Wisconsin Badgers at Ohio State Buckeyes: Slower pace favors the Badgers

A classic matchup of Big Ten rivals will take place in Columbus Thrusday night when the Wisconsin Badgers take on the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Both teams find themselves towards the bottom the Big Ten and both are desperate for a win 

Wisconsin enters on a three game losing streak, shockingly failing to cover the spread in their last ten games.  The decline of the Badgers began when star forward Tyler Wahl suffered an injury; losses to Northwestern and Maryland without Wahl showed that the Badgers have depth issues behind their starting lineup. Wahl returned to the lineup last Saturday versus Illinois but was only able to play 19 minutes in the loss.  To pull off the upset Wisconsin has to find a way to make some shots, as a team they are shooting just 42% from inside the arc, relying heavily on the three point shot. Ohio State defends the three well, but does have a tendency to give open looks in their losses.  The return of Wahl should force more double teams in the post opening up shots for Chucky Hepburn and company from the outside.

Ohio State will have the best player on the court in Brice Sensabaugh, he leads an offense that is 3rd in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 76 ppg.  The Buckeyes have thrived in high scoring games, if they are allowed to run their offense at their pace they control the ball.  Wins over teams like Iowa, Cincinnati and Texas Tech were all games in the 80’s were they could run their offense without resistance.  Sensabaugh controls the offense, but he also has a steady post presence in Zed Key.  Key should be able to control the post against a Wisconsin team that is terrible on the glass.  

Ohio State has the superior offense but they will be forced into a grind it out affair with a Wisconsin team that is not going to allow Sensabaugh to control the pace.  The Badgers slow pace will keep this a low scoring affair. The Badgers are due for some positive regression. The return of a healthy Tyler Wahl will help the offense return to form.  Ohio State has statistically defended the three well but they do tend to allow open shots.  If Wisconsin hits a few shots it will open up the middle for Wahl and company to work inside.  This number is too high for a conference game with a fully healthy Badger team.  I am rollng with Wisconsin.

Pick: Wisconsin +7

Providence vs. Xavier: Rebounding makes the difference

Providence Friars at Xavier Musketeers

The battle for the top of the Big East is taking place Wednesday night when the Providnece Friars head to Ohip to take on the Xavier Musketeers.

Providence has won three straight taking down Depaul, Butler and most recently a fully healthy Villanova squad.  Kentucky transfer Bryce Hopkins has led the way averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds per game. The Friars rely on controlling the glass to generate a lot of their offense, they rank 7th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and top 15 in the nation in rebounds per game. Their guards crash the glass as well as any big men in the country, Devin Carter especially is a problem for opposing defenses with his ability and athleticism on the offensive glass.  Look for Jared Bynum to punish the poor 3pt defense of the Muskteers, they rank 297th in the country in 3pt defense.

Xavier suffered its first loss in over a month being dominated on the road against Creighton.  The game was not the biggest loss for the Musketeers, Senior forward Zach Freemantle will miss four weeks with a foot injury.  The loss of Freemantle will be a big problem for the Muskateers who will have to deal with a very good rebounding Friars team. Xavier will look to push the pace with Colby Jones and Souley Boum.  They will push the pace and look to jump on the Friars early to take advantage of one of the best home courts in all of college basketball. 

This game is going to be a shootout between two very efficient offenses.  Xavier will have the home court advantage which should help them in dictating the pace.  I think the loss of Freemantle is a big deal, losing your leading rebounder against a team like Providence that crashes the glass as well as anyone in the country is going to make it hard for the Muskateers to execute their game plan.  Providence has a huge advantage in this one without Freemantle, I think that allows them to take this game.  I’m taking Friars to cover and this goes over the total because of both teams’ great offensive skill sets.

Pick: Over 152, Xavier +3.5

Washington at UCLA – Prediction

Washington Huskies -3 at UCLA Bruins 

Friday night features a premier Pac 12 matchup between two undefeated teams when the Washington Huskies wil hit the road to take on the UCLA Bruins. 

It’s hard to imagine a better start to a season for Kalen Doer in his first season with the Huskies.  Doer and new QB, Indiana transfer Micheal Penix Jr. have lit up the scoreboard  averaging 44 points per game including a recent domination of Stanford in their first PAC 12 contest.  Penix Jr. is leading the nation in passing after four games, he has dynamic receivers on the outside, three different receivers have led the Huskies in yards, eclipsing the century mark in each game, most recently it was Romeo Odunze that dominated the Stanford secondary. The UCLA defense has not allowed anything on the ground this season, Penix will be looked at to carry the load on the offensive end.

UCLA is led by QB Dorian Thompson- Robinson and RB Zach Charbonnet, both have been spectacular to start the season. Thompson-Robinson is coming off a game where he completed 84% of his passes against Colorado, Charbonnet had an easy night running the ball just 9 times for 104 yards, 3 of those runs ended in the endzone. The Bruins offense is built around the run, they will manage the game and look to keep Penix and the Huskie offense off the field. The more time the UCLA defnese is able to rest the more they will be able to get pressure on the QB. 

Neither team has ultimately been tested by high level competition. The Huskies victory over Michigan State at home isn’t as good as it once seemed to be.  The Bruins have a better defense, a veteran QB and RB. The Washington defense has found success putting pressure on the QB, the mobility of Dorian Thompson-Robinson should be able to negate the pass rush, opening up time for receivers to make plays. This one will come down to the final drive and I think the ability of UCLA to control the ball with their run game will ultimately be the difference. 

Pick: UCLA ML, take the points if you want

Sweet Sixteen Bets

St. Peter’s Peacocks vs. Purdue Boilermakers

The Peacocks are a great story.  They beat Kentucky, they beat Murray State but they will not beat Purdue.  The Boilermakers are loaded including star guard Jaden Ivey,7’ 4” Zach Edey, forward Trevion Williams and underrated role players Eric Hunter, Mason Gillis and Stefan Stefanovic.  The Peacocks will not have an answer for the size of Edey, even if the Peacocks star KC NDefo is able to slow down Jaden Ivey they won’t be able to stop the post game of the Boilermakers.

The St. Peters offense has been playing above their level over the last two games, but ultimately they are a below average offense and they foul a lot on the defensive end.  We know after Sunday that Purdue knows how to get to the line. They will do that a lot and they will dominate the interior.  This fun is over for St. Peters, Purdue will win by twenty.

Pick: Purdue Boilermakers  -12.5

Michigan Wolverines vs. Villanova Wildcats

Michigan was left for dead after their 4-3 start.  If it wasn’t for their victories within conference the Wolverines may be playing in the NIT. Nevertheless the Wolverines find themselves in the Sweet 16 led by their All-American Hunter Dickinson. His 27 points and 11 rebounds led the charge in the upset versus Tennessee in the second round, his ability to control the paint while being able to shoot the three when needed makes him a matchup nightmare. 

Villanova has the experience needed to go all the way.  Collin Gillespie and company have been efficient on offense in week one of the tournament and should be able to take advantage of the inconsistent defense of Michigan. The Wolverines rank 170th in effective field goal percentage during the regular season, the Wildcat offense will try to slow them down and take advantage of open shots.  

Michigan has top ten talent all through the roster. They have picked up their intensity on the defensive end especially holding down three point shooters.  The Wolverines size will be a problem for Nova, they will not be able to get inside and that will cause them problems trying to connect from deep.  Nova needs the three to drop consistently because Michigan will be able to control the boards with Dickinson and Freshman Moussa Diabete. The length and advantage on the glass will allow Michigan to keep this close.  I would still take the points but I can see them pulling out the outright upset.

Pick: Michigan Wolverines +5

Houston Cougars vs. Arizona Wildcats

Elite defense vs. elite offense.  Quick pace vs slow pace.  The matchup between Houstona and Arizona is a complete mismatch of styles. 

 The Houston Cougars will look to grind it out and limit possessions. They have the 338th ranked tempo in all of college basketball.  Despite their slow pace they are still a very efficient offense, ranking 9th in adjusted offensive efficiency. Houston is able to put themselves in great position to get the shot they want or at the very least grind down a defense which they take advantage of on the offensive glass.  Houston is merciless on the glass, snagging offensive rebounds on 37% of possessions. This is going to be a problem for Arizona, coming off of a game where TCU was able to dominate the glass and put a scare into the #1 seed in the South.  

Arizona found a way to get by TCU, whether it was a bad call or not the Wildcats still found a way to win behind their star Bennidict Mathurin and Cristain Koloko.  The Wildcats are deep, they have multiple weapons that come off the bench and produce, if they can get the ball moving they will be able to wear out Houston. The key will be to make sure they clean up the defensive glass. When they get the ball they need to let Mathurin loose 

The Houston defense has not  given up over 68 points just once in their last ten games. They have not had to put up the numbers on the offensive end to keep up with teams. They rely too much on dominating the offensive glass.  Arizona has the length and athletes to neutralize Houston’s biggest asset. 

Pick: Arizona ML

CBB Play of the Day: Feb 17 2022

Colorado State Rams at New Mexico Lobos

I love the Mountain West.  Every night is unpredictable.  Any team can lose to anyone.  Most recently New Mexico pulled off the upset over Wyoming, who at the time was the top of the conference.  That same New Mexico team will host the preseason favorite Colorado State Rams . 

New Mexico has been elite against the spread this season with a 15-6-2 record, 9-2-2 at home.  The Lobos are led by their trio of guards, Jamal Mashburn Jr, Jaelen House and KJ Jenkins, all average double digits, they combined for 48 points in the first matchup at Colorado State..  The Lobos like to move fast, ranking 17th in tempo nationally.  They utilize their three dynamic guards to keep opposing defenses on their heels.  They will look to force Colorado State to play their game.  

Colorado St.  does a lot right.  They are an efficient offenseinside and outside.  They do however have a problem adjusting to the flow of the game when things are not going their way.  The speed of the Lobos will make it tough for Colorado State to get into a rhythm.  In their first meeting back in January the Lobos lost by six, mostly due to the fact that the Rams shot 24 more free throws than the opposition.  The New Mexico home court advantage should help to balance out the attempts at the charity stripe.  

New Mexico is great at home and they should be able to keep this one close.  The outright upset will be tough but they have NBA level guards that will be a tough matchup for Colorado State.  The Lobos don’t have an answer for David Roddy, he will be a problem, but New Mexico at home getting this many points is too hard to pass up.

Pick: New Mexico +7

CBB Play of the Day Feb. 16, 2022

Jacksonville has quietly been the best ATS team in college hoops, they are currently  17-4 ATS on the season including covering  six straight games in conference. Jacksonville is coming off of a huge victory of ASUN leader Liberty, putting them right into contention for the top of the conference.  The Dolphins dominate on the defensive end giving up just 59 ppg, allowing teams to shoot just 47% on the season. When Jacksonville needs offense they turn to Kevion Nolan, the redshirt junior that averages 14 ppg.  

The Hatters have not had a great season, they are at the bottom of the ASUN with a 11-14 overall record, they are however 4-1 ATS in their last five.  The question will be, how does Stetson score against the Jacksonville defense?  The Hatters 70 ppg on the season, while shooting just 42.4% from the field.  They are the 304th ranked team in offensive efficiency, in their previous matchup with Jacksonville the Hatters were only able to put up 50 points, losing by 7.  Jacksonville covered the four point spread in that game and should be able to do the same in their second meeting.  

Both of these teams can struggle to score. Jacksonville has a major advantage on the boards and they are much better at shooting the three, if this game is close down the stretch they also have an advantage from the charity stripe.  Stetson is one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country (Jacksonville isn’t much better).  In the end it will be the team with the better upside on the offensive end that wins this game and that is the Dolphins.

Pick: Jacksonville Dolphins -2

CBB Play of Day- Feb 4

Western Carolina Catamounts at VMI Keydets

VMI has been one of the better offenses in college basketball all season. They average 76 ppg, they are 34th in adjusted offensive efficiency, 13th in effective field goal percentage (55%), 24th in 3-pt percentage 37%.  They are a well oiled machine on the offensive end.  Their offense has gotten them victories over Southern League power houses Furman and Wofford.  They traveled to ACC power Wake Forest, got a cover and challenged a very good Demon Deacon team. The Keydets like to play fast and they have three players that average double digits led by big man Jake Stevens, averaging 18 per game. 

Western Carolina ended their five game losing streak in their last game versus ETSU.  The Catamounts rely on shooting the three to create their offense.  They are #2 in the country in 3PA per game but they are outside of the top 250 in 3-point percentage. There will not be many second chances for the Catamounts as VMI is very good at cleaning up the glass on the defensive end.  If they are not hitting their shots their offense will not be able to keep up with a VMI team that will be able to do whatever they want. 

Both of these teams are terrible on the defensive end.  The difference is, VMI is an elite level team on the offensive end.  The Catamounts will not have an answer for the uptempo attack VMI is going to bring to them. Statistically Western Carolinais one of the worst defenses in the country.  They are going up against one of the best offenses in the country. While it’s hard to trust the defense of VMI, I am going to bank on the offense being too much to handle on the road.  

Pick: VMI -11

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers ATS

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers -6

The Packers are unbeaten at home this season. Perhaps even more impressive they are 7-1 ATS the spread at Lambeau, averaging 30 ppg.  Green Bay will enter this game fully healthy with the return of David Bakhitari on offense, Jaire Alexander and Whitney ZaDarius Smith on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive goal will be to limit the big plays of the versatile Deebo Samuel. Samuel averages 18.2 yards per catch and 6.2 yards per carry.  He is the spark that lights the fire for the San Francisco offense.  

The 49ers have already pulled off an upset in these playoffs.  They defeated the Dallas Cowboys in AT&T Stadium.  The 49ers were able to jump out to a lead early and coast their way to victory.  The game got interesting downt he stretch because the San Francisco defense lost two key players, Nick Bosa and Fred Warner. To hold down Aaron Rodgers and company they will need their defense at full force. 

The Packers defeated the 49ers on a late field goal in San Francisco in week three of the regular season. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams were able to connect for 12 catches, 132 yards and a touchdown.  Aaron Jones ran the ball effectively, going for 82 yards and a touchdown.  The Packers have been in a grove all season, if you take away the abomanation of week one.  The 49ers will have to be able to create pressure to be able to slow down the Green Bay offense.  If Bosa can’t go, they will be in a lot of trouble.  

Green Bay will be able to score early and put the pressure of Jimmy G who is still not playing at 100%.  When Green Bay grabs the lead the 49ers will have to throw and when the pressure is on the San Fran QB tends to make mistakes. 

Pick: Green Bay Packers -6

Bengals vs. Titans ATS

Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans 

The Bengals won their first playoff game in 31 years last week.  They got the monkey off their back, now they have to deal with a bull. The Titans will be welcoming back Derrick Henry for the first time since he broke his foot at the end of October.  

Without their star the Titans were still able to lock down the #1 seed.  The game plan did not change much even without Henry, they ranked 5th in the league in rushing.  The Bengals have been great against the run all season but they lost multiple defensive lineman last week including Larry Ogunjobi and leading pass rusher Trey Hendrickson.  Cincy will have to stack the box to stop Henry, which will open up the passing game for Ryan Tannahill and his finally healthy receiving core.  This could be  a big opportunity for veteran Julio Jones who will get a lot of one on one coverage from secondary CB’s.  This game is the reason the Titans got Jones in the offseason, he will have a huge day.  

Joe Burrow can be lethal if he has a clean pocket. The Bengals will have a tough time keeping him clean, Tennessee has multiple dominant pass rushers.  Harold Landry leads the way with 12 sacks, Denico Autry has 9 and Jeffery Simmons has 8.5.  Cincinnati has given up a league leading 53 Sacks on the season and Saturday their biggest weakness will be exposed. 

The Bengals are ahead of schedule, Burrow and the boys have a great core to build around but the losses on the defensive side and the return of Henry will be too much to overcome for a Titans team that is 6-3 ATS at home.  I am going to buy a half point and hammer the titans to cover.  

Pick: Titans -3

AFC Playoffs Picks ATS

Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals

The Raiders dispatched Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers to earn the last playoff spot in the AFC. Their reward is a matchup with another stud QB Joe Burrow and the NFC North Champion Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals are ahead of schedule in their rebuild. The Bengals were road warriors this year, going 6-2 ATS and 5-3 overall on the road. One of those road wins was a 32-13 beating of the Raiders on November 21st. Joe Mixon dominated on the ground, running for 123 yards and two touchdowns. The time of possession was widely in favor of the Bengals at +15 minutes.

The Bengals are not a run first team but they are able to lean on Mixon in the right matchups. If they can establish the run again they can neutralize the biggest defensive asset of the Raiders, their pass rush. Joe Burrow has multiple weapons to take advantage of the Raiders stacking the box and should be able to pick apart the defense if he gets 1on 1 coverage on Tee Higgins and JaMarr Chase.

Their defense may have a slight advantage but I don’t see how their offense can keep up with Joe and the boys. Vegas leads the NFL in penalty yards per game at 63 yards per game, while the Bengals are one of the more disciplined teams in football. This is a ten point game at least. Rolling with Joe, cigars for everyone.

Pick: Bengals -6

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

This game is simple. Can Buffalo stop the New England run game? They stop the run, they win the game. They don’t stop the run, they lose.

The Bills have the #1 overall defense in the NFL. They however possess the #13 overall defense against the run. The Patriots have shown the ability to run the ball in their two matchups with Buffalo, the infamous “wind” game was a ground dominate effort leading the a Patriots victory, in matchup two the Bills offense shined. Josh Allen led the Bills to a 33-21 victory in Foxboro, while giving up 103 yards and three tuddys to Damien Harris.

The Patriots have struggled down the stretch because of the regression of rookie Mac Jones. Over his last five he has thrown five interceptions. Belicheck will not allow the game to be on the shoulders of his rookie QB. He will limit the throws and pound the ball right down the middle of the Buffalo defense. Both Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson will be available, which means fresh legs for the Patriots run game.

Josh Allen is a stud, but this is the third meeting this year, hard for me to believe the Patriots won’t be ready to limit his downfield throws.

This division matchup will be gritty, no matter what this will be decided by a field goal. I like the Patriots to keep this close and potentially win because Allen can’t get the ball in his hands enough.

Pick: Patriots +4

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs

A lot of things went right to allow the Pittsburgh Steelers to get into the playoffs. The luck has run out. The Chiefs have found their groove at the right time and they get the best matchup they could possibly ask for with an over the hill relic of a hall of fame QB in Big Ben.

The Chiefs smacked the Steelers in the face just two weeks ago. They will do it again on Sunday, ending a historic career, finally. The Chiefs hold the advantage in nearly every category, including on the defensive end. The “vaunted” Steelers defense ended the season in the bottom ten in points against. Their inability to stop the run has allowed teams to control the clock and score at will. If they can’t get pressure on the QB they are basically just crash pads in the middle of the field. The Chiefs have averaged 35 points per game over their last four, the Steelers just don’t have the firepower to match them.

The Chiefs are 6-2 ATS in their last eight. They are red hot, fully healthy and playing at home. The Steelers would be a nice story but Big Ben hasn’t had a QBR over 35 in his last five games. If they fall behind its going to be tough to beat the Chiefs if your QB can’t throw it over 20 yards. Najee Harris will likely make a big play at some point and Dionte Johnson will break loose, but it won’t be enough. Double digits in the playoffs is never an easy cover but this one is a mismatch of organization going in different directions.

Pick: Chiefs -13