace his production.

Conversely, Villanova did not ultimately suffer after he left the game against Creighton. When Gillespie left the game around the six-minute mark of the first half, Villanova held a 12-point lead. After the final horn, the Wildcats won by that very same 12-point margin.

That could be a fool’s gold of small sample size for Villanova fans and backers. The Wildcats were able to hold that lead against a Creighton team currently embroiled in scandal. Coach Greg McDermott admitted his team was “emotionally drained” following the fall-out from McDermott’s insensitive comments. Once the Bluejays could adjust to Villanova’s sans-Gillespie lineup, Creighton made waves in the second half, to the tune of a 19-2 run.

The prudent play is staying clear of Villanova until we have a better understanding of the impact of Gillespie’s injury, but Providence could be worth a flyer as Villanova adjusts to its new normal.

Pick: Providence +145

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NHL Odds & Picks For Capitals vs. Bruins: Bet On Washington’s Win Streak To End Friday

washington-capitals-vs-boston-bruins-march-5

Capitals vs. Bruins Odds


Capitals Odds +123
Bruins Odds -141
Over/Under 6 (-114 / -106)
Time | TV Friday, 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Thursday evening and via DraftKings.

If postmodernism teaches us to be suspicious of everything, the NHL’s East Division is totemic. It has entertaining hockey that is viciously competitive, but nearly halfway through the season, can we gauge how good its teams are?

The Boston Bruins were unbeatable; now they are skidding. The Washington Capitals sprinted out of the gate, stumbled, and now are surging, winning their last four games. Up, down, hot, cold. Like a moody teenager, the East Division is volatile.

We do know that home ice matters for some teams. Boston is one of them. The Bruins are 5-1-1 in their own barn, with the Capitals supplying the digit in that third column Wednesday night. Like a hot Broadway show, the prices for favorites are rising. The Bruins are -141 on DraftKings for the moneyline. It’s a stiff price, but the Capitals’ four-game victory streak is likely to come to an end on Friday.

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Washington Capitals

COVID and injuries ravaged this team earlier in the season, but it is difficult to assess the extent of damage. What we do know is that the Washington team of the last two weeks is mauling its adversaries. Washington is boasting a 54.72 expected goals percentage and a 55.93 high-danger chances percentage.

Perhaps surprisingly, it is Washington’s defense that is rocketing this team into the top 10 in both categories. The Caps’ offense has been pedestrian by hockey analytics standards, but they are tamping down opponents’ opportunities.

So, the Capitals got healthy and now they are winning? Yes, but there is more to the story. Coach Peter Laviolette runs a man-to-man defense in lieu of the zone defense run by most of the league. With enough games, the personnel may have adapted to the system.

And that extends even beyond defensive coverage. The Capitals’ defensemen have been participating in the rush, which opens up lanes for the forwards. Against Boston on Wednesday, the Capitals brought a physicality that was disruptive, enough so that the Bruins were in danger of going shot-less in the first period.

On Lars Eller’s goal — Washington’s only one in regulation — Boston’s Sean Kuraly was guilty of a pass from wing to wing that T.J. Oshie gobbled up for a turnover.

Kuraly was hardly the only puck-management offender. Washington consistently forced the Bruins’ defensemen and forwards into surrendering the puck on their breakout. Bruins goaltender Tuuka Rask played the foil, finishing with a 1.62 goals saved above expected (GSAx) in the game.

Now that Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov is back and healthy, it will be interesting to see if the goaltending job will be split between him and Vitek Vanecek. On the season, Samsonov has a -2.96 GSAx and he posted a -0.32 against the Devils in his first game back. Wednesday was the fewest 5-on-5 shots the Bruins have posted this season, so the expectation is that Samsonov will face a lot more rubber on Friday.


Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.


Boston Bruins

Last season, the Bruins were a top-five defense while their offense was among the five worst in expected goals. In the last two weeks, Boston has been below average in both metrics. Oddly, the solution to both facets might be the same thing.

The Bruins’ offense is at its best when its defensemen are involved. Yes, when the forwards move the puck from low to high and create a lot of traffic, that screams Bruins hockey. But scoring chances accumulate when the Boston defensemen carry the puck out of their own end.

A Bruins defenseman could be looking toward the forwards to spearhead a transition chance or create a race to get the opponent hemmed in. If the Capitals are taking away the perimeter on breakouts — which they did in Game 1 — Boston needs to go up the gut. If that isn’t there, indirect pass the puck out of the zone. Even with the Capitals’ stingy defensive metrics of late, they are vulnerable if Boston pulls the right levers.

Last Saturday, the Capitals beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2. But in the first period, Washington had a telling miscue. In the Capitals’ defensive zone, New Jersey defenseman Ty Smith was being pursued by Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway and Hathaway followed Smith around the net.

As Smith was being tailed, the rest of the Devils forwards crowded toward the puck on the near side, dragging the Capitals’ defenders with them. Lost in the shuffle was the weak-side Devils defenseman, Damon Severson, who got a great look when the puck found him. Force the Capitals to chase the puck-carrier around their end and coverage lapses are going to occur.

Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy. There are more. The Bruins have a cabal of capable puck-handlers who can put knots in the Capitals’ man-to-man defense. But puncturing Washington’s defense through extended possession and lots of motion is a possibility premised on leaving one’s end.

The problem on Wednesday was zone exits, as every time the Bruins looked toward the boards or perimeter, Washington magically appeared to steal the pass. No wonder Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk nearly coughed up the puck before zipping a pass up the middle to Pastrnak for a breakaway. For Boston on breakouts, it was boom or bust.

One final area worth watching is the Bruins’ counterattacks. The Pastrnak goal came off a John Carlson gaffe. And in the Rangers game on Sunday, pressure from the Boston forwards at the point produced a Jack Studnicka breakaway. Washington’s defensemen are playing with a lot of confidence, but if Boston’s forwards can pressure them, it may lead to odd-man rush looks. Faceoffs used to be a Bruins advantage, but with Michael Peca now aiding the Capitals’ organization, the gap may have narrowed.

Betting Analysis & Pick

As impressive as the Capitals are playing, I am loath to bet on the Bruins losing consecutive games at home. With coach Bruce Cassidy able to determine the matchups and build off of Wednesday’s demoralizing defeat, I like the Bruins to grind out a victory.

Pick: Bruins -141

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Saturday Bundesliga Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund (March 6)

ailments

Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund Odds

Bayern Munich Odds -175
Dortmund Odds +410
Draw +340
Over/Under 3.5 (-125 / +102) 
Day | Time Saturday | 12:30 p.m. ET
TV ABC
Odds as of Friday afternoon via DraftKings.

Two of the biggest clubs in Germany meet at the Allianz Arena on Saturday for what is now known as Der Klassiker.

Bayern Munich is once again a top to Bundesliga table and in rout to their ninth straight title. They’ve slipped up the past few matches drawing with bottom of the table side Arminia Bielefeld and losing on the road to Frankfurt. The Bavarians lead is only two points over second-place RB Leipzig, so this match is vitally important if they want to stay at the top of the table.

It’s been a really difficult season for Dortmund, who are in fifth place and three points off the top four. They’ve been so up and down with wins over RB Leipzig and recently Sevilla on the road, but also three losses to teams in the bottom half of the table.

They also haven’t had much success vs. Bayern Munich in the past, losing seven of their last eight meetings, so naturally they come in as big underdogs.

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Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich has been their usual dominant selves this campaign, but they haven’t been as dominant as they were during the restart of last season. In fact, if you look at the table below, they’ve actually seen quite a steep drop-off in their expected goal numbers between years.

A lot of their success offensively has come from beating up on the bottom of the table. In nine matches against the bottom-five teams in the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich is averaging 2.46 xG per match, and they’re averaging only 1.99 xG per match against the rest of the league.

In the first matchup against Dortmund, Bayern walked away with a 3-2 victory at Signal Iduna Park, but Dortmund was by far the better side that day winning the expected goals battle and creating more high quality chances (map via Infogol):

Dortmund

It’s been a weird, interesting season for Dortmund, who are currently on the outside looking in at the top four. It’s been a couple months since they fired manager Lucien Favre and have been led by interim manager Edin Terzic.

Although things on the surface look like bad for Dortmund, their underlying metrics are actually quite good.

Die Borussen’s offense has been clicking on all cylinders, scoring 1.96 xG per match. A lot of the has to do with their all world striker Erling Haaland, who is thrashing opposing defenses in the Bundesliga with 17 goals in 18 appearances. He’s also averaging 0.80 xG per 90 minutes this season, which is the third-best average in the Bundesliga.

What’s interesting about this Dortmund team is how much better they are playing out of the 4-2-3-1 than they did last season. During the 2019-20 campaign, Dortmund had only a +2.20 xGD and allowed 1.41 xG per 90 minutes when playing out of that formation.

Through 23 matches this season, Die Borussen has a +14.31 xGD and is allowing only 1.00 xG per 90 minutes.

So, the biggest improvements have clearly come in the defensive third of the pitch because Dortmund is actually allowing less expected goals per match than Bayern Munich.

Betting Analysis & Picks

Despite being the league leaders, Bayern Munich’s underlying metrics are not that impressive. In fact, they essentially have the exact same expected goal differential as Dortmund, so they should be as big of favorites as they currently are.

Therefore, I am going to back Dortmund’s spread of +1 at -112 odds.

Pick: Borussia Dortmund +1 (-112)

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Indiana vs. Purdue College Basketball Odds & Pick: Rolling Boilermakers Should Have Little Trouble With Scuffling Hoosiers (Saturday, March 6)

indiana-hoosiers-vs-purdue-boilermakers-march-6

Indiana vs. Purdue Odds


Indiana Odds +7.5
Purdue Odds -7.5
Moneyline +310 / -375
Over/Under 133.5
Time | TV Saturday, 2 p.m. ET | ESPN2
Odds as of Friday afternoon and via FanDuel.

We’ve made it to the end of the Big Ten regular season. This is the final game before the Big Ten Tournament for both the Indiana Hoosiers and the Purdue Boilermakers.

For Purdue, that’s great! Matt Painter and company are finding their stride at just the right time. The Boilermakers are a dangerous team heading into March.

For Indiana, not so much. Archie Miller and the Hoosiers are actively playing themselves out of a tournament bid. At the time of this writing, Shelby’s BracketWag has Indiana in the “On Life Support (but probably dead)” section. Yikes.

Anyway, let’s talk about Indiana’s struggles, Purdue’s recent success and where the value lies in this matchup.

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Indiana’s Struggles

For the majority of the season, we expected the Hoosiers to make the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid. On Feb. 10, Indiana was 11-8 overall, 6-6 in conference play and had two huge wins over Iowa. Since then, Indiana is 1-5 straight up (SU) and against the spread (ATS).

It’s unfortunate, because sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis has been playing All-Big Ten basketball. He’s averaging 19.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game while shooting better than 50% from the field. Additionally, he’s been a superb interior defender, averaging 1.4 blocks per game.

While Jackson-Davis is one of the best two-way forwards in the nation, Indiana’s overall team defense has been pathetic. The Hoosiers are now 10th in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, and 11th in defensive effective field goal percentage.

The Hoosier guard play has also been an issue. Both of Miller’s starting guards are shooting less than 40% from the field this season, and the two are combining to average just 5.3 assists per game.

The one thing Indiana does well is draw fouls. On the back of Jackson-Davis’s 8.6 FTAs per game, Indiana leads the Big Ten in FTAs per game and free-throw rate. Unfortunately, the rest of the offense is too inefficient, as Indiana is ninth in the Big Ten in effective field goal percentage.

Indiana is now 12-13 overall and 7-11 in conference play. In a loaded Big Ten, the Hoosiers haven’t taken advantage of its opportunities. It’s a pathetic 2-10 in Quad 1 games with both wins coming against Iowa.

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Purdue’s Surge

The Boilermakers, who were 44th in the preseason coaches poll, have worked their way to No. 23 in the AP Poll. It’s been an impressive back-half of the season for Painter’s team.

Purdue is 4-0 SU and ATS in its last four games, and its 10-3 SU since Jan. 8. It’s 6-6 in Quad 1 opportunities this season, with two wins over Ohio State, and 11-2 in Quad 2-through-4 opportunities.

The Boilermakers have played themselves from 7-5 overall and 2-3 in conference play to 17-8 and 12-6, respectively.

Purdue has a great young core. Painter plays a lot of freshmen, like Brandon Newman, Zach Edey and Jaden Ivey, all of whom are smart and talented ballplayers.

However, Purdue also mixes in upper-class veterans. Eric Hunter and Sasha Stefanovic come to mind, but the MVP of the Boilermakers is Trevion Williams.

The Chicago native is averaging 15.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game on better than 50% shooting. The scoring efficiency and volume is super impressive when you consider his usage. Williams has the second-highest possession percentage (35%) and shot percentage (36.5%) of any player in college basketball.

Williams is literally the Boilermakers’ offense, which is especially impressive when you consider that Purdue is 18th in the country in offensive efficiency. It’s why KenPom has Williams on the All-Big Ten team and seventh in the Player of the Year rankings.

At the moment, Shelby’s BracketWag has Purdue as a four seed and Andy Katz recently mentioned Purdue is a great NCAA Tournament sleeper. The Boilermakers are getting it together at the right time, combine a good defense with a good offense and have a top-10 player as their leader.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

In the last 10 games between Indiana and Purdue, Purdue is 9-1 SU and 7-2-1 ATS. Additionally, Purdue is 3-0 SU and ATS in its last three against Indiana and 3-0 SU and ATS in its last three against Indiana at home.

Basically, Purdue has dominated Indiana in the recent past. This year, Purdue is playing great while Indiana is playing terribly.

It’s simple—I’m laying the points with Purdue at home. While Jackson-Davis can keep Indiana close for a while, I think Purdue ultimately blows them out.

I’m predicting a double-digit Purdue victory in West Lafayette, and therefore would play Purdue up to -9.5.

Pick: Purdue -7.5 (Play up to -9.5)

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NBA Executive on Top Shot: ‘We Believe in This Product in the Long Term’

nba-top-shot-collectibles

There’s been a lot of talk about NBA Top Shot, the highlights collectible by Dapper Labs that has now generated $300 million in packs and marketplace sales.

We wanted to hear about things from the NBA side, so we invited Adrienne O’Keeffe — the league’s Associate Vice President of Global Partnerships — to sit down with us for a brief Q&A.


Rovell: You signed an agreement with little fanfare with Top Shot’s parent company, Dapper Labs, in July 2019. Then all of a sudden, this season, it just exploded.

O’Keeffe: Well, it seems like it took off quickly but we’ve done a lot of work with Dapper since the agreement was signed. It launched quietly over the summer and gained a little momentum in the fall with the playoffs, but after this season started, it really began to take off. It has exceeded all our expectations and we are just trying to help scaling up to accommodate demand.

Rovell: How much is this a collaborative project?

O’Keeffe: We select the highlights and deliver it to them. We won’t have a Rising Stars game, but we will have Rising Stars highlight pack. We’re also going to offer highlights from the All-Star Game in packs.

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Rovell: It seems like there’s a desire for fans to really know the length of the this deal because they have their money tied into it.

O’Keeffe: We can’t comment on any terms but for people that buy now, it will always be on the blockchain.

Rovell: Can we expect to see exclusive videos shot by the NBA that could then be turned into a Top Shot moment?

O’Keeffe: Yes. We’ve discussed off-court content.

Rovell: There’s been a lot of talk about creating utility for a Top Shot. What kind of ideas do you have down the road?

O’Keeffe: We are really excited about how to use the NFT blockchain to build a lot of extensions throughout the business, from giving opportunities to own unique moments while a fan is in the arena attending a game to linking it up with gaming experiences. We love what many fans have suggested.

Rovell: Fans are waiting for what’s down the road? What can you tell us about what is to come with older highlights?

O’Keeffe: We believe in this product in the long term. We did one “Run It Back” pack from Giannis’ rookie season (2013-14) and all we can say is we plan to release additional throwback packs in the future.

College Basketball Odds & Picks: 5 Ways To Bet Friday’s Games, Including Colorado State vs. Nevada

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-miami-cal poly-uc santa barbara-jacksonville state-buffalo-kent state-colorado state-march 5

The end of the week is finally here, which means it’s time to watch college basketball uninterrupted for the next 48-plus hours.

While conference tournaments are going on, we also have meaningful regular-season action for the conferences that haven’t yet started their postseason.

Our staff broke down five games on Friday’s slate, starting with Miami vs. Boston College and Buffalo vs. Kent State at 6 p.m. ET and rolling through Colorado State vs. Nevada at 9 p.m.

Check out each of the five picks below, and feel free to navigate to any game by using the table below.

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College Basketball Odds & Picks

Click on a game to skip ahead
Miami vs. Boston College
6 p.m. ET
Kent State vs. Buffalo
6 p.m. ET
Cal Poly vs. UC Santa Barbara
8 p.m. ET
Jacksonville State vs. Belmont
8 p.m. ET
Colorado State vs. Nevada
9 p.m. ET

All listed odds have been updated as of Friday morning. Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing.

Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.


Miami vs. Boston College

By Mike Randle

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-miami-cal poly-uc santa barbara-jacksonville state-buffalo-kent state-colorado state-march 5
Pick
Miami -3.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
6 p.m. ET
TV
ACC Network

Boston College has lost its best player in Wynston Tabbs (13.3 PPG, 39.7% 3P), who is transferring to East Carolina for next season. It lost starting guard Rich Kelly (11.1 PPG, 37.2% 3P), who recently entered the transfer portal. Lastly, head coach Jim Christian was fired, resulting in the appointment of interim coach, Scott Spinelli.

The Eagles now travel to Miami and face a Hurricanes team they inexplicably beat, 84-62, at home on Jan. 12. Since that game, they have won just once, a rivalry win over Notre Dame. I see Miami holding an advantage in every aspect in this matchup, with a line that is only 3.5 points.

This is senior night for a Hurricanes team that has continued to battle despite playing almost the entire season without start point guard Chris Lykes. They still have sophomore Isaiah Wong (17.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG), and seniors Kam McGusty (11.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG) and Elijah Olaniyi (11.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG), who will certainly be motivated after a disappointing season.

In their first meeting, Kelly scored 27 points on 7-of-12 shooting from 3-point range, and Boston College shot 51% (18-of-35) from deep as a team. The Eagles will be hard-pressed to find that outlier level of production.

This is a battle of two metrically-challenged ACC teams. I’m backing the team with the better talent, better coach, and less drama with the Hurricanes at home. I would bet this line up to Miami -4.5.

Pick: Miami -3.5

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Kent State vs. Buffalo

By Michael Calabrese

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-mid majors-stuckey-uc santa barbara-kent state-louisiana tech
Pick
Over 153.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
6 p.m. ET
TV
ESPNU

Buffalo has been scoring points in droves this month. In addition to its scoring spree, the Bulls have spent the better part of the season in the top 10 nationally in tempo, and the Golden Flashes, while not as inclined to play an up-and-down game for 40 minutes, still crack the top 100 in tempo.

Strap in for some wide-open basketball in the Queen City.

Both teams have enjoyed relative COVID-19 peace, with just two cancellations between them in the past five weeks.

Buffalo has used this scheduling consistency to its advantage, winning four in a row straight up by an average score of 89-72. Kent State has won 5-of-6 SU but has done it with defense. Aside from its low-scoring win over BGSU, each victory has come against the absolute dregs of the MAC.

So, I believe Kent’s defense, which ranks 152nd nationally, is in for a rude awakening, particularly from long range, where it allows opponents to connect on 34.8% of their attempts (239th).

Buffalo will be motivated to avoid a potential semifinals matchup with Toledo, the only team in the MAC that easily dispatched the Bulls this season (80-70).

So if it comes down to giving up early or fouling down the stretch on their home floor, I see UB holding out hope until the final seconds. That always has the potential to aid an over.

Pick: Over 153.5

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Cal Poly vs. UC Santa Barbara

By BJ Cunningham

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-mid majors-stuckey-uc santa barbara-kent state-louisiana tech
Pick
Under 130
Sportsbook
Tipoff
8 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN3

Say hello to Cal Poly, one of the worst offenses in the entire country.

It ranks 350th in offensive efficiency, per KenPom and is dead last in the Big West in pretty much every offensive statistic. It’s averaging only 0.87 points per possession in conference play, shooting under 30% from 3-point range and under 42% from inside the arc.

The Mustangs are 3-17 on the season, and in all of their 17 losses, they have failed to break the 70-point mark. In fact, at one point in the season they were held under the 60-point mark for seven straight games.

To make matters worse they’ll be going up against the best team in the conference in UC Santa Barbara, which at one point won 17 straight games in Big West play. The Gauchos have played solid defense all season long, allowing only 0.96 points per possession, so I have a hard time seeing how Cal Poly comes even close to scoring 60 points.

UC Santa Barbara’s offense has been humming all season long and is the main reason it’s 17-4. The Gauchos average 1.08 point per possession and have been dominating opponents down low, shooting over 52% from 2-point range and 64% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.

However, going inside is not the way to beat Cal Poly’s defense. Despite being one of the worst offenses in the country, the Mustangs have played surprisingly good defense, especially inside, allowing only 46.9% from 2-point range. So, UC Santa Barbara won’t be able to score at will inside.

Cal Poly plays a below average tempo, while UC Santa Barbara plays one of the slowest in the country, ranking 315th in adjusted tempo, per KenPom. So, take one of the worst offenses in college basketball combined with one of slowest tempos, and you have a perfect recipe for an under.

I only have 125.27 points projected for this game, so I think there’s some value on under 130 points and would play it down to 129 points.

Pick: Under 130 (down to 129)

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Jacksonville State vs. Belmont

By Stuckey

Pick
Jacksonville State +7.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
8 p.m. ET
TV
ESPNU

Top-seeded Belmont does have the advantage of an extra day of rest and prep, but I do like the Gamecocks catching anything north of 7.

Belmont swept the season series by margins of seven and four in two totally different games. The first was a shootout in the 90s, and the second was a grinder that Belmont came back to win in despite a horrid shooting day from 3.

After starting 18-0 in conference play, Belmont actually dropped its final two games of the regular season. Why? Well, the Bruins’ best player, Nick Muszynski, whom everything runs through in the post, missed both with an injury.

He did suit up in its victory over SIUE in the first round but only played 18 minutes. He did look fine in those limited minutes from what I saw, but I have to build in at least a tiny discount for that injury concern.

Even if he is healthy, JSU actually has the bodies inside in Brandon Huffman and company to at least battle “Moose.” I also like the athleticism advantage it’ll have on the perimeter with a group of upperclassmen in Darian Adams (who really found his game late last night), Kayne Henry, Demaree King and Jalen Finch.

I expect head coach Ray Harper to grind this game to a screeching halt as he did in the second meeting and let his guards work late in the shot clock against a Belmont team that wants to play fast. Jax State can also do work on the offensive glass to help prevent run-outs for Belmont’s elite transition game.

This is an extremely underrated Jax State team with one of the most underrated coaches in the country in Harper. I think the Gamecocks can hang around and will have a great shot at the outright win if Muszynski isn’t 100%.

If he is, the Belmont offense is a machine and we will have to hope our guards show up, but I at least expect Jax State to shorten this game, which will help.

Pick: Jacksonville State +7.5

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Colorado State vs. Nevada

By Kyle Remillard

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-miami-cal poly-uc santa barbara-jacksonville state-buffalo-kent state-colorado state-march 5
Pick
Colorado State +1
Sportsbook
Tipoff
9 p.m. ET
TV
CBS Sports Network

It’s been quite the season for Niko Medved’s Colorado State Rams, who set a school record for conference wins after going 14-3 in Mountain West play.

The Rams are on a five-game win streak against some of the bottom feeders in the conference but won by an average margin of 15.6 points. Colorado State is sitting on the right side of the bubble, as BracketMatrix has it in the tournament in 88.7% of the simulations. But a loss to Nevada would be a crushing blow to its tournament hopes, so it should consider this a must-win game.

The Rams hit 58.3% of their field goal attempts, good for first in the conference. They shoot the second-highest percentage from the 3-point line and can lock opponents down from outside.

Colorado State almost saw the program’s first triple-double Wednesday night when David Roddy put up 12 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. He’s the offensive leader for the deep Rams team that has four players who average double-digit points.

The Wolf Pack have clinched the 5-seed in the Mountain West Tournament and don’t have much to get inspired about in this game.

Nevada sits at 14-9 on the year and comes into this game having lost two in a row to Utah State. It plays an aggressive style of basketball that involves more trips to the free-throw line than any other Mountain West team. That should play into the hands of the Rams, who embrace that playing style.

This is the first meeting between these two teams, and it comes at a time when they’re trending in opposite directions. Colorado State seems to be firing on all cylinders heading into the Mountain West Tournament and should be dancing as long as they don’t slip up against the Pack.

Pick: Colorado State +1

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NASCAR Longshot Could Cost Sportsbook $10 Million on Single Bet

josh-bilicki-las-vegas-pennzoil-400

Josh Bilicki isn’t the only one who would benefit if he wins this weekend’s Pennzoil 400 in Las Vegas.

The NASCAR driver of the No. 56 Dollar Loan Center Ford Mustang has never won a race, but a win in Las Vegas would be expensive for Circa Sports in Las Vegas.

Dollar Loan Center — also known as DontBeBroke.com — announced that if Bilicki wins on Sunday, the company will pay off each Nevada customer’s loan. As a hedge — Mattress Mack style — founder and CEO of DLC Chuck Brennan wagered $10,000 on Bilicki to win the race. At 1000-1 odds, that would be a $10 million payout.

Brennan’s company is one of the largest short-term lending companies in the southwest. When he approached Circa Sports owner Derek Stevens, Stevens wanted to take the bet but not at Brennan’s full ask.

“I wanted to make sure he had skin in the game, too,” Stevens told The Action Network.

Stevens accepted the $10,000 wager after agreeing to 1000-1 odds with his oddsmaking team. While a win by Bilicki would take much of the liability away, it’s believed Brennan’s total liability is more than $20 million in the promotion.

How likely is that to happen? Not very, at least according to the betting market. Bilicki has the worst odds in the field at DraftKings at 1500-1, tied with six other drivers. He has no career NASCAR wins, and in three starts this season, he has finishes of 24th, 36th and 33rd.

Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are the betting favorites to win in Las Vegas.

Check back to our NASCAR coverage for P.J. Walsh’s betting picks this weekend. We don’t think Bilicki will be one of them.

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Saturday Premier League Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Leicester City (March 6)

premier-league-betting-odds-picks-predictions-brighton-hove-albion-vs-leicester-city-march-6

Brighton vs. Leicester City Odds

Brighton Odds +200
Leicester City Odds +150
Draw +225
Over/Under 2.5 (+123 / -155) 
Day | Time Saturday | 3 p.m. ET
How To Watch Peacock Premium
Odds as of Friday via Bet Rivers.

Brighton vs. Leicester City looks like a mismatch in terms of the table. The home team is in 16th place, while the away team is in third. But all is not as it seems.

Here’s a closer look at the two clubs, followed by a prediction.

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Brighton

The bad news, if you’re a Brighton fan, is that your team is now well and truly involved in a relegation battle — the Seagulls are just three points ahead of 18th place Fulham with 12 games remaining.

Brighton are winless in their past five matches in all competitions, including a 1-0 defeat at Leicester City in the FA Cup fifth round on Feb. 10. They’ve also lost their past two league matches: 1-0 to 19th place West Brom last Saturday, preceded by a 2-1 defeat to 13th place Crystal Palace the week before.

The final scores are misleading, however, in terms of the performances. Brighton topped West Brom 2.6 to 0.5 in terms of xG (expected goals) according to FBRef.com. That includes two penalty kicks, both of which obviously were missed.

The loss to Crystal Palace was even more unfortunate. Brighton outshot Palace 24-3, and topped them in xG by a final tally of 2.6 to 0.2.

For the season, Brighton have 37.7 xG, but have scored only 26 goals. And they have 26.3 xG conceded, but have given up 33 goals. In terms of xG differential, their mark of +11.4 is fourth-best in the league, behind only Manchester City (+31.7), Chelsea (+18.0) and Liverpool (+16.0).

That’s right — Brighton would hold a Champions League place, based on the underlying statistics.

Leicester City

On the flip side, Leicester City are rather fortunate in be where they are,  in third place in the table.  In terms of xG differential, the Foxes are eighth at +5.5, also trailing Manchester United (+10.3), Aston Villa (+6.5) and West Ham (+6.2).

Nevertheless, Leicester have a good chance of actually finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League next season. They currently have 50 points — putting them just one point behind second-place Manchester United, and four points ahead of fifth-place Everton.

But Leicester haven’t had good results lately, either. They’re coming off a 1-1 draw at Burnley on Wednesday, preceded by a 3-1 loss to Arsenal last weekend. And just prior to that Leicester were knocked out of the Europa League after a 2-0 home defeat to Slavia Prague.

Injuries have been a big factor. James Maddison, who has eight goals and five assists in the league, missed all of those matches due to injury. Maddison won’t play against Brighton, either. And now Harvey Barnes (nine goals, four assists) is out, too.

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When these teams met in the FA Cup last month, it was a scoreless stalemate until the 94th minute, before Kelechi Iheanacho finally broke the deadlock.

In their first league meeting back in mid-December, Leicester City won 3-0. But it was much closer in terms of xG, 1.7 to 1.1, and Maddison scored two of the three goals.

Brighton are at home this time around, are more well rested, and Leicester are missing two of their top three scorers. I’m going to trust the underlying numbers, which say that Brighton are more than due for a win.

Pick: Brighton +200

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UFC 259 Odds, Pick & Prediction: Sean Brady vs. Jake Matthews (Saturday, March 6)

sean-brady-vs-jake-matthews-ufc-259-march-6

Brady vs. Matthews Odds

Brady odds -215
Matthews odds +170
Over/Under 2.5 (-215 / +155)
Venue UFC APEX, Las Vegas
Time Approx. 7 p.m. ET
Channel ESPN+
Odds as of Friday and via DraftKings

Philly’s own Sean Brady faces off against the “Celtic Kid” Jake Matthews in a heavily anticipated early prelim matchup on Saturday’s UFC 259 card.

Brady is an undefeated prospect with one of the strongest jiu-jitsu games in the UFC. He is a training partner of Paul Felder and a Renzo Grace jiu-jitsu black belt. He should have the advantage on the ground over basically any opponent.

Matthews, on the other hand, has won six of seven fights — most recently defeating aging former star Diego Sanchez. Matthews is known for high-volume striking and wrestling that has helped him earn 10 UFC victories.

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Tale of the Tape

Brady Matthews
Record 13-0 17-4
Avg. Fight Time 12:16 11:17
Height 5’10” 5’11”
Weight (pounds) 170 lbs. 170 lbs.
Reach (inches) 70″ 73″
Stance Orthodox Orthodox
Date of birth 11/23/92 8/19/94
Sig Strikes Per Min 5.44 3.15
SS Accuracy 55% 46%
SS Absorbed Per Min 4.35 2.12
SS Defense 61% 63%
Take Down Avg 3.26 2.09
TD Acc 57% 41%
TD Def 100% 70%
Submission Avg 1.2 0.7

Matthews is coming off of three straight decision victories. In his lone loss, he was submitted by Anthony Rocco Martin who has good — not great — jiu-jitsu.

Matthews looked strong on the feet last time out. However, he did put himself into unnecessary danger on the ground with Sanchez in round 3. This could be quite telling against a scary jiu-jitsu phenom like Brady.

Despite his prowess for takedowns, Matthews would be wise to not shoot for takedowns to catch his breath as he has in recent fights. Brady is known for his guillotine choke, which ended his last fight.

Matthews’ main goal in this fight should be to defend the takedown and stay standing. He has done this at a solid rate in the past, with 70% takedown defense per UFCStats.

Sean Brady vs. Jake Matthews Pick

Brady is the younger and cleaner fighter in the matchup.

For starters, Brady lands 5.44 significant strikes per minute compared to just 3.15 for Matthews. Brady also lands 3.26 takedowns per 15 minutes at a 57% clip — near the top in the welterweight division.

Matthews uses a lot of muscle when shooting for takedowns, which can be very tiring. In his fight against James Vick,  Matthews attempted a double leg takedown and put his head in a very vulnerable place, leading to a guillotine submission.

This makes me hesitant to believe Matthews will be able to come away on Saturday with a win. Brady is known for his submission skills and his guillotine submission especially. Felder went as far as to say that, “Sean has a squeeze like I have never felt in my life” when talking about his guillotine choke.

Brady appears to be every bit a rising star in the UFC division. He has landed multiple takedowns in every UFC fight thus far. I would expect Brady to continue this strategy on Saturday.

Brady is currently +525 to win via submission on BetMGM. I would bet this down to +450 at a three-percent edge. It is worth mentioning that many books are weary of this outcome, and I would stay away if you see this prop at +400, as it is at many books.

There is little value on any fighter to win a decision, which seems to be the consensus. The fight to go to a decision is at -186. Oddsmakers may continue to juice the over-round props as eight of nine fights went to a decision last weekend.

The Pick: Sean Brady via submission +525 (1u)

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College Basketball Odds & Picks for San Francisco vs. Loyola Marymount: Sharps, Experts Aligned on Friday’s Spread

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College Basketball Odds: San Francisco vs. Loyola Marymount

San Francisco Odds -1.5
Loyola Marymount Odds +1.5
Over/Under 137.5
Time | Channel 9 p.m. ET | STADIUM
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San Francisco takes on the Loyola Marymount Lions in the second round of the West Conference Tournament on Friday.

The Dons are coming off a 16-point win over San Diego.

Overall, San Francisco has covered in two of its last three games heading into Friday night.

Loyola Marymount has also covered in two of its last three games, including a game in which it covered against a +25 line vs. an elite Gonzaga team.

Loyola Marymount swept San Francisco over their two regular-season matchups, but our PRO Report suggests that San Francisco will finally have some success against the Lions, starting with Friday night’s West Coast Conference (WCC) Tournament Second Round.

Let’s take a look.

College Basketball Odds: San Francisco vs. Loyola Marymount 

PRO Report San Francisco-Loyola Marymount

Sharp Action

The line for Friday’s WCC Second Round matchup between San Francisco and Loyola Marymount opened at San Francisco -1 before it was pushed up to -1.5.

Since this morning, there was one Action Labs Bet Signal triggered on the Dons, signaling sharp action backing San Francisco.

Big Money

At the time of this writing, the 30% of bettors backing San Francisco have generated 85% of the money wagered on Friday’s matchup.

Top Experts

If all of the above wasn’t enough to showcase the value on The Dons, one of The Action Network’s top college basketball experts is picking San Francisco on Friday night as well.

PRO Report Pick: San Francisco -1.5 (-110)

UFC 259 Odds, Schedule & TV Channel: Israel Adesanya Strong Favorite in Light Heavyweight Title Fight vs. Jan Blachowicz

ufc-259-adesanya-blachowicz-march-6

Dana White is going big for this UFC 259 card. This Saturday night, fans will be treated to 15 fights, including three title fights all on the same card.

Undefeated bantamweight champion Petr Yan will make the first defense of his title against the electric No. 1-ranked contender Aljamain Sterling in the first title fight of the night.

Amanda Nunes is next up as she looks to secure her 12th consecutive win and ninth title fight win against challenger Megan Anderson in the co-main event of the night.

The card will be headlined by two belt holders, light heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz and Middleweight champ Israel Adesanya for the 205-pound crown.

The action kicks off Saturday 6 p.m. ET on ESPN+ with six early prelim fights then switches to ESPN for four more prelim bouts at 8 p.m. ET before the five-fight main event on Pay-Per-View.

You can check out the odds and schedule for all the action below.

Odds updated as of Friday afternoon and via DraftKings.

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UFC 259 Odds

Early Preliminary Card

  • ESPN+
  • 6 p.m. ET

Bantamweight fight: Mario Bautista vs. Trevin Jones

Odds
Bautista odds -240
Jones odds +190
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -177/+131

Lightweight fight: Uros Medic vs. Aalon Cruz

Odds
Medic odds -177
Cruz odds +144
Over/Under 1.5 rounds -134/+100

Women’s Strawweight fight: Livinha Souza vs. Amanda Lemos

Odds
Souza odds +190
Lemos odds -240
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -286/+205

Welterweight fight: Sean Brady vs. Jake Matthews

Odds
Brady odds -215
Matthews odds +170
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -215/+155

Light Heavyweight fight: Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Carlos Ulberg

Odds
Nzechukwu odds +200
Ulberg odds -250
Over/Under 1.5 rounds -167/+125

Flyweight fight: Tim Elliott vs. Jordan Espinosa

Odds
Elliott odds +103
Espinosa odds -125
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -200/+150
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Preliminary Card

  • ESPN/ESPN+
  • 8 p.m. ET

Flyweight fight: Rogerio Bontorin vs. Kai Kara-France

Odds
Bontorin odds +110
Kara-France odds -136
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -215/+155

Catch weight fight: Joseph Benavidez vs. Askar Askarov

Odds
Benavidez odds +110
Askarov odds -143
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -235/+170

Bantamweight fight: Yadong Song vs. Kyler Phillips

Odds
Song odds -152
Phillips odds +125
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -167/+125

Bantamweight fight: Dominick Cruz vs. Casey Kenney

Odds
Cruz odds +110
Kenney odds -137
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -265/+190

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Main Card

  • ESPN PPV
  • 10 p.m. ET

Light Heavyweight fight: Thiago Santos vs. Aleksandar Rakic

Odds
Santos odds +120
Rakic odds -157
Over/Under 1.5 rounds -152/+115

Lightweight fight: Islam Makhachev vs. Drew Dober

Odds
Makhachev odds -360
Dober odds +275
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -182/+135

Bantamweight fight: Petr Yan (c) vs. Aljamain Sterling

Odds
Yan odds -115
Sterling odds -106
Over/Under 3.5 rounds -139/+105

Women’s Featherweight: Amanda Nunes (c) vs. Megan Anderson

Odds
Nunes odds -1000
Anderson odds +650
Over/Under 1.5 rounds -134/+100

Light Heavyweight title fight: Jan Blachowicz (c) vs. Israel Adesanya (c)

Odds
Blachowicz odds +187
Adesanya odds -235
Over/Under 2.5 rounds -148/+110

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Georgia Senate Advances Sports Betting Constitutional Amendment

georgia-sports-betting

The Georgia Senate easily passed a sports betting constitutional amendment bill Friday, sending it to the House of Representatives where it faces a more difficult journey forward.

The Senate approved the ballot question on a 41-10 bipartisan vote. Senators also approved a follow-up regulatory and implementation bill, 37-13.

Georgia voters could legalize online sports betting on the 2022 ballot if the House also passes the bill. The House was set to consider a separate constitutional ballot measure Friday that would permit the state’s first legal sportsbooks, casinos and pari-mutuel horse tracks, but it appeared it would not advance. Another online sports betting legalization bill that had bounced back-and-forth between House committees and the full floor was also set to fall.

Georgia lawmakers have until Monday to pass legislation out of its originating chamber.

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Georgia Sports Betting Bill Details

The Georgia Lottery, the state’s lone gaming entity, would license and regulate sports betting. It must issue at least six qualified applicants online licenses but there are no maximum caps. This would create the nation’s second untethered, uncapped market after neighboring Tennessee.

The bill would not permit retail sportsbooks.

All in-state college betting would be prohibited under the regulatory bill passed Friday, meaning bettors could not wager on popular programs such as the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech. The bill also prohibits out-of-state college prop betting.

Professional sports moneyline, point spread, totals, parlays, live bets, prop bets and other major wagering options are permitted in the bill. The state’s professional sports teams are championing the bill.

Sportsbooks would be charged a one-time $10,000 application fee and $100,000 in licensing fees annually, rates low enough that backers believe will attract local brands along with national operators such as DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM. The 16-percent tax rate is higher than the median national average, but should not detract top sportsbooks’ market participation.

Only bettors age 21 and older physically within Georgia state lines could wager. Bettors could not deposit more than $2,500 in a 30-day period.

Next Steps

Georgia voters could approve online sports betting on the 2022 ballot If the House passes both the constitutional amendment bill and the regulatory bill. Clearing the House will not be easy.

Gaming-averse House members have sidelined online sports betting bills as well as more expansive casino and pari-mutuel constitutional amendment. Multiple bills have ping-ponged through the House only to likely fail before Monday’s “crossover” deadline.

Two-thirds of the House must approve any constitutional amendment for it to appear on the ballot, a high threshold for even less-controversial proposals. Both the Senate and House must pass identical versions.

Proponents in both the House and Senate believe the upper chamber’s resounding support can push sports betting forward. The constitutional amendment route also sidesteps a possible veto from Gov. Brian Kemp, a gambling opponent.

Sen. Jeff Mullis said Friday the House will amend both the constitutional amendment bill and the regulatory legislation. The bills’ sponsor said he expects one or both will require a conference committee from members of both houses and parties to hammer out discrepancies during the next phase of the legislative process.

Though significant work remains, Friday’s resounding Senate vote leaves sports-betting backers hopeful voters can approve wagering on next year’s ballot.

“Ladies and gentlemen, here we are again, another day that we can improve the quality of life for Georgia by this.” Mullis said before the constitutional amendment vote. “Let’s send a message today that we’re allowing the people to vote.”

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Sacramento State vs. Montana State Odds & Picks: Friday’s Biggest College Basketball Betting Edge

college-basketball-odds-picks-sacramento-state-vs-montana-state-betting-edge-friday-march-5

Sacramento State vs. Montana State Odds

Sacramento State Odds +4.5
Montana State Odds -4.5
Over/Under 136.5
Time | Channel  2 p.m. ET

Friday’s 2 p.m. ET Sacramento State vs. Montana State college basketball matchup is a prime example of the purpose of our College Basketball PRO Projections feature.

An early Friday afternoon (or even late morning depending on where you live) game between teams currently residing in fifth and ninth place in the Big Sky Conference isn’t going to garner much attention from fans and casual bettors.

However, if you do happen to be free this afternoon or are a value-minded bettor, our projections can help you quickly determine which games are providing the biggest edges based on The Action Network’s college hoops model.

As you can probably surmise, Sacramento State vs. Montana State is a savvy bet today. And according to our PRO Projections, it’s currently providing the biggest edge of the day.

Let’s dive in.

Sacramento State vs. Montana State Pick

According to the latest college basketball odds, Montana State is currently a 4.5-point favorite against Sacramento State.

However, our college hoops betting model projects a tighter, 3.5-point spread.

The ability to grab the Hornets at +4.5 vs. a projected line of +3.5 translates to an edge of 4.8%, earning a B grade from our PRO Projections feature.

Sharp bettors can lock in Sacramento State at an ever bigger edge by visiting our College Basketball Live Odds Page and shopping for the best line.

A handful of books are still at +5, which is a free half-point of value when compared to the market consensus.

PRO Projections Pick: Sacramento State +5

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College Basketball Odds & Picks For Friday’s Atlantic 10 & ASUN Conference Tournaments

College basketball conference tournament season is in full swing for many of the nation’s low- and mid-major conferences, and it has already delivered precisely the kind of madness we yearn for in March. The UTEP Miners nearly knocked off the Kansas Jayhawks in late-season non-conference play, UMass dropped 59 points on Saint Joseph’s in the fist half alone, Duquesne knocked the Richmond Spiders out of A10 contention (and likely out of NCAA Tournament contention) via a first-round upset … and all of that was just Thursday!

In order help cut through all the noisy rescheduling and COVID-19 news for the 31 conferences in postseason action from now until Selection Sunday on March 14, we’ll be providing you our top picks for (nearly) every conference tournament every single day.

Today’s top conference tournament bets have been broken up into separate articles by tipoff window, beginning with the two best games to bet early Friday morning. Kyle Remillard and Jim Root cover the Atlantic 10 and ASUN tournaments, respectively, and recommend two betting spots at 11 a.m. ET and 2 p.m. ET to get your Friday card started off right.

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College Basketball Odds & Picks

Click on a game to skip ahead
Duquesne vs. St. Bonaventure
11 a.m. ET
Stetson vs. Liberty
2 p.m. ET

All listed odds have been updated as of Friday morning. Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing.

Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.


Atlantic 10 Championship: Quarterfinals

No. 9 Duquesne vs. No. 1 St. Bonaventure

By Kyle Remillard

Pick
St. Bonaventure -7.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
11 a.m. ET
TV
NBCSN

Duquesne made a late run against Richmond on Thursday in order to earn a date with destiny against the No. 1-seed St. Bonaventure Bonnies early this afternoon.

The 3-point shot could be the difference maker in this game: Duquesne ranks 311th in the country in 3-point shooting percentage (30.1%, per KenPom). Meanwhile, St. Bonaventure converted on 37.1% of their long-range attempts throughout the season. Not only does the Bonnies’ mark best the Dukes’ by 7.0%, but it also ranks first among all Atlantic 10 teams. St. Bonaventure won each of the first two meetings with Duquesne by 4 and 14 points, respectively, despite hitting a combined 5-of-29 on 3-point attempts in those matchups.

St. Bonaventure owns the most efficient offense and defense in the A-10 and holds opponents to just 60.6 points per game. This is a tough matchup for the Dukes, who don’t shoot the ball well and won’t be able to effectively penetrate the lane due to the Bonnies’ size and matchup zone.

The Bonnies feature five players who average 10 or more points per game and are led by point guard Kyle Lofton. He has averaged 14.5 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.0 rebounds this season while scoring a combined 45 points in the first two meetings with the Dukes. Lofton should have another big game against Duquesne on Friday, leading the Bonnies to another double-digit win and sending Duquesne home.

Pick: St. Bonaventure -7.5


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Atlantic Sun Tournament: Semifinals

No. 7 Stetson vs. No. 1 Liberty

By Jim Root

Pick
Under 137.5
Sportsbook
Circa
Tipoff
2 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN+

After a disjointed first half, ASUN favorite Liberty was able to knock off pesky young Kennesaw State on Thursday, while the surprising Stetson Hatters took down Division-I debutante Bellarmine in a dramatic late finish.

Liberty seemed to feel the weight of being a heavy conference tournament favorite. Although the Flames extended their lead in the second half, their performance was far from dominant. The slower, tension-packed postseason setting may hamper the spectacular shot-making of which Liberty is capable.

The first two meetings between Liberty and Stetson had 68 and 61 possessions, respectively. Considering that this is a crucial semifinal game and a back-to-back for both teams, that 61 number – also coming in the second leg of a back-to-back – feels more predictive of the kind of pace we’ll see here.

Stetson managed to split those two matchups (and battled in the loss), and that was without monstrous Malian big man Mahamadou Diawara. With Diawara back in the lineup, the Hatters now have some real rim protection for Round 3 vs. the Flames, which further emboldens their perimeter defenders to extend and challenge Liberty’s dazzling guards.

Between the spot, the historical matchup indicators, and the addition of Diawara to the festivities, the under should have value down to 135.

Pick: Under 137.5


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Saturday Bundesliga Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen (March 6)

bayer-leverkusen-vs-borussia-mongladenbach-march-6

Gladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen Odds

Gladbach Odds +155
Bayer Leverkusen Odds +170
Draw +245
Over/Under 2.5 (-148 / +118) 
Day | Time Saturday | 9:30 a.m. ET
How To Watch ESPN+
Odds as of Friday afternoon via DraftKings.

Two big Bundesliga clubs in poor form at the moment will square off on Saturday, when ninth-place Borussia Monchengladbach host sixth-place Bayer Leverkusen.

Here’s a closer look at the two clubs, followed by a prediction.

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Gladbach

Borussia Monchengladbach are winless in their past six matches in all competitions — five defeats and one draw. They lost 1-0 to Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal on Tuesday, preceded by a 3-2 loss at second-place RB Leipzig last weekend in which they squandered a 2-0 lead.

Their 2-0 defeat to Premier League leaders Manchester City in the Champions League wasn’t a surprise. But also included in this winless run are 2-1 losses to 14th-place Koln and 17th-place Mainz — both at home — and a scoreless draw at third-place Wolfsburg.

Gladbach have scored just four goals in those six matches, and one of them was a penalty kick. And in their past four league games they’ve generated just 3.5 xG (expected goals) according to FBRef.com, including the penalty.

On the bright side, they’ve only conceded 3.8 xG in those four games, although they gave up seven goals in total.

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Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen are winless in their past five matches in all competitions — three defeats and two draws. They lost 2-1 at home to eighth-place Freiburg last Sunday, and their previous two league matches were draws, at 13th-place Augsburg (1-1) and vs. Mainz (2-2). They also lost both legs of their Europa League Round of 32 matchup with Young Boys (Switzerland), 4-3 and 2-0.

On the bright side, Leverkusen scored in all but one of those five matches, and seven goals in total. And they generated 7.1 xG.

But Leverkusen also conceded goals in all five matches, and 11 goals in total. And they conceded 8.9 xG.

Betting Analysis & Picks

When these teams met back in early November, Bayer Leverkusen won 4-3, although Borussia Monchengladbach were tops in terms of xG, 2.5 to 1.6.

Both teams were in a very different place at the time. Leverkusen was unbeaten through the first six weeks of the Bundesliga season. Gladbach had suffered just one defeat prior, on the opening weekend to Borussia Dortmund.

Now both these teams are under pressure. Leverkusen have 37 points — two points behind fifth-place Dortmund, and five points behind Eintracht Frankfurt in the final Champions League spot. Gladbach are four points further back.

Looking at the underlying numbers, both these teams are about where they should be in the table, except in reverse order. In terms of xG differential, Gladbach are seventh in the league at +7.5, and Leverkusen are ninth at +4.4.

These teams appear rather evenly matched, and the odds say as much. So I’ll take the draw, which pays the most among the three moneyline alternatives.

Pick: Draw (+245)

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Rovell: Details on the $1 Million Tom Brady Rookie Card Controversy

A scandal involving a million dollar Tom Brady card erupted Friday morning when an eagle-eyed observer noticed that a card, being advertised as a new record for a football card, looked different from a card with the same serial number on the case. 

On Thursday night, PWCC announced it had brokered a deal to sell a Brady Championship Ticket Card, Brady’s most valuable rookie that is autographed and numbered to 100, for $1.32 million. The problem was that another Brady Championship Ticket, posted by eBay power seller Rick Probstein, had the same serial number in the Beckett Grading Services case, but the card front was different, noticeably exhibiting a different autograph.

Probstein confirmed to The Action Network that his client sold the card to PWCC and that he shipped the exact card that was posted.

Sold by Probstein

Speculators on Instagram wondered the worst: Was there a swap out? Was one of the cards fake? Was the case fake?

Jesse Craig, PWCC’s Director of Business Development, told The Action Network that he brokered the sale to FitBit CEO James Park and that Park has the card with the original image that was posted by Probstein on eBay.

Sold by PWCC

Because the card was sent directly to Park, and there was only one image of that card that had a glare, Craig said, unbeknownst to him, the marketing department unilaterally decided to photoshop in another image of a Brady championship ticket that one went through PWCC’s hands.

“Our marketing department wanted to get a better picture and didn’t realize that what they did is a big no-no in the industry,” Craig said. “There was no intent to misrepresent anything though. The card was already sold and James has the right card.”

But that doesn’t entirely solve the case. In the last two days, a new 8.5 has emerged in BGS’ registry of the card, leading some to believe the card might have been cracked out for a regrade, which would mean it would get a new serial number and couldn’t be traced. PWCC’s marketing image covered the back of the card, which would have revealed what number out of 100 the card was.

“We shipped James the card two weeks ago,” Craig said. “Conspiracy theorists can make up what they want, but there’s nothing malicious here.”

An 8.5 in this card, with a 9 auto, is currently being auctioned off by Lelands.com. It’s currently at $891,531 with buyer’s premium with 28 days left.

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Arsenal vs. Burnley Promo: Bet $20, Win $125 if Arsenal Takes a Shot!

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Big East Conference Futures: When to Bet UConn, Creighton & Villanova

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-futures-big east-conference tournament-uconn-providence-st. john's

The college basketball futures market is more fluid than ever.

With COVID-19 cancellations and postponements the new normal, the sharp bettors look to seize the moment on the exact right time to invest on tournament futures for their favorite teams.

There is so much variance in the number of games played by Big East Conference teams, assessing the validity of their record and schedule is critical to identifying postseason tournament value.

Here are my thoughts on three of the most popular Big East futures for both the conference and NCAA tournaments.

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UConn Huskies 

The Huskies have battled through the absence of star guard James Bouknight and three separate COVID-19 pauses and are now peaking at exactly the right time. The Huskies are 13-6 overall, including 10-6 in conference play. They enter Saturday’s home game against Georgetown having won five of their last six games.

Bouknight returned on February 16 to give UConn the elite scorer it needs to win in March. Bouknight (20.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 80.3% FT) has scored 20 or more points in three of the past four games.

His absence allowed other players to grow into enhanced roles. Rhode Island transfer Tyrese Martin (11.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 35.7% 3P) was a consistent double-digit scorer during Bouknight’s absence. Howard transfer R.J. Cole (12.9 PPG, 4.1 APG) and senior forward Isaiah Whatley (7.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.8 BPG) have increased their offensive impact throughout the season.

The Huskies’ success is still based on defense. They rank first in Big East play in adjusted defensive efficiency, block percentage, and effective field goal percentage allowed.

The Huskies feature athletic and long defenders such as 6-foot-9 freshman Adama Sanogo, who tallied 16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal in the team’s 69-58 win at Seton Hall.  Head coach Danny Hurley’s emphasis on on-ball pressure is reflected by three players averaging more than 1.2 steals per game.

Connecticut is currently available at +500 to win the Big East Tournament at FanDuel, a very attractive price.  They are also currently 50-1 to win the national title, a nice value for a team that is finally healthy.  I would consider both bets for a Connecticut team that plays elite defense, is on a winning streak and has a player who can take over any game in the tournament.

Bets:  UConn + 500 to win the Big East Tournament; +5000 to win the National Championship

Villanova Wildcats

As the preseason favorite in the Big East, it was difficult to find value on a Villanova futures bet throughout the season. With the recent news that starting point guard Collin Gillespie is lost for the season with a torn MCL, the outlook is even worse for the Wildcats.

Currently, BetMGM has the Wildcats at +400 to make the Final Four and +900 to win the national title, but those odds will certainly rise with Gillespie’s injury.

Even after an inexplicable 73-61 loss at Butler, the Wildcats still earned their third consecutive regular season Big East championship at 11-3. Villanova endured a three-week COVID pause in early January, but still managed to avenge losses to St. John’s and Creighton.

Head coach Jay Wright’s squad is prolific on offense, ranking first in conference play in adjusted-offensive efficiency, third in 3P percentage (36.3%), and first in free-throw efficiency (80.1%) per KenPom.

Even without Gillespie, Villanova features three players shooting 38% or better from 3P, highlighted by Caleb Daniels (39.6% on 91 attempts) and Cole Swider (38.4% on 73 attempts).

However, the Wildcats’ defense has been surprisingly poor, ranking last in effective field goal percentage allowed and ninth in 3P% allowed in their 14 Big East games.

The loss of Gillespie is too much for the Wildcats to overcome, and I don’t even trust them in the conference tournament setting. There is no value in backing a shorthanded Villanova team that has yet to play elite defense all season.

Bets:  None, no value

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Creighton Bluejays

The Bluejays are a very talented team, but handicapping their betting value is tricky. There is uncertainty for the Bluejays, as they just announced the suspension of head coach Greg McDermott due to insensitive comments.

 

Creighton has the ability to get incredibly hot from the field, a foundational piece of a great futures bet. This was illustrated in their early-season performance against Villanova. The Bluejays shot 71.4% (20-of-28) from 2P range, and 46.2% (12-of-26) from beyond the arc.

Creighton has great guard play, led by preseason Big East Player of the Year Marcus Zegarowski (14.7 PPG, 4.6 APG) and senior guard Denzel Mahoney (13.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 34.% 3P). They are one of the few teams with the offensive efficiency to match anyone in the country, ranking first in conference play in effective field goal percentage (55.3%) and 2P efficiency (55.8%).

The Bluejays rarely turn the ball over and are much improved on defense. Creighton is currently second in the Big East in adjusted defensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage allowed.

At 17-7 overall and 13-6 in conference play, their Big East Tournament odds will likely go even lower than the current +175 with a home win over Butler on Saturday. With Villanova now without Gillespie, there is a case to be made that the Bluejays will be the favorite to win the conference tournament.

Assuming the suspension to McDermott doesn’t linger beyond the immediate suspension, Creighton has all the tools to make a very deep run in the NCAA Tournament. However, with the current uncertainty, I would not support a Big East Tournament bet on Creighton as the favorite.

With strong guard play and 3P explosiveness, Creighton is a nice pick for a Final Four run. I don’t think the Bluejays have a complete enough team to win the National Championship, but I like the +500 odds at DraftKings to reach the Final Four.

Bets:  Creighton to reach the Final Four +500

St. John’s Red Storm

The team with the sixth-longest odds on the board is worth a serious look. 

Mike Anderson’s Red Storm are 15-10 overall, including 9-9 in conference play. St. John’s has a unique style with a group of talented players who relentlessly attack the basket off the dribble. 

Sophomore Julian Champagnie (19.8 PPG, 39.6% 3-point) is a brilliant scorer, with 10 games of 20 or more points.

Point guard Posh Alexander (11.1 ppg, 2.6 spg) is a versatile two-way player who continually disrupts the opposing offense. He missed the Red Storm’s last game against Providence, but is expected to return for the tournament. 

Juniors Greg Williams Jr. (9.3 PPG, 44.4% 3-point) and Vince Cole (9.1 PPG, 35.5% 3-point) are dangerous wing players who open the floor with deep efficiency. 

The Red Storm’s defensive pressure is relentless, as illustrated by their 37th-best ranking in defensive turnover percentage, per KenPom.

With consecutive late-season conference losses to DePaul and Villanova, the Red Storm’s conference tournament odds have stabilized at +4000. The Red Storm make their free throws at a 74.7% rate and are shooting a solid 35.2% from beyond the arc against Big East competition. 

With the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, St. John’s certainly has momentum as the home team. With the question marks surrounding Villanova an Creighton, the Big East Tournament is more wide open than ever. That certainly supports the rationale for a lottery ticket bet with the Red Storm in the battle for 2021 Big East supremacy.

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Saturday Premier League Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Sheffield United vs. Southampton (March 6)

sheffield-united-vs-southampton-march-6

Sheffield United vs. Southampton Odds

Sheffield United Odds +260
Southampton Odds +106
Draw +250
Over/Under 2.5 (+120 / -150) 
Day | Time Saturday | 10 a.m. ET
TV NBCSN
Odds as of Thursday evening via DraftKings.

Last-place Sheffield United host Southampton at Bramell Lane on Saturday with a chance to get out of the bottom spot in the league.

Sheffield United earned their fourth win of the season on Wednesday, pulling off an upset over Aston Villa at home. It’s been an absolute nightmare of a season for the Blades, who are most likely getting relegated unless they go on a run over the last 10 matches. They need all three points against Southampton to help make that happen.

Southampton is starting to dip into the relegation battle. They’ve only earned 30 points through 27 matches this season and are seven points above the drop zone.

They are in the worst form of any Premier League club, losing eight of their last nine matches. If the Saints aren’t careful, a loss on Saturday could pull them into the thick of the relegation fight.

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Sheffield United

This campaign for the Blades quite literally could not be going any worse. From undeserved results to terrible injury luck, everything has gone wrong for Sheffield United.

It’s hard to find many bright spots with the dark clouds of relegation hovering over Bramall Lane right now, but the Blades are far better than their results have shown.

Outside of Brighton, Sheffield United is the most underrated team in the Premier League this season. In fact, based on Understat‘s expected points metric, the Blades should have 10.25 more points to their name, which would put them in 18th place and on the cusp of survival. The reason for the large discrepancy is because they’ve had terrible luck in front of net.

The Blades have scored only 16 goals in 27 matches, but have created 26.09 xG, so they are due for some positive regression in their final 10 matches.

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Southampton

For the Saints, regression has come in a massive way. Ever since their 1-0 upset win over Liverpool in early January, Southampton has picked up only one point and have been outscored 25-5. They’ve only been able to average 1.00 xGF per match, so a lot of their issues have come in front of net. 

A lot of that has to do with the 4-4-2 formation they utilize, one of the more defensive setups in soccer. Manager Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side likes to press high up the field and has morphed at times into a 4-2-2-2.

However, the high press may run into some trouble when they face Sheffield United’s 3-5-2 formation. The reason being if your formation presses high and morphs into a 4-2-2-2, that is going to leave space out for the Blades’ wing backs to push up the field and exploit the Saints on the outside.

To make matters worse, the Saints are going to be without right midfielder Theo Walcott and defensive midfielder Oriol Romeu for this match. So, even though they’re playing the last-place team, victory is not a forgone conclusion for the most out-of-form club in the Premier League.

Betting Analysis & Picks

Sheffield United is dealing with some injuries at the moment, but I don’t think they should be underdogs to a team that hasn’t won a Premier League match in more than two months.

The Blades are due for some positive regression and I think they are going to back up their 1-0 win over Aston Villa on Wednesday with another win over Southampton.

Since I have this match projected around a pick’em I think there is plenty of value on Sheffield United’s spread of +0.5 at -127 odds.

Pick: Sheffield United +0.5 (-127)

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CAA Tournament Betting Preview: Can James Madison Win Without Leading Scorer?

caa-basketball-tournament-preview

Conference tournament season is in full swing, and the Colonial Athletic Association tournament should be one of the most exciting. The league is in complete chaos entering Saturday’s opening round.

Five teams ended the regular season on a program pause, including four of the top five seeds. This season has been such a mess for the league in terms of scheduling and postponements, as the conference finished  last in the country in percentage of games scheduled that were actually played.

Top-seeded James Madison has been able to stay on the court, but they ended the season with a few bad notes. First, it was reported last Friday that star guard Matt Lewis would miss the remainder of the season. Then the Dukes dropped their season finale at home to Drexel later that day.

James Madison has the honor of hosting the tournament as the top seed. Here’s a look at the full bracket:

The Favorite

James Madison

James Madison Dukes

Despite losing Lewis, the Dukes remain the favorite to win the CAA tournament.

The Dukes aren’t super flashy but are a balanced team that’s solid on both ends of the floor. They rank third in the conference in adjusted offensive efficiency and fourth in defensive efficiency.

The path to the final could present some difficulties, especially if they don’t find answers to replace Lewis’ offensive production right away. Potential quarterfinal opponent Elon is a decent defensive team and is as streaky as they come offensively. If they get hot from 3-point range, Elon could give the Dukes issues. Delaware or Hofstra awaits in the semis, and while both teams haven’t taken the court in a while, they’re still dangerous.

With the conference’s leading scorer and likely player of the year on the sideline, I can’t get involved with the Dukes at this price. Instead I’ll look to other teams with better odds that I believe can just as likely get to the finals as the Dukes.

Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images
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Value Plays

Hofstra

Hofstra Pride

The fourth-seeded Pride are a dangerous team in this tournament because of their offense.

Hofstra boasts the top adjusted offensive efficiency ranking in the league, per KenPom. They likely have the conference’s best scoring duo in Jalen Ray and Tareq Coburn. Both players are terrific outside shooters and can get to the rim as well. Add in Isaac Kante, a strong interior presence who’s averaging a double-double, and this offense is really tough to stop when it’s firing on all cylinders.

The Pride must get by Delaware in the quarterfinals and then most likely James Madison in the semis.

They split the season series with the Blue Hens, with both games being played at Delaware. Delaware is coming off the longest layoff of any team in the tournament, not having played a game since Jan. 31. They have a strong defense which could keep them in the game, but I don’t see how their already struggling offense will be able to shake off the rust and generate enough scoring to take down the Pride.

Hofstra’s last two games were at James Madison on Feb. 13 and 14, and both resulted in a four-point losses to the Dukes. The third round will be a battle, but it will only be the Dukes’ third full game without Lewis. I expect Pride coach Joe Mihalich to make enough adjustments from the first two losses to come away with a win.

If the Pride make it to the final, there will be an opportunity to hedge and guarantee a respectable profit. Hofstra will likely be a small underdog in most potential championship scenarios.

Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

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Drexel

Drexel Dragons

Despite being the No. 6 seed, Drexel has the best odds of teams in the bottom half of the bracket to win the tournament. While this may seem surprising, the Dragons are my pick to make it out of the bottom and reach the title game.

Drexel is the top-rated team in the league according to KenPom, with an adjusted efficiency margin of +1.04.  They have the advantage over most of the top teams of not entering the tournament directly off a program pause. While the 2-5 seeds were all sitting at home last week, Drexel beat top-seeded James Madison in the season finale in the arena where the tournament is being played.

The Dragons’ path to the final starts with Charleston before likely meeting 2-seed Northeastern in the semis. Charleston’s defense is very suspect, and I don’t see them hanging with Drexel in its first game off a long layoff. Northeastern will be a much tougher test due to its defense and solid outside shooting. However, they’re quite streaky offensively, whereas Drexel is consistent thanks to its league best 54.6% 2-point shooting percentage.

Given how strange of a year this conference has had, watching the 6-seed cut down the nets in Harrisonburg shouldn’t shock anybody. And they may just be the best team in the league right now, so there’s a very strong chance it’ll happen.

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

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Saturday Premier League Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Burnley vs. Arsenal (March 6)

burnley-vs-arsenal-march-6

Burnley vs. Arsenal Odds

Burnley Odds +475
Arsenal Odds -167
Draw +300
Over/Under 2.5 (-110 / -113) 
Day | Time Saturday | 7:30 a.m. ET
TV NBCSN
Odds as of Thursday evening via DraftKings.

Arsenal looks to keep their good run of form going on Saturday morning when they head to Turf Moor to battle Burnley.

The Clarets got a much-needed 1-1 result against third-place Leicester on Thursday. The result now puts them six points above the drop zone, so another result on Saturday against Arsenal could give them some breathing room in their fight to stay in the top flight.

Burnley pulled off a shocking upset over Arsenal back in December, winning 1-0 at the Emirates. So the Clarets are capable of hanging with the Gunners.

Arsenal picked a huge win on Sunday, beating Leicester 3-1 at the King Power Stadium. What was huge about the win was some of their underperforming players like Pepe and Willian shining.

Mikel Arteta’s men are sitting in 10th place and need to go on a run if they are going to finish inside the top six to qualify for European football. A win over a lowly side like Burnley could be just the ticket for the Gunners to go on a run.

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Burnley

Burnley’s ultra-defensive style of play is very difficult to break down if you aren’t ready for their physical style of play. Trying to play the ball through the middle is almost a death sentence because the Clarets love to clog up the middle of the pitch with their patented 4-4-2 formation.

The 4-4-2 formation allows Burnley to keep eight guys behind the ball and  absorb the opponent’s attack while forcing it to play the ball in from out wide.

Essentially, what Burnley is saying to their opponents is “You’re not coming through the middle, so we dare you to try and beat us with crosses into the box.” It was pretty successful against Leicester on Wednesday, holding the Foxes to 1.23 xG and star striker Jamie Vardy to only one shot. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is going to find life pretty difficult up top on Saturday.

However,  the problem with Burnley trying to achieve defensive perfection is their offense often suffers, as they’re averaging only 0.87 xG per match. You can see why 70% of Burnley’s matches this season have gone under 2.5 goals.

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Arsenal

Arsenal has improved from their terrible start to the season, but it hasn’t been a dramatic turnaround. The Gunners’ offense has improved from only scoring 1.10 xG per match before Christmas to scoring 1.62 xG per match after Christmas. Their defense has maintained the same form, so what’s the reason behind their sudden offensive improvement?

It all centers around their young sensations Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, who have combined for five goals and six assists. However, Smith Rowe is going to miss this match due to injury, which is going to be a blow to Arsenal.

Arteta typically plays out of 4-2-3-1, which is the most common formation in modern football. The formation allows Arsenal to deploy three attacking midfielders going forward, which can overwhelm opposing defenses. However, it does leave the defense exposed if the the two holding midfielders get caught to far up the pitch.

This is exactly what Burnley is going to try to coy Arsenal into doing, so they can hit them on the counter. The Gunners are going to control most of the possession, but trying to breakdown Burnley is going to be a tall task.

Betting Analysis & Picks

Even though Arsenal effectively broke down Leicester’s 4-4-2 last weekend, I think they’re going to have a lot more difficulties with Burnley’s 4-4-2 since they play much more defensive. Therefore, I think the Clarets can hang in this match.

Since I only have Arsenal projected at +104, I’ll back Burnley’s spread of +1 at -129 odds.

Pick: Burnley +1 (-129)

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European Soccer Forecast: Projected Odds, Totals for Weekend Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A & More (March 5-8)

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What a weekend of soccer we have ahead of us. There are a number of massive matches with title implications on the line in every single league in action this weekend. France’s Ligue 1 is on break this weekend, but we still have a full slate in the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga.

Here is a snapshot of what we saw during mid-week action:

    • Manchester City defeated Wolves 4-1 at home, extending their undefeated streak to 21 matches.
    • Manchester United were held to a 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace, which extended Manchester City’s lead atop the Premier League table to 14 points.
    • AC Milan needed a 97th-minute penalty to draw with Udinese, which extended Inter’s lead at the top of the table to six points.
    • Juventus cruised past Spezia 3-0 and have moved into third place in the Serie A table.
    • Lille scored two goals in stoppage time to beat Marseille 2-0 and hold onto their lead atop the Ligue 1 table.

With how busy the European soccer calendar is at the moment, managers might be rotating their squads to rest some players. Therefore, it might be a good idea to wait to place a wager until starting lineups come out prior to kickoff.

You can use these projections to identify early betting value on the opening lines, plus follow me in The Action Network App to see any bets I make throughout the week.

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Premier League

Premier League Notes

    • Manchester City vs. Manchester United: The 185th addition of the Manchester Derby, and this one could effectively crown the Cityzens as champions of the Premier League. The Red Devils are trailing City by 14 points with only 11 matches left in the season, so if they lose, the title race is over. Manchester City is on a crazy 21-match win streak at the moment but have struggled the last few times they’ve faced Manchester United. They drew 0-0 with them earlier this season and lost twice to the Red Devils in the Premier League last season. This is the biggest rivalry in England and has produced some great moments over the years.
    • Chelsea vs. Everton: Both teams picked up a crucial three points on Thursday in their fight to finish inside the top four. Chelsea is enjoying life under Thomas Tuchel as they’re unbeaten in his first 10 matches in charge and have eight clean sheets. Everton is on a nice run themselves, winning three in a row. Everton secured a 1-0 win in the first meeting at Goodison Park, so Chelsea will be out for some revenge on Monday.

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Premier League Injury News

  • Arsenal: Emile Smith Rowe (CAM) is doubtful to face Burnley.
  • Aston Villa: Matty Cash (RB) and Jack Grealish (LM) are out against Wolves.
  • Brighton: Tariq Lamptey (RB), Solly March (LB) and Adam Webster (CB) are out against Leicester.
  • Burnley: Robbie Brady (LM), Johann Gudmundsson (CM), and Jack Cork (CM) are questionable to play against Arsenal. Ashley Barnes (ST) is out. 
  • Chelsea: Thiago Silva (CB) and Tammy Abraham (ST) are out against Everton.
  • Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha (ST), Nathaniel Clyne (RB), James McArthur (CM), Jeffrey Schlupp (LM) and Mamadou Sakho (CB) are out against Tottenham.
  • Everton: Yerry Mina (CB) and Fabian Delph (LB) are out against Chelsea. Tom Davies (CM), James Rodriguez (CAM), and Seamus Coleman (RB) are questionable.
  • Fulham: Tom Cairney (CAM) is out against Liverpool.
  • Leeds: Kalvin Phillips (CDM) is questionable to play against West Ham.
  • Leicester: Ayoze Perez (RM), James Justin (LB), Harvey Barnes (LM), James Maddison (CAM) and Johnny Evans (CB),  Dennis Praet (CAM) are out against Brighton.
  • Liverpool: Virgil van Dijk (CB), Jordan Henderson (CM), Joël  Matip (CB) and Joe Gomez (CB) are out against Fulham. Diogo Jota (CF) is questionable.
  • Manchester United: Paul Pogba (CM) and Danny van de Beek (CM) are out against Manchester City. Anthony Martial (ST) and David De Gea (GK) are questionable.
  • Newcastle:  Miguel Almiron (CAM), Allan Saint-Maximin (ST), Javier Manquillo (RB), Fabian Schär (CB) and Callum Wilson (ST) are out against West Brom.
  • Sheffield United: Sander Berge (CM), Chris Basham (CB), Jayden Bogle (RB), Jack Robinson (CB), John Egan (CB) and Jack O’Connell (CB) are out against Southampton.
  • Southampton: Theo Walcott (RM) and Oriol Romeu (CM) are out against Sheffield United.
  • Tottenham: Giovani Lo Celso (CM) is out against Crystal Palace.
  • West Ham: Arthur Masuaku (LB), Andriy Yarmolenko (RM) and Angelo Ogbonna (CB) are out against Leeds. Lukasz Fabianski (GK) is questionable.
  • Wolves: Daniel Podence (ST) and Raúl Jiménez (ST) are out against Aston Villa.

Bundesliga

Bundesliga Notes

    • Gladbach vs. Leverkusen: Both clubs are on the outside looking in at the top four and in desperate need of all three points. It’s been a tough few months for both Gladbach and Leverkusen who only have one win each in their last six matches. Gladbach has lost back-to-back home matches against relegation sides Koln and Mainz, while Leverkusen is winless in their last four away matches in the Bundesliga. Leverkusen won a 4-3 thriller in the first meeting, so will we see fireworks like this the second time around?

    • Bayern Munich vs. Dortmund: League leaders Bayern Munich will need to get by a resurgent Dortmund squad if they want to hold onto their top spot in the Bundesliga. The league leaders haven’t been their usual selves in the Bundesliga, winning only one of their last three matches. Dortmund have seemed to turn their season after three straight wins in Germany and a road win against Sevilla in the Champions League. However, Bayern has dominated Der Klassiker recently beating Dortmund in seven of their last eight meetings.

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Bundesliga Injury News

  • Augsburg: Iago (LWB) is questionable to play against Hertha Berlin.
  • Bayer Leverkusen: Sven Bender (CB), Lars Bender (CDM), Florian Wirtz (CM), Leon Bailey (RM), and Daley Sinkgraven (LB) are out against Gladbach. Moussa Diaby (LM) is out.
  • Bayern Munich:  Benjamin Pavard (RB) is questionable to play against Dortmund. Douglas Costa (CAM) is out.
  • Borussia Dortmund: Jadon Sancho (RM) and Axel Witsel (CM) are out against Bayern Munich. Manuel Akanji (CB) is questionable.
  • Gladbach: Lars Stindl (CM) is out against Leverkusen.
  • Hertha Berlin: Marvin Plattenhardt (LB) and Dedryck Boyata (CB) are questionable to play against Augsburg. Matheus Cunha (CAM) is out.
  • Hoffenheim: Stefan Posch (CB) and Kevin Akpoguma (CB) are questionable to play against Wolfsburg.
  • Koln: Sebastian Andersson (ST) is questionable to play against Werder Bremen. Florian Kainz (RM), Rafael Czichos (CB), and Sebastian Bornauw (CB) are out. 
  • RB Leipzig: Marcel Sabitzer (CM) and Marcel Halstenberg (CB) are out against Freiburg.
  • Schalke: Matija Nastasic (CB) and Mark Uth (CAM) are out against Mainz.
  • Union Berlin: Christopher Lenz (LB) and Taiwo Awoniyi (ST) are out against Arminia Bielefeld.
  • Vfb Stuttgart: Nicolas Gonzalez (ST) is out against Frankfurt.

Serie A

Serie A Notes

    • Juventus vs. Lazio: The nine-time defending champions of Italy have fallen ten points behind Inter in the title race. They are on a good run at home, winning six in a row and outscoring their opponents 17 to 2. Lazio has been on a good run themselves winning seven of their last nine Serie A matches. Juventus has dominated Lazio in Serie A over the past decade winning 16 of 21 matches since 2010.
    • Inter vs. Atalanta: Inter is currently holding a six-point lead in Serie A and is on a great run, winning seven of their last eight matches. Atalanta has rebounded from a bad start to the season, as they have only one loss in their last 16 Serie A matches. Inter has only beaten Atalanta once in their last six meetings.

Serie A Injury News

  • AC Milan: Mario Mandzukic (ST) is questionable to play against Verona. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (ST) and Hakan Calhanoglu (CAM) are out.
  • Benevento: Gaetano Letizia (RB) is out against Spezia.
  • Bologna: Aaron Hickey (LB), Jerdy Schouten (CM), and Takehiro Tomiyasu (CB) are out against Napoli.
  • Cagliari: Giovanni Simeone (ST) is out against Sampdoria.
  • Crotone: Milos Vulic (CM) is out against Torino.
  • Fiorentina: Franck Ribery (LM) and Gaetano Castrovilli (CM) are out against Parma.
  • Juventus: Matthijs de Ligt (CB), Juan Cuadrado (RB), Leonardo Bonucci (CB) and Arthur (CM) are questionable to face Lazio.  Giorgio Chiellini (CB) and Paulo Dybala (CF) are out.
  • Lazio: Manuel Lazzari (RM), Luiz Felipe (CB) and Stefan Daniel Radu (CB) are out against Juventus.
  • Napoli: Hirving Lozano (RW) is questionable to play against Bologna.
  • Parma: Andreas Cornelius (ST) and Gervinho (ST) are out against Fiorentina.
  • Roma: Marash Kumbulla (CB) and Jordan Veretout (CM) are out against Genoa. Edin Dzeko (ST) is questionable.
  • Sassuolo: Vlad Chiriches (CB) and Jeremie Boga (LM) are questionable to play against Udinese.
  • Torino: Dealing with COVID-19 outbreak and eight players, including five starters, are questionable to play against Crotone.
  • Udinese: Samir Santos (CB) and Gerard Deulofeu (ST) are out against Sassuolo. Ignacio Pussetto (ST) is questionable. 

La Liga

La Liga Notes

    • Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid: The Madrid Derby has a ton on the line in the second meeting, as Real Madrid can close the gap to two points in the title race. Atletico Madrid has been struggling a bit recently, with only two wins in their last five matches. Real Madrid is on a good run winning five of their last six in all competitions. Los Blancos also have a fantastic record against their inner city rivals, as 2016 was the last time Atletico secured a victory over Real.

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La Liga Injury News

  • Athletic Bilbao: Inigo Martinez (CB) is out against Granada.
  • Atletico Madrid: Jose Gimenez (CB) is questionable to play against Real Madrid.
  • Barcelona: Miralem Pjanic (CM), Gerard Pique (CB), Ansu Fati (LW), Philippe Coutinho (CAM) and Sergi Roberto (RB) are out against Osasuna.
  • Cadiz: Fali (CM) and Carlos Akapo (RB) are out against Eibar.
  • Celta Vigo: Renato Tapia (CM) and Nestor Araujo (CB) are out against Huesca.
  • Eibar: Pedro Bigas (CM) is questionable to play against Cadiz.
  • Elche: Emiliano Rigoni (LM) is out against Sevilla.
  • Getafe: Marc Cucurella (LM) is out against Real Valladolid.
  • Granada: Luis Milla (CAM), Luis Javier Suarez (ST), Yangel Herrera (RM), Darwin Machis (CM), Angel Montoro (CM), Jesus Vallejo (CB), and Maxime Gonalons (CM) are out against Athletic Bilbao.
  • Huesca: Pedro Mosquera (CDM) is questionable to play against Celta Vigo.
  • Levante: Sergio Postigo (CB) is out against Real Sociedad.
  • Osasuna: Facundo Roncaglia (RB) is out against Alaves.
  • Real Betis: Borja Iglesias (ST) is out against Alaves. Marc Bartra (CB) is questionable. 
  • Real Madrid: Daniel Carvajal (RB) is out against Atletico Madrid.
  • Valencia: Mouctar Diakhaby (CB) is out against Villarreal.
  • Villarreal: Vicente Iborra (CDM) is out against Valencia.

Southern Conference Tournament Betting Preview: Will Furman Dance For 1st Time Since 1980?

southern conference-tournament-betting-odds-picks-2021

The Southern Conference Tournament will get underway on Friday in Asheville, North Carolina. This is almost undoubtedly a one-bid league for the NCAA Tournament, which is the prize all 10 teams in the league will be hoping to claim on Monday night.

This league was ultra-competitive from start to finish, as every team finished with at least five conferences losses.

First-Round Friday

Since the top six seeds get a bye, the bottom four will face off in the following first-round matchups on Friday:

  • (8) The Citadel (80-1) vs. (9) Western Carolina (80-1)
  • (7) Mercer (20-1) vs. (10) Samford (80-1)

Both matchups have plenty of uncertainty. The Citadel hasn’t played since Feb. 24 with their season finale cancelled due to COVID-19 issues at Samford, which last saw action more than two weeks ago on Feb. 17.

If you’re not familiar, those two teams each play extremely unique, fast-paced styles.

Samford has its “Bucky Ball” under first-year head coach Bucky McMillan, who has also used a zone defense on 25% of possessions and pressed at the second-highest rate in D-1, per Synergy. And The Citadel has its fun-n-gun, three-and-run style under long-time SoCon coach Duggar Baucom. Neither are known for their defense.

Mercer has a dangerous offense full of shooters, but I can’t see the Bears winning four games in four days, especially since they’d likely have to beat Furman, Wofford and UNC Greensboro, all of which they went 0-6 against in the regular season. Mercer did win both meetings with its first opponent, Samford, although both came in overtime.

After picking up four non-conference wins in overtime, Western Carolina really struggled during league play. The Catamounts do have an excellent player in senior Mason Faulkner, who returned for their final two games after a three-game absence. After starting 2-13 in conference play — with two home victories by a combined three points over VMI and The Citadel — WCU did finish the season with two impressive wins with Faulkner back in the lineup:

  • A road win at top-seed UNC Greensboro (which it would face in the second-round)
  • 25-point home win over Mercer

While the Catamounts seem to be trending up, I can’t see them cutting down the nets in Asheville. Ultimately, I have no interest in any of the four longer shots futures playing on Day 1.

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The True Contenders

That brings us to the top six seeds, which will all start play in the quarterfinals on Saturday:

  • (1) UNC Greensboro (+200) vs. winner of Citadel-WCU
  • (4) Chattanooga (+1200) vs. (5) East Tennessee State (+800)
  • (2) Wofford (+450) vs. winner of Mercer-Samford
  • (3) Furman (+160) vs. (6) VMI (+2500)

The Top Half

After getting upset at home by Western Carolina, UNCG escaped with an overtime win in the finale against ETSU to clinch the top seed. Interestingly, those could be its first two opponents.

UNCG certainly has a unique style. It plays an extremely aggressive pressing defense that usually forces opponents into a myriad of mistakes. On the season, the Spartans have pressed on 34.8% of possessions, the third-highest rate nationally. The defense — which is the best in the conference — is led by senior point guard Isaiah Miller, who is a superb on-ball defender.

While the defense is outstanding, the offense is hard to watch. Per Synergy, UNCG ranks in the 18th-percentile nationally in half court offense in terms of points per possession. When they aren’t scoring in transition after forcing turnovers, their offense completely stalls. The Spartans at least don’t turn it over, but they simply can’t make an outside shot (29.2% from 3 on the season) and also aren’t great from the charity stripe.

I want no part of UNCG’s offense at a price of only +200. I wouldn’t be shocked if it lost to the winner of Chattanooga-ETSU (or even Western Carolina first).

college-basketball-odds-picks-predictions-chattanooga-vs-mercer-sharp-betting-edge-wednesday
Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: David Jean-Baptiste (3) guard of Chattanooga

Chattanooga has a really intriguing swing offense with three lethal shooters in David Jean-Baptiste, Malachi Smith and Stefan Kenic. The Mocs also won’t beat themselves as they don’t foul, never turn it over and are excellent from the free throw line.

If their shots are falling, the Mocs are dangerous and could give No. 1 seed UNCG a scare in a potential semifinal matchup if they get past an ETSU team it swept — although the Bucs rallied late in a pair of two-point losses.

Speaking of ETSU, it’s the defending tournament champions. However, the Bucs had to replace almost every key contributor from last year’s squad in addition to head coach Steve Forbes, who left for Wake Forest. Given the circumstances, especially in this unique season when change wasn’t ideal, new head coach Jason Shay has done a tremendous job. They did lose four of five to finish the year, but two of those losses came by a bucket and the other in overtime.

ETSU relies on a pair of transfers in the backcourt in David Sloan (Kansas State) and Ledarrius Brewer (SEMO), who are both tough shot makers. Freshman Damari Monsanto has also been outstanding in his first season. He not only leads the team in rebounds, but he can get scorching hot from 3-point range.

The methodical Bucs finished in the top-3 in both Adjusted Offensive and Defensive Efficiency during league play, per KenPom. However, they struggle at the rim on both ends. Plus, from almost every advanced metric, ETSU is a major regression candidate. ETSU did beat UNCG — its potential second-round opponent — and take them to overtime in the season finale, but I just don’t trust the offense enough.

I do want to take on UNCG, but I have no real feel for which team will win the ETSU-Chattanooga battle. If you’re looking for a long shot, I’d much rather choose Chattanooga at 12-1 over ETSU at 8-1 since I make that game a virtual coin flip.

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The Bottom Half

Similar to The Citadel and Samford, VMI prefers to play an up-tempo style and shoot a high-frequency of 3-pointers. They actually attempt 3s at a top-25 rate nationally and also rank inside the top 25 in 3-point percentage.

However, out of those three schools, VMI has the most-efficient offense by far and it is absolutely deadly in transition.

Senior guard Greg Parham is a walking bucket and 6-foot-10 Jake Stephens, who will attempt his fair share of 3s, has been tremendous down low. They’re also both surrounded by a handful of dead-eye shooters on the perimeter. Defensively, VMI will press a bit and utilize a variety of zone looks at a top-20 clip in the country.

That said, VMI is coming off a COVID shutdown of its own and hasn’t played since Feb. 20, so who knows what kind of effort we will get and who will even be available for a team that severely lacks depth. As a result, despite regular season wins over Wofford and Furman (the two higher seeds in its half of the bracket) I simply can’t even consider investing in VMI — even though it plays a high-variance style (intriguing for an underdog in a tournament setting) with an offense is extremely dangerous when clicking.

That leaves Furman and Wofford, who will match up for a third time in the semifinals if they can avoid an upset on Saturday.

Wofford has actually won three straight in this series, starting with last year’s SoCon tournament. The Terriers also took both meetings this year, including a buzzer-beating win in the most recent affair. In the previous two, Furman actually led with 10 minutes to go before melting down.

John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Wofford guard Storm
Murphy

Wofford makes its living on the offensive end where it ranks 21st in Effective Field Goal %. The Terriers also are the most 3-point reliant team in the entire land, attempting 3s on 51.3% of their overall attempts. They are, however, extremely vulnerable on the defensive end and really lack overall size — usually playing with 6-foot-6 Messiah Jones at the “five.” They have capable shooters all over, led by flame-throwing senior Storm Murphy.

Furman also earns its paycheck on the offensive end, actually ranking higher than Wofford in Effective FG% at No. 9 overall. It’s an extremely experienced group that can all handle the rock and shoot the 3. When you talk about modern “3 and rim” offenses, Furman is the model. They’re an extremely efficient four-out offense that looks to either get to the rim (they rank second in 2P% and ninth in FG% at the rim) or take a 3 (they rank 11th in 3-point attempt rate). From a Rim-And-Three rate, Furman ranks fifth overall, per ShotQuality. And they likely have positive shooting regression coming after a down shooting conference season.

I’ve been waiting for this rematch and I’m sure Furman has been, too. The Paladins shouldn’t have any issues with VMI coming off of a COVID break and they should be able to exact their revenge on Sunday against Wofford. And if they face UNCG in the final, they are built to break presses with an abundance of ball handlers.

I’m much higher than the market on Furman, who could make noise on the first weekend of the tournament, and much lower on both Wofford and UNCG. Therefore, it’s no surprise that I’m rolling with the tourney favorite here. The lack of depth is a bit concerning for three games in three days, but I’m going down with the Furman ship.

My Pick: Furman +160 (+150 or better)

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Arnold Palmer Invitational Round 2 Buys & Fades: Buy Bryson DeChambeau to Pass Rory McIlroy

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It’s always fun to come back to a course like Bay Hill and see the best players in the world put to the test on a tough track. Today was no different as the field average was about a shot over par, and only a third of the field was able to break par on the round.

In these types of events, the cream seems to rise to the top, which certainly happened as Rory McIlroy set the early pace with a 6-under 66. Bryson DeChambeau stayed on his heels during the morning wave but ultimately fell one shot short of his lead. Instead, it was Corey Conners who would catch, pass, and then fall back into a tie with Rory on his final hole of the opening round.

Several other big names litter the leaderboard with under-par rounds on Thursday, allowing for a lot of movement to happen before the weekend. Bay Hill is a place where the winners typically come from just a few behind the leader after Day 1. Let’s see who stands out on the strokes gained side from that group going into Friday’s round.

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Strokes Gained Explanation

Strokes Gained can give golf bettors, DFS players and fans way more detail on how a golfer is truly playing by measuring each shot in relation to the rest of the field.

Using the millions of data points it collects, the TOUR calculates how many shots on average it takes a player to get the ball in the hole from every distance and situation. If a player beats those averages, he’s gaining strokes on the field.

Every situation in golf is different — Strokes Gained measures how players perform relative to the situation.

In this piece, we’ll touch on a variety of Strokes Gained metrics…

  • Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
  • Strokes Gained: Approach
  • Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
  • Strokes Gained: Putting
  • Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking (which is Off-the-Tee + Approach)
  • Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (which is Ball-Striking + Around-the-Green)

In general, ball-striking and tee-to-green are the most stable long term, while putting is more prone to volatility.

You can often find live-betting advantages by identifying golfers who are hitting the ball well, but just not getting putts to drop. Likewise, players with high SG: Putting numbers may regress moving forward.

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3 Golfers to Buy in Round 2

If history holds true at Bay Hill again this year, then we need to look no further than those that snuck in under par on Thursday. None of the last five champions have been more than five shots back to start the second round, highlighting just how difficult it can be to make a move up the leaderboard on this track. Since we rely on the numbers to make our picks, I won’t try to go against them on that history either.

I can’t really advise that you run and jump on the number available, in fact I’d probably wait until the morning wave posts some scores, but if I’m staking an early claim to a winner of this tournament, it’s Bryson DeChambeau. He was someone I had my eye on last week, and he flashed some form at times, but he just couldn’t get any consistency.

He now comes into the Arnold Palmer Invitational where he has performed well, and goes out with a great 5-under round where he led the field in strokes gained tee to green. Bryson was well ahead of the field off the tee as expected, but more importantly to me he gained more than two strokes with his irons. Bay Hill is a place he can take advantage of with his added distance, but only if his irons and wedges are on point.

Bryson also has one of the more underrated short games on TOUR, he did well in those aspects today as has been the case for him on this course. He has never gained less than 1.1 strokes putting at this event and has twice exceeded four strokes gained on the greens. I love the position he is in to bring back the hype and get a win this week, but I only wish the oddsmakers could give us a bit more.

The first player that stands out to me inside that Top 20 is Jordan Spieth. He still has some value available in the betting markets at +3300 on FanDuel and really just made one big mistake off the tee . He cost himself one of the few scoring holes at Bay Hill when he hit his tee shot in the water on Hole 6. That one tee shot was a big reason he lost nearly a stroke off the tee to the field.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Jordan Spieth.

His approach and around the green play was good but not great like it has been in recent events. Spieth gained just over a stroke on the field with his irons, and was just about field average around the greens. I expect to see Jordan improve in all areas into Round 2, and if that happens, this will likely be the last chance for good betting value on the three-time major winner.

If I am dipping down to the bottom group at 1-under for someone to make a charge and be in contention this weekend, it starts with Justin Rose. He came out to a shaky start on Thursday, and even shanked a bunker shot on his third hole. His two-over front nine was pretty much ugly all around, but he really seemed to find something on his inward nine.

Rose’s strokes gained stats are skewed by that opening nine where he put the ball in the water on his approach from the fairway bunker on his second hole and had the aforementioned shank on the next. In total, he hit just two greens going out but turned it around and hit eight of his final nine greens in regulation. Even with his early round struggles he was able to manage an under par round and put himself just above field average in strokes gained tee to green.

I will jump on board with Rose into Friday’s second round especially at the attractive +9000 available on DraftKings. He certainly seemed to find his stride after some early struggles on Thursday, and this is a course he’s played well in his career with four Top-10 finishes, including three inside the Top 3.

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3 Golfers to Fade in Round 2

Corey Conners put on a fantastic display of golf on Thursday as he surged out of the gates with four birdies and an eagle in his first seven holes, before dropping a shot on the last hole of his outward nine. He recovered before falling back on his final hole to tie Rory for the first-round lead.

I don’t mean to rain on his parade with a fade after such a great round, but my concern for Conners is the same every week: his short game. He was able to gain more than two shots on the field with his putter on Thursday, which is a fantastic round for a player that currently ranks 118th on TOUR putting. That ranking is a nice improvement from the 181st ranking he had during last season.

His around the green game isn’t any better, which will require the extremely high-standard iron play he displayed today throughout the rest of the weekend. In two prior trips to Bay Hill, Conners lost 7.5 strokes on and around the greens in two missed cuts. Those types of issues don’t change overnight, and I’ll put my cards in early on them showing up sooner than later.

There are a lot of ways to get into trouble around Bay Hill, and many times the strokes gained data can be drastically skewed by one bad mistake in an otherwise solid round. Unfortunately for Matt Wallace, that wasn’t the case. Instead, he just happened to make five birdies in the eight greens he hit in regulation.

Wallace carved out a solid 2-under round to open his tournament, but as noted above, he did it without having much on-the-ball striking side. The lack of greens hit resulted in more than a stroke lost to the field on approach, and he was just below average off the tee as well. Wallace ultimately lost strokes to the field tee to green but made up for it with more than three strokes gained with his putter. He certainly has the talent to turn his ball striking around, and have his notably strong short game continue to help, but he’s a fade for me until I see it.

I have always enjoyed the commentary and interaction from Max Homa on Twitter and in his podcast during his young career. It’s not often you get such open conversation from an active professional athlete, much less on a daily basis. He converted a great victory at the Genesis two weeks ago and turned right around for a 22nd-place finish at the WGC. I was honestly shocked to see him stay in the field for this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational as it makes seven straight weeks of action for Homa.

Despite the crazy stretch of tournament play, he continues to show up and perform well. Homa posted a 2-under 70 on Thursday at Bay Hill, and will tee it up in a tie for 15th to start the round on Friday. My concern for Max going into the second round is that he lost strokes to the field tee to green today and really struggled with his irons. I don’t know if it was the start of fatigue or just an off day, but Homa lost 1.44 strokes to the field with his irons on the day.

He was able to salvage the round by having the best putter in the field today, gaining 4.11 strokes with the flat stick. Obviously, that level of hot putter isn’t sustainable, and unless he finds the rest of his game quickly, he’ll be dropping down the leaderboard.

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Strokes Gained Data for All Players in Round 1

Warriors vs. Suns NBA Odds & Picks: Big Money Backing Phoenix As Home Favorite

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NBA Odds: Warriors vs. Suns

Warriors Odds +11.5
Suns Odds -11.5
Over/Under 221.5
Time | Channel 10 p.m. ET | FS-AZ
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The Golden State Warriors take on the Suns in Phoenix this Thursday night. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and Co. are buying some valuable time for their healthy superstars ahead of the NBA All-Star break, with Draymond Green and Steph Curry slated to be out for rest against the Suns.

In the first matchup between these two teams, the Suns won by 21 points in a game in which they were favored by two points. The Warriors had Curry in that game, but despite his 27 points, couldn’t muster enough offense to keep up with a balanced and potent Suns offense that didn’t even have All-Star Devin Booker.

With the Suns at full strength and the Warriors looking to get some contributions from unheralded players, sharp bettors have locked in on this matchup.

Our PRO Report suggests that Phoenix may be one of the best bets on Thursday night.

NBA Picks: Warriors vs. Suns

Sharp Action

The line for this game opened at Suns -2.5 and was pushed all the way up to -11.5 with the news of Curry and Green being ruled out.

Since this morning there have been two Action Labs Bet Signals triggered on Phoenix, signaling the sharp action on the Suns.

Big Money

At the time of this writing, the 69% of bettors backing the Suns have generated 94% of the money wagered on Thursday’s game.

PRO Report Pick: Suns -11.5 (-110)

Panthers vs. Predators NHL Odds & Pick: Look Towards the Total In Defensive Battle (March 4)

Panthers vs. Predators Odds

Panthers Odds -136
Predators Odds +118
Over/Under 6
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NHL.tv
Odds as of Wednesday night and via DraftKings.

Coming into this NHL season, most had both the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators tabbed as talented but flawed hockey teams who will compete for a playoff spot, both destined for the middle tier of the Central Division.

As we approach the midway point of the season, however, these two teams have gone on divergent paths. The Florida Panthers have points in 17 of their first 21 games while the Predators find themselves below .500 and falling out of the playoff picture fast. What does this mean for Thursday’s matchup between the two teams?

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Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers have been a maddening team for the past few seasons. The talent was there, but the results weren’t. Until this year, that is.

Florida has come out of the gates with a 13-4-4 record which puts them in third place in the Central Division (second based off points percentage). The underlying metrics say this start is no fluke.

The Panthers rank second in terms of expected goal rate. They rank fifth in both shot attempt rate and high danger chance percentage. The Panthers play with the puck in the offensive zone, and they do a good job of creating chances while limiting their opponents. 

While Florida is more known for their ability to score goals, it’s actually their defense that has carried the weight thus far. Florida ranks second in expected goals against per hour. The team is giving up less than seven high danger chances per hour at 5-on-5, the best mark in the league. The trio of Keith Yandle, Aaron Ekblad and Mackenzie Weeger helps drive offense from the blueline. Anton Stralman, Radko Gudas and Markus Nutivaara are more known for their play in their own zone. 

Offensively, the Panthers are led by a duo of elite talents in Jonathan Huberdeau and Alexander Barkov. Both players are averaging better than a point per game. Offensive additions like Carter Verhaeghe, Patric Hornqvist, Alexander Wennberg and Anthony Duclair have all either met or surpassed expectations. 

The Panthers hope the recent string of performances is a sign of things to come from Sergei Bobrovsky. He had a rough first year in Sunrise and arguably lost his starting job to begin this season. However, his last three games have been what Florida expected when they signed him to a massive contract in 2019. 

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Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators have won just 10 of their first 22 games, and their season is on the brink of being lost. The Predators find themselves eight points behind the Chicago Blackhawks, who occupy the final playoff spot in the Central Division. 

It won’t be an easy climb for Nashville, especially with recent injury news. Starting goaltender Juuse Saros left Tuesday’s game after taking a high hit from Nino Niederreiter. Ryan Johansen landed on the COVID list. Star defenseman Ryan Ellis will be out 4-6 weeks. Depth forward Luke Kunin will also miss a few weeks. 

The injuries are just the latest in what has been a disappointing season for Nashville. Filip Forsberg is the only forward pulling his weight. Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Duchene, and Johansen were expected to provide scoring for the Predators, but none of them have even eclipsed double digits in points. 

In fact, Forsberg and defenseman Roman Josi are the only two Nashville skaters to crack double digits in the point column. Considering we’re 22 games into the season, that’s almost unfathomable. It’s no surprise to see Nashville ranks 28th in goals per game, scoring just 2.27 a night on average. 

While scoring has been almost non-existent, the Predators’ defense has done its best to keep Nashville in games. Nashville ranks in the top third of the league in terms of limiting shot attempts, high danger chances and scoring chances. They are allowing under two expected goals against per hour at 5-on-5, which puts them in the top five of the league. 

Nashville should turn to Pekka Rinne in net with Saros out. Rinne has bounced back after an awful year in 2019-20, posting a solid .913 save percentage. He’s been much better than Saros to begin the year, who has struggled mightily. 

Panthers vs. Predators Best Bet

While the standings say this is a mismatch, the underlying metrics suggest these teams are closer than we think. Florida is still better, but puck possession and shot generation metrics suggest the Predators are a good team who’s fallen victim to below-average goaltending, poor shooting luck and subpar special teams. 

I was higher on the Predators than most coming into the season, but I’ve come off of them with the offense being as dreadful as it is. Matt Duchene was one of the more marquee free agents of the last decade, and he’s turned into an average second-line center through his first 100 games in Nashville. 

With the current line, I’d consider betting Nashville if they were at full health. However, Ryan Ellis is a huge loss that could impact things significantly. The rash of injuries the Preds have suffered in the past few games has me looking for another avenue to bet this game.

With both teams ranking in the top five in terms of expected goals-against, I would make a play on the under in this game. Neither Rinne nor Bobrovsky is the most confidence-inspiring option at the moment, but both have track records as elite goaltenders in the recent past. 

The extra half goal gives me the confidence to play the under here in a matchup of two good defensive teams. Hopefully we get the requisite saves. 

Pick: Under 6 Goals 

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NHL Odds & Pick for Maple Leafs vs. Canucks: Schedule Boosts Value of Underdog Vancouver (Thursday, March 4)

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Maple Leafs vs. Canucks Odds


Maple Leafs Odds -160
Canucks Odds +135
Over/Under 6.5
Time | TV Thursday, 10 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday night and via DraftKings

Depending on who you ask in the hockey handicapping community, you might get many different interpretations as to the importance of a goaltender in a one-game situation. In a sport where it’s possible to play well enough that your goaltending is rarely facing quality scoring chances, is the drop-off from an elite starter to a league-average backup for one game going to make that much of a difference?

In reality, it depends on the team around that goaltender. The Canucks, for example, have a young goaltender of the future in Thatcher Demko, and a veteran goaltender of the past in Braden Holtby. It matters who gets the call for the Canucks. As for the Toronto Maple Leafs, a recent three-game set in Edmonton goes to show that whoever puts the pillows on is next to meaningless. 

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Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs played virtually identical games in Edmonton. The first featured a shutout from Jack Campbell in a game where the Oilers couldn’t take advantage of early opportunities. The second featured a shutout from Michael Hutchinson in a game where the Oilers couldn’t capitalize on their high-danger chances. In the third and final game, Leafs starter Frederik Andersen made it back from injury in time to backstop the Leafs to a convincing win. 

The last time we saw the Maple Leafs face the Canucks, it was a trio of victories for the Leafs. Now, the scene shifts to the more scenic ocean-side rink in Vancouver, where the Leafs face a challenge they haven’t had to overcome yet: The dreaded schedule spot.

So far this season, only three times has a team had to play a back-to-back with the second game coming on the road against a team that didn’t play the night before. In the previous three occasions, the home team averaged 58% of the expected goals 5-on-5, and had 25 high-danger chances at even-strength to just 12 for the road team. 

Offensively for the Leafs, Auston Matthews missed the first two games with the Oilers and his supporting cast more than made up for his absence. Will they be able to keep up that support in Van City?


Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.


Vancouver Canucks

Since a rough start to their home schedule, the Canucks have actually played really well in the comfortable confines of Rogers Arena, even if their record doesn’t indicate that. They’re 4-6 in their last 10 at home, but their expected goal share has been a robust 56%, with 24.41 xGF and 19.26 xGA. The Canucks get the advantage of waiting for the Leafs to come to town on a back-to-back, which should provide them opportunity to add to that discrepancy. If they can do that, there’s certainly value to the Canucks as home underdogs.

We were able to sniff out a spot where the Canucks were excessively undervalued against the Jets on Monday. After winning that game as +125 underdogs, true to form, the Canucks lost the rematch after the market. This is a team that is never a comfortable bet even with their solid home metrics.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

The value on the underdog is just too good to pass up. My model has the Leafs as a 5% above-average team at even-strength, while the Canucks rate at 9% below-average at 5-on-5. This translates with a Leafs win probability of 54% before factoring in the scheduling spot for Toronto.

The projected prices as of this writing are TOR -160/VAN +135, which I would expect to hold if not improve for those of us willing to back the Canucks. However, that’s about as low as I’ll be looking to go when betting Vancouver as a value proposition. 

Pick: Canucks (+135 or better)

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Warriors vs. Suns NBA Odds & Picks: Expect Tired Legs Before All-Star Break (March 4)

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Editor’s note: Draymond Green and Stephen Curry have been ruled out for Thursday’s road game against the Phoenix Suns.

Warriors vs. Suns Odds

Warriors Odds +5 
Suns Odds -5 
Over/Under 223 
Time 10 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds as of Wednesday night and via PointsBet.

We did it, y’all. We made it to All-Star Break. This is the final game before the break, and then it’s finally a week off for the exhausted players and fans after a frenzied whirlwind first half.

The Warriors may not have much left in the tank. Golden State is on the second night of a back-to-back. The Warriors spent the back half of February cavorting all over the East Coast with a big trip, and now they’re bouncing around the West Coast — LA a few days ago, up to Portland last night, now back in Phoenix tonight. Golden State was missing its centers for most of that, and Klay Thompson is still in street clothes. This is a tired team.

The Suns? They’re flying high after Tuesday night’s win over the Lakers, even without Devin Booker down the stretch. That win pushed Phoenix into the West 2-seed and into the national limelight. The Suns have won 12 of 14, with the two losses by just seven points combined, and they’ll no doubt hope to head into the All-Star Break on a high note.

Will the Warriors have anything left in the tank to push them?

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Golden State Warriors

Remember the panic around the Warriors at the start of the season? Golden State lost the opener to Kevin Durant’s Nets by 26, then fell to the Bucks by 39 on Christmas a few days later. Everyone panicked and wrote off Steph Curry and the Warriors, but there was just one little problem: Draymond Green wasn’t playing yet.

Golden State has been a totally different team with a healthy and motivated Green on the floor. The Warriors entered Wednesday with the No. 4 Defensive Efficiency in the entire league, per Basketball Reference. Their defense has gotten better and better as the season has gone along. Check out the red Warriors line on their efficiency graph below:

Draymond is an absolute wrecking ball defensively, and he changes everything for this team on that end. Green is getting help from role players like Kelly Oubre and Andrew Wiggins, but he’s the engine here.

Draymond has become the engine of the offense too. I saw someone on Twitter call him Assists Rodman, and I can’t get it out of my head. Green had a dud against the Lakers his last time out, but he was averaging 11.7 assists per game over his previous 12 games, with just 7.3 points. Golden State leads the entire league in assists per game at 28.0. Green is essentially doing everything but scoring.

The scoring falls mostly on Curry, and he’s playing at an MVP level again. The problem is that he’s just not getting much help, outside of Green’s creation. Curry has a 119 offensive rating this season on the court. When he’s not playing, Golden State plummets to 91 points per 100. That is a massive, catastrophic drop-off, and it’s why the Warriors still rank bottom 10 in Offensive Efficiency overall, despite Curry’s heroics. They basically can’t win unless he has a huge game because they can’t score enough.

So can Curry have a big game on the second half of a back-to-back against a tough defense hitting on every cylinder?

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Phoenix Suns

The Suns have suddenly emerged as the West 2-seed at 23-11, ahead of both LA squads. Phoenix entered Wednesday ranked third in the NBA in Net Rating at +6.1. While this may feel a bit surprising, perhaps it shouldn’t be.

Phoenix has only lost by more than eight points twice all season. The Suns started the season strong and have been strong in recent weeks. They did swoon in the middle, but that was because about half the team was missing and in health protocols during that stretch. When Phoenix has been whole, the Suns have had a dynamic bench that dominates stretches of games. Phoenix has also taken a serious step forward defensively this year, and the Suns are finding their offense lately too.

Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Devin Booker #1 and Chris Paul #3 of Phoenix Suns.

Chris Paul just wants to win, and he’s been sacrificing some scoring and shots lately to elevate Devin Booker. Booker’s scoring is back up after an early-season dip, and the balance between these two has pushed the offense forward while role players like Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Dario Saric knock down shots.

Phoenix rebounds well and plays a lot of defense, and Curry will surely have his hands full with CP3 and Mikal hounding him all night. The Suns allow the fewest assists per game of any NBA team at 21.9, which makes for an interesting contrast with the Warriors’ ball movement. Phoenix also allows the second-fewest threes per game and the second -lowest 3-point percentage at 34.3%.

The Suns also play the league’s second-slowest pace, so that affects some of those “lowest” numbers of course, but will the Warriors be able to score if they’re not getting those Draymond assists and Steph threes?

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Warriors-Suns Pick

If it’s not obvious yet, I hate this spot for the Warriors. It’s a road game on the second night of a back-to-back, and the team is exhausted and ready for a break.

Even the little matchups favor Phoenix. The Suns will have a big rebounding edge. The Warriors also foul opponents as much as anyone, and the Suns typically rank dead last in free throw rate but hit 84% of their freebies, second best in the league. That means more easy points for the Suns, while the Warriors may not find scoring so easy to come by.

Still, I’m terrified of betting against Steph Curry because Curry has dominated Chris Paul in recent years and can do this all on his own if he gets hot. So while I lean toward the Suns, I’m going another direction here, especially with the high line.

I’m taking the under instead and banking on a combination of great defense, slow pace, and tired teams. Maybe the Warriors just don’t show up. Maybe it’s a tough game with both defenses controlling things as the Suns slow the pace way down against a tired Warriors squad. Heck, maybe Steph does have a big game, but the Suns can’t match it. The game under gives me a little margin for error for that big Curry game while still playing the overall trends that favor a low scoring game here.

I’ll take the under at 223 and play it down to 221.5.

Pick: Game under 223 (bet down to 221.5)

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America East Conference Tournament Betting Preview: Is it Vermont, UMBC or a Longshot?

The America East tournament is essentially a two-team race between UMBC and Vermont. The two finished first and second in the conference, respectively, and both earned double-byes.

The conference tournament semifinals will take place Saturday, but the tournament actually started last week with the “Pod Play” rounds last Saturday and Sunday. Six teams played in two different brackets, with the Hartford Hawks and the UMass Lowell River Hawks earning spots in the semifinals.

In this preview, I’ll make a case for both Vermont and UMBC, but also provide an extra pick with long-shot value.

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The Bracket

The Odds

  • Vermont -175
  • UMBC +220
  • Hartford +1400
  • UMass Lowell +1800

The Case for Vermont

Vermont Catamounts

Vermont is far and away the most talented team in this conference. It’s won two of the last three America East Conference Tournaments.

However, Vermont has a new look this season. After four years of dominating on the back of two-time conference player of the year Anthony Lamb, the Catamounts’ new alpha is junior forward Ryan Davis.

Davis was this season’s conference player of the year, and it’s very well deserved. He’s averaging 18.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while shooting 57.8% from the field and 41.5% from 3.

However, there’s a lot of other talent on this team. Vermont finished first in the conference in points per game and second in the conference in points per game allowed. It also finished first in the conference in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency, per KenPom.

If you want a statistic that will force you to bet Vermont: Vermont had the best conference-only adjusted efficiency margin at +15.7. UMBC was second at +4.7.

Vermont is statistically the best team in the conference and has the conference’s best player. Given that, it’s hard to not play the chalk.  

Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Case for UMBC

UMBC Retrievers

UMBC is a well-rounded team that does everything well.

The Retrievers finished third in the conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency. UMBC plays great interior defense, finishing first in the conference in defensive two-point percentage.

UMBC is good at drawing fouls and not fouling. It finished second in the conference in free-throw attempts and free-throw rate, while finishing first in both free-throw attempts allowed and defensive free-throw rate.

That was on full display when UMBC beat Vermont in its final regular season game. UMBC attempted 32 free throws while Vermont attempted just 19. It also got Davis in foul trouble early, and the Catamounts’ star only played 22 minutes.

The Retrievers are a smart play. They earned the No. 1 seed, so they’re hosting the tournament. Plus, +220 is a great price for a UMBC team that already beat Vermont at home this season.

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Longshot: UMass Lowell River Hawks

UMass Lowell River Hawks

Despite this being a two-team race, UMass Lowell is worth a flyer. The River Hawks pulled off the upset over New Hampshire through efficient shooting (27-for-49 from the field, 6-for-13 from 3) and by running through Obadiah Noel.

Noel, a senior guard, scored 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting in that win. Additionally, he scored 23 points in the River Hawks’ win over Stony Brook.

The River Hawks, while being atrocious defensively, have an explosive offense that finished second in the conference in offensive efficiency and points per game. Additionally, UMass Lowell finished first in the conference in free-throw rate and three-point percentage.

Noel and the River Hawks can shoot themselves past any opponent, including UMBC and Vermont. At +1800, this is a pick that oozes value.

Photo by John Kavouris/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

How I’m playing the America East Tournament

First, I see Hartford as a non-threat to Vermont. However, I do see UMass Lowell as a threat to UMBC, and therefore believe UMBC has a more difficult road to the championship despite hosting it.

Second, While UMBC did beat Vermont in the second game of the team’s two-game series, Vermont shot just 4-for-22 (18.2%) from 3 in that loss. For a Catamounts team that shot 34.8% from deep this season, it’s hard to imagine them shooting that poorly again.

In Vermont’s win, it shot 10-for-21 from 3 and kept the free-throw differential to a minimum. If the Catamounts stay out of foul trouble and hit 3s at an average rate, they should have zero issues beating UMBC again.

Therefore, I’m playing Vermont -175 while also making a small play on UMass Lowell +1800. If UMass overwhelms UMBC with hot shooting and faces Vermont in the championship, it might even provide a hedging opportunity (given Vermont isn’t too much of a ML favorite).

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NHL Odds & Pick for Senators vs. Flames: Ottawa Provides Solid Live Opportunity (Thursday, March 4)

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Senators vs. Flames Odds


Senators Odds +160
Flames Odds -200
Over/Under 6.0
Time | TV Thursday, 9 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday night and via DraftKings

The Ottawa Senators have had a pair of the best scheduling spots in the NHL this season, as twice they’ve had home games where their opponent was flying in immediately after playing the night before.

On Thursday, they’ll get a taste of their own medicine, so to speak, as they will head to Calgary after a loss to the Canadiens on Tuesday to face a Flames team that has been sitting at home for two days after these two teams last met on Monday.

The less-rested team is the underdog in Thursday’s matchup, so is there value in the Senators? Let’s take a look.

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Ottawa Senators

The Senators’ trip to Montreal felt like a lamb-to-slaughter situation as they went in there following three straight at home against Calgary, while the Habs were coming off five straight losses. 

While the Senators didn’t win, they acquitted themselves nicely, staying in a game by only allowing the Habs two high-danger chances at even-strength and 1.0 expected goals (XG) 5-on-5. The big question as they arrive in Calgary for another matchup with a presumably irritated Flames team is whether they keep up that defensive energy, and support their starting goaltender, Matt Murray, who has been consistently inconsistent. 

From an offensive standpoint, the Senators had no problem scoring on Calgary during the set at home, with 14 goals over the three games, taking advantage of the absence of Jacob Markstrom for Calgary. 


Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.


Calgary Flames

Markstrom practiced on Wednesday, which may mean he’s trending toward making his return, and it won’t be a moment too soon. Stabilizing your goaltending situation with a big-money free agent sounds like a good idea until he goes down with an injury. That’s a pretty big piece of the pie missing from the plate.

Since Markstrom left a 7-1 loss to Edmonton, the Flames have managed two wins in their five games without him, but even before his departure the team was showing concerning signs. Close losses had piled up in the early stages of the season despite a rating that was, until recently, still considered significantly above average. 


Betting Analysis & Pick

In their last 11 games, the Flames have averaged 1.66 xGF and 1.88 xGA. Coincidentally, those numbers are almost identical to the Sens’ during their 6-4 stretch in their last 10 games. There just isn’t much to choose from between the two teams.  

My model has this line at OTT +120/CGY -140, but since we know the Senators are still a bargain, we know that won’t be the market price. The early projections have the Senators at +160, which is good enough for more than a 5% edge. There’s no reason to be shy here, but I will suggest a more advanced strategy. 

When the Senators are off, you know it pretty quickly, specifically when it comes to Murray. Given the scheduling spot, there’s a good chance that an early goal or two could derail Ottawa, but if they can survive the first 10 minutes at 0-0, live-betting the Sens is the play here, as you won’t lose much in value and you’ll get a free look to see if the Murray and the Sens are victims of a blip on the schedule.

Pick: Senators live in-game, if scoreless after 10 minutes (+150 or better)

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College Basketball Odds & Pick for Texas vs. Oklahoma: Sooners’ Struggles to Continue Against Longhorns (Thursday, March 4)

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Texas vs. Oklahoma Odds


Texas Odds
+2.5
Oklahoma Odds
-2.5
Moneyline
+115 / -140
Over/Under
142.5
Time | TV
Thursday, 9 p.m. ET | ESPN
Odds as of Wednesday night and via BetMGM.

Texas and Oklahoma meet for the second time this season on Thursday in Norman.

Texas got the ship back on track Tuesday by beating lowly Iowa State at home. The Longhorns have been up and down all season long, with great wins over some of the top teams in the Big 12 and plenty of bad losses as well.

Shaka Smart’s squad is projected to be a four-seed in the latest ESPN Bracketology, so it needs to finish the season strong if it wants to avoid the dreaded 5-12 matchup.

Oklahoma was on fire until its in-state rival put out the flames, sweeping the Sooners in dramatic fashion on Saturday and Monday. The two losses have now dropped Oklahoma to a projected five-seed, so if it wants to improve that position, it will also need to finish the regular season strong and have a good showing in the Big 12 Tournament.

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When Texas has the ball

The Longhorns have been pretty average on the offensive end of the floor during conference play, averaging 1.05 points per possession. However, Texas is a really streaky shooting team, and a lot of its losses are due to poor performances from the field.

In their first meeting against Oklahoma, the Longhorns shot only 6-of-25 from 3-point range, so they’ll need to put up a better performance from deep the second time around.

What Texas did do well against Oklahoma back in January was dominant inside. The Longhorns shot better than 56% from 2-point range and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds against the Sooners.

Texas does have a lot of size inside with Jericho Sims, Greg Brown and Kai Jones. Sims missed the first meeting with the Sooners, but the latter two were a problem for Oklahoma, scoring a combined 29 points. Look for the Longhorns to feed the post early and often.

Oklahoma has a very average defense that teams can score efficiently on if they hit a high percentage of their shots. The Sooners don’t have any discernible weaknesses or strengths. So, if Texas can shoot a high percentage from the field, it should have a good shot at winning.

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When Oklahoma has the ball

Oklahoma’s offense has also been remarkably average this season, averaging 1.04 points per possession during Big 12 play.

The biggest problem that has plagued the Sooners is they’ve been really poor from beyond the arc, shooting only 32.3% from 3-point range. That’s going to be a problem since that’s the way to beat this Texas defense.

Where Oklahoma truly excels, though, is scoring in the paint. The Sooners shoot almost 51% from 2-point range and a whopping 62.0% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.

The problem is that is where the strength of this Texas defense lies. The Longhorns allow less than 48% shooting from 2-point range and are the best defensive rebounding team in the Big 12.

Unless Oklahoma gets hot from 3-point range, I have a hard time seeing how the Sooners are going to consistently score on offense.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Oklahoma has been struggling as of late, and I think those struggles are going to continue against Texas.

The Sooners do not possess the 3-point shooting to break down the Longhorns defense effectively. Therefore, I think there’s some value on Texas at +2.5.

Pick: Texas +2.5 (down to +2).

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NBA Injury News & Starting Lineups (March 4): Jimmy Butler Active, Bam Adebayo Out Thursday

Below are the projected starting lineups for each team playing on Thursday’s NBA slate, along with notable injury news for each squad. For real-time updates to these lineups, check out our Action Labs NBA lineups page.

NBA Injury News

7 p.m. ET Update: Jimmy Butler will return to the lineup Thursday after missing the previous three games due to right knee inflammation. Bam Adebayo has been ruled out due to right knee tendinitis.


6 p.m. ET Update: Kawhi Leonard has been cleared to play Thursday in the Clippers’ final game before the All-Star break. Marcus Morris will be sidelined with a concussion.

Derrick Rose is sitting for the second straight game due to the health and safety protocols despite being cleared to travel with the Knicks.


12:30 p.m. ET Update: Draymond Green and Stephen Curry have been ruled out for Thursday’s road game against the Phoenix Suns. Neither player made the trip with the team as Curry will rest while Green gets a recovery day for a sore ankle.

LaMarcus Aldridge has been ruled out on Thursday and will miss his second consecutive game due to an illness.


Kawhi Leonard was pulled from the starting lineup minutes before the start of the Los Angeles Clippers’ Tuesday night matchup because of back spasms, and he is currently questionable prior to the final game before the All-Star break against the Washington Wizards. Marcus Morris is also listed as doubtful with a concussion.

Jimmy Butler is traveling with the Miami Heat to New Orleans in advance of their game on Thursday against the Pelicans, but he is officially questionable after missing the previous two games with right knee inflammation. Bam Adebayo is questionable in ahead of the heat’s final game before into the All-Star break as he deals with left knee tendinitis.

New York Knicks point guard Derrick Rose is officially listed questionable ahead of Thursday’s game against the Detroit Pistons. Rose was a late scratch on Tuesday night due to health and safety protocols. The Knicks are already missing starter Elfrid Payton who is dealing with hamstring soreness and Taj Gibson who has been nursing an ankle injury.

Be sure to check the Action Labs NBA page for real time updates.

Projected Starting Lineups

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Washington Wizards (7 p.m. ET)

Clippers Projected Lineup

PG – Patrick Beverley
SG – Paul George
SF – Kawhi Leonard
PF – Nicolas Batum
C – Serge Ibaka

Injury news: Kawhi Leonard (Back) is active, Marcus Morris (concussion) is out

Wizards Projected Lineup

PG – Russell Westbrook
SG – Bradley Beal
SF – Garrison Mathews
PF – Rui Hachimura
C – Moe Wagner

Injury news: Nothing new


Toronto Raptors vs. Boston Celtics (7 p.m. ET)

Raptors Projected Lineup

PG – Kyle Lowry
SG – Terence Davis
SF – Norman Powell
PF – Yuta Watanabe
C – Aron Baynes

Injury news: Nothing new

Celtics Projected Lineup

PG – Kemba Walker
SG – Jaylen Brown
SF – Jayson Tatum
PF – Daniel Theis
C – Tristan Thompson

Injury news: Nothing new


Detroit Pistons vs. New York Knicks (7:30 p.m. ET)

Pistons Projected Lineup

PG – Dennis Smith Jr.
SG – Wayne Ellington
SF – Svi Mykhailiuk
PF – Saddiq Bey
C – Mason Plumlee

Injury news: Jerami Grant (illness) is out

Knicks Projected Lineup

PG – Derrick Rose
SG – RJ Barrett
SF – Reggie Bullock
PF – Julius Randle
C – Nerlens Noel

Injury news: Derrick Rose (COVID Protocols) and Taj Gibson (ankle) are out, Elfrid Payton (hamstring) is questionable


Denver Nuggets vs. Indiana Pacers (8 p.m. ET)

Nuggets Projected Lineup

PG – Jamal Murray
SG – Monte Morris
SF – Will Barton
PF – Michael Porter Jr.
C – Nikola Jokic

Injury news: Nothing new

Pacers Projected Lineup

PG – Malcolm Brogdon
SG – Justin Holiday
SF – Doug McDermott
PF – Domantas Sabonis
C – Myles Turner

Injury news: Nothing new


Milwaukee Bucks vs. Memphis Grizzlies (8 p.m. ET)

Bucks Projected Lineup

PG – Jrue Holiday
SG – Donte DiVincenzo
SF – Khris Middleton
PF – Giannis Antetokounmpo
C – Brook Lopez

Injury news: Nothing new

Grizzlies Projected Lineup

PG – Ja Morant
SG – Desmond Bane
SF – Dillon Brooks
PF – Kyle Anderson
C – Jonas Valanciunas

Injury news: Grayson Allen (concussion) remains out


Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans (8:30 p.m. ET)

Heat Projected Lineup

PG – Kendrick Nunn
SG – Jimmy Butler
SF – Duncan Robinson
PF – Kelly Olynyk
C – Bam Adebayo

Injury news: Jimmy Butler (Knee) and Bam Adebayo (Knee) are questionable

Pelicans Projected Lineup

PG – Lonzo Ball
SG – Eric Bledsoe
SF – Brandon Ingram
PF – Zion Williamson
C – Steven Adams

Injury news: Nothing new


Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs (9 p.m. ET)

Thunder Projected Lineup

PG – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SG – Theo Maledon
SF – Lu Dort
PF – Darius Bazley
C – Isaiah Roby

Injury news: Al Horford (rest) is doubtful

Spurs Projected Lineup

PG – Dejounte Murray
SG – Lonnie Walker
SF – DeMar DeRozan
PF – Trey Lyles
C – Jakob Poeltl

Injury news: LaMarcus Aldridge (illness) is out, Devin Vassell, Derrick White, Rudy Gay are out due to health and safety protocols


Sacramento Kings vs. Portland Trail Blazers (10 p.m. ET)

Kings Projected Lineup

PG – De’Aaron Fox
SG – Buddy Hield
SF – Harrison Barnes
PF – Marvin Bagley
C – Richaun Holmes

Injury news: Tyrese Haliburton (calf) and Hassan Whiteside (health protocols) are out

Trail Blazers Projected Lineup

PG – Damian Lillard
SG – Gary Trent Jr.
SF – Derrick Jones Jr.
PF – Robert Covington
C – Enes Kanter

Injury news: Nothing new


Golden State Warriors vs. Phoenix Suns (10 p.m. ET)

Warriors Projected Lineup

PG – Mychal Mulder
SG – Andrew Wiggins
SF – Kelly Oubre
PF – Juan Toscano-Anderson
C – Kevon Looney

Injury news: Kelly Oubre (Wrist) is questionable, Stephen Curry (rest) and Draymond Green (ankle) are out

Suns Projected Lineup

PG – Chris Paul
SG – Devin Booker
SF – Mikal Bridges
PF – Jae Crowder
C – Deandre Ayton

Injury news: Nothing new


Phan’s Bet to Watch

As of 12:30 p.m. ET, Justin Phan sees betting value in one Thursday game: Warriors vs. Suns. To get instant alerts when he sees an edge and his analysis on those picks, sign up for Action Labs.

Heat vs. Pelicans NBA Odds & Picks: How to Bet Based on Miami’s Key Injuries (Thursday, March 4)

Heat vs. Pelicans Odds

Heat Odds +3.5 
Pelicans Odds -3.5 
Moneyline +145 / -170 
Over/Under 224.5
Time 8:30 p.m. ET
TV TNT
Odds as of Thursday and via PointsBet

The New Orleans Pelicans host the Miami Heat on the last day of NBA basketball before the All-Star break.

The Heat had won six in a row before Tuesday’s loss to the Hawks. Jimmy Butler missed that game due to right knee inflammation, and both he and Bam Adebayo (left knee tendinitis) are questionable to play against the Pelicans. The Pelicans will also be looking to bounce back after losing 128-124 to the Bulls on Wednesday night.

At this point in the season, motivation and long-term health will be a huge factor in determining how teams approach games. Let’s see how that impacts the betting value for tonight’s matchup.

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Miami Heat

The Heat will already be shorthanded with Avery Bradley (calf) and Meyers Leonard (shoulder) ruled out while Butler and Adebayo are questionable.

The Heat have very little chance to win this game without Adebayo, who remains one of the most underrated defenders in the league due to his versatility. Miami doesn’t have the depth to withstand his absence at the moment. While Butler is the Heat’s most valuable offensive player, Adebayo is their most valuable defensive player. Without him on the floor, the Heat lack the necessary size to guard Zion Williamson, let alone Steven Adams, Jaxson Hayes, and others inside.

Kelly Olynyk and Precious Achiuwa are the only other bigs in their rotation, but both have significant flaws, especially defensively. With Leonard out for the season, the only other Heat bigs available are Chris Silva and Udonis Haslem, and they have combined for just 53 total minutes this season for a reason.

Among the 35 players who have defended at least 400 field goal attempts this season, Adebayo ranks ninth in defensive field goal percentage (44.5%) according to NBA Advanced Stats. The Heat’s Offensive Rating drops off significantly when he is off the floor (101.5 points per 100) compared to when he’s on the floor (110.4 points per 100).

What Adebayo does cannot be replaced for the Heat and they are better positioned to withstand the absence of Butler (like they did in their win over the Hawks on Sunday).

Butler’s defensive playmaking will be tough to replace, but Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn, and Tyler Herro are also capable of getting their own shots and creating for others offensively.

Dragic and Nunn have impressed lately while Herro recently returned from injury this week. Without Butler, the Heat will need players like Duncan Robinson and Max Strus to get hot shooting 3s to pick up some of the offensive load to win.


New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans will have a significant advantage inside if Adebayo is out. Even with Adebayo in the lineup for most of the season, the Heat rank 26th in Offensive Rebound Rate and 18th in Defensive Rebound Rate.

This would be a bad matchup for the Heat if they were without their leading rebounders (Adebayo pulls down 9.5 boards per game and Butler grabs 7.8) as the Pelicans have the best Offensive Rebounding Rate in the league and rank fourth in Defensive Rebounding Rate (excluding garbage time, per Cleaning The Glass).

Williamson will be the biggest beneficiary if Adebayo is out. He has become nearly unstoppable this season with his size and explosiveness in the paint where he leads the league in scoring at 19.3 points per game. Expect a motivated Williamson on Thursday after he missed eight free throws in Wednesday’s loss and spent 40 minutes shooting after the game.


If Butler is out, the Pelicans will need to take advantage of the Heat’s perimeter defense, which is already compromised by a handful of defenders who can be targeted in the pick-and-roll like Herro, Robinson, and Strus. Brandon Ingram and longer/stouter guards like Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe should take advantage of smaller defenders on them with or without Butler available.

Regardless of the Heat’s injuries, the Pelicans will need to play with a higher level of effort and intensity defensively after giving up 128 points and getting out-rebounded by 10 against the Bulls in New Orleans on Wednesday.

The Pelicans rank 29th in the NBA in Defensive Rating (excluding garbage time) at 118.1, and they will need to be active defensively against Miami’s offense with frequent dribble handoffs and back cuts.

Heat-Pelicans Pick

With so much uncertainty surrounding the Heat’s two best players, it’s best to wait until Butler and Adebayo’s statuses are confirmed before placing your bets. Butler has already missed back-to-back games but is traveling with the team to New Orleans, which makes his questionable tag stand out a bit more. Be sure to keep an eye on our NBA Insiders tool for instant alerts once their statuses are confirmed.

There are four ways the injury news could shake out tonight.

If Adebayo and Butler are out, I would bet the Pelicans up to -7 as the Heat would be too overmatched. If the Heat play without Adebayo but Butler suits up, I like the Pelicans to cover up to -4.5 points.

If Butler is out and Adebayo plays, I like the Pelicans at -3 but could see the Heat being more competitive, and would suggest targeting the Pelicans on the live moneyline at even money or better.

If both Butler and Adebayo play, I think there’s value at +3.5 or you grab the moneyline at -130 or better.

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Arizona State at Colorado Player Props: Remy Martin & McKinley Wright IV Duel in Pac-12 Matchup

McKinley-Wright-Colorado-Arizona State-player-props

Arizona State at Colorado Total Points O/U

Player Points
Remy Martin (ASU) 23.5
McKinley Wright IV (CU) 16.5

Odds as of Thursday night via DraftKings

Two of the Pac-12’s leading scorers square off when Arizona State and Colorado meet as the teams gear up for the conference tournament.

Colorado is +275 to win the Pac-12 tournament, with the Sun Devils listed as a +2500 longshot at DraftKings. This is the last game for the Buffaloes before the tournament, while Arizona State gets one more chance to prepare for an upset run.

If Arizona State is to upset Colorado, Pac-12 leading scorer Remy Martin figures to play a large part. He’s averaging 21.3 points per game, almost three points more per game than any other player in the conference. His prop at DraftKings Sportsbook is set at 23.5 for Thursday night.

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Colorado is led by McKinley Wright IV, the conference’s 10th-leading scorer at 15 points per game. Wright scored 26 points his last time out against UCLA as Colorado won its 19th game of the year and third in a row. He’s hit 17 points just twice in his last seven games.

Arizona State is battling to reach .500 in what’s been a disappointing season for Bobby Hurley Jr.’s team in the Pac-12. A win would get the Sun Devils to 8-8 in conference and 11-11 overall.

Martin, a senior guard, has reached at least 24 points in eight games this year, but he’s hot lately, getting there five times in his last seven games.

Colorado and Arizona State play at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Buffaloes are listed as a 10.5-point favorite with a total of 147.

Nuggets vs. Pacers NBA Odds Picks: Bet On Healthier Denver (March 4)

denver-nuggets-indiana-pacers-nba-bets-pick-march-4

Nuggets vs. Pacers Odds

Nuggets Odds -3.5 
Pacers Odds +3.5 
Over/Under 226 
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds as of Wednesday night and via BetMGM.

The Nuggets cap play their final game before the All-Star Break against the Pacers who just stole a win on the road against the Cavaliers.

Both of these teams are not where they expected to be in the standings at this point in the season, but who will finish strong before the break?

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Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets continue to be without JaMychal Green, Paul Millsap and Gary Harris for injury-related reasons, and they also will miss Markus Howard, R.J. Hampton and Facundo Campazzo due to health and safety protocols in this game.

The Nuggets have been carried by the pair of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray and have run into some poor luck in the win column so far this season, securing 2.7 fewer wins than expected, per Cleaning the Glass. While their defense is middling, Denver boasts a top-five offense in the league which has been even better with the unlocking of Michael Porter Jr.

This trio has played 802 possessions together, and they are +18.9 points per 100 possessions. They are particularly lethal together because Jokic optimizes their talent as both a scorer and a facilitator. Denver is able to run in transition and play a set half-court offense, while Murray can function as either the primary ball-handler or move off ball due to Jokic’s passing ability. Add in MPJ’s 60.3% eFG%, and this becomes a very difficult force to stop on offense.

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Indiana Pacers

The Pacers have been plagued with injuries and bad luck the first half of the season. While they listed Doug McDermott, Domantas Sabonis, and Jeremy Lamb on last night’s injury report, they all played their typical number of minutes.

The Pacers have struggled to replace T.J. Warren, Victor Oladipo and the injured Caris LeVert this season, and it’s reflected in their 16-18 record. They’ve been even worse of late – over the past two weeks they are 2-4 with a -3.9 point differential and have failed to cover the Vegas spread by an average of 4.8 points, per Cleaning the Glass.

The big issue for Indiana over this two-week spiral has been their defense. They’re giving up three points more per 100 possessions, and they’ve seen their allowed eFG% balloon. This is not entirely surprising though, because the Pacers’ allowed eFG% on the season is 53.7% but their expected was 55.2%. Over the past two weeks Indiana allowed an eFG% of 55.7%, good for bottom five in the league. They’ve defended the rim decently, but they’ve been getting shredded from mid-range and 3-point range.

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Nuggets-Pacers Pick

This is a game both teams need to wrap up the first half of the season on a strong note. I expect the Pacers to struggle with containing the Nuggets and MVP-candidate Nikola Jokic. Denver shoots well from all over the floor, so switching up defensive looks won’t be enough to stop the Nuggets.

The Nuggets have started the trio of Jokic, Murray, and MPJ the past few games, and I expect that to continue. Once a line is posted I will be playing the Nuggets 1Q spread (up to -1.5) as they look to run against the Pacers who just played last night.

Looking at the full game, Indiana’s recent play is not concerning long term due to their injuries and missing players, but it certainly is concerning tonight. The Pacers are just 4-7 ATS as a dog including 1-2 ATS as a home dog. Contrast this with the Nuggets who are 8-5 ATS as a road favorite. Denver has played better of late and should finish this first half with a win (and a cover).

Pick: Denver Nuggets -3.5

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Bucks vs. Grizzlies NBA Odds & Picks: Sharps Betting On Home Underdog (Thursday, March 4)

NBA Odds: Bucks vs. Grizzlies

Bucks Odds -6
Grizzlies Odds +6
Over/Under 234
Time | Channel 8 p.m. ET | FS-SE
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The Milwaukee Bucks visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday. Milwaukee comes in having won four of its last five games, but are enter this contest off of a terrible 31-point road loss to the Denver Nuggets.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had an efficient 27-point night against the Nuggets on Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough with Jrue Holiday (18 minutes on the night) still working his way back into game shape for the Bucks.

The Grizzlies are looking for their third consecutive win, with Ja Morant and his teammates covering in back-to-back road wins over the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards. Memphis has been one of the better teams Against The Spread (ATS) all season, with a solid 16-14-1 record mark.

Our PRO Report suggests the Grizzlies will continue their winning ways ATS in this contest. Let’s take a look.

NBA Picks: Bucks vs. Grizzlies

PRO Report Bucks-Grizzlies

Sharp Action

The line opened at Grizzlies +6. Since this morning, there has been one Action Labs Bet Signal triggered on Memphis, signaling steam on Grizzlies +6.

Big Money

At the time of this writing, the 50% of bettors backing the Grizzlies have generated 75% of the money wagered on this game.

Model Projection 

The Action Network’s NBA power ratings make the spread at Grizzlies +3.9, indicating the great value in backing Memphis.

PRO Report Pick: Grizzlies +6 (-110)

NHL Odds & Pick for Lightning vs. Blackhawks: Value on Chicago as Home Underdog (March 4)

chicago-blackhawks-tampa-lightning-nhl-bets-march-4

Lightning vs. Blackhawks Odds


Lightning Odds -220
Blackhawks Odds +180
Over/Under 5.5
Time | TV Thursday, 8 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday night and via DraftKings.

I have the secret to winning games in all sports. I want you to lean in for this one, but you have to swear not to tell your friends. Ready? 

You are going to win every single game you play, if you don’t allow the other team to score.

I know! A revolutionary theory that is shaking you to your very core, but sometimes I think we overlook the simplest things, and hockey is no exception. We get all excited about the thrilling offensive plays because it’s hard to score goals.

As a young man (and a not-so-young man, to be honest), I couldn’t have cared less about preventing goals, as scoring was all I thought about on the ice. However, truth be told that the best teams in the history of hockey were better at preventing goals than they were at scoring them, with few exceptions.

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Tampa Bay Lightning

The literal brand of the defending Stanley Cup Champions is one of a Lightning bolt, a charge that alludes to excitement. Their figurative brand is not dissimilar, as years of stock-piling offensive talent finally culminated in a championship last season. Speaking of secrets, the Lightning have their own that is being spread like a high school rumour through the NHL — they’re one of the great defensive teams in the league. 

The Lightning’s numbers are never going to be league-lows, but that’s just because other teams in the division are stylistically predicated on sacrificing their own offensive creation for shutting the other team down. It’s a lot easier to keep the other team from scoring, if you have no interest in scoring yourself.

Tampa is averaging 6.9 even-strength High-Danger Chances against this season and have allowed double-digits in just a quarter of their games. The real difference-maker in their own end is the simplest reason for any team’s defensive success. Andrei Vasilevskiy leads the league in Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), and it’s not even close. His 15.95 GSAA is more than 5 goals clear of second-place. 

The defensive system that they’ve cultivated in the last two seasons, since their rude awakening in 2019 when the offensively-driven Lightning got swept out of the first round by the defense-first Blue Jackets, is overshadowing some offensive issues.

The Lightning won their 15th game (Tuesday against Dallas) of 20 so far this season, despite only managing 0.89 Expected Goals on 5-on-5. It was their third straight game with less than 1 XG. With Vasilevskiy putting up his third shutout in a row, it didn’t matter as a first period power play goal held up as the game-winner.

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Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.


Chicago Blackhawks

Perception is a heckuva thing. When last they met, the Blackhawks were thought to be one of, if not the worst team in the entire NHL. If we’re being honest, the two games to start the season in Tampa didn’t do a ton to change many minds.

Since then though, Chicago has stumbled into improved goaltending with the emergence of Kevin Lankinen. We’re not talking Vasilevskiy-level here, but with a 8.35 GSAA, the Finnish rookie is in the top-five difference-making goaltenders in the league. 

The Blackhawks have a reputation for offence, but that’s more due to a league-leading power play. At even-strength, my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast, Chicago rates as 9% below average, so the fact they’re sitting comfortably in a playoff spot right now is thanks to their success with the man-advantage.

At even-strength, they have room to improve, as they’re converting just 12.34% of their High-Danger Chances, which is a good sign especially since they’ve come from a point where they were 10.8%. Essentially, things are actually looking up for the Hawks on offence. 


Betting Analysis & Pick

The Lightning’s rating in my model dropped after their win in Dallas, and they now sit at just 8% above average, as we wait for them to pick their offensive creation to the level of years past. It’s no surprise that one of the best goaltenders of the last five years is again the best goaltender.

As Tampa arrives in Chicago for three of games, I expect that we’ll see Curtis McElhinney in net for one of the two games on back-to-back nights. The line for this game is projected to be TB -220/CHI +180, whereas my model projects the Lighting to a win probability of almost 58% which translates to not quite -140. 

I’m willing to take a flyer here on the Blackhawks, to see if they can continue their better play at even-strength and take advantage of a good power play, even against the stingy Lightning. The good thing about the price tag on the home underdog is that you get three chances to turn a profit, so even if they don’t pull the upset in this one, I’ll be back on the Blackhawks on Friday night and maybe even Saturday. 

Pick: Blackhawks (+180 or better)

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Thursday’s NHL Betting Picks: Our Favorite Bets, Including Panthers-Predators & Senators-Flames (March 4)

NHL bettors are going to be quite busy the next few days. Starting Thursday there are 36 games on the schedule over the next four days.

There’s something for everyone on Thursdays’ NHL slate. There are some big underdogs, a couple of games lined close to a pick’em and everything in between.

These are our favorite bets for Thursday’s 10-game slate:

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Michael Leboff: Florida Panthers (-126) vs. Nashville Predators

Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET

The Nashville Predators have been a big disappointment in 2021. At 10-12-0 the Preds rank 25th overall in points percentage and their -18 goal differential (not including the goal awarded for shootout wins) is the fourth-worst mark in the league.

Nashville’s underlying metrics are better than their actual results, but a 50.1% expected goals rate is nothing to shake your fists at the hockey gods over, especially when there’s not much else going right. Nashville’s offense is 28th in goals per game, 27th in 5-on-5 goals per hour and 27th in xG per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. The only thing that is saving Nashville from being a complete disaster is its defense, which is sixth in expected goals allowed and 11th in goals against at 5-on-5.


Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.


The projected goaltending matchup of Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Juuse Saros is not ideal for the Panthers as Bobrovsky has struggled to a .899 save percentage and a -7.84 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx). That blow should be softened by a stagnant Nashville offense that is scoring just 1.69 goals per hour at 5-on-5. Add in the fact that Pekka Rinne (-2.71 GSAx) has not played particularly well for Nashville, and all of a sudden the goaltending matchup becomes a lot less frightening.

Outside of the goaltending, Florida ticks basically every box in this matchup. The Panthers have been terrific at 5-on-5 with a 55.1% goal share and a 54.7% expected goals rate, the defense ranks first in high-danger chances allowed and third in xGA allowed. The offense is creating enough scoring opportunities to make those defensive metrics have an impact.

Even though Nashville is at home, this game is more of a mismatch than the line indicates, especially since Nashville will be missing top-pair defenseman Ryan Ellis. Despite the volatile goaltending matchup I’d play Florida up to -135.

David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Matt Murray.

Pete Truszkowski: Ottawa Senators (+170) vs. Calgary Flames

Puck Drop: 9 p.m. ET

The Calgary Flames have lost six of their last eight games, and two of those losses came against these Ottawa Senators. Despite this fact, the Flames are prohibitive favorites on Thursday night.

The Ottawa Senators are clearly a bad team currently going through a rebuilding process, but they’ve been been pretty competitive lately. In fact, the underlying metrics suggest that there isn’t much separating these teams over the past month.

Over the past 30 days, the Senators have an expected goal differential of -0.07 per hour at 5-on-5 while the Flames clock in at -0.05. The Flames expected goal rate is 49.4% while the Senators are right behind them at 49.2%. The Sens are actually generating more offense at 5-on-5 than the Flames during this time frame, and their defensive metrics aren’t far off, either.

Calgary’s recent losing stretch coincides with the absence of goaltender Jacob Markstrom, but it would be unfair to blame David Rittich for the losses. Markstrom might return for this game which would be a boost for Calgary, but there are deeper issues than goaltending plaguing the Flames right now.

Calgary ranks in the bottom five of the league in terms of goals per game, and the main reason is its lack of forward depth. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk have been fine, but outside of those four, there’s not much in the Flames lineup that scares you.

On the flipside, the Senators have a group of young players who are beginning to get settled in the league. Drake Batherson has eight goals in his last nine games, while rookie Tim Stuetzle has eight points during in that same span. Josh Norris has also had a solid rookie season to go along more proven commodities like Thomas Chabot and Brady Tkachuk.

Matt Murray’s stats might be ugly, but the goaltender is trending in the right direction. He has a .909 save percentage over the past month which is a large improvement over his .888 mark on the season. If Murray gives Ottawa average goaltending, the Sens have the potential to play spoiler in the second half of this season.

This line implies that Calgary wins this game nearly 67% of the time which is a preposterous claim considering the Flames’ current form. Ottawa has won two of the last three games against the Flames. At this line, they are definitely worthy of a bet to make it three of four.

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Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Thatcher Demko.

Matt Russell: Vancouver Canucks (+135) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Puck Drop: 10 p.m. ET

The last time we saw the Maple Leafs face the Canucks, it was a trio of victories for the Leafs. However, the third game was much closer than the first two blowouts.

Now the scene shifts to the more scenic ocean-side rink in Vancouver, where the Leafs face a challenge they haven’t had to overcome yet — the dreaded schedule spot. Only three times this season has a team played a back-to-back with the second game coming on the road against a team that was off the night before. In the previous three occasions, the home team averaged 58% of the Expected Goals 5-on-5, and had 25 High-Danger Chances at even-strength to just 12 for the road team.

Since a rough start to their home schedule when Montreal had their way with them, the Canucks have actually played really well in the comfortable confines of Rogers Arena, even if their record doesn’t indicate that. Vancouver is 4-6 in its last 10 at home, but its Expected Goal Share has been a robust 56% with 24.41 XGF and 19.26 XGA.

The Canucks get the advantage of waiting for the tired Leafs to come to town , which should provide them opportunity to add to that discrepancy. If they can do that, there’s certainly value on the Canucks as home underdogs here.

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Texas at Oklahoma Player Props: Sooners Desperate For Win Behind Austin Reaves (Thursday, March 4)

Texas at Oklahoma Total Points O/U

Player Points
Austin Reaves (OU) 21.5
Courtney Ramey (TX) 13.5
Andrew Jones (TX) 13.5
De’Vion Harmon (OU) 12.5
Umoja Gibson (OU) 11.5
Matt Coleman III (TX) 11.5
Brady Manek (OU) 10.5
Greg Brown III (TX) 10.5

Odds via DraftKings

With the Oklahoma Sooners riding a three-game losing streak and NCAA Tournament seeding implications heating up, pressure is on senior guard Austin Reaves to carry the load against Texas on Thursday night.

To be fair, Reaves has done his part offensively in each of the three losses — including back-to-back defeats to Oklahoma State. Reaves has 19, 22 and 25 points in his last three games. His player prop at DraftKings Sportsbook is set at 21.5 points on Thursday. He averages 17.6 points per game.

That’s the highest number on the board by far, with Longhorns teammates Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones each at 13.5 points.

Jones is the team’s leading scorer at 14.8 points per game; Ramey is contributing 13.7 points per game.

In total, there are eight betting options for total points available at DraftKings, which gives bettors a full menu to consider.

Only a half-game separates these two teams in the Big 12 standings with Texas holding the slight lead. Oklahoma won the first meeting 80-79 on January 26. Reaves scored 23 points, while Jones managed 13 points despite shooting just 3-of-13 (0-of-7 from three) from the field, thanks to making 7-of-8 free throws.

The Longhorns enter Thursday night with an over/under NCAA Tournament seed set at 4.5 at DraftKings. Texas has traded wins and losses in its last four games, dropping matchups against West Virginia and Texas Tech while beating Kansas and Iowa State.

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College Basketball Odds & Picks: Our Best Bets for Thursday’s Games, Including Oklahoma State vs. Baylor, Oklahoma vs. Texas, More (March 4)

ncaa-college basketball-bets bets-betting-odds-picks-march 4

It’s a big college basketball day.

We have a number of top-25 matchups in the Big 12 on this fine Thursday, including No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 17 Oklahoma State and No. 15 Texas vs. No. 16 Oklahoma.

Four of our staff’s seven best bets of the day come from those two games, while the in-state rivalry game between No. 2 Michigan and Michigan State adds another layer of fun.

Come for those games, and stay for Jacksonville State vs. Murray State and Nicholls State vs. McNeese State.

Check out each individual pick below, and feel free to navigate to any game in the bunch by using the table below.

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College Basketball Odds & Picks

Click on a game to skip ahead
#17 Oklahoma State vs. #3 Baylor
7 p.m. ET
#17 Oklahoma State vs. #3 Baylor
7 p.m. ET
#17 Oklahoma State vs. #3 Baylor
7 p.m. ET
#2 Michigan vs. Michigan State
7 p.m. ET
Nicholls State vs. McNeese State
7:30 p.m. ET
Jacksonville State vs. Murray State
8 p.m. ET
#16 Oklahoma vs. #15 Texas
9 p.m. ET

All listed odds have been updated as of Thursday morning. Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing.

Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.


#17 Oklahoma State vs. #3 Baylor

By Stuckey

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-presbyterian-charleston southern-oklahoma state-texas tech-usc-oregon-air force-new mexico-february 22
Pick
Oklahoma State +12
Sportsbook
Tipoff
7 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN2

What a roller coaster the past two nights for my favorite bet.

On Tuesday, Youngstown (+3) missed at the end of regulation before losing by 4 in overtime. Fortunately, Abilene Christian (+1) did win it in the final seconds to avoid dreaded overtime. Let’s hope for less sweat tonight.

Two of my favorite bets are in the OVC games, which you can find in our daily conference tournament primer. But I’ll touch on another one I fancy in Oklahoma State +12.

You could argue the Pokes could have a letdown after sweeping rival Oklahoma last weekend, but it’s also not an ideal spot for Baylor. On Tuesday, the Bears clinched their first Big 12 regular-season title in 70 years with an overtime victory in Morgantown.

Not only could they potentially come out flat after making program history, legs could be an issue in their third game in six days in three cities, especially after recently coming off an extended break due to massive internal COVID-19 issues.

The defense just hasn’t looked the same since that hiatus. That could be problematic against Cade Cunningam and company. While Cunningham is the star of the show and one of the best players in the country, I’ve been really impressed with the supporting cast during Oklahoma State’s current five-game winning streak.

This team is really clicking and oozing with confidence. Also, I’m not banking on Isaac Likelele returning from injury, but there’s a chance he does, which would only help.

Oklahoma State will also mix up its defensive looks with some zone and press, which may slow down a potentially fatigued Baylor squad. The Pokes do turn it over a bit too much, which is worrisome against Baylor.
However, I’m not convinced this Baylor defense is all the way back to its peak just yet. I think Cunningham and company can have some success off the dribble and clean up on the offensive glass.

These teams met earlier this year, but both Cunningham and Rondel Walker didn’t suit up against a Baylor team that was rolling at the time. Even so, the Pokes still hung around for a while and actually led at the half. Still, it’s’ hard to put much stock into that result.

The Pokes have been fortunate in close games with an 8-4 record in games decided by five points or fewer — or in overtime, where they’re a perfect 4-0.

But I don’t need or expect an outright win.

We also could have a perfect opportunity to sneak in the backdoor if Baylor extends its lead to 15ish late. Don’t forget Baylor also struggles from the line at 68.7% for the season (247th) and dead last during league play at 66.3%. A few free-throw misses could end up deciding the cover.

Pick: Oklahoma State +12 (Play to +11)

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#17 Oklahoma State vs. #3 Baylor

By Michael Calabrese

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-futures-big 12-baylor-texas-kansas-west-virginia
Pick
Over 149.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
7 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN2

For starters, I had this game at 155, according to my power rankings.

Oklahoma State has been one of the most profitable over bets in major college basketball this season, cashing over 68% of the time. It also speeds teams up, which is music to Baylor’s ears.

The Bears are the nation’s second-most efficient teams offensively, and they’re coming off of a 94-point explosion against West Virginia in which they scored 81 in regulation. It was the kind of performance Baylor needed to finally shake off the rust of a three-week February layoff.

Defensively, Baylor is still allowing teams to score in bunches since returning to Big 12 play. Even lowly Iowa State reached the 70s, and Oklahoma State is feeling it offensively behind Cade Cunningham. The future lottery pick dropped 40 on Oklahoma two games ago and followed that up in the rematch with an impressive final 10 minutes in which he scored 13 points.

My only concern here is these teams foul shooting stroke, which leaves a lot to be desired. But given both teams’ offensive ceiling, I feel confident I won’t need 10+ from the line in the final minutes to sew this one up.

Pick: Over 149.5

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#17 Oklahoma State vs. #3 Baylor

By Kyle Remillard

ncaa-college basketball-bets bets-betting-odds-picks-march 4
Pick
Over 149.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
7 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN2

Baylor has not looked like the same team since returning from the 21-day layoff due to COVID-19 precautions. The Bears have allowed opponents to score an average of 77.3 points in the three games since returning to play.

Last game out, Baylor let West Virginia shoot 46.4% from the field, 39.1% from 3-point range and committed 22 fouls, leading to 38 free-throw attempts.

But they’re still the Baylor Bears and own the third-most efficient offense in the country, scoring 123.2 points per every 100 possessions, according to KenPom. They rank first in the Big 12 in both 2-point and 3-point field goal percentage.

Oklahoma State’s offense has also been fantastic over the last four games, averaging 80.8 points. The Cowboys look to have taken a page out of Baylor’s playbook by dominating on the glass.

Oklahoma State out-rebounded Oklahoma, 81-57, in the two-game series over the weekend. The Cowboys have been extremely aggressive in driving to the basket recently, which should expose the tired legs of Baylor, causing even more fouls.

Oklahoma State connected on 58-of-115 2-point field goal attempts while getting to the line 53 times, hitting 81.1% of those two games.

In the first matchup, there were 147 points scored in the game. Oklahoma State was shorthanded and played zone in much of the game, which slowed down the pace a bit.

But that’s not the Cowboys’ bread-and-butter, as they own the fastest tempo in the Big 12.

They will look to catch the tired Bears off-guard and pick up the pace in this one. I’m playing the over in the rematch of these two teams, and I’m expecting an up-and-down game that will be played in the 160s.

Pick: Over 149.5

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#2 Michigan vs. Michigan State

By Collin Wilson

ncaa-college basketball-bets bets-betting-odds-picks-march 4
Pick
Michigan -12
Sportsbook
Tipoff
7 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN2

Recent performance may be the reason for the discount on a team that can easily win the national championship.

Michigan’s loss to Illinois can be directly attributed to early foul troubles with the bigs, namely Franz Wagner and Hunter Dickinson. Once Michigan continued to play on the same side of the court with Austin Davis, it was all Illinois and Kofi Cockburn needed to dominate.

The result was shocking in that Michigan does not foul often, ranking first in the Big Ten in defense free-throw rate. The Wolverines are a team that does not send their opponent to the line. That is a key metric against a Michigan State team that relies on free throws as its highest source of point distribution.

Michigan State is on a heater after victories against Illinois, Ohio State and Indiana twice in the past two weeks. Those three teams all came to East Lansing giving the Spartans an advantage in a conference that has a home winning percentage of 59.8%.

Throwing the buy low-sell high approach with these two teams, this is a game between a Michigan team that gets to the free-throw line at the highest rate in the conference and a Michigan State team that fouls more than other team in the Big Ten.

Pick: Michigan -12

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Nicholls State vs. McNeese State

By BJ Cunningham

ncaa-college basketball-bets bets-betting-odds-picks-march 4
Pick
Nicholls State -5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
7:30 p.m. ET
TV
McNeeseSports.com

Nicholls State is on a fantastic run in the Southland, winning 13 of its 14 games and is tied for the lead in the conference with Sam Houston State.

The Colonels are the most fundamentally-sound offense in the conference, as they have the lowest turnover rate, block, and steal rate allowed, per KenPom.

Where they do most of their scoring is inside, as they are shooting a blistering 56.1% from 2-point range and 61.9% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.

However, surprisingly in their first matchup with McNeese State, they torched the Cowboys from behind the arc, shooting over 40%. They also grabbed 13 offensive rebounds in that game, so McNeese State will need to improve defensively if it’s are going to hang with Nicholls State in the second matchup.

McNeese State actually shoots the ball really well, ranking second in the conference in effective field goal percentage and first in 3-point percentage at over 39%.

The problem for the Cowboys is they do everything else quite poorly.

They are near the bottom of the conference in turnover rate, offensive rebound rate, and free-throw rate, so they truly do rely solely on the jump shot.

The main reason Nicholls State is 13-2 in conference play is because of its defense, which allows only 0.97 points per possession. The Colonels do pretty much everything well, so unless McNeese State gets really hot from the floor, I have a hard time seeing how it’s going to consistently break down Nicholls State’s defense.

I have Nicholls State projected as a -8.11 favorite on the road, so I think there’s value on the Colonels at -5.

Pick: Nicholls State -5

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Jacksonville State vs. Murray State

By Mike Randle

ncaa-college basketball-bets bets-betting-odds-picks-march 4
Pick
Jacksonville State +2.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
8 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN+

I have been much lower than the market on Murray State all season.

After years of dominance in the Ohio Valley Conference, the Racers have stumbled to a 13-12 overall record. Murray State’s defense has been well below its normal standards.

Last season, Murray State ranked first in effective field goal percentage allowed, 3-point percentage allowed, and 2-point percentage defensive efficiency. This season, the Racers’ defense has regressed, and they were swept by Jacksonville State twice.

The Gamecocks are playing their best basketball of the season, with seven wins in their past eight games. Their offense has generated 75 or more points in five of their past six games. Their 3-point efficiency is superb, with Darian Adams (15.6 PPG), Jalen Finch (11.2 PPG), Amanze Ngumezi (8.6 PPG), Kayne Henry (7.6 PPG), and Demaree King (6.4 PPG) all shooting above 36% from beyond the arc.

The Racers run their offense through 6-foot-10 forward KJ Williams (15.3 PPG, 8.4 RPG), but he has struggled against the Gamecocks’ 6-foot-10 senior, Brandon Huffman (10.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG). In their last matchup, Huffman outscored Williams, 15-8, while holding Murray’s State’s big man without an offensive rebound.

This is a matchup of two teams trending in opposite directions. The Racers have failed to cover three of their past four games, and are just 10-13 ATS on the season. Jacksonville State is an impressive 13-9-1 ATS, and have covered seven of its last eight contests.

While it’s a challenge to defeat a team three times in one season, I’m taking the Gamecocks with the points against a Murray State team they have clearly outclassed in the prior two meetings.

Pick: Jacksonville State +2.5

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#16 Oklahoma vs. #15 Texas

By Shane McNichol

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-best bets-wisconsin-illinois-florida-kentucky-oklahoma-oklahoma state-south dakota-north dakota state-february 27
Pick
Oklahoma -2
Sportsbook
Tipoff
9 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN

Both of these teams have very specific game plans to find a win.

Texas wants to out-rebound its opponents and win offensively by prioritizing 3-point shots. Oklahoma looks to control the ball by avoiding turnovers and keep opponents off the foul line on defense.

The first time these teams played, most of those plans played to a wash, save for one exception. The Sooners absolutely dominated at the free-throw line. Oklahoma attempted 34 free throws to the Longhorns’ 19 attempts. Oklahoma’s free-throw rate in that game was over 55, its highest this season.

While the Sooners converted only six more makes at the charity stripe than Texas, their constant aggressiveness made a major effect on the game in the form of foul trouble. Three Longhorns fouled out, and two more reached four fouls in the game.

The Sooners don’t just attack off the dribble. Lon Kruger looks to exploit mismatches.

He’ll have an even easier time doing so in tonight’s game with Brady Manek back in form. He was limited in the first meeting after missing time with COVID-19. His ability to pick-and-pop will challenge the Texas bigs and create matchup advantages for the Sooner guards to attack.

Coming off a three-game losing streak, Oklahoma is in a good spot to earn a win at home.

Pick: Oklahoma -2

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Oklahoma State vs. Baylor Odds & Pick: How To Bet This College Basketball Over/Under

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Oklahoma State vs. Baylor


Oklahoma State Odds +12
Baylor Odds -12
Moneyline +575 / -835
Over/Under 148.5
Time | TV Thursday, 7 p.m. ET | ESPN2
Odds as of Thursday afternoon and via DraftKings.

One of the more intriguing Big 12 matchups is happening tonight in Waco.

The uber-hot Oklahoma State Cowboys are traveling to play the formerly-dominant-but-COVID-riddled Baylor Bears. With Cade Cunningham’s recent play and Baylor’s recent struggles, capping this game is a tough task.

Oklahoma State just swept Oklahoma, while Baylor dropped its first game of the season (at Kansas). However, the Bears bounced back in a big way against West Virginia, miraculously winning in overtime on the back of Jared Butler.

The line opened at Baylor -11/149.5 and has since moved to Baylor -12/147.5. A 12-point spread in a game of this magnitude feels fishy, but I believe this is a great spot to target the total.

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Cade, Cade, Cade

Cunningham has taken Oklahoma State to new heights.

The Cowboys have won five straight games and have covered in four straight games. During that stretch, Cunningham is averaging 22.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game on 52.2/40.7/88.2 shooting splits.

Additionally, Oklahoma State now has eight Quad 1 wins, which is tied for most in the country (Illinois). As of this morning, Shelby’s Bracket Wag has the Cowboys projected as a four-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Cunningham leans toward being a pass-first guard. He’s great with the ball in his hands, sees the floor well and likes to get his teammates going.

However, it feels like Cunningham is starting to realize how good of a scorer he is. That’s really important for a Cowboy team that lacks a superb supporting cast. Cunningham will be forced to carry his team through tough stretches if he wants to make a deep run in March.

He’s starting to step into that role. For example, in the first game of the Oklahoma series, Cunningham dropped 40 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while playing 40 total minutes. He forced his way to the line 14 times (making 13) and scored monumentally important buckets down the stretch.

At times, it looked like he was playing on rookie mode.

In the second game of the series, Cunningham struggled for the first 30 minutes. However, with his team down two points, Cunningham scored 13 points in the final 10 minutes. Oklahoma State won by four.

Cunningham must continue to play at a high level in a score-first role, especially in crunch-time situations. If he does, the sky is the limit for this Cowboy team.

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Baylor Post-COVID

Baylor is still the second-best team in the country. However, the Bears have looked shaken after their COVID-19 pause.

Baylor almost lost to 2-18 Iowa State, at one point being down 17 points. After that, it suffered its first loss of the season in the Allen Fieldhouse, managing only 58 points in a 13-point loss.

However, the win against West Virginia was massive for a Baylor team looking to regain its momentum and chemistry. It managed to defeat West Virginia in overtime, on the road and with the Mountaineers taking 32 total free-throw attempts and making 28.

It was a gritty win that proved Baylor can still play at a high level. Jared Butler, the Big 12 Player of the Year, in my opinion, had a massive game after scoring just five points on 2-for-9 shooting against Kansas. He scored 25 points on 10-for-21 shooting and recorded six assists in Tuesday’s win.

While the Bears looked good in the win, it’s still incredibly tough to cap them in this situation. We don’t really know what to expect.

Does the West Virginia win prove Scott Drew has his Bears back in form? Or will Baylor come out flat again?

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Betting Analysis & Pick

Either way, we know what Baylor does well — score. It paces the country in 3-point percentage (42.1%), leads the Big 12 in offensive efficiency (per KenPom) and scores the fourth-most points per game of any team in college basketball (85.4).

The Bears struggled against Kansas, but the Jayhawks have the best defensive efficiency mark in the Big 12 and have been playing their best defense recently. In fact, Kansas is 4-1 to the under in its last five games and 5-2 to the under in its last seven home games.

Otherwise, Baylor’s offense has been good. It scored 81 in regulation against West Virginia, and after a slow start, scored 66 points in the final 30 minutes against Iowa State. Both of those games went over as well.

With Cunningham searching for buckets and playing so well, the Oklahoma State offense is firing on all cylinders. The Cowboys have hit the over in their last three games.

Therefore, I really like the over in this game.

I believe Cunningham and the Cowboys, who play at the highest adjusted tempo of any team in the Big 12, will continue to push the pace. Meanwhile, Baylor’s three guards will take a lot of 3s and ultimately score a lot of points.

The over is 3-0 the last three times these two teams play. I’m banking on more of the same today. I like this line up to where it opened — at 149.5.

Pick: Over 147.5 (up to 149.5).

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Michigan vs. Michigan State Basketball Odds & Pick: Bet the Wolverines Thursday Night

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-pick-michigan-michigan state-march 4

Michigan vs. Michigan State Odds


Michigan State Odds +12
Michigan Odds -12
Moneyline +575 / -835
Over/Under 140
Time | TV Thursday, 7 p.m. ETESPN2
Odds as of Thursday afternoon and via DraftKings.

One of the craziest things about this insane college basketball season is that Juwan Howard’s Wolverines are championship contenders while Tom Izzo’s Spartans are on the bubble.

As of this morning, Shelby’s Bracket Wag has Michigan as the No. 3 overall seed and Michigan State in the play-in games.

Therefore, this two-game series is huge for both teams. Michigan State is looking to get in the tournament while Michigan is looking to stay on the one line.

While my fandom lies with the Wolverines, I unbiasedly believe Michigan will be fired up after the Illinois loss.

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The Teams

The Wolverines have had a stellar season.

Howard’s team has played just two bad games all year. The first was an 18-point road loss to Minnesota on Jan. 16, and the second was the 23-point home loss to Illinois on Tuesday.

However, Michigan responded to the Minnesota loss with a bang. It proceeded to dominate Maryland, scoring 87 points in a 24-point win. Four players scored in the double-digits, with Isaiah Livers dropping 20.

Michigan State has been streaky this year. After starting the season 8-3, it went through a 2-8 stretch between Jan. 8 and Feb. 16. Since then, the Spartans have won 4-of-5 including two wins over AP top-five teams (Illinois and Ohio State).

However, the two massive victories are really the only reason Michigan State is on the bubble. Without those two wins, the Spartans are 12-10 overall and 6-10 in Big Ten play with one good win (Duke on the road).

All-in-all, the Spartans are just not a great team. This recent stretch probably means the Spartans are overvalued right now. Michigan State’s most recent victory was an uninspiring six-point home win over a truly awful Indiana team.

Michigan played Indiana on the road just before that game. It beat the Hoosiers by 16 in a wire-to-wire victory.

The Wolverines were due for a loss, but the team is still head-and-shoulders above the rest of the conference. Michigan is first in the conference in defensive efficiency and third in the conference in offensive efficiency, per KenPom. It’s one of just two teams that rank top-10 in the country in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

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The Wolverines just have so many great players, and they play so well together that anyone can be the alpha on any given night. Three different Wolverines have been the highest-scoring player for Michigan over the past six games.

To conclude, the Wolverines are good, and the Spartans aren’t.


Betting Analysis & Pick

As I mentioned above, I believe the Spartans might be overvalued in this one. FanDuel currently has the Wolverines as 12.5-point favorites, but KenPom’s predictions have the Wolverines winning by 15.

I assume that can be attributed to Michigan’s recent loss and Michigan State’s stellar last five games. However, disregarding the past and analyzing just this matchup, I believe it’s clear that the 18-2 Wolverines are so much better than the 14-10 Spartans.

Actually, I think this is a great spot for Michigan to bounce back after a tough loss while Michigan State starts to regress after an impressive run. The hungry dog runs faster.

Look for the Wolverines to play with energy and intensity and then dominate a far inferior Michigan State team.

Pick: Michigan -12.5.

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Raptors vs. Celtics Odds & Picks: Back Boston Against A Depleted Toronto On Thursday

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Raptors vs. Celtics Odds

Raptors Odds +7.5
Celtics Odds -7.5 
Moneyline +260 / -340 
Over/Under 217.5 
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds as of Wednesday night and via PointsBet.

The Toronto Raptors visit the Boston Celtics on Thursday. This rematch of the 2019-20 Eastern Conference semifinals kicks off the last night of NBA games prior to this season’s abbreviated All-Star Break.

After having two games postponed due to COVID-19 protocols that impacted many players and members of the coaching staff, the Raptors returned to the court and were blown out by Detroit on Wednesday.

Boston is finally on the come-up and will look to extend its three-game win streak against a depleted opponent.

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Toronto Raptors

Most teams emphasize their performance right before the All-Star break. In typical pandemic fashion, Toronto has had very little to evaluate.

The five players ruled out for Wednesday versus the Pistons included Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby. Even head coach Nick Nurse could not be on the sidelines. This quartet is expected to miss Thursday’s game as well. It’s a significant loss, particularly in the case of VanVleet, who had a case to make the All-Star team.

VanVleet is having a career year, and sports a +7.9 efficiency differential, per Cleaning the Glass. Essentially, he is worth almost eight full points over 100 possessions to the Raptors.

He’s also averaging 3.4 three-pointers per game, tied for the seventh-highest total in the NBA among players that have appeared in at least 15 games and average at least 20 minutes per game (NBA Advanced Stats).

VanVleet and Siakam are tied for the team lead in points per game at 20.1. They lead Toronto in usage rate and rank second and fourth, respectively, in assist-to-turnover ratio.

And then there’s Anunoby. Among Raptors who average more than 20 minutes per game, he’s second in defensive rating (107.6) and second in effective field goal percentage (58.2%, NBA Advanced Stats).

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Boston Celtics

The Celtics have been a mixed bag this season, but enter this matchup on the heels of three straight wins. Though the winning margins have been small, they have finished these games strong to pull out victories.

Strong fourth-quarter play is a welcome sign for Boston, as it had a .364 winning percentage in games involving clutch time in February, 24, which ranked 24th in the league (NBA Advanced Stats).

While Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have had All-Star-caliber seasons, one thing that has become increasingly clear this season has been the importance of Kemba Walker.

Since February 1st, the Celtics are 7-2 when Walker scores at least 15 points and dishes out at least four assists. During Boston’s recent win streak, Walker is averaging 26 points, 6.7 assists and is shooting 44.8% from beyond the arc.

One of Boston’s strengths on defense is defending the three. The Celtics only allow opponents to shoot 36% from deep, ninth-best mark in the league. Toronto averages 40.2 three-point attempts per game, fourth most in the NBA (NBA Advanced Stats).

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Raptors-Celtics Pick

If the Raptors’ return to action on Wednesday is any indication, they are in trouble against the Celtics. Toronto lost by 24 points, and allowed 129 to the lowly Pistons.

Kyle Lowry had the best +/- of any Raptor who played 25 minutes or more, and he was -10.

All of this adds up to the perfect opportunity to fade Toronto. Three of the most important Raptors will not play, Nurse won’t be on the sideline, and they just got whacked by the worst team in the Eastern Conference.

While Walker makes Boston a serious contender, look for Tatum and Brown to excel on the offensive end with Siakam and Anunoby forced to sit.

Pick: Celtics -7.5, up to -9

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Arizona Sports Betting Bill Passes House, Heads to Senate

arizona--legal-sports-betting

The Arizona House easily passed a sports betting legalization bill Thursday, sending the proposal to the Senate and building hope legal wagering could come to the state.

The bipartisan, 48-12 vote sends the bill to the Senate where it must clear multiple committees and the full floor before earning Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s signature.

The House bill — supported by Ducey, the state’s Native American gaming tribes, professional sports leagues and top sportsbook operators — could face stiffer political and logistical traction in the upper chamber. Sen. David Gowan, the Republican Senate Appropriations chair, is advancing a competing sports betting bill that incorporates historic horse racing authorization into the House bill’s framework and remains a major stumbling block.

Still, the lopsided House vote has reinvigorated supporters’ hopes that online and retail sports betting is heading toward legalization in Arizona.

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House Bill Details

The House bill would permit up to 10 mobile and retail gaming licenses for Native American tribes and 10 more for professional sports teams. Certain pari-mutuel horse tracks and off-track betting parlors could apply for one of 10 additional retail-only sports betting licenses.

Daily fantasy sports would also be legalized and regulated in the bill. Arizona is among a handful of states without operating DFS providers.

Ducey championed the bill as part of more substantial negotiations with the tribes on the gaming compact, the overarching agreement that regulates the state’s tribal gaming. Multiple tribal leaders supported the bill and the compact during hearings last month.

Ducey’s office and the tribes say they have an agreement in principle but are awaiting legislation such as the sports betting bill before finalizing the deal.

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Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images. Pictured: Replica of Liberty Bell in front of Arizona State Capitol Building at sunrise.

Top sportsbooks such as FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM are also behind the bill. These and other leading brands such as William Hill, PointsBet and Penn Nationals’ Barstool Sportsbook would also likely seek market access.

If passed, Arizona would join Illinois and Washington D.C. as the only jurisdictions with in-stadium sportsbooks. The Arizona Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Coyotes and Phoenix Coyotes would all receive sportsbook licenses, as would the TPC Scottsdale golf course, home of the PGA Tour’s annual Phoenix Open, and the Phoenix Raceway motorsports track.

Sponsor Rep. Jeff Weninger said before Thursday’s floor vote that the remaining four licenses could be eligible for other professional sports leagues and a future franchise relocation incentive.

Officials estimate the new gaming expansion would generate as much as $42 million in annual tax revenues at maturity, depending on market participation. State gaming regulators would also need to promulgate sports betting rules and licensing fees, among other regulations.

Supporters hope sportsbooks could accept initial wagers in late 2021 or early 2022 if Ducey signs the bill into law by the legislative session’s June conclusion.

Historic Horse Racing

The House bill’s Senate companion was passed over in committee and instead incorporated into a separate historic horse racing (HHR) legalization proposal. HHR terminals, which allow wagering on previously conducted horse races and act like slot machines, are vehemently opposed by the tribes.

The tribes consider this a revenue threat, and the sportsbook operators, which would not benefit from HHR terminals, will not support the current Senate version. This threatens the delicate House bill coalition and the broader compact negotiations.

Politics Shape Next Steps

This sets up a collision course between the sports betting collation-backed House bill and Gowan’s hybrid HHR proposal.

The House bill will have to pass through Gowan’s Appropriations Committee before it goes to the Senate floor. He sponsors the HHR bill, which he and supporters in the equine industry say will bring more than $100 million in economic impact and thousands of new jobs.  As chair, Gowan can typically advance bills he supports and dismiss those he does not.

House bill backers are hoping Republican Senate President Karen Fann’s support, as well as the lower chamber’s resounding bipartisan support, can muster enough votes to circumvent opponents.

The competing proposals create an unusual split between members of both parties. Republicans such as Ducey and Fann are running into conservative opposition from other high-ranking party members such as Gowan, a former House speaker. The GOP has narrow control of both chambers, meaning Republicans can largely determine if and how bills advance to floor votes but need Democratic votes to pass bills without the entire caucus’ support.

Democrats have been more receptive to the House bill than the Senate’s, but support has not been universal. House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding questioned revenue generation and license allocation before Thursday’s floor vote. Other Democrats before both House and Senate bill votes also questioned sports betting in general, worrying about identity protection, operator eligibility and lawmakers’ role in the compact negotiating process, among myriad additional concerns.

The Senate bill is likely too politically toxic with historic horse racing to pass on to Ducey’s desk, and the governor seems disinclined to sign a bill that jeopardizes the sports betting legislation and tribal gaming compact he had spent months negotiating.

That means the House bill carries legal sports betting’s 2021 hopes as it awaits the Senate’s next action. Political and logistical hurdles remain, but Thursday’s vote gives this year’s best sports betting prospect momentum going forward.

Monmouth vs. Rider Basketball Odds & Picks: The Small Thursday Game Pros Are Betting

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Monmouth vs. Rider Odds

Monmouth Odds -4.5
Rider Odds +4.5
Over/Under 155.5
Time | Channel  4 p.m. ET | ESPN3

There are 42 games on Thursday’s college basketball schedule, with 10 top-25 teams in action.

Games get started early, with Duquesne vs. Richmond tipping off the slate promptly at 11 a.m. ET.

With so many games, including early ones, there are plenty of opportunities to find value, even though casual bettors will likely bypass the majority of the slate in favor of tonight’s higher-profile matchups.

Still, that hasn’t stopped savvy bettors from handicapping the full schedule, and according to our College Basketball PRO Report, sharps have settled on Monmouth vs. Rider as a smart Thursday bet.

Monmouth vs. Rider Pick

Sharp Action

Monmouth opened at -5.5 against Rider and has landed 77% of the spread bets thus far, yet this number has dropped a full point to -4.5 (click here for Thursday’s college basketball odds).

So, if the Hawks are attracting the majority of the action, why has the spread moved in the other direction? You can thank sharps for that.

Action Labs’ Bet Signals triggered a smart money alert on Rider early Thursday, explaining why this line has moved in the direction that it has.

Big Money

While just 23% of the tickets have come in on the home underdogs, the Broncs have seen 89% of the money.

When it comes to sports betting, lines typically shift with the money, and based on the data included in our PRO Report, sharp money is responsible for today’s Monmouth vs. Rider odds movement.

PRO Report Pick: Rider +4.5

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NBA Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s Best Bets for Heat vs. Pelicans, Kings vs. Trail Blazers, More (Thursday, March 4)

We have reached the halfway point of this marathon of an NBA season. Even with 10 fewer games for each team, the first half of this stretch has been a grind.

But before we press pause on the daily slate of games, we’ve got nine more matchups on the schedule, including the Miami Heat against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Check out how our crew is closing out the week and the first stretch of the season with two total bets and one spread bet for Thursday night’s nine-game slate.

NBA Odds & Picks

Click on a game to skip ahead
Heat vs. Pelicans
8:30 p.m. ET
Warriors vs. Suns
10 p.m. ET
Kings vs. Trail Blazers
10 p.m. ET

Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Pick
Over 227.5 (PointsBet)
Tipoff
8:30 p.m. ET
TV
TNT

Brandon Anderson: Pelicans game overs have been one of the surest things in basketball so far this season.

New Orleans is one of the league’s most exciting young teams, and of course, Zion Williamson leads the way. He is essentially still an NBA rookie, but he’s already doing things that few in NBA history have done.

Williamson an insanely efficient scorer with a feathery touch at the rim, and the past month has seen Point Zion unveiled with Williamson spending more time on the ball creating, both for himself and for others.

Add in another great campaign from Brandon Ingram plus other exciting young players like Lonzo Ball, Kira Lewis, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker and you have the recipe for a ton of fun and high-flying basketball with highlights galore … and not much defense.

When the Pelicans traded for Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams, the expectation was their defense would improve — and it did for a few games early. But it has been a disaster ever since, and books are getting killed. New Orleans games have now gone over in 24 of the past 30 games, an incredible hit rate.

The Pelicans close their first half tonight against the Miami Heat — at least some version of them. Both Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are questionable tonight, according to our NBA Insiders tool, and I think we’ll get the same decision on both.

The books seem to think so too, since they’re listing the Heat as underdogs, implying an expectation that Butler and Adebayo may sit. While that may certainly cost the Heat on offense, it hurts their defense far more and should turn this game into an up-and-down contest with very little defense to be found.

Let’s finish out the first half the same way these last couple months have played out — with yet another Pelicans game over. I bet this at 227 and would play up to 228.

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Golden State Warriors vs. Phoenix Suns

Pick
Under 221.5 (PointsBet)
Tipoff
10 p.m. ET
TV
NBA League Pass

Raheem Palmer: You wouldn’t know it from the reputation of the stars, but this is a game featuring two teams that rank top five in Defensive Rating with the Suns fifth (108.6) and the Warriors sixth (108.7).

Two of those stars were ruled out a short time ago, but I still think the market is pricing this total too high.

The Suns play at the second slowest pace in the league at just 97.71 possessions per game and the Warriors are coming off a back-to-back against the Blazers and are in the midst of a six-game road trip with a home game against the Charlotte Hornets sandwiched in between.

During the past seven games, the Warriors have struggled offensively scoring just 106.5 points per 100 possessions — they’re just not getting enough from everyone else outside of Stephen Curry, who won’t be available tonight.

It’s very concerning that this team struggled to score on a Blazers defense that is 28th in Defensive Rating (115.6 points per 100 possessions). The Warriors played a very slow paced game at just 96 possessions and with the All-Star break coming up you have to assume that this team is tired after a long road trip and simply ready for a vacation. This doesn’t bode well against the well-rested Suns team who can defend them well.

The Warriors are taking the ninth-highest frequency of 3-point field goal attempts at 36.9% while the Suns are third in defending the 3-point line, holding opposing offenses to just 35% from behind the arc.

I expect the Suns to do a solid job defending this team just as they did in their Jan. 28 win in which they held the Warriors to just 0.91 points per possession. The Warriors should be able to defend the Suns enough to keep them from exploding as well.

I played the under at 225 before the news broke, but would play this down to 221.


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Sacramento Kings vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Pick
Blazers -4.5 (DraftKings)
Tipoff
10 p.m. ET
TV
NBA League Pass

Kenny Ducey: The Blazers continue to ascend in the West, recovering from a small dip in form to win their past two to make it 10 victories in 15 tries. They’ll be looking to extend another favorable run of late: Their performances on the second night of back-to-backs.

Portland’s gone 4-2 against the spread on zero rest this season, according to Bet Labs, a trend I see continuing on Thursday. Similar to Wednesday night, I see an advantage against a poor 3-point defense. The Kings have watched opposing 3-pointers fall at a 40.3% rate this season, tops in the NBA, and just allowed the Lakers to hit 44.4% from downtown in a win last night.

Only one team shoots more 3s than the Blazers, who put up a ridiculous 42 treys in last night’s thriller, and it’s with good reason. They have an infinite supply of shooting wings, including Gary Trent, Jr. who made just one 3-pointer on Wednesday. I suspect he will rebound from a poor shooting performance, give he’s only gone back-to-back games under 36% once this year.

The Kings’ horrible defense, combined with its 3-4 ATS record on the second night of back-to-backs, give me enough reason to believe the Blazers’ hot streak can continue, particularly at this price.

As long as Tyrese Haliburton remains out, the Kings will have no way of slowing down opposing guards and forwards. I grabbed this at Blazers -4 andI make this line -6, so there’s pretty decent value on -4.5.

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College Basketball Betting Odds & Picks: 8 Ways To Bet Thursday’s Conference Tournament Games

college basketball-picks-betting-odds-austin peay-thursday-march 4-2021-ohio valley-ovc-tournament

College basketball conference tournament season is truly one of the best times of the year — perhaps second only to the NCAA Tournament itself. Low- and mid-major schools across the country fight tooth and nail for automatic qualifying bids to the Big Dance with games tipping off as early as 10 a.m. ET and, in some cases, as late as 11:59 p.m. ET.

CRT televisions being wheeled into high school classrooms during “study breaks” … stealing away to the break room (along with half of your coworkers) to sneak a peak at the ACC, Big Ten or Big East Conference Tournament on Friday afternoons … it is truly a glorious occasion for college basketball fans and bettors alike.

So, in order help cut through all the noisy rescheduling and COVID-19 news for the 31 conferences in postseason action from now until Selection Sunday on March 14, we’ll be providing you our top picks for (nearly) every conference tournament every single day.

Don’t know a thing about the Northeast Conference or the Summit League? Want to bet the 2 p.m. ET SoCon tipoff but only have your lunch break to decide which side to back? Don’t worry: We’ve got you covered.

Thursday’s top picks include action from six conferences (Atlantic 10, Atlantic Sun, Big South, Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley, West Coast) and touch nearly every tipoff window on today’s slate — from 2 p.m. ET until 10:30 p.m. ET.

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College Basketball Odds & Picks

Click on a game to skip ahead
Kennesaw State vs. Liberty
2 p.m. ET
Dayton vs. Rhode Island
3:30 p.m. ET
Bellarmine vs. Stetson
7 p.m. ET
Longwood vs. Winthrop
7:30 p.m. ET
Jacksonville State vs. Murray State
8 p.m. ET
Northern Iowa vs. Illinois State
9 p.m. ET
San Francisco vs. San Diego
9 p.m. ET
Austin Peay vs. Eastern Kentucky
10:30 p.m. ET

All listed odds have been updated as of Thursday morning. Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing.

Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Note: All photos below are via Getty Images.


ASUN Men’s Basketball Championship: Quarterfinals

No. 8 Kennesaw State vs. No. 1 Liberty

By Jim Root

Pick
Kennessaw State +18
Sportsbook
Tipoff
2 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN+

For the past two seasons, Kennesaw State has lived in the ASUN cellar, at one point mired in a 27-game losing streak in regular season conference games.

This year’s version has talent, though, thanks to an impressive recruiting haul brought in by second-year coach Amir Abdur-Rahim featuring three 3-star prospects, per 247Sports. Nabbing one freshman of that caliber is rare in the ASUN; three is unheard of.

The young Owls (342nd nationally in experience per KenPom) clearly improved as the season progressed and those freshmen emerged, knocking off both Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast during the back half of February (thus snapping that ignominious ASUN streak).

They’ve also already played Liberty close once this year, losing by six on Jan. 8, and the Owls’ extended perimeter defense takes away what Liberty does best — that is, shoot 3s. Finding points will always be a struggle for Kennesaw, but in a game with a big spread but low total, the underdog may only need 55 to cover.
Bigger underdogs have appeal in conference tournaments.

Even if they get down early, there’s no temptation to pack it in for another day, meaning the backdoor is always open if needed. Plus, the 1-seed Flames have all the pressure as a heavy favorite that needs to win the tournament to make the Big Dance.

With the spot and matchup both in mind, and in a disconcerting early-ish weekday tip, Kennesaw +18 (down to +17) has real appeal.

Pick: Kennessaw State +18


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Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament: Second Round

No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Rhode Island

By Kyle Remillard

Pick
Dayton -4.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
3:30 p.m. ET
TV
NBCSN

Dayton has the pieces to make a deep run in the A-10 Tournament, and it starts against Rhode Island Thursday afternoon.

Although they’ve been hit-or-miss all season, the Flyers ended the season on a high note, beating top seed St. Bonaventure. Dayton took care of business the first time these two teams met, winning by a score of 67-56. The second time they played, Dayton led by 16 late in the second half before ultimately losing in double-overtime 91-89.

The Flyers are led by two senior guards in Jalen Crutcher and Ibi Watson. Crutcher has been phenomenal all year, averaging 18.2 points while Watson puts up 15.6.

Dayton ranks 2nd in the conference in both 2-point and 3-point field goal percentage. The Rams don’t shoot the ball particularly well, ranking 12th and ninth in those same categories, respectively.

That may be even worse in this game as URI will be without senior guard Jeremy Sheppard in this matchup. Sheppard is the second-leading scorer for the Rams but also the best outside shooter, as he hits 39.4% of his 3-point attempts.

URI has lost six of its last seven games and heads into the A-10 Tournament in a slump. Among those losses are against some lower caliber teams such as George Washington, Duquesne, and UMass.

The Rams defense has been atrocious of late, giving up 84.3 points per game over the last three contests.

In both games this season, Dayton has taken commanding leads. I anticipate that happening again in a battle of two teams trending in opposite directions.

Pick: Dayton -4.5


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ASUN Men’s Basketball Championship: Quarterfinals

No. 2 Bellarmine vs. No. 7 Stetson

By Shane McNichol

Pick
Bellarmine -5.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
7 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN+

Bellarmine is a scary team to recommend.

In its first year in Division I, the Knights have drilled by opponents from beyond the 3-point line. For some teams, that’s a fluky stat that can fluctuate with regression. It’s hard to make that argument for the Knights.

Bellarmine ranks in the bottom-five in the nation in 3-point percentage allowed and 3-pointers attempts allowed as a percentage of total field goals.

Teams are finding a ton of open shots against Bellarmine, so it’s no surprise that a significant number of those opportunities are open looks that go in. No team in Division I allows a higher percentage of its opponents’ points to come from outside the 3-point arc.

A bet on Bellarmine is a bet against the opposing teams’ chances to execute offensively. Stetson is likely in line for some regression after making better than 44% from long range in its last four games.

More importantly, the Hatters could be due to cough up turnovers against the risk-reward Bellarmine defense. The Knights lead the A-Sun in forcing turnovers and rank in the top 15 in the nation in that stat.

The first two times these teams met — both wins by Bellarmine — Stetson posted the two lowest turnover totals of any Bellarmine opponent this season. Unless they can repeat that uncharacteristic level of ball security for a third time, the extra possessions should be enough for the Knights to win and cover.

Pick: Bellarmine -5.5


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Big South Conference Tournament: Semifinals

No. 5 Longwood vs. No. 1 Winthrop

By Andrew Norton

Pick
Longwood +12.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
7:30 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN+

The Longwood Lancers dominated the UNC Asheville Bulldogs by a score of 77-61 this past Monday. The Lancers came in as 3-point underdogs and won by 16.

That’s how you cover a spread.

As a matter of fact, Longwood bettors have had good success this year: The Lancers rank 19th in the nation with a 15-11 record against the spread (ATS).

On Jan. 14 and Jan. 15, Longwood and Winthrop matched up for a Big South regular season back-to-back series. The first time around, the Lancers lost by 11; then the next night, they lost by 20 — their second-worst loss of the season, only bested by the No. 22 Virginia Tech Hokies.

This was right before Longwood went on an absolute tear in the conference, winning nine of its next 11 games. During that timespan, the Lancers scored an average of 67.5 points per game while only giving up 61.1.

Although their schedule hasn’t been very challenging, they have still shown that they are very capable of handling business. Much of their recent success during that 11-game stretch can be attributed to two factors:

  1. Longwood’s 3-point shooting — which stands at 37.6%;
  2. The Lancers defense, which only allows opponents to shoot 42.7% from the field.

How many times have the Lancers even lost by more than 12? The answer is three times. Two of those three games were against Winthrop and No. 22 Virginia Tech.

I have faith that this game will be close, solely because of the gravity of this tournament. Go with the Lancers +12.5.

Pick: Longwood +12.5


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Ohio Valley Conference Tournament: First Round

No. 4 Jacksonville State vs. No. 5 Murray State

By Stuckey

Pick
Jacksonville State +2.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
8 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN+

Jacksonville State actually swept Murray State in the regular season, eclipsing the 85-point mark in each victory.

The Racers have been incredibly inconsistent, so who knows what version will show up here? Both offenses are fully capable of scoring efficiently against the opposing defenses. The difference could be the experience edge of JSU and its attacking style against a Murray State defense that could be without injured starting forward Demond Robinson once again.

Lastly, I like getting JSU head coach Ray Harper as an underdog in a game I think is a true toss-up.

He’s one of the most underrated coaches in the country for my money and has come out with some exotic looks his opponents aren’t prepared for in past OVC tourneys.

Pick: Jacksonville State +2.5


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Arch Madness Missouri Valley Tournament: First Round

No. 7 Northern Iowa vs. No. 10 Illinois State

By Michael Calabrese

Pick
Northern Iowa -6
Sportsbook
Tipoff
9 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN+

The Panthers’ season has been a massive disappointment — there’s no way around that.

Junior guard A.J. Green was selected as the preseason Player of the Year in the MVC, and UNI was tabbed as the team to beat by the media back in October. Green went down with a season-ending hip injury, and the Panthers took a nosedive.

But conference tournament time is all about momentum and the Panthers have covered three of their last four contests, with a matching 3-1 record straight up.

Across this mini hot streak, UNI has featured four starters averaging 12+ points per game, which is how it’s come to replace Green’s offensive production. Noah Carter has done it as a starter and as a sixth man as of late, including a 22-point outburst in its last win over Illinois State.

The Redbirds are 2-9 SU in their last 11 and have lost by seven or more in six of their last eight games. They’re a completely mediocre team offensively (245th in efficiency), and they’re dreadful at getting to the line (13.9 FTA, 330th) and making them when they do get to the charity stripe (65.3%, 322nd).

When you factor in their inability to catch fire from long range, it’s hard to imagine them hanging with a team that just beat them on their home floor in back-to-back games just a week ago.

I like the Panthers here up to -7 and would consider tacking their ML onto other plays as a sweetener.

Pick: Northern Iowa -6


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West Coast Conference Tournament: First Round

No. 8 San Francisco vs. No. 9 San Diego

By Mike Randle

Pick
San Francisco -8
Sportsbook
Tipoff
9 p.m. ET
TV
STADIUM

Neither of these teams inspire much confidence heading into WCC Tournament competition.

San Diego is just 3-10 overall (2-7 in conference) and has lost three games in a row. San Francisco is just 10-13 overall (4-9 in conference) and has lost a shocking six games in a row entering Thursday. However, I have faith that San Francisco can reverse the trend and get a comfortable win against San Diego.

The Dons are superior to the Toreros in three main areas.

First, they have more talent. The Dons feature a veteran backcourt of senior Jamaree Bouyea (17.5 PPG, 37.5% 3P) and junior Khalil Shabazz (15.6 PPG, 34.1% 3P). Both are versatile scorers and two-way players.

They serve as the foundation for a San Francisco team that ranks first in WCC play in defensive turnover rate. Bouyea was particularly impressive in their first meeting, scoring 24 points in the Dons’ 70-62 home win on Dec. 31.

Second, they have the superior coach in Todd Golden. He is one of the brightest young coaches in the country, a devout student of metric-based decisions. Golden is elite at game-planning, as evidenced by their early season neutral court upset of then-No. 4 Virginia.

Finally, San Francisco has faced a better overall schedule. The Dons have non-conference wins over the Cavaliers and Nevada, while San Diego has only defeated Cal Poly, Portland, and Santa Clara.

This line opened at SF -8.5 and has come down slightly to SF -8. I would wait to see how the line reacts to the public throughout the day and hope for the Dons -7 or -7.5.

It’s a high number, but one that I am willing to lay with the superior roster, coach, and season results.

Pick: San Francisco -8


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Ohio Valley Conference Tournament: First Round

No. 6 Austin Peay vs. No. 3 Eastern Kentucky

By Stuckey

Pick
Austin Peay +2.5
Sportsbook
Tipoff
10:30 p.m. ET
TV
ESPN+

I make both OVC games about a coin flip, and I like the underdog in each.

Austin Peay has been plagued by major turnover issues, which looks problematic on the surface against the EKU pressure defense. However, the Governors held their own in both meetings with the Colonels this season.

They lost, 80-75, at home in a game they shot 4-of-22 from 3 (EKU 11-22) and then dominated on the road, 94-79.

Terry Taylor will be the best player on the court, and EKU really has no answer for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor goes for 35. Hopefully, the good and healthy Jordyn Adams shows up, as he’s the wild card here.

Lastly, the regression monster looms for EKU from a shot quality perspective, while Austin Peay has been unlucky in that department.

Pick: Austin Peay +2.5

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Liverpool vs. Chelsea Odds, Picks & Predictions: How To Bet Thursday’s Premier League Match

Liverpool vs. Chelsea Odds

Liverpool Odds +123
Chelsea Odds +215
Draw +255
Over/Under 2.5 (-121 / -104) 
Day | Time Thursday | 3:15 p.m. ET
How To Watch Peacock Premium
Odds as of Wednesday afternoon via DraftKings.

Premier League powers Liverpool and Chelsea go at it Thursday in a match with major implications, specifically in terms of the race to finish in the top four in the standings to ensure Champions League qualification for next season.

The visiting Blues are currently in fifth place with 44 points, sitting just a point behind West Ham United.  On the other, the defending champions are stuck in a disappointing sixth place on 43 points.

Here’s a closer look at the two clubs, followed by a prediction for this meeting.

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Liverpool

The Reds are coming off a 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Sunday at Bramall Lane. However, the Blades are in last place and the Reds had lost four consecutive matches in the league prior to that win. Those were defeats against Brighton & Hove Albion (1-0); Manchester City (4-1); Leicester City (3-1); and, a 2-0 shutout versus Everton.

Of even more concern is the continued absence of key players, particularly on defense. The starting center backs against Sheffield United were new acquisition Ozan Kabak and the inexperienced Nat Phillips, plus goalkeeper Alisson missed the game after the tragic death of his father.

However, the Liverpool goalie is expected to be back. Teammates Fabinho and Diogo Jota have returned to training as well, meaning manager Jürgen Klopp should have some reinforcements for this contest.

It’s been a disappointing season for the reigning champions for sure. Yet, Liverpool’s performances haven’t been quite as poor as its position in the table indicates. In terms of expected-goal difference, the Reds are third in the league at +16.8 xGDiff, according to FBRef.com).

Manchester City are well ahead of Liverpool at +31.7 xGDiff, but the other side that’s ahead of Liverpool is Chelsea —  and barely so — at +17.2 xGDiff in the advanced metric.

Chelsea

The Blues have now gone an impressive nine games unbeaten in all competitions since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard as manager.

However, they’re coming off back-to-back league draws — a scoreless finish against Manchester United last Sunday, preceded by a 1-1 tie at Southampton the week before. Chelsea did beat Atlético Madrid, 1-0, in Champions League play in between those games, but needed a Olivier Giroud bicycle kick to do so.

Notice a trend? Chelsea’s matches have been very low-scoring since Tuchel’s arrival. In fact, Chelsea have conceded only two goals in those nine fixtures, and one of them was an own goal.

However, Chelsea has only scored 10 goals during that stretch, so that’s a little more than one goal per match. And the underlying numbers are similar. In eight Premier League and Champions League matches under Tuchel, the Blues have generated 10.5 xG and conceded 3.5 xG in the process.

Only one match under Tuchel has featured more than two goals, and that was a 2-1 victory over Sheffield United that included an own goal.

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Based on the underlying numbers mentioned above, you could make the argument this is a match between the second- and third-best teams in England. However, that would probably tick off a bunch of people, particularly Manchester United fans.

Regardless of your opinion of the xG statistic, these clubs look relatively evenly matched — after all, just one point separates them in the table.

Chelsea are obviously in better form, but the game is on home soil. And let’s not forget that before Liverpool’s four consecutive home defeats — it also lost 1-0 to Burnley on its own ground on Jan. 21 — it had gone unbeaten in 68 consecutive games at Anfield.

Liverpool hadn’t lost four in a row at home since 1923. The Reds have never lost five consecutive home games in the history of the club.

All that being said, I foresee a relatively close match that either side could edge. However, I will back the draw, which offers the best payout among the three money-line alternatives.

Pick: Draw (+255)

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UFC 259 Promo: Bet $20, Win $125 if Amanda Nunes Lands at Least One Strike!

ufc 250 bonus offers promotions in colorado-amanda nunes odds-main event

Amanda Nunes steps into the octagon for the UFC 259 main event to try and retain her Featherweight Division title against a worthy adversary in Megan Anderson.

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UFC 259 brings with it some big names Saturday night, including Israel Adesanya’s attempt at a second belt by venturing into a new division, and Amanda Nunes — the only woman to ever hold two belts — looking to retain that of the Featherweight division.

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NBA Player Prop Bets & Picks: Fade DeMar DeRozan & Other Stars On Thursday Night

nba-player-prop-bets-picks-demar-derozan-thursday-march-4-2021

We’ve been fading stars all week here at The Action Network, and it feels like the right week to fade — we’re one night of basketball away from an All-Star Break, and boy do we need it.

Rosters have been ravaged by injuries and COVID protocols and everyone needs a break. That’s led to a ton of blowouts lately as well as wonky stats and minutes totals with teams just trying to get to break and catch their breath. And that means under opportunities for stars. We’re playing three more of them tonight.

For those who are new to this article, we’ll be using the Action Labs Player Prop tool to compare our NBA projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks. Each bet is then graded on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the best possible grade.

Below, I have laid out three prop bets that I’m playing, the case for each bet and the best books to find odds on those player props.

NBA Player Prop Bets

DeMar DeRozan Under 8.5 Assists (-134)

Thunder at Spurs Spurs -6.5
Time 9 p.m. ET
Best Book PointsBet

The Spurs are hilariously shorthanded as they hit their oops-even-shorter All-Star Break. They’re missing Rudy Gay, Derrick White and Devin Vassell. Keldon Johnson is available but played only 10.5 minutes on Tuesday. LaMarcus Aldridge is questionable, too, and it would be a surprise to see the Spurs rush him back with the break coming.

All those names missing have pushed DeRozan into an even bigger role than usual, and he’s had a huge week keeping this team afloat. He had 32 points and 11 assists in a win over the Pelicans, then recorded 11 dimes each against the Nets and Knicks this week. He’s now averaging 7.3 assists per game, a career high in maybe his best and most efficient season ever for the surprising Spurs.

And all that recency bias has me thinking under.

Yes, DeRozan has three straight games with 11 dimes, but he has only one other such game all season. It’s also worth noting that two of those games came against the terrible Pelicans and Nets defenses, two of the least resistant units in the league.

The Thunder are a far better defense, ranking top 10 in the NBA, so it will be a steeper challenge for DeRozan.

Even with this hot recent stretch, DeRozan has gone over 8.5 assists only nine times in 28 games. That means he’s gone under this line almost 68% of the time. That’s why we’re using recency bias against the books here and thank them for pushing the line too high as a response to this hot week.

This is our top prop play on the board tonight, with nearly a 17% edge in our favor. We project DeRozan at 6.9 dimes, and I’ll play the under here to -170.

_BookPromo=821


Eric Bledsoe Under 4.5 Assists (+104)

Heat at Pelicans Pelicans -2
Time 8:30 p.m. ET
Best Book FanDuel

This is another opportunity to fade recency bias.

Eric Bledsoe had 10 assists last night against the Bulls, matching his season high. With 12 points and five rebounds, too, it was one of Bledsoe’s most productive games this season. He played nearly 42 minutes.

Zoom out and look at the bigger picture, though, and you’ll see that Wednesday was Bledsoe’s first big assists game in a long time. In fact, it was the first time Bledsoe went over five assists in almost two full months. His last game even six assists was way back on Jan. 8!

And that makes sense. The Pelicans have completely transformed over that period. First, Brandon Ingram was taking on a bigger playmaking role, and lately, it’s been Zion Williamson. Zion has seen his touches and assists go up, and Ingram is still dishing, too. That has marginalized Bledsoe quite often, and it’s why he’s averaging just 3.6 assists per game since that Jan. 8 game.

nba-player props-bets-january 2-2020-eric bledsoe
Scott Audette/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Eric Bledsoe

I’m not afraid of those 42 minutes, either. In fact, they’re part of the reason I’m fading Bledsoe here. Remember, that happened just last night! This is the second night of a back-to-back, and Bledsoe could cede many of those minutes to other teammates to balance playing time out for fresher players who don’t have tired legs.

Bledsoe has played 25 games since Jan. 8. He’s gone over 4.5 assists only six times over that stretch. That means he’s hitting the under 78% of the time, and he’s gone over by more than half an assist only once, which was on Wednesday night of course. That glass ceiling gives us a great chance of an under, and I love getting plus juice here. I’d play the under to -120.

_BookPromo=24


Russell Westbrook Under 0.5 3-Pointers (+176)

Clippers at Wizards Wizards +6
Time 7 p.m. ET
Best Book FanDuel

Ever enjoyed a good roller coaster ride?

Because betting on Westbrook to play a full game without hitting a single 3-pointer is about to be the ride of our lives.

Westbrook is one of the worst volume 3-point shooters in NBA history, full stop. He recently passed 1,000 3s for his career, but he’s made barely 30% of his 3,306 attempts for his career. He’s made only a third of his in two different NBA seasons, and he’s been below 30% four seasons running.

He’s not a good 3-point shooter.

But a magical thing appears to be happening — Westbrook has finally stopped trying to shoot 3s. Well, mostly. Since the start of February, Westbrook is down to 3.1 attempts beyond the arc per game. It’s still not nothing, but it seems like some magic coach out there finally convinced Russ to stop popping eight inefficient treys per game.

Over that stretch, Westbrook has made only nine 3s in 15 games. What’s even crazier is that six of those makes came in two games! Tuesday night against the Grizzlies, he hit a couple threes in the opening minutes and finished 3-for-7 on the night, and he went 3-for-8 against the Raptors a month ago. That makes sense.

Russ is still Russ, and he’s going to try his hand early on — and if he hits that first shot, you know a few more are going up.

Rob Carr/Getty Images. Pictured: Russell Westbrook

But who cares if Russ hits 3s? Once that first shot falls, we’re already sunk. But when the first shot misses, the shots disappear. Take those two “volume” games away, and Westbrook has three makes in 30 attempts across 13 games since the start of February. That includes 10 games without a single 3-point field goal.

The odds here are way off. This line implies a 27.6% chance of Westbrook not hitting a 3-pointer, but he’s finished 10 of his last 15 games without one. That’s a 66.7% chance! That would imply a line of -200 here, not +176.

Look, it’s still Westbrook. He’s liable to go happy-go-jacky at any moment, and it would be just like Russ to go all game without a single attempt and then sink an 80-footer at the buzzer in a 25-point loss to send us into the All-Star Break. We’ll have to take our chances.

Get on that Russ roller coaster as we head to break. That +176 under is way to juicy to pass up.

West Bromwich Albion vs. Everton Odds, Picks & Predictions: How To Bet Thursday’s Premier League Match

West Brom vs. Everton Odds

West Brom Odds +330
Everton Odds -118
Draw +265
Over/Under 2.5 (-106 / -118) 
Day | Time Thursday | 1 p.m. ET
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Odds as of Wednesday evening via DraftKings.

Things could get pretty interesting in Premier League action Thursday when West Bromwich Albion welcomes Everton to The Hawthorns.

The Baggies, who are in dire straits and staring relegation right in the face, earned a 1-0 upset victory over Brighton & Hove Albion this past weekend. It was a massive — and much needed — win for the hosts, who are nine points adrift from safety.

On the other side, Everton secured its second consecutive triumph in a 1-0 shutout against fading Southampton. The Toffees have a realistic shot at a Champions League berth, sitting just two points behind fourth-place West Ham United in the table.

Both teams would desperately love to bag all three points in this midweek affair, so let’s take a look at what could be in store.

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West Brom

If Sam Allardyce is known for one thing, it’s his penchant for saving clubs destined for relegation. Now, after almost three years away from the sideline, “Big Sam” has been tasked to pull off his latest miracle in West Midlands.

Allardyce has a helluva track record orchestrating the “great escape,” which includes these minor miracles on his decorated resumé:

  • Bolton — 2002-03
  • Blackburn — 2008-09
  • Sunderland — 2015-16
  • Crystal Palace — 2016-07

The Baggies are hoping they started their quest for survival this past Saturday in what I would call a quite undeserving win. Brighton, which missed two penalty kicks and had a goal disallowed in defeat, finished with a 2.6-0.5 xG advantage and still found a way to lose.

Statistically, West Brom is the worst team when it comes to the advanced metrics. The Baggies have a paltry 18.1 expected goals and ghastly 45.4 expected goals against, resulting in a eye-popping -27.3 xGDiff and -1.05 xGDiff/90 minutes.

Yes, West Brom is last in all four major categories. And how bad are Allardyce’s men when it comes to xGDiff? Crystal Palace is the next closest, sitting far away with its -17.5 xGDiff in 13th place on the standings. Talk about a gap.

Everton

The Toffees might be playing their best soccer at the moment, having secured consecutive shutout wins over aforementioned Southampton and Liverpool two weeks back. Now, they get a chance to humble a foe coming off perhaps the biggest win of their campaign.

Another bonus in Everton’s corner is the favorable set of opponents it faces in the coming weeks. After next week’s showdown with Chelsea, the Toffees have three prime-win opportunities in home matches with Burnley and Crystal Palace before a road affair at Brighton.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin has thrust himself into the thick of the Golden Boot race, racking up 13 goals. He’s been getting a ton of support from Richarlison (five goals/four assists) as of late, including the winner against Southampton.

When comparing numbers with West Brom, Everton has a distinct edge across the board. However, the figures are nothing to write home about. The Toffees boast 30.4 xG and a lackluster 33.5 xGA, resulting in a -3.1 xGDiff and -0.12 xGDiff/90 minutes.

Interestingly enough, Everton has the weakest overall stats in the top half of the table, yet finds itself in the thick of the European soccer hunt.

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Betting Analysis & Picks

Yes, West Brom is unbeaten in its last three fixtures, but I just don’t see it pulling off a result similar as the Brighton affair. Everton is simply more talented and has looked strong in its back-to-back triumphs.

For that reason, I am backing the Toffees on the moneyline to leave The Hawthorns on a three-game winning streak. They’re also unbeaten in 11 of their last 12 meetings with the Baggies across all competitions, which is something you simply can’t look past.

Throw in the fact Everton has been stellar on the road, winning five of their last six games away from Goodison Park, and you have to like the visitor’s chances.

I will also play Calvert-Lewin to score anytime as well. He lit the Baggies up for those three goals in 5-2 win back in September, so I will take a shot on him terrorizing West Ham at least once in this latest match.

Picks: Everton ML (-114) | Dominic Calvert-Lewin To Score Anytime — Yes (+112)

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Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur Odds, Picks & Predictions: How To Bet Thursday’s Premier League Match

Fulham vs. Spurs Odds

Fulham Odds +290
Spurs Odds -106
Draw +260
Over/Under 2.5 (+102 / -125) 
Day | Time Thursday | 1 p.m. ET
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Tottenham Hotspur makes the short trip west Thursday to battle Fulham in a London Derby at Craven Cottage.

Fulham is starting to to make a push at getting out of the Premier League relegation zone. The Cottagers have only lost one of their last nine matches, which puts them only three points behind Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion in the table.

Fulham received a late equalizer the last time it played Spurs, so it needs another positive result if they’re going to have a shot at surviving this season.

Spurs got back to their winning ways this past Sunday, thrashing Burnley in a 4-0 home rout. However, it’s been a difficult run for the club in England’s top flight, as they’ve lost five of their last seven matches.

Currently, Spurs is in eighth place and need to go on a run if they’re going to finish inside the top six, which would secure a spot in European soccer next season.

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Fulham

Ever since their 0-0 draw at Brighton on Jan. 27, the Cottagers have really improved. In its last eight matches, Fulham have notched a solid +1.01 xGD and have conceded just 1.07 xG per match. In fact, the Cottagers have kept five clean sheets in those games, which is a huge improvement since they only kept three clean sheets in their first 18 league fixtures.

However, the problem that has plagued Fulham all season is its performance in front of net. The Cottagers are only averaging 1.14 xG per match, scoring just six goals in their last eight matches. However, they did sign young English striker Josh Maja over from French side Bordeaux, so hopefully he will inject some scoring into the side.

Either way, Fulham will need to get clinical in front of net if it’s going to get a result against Spurs in this contest.

Spurs

Tottenham’s regression was always going to happen at some point, and it’s come in a big way over the last seven matches. The main issue during those games has been its defense, which is allowing 1.66 xG per match. In contrast, Spurs were only allowing 1.10 xG through their first 11 matches.

The other issue that has plagued the club during their bad run of form is the fact they haven’t been converting in front of the net. Yes, Harry Kane was out injured for a few of those tilts, but overall Spurs have only created 6.53 xG in their last seven matches.

Kane and Son Heung-min have been a dynamic duo, combining for 27 goals this season, but they’ve greatly outperformed as they’ve only combined for 21.22 expected goals. So, with Fulham’s improved defensive record, I think Spurs are going to have a hard time in front of goal.

Betting Analysis & Picks

With how improved Fulham has been since the end of January, the host is absolutely capable of getting a result against its opponent. Spurs’ bad run of form might have ended last time out against Burnley, but I think their struggles are going to continue at Craven Cottage.

Therefore, I am backing Fulham at +0.5 at -113 odds as my top play.

Pick: Fulham +0.5 (-113)

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UFC 259 returns with an impressive Saturday night card for all you fight fans out there.

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Stanford vs. USC College Basketball Odds & Pick: Game Hinges On Oscar da Silva’s Availability

Stanford vs. USC Odds


Stanford Odds
+7.5
USC Odds
-7.5
Moneyline
                                         +285 / -370
Over/Under
137
Time | TV
10:30 p.m. ET | FS1
Odds as of Tuesday night and via PointsBet.

USC looks to end its two-game losing streak when they host Stanford.

Stanford is having a disastrous season on and off the court, and its best player Oscar da Silva has been out the last two games. If that wasn’t enough, some division is going on between point guard Daejon Davis and head coach Jerod Haase,

Stanford is currently sitting at 14-11 and on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament. So potentially without their best player and with all the turmoil going on, you have to question where their motivation is at this point in the season.

The Trojans are in the midst of one of the program’s best seasons in the past decade, currently only one half-game back of UCLA atop the Pac-12 standings. A date with their city rivals looms on Saturday.

USC beat Stanford, 72-66, in Palo Alto back in early February, so it’ll be looking to repeat as heavy favorites on its home floor.

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When Stanford has the ball

The offensive end of the floor has been a struggle for Stanford this season, especially with da Silva on the sidelines. The Cardinal average only 1.01 points per possession, and things are likely to get worse if da Silva is on the sidelines again.

The only plus for Stanford offensively is they are the No. 1 team in the Pac-12 at shooting inside the arc, at 54.3%. However, a lot of that is thanks to da Silva, who is shooting 63.3% from inside the arc and has by far taken the most shots on the team.

Stanford has two main areas they struggle in: They can’t hold on to the ball, and they can’t hit anything from behind the arc.

Stanford has the second-highest turnover rate in the Pac-12 and is shooting a dismal 32.6% from beyond the arc. The biggest problem for the Cardinal in the first meeting with USC is the fact that they turned the ball over 22 times, so they’ll have to do a much better job the second time around because USC has one of the best defenses in the country.

The Trojans have been locking down their opponents during conference play, allowing only 0.97 points per possession. Their real strength lies inside, as they are the tallest team in Division I hoops, led by five-star freshman Evan Mobley. USC allows the lowest 2-point field goal percentage and has the highest block rate in the Pac 12, so they’ll be well equipped to handle Stanford down low.

When USC has the ball

The Trojans absolutely dominate their opponents in the paint with 7-foot freshman Mobley. USC is shooting 51.4% from 2-point range and an insane 61.1% on shots at the rim, according to Hoop-Math. In the first meeting with Stanford, the Trojans absolutely dominated the paint shooting 57.5% from 2-point range.

USC is also the best offensive rebounding team in the Pac-12, grabbing them at a 36.2% rate in conference play, per KenPom. If da Silva is not on the floor, USC is going to have so many second-chance opportunities because he is the Cardinal’s best rebounder. Additionally, Stanford isn’t going to have anyone to match Mobley’s size, so USC should have its way in the paint.

Two of the biggest reasons USC won the first meeting was because it grabbed 10 offensive rebounds and got to the free throw line 20 times. If the Trojans can do those two things well again in the rematch, as well as score consistently in the paint, they should be able to blow out Stanford.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

If da Silva is not in the lineup, I have no idea how Stanford is going to hang with USC. The Trojans are going to be able to score inside at will and on the flip side almost all of Stanford’s inside scoring will be gone. According to my projections, da Silva is worth over four points to the spread, so my pick for this game is dependent on his availability.

I have the Trojans projected as -12.10 favorites without da Silva, so I’ll take USC at -7.5 if Stanford’s big man watches this one from the sidelines.

Pick: USC -7.5 (if da Silva is out)

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Warriors vs. Trail Blazers NBA Odds & Picks: Bet on Portland’s Shooters Against Golden State

nba-odds-picks-golden-state-warriors-vs-portland-trail-blazers-betting-march-3

Warriors vs. Trail Blazers Odds

Warriors Odds -2
Trail Blazers Odds +2
Moneyline -110 / -110
Over/Under 234
Time 10 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds as of noon ET on Wednesday morning and via FanDuel

Teams on the opposite ends of lopsided games their last time out will meet on Wednesday night in what should be a very tight affair. The Warriors come in trying to shake the embarrassment of Sunday’s loss to the Lakers and get back on its winning run, while the Trail Blazers will be hoping not to fall back into their poor form and build a winning streak off a win against the Hornets.

With such tight margins everywhere, we’ll need to dig a bit into the matchup to find a value in this game. Let’s do that.

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors come in off a devastating beatdown at the hands of the Lakers, falling by 26 points and mustering up just 91 on Sunday.

There aren’t any new injuries to speak of — just a sprained ankle for Draymond Green, which shouldn’t keep him out of this one. He hurt it in the second half of the loss, but was able to practice in full with the Warriors this week.

That performance came right as the Warriors had begun to hit their stride. Golden State picked up big wins over some pretty decent competition in New York, Indiana and Charlotte. All told, the Warriors had won seven of 10 prior to Sunday.

Over those 11 games, their defense has continued to shine. No one has allowed fewer points per 100 possessions over the past 11 games than the Warriors, who hold a 105.7 Defensive Rating over that span. And that’s come despite allowing 38.2% of shots to fall from outside — a testament to their strong frontcourt play headed by Green as well as returning bigs Kevon Looney and James Wiseman.

The Warriors began a three-win streak once Looney and Wiseman healed from injury, and the impact the two have made on the offensive end deserves some praise: Golden State ranks fourth in points in the paint over that four-game span.


Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers needed a win in bad way after having dropped four straight, and they picked it up against the fatigued Hornets, catching them on the second night of a back-to-back for a fairly lopsided win to cover the eight-point spread.

Portland is still dealing with an injury to Harry Giles, who will sit for a seventh straight game. Otherwise, it should be in the clear to run out the same team that shellacked Charlotte. In that game, Portland hit a franchise-record 24 3-pointers, and turned to Carmelo Anthony of all people for a team-high 29 points. He was spectacular off the bench, and helped the Blazers pull away in the second half.

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If there’s one thing that the Blazers have proven to us they’ll do, it’s shoot. They rank second in 3s made and 3s attempted per game. And for the season their 3-point percentage is 36.9%, which isn’t spectacular but isn’t horrible, either, considering the volume they shoot at.

Portland will be disappointed not to play this game in Oakland, holding a 12-6 record against the spread (ATS) on the road and just a 6-9 ATS record at home. Though Monday’s win came in Portland, it hasn’t been the best spot to back the Blazers, nor has the game after a win, when they’re 9-9 ATS.

Warriors-Trail Blazers Pick

Putting aside the ATS trends, I do think this Portland team is well-equipped to sneak past Golden State. The Blazers live and die by the 3, and we know the strategy in this one will be to get a huge number of 3s up. Against a very mediocre 3-point defense, the Blazers should shoot above their season average and be one of the few teams of late to score on this Warriors defense.

On the interior, the Warriors have somewhat of an edge over the Blazers, who give up 51 points in the paint on average — but that’s where the frontcourt advantage should end. With Portland’s aforementioned affinity for the 3-ball, I don’t see the Blazers getting fazed by this defense. They should be able to control the game from outside and simply out-score the Warriors in what could turn into a high-scoring affair, for Golden State’s standards.

It’s always a risk backing a team coming off a hot shooting night, but the Blazers’ shooters are proven. Even if one or two have an off night, there is seemingly unlimited depth on the wing.

I like them to win this game. FanDuel is offering +114 — the best price as of noon ET.

Pick: Blazers ML +114

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NHL Odds & Picks for Wild vs. Golden Knights: Grab Minnesota as an Underdog

Wild vs. Golden Knights Odds

Wild Odds +130
Golden Knights Odds -154
Over/Under 5.5
Time 10 p.m. ET
TV NHL.tv
Odds as of Tuesday night and via FanDuel.

The Vegas Golden Knights lead the NHL’s West Division, which is not surprising for a team that many had as Stanley Cup contenders in the preseason. However, the second-best team in the division based on points-percentage is the Minnesota Wild, which isn’t something many predicted.

The two played a thrilling, 5-4 overtime game on Monday, with the Golden Knights coming out on top after erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period.

What can we expect when the two teams meet on Wednesday night in Sin City?

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Minnesota Wild

In a division that contains teams like the Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues, it’s the Wild in second place. Minnesota has started the season with a 12-6-1 record and had won six straight prior to Monday’s loss. 

While the Wild’s hot start might be unexpected, that doesn’t mean it’s undeserved. The underlying metrics back up the premise that Minnesota is a good hockey team. It ranks fourth in the league in expected goal rate and second in High-Danger Chance (HDC) percentage. The Wild’s offense ranks sixth in expected goals scored, while their defense ranks in the top 10 in expected goals against. 

The main concern for the Wild last season was their goaltending, as the duo of Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock wasn’t good enough. The team bought in Cam Talbot during free agency and promoted youngster Kaapo Kahkonen to the NHL in order to address the issue. So far, so good, with Talbot stopping 91.7% of shots faced in eight starts and Kahkonen at 91.5% in 12 outings. With Minnesota’s strong defensive system, average goaltending gives them a chance to win any game.

When looking at the Wild roster, you’d probably be surprised to know they are a top-10 scoring team in the league, averaging 3.2 goals per game. Kirill Kaprizov has been everything Minnesota could have expected in his rookie season, having already developed into the Wild’s most dangerous forward. 

Additionally, the team is getting contributions from some lesser known players like Jordan Greenway, Joel Eriksson-Ek, Marcus Foligno and Victor Rask. Mats Zuccarello has been awesome since his return from injury, as well. If Kevin Fiala and Zach Parise can generate some more offense, this bunch will be even more dangerous.

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Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights’ standing out west is not a surprise. Vegas has been one of the NHL’s elite teams since it entered the league in 2017, and this season, it has won 13 of its first 18 games without showing any signs of slowing down. 

Analytically, the Golden Knights are still a very good team. The team ranks eighth in shot-attempt rate, seventh in expected goal rate and fourth in HDC percentage. While being a top-10 team in all three categories is impressive, it’s actually a decline from last season when the Knights ranked first, first and second in those three categories. 

Vegas ranks 11th in both expected goals scored and expected goals against at 5-on-5 and top 10 in both HDC created and allowed.

The metrics support Vegas being a very good team, but not quite at the level of last season and not quite at the level that a 13-4-1 record would suggest. 

After losing his starting job in last year’s playoffs, Marc-Andre Fleury came into this season as the expected back-up to Robin Lehner. However, Lehner is currently dealing with an injury and Fleury might just have claimed his old job back in his absence.

The 36-year-old has stopped 93.5% of the shots he’s faced this season while posting a Goals Saved Above Expected mark of +6.75, which is second best in the league to Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy.

When you combine Fleury’s performance and some of the elite talent the Golden Knights have, it’s no surprise they are winning games. Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore are both number one defensemen, Mark Stone is one of the best two-way players in hockey and Max Pacioretty is a feared goalscorer. 

Wild vs. Golden Knights Best Bet

The Wild carried a 4-2 lead into the third period on Monday, but Vegas scored two to tie it before Pacioretty won the game in overtime.

I agree that Vegas should be favored in this game, especially with the game being in Las Vegas. The Golden Knights have more game-changing talent than the Wild and have the edge in goal. 

With that being said, I do think the Golden Knights are overperforming a little bit. They are a very good team, but their profile doesn’t quite match a 13-4-1 team. On the flipside, the Wild are as good as their record would suggest while not getting nearly as much attention.

I personally would set this game’s no-vig line at -122/+122. Hopefully Vegas’ popularity and location can generate some action to help move the line even higher. I’d snatch the Wild at +125 or better in this matchup. 

Pick: Wild +130 (down to +125)

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College Basketball Odds & Pick UCLA vs. Oregon: Bet on Bruins as Underdog in Pac-12 Showdown

UCLA vs. Oregon Odds


UCLA Odds +4.5
Oregon Odds -4.5
Moneyline +155 / -190
Over/Under 135.5
Time | TV 9 p.m. ET | ESPN2
Odds as of Tuesday Night and via BetMGM.

The two teams atop the Pac-12 standings collide in Eugene on Wednesday when Oregon hosts UCLA.

The Bruins (17-6, 13-4 Pac-12) dropped a game at Colorado on Saturday but still cling to first place in the league by one half-game over the Ducks. This is a massive final week of the regular season for the Bruins, who play the third-placed Trojans on Saturday. A pair of victories this week would give UCLA the top seed in the Pac-12 tournament and go a long way toward determining its seeding on Selection Sunday.

Oregon (17-5, 12-4) is looking to play spoiler and wrestle away the top seed from the Bruins. After Wednesday’s game, they close the season at in-state-rival Oregon State on Saturday.

The two squads have similar resumes, and are close in both KenPom and the NCAA Net rankings. All signs point to a tight game in Matthew Knight Arena.

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The Matchup

When Oregon has the ball

The Ducks have a very efficient offense thanks to its balanced attack and strong shooting splits. As a team, Oregon shoots 46% from the floor, 36% from 3-point range and 71% from the free throw line. The Ducks currently boast the nation’s 26th most efficient offense, per KenPom.

The offense has been particularly strong of late, as Oregon is averaging 75 points per game over its last three and is shooting 40.6% from beyond the arc during that stretch.

Chris Duarte (17.4 points per game) and Eugene Omoruyi (17.0) rank fourth and fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring. Duarte has been remarkably efficient, shooting 53.6% from the floor and 44.1% from 3-point range. Omoruyi is a really tough cover for any defense due to his ability to score inside and out. He does a great job of playing aggressively and getting to the foul line, having attempted a team-best 95 free throws, hitting them at a 77.9% clip.

LJ Figeuora (11.6 points per game) and Eric Williams Jr. (10.7) also average double figures for the Ducks. Will Richardson (9.5) had thumb surgery in December and has only appeared in 10 games on the season, but he’s healthy now and has given the Ducks a nice boost over the past month.

The one concern for Oregon’s offense is how it has fared against tougher defenses. The Ducks are just 4-5 against teams with a top-80 adjusted defensive efficiency ranking. This isn’t the best defense Mick Cronin has ever had, but the Bruins are still strong on that end, ranking 78th in defensive efficiency.

UCLA is in the middle of the pack when it comes to most defensive field goal numbers, although they really thrive on the defensive glass. The Bruins rank 28th in defensive rebounding percentage and 46th in rebounding margin.

UCLA ranks 335th in adjusted tempo and can really frustrate teams when it’s able to control the pace while limiting the opponent to just one shot on the other end.

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When UCLA has the ball

The Bruins have been fantastic offensively, especially of late. Similarly to Oregon, UCLA takes its time but is very efficient (20th in adjusted offensive efficiency).

UCLA has excellent balance offensively, with four starters averaging double figures. Jules Bernard is right behind them at 9.4 points per game.

Point guard Tyger Campbell is a true floor general who does a great job of getting everyone involved. Campbell is second in the conference in assists at 5.6 per game.

The Bruins are a very strong shooting team. They rank second in the Pac-12 in 3-point percentage at 37%, and fourth in field goal percentage at 45.8%. Four of their regular rotation players are shooting above 37% from 3-point range.

UCLA has dealt with its fair share of injuries, as well. Unfortunately for the Bruins, they will not get star guard Chris Smith back this season after undergoing surgery on his ACL in early January.  Forward Jalen Hill has been out for the past three weeks, and there is no timetable for his return.

The good news for the Bruins is they’ve now played 15 games without Smith and seven without Hill, and they’ve maintained their ability to execute at a high level offensively.

Oregon boasts a tough defense, ranking 62nd in defensive efficiency. The Ducks do a nice job of defending perimeter, and allow just 33.1% from beyond the arc.

The Ducks are a little deeper than the Bruins, and I expect them to use that to their advantage. They have a number of athletic guards that can rotate on Campbell and Johnny Juzang. Turnovers will play a big factor, as the Ducks do a nice job of turning the opposition over. However, the Bruins do a great job of taking care of the ball, ranking 47th in turnover rate, per teamrankings.com.


Betting Analysis & Pick

I don’t see a huge edge for either side here, so I’m going to take the points with the Bruins. To me, this line should be closer to a pick’em, but I think the line is a little inflated with the Bruins coming off a loss and the Ducks having won three straight.

I also like that UCLA has had more time to prepare, whereas Oregon played Monday against Arizona and only had one day of practice between games. The Ducks also have some 3-point shooting regression coming their way, having been hot from beyond the arc over their last three games against subpar defenses. The Bruins are a disciplined defensive team and can make it a long night for Oregon’s shooters.

The Ducks are a tough team to beat in their gym, but Cronin’s teams are scrappy and never back down from a challenge. I like the Bruins’ chances to pull out a close one and get one step closer to claiming the Pac-12 regular-season crown.

Pick: UCLA +4.5 (down to +3)

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NBA Injury News & Starting Lineups (March 3): Luka Doncic Out Wednesday

nba injury-news projected-starting-lineups-luka-doncic-march-3

Below are the projected starting lineups for each team playing on Wednesday’s NBA slate, along with notable injury news for each squad. For real-time updates to these lineups, check out our Action Labs NBA lineups page.

NBA Injury News

7 p.m. ET Update: Luka Doncic has been ruled out of Wednesday’s game against the Thunder with back tightness.


1:30 p.m. ET Update: Luka Doncic has been downgraded to doubtful on the latest injury report as he is dealing with a tight lower back.

Domantas Sabonis has been added to the injury report with a sore left ankle and is questionable to play Wednesday. Kelly Oubre is listed as questionable for tonight’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers with a sprained left wrist.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Jeff Green are out for the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. Luke Kornet has been ruled out for the Chicago Bulls for personal reasons.


LeBron James will miss his first game of the season on Wednesday as he’ll rest in the second leg of a back-to-back, according to The Athletic and Stadium’s Shams Charania. The Los Angeles Lakers have listed James on the injury report for most of the season with an ankle injury, but played every game until today.

The Lakers will likely be without Marc Gasol who missed Tuesday’s due the NBA’s health and safety protocols, and the statuses of Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso are unclear.

The Dallas Mavericks are closely monitoring Luka Doncic ahead of their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday. Doncic is a new addition to the injury report and has been listed as questionable with a tight back. Doncic has missed one game all season, resulting in a 10-point loss for the Mavs.

Tobias Harris has been listed questionable ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers’ matchup with the Utah Jazz tonight. Harris continues to deal with a knee contusion and he has missed the past two games with the injury.

Buddy Hield is officially questionable heading into Wednesday’s game against the Lakers with an ankle injury. Hield suffered a sprained ankle in the closing moments of the Sacramento Kings’ loss on Sunday and did not participate in practice Tuesday.

Be sure to check the Action Labs NBA page for real time updates.

Projected Starting Lineups

Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (7 p.m. ET)

Pacers Projected Lineup

PG – Malcolm Brogdon
SG – Justin Holiday
SF – Doug McDermott
PF – Domantas Sabonis
C – Myles Turner

Injury news: Doug McDermott (Mouth) is active Jeremy Lamb (knee) is out

Cavaliers Projected Lineup

PG – Darius Garland
SG – Collin Sexton
SF – Isaac Okoro
PF – Dean Wade
C – Jarrett Allen

Injury news: Taurean Prince (ankle, personal) is active


Utah Jazz vs. Philadelphia 76ers (7 p.m. ET)

Jazz Projected Lineup

PG – Mike Conley
SG – Donovan Mitchell
SF – Bojan Bogdanovic
PF – Royce O’Neale
C – Rudy Gobert

Injury news: Nothing new

76ers Projected Lineup

PG – Ben Simmons
SG – Seth Curry
SF – Danny Green
PF – Tobias Harris
C – Joel Embiid

Injury news: Tobias Harris (Knee) is active


Detroit Pistons vs. Toronto Raptors (7 p.m. ET)

Pistons Projected Lineup

PG – Dennis Smith Jr.
SG – Wayne Ellington
SF – Svi Mykhailiuk
PF – Saddiq Bey
C – Mason Plumlee

Injury news: Jerami Grant (Quad) is out

Raptors Projected Lineup

PG – Kyle Lowry
SG – Terence Davis
SF – Norman Powell
PF – Yuta Watanabe
C – Aron Baynes

Injury news: OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Patrick McCaw, and Malachi Flynn are out due to health and safety protocols


Brooklyn Nets vs. Houston Rockets (7:30 p.m. ET)

Nets Projected Lineup

PG – James Harden
SG – Kyrie Irving
SF – Bruce Brown
PF – Joe Harris
C – DeAndre Jordan

Injury news: Jeff Green (shoulder) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (knee) are doubtful

Rockets Projected Lineup

PG – John Wall
SG – Victor Oladipo
SF – Sterling Brown
PF – Jae’Sean tate
C – PJ Tucker

Injury news: Danuel House (Knee), Eric Gordon (knee) and David Nwaba (wrist) are out


Atlanta Hawks vs. Orlando Magic (8 p.m. ET)

Hawks Projected Lineup

PG – Trae Young
SG – Kevin Huerter
SF – Tony Snell
PF – John Collins
C – Clint Capela

Injury news: Nothing new

Magic Projected Lineup

PG – Michael Carter-Williams
SG – Terrence Ross
SF – Dwayne Bacon
PF – Al-Farouq Aminu
C – Nikola Vucevic

Injury news: Evan Fournier (Groin) is questionable, James Ennis (calf) is out


Charlotte Hornets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (8 p.m. ET)

Hornets Projected Lineup

PG – LaMelo Ball
SG – Terry Rozier
SF – Gordon Hayward
PF – PJ Washington
C – Bismack Biyombo

Injury news: Gordon Hayward (Hand) is questionable, Cody Zeller (Hip) is questionable

Timberwolves Projected Lineup

PG – Ricky Rubio
SG – Anthony Edwards
SF – Josh Okogie
PF – Jarred Vanderbilt
C – Karl-Anthony Towns

Injury news: Nothing new


Chicago Bulls vs. New Orleans Pelicans (8:30 p.m. ET)

Bulls Projected Lineup

PG – Coby White
SG – Zach LaVine
SF – Garrett Temple
PF – Patrick Williams
C – Wendell Carter Jr.

Injury news: Lauri Markkanen (shoulder) is doubtful

Pelicans Projected Lineup

PG – Lonzo Ball
SG – Eric Bledsoe
SF – Brandon Ingram
PF – Zion Williamson
C – Steven Adams

Injury news: Nothing new


Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks (8:30 p.m. ET)

Thunder Projected Lineup

PG – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SG – Theo Maledon
SF – Lu Dort
PF – Darius Bazley
C – Al Horford

Injury news: Nothing new

Mavericks Projected Lineup

PG – Jalen Brunson
SG – Josh Richardson
SF – Dorian Finney-Smith
PF – Maxi Kleber
C – Kristaps Porzingis

Injury news: Luka Doncic (Back) is out


Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trail Blazers (10 p.m. ET)

Warriors Projected Lineup

PG – Stephen Curry
SG – Kelly Oubre
SF – Andrew Wiggins
PF – Draymond Green
C – Kevon Looney

Injury news: Nothing new

Trail Blazers Projected Lineup

PG – Damian Lillard
SG – Gary Trent Jr.
SF – Derrick Jones Jr.
PF – Robert Covington
C – Enes Kanter

Injury news: Nothing new


Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings (10 p.m. ET)

Lakers Projected Lineup

PG – Dennis Schroder
SG – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF – Kyle Kuzma
PF – Markieff Morris
C – Montrezl Harrell

Injury news: LeBron James (Rest) is out, Kyle Kuzma (Heel) is questionable

Kings Projected Lineup

PG – De’Aaron Fox
SG – Buddy Hield
SF – Harrison Barnes
PF – Marvin Bagley
C – Richaun Holmes

Injury news: Buddy Hield (Ankle) is questionable, Tyrese Haliburton (calf) and Hassan Whiteside (health protocols) are out


Phan’s Bet to Watch

As of 11:30 a.m. ET, Justin Phan isn’t seeing betting value in any Wednesday games. To get instant alerts when he sees an edge and his analysis on those picks, sign up for Action Labs.

MLB Opening Day 2021 Betting Odds: Lines Released for 15-Game Slate

mlb-opening-day-betting-odds

Opening Day of the 2021 MLB season is still four weeks away, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait to bet on the slate of action we’re going to see on April 1.

BetMGM released Opening Day lines on Wednesday, which you can find below. Unlike previous years, when MLB has one or two highlight games the day before Opening Day proper, all 30 teams are set to open their season on Thursday, April 1, with games beginning as early as 1:05 p.m. ET and as late as 10:10 p.m. ET.

While lines are likely to move as teams finalize rosters and Opening Day starters are announced in the coming weeks, some teams are more obvious to project than others.

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Toronto Blue Jays (+135) at New York Yankees (-165), 1:05 p.m. ET

The Blue Jays made the expanded postseason in 2020 and look to take another step forward in 2021 after the additions of George Springer and Marcus Semien, among others. They’ll begin against the juggernaut Yankees, who had a quiet offseason after finishing second to the Rays in the division a year ago. The anticipated starting pitching matchup would pit Hyun-Jin Ryu against Gerrit Cole.

Cleveland Indians (-175) at Detroit Tigers (+140), 1:10 p.m. ET

Despite trading Francisco Lindor in the offseason, Cleveland will open as strong favorites (63.6% implied odds) against the rebuilding Tigers because it will presumably have reigning Cy Young winner Shane Bieber on the mound. With a plethora of young talent but no clear knowledge of who will start, the Tigers could go with former No. 1-overall pick Casey Mize in this spot, or a less-exciting veteran such as Matthew Boyd or José Ureña.

Baltimore Orioles (+160) at Boston Red Sox (-200), 2:10 p.m. ET

The Orioles are again expected to be among the worst teams in baseball, and while the Red Sox aren’t expected to compete for a playoff spot, they clearly have a superior roster. The pitching matchup here is again unclear, but barring good health, would likely feature John Means vs. Eduardo Rodríguez.

Minnesota Twins (-150) at Milwaukee Brewers (+120), 2:10 p.m. ET

An interleague matchup between a pair of 2020 playoff teams is plenty interesting, as the Twins look to fend off the White Sox in the AL Central race while the Brewers are expected to compete with St. Louis atop the NL Central. Minnesota will likely start Kenta Maeda over José Berríos, while the Brewers’ best choice is Brandon Woodruff.

Pittsburgh Pirates (+180) at Chicago Cubs (-225), 2:20 p.m. ET

The Cubs are tied for second-biggest Opening Day favorite, mostly because of their competition. The Pirates have the lowest win total in baseball and will be surrounding exciting young star Ke’Bryan Hayes with a hodgepodge of mediocrity. The best bet to start Opening Day for Pittsburgh is Mitch Keller, while the Cubs, after trading Yu Darvish during the offseason, will likely turn to Kyle Hendricks.

Atlanta Braves (-115) at Philadelphia Phillies (-115), 3:05 p.m. ET

The first of two true toss-up matchups on Opening Day is also the first of what promises to be a ton of big matchups in the uber-competitive National League East. The Braves are again defending champions, and they will likely turn to promising youngster Ian Anderson, who was great in 2020 but still qualifies as a rookie in 2021. The Phillies re-signed J.T. Realmuto but didn’t do much to help overtake the teams ahead of them in the NL East. It would be hard to imagine them starting anyone other than Aaron Nola here.

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Los Angeles Dodgers (-300) at Colorado Rockies (+230), 4:10 p.m. ET

The biggest on-paper mismatch, as expected, involves the Dodgers, who have an over/under of 101.5 compared to Colorado’s 64.5. The only question for the Dodgers is whether they start the legendary Clayton Kershaw or young, emerging ace Walker Buehler. Either way, they will hold the edge over the Rockies, even with the underrated Germán Márquez likely to take the mound.

Arizona Diamondbacks (+180) at San Diego Padres (-225), 4:10 p.m. ET

The Padres were the offseason’s clear winners, and now we’ll get to see if that on-paper success will translate to wins on the field. San Diego signed Fernando Tatis Jr. to a massive extension and added Yu Darvish and Blake Snell, among others, to an already exciting core. Whether the Padres start Darvish, Snell or Dinelson Lamet is to be determined. Arizona will choose between Madison Bumgarner and Zac Gallen.

St. Louis Cardinals (-175) at Cincinnati Reds (+140), 4:10 p.m. ET

The first sighting of Nolan Arenado in Cardinals red during a regular season game will happen in Cincinnati, as St. Louis will have its sights on another division title against the Reds, who saw a Cy Young winner leave and otherwise stayed quiet this offseason. The Cardinals should start Jack Flaherty here, health pending, while the Reds will choose between Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray.

Texas Rangers (-110) at Kansas City Royals (-120), 4:10 p.m. ET

This is one of the least-appealing Opening Day matchups as it takes place between two teams not expected to sniff playoff contention in 2021. The Royals are at least a little bit interesting with several fun, young pitchers such as Kris Bubic and Brady Singer in tow, and they brought in Andrew Benintendi via trade as well. Even with the young arms, the safe bet is on them starting veteran Brad Keller on Opening Day. The Rangers traded their ace, Lance Lynn, and their starter should be Kyle Gibson.

Tampa Bay Rays (-175) at Miami Marlins (+140), 4:10 p.m. ET

An interleague battle between two Florida teams is one of the more sneaky-fun matchups of Opening Day, especially if we get the pitching matchup we’re likely to see. Even after trading Blake Snell, the defending AL pennant winners should throw the exciting Tyler Glasnow, while the Marlins have the option of going with Sixto Sánchez, who proved to be one of the most talented young pitchers in baseball last season.

New York Mets (-120) at Washington Nationals (-110), 7:09 p.m. ET

The Mets were the talk of the offseason for reasons both good and bad. The first look at Francisco Lindor in a regular season game will come against the 2019 World Series champions. This game should provide for the best pitching matchup of Opening Day, as we’re likely to see Jacob deGrom against Max Scherzer.

Chicago White Sox (-135) at Los Angeles Angels (+110), 10:05 p.m. ET

The White Sox are the most popular bet in the futures market with at least one book, and they’ll begin their journey to build off last year’s playoff berth against the best player on the planet. Southern California native Lucas Giolito should take the mound for the White Sox, while Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani should hit in support of either Dylan Bundy or Andrew Heaney.

Houston Astros (-120) at Oakland Athletics (-110), 10:07 p.m. ET

Astros-Athletics is turning into one of the most fun emerging rivalries in baseball. The teams brawled last season following Houston’s garbage-can-banging controversy and played an intense playoff series last October. They’ll meet in the opening series of the season, and Houston is likely to throw Zack Greinke. Oakland will choose between whistleblower Mike Fiers, Sean Manaea, Jesús Luzardo and Chris Bassitt.

San Francisco Giants (-115) at Seattle Mariners (-115), 10:10 p.m. ET

The final first pitch of the day is the second toss-up matchup according to the oddsmakers. The Giants are clearly behind San Diego and Los Angeles in the NL West, although have a solid team with some upcoming young talent. The Mariners are ripe with emerging prospects, although it seems unlikely we’ll see Jarred Kelenic on Opening Day. The most likely pitching matchup here would pit Kevin Gausman vs. Marco Gonzales.

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Thunder vs Mavericks NBA Odds & Picks: Smart Money On Underdog Oklahoma City (Wednesday, March 3)

NBA Odds: Thunder vs. Mavericks

Thunder Odds +5.5
Mavericks Odds -5.5
Over/Under 223
Time | Channel 8:30 p.m. ET | FS-OK
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On Wednesday night, the Dallas Mavericks host the Oklahoma City Thunder in a game between teams currently jockeying for position in the race for the No. 8 through No. 10 playoff seeds, with the play-in tournament giving hope to teams at the fringes of the postseason race.

The Mavericks have won four of their last five games, including a surprising 17-point road win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Despite Dallas coming in hot, our PRO Report suggests sharp bettors are taking the points with the Thunder. Let’s take a look.

NBA Picks: Thunder vs. Mavericks

PRO Report Thunder Mavericks

Sharp Action

The line for this matchup opened at Thunder +8.5 before it was pushed down to +5.5.

Since Tuesday night, there have been four Action Labs Bets Signals triggered on Oklahoma City. This is a strong indicator of sharp action backing the Thunder.

Big Money

At the time of this writing, the 31% of bettors taking Oklahoma City have generated 77% of the money wagered on the game. That massive 60% difference is another strong sign of sharp action backing the Thunder.

PRO Systems 

This showdown fits into two of our PRO Systems, with data being tracked since 2015.

It fits our Rested Road Teams PRO System, which has a 58% win rate and 13% Return On Investment (ROI). Thunder-Mavericks also fits into our NBA Tickets vs. Money PRO System, which has a 56% win rate and 9% ROI.

PRO Report Pick: Thunder +5.5

Arnold Palmer Invitational Market Report: Sam Burns is a Surprising Trendy Bet

sam-burns-arnold-palmer-invitational

It’s not surprising that Sam Burns is a popular name at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill this week.

It is surprising he’s the most popular name.

According to data released by BetMGM, no golfer in the field this week has received more bets than Burns, who is listed at +4500 to win for the first time on the PGA TOUR. That’s made him the sportsbook’s biggest liability this weekend.

Burns was the 54-hole leader at The Genesis Invitational, eventually finishing third behind Max Homa and Tony Finau. He’s made eight out of 10 cuts this season, including three top-10s. Bettors don’t want to miss out when he finally captures that elusive win.

There’s reason to believe in him, according to Jason Sobel and Justin Ray. When Sobel mentioned Burns’ game travels well, Ray echoed with support of his own on the latest Action Network Podcast.

“I’m all over Sam Burns as well,” Ray said. “My favorite Sam Burns note … he’s an amazing putter in Florida. He’s averaging 1.3 Strokes Gained: Putting in Florida, by far the best of any player the last three seasons.”

He’s Ray’s choice for a top-five finish and first-round leader.

Outside of Burns, Viktor Hovland (+1100) and Jordan Spieth (+2800) are getting the most bets at BetMGM. Hovland made a run in the final round last week at the WGC-Workday but ultimately fell short to Collin Morikawa. This is Spieth’s first time playing the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Most of the money wagered is on the favorite, Rory McIlroy. He’s taken more than 26% of the total betting handle, including a $5,000 bet to win $45,000, the largest wager made public by the sportsbook. That $5,000 wager is the same amount a bettor will take home on a $1 bet should Robert Gamez win.

Burns is the fifth-most bet golfer at PointsBet, who has seen the most wagers come in on Hovland, followed by Matthew Fitzpatrick. McIlroy has the biggest handle there as well, with Bryson DeChambeau second in total money taken to win.

Cameron Davis (+8000) has the longest odds of the 10 most popular bets at PointsBet. Justin Rose (+6600) has the longest odds of the 10 golfers with the most handle.

PointsBet reported three potential six-figure payouts on outrights. A bettor placed $500 to win $150,000 on Joel Dahmen to win. There’s a $520 bet to win $130,000 on Patrick Rodgers to win. Finally, someone has $500 on Charles Howell III to win $125,000.

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Rockets vs. Nets Odds & Picks: Why Pros Are Betting James Harden & Co. As Road Favorites

nba injury-news projected-starting-lineups-james-harden-januray-16

NBA Odds: Nets vs. Rockets

Nets Odds -10
Rockets Odds +10
Over/Under 229
Time | Channel 7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN
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The Rockets have lost a whopping 12 games in a row, the longest current losing streak in the NBA by a four-game margin. On Wednesday, Nets star and former Rockets guard James Harden will return to Houston to take on the franchise he so unceremoniously broke up with.

While Houston has been rough on both sides of the ball sans Christian Wood, the Nets have been dominant on offense regardless of who is in the lineup. Harden has specifically stepped his game up in recent weeks.

Brooklyn has covered in nine of its last 10 games, and Harden has averaged 27.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 10.6 assists per game over that span per NBA Advanced Stats.

Our PRO Report suggests that sharps are backing Brooklyn to keep Houston’s losing streak going.

NBA Picks: Nets vs. Rockets

Sharp Action

The line for Wednesday’s Nets-Rockets game opened at Nets -6.5 before it was pushed up to -10. If the line movement wasn’t enough to convince you of the sharp action on the Nets, then you’d be happy to know that there have been five Action Labs Bets Signals triggered on Brooklyn.

This is a surefire sign of sharp action backing the Nets on Wednesday night.

Big Money

At the time of this writing, 45% of bettors backing the Nets have generated 95% of the money wagered on Wednesday’s contest.

PRO Systems

James Harden’s return to Houston on Wednesday fits into our NBA Tickets vs. Money PRO System, which has a 56% win rate and a 9% Return On Investment (ROI) since 2015.

PRO Report Pick: Nets -10

Wednesday’s NBA Odds, Picks & Projections: Betting Analysis for Jazz vs. 76ers, Bulls vs. Pelicans, More (March 3)

For the 2020-2021 NBA season, I’ll be publishing my projections for every NBA game on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Here’s what you’ll find in my model: projected team totals, projected combined totals, projected spreads for the matchup and the implied odds for the moneyline.

Note: My projections won’t be updated in real-time throughout the day, but Action’s PRO Projections tool is dynamic and will reflect the latest injury and lineup news.

I’ll also be highlighting some of the slate’s most intriguing matchups with in-depth, game-level analysis that goes beyond the numbers.

NBA Projections Model

NBA Odds & Picks

Click on a game to skip ahead
Utah Jazz vs. Philadelphia 76ers
7 p.m. ET
Chicago Bulls vs. New Orleans Pelicans
8 p.m. ET
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks
8 p.m. ET

Although projections give us a solid baseline for what a number should be, it’s also important to handicap each matchup for things that the numbers can’t tell us.

Check out my analysis for tonight’s 10-game slate.

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Utah Jazz at Philadelphia 76ers

Pick
Utah Jazz -3 (DraftKings)
Gametime
7 p.m. ET
TV
NBA League Pass

With a 23-12 record through the first half of the season, the Philadelphia 76ers have the best record in the Eastern Conference and Joel Embiid has put himself in the conversation as the league’s Most Valuable Player. What’s not being talked about enough is that the 76ers are just 8-8 against teams .500 or better and they have just five wins against teams above .500.

They defeated a short handed Celtics team twice in back-to-back games without Jayson Tatum, a Lakers team coming off a tough game against the Cavaliers, the Nets coming off a back-to-back game against the Raptors and missing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and a Mavericks team without Kristaps Porzingis. The 76ers team has simply beat up on inferior competition the entire year as they 15-4 against teams below .500 while struggling against the league’s best competition.

Now they face the team with the best record in the league right when they’ve hit a bit of adversity after losing two of their past three games against the Pelicans and Heat. The losses aside, this is still arguably one of the best teams in the league as they are second in both Offensive Rating (119.6) and Defensive Rating (107.6) in their non garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass.

The real concern for the 76ers in this matchup is that the Jazz will likely outshoot them from behind the arc. The Jazz are shooting a league leading 45.4% of their field goal attempts from behind the arc while making 40.3% of them, third among NBA teams. The 76ers are rank 12th in opponent 3-point percentage and with them making just 10.7 3s per game on offense vs. Utah’s 16.9, they could potentially be outscored by 18.6 points from behind the arc.

The Jazz have a whopping nine player shooting 37% or better from deep, which will put pressure on the 76ers to make up the difference in the 3-point shooting disparity somewhere else on the floor. Zion Williamson dominated the Jazz on Monday, scoring 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting, so one may think that Joel Embiid could do the same.

Looking back at the previous four meetings between these teams, Gobert held Embiid under 40% shooting in three games, forcing him into 7-of-20, 5-of-16 and 5-of-13 shooting nights. Ben Simmons has the ability to completely wreak havoc as he did in their first matchup when he scored 42 points on 15-of-26 shooting, however that level of aggressiveness is few and far between with Simmons.

In order for the 76ers to win, they’ll need an aggressive Simmons on offense who can also slow down Donovan Mitchell on defense. They’ll also Embiid to be dominant enough against Rudy Gobert to overcome the 3-point shooting disparity. The 76ers are a beast at home with a 15-3 record compared to 8-9 on the road, but I’m still not seeing it.

I’ll lay the points with the Jazz who will look to close out their historic first half of the season with a win.

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Chicago Bulls at New Orleans Pelicans

Pick
Over 236.5 (BetMGM)
Gametime
8 p.m. ET
TV
NBA League Pass

Betting the Pelicans to go over might be the best bet in the NBA on a nightly basis as it feels like the market still hasn’t caught up to this team since they upped their pace in January.

The Pelicans are a league leading 24-9-1 to the over this season and have seen their games fly over the total in nine of their last 10 games.


All things considered, neither of these teams play much defense. The Pelicans have the second-worst Defensive Rating in the league, allowing 118.1 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass.

Their defense has declined more rapidly of late — their Defensive Rating is three points worse over the past two weeks — and they rank 27th in defending the rim (66.9%) and 28th in defending the 3-point line (39.8%). It goes without saying that if you’re bad at defending the paint and 3-point line, you’re going to be giving up a ton of points nightly. The Bulls rank 19th in Defensive Rating (113.4 points per 100 possessions this season) but they’ll be facing a Pelicans offense that has the third-best Offensive Rating (121.0) over the past two weeks.

What Zion Williamson is doing to the rest league isn’t getting nearly enough attention. He’s averaging 25.5 points on 65.3% True Shooting this season, but over the past 10 games he’s shooting nearly 70% from the field while scoring 29.5 points per game.

For those of us who were skeptical that he was worthy of all the hype coming out of Duke, he’s proving to be an unstoppable force that is must see TV every night. He’s also drawing eight free throws per game — tied for fifth in the NBA. I have no faith in Chicago’s ability to slow down Williamson, or the rest of the Pelicans.

The Bulls aren’t slouches on offense themselves as Zach LaVine’s 28.5 points per game on 52% shooting has this Bulls offense capable of scoring with anyone. The Bulls have the 11th best Offensive Rating (114.8) over the past two weeks and in conjunction with them playing the fourth-fastest pace (101.75) in the league this season, this game is likely to be exciting and high scoring affair.

My projections make this game 239, so I’ll take the over.

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Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks

Pick
Wait for 221 or better
Gametime
8 p.m. ET
TV
NBA League Pass

My projections make this game 221, but the market has adjusted with the uncertainty around Luka Doncic who was downgraded to doubtful with lower back tightness.

If Doncic can’t go, the Mavericks are losing a much of their offense as they are +11.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor vs off the floor. Even if he can go, I still lean toward the under.

Overall these teams aren’t particularly fast paced and with this being the last game before the break, I’m not expecting much of a high offensive output. The Mavericks can get hot from deep, but the Thunder do a solid job defending against 3s, holding opposing teams to just 34.8% from behind the arc.

Against the Mavericks, who are launching 40.1% of their field goal attempts from 3-point range, defending 3s will be key for OKC if they hope to slow down their ninth-ranked offense. And with Lu Dort, the Thunder have a wing they can throw at Doncic if he does suit up.

On the other side of the ball, the Thunder rank 29th in Offensive Rating, scoring an abysmal 106.0 points per 100 possessions. This Mavericks defense, which is much improved from the start of the season, should have no problem slowing down the Thunder.

If you can find a number at 221 or above, I think there’s value in betting the under.

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NHL Odds & Pick for Maple Leafs vs. Oilers: Lock Edmonton at This Number (March 3)

Maple Leafs vs. Oilers Odds

Maple Leafs Odds -108
Oilers Odds -108
Over/Under 6.5
Time Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET
TV NHL.tv
Odds as of Tuesday and via DraftKings.

I saw a promo last weekend for the reboot of the television show Punky Brewster, which was a sitcom in the early-90’s that was annoying to me even as a child.

I’m not sure what the target market was back then for that show, and I certainly don’t know what it is now since the adult version of the character was insufferable 30 years ago.

It was at that moment of seeing this commercial that I realized that if that show can be greenlit in Hollywood, then three readers and I could probably get in a room and create a show that would get put to air somewhere, without much difficulty. I’m not sure I’ve watched a half-hour sitcom since “How I Met Your Mother” in its prime.

One of the many running jokes throughout the show was the male lead character, Ted Mosby, thinking he could pull off wearing red cowboy boots. Irrationally and improbably, he would enter a room with them on and simply say, “Pulling them off.”

The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently walking around in red cowboy boots confidently saying, “Pulling this off.”

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Toronto Maple Leafs

We’ve detailed at length this season how the Leafs’ even-strength metrics not adding up to the success they’ve had and the points they’ve accumulated. However, at least they were doing it with an all-world offensive performance from Auston Matthews and a consistently good effort in goal from Frederik Andersen. 

The Leafs must have not gotten the memo that their trip to Alberta doesn’t feature a trip to Calgary, a city known for its world-class rodeo event, because the Leafs are strutting around Edmonton this week in their red cowboy boots.

Toronto has pulled off back-to-back shutout victories over the Oilers without the services of Matthews and Andersen. Backup goalie Jack Campbell returned just in time for the first shutout and then almost immediately re-injured himself, only to have their “break in case of emergency” goalie, Michael Hutchinson, get the second one. 

Offensively, the Leafs have been doing Leafs things. That is to say, scoring goals without creating many High-Danger Chances (HDC) at even-strength. Despite six such chances in the first matchup, and just five in the second, the Leafs scored early in both games to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

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Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers lost on Saturday because they couldn’t convert any of their 14 HDC at even-strength and weren’t able to draw any penalties. Hockey’s anti-Leafs conspiracy theorists would interject at this point and mention that the best way to beat Connor McDavid and the Oilers’ lethal power play is to have the referees never call any penalties. An especially adept strategy with the Leafs’ power-play assassin (Matthews) sitting out. 

Ideally, the Oilers want to play a run-and-gun type of game with the Leafs, trading opportunities. It’s even better if Edmonton is the only one getting the chances.

Where that falls apart is if the Oilers can’t play more than half a period without a seemingly innocuous shot going in past their goaltenders. Both Mike Smith and Mika Koskinen gave up goals in the first 15 minutes of play that they’d like to have back. In the case of Koskinen, his three goals on 10 shots (and the first two of the game) were enough to get him the early hook. Koskinen’s ineffectiveness means that the Oilers have to rely on the 38-year-old Smith, which was not the plan coming into the season. 

The big surprise from the first two games of this three-game set is that we haven’t heard much more than a peep from McDavid. The Oilers’ star is known for taking opportunities to assert his excellence in situations like this, when the hockey world is watching. After just one shot on Saturday, he had six on Monday so he’s at least getting opportunities. 


Betting Analysis & Pick

Strangely, despite a combined 7-0 deficit over two games, the Oilers rating in my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model as heard on “THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast,”  actually improved. They’re now over 2% above average at even-strength, while the Leafs maintain a rating of 4% above average. This translates to a 51% win probability at Rogers Place for the Oilers.

The closing prices for the Oilers have slowly dropped, from ending up as high as -130 after Matthews was announced as out on Saturday to -110 on Monday. Given the results of those games, I think we can expect a better number than that for the Oilers on Wednesday.

While there isn’t going to be a ton of value relative to my model, I expect the Oilers to finally break through offensively in this one and salvage a pair of points. They’re currently -108 on DraftKings, but look for that to go down.

If not, the Leafs will have to pack those red cowboy boots for all their road trips in the future. 

Pick: Oilers +100 or better

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Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Betting Preview: Who Holds Value With Loyola Chicago?

ncaa-college basketball-betting-odds-picks-missouri valley conference tournament-loyola chicago-missouri state-northern iowa-southern illinois

Before you scroll right through this article, assuming this is some kind of literary coronation of Loyola Chicago, let me remind you of a little something about Arch Madness: It’s an event steeped in underdog success stories. 

In the last 10 years, the No. 1 seed in the Missouri Valley Tournament has cut down the nets only three times. The average seeding of the MVC champion in the last five years alone is just 3.2. And keep in mind, this is just a 10-team league.

And, just for good measure, the top-seed has failed to make the title game in three of the last five years. In terms of volatility, the MVC is one of the most unpredictable postseason tournaments to cover. 

So, let’s have a look at this bracket.

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The Ramblers took home the MVC regular-season crown last week and head to St. Louis ranked 20th in the AP Poll, 18th in the NET, and 11th in KenPom. 

Of the four teams they could play on their road to the semifinals, they hold a collective record of 7-1 against them with an average margin of victory of eight points. 

Given this layout, if you want to dream of winning this thing, it helps to be on the Drake side of the bracket, which, given the Bulldogs’ injury issues, is wide open. 

The Favorite

Loyola Chicago -155

Loyola Chicago Ramblers

Porter Moser has already proven that 2018 wasn’t a fluke. Sister Jean’s program is 21-4 (16-2) on the season and appears primed to make another run in the Big Dance.

Surprisingly, the Ramblers haven’t fortified a position within the AP Top 25 with the traditional mid-major formula. They don’t have a superstar that the major programs whiffed on, a la Steph Curry or Damian Lillard. 

Nor do they bomb away from 3-point range. In fact, Loyola attempts fewer than 20 treys per game, which places them 256th nationally in that statistic. Instead, they slow the game way down, playing at nearly the slowest pace in all of college basketball. 

That allows their suffocating half-court defense and elite defensive rebounding to go to work. Loyola allows just 56 points per game (1st), and given its defensive efficiency (4th) and defensive rebound ranking (10th), it’s unlikely that it’ll suddenly regress overnight and allow a team to turn a game into a track meet. 

We have a feel for Loyola’s pre-tournament odds throughout Arch Madness, thanks to our friends at TeamRankings

Given the fact that Loyola is going off between -150 and -225 depending on the book, it’s worth shopping around for the best number. 

I feel confident it’ll cruise to the title game, but hedging out of a -150 position is entirely different from a -225 ticket. If you can’t find it at -200 or better, parlaying it on the moneyline in consecutive games (Quarters, Semis) would be preferable to the futures value. 

For the sake of clean math, if you wagered $225 on Loyola to win the MVC with a net return of $100, you wouldn’t have a simple hedge opportunity before any game tipped. If, however, you took the same $225 and rolled it over round-by-round via moneyline plays, you could have a scenario that looked like this:

  • Quarterfinals — $225 at (-1000)
  • Semifinals — $248 at (-600)
  • Finals — $290

At this point, with $65 dollars of profit (+28% return), there are far more attractive ways to reach that original $100 profit you were entertaining with a -225 MVC futures ticket. 

You could play your profits on the Loyola ML at $65 and get in the neighborhood of $90 should it win. In that scenario, you’d nearly reach your initial goal or end up even. Or you could play Loyola in the -5/-6 point spread range for the last $35 and either hit your goal or walk away up $30 for your troubles. 

This of course is predicated on my firm belief that Loyola is an ironclad lock in its first two games. 

Photo Credit: Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images.

Value Plays

Missouri State +750

Missouri State Bears

This team can really shoot the basketball, particularly inside the arc (56.7%, 13th). And when I’m targeting teams to reel off a handful of upsets, I want to examine their absolute ceiling. 

To the Bears’ credit, they gave Drake two quality efforts, which is when the Bulldogs were at full strength and steamrolling the competition. 

That included jumping out to a 15-point first-half lead against Drake in their first meeting. Since then, Drake has proven mortal, going 6-3 straight up and 5-4 against the spread in its last nine. 

It’s also helpful that MO State pulls Valpo in the quarterfinals because it dominated the Crusaders on the road in their two meetings this season. 

TeamRankings puts Missouri State’s odds at reaching the finals at 30%, but I think it’s closer to a 50/50 proposition given its projected path. If it does meet Loyola in the title game, a +750 ticket presents a host of profitable hedge opportunities. 

Photo Credit: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

Northern Iowa+5000

Northern Iowa Panthers

As I said at the top, the Drake side of the bracket is the place to attack the MVC from a betting perspective. 

The Panthers never truly recovered from the loss of AJ Green back in the fall. The sharpshooting junior meant everything to UNI, and it fell apart when he was lost for the season to a hip injury. 

It responded by dropping 11 of its next 17 games before a late-season bounce helped it finish its regular-season campaign on a mini-run (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS). Was it a dead cat bounce? I don’t think so. 

If anything, UNI’s defense has returned to form, holding MVC opponents to 63 points per game in regulation across their last four. Additionally, Austin Phyfe has upped his game considerably, providing UNI with a second scoring option alongside senior wing Trae Berhow. 

The Panthers just beat Illinois State in back-to-back games in Normal and drew the Redbirds again to start tournament play. 

If they win, they’ll face a wounded Drake team that is down ShanQuan Hemphill and Roman Penn. 

If they can upset the Bulldogs as a four-to-five point underdog, this 50:1 future ticket is a license to print money. Hedging out in the semifinals and finals becomes straightforward. 

Photo Credit: David K Purdy/Getty Images.

Longshot

Southern Illinois +12500

Southern Illinois Salukis

This play is predicated on three things: the juicy odds, the Salukis’ performance against Loyola last week (took it to OT) and Lance Jones. 

The sophomore wing has been filling it up lately with 21 against Valpo and 30 against Loyola Chicago. Even a hot start against Loyola would provide a massive hedge opportunity. 

In Loyola’s last five games, it’s trailed twice at half before revving up its offense in the second half. With a huge payout at the end of the rainbow, if Southern Illinois can put together a strong first 20 minutes, I would hammer Loyola’s live ML, which hopefully would drop from the -1500 range to the -400 range with 20 minutes remaining. 

This, of course, is dependent on the Salukis knocking off Bradley in the opening round. Given that they split with the Braves on the road, I’m not backing off a flyer on SIU.

Photo Credit: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images.
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Creighton at Villanova Player Props: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl Needs to Score in Rematch (Wednesday, March 3)

Creighton at Villanova Point Totals O/U

Player Points
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (V) 15.5
Marcus Zegarowski (C) 14.5
Collin Gillespie (V) 14.5
Jermaine Samuels Jr. (V) 13
Justin Moore (V) 12.5
Damien Jefferson (C) 11.5
Denzel Mahoney (C) 11.5
Christian Bishop (C) 10.5
Mitch Ballock (C) 10.5
Caleb Daniels (V) 10

Odds via DraftKings 

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was just 3-of-13 shooting for eight points when Villanova lost 86-70 to Creighton earlier this season. If the Wildcats are going to beat Creighton and help their case for a No. 1 seed, Robinson-Earl will have to be more involved on Wednesday.

Robinson-Earl tops the available player props at DraftKings Sportsbook for the Big East matchup (8:30 p.m. ET, FS1) with and over/under set at 15.5, which is his season average. He leads a balanced Villanova attack that includes five players averaging in double-figures. All five players have props available.

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He’s only topped that number five times in conference play, including 16 points in Villanova’s loss to Butler on Sunday.

It was guard Justin Moore who led the Wildcats in scoring in the loss to Creighton. Moore, who’s prop is set to 12.5 on Wednesday, scored 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting against the Bluejays. Teammate Jermaine Samuels scored 16.

Marcus Zegarowski went off for a season-high 25 points in the win over Villanova on Feb. 13, making 10-of-18 shots. He figures to be a focus of Villanova’s defense, but Zegarowski has topped his 14.5-point total seven times in 12 games since the calendar turned to 2021.

Mitch Ballock scored 20 last game thanks in large part to 6-of-8 shooting behind the arc. He’s shooting 41 percent from three this year, which is where he generates the majority of his shots.

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Wednesday NBA Odds & Picks: Our Staff’s Best Bets for Jazz vs. 76ers, Thunder vs. Mavericks (March 3)

Wednesday’s slate of games should not disappoint.

On the national TV front, we’ve got two rivalry games to bet. In the early slot, James Harden and the Brooklyn Nets head to Houston to face his former Rockets teammates at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. In the late game, Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers will face Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors for the first time since Curry scored a career-high 62 points on the Blazers in January.

Oh, and the two best teams in each conference, meet when the Utah Jazz face the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo arena.

Our NBA crew has found two spread bets in two Wednesday games that show value. You can find their analysis and picks for all two games below.

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NBA Odds & Picks

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Jazz vs. 76ers
7 p.m. ET
Thunder vs. Mavericks
8 p.m. ET

Utah Jazz vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Pick
Utah Jazz -3.5 (PointsBet)
Tipoff
7 p.m. ET
TV
NBA League Pass

Raheem Palmer: With a 23-12 record through the first half of the season, the Philadelphia 76ers have the best record in the Eastern Conference and Joel Embiid has put himself in the conversation as the league’s Most Valuable Player. What’s not being talked about enough is that the 76ers are just 8-8 against teams .500 or better and they have just five wins against teams above .500.

They defeated a short handed Celtics team twice in back-to-back games without Jayson Tatum, a Lakers team coming off a tough game against the Cavaliers, the Nets coming off a back-to-back game against the Raptors and missing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and a Mavericks team without Kristaps Porzingis. The 76ers team has simply beat up on inferior competition the entire year as they 15-4 against teams below .500 while struggling against the league’s best competition.

Now they face the team with the best record in the league right when they’ve hit a bit of adversity after losing two of their past three games against the Pelicans and Heat. The losses aside, this is still arguably one of the best teams in the league as they are second in both Offensive Rating (119.6) and Defensive Rating (107.6) in their non garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass.

The real concern for the 76ers in this matchup is that the Jazz will likely outshoot them from behind the arc. The Jazz are shooting a league leading 45.4% of their field goal attempts from behind the arc while making 40.3% of them, third among NBA teams. The 76ers are rank 12th in opponent 3-point percentage and with them making just 10.7 3s per game on offense vs. Utah’s 16.9, they could potentially be outscored by 18.6 points from behind the arc.

The Jazz have a whopping nine player shooting 37% or better from deep, which will put pressure on the 76ers to make up the difference in the 3-point shooting disparity somewhere else on the floor. Zion Williamson dominated the Jazz on Monday, scoring 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting, so one may think that Joel Embiid could do the same.

Looking back at the previous four meetings between these teams, Gobert held Embiid under 40% shooting in three games, forcing him into 7-of-20, 5-of-16 and 5-of-13 shooting nights. Ben Simmons has the ability to completely wreak havoc as he did in their first matchup when he scored 42 points on 15-of-26 shooting, however that level of aggressiveness is few and far between with Simmons.

In order for the 76ers to win, they’ll need an aggressive Simmons on offense who can also slow down Donovan Mitchell on defense. They’ll also Embiid to be dominant enough against Rudy Gobert to overcome the 3-point shooting disparity. The 76ers are a beast at home with a 15-3 record compared to 8-9 on the road, but I’m still not seeing it.

I’ll lay the points with the Jazz who will look to close out their historic first half of the season with a win.

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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks

Pick
Thunder +5.5 (FanDuel)
Tipoff
8 p.m. ET
TV
NBA League Pass

Brandon Anderson: The Thunder keep sneaking up on people, and Sam Presti just can’t build a proper losing team. Every time Presti trades another star and blows up the team, in comes another competent set of guys who play hard and keep the team afloat yet again.

This year it’s an Al Horford renaissance combined with an All-Star-snub-worthy leap from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander along with meaningful development from young players like Darius Bazley, Isaiah Roby, Theo Maldeon, Lu Dort, and others. New year, new players, new coach, same old story. OKC shows up every night and competes hard, even if it doesn’t always have enough talent to close the deal.

The Mavericks also don’t appear to have enough talent, but expectations were different in Dallas. Many, including myself, thought the Mavs might make the leap into contention this year, but they are barely contending for the playoffs at this point.

Luka Doncic has been awesome and even better lately, but he isn’t getting much help. Kristaps Porzingis continues to disappoint, and the Mavericks role players haven’t meshed as well this season.

Now Doncic is questionable, according to our NBA Insiders tool, and as they near the All-Star break, I wonder if he may get a little extra rest here. If he does, we are getting serious value for our +6 line.

But even if he does play, I still think this could be close. The Mavericks are just 1-6 against the spread this season when they closed as 5-point favorites or more, according to Bet Labs.

I like OKC to keep this game close, like they usually do, and Dallas plays in a ton of close games too. If Doncic does play, Dort should make his night miserable, and Dallas doesn’t have enough other firepower to pull away. I like the Thunder a lot in this spot and love them if Luka ends up sitting.

I’d play down to +5 and might sprinkle a bit of my bet on the +198 moneyline too in case the Mavs totally blow this one.

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NBA Player Props To Bet This Wednesday: Fade John Wall In Revenge Game vs. James Harden

We are dragging toward the All-Star Break, and it’s time to play unders. This is not great basketball right now. Everyone is exhausted and ready for a break, and we are getting extra blowouts, fading star minutes, and weaker efforts overall.

I’ve been hunting unders this week, and we had a successful Fade the Stars Night yesterday here in this column. Today we’re taking it one step further and making it “Fade the Guards Night”, grabbing the under for three guards with lines set too high.

For those who are new to this article, we’ll be using the Action Labs Player Prop tool to compare our NBA projections to the props posted at a variety of sportsbooks. Each bet is then graded on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the best possible grade.

Below, I have laid out three prop bets that I’m playing, the case for each bet and the best books to find odds on those player props.

NBA Player Props & Picks

Jordan Clarkson, Under 19.5 points (-118)

Jazz vs. 76ers Jazz -3
Time | TV 7 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass
Best Book FanDuel

Jordan Clarkson is a bucket.

The odds on favorite to win Sixth Man of the Year has some monster games this season. Clarkson is averaging 18.2 points per game, and he leads the league in free throw percentage at 96.6%. He’s literally missed two all year, and it feels like it.

Clarkson had his best game of the season a couple weeks ago against the 76ers, dropping 40 on Philly with eight 3-pointers. Mike Conley was sidelined for that game, but he’s back now.

Clarkson didn’t start in Conley’s place, but he did soak up quite a bit more minutes and usage without him. Since Conley’s return, Clarkson is down to 25.6 minutes and 18 points per game. Still excellent! Just not quite the same production.

Conley hasn’t scored more than 20 points in any game since Conley’s return. In fact, he’s only scored more than 20 points three times in his past 17 games. We still think of him as a guy who will go for 40 one night and six the next, but the truth is that Clarkson has become a pretty steady, reliable contributor — he’s just reliably contributing a point or two below this line.

We project Clarkson at 25 minutes and 16.5 points tonight, and I think this could be a tough matchup against Philly, even as well as he played last time. I like the under here to -140. He’s gone under this line in 71% of his games this season.

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John Wall, Under 25.5 points (-117)

Nets vs. Rockets Nets -9.5
Time | TV 7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN
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I’m sorry, which John Wall is listed at 25.5 points again?

It’s really great to see Wall playing ball again. We’ve seen rare flashes and glimpses of the star we once knew. But it’s also become pretty clear that all-caps JOHN WALL is gone and not returning with the injury history.

This version is fine. Wall has put up decent numbers, helped by a super fast Rockets pace, even though Houston has now lost 12 in a row and is far past the post-Jame Harden honeymoon high.

Of course, that’s the big storyline tonight, as Harden makes his return to Houston. And if this was against someone like Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul in a pissed-off revenge spot, I would stay away.

But I don’t think Wall even played long enough with Harden to hate him. I’m not that worried about the personal motivation here, much as I’m sure Houston the team would love to shut the Beard down.

Wall’s scoring is ticking up lately as he gets his legs, but even then, he’s still at 22.7 points per game over the last 10 games, and that’s still way short of this line. Even with his scoring on the upswing, he still went under this line in six of the past 10, and he’s gone under it in 17 of his 24 games this season. That’s a 71% hit rate on the under.

Wall’s median scoring outcome this season is 20.5 points. That’s a far cry from another line that just seems a little too high.

Maybe I’m wrong, and perhaps this is in fact a revenge spot for Wall. Maybe he’ll come out firing. I’d like this bet a little more if I knew Eric Gordon was playing for sure.

If he sits, that’s a little extra scoring available for Wall. But this is such a high line that I have to play it either way. I’ll fade Wall and grab the under to -145.

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Ricky Rubio, Under 7.5 assists (+116)

Hornets vs. Timberwolves Hornets -2.5
Time | TV 8 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass
Best Book FanDuel

The Timberwolves are really bad. Like … really, really bad. Karl-Anthony Towns has lost 30 of his past 34 games. That’s just not great.

Minnesota fired its coach a week ago and turned over the reins to Chris Finch. The results haven’t changed just yet four losses later, but the process is starting to look a lot different. Finch is clearly putting the ball in the hands of Minnesota’s two young stars more often and asking them to show more, regardless of the win-loss result.

Anthony Edwards had six assists a few nights ago. Karl-Anthony Towns has had at least five assists in three of the four Finch games, and he had 11 dimes in Finch’s debut. That makes sense with Finch’s history. He has had a ton of success with ball-handling big men, and Towns is getting the ball a lot.

The Wolves are missing both D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley, so that leaves them pretty shorthanded, and it would be natural to expect more production from a veteran guard like Ricky Rubio. That hasn’t been the case though. Rubio hasn’t seen any real uptick in minutes or role even with Minnesota missing bodies.

In four games with Finch, Rubio is playing 26.6 minutes per game, right at his season average, and he’s averaging just 5.8 assists. That puts him under this line in three of the four games, and he’s under in 23 of 33 on the season, hitting the under 70% of the time.

I gotta be honest. I just think this line is wrong, and it’s even more baffling that it’s moving in the other direction with plus juice and an 8.5-dime line at some books.

Normally I make the safer play with multiple options, but I’ll make the aggressive play here and grab the +114 down to even odds, or pivot to under 8.5 from there. I don’t think the books have adjusted for Finch yet.

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