NCAAB Play of Day: Bellarmine Knights at Kennesaw State Owls

In their first year of division 1 basketball the Bellarmine Knights have turned heads with their efficiency on the offensive end.  They are currently tied for second in the conference one game behind North Alabama. The Knights win by moving the ball and making the most of every trip, they have an effective field goal percentage of 54% which ranks them in the top 50 in the entire nation.  They have a team field goal percentage that ranks 18th in the nation. They are the top three-point shooting team in the Atlantic Sun shooting 39% from behind the arc.  They are led by Pedro Bradshaw in points and boards averaging 13 ppg and 7 rpg.  

Kennesaw State is a trainwreck on offense, averaging just 63 ppg and shooting just 30% from behind the arc.  They lean  on the duo of Spencer Rodgers and Chris Youngblood who are the only double digit scorers on the roster, averagina a combined 28 ppg.   As a team they don’t put the ball in the basket enough to be successful. They shoot just 42% from two and 27% from three on the season.  

Bellarmine has been disruptive on the defensive end causing turnovers 21% of the time.  Kennesaw State has turned the ball over 21% of the time on offense.  The Owls combination of poor shooting along with a high turnover rate will be a detriment to an efficient Bellermine Knights offensive attack.  Bellarmine has won and covered in four straight games while Kennesaw State has lost 11 straight games while only going 3-3 ATS at home on the season.  Bellarmine is 5-0 ATS on the road this season and that should continue in this matchup.  

Play of the day: Bellarmine Knights -7.5

NCAAB Play of the Day: Bradley Braves at Valparaiso Crusaders

Two middle tier Missouri Valley teams face off in what looks to be a defensive minded affair between the Bradley Braves and the Valparaiso Crusaders.

The Bradley Braves enter this contest on a 3-game conference losing streak, falling short of taking down conference favorite Loyola-Chicago in a two game set and dropping a shocking game to Illinois State in a spot where they were clearly looking ahead.  They have had time to process the loss and now get a matchup with a low scoring Valpo team. Bradley ranks 81st in defensive efficiency in the country and  will stifle a Valpo offense that has scored under 69 points in 4 of 5 games.  

On the offensive side of the ball Bradley will have the best player on the court in Senior forward Elijah Childs averagin 14 points and 7 rebounds per game.  He is a do it all player on the offensive end and should be able to carry the load for the Braves.  The emergence of Junior guard Terry Nolan Jr. has been a big part of establishing the Braves offense along with Childs, Nolan has been shooting a respectable 35% from three for the season.  Bradley hopes to have Ja’Shon Henry backin the lineup, his 11 ppg and 60% shooting have been missed over the last three games.  If he is not able to go they should still be able to muster enough offense to grab an early lead and utilize their defense to hold down a Valpo team that has no one outside of Sophmore forward Ben Krikke that has been reliable on offense. 

Bradley’s defense will be too much for the struggling Crusader offense.  Bradley doesn’t allow you to score inside and their perimeter athletes are just better than what Valpo can bring to the table.  If you like a low scoring affair this one will be for you, I would think this game is going to stay under the 130 point mark but I feel more confident in a dominant effort from a Bradley squad looking to reestablish themselves in the Missouri Valley. 

Play of the day: Bradley Braves -5.5

NCAAB Play of the Day: Ole Miss Rebels vs. Arkansas Razorbacks

A clash of styles is going to take place Wednesday night when the Ole Miss Rebels visit the Arkanas Razorbacks.

The slow pace, defensive minded Rebels are coming off of two straight victories over Texas A&M and Mississippi State.  Both victories were played out in the same style, a slow grind it out affair where the Rebels were easily able to dictate the pace.  That pace is very slow, ranking 278th in the nation.  To win they just have to slow everything down and not allow the potent Arkansas offense to get rolling.  On offense the Rebels feature Senior guard Devontae Shuler, averagin 14 ppg and 4.1 apg, his ability to manage the slow pace on offense and find the best shot is literally the only offense they bring to the table. 

Arkansas rebounded from two straight losses with two straight victories over Vanderbilt and Auburn.  Their offense has been the story of the program all season, led by Freshman guard Moses Moody who is averagin 17 ppg this season and running the fast paced and efficient Razorbacks offense.  Arkansas is averaging 85 ppg this season ranking #9 overall. 

This game will be a clash of styles but the Arkansas offense is much more explosive. Ole Miss has had problems with efficient offensive teams, being dominated in their matchups with LSU, Alabama and Georgia.  The Rebels inability to shoot the ball from three or from the free throw line will be impossible to overcome a powerful offense.  Ole Miss shoots just 29% from behind the three,  that will limit any chance they have to overcome an Arkansas offense that will keep attacking.  The defense of Arkanas is underrated and their offense is going to be very tough to stop.  Razorbacks will be to efficient to overcome.  

Play of the day: Arkansas Razorbacks -4.5

NCAAB Play of the Day: Toledo at Miami-OH

The top team in the MAC the Toledo Rockets are in action on Tuesday night against a surprise competitor in the MAC East the Miami-OH Redhawks.  

The Toledo Rockets are 8-1 in the conference averaging 79 ppg in 2021.  The Rockets are putting the ball in the hope consistently and quickly.  Their 79 ppg rank them 25th in the nation and have an effective FG% of 53.5%. They have multiple scorers that make life tough for opposing defenses. Their leading scorer is Marron Jackson who is averaging 17 ppg and is coming off of a 31 point game against Akron.  

Toledo will have to deal with the red hot Miami-OH Redhawks who have won three straight games and put up 85, 96 and 81 over that span.  Much like their counterparts the Redhawks have been lighting it up from three.  They are second in the MAC in 3-pt % at 38% (31st in the nation).  The Redhawks are led by guard Dae Dae Grant, averaging 13.4 per game and coming off of a career high 27 points in their latest victory over Eastern Michigan.  

These two teams are both on fire offensively.  Toledo has especially been an over machine on the road with a 6-1 record to the over away from home.  Miami-OH has been 4-2 to the over at home on the season and have hit the over in 3 straight games.  While neither team is highly touted for their pace they are both offensive efficient and shoot the three at a high level.  This game should be set around 150, it currently sits at 146 which gives some great value for Tuesday’ action.  I am rolling with the over in a game that should stay competitive.  

Play of the day: Over 146 

NCAAB Pick of the Day: Aggies roll in a bounce back.

Utah State Aggies at UNLV Running Rebels

Utah State dropped their first conference game to Colorado State last week.  Before that loss they had announced their presence with back to back victories of conference favorite San Diego State.  The Aggies take care of business on both ends of the floor featuring one of the top defensive units in the Mountain West  giving up just 55 points per game while holding opposing offenses to just 28% 3-pt shooitng.   

UNLV has won four straight against sub-par competition.  The four wins were against pitiful New Mexico (2), and two teams I would have to google twice to find out what division they are in St. Katherine and Benedict Mesa.  The Rebes have been solid defensively this season with an Adj defensive efficiency ranking 127th according to Kenpom.  The matchup with Utah State will be their biggest test in conference this season. 

Utah State have a balanced offensive attack with five different players averagin over 10 ppg.  They also bring a huge rebounding edge, ranking in the top twenty in rebounds per game with 41 per contest.  Utah State will have free rain around the perimeter and have a force in the middle with Neemis Queta. The Aggies have defended the 3-pt shot all season, other than their loss to Colorado State they have not allowed a team to shoot over 32% from deep. 

This game will be contested between two teams that are the top defensive squads in their conference.  The difference is the Aggies have more balance and a much higher effective field goal percentage.  The Aggies are a better team all around and should show it on Monday. 

PIck of the day: Utah State Aggies -5.5

Cardinals need to replace Wong. Free agent options.

The Cardinals decided to let Kolten Wong walk this offseason.  They didnt want to pick up his club option that would have paid him $12.5 million in 2021.  Contracts of other players such as Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter are likely a big reason why the club felt paying a rather steep price for a second baseman with just two seasons of WAR over 3 was not worth it.  While his 2020 shortened season numbers were not impressive he still leaves a void in the Cardinals lineup that has to be filled.  Internal options Tommy Edman and Edmund Sosa will likely get the first shot. There are external options that may be affordable and impactful.  

Enrique Hernandez, 29, 1.1 WAR (2020)

The Cardinals are one of the worst teams in baseball against left-handed pitching over the last two seasons.  St. Louis had just an OPS of .713 in 2020 against southpaws.  Enter in Kiki Hernandez.  A long time lefty smasher, Hernandez has been a vital bench player for the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers since 2014.  He carries a career OPS of .820 versus lefties and tons of versatility on top of that. 

Hernandez will be a cheaper option to Wong as he is projected to sign for just around $6 million a year.  Adding a player that can play multiple positions and provide some pop to a lineup that lacks consistent power options would be an answer to a few of the St. Louis offensive problems.

Johnathan Villar, 30, -0.3 (2020), 4.0 (2019)

Villar had a disastorous 2020, there is no other way around it.  Cashing in on this would be advantageous to anyone willing to take a shot on the veteran.  Villar brings instant offense to any team with his speed and power.  Villar had the best season of his career in 2019 hitting 24 homers and stealing 40 bases.  He had his second highest career OBP at .339.   

Villar is a high-risk, high reward option that will be cheap.  His ability to switch hit is also a great value for late game moves. 

Tommy LaStella, 32, 3.2 WAR (2020)

Tommy LaStella not being signed yet is a great example of the ridiculous nature of MLB free agency at the moment.  A veteran player that has hit at an all-star level over the last two seasons is still sitting on the market without much of an idea on where he will be next season. 

LaStella has had two straight seasons with a WRC+ over 120.  In 2020 LaStella ranked 25th overall in the league in OBP (.370).  He would fit very nicely into the leadoff spot that was vacated by Wong.  While he doesn’t have the speed that Wong brings to the table his ability to get on base could set up very nicely for Paul Goldschmidt.   An inability to consistently hit lefties has hampered LaStella’s overall numbers but the Cardinals could easilit platoon him with Tommy Edman, allowing for a solid bat to be used later on in the game. 

A Positive for Indians Fans

Cleveland Indians fans have had to see arguably the brightest star in baseball leave their organization when they traded Francisco Lindor last week for a package of prospects.  The Indians are just five seasons from being in the World Series and now are looking at a complete rebuild.  The Indians have lost an all-star team worth of talent over the last five years.  Lindor is the top of the list that also includes Carlos Carrasco, Andrew Miller, Michael Brantley, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Santana, Mike Clevinger and Yandy Diaz.  Cleveland finds themselves behind Minnesota and Chicago in the central division and likely will not overtake them for a few years.  While the Indians have given up a lot of stars they have been able to build a young group of players as well as some financial flexibility to lock up their young talent.  

In 2020 the Indians farm system vaulted up to rank #12 overall according to ESPN and Baseball America.  Cleveland has loaded itself with young talent.  Of the Indians top ten prospects seven of them are 20 or younger (8 assuming you remove Tristan Mckenzie).  Cleveland’s top prospect Nolan Jones should see MLB time this year.  #2 ranked prospect Tyler Freeman is still a few years away but the addition of two major league ready shortstops in the trade with the Mets.  The trade with the Mets allows the Indians to allow Freeman time to continue to develop.  The Indians also have their catcher of the future in Bo Naylor.  Naylor will play behind Robeto Perez in 2021, but his time will come very soon depending on the succes of the Indians leading into the trade deadline this summer.  Cleveland unloaded most of their salary in order to reload for the future and build their team from within similarly to the way they did it leading into the 2016 system.

Cleveland has built up a great amount of roster flexibility as they watch their prospects continue to grow.  Jose Ramirez currently is the highest paid Indian at $9 million per year.  Over the next two seasons Ramirez is owed $26 million over the next two years but has a team buyout option of just $2 million.   Ramirez is just 28 years old heading into 2021 and the decision on his future could strictly come down to where the Indians are in the development of Nolan Jones, who grades out as primarily a 3rd baseman.  The financial situation in Cleveland is ideal for Cy Young winner Shane Bieber to get locked down in the near future as he is just now becoming arbitration eligible.  Bieber along with fellow pitchers Adam Plutko, Tristan McKenzie, Zac Plesac, Aaron Civale, Cal Quantril and Logan Allen are the rotation pieces of right now and the future as they are all under the age of 30 and under team control for most of the foreseeable future.  

Cleveland fans will find it tough to see the bright side to trading away their best player.  Ultimately if you just look at the pieces you have to consider it a win for the New York Mets,  While the Mets got the best two players of the trade Cleveland was able to grab two highly rated prospects, most notably pitcher Josh Wolf who will find himself as a top ten prospect in the Indians system at some point in 2021.  They also got Isiah Greene, an outfielder they had been targeting since the draft last year.  Both players are projected to be future standouts in their system.  Along with the prospects the Indians were able to get major league ready talent in Ahmed Rosario and last year’s breakout player Andres Gimenez.  Neither are on the level of Lindor but they will be solid pieces for a rebuilding team.  Gimenez grades out as a future gold glover at the position and ranks in the top 93rd percentile in speed which can at least make hima  stolen base threat.  

The Indians are a small market team that has to work with what their financials allow.  There will be some tough years ahead of the tribe but their pitching staff should be a highlight for a while and their farm system continues to grow.  The prospects they have picked up in the trades of Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Francisco Lindor are guys that fit their needs. If could be a lot worse in Cleveland,  just ask the Pittsburgh Pirates.  

NFL Playoff Saturday – Betting Each Game

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills have won six straight games and covered in eight straight games.  The Bills offense has set the tone scoring 31 ppg this season, ranking second in the NFL.   Josh Allen has dominating opposing defenses, putting himself in the middle of the MVP conversation. Allen has thrown for 15 touchdown passes in his last five games.  He will be without one of his favorite targets, Cole Beasley, but last week’s return of John Brown should make up for the loss. Stefon Diggs has shown that he is a top ten receiver in the NFL and has become a matchup nightmare for any team.  The Colts are only 20th in the league in yards versus the pass.  The combination of Diggs and Allen is one of the top combinations in the league and will show it on Saturday. 

The Colts have gottent he reputation of being a defensive team this year.  They have one of best defensive players in pro bowl linebacker Darius Leonard and rank second in the league in rush yards against and 10th in ppg given up.  The defense has stood out but while the offense has been on a nice roll all season.  They rank top 11 in both run and pass offense.  Rookie RB Jonathon Taylor has established himself as the lead back, scoring five touchdowns in his last three games, as well as running for 253 yards in their season finale.  QB Phillip Rivers has spread the ball around all season.  TY Hilton, Zac Pascal, Michael Pittman Jr., and Nyheim Hines have all been effective receivers for the Colts and any one of them could be the go-to target on Saturday.  

These two teams have been great to the over all season, combined they are 20-11 to the over.  They both feature top ten scoring offenses in the league.  The Colts have to take the lead early to have a chance against the powerful Bills offense.  While the Colts have the ability to run the ball effectively they don’t have Josh Allen.  Buffalo will give up points but this game is going to be high scoring so I am going with the team that has the better skill position players.

Pick: Over 52, Bills -6.5

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Two teams that are very familiar with each other meet on Saturday when the Rams head to Seattle to take on the Seahawks.  Both teams have questions on the offensive side of the ball, the Rams may be without starting QB Jared Goff while Seattle has had issues putting the ball in the endzone.  

The Seahawks started the season dominating on the offensive end averaging over 40 points per game in their first five.  Lately outside of a 40 point effort against the lowly Jets, Seattle has not found the same success.  Over their last 8 games the Seahawks are averaging just 23 ppg.  

The Rams may not have Goff on Saturday but they should have back WR Cooper Kupp who had to sit out the season finale with Arizona due to covid protocols.  Backup QB John Wolford showed some great elusive skills as a runner in his first career start, causing all kinds of problems for the Cardinals linebackers.  His ability to run opened up the pass game in the second half and with the return of Kupp and another week back for Cam Akers the Rams offense should give problems to a Seattle defense that has been great lately but may not have Safety Jamal Adams. 

These two teams have a lot of important injuries that are TBD.  Even if Goff is able to suit up it seems unlikely he can be very effective.  The Rams offense hasn’t been effective at all over the last five weeks, while the Seattle defense has transformed after the addition of Carlos Dunlap.  Even without Jamal Adams the Seattle defense can be effective against the Rams.  Seattle brings more weapons to the offesnive side.  I am going to trust Russell Wilson and the Seattle defense over a litany of uncertainty that the Rams have to deal with. 

Pick: Seattle Seahawks -3.5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team

The Washington Football Team won the NFC East.  They did this with a QB that literally couldn’t walk a year ago and a coach that likely had a lot of other things on his mind. The Football Team is built aroun their stellar defense led by rookie Chase Young.  They have held teams to just 20 ppg and just 190 yards through the air.  They haven’t given up more than 20 points in their last six games. With an offense that has not been able to find a grove the whole season due to many different QB changes, ultimately leading to former first round pick Dwayne Haskins getting released. Veteran Alex Smith will have to do his best to limit turnovers and take advantage of any positive field position. 

The Washington defense will face Tom Brady and the red hot offense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Brady was able to figure out his offensive weapons capabilites against the inferior defenses of Detroit, Minnesota and Atlanta (2) over their last four games.  Tampa Bay has not been able to establish the run consistently, if they are forced to throw consistently on Saturday they will be in trouble against the Washington defensive line.  Chase Young and Montez Sweat bring constant pressure. Brady has had his issues with tough defensive line and that should continue in this matchup.

Tampa Bay’s defense is a great matchup against the Washington offense that has to lean on the run due to lack of talent on the outside. Washington’s run first offense will have a lot of trouble against he leagues #1 overall run defense.  Tampa has basically taken the run away from opposing teams, they have had issues getting pressure on the QB but they won’t have to worry about a lot of downfield plays against Washington.  

Brady will struggle against the pressure, Washington will be able to get pressure with its front four allowing them to double the explosive receivers downfield.  The Bucs offense will struggle early but make adjustments in the second half that will allow them to just score more points than a lackluster opposing offense.  This game will be a chess match that may score the least amount of points of wild card weekend.  Bucs will win but won’t cover. 

Pick: Washington Football Team +9, Under 44.5